Putting the garden to bed, or End of the Month View for November 2011


I’m a bad blogger. Sorry…

Yes, I have been quiet – very uncharacteristic – but I’ve been dealing with horribly painful hands and, much more excitingly, a new laptop. Yummy. (Either Mac fans are madder than PC owners, or I am, but I can’t remember feeling like this about a new machine when I was still on the dark side of computing.) It has been a bit of a leap, and I’m just getting my act together. Phew.

And now I’m a day early, but I’ve a heavy day at work tomorrow. Plus the weather is appalling.

Fortunately there hasn’t been a lot to do in the garden – er, there has been, but I’ve not really been up for it. One brief spell of weeding and I have to rest and massage my hands to stop the fingers triggering (surgery awaits). That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. Nonetheless, and thanks to P, I do have a new bed to play with:

It’s actually bigger than it looks, but it’s difficult to photograph. I had lots of exciting thoughts about what to put in the middle, but in the end reality intruded: it can’t be anything which will get too big and block the view of the bed behind, so no Cotinus coggygria. I think – and I’m still in the happy planning stage – that I might have some form of grass. Maybe a Stipa gigantea, though I’d have to watch invasiveness (is that a word?). I’ve been very impressed with grasses in other people’s gardens this autumn, and I want to use this bed to add to seasonal interest, but I’ve not played with grasses before so I’m learning. One thing about the new bed is certain: it is NOT to be taken over by veg.

Not even globe artichokes.


I must remember this pledge in the early spring, when I’m trying to find somewhere to just slip in those extra seedlings…

Everywhere else, the garden is settling down for the winter, in a process that reminds me of the National Trust’s ‘Putting the House to Bed’ rituals. The windbreak has been removed from around the veg plot, leaving the kale and leeks to battle it out in the winds.

It’s not usually a problem for them; they are tough – but this could be a mistake, as there was a sign on the BBC weather map last night reading ’70 mph’ obscuring exactly my part of Wales. On the other hand, if I had left the windbreak up it would probably be in England by now. Or Norway. I am still trying to find an acceptable form of permanent hedging / protection for this area without it taking up too much room and encroaching on the meadow. I keep coming back to a living willow barrier, and people keep telling me I don’t want one. But I think I do. Everything else is too wide, and willow can be quite dense when you weave the ends in all the time. Hmm.

The giant jasmine by the side of the house has been cut back savagely, a task which revealed that it was on its way under the slates. Every few years it gets cut back, and it always recovers and goes bonkers, so I don’t expect I’ve damaged it beyond recovery. Damaged it beyond lifting the roof, mind. Hopefully.

It’s a very useful jasmine, masking the water butt completely most of the time. But it cannot be allowed to interfere with the house (or bring down the drainpipes either, its other ambition). Hacking it back involves a certain amount of roof climbing, but time – and experimentation – has taught me that this is what men are for. It is also a splendid opportunity to clear out the gutters using an exciting several-bamboos-and-washing-up-brush contraption. We’re in trouble if any of the string gives way, but it works.

We’ve even put the benches to bed, and now the middle garden has an strange addition:

Hm. Not very decorative, but the large picnic bench is so big and heavy that it isn’t going anywhere. It was a bit sad doing this, as the lovely Midge is no longer around to help (well, when I say ‘help’ I mean ‘play find-the-demented-doggie under the tarpaulin and hover just behind people until they trip over you’). There must be a better solution than this, but I’ve not been able to come up with one.

There are some much more beautiful things to see, though. The ivy – of which I have shedloads, and am likely to have more if I don’t get to grips (ouch) with all the weeding – is beautiful, especially when the sun shines full on it.

And now that most of the leaves have gone from the trees, their bark really comes into its own:

Very pretty, too. Give it a little longer and I’ll have a whole load of bark shots – now there’s an idea. Garden Bloggers’ Bark Day instead of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom day.

Everyone I know has something unlikely in flower. Next door have a camellia; some friends have a rhododendron, and Karen of the Artist’s Garden has a – no, I’ll let her reveal her surprise. Mine are a Leucojum, normally not seen until February, several primroses and my flowering cherry, which usually does this

at Christmas, rather like a west-Wales version of the Glastonbury Thorn (photographed a day or so ago, and probably just as well; this blossom is on its way eastwards now). I suppose there’s one thing about this weather: at least it’s more seasonal, and it’s beginning to feel more like winter is on the way. I even found myself considering dead-heading some plants and thinking ‘No, they looked so wonderful in the snow, I’ll just leave them a little while longer’.

(But I’d rather not have a repeat of last year, honestly…)


23 Comments Add yours

  1. what a lovely catch up post Kate, sorry you have problems with your hands though, I hope something can be done and things will improve, a lovely new bed to fill, planning and designing are ideal winter activities, I like seeing interesting bark and your tree has a lovely warm colour bark, we have had some strong winds up here too, Frances

    1. kate says:

      Aren’t the winds appalling? Listening to the shipping forecast is quite scary…. and indeed we did have a ship founder near here. Makes my windy problems (ahem – as it were) really insignificant. Must remember to select new-bed plants for wind resistance!

  2. wellywoman says:

    I love the bark in your photo. I know what you mean about securing everything. I’m in southeast Wales and at this precise moment it is blowing a gale and chucking it down. Miserable. But everything is safely sheltered for the winter. Not sure how my makeshift cloches at the allotment are doing though. Will have to check tomorrow.

    1. kate says:

      THis wind is mad – no sign of it stopping here, hope it’s moderating with you… Good luck with the cloches – my one cloche is nailed down. Literally – onto a concrete plinth… Just a thought!

  3. Yes – several things are flowering out of season – and after your little teaser, I have put an image up of my oddest one 🙂
    That bark image is glorious, such a wonderful colour. And the new bed is such a good shape.

    1. kate says:

      I can’t beat that – though I did notice a stray floret on my Aethionema this morning. As it was being lifted bodily off the ground by the wind…

  4. Dobby says:

    I know someone just down the road from you who can help you out with grasses! Would look wonderful in your new bed. Structure that you can see through. The rest of the garden is looking neat and almost ready to go to sleep for a while. Providing it is still there after today’s wind and rain!

    1. kate says:

      Hee hee – so do I. In fact, her open garden was what got me thinking seriously about introducing a couple. I’m sure I can find something appropriate (and that won’t take over completely; while I want ground cover, there are limits)…

  5. hillwards says:

    Exciting new bed, something to dream about over winter, you’ll have it filled three times over in your mind before the land thaws again… There are a lot of confused plants around at the minute; since my summer raspberries have flowered and fruited on next year’s canes after cutting down this year’s I’m not sure what they will come to in the spring. I’m sensing disgruntlement…

    1. kate says:

      At the moment I’m changing my mind every three seconds about basic colours, let alone specific plants, so I’m sure you’re right. Currently I’m toying lightly with blue / gold / white and absolutely no pink, which is probably why the one plant in there already is a rather nice tiarella. Pink.

      (I’m baffled by your rasps – and they sound fairly baffled too. Odd year….)

  6. Lyn says:

    A new bed to play with! Very exciting. And of course you want a living willow fence – you’d be mad not to. 🙂 I’m sorry to hear about your hands – hope they’ll be fixed soon.

    1. kate says:

      Hooray – a willow fence fan! I am not alone! Yipee! (I’m thinking not just a fence, too – I fancy an arch leading into the veg plot… difficult to do with anything other than willow – well, without it taking 50 years.)

  7. Christina says:

    Hi Kate, you have been busy digging, I’m so sorry about yours hands, I do hope something can be found that helps, I have a tendon in my wrist that gives me pain when I garden, I try to ignore it but that’s just storing up more trouble in the future I fear. Enjoy your new bed – the best fun there is! Christina

    1. kate says:

      Well, I must be completely honest here – actually I was busy watching the digging and making cups of tea for the digger, plus biscuits… Very satisfying nonetheless! Even trowelling is difficult at the moment, which is a perfect excuse not to weed the veg bed. Hopefully cold weather will do the job for me. If we get any…

  8. “Dark side of computing” indeed 😉 Glad you are enjoying the new toy – hope you get the op soon and are pain free again, pain is so tiring, and pain in hands greatly aggravating.

    I had been going to suggest a living Willow screen for your veg patch, but apparently you don’t want one after all. I love them, though I know you have to leave plenty of space between them and the planting areas due to the thirst issues. Is that why people say you shouldn’t have one, or have I missed something? I helped make one when we lived on Anglesey, and think they are beautiful.

    1. kate says:

      Pain’s a bugger. I spit upon it (well, when it doesn’t hurt too much, ho ho)… I’m not sure why people tell me I don’t want willow – they tend not to be specific, just say I don’t want it. My normal reaction when told I don’t want something is to go off and do it, so I can’t think why I’m hesitating. Willow barrier it is!

      I might have known you’d have done this before – definitely a woman after my own heart. Was it easy to make?

      1. Ridiculously easy – and incredibly satisfying. It helped that i had the example of previous living willow screens that the main gardeners and guardians there had done before. Plus I then watched them build a living willow dome, which was truly magical. i say go for it,but leave room for those moisture-loving roots.

        1. kate says:

          Right, decision made – maybe I’ll have a willow-weaving party (sans alcohol, mind: I still remember a friend’s painting party where his bathroom ended up in yellow and black stripes after he invited his rugby mates to help)… I’ll do some research on how much room to leave and what sort of impact it might have on the meadow – negligible, I expect – but that’s it. Poo to everyone who tells me otherwise, willow IS what I want!

  9. easygardener says:

    An empty flower bed is always inspiring – but so easily filled once you start.
    If I had room I would have one bed which was always empty. Sitting in the garden planning what to do would be such a pleasure.

    1. kate says:

      Hee Hee – but it wouldn’t stay empty very long, though — not plants, mind: cat’s doings, horsetail, wild strawberries, flipping couch grass, and the next thing you know you’ve got your lawn back. Sigh – it would be fun though. I had a plastic garden as a child, one you could plant up, and I always had one square of brown (that would be earth) I couldn’t quite bring myself to fill.

  10. patientgardener says:

    Why cant you block the view of the other bed. It gives something to make you explore the garden? I have a stipa gigantica and I have had it for about 5 years and it isnt invasive so I wouldnt worry. I havent spotted any seedlings. Think about the light though as if you have one you want to plant it so the seed/flower heads really catch the sunlight at some point of the day

    1. kate says:

      There’s a lovely red Acer in that bottom bed and I’d like to be able to see it in its glory (it’s quite small – well, about 5′). I was thinking about seeing it glowing away through a golden Stipa – that could work really well. Glad about the invasiveness issue – that’s good to know…

      (Next time you’re visiting Karen, you must both walk up the hill and come for tea / advice!)

  11. I have been having computer problems and unable to comment so deighted to be fixed again. I love the idea of the Stipa. I planted three last year but things take a long time to get settled in my soil and they are still pretty tiny – not much chance of mine blocking any view for a while yet! You are right, the new bed looks a lot bigger on the ground.

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