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A series of articles on gardening in London Colney by Anne Kitchener

After the very dry start to the summer, August was exceptionally wet. This gave the garden a chance to recover from the dry spell, the lawn soon turned to green again and I have been able to lift and divide my bearded irises. With winter approaching I spent some time cutting back the less attractive perennials, but left some with attractive seed heads as they look beautiful when covered with frost on a winter morning and also provide homes for over wintering insects. Autumn is a time to reflect on the successes or failures of summer and how, perhaps, to do things differently next year.

Sound the Retreat
However much I enjoy being in my garden, as the weather turns colder I am not so keen and retreat inside. My gardening time is then devoted to making plans for the following year from the comfort of indoors.
Some winters, plans made for the following year are quite modest and simple to carry out, other years they are much grander. A simple plan which I make every autumn is that of choosing which bulbs to plant in bowls and hyacinth glasses for an indoor show to brighten up the bleakest winter months of January and February. I do this in late September and put them in the garage in the dark, bringing them out just after Christmas.

Grand Plan
Last winter’s grand plan seemed simple at first but in the end turned out to be quite complex.
At the bottom of the garden, one half of the boundary is made up of the garage wall which was planted up with ivy and virginia creeper before we moved in. Over the years this has grown into a very deep and dense thicket which completely covers the wall. Every so often we cut it back in winter but this has become harder and harder to do. The wall is west facing, and would be just right to support a fan trained fruit tree. After reading up on planting and growing fruit trees we made our plans. With winter, between November and March, being the best time for planting we waited until the bright colours of the virginia creeper were past their best and started out upon cutting down and removing the tangled mess. It was quite a job involving many car loads to the dump, but eventually all top growth was removed and any roots which were impossible to dig up were poisoned.

Kill! Kill!
I don’t usually like to use poisons but these were exceptional circumstances, so I chose a glyphosate based poison which is deactivated when it contacts the soil and thus would not affect the new tree. Next strong supporting wires were needed to train the proposed fan against the wall. The wires required hefty bolts to attach them to the wall and we ended up having to hire a drill to be able to cut holes large enough. All is now in place and the ground treated with our best compost, all we need now is the tree.

Even Grander Plan
Plans for next year are already under way. Our very small lawn takes a lot of effort to keep it looking acceptable and the mower is on its last legs. When it was suffering badly during the dry weather I began to think of what to have instead, and how the garden would look without a lawn. Ideas are forming involving gravel with brick edging and a flower bed using sleepers. The irrigation system could be extended and the gravel area used for pots. I think this will be harder work to realise than the fruit tree. If I do carry out these plans, perhaps I will then leave things as they are for a year or so, but what to spend my time doing during the winter months.