Saturday, 30 September 2017

Where have all the trees gone?

It’s definitely autumn in London, can’t deny it anymore. The nights are getting cooler and we have had much welcome rain several times. We have even had our first storm, Aileen. But we have had many lovely, warm sunny days in September and this past week it has been absolutely lovely with many days around 25 degrees during the day. Every year at this time I invite a couple with their young son over for an afternoon and we celebrate her birthday just past and mine on the 9th October. It has become a tradition to have a picnic in my garden if we can, and with the lovely weather this year I had my fingers crossed for this year’s celebration which we are doing Sunday the 1st. However, the forecast is for heavy rain and to top it up we are getting the tail end of hurricane Maria and Lee this weekend so it will be rather windy....I think our picnic will be in my kitchen this year!

Last Friday I woke up to the sound of chainsaws and wood shredders. I used to have a tall, lovely avian cherry tree in the carpark behind the tall wall in my garden. Part of the tree was hanging into my garden and was in a way a major feature in my garden. There were three avian cherry trees in a row, and two on the side of the council building but ‘mine’ was the tallest, widest and prettiest. Just look what an amazing sight it was in full bloom.

I am sad to say, the tree is no more – along with the other further down. The council has chopped all five of them down to the ground. The skyline in my garden is so weird, every time I look up it seems so strange not having the tree there.

I haven’t got any good photos of the whole tree in leaf, it was so tall that I could not got on a distance without getting on the roof on my house (not likely to happen!) – but you can get an impression from the top-left corner seeing just a small part of the dense tree from this photo from last September.

The tree contributed to a nice micro-climate in my garden with a higher temperature in the winter than normal. It will be interesting to see what difference this will make, and the impact it will have for my borderline tender plants. More trips to my shed during the winter I guess. The only tiny silver lining is that I will get evening sun in my garden from now on, but I would rather have liked to keep ‘my tree’ if they had asked me.

My view in that direction has now changed dramatically. Instead of seeing that amazing tree, all I can see is the roof of the community centre. The reason for taking down the trees was apparently that the trees had become so big that the roots had started to damage that building. Bad planning is what I call it. The council planted those trees, they should have read up about them before they planted them, they should have known how big they grow. Research, research....The trees were home to hundreds of birds, some of them have now moved into my garden and I can already see it on my birdfeeders even if it has only gone a week - and there is a cacophony of different birds fighting over the space here. I am happy as long as they can keep the peace among themselves, but I suspect some will move on as my small garden can’t accommodate them all.

Autumn is a time when I do a lot of pruning – I am not chopping down anything – nothing that drastic, but I have done a rather big pruning of the hibiscus. It is just too big for this garden so instead of an early spring pruning I am now trying an autumn pruning and I hope it won’t regrow just as quickly by doing it at this time of year. I cut it down just as much 18 months ago and look at the difference on the previous photo. This time I have taken a couple of branches from the honeysuckle growing on the wall behind and trained them into the hibiscus. I had some very long ones that were just the right length to reach up into the hibiscus to the right ‘sniff-height’ and every time I go to and from the shed I just have to stop and have a sniff. That honeysuckle is just out of this world! I don’t know the name as I just got it as a cutting, but it smells like Granny Smith apples with sugar on!! If the honeysuckle gets enough light and water it will flower on and off all year on and being evergreen it will be a feature in the hibiscus when little else happen there. When the hibiscus is full of leaves and flowers the honeysuckle will just seek towards the surface and light and still flower. That’s the plan anyway. I’ll get back to you on how successful it became in a years’ time :-)

OK, some photos from the garden? Some things are winding down, some things are just about to start blooming. Nothing ever stops in my garden.

My Japanese Garden has colourful leaves and is full of plants – I can hardly get through on the path.

Last year the branches of the plumtree were so long they touched the wall and the fence so I cut off all the branches leaving the trunk so I could manage to move around. The plumtree has got its branches back and I have pruned it again – but this time I have just shortened all the branches. I am so undecided what to do with this tree, I would like to keep it, but need it to be tall and slim (who wouldn’t?!). This is just trial and error, fortunately plumtrees grow back fast so I don’t have to wait for long to see the result every time I prune.

While we are here in my Japanese Garden, look at the camellias, almost ready to flower. Another 6 weeks or so and the first flowers are here. ‘Takanini’ is one I have had for a good few years, from my previous garden, ‘Volunteer’ with very glossy leaves was new last year. Both are very early flowering in my garden. And not long after will the first of the rhododendrons start and then it goes on and on until late May. All the flowers here in this part of the garden is kind of making up for the lack of roses the few months from when I cut them down in late January till the first ones start flowering again in late April or early May.

Speaking of roses, it is still many months until I am cutting them down and most of them will go on producing flowers until the day I prune. This is Queen Elizabeth.

This is 'Macmillan Nurse'

And this is a pot rose without a name – sorry it is not such a good photo, my camera can’t capture the amazing colours, and please excuse the mildew, these pot roses are notorious for getting mildew. I had planned to slowly replace all my cheap pot roses with nursery bought miniatures with better disease resistance as I get so fed up with all the spraying and pruning to no avail – they still get mildew. There are better varieties, I have one called George Best that doesn’t get mildew at all. Oh well, all in good time.

Here is one trooper that doesn’t get mildew at all, ‘The Generous Gardener’ is really generous, especially with new growth. Turn your back to him for a few days and he has thrown out a couple of 2m long branches in places you really didn’t expect or plan to have your climber growing. He was meant to grow up against my wall but I have to admit I have lost that task for this year, he is now growing on the wall, along the path, inside three other roses, inside the jasmine and is well on the way to overtake the obelisk in the middle of the rose bed. Very generous indeed. When I get to January I will rein him in, but for now I will simply just let him continue. The reward is flowers like these. The scent is like tutti-frutti with lemon. Heaven!

And next to the very generous gardener is ‘Iceberg’, poor thing – not enough water for it here in London despite that I have flooded this bed many times this summer. Yep, you guessed it, mildew.

Some other flowers? A pretty hosta flower flower for example? This is ‘So Sweet’ and I think it deserves its name.

My peculiar gerbera is doing its thing again. I bought it from Ikea here in London some 14-15 years ago and have re-potted it a couple of times but never fertilised it. All it gets is water. Gerbera normally flowers in spring and summer, and while other gerberas flowers like mad, mine looks a little sad. Come autumn, mine spring into action and produce a new set of leaves and starts to produce flowers. And then it throws out 2-3 flowers ALL winter come rain or shine (or frost) all the way to end of May when it starts to look a bit sad again. Every year. I wonder if my gerbera thinks we are in Australia?

One plant that isn’t season confused is my lovely Aster. I have tried growing other types of asters but they tend to get mildew and don’t like the heavy soil we have here. This aster is perfect for the soil and like a bit of shade too. It needs a bit of staking or a piece of string around its belly – I have done both, but apart from that it is refreshingly easy. Come first frost I just cut it to the ground and that’s it.

The pelargoniums and alstroemerias however are completely opposite – they don’t have any dormancy periods in my garden and flower all year round. They all need a trip into my shed if we have frost so most of them are in pots, but I have a few alstroemerias in the ground and they survive fine but with less flowers and much later flowering in the spring.

The Woodland Garden has had fifty shades of green since the lilies were finished flowering, I need to find some late summer and autumn flowering plants to put here. It is on a to-do list.

I am still dabbling in the making of Bonsai Trees, look at the first one I made, at the back with gorgeous red autumn leaves – it is a Parthenocissus henryana, and I made it in 2004. The one to the left in the terracotta pot is still in a training pot, it is going to Bonsai School learning to become a Bonsai Tree and have many years still left before it can advance into a proper, nice pot like the others. It is still in infant school!

This new Bonsai is a cherry, Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’, and being forced into that small training pot it lost all its leaves – which is completely normal. Luckily it seems it has taken as there are now new leaves – but this poor pupil is still learning so by losing all the leaves and growing new ones it thought it must be spring so it is now also giving me flowers which normally come in April. I guess when it gets a bit older it will get the hang of it, that’s what school is for :-)

Out at the front there are 4 tall elm trees. That’s a lot of leaves to sweep up. You could sweep 3 times a day here and it would still look like this. It is autumn.

The winter flowers are in place out in the front, they will provide flowers all through the winter until late May.

And the first of the beautyberries are here. Oh yes, definitely autumn.

Final photo of the Hydrangea paniculata 'Mega Mindy', it has slowly changed colour from white to pink to red and now the leaves are changing colour too. An absolute star in the garden right now.

Here is my monthly garden movie this time, filmed over the last days of September. Look out for the squirrel sharpening its teeth with a stone! I filmed the whole process and it took 17 minutes – I have only included a few seconds but my goodness how thorough it was, it was mesmerizing.

The music was Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by John Williams and Nic Raine, performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

Have a lovely autumn, see you next time.


  1. Your garden is much more floriferous than mine during this time of year. I'm sorry about the loss of those pretty cherry trees. Changes like that, outside of one's control, are always difficult but I hope it has no undesirable effects on your garden beyond the change in the view beyond your fence.

    Best wishes in advance for a very happy birthday!

  2. Det er jo trist når trær blir plutselig kappet ned. Jeg tror ikke at folk forstår hvor mange år det tar for å få trær store. Mine camellia er også fulle av knopper, men de må dessverre inn. Sånn er det bare med norsk vinter ;)
    Vakre bilder fra hagen din.

    Ha en fortsatt fin høst, Helene!

  3. Hej Helene!
    Ser helt fantastiskt ut med allt fint som växer och blommar i din trädgård. Synd att träden försvann, stora fina träd lämnar ett tomrum. Hoppas att dagen blir fin även om det inte blir med picknick i trädgården.
    Gratulerar i förväg. Ha det fint /Marika

  4. Helene, I'm sorry about the trees! The avian cherry looked beautiful I can see why you miss it now. Your garden looks splendid with so many flowers. I love Camellias so much I wonder if your keep them outdoors all year round or move them to a greenhouse in winter, my Camellias rarely endure a frost here and they are still blooming now in the beggining of spring. I hope to see more pictures of your camellias in the future! Greetings from Argentina.

  5. It looks really beautiful.
    Such a shame about the trees, councils have a habit of using trees too big for their location!
    Our September has been fairly miserable and wet.

  6. Hello, Helene!
    I liked your video, pretty flowers especially your roses. The red cat is still dreaming in your garden, he's comfortable there, isn't he? The squirrel is strange, using a stone. The bonsai of a cherry tree is stunning, I know you're a patient gardener :-)
    Have a nice Sunday and warm October. Here we have cold weather and rain.

  7. As I told you before it is such a shame of the cherry trees but I am sure you will get used to the empty space, things in life always change. I really admired your video of your filled to the brim garden, it's a feast for the eyes, also the funny squirrel, many birds and sleepy cats. The music also was a joy to listen to.
    Hope you have a nice picknick day today, here the weather is rather good, yesterday we had the rain.
    Hope we get a nice October for the garden.

  8. Helene-it's a shame about the tree. Hopefully the change in lighting won't affect your garden too much, but maybe help it. Your gardens are looking wonderful for so late in the year. It seems like our gardens here are starting to go into fall mode earlier than usual, after a cooler start to spring temperatures and some off shore winds from the passing hurricanes. Hope you had a nice birthday celebration.

  9. That is so sad about the trees, but the birds are lucky to have your garden as a sanctuary. I do hope the garden will adjust OK. We've had record heat (32C-33C for about a week, and now 27C for a couple of days) here in the northern U.S., and in my area a late-season drought. But the forecast is looking more autumnal. This may be the first year I'm looking forward to cooler weather. I envy you the Camellias--our winters are too severe for them, although I'm sure they'd like our hot summers. I tried to grow a potted one once, but no luck. So, I'll admire yours from afar. :)

  10. Your garden still looks wonderful!it must have quite a shock when you looked out in the garden and saw a bare, horrible roof instead of the gorgeous trees which used to provide shade and shelter to your garden...

  11. Yes there is so much going on in your garden, wonderful things. Lovely to see them, thank you!

  12. Hello Helene, now I have understood what a phrase "sharpen someones teeth" literally means :-D! You inspired me rwgarding autumn pruning of hibiscus, I will carefully try... I am not a friend of removing mature trees so I am thinking if you do your pruned plum tree a favour when neighboring cherry trees are unfortunately gone ;-). Beautiful video I always enjoy chosen background music. Take care! Hela

  13. Oh no, that is too bad about the trees! That would definitely be weird missing such a noticeable piece of the landscape like that. You have such beautiful flowers. Oh how I miss camellias! It's really too cold for them to grow well here, though I toy with trying.

  14. How distressing to lose those trees. It is frustrating when governments - or individuals - plant the wrong trees for a site and then have to later remove them, when a little more careful planning might have resulted in a more appropriate planting.

    I'm just catching up with your post of two weeks ago and your garden, as always, is just gorgeous. The roses are especially magnificent.