October has raced past in a blur of unseasonal warmth. I’ve not done much gardening, what with one thing and another, but the addition of the ‘Heavenly Bamboo’ alongside the bargain yellow stemmed dogwood has created a very pleasing little tableau in the back corner of the park border.

Yellow stemmed dogwood and nandina domestica

The back border has seen a few changes, as heralded in my foliage post, and there begins to be a promising carpet of ground cover around the ‘Pinky Winky’ hydrangea.

ground cover plants around hydrangea Pinky Winky

When I bought myself Hydrangea ‘Hot Chocolate’ I thought it would sit beautifully alongside ‘Pinky Winky’, leaves and stems of each complimenting one another. The plant label said it could reach 2m (6.5′) in height and spread, but further research suggests it could grow quite a lot larger. Some umming and ahhing later, I decided to move it further away, to give both plants space to flourish, and I inserted yet another in my growing collection of persicaria, ‘Blackfield’, in its place.

Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Blackfield'

I was a little nervous as to whether the deep pinky-red of the persicaria flowers would work with the ‘Pinky Winky’ flowers, but so far they complement each other rather nicely, and the peachy flowers of the Geum rivale ‘Leonard’s Variety’ blend in too, though I have completely failed to capture that on camera. I think the muted tones make colours that should otherwise clash just meld together. Time will tell. Though I was interested to see that something is evidently finding the geum rather tasty:

geum rivale with holes in leaves

Next year will be the real test for how well this back border actually holds together, as perennials begin to bulk out and I get to see everything flowering. I am hoping that by repeating flower forms through different geums and persicarias, in this and the park border, I will achieve a certain level of coherence without limiting my plant palette quite as much as I am trying to in the front garden. That’s the plan, anyway! Not that all persicarias have the same flower form, ‘Red Dragon’ (one of many plants given to me by the lovely Cathy) is flowering away with small clusters of frothy white, very different from the spires of the others I have.

Persicaria 'Red Dragon' in flower

I am really pleased with how the foliage on ‘Red Dragon’ emphasises the red leaf stalks on the Drimys.

Persicaria Red Dragon with Drimys  lanceolata

Not all is happy though, I fear some oil got spilt on to the end of the back border when it was being siphoned off to relieve pressure on the split in the tank. This used to be a healthy escallonia ‘Apple Blossom’. I am hoping it just curled up its toes in the dry summer, but this is the moistest area of the garden despite the sycamores nearby. I will be watching this are with close interest as we debate what to do with the space freed up by removing the oil tank. Once we get around to it.

dead escallonia

The biggest change in the back garden is thanks to the replacement for our smelly old oil boiler and attendant tank – the Air Source Heat Pump. It is a Stiebol Eltron WPL-18, for those who are curious, and its, well, rather large…

Air Source Heat Pump

We wound up with it placed rather closer to the door in to the conservatory than I think was ideal, but there again placement was always going to be compromise, and it will soon have a different case that will make it slightly larger but with no ugly visible vents. Next year’s challenge will be to re-shape the herb bed into an ‘L’ that curves round the pump, helping to soften it whilst still allowing space for servicing (not that this should be necessary, they are very reliable). We’re going to have to widen the path that runs down between the current herb bed and the greenhouse, as it is now the only way in to the back garden from the front, and must accommodate the carrying of furniture, compost, boats etc. But I fear that there won’t be space for a cherry now.

Air Source Heat Pump

I am inclined to plant an evergreen something alongside as you come in to the garden, so that the pump isn’t the first thing you see as you round the corner, but to be discussed.

New view of Air Source heat Pump as you enter the back garden

In an ideal world we would have sited it where the oil tank is now, but it would have cost a lot more and been far more disruptive. Planting will soften the impact greatly, and I can’t argue with the heat it is providing – not that it has been exactly cold so far! We had several very old and inefficient radiators replaced with new ones, as the water circulating from an Air Source Heat Pump is much cooler than that typical for a boiler installation, 45C instead of 65-70C, and granted, the pump doesn’t have to work very hard when the outside temperature is so unseasonably high, but the whole house is pleasantly warm, too warm, actually, for us, so we are going to be able to turn it down and therefore run it even more cheaply. You do need a lot of space for all the gubbins that goes with it though, look at the corner of our garage:

Controls, pumps and cyclinder for Air Source Heat Pump

The huge cyclinder is the hot water tank at the bottom and then a buffer tank for the heating circuit on top. Then there is the cut-off, the pumps, the control panel, the pressure vessels, and lots of piping… Apparently in norther Europe, where heat pumps are in widespread use, houses typically have plant rooms to take all this stuff! On the up side, we now have a huge storage space where the old hot water cylinder used to be upstairs.

So, that’s my back garden at the end of October. I am pleased with the progress I’ve made on the borders, it begins to feel like a more established space, with much more colour and interest. It is a bit of a shame that my lovely herb bed didn’t even get a full year before it will need to be re-shaped, but hopefully even if we do get a really harsh winter once the warm Autumn finally stops we will be warm and cosy and no longer dependent on oil deliveries. Thanks again to Helen for hosting the End of Month View meme, do check out links to other people’s reviews.

41 thoughts on “End of Month View October 2014

  1. Dear Janet, I enjoyed reading your October garden report! I am impressed how many different plant varieties you have growing in your garden and it looks fab even at this time of the year. My favorite plant is persicaria ‘Red Dragon’, which I have never seen before. It is so pretty! I just love how the dark red leaves offset the white delicate flowers.
    I have never heard about an Air Source Heat Pump heating system. If it keeps you warm and cozy during the winter that is certainly a good thing!
    Wishing you a nice rest of the weekend, warm regards,

    1. Hi Christina, I’ve allowed myself to be a bit of a magpie with plants in the back garden, though I am trying to grow different forms of the same plant e.g. different dogwoods. I keep falling in love with new plants though!

  2. Goodness that is a change but I am sure that by this time next year your won’t even notice the tank. You could put some evergreen in pots in front of it for the time being, maybe a camellia as you come from the front.

    I too am trying to restrict my planting palette to be more cohesive but it is quite challenging! Thanks for joining in with the meme

    1. Hi Helen, I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve become used to having an enormous white box in my garden… I like the idea of evergreens in pots, as we can’t plant a permanent screen too close in case access is required.

  3. The heat pump is large! But it must be reassuring to know that you can now just leave it to do its thing and not have to worry about fuel. We’ve decided to do more research on the options. If our 30 year old oil boiler fails what’s the betting it will choose January when it’s -10 outside.
    Persicaria Black Field was my first, and the one that started the current passion for them. I think I let it get too dry this year, so I hope it comes back. Hopefully persicaria is one of those plants it’s impossible to kill.

    1. Hi Jessica, good luck researching the alternatives to oil, it isn’t easy being off grid, particularly if you have an older property with thick stone walls. There’s so much conflicting advice out there, and so many people trying to cash in on the RHI scheme. We’re happy with what we ended up with though, I hope you will be too. And that Blackfield returns with renewed vigour! I am worrying about where else I can squeeze a Persicaria in, there are so many other lovely ones still to get my greedy mitts on…

  4. Your new heat pump is something I’ve never heard of before Janet. It’s some contraption isn’t it. I’m sure it will do everything you are hoping it will. Will be looking forward to reading which evergreen you choose and I do hope the oil hasn’t done too much damage to that part of the garden.
    Loving how the yellow stems of the Cornus really stand out Janet – it was the first thing I noticed in the picture. Persicaria are real workhorses of the garden in my book, mines have all been flowering for almost 5 months.

    1. Hi Angie, the ASHP is certainly quite a large presence at the moment, I will be happy to soften its impact with plants in due course, fingers crossed it is everything it is advertised as when we come to proper winter…

      That yellow dogwood is striking, isn’t it, I’m glad I rescued it.

  5. Air source heat pump, funny enough I first heard about it via the koi keeping circuit who use it to heat ponds in the winter and upon reading about it, it’s widely used in Northern Europe indeed. Long term the savings will make it worthwhile. And garden wise it’s still looking great! Long may this mild weather continue!

    1. Hi guys, yes, yet another area we lag behind our northern European neighbors in, likewise ethanol fires, which I have been researching as a no mess alternative to our our open fire! The mild weather is lovely, though it does have me wondering what kind of winter we are in for, a certain amount of cold would be good or the slugs next year are going to be unbearable.

  6. New challenges are what keeps us on our toes. The part of your new heating system that you have to deal with is much less of an eyesore than many I have seen. Will be watching with interest to see your progress.

    1. Thanks Rickii, I am already getting used to it, the real proof of the pudding will be in our bills over winter.

  7. There are some lovely evergreen trees or bushes you can get to hide the heating pump, if you are like me I am constantly changing and moving plants in the garden, And the “Red Dragon” is a lovely plant.
    Amanda xx

    1. Hi Amanda, yes, I am a terrible one for moving plants around, sometimes mere inches! My only issue with plants is that I am terrible about keeping them watered.

  8. Hi Janet,

    Looking good! It’s been an odd couple of months here and although mild now (due colder temps next week) we also had a lot of rain since mid September so I think my garden is ahead of yours in terms of decay and shutting down for the year. Normally I’d expect to still have quite a bit of interest around – Rudbeckias, Geums and Seum for example – but this year they’re already over.

    1. Hi Liz, that’s unusual, you normally have things going way after mine have curled up their toes for the winter. Hopefully it means newly planted things are putting on lots of good root growth, ready to reward me with a magnificent display next year. Sorry even your sedums have thrown in the towel, at least it is the season of sparkly lights and tinsel, plenty to distract you ;-)

    1. Indeed! I need to double check how close we can go with trellis and plants, after all, not much sense in installing a heat pump and then destroying its efficiency by cutting off the air supply it relies on.

  9. I am so pleased to see Red Dragon is doing well (thanks for the mention) – and flowering too! It has been distributed to Suffolk and the Isle of Lewis too and when I dug up one of these last offshoots two or three more were potted up ready for the next gifting! Your P Blackfield looks promising (although nothing can beat RD’s foliage) – it’s been mentioned elsewhere and it’s one I had a made a note to look out for. Doesn’t cornus look great at this time of year – I am so pleased that I moved mine from the pots to the shrub border as they really stand out there and your yellow stemmed one is gorgeous.
    I am soaking up all you are saying about your heat exchange unit and intend to start reading up on this and the ground units too – I am still unsure about how they can provide acceptable heat and hot winter in winter but they presumably do. The additional gubbins is a bit of shock though….!

    1. Hi Cathy, hopefully grasses will be on their way to you early next week now that I seem to be over the cold I collected whilst meeting my new nephews… Red Dragon is doing wonderfully well, and I can thoroughly recommend Blackfield, gorgeous flowers. An interesting comment re ground source heat pumps, apparently they can be very noisy, something to do with sound being transmitted through the pipework according to our installer who deals in both. The stats on the efficiency of the new generation of pumps even at low external temperatures and higher internal flow temp due to radiators are really impressive, though you do need good quality radiators. Good luck with your research, it takes ages, and loads of charlatans out there, but we are really happy so far. Apart from losing so much space in the garage, though there are smaller installation options depending on the heat pump. Feel free to pick what passes for my brains if you want!

  10. I love your end of month reviews and you are right to be very pleased with the progress you are making. It is all coming together beautifully. But this month I have to admit that it is the Air Source Heat Pump heating system that has captured my interest even more. Do tell us more about how it works and give us regular updates about its running costs and how warm it keeps you. I’m glad you are enjoying your Nandina, I think they are wonderful shrubs.

    1. Hello Christina, thank you, I am looking forward to seeing how it all behaves next year, and really must get some bulbs before it really is too late to plant them. I’ve been slightly surprised by how much interest there has been in the ASHP but will certainly give updates, we are currently playing around with the settings as it gets too hot at the moment!! The true test will be as and when it starts to get cold.

  11. I will have to guide himself over here to read about that rather Heath Robinesque pump Janet. It’s just the sort of machine that he would be fascinated by. Our boiler which was installed in 1987 made a dramatic exit from the world in September and we have just had a combi – boiler installed which seems rather complex to me. Back out in the garden I’m intrigued to know what’s underneath the black pot impaled by the bamboo stick. Do tell :)

    1. Hello Anna, it does all look rather imposing, doesn’t it!! I hope your new combined boiler keeps you snug, particularly if the dire warnings about a harsh winter prove even half correct. I never realized that being off grid would make life so interesting when it came to heating systems, mains gas is so much easier. And cheaper! As for the black pot, it marks where a Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ is to go when I find one that won’t break the bank. Otherwise I would have filled the space with other things long ago…

  12. I’m impressed by how much thought you have given to the placement of all your plants in the borders, Janet. I guess I start each new bed that way, but I’m now to the point where it’s “Where can I find a few inches of bare soil to stick this new plant?”:) I’m anxious to see ‘Hot Chocolate’ in bloom–that’s a new hydrangea to me. I realize the heat pump is not exactly where you would like it in your garden, but you are going to appreciate it so much this winter!

    1. Hello Rose, I think it is comparatively easy to be thoughtful when you are starting with a blank canvas – in a few years I am sure I will be attempting to shoehorn the latest “must-have” plant into a space far too small, convinced that it will all work out… I am looking forward to seeing ‘Hot Chocolate’ flower too, not least to check that it doesn’t clash with the surrounding plants! But I couldn’t resist that foliage… As to the heat pump, if we stay as cosy as we are at the moment through the winter, it will be well worth the space it takes up in the garden – and the garage!

  13. An enjoyable post and good pictures as always. October was an interesting month for gardeners being so unseasonable.
    I think that screening, or toning down, your heap pump is going to be a bit of a challenge. They’re certainly not made to blend in are they! xx

    1. Hello Flighty, yes, the heat pump does present a challenge… I fear that if we just fence it in, the fence itself will become the eyesore! I am convinced that plants are the answer. Lots of plants…

  14. I haven’ t come across Hydrangea Hot Chocolate before. I shall look out for it. I love your Hydrangea Pinky Winky, even if it does have a silly name.
    Cathy is so generous with her Red Dragon, she sent me a piece too. My other new Persicaria is a Blackfield like yours. It is such a lovely dark colour.

    1. Kate (Beangenie) and I often moan about daft plant names – ‘Black Negligee’ is another. Why?! We clearly both have excellent taste in plants, and yes, Cathy is wonderfully generous, I can’t believe how huge my Red Dragon is already.

  15. I like the Pinky Winky hydrangea Janet, and think the Persicaria goes nicely next to it. But then, Persicarias look nice anywhere! I’m intrigued by your new heating system and will have to google that. We have wood pellets heating, but then German houses almost always have a cellar with one room just for the installations! I think an evergreen – maybe laurel? – would look nice at that corner to hide the pump. :)

  16. Hi Cathy, I agree, theres a Persicaria to go pretty much anywhere, with anything, I love them, though they don’t die nicely! Germany is enviable for the forward thinking in terms of well insulated homes making good use of appropriate green technologies. We looked at biomass but the good quality systems are still ridiculously expensive here, and its not clear what is going to happen with good quality pellet supply either. I just wish we had a suitable roof for photovoltaics!

    1. Hello Julieanne, I agree, the light really does change quickly at this time of year.

  17. It always seems to be something that we have to amend for in the garden. That is a big unit. I am still trying to hide our air conditioning unit better than I have. But that is the least of my priorities…and yours is so much bigger. Good to hear things are growing nicely and boy what the garden will look like in the spring. After uncovering lots of shrubs swallowed up by large volunteering natives, I am surprised at how big things can grow in the garden in a year or two even if covered up all season.

    1. Hi Donna, I am taking the view that when I am in the garden I will mostly be head down in gardening activity or sat on the patio looking away from it. But yes, it does present a challenge!

  18. the garden is coming along nicely Janet, quite a change from when you began doing the monthly posts on your back garden, shame about the herb garden but I’m sure you will turn the change into an opportunity, it looks lovely btw, congrats on a nice warm, cosy home ready for winter, it makes soo much difference, Frances

    1. Thank you Frances, yes, it really has changed a lot over the course of the year, which what I was hoping would happen with the extra focus the meme provides. Of course the front garden has, by contrast, been neglected…

      As to the ASHP, I am now rather looking forward to a good cold spell so that we can see how well it performs! We do have to deal with the condensation issues we still have though, opening windows is very counter productive at this time of year.

  19. Your border is filling out beautifully, look forward to seeing it settle in next year and knit together. Surely the heat pump is the perfect opportunity for a living fence of espaliered hornbeams :) xx

    1. Tee hee!! I do love that look, but I think I will be after a denser coverage as you round the corner. Espaliered fruit on the long side though, under planted withherbs, that could work…

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