30 September 2019
Gardening is an organic process in many ways. We can plan a grand, new planting scheme, try sowing a different kind of tomato, prune our trees and shrubs more drastically, dig a pond, establish a little wildflower meadow or perhaps plant up some new pots. Whatever we have the time, energy, money and imagination to do. So every now and again it’s a good idea to take stock: what has worked this year and what really hasn’t. This is my stock take for 2019 so far:
• Roses do well in our heavy clay. Buying bare root in winter or early spring from David Austin is quite expensive, but the roses are good quality and establish quickly. ‘The Lark Ascending’ is both glorious in name and flower, soft apricot and yellow tones in a lanky, but elegant bush. ‘Skylark’ is a lovely clear pink and really healthy;
• Compost does better when turned often with plenty of green stuff such as grass clippings and comfrey to keep the heat going to enable the composting process to work well and fast;
• Being bold with tender perennials and a clear bright colour scheme works best. A combo of red dahlias, orange Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia ‘The Torch’), purple Verbena Bonariensis, bright purple salvias, heleniums, bronze fennel, purple Michaelmas daisies and red roses looks good for weeks and weeks;
• Alstroemerias work best in damp-ish, decent soil and dappled shade. A.’Indian Summer’ flowered for months here at Charnwood and the blooms last for ages in a vase;
• Hostas are becoming a waste of space. Slug damage and dry spells do for them. There are better alternatives such as Rogerseras;
• Some vegetables and fruit are worth growing more than others. Yes to runner beans, tomatoes, peppers, figs, raspberries and courgettes. No to potatoes (slug food), leafy vegetables (rabbit food), and some soft fruit (bird food);
• Regular dead heading and weeding works better than the occasional heavy session. You get to know your garden better too if you pay close attention on a weekly, or dare I suggest, daily basis;
• Grasses are lovely plants that can add structure as well as cohesiveness to a border. But if I’m going to make that happen I need to learn more about their individual characteristics and requirements. Miscanthus is a bit of a thug;
• Hardy geraniums rule. There is one for almost every spot and the flower for ages. They are brilliant for underplanting the bare stems of roses and shrubs. A hard cut back when they get leggy mid season prevents them becoming too messy.
Your stock take will be different I’m sure, but perhaps a little reflection does no harm?
We had a holiday in Dorset early September: it is such a lovely County. Kingston Lacey, a National Trust property was a joy, especially the kitchen garden which was wonderfully and exuberantly planted with dahlias, cannas and annual bedding for bright late summer colour. Not far away is a relatively new garden, Keyneston Mill near Blandford Forum. There they grow, harvest and distil ingredients to make perfume. It is really interesting and generously planted. Excellent food too! www.keynestonmill.com
As I write the sun is shining and there is no sign of bad weather. When you read this I hope that is still the case - happy gardening!