Canal Boat - - Boater’s Break - with Julie Clark

As I am writ­ing this ar­ti­cle we are en­joy­ing the best of the sum­mer so far. My toma­toes are abun­dant with fruits and my flow­ers are a de­light of colour, how­ever, as it is with gar­den­ing, it is also time to do a bit of for­ward think­ing.

Dead­head­ing and a lit­tle prun­ing will squeeze a few more flow­ers from the plants but, in the main, they are al­most fin­ished and I am now look­ing for­ward to a good clean up.

When every­thing has stopped be­ing pro­duc­tive it is a good idea to re­move all the pots from the boat and give it all a good clean. In­evitably mud, grit and leaves will have stuck them­selves to the paint­work and could be block­ing drainage holes or make soggy lit­tle patches for moss and mould to grow, po­ten­tially ru­in­ing the paint­work. Use this op­por­tu­nity do any nec­es­sary re­pairs be­fore the win­ter.

Early au­tumn is the time to plant up some spring bulbs. Daf­fodils and nar­cissi ben­e­fit from early plant­ing along with mus­cari, cro­cus, anemone blanda and the stun­ning mini iris retic­u­lata among other va­ri­eties. This year I am go­ing to plant up a pot of snakeshead frit­illery. Years ago this won­der­ful and ex­otic look­ing bloom was a com­mon­place wild flower in our mead­ows, sadly, with mod­ern agri­cul­tural prac­tices, it is now rare to find it grow­ing in its nat­u­ral habi­tat. I would like a pot on the boat for my spring trip out and when they have fin­ished flow­er­ing, I will plant them in the gar­den to nat­u­ralise.

Mix and match your bulbs, plant­ing in lay­ers to achieve a real pot full of blooms, us­ing good qual­ity com­post and a pot with good drainage to avoid root rot. Look out for bare-rooted wall­flow­ers, es­pe­cially a new va­ri­ety called Sugar Rush which flow­ers both in the au­tumn and the spring; this one is very suit­able for con­tainer grow­ing and only grows to about 12 inches so would be ex­cel­lent for the boat. Win­ter pan­sies will be com­ing into stock now as well as the cheer­ful lit­tle cy­cla­men whose dainty flow­ers be­lie their har­di­ness. Also, don’t for­get the hum­ble hy­acinth, to me, it is def­i­nitely the queen of spring flow­ers; easy to grow, big blousy blooms with a beau­ti­ful fra­grance in soft sug­ary colours happy to be out­side in the harsh­est of weath­ers or brought in­side to fill the boat with their scent.

While I have cleaned the roof and planted my spring bulbs, I am now go­ing to do some in­stant gar­den­ing and cre­ate a dis­play of sea­sonal plants to brighten the boat when I go away on my au­tumn break. It is time to en­joy the beauty of the coun­try­side as it pre­pares for win­ter. Hol­i­day-mak­ers will be fewer and al­though the nights are draw­ing in, some­how, the light is a lit­tle more golden and the re­flec­tions just a lit­tle more in­tense.

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