Post-Equinox Blues

The Autumn Equinox is always a depressing time. It’s not just that the days are getting shorter, that’s been happening since late June, it’s that now is the point when the days are getting shorter fastest. You can almost see the night coming earlier day by day, and you know that before too long you’ll be driving to work in the dark and driving home in the dark and the sun will be a distant memory.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I was outside today putting down stepping stones in some of the beds, before the perennials start to die back and I don’t know what’s where, and the weather was amazing. There were plenty of bees and butterflies making the most of the sunshine and the remaining flowers, and I couldn’t resist taking some photos.

We should still have a month or so until the first frosts arrive, and some things will soldier on until the bitter end. So let’s make the most of what’s left, and hope for a warm and sunny Autumn!

Verbena 25/9/2016

Verbena 25/9/2016

Perennial and annual sunflowers 25/9/2016

Perennial and annual sunflowers 25/9/2016

Buddleja with a Red Admiral in port 25/9/2016

Buddleja with a Red Admiral in port 25/9/2016

Marigolds 25/9/2016

Marigolds 25/9/2016

Marshmallow 25/9/2016

Marshmallow 25/9/2016

Anise hyssop with bee, 25/9/2016

Anise hyssop with bee, 25/9/2016

Hydrangea, 25/9/2016

Hydrangea, 25/9/2016

Viola, 25/9/2016

Viola, 25/9/2016

Bergamot, 25/9/2016

Bergamot, 25/9/2016

Feverfew and lavender, 25/9/2016

Feverfew and lavender, 25/9/2016

Bellflowers, 25/9/2016

Bellflowers, 25/9/2016

Bee on winter savory, 25/9/2016

Bee on winter savory, 25/9/2016

Up, Up and Away

Over the weekend, I measured the Cockle Pippin that I planted last winter. I knew it’d gone from 1.3m to taller than me in the course of a year, but even so I was a bit surprised when it clocked in at 2.4m. Growing over a meter in its first year in the ground, after having half its roots hacked off for shipping, is pretty impressive. Here‘s what it looked like a few short months ago.

What happens when you plant an apple on M25

What happens when you plant an apple on M25

The theory was that, given it had a conifer hedge on one side and a hawthorn hedge on the other, the more vigorous the tree the better, so I went for a very vigorous apple rootstock and left the central leader uncut to hopefully get a decent length of clear trunk instead of branching low and getting tangled up with or shaded by the hedges. The practice might turn out to be a bit different…

I actually keep meaning to keep some kind of growth diary by species. There are clear differences in when shrubs and trees grow – for example, the Amelanchiers I have in my garden tend to show a strong growth spurt in spring but then stop early on, and I’ve heard that Persimmons do the same. I think this might be common in species which evolved in places with dry summers, since in those conditions it makes sense to stop after spring before the dry spell starts. Apples on the other hand seem to keep going throughout the growing season.

I’ve searched online for data about growing patterns, but not really found much. Has anyone else noticed anything interesting in their shrubs and trees?

Next Season: What’s Out

So the last couple of weekends I’ve been trying to catch-up in the garden after spending much of August away. After a month of neglect the garden looked like a jungle, but I’m slowly hacking it back into shape and opening up the gaps for new experiments. In order for new things to be planted, the things that haven’t worked out need to go.

So what’s out? So far:

Honeyberries

Lonicera caerulea, source: Wikipedia, by OpioĊ‚a Jerzy

I tried. I really, really tried. I had these in my old front garden, and when we moved we brought them with us. I gave them years, always hoping for better yields or sweeter fruit (supposedly fruit quality improves as they mature). I tried a few other varieties that were supposed to have bigger, better fruit. The end result: every variety I’ve tried over the last six years or so produces small, sharp berries that aren’t worth the effort. If you want something similar but sweeter and high yielding, plant raspberries. If you want sharp and higher yields, plant currants. If you’ve already planted honeyberries, then don’t waste too many years before admitting defeat and tossing them on the compost heap, as I just did.

Asparagus Peas

Asparagus peas, source: Wikipedia, by Hans Hillewaert

These are annuals. I’ve tried them a couple of times, but for reasons explained here they’re not the best vegetable in the world. Their only positive is that they look quite pretty when in flower.

Achocha

Achocha, source: Wikipedia, by Zyance

Another annual. I tried these for the first time this year. They’re extremely vigorous climbing members of the cucumber family, and extremely productive as well. So what’s wrong with them? Two things:

  1. While they probably can be used fried in most recipes that call for green peppers, they have a bitterness to them that I find unpleasant. Not enough to stop me eating some, but why grow something that’s going to produce tons of vegetables you have to force yourself to eat?
  2. Vigorous doesn’t begin to cover it. They look like (and grow like) weeds. They get everywhere – I had a constant battle to stop them smothering the kiwis, which themselves have a reputation for thuggish behaviour, and they leapt off the arches I was growing them up into the undergrowth, the apple tree, the cherry tree, and over two nearby paths.

This weekend I decided enough was enough and ripped the damn things out. Waiting for the cold to kill them off meant I’d have to keep looking at them for at least a few more weeks.

Chokeberries

Chokeberries, source: Wikipedia, by Mrigashirsha

I’m not as negative on these as some of the above. They’re not that great raw unless very ripe, but I’m told they have culinary value. The problem is that only two out of the four plants I have produce large berries, and I don’t get to use them anyway. Despite being very astringent, they act as a bird magnet and all the fruit suddenly vanishes before I get round to picking it. For that reason, one of the smaller berried bushes is going to make room for another Actinidia Kolomikta. The bigger ones I’ll probably keep since, even if they’re not productive, they grow more sparsely than the honeyberries so underplanting is much more viable.

Cido Quince

Flowering quince, source: Wikipedia, by Pollinator

I grow three kinds of chaenomeles: Cido, Fusion, and Crimson and Gold. I had a post earlier about how, despite claims to the contrary, I don’t think chaenomeles are self-fertile. This year, after adding extra varieties, I finally got a good yield from the Fusion and Crimson and Gold. The two Cidos, though, still managed almost nothing. I’m tempted to remove them, the only question is whether that might stuff up the pollination again (e.g. if Cido pollinates one of the other two, but is not itself pollinated by them).