On a recent visit to the garden, a dear friend mentioned in passing that I must be looking forward to putting my feet up now that the gardening season has ended. The look on my face must have said it all; this is arguably the busiest season of the year for us.
Whilst many view the continual collection of leaves a chore, we see them as “black gold”; in a few months they will have decomposed and formed a wonderful mulching material.
Apart from the weekly leaf collection, we’ve been busy bringing in our large pots of tender perennials to the greenhouses which will be their home for the next 5 or 6 months.
The Cannas and Dahlias have been dug out of the seasonal beds and replanted in the greenhouse, where they will sit almost frost free until it’s time for them to start into growth again.
We were amazed at the size of the Cannas this year, even more so now that they are indoors. There is quite a collection now of different varieties, so we’ve decided to expand the so-called tropical border at the entrance to the garden to twice its size, either side of the main path.
Some recent research has made me revise my thinking on how to look after Agapanthus and, having almost exhausted myself moving the huge pots this year, I think we may split them into smaller plants/pots and use them in the borders next year. Just look at the size of that one in the wheelbarrow – it’s huge!
If, like me you’re disappointed at having to go inside as the light begins to diminish around 4pm, I can heartily recommend a glass of homemade mulberry gin and a pile of seed catalogues by a roaring fire with the dogs (or cats if you prefer) at your feet.
Thumbing through the catalogues, one occasionally comes across a new variety of an old favourite or totally new variety altogether, and maybe, sometimes you rediscover a liking for a plant you’ve spent years dismissing as overused, common, vulgar, too showy, not showy enough.
A family run company I used to use many years ago, Plants of Distinction https://www.plantsofdistinction.co.uk randomly posted me a catalogue last week.
I thought I had grown out of the range of seeds they sold but a cursory glance through the catalogue made me realise we’ve been missing out on some great varieties.
Cue an online order of some 20 odd packets of seed including Aquilegia viridiflora chocolate soldier, Nicotiana bronze queen, a wonderful bright orange sweet pea Lathyrus Mrs.R.Penney, not to mention the sulphur yellow pompoms of Craspedia globose sunball and a white form of the aforementioned opera diva, Cobaea scandens alba.
An old favourite of mine, bells of Ireland (Molucella laevis) is back on the list, as are Cleome violet and rose queen and some choice forms of black eyed susan (Thunbergia alata Desert Sandstorm and African sunset). Of course no list would be complete without the late season showstopper Tithonia fiesta del sol (Mexican sunflower).
Gardening jobs for December
● Prune wisteria side shoots to one or two buds.
● Clean bird feeders, let them dry naturally, buy/make fat balls and provide plenty of fresh water for our feathered friends.
● Move containers of shrubs or bedding plants to a sheltered spot to help stop root damage from frosts.
● Harvest holly with berries for wreath making now and stand in a bucket of water until you need them.
● If you have an alpine garden now’s the time to redress it with gravel or horticultural grit.
● If you haven’t already done so, cut down dead foliage on both Jerusalem artichokes and asparagus.
● Protect celery plants with straw or fleece.
● Prune grape vines -cut back excess vine growth to the main stem.
● Sharpen your gardening tools and send your mower in for a service so it’s ready for next year, it’ll thank you for it!
● Thinking of planting a new hedge? Now is the time to do it.
● Quality Street wrappers are compostable (they are made from cellulose, derived from wood pulp) so why not add a bit of festive cheer to the compost heap and put them in there rather than the bin!!
● Keep on collecting those leaves and put them in with your compost or in a dedicated leaf mould cage .