I cut back the Autumn raspberries this week and gave them a good weeding and then mulched with a bag of well-rotted horse manure. I had a rather poor crop this summer and since I rely on them for puddings, jam and for the freezer I decided they needed some TLC and a good feed.
With cold weather forecast for next weekend it seemed time to pick my first crop of sprouts. They were sweet and tender especially the leafy green tops which stayed bright green when gently boiled in lots of water.
Here’s the recipe and I have now made it twice and the last time it was from cooked, roasted beetroot that I had sliced and frozen and it worked perfectly. http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/zaatar-spiced-beet-dip-with-goat-cheese-and-hazelnuts
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is in flower and a delicious scent pervades the air. Although this shrub is deciduous and will shed its leaves the pale pink flowers keep going through Winter and seem to be oblivious to frost and snow.
I’ve resisted even putting a fork in and looking till now knowing I should wait for the frost to enhances the flavour of my Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) above. There was a ground frost earlier in the week so I lifted my first crop and was rather pleased with the quantity although from the look of them they’ll need an interesting recipe. This is my first year of growing Jerusalem artichokes and they really couldn’t be easier. I planted four tubers of ‘Fuseau’ in a row 50cm apart in Autumn last year and the first signs of life were in Spring as clumps of green leaves emerged through the soil. These rapidly grew to 3m -they are as the Latin suggests -from the sunflower family. In September pretty yellow daisies emerged on the plants and waved around in the breeze.
After peeling I chopped the tubers into chunks and cooked them for 20 minutes in hot olive oil and melted butter to which I added crushed garlic and chopped sage. They pan-cook faster than potatoes, which is in their favour if time is short, and the flavour was subtle. No image I’m afraid- they looked rather poorly in the artificial flash of my camera- worse than they looked when forked from the ground. But I liked that they tasted of field mushrooms and I’ll try other recipes over the next few months.
I love these Kaffir lilies- Schizostylus coccinea-and the next time I see plants at the garden centre I am buying. They’re a stunning hot coral pink and have flowered in a friend’s garden for the whole of October until about ten days ago. It’s a native of Southern Africa and is a clump-forming perennial that spreads by rhizomes. It will do well planted next to a wall in full sun and is frost-hardy.
A frost is forecast for next week so I decided to crop the last of the row of rainbow chard cutting it back to 15cm above the soil level. That will be it till late April/May next year when new leaves should emerge to bridge the gap whilst a new bed of chard gets going.
The green manure sown from seed 8 weeks ago is full of leaf and about to flower. I chose Caliente Mustard which should die back over winter and the roots can then be cut with a sharp spade pushed through the soil. This produces a natural gas which reduces and suppresses a range of harmful nematodes and diseases in the soil. It ‘s a rather wonderful plant with these soft yellow flowers blooming away…Another experiment that was looking good in the Autumn sunshine and almost ready to pick were Japanese mustard greens Komatsuma (below). I’ll put a fleece cloche over the row this weekend for protection and look out some stir-fry recipes over the next few weeks.
In the garden an evergreen plant of Fatsia japonica that started out as a small shrub 15 years ago is now a 5 metre high multi-stemmed tree producing a mass of cream flowers…
A tree-lined street in London a few weeks back stopped me in my tracks and had me searching for my camera. What was most exciting was the perfect scale of the trees in relationship to the architecture which was made up of two long terraces either side of the road lined with elegant three storey houses. The crown of the tree, a Crataegus prunifolia Splendens, spanned the pavement whilst leaving plenty of room to walk beneath the branches and the form overall was of a neat and leafy canopy. It has masses of pretty white blossom in Spring and now with leaves turning from green to red and dripping in berries it seemed to me a most inspired choice for a city street.
It was also a good scale to consider for a town garden and my antennae are out for the right tree here since my standard Clerodendrum trichotomum is in its fifteenth year and isn’t looking as good as it did for the first twelve years of its life. Several branches are bare which has reduced the neat canopy which was broad enough to sit under for shade in full sun. I am dithering between a practical and pretty fruit tree such as Czar plum below which comes highly recommended from a good gardening friend in Oxford…
…or a tree that offers two seasons of dramatic interest whilst feeding the birds in Winter and providing pollen for bees in Spring so maybe the hawthorn seen in the London street. I also have Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ (see below) on my radar with its deep purple leaves throughout summer.
I decided to plant the Erythronium bulbs in modules until they show signs of green shoots. The ground is soggy and although I’ve cleared some leaves the trees are still clinging on to quite a lot more. Bringing the bulbs on in a cold frame means I can avoid pulling them out of the ground when raking up the final drop from next door’s mulberry and walnut trees.
And the seeds of Anemone nemerosa above were sown in fresh potting compost and will be kept indoors in the light at 18c-22c and kept moist for the first 2-4 weeks. After that they go into a cold frame for a further 4-6 weeks. This is known as the cooling period and then I’ll bring the tray indoors again but leave it in an unheated room at 5c to 12c. It will be Spring before they can be potted on and finally planted in the ground in June.
The only freesia I really like are these pale ones which have been in bloom for a week on the kitchen table. They are so much cooler than the bright orange-red variety and they look especially good in this pale grey tin jug.
I have loved this plant for many years and have finally got round to making a space for it in the shady end of the garden to naturalize with dwarf narcissi and other Spring flowering bulbs. Erythronium ‘White Beauty’ has these delicate swept back petals rather like wings gently suspended on slender stems from a sturdy base of ground hugging leaves. It has to be said I can see no resemblance to a dog’s-tooth but the bulb is long and pointed and tooth-like and this must be the reference. They thrive under deciduous trees in deep fertile soil and over time the plants can be lifted and divided in Autumn.
Erythronium dens-canis (above) has delicate white, pink, or mauve flowers with a darker mottled leaf and these I’ll plant at the base of three deciduous Amelanchier canadensis shrubs.
The wood anemone (below ) Anemone nemerosa is known as the wind flower (anemos is Greek for wind) and is another long-admired woodland plant of mine. I’ve purchased seeds for these and will sow indoors in the next few weeks to keep behind glass over Winter to plant out late Spring. It likes semi-shade and is at home under hedges or deciduous trees producing low-growing, starry white flowers in Spring.
The dramatic violet-purple berries of this Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldi ‘Profusion’ stopped me in my tracks last week. It fruits best in long hot summers which I think we can describe as our recent summer and requires fertile well-drained soil in dappled shade or full sun. It was close to an equally stunning shrub of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Mariesii Perfecta’ and the two together were gorgeous.
I crossed the road and turned a corner and came across another garden with this delightful planting of Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ behind the upright stems of Verbena bonariensis.
Both these small front gardens were close to my favourite garden centre Riverside in Bristol and maybe one Autumn the garden owners were inspired by what was on sale and looking good. Planted up and thriving these are exceptionally lovely combinations.
On the kitchen table is a small pot of grey Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ with a hybrid hellebore which has been in flower for the last three weeks.
If you would like an artlessly natural-looking meadow with relatively little hassle then Autumn is a good time to plant up a grassed area with Spring flowering bulbs. The advantage of using bulbs is the ease with which they can be planted followed by the opportunity for most bulbs to multiply for years to come. Whilst the plant choice depends on individual taste it should be noted that the most natural appearance achieved with bulbs is if you stick to wild species or those of wild looking cultivars. I would suggest Crocus tommasinianus below…
Wild daffodils Pseudo narcissi Lobularis which grows to 20cms and will establish itself and spread after a couple of seasons…
Snowdrops Galanthus ‘Elwesii’…
The other advantage of limiting a ‘meadow’ to bulbs is in the management. The lawn area should be cut in Autumn, the bulbs tossed together in a bucket then thrown in handfuls over the cut grass. Plant the bulbs where they land and plant deep enough to give a soil covering that is at least twice the height of the dormant bulb. A sharp spade is easier to cut into grass than a bulb planter or a trowel and watering (or a day of rain prior to planting) will make the task easier. If a ‘path’ is required across the lawn for access then sprinkle sand to define the path edge and avoid planting here and keep the grass cut shorter to further define it.
The bulbs will need a period of six weeks after flowering to rebuild their strength and a feed of high potash will benefit. The grass can then be cut and cut again in autumn whilst waiting for the Spring show the following year. There’s no need to limit it to bulbs but these are readily available and relatively inexpensive and as a project can be started immediately.