The grass has been strimmed and if the sunny weather holds I plan to line three paths on the allotment with a tough membrane before covering them with wood chippings. A plot holder has kindly chipped up an enormous Cedrus (cedar) tree for any of us to use. Recently I laid a path up the middle of the greenhouse and spread it with a heap of these rich cedar chippings. The smell is delicious and especially intense when the sun floods the space. It’s a woody, spicy-resinous scent and there’s no surprise that for centuries cedar has been used as the base note in many perfumes.
The last runner beans were removed along with the supports and when podded these made a great addition to a chilli con carne. I substituted them for red kidney beans and because they were relatively fresh they needed no soaking. Simmered for twenty minutes, whilst I followed a recipe for the chilli, they were then added for the last ten minutes.
The onion sets planted three weeks ago are showing through the soil and a quick hoeing session left them looking neat and tidy. The first pointed cabbage was ready as were masses more of Marathon F1 calabrese. I’ve been cropping a handful regularly for months and I’ll sow twice as many rows next year.
The dwarf French beans have been phenomenal over the last three weeks with a crop of about a kilo in total. Here they are mixed in a salad with Parma ham and Parmesan shavings in a French dressing.
Last week I mentioned a borlotti bean recipe but then we ate it before I’d remembered to photograph the dish. It was good so we had it again and this time I added finely chopped mint to the dressing before mixing in the beans with a handful of rocket leaves.
Seeds of perennial Fennel vulgare have germinated in root trainers and they’ll be kept behind the window in the garden shed over the next five months. I sowed dill at the same time hoping to plant these in the bed in the allotment greenhouse to over-Winter. That maybe ambitious since it’s an annual but I concluded worth a try.
Ammi visnaga has also come through (sown three weeks ago) and these along with the fennel will sit in the garden shed over Winter. It’s easier to look after seedlings at home where the weather can be monitored and if there’s a severe drop in temperature they’ll be brought indoors for a few weeks.
The sweet peas are well and truly over and the results were a bit hit and miss due to a lack of attention on my part. But clearing them last week I managed to save several pods and have sown one to each space in root trainers to get a strong root system established. Experienced growers advise an Autumn sowing and to keep in a cold frame or greenhouse so it will be the garden shed again for me. In early April it’s advisable to pinch out the centre tips to make the plants bushy before planting in the ground at the end of the month. Watch this space.
The spent flower heads of Japanese anemones have an interesting form (like tiny peas on wiry stems)and are mixed here with Verbena bonariensis and three hydrangea flowers found lurking low down hidden by foliage.
Autumn is a great time to visit Hauser and Wirth in Bruton to see the magic of the landscaping in Oudolf Field a perennial meadow in Somerset. It was my third visit in twelve months and I was so inspired to see it at this time of year.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the planting and I had to quickly reign in my longing to recreate it at home. My analysis is that Piet Oudolf’s design perfectly fits the huge open space that it is set in with the gently rolling hills in the distance providing a perfectly scaled backdrop. Shrubs are limited to the outer edges giving a sense of enclosure to the 26,000 herbaceous perennials that provide the patchwork of colour and form.
Oudolf’s phenomenal plant knowledge is key to this design. He knows the beauty that these plants will offer as each fades into Autumn.
Height is achieved with grasses and herbaceous plants and a visit is an opportunity to identify a huge range of grasses in particular. These are much easier to appreciate in the flesh and you get a very clear sense of their beauty and form. His colour palette is both subtle and dramatic constantly drawing the eye.
The paths are gravel and unobtrusive not to distract from the planting and are edged with simple metal strips. This neat and elegant solution (albeit an expensive one) surrounds all the massive beds and uses a 10 cm strip of metal with I guess the same depth in the ground. The soil is very neatly held back from the paths and more gravel when needed can be added without spilling onto the beds.
There is much to inspire and so many plant combinations that would work really well on a lesser scale. In a smaller space you could give it a try with the help and expertise of Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury in their book Planting: A New Perspective Publ: Timber Press.
A completely blank canvas would also be a huge bonus so it’s probably too late to consider it here at home with established trees, hedges and shrubs in a narrow town garden surrounded by walls but if ever we moved…
Borlotti beans are positively glowing in the mellow Autumn light on the allotment. I cropped enough to make a favourite recipe from the River Cafe which is roughly as follows:
For 2 Pod and cover and cook 150 g beans with a crushed clove of garlic and 4 sage leaves. Cook till soft then drain and add S and P. Make a dressing of 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp of good olive oil and 1 tsp of Dijon mustard. Mix the warm beans with the dressing and toss with rocket leaves.
Another favourite River Cafe recipe for Purple French beans is to cook till tender then drain. Make a French dressing and stir in 1 tbsp of grated Parmesan- the beans and cheese work surprisingly well together.
Nasturtiums are still in flower both on the allotment and here in the garden so I picked a few.
Having cropped the last of the tomatoes in the greenhouse I am keen to use the space for growing other things. The first task is sowing seeds for cutting next year and I want lots of Fennel vulgare for planting at home and on the allotment…
Bupleurum rotundifolium a late-flowering plant with lime-green flowers…
Lunaria annua (Honesty)…
All these seeds were sown in half-size trays of general purpose compost and placed on shelves in the warmth of the green house-with the door left open. However on a trip to the allotment early sunday morning a ground frost was silvering the leaves on the Euphorbia wulfennii and the Phlomis fruticosa so I zipped the door closed.
Then by today temperatures are soaring up to 26*C so I will unzip the greenhouse door. With these crazy fluctuations in temperature the seeds may be traumatized and will need to be re-sown.
Difficult to say why I bought quite so many onion sets but they are now all planted: Red Winter, Senshya and Shakespeare, fifty of each, are in the ground. And I sowed two rows of Wild Rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) seeds next to a row of flat leaf parsley, the latter came through from a sowing three weeks ago.
The Kaffir lily plants are slowly fattening up in a border here and I cut the flowers from one for my desk. They are such an extraordinary orange/red and perfect for this blue glass vase.
Clumps of pot marigold were cleared from a bed in order to tip a full, well-rotted load of compost from one of the three bins on the allotment. It’s an effort forking it out and transporting it in a wheel barrow and then raking off any resistant roots, but very satisfying. Two of the three bins are full to the brim but there’s now an empty bin to take the rest of late summer weeds and kitchen waste. Incidentally now is a good time to save seeds of this lovely annual.
Inspired by James Wong suggesting climbing plants for ground-cover I’ve lifted and re-planted the climber Akebia quinata. I bought two in my impatience to cover the arbour and one took off in a spectacular fashion whilst the other dawdled. I can see that one plant will be enough to combine with the golden hop and Solanum crispum ‘Album’- I just need to be patient and wait. So the slower akebia is now planted as ground cover in a part-shady bed and where, with some protection from the wall, it might remain in leaf all year. The flowers are scented and appear in early spring and I’m imagining them mingling around the base of several Helleborus argutifolius all doing well in the same bed. Watch this space.
We’ve had a great crop of Calabrese Marathon for the last eight weeks…
And Spinach Beet…
A large squash (I think it’s Baby Bear) has ripened and will be roasted with onions, peppers and garlic. Next to it is the first of the Sarah Raven climbing squash ‘Munchkin’. It’s one of seven clambering over supports and these will be left to grow a bit bigger and steaming is suggested.
The first borlottis are ready with a huge row that were sown much later to follow…
Some rather interesting plants appeared in the garden eight weeks ago in a bed planted with Verbena bonariensis. Several have come up in a neat row so it sort of feels intentional but I can’t claim responsibility. The flowers are insignificant but the wiry form makes a great contribution in a vase…
Here it is with Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and Verbena bonariensis…