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Something for the Weekend #27

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

Jack Frost has obviously got better places to be. Because he hasn’t turned up yet. I’ve not known it so mild in all the time I’ve grown dahlias.

That doesn’t mean plants are still flowering strongly. Heavy rain and short days have beaten the plants back into submission but salvias, canatache, echinops and rudbeckias are having a renaissance. I’m cutting buckets of flowers still. Shrubs and trees are still clinging onto leaves, grasses are rusty and twinkle amongst them, combinations literally make themselves in the bucket.

I gave myself the task of increasing either end of the flowering season this year. Rancunculus and Dahlias bookend from late March through to err the first frost. Some flower growers had a frost in September which would have taken a good 6 weeks of flowering off my plants. With unpredictable conditions, it seems essential to have a broad selection of plants to select from during each month. I can’t rely on one of two plant varieties, I am also becoming acutely aware of the resources needed to raise different plants and considering their place.

For the spring, I have increased biennials and perennials, for autumn it was chrysanthemums. Like biennials, these can be easily forgotten, needing attentions just when the year is busy enough. It is at these points of the year when the extra efforts are really rewarded. Over the years my chrysanthemum collection has dwindled as plants sulked due to lack of attentions. This year I made sure I placed them right outside the studio so I had them in my face every day and I am enjoying the fruits now!

I am still learning about these plants but it seems to me they are pretty straightforward!

I’ve planted the hardy chrysanthemums in a bed together. Some have peaked and over now, others just coming into their stride. And the tender ones were potted up into large 7 litre pots early in June and grouped together in another bed. This was a job delayed over and over again as other more pressing jobs demanded higher priority. In slow November, it’s hard to go back to those busy days. How did I not have the time to get them potted up? Around the pots, I sowed nasturtiums and green manures, shade the black pots with various success.

About a month ago, dithering about the frosts but worried about heavy rains, I moved the tender chrysanthemums into the polytunnel and they have been flowering there ever since. The smell along with the mint and pelargoniums is heady. My plants aren’t big - I think they need to be watered and fed a lot more than I did but they are survivors. I will dress the pots with some homemade compost now as they go into the winter.

I really appreciate the complexity of this plant - the strength of its stems, flowering and scent. They flower for weeks and weeks so I don’t have to continually dead head but as I cut, new stems quickly follow. If I hold back, I hope to have flowers until Christmas. My clients, home and florists alike are loving them and I think I’ve only just scratched the surface of the varieties out there!

In my new-to-me, 1936 book on gardens, a florist wrote about trailing chrysanthemums - I’ve got to find these! I can see them on a shelf along the top of the polytunnel crop bar trailing down over the summer creating shade and long stems. The author Anne Lamplaugh wrote ‘I find a certain amount of deliberate neglect produces charming results; a few curved stems are such as asset when arranging flowers. One has only to try arranging a dozen of the huge ridged-stemmed flowers of commerce to realise how awkward a lack of curve can be’. I think I can leave it there.

For the Weekend -

1. Rake up leaves - ‘leaf’ them on borders under trees, they will add so much goodness to the soil and back into the tree itself. On the grass, they’ll be collected by the mower and added to the compost cake that I’ll make this week (I’ve been saving piles of spent crops, pruning and cut green manures.) If you have a lot, store in bags with holes in or in a 'cage' of chicken wire. Or give to me. Leaf mould is absolute golden stuff and excellent for making composts.

2. Lift Salvias. Despite no frost on the horizon, I am lifting all the tender plants - I am leaving Salvia Amistad and Salvia Uliginosa in the ground, but bringing in most other salvias. They will keep flowering undercover or inside the house for a while before going dormant.

3. Lift and move perennials. I’m having a little reshuffle of some perennials in the long border. The soil is still warm and I can see the plants better now. Some plants need more space, others a different position; moving now gives them a good season to extend their roots and re settle before emerging again next spring/summer.

Photos from this week on the plots and in the studio -

Some curvaceous chrysanthemums

Early rancunculus planted, next to 'Roses Row' and the dahlia beds. Still unseasonably green.

Still flowers to be had

Salvias are the hardcore party revellers of the year.

Lots of foliage still since frost hasn't caused the leaves to fall yet.

These beds are being cleared for the winter crops, seen in the background in neat rows.

We cleared out and lifted the membrane of the greenhouse and moved the chickens in here. Sadly this is their home for the winter due to bird flu restrictions. Still much more room than most chickens but not really the point is it?

1 comment

1 Comment

Nov 12, 2022

What a delightful reading Anna.

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