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Plant writings, gardening thoughts & observations of Paul Hervey - Brookes, Award Winning Garden Designer & Plantsman.
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Friday, 16 October 2009

Thoughts of Autumn

As a gardener I approach the end of the year with a slight sense of satisfaction.  The glorious weather of the last couple of weeks has allowed me to sit, at the end of a days toil I must add, with a cup of tea and just take stock of the garden.  

Its easy to do yourself a dis-service and remember what hasn’t gone so well, the seeds that didn't germinate or the plants that no matter how hard you tried either died or were eaten.  Overlooking this endless list I instead concentrated on what had done well and I could be pleased with.  

(Photo: Rudbeckia in front of the Exhedra, Painswick Rococo Garden)
Our trial bed of grasses revealed which plants are indeed worthy of inclusion in the garden, Muhlenbergia glomerata really stood out, not only were the basel clump of leaves still buzzing with fresh green colour but the delicate seed heads and stalks have seemed to defy the winds and remain up right and perfectly posed.  No mean feet in our wind swept garden and being over 5ft in height.  

I planted Aster l. 'Calliope' for the first time last year, after admiring its rich black stems, dark green leaves and almost neon purple flowers in other peoples garden.  Mine is now looking looking just perfect, reaching well up to 6ft and covered in flower it looks stunning.  I planted it in a border which is backed by Eucalyptus. The combination of the peeling pinkish - brown bark and silver foliage with the aster works really nicely.  I have noticed however that the Elymus canadensis does not work here at all as there is to much green in its leaves and its delicateness would be better shown off elsewhere in the garden, perhaps with the long lasting Eupatorium ‘Gateway’?

In the spring we planted a long border in front of our chickens run.  We have 8 in total, a mixture of Rhode Island Red, Brahma and Crested Cream Legbar.  We keep them within a sizable run due to scratching.  However this did not stop them escaping and in one afternoon turning the border into something which resembled a newly plowed field.  Rather than be annoyed at the loss of Agastache schropulariaefolia amongst others, we realised what great workers chickens are and we have devised a pen which fits over the raised beds in our kitchen garden where a pair of birds can be set to work bug clearing and turning over the top layer of soil before planting.  An added bonus will be the free manure they will deposit.

(Photo: Autumn Colour in the garden)
Of course gardening is an unending series of lessons.  Nothing is ever in vein, earlier this year I was asked to be involved on a gardening course and I talked about the history of herbal gardens.  In the afternoon a young lady lead a practical session on herbal remedies.  We all learn’t many valuable lessons on different plants and use’s.  One plant was lemon balm, Melissa officinalis.  I left the day thinking I must plant more of this wonder herb and now after forgetting to cut down the flowering stems to get a second crop of fresh foliage I fear that the herb garden may actually become a lemon balm garden. If only it was enclosed by protective walls I would be able to bring in lemon trees and olives in huge terracotta pots long with olive jars and claim it was for underplanting in a courtyard I hoped would catch something of essence of Grasse over the happy mistake it will become.

For many of us the coming winter is a great time to sit down and start searching through seed catalogues and nursery lists, as they seem to arrive almost daily in the post with renewed promise captured in each page.  By January I have written and rewritten so many lists that I wonder where the space will come from to grow everything on.  This problem is always added to by listening to talks and lectures.  I am sometimes invited to speak to gardening groups and often, like many speakers, get told off for adding a fresh suggestive list of plants to be included along side the seed catalogue and nursery list.  Still this is a part of gardening which is inevitable, the addictive need to grow more plants and ones we haven’t got! - or perversely ones which insist on dying!

(View Across the Valley from Painswick) However whilst the sun is still shining then we will continue to be working at the nursery and out on clients projects enjoying the changing autumn landscape around us.  Tillia and Oak are turning rich shades of yellow and gold each day now and will soon begin their progression to the ground.  Liquidamber is a great choice for the garden being amongst the first to start turning to rich burn’t sugary colours and one of the longest lasting, holding its leaves well into November.  I love to crush the leaves and breath in the cinnamon fragrance.  


Madison said...

I love the way you describe fall in England, here in the States we make street displays with pumpkins, scarecrows and millet made into bunches. We also make a lot of our own preserves.

Paul Hervey-Brookes said...

I really like the American tradition for making door welcomes and seasonal display. I have seen some fantastic wreaths made with millet and ornamental grasses. A friend of ours from Rhode Island makes a lot of these types of decorations.

jane said...

i don't have chickens, but an elderly friend of mine once told me stories of his own experience of doing what you are doing with yours .. he also had a couple of pigs that he did the same thing with .. movable enclosures .. moved all around the garden when creating a new space .. brilliant

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