Getting into a Maintenance Frame of Mind

After “The Great Planting” of the final border recently, I’ve been taking the foot off the pedal (just a little) and doing some tidy-up jobs – the type that you get at the end of a big garden project – namely, throwing out rubbish and putting things back where they once were.

I also took some time to walk around other parts of the garden that I’ve summarily neglected all season. I took a notebook with me so I could occasionally pause and write down the jobs that needed doing. I filled a page quite easily and all were of a theme of maintenance, which I guess is a good sign, when you think of the time of year we’re at now.

I’ve been enjoying the September sunshine, it’s warm and has that yellow quality to it as the sun doesn’t manage to rise so high in the afternoons. Light filters through the trees, shrubs and leaves, which are just starting to show a hint of autumn colour. It’s very mellow at the moment at that’s how I’ve been feeling after completing the final border.

Fruit Avenue – a somewhat failed project, needs attention as I spent some time clearing a large section of it to turn in to a sort of veg bed. I never thought I would see the day when I dedicated a part of the garden to vegetable growing. We’ll see what happens as hopefully, I’ll have much more time to tend to the whole garden next year, as I’m all out of large, season-long projects to do (finally). Filling the border with fruit bushes didn’t really work as what meagre fruit was produced was quickly snapped up by the birds. I realise that vegetables could easily go the same way, but at least they’ll be easier to protect.

Towards the back of the garden, the last place that gets lit by the sun during the day, fittingly we still have lots of late flowering plants still going. A cascade of red Hesperantha are looking really good in front of a stand of bright yellow Rudbeckia. I say “stand” but they’re actually just lolling all over the plants around them. There are several blocks of plants in the final border that are also late flowering and will join these once they grow, become established and mature.

With the final border planted, there were a mass of empty pots and trays to sort through. I took the opportunity – while they were all being sorted – to move the staging into the greenhouse for the winter. This way, it’s all ready for an early Spring planting of a whole new batch of seeds that I will need in order to fill out the rest of the final border. The wildly varying and unpredictable weather – particularly at the start of the year – led to a dismal seed germination rate and means I have far fewer plants than I had hoped for. I do have next season to make up for it so I need to make it count as that’s my last chance before the garden goes public. The final border needs to be completely filled by this time next year.

At the front of the house, the cannas are in full flower and look stunning. They’ve been making people pause, stop and look as they walk past the front garden. Two sets of three large trugs either side of the doorway make for quite an entrance. This year the cannas have been joined by Crinum Lily (more accurately, Crinum × Powellii), which has the tattiest foliage I’ve seen on any plant, but the most delicately graceful flower that is also sweetly fragrant.

In the last week or so, we’ve managed to cross many items of that original maintenance task-list I made, including pruning the Banksiae Rose (a multi-day job). There are still several jobs left (including cutting the beech hedges) and I’m hoping the sunny September weather will hold out until I can catch-up with the end-of-season jobs and by then, it might be time to start putting the patio pots to sleep for the winter.

At this point I’ve actually done everything that I wanted to do in the way of garden projects and “new” work for this year, particularly with the final border. I finished and planted it just in time too. Night temperatures are beginning to drop and the shade in the morning is distinctly cold until the sun comes around. Moving on to the autumn jobs and a little bit of maintenance catch-up means the full-throttle day-in, day-out drive to get the garden project work finished is no longer keeping me up at night and leaving me exhausted at the end of the day.

I can sit back a little bit, but just a little bit.

4 Comments


  1. Sunil, I’m sorry to read that Fruit Avenue was a flop. That is the interesting thing about gardening – we learn what works and what doesn’t. My husband’s little veggie patch has pretty much been a disappointment. Tomatoes, potatoes and peppers work well so I have suggested he concentrate of the successes and stop tilting at windmills with crops like parsnips and peas. The woodchuck wins every time! I have the same issue in my cottage garden. I planted lots of perennials last year and most of them have disappeared (woodchuck again.) So I will evaluate what has worked and add more of those things next spring. I am bitterly disappointed about my Centranthus plants. I had whites and reds in MD and you couldn’t kill them!! I planted 9 more last fall and only one survived. My 3rd or 4th attempt. Guess I’ll give up. Cheers my friend!

    Reply

    1. Hello Lynn, I guess it’s trial and error isn’t it? Keep trying things until something sticks. I’ve thrown lots of things at Fruit Avenue from flowers, small shrubs, ground cover plants, climbers, bulbs and it’s always been “meh”. This time, I’ve wiped the slate/border clean for next year and will have some time to focus on seeing what works and what doesn’t for this troublesome border. Ultimately, the garden will say what will and won’t thrive.

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  2. I, too, have been walking around looking at all the neglected parts of my garden and making notes for what needs maintenance and what needs to be completely refurbished. Since my New England garden season ends much more abruptly than yours in England, my notes are for tasks to be done next spring. Now the race is on to get my load of winter firewood stacked before the first snow. Time flies!

    Reply

    1. Wow Jean – the end of the season seems to come on very suddenly for you while I’m still lazily doing bits and pieces of winter preparation, but am in no particular hurry. Night time temperatures are still well above frost level and we won’t be expecting snow until late February (if we get any). Of course, it will still catch me by surprise!

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