It’s that time of the year again. The clocks have gone back, there is no light in the evenings anymore and the nights are getting cold. It’s time for the patio to be cleared for the winter.
Each year, we completely clear the patio. The nomadic pot collection is dispersed, plants are put away into the greenhouse and the larger terracotta pots are put away into the shed. It’s a big effort and it means the patio is clear for the winter and more importantly, is clear for the cleaning it will be given in the spring before the plants, pots and paraphernalia recongregate on the patio again for the summer. It’s one of the most dramatic transformations in the garden.
This year, we invested in a poly-tunnel-cum-greenhouse that means we can take down the whole patio staging and re-assemble it inside this thing. It’s two metres by three and that kind of floor space lets me fit in almost all the patio pot plants, staging included as well as several new trays of developing ferns. We have several pots that are the same size and by putting those in a row, I can put decking board across the top and give myself another shelf to put yet more pots on top of. More decking boards give the staging a middle shelf too but I need to be careful about the total weight the staging can handle, so no large, heavy pots on these.
Despite starting off with a huge amount of space, I’ve managed to fill it pretty quickly and used up the vertical space too but there are still some pots that have been left behind. There’s a small contingent on the raised step in front of the dining room patio doors. Several of the pots are spring bulbs and they will stay out. The bay and ferns should be OK but the Canariensis is risky outside. While it is protected a little against the house, I’m not sure it’s large enough to be left outside over the winter, but I’m not sure where I can put it for the winter that would protect it.
The shed at the bottom of the garden has had a clear out and is now filled with the barbecue and the large terracotta pots that – while being advertised as frost resistant – are too expensive to be taking that kind of gamble with. These large pots will dry off in the shed and should be safe even if the temperature does go below freezing inside. I’m not sure what the best way up for the pots is in storage, right-way-up or bottoms-up?
After taking down the gazebo frame (which we never ended up using) the patio looks much larger, it’s a vast expanse of space that will stay empty for the cold months. There’s just the odd pot, furniture and plants waiting to die back before being moved to the greenhouse. The hose reel will also need to be put away, the hanging baskets taken down and the bench (on the lower terrace) brought inside.
I like this minimalist look to the patio, it looks neat, clean and hopelessly uneven. I’ll enjoy it for now but I know that as spring advances next year, I’ll be very eager to refill the patio with all the pots, plants and furniture that it used to have that made it look distinctly “lived in”. I won’t enjoy having to clean an expanse this large though. While the patio looks barren, its only a short hop for the eye to glance over the top of the rope fence and into the garden beyond, which is still very much green and alive.
With the forecast looking to turn suddenly cold and the day length continuing to get shorter, I’m not sure just how long the garden will be able to hang on to its “green” before it goes dormant for the winter and I can finally get on with the winter jobs I can only do when the plants are asleep.