Putting the garden to bed and looking forward

Recent winters have been so mild that I have become rather relaxed about protecting plants but I keep hearing about the hard winter that is to come. Many tender plants were happed up in fleece or covered with a thick layer of straw in October, but I have some more wrapping to do including the vivid blue sub-shrub, Ceratostigma willmottianum, which has stopped flowering. I have also put roofs over my troughs as alpines hate winter wet.  The coloured leaves that lit up the borders in October now carpet the lawn and we gathered up yet more windfalls from the Bramley, leaving some for the blackbirds and fieldfares.

In October, I expanded my collection of narcissi with a few new varieties from Avon bulbs. Rijnveldt’s Early Sensation (an old hybrid) is a classic yellow trumpet-type daffodil that may flower as early as January amongst the snowdrops. I also planted Lucifer, star-shaped with a bright orange trumpet (raised in Ireland before 1890 and named for the Archangel), the miniature Segovia (white with a flattened pale lemon trumpet) and the cyclamineus Mite (also originated in Ireland), which came in a very tiny and insignificant “pack of one” that I overlooked and had to retrieve from the bin amongst the packing paper. I must have been feeling particularly parsimonious when I put in the order in July.

Soon the first snow drops will emerge and I have already encouraged them with a feed of bone meal.  Next year I am going to be very vigilant when it comes to slugs and snails. A cold winter should help.

Autumn Colours and Bulb Planting

By mid-October the garden was a blaze of yellows, oranges and reds. Plants such as  Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, Crataegus crus-galli (the Cockspur Thorn) and Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Seiryu’ come into their own. The grasses have developed tones of yellow and orange and the leaves of herbaceous plants such as Euphorbia griffithii and Amsonia tabernaemontana turn rich colours before being shed.

My Avon bulb order arrived in October and it was time to plant spring bulbs, except for the tulips which will wait in the bottom of the fridge until November. I am trying to grow Scilla siberica this year after seeing a stunning ribbon of blue threading through a woodland garden in Northampton last spring, but I do not really have much hope of success because I think they dislike alkaline soil. Scilla bifolia may be more tolerant so I have put in these as well. Planting involved lifting and replacing  a patch of Mr B’s lawn under one of the apple trees- I was caught in the act.