041With my pruning and mulching almost complete,  my   focus is  now  to  cut  back  all  that  remains of last years  perennials .    This  Veronicastrum in Judy’s garden has been given an extension of leave,  and continues  to  defiantly pack a visual punch with its enduring sturdy stem and seed head.

Unless  pest and disease ridden, I tend to leave spent deciduous  foliage on the borders over Winter.  Not only do they  provide temporary winter soil protection, mulch out weeds, but  then naturally decay down  to improve the soil’s fertility.  It is only now in  mid February, that I have started to remove  this  old foliage away from emerging bulbs,  whilst  ensuring  the leaf mulch is aside from the crowns of perennials.   I have a perfect Wolfgarten tool for this job,  which enables  me  to  leave  behind the delicate foliage,  buds and flowers of countless bulbs  in my care as I rake through.

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wheelbarrow loads of hellebore foliage have been cut back, to reveal some  truly stunning flowers.

Finally , and most importantly some of my favourite perennials are no longer subterranean, ” Hello  2017 ”  from  an emerging Euphorbia Fireglow  in Geoff’s garden.

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The majority of my  winter work  involves pruning and cutting back shrubs and trees in preparation for the coming year ;  but never  hacking  back.  I  regularly  drive past properties where the latter has been undertaken ( and often on a vast scale ).  It truly shocks and saddens  me  as  to what level of horticultural carnage has been   created.

Out of the vast number  of shrubs I look after,   over the last 9 years  this particular shrub rose (which belongs to Wendy and Alan in Much Wenlock)  has become   my favourite to prune and photograph.  Why ?  – the  flowers and hips are  stunning and copious, they also  make a great addition to any door garland.

On a practical note, pruning simply involves cutting out diseased and dead wood, removing crossing branches, weak   growth  and cutting back  to  ultimately promote healthy new growth on a balanced framework.  Hacking back  creates an image of  no knowledge as to how  it should be done,  no thought to the long term health or  aesthetic shape, whilst  using blunt tools. Oh yes, and not particularly caring either.

My pruning tools of choice are   the   super sharp Niwaki secateurs, Wolf Garten anvil  loppers  and pruning saw, and the   Royal Horticultural Society  pruning manual. I never travel without  them.

My lovely sister Louise, made me these  gloves for Christmas.  It made me laugh out loud, when I realised  they are an exact colour match with the cyclamen in Geoff’s’ garden.003

I think we should all make an effort to colour co-ordinate  with our gardens more.

It  was too cold for gardening, which  led to a working day  sitting by the fire and drinking coffee.  I spent my time visualising  each garden in my care,   making  notes of everything I would like to  achieve for my clients.  New borders, large-scale sculptural willow projects, renovation projects, new vegetable and soft fruit beds, to name but a few. I  read through  mounds of seed catalogues and horticultural journals, noting must have plants and seeds.  I like productive days,  this definitely was one.

018This image is from Geoff’s garden on Tuesday. Snowdrops emerging through a leaf  mulch.  I loved the way the bulb tips had pierced the foliage.

Birds land by the  stem and branch full  at home, bringing my garden to life .  From my lounge window, on a wet  or frozen day, or any other day come to think of it, it is a truly great space to look out onto, and take winter images.008

P1050057 I will  continue  mulching from the edges whilst standing on boards and finish all  necessary deciduous winter  pruning; as long as it is niether below freezing, or chucking down.

Happy  new year,  and when the weather is right for you happy gardening .

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These are my favourite  garden related images from 2016.  I hope you enjoy them.028This huge drift of chocolate cosmos and squirrel tail grass was taken in  August at Aberglasney gardens.  I thought the combination was perfect.

217 From my own garden.  I love the longevity of asters, followed by their stunning seed heads.

020From Diane and Dom’s garden. My precious  Niwaki secateurs, and a Christmas present of a box of truly delicious Belgian chocolates.

013A clump of Erythronium Pagoda in the rain, under hydrangeas.  We should all make space for them in a shady spot.  Stunning.

november   2013 099Late autumnal light running through the border at Selina’s,  full of asters and crocosmia.

011Cornus midwinter fire in front of White birch at Geoffs’.

004Exploding frozen stems in Eleanor’s garden, November 2016.

014Summer light through the Veronicastrum and Helianthus at Martin and Judy’s.

009My garden, marjorum, feverfew, squirrel tail grass, mid summer.

014Bees on centeura in Wendy’s garden.

I  hope  2017 is a  spectacular photography and gardening year for all of us

This years door garlands have been designed with my friends in mind.

For Lucy at the Raven Hotel in Much Wenlock, a combination of cranberries and oranges.image

For Mary and Hugh at the twenty twenty art Gallery in Much Wenlock pencils and twisted hazel.image

Cotton reels and willow for Wendy, an upholsterer .image

Tiny striped pencils for Judy.018

Pheasant feathers and  hazel  for Lydia.029

 

020A perfect  gift for any gardener at Christmas (or at any time of the year come to think about it )  would be   a new pair of Niwaki secateurs.  With their super sharp and precise cut they  are my essential work tool, and I venture into no garden without them.   My only reccomendation  is to  buy a holster at the same time,  having to replace lost Niwakis is  no joy.

The second christmas gift I would recommend if you employ a gardener, is a fine box of Belgium chocolates (also slightly less expensive)

Thankyou to Diane and Dom, who have a truly beautiful vertical garden  in Much Wenlock in Shropshire .   You  really do need a head for height as you balance on the ledges 8 foot up.  My Christmas chocolates  made for a lovely mid pruning treat earlier this week.

I have recently scrutinized all the borders in my care.  My love for Asters in all their autumn glory is my downfall,  I tend to forget how skilled  they are in making a solid mat of roots that swamps anything in their path, allowing little else to flourish. The same can be said  for crocosmia,ladies mantle, lysimachia to name but a few.

I made a plan  in autumn and  stuck to it. Garden by garden  border by border I have removed rampaging perennials by the wheelbarrow load to make space.  From now on in  winter will find me pruning ,mulching, and planting new trees and shrubs in those new spaces.

I  had the opportunity to revamp an entire double border from spring to this autumn.  If  there is  space in your  garden then the creation of two adjacent parallel  borders is a worthy addition.   There really is something quite special about walking  along a pathway where you are totally immersed on either side by perennials, shrubs and trees. Personally, it can and frequently does promote a sense of satisfaction with life, peace and calm.

Over the last three years  I have watched plants bulk up in a customers double border.  Action was needed by this summer as it was all getting a little out of hand (particularly the alstromeria)P1050462

I began by thinking about what was already in the rest of the garden that I could  possibly use.  Early  spring 2016  I  split up and replanted  hundreds of snowdrops. Followed in  Late Spring  by  buying  around £25.00 worth of new perennials in 10 cm pots, which  have grown  away  really successfully, the plants in question being  spanish daisy and  Aster lateriflorus Lady in Black . One of which has the capacity to self seed prolifically, and the latter is likely to spread.  I will keep an eye on them..

In Autumn I dug out swathes of crocosmia,  monbretia,  alstromeria  and ladies mantle and some oversized hebes .  I pruned back the Magnolia as it was  casting too much shade. I moved peonies (with great care) and  divided  a primrose yellow nepeta govaniana, which is fast becoming one of my favourite perennials.  I still need to buy some more Russian sage, as it looks stunning with the nepeta.009

There was a  huge Miscanthus  Morning light, which was prime for dividing.  These off sets are now at 2m intervals  on both sides of the border which  provide  definition, symmetry, and rhythm.

This border has taken nine months to renovate. In its new form it will  be a collection of primrose yellow, perovskia purple, pale pink, I am looking forward to its new lease of life.

My recommendation,  make some time  and think what you would like to see in your garden next year, there is a whole winters worth of deliberation  time ahead of us, it will be worth it.

I  have a great passion for  plant propagation from seed and cuttings.   Being able to grow your own garden at limited expense is such a bonus.

If your garden has run out of floral and structural steam, right now  is the perfect time to look past your spent plants.  Make some time to imagine what you would like to see  next year.

My garden is on the whole containerised, every year I make a different  garden by moving the containers around which contain shrubs and grasses, then  grow new plants to create a different feel to the space.

I start by imagining the   intended spatial arrangement – after a day of looking after other people’s gardens I like to make several spaces in which just to sit, surrounded by plants.032

I then I think about how I want the garden to feel,  which for me  is free flowing and informal

Then I imagine the specific   colours I would like to  spend several seasons with.  There was  a yellow and white theme this year.

Finally I then spend time thinking  about what plants I will  need to grow to help to  create all of this.  Around  50 per cent is home grown, the remainder tend to come from independent nurseries, and plant fairs.

For next year I am imagining  a  vibrant wild cottage style  where I will need to swish through  a double border full of  the   grass Amenantheles  lessonii with  its  stunning bronze foliage, past  swathes of  coral coloured Salvias, deep purple Fuchsias, iridescent purple Verbena, towering blue Echiums and dahlias of a deep plum  colour.

With my greenhouse being unheated I tend to  start propagating  from early  April,  as air temperature and  light levels are really starting to increase.  There is always horticultural fleece, and  a propagation lid to hand,  it all gets too cold  at night for my seedlings.

Here are a few of my favourites from this year, for you to consider.

The non hardy annual – Tithonia rotundiflora Torch is a regular addition in my flower  garden,  with an incredible  flourescent  orange flower, which really  does appear to glow, plus an exquisite   textural velvet like stem , it  is heading  towards being  my top flower.

However there are plenty of others that could easily knock it off the top spot, and they include.

Ammi majus.  Being a hardy annual, I have only  sown this once,  it now billows through my  garden. What is there not to love about its seed head that follows on from its umbellifer flower, that provides shelter for insects.

Verbena bonariensis, I  tend to treat this as a tender perennial, so grow it annually – just in case I loose plants over Winter.  It does have the capacity to have an irregular germination rate, and it can take several  weeks for a tray to completely germinate.  However once growing away it is such a tough little plant, that  sends out their  tiny iridescent purple flowers off for months and months.  It is still going strong even in November.

I have written about Hordeum jubatum on a previous post,  and it will definitely be making a return appearance.  It really was incredibly  easy  to grow, and it looked fantastic  for weeks.

My Thompson 2017 seed catalogue has arrived ,  no doubt Sarah Ravens seed catalogue will contain some dreamy annuals.  I also have  packets ( and packets ) of seeds for  must have plants from assorted plant fairs this year.

I have  months to deliberate before I make my final purchases,  to hopefully ensure flowering success next year, as I  have a garden to grow for my 50th birthday party in August.

One hundred blogs ago I decided to document my  life as a professional gardener. It  became my work diary which  I thoroughly enjoy writing and sharing.

All the gardens in my care  have  now settled  into my favourite season.  The sharpness of the morning air is ever present.  Punchy and delicate  colours abound in equal measures.   Dahlias, Helianthus,Rudbeckia seed heads, Nerines, Japanese  anenomes are all jostling for my number one spot for favourite October image.  I am incapable of making a decision. I truly love them all.

Below is   my garden.  Aster divercatis,  Miscanthus  Sinensis Morning light and  Bistort Amplexicaulis Alba are still looking  sharp.

Autumn is always  pretty full on work wise.  I am  mainly clearing out unrequired  plants and dividing  perennials and sharing off sets between customers, and thinking about how I can improve the gardens in my care.  One definite way to achieve this is by careful bulb choice.  With this in mind  I am presently scouring the Parkers bulb catalogue to achieve this.