Tulips, autumn, mess and tangle

This week I went to see Karen at Artists Garden and drove the high and lovely road West across Wales to the sea.  I love this road.  I have driven it in sun and in rain and in winter, summer and autumn and whenever I drive it the high emptiness of the Denbigh moors followed by the slow and beautiful descent to the sea makes my heart sing.

Karen had also arranged for me to meet Kate at Beangenie guessing rightly that we would have a lot in common so it was day for wandering around their gardens, sitting outside a lot, drinking lots of tea and relishing good company.

Karen's garden is very different from  my own both in size and in the style of planting.  Her garden is a late summer and autumn garden and sure enough there was still colour from a whole bed of salvias shimmering in the still sunlight.  And there was movement too, even on a windless day, from the grasses firing upwards like fireworks or fountaining gently in flowing curves down by the studio.  My garden has been ignored for a while and, battered by wind but somehow still growing, it has become a tangled mass of flop and decay.

Kate's I thought might be more like mine because I knew she too has a spring garden and loves bulbs and has a wildflower meadow.  But Kate's garden, while nothing like Karen's was nothing like mine either.  It is mainly green at this time of year but with strong clear structure from hedges and paths, cool and calm with each of its three distinct areas catching a different feeling even without their colour and flower.

So no tangled mess there then.

And today was full of sunlight when I woke up.  Time to stop pretending the garden has gone to sleep when it so clearly has not and give it some time and love.

When you garden in a wild sort of way it is amazingly easy for things to slip from sweet disorder into bedraggled chaos.  Some things are showing their structure simply by virtue of losing their leaves.

The old hedges are lovely at all times of the year.  I love the new growth in spring but I love it too when the shapes of the branches emerge, twisted and interwoven.

But mostly there is simply a sense that everything is falling over and into everything else, still growing somehow in this impossibly long warm autumn but growing in a messy, desperate way that almost makes me long for cold and a stop and some winter silence.  There was so much to do that I had to fall back on the trick of making myself focus just on one place, the side garden today, as too much wandering about and looking at the garden was making me feel like living in a small flat on the Cote d'Azur with a pot of African violets.  I cut back and moved things and took six enormous wheelbarrows of plant material to the big compost heap in the field.

And then I planted out some of my huge tulip order. 

These are Tulipa Acuminata.  This is a Peter Nyssen image as are the ones below and all my tulip order is from them.  The range is great and the quality very high.  I have planted tulips out in December lots of times and they don't seem to mind at all, in fact it is better to plant them out late than too early, so it is not too late to get an order in.  I am not sure about Acuminata as I have never grown them before.  It may be that when they flower the etiolated blooms will be just too spidery and odd but I do love the colours and they may have a delicacy which will be rather fine.  I also planted more Ballerina.

I might put some Hermitage in tomorrow as well.  The Hermitage are quite small, the Acuminata a littletaller  and the Ballerina taller still.

I have barely scratched the surface of what is to be done, in fact I might not have found the surface yet.

It was odd working in the garden again and finding things flowering in the confusion of a warm November.

There were primroses out on the bank and as I cut back the alchemilla there was new growth appearing at the base.  I am torn between unease at the muddying of the seasons and the pleasure of the sun on my back.

In the wooden greenhouse the scented leaf geraniuns are still flowering away.  I need to cut them down and put them somewhere frost free for the winter but I can't bring myself to stop the profusion of flower just yet.

Apples hang on some of the trees like Christmas baubles.  We have had such a huge crop this year there is nowhere to store them any more, fifteen bags or so are hanging in the workshop and we have given away almost as many.

The large number of windfalls pleases the hens though.

And amongst the dead and dying beans and tomatoes in the kitchen garden, my pineapple sage is having a last mad fling.  I do hope the sun shines tomorrow.

How is it where you are? Has your garden closed down for winter yet or is it as confused as mine?


  1. My garden is long gone, due to heat and drought not cold. But I will say for a severe drought and setting new heat records of 110 and over here in Texas for several months, I had a good garden! Some of my veggies like my tomatoes just made and made, thanks to my shade cloths protecting them! My herbs in pots are still going strong however, they are happier now than they have been all summer. We are having a warm November as well.

    I love your photo of the apple on the tree and all the hilly landscape behind it! So pretty!

  2. I lovely and satisfying post as usual. I enjoyed it very much and seeing what tulips you will have in the spring. I'm gardening vicariously through you as I only have a little patio to go with my apartment and not much growing there. That's why I enjoy your blog so much with its many photos. I cheer you on from the sidelines. I think you must be in heaven like I used to be when I still had a garden in my other life. XOX

  3. Out here the garden is long finished. There is still colour from berries and rose hips, but little else. I chuckled to myself about a wild garden slipping from sweet disorder - that's Pondside!

  4. What a delightful counterpoint to our world — snow, ice, and temperatures of 0°F.
    Such is life across the pond.

  5. Here on Long Island, our garden has finally "gone to sleep" for the season. The zinnias have faded and browned, the variegated leaves of the Solomon's seal have gone bright yellow, and the black-eyed Susans have withered. The cherry tree has dropped a perfect circle of golden leaves at its feet, and the chocolate eupatorium is naught but stands of rattles that sing in the wind. Only the remaining shadows of mum blossoms and a rose or two on the shrubs out front hint at what was. The burning bushes are fiery, though, and the bright purple berries on the beauty bush give some pizzazz to the winter garden. I love every season in the garden, each has its own magic.

  6. To have tulips like these would be like having a bonfire ring round the house. I didn't like tulips until I came across some flaming away a few years ago. I'm still uncertain about them but . . . bonfires which grow up in the night would be magical.

    I'm finding your new blog set up a bit challenging.

  7. Texan - it's fascinating to think of how different your conditions are from mine. I can't imagine needing shade cloths round here! Yet you have had good tomatoes and so I have I. Just shows how adaptable and determined plants are!
    Nora - thank you. I am glad you enjoy my garden too.

  8. It was another lovely day Elizabeth - thanks for driving over.
    I have t. Acuminata this year too! Although I think they will like your garden conditions a lot more then mine :).
    The image of your old hedge is beautiful.
    I think my garden is confused too and next month, I will have to give it the care and attention that it has not received in the last 2 months, Oh ... and plant my tulips!

  9. Not quite closed for the winter but soaked, properly soaked and everything dripping and fragile with the algae hard getting their winter boots on and turning everything a dull and slimy green. Makes me long for your breeze blown uplands. Have you thought of making cider? It would be tax free too.

  10. Confused sums it up wonderfully. Clematis, candelabra primula, mystic merlin and all sorts are still flowering. Even a pond plant has decided to remind me how beautiful it is!
    Like you I almost wish the seasons would get back to normal. The garden is half put away. A very unsatisfying state to be in. Love the flaming tulip. Just looking at it makes me feel warm.

  11. Mine's all confused too - my primroses have been flowering away since July and today I found the rosemary has joined in and the onions/shallots in storage are sprouting :/

    How lovely to go and see Karen and Kate - having made that journey to your house I know how wonderful it is and to have friends waiting at the end of it is magical.

  12. Pondside - your garden always looks wonderful to me. Must be similar taste!
    Rob - oh so cold! I am hoping we don't have a very cold winter this time. The last two have been seriously cold by UK standards - minus 17 degrees C last December. We don't do that very well over here!

  13. Marcheline - it sounds wonderful. I would like to say that I love every season and I do try but every year I have some version of running out of steam in late summer/autumn! I am working on it!
    Esther - tulips are great. I love them to bits. Sorry if the blog is a bit of struggle to find your way around. I do like the way it looks though! Please persevere!

  14. Our garden is sheer chaos it seems to me, but expect nature knows what its doing... trouble is that it may not be what I want it to do! I love this time of year when the leaves drop - apart from anything else, I've discovered I get another view of the sea - but the shapes of the branches against the sky always move me.

  15. My garden is still hanging on, with flowers blooming. Many that shouldn't be such as primroses and hellebores. I haven't wanted to cut down anything until we had a frost but I didn't think it would be 3 weeks into November and still no frost. However, the last week has been very wet with torrential rain all day yesterday so everything just looks bedraggled. Part of me wants a frost just so I can get out and tidy things up a little and to restore some seasonal order to the garden but on the other hand if it means we have a shorter winter then I can't complain about that.

  16. My goodness! Today is my birthday and I can honestly say that reading your post has been one of the pleasures of my day.

    There is plenty to say here. I enjoy your writing so very much. Those tangled hedge branches remind me of an Arthur Rackham illustration.... Christmas bauble apples strewn in the branches and on the ground; how delightful. Those tulip bulbs nuture the hope we all need to live through the winter months; and this is coming from a winter lover.

    I must send my very dear friend, who lives near Bangor, your blog address so she too may relish your words.

  17. Karen - it is always lovely to spend the day with you. Thank you so much. I thought you had all your tulips planted. I feel better now!
    Fennie - we have thought of buying or renting an apple press. Somehow the idea got lost in the whole kitchen project this year but maybe next time.

  18. Dobby - I didn't know you had candelabra primula. I love them but they won't grow for me, too stony up here. And what is mystic merlin? I might have to have some for the name alone!
    VP - I really don't like this sense of confusion, do you? Mind you I probably should not complain as we shall no doubt be hit by a ton of snow shortly!

  19. BTW Agapanthus grows and flowers in Inverewe garden in Scotland. I found that AMAZING to visit! As far North as Labrador or St Petersburg in Russia, but washed by the Gulf Stream. How does your climate compare?


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