Once again, here I am, nearly in the middle of February 2020 starting to write a summary of how the garden fared last year. As I write I am anticipating with some dread the very high winds and gusts of between 60 – 80 mph that are forecast. Hopefully we can move all pots and garden furniture that might get blown over, and keep our fingers crossed that there will not be too much damage. So, back to 2019...
January started mild and dry with some bright sunny days. As the month progressed it gradually became colder with frosts, a chilly breeze, and continuing mainly dry. As always, the first Hellebores and snowdrops were a joy. The perfume of the Sarcoccoca wafted as I walked past it as did the mahonia’s. There were also flowers on the white camellia, a few of which caught the frost. An odd primrose flower or two lit up some dull corners too. All the Hellebore leaves now cut off which makes the flowers stand out much more. Had to re-pot a lot of our Echeveria and Aeoniums due to the dreaded vine weevils having made a good meal of their roots!
February started cold and frosty with snow showers on the first Wednesday and Thursday of the month – all melted away by Saturday though. A wet week followed, then turned milder up to 13’C and on the 26 th we had the warmest February day on record with a temperature of 18’C! the colour was added to with a few crocus and Tete a tete daffs coming into flower – little rays of sunshine. The grasses were cut back, roses, apple and pear trees pruned, and the Catalpa had a slightly harder than usual prune.
March turned slightly cooler although still slightly warmer that the average for the month at 11’C – 13’C. By the middle of the month it had become wet, cooler and windy with gusts of up to 50mph on 16 th and 17 th . March ended with a warm, dry and sunny week. Many plants are now showing signs of life – Spring is in the air! We have primroses, camellia’s, Tete a Tete daffs (in abundance) Crocus, irises, scilla’s and pulmonaria’s in flower. The snowdrops were well over by the middle of the month as were the hellebores. A large branch broke off the ash tree in the lower garden, fortunately it didn’t cause any real damage but there was quite a mess to clear up! Weeding the borders started in earnest and the grass had its first cut of the year in the last week.
April was a month of very mixed weather – warm and sunny one day and cooler, cloudy and raining the next. Happily the Easter weekend (19 th – 22 nd ) was warm dry and sunny – 23’C, great for the grandchildren’s Easter Egg hunt! Cooler and showery again at the end of the month. Polyanthus now making a good splash of colour but the Tete a Tete’s had gone over. Symphytum’s, which we have quite a few of for ground cover are flowering well. Rhodanthemums, Bergenia, Muscari and the first rhodi’s have come into flower along with Pieris, Epimedium’s, brunnera ’s, and Clematis Montana’s. the apples, pears, plum and damson trees all in blossom by the end of the month and the Davidia was covered in ‘handkerchiefs’. The grass had its second cut of the year in the first week and weeding continued apace. We had two casualties of the winter that we had to dig out – our beautiful tree fern in the lower garden and a Choiysia in the top garden. The tops were cut off the snowdrops at the end of the month.
May started out mild and sunny then turned cold with a NE - NW breeze with rain and cold nights. Became warmer mid-month, sunnier and drier. By the end of the month temperatures were up to 20’C climbing towards the beginning of June. Flowering in the garden were clematis montana’s, tulips, azalea’s, rhodi’s, choisya, scilla peruviana, Symphytum, Bergenia, irises, geums and alliums. There were a lot of plants which we started potting up or potting on, continued weeding and mowed off the daff leaves in the last week of the month. We have had frequent visits by a fox, seen coming right up to the terrace and the blue tits who have used one of our nesting boxes have hatched their chicks.
June was initially very warm with a high of 28’C, but then became cooler with occasional rain for most of the month, interspersed with some fine and warmer days. The roses did very well, with Crown Princess Marguerita on the arch by the terrace being particularly floriferous. In flower as well were geraniums, salvia’s, Thalictrum Heuchera, lilies, gerbera’s, Hemerocallis and Philadelphus. Weeding, tidying continues and mowing at least twice a month now, as well as keeping the edges trimmed. We changed a very small area at the bottom end of the lower garden where we removed a pampas grass that was definitely in the wrong place and subsequently hadn’t thrived. We replaced it with a statuette that had been slightly damaged (and which had been replaced by an armillary sphere in the top garden) we planted an azalea, ferns and hosta’s around it and gave it a pebble mulch.
July was a mainly settled month with temperatures ranging between 20’C – 30’C. a few rain showers and a couple of cooler days. The hanging baskets and troughs are now looking their best having completely filled out. We now only plant them up with trailing geraniums as they can cope well with warmer and drier conditions – appreciated by our wonderful neighbours who water for us when we are away! The garden is probably at its most colourful from the end of June til the end of August, coming into flower now we have Hosta’s, penstemmons, agapanthus, echinacea, perovskia, verbena, zinnia’s and salvia. The roses continue to flower well. little weeding to do, but deadheading and watering all the pots keeps us busy.
August continued to be settled and fairly warm, a bit cooler mid-month with one very windy day with gusts of 49mph! back to warm and dry toward the end of the month. Canna’s, buddleia, hydrangea’s, Helianthus, Japanese anemones and ceratostigma and rudbeckia all adding to the colour, with salvia’s and roses still looking good. august is a month when we can sit back a bit as there is less to do and the garden mostly looks after itself, just a little bit of deadheading and light weeding.
September was breezy at the beginning but still warm – up to 23’C until the last week when it turned cooler and showery which was welcome after the dry spell as the soil had got very dry and some plants were drooping. Still some colour in the garden but the early – mid summer flowerers are going over. Roses still have some blooms and the rudbeckia’s and salvias are continuing to look good. The canna’s which are in pots on the terrace are still providing a welcome pop of bright reds and oranges. Took cuttings of salvia’s, geraniums and pinks. The Victoria plum crop was not as good as last year, and there were very few damsons. Plums and damsons crop well every other year so hopefully there will be a better crop in 2020. The little Grenadier cooking apple tree produced a reasonable crop and the fruit was ready to harvest by the end of the month.
October was a month of very mixed weather, but generally mild throughout, especially during daylight hours, 10-17’C. Rosa Crown Princess marguerite continued to flower very well. this rose is supposed to be disease resistant, but in fact suffered very badly with rust and blackspot this year, and at one point we had virtually stripped it of its leaves before spraying. Salvia’s, canna’s, Datura, Verbena’s, Nerines and Clerodendron all continued to provide colour. The Callicarpa’s in the front garden had a very good crop of beautiful purple berries which will be there until after Christmas. The leaves on the Acers and Liquidamber’s changing colours bring their own splash of colour to the lower garden. We picked the pears to finish ripening indoors and the Bramleys to store for later use. We took cuttings of geraniums, salvia’s and penstemons. A good crop of acorns this year, which we will probably be raking up until well into November.
November continued mild and very wet at times, a few sunny days but mostly dull and overcast. The garden became very soggy. Foliage plus a few odd roses, kaffir lilies, callicarpa berries and salvia’s giving last pops of colour. The Sarcococca’s just beginning to come into flower and looking forward to their perfume wafting around in the breeze. The geraniums are now all cut back and potted up and brought indoors to overwinter along with other tender plants. Cut back other perennials and lightly trimmed shrubs were necessary. Most of the leaves are now down and raked up – apart from the oaks which are always last.
December continued wet, with the soil becoming increasingly soggy and proving difficult to get onto – no forking-over done. Little colour now – although by the end of the month we are just beginning to see the tips of some bulbs showing, plus an odd primrose deciding to pop up a few flowers and a Symphytum in the front garden – slightly confused perhaps? At the very end of the month we had some chilly but bright sunny weather which was very welcome, which along with the tips of the daff leaves, a few primroses and buds in the Hellebores was a very welcome sign of things to come at the beginning of 2020.