A Tidy Up

Now that we’ve finally had a couple of frosts at the Priory,


The Priory tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

I feel that I have permission to start tidying away.


So I’ve been carting stuff off to the compost bins or bonfire site.


Bishop of Llandaff – weary

In the topical border, the freezing temperatures have collapsed the tender plants


into a soggy, exhausted (and, if you ask me, melodramatic) heap.

DSM_7908I needn’t have waited for the first frost to start hacking back the growth but it seemed ungrateful somehow, impolite even, to cut down still-flowering dahlias.

DSM_7891Some plants such as this Persicaria filiformis had barely begun to flower when the first frost struck.


And this toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta) only had time to flower because I moved its pot indoors.


Tender fuchsias, dahlias and Colocasia esculenta

Many of the plants, including fuchsias (F. ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’) and the colocasia won’t survive hard frosts and I have transplanted them to the heated greenhouses.  I’ve left most of the dahlias in the ground but a few – which I wanted to re-site – I have lifted for drying and storing.

DSM_8011A thick mulch of my excellent (if I do say so myself) garden compost will keep the dahlias and


other plants left in the bed (marked with canes) warm and toasty.  (The ‘straw cages’ protect the stems of Musa basjoo).

DSM_8004The larger of the two red bananas (Ensete maurelii) was very, very heavy – even with all its leaves removed.  I needed help to manhandle it into a barrow and plant it in the greenhouse.

DSM_7924Speaking of planting – not all the gardening at the moment is about cutting back and digging up.  My bulb order has arrived and I have been caressing my box of promise – though I ought to stop that and crack on with planting them.

DSM_7875Speaking of cracking – we’ve had some fierce storms down here in Sussex.  Thankfully, we escaped lightly and only lost one small tree, a copper beech which we had decided to fell anyway.


It sat squeezed between two large oaks, you see and would always have been stunted by them.  I removed it with the chainsaw.


September 2013

Speaking of chainsaws – the tree surgeons have been again.  You might remember that the main island on the west pond had become congested and that seven alders were crowding out the one weeping willow.

DSM_8040Well, those alders are gone now and, unlike the copper beech, the willow now has the space and light it needs.


I’ll leave you with another shot of the tulip tree.  It isn’t a display that lasts very long (soon I’ll be raking up each of those leaves), so let’s make the most of it.

41 thoughts on “A Tidy Up

  1. I agree with earlier replies, I love your photographs especially the one of the Tulip tree with honey burnt colored foliage and the Verbena. I have tried leaving my Dahlias in ground over winter but have not had success. What zone are you?


    • Hi Flora, thanks for commenting and following. Hmm, I had no idea what ‘zone’ I am! I had to look it up as it isn’t something we use here in the UK. But to answer you – most of the UK including where I work is zone 8. Apparently. Dave


      • My pleasure, that is interesting that it is not really used in the UK – what do you usually use? That makes you a zone warmer than me here. We have already had snow and most of my cutting back and clearing was done the beginning of November. Best, Erica



        • Oops, sorry Erica – got the name wrong there! Erm, we don’t use any zoning over here really but just talk about ‘our’ climate. Except perhaps the occasional nod to those who live in Scotland or the north of England where conditions are generally colder than the rest of the UK. D


  2. Enjoyed your post and photos. very interesting that you leave dahlias in the ground for the most part. I religiously lifted mine until my 90 year old aunt , who lives locally, said that she has always left them in situ and they do just fine ! She was right ! We are in Lincolnshire so not exactly the exotic south !


    • You’re not alone, I think. Many people lift dahlias without realising that they’ll be mostly fine left in the ground with a mulch. Though I often forget to mulch certain tubers and they still seem to sail through the winter. Yay for 90 year old aunts! Dave


    • Hi Bridget, thanks – the tulip tree is a beauty isn’t it? I often bemoan how few trees have been planted at the Priory over the past 100 years but at least someone had the foresight to plant that one (even if they did plant it too close to the house!). Dave


  3. Your frost paints such a pretty picture; I’m sure we’ve had at least one frost here because I had to scrape ice off the car, but it was too dark to see the garden, and the next day looked completely unscathed. It certainly feels cold enough though.
    Really love the picture of your verbena trimmings waiting for departure; great composition. And that persicaria looks very tempting, even for such a short flowering time. I must think about lifting some of the dahlias soon too, thus beginning my game of roulette with a few left in the ground and mulched!


    • Hi Sara, glad you like the verbena picture. I was walking back towards the wheel barrow having opened a gate and thought it worth a snap. Let me know how the roulette works out. The persicaria leaves are pretty and make a nice impression at the front of the bed. Dave


  4. I wonder how many of my friends would appreciate how much I like the clean, edged, mulched tropical bed picture…. it looks perfect and I think I may have to consider getting new friends!
    You have every right to be proud of both the compost and the rest of the gardens, and your RHS award doesn’t look too shabby either 😉


    • Thanks – I can see why people would flinch at the tidiness of that border but I find it is easier to keep on top of the work as when I can. That particular border can now be left unattended for several months while I get on with other stuff. Glad you like the award badge. Me too! Dave


  5. Gorgeous photos. We had a frost on Tuesday, the first and only one so far. I don’t tend to grow many tender plants due to lack of over wintering space. I can’t see out of my kitchen window at the moment as it’s stuffed with succulents, pelargoniums and bulbs I’m forcing. I did lift my dahlias. Don’t think they’d appreciate cold, wet Welsh soil. I’m just psyching myself up to finish the tulip planting. Have a great weekend.


    • Hi WW, hope you got your tulips in – I still haven’t. As for dahlias, I’m pretty sure yours would be OK left in the ground under a mulch but I do find they are more susceptible to slugs that way. Dave


    • I’ve heard of gardeners in Yorkshire who leave dahlias in the ground overwinter, Allen and it is pretty cold up there. I know NH is exceptionally cold but I think they can stand pretty low temps. Dave


  6. am sure if I had that top view I would never get any gardening done. Ogling your mulch with admiration – lucky plants that can keep warm through winter in that


  7. I enjoyed seeing the garden getting its tidy, with the reminder that I may want to move some of my dahlias. I find it very difficult to get rid of plants that have out grown their places so the island is another hint to think of the overall effect, It looks much better with the willow and the shape of the island highlighted.


    • Hi Amelia, generally I’m very reluctant to have trees felled but sometimes the decision is made for me – in this case by a squashed willow. Besides alder is endemic at the Priory and would soon take over the whole garden were we to let it. Dave


  8. I’m glad you didn’t loose anything else in the recent storms…I’ve gotten most of my bulbs planted a few weeks ago…but found a forgotten bag of tulips in my office the other day….oops!


    • Hi Scott, oops indeed. I still haven’t planted any of my bulbs (it has been too wet) and to be honest I rather wish I hadn’t bought them. I’ve got quite enough to do thanks very much. D


  9. Your first photo is stunning, and your tropical border looks very cosy indeed! I’m sure your weeping willow on your island is appreciating its new space around it, we all need our own personal space. I usually dig up all my dahlias because we have such wet winters, not many frosts, yes, we had a slight one the other night, but plenty of wet!


  10. The photos of the Tulip tree certainly are magnificent; something to return to and enjoy in the winter months. I have taken lots of Verbena bonariensis cuttings in case mine are lost to the cold which I understand they can be. I felt very encouraged to read you have been leaving your bulb planting till now so I will stop feeling guilty and get on with it.
    I love the way you personify your plants and their behaviour.


    • Hi Alison, I don’t have any problem with v. bonariensis sailing through the winter – and it gets jolly cold down in valley. I’ve never tried taking cuttings but then they self seed so very freely that I pot those up if I need more. I’m going away now for a week – so my bulbs will have to sit and wait patiently until my return and hopefully the ground is a little drier. Dave


  11. Liriodendron does look gorgeous in the autumn just before it sheds all of its leaves. And that second photo with the Verbenas, love it! You’ve been doing a neat job so and with the tidy up now perhaps you’ll have an easier weeks coming ahead too…or maybe not with all those bulbs to plant but that should be fun 🙂


  12. Such stunning colour on that tulip tree, that first photo is pure autumn – am trying not to be jealous. I’m not in the least jealous that you have all those leaves to rake up though 😉 Or all those bulbs still to plant, come to think of it, though I am betting they will be making a wonderful show come spring. The willow looks just as it should, room to breath, as you say, and play king of the island without all those upstart elders. BTW, I think you are being a little harsh towards the tropical border, if your blood was thinned by expectations of a warm climate, you too might be wilting dramatically as the temperature dipped below zero! Be careful or they will have their revenge… Though the mulched border looks wonderfully cosy so perhaps they are more grateful than miffed. Which reminds me, I really should mark my dahlias too. When I finally get a frost and cut them back. Its late. I’m wittering. Pretty leaves. Night night.


    • Hi Janet, I didn’t mark any of the plants in the tropical border last year and whilst I’m not that keen on canes sitting there all winter, I’m less keen on slicing tubers in two when it comes to planting in May (that and planting new arrivals much too close to existing tenants). The tree is lovely isn’t it? It wasn’t going to feature in this post but the light yesterday really lit it up and as I’m away now for a few days, I know it’ll be over when I get back. The frost yesterday was only our second and the first was six weeks later than last year – amazing that you still haven’t had one. D


  13. I to have PN bulbs to plant. I have put 200 in already, I find 100 at a time is enough. All tulips and a few alliums. I had a very good display last year from their pink collection. Have gone solo this year and chosen mostly purples and white with a hint of yellow (Verona).


    • Hi Sue, I haven’t planted any bulbs for a couple of years now but did order a 100 daffs and 200 tulips. The latter are 100 White Triumphator and 100 Merlot – I’m hoping the purple and white will compliment each other. I guess I’ll find out soon enough. D


  14. The tulip tree is magnificient Dave, enjoy it while you can. I noticed you cut all your Verbena bonariensis down, don’t you leave them during the winter, usually their stems stnd well in winter. Nice to see we all have the same bulb supplier; mine arrived this week too and I need to get them into the ground just like you.


    • Hi Christina, the V. bonariensis is just from the tropical border and another bed which needs re-working. Normally, I do leave it in some of the beds overwinter but much of it seems to have been flattened already this year. Good ol’ Peter Nyssen, eh? D


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