Summer hung on for quite a while, but there is no denying we are now in the thick of autumn, even heading into winter as the nights draw in and the temperatures drop. I have begun to tidy up and cut stuff back, I quite like that job. It’s a time for reflection, planning and critique. As you’ll see, I do have some colour left, although I expect the first frost will see to most of that.

In this monthly series I try to step back and look at the borders as a whole, see what is working, what could improve. It’s also a somewhat futile attempt to identify more planting space!

Let’s take a spin.

Rear Garden

Border 1, the patio border. Things are afoot! I have been contemplating enlarging this border for many months, I have finally got around to it. I will post a separate update on the whys and wherefores, but suffice to say I have virgin ground to plant up, 2 or 3 square metres I’d say. It’s covered with weed membrane and plastic bags at the moment, just to keep the cats off it. In the last border patrol, I decided that I would revamp the planting in the original border, being generally underwhelmed with the state of it. I have not changed my mind, so over the winter I will be thinking about what can be planted there to jazz it up, plus of course I have the new space. Anyhow, right now, things continue to be on the drab side. I have cut back the loosestrife and the potentilla. The fuchsia will come out entirely I think, they were nothing special. There’s nothing that I love in that border, so on reflection I think it will all come out. All of it! That will mean I have a good amount of empty space to fill. Happy days!


Border 2, the sunny border. The cotinus at the far left end is doing its autumn thing, the tagetes are still jolly, and the nasturtiums are strutting their stuff and there’s even still a bit of half hearted dahlia action. Apart from that though things are on their way out for the winter. I have cut back or removed all the tall plants – the helenium are chopped back, the tithonia and zinnia are all shredded and composted. As a result, more of that fence is visible. Some have suggested painting it a more agreeable colour, but I’d rather cover it with plants, not sure I can be bothered with painting all those panels. At the very end of the border, in the far corner, is a cornus sanguinea ‘midwinter fire’. The foliage is fading fast and will soon fall. I am impatient to see how the stems look. Last year this was still a very small new shrub. I think I’ll want to coppice it back after this winter, so that I get a good crop of new colourful stems next winter. Behind that you can just see some questing wisteria. I have been encouraging it to spread out from the trellis along this fence line in both directions. It seems to be flirting with the idea of doing that, I shall continue to persuade. It’ll need a bit of tying in once everything has died back. There’s plenty of scope to improve in this border still. I remain hopeful that the fenceline will be better covered next summer when the many roses and clematis will be a bit more established. I also have a couple of things I could plant in here, an abutilon ‘suntense’, a honeysuckle and a newly acquired ceanothus I might wall-train, or rather fence-train in here. I will wait and see next spring when the incumbents are bucking up their ideas. In general this border has been quite good this year but I can make it better I think.

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Border 3, the wisteria border, incorporating the Eye of Sauron and associated planting. The new has outshone the old here. Since putting in the new border to the front of the seating area, the original border has looked a bit bedraggled. There is definitely scope to make improvements. I will be planting more bulbs, and I have plenty of plants waiting in the wings, plus whatever I grow from seed next year. I’ve been really pleased with how the new planting area has come on, a mix of perennials and annuals grown from seed this year. There are a couple of shrubs in there too, both still small as they are grown from cuttings – a weigela and an eleagnus ‘quicksilver’. They should add a bit of height and bulk once they get going.

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Border 4, the lilac border. I might have to come up with a new name for this border, I am still contemplating removing the lilac. It only looks good for a few weeks of the year, the rest of the time it is a stealer of light and planting space. I might look at raising the canopy a couple of feet, to give a bit more room to manoeuvre underneath. In general though, I like this border. The wisteria and clematis at the back give a good backdrop for much of the year. Aside from a bit of evergreen colour, not to be sniffed at, I’m not convinced the rosemary is adding anything to my enjoyment of this border. The border is in partial shade, and is at the bottom of the very gentle slope my garden is on, so does stay a bit more moist than those down the sides. I have a few things that would suit those conditions, so more changes are likely.


Border 5 – the shady border. Nothing has changed in this border since the last patrol. The abelia has grown on a little more, crowding out some of the underplanting I put in when it was pruned right back. I still haven’t lopped off the top of the pittosporum, I still think I will at some point. Aside from a bit of a gap behind the harts tongue ferns, there’s not much I’d change about this border, apart from possibly making it a little larger. I have my eye on a little area of lawn behind the washing line which serves no real purpose…

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Border 6, the no-longer-inadequate border. I finally got around to extending this border, adding about 3 times the original area. I haven’t done anything about moving, changing or adding plants yet, aside from some daffodils that I’ve added in, and some tulips to follow. I need to spend a bit of time thinking about what I want to go in there. I feel content at this point that steps have been taken. Watch this space, literally.


Front garden

Border 7, 8 and 9

I spent some time giving the front garden a good tidy a week or so back. I don’t often spend time gardening here, it plays second fiddle to the back garden, so it was good to get it tidy. I’ve given everything tall a haircut, cutting perennials down to about 8 inches. I’ll take the rest of the stems away in the spring, but for now they can stay to help the plants through the winter. I’ve removed the returnee nicotania, hopefully before it set any seed. This revealed three angelica gigas I had planted earlier this year. Those get quite big, so I have moved two of them to other spots in the front garden. The hollyhocks are still going strong, a bit of a surprise as I wasn’t expecting them to flower till next year. Once they get frosted I will cut them back to the ground and hopefully next year they will grow to their full height of 6 or 7 feet. I might move or even remove one or two of the three enthusiastic pheasants tail grasses by the window. I’ve mulched the lot with compost left over from growing tomatoes and spuds, a nice thick layer. I will try to resist the temptation to plant things in the gaps that are visible now. I will fail, I expect.

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Here endeth the tour for this month. I’ll be back at the end of November when things will be less leafy and less flowery.