Death & Decay


It is all too easy when writing a blog like this to talk about how good things are and to only put up your best pictures of flowers and foliage on sunny days and in good light. But we all know gardens are not always like that! So, just for a change, I thought I would post some images of my garden on this miserable wet mid-October day.

In reality, at this time of year I am surrounded by a scene of death and decay. 074

Last weekend a friend introduced me to the concept of plants that ‘die well’. I don’t know who originally coined this phrase but it is very apt. Some plants do seem to die better than others. This Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ dies badly in my book and smothers everything else in the process.

The leaves of this Amelanchier lamarckii. on the other hand, die back well with interesting colours and a gradual decline before dropping in November. My alkaline clay is not well suited to it but a generous annual mulch of leaf mould seems to be doing the trick.041

Echinaceas die well because they continue to stand tall and straight and maintain their cones filled with seeds which the finches love. 038

Of course, there are a few bright spots as well. The Verbena bonariensis collapsing into the waiting arms of Bidens aurea makes a lovely chance combination051

And despite the atrocious weather today, my Granddad’s Chrysanthemum which I have named ‘George Simons’ after him, still looks fabulous.025

Some foliage always looks better adorned with raindrops and Cotinus coggygria is one.040

The impossibly named Aster ‘Andenken an Alma Potschke’ is definitely not dying but it doesn’t like the rain. If it wasn’t held up by all around it the metre high stems would be horizontal now.062

Already horizontal and revelling in the wet conditions, the lawn is looking magnificent.

Had to end on a high note!

Today’s Top Tip

I have just read a most exciting tip in the latest edition of ‘The Cottage Gardener’, the quarterly magazine of The Cottage Garden Society and I thought I would pass it on.

I am indebted to Jo Webber from Looe, Cornwall, who wrote about her successful experiment of increasing her stock of Verbena bonariensis by layering, a propagation technique more commonly used with shrubs such as forsythia, daphne, viburnum, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. Jo explained that in October, when the plants had finished flowering, she cut off the seedheads and gently bent the tall stems to the ground, covering them with soil at each leaf node. Apart from making sure they did not dry out, Jo then ignored them until April when she was delighted to find lots of new plants! They were separated from the main stem and replanted where she wanted them.

A very unusual way of propagating an herbaceous perennial but I suppose it makes sense that in Spring, the growth hormones will be strongest in the leaf axils where side shoots would naturally form. Jo doesn’t say whether she wounded the stem at each leaf node before burying them, something you would normally do with shrubs, but maybe that is not required in this case.

I think this is an amazing and innovative idea and something I am definitely going to try for myself. I already have quite a few plants of this variety but I would happily have more. Normally, the stems would die back and new shoots would appear from the base each year but I have noticed that in mild winters, this species often shoots again from the previous years growth although a late frost can cut it down.

Thanks Jo!