Chronicle October 2009 | Chronicle December 2009

November 2009

17 November 2009 and darkness is descending on Sweden. Yes, November is here and I’ve managed to plant about 6,300 bulbs. Nevertheless, when I’m running around the shops and see bulbs on sale at a 70% discount, I still find it difficult to resist temptation. I believe — or to be more precise, hope — that it’s OK to plant tulips and alliums as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Next year we’ll see whether or not I was right.

In addition to planting bulbs, there are lots of leaves to be collected, fallen apples and pears to pick up, and generally a great deal of tidying up to do. I try to wash and put away all of pots; my motto is that it is better to have things done in the autumn than during the spring chill. I’ve emptied all my boxwood globes out of their pots – and thankfully we’ve quite a few – since in our climate they can’t stand outdoor during the winter; it’s necessary to dig them down in the ground, to be on the safe side – which I’ve already done. Whereas the boxwood have gone down in the ground, the agapanthus have been lifted down to the cellar or into the garden shed. They’ll now stand there and wait until their next flowering in the summer of 2010.

I’ve been dotting around the garden and thinking “goodness gracious, yet another season has gone by”, and just now I’m sitting here amidst a sea of pine, spruce and juniper sprigs and branches. As I’ve mentioned previously, when other people are taking down their window boxes, it’s time for me to put up mine. I’m now doing my best to arrange my rose arches with spruce springs, whilst the window boxes will be filled with spruce or pine.

The days are now so short that the garden is in almost constant darkness. A garden year: everything behind us and everything ahead of us. A garden is a life, but it can’t live by itself — it needs quite a bit of help (or a great deal, for that matter). But a garden shouldn’t be considered a burden; on the contrary, it’s a gift, something one must care for and feel for. Living with a garden, as we do, is something one does with wonder and gratitude.

When I look down at the dark, rich soil in the garden, I think of all the bulbs that we’ve planted, not just this year but during the course of the 13 years in which we’ve lived here. It’s incredible, but it feels as if the bulbs draw themselves downwards of their own will, so that it’s possible to plant other bulbs above them. It feels as though this small garden (approx one third of an acre) can never get enough, and that there’s always space for my darling bulbs.

As I’ve mentioned previously, sedums are a plant that I’m really crazy about. They’re always so stylish, “from beginning to end” – yes, even in the dark, miserable month of November. Thankfully, the sedums are not alone – many perennials, such as Sweet Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium Purpureum) and Bugbane (Cimicifuga) are still putting on a stately show, but the colours are weakening as the garden gradually enters its winter rest.

Since it isn’t really cold yet, the fish in the pond are still moving around, although much more slowly than previously. The pond, too, is a part of the garden which must be cleaned and cleared properly before the winter sets in. It’s best to use a net and a pond “vacuum cleaner” to get as many leaves out of the water as possible, to avoid decomposition during the winter which will lead to algae problems in the spring. I’ve no illusions that we can avoid algae problems (which arise year after year), but at least we do what we can to reduce the scale.  

Last, but by no means least: seven cubic meters of wood, which we’ve had stacked in the garden to dry ever since late spring, are now down in the cellar. So, whatever the temperature out in the garden, we’re assured many warm evenings in front of the fire during the coming winter months.

A Gentleman Gardner


A Gentleman Gardener