On the Edge!

The seasons are moving; summer is past; autumn is in and all is change! Some plants continue in fine form and are treasured for performing so late in the year while others are well past their best and have already made their way to the compost bin.

Though near  the end of their season and soon to be lifted and stored for the winter, dahlias continue to give colour in the garden. 

Three which continue to perform brilliantly

One regularly reads advice to allow herbaceous perennials to stand overwinter, to enjoy their winter hues and skeletons and to provide food and habitats for wildlife. I prefer to clear up in autumn as I dislike untidiness in the garden and also because we have a large collection of snowdrops with cultivars flowering in the garden from November to March.

Clearing up at this time of year is a good opportunity to tackle those changes one has thought of and planned during the summer. Left on the long finger they are likely to be forgotten until it is too late and next season is in full swing.

One bed in the garden was earmarked for work this autumn. Three beautiful cultivars of Campanula latiloba – ‘Hidcote Amethyst’, ‘Chattle Charmer’ and ‘Beauty of Exmouth’ – had become rampageous and had swamped a planting of nerines which, as a result of being shaded out and lacking their summer baking, had not flowered for several years. It was decision time: the campanulas and the nerines could not live together and one had to go. It wasn’t a difficult decision. The campanulas, though very pretty and colourful in summer, were ever badly behaved. They spread too quickly, were awkward to support and needed constant dead-heading to prolong flowering – they had become a nuisance whereas nerines require little attention. Once planted correctly, in a sunny and dry position with their snouts above ground, they flower reliably year after year and congestion seems only to meet with better performance.

Nerine x bowdenii Phlox variegated
Nerine x bowdenii – planted here many years ago and thriving in this dry and sunny position. The variegated phlox in the background is a little striking but seems to go well with the nerines!

The necessity of dealing with the campanula/nerine conflict was the opportunity to do a general reorganisation of that particular bed. Plants which had been merely tolerated for several years were finally dispatched and congested plants lifted and split. As there had been some over vigorous plants in the bed and we feared they might sprout again in spring those plants which we wished to retain have been lifted and potted up and will be held until late spring/early summer before being replanted. This will allow time for the offending plants to reappear and removed if any have escaped our attention on this occasion.

The scene of our work this week.

With the plants removed it was an ideal time to add compost to the bed. The soil level had dropped a little while nerines and bearded iris prefer the best of drainage in a good sunny position.

Compost heap
The source of all goodness! The compost heap being emptied – how quickly it empties!
Scissors
Perhaps this was the real edge. The compost heap regularly reveals lost tools and on this occasion it was this small scissors which came as a very kind gift with a twine holder. It’s cutting days are over.

Gardening is a repetition of these routine tasks; it is neither often exciting nor glamorous but it is pleasantly enjoyable and we will look forward to this bed next year and imagine it will have been improved hugely – optimism and high hopes!

Paddy Tobin

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