2 Nov 2019

Blooming and wild - end of October in the garden

Pink geranium flowering in morning sun

It's that time of year when I plan my week according to the weather forecast.  Dry for outdoor work (gardening, drying my washing), wet for indoor work.  Wednesday was forecast dry and as I wandered down to the veg patch gardens to hang my washing out on the communal drying lines, the sun felt really no-coat-needed warm. That was fairly early on in the day, within the hour a chill wind had picked up but by then I'd decided what needed to be done.

I gathered my secateurs, garden fork and waste bags and started clearing the veg patch. I'm bored with the perennials and self seeders that I put in the patch over the past ten years, and the borders under the fruit trees are looking very shabby.  Plus I have the car park garden to host a few plants for me.  It's time for a rethink all round.

Some of the autumn wildness was cleared last week and in doing so I uncovered quite a few plants that could be moved to a better (for me) place - violets, cowslips, snapdragons, forget-me-nots, foxgloves. My guilt at clearing away useful seedheads, plants and leaf litter (which went into my leaf mould bin) was balanced by the joy and satisfaction of a tidier plot at the end of the day.

Raised beds and the compost bin were removed - they fell apart as I lifted them and have now been taken to the recycling centre.  By taking out raised beds and the paths between, I've gained a few more feet of planting space which feels really exciting. There's more to be done, a scaffold plank edging placed to hold back the soil, more plants to come out of the perennial flower border, a decision to be made about raspberry canes (move or replace), lots of mulching and a netting fence to go in. I'm positively gleeful about what I can grow next year.

I won't be doing much in today's wild and wet weather but before I embark on this next phase of possibly permanent destruction, would you care to wander round the garden with me?

A clump of Erigeron (fleabane) daisies in the garden

Erigeron karvinskianus, or Mexican fleabane as it's also known.  I've wanted this plant in the garden since seeing it spilling down the front steps on Sam's A Coastal Plot blog.  It's known for seeding itself around profusely; so far mine has been remarkably well behaved and stayed put.  But it's flourishing so hopes remain high that the brick walls here will one day be  smothered in daisies.

Pink sedum flowers growing next to Euphorbia (spurge)

This combination of sedums and euphorbia works so well that I wonder why I'm always pulling out euphorbia seedlings.  Probably because it's a thug in the gardens here, at one point seeding itself into the side of a low wall - very pretty until it blocked the adjacent steps and threatened to split the wall. But when it's well-behaved like this, it makes me happy.  But those old stems need carefully pruning out (I'm not sensitive to the latex sap but many are so gloves are advised for this task).

Bright pink flowers of blackcurrant sage in the morning light

Blackcurrant sage - how many times have I threatened to dig you out or prune you back to a shadow of your former self and yet you reward me with a display like this. So it's true, treat them mean, keep them keen.

Purple wallflowers, Erysimum Bowles' Mauve

I'm having a sword of Damocles moment with this Erysimum Bowles' Mauve. These plants are allegedly short lived perennials; mine has been here for about five years.  It's huge, covered in flowers virtually all year round and has withstood some major pruning last spring. I stupidly planted it in the middle of a border that I now want for cut flowers; so, what to do? Dig it up or leave it? A decision must be made.  I suspect I'll leave it and plant lots of tulips around it. Or not.

Pink snapdragon buds in October garden

Snapdragons, antirrhinums, call them what you will.  They've self seeded a lot around the veg patch (I haven't sown a single one) and have lots of buds about to open.  I might try and move these under the fruit trees.

Windfall apple lying among Sweet Woodruff

Speaking of which ... another windfall from the Braeburn tree.  But it's the sweet woodruff that it fell onto that's going to be part of my clearing up.  Who knew it made such a prolific and vigorous ground cover? Luckily a friend would like some so that goes onto the repotting list.

Spreading violets

As does any number of violets growing randomly throughout the garden.  They have a very good survival system - the seedheads pop, shooting seeds away from the parent plant but they won't germinate until the sticky, sweet coating is removed. Luckily ants are attracted to this coating so by the time they've carried them off and finished the snack, the seeds are ready to germinate. So clever. Violets are supposed to like a bit of shade but mine have colonised the sunniest area of the veg patch flower border. Go figure.

Clover shaped leaves of South American Oca tubers

Grown for the first time last year - only because everyone else seemed to be banging on about how marvellous oca is - for me, these will never replace the potato.  Having said that, they are a useful winter food with an interesting lemony flavour. The tubers grow larger as nights get longer and are best harvested after a frost as that makes the tubers sweeter.  I need to explore more recipes for these; suggestions welcomed.

Sweet Cicely herb

I still have loads of Sweet Cicely thanks to copious rainfall.  It's usually died back before now but here she is looking lovely and green. This is definitely a keeper but thoughts of transferring a bit over to the car park garden means digging it up before it disappears for winter.  I've used the leaves to sweeten rhubarb dishes but I'm learning about forest garden foods and this is one that can be used in salads (savoury and sweet), in soups, and with rocket and lentils.  Fascinating stuff.

And here's the garden after the initial clear and before last week's efforts.  Cages and screens to keep cats from digging, and I'd already removed four bags of garden waste (so many nasturtiums, achocha vines, Leucanthemum daisies and feverfew seedlings were untangled and chopped out).

~ the (almost) before shot, buddleja part trimmed and compost bin still standing ~

~ where I'm up to ... a couple more raised beds to come out ~
And that's it for the next few days as rain is forecast so I'll be starting off my broad beans indoors and keeping a slug watch on my cabbages and kale!


  1. Our oca was culled by the frost so we won't be tasting it. I'm afraid violets are nuisance in our garden. I planted one and wished I hadn't. They are especially a problem when the come up in the pebble beds or pots of hostas. I have an erysimum and ours flowers for an incredibly long time too.

    1. Oh what a shame after waiting so long for them! I harvested mine too early last year, Sue, so the tubers were on the small side. The crop growing this year is from tubers that got accidentally left in the ground - might it be worth you leaving a few in the ground for next year?

  2. I have enjoyed reading this Caro. I always look on wishing I could be of help to you but this rotten back of mine won't allow it I'm afraid 😟
    A bumper harvest if apples this year I have to say (I had the odd one ) ..they taste wonderful!! Looking forward to seeing and hearing what you plant this winter . Karen x

    1. Ah Karen! Hello! So funny (and welccome) to realise that neighbours are reading my blog :) x
      I'm quite happy for your company (without helping) at any time, I enjoy the chat! And you know I'm happy for you to help yourself to the apples - they did look very good this year, and are very tasty at the moment - try another! xx

  3. Lovely post and pictures. It sounds you're going to be busy one way or another once you've had a rethink and decided what to do. xx

    1. Thank you, Flighty, pleased you enjoyed this update. There won't be too much rethinking as I know I want some flowers for everyone to enjoy and have quite a few seeds ready! Sunflowers will be back for next year as I haven't grown any for a while. I'm really quite excited about next year's growing plans!

  4. Beautiful... Finally I know the kind of daisy that I have grown before. Thank you

    1. Thanks Endah - glad I solved a mystery for you! Did your daisies pop up everywhere? I'm hoping mine will!

  5. Great catching up with your veg patch. The after pic is most impressive!xxx


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