What a very berry autumn this has been! All that gorgeous summer sun intensified leaf pigmentation to give us a gem of an autumn ablaze with brilliant oranges and reds: autumn colour which continued late into November. It has been a fab year for Pyracanthas and Cotoneaster bejewelled with berries, as well as for Cotinus Coggygria, the drop in chlorophyll that comes with shorter days revealing brilliant leaves in shades of scarlet and red. Our fave small tree, as always, is the Malus, with its long season of interest. We particularly lovely Malus Sentinel with its long lasting small red crab apples (can still be on the tree after Xmas), and Evereste with pretty yellow apples. We think that a low shaft of sunlight shining off a red berry, or catching upon a giant hip of a Rosa rugosa or R. Canina, is as lovely as the colourful extravagance of a midsummer flower. We are mindful of how, as gardeners, we place so much emphasis on designing gardens for spring and summer flowering, when autumn plants and winter branches can be equally as beautiful.
Our autumn gardening season burned equally as brightly with a gamut of lovely projects. We particularly enjoyed creating a forest garden based on permaculture principles for an SHP, Single Homeless Project. With our voluntary community hat on, several days of infrastructure build culminated in a wonderful community planting day where clients from the shelter joined with the local community, serenaded by local musicians and poets, to create a thriving garden with large wildlife pond.
It is said that a wildlife garden without a pond is like a theatre without a stage! The winter months are a perfect time to build a pond. Whether you have space for a large pond, or a small back yard to build a pond out of a sunken wheelbarrow, we urge you all to get that pond built. All you have to do then is sit back and wait for spawn to appear in your pond in mid March!
Talking about wildlife friendly gardens, we were asked by a new client off the Holloway Rd, to plant up a front garden to not only attract wildlife, but to help detract litterers. Our solution, to plant a hedgerow. In it we planted a mix of pyracantha, dog rose, blackthorn, hawthorn, cotoneaster and variegated holly (do remember that hollies are dioecious, meaning you have to have two plants – a male an a female to produce berries). The final result was not only a stunning front garden with a long season of plant interest, but a thorny front hedge to stop littering: A hedge to provide food and shelter for all sorts of wildlife, from insects to birds and small mammals. The winter months are a perfect time to plant up a bare-rooted hedgerow.
We love nothing more that getting stuck into a garden makeover, and this autumn we have embarked on many such projects. It’s not only about pruning and adding organic matter to the soil to improve plant health, but creating new vistas as trees and plants are cut back. You will be amazed at how different your garden looks after a good cut back. A whole new canvas awaits…
For a school in Highgate we recently enjoyed planting lots of soft fruit in the long beds. Next spring we plan to interplant fast growing salad crops. We are sure the children are going to love their new allotment: a veritable Fruit Salad! In the same school we also laid wildflower turf to create an instant pop up meadow. From April – November, with a cut back in mid June, and late September, a wildlife meadow is always so enchanting.
Design wise, we are also working on several projects with very differing briefs. The first is a boho chic garden which takes inspiration from the new-perennialist designer: Piet Oudolf. For this garden, we are working with the architect to design sinuous shape beds which very much reflect the style of the interior architecture. The beds will be filled with grasses and plants in shades of purple, blues white and green.
For our second design, in complete contrast it is all about orange, yellows, copper and lime green. Tropical zing!
We are also really excited to be helping design another large health centre as part of our commitment to social prescribing, and helping make our wonderful health centres places to go to be inspired.
Embrace winter, and we urge you all to go out and enjoy your gardens. Empty branches and patterned bark can be just as lovely as the brightest of sunflowers.
Solstice greetings. Debbie, Stephen, Francis, Andy and Miro.
Forget plastic baubles, plan next year for jewelled berried trees.