The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Monday, 29 October 2012

Winding down for winter

Its definitely slowing down at the allotment, but I can't quite get on top of putting it to bed as the soil is so wet.
Its invigorating being up there on a cool day though, the other day I kept hearing the sound of thrushes clicking away, they must be feasting on all the berries and fruit around at this time of year. They are to be encouraged to help with my slug/snail problem! Its still quite colourful on the plot, despite some frosts which saw off my squash and courgettes I've got Dahlias in flower, some Cosmos which is flowering eventually, the Cerinthe has been flowering for months and is still going strong, plus my favourite combination of English marigold and Borage. So I'm still managing to pick a bouquet once a week. But one hard frost and I'm sure that'll be the end of that.

I've got a lovely dark orange coloured nasturtium which is still going strong.

The green manure which I sowed is coming on strong now. I've sowed some more where my potatoes were to try and improve that part of the plot.
A bit patchy but its ok.
The plot never looks completely empty over winter now, as I've got quite a lot of herbs, fruit bushes and flowers which prevent it looking too bleak.

But I guess each time I go I'm clearing more to the compost heap and it will slowly empty. On Saturday I picked loads more heads off my calabrese which are still producing. In that bed are some plants of Romanesco which have grown nice and healthily but have not produced a head. Romanesco is the Italian cauliflower which has a beautiful green head. I picked one last year and tried again this year but I don't think they are going to have a head in time before it frosts but we will see. On the plus side, I have got lots of kale which I'm looking forward to using in Ribollita soup!
My leeks are looking good and I've picked a few already, I think I should grow more next year as I love them and they are relatively easy whatever the weather.
I've planted some garlic before Christmas this year, I'm normally not very organised but thought I would plant some now and plant some in the new year and compare the two. So I've planted a row straight into the soil and we will see how they do. My overwintering onions are sprouting and growing well now. My next job is to sow some broad beans in pots which I can plant out in a few weeks as my overwintered broad beans did better than my spring planted ones this year.
I've got a few winter jobs planned for the allotment this year. I want to put a path in at the bottom of the plot to my shed (which also needs a bit of patching up), I'd like to build a cold frame and also put a bench up there. Having the paths which I put in over the summer has been brilliant, they are so much nicer to walk on than the grass paths round the edges of the plot which are a bit treacherous at the moment. I've got one remaining big bed which needs dividing up as I keep having to stand on the soil to get to some plants, so some paths are needed there.
After the summer we have had I still feel very keen in getting to the plot, I think I'm just making the most of any nice days that we have. It'll only be weekends now though with the clocks changing, there will be no going up in the evening. But I'm not wishing the winter away, I quite like the down time, to plan and renew my enthusiasm for next year, though my heads already buzzing with what I want to do on the plot next year.

Friday, 12 October 2012

A tour of....Abbotsbury Subtropical gardens

Visiting these gardens on a slightly blustery day of sunshine and showers at the end of September made me realise that I always do my garden visiting out of the traditional peak garden season. I get too busy in my garden and the allotment in the summer and the weather factor doesn't help, when we have a summer like this one you feel if you get a sunny day you have to make the most of it and spend it weeding and sowing. But I guess the mark of a good garden is one that looks good in all seasons. These gardens were voted the winner of the HHA/Christie's Garden of the Year for 2012 and it has received many plaudits from garden visitors including Alan Titchmarsh and it is much splashed around in the tourist brochures for the place that he once said that they are "one of the finest gardens I have ever visited". Well who am I to argue with the great one but I decided to have a look for myself.
The drive to the gardens from Lyme Regis is along some stunning coastal roads to the village of Abbotsbury which is less than a mile from the stunning Chesil Beach. Apparently this part of the Dorset has a higher than average record for sunshine hours (I'm moving here next week!), the gardens are also sheltered by the surrounding hills and the warming effect of the sea all combine to make this a haven for all sorts of less than hardy species and the gardens contain a rich variety of plants from all over the globe.
The walled gardens were once part of Abbotsbury castle, a large mansion built in the late 18th century but the house no longer exists, it burnt down in 1913, though the gardener's bothy is still there. You enter into the original walled garden but the garden now sprawls over 30 acres with many mature and rare trees. The extension outwards of the garden was instigated by the 3rd Earl of Ilchester, William Fox-Strangways. He was a foreign services diplomat and also a keen botanist and his many travels allowed him to introduce many new species from a wide range of countries. The shady, humid conditions of the surrounding woodlands were perfect for many of the species popular at the time from China and Japan. As with many gardens, there was some decline during the 1st and 2nd World Wars, some of the garden was used during the 2nd World War as an encampment. Restoration of the gardens were started in the 1960s and there was some severe storm damage in 1990 which forced further restoration and of course the gardens continue to be developed today.
 There are a number of areas of planting, like the Jungle Glade, Bamboo grove, Mediterranean planting, grasses border and Chilean border to name but a few.
I guess the star plant at this time of year in this garden is the Hydrangea and they seem to revel in the moist, warm conditions with some huge flower heads.
There are all sorts of flower heads and colours found in the planting on the Hydrangea walk.

But I think this was my favourite.
The Bamboo grove makes a lovely tunnel.
At the south of the garden is a walk up to the Jurassic Coast view point, which has been recently planted with two rows of Magnolia trees and leads to amazing views out to Chesil beach and to the west the cliffs and bays of this amazing coastline.


The stream running through the garden was planted with huge Gunnera, Tree ferns, hostas and Osmunda regalis. With a gorgeous Japanese-like red bridge.

The trees were only just starting to take on their autumn tints in this view within the garden of nearby St Catherine's chapel.
In the middle of the gardens is an amazing carved oak seat which was created by chainsaw artist Matthew Crabb on a 200 year old oak that came down in winds in 2009. It would have been a huge job trying to remove the tree so they came up with the great idea to make a feature out of it.

 The extreme rainfall and flooding earlier on this year also affected the garden, saturating the ground and on a windy night a Monterey cypress which was thought be planted in 1890 came down. They are planning to deal with it over the winter, it will be interesting to see what they do with this one. It just shows that gardens never stay still and you have to adapt to changes whether planned or unexpected.
One thing that struck me as I walked round were the different scales within the garden, from the massive....

To the dainty.

I have to say the tropical, jungle garden style is not the sort of planting that I'd like in my own garden but you really appreciate the exuberance of it all and it's perfect for this mild maritime climate. 
My favourite part of the garden was the Mediterranean Bank leading up to the Lily ponds.

This part of the garden was a suntrap and here on this sunny day you could feel the heat which had encouraged out the butterflies too.

And the lily ponds are a still tranquil area.
Walking up the top part of the garden is the Pavilion corner (which is licenced for Civil weddings).
There were some unusual plants which I'd never seen before, how about this Rostrincula sinensis.

As with many gardens there is a nursery attached where you can purchase some of the plants that you have seen on your travels round the world in the garden. In fact you can also buy them online. If you are round the area at this time of year then on certain nights the gardens are open till late and they light up the garden which sounds enchanting. So I'd recommend a visit to this botanical treasure trove in an amazing setting at any time of year and to finish it all off how about some fabulous cakes in the colonial tea house.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Frost already

My first trip up to the allotment after my holiday made me realise that we had definitely missed out on the worst weather down in Dorset. Up here in Huddersfield had obviously been very windy, my sweetcorn was all collapsed.
Not a big disaster as the cobs were ready for picking so I just harvested them all and put all the rest on the compost heap. In fact most of the jobs at the allotment at the moment involve either harvesting or filling the compost bin with spent crops.
One of my two wigwams of purple climbing beans had been felled too.
So again harvested what was on there. But I was also amazed to see that there had been a frost while I was away.
All my squash plants had been touched and I had a couple of cucumber plants.

To be honest I wasn't expecting much from them anyway, they didn't get going fruiting till a few weeks ago so there wasn't much hope for any crops. This is after my amazing year of squash last year. I had a table full last year. Though I didn't grow the same varieties this year. I've had some success with the Trombocino squash and I've had a few patty pan squash which you can harvest while still small but no luck with the bigger ones. Will try again next year. The problem was the cold Spring and slugs both combining to decimate my first planting.
My courgettes are still cropping but I think they are nearing the end now.
Lots to do in tidying the plot ready for winter and I want to finish making my paths on the allotment which will involve digging the troublesome buttercups at the bottom of my plot but it needs to be done. Plus I've got some spare glass windows so with some help I'd like to make a coldframe. So plenty to keep me occupied during the winter months.
My green manure that I sowed in September is coming up well now (not the easiest to see on a photo!). 
I've got a couple of other beds almost ready to sow some more but I need to get a move on while the soil is still warm. Its the first time I've sowed a green manure but I felt I really need to improve my soil this year. It is an Autumn/Winter Mix so will be hardy through the Winter once sown in Autumn, then in the Spring I'll dig it in and the nutrients held in the plants will be released for the next crop. The seed mixture includes Crimson clover, Broad Leaf Red clover and White Tilney Mustard. Seed from Pennard plants (I love the brown paper seed packets with the lovely illustrations on them!). Well we'll see what happens. It won't do any harm and at least there won't be completely bare soil over winter.