Thursday, November 08, 2012

Preparing the flower beds for winter

We have several beds that are given over to annuals, biennials, perennials, shrubs and trees. Many of the plants were brought from the UK and held in a nursery bed until the garden began to take shape. We are constantly surprised by how many of the plants have different habits in Spain to when they were grown in the UK. We know it is due to the warmer, damper weather but it obviously suits many of the specimens we brought to Spain.

As autumn passes, the trees are changing their colour to shades of orange, gold and red, and many are losing their leaves which are collected and added to the leave mould bins. As the autumn crocus bloom and fade, we decide to dedicate some time to thinning out the flower beds, weeding and generally tidying up.

It is a bit brutal but sometimes you have to severely cut back a shrub such as the rosemary, if you don't keep things in check then they can become invasive and impenetrable. Once the ground has been cleared a little it is always a good opportunity to stand back and take note of any plants or shrubs that might need re-positioning or splitting. Remembering to do so is another matter...

The ground is often covered in a green carpet of seedlings and small plants such as love in a mist, foxgloves or verbena bonariensis. This year we have a lot of self-seeded teasel which could become a problem so we have been quite brutal and removed most of them. The teasel is a great plant to attract the birds but as it grows so freely on the edges of the meadows locally, we don't really need many in the garden.

The large amount of green and dried waste is a welcomed addition to the compost heap. The few days work entailed is worth it as year on year the flower borders improve and provide colour, shape and movement to the garden throughout the seasons. As winter approaches, new growth nestles tightly in and around the base of plants, awaiting the signal of the sun and warmer weather. Beetles make their way to winter homes beneath woodpiles, in crevices and underground.

The robins have returned and welcome the newly dug earth to rummage for grubs. Each year they seem to become braver and venture nearer and nearer.

We are lucky here on the coast as we rarely get anything more than a very light ground frost. This results in very early growth and a shorter dormant season. Generally speaking we can have very mild winters and warm, during the day, autumns. Each season brings about beautiful displays that returns without fail, year on year.

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