Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Mornings and Weekends

The clocks went back last weekend, switching from British Summer Time (BST) to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Whilst it was a little treat gaining an extra hour of the weekend it also meant that from now on, gardening is mostly a weekend pursuit. Of course there are also the odd mornings I can spend some time gardening when I don't have to rush to work but even so, morning times are limited and it's usually just an hour or so before I reluctantly peel myself away from the garden and get ready to go to work.

It takes awhile to get used to gardening in the dark, or at least aided by a torch. I had a taste of the awkwardness of it last night when I tried to do some watering in a packed greenhouse using only one hand whilst the other is holding a torch. No good, I was only able to water a few plants before the awkwardness threatened to do more harm than good in the greenhouse. Ah well, they had to wait till the morning.

Ladybirds snuggling on a new flush of Cycas revoluta leaves. This cycad flushed late, 
fortunately it has been so mild it had a chance to harden off.
Sonchus canariensis still looking great. Must remember to lift this next weekend...
A scarf and a bonnet for our tree ferns, Dicksonia antarctica. They are easy enough to lift off on milder days.
Despite that there are always lots of other things to do and if the lack of light is an issue then you can always use floodlights or set up a lighting system in certain parts of the garden. A permanent artificial light source in the greenhouse is certainly handy, if not necessary, but in our case our greenhouses are relatively small (and one of them is temporary) so it doesn't merit the extra effort needed in setting one up in them (for now anyway).

A close up of Schefflera taiwaniana flowers 
This Schefflera taiwaniana is flowering away despite being only 18'' tall, not that unusual as this 
plant is a rooted cutting rather than seed grown.
One of my greenhouse gems, Persicaria runcinata. Easily sourced in continental Europe but 
not so easy in the UK, it took me ages to get hold of one (thanks Remco!)
Fortunately I didn't have to come in early to work today so I had the chance to have a look around the garden this morning (and of course finish the watering). Autumn is well and truly here with lots of plants shedding and changing colours to their leaves. But autumn has it's own unique charm and it was pleasurable enough to see the changes happening in our garden.

Autumn and Acers, perfect combination!
Aesculus parviflora about to shed its leaves
Even an outdoor grown Schefflera taiwaniana is joining the bandwagon with its older leaves
It has to be blurred eh! (L-R) Firmiana simplex, Toona sinensis 'Flamingo', and Kalopanax septemlobus
Just shows that deciduous trees don't all change colours of leaves at the same time.
The usually graceful Zingiber mioga 'Dancing Crane' is starting to go dormant now
Whilst the Staphylea holocarpa 'Rosea' and Catalpa speciosa 'Pulverulenta' are still resisting the urge to shed  their leaves.
Around this time last year I did a blog on harvesting grapes on our pergola, only for all of them to go straight into the bin. This time around with such a mild autumn so far they had a chance to fully ripen and the grapes actually tastes nice, yummy! I've been munching on them recently, not minding the pips, but there's so much more than I can gobble up so I will have to do my annual harvest and bin routine quite soon again.

Our Tetrapanax papyrifera 'Rex' got cut back last winter but the biggest shoot is about to flower again.

I've shifted the small potted palms displayed here last summer under cover and changed it to these pots of hardy (and very ornamental) black grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'. Winter isn't just about hiding and tucking plants away, it can also be about displaying them too.

It's another late start for me tomorrow so I get another chance to spend some time in the garden. One hour only though, one golden hour. So many things that I'd want to do, so little time. I'm spoilt for choice, I guess I'll just be spontaneous :-)



  1. Hmm I guess that Mondo grass is evergeen in your zone. Looks good potted up like that. A lot of my stuff has been changing to it's fall colors too and I've been getting some photos when I can for my next post. Yours all looks lovely.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. Great post. I'm glad you brought your camera along on your garden tour.

    Was your Schefflera taiwaniana outside last winter, and how did it fare? I'm still looking for one over here. I leave its leaves.

  3. Hi Cher, the black grass has been in those pots for quite some time now, not minding the neglect I've subjected it and still looking lovely :) I should use this plant more often, makes a great contrast with other foliage.

    Hi Gerhard, the Schefflera has been on the ground for a couple of years now and sailed through fine last winter. I reckon it won't be long now before you get hold of one in your area. I saw more and more nurseries over there have started to sell them (certainly in the Portland area at least) and bulk propagation has been succesful :)

  4. I really like the winter display of potted black mondo grass. Very elegant, especially with the black brick-topped wall.

  5. Love the idea of putting the black grass in pots, it looks really good, and you have just given me a great idea for the pots out by our front door! That Sonchus canariensis is amazing, and I really like the yellow-turning acer. I normally go for the flame red ones, but that I really like. As to lighting, a head torch - keeps both hands free! Just don't let anyone take a photo of you wearing one...

  6. I guess I was quite clueless as I had no idea that you all went through this time change thing too! Ours is this coming weekend.

    I panicked at first when I saw your Schefflera in the greenhouse thinking this was how yours had been surviving winters. Good to see/read that there is one in the ground too. I wonder how are two plants, both sold as Sonchus canariensis look so different? My foliage is shorter and cut with rounded tips. And that Persicaria! WOW.

    May your weekends be sunny and dry!

  7. I hate when the time changes - I wish they would just leave the clocks alone! Winter days are so short, and this just seems to make them seem almost non-existant! I can't believe your schefflera makes it through your winters outdoors. They are definite house plants here. I love your grapes! What an exciting pleasure that must be to pick them off the vine.

  8. Our time changes this coming weekend. That means I will go to work and come home from work in the dark. That's a downer. I really need some good gardening weather on some of my off days. My fall to-do list is still long. You are an inspiration for me to get it all done as I imagine you in the dark, gardening with one hand while the other hand carries a torch!

  9. A spontaneous, golden hour. Marvellous!! Enjoy and I promise when I am back up in Harpenden, I'll pop in for a cup of tea and a good, long nosey at all those green treasures of yours!! Dave

  10. I wouldn't dare to try gardening in the dark, I would probably encounter slugs during their happy hour.

  11. Thanks College Gardener! It’s such a versatile and hardy plant, I should use more of it.

    Janet, why did a head torch never crossed my mind before? Thanks for that, I’m seriously considering getting a couple :)

    Thanks Loree, looks like this coming weekend is going to be a wet one though so might be better to have a well deserved day out instead. There could be natural variation amongst the species. This one was seed grown by a knowledgeable Cornish friend, I might throw the question to him

    Thanks Holley, Debs! Clocks changing is an ongoing debate/discussion here as well. I think there are several proposals on modifying or scrapping it altogether but nothing definite has been decided on. It’s true though, winter days seems non existent at times, especially when you leave home and get back from work and its dark either way.

    Catharine, we’re in Luton, Bedfordshire. Sent you an email and you’re welcome! :)

    David, yes it’ll be great if you can pop round next time you’re in the area. Be great to meet you! :)

    That made me laugh b-a-g! Evenings in the garden can be fascinating with all the nocturnal creatures coming out and doing their thing

  12. Well, you are certainly a hardworking person and you take good care of your plants! I worry about my tree fern. I lost one several years ago during winter, but they also don't do well in my garage.

  13. Hi Mark, i guess you have more difficult time caring for your plants in winter than if you choose to plant the temperate plants. I can't imagine bringing all of them inside, that is so tedious and most are already big and heavy. I salute your diligence and patience, but your plants are really lush and beautiful, and maybe those are consolation enough.

  14. I love that tree dandilion, I want one but they seem scarce in these parts. The garden looks great, some of the tropicals don't seem to know that the frost is right around the corner. In our areas frosts have been few and light and although I've moved nearly 150 plants indoors and in the greenhouse there is still the odd tropical needing protection. As days get cooler I can't help but to take pity on plants that didn't make the cut around the start of the migration. What a meditational dance it is to move in and protect so many plants. Continue the great work!

  15. Thanks Tatyana! A tree fern is definitely worth a try again, you might get lucky this time :)

    Thanks Andrea! Winter can be a tricky time indeed but we're getting the hang of the routine of taking care of most of them during the cold season :)

    Thanks Nat! The best way to have a tree dandelion is still to grow them from seed, and it's much easier to source seeds rather than the plants. Shifting plants and tidying up can be a relaxing activity indeed :)

  16. I'm all in for the tropics, and how many times have I tried introducing even a palm in my garden, only to see it deep frozen by January and reduced to a black pulp by March !
    I'd like to know the size of your plot, and I'm very curious about what makes it possible to grow a jungle in Bedfordshire !
    Also, thank you for dropping a line on botanicbay.com, and my next question is about cotoneaster : where do they fit in a jungle themed garden, and what different types do you have ?

  17. Hi Celine. There are only a few palms suitable for permanent planting for us, the most reliable is Trachycarpus fortunei. Our garden is about 130feet long, 25feet wide a the house and getting wider to about 40 feet at the far end, but also with an odd bit sticking out (roughly 20x65).

    We have a couple of Cotoneaster horizontalis, that were here when we moved in, one coving the side of a shed and another trimmed into a small box shape. There are a couple of larger leaved ones that we also have, although I'm not sure as to the exact species. We ought to post some photos and see is someone can ID them for us!


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