I planted 100 tulip bulbs last week. 'At the end of June?' you might exclaim. 'Thats far too late?'
Not for me. I always plant my bulbs late, and they come up and flower in spring just like everybody elses.
My small prairie style garden is so thickly planted with perennials and grasses that even at bulb planting time in Autumn, it's impossible to see where there could be be spaces for any bulbs.
I must wait until this abundance has gone before I can see where to fit in bulbs. As I no longer do the big autumn clean up in order to appease my tidy mind, decaying foliage is allowed to linger through winter and the garden to die back in it's own time. I've grown to like a bit of messiness, and am learning to appreciate not only autumn seedheads but also the structure and shapes of last summers detritus. I merely snip away a little bit here and there when something looks too dreary - like frosted droopy Dahlia foliage. That way the winter clean up is a gradual process, which can last through to at least the shortest day or even spring.
While Dahlia foliage looks sad and droopy, the seedheads of the Lychnis chaledonica 'Maltese Cross' are golden and beautiful adding height to the garden on their tall bare stems. Canna lily foliage (see pic). too, adds height and structure to the fading garden with it's tan-brown crispy foliage. I shall enjoy that for a while yet before cutting it back.
So it's not until the garden finally begins to look empty (see below), when most of last summers detritus as been cut back, that I can see spaces to plant the bulbs. Even then it will be difficult because beneath this apparently bare earth, there are tufty fibrous roots from summer flowering perennials which I must squeeze the bulbs between. Also I have to try and dodge lily bulbs and tulip bulbs which have survived from last year all hiding themselves below the ground. The new bulbs could easily find themselves planted over the top of last years bulbs or even worse, sliced in half by my trowel, probing and digging around trying to find space for a new bulb.
In this garden behind the cottage I have planted together 25 'Ronaldo' which are a rich dark burgundy tulip and 25 Pink Diamond, a soft pale pink tulip which should complement the claret, pinks and blue colours of this garden.
But it's quite a different story for the front garden - see below. Here I have planted 50 'Temples Favourite' - a perfect tulip for my prairie style garden because it's tall strong stems will force their way up through the grasses, and it's large orange blooms sing with the bronze Carex buchananii
Two weeks ago I walked through the very last of the golden weather early in the morning in Hagley Park. Winter sunlight was filtering through an avenue of trees casting long shadows across grass and pathways and the leaves still clinging to some trees, were lit up in a blaze of gold, while others already stripped of their leaves were skeletal against the sky. And a golden carpet of fallen leaves, lit up my path, as more yellow leaves fluttered down around me.
Walking along a pathway beside the Avon River which winds it's way through a shaded area of deciduous woodland, you turn a corner and there is the sun - a low ball of silver fire in the sky. You catch your breath at the sight ahead of sunlight falling as a brilliant patch of light filtering through half bare branches lighting up the pathway. While distant trees still clinging to the last of their leaves in one last glorious burst of gold contrast with the dark bare shapes of trees still in shadow.
The Maple Border of the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch is one of my favourite places. There is something beautiful happening at every time of the year. In early winter the sculptural shapes of maple woodland are highlighted silver white by winter sunlight. They contrast with the last few maple leaves glowing golden in the background and the muted colours of Hydrangeas, crinkled and papery after frost. As these eventually drop and we are left with bare bushes, it's comforting to know that the emphasis will shift as the green of the Hellebores beneath, which have been understated all summer, will soon transform into a carpet of muted claret, pinks and white to add a fragile beauty to the winter scene.