At this time of year, as the days shorten and time spent out in the garden becomes increasingly precious, Richard Orton likes to pause and reflect on the gardening year at Lewis Cottage. His beautiful garden is regularly open to the public during the summer months, but in this exceptional year he has decided to open it during the winter as well, to enable those who are feeling isolated to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors with like minded people.
There's some wonderful autumn colour in our garden.

My reflections are in many ways simply an exercise in comparing which plants did well (the Mexican sunflowers Tithonia went wild this year as did Linaria purpurea Canon Went) why others didn’t perform as well as we thought (not sure I’ll bother with growing Amaranthus next year) and what changes we might put in place for next year (we’re certainly going to make more of the tropical border by using some of the giant salvias like S.involucrata bethellii).

Late roses add to the colour.

 I usually approach this in a philosophical frame of mind, knowing that in a few short weeks I’ll be sowing my first tomato seeds, a second batch of sweet peas and some early hardy annuals. This year however, I can’t help but feel a sense of melancholy for the coming months and know that for many people the prospect of even getting outside is going to be difficult if not impossible. We count ourselves very fortunate here at the Cottage that with a large garden and a small woodland to wander in, any tightening of restrictions here will probably have little effect on our day to day life. It got us thinking if there was a way in which we could continue to share the garden with people through the long winter months  and, in doing so, go some small way towards improving or at least maintaining our collective mental health. 

So we’ve decided that we will open the garden one day a week to anyone who feels the need to be outside, who maybe doesn’t have their own space but loves to garden, enjoys wildlife or even just craves the company of like minded people. We will happily provide a socially distanced lunch for everyone, we have plenty of garden tools and will give advice so gardening knowledge isn’t essential. We will of course need everyone to abide by current government guideline so will need to restrict numbers accordingly. It’s a germ (forgive the pun) of an idea but with a favourable wind we may all derive something positive from this incessant pervasive gloom. If you’d like to find out more or register an interest email Richard on or via the nursery website. 

We've decided to open our garden this autumn.

November’s Gardening Tips 

This time of year is all about protecting your crops and your plants for next year 

  • Continue to sweep up fallen leaves and put them in a prepared leaf mould container for a spring ready mulch.
  • If, like me, you’ve been pulling in your pots of tender perennials don’t forget to raise up those pots you leave outside to prevent waterlogging. Clay or plastic feet can be bought from your local garden store.
  • Lift dahlia tubers after the first frost, clean them off and store in dry compost in a cool frost free place.
  • It’s useful to prune roses now to prevent wind rock damaging their roots. We do a light prune now removing dead and diseased wood & shortening long stems, then follow this with a hard prune in spring.
  • To stop soil compacting as you work your plot, particularly a vegetable garden, use scaffolding boards along the main access route.
  • If you’ve harvested a bumper crop of onions and garlic, check on them regularly in case one or two start to rot and remove them asap. An onion bag that increases air circulation will help achieve this.
  • It’s not all about cutting down and covering up, you can still plant raspberry canes and fruit bushes.
  • If you’ve emptied your greenhouse or polytunnel of tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, get cleaning and disinfecting. It will maximise light during the short days of winter and minimise infections. Remember to check for broken panes and replace them.

More information on the garden at Lewis Cottage can be found here.

Nov 30, 2020

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