Autumn Arrives

It’s official – autumn is finally here. I’ve been watching the acer for weeks now, wondering when – if – the leaves were going to turn. I needn’t have worried, I woke up this morning to find it beginning to flame. It’s not just autumn that has arrived – so have the plumbers to sort out various bathroom issues, so apologies for what is a rushed End of Month View post with snatched photos.

Pond Bed

I’m feeling rather nostalgic at the moment. Having decided to replace the pond and surrounding planting with grass to lure in family buyers, this will be the last time I can look across the pond at the Autumnal tapestry created by the grasses, eupatorium, fatsia, acer etc.. There is going to be a long slow goodbye to this garden. I’ve been realising how much I have come to love the deep layers and contrasts you get from having borders with narrow paths between them. Looking across the garden from the house, it is impossible to see the path that runs around the back separating the grasses and perennials from the evergreens obscuring the fence.

Across Pond To Dahlia Border

Looking across the pond to what I call the Dahlia Border really brings this home. The dahlia border runs for about 4m from the greenhouse to the acer. Last year it was crammed with, unsurprisingly, wonderful dahlias. Before they flowered, wallflowers and tulips strutted their stuff set off by a euphorbia. This year it has been far less successful, but the richness of the planting in front around the pond has helped disguise this. In fact, it is hard to get a photo of just the dahlia border itself.

Dahlia Bed

I was really excited about this border in the Spring, I had planned even more rich colour, with rich magenta ‘Downham Royal‘ planted alongside shocking pink ‘Hillcrest Royal‘, toned down with the deep almost black of ‘Rip City’. The last two were much loved dahlias from last year, that didn’t survive the winter in the garage. None of the dahlias have done particularly well this year, the Spring and early Summer were too dry. But I never got to see the planned combination. Instead of ‘Downham Royal’ I got sent a pale pink pompom dahlia that had nothing in particular to recommend it, but which I could have lived with. But instead of ‘Hillcrest Royal’ I got a vivid scarlet cactus dahlia.

Pink Pompom
Scarlet Dahlia

Now I am all for experimenting with colour, but these two side by side? I was frankly grateful that they didn’t flower very prolifically! The pink pompom, while not something I would ever have chosen, could work OK in the right colour scheme, and the flowers look great in a vase, but the scarlet monstrosity…. Anyway, suffice to say that I have not been happy with my dahlia border this year.

So why am I talking about it now? Because this is where I will be moving some of the pond bed plants to, once I have the dahlias lifted and have decided whether I can risk moving the miscanthus. Late grasses like miscanthus are best lifted and divided in Spring rather than Autumn, just as they come back in to growth, and if I leave them where they are at least there will be something to look at before we get the turf down. But I will be wanting to plant tulips and other bulbs in amongst the perennials that wind up in the dahlia bed, and planting the miscanthus when the tulips are in full swing could be a bit of a disaster given how confined the space is. Actually, while typing this, I have come to the conclusion that the answer may be to plant the tulips and other bulbs in pots and leave all the dahlia bed replanting until the Spring.


Another reason to leave the plant moving until Spring is that I will need to empty and decommission the pond during the winter, which I can see being a pretty big job. I can’t afford to leave it until January, the frogs may well be starting to mate by then, and I feel bad enough about destroying such a rich habitat, even if it has been overwhelmed by duckweed this year. Gardening SIL is up for a visit at the weekend, so I can check out with her whether she wants any of the pond plants, but my guess is no. Her own pond is no bigger than mine, and is already richly planted. So the plants will be freecycled, the pebbles and rocks bagged up, the pond liner rescued and packed away for possible future use. It will make for a bare and barren patch until we get the turf laid next year, but at least this will reinforce the message that we are on our way. It is just going to be a long process.

Last Waterlily

Ironically, this has been the best year we’ve ever had for the lovely pale cream waterlily, which is still trying to flower now!

So, the End of Month View posts will be starting to chart the dismantling of a garden, albeit with some re-arranging of plants. I will spend the winter working out which plants from the pond bed can go in to the dahlia border, which go elsewhere, which get freecycled, which get potted up to take with us. Kind of fun actually, the challenge being to have something that will be really easy to take care of but which will look good all year, since who knows how long it will take for us to get a sale. Which leaves the magnolia border.

Magnolia Bed

Not much changing yet, certainly no sign of Autumn colour on the hydrangea. The potential problem is the magnolia itself. It is about 2m tall now, and although there is still a nice wide path between it and the house, the view from the kitchen window is now completely obscured. Now as you know, I love my Magnolia stellata, and photograph it obsessively when it blooms. But even I have to admit that it is now too big for its place.

View From Kitchen Window

Lovely though it is to look out on clouds of white blossom in the Spring, it is a very strong visual full stop. I rather like looking out on to leafy lushness when I am washing up, but even I find myself craving a more open view, and getting excited about what I could do with the bed were the tree no longer there. But this isn’t really my garden any longer. It is now all about doing the least we need to in order to sell the place. So, what do you think? Prune hard back and hope it doesn’t go all brown and shrivelled? Leave it as is? Be brave and take it out? I won’t be rushing in to anything, too much else to do, but I would be interested to hear what other people think.

My thanks once again to Helen@Patient Gardener for hosting the End of Month meme. It may be more about leaving the garden than developing it for me now, but it is still a great way to focus on what is good and what not so good. Check out her post and follow the links in the comments for more tours around other people’s gardens. I’m off to make more tea for the plumbers and dream about re-planting the dahlia border with grasses, crocosmias, aquilegias and geums.

46 thoughts on “End of Month View October 2011

  1. The thought of moving to a new garden must be very exciting, then I guess you would be wondering what would be possible to take with you and what you will regret leaving behind. As to the view from the picture, I would do whatever you need to appeal to the most number of potential buyers. I don’t know about the UK, but houses are selling very sluggishly here right now.

    1. Hi Les, the market here is really sluggish too. My instinct is to take the magnolia out because people get scared of trees close to buildings, and won’t necessarily understand that the magnolia isn’t a problem. I am trying to balance my desire to take lots of plants with me with the cost of moving them. I have heard of people having to hire whole trucks just to transport their plants. At which point I might as well stick some money aside to buy new ones with! I am excited about the opportunities a new garden will offer, and am hoping for interestingly different conditions.

  2. Oh you are moving! When I bought my house I only had the intention of living here for 6 years while the boys were at the local school and I think it held me back with the garden as I didnt want to do anything which would put off potential buyers. Now the 6 years have passed and I cant afford to move so I thought ‘what the heck!!!’

    It will be interesting to see the garden dismantled – are you taking lots with you?

    Thanks for joining in again this month

    1. Hi Helen, yes, finally it looks as if we will definitely be on our way next year, assuming we can sell. I sympathise about you saying you can’t afford to move – with us it’s that we can’t afford not to any more! I’ve been held back on this garden for four years because when we moved back we thought we were going to be selling almost immediately, but plans kept slipping. It has made for lots of compromises that if I had realised we would still be here now I wouldn’t have made, but hey, that’s life! I don’t know how much we will end up taking with us, some of it will depend where we move to, and whether it has an established garden or is another blank slate. I will divide as many of the perennials in the pond bed as I can when I move them to give us options, and think I will be using some space up at the allotment to “store” them. Glad you are just going for it in your garden now, I very much doubt you will regret it, even if something suddenly changes and you move before you anticipated.

  3. Your maple is so beautiful, Janet, I hope it’s going to stay where it is, assuming, that is, that you can’t take it with you. As for the magnolia, I’d try to prune it or move it if at all possible. Unless it’s in bloom when you’re showing the house, potential buyers would probably like a less obstructed view. I wish I lived nearer, or I’d gladly help with some digging and taking some of these plants off your hands:) Good luck with the sale of your house; as Les said, the housing market is very sluggish here. At the same time, it’s a great time to buy a house because of the low mortgage rates, so perhaps you’ll get lucky and find one of these buyers.

    1. Hi Rose, the maple will definitely be staying where it is, much as I would love to take it with me it is too big, and anyway, I think it is a lovely feature. I like the sound of help with the digging and moving, and would very happily offer plants in return, sadly not practical!! The more I think about it the more I am sure that the magnolia has to be moved, if I was a mother with young children I would want to be able to watch them from the kitchen window…

  4. Your posts about moving got me thinking about leaving my garden. We’ve been here 4 years and its my first proper garden. I’m thinking about starting to work my way through the garden taking lots of cuttings next year to build up a stock of plants so that if we do move in the near future I will have some plants to take with me. We spent quite a bit of money stocking the garden and I wouldn’t want to start from scratch again. Your garden is beautiful by the way and I would love to buy a house that had such a well loved garden with it.

    1. Thank you, I am hoping that once the lawn is in and the border replanted it will still be an added bonus to a prospective buyer. Taking lots of cuttings sounds like an excellent idea. I’ve tried to do that with some of my favourite shrubs but have totally failed – I think I need cuttings lessons, no matter how closely I follow the instructions in Carol Klein’s book they always fail…

  5. We have a large camellia that was planted right next to a wall and I would like to move but am too scared to try it. One of my gardening friends (professional that is) said that she had often pruned shrubs hard back and then moved them. She has never lost one yet (so she claims)! Mind you I opted out of letting her do our camellia and I think your magnolia is even bigger!
    I love all the depth in your garden and the layers and combinations.

    1. The Magnolia is pretty enormous, but on the other hand, if we are going to dig it out anyway, we might as well hard prune it and pot it up and see if we get away with it. Nothing to lose and possibly a lot to gain. So thank you for that! I might just have to give it a go…

  6. I don’t wish to worry you but you may find hibernating frogs in the mud at the bottom of your pond.

    As for the magnolia – I’d prune it back – we pruned my sister’s back really hard last year and I mean down to a bare trunk – obviously no flowers this year and to her relief it is now shooting out strongly in all directions. If it doesn’t survive you can always plant something to climb up it for the viewings.

    1. Hi Sue, to be honest I would be surprised if there weren’t hibernating frogs in the sludge at the bottom, but it would be even worse if I did in in Spring when the tadpoles are around. I think I just have to go for it and hope they find somewhere else to go.

  7. Good luck with the move when it happens. Not something I have had to deal with as we have been here for over 30yrs and won’t move unless I win the lottery!
    Exasperating your Dahlias were ringers. I know it is not always lossible to buy plants in flower. Mind you even at a garden centre the same potted up plants can have flowers that are different enough for me to want to pick out the “best colour”.
    I would prune the Magnolia too – less effort than removal.

    1. I must admit that I do find it rather annoying that the tubers get wrongly labeled, I bought large healthy ones so they weren’t cheap either! I’ve learnt my lesson, I will buy smaller cheaper ones another time, and take lots of cuttings. I hope that our next place is pretty much my final place, and so my final garden. I may not have 30 years left, who knows, but after being so unsettled in recent years staying put for a couple of decades or more sounds very appealing! My only problem with the pruning option is that it doesn’t deal with the lack of view out of the window issue. I shall continue to canvas opinion…

  8. Hi Janet,

    It’s sad to see you winding the garden up.. But then I guess we all have to do what’s needed to help ensure a quick and easy sell – and then move. And if lawn will help then so be it… Although there will also be garden lovers out there looking for houses! :D

    Your garden must be really well shielded if it’s showing very little sign of Autumn yet….

    I would plant the bulbs in pots – you can always pick up some cheap bulbs in the green from somewhere like B&Q in the spring as they often do 5 pots for £5 if you want a quick, happy fix of spring colour :)

    1. Hi Liz, strangely enough it actually feels like progress, towards the next phase if you like, and as Fay said in a comment on a previous post, it is a way to gradually detach from it all. Pots it is…

  9. I love that opening shot; so many colours and textures (the acer, of course, is king!). Although it’s hard to look upon your garden knowing that you are leaving, it must be eased a little by having the time to really study what works and what will be strapped to the removal truck come hell or high water :). Easier still when you finally know what you are moving towards!
    Hard too to dig up those lovely beds just as they are reaching their potential, but at least it is in your hands and you shouldn’t lose anything that way. I agree that you will need to prune the lovely magnolia hard – and then you may as well tuck it in a pot and see what happens… our M. stellata was dug hastily out of last garden and has survived these past three years in a clay pot until it was finally rehomed this year. It’s much smaller than yours, as it had only been planted for about 18 months from a small “stick”, but seemed pretty robust – I hope that yours makes the move too!

    1. Hi Sara, there is something a little perverse about digging up a border that I feel as if I am just getting a handle on, but at least I will have the chance to play around with other arrangements of the same plants before we up sticks. My magnolia is a very large stick, but I think it has to be worth trying to preserve it – though TNG is raising awkward questions about just what it will cost us to transport it…

  10. I am suffering from Acer envy, that and a Smoke Bush are the two little trees that I have promised myself for a long time. Your Acer looks beautiful especially with the grasses in the foreground. Its tough for you because you clearly love the garden and are still full of ideas of what you want to do although talking about selling. A generally tidy up and a picture board for prospective buyers so they know what a great garden they are taking on.

    1. I like the idea of pictures of the garden at different stages, but it will soon(ish) look very different. I have a smoke bush in a pot so that we can easily take it with us, definitely a wonderful plant to have in the garden, not least because you can keep it to whatever size works.

  11. Oh the japanese maple is so lovely. Nice to see it coming into it’s bright colour. Good for you making a decision on the pond and beginning to put together a plan. I think the hardest part of moving is accepting the move and starting to dismantle. Having a plan in place will make it a little easier.

    1. Hi Marguerite, that’s my hope, that the planning will help the emotional disengagement. And I hope to take pride in making the garden both appear more manageable but also far more attractive than most of those around here. The acer is a real beauty, I hope whoever moves in after us appreciates it!

  12. Hi, I followed the EOMV link from Helen’s. I love that first photo, it just sings autumn. It seems appropriate that you’re winding down the garden and packing it up when the season is winding down too. I think you’re wise to get rid of the pond as so many people don’t want one, although it ‘s just the kind of thing I’d see as a bonus if I was buying a house. I’ll be interested to watch your progress and especially looking forward to seeing your new garden develop eventually.

    1. Hi Lyn, thanks for popping over. I like the analogy of packing up the garden as the season winds down too. All these transitions will be a lot easier once I know what garden I am moving to!

  13. Gardens and their plants hold so many memories, plants bought on holiday, plants given by friends, plants bought for special occasions, lots of cuttings and seed collecting needed.
    I think your magnolia must be cut back and potted up, just cross your fingers and hope for the best. will look forward to seeing your progress towards moving.

    1. Hi Pauline, unfortunately I seem to be singularly inept when it comes to cuttings. Seed I can do (unless it is green manure, apparently!). Cuttings? Terrible… Hence the magnolia will indeed be potted up and fingers crossed, as will the Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’. Wish I could take the acer too…

  14. You have such a beautiful garden Janet – it must break your heart to think of leaving it. I would find it really difficult deciding what to leave and what to take. The last time we moved (over 25 years ago) the garden was the first consideration, the house second. I’m not sure it should be that way round!

    1. Hi Elaine, on the odd occasion that I allow myself to scout out possible future homes I scroll down to the description of the outside space first, then it’s the kitchen. I can put up with a lot when it comes to the rest, but I must have a good size garden, preferably with that magical thing, “useful outbuildings”, and a good sized kitchen. So I guess we both suffer from the same kind of madness!!

  15. Interesting that you have already lifted dahlia tubers. We wait until the first killing frost, which has just happened after a freak snow storm. Autumn ended immediately, so it is lovely to view your photos!

    1. Hi Jayne, the dahlia tubers are all still in place, like you I wait until the first severe frost to lift them. We haven’t had one yet – still less a snowstorm, which seems like a bit of a violent way for Autumn to sign off!

  16. I would have a hard time leaving your lush and full gardens. Your end of the month showing is really spectacular, with so much color and texture. Well, a time to start anew, in gardens and for the season. I hope you find a new place worthy of your gardening talent.

    1. Hi Donna, I thought I would find it really hard, and I suppose I still might, but I also feel up for a new challenge, different growing conditions, different plants, and hopefully room to grow veg so that I can water them in my pyjamas without getting strange looks!

  17. I’ve been thinking about you and your gardens recently…since our house is also up for sale. My brother in law bought our last house, so I was easily able to move all my plants (at my leisure, too!). But this time I won’t be able to – although I do have a few sentimental plants which I will put in the contract that I will take with me.

    Our realtor also suggested having photos of the garden at its most beautiful for showings. As a gardener, I hate to say it, but I would move your magnolia too. (I remember all the gorgeous photos of it this past spring though!) It would probably be better to have an unobstructed view.

    It IS difficult, because you never know when you may sell…or who will want to buy it. I would be particularly swayed to your house because of the stunning gardens! And the yard/landscaping/existing gardens is my highest priority when house hunting…although I just know that whoever buys our house will raze my poor garden to the ground and plant grass.

    1. Hi Hanni, it is really tough, isn’t it. I agree about the magnolia, but at least we can give it a fighting chance. I wish one of my brother-in-law’s would buy our house, that would certainly simplify matters! Good luck negotiating your own sale, maybe we can hold one another’s hands through the process. I have a programme of boxing up and furniture moving planned for the next few days as part of getting ready to market, followed by some painting.

      Excellent idea about the photos to show the garden at different times, I must try and get a photo of the acer in full autumn colour but without the plants that won’t be there by then! I think the trick about the potential razing of a much loved garden is to never return to see it.

  18. You acer is a real showstopper Janet – may I ask which one it is? Buying dahlias and come to think of it other underground inhabitants seems to be rather hit and miss at times as to whether you get the right plant :( Not sure what to advise you about the magnolia having never grown one. Would now be too late to prune? I might be tempted to let it be and enjoy those “clouds of white blossom” next spring before I made up my mind. Difficult to know what potential buyers might be after. If we move at some stage in the future I will be looking at the garden first then the house :)

    1. Hi Anna, sorry, apart from knowing that the acer is a dissectum, the label is long since lost to a box carefully packed up in the loft. I do remember that I bought in from Westonbirt Arboretum Nursery in the autumn so that I could see the colour.

      Re pruning the magnolia, apparently you are supposed to leave it until it is in full leaf, though we have frequently pruned it soon after flowering with no ill effects. I think the timing will depend on what else needs doing, but since I won’t be dismantling the planting behind the pond (just the pond itself) before next Spring I think we will get some blooms. I can’t imagine us getting our act fully together before the end of March, there is just so much to do!

  19. My Japanese Maples have not turned all the way yet…I am waiting. However, my red maple is lovely now. I am also hoping to see the deep red of the Alice hydrangea…waiting… Your acer is stunningly beautiful!

    1. I thought I might have to wait in vain this year, so many trees are just dropping their leaves without ever turning colour first, so I was delighted that the acer did its thing. Good luck with your hydrangea – I am really hoping that my oak leaf hydrangea changes colour this year, it would be a first, and I bought it for its Autumn colour!!

  20. it’s great to see your garden looking so well at this time of the year. Bitter sweet too as you have to start ‘dismantling’ it.

    I say be brave and take out the Magnolia stellata (and maybe prune it too much later?) and bring it with you to your future and new garden. It’s a toughie and I reckon it will be fine :)

    1. Cheers, I think I will do exactly that, it will help mollify FIL apart form anything else, he loves the magnolia and is very conservative about yanking stuff out.

  21. It is such a strange autumn, here in Italy too. Many plants are behaving as if its spring and others know winter is on the way. The Acer is lovely, I would try to take it if you possibly can, they are so expensive and slow to grow.
    From your plans I think you are going to be able to enjoy the ‘last’ of your garden. There’s nothing wrong in planting to sell. Best advice is keep it simple or non gardeners can be put off! Christina

    1. Hi Christina, I’d wondered about trying to take the acer too, but it is pretty big and they never seem to end up looking good when pruned. I’d have to prune it really hard, so I think I’d rather wait and perhaps buy a little one and be patient. Or hope that someone in the family gets very generous!

      Thanks for the support on the “planting to sell” side of things. I agree, it has to look nice but easy to look after. I’m rather looking forward to playing around with how to rearrange the plants we have to make that work.

  22. Hi Janet – catching up a bit late again (work, sigh). Lovely post – looks like some interesting seedheads in there, too…

    I moved my acer, but it was a lot smaller than yours and it did take a few years to stop sulking and get on with the growing thing, but it’s fine now. In fact, I moved shedloads – once I realised the people who ‘just loved’ my garden loved it because it made a convenient dog’s toilet. Many came out of one garden and went back in another within a week, and were fine – there’s always room for those last-minute decisions.

    1. Thanks Kate – but wasn’t it you who pointed out the enormous expense in moving a large number of plants from an old garden to a new one?! You should have seen TNG’s face when I explained that I wanted to dig up the magnolia and take it with us… We’ll see, I am hoping gardening-SIL’s lovely husband will drive a transit full of plants for us… When we find somewhere to take them, of course – minor details!!

      1. Ahem, yes, I think it probably was… but it was totally worth it!

        (Mind you, my plans were somewhat last minute, and I’m sure it would have been cheaper if I’d thought it through. Instead, we just went round the nearest hire place in a panic, shreiked ‘gissa van for tomorrow!’ and had to take what we got. It was driveable – phew – but ridiculously expensive. And I had to take a friend off another job to drive it as no-one else was free at such short notice, so of course I had to compensate him as well…. all I’m saying is plan, plan, plan…

        1. Message received and understood! I always run my life on lists – and when it is really scary, spreadsheets – because I have the memory of a mentally challenged goldfish. Planning it is, I have a BIL who is genius at finding vehicle hire bargains, I will rope him in. When I have a garden to take said plants to!

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