2010 Month by Month


Tete a Tete narcissi

Spring The hellebores survived, their beautiful white flowers lifted to face the sun. The Téte a Téte miniature daffodils came up strongly and lasted for ages. Some of the wallflowers I had grown from seed were rather leggy and not a success. I should have pinched them out in the autumn to make them bushy. I sheared them and hope they bush out later in the year. (They did). Many of the tulips I planted, admittedly rather late, didn’t come up more than an inch, many without a flower and rapidly disappeared. Probably to gather strength for 2011, well that’s my reasoning, or perhaps they have just given up the ghost.

The magnolia was wonderfully profuse and a group of tulips that have flowered in the same spot for more than 17 years shot their heads high up through the branches.

The hollyhocks were a disaster. Attacked by rust they languished and lost their lower leaves. Drastic action was needed, so they were cut down and the roots removed. We are now on a quest to find a rust free variety. (We did, see Autumn 2010 below)

Only one delphinium survived of the three bought as small plug plants to bring on. Two of the large alliums reappeared, the pasque flowers bloomed well and the bergenia flowered profusely.

Most of the dahlias survived in the ground. The dug up roots kept in bags in the garage were planted and got away quickly, growing more strongly than those left in the ground over the winter. So we’ll dig them all up this year.


A fair amount of effort had to be put into removing the re-emergent himalayan anemone. It has a very successful root system that easily breaks off and inevitably bits are left behind to continue their territorial habit. However they do add light to the border so we have decided to tolerate them.

Some of the dahlias from last year had survived and new ones added – see plant list above.

A David Austin Rambling Rose has been planted next to the front door and will need a trellis at some stage.

The penstemon – Ruby Red Fields – came up strongly, as did the blue geraniums which needed shearing back after eight weeks of enthusiastic flowering. I’ve been reliably informed they will recover and probably flower again by September. (They did). They contrasted well with the penstemon and Hidcote lavender behind.

I had to dig out a particularly robust pink geranium. It’s now in a large pot on the patio in the back garden but will require a lot of watering. Watering patio plants is something we have to address later in the year.

The nasturtiums went ballistic and many were given away to passers by who were enthusiastic flower, leaf and seed eaters! The plants were badly affected by blackfly during the later heat wave and we decided to remove them. Some white scabious grown from seed filled some of the space. By the middle of September new nasturtiums had appeared.

I had some cold frames made from marine ply wood and used a couple of redundant window frames as openers. Not a total success. The window frames are pretty heavy and tend to slide when I open the window. I’ll have to rethink this soon.

I think transplanting is going to be the theme of 2010/2011 because the manure made everything grow rather fast. We’ve decided not to add so much this year. I’m being sent a lot of plants that I haven’t enough space for, so we will choose the ones we really like for the front garden and put the rest in the back.


The Ruby Red Fields penstemons flowered patchily this September so we have decided to remove some and divide others to stimulate better flowering next year. We’ll also take some cuttings.

The blue geranium didn’t reflower strongly either so as we have some new plants to try from Bressinghams, we’ll replace it with Geranium Breathless with its dark leaves and see how that goes.

I found some rust free hollyhock seeds in the Thompson & Morgan catalogue, which germinated much faster than expected. I planted some lupin seeds Tutti Fruitti at the same time which also came up quickly. I think using some ventilated seed tray covers bought at B&Q made a big difference to the speedy germination. The seedlings are now in my new cold frame to overwinter.

Unexpectedly one of the ragged robin seedling plants sown in May has flowered, the blooms may be too insignificant for the bed. Will have to see how bushy it becomes.

Ragged Robin

Ragged Robin

Ragged Robin Lychnis, Thompson & Morgan

Some of the penstemons shown in May have also flowered, which surprisingly are pink, where the packet illustrated blue. Oh well these things happen.

Pink penstemon

Pink penstemon

We will move some of the taller dahlias needing support next to the front wall.

Joy! The flower and vegetable catalogue from Thompson and Morgan has arrived. Now for a major replan!

October 10  Coming across germinating cyclamen seed was an exciting experience, it was like finding buried treasure … I collected about 100 and planted them in plug trays and pots, anything I could find. They will grow, albeit slowly, over the winter. Can’t wait to plant them in a swathe under the cherry tree in the back garden. As Anna Pavord says, you can’t have too many cyclamen in a garden!

yclamen seedlings

October 16 Although leaves are falling from the trees the garden is still in flower – the dahlias are beginning to slow up. Wonder how long before the frost will cut them down.

Everything still blooming

Everything still blooming

October 21 What a difference, the frost has hit the dahlias hard. Hard frost is forecast in the next day or two, so we will dig the dahlias up.

Hit by frost

Hit by frost

October 22 Dahlias removed and storage process begun.

October 25 Now replaced the dahlias with foxgloves and poppies which should have flowered by the time the dahlias go in next year

Back Garden: First cloche is up. It sits on weed suppressant matting and the first plants to go in are the lupins and hollyhocks for the front garden next year. I had forgotten them in the cold frame and they had developed very long roots in a shallow seed tray. So I transplanted them into pots and they are now sitting in the cloche, in depressions as an experiment. I put others in a tray.

I’m interested to see how the two positions compare, will the tray accumulate too much rain? Will they need some drainage? One drawback is that it is not easy to have a quick peek at the plants. The pegs have to be pulled out and the fleece pushed up over the hoops. I’m using wooden planks to access the cloche for the time being, until the plastic webbing arrives.

Next cloche will have broad beans, some in pots and some planted direct in the ground – another experiment! John says his grandfather never had good results from broadbeans, but I hope my cunning plan will work – however he did remark that Baldrick’s plans seldom came to anything!

October 30 Front Garden: Leaf gathering for next year’s compost Still deadheading cosmos and removing general debris

November 3 Back Garden: Spinach and cabbage under attack and cloche looks a bit saggy.

Spinach is under attack. I couldn’t believe my eyes – five fat pigeons were stomping around the spinach bed having a real feast.  They left the spinach looking rather sad.  Tomorrow I will put up some kind of wigwam of sticks with computer disks waving around in the wind as a deterrent …

Cabbages were also attacked as well as by some voracious insect/grubs which I guess are now snug in some warm place waiting for next year to lay their eggs on the next lot of cabbages!

Keeping some cabbages under micromesh is said to deter pests. Will make the garden will look rather odd, but I’ll try to tone it down with raspberry bushes and bushy plants.

Some of the clips holding the mesh onto the hoops of the cloche have come off. Wondered whether the wind had made the mesh flap and push them off. Will replace them tomorrow. Wish I had the plastic webbing to walk on, will have to use planks again.

November 5 Couldn’t resist the temptation to open up cloche. Some pots had tipped over, mostly the standalones, only one down in the tray, where some rain had accumulated. Only the plant in a terracotta pot looked a little dry. Little black slugs in evidence, trails everywhere. The slug repellant completely ignored with the contempt it deserved!

Some of the pegs had been chewed. Chewed?

chewed pegs

Chewed pegs

What nutrient could there be in plastic?

Not quite sure why, but I planted some Flax seed, Blue Dress – in September. It’s doing well in the cold frame. The plan is to plant some in the centre of the vegetable patches to attract insects. However looking at the packet I find its an annual. Question: will it survive the winter? I remember being told that nigella, love in the mist was an annual but it comes up every year, perhaps the flax will too.

November 10 Back Garden: Cloche under attack! The right hand end has been dislodged, and a large hole has been bitten out. No idea whether it is a cat, a dog, a squirrel or even a fox. The footprints are difficult to identify.

Next morning even bigger holes and disruption.

More damage to cloche

Even the pots have been destroyed

I’ve had to take the cloche down and repot the seedlings, retired hurt! Will have to work out how to stop this as I need space for seedlings to overwinter.

20 November  Earth is so easy to weed at the moment. We have decided to cover everything we can with leaves to breakdown over the winter. It worked last year and the soil was so easy to manage. We’re working towards no dig gardening and gathering all the leaves we can find in the surrounding area!

26 November  It was by sheer luck that yesterday we had covered the last of the garden in leaves before today’s hard frost plus a general clean up, although I did forget to protect the cold frame plants. Again, by sheer chance I have duplicates in a mini greenhouse in a covered way that gives good protection but not good light.

Frost, then ice, then snow has precluded any kind of activity other than running in and out for firewood. Roll on spring!

A Garden in a Garden City

About Val Reynolds

I publish In Balance Magazine and www.ourfrontgarden.com Contributions from other writers give breadth and insights to the magazine You can contact me at editorinbalance@me.com
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