Intense and record breaking rain fall aside, it’s been a great month here on the plots. I have been looking forward to the time when we could invite our ‘Grow Your Own Cut Flowers’ Class back and the Early Autumn class is the beginning and the end to the growing season – with Dahlia Land in full abundance in the Braybrooke garden, the welcome onto the plots is enveloping with a horticultural hug after many months without.
It really has been too wet to do much of what we have wanted to do so only a little of the next seasons preparation has begun. On a dry weekend, we lifted all the hardy and half hardy annuals in several beds to prepare for the Ranunculus corms busy pre-sprouting undercover.
During downpours, I shelter in the polytunnel and greenhouse, sowing Hardy Annuals and Perennials, then transplanting into trays of cells to grow on over the winter. I try to grow on as many as possible as I rarely manage to coax all through the damp and cold season but those that do are much stronger, larger and earlier flowering than those sown in late winter or spring. I tentatively list my successful germination so far….echinacea, poppies, thalictrum, larkspur, delphinium, snapdragons, cornflowers, calendula, and I will have a check this afternoon on the rest.
One of my most rewarding elements of a maturing garden is when plants reproduce themselves. I have transplanted several self sown seedlings into their own dedicated spots in the Walled Garden including foxgloves and cornflowers this year. Gardens are ever changing and the seedlings found are never the same two years running. This year we grew a lot of antriplex, when in previous years it just hasn’t grown so well. Perhaps it was the drier warm spring that helped? Self sown plants often grow the quickest but with our dry free draining soil, I don’t manage to keep seed beds moist enough to do much direct seed sowing bar in the Autumn.
We are also clearing up the leaves for leaf mould in open chicken wire cages together with fallen black spotted rose leaves and piles of decaying foliage that can cause fungal diseases in mature planting. It’s that perfect balance of leaving some material in place to protect plants from harsh winter weather, leave some shelter for wildlife and structure in the beds but clearing up a little at the same time. No soil must be left uncovered; with it all mulched to increase and retain humus, moisture and nutrient and generally improve the soil structure.
As I write, the lowest night temperature is threatened and I must do that job I have muttered about all summer and crawl around the dahlias to label our favourite varieties ahead of Jack Frost that will pay a visit and blackened the flowers over night. It’s all to play for now. It feels like borrowed time and we are enjoying every moment.
It is the most important time to walk about the garden and see where you have gaps, plants have grown out of scale and need lifting and dividing and where structure is required. In only a few weeks, the garden will be a silhouette of its summer self and it will be difficult to remember those improving ideas.
The leaves are falling from the trees and shrubs, and the flowers remaining seem to have magical qualities sparkling in the heavy dew of the mornings. Whilst the garden is retreating all around, the dahlias, salvias and many perennials and grasses still hold themselves majestically in the Braybrooke garden on the plots.
Our Chrysanthemums are finally flowering now and a further reminder that the season is maturing. We love the smell of the foliage with herbs and grasses for structure in arrangements. These flowers, like our Spring Ranunculus can be some of the longest lasting blooms in the vase.
We began delivering flowers as the first lockdown began in ‘Isolation Creation’ with our beloved Ranuculus and it is with sad irony that we end deliveries and the flower season as we enter another.
I have loved every moment of the tending, cutting and sorting of flowers into the ‘Flower Therapy’ Buckets with Cissy of Wild Stems. This partnership has bought so much to the farm and I know from all the messages and emails, that the flowers have been well received and appreciated. The beauty this month has been simply ridiculous and it’s been an absolute pleasure.
We have been busy capturing the beauty on camera and working on images to continue our collaboration in 2021. It’s felt indulgent to ‘play’ when usually arrangements are expressly for teaching or a commission but I have needed the ‘therapy’ too myself. Invariably I find a perfect peace working in the studio early in the morning, usually with music blaring and cups of coffee. Ideas come from seeing different combinations as I cut or garden around. The vegetables and leaves we have grown this year has only added further material for ideas. Understanding my own process for inspiration and expressing that together with how I make work, helps me hone the atmosphere and setting for classes, intending to provide the space and same opportunity for participants. Increasingly I am enjoying do this with just one or two guests. This really makes room for ideas, conversation and support culminating in a rich experience for all of us. I have found this activity to be as important as any other during the week and in my mind, set this time aside as non negotiable.