Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Time to start the excavations

I'm not sure whether this beautiful indian summer is going to make the arrival of autumn proper more or less bearable. There's no denying the gorgeousness of it though.

The garden at Whichford Pottery on Tuesday.
All plants except the rosemary and the trees in the background are growing in pots.

Brugmansia sanguinea forming more buds at last
I can see that the Brugmansia sanguinea is forming more flower buds, so I'm really hoping that there will be a last hurrah before I have to dig out all the tender plants and cram them into the greenhouse and polytunnel.

Choose your weapons
The thing is, I have to start now. There are about 300 pots to change over so if I leave it too long I will still be planting bulbs in January. I love to see the summer plantings lasting so well but I have to steel myself to start destroying them.

So this week I decided that the display by the arch into the stockyard was looking the worst, fetched my trusty Sneerboer sharp mini pointy spade thing and started to slice through root balls.

Save or chuck?
Annuals such as the remains of the sunflowers, the petunias, Nicotiana glauca and Ipomoea 'Grandpa Ott' go straight to the compost heap. I keep up to about half a dozen of each tender perennial for overwintering, so from this display I harvested some Agastache foeniculum 'Licorice Blue', some purple salvia (name long lost) and a couple of Abutilon 'Canary Bird'.
The entrance to the stock yard at the beginning of August
The Agapanthus have already gone to the polytunnel in their pots. I dug up the huge clump of Dahlia 'Moore Place' (just visible to the left rear of the picture above) and heeled it in in a large plastic tub to die back naturally. I also saved a couple of tubers of the Dicentra scandens which knitted this display together. This is a hardy plant in the ground but as I am going to try to keep it in small plastic pots over winter I shall keep them in the polytunnel and see what happens - this plant is easy to grow from seed so I can always start again next year.

The bones of the display: the terracotta pots are all positioned before planting.
The large pot containing a climbing rose lives there permanently
Fresh start
Once the plants had been removed I changed a few of the pots - choosing some with tulip decoration or Christmassy wreaths for winter. I will keep the chunky garland ovals where they are because they are handy on this corner as they don't stick out as much as round pots would. This wall is directly opposite the doors to the pottery and large trolleys bearing freshly-fired pots from the kilns have to be manoeuvred round the corner - if I take up too much space with plantings I get complaints from Joe, Riv and Chris! The vine pot on the far right probably sticks out a little too much but I have deliberately used a small pot there so that it can be moved easily if necessary.
Hardy perennials and shrubs propped up in position before planting commences
Give it a coat of looking at
Having faffed about for a while arranging empty pots I then half-filled them with compost and brought out some hardy perennials and shrubs, violas and a selection of bulbs. I positioned all the biggest plants (still in their plastic pots) so that I could get an idea of the balance and shape of the display.

Tulip 'Heart's Delight' will feature
in this area

This area will contain red and white tulips and  reddish foliage and stems, mid-green foliage (which I think of as neutral), Viola 'Sorbet White' and a few shots of blue from bulbs such as Iris 'Halkis', Allium caeruleum and Camassia leichtlinii 'Caerulea'.

Rule Britannia
From this you may have gathered that the stockyard will be dominated by red,white and blue next spring. I thought I'd have a go at patriotic colour combinations in honour of the Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee next year.

At the time of writing (Wednesday) I am half-way through planting this area and will put up a photo of the finished article next week. The planting is slow because it is complex and because I write all the bulbs and plants for each pot in a notebook so that I know what should be popping up in a few months' time. I get faster as my head gets into autumn mode and start being able to imagine the spring results more easily.

A colourful greeting still - the entrance path to Whichford Pottery
Oh get on with it
I'm really going to hate dismantling the displays along the entrance path, I have enjoyed watching them develop. I can't leave them too late because this is a cold, windswept area in the winter, so I want the plantings to be establishing before the hardest weather.

This picture was taken at the end of last week - you can just see Jim rushing around getting ready for the big Japanese weekend.

I managed to avoid helping with this and took myself to Oxford on Friday with my camera

Fair Oxenforde
I had a quick look round  Oxford Botanic Garden; they have some fabulous trees which are just asking to be hugged and their borders were in fine fettle.
Whichford pops up in various guises around this garden and in the many glasshouses, here is one of our rhubarb forcers (they have our seakale forcers too).

Whichford Rhubarb Forcer in Oxford Botanic Garden
Alma mater
Then I dropped in on Brasenose, my old college. They have some pots which we made for their recent quincentenary, featuring the door knocker the college may be named after. BNC doesn't have a garden as such, it has two quads, Old and New, linked by a small space called The Deer Park. This is either a wry reference to the much grander Magdalen's real deer park or there is a story of a stag being hunted all the way from Blenheim to Oxford, only to meet its grisly end at Brasenose. Not so much a garden as a gap.

Whichford pots in Old Quad, Brasenose College

But I digress - BNC is a good example of pots being used to supplement limited growing room - they can be moved when the space is needed for something else, they frame doorways nicely and provide some softness and colour against all that lovely golden stone.

Pots in the stockyard this week

Stridulating until winter comes
Back on home ground I am still torn between two seasons - loving the warm autumn, missing the long days of summer - and dreading winter. I must remember to stay in the moment and enjoy the way things are now.

Just like my small green friend pictured below does.
Speckled Bush Cricket in the courtyard garden

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