One or two people have been kind enough to ask what I’ve been doing since I last posted in June. To be honest, I felt I’d little to say … and am often overwhelmed by the beautiful photos on other people’s blogs! My garden (apart from the lovely situation) frequently looks so ‘ordinary’ to me. (Not to mention the fact that even my mother and husband stopped reading me … perhaps I have become ‘just another’ boring gardening blog to them?)
And this has not been an easy year, weatherwise. We suffered desperately hot temperatures in July and August, which saw off any positive feelings I had at the beginning of the season. I garden on a south-facing slope where my thermometer regularly read a previous day’s high of 36 degrees C (and some) every morning … and I dread to think what the heat was like near the rampart walls down below. I certainly wasn’t down there. Serves me right for gardening in the ‘English fashion’.
What did well in this heat on our very heavy soil? The roses … those that had been in the ground a few years … grew very well, without any disease whatsoever. But I did notice a tailing off of flowering at the beginning of August. In the end even they couldn’t be bothered to get up in the morning.
Above is ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’ (a photo of her last blooms, taken only a week ago), followed by ever faithful, best flowerer at Chatillon, ‘Munstead Wood’.
I’ve been silly enough to succumb to four more ‘irresistibles’ this autumn (bringing the garden total up to well over 40): climbing ‘Wollerton Old Hall’, ‘Crown Princess Margareta’, ‘Queen of Sweden’ and ‘Sweet Juliet’. All David Austin roses. And I’m sure that you can recommend another rose I should ‘not be without’?
The roses here take longer to establish than in any garden I’ve ever worked. It must be the very, very heavy soil, winter cold and hot summers. Three years and they finally start flowering properly. Even in two previous English gardens on heavy clay it did not take that long! Although I’ve recently re-read David Austin’s website and his recommendation that his roses like part-day shade. Oh dear …
The grasses were amazing – both Nick and I decided we had to plant far more, especially as the position of the garden highlights them so beautifully in the evening sun. (In effect we have a garden that demands xerophytes, but without the winter temperatures to support the obvious candidates.)
This is Miscanthis sinensis ‘Morning Light’ (whose foliage is silver variegated), but we enjoyed M. sinensis ‘England’ (with gold-variegated foliage/pink flowers) just as much. Nick came up with the grand idea of planting a line of Stipa gigantea at the edge of the drop down to the Hornbeam Gardens … a picture to keep me going over the winter.
Which brings me to the other issue of the season. I’m now (nearly) 59 and this is the first year that I’ve noticed a slackening in pace. You have to remember that the woman writing this has to lug heavy lawnmowers up and down 90 plus steps when she mows the grass – so don’t think I’m being too much of a wimp.
It’s a problem all gardeners eventually must face …. even if they are not stupid enough to have bought a garden on an extreme slope, like me, at the age of 55!
I give myself a max of 17 years here, which means I may never really enjoy my Quercus rubra or my two Magnolia soulangeana cultivars in their mature perfection. Come to that – perhaps nobody else will, because the next owner will come along and rip them all out!
What to do … mourn, be realistic for a while … then carry on planting.
I can’t stop, but it does feel sad to finally be creating a beautiful garden at the very end of my gardening career.
For the future (and in spite of the fact that herbaceous plants are my first love), shrubs – flowery, smelly ones! – will definitely feature more and more. And the grasses. This year I was sensible enough to plant my winter-flowering shrubs either in my tiny border at street level (a sniff away when I pass from my car to the house in 10 years time) or only a little bit down steps that are very slippery in winter.
Strangely enough, the veggie plot has given me much joy this autumn (and you’d think with a ‘near pensioner’ like me, gardening on a slope, that would be the first feature to be shown the door). Suddenly, after the desperate heat, all the brassicas sprang to life. Broccoli started giving like mad in September, kale grew like fury and – overnight it seemed – the skies above gifted me with at least five perfect, large white cauliflowers. And they were all sown in March and planted into final positions in mid-June. Not to mention that my broad beans (both those I put in deliberately and the self-sown) germinated so beautifully. Little shoots promising delight next year.
We never stop learning do we? Brassicas definitely love cool weather. Who knew that I would reach this ‘grand old age’ before I really believed it!
And then there were the little Cyclamen hederifolium tubers from Peter Nyssen that I planted in November 2014 (too late, as usual). Flowers this year! Oh ye of little faith …
Meanwhile, more pictures from our autumn garden.