Get ready to be underwhelmed by my pictures. There are lots of photos of bare twigs, brown soil and unpromising looking shrubs. Twigs they may be but they’re packed with potential – a reminder that next year each will grow and provide what I envisioned when buying them.
Autumn and winter are the perfect time of year to be planting new things in the UK. An interesting thread on twitter reminded me that before the advent of the plastic plant pot, this season was one of the busiest as bare root plants became available to gardeners from nurseries. Dormant perennials, shrubs and trees could be dug up, wrapped in hessian and sent to the grower without fear of the plant being shocked. Once planted, they had a chance to get settled in and could grow away quickly in the spring.
You need a bit of imagination to plant this way – to be able to research what you really need. It’s the opposite of a summer impulse buy. But I love autumn and winter planting – not only are there fewer competing garden jobs to be doing (particularly weeding) but they will need a bit less care and maintenance next year. Certainly they’ll need a bit less watering than a summer planted shrub.
Most of the plants featured here were pot grown, not bare rooted but I can really recommend bare-rooted plants too. For example, if you’re planting a hedge or lots of roses then buying bare rooted is a no-brainer as they will be much cheaper and can be planted right up to March/April with success.
I’m lucky that my soil is workable in all but the wettest conditions of course. I have the previous owner to thank for that – he improved the soil over 40 years with home made compost.
Eucryphia lucida ‘Ballerina’
The prospect of this plant doing well in my garden makes me want to do cartwheels. It came mail-order from Burncoose Nurseries in Cornwall, who stock a huge range of interesting rarer plants and are adept at mail-order, with fast delivery and expert packaging. I was delighted to see this plant on their stock list as I had seen a splendid specimen of a similar variety called ‘Carousel’ in a friend’s garden last summer.
Looking at my small plant now it’s hard to believe that it will one day carry such intricate flowers. They are the shape of a cup-cake case and have incredibly long stamens. The blush pink fringing and magenta centre take its beauty to another extreme.
This Eucryphia is planted in my new tropical border area in a prime position. I wouldn’t say it has a classic tropical look but it’s such a stunner I felt it deserved a prominent position near the patio. The Burncoose care guide says it thrives when you can create a little “cloud forest” microclimate, surrounding it with other plants and shrubs. Here it is sheltered, the roots can be shaded and kept cool but it has its head in full sun. I’m optimistic it will be happy.
Pineapple Broom – Argyrocytisus battandieri
Here’s another new shrub for my tropical area – a plant that looks exotic but should be hardy enough here. I don’t recall ever having seen one in real life but I saw some images in a book and wanted one.
It’s just as well the picture I saw was of a lovely mature one. I’m not sure many people would have picked this off a garden centre bench without prior knowledge. To see some pictures of the glory that awaits you can see some pictures of mature Pineapple Brooms by clicking here. The flowers look a bit like stubby lupins and are a glorious pineapple yellow in colour.
Autumn and winter are great times to plant dormant hydrangeas. They are pretty thirsty plants until well established and so summer plantings keep you busy with the watering can.
I have just planted two new hydrangeas to the side of the entrance to my woodland area. Both are white lacecap varieties – one called ‘Fireworks’, with showy star-shaped florets at the extremities, the second called ‘Love You Kiss’ with blushed white florets.
They are small for now but I’m hoping they’ll grow well over the next few years.
I was never a huge fan of hydrangeas but during a visit to the Savill garden near Windsor two summers ago I stumbled across a semi shaded area planted with numerous different interesting varieties – mopheads, paniculatas and lace-caps. The way the paler white and pink blushed types shined in the shade piqued my interest and I’m happy to be giving some a go in my garden.
Hazel – corylus avellana
I needed a plant to help to create a better gateway to the woodland walk (pictured at the top of this diary article) and having blown my budget on the new shrubs above, I decided to go for more hazels. There are numerous hazels in this woodland area, some self seeded, presumably from nuts buried by squirrels.
I dug up two self-seeded saplings, and planted them alongside the log pile. The roots came away with very little soil attached – my own bare-root saplings. This is just the sort of job I would not do in the summer as I would forget to give it the water it would need in hot weather. Over time I will coppice these plants so that they look like the multi-stemmed hazels elsewhere in the woodland area.
Rambler Rose – ‘Bobbie James’
Autumn and winter are definitely the best times to plant roses and buying them bare-rooted will always save you money. Moving roses is also a better idea in the dormant phase than in summer.
This rambler was moved from another part of the garden. It was only planted two years ago but unfortunately it was planted alongside a garden wall which then started to fall down. I couldn’t afford the brickwork for a new wall so it was knocked down and I planted a hedge instead. Bobbie James is described by David Austin Roses as being a “giant climber’ and so needed relocating as it would have suffocated the new hedge.
Bobbie was dug up, and planted alongside this very bare fence in the pond garden. Here he can run riot for a while although he’ll need a bit of taming in the long run.
Styrax japonica ‘Pink Chimes’ – Japanese Snowbell Tree
I’ve saved the least impressive set of twigs til last. This is exactly the kind of plant a member of my family might trample on by accident. It barely looks like a specimen at all.
This ugly duckling will, one day, become a beautiful swan of a tree. It’ll take a few years but it should do well in this semi-shaded woodland area, where its pink bell shaped flowers will dangle from the branches and provide yet more interest for my woodland walk.
This seasonal diary is part of a weekly link-up of garden bloggers from around the world, called Six on Saturday. For more information and links to other blogs crammed with gardening activity, check the blog of host The Propagator.