As we move through autumn and edge closer to winter, everyone here at Furzey Gardens is making the most of the opportunity to slow down and get stuck into the things we love most of all: paying attention to nature and enjoying the process of gardening.
Last month I talked about the abundance of maples and rare plants showing off their extraordinary colours in the autumn sun. These plants are still flourishing; in fact, the next few weeks will be some of the most beautiful this season. Every year, the prime time for autumn gets a little later. This means that you’ve got until early December to really enjoy autumnal plants before they quieten down for the winter. So make the most of it: wrap up, step outside and notice as many colours as possible.
Whether you’re wandering the Furzey Garden paths, having a nose around a friend’s garden or simply out and about on a walk, there are plenty of autumn perennials that look beautiful in November. Lily turf, hesperantha, alstroemerias, saxifraga fortunei and chrysanthemum are a real sight to behold this time of year. Hunt them out and admire them: there’s a lot to love.
While we are certainly moving into a period of rest for most plants, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge deal for you to work on in your own garden. November offers a great time to prune; in particular, your deciduous trees and shrubs. In the summer, you may find that they bleed sap and attract diseases. This is far less likely to happen in autumn and winter, making it a safer time to tackle them. Similarly, this is typically an easier time to prune as you can actually see what you’re doing. Once your trees and shrubs are less full, you’ll get a clearer picture of what needs cutting back (without having to fight your way in). You can then cut out any dead, diseased or dying areas, as well as congested branches rubbing against one another. While you’re there, trim back any branches pointing in the wrong direction: believe me, it happens a lot! You can then get your trees in the perfect shape ready for spring to roll around.
However, this comes with a warning: there are several trees and shrubs that won’t respond well to autumn/winter pruning. Magnolias, walnuts and cherry trees are just three that heal better in the summer. Before you pull your gardening gloves on, check to make sure that the trees that you want to prune are actually ready for it. For your shrubs, avoid the ones that flower in early spring. These will already have flower buds, and if you prune them now you will lose their flowers. Just some of the spring flowering shrubs include rhododendron, ceanothus, camellia and daphne. For these, wait until they have immediately finished flowering before you prune.
Once you have a good chunk of prunings at your disposal, use them to take hardwood cuttings. Take a piece of the stem (around 20-25cm) and plant it in either the ground or a pot. Bury the majority of the stem and just leave a small amount above ground. It’s that easy. The result is a fantastic burst of plants… Far too many even, so get ready to hand out lots of cuttings to your family and friends.
One final job to work on during November is your lawn. As long as the ground isn’t frozen or water logged, this is the ideal time to give it some love. During the summer, our lawns become compressed, squashed and worn down. For a dose of autumn exercise, grab your garden fork, poke it in the lawn, jump on it and wiggle it around as much as you can possibly bear. This will leave four deep holes that will provide space for air to move in. If you have a stiff rake, you can use that too by giving your lawn a strong scratch and scrape.
Speaking of jobs, the Furzey Gardens team is going to be working their way through our own collection of outdoor projects for the rest of the month. It’s hard to get big jobs done while the garden is in full bloom (and with the hustle and bustle of visitors) and so we use autumn and winter to get to the top of our ‘to do’ list. This includes replanting the majority of our borders and buying in fresh stock ready for totally new displays next year. We will also be working on our structures and paths to make them more accessible; our paths especially need smoothing out, and so on your next visit these will hopefully be finer and smoother.
When you aren’t getting your hands dirty on your gardening jobs or soaking up the rich autumn air, don’t forget to get cosy indoors. With the nights drawing in, what better time to sit in front of the fire with your seed and gardening catalogues planning out your 2022 garden? Add in a hot chocolate and it’s the perfect evening.
We have now moved to our winter opening schedule, the tea rooms and toilets are closed until 18 February 2022, but the gardens remain open every day. As always, you can still pop in for a stroll and check in on what the team is doing, just remember that there are no refreshments or toilet facilities available. You don’t need to book, just pop your donation in our donation box, or pay online at furzey-gardens.org. If I don’t see you, I hope you all have a wonderful autumn and I look forward to welcoming you back to Furzey Gardens in the new year.
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