Chronicla September 2010 | Chronicle November 2010

Thanks to all you beautiful people who came to visit the garden on our "Open Garden", October 17th.


October 2010


Greeting to all my gardening friends. I’m just about to go out into the garden for the last time today, 21 October 2010. It’s amazing to reflect over all the months that have passed, to witness a garden in constant change; to experience all the seasons, everything that happens, all the life in a garden – flora and fauna, growing and flourishing. Yes, it's the latter half of October and a chill has set in in the Stockholm area. Autumn has come all at once.

Last Sunday, 17 October, we opened our garden in Tumba to the public for the last time this season. Luckily, the autumn sun shined on us. My heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful people who turned up and helped make the day yet another special day. In addition to the usual coffee and cake, we served a warming autumnal soup made of porcini mushrooms and funnel chanterelles that we picked in the nearby woods. We use quite a lot of dried mushrooms (as in soup) and at the moment the mushroom dryer is on almost non-stop in the kitchen, diffusing homely scents throughout the house. The recipe for the soup can be found under A Gentleman’s Kitchen. I hope you enjoy it.

As I've just said, autumn has arrived with a bang and, at this time of year, I always find myself running around, out of breath, and wondering “Do I have enough time? Do I have the strength?” You might think that there’s not so much to do this time of year, but you'd be wrong.

Experienced gardeners among you know full well that there’s so much to do. I don't cut down any perennials at this time of year, as many people appear to do. However, it’s important to dig up bulbs that can’t survive the winter in the ground (at least here in Sweden), such as dahlias, while the other hand, of course, making sure that autumn bulbs do go down in the ground. This year I'm limiting myself to only planting some 4,000 bulbs, mainly tulips and alliums. Other autumn tasks include putting away all the pots that need to go down in the cellar.

So far, autumn this year in the Stockholm area has been somewhat different from usual. I don't know why, but we just haven't had the wonderful autumn colours we usually enjoy. As some compensation, though, there's still quite a lot in bloom even now in the latter half of October. For example, the sedum that I've planted in abundance, not to mention the black-eyed susans (Echinacea purpurea),bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa), asters and grasses in the autumn border. They might be slightly past their best now, but last Sunday they were perfect. The saffron crocuses (Crocus sativus) are another feature in the garden this time of year, providing an exotic splash of colour in October and November.

I've begun feeding the birds, and they know that the table is set. What a joy it is to have them here in the garden; what would life be without birds? Birdlife in the garden is so wonderful. So feed your birds, good people!

It's autumn now, but winter will soon be upon us. Hopefully, we’ll be able to enjoy another few weeks of fine autumn weather. Before the garden goes to sleep, I'll have to protect the roses from the winter chill by banking up soil around the base of the plants, and I’ll be spending half my time watering the rhododendron. Yes, the water hoses are going to be on for hours at a time each day. As far as I am concerned, that’s the secret with rhododendrons. And the buds on the rhododendron plants now promise unprecedented flowering next season.

We planted the first rhododendron 16 years ago, and in all the time since them I've never seen such fantastic budding. So welcome to our garden in late spring. Hopefully it will be a rhododendron paradise, our very own miniature Sofiero (for the knowledge of our foreign readers, Sofiero is a park in Helsingborg in southern Sweden, rightly famed for its wonderful rhododendron and azaleas).

Dear friends! October is drawing to a close, and soon activities in the garden will cease for another season. But there's always so much to plan ahead for, things to do and plant next season. My number one advice is to write things down. Have a special little book in which you can jot down things to ponder over and consider. From my own experience, I know that it's in the darkest months of winter that I plan the garden, sitting before a blazing fire, with a glass of wine in one hand and pen and paper in the other.

I hope that you have a wonderful October and, as I already mentioned, don't forget to water, water, and water your rhododendrons. If possible, spread some oak leaves under the rhododendrons – in my view the ultimate compost for rhododendron. Once again, my thanks to all the wonderful people who visited the garden on 17 October. It was a real pleasure.

It's now time to go back in and light a fire…

A Gentleman Gardener