Weekend work: Time to tend to tender shrubs and perennials

 

WHAT TO DO

Unexpectedly mild weather at the start of the month 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.

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.

Why, I asked a member of the Cyclamen Society? He said that it was a fungus that seems to attack corms particularly when wet autumn weather follows dry. No work has been done on the fungus, in terms of working out a preventative medicine and it is not mentioned in Christopher Grey-Wilson's monograph 'Cyclamen' (Batsford, £30).

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 feed our soil.

Perennials such as herbaceous geraniums and polygonums should be cut back and (if you are feeling wildly virtuous) top dressed with sieved compost mixed with bonemeal.

WHAT TO BUY

You've got to shop between now and Christmas, so, if you can, you might as well do it in beautiful surroundings. Inside the calm oasis that is the Chelsea Physic Garden on London's Royal Hospital Road, a pop-up Christmas Fair will be running next weekend, Sat 30 Nov and Sun 1 Dec with excellent coffee and cakes to top up flagging energy levels. Check out details onchelseaphysicgarden.co.uk

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