It's been a wet last couple weeks, but that hasn't kept us out of the garden. Fergus has devised systems for everything, including planting in the rain! Lately, we've been busy tidying the garden and making way for the spring bedding and bulbs. Last week, this coincided with "The Art of Gardening" Symposium (http://www.greatdixter.co.uk/whats-on/events/nov14-symposium/). The symposium group (from America) was here for 1 week, during which time they received thorough information on the start-to-finish bedding and bulb implementation process. In addition to daily lectures with Fergus, they spent quite a bit of time in the garden, watching us arrange and plant bedding areas, before eventually doing some gardening themselves! It was a lot of fun getting to know and work with them in the garden during the week.
Fergus demonstrates proper spacing and planting for the group
The first bedding project I worked on (with Ed) was the Circular Steps planting. The summer planting had already been lifted and the bed prepared. As with all planting projects in the garden, we put down boards to work off of. Boards are used for several reasons: to protect the beds from significant compaction, to protect the surrounding pathways or turf, and to keep the work space more tidy. Additionally, using boards allows us to work in a variety of spaces and weather (even when it's wet—this is good, since we've been having so much rain). The planting scheme was simply Myosotis sylvatica with Tulipa 'Combat' running through it. Although a somewhat straightforward palette, the planting technique and density are vital for a successful spring show.
Preparing to plant the Circular Steps
After that, we moved to the Barn Garden, where we spent most of the week. There are several bedding pockets in the Barn Garden, which we had to clear and prepare before we could plant. Some areas had Dahlias that needed to be lifted. They were then cut back and the tubers placed as like-kinds in Styrofoam boxes, surrounded by just enough soil to keep them from drying out too much. Finally, they were labeled and placed in the cellar for the winter. There were other areas that required perennial cut-backs and the removal of select self-sowers and annuals. When we cut back spent perennials, we use bamboo canes to mark and outline groups of like-plants, so we know what is where until they reemerge next season. Once we've finished tidying an area, we often run a sweep of bulbs through the bed, either as a new addition, or to reinforce an existing bulb planting. We also use canes to mark out bulb plantings; again, this is so we can come back and know what's where until they emerge. By cutting back and cleaning up the beds, we've also made way for bulbs that are beginning to emerge now, such as Galanthus sp.
One of the more technical bits Ed and I have done so far involved many details. We began by marking a group of emerging Arum creticum (which had been hidden until now by a Tagetes 'Cinnabar') with canes. This rare species is just poking out of the soil in preparation for its spring show. Then, after clearing the likes of Erigeron annuus, Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer' and the Tagetes 'Cinnabar', we needed to lift, cut back, and divide a large planting of Aconitum 'Kelmscott'. Ideally, this should be done every 2 to 3 years, to maintain fresh, well-flowering plants. We also amended the soil with mushroom compost and fine bark, since they prefer well-composted soil. In front of the Aconite we planted a bedding combination of Aquilegia 'Kansas' and Tulipa 'Red Shine'. It's a lot of work, but I'm looking forward to seeing all these bedding areas in the spring!
Emerging Arum creticum
Canes mark a group of cut back Phlox
After completed bedding work in the Barn Garden