An autumn garden reshuffle

IMG_4593

It was a good summer for the back garden. I enjoyed sitting out on the terrace in the hot sunshine, gazing in unabashed admiration as various pleasing planting combinations waxed and waned. How could any of the plants yet to come be as good as these tulips and forget-me-nots, I wondered in May, as the gorgeous twisted tulip petals relaxed into their fading farewells. But then the garden (with only a moment’s hesitatation) triumphantly produced geraniums, alliums, icelandic poppies and perennial cornflowers, peonies, foxgloves, delphiniums, roses, catmint, and its annuals (nasturtiums, gypsophila) in a glorious parade of bright, precious colours. Then the season shifted to late summer, and suddenly there were calendula, crocosmia, cosmos, achillea, dahlias, and persicaria, their flame colours now punctuated by a backdrop of green allium and poppy seedheads. Yes, I enjoyed the show very much.

IMG_4603

But come mid-August I noticed a niggling feeling that the garden was entering an early decline. Now that the best of the flowers were fading, there were no longer enough of them to distract me from the garden’s inevitable faults. Areas that lacked interest started appearing. The corner in which a host of white foxgloves and blue delphiniums had proudly stood last month now bore not a single colour or texture of note. It’s too small a garden for large patches of dullness. I went out and bought a Ceratostigma willmottianum for the bare corner, and planted it. Although it’s too small a plant to make much of an impression yet, I am hoping that it will look good this time next year with its gentian-blue flowers and red autumn foliage. But it wasn’t enough; other things were starting to chafe: an ornamental thistle that was smothering a rose, and nearby, the unattractive brown lower leaves of an echinops in plain view from the back door. There were some bearded irises that had failed to perform for the fourth year running, and a young sedum was being drowned by a surprisingly vigorous pineapple sage. (When will I learn to leave more space between plants?)

When I saw a beautiful billowing sedum while visiting Dr Neil’s Garden in Duddingston, it was the nudge I needed. How I wished my sedum looked the same: healthy, vigorous, enthusiastic, and surrounded by wafting perennial grasses. I knew the very spot I wanted to try moving mine to, under the arch where it would catch the full benefit of the summer sun and provide personality to an otherwise lacklustre corner. Of course, moving the sedum meant moving a lot of other things first. That’s half the fun of it.

First to be dug out were some foxgloves to make space for the echinops, which I split into three or four smaller plants. Christopher Lloyd once wrote that an echinops does the same job as an eryngium, and since the latter is more exciting you may as well plant that instead. But I disagree –  echinops is less startling, more subdued and graceful, and grows more upwards than outwards, taking up far less room. Yes, there is the problem of its ugly lower leaves, but if you place it carefully they can be hidden behind the foliage of other plants. In its new position by the wall, mine would be disguised by some geraniums and a peony.

IMG_4594

The ornamental thistle came out too. You could almost hear the rose behind it breathing a sigh of relief. In fact, I breathed a sigh of relief too to see it come out. Now with a few spaces created in the border, I fetched a potted camellia that I’d been wanting to plant out for some time. There is no point in keeping a camellia in a pot unless your soil is alkaline, which mine isn’t. After trying the camellia in various positions and looking at it from all angles, I decided it looked the business in the place left vacant by the echinops.

IMG_4595

I took great delight in digging the bearded irises out. I’ve had one flower (admittedly a spectacular one) from these irises in four years. I reckoned that if the stupid things couldn’t flower in the hottest summer on record, then they’re hopeless cases and need replacing. In their place I planted a hydrangea that my mother had given me. I don’t have many shrubs in the border, and I’m looking forward to the structure that the camellia and this hydrangea bring to the garden.

IMG_4607

Finally to move the sedum. There was a large drumstick primula (Primula denticulata) that had to come out first, which I planted next to my peony ‘Sarah Bernhardt’. The sedum went into its place under the arch, and behind it I placed a little pheasant’s tail grass, Anemanthele lessoniana. Both sedum and grass were gifts from Cathy (Rambling in the Garden) so it seemed appropriate that they should go in beside each other.

IMG_4597

While working, I was able to appreciate the rest of the garden: the cosmos in full bloom, asters and astrantias, nasturtiums, erigeron and dahlias. Autumn days in the garden are some of the most glorious. The whole garden has an atmosphere of quiet and calm, of falling slowly asleep. The birds are still singing, but less frantically than in the spring. The light is more interesting, but of shorter duration. Interesting things are happening to seed heads, to the colour of leaves, even to the colour of flowers.

After my garden ‘reshuffle’ the garden once more became a place I wanted to spend time in, to wander around and enjoy the changing season. No longer was I troubled by those niggles and annoyances. (I should say that naturally there are ongoing niggles as in all gardens; merely less urgent ones.) I look forward to next year, when the fruits of my reshuffle will show themselves in an improved autumn outlook.

IMG_4588IMG_4596IMG_4598IMG_4601

 

Gardening and The Time Paradox

IMG_4526

It’s a little while since I wrote a garden book review. Followers of my Instagram account may know that I am reading Beth Chatto’s Garden Notebook month by month, and I won’t be ready to review this until I finish the year’s journey with her in December. I also have another gardening book on the go, one of Christopher Lloyd’s, and I’ll review that in due course too. In between reading these gardening books as well as fiction, I’ve now started my new garden design classes and have whole library shelves of delectable design books available to me: plenty to keep my eyes occupied. Meanwhile, another book I recently read gave me a great deal to think about. It’s not a gardening book, but it was so tempting to extrapolate its ideas to gardeners that I thought I’d write this post about it. The book is called The Time Paradox: The New Psychology Of Time and was written by two psychologists of Stanford University, Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd.

I first picked this book up in the hopes of finding an explanation of why I am late for everything. (I did find out, incidentally: I’m a ‘Present Hedonist’, forever too deeply immersed in the current moment to notice the clock). But far beyond that, the book described the many intriguing different ways we perceive time, and how our balance of past, present and future perspective drives everything we do. It describes how our view of the past (positive or negative) determines our contentment in the present, and has less to do with the magnitude of events in our past than our way of framing them. Our relationship with the present is just as important. Reminders to live ‘mindfully’ aren’t necessary for us ‘Present Hedonists’, who rarely forget to stop and smell the roses or sit and enjoy the garden. (We never get anything useful done, mind you, but at least we are less prone to chronic stress and its related diseases.) ‘Present Fatalists’ on the other hand, feel that their life is governed by external influences over which they have little or no control, a perspective that is linked to anxiety and depression. Then there are the ‘Futures’, people whose actions today are driven by anticipation of tomorrow’s gains. Futures are good at delayed gratification. They study for exams, they invest in their pensions, they are always on time for the train. They are the lawyers and accountants who make the world go round while the Presents are smelling the roses and forgetting to submit their tax returns. We all need a good balance between a Past-Positive, Present-Hedonistic, and Future perspective in order to lead a healthy and productive life. So what has this all got to do with gardening?

IMG_4516

There could hardly be a better pastime in which past, present and future are more intricately woven. Let me illustrate with a simple vignette. At the end of last month, I decided that my wildflower crates were past their best (they had never really got off the ground, to tell the truth), and I decided to replant them for winter. I pulled the remains of the wildflowers out, first snipping off anything that could be used for a vase. I walked over to the compost heap, took off the lid, had a good look inside first, and then threw the spent wildflowers in. Then I spent a good few minutes flicking the brandling worms off the side so they wouldn’t be squashed when I put the lid back on. Large ones first, then the smaller ones, then tapping the lid to knock any off the lip and into the bin. Some of them got stuck, and I scooped them off delightedly, squeamishly, with a forefinger, which I then wiped on my jeans. (Can you see why I’m late for everything?)

IMG_4523

I replaced some of the old soil in the crates with new compost, mixing it in with my bare hands, heedless of the dirt I was going to have to scrape out from under my fingernails later on in order to be hand-hygeine-presentable for my day job as a ‘Future’ at the hospital. I liked the smell of the compost and the way it felt. Time slipped like soil between my fingers as I searched for vine weevil grubs (none to be seen). Once the soil was prepared, I planted some snowdrop bulbs. My favourite flowers are snowdrops, and the thought of that first sighting of glaucous shoots in a dark January brings me great anticipation for the season ahead. With the pleasure of past winters always vivid in my mind, I took a large bag of snowdrop bulbs and divided them between the two crates, arranging them in an even pattern across the soil, pressing them in with my thumb. I’ve never planted snowdrops from dry bulbs in autumn before, and it will be five months before I see the results of this trial. I also planted some Narcissus ‘Minnow’ in the gaps between the snowdrops, having admired a picture of them in a magazine; it will be seven months before I see those in flower. To give me something to enjoy today and for the rest of the autumn, I topped the crates with generous pink and white Bellis daisies, bought at the garden centre in a present-oriented splurge. Memories of past enjoyment motivating me to take time over a pleasurable job in the present in order to reap future rewards. Little wonder gardening is therapy.

IMG_4525

People who have a tendency to live in the present are at a disadvantage in the Northern Hemisphere’s future-driven clock-time culture. On the other hand, you can hardly open a newspaper or social media site these days without seeing an article about how we should all be practising mindfulness and living more in the present. It’s getting the balance right that’s key, and I’m convinced gardening can help. Much has been written about gardening and mindfulness: how tilling the earth and being close to nature makes us slow down and experience the infinitesimal now. But what about gardening and a future perspective? Well, if anything could reorientate someone to a future perspective, it’s gardening. Practically every intervention in gardening is made with the future in mind. We plant bulbs in autumn so that we have flowers in spring. We sow seeds in February so that we have vegetables in June. When we plant a sapling, we are not thinking only of the benefit for ourselves, but of future generations, of people we may never know, who never knew we existeda transcendental future. Gardening teaches us about patience, consequences, delayed gratification, investment of time and effort. If education exists to turn Present-Hedonistic children (and adults) into well behaved Futures, then there’s no education like the experience of a dreary, tulip-less spring to galvanise a Present Hedonist into getting those bulbs planted in autumn. If I were a psychologist interested in the time perspectives of gardeners, I’d test the correlation between a Future orientation and a willingness to sow biennials.

IMG_4509

I would also test the correlation between enjoyment of weeding versus a Present or Future perspective. As a Present Hedonist, I adore weeding. Give me a hand fork and a podcast and I’ll happily pull creeping buttercups for hours. I enjoy the task itself much more than the result. Put a Future to the same task and they’ll get on with it too; but with merely the return on investment in mind they are likely to find it a mundane, if necessary chore. It’s the Present Fatalists who suffer most. With little consideration for any future return on their investment of time, and a sinking feeling that no matter how many weeds they pull they’ll never get them under control, weeding becomes a hated and seemingly pointless chore. Yet, gardening is a science, and reliable outcomes can be achieved through specific actions, so there could hardly be a better or more pleasurable way of engaging the Present Fatalist and showing them that this is one arena in which they can take control. To this group of people, who have often had the least control over their lives (through adverse social or economic circumstances, for example) and who suffer frequently from mental health disorders, gardening perhaps has the most to offer.

If you are interested in finding out about your own time perspective scores, you can test yourself on the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory.

Zimbardo, P and Boyd, J. (2008) The Time Paradox: The New Psychology Of Time. First edition, London: Rider.

IMG_4517

Here comes the sun (and I say, it’s all right)

What is it that is so inherently cheerful about a sunflower? This one bears no resemblance to either of the varieties I ordered from Sarah Raven last spring. It should be killing me with its sinister ring of dark bronze juxtaposed with bright yellow. It has an uncanny likeness to Sauron’s glaring eye. And yet I smile whenever I see it.

IMG_4515

Checking back in my records, the variety was supposed to be either the deep red ‘Claret’ or the soft brown and crimson ‘Double Dandy’. I planted a row of each; the slugs ate the back row but somehow spared the front row, which grew into these. Grumble grumble: at Sarah Raven’s prices, one expects the correct wares. But I say, it’s all right. Any flower this sunny can’t put me out of sorts for too long.

I’m thinking of writing a review of all the annuals I’ve grown over the past two or three years: which are reliably successful, which are less so, and which I can’t live without. I think sunflowers may just turn out to be something I grow every year. Borage is an annual that I never need to sow afresh these days: it simply pops up everywhere and anywhere. It’s a wonderful thing to find an annual you like that likes you back with equal enthusiasm. I’d love to know what annuals you sow faithfully each year, which are more miss than hit, which you’ve given up on, and which are reliable self-seeders.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, and I recommend visiting her page to see what she and other garden bloggers around the globe have found in the garden to put in a vase today.

 

 

The Living And The Dead

November is a funny time of year. Certain plants remain in flower across the garden mainly salvias and roses but also Acanthus mollis, pelargoniums and Cerinthe major and their bright blooms look quite out of place beside those that are dying back.

In July I harvested all the spent allium seedheads, and plonked them in a hurry into a vase on our bedroom chest of drawers, where they have been annoying both of us ever since. The arrival of a new jug prompted me to do something about them, and so I cut their long stems back to size and rearranged them. In a month’s time I will probably spray them with a dusting of silver and use them as Christmas decorations.

IMG_3109

The drawing is called ‘January Beeches’ and is by an artist called Pamela Grace, who is exhibiting at the Dancing Light Gallery at Whitmuir Organic Farm, just a few miles south of Edinburgh. Winter trees are an appropriate subject for today’s post, because one might say that, like Schrödinger’s Cat, they are both dead and alive at the same time.

And just to prove that we still have plenty of plants still alive and kicking, I made a second vase in this little pewter cup Cerinthe, Salvia ‘Amistad’, the David Austin rose ‘Tess Of The D’Urbevilles’ and a stem of snapdragon in the identical shade of velvet red. If anyone is looking for a deep red rose, I couldn’t recommend Tess enough.

IMG_3115-2

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden, and I do recommend visiting her page and taking a look at all the blooms, both dead and alive, that she and gardeners across the world are cutting from their gardens today.

IMG_3110

Carnival of the flowers

I doubt I am alone among you, dear readers, for my great fondness for The Carnival of the Animals suite by Saint-Saëns and it is probably quite unnecessary to explain to most of you that this suite consists of various amusing movements inspired by a broad assortment of animals, culminating in a final triumphant march of all the animals together: lions, kangaroos, hens and cockerels, swans, the creatures of the aquarium, birds, fossils, tortoises and so forth, marching together in a display of unity rarely seen in the animal kingdom.

IMG_2828

As I went about the garden picking flowers to use them up before a trip we went on recently, I couldn’t help drawing a parallel with the animals’ final march and my vase of oddments, a grand summer floral finale, and a random assortment of flowers if ever there was one; flowers that are most unaccustomed to marching together to the same tune; at least, not in my household.

IMG_2829

For example, I would not usually use quite so many shades of pink, and then shove in a lone ‘Café-au-Lait’ dahlia, and then cram in as much cerinthe as possible along with some wild strands of sweetpea and a dash of orange marigold. The vase doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going, whether it’s wild or formal or cute or simple or flamboyant or what.

IMG_2830

Given that the Carnival includes among its menagerie of animals some fossils, some pianists practising their scales, and some ‘Characters with Long Ears’ (thought to represent music critics), it is only fitting that I included some non-flowers in my Carnival of Flowers; hence the bunch of lemon verbena that I picked for my sister, and a cup of tea.

N.B. many of you who are acquainted with Instagram will be aware that it is mandatory to scatter cups of rapidly cooling beverages throughout one’s grid.

IMG_2831

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, whose significantly more harmonious vase is full of many types of Persicaria this week. I do recommend visiting her page to admire them, and to find links to many other vases created by garden bloggers across the world today.

As for this vase of flowers, it was donated to my sister who politely declared it to be ‘very pretty’. She is much more interested in edible plants than in flowers so I expect she has tried eating most of the petals by now.

IMG_2826

Gather ye (etc.)

Part of my plan for the front garden involves not having three rose bushes in an area that receives a maximum of two hours of direct light per day. This is probably a good a week as any to move them. I doubt we’re going to get an Indian summer now, and I need to crack on before temperatures drop below 5 degrees, after which it’s impossible to mix cement. I’ve almost finished clearing the space in the back garden for them, where they’ll be much happier.

Panasonic (3 of 24)

Meanwhile: ‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may; Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today; Tomorrow will be dug up, wrapped in hessian, and transported 50 yards to the East.’

Panasonic (21 of 24)

The same will soon apply to the sweetpeas, for whom 50 yards to the East means the compost heap. The only reason they’re still up is for seed ripening, although I’m glad I was able to gather some tendrils today.

Panasonic (22 of 24)

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling at the Garden, who is enjoying an abundance of dahlias. I do recommend visiting her page to see her vase and to follow links to many inspiring vases created by garden bloggers across the world today.

Panasonic (23 of 24)Panasonic (24 of 24)

 

Two Cotswolds Gardens. 1: Snowshill Manor

P1000403

When it comes to patience, servitude and kindness, coupled with a tendency to forget to do nice things for herself, my mother gives the holy saints of Heaven a decent run for their money. Therefore, to celebrate the occasion of her 70th birthday, my sister and I came up with the idea of taking my mother away for a tiny holiday, just for herself, doing only things that she likes to do. We thought she might like to see some beautiful gardens and eat in some tasty restaurants, and have a lie in, and not do any cooking for anybody. Some negotiations followed. (‘Well, I don’t mind where we go. Where would you and Lou like to go?’, was her typical response, not quite getting the point.)  Ideas included a tour of Sussex gardens such as Sissinghurst, Great Dixter and Perch Hill, or else a trip to East Anglia to take in Beth Chatto’s garden. But the most popular suggestion was a trip to the Cotswolds on a pilgrimage to Hidcote, and so the date was set, the Airbnb was booked (a charming mill cottage overlooking a tumbling stream) and the route decided.

Casting round for a smaller garden to timetable for the afternoon of our arrival, we came across Snowshill Manor in the North West of the Cotswolds, about a 30 minute drive from our lodgings and crucially open on a Monday. Snowshill Manor is a sixteenth-century house set in gardens and orchards overlooking a valley of sheep fields. Nestled by its side is the charming village of Snowshill (pronounced locally as Snozzle).

P1000395

The front aspect of the house is built of smooth, North Cotswold honey-coloured limestone, and at first glance is perfectly symmetrical, but look closely and you can see from the mullioned windows of the right half that it dates much earlier than the left. Behind this compact facade is a rambling house in mottled stone, filled with the curiosities of its early-twentieth-century owner, Charles Paget Wade, who collected everything from bicycles to Samurai warriors and used the house to display his eccentric hoard while living in a tiny cottage (‘The Priest’s House’) beside the Manor. The interior of the house is worth a visit in its own right, but the surrounding garden is no less filled with delights, treasures and humorous oddities.

P1000373

Our tour began with a pleasant ten-minute ramble from the parking area, away from the promising tea-rooms and dangerous plant centre, along a winding path bordered by tall hedgerows through which could be glimpsed the sheep pastures of a green valley, and on past an orchard filled with large, untamed apple trees heavy with rust-coloured apples, through a pair of stone pillars and onto the formal front lawn.

P1000389

At our feet, the tiny pink and white origami hearts of Cyclamen hederifolium were dispersed between trees and sheltering under lichen-mottled walls. Asters, roses, catmint, helenium, red-berried honeysuckle and several varieties of clematis filled the colourful but simple borders, and blush-coloured Japanese anemones, elegant in their eager simplicity, popped up all over the grounds.

P1000397

Water appears regularly throughout the gardens at Snowshill Manor, in a large copper, dripping into a rough stone trough draped with harts-tongue ferns and unusual vines, trickling from gargoyles, and calm and still in a small formal square pool.

But most notably and delightfully is the water in the large pool that forms the centre of the lower terraces of the garden, a foil and prop for Wade’s pièce de résistance, his model Cornish fishing village, Wolf’s Cove, recently restored to its former charm and boasting houses, huts, a railway, bridges, harbour, ladders, a stone hovel, upturned dinghies and two pubs.

P1000406

P1000410P1000409P1000407

Elsewhere not to be missed were the dovecot and the neat kitchen garden, bordered with dahlias. I can relate that the tea-rooms did not disappoint (I can recommend the flapjacks), and several little treasures from the plant centre including two Heucheras and an Osmunda regalis ‘Purpurascens’ found their way back to my car. And I’m pleased to say that my mother was not abstemious in either the flapjack or the plant-purchasing department.

P1000405P1000424

Snowshill Manor is owned and managed by the National Trust, and details of opening times, admission prices, and how to get there can be found on their website.

And of course, coming shortly to these pages will be Part 2: Hidcote Gardens.

P1000422P1000429P1000428P1000412P1000415

 

‘Now the leaves are falling fast’: Dawyck, late autumn

Listed as one of the ten best places in Scotland for autumn colour, Dawyck (it rhymes with oik), near Peebles, is one of Scotland’s three regional Botanical Gardens and lies down quaint, quiet lanes with the grand hills of Tweeddale looming mysteriously beyond. A light dusting of snow had fallen on the hills, and I stopped the car several times to take photographs. This made me late, but it was worth it.

img_1473img_1466

img_1471img_1468

Gloom descends at around three-thirty in these parts, and it was already two when I arrived at Dawyck. I bought a coffee from the tiny café in the main building, and armed with a map and my camera, made my way into the Gardens where I quickly and intentionally got lost.

Having been several times to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, I think I expected Dawyck to be a similar version on a smaller, more provincial scale. It is, in fact, a completely different type of place, an arboretum, and once part of a country estate, now devoted almost entirely to trees.

img_1491img_1492

img_1487

The air was still and damp, and it seemed as though I was the only visitor, so desolate was the place. (Later it transpired that I had been the only visitor). The trees had lost most of their leaves, which lay in coppery piles alongside the paths, and thickly under the canopies. The only living creatures I saw were a pair of exotic-looking glossy black pheasants, which strutted confidently through the grass, and soon afterwards another pair of pheasants, this time the ordinary kind.

img_1498img_1503

Dawyck Botanical Gardens was once part of the Dawyck Estate, and the gloomy, gothic façade of the old house graced several views, looking terribly like a Scottish Baskerville Hall. Parts of the grounds are private, and close to the house the woodland melted seamlessly into tantalising, chained off garden. There were large, mossy stone urns and even mossier stone steps lending themselves to the general burden of Victorian grandeur, but away from the house I could have been in any starkly beautiful woodland, this one distinguishing itself to the sharp eyed only in the number of non-native trees. The Botanical Garden was enormous, and soon I was as lost as can be, far away along the smooth, still paths, up and up the hill and further into the wood.

img_1486

img_1484img_1478img_1488img_1489img_1490img_1493img_1506

I ate a picnic of bread and hot soup from a flask while sitting on a moist bench, and idled my way through the woods, before remembering that the place closed at four and I was at least half an hour from the main building. I reluctantly began my return, taking a different path from the one I had come along, stopping to read briefly the instructive boards that described the nearby trees, fungi and wildlife. I passed over a little bridge and beside a small pool beside which stood an enormous and ancient larch tree, and then found myself in a beautiful birch wood, followed by some breathtakingly beautiful sorbus trees full of berries red, white, or pink, whose branches were entirely covered in curly green lichen.

img_1509img_1511img_1514img_1515img_1520img_1521img_1524img_1526img_1527img_1529img_1530img_1531img_1532img_1541

My lasting impression is one of solitude, stillness, damp and closing gloom. Of carroty trees and old moss, of snaking paths and knee-deep dead leaves, and of hurrying back to the main building and reaching it just as the clock struck four and the receptionist was coming out to look for me, still regretting that I couldn’t have stayed another hour, even though as light was fast disappearing

Dawyck Botanical Gardens, near Peebles, is open daily from 1st February to 30th November and entry for an adult costs £6.50, with reduced rates for concessions and children, and free entry to Friends of the RBGE.

img_1481img_1479

Harlow Carr in Autumn

I am dying to share my photos of the beautiful RHS gardens at Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire. I couldn’t have asked for better weather, or a better time to see these rich autumnal colours. A slide show will do far better justice to the gardens than any amount of words, so here it is!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

.

 

An Autumn Tidy-up

Autumn in Scotland is breathtakingly beautiful. I think it is my favourite time of year. Every morning I travel by train to Stirlingshire and the views knock me dead, they really do. I can hardly describe the sight of the rising sun striking golden trees above a ground mist with the billowing Ochils in the distance… you have to see it to believe it. And when I see it, I think again and again how lucky I am to live in this country of elegant colours and subtle lights, and how views like this make up for all the rainy Junes you can throw at me.

In the garden, November is a contrary time. On the one hand it is a time of death and decay, while on the other hand certain flowers are still in bloom, including my inexhaustible lobelias and some hesitant purple primroses. I even harvested a couple of tomatoes at the beginning of the month.

IMG_0014

Gardening jobs at this time of year largely involve tidying, especially of leaves, and preparing for next year. But this November I won’t be making many preparations for next year: the Brazilian and I will soon be leaving this flat and its gardens to some future tenant, someone who, I hope, will take good care of the gardens, and who will enjoy the bulbs I planted last year. And in turn, we will be taking on a garden of our own; more of that soon.

Nonetheless, the broom awaits. Last weekend I cleared two large sacks of leaves from the front garden. We are collecting them in the backgreen to rot down for leaf mould.

IMG_0025

Other Autumn tasks include pruning of roses. It is done to reduce the size of the plant by about a third in order to lessen wind-rock, but mine are so sickly I spent some extra time removing dead wood and some of the more hopelessly diseased twigs and branches. I can hardly believe that these bare sticks were once bedecked by these glorious flowers. Still, one or two of the roses had some buds still to come, which I cut and brought indoors.

IMG_0007

IMG_0012

I also cut and brought indoors many of the huge hydrangea blooms. Our hydrangea was so overgrown it could barely stand. Actually, that is an understatement: the entire plant had flopped right on to the floor. It received a severe pruning, from which I gathered armfuls of these enormous dying blooms and put them in vases all over the flat.

IMG_0031

IMG_0033