Well the weather is slightly better and there are still lots of things going on!.
What a month we’ve had! Although the weather has been poor we still seem to have found time to finish off the cleaning up and managed to put to bed all the plants that either need heat or frost protection. We have tentatively dipped our toes into the ‘slightly tender’ group of plants this year. These include some of the Salvias, Nematanthoides, Begonias, Impatiens and several others that are on the fringe of hardiness. I have to admit that it has been quite nice, however we’ll see what the winter brings – still nothing ventured as they say!
We still have quite a few bulbs ready to plant, its not too late – there is nothing quite like the show they give as spring dawns. It is possible to plant Daffodils and Narcissus right through until February and still get a good show.
As far as plants go we are approaching the bare root season, hedging and bare root trees will be here in the next couple of weeks so if you are planning a hedge and want some plants, pre-order to get the best prices.
Much as I love Christmas the idea of making wreaths for weeks on end fills me with dread but it will soon be upon us. Our wreathing department make a really good job though and we actually mail order across the country. You can even choose your own design (within reason). We will be at Aberglasney Christmas Fair (first weekend in December) if you are in the area, so pop in and have a look.
In the Vegetable Patch
It may seem like a dead end month but a lot of next year’s success will depend on the work that you do in the next few months. Ground needs preparing – get your manure in as soon as possible, well rotted is ideal but can’t always be had. If not then try to order a year in advance and rot it down yourself (cover it if you can). This may not be feasible, especially if room is a problem, so if you can’t do this apply fresh manure to the garden as soon as is possible to allow the winter to rot it down. A good alternative and certainly better than none at all. I can’t stress how important it is to build up the organic content of soil. The darker the soil, the sooner it warms up in the spring. Also, the water holding capacity is increased – not to mention adding vital humus which is an integral part of the ability of the soil to hold nutrients. A win win situation! Manure can be very variable and I always prefer it made from straw as there are fewer weeds present. Hay often adds masses of grass seedlings, something we can do without. Quiz the farmer before buying. Avoid sawdust too, it takes too long to rot down!
The Flower Garden
As with the vegetable garden increasing the humus content of borders always helps. Here it promotes better growth and with this comes increased disease resistance and superior flowers. A good mulch of well rotted manure applied over the winter months will do this nicely. It also acts as a weed suppressant and the worms will incorporate it into the soil for you as time progresses.
Pruning and general tidying are jobs that can be done during the dormant season. Herbaceous borders can be cut back now if you like a neat and tidy garden. This is not always a good thing for the plants though and the tops are best left until March if you can bear it, this helps to protect the crowns. Grasses should not be trimmed back as there is something a bit special about frost covered seed heads swaying in the winter breeze. Wildlife loves an untidy garden, providing homes for many insects and cover for others. Birds, especially Goldfinches like the seed heads too so don’t be too hasty, or compromise and leave a rough area somewhere in the garden that is tucked away.
It is always difficult sorting out a plant for this section, there are so many to choose from – suggestions are always welcome. This month I think that it has to be the autumn flowering Saxifrages. They are some of the most beautiful of plants, complimenting rather than competing with the more flamboyant usual ‘autumn colour’ plants. Certainly for the woodland gardeners amongst us they are a must.
The Saxifraga fortunei varieties are easily grown in the garden and believe it or not, are surprisingly hardy. They look really tender but in a normal year they will come through unscathed, going underground with the first decent frost of the winter, ready to re appear as the spring dawns the following year.
In their natural environment they are woodland or semi shade loving plants. Here they will happily self seed, especially the white forms. A good friend has a well drained humus rich sloping woodland site where they grow like mustard and cress – the ground is clothed with billowing white mounds and looks spectacular. They need a free draining yet moist soil so this is ideal.
The coloured forms vary in their robustness and many have yet to be tried in the garden. However they are excellent cold greenhouse plants often flowering well into December. Their colours, shapes and forms are breathtaking and their leaves are an added bonus that extends the show period.
Our collection is looking amazing at present, hopefully we will be in a position to offer in excess of 30 varieties next year… It has taken a bit longer than I anticipated to build up numbers but we are getting there. The colours and shapes are lovely and we have even imported a few from Japan – some pretty, others are an acquired taste (green petals or no petals at all!!!). Its all good fun though and some collectors will stop at nothing to get something different. Matt (our manager) has grown some beautiful seedlings, most are just white, these are very variable and quite spectacular. There are a couple of coloured ones that are easily worth naming and so Matt has named a couple after his two girls! Watch out for these in coming years, they are really stunning. There is a more comprehensive write up here if you are hooked!
Don’t forget to ask your friends to give us their email addresses so that they can join our mailing list. Its quite good for letting you know about events too!