The summer gardens in midwinter

It is midwinter and I have just completed the winter clean-up round on the areas we call the summer gardens. These newest gardens have been a major project over the last decade and were inspired by the realisation that we were very green and lacking in summer flowers. In fact, we are more flowery in midwinter than we used to be in summer. The early magnolias are in bloom, including the michelias, the Prunus campanulata are opening, we have plenty of camellias and gordonias flowering along with snowdrops, snowflakes, Cyclamen coum, early narcissi, lachenalias, Hippeastrum aulicum, daphnes, hellebores, luculias, early azaleas, cymbidium orchids and more. Midwinter is not without its charms here.

Midsummer, however, used to be green, green and more green with blue and white hydrangeas but not a whole lot more. I know we are lucky to be green in midsummer as opposed to dry, brown and crispy but we are flower lovers here. Hence the summer garden project.

What do the summer gardens look like in midwinter after they have been cut down and cleaned up? Here we are.

Midwinter in the borders
Summer in the borders
We wanted summer flowers and we got them

The borders are unexciting but not bare because many of the plants we use are evergreen rather than deciduous. There are just a few strelitzia, kniphofia and snowdrops in flower so far and the scene is carried by the repetition of Camellia yuhsienensis and Mark’s Fairy Magnolia White down one side. Within a few weeks, the Dutch iris should be coming into bloom and it will be onward and upward from there.

The lily border to the left and the Wave Garden in midwinter
The same scene in midsummer (but before we laid the path surface)
From the other end in midwinter
and in early summer

The lily border is bare but for the same camellia and michelia. The Wave Garden is all about the form of the hedges and nothing much of interest at this time of the year. I am battling the rabbits who live near the boundary of that area and lightly sprinkling blood and bone after each rain to deter them from their favoured digging spots. It works but high velocity lead from the man with the gun works better, although new dog Ralph is doing his frantic best to locate the culprits.

The Iolanthe Garden in midwinter with my alstromeria supports
Holding back the riot of foliage and flowers that I know will take over in summer
All the summer growth fills the area
There is a lot of deciduous plant material in the semi-controlled riot of summer

The Iolanthe Garden is probably the least appealing at this time of the year even though the leucojums, citrus trees, hellebores and a few shrubs give colour. I have been constructing supports for the alstromerias and for areas where the summer perennials flop onto the narrow paths. I hope the lengths of yew branch will last longer than bamboo stakes while the cross supports are loosely woven stems of Elegia capensis. My aim was to get structures which will work without being obvious when the plants grow and look suitably rustic.

The Court Garden in midwinter
And midsummer in the same area. It is just fuller with a few more flowers in summer and autumn,

It is the Court Garden with its focus on grasses and plants with grassy or spear-like foliage that is most effective twelve months of the year. Most of the plants are evergreen which is one advantage of my decision to look to some of our handsome native grasses as backbone plants. There aren’t many flowers, but the form is strong. I am not displeased with it.

The fluffy duster effect of Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’

If we weren’t opening the garden in spring for the Centuria Taranaki Garden Festival, I would probably leave all the Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ standing longer. Cutting it down now encourages the new growth which we want for the start of November.  Look at the fluffy duster effect of the one plant I still haven’t cut down. It is lovely, especially with the low winter light.

The Court Garden again, after its winter clean-up

Given the extremes of weather being experienced elsewhere – unprecedented heat waves in the northern hemisphere and extreme rain in the southern parts of this country, I am yet again grateful to be gardening in a temperate climate. We seem to have had the best of the weather on offer this week.

2 thoughts on “The summer gardens in midwinter

  1. Sarah D

    Your garden is looking lovely in midwinter. It just shows that structure and evergreen planting are vital for all year round interest. Here we are in midsummer and had phenomenally hot days earlier this week. 36C in Bristol in SW England. Luckily we had a heavy downpour of rain yesterday which lasted several hours, so our garden has had a much needed watering.


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