In the past few weeks we have been lifting the Dahlias, Cannas and tender plants out of the beds and borders ready for their winter in the greenhouse.
It always seems a shame as they are often still covered in their large showy flower heads, but as soon as they have had their first frost, we chop them down to about 30cm (1ft) and dig them up, exposing all the lovely tubers. This job is done ideally on a dry day so that we can shake off the soil from around the root area, lay them upside-down in buckets and transfer them to the greenhouse where the nursery staff will dry them out and then pot them up for next year.
They won’t be watered, just kept between 5-10° C so that they stay dormant until spring. We have been known to leave some of the hardier dahlias out through winter, on occasions by mistake as they can be challenging to find at this time of year. But when they re-emerge, if they emerge, they perform just as well as the greenhouse-grown ones.
Why don’t we just leave them all out then? I hear you ask. Well, wet and sticky clay can make bulbs and tubers rot off, so it would be a risk – and heaven forbid if I should not have any Dahlias in the herbaceous borders; they are so gorgeous all summer, right up until December, and we get so many comments from visitors. The favourite this year was Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’.
As we lift them we also remove and compost the tender perennials that filled the gaps since May. They have already been propagated from cuttings and are growing away in the nursery, so we have no need to save them. The borders are fairly empty after all this, especially as the existing perennials are also dying back, leaving only the hedge and the structural shrubs and trees. We will revisit the herbaceous border in spring for a final cutback.
Beacon of colour
One plant that looks lovely at the top pond is Taxodium distichum var. imbricatum 'Nutans', it is a deciduous conifer most often found on the peripheries of ponds and lakes, hence its common name Pond Cypress. Linear, needle-like, soft green leaves turn orange-brown at this time of year. They are rather satisfying to rake up off the grass; soft and light and feathery mounds, the colour is truly gorgeous.
Pruning for perfection
We have recently completed the pruning of the climbing and rambling roses. This is a task that takes our team two weeks to complete each year. It’s an intricate task of tying stems to create artistic shapes, good flowering potential and interest for all year round. They look great with a frost in the early mornings; sometimes I believe I actually prefer this to when they are in full flower, because by then we can no longer see the structures and patterns that we took so long to make – it seems just a crazy mess of leaves and flowers, but of course amazingly pretty.
Wrap up and pay us a visit us during the winter months, stop by our restaurant have a bowl of our chef’s delicious soup, and a scone, which is ever-popular with the staff on cold winter days.