Friday 27 November 2020

End of the year, and preparing for winter

I haven’t been looking forward to winter….with Coivd it was always inevitable that things would be grim and this is my least favourite season.

 For the whole year the garden has been a lifesaver. I currently work from home 3-4 days per week, and having ants in my pants I am frequently up having a break walking around the garden. Being here so much I have taken a lot of pleasure from noticing all the small changes as things grow and start flowering.

Having an exotic garden, and opening for the NGS puts all the focus on having things look amazing at the height of summer. It is very easy to just stop after the garden opening and put your feet up. In some year’s I have been so lazy that arrows and odd bits of signage from the opening have remained…slowly decomposing, Miss Havisham style.

I have been trying to shift the focus away from just being about summer so that the winter and spring isn’t just a raft of empty space and dying plants. Part of this has been taking more care of and propagating hardy evergreens to keep the terrace looking good. To do this I have been dividing up a great Aspidistra that came from Crug and has elegant leaves speckled with white specs, this is a elegant filler. 

This year I also bought 900 bulbs, way more than usual, but I figure I will be home more and need a spring lift! Most have gone into pots in the hope that the squirrels don’t eat them all! I also got an additional 250 Tete a tete daffodils which we have planted out around the tree bases on my road which I am excited to see come up and turn the road yellow!

Other stars on the terrace include the ‘Hercules’ arum that is stunningly big and exotic. The big Musa sikkimensis and Helens Hybrids are still looking their banana tree thing, and I am giving it a go leaving a Strelitzia out.

Inside I have had a slight terrarium obsession, which has opened up a whole new world of plants! The love of flag Iris’s also continues and I have enjoyed a brief, all encompassing, and expensive affair with Cedric Morris iris’.

In terms of the winter prep the big thing that I do is dig up the red bananas. These have their leaves removed and roots cut back to the basal plate. They are then left to drain upside down for a week or so before being stored in a frost-free outside cupboard. They are now all up to 8?yrs old and getting heavy! I used to be a lot more prissy about cutting off/tidying up most off a lot of the outside leaves, but I now leave as many as a can as I think this helps prevent them becoming too dehydrated when they come out of storage in spring.

We also put up a temporary plastic greenhouse on our sunken terrace, with an extra layer of bubble wrap. This is all super sheltered and sits against a retaining wall. In it go all the Cyathea tree ferns, although the C. medularis is now almost too big to fit in! I will need to be brave next year leaving it out. Also in go the fuchsias, brugmansias, and Begonia luxurians.  Wet is the killer, so most things now sit on bricks. Ironically you also need to watch the dry as the tree ferns dry out really quickly…I have lost more to drought that the cold.

This weekend beings the winter prep to an end, and leaves the garden looking satisfyingly good and attractive. As of 23rd November we still haven’t had any frosts at all in our bit of South London, although I am sure that they are just around the corner.

The terrace has still been looking amazingly jungly as the banannas just get better and better!

Arum 'Hercules' from above...super amazing!

Red banannas freshly dug up and draining off in our side way

Desperate attempts to keep the squirrels away

Terrace post winter sort out...less lux but still exotic. The fuchsias and salvias will stay out until it is frosty so we can enjoy the last bits of colour. Aspidistras fill out the space

Clearer terrace with the pop up greenhouse at the back, view inside below, the key residents being the Cyatheas

Keeping the Aspidistra flying!