The rush of the summer is over; autumn has moved along gently and winter is not quite upon us. It is a time of ease in the garden. That rush of growth is gone – and, thankfully, that applies also to the weeds, the grass and the hedges – so routine maintenance is much less at this time of year.
Piet Oudolf’s appreciation of plants all the way through the seasons of their growth and death is less applicable in our climate. We very seldom have the dry, crisp, frosty conditions so common on the continent which show the skeletons of dead herbaceous plants in a new and attractive vision. Here, our Irish climate – exacerbated by our garden being in a river valley where fogs and heavy dews are normal – very quickly turns our dying herbaceous plants to a soft mush which is not very attractive. Because of this, it is our custom to clear away the dead material in late autumn or early winter – as soon as they die down for it is easier to do it at that stage. However, we have not reached that time of the year yet and we can sit back for a little while, taking it a little easier in the garden, and appreciate those things in flower at the moment.
Nerines and colchicums are giving the best displays in the garden at present while there are some roses still looking well. Sedums continue though are fading and snowdrops remind us that this is not a season ending but simply a turning and a new season beginning.
And, a time of beginnings – the first snowdrops of the season. These are cultivars of Galanthus reginae-olgae, a Greek species which flowers in the autumn. They are a challenge for me to grow in the open garden as they need to be very dry and very hot all summer. I can only provide these conditions by growing them in pots in the glasshouse. It is always a pleasure to see them coming into flower and it won’t be long until those grown in the garden begin to appear. In the meantime I will continue to enjoy the ease of this time of the year in the garden.