The Garden in Oc­to­ber

Landscape (UK) - - Contents -

Kari-Astri Davies is dis­cov­er­ing fresh colour in the early au­tumn garden and ring­ing the changes in her borders

On misty morn­ings, the ris­ing sun washes the garden with gold. A friend who lives in France misses these au­tumn mo­ments; and ap­ple pies. I don’t have a garden com­pan­ion at the mo­ment. My wob­bly old black and white cat, Nusse, fi­nally called it a day at 19 years old a few months ago. The new slinky black kit­ten, Mig, isn’t much in­ter­ested in gar­den­ing, pre­fer­ring shin­ning up trees and stalk­ing shrews in the un­der­growth. A gar­den­ing dog would be nice to have. I used to look af­ter a Pat­terdale ter­rier from time to time. Al­though com­pan­ion­able, he would of­ten un­help­fully dig up what I had just planted and have great fun pelt­ing flat-out over the beds. There is still fresh colour ap­pear­ing in the garden. In a small sunny bor­der un­der a bed­room window, I have planted ner­ines and crinum around highly scented ma­genta Rosa ru­gosa ‘Hansa’. Ini­tially, I in­vested in a knock­out dark pink crinum, ‘Ellen Bosan­quet’, ear­lier flow­er­ing than the ner­ines. The huge bulbs did not sur­vive a win­ter in cold clay: she is from Florida. Asters add vibrant colour to an in­creas­ingly green­ing garden pal­ette as other flow­er­ing plants tail off. I par­tic­u­larly like the in­tense bluey-lilac of low-growing Aster amel­lus ‘King Ge­orge’, which I first saw at Crag­side Gar­dens in Northum­ber­land. In the rose bed, tall, rich-pur­ple Aster no­vae-an­gliae ‘Ma­rina Wolkon­sky’ and vibrant pink ‘An­denken an Alma Pötschke’ vie for at­ten­tion. Lilac cupped Cro­cus specio­sus are pop­ping up; yel­low sta­mens like snakes’ tongues test­ing the air.

Adding in­ter­est

“Hear not the wind – view not the woods; Look out o’er vale and hillIn spring, the sky en­cir­cled them – The sky is round them still” El­iz­a­beth Bar­rett Brown­ing, ‘The Au­tumn’

With cool­ing days and rain, the ground is loos­en­ing up while the earth is still warm. I have some re-think­ing to do. A raised bor­der be­hind our work­shops is dubbed the ‘Hi­malayas’, al­though only a few plants come from that re­gion. A cou­ple of years ago, I planted three hosta ‘T. Rex’, which, as the name sug­gests, are fairly sub­stan­tial. They are now out of scale with the other plants. As the bed can­not be ex­tended to cre­ate space for a bet­ter tran­si­tion, it can ei­ther be planted up with more big, bold fo­liage plants or, as orig­i­nally in­tended, a range of in­ter­est­ing plants of dif­fer­ent

heights and habits. I am choos­ing the in­ter­est­ing route, so at least one hosta has to go; but where?

Sea­sonal shift

In the wood bed, a num­ber of plants have also ma­tured and shifted the scale. Ex­tend­ing the bed will re­quire dig­ging into rather rooty lawn, so an in­vest­ment in com­post needs to be made to get the shifted plants well set­tled in. This makes room for at least one ‘T. Rex’. As the hostas are now dy­ing back, with a bit of luck, they won’t take it too hard. Hope­fully, any plants I move to a new po­si­tion will make some root growth be­fore fully shut­ting down for the win­ter. Grasses will not be shifted around: they do not like an au­tumn move.

Look­ing ahead

With the risk of frost now spurring me on, it is time to clean the con­ser­va­tory, ready for more ten­der plants to start com­ing in for the win­ter. I am also plant­ing scented nar­cissi, yel­low martinette and sweet­ness, and white-with-or­ange­cen­tre gera­nium in pots for the pa­tio, as the bulbs are start­ing into growth.

“In the garden, Au­tumn is, in­deed the crown­ing glory of the year, bring­ing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no sea­son, safe per­haps in Daf­fodil time, do we get such su­perb colour ef­fects as from Au­gust to Novem­ber” Rose G Kings­ley, The Au­tumn Garden, 1905

Left to right: Asters in the morn­ing mist; a kit­ten on the prowl in a car­pet of crunchy leaves; the showy arch­ing leaves of Crinum asi­aticum; a great tit sur­rounded by au­tumn colour.

Kari-Astri Davies started gar­den­ing in her twen­ties with pots of roses, gera­ni­ums and sweet peas on a para­pet five storeys up in cen­tral Lon­don. She’s now on her fifth garden, this time in the Wilt­shire coun­try­side. In­spi­ra­tion in­cludes her plant-mad par­ents, as well as Dan Pear­son, Beth Chatto, Keith Wi­ley and the Rix & Phillips plant books. Kari de­scribes her ap­proach as im­pul­sive, mean­ing not ev­ery­thing is done by the book.

Left to right: The full, red­dish flow­ers of Aster no­vae-an­gliae ‘An­denken an Alma Pötschke’ bring out­stand­ing colour to the au­tumn garden; dig­ging up turf to ex­tend a flowerbed.

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