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Anything that makes the garden more inviting in winter has to be a good thing, am I right? So this week I thought we might look at plants with attractive scents for winter – easily overlooked, but worth exploring if you believe, as I do, that a garden should work hard for you for twelve months of the year. Most of the favourites on my list are winter flowering shrubs that will sit quietly in the wings for months until it’s their time to shine – so placing of them needs careful thought. If possible, you want them near the front door, or near a path where you can enjoy the fragrance as you pass – but you might want to combine them with something more decorative for the rest of the year.
This week it feels as though deciduous garden plants are really getting serious about bedtime. The wind and rain of the last few days have brought leaves cascading down, and those still clinging on have turned yellow overnight, as though to signal their intentions. It’s an untidy season, which is probably one of the reasons I don’t like it very much – but it was still good to get outside for an hour at the weekend to begin the clean-up. You need to keep moving outside at this time of year to keep the cold at bay, so I gathered several buckets of fallen leaves to add to the leaf mould pile beside the shed.
You might remember me mentioning last week that I’d been ordering tulips, so just to remind you, you still have several weeks to plant the bulbs if you haven’t already. As they originate in the Middle East (not in Holland – the Dutch are just brilliant at growing and breeding them), they really need baking heat in summer, after the flower and foliage has yellowed and died down, in order to flower the following year. (Don’t we all.) This not always being forthcoming in Northern Europe, for every dozen you plant you could be lucky if two or three bother to show up in year two. That said, nothing else makes such a colourful display in late spring – so if you’re thinking of indulging, here are a few suggestions.
It’s time to plant the tulips – at least it will be once they arrive. An email informs me that my bulb order has been shipped, but in these strange times who knows what adventures they will have before they arrive safely at my door?
As far as I can make out we’ve only had one bank holiday since New Year’s Day without a lockdown in place. History will judge whether the damage caused was justified, but for now one thing at least is certain: damage is being done. This week I’d like to encourage you, if you possibly can, to let nature help you undo at least some of that damage; or if that’s not possible, to help you cope with it and give you hope for the future.
It’s been a particularly lovely autumn and just now the leaf colour on the trees is a sight to behold. The sunny weather and blue skies we’ve been enjoying help to make the landscape – and the garden – sing with colour. But thoughts are turning now to the weeks and months ahead- how can we keep the garden looking cheerful over winter, until the spring bulbs arrive?
I’m feeling a lot of love for Sorbus at the moment – they are such a super little tree. Our native Sorbus aucuparia is also commonly known as the rowan or mountain ash, which confuses people a lot – this is the kind of confusion that the use of botanical names, as opposed to common ones, helps to avoid. Anyway. You’ll know Sorbus aucuparia by its pinnate leaves – small leaflets arranged either side of a common stalk – and its abundant bunches of scarlet berries, visible from mid to late summer onwards. It’s a small, dainty tree, and this, as well as its long season of interest – bunches of creamy blossom in spring and good autumn leaf colour – make it a good candidate for a small garden. It’s also good for exposed locations, being completely unfazed by poor soil and strong winds.
No matter how lovely your garden is, you must admit that sometimes it would be really convenient if you could just add a roof. Fresh air is all very well and we need the rain for sure, but wouldn’t it be lovely if we could enjoy the garden without the rain actually falling on us while we do it?
Since that decided nip arrived in the air last week, it feels as though autumn is definitely here, although the golden sunny days might hang around for a little while yet if we’re lucky. It can be easy to give up on the garden at this time of year and I’ve definitely been guilty of that myself over the last month or so. As summer ends and growth slows, things tend to get overgrown and a bit neglected, plants sprawling and looking past their best – just like humans do at the end of a party. Not that anyone can remember what a party’s like just now, obviously.
It’s getting to the time of year when berries abound on plants both wild and cultivated. This is when they can be enjoyed in the ornamental garden and hedgerow – visually, at least. A few weeks further on and a cold snap will see them stripped off by hungry birds, but just now, as the season turns and the leaves begin to do likewise, the jewel like clusters still adorn the branches.