The vaguely green-fingered thoughts of a rambling rose.

First Frosts

Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden.... It is sad that Nature will play such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks

Those magical meteorological words 'High Pressure' that we seek out during the summer months, are the very same words that can strike fear into many a gardener caught out in the autumn. While they often spell warm weather in the summer, in the autumn and winter they can mean a return to frosts. Frosts can sneak up in the night silently, and leave utter devastation in their wake.

There are a great many jobs to be done in the garden at this time of year. The greenhouse needs to have it's winter coat on for a start, but that takes time. Time is something of a luxury at the moment and what with one thing and another, life is simply getting in the way.

So for now, bringing some of the more tender plants under cover is a must. Some protection is better than none at all.  It is not enough though, just to hoof a plant from it's summer home and throwing it into the greenhouse. It has to be checked for pests and diseases. A quick peek under the rim of the pot reveals a hiding place for snails and slugs. Picking over each plant, rubbing off any remaining greenfly, removing any leaves that have seen better days and a bit of a poke around the roots to check for the dreaded vine weevil can save time and heartache later on.

The Toad's Chocolate Cosmos having been inspected thoroughly and trimmed back has now found a winter home on the staging, as has the sad looking Brugmansia. 

Among the cuttings struck earlier in the year, are the Hebe cuttings. There are a number of different varieties here, including the ones taken for the Busy Bees Gardening Club.  These will overwinter and come the spring will be potted on, and should be large enough to plant out next autumn.

Fuchsia's Revisited!

I was going to apologise, but I'm not sure I should. An apology would suggest I was sorry for showing yet more photographs of one of my favourite flowers, and I'm not.

Most of the bedding varieties of my fuchsias have been flowering for a good five months. With flower power that good, how can a garden be complete without at least one?

Talking of flower power, how about these hydrangeas? They have gone from tiny green-white buds in the spring, to large blue mopheads in the summer. As they've aged into the autumn, they have taken on this lovely soft purple. But the show is far from over, as come the winter, they will dry and take on a pinky brown hue. Fabulous in a vase, I tend to keep these dried heads on the plant as not only does it provide a striking architectural feature in the winter garden, but it offers the emerging buds extremely effective protection from anything a British winter cares to throw at it. Another essential for the garden, surely?

A quick glimpse of Astrantia major 'Ruby Wedding'  since the previous photograph wasn't up to scratch. I'm pleasantly surprised these are still flowering their heads off to be honest.

Fat seedheads of Crocosmia 'Lucifer' above a clump of purple-leaved, ground-hugging sedum.

This time of year, as the nights grow longer, and the weather turns cold and wet, the gardening often reverts back to the planning stage, yet looks ahead if that makes any sense.  It is a chance to look back over the year and decide what planting schemes worked, and what didn't. What plants need to be moved, and which ones just didn't cut the mustard. 

In my garden, like most other gardeners', a plant has to prove it's worth if it is to stay. There are mistakes. Of course there are. One of which I have found that the clump of deep purple penstemons were planted far too close to the roses, swamping the magenta hardy geraniums and spotty leaves of the pulmonaria.  However, now is the wrong time to move them. I'll leave the foliage on the penstemons over the winter, then come the spring, after taking some cuttings as insurance, I'll dig up the whole clump, with as big a rootball as possible because they don't much like being moved, and shift the whole plant forward a few feet.

This time of year is also chance to put into place plans made earlier in the year. Plants that have been growing on to a size capable of taking on the cooler months.  A row of Buxus Sempervirens, or 'Box' plants have been planted out this week, between the lawn and the lower section of the garden where the huge ferns and the small acer reside. This will hopefully create a low hedge divider that will eventually replace the small picket fence. I suspect as these little bushes grow and knit together, I shall have to reduce the lawn to accommodate it. The strip of soil is actually a little wider than it appears to be here, as the edges of the lawn are a little untidy at the moment.

Talking of untidy, this scruffy looking arrangement belongs to a young virginian creeper, bereft of it's leaves now they have turned firey and fallen. Although I have untied the stems from the support canes, I have kept the canes to remind the Man that Can to be careful when mowing the nearby grass.  The plan, given time, is for this plant to cover the rear and side walls of the garage.

Two young hardy fuchsia plants nestled into the patio bed. What more fuchsias? Of course!  I may well have to cover these small gifts from Grandad for the hardest part of the winter, if it turns out to be as hard as the last.

This plant has been waiting for two years to be planted out into what was the vegetable patch this year. For those years, it has sat in a container on the top of the steps leading to the back door, sheltered from the weather while it decided whether to live or die.  It was a gift from my neighbour, who had taken a cutting from his other neighbour's huge shrub.  It has the most delicate pink young leaves, but I have yet to identify it. My neighbour believes it to be a weigela. What do you think?

Tucked right at the back of the garden, behind the greenhouse and partially hidden by the Rhododendron, I discovered this little chap.  He spent last winter in one of the hanging baskets by the front door as a tiny plantlet, sheltered by the deep purple violas. I remember now that I had plunged the basket's contents into this raised bed, out of the way while I planted up the baskets with summer bedding, promising to return and find a new home in the garden for him. I think he has come into flower to remind me of my promise.

As the last days of October come to an end, I just thought I'd show you these little 'treats', clinging desperately onto life before the frosts 'trick' them into the great compost heap in the sky. Mind you, as I have yet to plant these window boxes up with winter goodies, I might be able to find room in the warm to squeeze in the last of the pelargoniums before they are spoiled.

No such luck for these dahlias though.

And finally, while the plants in the garden are beginning to settle themselves in for the winter, this Christmas Cactus is getting ready for a fresh burst of colour.  Also known as Orchid Cactus, or 'holiday cactus' as there are also varieties that flower in time for Easter and Thanksgiving. I wonder then, that as it is October, whether this individual had been wrongly named.

It's nothing special. I bought it last year from my local supermarket when it was just about to flower (so I could exact the colour) It flowered for many months, and then I cut back on the watering until new buds began to form.  It is positioned on my bathroom windowsil, so gets a proper night time. I believe it needs about 14 hours of darkness to flower at it's best, something it would never get in the living room.  I think it's worked, don't you?

Happy Hallo'een!

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