Where has the time gone? I’ve been remiss in my postings lately and am sorry that it’s been so long since I sent signs of gardening life. Things in my house have been busy with many absences from the garden with big family events this summer, family weddings and high school graduations causing my distraction! I’ve been here and there and everywhere and nowhere, everywhere that is but in the garden. I’m so disappointed that the tomato harvest was almost non-existent, happy that the potatoes were delicious as was the broccoli which continues to produce, the courgettes must have been in someone else’s garden because they certainly were not in mine, the dahlias are still putting on a show but I’ve lost two japanese maples and a 15 year old calamondin – how does that even happen? The weather was all over the place with so much rain and then no rain, early warm temperatures burning everything followed by freezing numbers in the late spring and chilly summer breezes knocking over the tender new growth and stopping plant development. I know gardens where old wisteria were lost in the late spring but neighbouring wisteria across the street in a more protected site are thriving – mother nature is a wiley beast at times.
With the darkening days and the drop in temperatures upon us perhaps you thought gardening projects were coming to an end but no, there is still plenty to do to get ready for the winter.
It is not too late to get bulbs in the ground. Remember regardless of the size of the bulb each should be planted to a depth of three times their size. Follow the planting distances recommended on the packet and note that if you are planting in a pot the bulbs can be planted much closer together but must not touch each other. There are fantastic varieties available and every garden should have some flowering bulbs to lift the spirits in the spring.
Thanks to the wettest July in ages, we are enjoying fabulous autumn leaf colour at every turn. This is a great year to collect fallen leaves and make your own leaf mould. Rake the leaves up into black plastic sacks. The lawn mower can pick up and shred the leaves from the lawn making for faster decomposition. Tie the bags closed and pierce them a number of times. Place the bags in a damp area of the garden where the rain will reach them and wait for up to a year for wonderful leaf mould, leaving it longer is not a problem. This can be used as a mulch in all of your garden beds. It may take a little time but it is free and you are returning the leaves to the soil.
I like to prune my roses back at this time of year. I collect any diseased leaves and discard them into the town compost which will be so much hotter than mine. I prune out the annoying branches that perhaps are growing too close to a door or window catching clothes every time someone walks by – this will hopefully encourage growth elsewhere for next season. I’m constantly trying to find a place to pop a new rose, my list of roses to plant grows every year, unfortunately finding the space for a new rose remains a challenge.
While our clay soils are still “warm” think about adding new shrubs, trees and perennials to the garden. It’s the perfect time to get new plants into the ground. The winter will allow them to settle and they’ll send out new roots as soon as the temperatures start to rise in the spring, giving them a head start in the early season. Once colder weather comes in and the ground begins to freeze it will be too late to plant.
The dahlias continue to blooming and as that first frost has not hit them yet I’m not ready to dig them up. Let’s hope I don’t leave it too long and everything turns to mush.
Onion and garlic sets are in all the garden centres right now, if you haven’t already tried to grow them give it a go. It is tremendously satisfying to see the shoots popping out of the ground once the snow has melted.With many of us gardening in containers it is important to prepare the pots and plants for winter.
Only frost resistant pots should be left outside over winter, if you don’t have an indoor space for them, move them to the most sheltered area you have, perhaps against a south facing wall. Remember to lift them off the ground with feet, flat stones or off cuts of timber, this ensures that the pots can drain fully and will not freeze to your terrace and potentially crack. Some plants (potted or in the ground) will need a little winter cover to protect them from the cold. There are plenty of options available locally from horticultural fleece bags to pop over plants to bubble wrap (for the pots) and hessian fabric which needs to be tied on with string. Don’t wrap your plants too tightly however, they will still need to have some air circulating around them. If you’re not sure how they should look I find a trip to the walled heritage garden at the Château de Prangins to be a tremendous help. They wrap their olive trees beautifully and once I see that theirs are done I know it’s time for me to get to work. Visiting the garden is free.
Feed the birds but please don’t buy the seed balls covered in yellow plastic mesh. There are plenty of loose seed combinations for bird tables and fat balls with seeds for hanging in trees available in local garden centres. When in doubt, core an apple and hang it in a tree with twine and watch it be enjoyed. If you are concerned that the smaller birds are missing out, try spreading seed over some old logs, the big birds will take the easy pickings but the smaller birds will find the seeds stuck in the cracks between the logs.
Don’t be a too tidy gardener at this time of the year. Leave at least one area with some debris to allow small garden creatures to hibernate. For example, branches and logs with leaf piles are ideal for hedgehogs. While I clean up and trim some of the worst looking perennials, I leave anything with a seed head standing, not just for the structural beauty it brings when frosted but also as a food source for the birds.
If you don’t already have one, invest in a hard cover notebook this year. It’s where I keep lists of the different varieties of plants I want to grow, notes about what did and didn’t work, thoughts about moving plants and reminders as to where I planted the bulbs. The big plans are also there, the gorgeous garden shed in Monty’s garden that I’d like to have in mine, the covered terrace to protect me from both sun and rain while I work and the raised decking around the house where I can sit back and take it all in – good job it’s almost Christmas, I’ll have to send a note to Santa!
Here are a few local seasonal activities to enjoy:
My favourite holiday event is the winter vernisage at Rémy Jaggi in Trélex and I’m sure this year’s will be no exception. Saturday 6 & Sunday 7 November, 16:00-20:00. The theme is Christmas on 5th Avenue – I can’t wait.
Schilliger in Gland will open from Sunday 7 November until 12 December for everything garden (or not) related.
The Ferme de Budé hope to have their annual christmas market during the month of December, keep an eye on their homepage for details.
After nine years the wonderful La Noyère in Mont sur Rolle will close it’s doors for the last time on 19 December. See their website for details of their final Christmas Market as well as the boutique’s opening hours.
I’m excited to partner once again with Marie-Claude Holdener of l’Heure du Thé in Chéserex. I’ll run a winter container workshop on Thursday 11 November from 10:00-12:00 followed by a light lunch – think Hellebores and spring bulbs. Drop me a note if you’d like to join me firstname.lastname@example.org A Christmas open house will follow from 25-27 November with seasonal floral creations by the talented Alicia Jaquier. Keep an eye on the website for details of Christmas wreath making workshops as well as seasonal centrepiece workshops. I’ll be present at all events.
I hope you’ve managed to enjoy your garden this year in spite of the crazy weather and hope you make plans in your shiny new gardening journal for next year.
In the meantime, happy gardening.