4 Sep 2016

Move along please; the show's over



As the garden transitions from summer into autumn, a plan to keep the garden looking lovely for a bit longer has been much on my mind.  And never more so than the week before last as my entry for Camden in Bloom was shortlisted and judgement day was on the Friday.

It was a singularly underwhelming event.  The big clue is in the title: "In Bloom". The veg patch garden, at this stage, was not - unless you count a struggling scabious, some scraggy calendula and a few end-of-line sweet peas. After an exhausting week of tidying, deadheading, weeding and planting in the twilight hours between work and nightfall, Friday's dawn revealed grey skies and, as if scripted, heavy rain poured down only and exactly for the twenty minutes that the judges looked around.

There were two of them (one admin, one Mayor), the third wasn't able to attend; pity - he was the gardener, Kew trained, and the only one who might have understood the hard work that went into creating a garden way past its mid-summer heyday. On the plus side, the mayor appreciated the smell of herbs such as Blackcurrant sage and lavender, lingering awhile to release the scent. He'd obviously been told that plants that attracted bees were good plants; once I realised this and the sparse horticultural experience the pair brought to the event, I thought it wise to limit myself to pointing out any bee friendly plants without naming them.  I'm not holding my breath for a winner's medal. The verdict will be announced in late September.



So, moving on, I'm now thinking about how to extend colour in the garden next year. The perennial patch was originally created as an area for cut flowers before I realised how many perennials or self-seeders I had to rehouse. Back in the spring, the space quickly filled with transplanted foxgloves, verbenas, Centaurea, scabious, alliums, achillea, astrantias, poppies, feverfew and ox-eye daisies; to these I added freesia bulbs, cerinthe seedlings, honesty, red clover, Geums and Dianthus barbutus (the tall pinks). On the other side of the path, self seeded nasturtiums put out triffid-like branches that entwined themselves up, around and through sweet peas, calendula, strawberries, verbena, orache. It was a glorious sight ... in June and July.



Admittedly the short sharp bursts of extreme heat experienced in recent weeks haven't helped a garden without easy access to water. Astrantias and the shorter hybrid Achilleas succumbed to parched conditions and now resemble dried flowers, the cerinthe also crisped up and set seed, as did the calendulas. Even nasturtiums that usually politely wait until late summer to start taking over the garden have exhausted themselves and been swamped by black aphids (and now removed).

But ... Always look on the bright side of life says Monty Python star Eric Idle. I paused, thought and concluded that, yes, this is the perfect time to review and rethink.  There were elements of this border that I really disliked, too much green of a similar hue, not enough textural interest. The reality didn't live up to the dream. The challenge now is to change the garden so there's something to look forward to throughout the seasons - isn't that what we all strive for?  It won't be easy in this small space (the entire veg patch island is only 10 x 3 metres (about 33 x 10 feet) with the perennial border just one quarter of that. Thinking cap on.

So, how's your garden this autumn?  
Any regrets, mistakes or ideas for change next year? 
I'm thinking more Stipa grasses and echinacea here - and I'd love a bank of Heleniums if only the slugs didn't get there first, every. damn. time. 


20 comments:

  1. What a shame the gardener wasn't able to attend the judging. But we all know how gorgeous it was looking in June and July! CJ xx

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    1. Who knows why the Kew judge didn't pitch up but I would have liked to meet him/her. The garden was colourful in the height of summer but, if I'm honest, I realised its shortcomings even then and will be planning rather than plonking for next year! x

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  2. I echo CJ, shame the gardener didn't show.....and RAIN??? Oh nooooo! I'm sure you have done much better than you thought, it still looks good to me! I love the June/July pics, I have a similar problem this year, the front and back gardens are now very green but the courtyard has been a blaze of colour all year, that's a first!xxx

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    1. Oooh, well done for getting your courtyard so colourful! And I suppose we really shouldn't complain at having so much green - it's quite nice to see lush green leaves thanks to all the rain we've had. Even if there's no prize for me this year, I can enjoy the fact that the bees have been happy in my garden all summer. xx

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  3. If it were me, I'd start lobbying for Camden in Bloom to be held in July! :)

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    1. I totally agree! Even the Mayor said he thought it an odd time to hold the competition. It was a sentiment echoed by many of the gardeners who entered.

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  4. A shame the gardener was unable to attend but fingers crossed. The patch where we planted our fruit trees is ablaze with colour at the moment. Many scatterings of mixed native wildflower seeds has helped this. There is a rogue gladioli and dahlia amongst the mix but it does look good x

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    1. I love the sound of fruit trees surrounded by wildflowers, Jo. I tried something similar a couple of years ago but it didn't work - too many weeds in the soil competing, or possibly the soil was too dry. It's definitely something I'll try again but perhaps not under fruit trees! x

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  5. What a silly time to judge a Gardens in Bloom contest. Are all gardens bjudged the same week to level the playing field. We have perennials - heleniums, rudbeckia, persicaria, anemones, penstemon. aster (Michaelmas daisy type) and phlox flowering at the moment in the garden. Then we have fuchsias and pelargoniums in tubs. On the plot I am staggering annual sowing the extend the cutting season so poppies, cornflowers, marigolds and cosmos are just starting to flower

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    1. A lot of the entrants thought so, Sue. Judging should be in July so that gardens are blooming, even in a bad year. When did you do your second sowing of flowers? I like the sound of having a second flush of poppies, cornflowers, etc. I pulled out a couple of orientale poppies (the bristly leaved ones) because the leaves are ugly and the flowers are so quickly over. Next year I'll be replacing them with somniferum poppies as they're taller with nice glaucous leaves.

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    2. It was sort of a third sowing, caro on the 13 June direct into the ground.

      It was an experiment that I will be posting about later.

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    3. Thanks, Sue - good to know and I'll look forward to your reading your post about it.

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  6. Fingers crossed that despite the rain and lack of flowers you're among the winners. Cosmos are usually still flowering well at this time of year.
    My plot is looking rather bare, and as for next year I'm digging up all the spring bulbs and planting new ones. Flighty xx

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    1. I haven't had space for cosmos this year, Flighty, but will be putting white cosmos in the middle garden next year. My beds up at the allotment are bare, ready to be manured, but I'm about to plant my winter kales out here at the veg patch and I'm looking forward to moving my huge rhubarb plant this winter!

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  7. Slugs do love Heleniums, I've been replacing mine all summer. The garlic treatment works when I have the time to apply it.. and when it's dry enough. Fingers crossed for the judging!

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    1. I've lost so many heleniums that I'm giving up and going back to echinaceas which seem to do okay on my soil and the slugs leave them alone (mostly). Garlic spray sounds like a good deterrent for beans and courgettes though!

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  8. It seems a strange time of year to judge the gardens, it was a pity the experienced gardener wasn't available. We have noticed how many Granny Bonnets have set seed and will have to be removed. There are some plants that are in the wrong place too. Sarah x

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    1. Granny Bonnets (Aquilegia) are all done and beheaded by late spring here, Sarah. I don't think I've ever had them in summer, although the leaves keep going right through the winter. Perhaps they're also in the wrong place even if self seeded! And I agree, it's definitely time to lobby Camden for an earlier competition date! xx

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  9. Caro, the June/July pictures are stunning. I did mouth an "oh no" at your description of the garden today, what a shame. Perhaps you are a tough personal critic and they have viewed things differently. Fingers crossed. Here in Buxton the garden is a total bog. My best flowers currently are the persicaria, astrantia (2nd time round), hollyhocks, buddleja and some limelight hydrangea - not much else happening sadly - like you am also in planning mode! I look forward to reading about the results, fingers crossed! Simone

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    1. You may be right about me judging the garden too harshly as I'm always amazed when I'm told the garden is looking good - reality never quite lives up to the dream. I was hoping my astrantias would flower for a second time but this is only their second year so maybe next year! Lovely that you still have hollyhocks, they're one of my favourites and persicaria is brilliant into the autumn but too large for this little garden. (Hmmm, maybe in the other garden I'm doing though .... ) I'll be interested in reading about your plans, Simone!

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Caro x

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