‘M’ for October

Two stunning plants in the garden right now are

Melianthus major with its jagged edged leaves







Mahonia japonica with it’s scented pale yellow flowers that look like fireworks going off against the dark green foliage and just covered in bees…


A few sprigs just had to come home with me with some pale blue borage





Garden maintenance jobs in late October

This week we have been

1)  Planting Spring flowering bulbs in the garden and in pots

2)  Digging up clumps of Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ that are quick to     spread and invade other plants.  After dividing them we planted them in a vacant area of the garden.

3)  Weeding through our Wild Flower garden, removing the nettles, sedges, and many little seedlings of Iris foetidissima (the ‘stinking iris’) that threaten to take over the area if not removed now.

4)  Thinking ahead.  An area of one garden (that was supposed to be low maintenance) where wild roses grow on a bank,  didn’t look great this year where the weeds and grass grew up around the stems of the roses. So this week we decided to resolve this problem for next year by cutting weed membrane fabric, from a roll, into circles, to place around the base of the roses. We secured it in place with wire strips that we bent into a staple shape and pushed through the fabric into the soil.

IMG_1990 IMG_1991

We will then be adding some bark mulch to cover the membrane.

Bonded rather than woven material was used to prevent fraying.

5)  Pruning Eleagnus. These standard shape ‘lollipops’ were beginning to look shaggy.  We had left them a while to flower (with the sweetest scent) but now we needed to get them back into shape.





We used our secateurs rather than shears because we didn’t want to cut the actual leaves.



Not the usual colours of Autumn?

The late seasonal warmth in the air has given rise to a second flush of flowers from these Iris germanica, which look fab against the backdrop of bright pink Dahlias


We still have these Verbascum bombyciferum flowering  between the deep red/purple Amaranthus ‘Red -hopi dye’ and white Dahlias


Weigela florida is having a second flush after mainly flowering in late  Spring


as is this sweet smelling Lilac



The Hypericum is still producing these lovely bright yellow flowers – very welcome against their evergreen foliage


And finally it is worth sowing Sweet peas late in the season as we still have these flowering over our archway


Late October Flower and Fungi Fest



Next door’s Nasturtium makes a break for the gap in the hedge – loved by one and all…



And I got down and dirty with the fairy toadstools making their annual appearance in the woodland


Another busy day clearing and time for reflection…


Spring on the Moat Walk






and finally today.

We cut down an old fallen Berberis (that was still alive) at the back of the border. It provided a year round dark green back-drop to the vibrant plants in front and a warm, contrasting , orange glow of flowers in Spring. Taking it down has made way for fresh new growth at the base.

Immediately it has given us more space to rearrange the planting in front and given us an opportunity to refresh and renew.

It gives me a sense of renewal too.  To see how deep this border actually is and realise its potential.

Alix and I have been working in this garden together now for 7 years. Every year we discuss, move, divide and replant different areas in the autumn and the excitement to see the changes the following year keep us going through the darkness of the winter months.

This is the biggest change we have done so far and it coincides with Alix moving to pastures new next Spring.

We didn’t know each other very well when we first started out but have shared the highs and lows of our lives in intimate detail ever since that first day. There is always plenty of time to chat during a session in the garden.

Performing tasks together we have recognised our strengths and hardly needed to communicate at all, as we read each other like  books.

My highlight was seeing Alix weeding whilst on all fours at 9 months pregnant, determined and confident that it was good for her and the baby. She was right, as 24 hours later she held her beautiful baby in her arms, at home, having had the easiest of births.

We will always have great memories of wading through the pond trying to catch escaped fish, laughing as we balance as much as we can on the wheelbarrow so we need only make a single journey, chasing away the  squawking Guinea foul, eating yoghurt with a plant label as neither us had a spoon and sitting in the van watching the rain dribbling down the windscreen, waiting for our chance to start again. Going home at the end of a day weary, mucky but almost always happy.

Our loss is Gloucestershire’s gain. I’m sad she will not be here to witness and wonder at the border once more with me next year and enjoy our vision together.

The end of the gardening year and an end of our era together.

Here’s to Spring and optimism and new beginnings… This is what gardening is all about and what, as gardeners, we become very good at.



Herbaceous border versus Mixed border

Firstly, the feature photo was taken on my way to work this week… just saying 😉


and Euonymus alatus spends the whole year in the background until NOW!  Woohoo, now we can see you. It is situated in my mixed shrub and herbaceous border for Autumn colour and this following photo is the rest of that border:


There is Sedum spectabile, Hebe, Miscanthus, a Rose, Salvia, Willow, Hydrangea, Dahlias (Thomas A Edison, Karma chocolate and Hillcrest royal) and a Phormium. Still Looking good and packing a punch.

Alternatively in another garden, a mainly herbaceous area of the garden:


Well it still looks ok but most of the leaves are raggedy, some plants have toppled over and I decided not to delay the inevitable…


Yes,  it is now on the compost. This is what we cut down:


Aquilegia (I think we have cut this back at least 3 times already this year)


Polyganatum biflorum or Soloman’s seal


Macleaya microcarpa


Iris, yellow flag


Hemerocallis (Day Lilies)


Asters – Still flowering but blown over in the wind so some are now in a vase with white Dahlias

All have been cut back to ground level. What we have left:


The adorable Arum italicum


and lots of tiny Digitalis pururea (foxglove seedlings)

which we will leave until they are big enough to transplant around the area.

In another part of the garden we also cut back the Hosta leaves:



All very therapeutic if you ask me.

Back to the deep brown beautiful earth again.

My heart is singing.





Let’s be Honesty! – Lunaria annua

Honesty is a gorgeous biennial plant that once you have it, makes itself at home in swathes.  It comes in lovely purple or white flowers in late Spring, preferring dampish chalky soils.

The flowers look great in a woodland setting or a main border providing a splash of colour in an otherwise rather monochrome moment.  the greeny/purple disc -like seed heads look great with alliums as

can be seen in this pic:


After going to seed, I pulled up some of the plants and let them dry out.

This evening whilst tucked up inside on a Sunday evening I pulled away the outer discs and collected the seeds.





And was left with the translucent skeletons which I popped in a vase.  Somewhat reminiscent of my mothers home back in the seventies when they featured next to the Bullrushes and the Cheese plant… I think I shall keep them for a couple of weeks and then relegate them to the compost.

The seeds I shall pop in an envelope and keep in a cool dark place to sow next year (although there will be no flowers from these until 2016.)

That is the way with gardening. We are in it for the long haul.


More Autumnal jobs – Removing Ivy


We are still cutting back perennials around the gardens and generally putting the gardens to bed for the winter. However if you have finished those tasks except for the sweeping up of the leaves which we still have to come, have a look at where the ivy has travelled to over the year.

It is time to get tough on it.  We are out and about climbing the ornamental trees on dry calm days and peeling off the damaging shoots.  It’s not enough just to cut it at the foot of the tree and wait for it to die as it will remain  a dead unsightly silhouette ruining the winter beauty of the tree. It then becomes brittle and difficult to pull out of the higher reaches.

We enjoy the opportunity to recall those childhood memories of scrambling around in the branches, taking in the scent of the tree and viewing the garden from a different aspect! We love it, but you do need a head for heights and a valid insurance policy.

All part of the service

Jo and John’s garden. October jobs

I find some of my clients would like to carry out their own maintenance and get to know and understand their plants and garden a little better, after all, it can be fun and the results are so worthwhile.

So I am providing  some feedback to new customers via email as to what I have done in the garden that day, along with photos, names of plants and positions.  I can also come up with suggestions for change which we can discuss in the future. Thus we and the gardens all grow together towards the same goal.

We will also have a photographic record of the gardening year and an on going discussion of the wonderful successes and the odd spectacular failure (as we all have those now and again) along the way.

This week I’ve been reading about garden photography…

I usually use my iPhone or compact camera (which has sadly now broken) to take my garden and flower photographs and am secretly longing for the day I can equip myself with more professional kit.  Nevertheless it is good to practice to learn how to frame shots well, compose a decent picture and how to use the natural light available to best advantage and perfect that, before having to worry about depth of field and shutter speeds.

So with my limitations in mind, I have still decided to enter a garden photography competition – igpoty.com (International garden Photographer of the Year) because it doesn’t cost much to enter and they give you feedback on your entries. I will make a selection from the following photos:


1) IMG_1646




2) 14122009551

3) IMG_0828

4) IMG_1810

5)  IMG_0549


6) IMG_2484

7) Image021

8) IMG_0200



9) IMG_0549

10) IMG_1228


12) IMG_3001



Sussex Estate


If anyone has any that they particularly prefer, do drop me a comment to help me make up my mind!   🙂