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November Highlights

Late Autumn 2014

We have all enjoyed a good warm summer, the only problem being the shortage of rain in the west and noticeable at Glenarn. There was very little after May and almost none in August and September. You are probably thinking ‘surely lack of rain isn’t a problem’ – but in a garden with many really large-leaved rhododendrons and magnolias, it does affect the development of the new growth and some of the largest leaves are puckered and crumpled. We are just getting back to normal with about 250mm of rain in the last 4 weeks and it’s great to hear the sound of running water again, instead of a rather pathetic drip!

The warm autumn has provided additional late flowering of rhododendrons, some even now, and excellent colour in the trees with the maples outstanding. This started in August and is just finishing in November.

Our garden at Glenarn is now closed for the winter and the heavy structural work is beginning. Liam the tree surgeon is due this week for 3 days. He will take down Scots pine, ash and holly damaged in earlier storms, and tidy up oaks and others. We enjoy working with him and his team, usually doing most of the clearing up ourselves so that they can concentrate on the difficult stuff.

We await a delivery of Scottish larch from Campbeltown, cut to size, for renewal of step fronts, drainage channels and compost bins. Re-cutting paths and steps is important every 10 years or so – amazing how much better they look once complete. Weeding and a topping up of new gravel completes the improvement.

Mike has started rebuilding some low dry stone walls in the rock garden and is planning the reinstatement of a path which has been grown over for at least the last 30 years. This will involve major cutting back of a dwarf maple – should be dwarf but now almost 3 metres in every direction. Nothing stays small in the west! Before Christmas, while we still have some days with good quality light, I want to dig out a few older plants and clean up the area round them before replanting. We have far too much oak fern – a lovely, Scottish native but invasive, forming a dense mat about 100mm below the surface – very little manages to coexist. I’m also moving round some herbaceous plants that either dominate as they are too close to the path or disappear behind others, being too small – it takes a few years to get things the way you want them. Lots of bulbs have been added. Each year I put in an order, getting a big box from Holland and this year it has been mainly cyclamen, alliums, eremurus and muscari. There is also a selection of tulips which are planted out later this month in the vegetable garden, to give early colour in April when there is not much else visible there.

We have rebuilt our compost bins, mixing the leaves from the wire bins around the garden with grass cuttings and vegetable waste. This is a simple cold compost system; the bins are left for 2 years with 6 in the cycle, and over 24 months you can see the material break down and settle. There is a huge pile of dung waiting to be transported by barrow on to the vegetable beds, to protect them from the winter rains and add to the fertility of the soil.

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