I’m doing pretty well here! This is probably one of the very few times I’ve actually blogged in November – it’s my least favourite month of the year. A time when I feel at my least hopeful … but I love December, January, February, so have to keep reminding myself that they are just around the corner.
The red oak that I blogged about in my last post has now lost it’s leaves, but the four Prunus Tai-haku, planted back in 2013 as bare root plants, are now taking centre stage. It’s hard to believe that at that time I was so nervous about voles (they chew on roots and have frequently killed young plants here) that they were actually planted in full metal baskets of fencing wire to protect the roots. Now I find the wire slightly annoying because there are bits and pieces of couch grass in there – impossible to dig out. But at least the roots are protected. Of course I conveniently forgot that cherries are rather surface rooting and suckering when I planted them. I’m coping, so are they …
The cherries are casting quite a lot of shade now – and I remember that originally I felt there was not enough shade in this garden! How quickly a garden moves you on. I’m now trying Fritillaria meleagris down here, since the 75 plus bulbs that I planted in the upper, hotter garden, have left me with about 3 blooming plants. I think it’s time to start saving seed and sowing in pots for planting out down here. They should actually do very well lower down in areas that are occasionally flooded. But first I’d have to do a lot of work to prepare the ground in areas over-run by nettles and the much more appreciated meadowsweet.
Within the newly planted orchard borders – grasses and herbaceous – there have been a lot of successes this summer. But it’s still looking a bit gappy and ‘staged’, rather than natural. I’ve taken cuttings of Salvia ‘Amistad’ (undeterred by the frost we’ve had), but the plants in the ground are still showy.
My two favourite newbies this year have been Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Blackfield’ – an unbelievably vibrant dark red …
… and Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Red Head’. Made a bit of a boob planting out Pennisetum setaceum ‘Skyrocket’ and P. setaceum ‘Fireworks’, because I became over-excited when I saw them in 5lt pots in Lidl. Now rescued from their slight frosting and recovering in the greenhouse because they are unlikely to be root-hardy in my garden! The Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (long sought after) purchased at the same time is still in the ground because that species will survive over the winter.
The border below is definitely (maybe?) my last more formal border ever – so the last that will require any amount of digging. It already is home to my sole peach tree and two cherries. We had one cherry this summer, on ‘Napoleon’, grafted by a friend back in 2013 – it took me 5 years to realise it needed a pollinator and ‘Burlat’ was added in winter 2019/2020. The friend has since passed away – when I meet him again, must remember NOT to tell him it took me 8 years to get his plant to fruit! But probably he knows anyway – also that a bird had the single cherry!
I don’t know about you, but the minute I create something new, I plant it up so quickly … and then crave more.
This week I’ve been doing late plantings of Crocus sativus (shooting like mad) in the Hornbeam Gardens. Think I got them in without breaking the shoots. They were a special request of the BV’s – he has visions of becoming a big, rich saffron entrepreneur (not as mad as it sounds, there’s somebody actually doing that on a commercial scale in the Vosges!). While sitting sipping my water I noticed that Deutzia x magnifica was looking rather gorgeous.
A friend called it the ‘Duke of Rochester’ (I think) when she visited a year ago and it was in full flower. I was a little confused and, checking on the internet, I see there’s one called ‘Pride of Rochester’. It isn’t that. I am blissful in my ignorance! Unfortunately, having flowered splendidly in 2020, it produced nothing this year. Next year?
Parrotia persica, having been planted out 2 years ago and missing it’s autumn colour last year is colouring beautifully this year.
I don’t think we’ve had the intricate little red winter flowers yet – perhaps in January 2022?
I didn’t used to like hydrangeas, but they do quite well in the area and I’m experimenting with quite a few new plantings. Here are H. paniculata ‘Vanilla Fraise’ and H. paniculata ‘Limelight’. It’s taken me a long time to begin to appreciate the long-lasting quality of the flowers, even after they’ve faded. I used to try and draw them, but always ended up in a bit of a muddle – they are so complicated! But they do bear close inspection/meditation and the autumn tints are superb, particularly that pinky touch that greeny-yellery ‘Limelight’ acquires in late season.
Planted this spring, we’ve been blessed (if you look at it from a hydrangea’s point of view) with lots and lots of summer rain. There’s never been a wetter summer since I moved to France in 2008.
A gorgeous autumn – but it seems the winter rains have now set in and I’ve still so much tidying to do!