Moe's Autumn Newsletter
“When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden” Minnie Aumonier
Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? To know what effect our actions have before we decide to do something is probably one of the best attributes we could wish for but not one we always possess! If I had a pound coin for every time I have heard the phrase “If only” this year I would be very rich indeed. “If only we had locked down earlier” “If only we had heeded the advice sooner”…………………………… we live in the sad times of COVID 19 because of other people’s actions. We can’t do much about them but I’m glad to say that when it comes to gardening things are much simpler!! We can rectify the mistakes we make without too much bother and we can plan with hindsight. Of course this can take time so, speaking personally, having quite a lot of it on my hands has enabled me to see the error of my ways and make a few changes in the garden that will be (permanently) for the better.
The first was a change in height of a laurel hedge at the bottom of my garden that I wrote about in my spring newsletter. Having been astounded and delighted in equal measure at the way plants have thrived in the higher light levels as a result of a lowered hedge, with hindsight it would have been much better to have lopped the hedge long ago. I don’t really know why I didn’t get round to having it lowered sooner. Well……………. that’s not quite true………………I have wanted to get it cut for some time but kept putting it off because I couldn’t face the prospect of a the tree surgeons trampling over all my snowdrops, aconites and crocuses as they went about their work. Now I know this might sound silly to some, but believe me, although I would definitely NOT call myself a galanthophile, after a long winter the sight of a mass of those little nodding virgin flowers that herald the onset of spring are a sight I hold dear! I just couldn’t face the prospect of trampled flowers and foliage. I needn’t have worried though because the men who came to give my hedge a huge haircut made a wonderful job of it and managed to avoid all my little beauties!! Sometimes we worry for nothing and just need to ‘take the bull by the horns’ so to speak, and get on with it.
My neighbour said that, with the benefit of hindsight he shouldn’t have left his garden to get so overgrown and unkempt. If he had known of the problems that have occurred because of his lack of effort and care he would have tackled them a lot sooner. Couch grass, brambles and mare’s tail have taken many months to eradicate. He admitted that he was always too busy getting on with the rest of his life to think about the ‘jungle’ that was developing out of sight. It is to his credit, through self –determination, discipline and physical exertion that he has ‘got on with it’ and built himself a new gazebo where he and his wife can now spend many happy hours watching fish swim in the additional newly constructed pond and water feature and cleared an huge area of rubble to create a walkway and lawn. He has included newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials to add to the aesthetic appearance of his endeavours. It has been so exciting to see (from my top floor window) an area of weed infested wasteland come back to being a beautiful garden space again where nature can be appreciated and enjoyed. Witnessing the transformation has been like watching one of those D.I.Y. /reality tele’ programmes in REAL TIME! How lovely it looks! It is very strange to think that it has taken a global pandemic and the resulting ‘conditions’ we live under to give him the time to think about and physically tackle the mountain of work he has needed to do to bring back the garden he once loved. All it needs now is some on- going attention to keep it looking wonderful. He can proudly show his family the results of his labours when we come out of the newly imposed lockdown!
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I do think that on –going attention is the key to a healthy and productive garden. Of course the attention we give the garden in each season varies enormously. Most of the focus in the summer garden is on feeding, watering and dead heading. As we move into autumn we can think about planting, planning and maintenance. Now that the weather has cooled down a little and will continue to do so, I can plant the blackberry plants I purchased this year. I love blackberries but am not keen on the thorns so mine are a thorn-less variety. I am going to plant them in a north facing area of the kitchen garden. They will tolerate light shade but not dry soil so I will mix in a good quantity of compost or manure into the soil to add nourishment and aid water retention. They are quite robust in growth so I will have to provide a tall but stable structure to tie the stems onto. To maintain the vigour more compost will need to be applied in spring as well as tying in all new growth. With the on- going attention I could be making blackberry and apple tarts next year!
Having enough compost is always a problem because there never seems to be enough of it. As gardeners we know how important healthy soil is. Having sturdy compost bins into which I can put garden waste is a priority so I have enlisted some help and repaired the New Zealand boxes to make them much more secure. These large wooden structures with removable slats have lasted 25 years and are very efficient at containing and processing all the garden waste I can physically cram into them.
There will be plenty of that after the usual annual maintenance of the borders, the kitchen garden and the clearing away of summer annuals. Plenty of rain will ensure the bins are well-watered and good aeration will result in compost in time for the usual spring task of mulching. If you haven’t got a compost bin in your garden, why not use the time you have this autumn to make one. You will be surprised at how much money you will save (with all the free compost you will have), how much more water your soil will retain and with how productive your plants are. You certainly won’t be uttering the words ‘If only’…….
Whilst I still have time on my hands I have taken a good hard look at areas of the garden and made changes to its appearance. New, more permanent planting of shrubs will take place in September when there is plenty of moisture in the soil to help them establish and I’ll be moving perennials into better positions in the garden so that they can flourish. I still have a few ‘problem areas’ i.e. places where I am unsure about what to plant to complete a coherent picture in a border. Under normal circumstances I would be taking the opportunity to visit gardens and the odd stately home to get some inspiration for planting schemes in addition to having a nice day out. However, that is not possible at the moment so I’ll do a little research by looking at the Internet or reading a few favourite gardening tomes.
I have included some plants that have really lovely perfumes which have given a special calming ambience to parts of the garden. Those in the Mediterranean garden have included scented pelargoniums ‘French Lace’ and ‘Crispum variegatum’, Nemesias and Zaluzianskya ovata. All these give wonderful perfumes, particularly in the evening. I will be able to keep these until next year by providing dry, temperate conditions for them to keep ‘ticking over’ over winter.
Having time on our hands has enabled us all to spend more time in our gardens. There is little else to take our attention at the moment. The usual on –going maintenance we do in autumn will be just as important to the well-being of us and our gardens. It has been unfortunate that we have not had the opportunity to meet up with fellow gardeners at club or at our planned social events this year. Whilst we wait for a vaccine for COVID 19, we have the chance this autumn to do all those jobs in the garden we have been meaning to do for years and not got around to because of other distractions. It could be clearing the shed, constructing a new pond, painting the trellis or building raised beds. All efforts will have a greater impact for the future.
We have all the time in the world at the moment …………………………………
Enjoy your gardens this autumn.