The Race is On…

No, I am not to referring to Kipchoge’s magnificent effort with the Marathon last week but gardeners, certainly in my part of Derbyshire’s mad scramble to get everything cut down and in the bin before the last collection at the end of November. This may still seem a long way off but when I only visit some gardens once a fortnight and with the lousy wet weather we are having at the moment it can be the end of November in a flash.

A perennial star in Spring and Autumn, which thrives on poorly drained soil in sun or partial shade is a like gold dust. Damera pelata is exactly that. It is known as the Umbrella plant or the Indian rhubarb. It puts up pale pink flower spikes which open before the leaves emerge in early spring and then produces lush rhubarb like leaves that stand staely upright not collapsing all over the place like Rhubarb does. Then in the Autumn the leaves change fiery red before they die off.

For a part shade or sunny soggy border you can’t beat Darmera, Rodgersia I also love the texture of the leaf and the tall flower spikes. Add Astillbe gloriosa for a different leaf shape, a couple of ferns or a Carex and you haven’t had to go near a Hosta (lace curtain plant). A complete damp border without a slug buffet. and year round interest.

Shrubs for Autumn colour, Make sure, in between filling the last few green bins and sweeping the leaves round the front door again! you get to stop and stare at the wonderful colours on show from the shrubs in the garden. Cornus of both kinds, those treasured for their flowers or coloured stems are starting to turn red and buttermilk yellow now. Amelanchier display oranges and reds along with bits of green clinging on and always remind me of a parrot. I am just glad they have more tolerant ph requirements than a stunning Parrotia persica.

Along with all the decorative spring bulbs now is the time to put in your Garlic and Onions. Garlic particularly likes a cold snap to get it going. My experiment of trying to grow beans horizontally to see if they would produce more beans did not work in the end. They grew too quickly and needed the ends retraining sideways about twice a day. Which I soon decided was impractical. I did continue to train the ends whenever I was stood there for a minute with the hose pipe but not routinely. I did discover they made a lovely screen for the back wall though and left me loads more room in the veggie beds than growing them up a wigwam so it wasn;t entirely a wasted experiment.

As well as all the amazing colours leaves are turning look out for some smells as they drop and while you are sweeping them up. Walnut leaves have a a strong smell, some people think furniture polish, it reminds me more of Vicks and has a clearing effect on the sinuses while sweeping. On a more indulgent note, if you happen to be passing a Cercidiphyllum japonicum while it is dropping its leaves they emit a wonderful scent off toffee apples.

Abelia grandiflora

Still flowering, Abelia grandiflora has probably been flowering since mid summer but may have been overlooked due to the amount of competition in the borders. Now though when cutting things back it is their chance to shine. there are lots of different varieties to choose from but grandiflora will provide you with a 3m tall shrub with evergreen glossy leaves and pale pink flowers, whose calyces can be quite red, making it look at home in an Autumnal garden. it is fairly tolerant of position and soil but it can be a little delicate and prefers a sheltered spot and well drained soil.

Fancy something a little striking? Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’ Common name, the ‘beauty bush’ The purple berries really stand out and at this time of year with the yellowing foliage they are even more dazzling. There is a variety called ‘Snowstar’ which has white berries. Which would brighten up a dullish corner.

Interesting discussion on GQT recently about how to get people interested in gardening and how we often approach it as a series of jobs that need doing. Maybe we should focus more on enjoying our space and talking about things we are particularly attached to this week and leave the jobs list until people are hooked on being outside in their space. Certainly how I started. Sitting outside just enjoying being outside but not really paying attention to the plants. Then one day I thought, how can I make this space better? and I haven’t looked back since. So get out enjoy your garden in all its dying glory and don’t just look at the jobs list. Sit and have a cuppa and enjoy the light playing on the leaves or a particular plant combination. Happy Days in the Garden.xx

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