Roddy Llewellyn feels winter coming on
PUBLISHED: 10:59 22 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:53 20 February 2013
Why is it that time appears to whizz past so fast? Now that we enter the first of the months that end in 'ber' it is time to start thinking about putting the garden to bed for the winter. The sooner this is done, the better
Why is it that time appears to whizz past so fast? Now that we enter the first of the months that end in ber it is time to start thinking about putting the garden to bed for the winter. The sooner this is done, the better.
There is one job that I find particularly satisfying and that is mulching borders to improve soil structure and to add some protection to shallow roots from frost. This is particularly relevant to borders and beds that have to work hard for the living, those that have to work hard to sustain a wide range of mixed plants that include herbaceous perennials and annuals.
Living deep in the country as I do, the acquisition of farmyard manure is much easier than it is for those gardening in more urban places. It can take time and effort to find well-rotted, dark and crumbly compost but your reward next season will prove well worth every penny you have spent. As the winter progresses the compost slowly becomes integrated into the soil and after a light fork in the spring such treated places will make life so much enjoyable for plants. Ideally this should be an annual operation.
My greatest successes in the garden this year include a herbaceous clematis (C. integrifolia). Unusual for this genus in as much as it does not climb, its dark blue flowers are a welcome addition to the border as well as constituting a conversation piece.
Another blue subject that has received many eulogistic comments is Cerinthe major Purpurascens. Standing at about 18 in height, this wow factor plant has fascinating smoky blue foliage which becomes increasingly blue as it travels up the stem, culminating in deep blue bracts with a deep purple bell. It prefers an alkaline soil and is best positioned towards the front of the border where it will obligingly self-seed for the next season. Both these blue-flowering beauties need a little support. Another remarkable plant in my garden this year is Ipomoea lobata, an unusual-looking close relation to the more familiar Morning Glory with racemes of flowers that start off crimson, later turning to orange then yellow then white. Every garden should have such conversation pieces.
My garden is developing nicely and is at last taking shape. I have always maintained that a garden fails if it is all visible at once. There needs to be hidden areas that need to be explored so that once you have walked around it, it has proved to be an exciting journey with surprises revealing themselves at every turn. My garden has metamorphosed this year with the simple addition of a hedge running through the centre of it. Although the hedge is still small (I chose hornbeam which loves my heavy clay which can prove a problem for beech) it has already succeeded in compartmentalising the garden and has succeeded in making it feel twice its original size. As the hedge grows the effect will become all the more effective as the furthest part of the garden slowly disappears and only glimpses of it will be seen through the gaps that I have left. Such hedges are always best planted from November until March using bare-root, small plants that you buy in a bundle and which cost about one pound each.
September is the perfect month for lifting and dividing overgrown herbaceous perennials while the soil remains on the dry side and is therefore more workable. It would be a pity to start chopping late summer-flowering perennials about, they are best tackled in early spring.
Those innocent-looking little plants we lovingly introduced to our gardens a mere five years ago have probably outgrown their space already. This is a good a time as any to replace plant labels whose writing has become faded and difficult to read. As I get older the occasional plant name escapes me. I have been taking Gingko biloba pills to improve my memory but occasionally I forget to take them.
Plant indoor hyacinths as soon as possible so that they flower nice and early when the weather is usually at its worst. One of the things that got me hooked on gardening as a child was looking at hyacinth roots growing in a clear glass bulb grower. Give one to a child this month and it may, with luck, have the same effect on them.