Autumn and Rain at Upper Green

Frosts in November

We had a brief spell of chilly weather in November with the odd frost which I hope  destroyed some of the molluscs. The misty mornings were a bonus.

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Looking across the ha-ha at the bottom of the garden

Mahonias are flowering and the green flowers of Helleborus foetidus, our native stinking hellebore, always look rather lovely at this time of year.

The gravel bed has shape and colour throughout the year.

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Rain in December

Now it is just wet, very wet. It feels as if December has offered nothing but weeks of rain. The ground is sodden. Not a good time to walk on this heavy clay- stepping stones are essential in flower beds to prevent compaction. The sun has appeared briefly but this was soon followed by yet more rain or gloomy cloud. Despite the rain I have filled my leaf bin with a fine mix of mainly oak (collected from our village churchyard), and beech (collected from several nearby villages). Job done so I have removed my collecting equipment (large sack, 2 small boards and a bamboo rake) from the back of my car. 

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The pond is also full and ready for the return of the newts in the spring.

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Colour and Scent

The garden has colour and scent despite the prevailing gloom. One just has to wrap up (hap up as we say in Northern Ireland) and get out there to enjoy it. I was delighted to see an early crocus (Crocus laevigatus ‘Fontenayi’)- which sadly was all too soon eaten by a marauding slug or perhaps the local pheasant. There are still a few flowers on the climbing rose (Schoolgirl) and Iris unguicularis Walter Butt(previously known as Iris stylosa) has started to flower. This iris produced no flowers last year but this year it seems to be happy.

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Shrubs such as Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’ and Viburnum tinus also offer welcome colour-shiny black leaves in the case of the pittosporum and white umbels on the viburnum.

And then there are the snowdrops! Much to look forward too.

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Snow, path-making and winter flowers

Winter arrived with a dump of wet snow. House and garden looked very picturesque.

We knocked the heavy snow off the branches of shrubs and trees and most have come through unscathed, but Buddleja davidii ‘Royal Red’ did take a hit. However buddlejas are tough, so it will be right as rain after a little judicious pruning.

Prior to the snow, I managed to persuade Mr B. that we could remove a narrow strip of lawn between two flower-beds. Chris, our very knowledgeable gardener, has made me a short path with a thick layer of bark chippings laid on a water-permeable and weed suppressing membrane. It looks great, giving a woodland feel to that part of the garden, where I already grow a number of ferns as well as the Pheasant’s tail grass, Anemanthele lessoniana. I shall mulch the adjacent beds thickly with my precious leaf mold and hope to have more success with woodland plants such as our native wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa, which do not thrive on the heavy clay.

The lovely blue flowers and fat flower buds of my mother’s Iris unguicularis (previously known as I. stylosa) are a welcome winter surprise, hiding amongst the long untidy leaves. I think the variety is probably ‘Walter Butt’. The flower buds are frost-resistant, but the flowers themselves are not. This iris continues to flower sporadically for several months and my mother used to take great pleasure in picking a few of the sweetly scented blossoms for the table. The iris flourishes in the most unpromising of conditions, at the base of the cottage wall where the ground is both dry and without much nutrient. Anemone pavonina in the gravel bed is also in flower and seems to have survived despite the snow and frost. These treats make a garden stroll worthwhile despite the weather.