Despite the sunshine in these pictures, November has been WET. I feel lucky living at the top of a hill. Elsewhere there has been so much flooding misery, and I extend my sympathy to anyone who has been affected by the floods up and down the country. Despite being on a mixture of clay and chalk, my soil seems reasonably free draining, so I haven't had any immediate problems in the garden. Just lots of muddy walks and muddy dogs to contend with.
So what have I been up to? The garden borders themselves have been fairly neglected over the past few weeks. I allow myself to relax at this time of year, and I'm not a tidy person, so the borders slide into disarray I'm afraid. Nothing gets cut back until it really has to be cut back, which is sometimes not until after Christmas, although I have at least cut the dahlias back. I lifted some of the those that I really didn't want to lose, but probably 60% I have left in the ground with my fingers crossed. I mulched them with old potting compost - that light, fibrous stuff that you scoop out of old pots seemed perfect. I haven't done that before and don't know whether it's a done thing, but it sort of made sense as I was clearing out my pots at the same time. The precious dahlias lifted, I laid them out on newspaper in the greenhouse to dry, and will eventually put them in a box with some straw and leave them in the garage until spring.
The tulips are - mostly - planted, although I have a couple more bags to go in this weekend. I tend to plant them quite late, waiting for the weather to get colder so that they are less likely to rot or succumb to fungal disease in the ground. This year I bought collections from Peter Nyssen as I didn't have time to make my own combinations up, and planted them very densely in large pots, fairly deep, with a layer of Iris reticulata above them to flower first.
One other task I finally got round to was dividing my auricula plants. I only bought them last spring but already they have started to make offsets, and to keep them vigorous it's a good idea to take these offsets away to make sure the plants don't get congested in their pots. It also means you have lots of new small plants that you can grow on to expand your collection or to give away to friends. Dividing auriculas is easy. Simply take them out of their pots, brush away the compost and start teasing out the roots. The offsets (baby plants) will come away quite easily, and you can replant them straight away in a loam-based compost mixed with plenty of grit for good drainage. Water them a little and then keep them in the greenhouse over winter. Next year I'll be able to put them back out on my auricula theatre shelves - available to buy here!
See below for Eva's video showing me dividing my auriculas.
I have just launched a range of new traditional garden tools in my online shop. Hand forged in the north of England, they are sturdy, strong and comfortable to use. The hand tools have long handles for using either in the border or in pots. The border fork is just the right size and weight for me, whereas the large fork and spade are very much man-sized! With beautiful waxed ash handles and high carbon steel heads, they will last a lifetime if you look after them properly. Buy them here.