Preparing The Watch House for Winter



When I left my garden, in early October, it was still a summer garden. By the time I returned, at the end of the month, it was definitely an autumn one. The change was subtle, yet profound; sad, yet inevitable. The point of no return had been reached and there was nothing for it other than to accept that it was time to prepare for the approach of winter.

I don’t think it rained significantly during the three weeks of my absence, as my dahlias had all succumbed to disfiguring mildew. Those that hadn’t did not escape the advance of a gazillion baby snails, which had reduced the leaves to skeletons. My dahlias were a huge disappointment this year, so much so that I have decided not to grow so many next year. I will concentrate on foliage plants instead, as these generally keep on giving whatever the weather. Despite their floral allure, dahlias offer little in the way of beautiful leaves. The dark ones are attractive enough, but when the flowers don’t come, dahlias really are party-poopers.


Finding bright spaces indoors for all my aeoniums is an annual challenge. This season they have grown especially well.


The majority of permanent plants at The Watch House were chosen to look good throughout the colder months. The selection is so good that it can be hard to tell what season it is, even in the depths of winter. Ever since the garden was built I have been fighting to introduce greater seasonality, which has mostly been achieved through the use of bulbs and semi-hardy plants in pots.

November is change-over month, when those potted plants requiring winter protection come indoors. The most attractive are re-homed in the garden room, from whence I write this blog; those that need light and shelter go into the cold greenhouse, and any that die down naturally, such as gingers and lilies, are stashed at the back of the garage, where they will be dry and frost-free. Before I relocate any potted plants I check them over for pests and diseases so as not to bring them inside and create myself ongoing problems. Miniature slugs and snails are the main nuisances I look out for. I also try to hold out for a dry period when the pots will be lighter and less back-breaking to move.


Despite a few cold nights, Fuchsia splendens is still looking splendid


Some evergreen or ‘usually-green’ plants benefit from a September Shear; a bit like the Chelsea Chop, only later. This removes tired leaves and spent flowers, whilst encouraging the formation of tighter, more water-resistant crowns. Zantedeschias benefit from this treatment, as do the shrubby salvias such as S. ‘Hot Lips’. The latter is luxuriant and covered in flowers six weeks after being reduced to about 2ft, providing a last supper for the few bumble bees that have not gone into hibernation.

Being elsewhere for the month of October means I must get ahead of myself in September, and that I will find myself playing catch up in November. I had planted all my narcissi before departing, but have hundreds of tulip bulbs still awaiting my attention in the garage. Adjusting to the cold and dark, I do not find the prospect of kneeling on a cold, drafty, concrete floor very appealing at the moment, but do it I must. The arrangements in my newly acquired garage are rather primitive at the moment, having blown my budget elsewhere, but I have promised myself a sturdy potting bench when I find the right one …. and an electric light would be handy too. TFG.


Round one of bulb planting was completed at the end of September