Here we are in Autumn, feeling very grateful for the soft light and plants that turn golden and red. I have just heard from my daughter in law, Hetty, that we have a large page in Country Life, of the Autumn Border which I have not seen yet. Exciting. I thought that the Autumn border was exceptionally good this year, the colours were amazing, though whether everyone would have liked my use of yellow I do not know. It is so large this border that I can play around with combinations and colours. It’s other advantage is that the soil is very good and we do not have to stake anything.
Because of all the interminable rain we have been having, quite a few things have gone black. A very charming person called Paula came to interview me on monday, for four and a half hours, I was exhausted, and we walked round with me trying to notice everything. Polly was cutting back in the par terre as the rain had made the dahlias go over. In the Autumn Border Aster pink buttons was still going strong. Extraordinary for the first week in November. Found in Paris and increasing like mad. I have had it some time. Kniphofia Rooperi still flowering, though I never think that kniphofias go over at all well. Though one thing I think to myself is that no garden should be without asters as they prolong the season. We have more bookings than usual for this time of year, some from the French and Italians. I like them as they are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Yesterday James and I went to Wisley together, managed to get a good idea out of it, I hope. We then went to the shop, which is always very good. Pleased to see the Tim Richardson book that we were on the cover of is still for sale. Something very delicate and beautiful is flowering. Kniphofia Thomsonii var thomsonii, how I love it. It is at the edge of the main border so that you really notice it.
I suppose the frosts are going to start arriving, but as we have good structure it will look alright. If it is very cold this year I will worry about the Pittosporum Golfball which has just gone into the par terre to replace the Sarcoccoccas, which got too huge, and the Woodwardias which we normally cover.
On Monday we got back from two weeks in Corfu, a beautiful day every day. We got persuaded to open our garden at Prosilio for the Garden scheme. I did not think we were good enough and I felt a bit cross about it. Amazingly enough it was a huge success and we had about 40 people, a mixture of Greek, English and various nationalities. I never thought that I would be holding forth as to what would do well in Corfu or not. I thoroughly enjoyed it as everyone was so friendly and interested.
The main thing that we did out there was to take down three large olive trees which then opened up a large section of the mountains of Albania and the sea. Why had we never seen to do this before, partly that we are always there in august when you cannot do this, we have people staying and it is hot. I think we are going to spend less time in august it is just too hot.
Back here at Pettifers the best thing is the autumn border and the asters. It is an autumnal garden. Almost the best time, and I am so pleased to be back with Tensing and Temba. I am always saying that.
James is now a companion to go to Kew with. We have never gone together before because he has always been working, and we are at Pettifers at the weekend. We went to the Broadwalk borders, and I was thrilled to hear him say that he preferred Pettifers Autumn borders. Still here we are concentrating on the Autumn, and there they are having a much longer spectrum. How lovely Kew was, so many beautiful buildings, and I certainly want to go back and see their interiors. London is filled with stunning things. James has gone to see his mother, and Temba is sitting on the kitchen step waiting for him to return.
When I drove down yesterday I could not wait to cut down the Golden hop tree. It was blocking all the light in the study, apart from its leaf looking very chlorotic, quite hideous actually. It has opened up a view to the church and a. statuesque pine tree. It stops cluttering the beautifully clipped undulating beech hedge. You can see a small black wrought iron gate, and the clock on the church, apart from giving us a lot more light in a room in which we spend a lot of time. Polly does not like me cutting down too many large things, but I am amazed that I did not see this before.
When we get to November it is the time for planting bulbs. I am talking about tulips really, and before we went to Corfu I had ordered all the ones we needed. Peter Nyssen is the wholesale firm I go to, and I think they are pretty good. Bloms, and Avon Bulbs are both top class, but quite a lot more expensive. I think this has been quite a dry season, though tomorrow we are expecting a week of rain. In my opinion badly needed, and it is going to transform most of the borders near the house. The Autumn border has pretty good soil, and one or two visitors have commented how we do not have to stake anything down there.
] am pretty pleased with the Autumn border this year. In all the time that we have been planting it, it has never looked so good. I think it is the use of yellow, purple and blue. We did use yellow last year but we have planted purple to go with it this year. The different colour pink monardas against Helenium Sahins early flowerer early on was fairly mind blowing. I took some good shots but needless to say Clive’s were absolutely stunning.
We are back from Corfu, looking at an autumnal garden and Tensing and Temba thrilled to see us.
Everything looks completely different, with two of the hedges clipped, the front one, not with ‘scorch’ this time, and the new hedge next to Mrs Holbech’s garden which has now got a very good shape. It has taken seven years. Magnolia lilliflora nigra seems to have doubled in size, though it has taken a very long time to get where it has. The autumn border really looks lovely with a lot of yellow in it, a colour that some people find difficult, but all of it seems to go very well with the Eupatorium. I have dead headed the Achillea Gold Plate, which seems to go a slightly nasty dark brown colour, but it has been flowering for a very long time. The Aconitums are not really flowering yet, and I like the new one called Cloudy which we need more of. The Aconitum Royal Flush is showing colour. This is the one that has red foliage when it is coming up.
The par terre is a blaze of colour, though I need to think of something new to go with Murdoch. What is there has a huge head, which does not look good when it is wet. It is difficult choosing dahlias on line, though it is worth going to Sarah Ravens website, as she has good taste, and comes up with new ideas. Finally I have something that I am excited about. This is Chimborazo with Clare de Lune, and we will take out some of Sue Dickinsons alstroemeria. When this is over there is too much of a blank space which takes a while to fill.
When James and I went to the Cambridge Botanic Garden after Christmas last year we planted a bed of Salix Irrorata, and it is doing so well. They arrived tiny, and I really like the leaf, and they are huge. We are going to plant Aster Ice Cool Pink to the right hand side of the bed. Earlier on we have snowdrops and hellebores (white) as an underplanting. When something does well it certainly lifts the spirits. This does not always happen!
We have been here for three weeks, and we are coming back for two weeks in October which was like a paradise last year. It was nothing like so hot and seemed completely deserted. There was no one on the small curved beach at Avlaki and the roads were. empty. When we first came here, which was about thirty years ago, most of the roads were dirt track, and we are lucky that it has not been too spoilt since. We went to a restaurant going north up the island, called The Three Brothers, right off the beaten track, going north, with delicious food, and right on the beach. Since we have been coming to Greece the food has improved out of all recognition, and the local wines are good.
Still there has been no sign of any rain, which is badly needed. Why does everyone else’s Oleanders flower continuously and ours seem to have the once flowering and that is it. I have suddenly remembered it is James birthday on the Saturday we get back, and at the moment I am not feeling inspired as to what to get him! Needless to say I am looking forward hugely to seeing the dogs, and I am muttering about getting a third, but James at the moment does not seem up for it. I love the breed that we have got, Lhasa Apso, too naughty to be sold at Harrods apparently. I am looking forward to seeing the garden at. Pettifers, and have no idea what it is going to look like after three weeks absence. I think that several of the hedges will have been cut which I look forward to seeing. I am hoping that the autumn border will still look good, if different.
We have been in Corfu for over two weeks, and how totally different it is to England. It is very hot, and the Lemon trees look the worst and goodness knows whether they are going to recover. The pots on the terrace look good but they are being watered all the time, particularly now that we have arrived. Five of them have been changed, they really looked terrible, two ghastly looking geraniums, I dont know why I just cant grow them, and really should give up. Extraordinary really as I thought they liked the heat. It has not rained here for over two months, and looks it, The green colour of the plants has deteriorated, and I know that towards the end of next week that is going to change as apparently it is going to rain next week. We have pruned several of the olive trees so that we can see the view and it has made a huge difference. I am posting a picture of Dino swarming up the tree like a monkey to cut it, he is so strong he just grips on to the trunk. The walls rebuilt as you come up the road give a completely different feel to the whole place. We have had Thomas and Nicholas staying which has had a lot of laughter and games in the swimming pool. We are going to come back in October for two weeks, last October was almost the best time I have ever had here, it was really a paradise, and no one was here. I rather love It like that. Tomorrow we have four different friends arriving which I am looking forward to.
The Autumn Border was first created about 20 years ago. I went to a lecture given by Bob Brown and it evolved round a vase of flowers which were flowering in the month of October. I remember coming home and feeling very excited as I had already had the idea of planting late flowering things at the very bottom of the garden. There were already two Sorbus Joseph Rock and an Euonymus Planipes. At that time there was a huge Cotoneaster Cornubia which I later took out as I found it too huge and unattractive. I dug the whole bed myself, which was relatively easy, though I do not think I could do it now, as the soil is very good down there. I then planted three groups of Miscanthus Yakushima Dwarf. Dwarf is laughable as they are huge. There were three plants in each, this was my lack of knowledge as I could have got away with two. Years on we have now taken out the middle one as they were trying to join up.
This year I am loving the border. We have put in three groups of Achillea Gold Plate. Amazingly they seem to have stood up on their own, and we have repeated them along the border. Helenium Sahins early flowerer, which flowers for three months if you dead head it. They are next to various Monardas, making beautiful Indian clashing colours. I would never have thought of that if we had not gone to India about ten times, and the colour schemes really appealed to me. We are repeating Eupatoriums along the border, and Rudbeckia deamii twice. A few years ago I would have not been captivated by yellows, but I am beginning to love all these strong colours. There are also plenty of Aconitum Carmichael (which are a strong blue, planted together with white, these are all flowering in October. This border is wavy but all very wide. It is basically a blaze of colour. Nothing is supported in this border.
The borders are still at their peak. The Hemerocallis are flowering, and for them to look good you should really take off spent heads and pull out the dead leaves. You might think I am being fussy but it really makes a huge difference. Corky had finished a while ago but it dies better than others, the one with the brown stripe on its flower. Janice Brown looks lovely, peachy coloured, but only if you do what I suggested earlier on. I am going off the larger flowered ones, partly because they die badly due to their size. In fact I think I will get rid of them. One of their advantages is that the leaf comes up very early.
The Agapanthus are all flowering, not only do they have a very good leaf, but it is rather fascinating the way the flower emerges from a kind of sheath. Hemerocallis Quink Drops is doing it at this moment. This came from Graham Gough, Marchants Hardy Plants, and anything from there is a star. It is strange how many people come to the garden and think that agapanthus should be grown in pots. Another very special one is Indigo Dreams, very very dark blue. Agapanthus Windsor Grey is a very soft mauve grey, and does not seem to mind being smothered with alliums and camassias early on. All other things would mind.
Not many people seem to grow Monardas rather to my amazement. The colours and the shape of the flower as it opens are very special. I love to touch them as they have a lovely lemony smell. You can do wonderful colour combinations with monardas, as they flower at the same time at Helenium Sahins early flowerer, which flowers for three months if you dead head it. You can do it in chunks, not singly. We had the hottest day I have ever known in England a couple of weeks ago, really unpleasant, but the garden survived, probably because it only lasted two days. I could not even walk the dogs round the block, I turned round and came back half way!
The last rose to flower, Blushing Lucy, is flowering its heart out up our last remaining apple tree. It was a gift, years and years ago, from the famous Mrs Merton’s garden, where Sue Dickinson worked for some time. I went and looked at some pots that Sue has just done, and realised immediately how hopeless mine were! I have tried to improve them, and resorted to going to Burford Garden Company, where I could not find the plants but managed to find the right colours which was better than nothing! All the Eryngiums are flowering, and what a spectacle they are, the blue of the flower and the stems is so beautiful, and they last a long time. Someone came round the garden at the weekend who said that they did not like blue, I could not believe that I was hearing right.
My younger son Thomas took me to this film on Piet Oudolf that has just come out. I enjoyed it a lot, and in fact would like to see it again. I dont agree with everything he says or does, but a lot of his ideas are really worth listening to. The grasses that I grow in my garden are looking amazing at the moment, particularly the Calamagrostis, El Dorado, Avalanche, and a couple more. What else looks pretty and fresh for months on end, and involves no deadheading or maintenance. I have to admit that I had to experiment with several of them until I discovered what suited my garden. James has now retired, and I am really enjoying having him around, he has taken over my Pilates teacher, Mei! We had a photographic workshop with Clive Nichols, and James adored it, and said he learnt a lot. Clive is a really good teacher, and makes it all fun.
We are cutting back at the moment. For example all the Astrantias, as if left would just seed everywhere, and if cut flat and watered will eventually flower again in the Autumn. What we call the soldiers near the garage, I am cutting raggedy, as I think they look better that way. I will put a photo on sooner or later. All the Alliums have been pulled out as they also would seed and do not look good after a while. Nepeta Nuda looks lovely, and she stands upright which is more than other nepetas do. I am so pleased with the garden this year, and cannot find anything to grumble about.
The incessant rain that we have had lately has transformed the garden into a magic place. The colours are soft and remind me of Ireland. The growth is amazing and everything is standing up. Finally the colour combinations are working, particularly the placing of Camassia Electra in two of my borders. It is a very pale blue, a beautiful colour. Sybil Kreutzberger told me you should plant Camassias in the grass, which I do at the bottom of the Avenue of Malus Transitoria, but the odd one in the beds transforms the beds at that time of year. I have since discovered that there is a pale pink Camassia and am thinking of planting it in the Autumn border at either end where there is plenty of space before the perennials bush out.
This seems to be a year for disease. Geranium Ardennes, with an interesting bright red flower, is covered in whitefly, so that the leaves have all turned black, in fact I am so fed up with I am going to throw it away. It is a tricky number anyway! Euonymus Cornutus Quinque Cornutus, a real mouthful I know, its top branches are decimated by some insect and Polly has had to spray it. This is one of my most unusual plants in the garden with tiny brown flowers and amazing berries in a a kind of five pronged hat. The Verbascums have unattractive looking caterpillars on their stems, and the Lilies in pots have to be watched for red beetles. I hope this is not enough to put you all off gardening! Yesterday morning I discovered a lot of black fly on some of my Achilleas.
Allium Firmanent is now flowering, a dark coloured mauve June Allium, very useful, and Dianthus Carthusianorum, slightly difficult, but unusual and lovely. The star of the garden is Stemmacantha Centauroides, majestic, with a grey leaf and white tennis balls on top which look as if they have been wrapped by Christo. I am so sorry that I cannot put any photographs on, but my i pad is refusing to load them and I have to find time to spend some time with Apple to get them to sort it.