Hangers On

One of the challenges when blogging on the subject of gardening is striking a balance between ‘doing’ and writing about ‘doing’. Usually this is a particular issue between April and October when everything is growing like topsy, but this year the ‘doing’ has rolled straight into November with no sign of abating. Like a truculent teenager, the garden steadfastly refuses to go to bed. Not only is it overflowing with vigorous plants, but the nights are drawing in, leaving me with less and less time to complete essential tasks. The seed catalogues that accompanied me around China are still unopened, their promise of summer delights undiscovered.

At the end of the season Fuchsia arborescens is 6ft tall
At the end of the season Fuchsia arborescens is 6ft tall

I was expecting today to be a complete wash-out, but the weather dithered between sunny and drizzly and never made up its mind entirely. Either way it was very warm, so much so that I ended up in t-shirt after a sweaty morning in a fleece. Having planned to do some filing (surely the easiest task in the world to abandon at the drop of a hat?) a sunny morning was perfect for piecing together my new greenhouse staging. On opening the boxes my heart sank – so many similar slivers of aluminium – but in the end I found it a strangely satisfying, if time-consuming task. Tomorrow I will move the staging into position and start the fun job of smothering it in plants. Each time I open the greenhouse door I can’t believe how much warmer it is inside than out.

The garden at Polegate Cottage, scarcely recognisable from when we took possession in June
The garden at Polegate Cottage is scarcely recognisable from when we took possession in June

Meanwhile some plants are enjoying their second or third wind. Streptocarpus saxorum has been the shining star I hoped it would be, revelling in the cooler temperatures and putting on a non-stop show of delicate mauve flowers. Never has the specimen grown indoors looked better than those planted outdoors.

Streptocarpus, outside, in November? Wonders will never cease!
Streptocarpus, outside, in November? Wonders will never cease!

I am a great believer in planting things a little later than the text books suggest, especially the seeds of tender perennials and climbers. The plants usually catch up with their older brothers and sisters and don’t burn themselves out so readily. We are still enjoying the flowers of Cobaea scandens (cup and saucer vine), Ipomoea lobata (Spanish flag) and Rodochiton atrosanguineus (purple bell vine) long after they should have run out of steam.

My purple bell vine still has plenty of energy
My purple bell vine still has plenty of energy

November is when nerines come into their own. Here in Broadstairs they grow like weeds – at least in everyones’ gardens apart from our own. How we’ve envied the narrow candy stripes and marshmallow-pink clumps sprouting from our neighbours’ front gardens. But now we’ve inherited our own clump and it has not let us down. The bulbs are almost completely proud of the ground and are throwing up spike after spike of deliciously incongruous flowers. They can be seen from the street. I feel we have finally arrived.

Nerine bowdenii stand guard at the garden gate
Nerines stand guard at the garden gate

The only clue that winter is approaching is the giant sand bank that’s constructed annually across Viking Bay to protect the beach huts from inundation by the sea. The defenses are not always effective but the kids love to run up one side and roll down the other. Tomorrow Him Indoors and I will be joining them, in t-shirts and wellies, just a few weeks before Christmas. Long may the fine weather and flowers continue.

Viking Bay, Broadstairs, prepared for everything The English Channel can throw at it this winter
Viking Bay, Broadstairs, prepared for everything The English Channel can throw at it this winter