Autumn Update 2015

It’s been quite an eventful few weeks in the garden. The summer season was certainly exciting as I was able to watch my newly acquired plants burst into life one by one for the first time. Some of them exceeded expectation, providing luscious colour and attracting loads of bees over extended periods, while one or two others turned out to be something of a damp squib.

Sunny Sunday breakfast on the terrace
Sunny Sunday breakfast on the terrace

I have squeezed so much enjoyment out of the garden over the summer – lovely weekend breakfasts on the upper terrace, evening Italian classes grouped round the table under the awning, warm evenings spent primping round with secateurs in one hand and glass of wine in the other – bliss! As the sun drops ever lower in the sky, in early October as every year I’m losing the last precious drops of sunshine into my garden, and the summer seat cushions have now come indoors. Now’s the time to take stock and plan for improvements next year. Because it’s such a tiny area, I don’t have the space to carry “passengers” and no room for sentiment – what doesn’t work faces the chop!

What has to go:

Spectacular as it may have been for a short while, the massive Cynara cardunculus is simply too overpowering and somehow an odd man out in my tiny space. Also disappointing was the Eryngium varifolium – it never developed those luscious thistly looking grey-blue flower heads I was hoping for, just some insignificant little grey bobbles the size of a thimble. The Lysimachia atropurpurea was also something of a non-event and grew into an ugly shape (probably my fault!).

Another victim: the only remaining Cyprus tree from my old garden. This was of course continuing to put on a lot of growth and would require constant trimming, and was also stifling the two honeysuckles I planted to climb up the arbour – neither of which had flowered and were struggling up to the light.

The arbour area showing spaces ready for new plants
The arbour showing spaces ready for new plants

Now it’s gone, I realize that the Cyprus had been quite oppressive – this change has let in a lot of light at the side of the arbour and left some space for exciting new, more colourful additions to maximize the flowering season.

Success stories:

There have been one or two star plants in the garden this summer: Notably the Agastache “Blue Fortune”, the Verbena bonariensis (quite the flavour of the year around Bath!), the Scabious “Butterfly Blue Beauty” and the Perovskia “Blue Spire”. These were my absolute favourites in terms of continuous flowering and out-and-out gorgeousness. I’m not the only one to appreciate them, as these winged visitors prove:

I also got ridiculously excited about my clump of magnificent alliums. There were other great “doers” which just got on with the job quietly if less inclined to show off – the Fuchsia, Penstemon and Plumbago to name but a few. I was also very pleased to have finally successfully grown some healthy-looking Aubrietia for the first time ever – I just love those colourful cushions in spring and early summer but my past attempts were always doomed to failure.

My Shropshire Lad looking stunning for the second time this year!
Perennial Blue second flowering
Perennial Blue second flowering

I’m particularly excited though to have discovered the joy of roses for the first time – all three climbers are looking really healthy, two of them have flowered twice.

 

Planned new additions

Having gone through practically a whole year since the project started, it’s time to tweak and get a bit more selective about what I plant. Some things have already been moved to greater or lesser prominence as they turned out to be miles bigger or miles smaller than originally envisaged.

I quite like the idea of repeating things that have worked really well to create a more cohesive themed garden rather a scatter-gun approach, so in some of the gaps now left I’ve decided to plant a miniature version of the Verbena, another clump of Alliums higher up, and I will also find room for another Scabius or two. Filling the gap left by the Cyprus and Cynara will be yet another climbing rose to fan out in the corner over the fence and arbour – already on order from Peter Beale. New plants I’m going to try this year up in this corner: some tall Japanese Anemonies for late summer / autumn colour and a row of Delphiniums – slug traps at the ready!

Bulb border

This plain gravel border will burst into life in the spring
This plain gravel border will burst into life in the spring

I realized that the border area around the paving stones on my bottom terrace was a bit of a waste of space, so the previous chippings were removed and some decent soil and grit dug in. I then chose a selection of bulbs and planted them in clumps – snowdrops, crocus, snake’s head fritillary and others (see the revised list of plants). I then spread over a layer of gravel for a nice clean look. Hopefully this should provide a lovely show in spring and bring this previously forgotten edge strip to life.

Wall baskets and tubs next year

I am toying with the idea of something edible next year in my big wall basket and one or two tubs – previous half-hearted attempts ended in disappointment due to blight and other pests but I think I am ready to give some dwarf tomatoes and maybe a courgette another go next year.

Beautiful fuschias still in bloom in early October
Stunning fuschias or tasty tomatoes in 2016? We’ll see…
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