November- Inspiration turns to planning

Chris Flynn, Head Gardener Chris Flynn Head Gardener
The herbaceous border in winter

There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a good book….. As the garden quickly becomes submerged in fallen leaves the bookshelf is chock full of another seasonal arrival. Much like the tidal bore that floods up the Severn Estuary on the spring tide, the crest of the wave that careers through the letter box is dominated not by white horses, but by plant and seed catalogues. I love it!

This is the business end of planning for the next year.

During the summer it’s great to be able to cut flowers and foliage to bring together potential combinations for the new planting schemes. Equally every effort should be made to go out exploring the many, brilliantly varied gardens, nurseries and specialist plant collections around the country. For now though, it’s time to translate all that inspiration onto planting plans and order forms. Thumbing through the pages of catalogues, updating your planting wish lists and finding something new to try for the next season is a great joy. Don’t be afraid to trial different things, especially when it comes to annuals as their spell in the garden is so fleeting. Even if it doesn’t work out, it will only bug you for a few months and then out it comes again. Lessons learned, shan’t grow that again.

Gradually the garden is being put to bed. The recent bout of hard frosts have relieved most of the tropical herbaceous plants of their foliage for another year as well as speeding up the leaf loss from  hardier deciduous trees and shrubs. It is always a touch alarming on the morning that you walk out into the garden to find the dahlias that were in perfect flower the day before turned jet black, or the stems of tender lavender split wide open by the freezing water in their stems when they seemed so robust 24 hours prior.

In the ever experimental world of gardens however it is always fascinating to see how your garden and your favourite plants react to extreme seasonal changes. All gardens are different, different soils, different microclimates etc. so the information that you read about a particular plant will only ever serve as a guide especially when applied to those more borderline specimens. At Dyffryn we are lucky enough to be on the edge of a more favourable hardiness zone as well as enjoying a little maritime influence. We also have a fantastic array of mature trees and well developed hedges, which offer some additional protection.

Regularly walking the garden, particularly at this time of year will show up all sorts of things, Nerines in flower, the bronze of the larch and deep reds from Acers, both of which that glow in the low light of a November afternoon, and of course any jobs that you might have missed! You’ll also spot a few frost dodgers. I’m particularly impressed at how tough Pelargonium australe is proving to be in the Mediterranean Garden.

Whilst the team are busy getting one last cut in around the garden to really help show off the naturalised spring bulbs and add 20,000 or so extra, I’ll be getting my head around matrix planting for the Causeway Border for next year. Time to get back to those catalogues!

Chris Flynn

Head Gardener, Dyffryn Gardens