Bloomin’ good and bad

Peter Dowdall suggests you get out your pencil and paper to record what worked and what didn’t for 2014.

Soon we will be inundated with reviews of the year and the highs and lows of 2014 — everything from births and deaths, rock concerts, natural disasters, wars, protests, celebrity marriages and good news stories will be included.

So now is the time to do your own review — to take stock of your outdoor space and decide what worked well in the garden this year and what didn’t; what plants have outgrown the space and what space needs more plants.

Maybe there is a shrub or tree that needs to be moved as it is not doing well or is getting too big for its allocated area. Take action now, as nature is quite strict as to when mature trees and shrubs can be moved, and allows us to lift plants out of the ground only during this season. This is the time when trees are dormant and the roots aren’t busy taking in water and nutrients for growth.

Many of the evergreen species will be better left til January before being lifted. If you do need to move a tree or large shrub do remember that these are going to become dominant features in the garden, so give careful consideration to where you are going to position them.

In these days of the all pervasive digital image, take plenty of snaps of the garden during the spring, summer and autumn months and take notes — look at what’s worked.Was your summer bedding display what you wanted, bearing in mind that the weather this summer could not have been better for summer blooms?

If so, then write down which plants you used because otherwise when it comes to next year, you will be wracking your brain to remember which varieties are which..

The summer and autumn flowering herbaceous perennials have mostly gone to ground, lying snugly under the soil replenishing their rootstocks before emerging once more next year.

Hopefully, you will have taken pictures during the summer and you can now look back at particular planting combinations that worked and some that, perhaps, didn’t. This year, in my own garden I planted some Verbena bonariensis and Miscanthus Silberspinne together and the effect was exactly what I wanted — a light and airy combination with the purple flowers of the Verbena working so well with the ornamental grass.

As with trees and shrubs, now is the time to lift these perennials, divide them if desired, (many will respond very well to being divided and having their root mass reduced), and move them to other parts of the garden. Watch how popular you will become with friends and neighbours when you arrive with surplus divisions and plants for free. Invest now in a sketch pad, a pencil and some plant labels.

Draw a rough sketch of your garden marking in existing plants and trees. Use the plant labels to mark where your Herbaceous perennials are situated because as soon as you come to lift them, divide them or move them, you will be scratching your head wondering which clump of roots is which.

By labelling now you will still remember which plant is where and in your sketch pad, note the plant partners that worked well with each other and maybe repeat these combinations elsewhere. Doing something as simple as this will help bring some continuity to the garden, a very important aspect in its overall design.

Very often when you see a garden you like and break down what you like about it, it can be something as simple as plant repetition, which gives a sense of balance to the eye. Act now to remove varieties that didn’t work for you.

Look also at areas in the garden that didn’t give you longevity. By that I mean areas that may have looked well for a few weeks earlier in the year and then…nothing. It can be all too easy to create an area in the garden where all the plants do their thing at the one time, for example Camellias mixed with Azaleas and some spring bulbs. These blooms will all be finished before you get to June.

Extend the season in these areas by planting summer flowering perennials with them and maybe some plants for autumn and winter interest if space permits. To ensure that your review of 2015 is an improvement on 2014 break out the pencil and paper now and get digging.

Remember it’s also time now to do the big clean up in the garden if you haven’t got around to it already.Netting that may have been keeping marauding birds and pilfering pests away from fruit and veg plants will need to be taken down now, folded and tucked away for the winter months.

Neglect to do this at your peril because if you don’t the stormy weather that lies ahead will send garden netting everywhere and believe me, removing this from branches and shrubs is an impossible task.

Bamboos and plant supports used earlier to stake the less robust perennials will also need to be taken down and stored for the winter. Like everything in the garden, the more work that you do this season, the more it will ensure better results in the seasons to come.


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