Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Beautiful autumn garden, cutting back herbs and perennials

It's been three weeks since my last blog posting because there is so much work to do in the garden at this time of the year. Although many people think of spring as the start of the season, to many professional gardeners, this is the beginning of the yearly cycle; it is now that plans for next year are laid, borders are dug and prepared whilst visualising the spring, plants are moved around and everything is done with the mind's eye on how it will look when the foliage re-emerges. We have been furiously cutting back and sorting out, putting the garden 'to bed' for the winter. Some plants are left standing - eryngiums so that frost can pick out their spiky shapes, teasels for flocks of goldfinches to feast on, Verbena bonariensis to protect it should the winter be hard, peonies until the leaves have turned completely brown and the goodness has gone back down into the tubers.

There are many beautiful moments; the sun slowly breaking through the mist behind the large white daisies of Chrysanthemum uliginosum (picture above), a sudden flurry of long tailed tits tumbling aerobatically through the magnolia, the sharp eyed, sad voiced, robin snatching tiny grubs from by my feet, scintillating drops of water on the drooping, golden heads of Stipa gigantea. The visitors who come at this time of the year tend to be gardeners themselves, without unreal expectations of an autumn garden, people who appreciate the quiet moments and the walled garden's atmosphere. One visitor fell asleep on a sunny bench in the afternoon, another wrote in the visitor's book 'died and gone to heaven'.

Some plants have already been cut back before; geraniums which were sheared after flowering and ladies mantle which was cut right back to its rough, brown crown in summer had put on beautiful, pristine leaves outlined in dewdrops. We now cut these back again so all the foliage can go on the compost heap. Many herbs are vigorously cut back; marjoram (I dont want thousands of marjoram seedlings everywhere!), chives, fennel, valerian, vervain, soapwort, all the herbaceous herbs leaving just the shrubby plants. Some early flowering lavenders were clipped over when their purple tops had faded, late flowering lavender being left til the spring.

We have now had a few nights of frost; the dahlias, runner beans and sweet peas have been hit and leaves are drifting off the trees. I am glad that this accelerates the dying back, so that the underlying structure of the garden is revealed once more, a necessary and welcome part of the cyclical rhythm of the walled garden.


Jay said...

I have not seen your blog for a long time, but you are obviously now very skillful gardener and superb photographer!

helena said...

I love the light in this photograph - season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - evocative of autumn.