Gardening: Weekend Work

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UNEXPECTEDLY MILD weather has made gardening more of a pleasure than it usually is in November. The cyclamen are still on the go, the viburnums are in full, smelly flow, the fuchsias are flowering more wildly than they have at any time before. The light frost that knocked back the courgettes and the corn at the bottom of the garden has not touched the fuchsias or the dahlias at the top.

ONE SAD blow concerns Cyclamen coum. I had always thought of these as bomb-proof as far as disease is concerned, but discovered that the corms filling one whole patch had disintegrated into a hideous pulp. Chris Clennett, of the Cyclamen Society, said it was a fungus that seems to attack corms particularly when wet autumn weather follows dry. No work has been done on working out a preventative medicine for the fungus and it is not mentioned in Christopher Grey-Wilson's monograph The Genus Cyclamen (Christopher Helm, pounds 13.95). Another illusion shatters. I have planted a small new colony in a different place.

USE BUCKETFULS of raked-up leaves to provide insulation for slightly tender shrubs and perennials. I heap them round Melianthus, for instance, and pack them into and around a big clump of arum lilies. On the bank where the ground is now cleared between shrubs and ground cover, leaves go on as a top mulch and gradually get pulled down to lighten our heavy, clay soil. Burning leaves is a waste of good humus.

PERENNIALS SUCH as herbaceous geraniums and polygonums should be cut back and top-dressed with sieved compost and bonemeal.

NOVEMBER IS a good month for adding long-term sustenance to the soil.

YOU CAN also cut back the old leaves of lenten hellebores and top-dress the clumps before the new buds and leaves begin to show.