Autumn Days

The garden is too depressing to talk about right now. I have just had a skip full of thorny, twisted and horribly overgrown climbing rose prunings and chunks of a badly neglected philadelphus taken away and bear the scars to prove it. Now I have a big space to fill. I am thinking of moving a very nice little clematis viticella to grow up the gnarled remains of the rose – which I hope  will regenerate, but expect little from it next year as it is too traumatised by my brutal surgery. The plants have still not recovered from the sustained drought and neglect this summer so I really can’t wait to cut them all back and make plans for next year. On a brighter note, I emptied a compost bin today and turned a heap and have loads of gorgeous, brown, friable mulch to spread around. My resolutions for the coming garden year are:

  • Less is more – to stop being so greedy for variety and over stuffing the beds with bits and pieces and go for a more refined and controlled scheme. More of the same plants in large clumps to add some coherence to the scheme (what scheme? I ask). This is very difficult indeed as I adore plants but have a tiny garden.
  • To use pots more – I saw a lovely scheme the other day outside the Magpie gastro pub in Dalkey. A welcome change from the usual pub hanging baskets of garish petunias and begonias, they had two large planters filled with a large, common or garden red hot poker and some ferns – dryopteris felix-mas I think – and they looked superb. The orange flowers of the Kniphofia were a bonus, but the foliage alone looked great together.
  • To lift my dahlias and store them – every year I am unsure if the tubers have survived winter and just plant more willy nilly and end up with a terrible jumble of plants squashed on top of one another. It is time I joined the grown up gardener world and dried my tubers and put them in newspaper. I will give them a bit of a spray in spring and take cuttings and make lots of plants for next year, which I will keep in pots and place artfully around the beds in an orderly fashion.  I hope.
  • Take out most of my campanula – I have some rotten ones that do next to nothing and some lovely ones that spread like mad and are only good for a week or so and clog up the beds. I shall be very strict and leave a few good specimens and bin or give away the rest.
  • I will buy more frilly, fluffy, tall and blowsy plants – I want my garden to look more like a good impressionist painting than a Jackson Pollock (much as I admire his work).

On a happier autumnal note, here are some things I love about this time of year:

  • Magpies eating elderberries – clumsy and too heavy for the branches they are fun to watch – I alone seem to admire these beautiful, noisy resourceful birds.
  • Murmurations of starlings, like the synchronised fliers in the Red Devils they swirl and swoosh above in the pale autumn sky chirruping merrily away and punishing the people who park their cars outside my house all day by dropping plenty of mess onto their bonnets and windscreen.
  • Early evening bats whizzing about in readiness for Hallow ‘Een.
  • The smell of fires, especially turf.
  • Annual weeds dying off at last.
  • Seedheads – especially agapanthus and teasel.
  • Children in their new school uniforms.
  • New tights.
  • Bracing swims in the sea.

3 thoughts on “Autumn Days

  1. Not only are you the only one to like magpies, you’re the only one to like tights, I’d wager! Hate tights, squashing in, but love boots…Please some more advice about dahlias, if they can’t be left how should I take out the tubers and how should they be stored? Should I do the same with irises? I have a large pot packed with iris tubers and this year, for the first time, they didn’t flower, tho there were lots of leaves…


    • Hello KB! you can leave your dahlias in the ground if it is not too cold in winter – do you get a very hard frost? By that I mean not a light dusting from time to time, but really hard winter (like we had here a few years ago). If you do you should lift them. Shake the soil off the tubers and store in a cool, dry and dark place in newspaper. Check from time to time and if looking a bit dry and wizened put a bit of damp newspaper on them. In late spring they will start to sprout like spuds do. When this happens you can either a. pot them up and put them into garden when all danger of frost over or b. wait til these shoots are a few centimetres long and cut them off an put them in potting compost to make new plants or c. do a bit of both. You can also divide clumps of tubers if all the bits you separate have healthy looking shoots.
      Ciao Bella!


    • Dahlias – I lift after the first frost, fork them out and roughly shake off the earth, then lie them in a dry place to slowly dry out. Before the hard frosts arrive I shake off as much soil from the tubers as possible, sometimes they will divide quite easily at this stage, and then pack them very tightly in plastic lined, straw padded black lily crates, and stuff straw around them, cover and store in frost free shed until March. In a super cold year like 2010 they must go under the bed – preferably the one your sleeping in so your body heat keeps them alive!


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