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Winter Gardening at Harvey’s Point

Deirdre’s Diary

Andy Tomolonis, the noted American writer and organic gardener once said “A gardener’s best tool is the knowledge from previous seasons. And it can be recorded in a $2 notebook.”

In this digital age, my gardening notes are kept in the form of blogs, Instagram photos and Facebook posts, all very useful when looking back on the gardening year and seeing what worked and when. Not so good though on recording the failures of which there were a few, mostly due to the very wet and dull summer.


Hanging baskets and window boxes that consisted of the traditional mix of petunia and lobelia and located in south facing and sheltered areas did well but those in shady and exposed locations never really took off. What was interesting was that the tuberous begonia/nepeta mix did very well in the exposed areas, so next year the plan will be to use more of that mix in the exposed and shady areas.

The wet weather also took its toll on some of the bedding plants particularly the bizzy lizzies, these were replaced by fibrous begonias which are still going
strong as are the bizzy lizzies in a sheltered area. So less bizzy lizzy and more begonias will be the order for next year.

The perennials fared a bit better with good displays from the geums and aquilegia in early summer, the new bed of the Iranian wood sage did extremely well, lupins then took centre stage until the dahlias and rudbeckias took over. The rudbeckias are just starting to go over but the dahlias are still going strong. The River lilies that were divided last year are paying dividends and are now providing strong colour in some of the beds.

Several shrubs that were planted earlier in the year were moved recently, all were found to be waterlogged; some are in intensive care in the tunnel and a few were successfully transplanted to a drier spot.


Sweet peas were one of the failures this year along with the sun flowers which never really took off no matter where they were planted. The words of the gardener and poet Alfred Austin come to mind – “There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder.”

Working in the grounds, I love getting to know the regular guests and especially those who are interested in plants and gardening. It is always good to chat and get feedback from them. One of our regulars (more like an old friend at this stage!) surprised me with a gift recently – a plant I haven’t come across before Loropeltatum chinense “Fire Dance”, (a lovely winter flowering evergreen with pink flowers and purple red leaves). I’ve planted it alongside
another oddity, a Cytisus “Porlock” – a broom with typical yellow flowers that blooms throughout the winter .

Both plants were put into a revamped mixed border that is overlooked by the new ballroom patio, a forsythia was cut back hard and some scruffy Hebes
and alchemillas were removed to make the area more visually attractive to the guests sitting on out the patio.

Memorial trees

Bulb planting is almost finished, with various alliums, crocus, anemones and muscari all planted into pots to be planted out wherever needed next spring. Narcissi have been planted alongside the new road to the Lodge, I’m just waiting for a few dwarf tulips (preferably the ‘Red riding hood’) and some
Snowdrops to complete the spring bulb planting.

Sweet pea, snap dragon, lupin and aquilegia have all been sown and have germinated. With sweet peas, I’m trying the Spencer giant wave again and also the perennial sweet pea ( Lathyrus latifolius “mixed pearl”).

Over the past couple of years I’ve had the sad but nice duty of planting trees in memory of loved ones, the latest was for long time staff member, Sally McMenamin. Her tree is an elegant Mountain Ash, the other trees include a Sweet gum, Golden maple and a Cedar. The “Big Fella” (Jody Gysling) was 70 years young recently and I had the pleasure of planting a lovely red maple to mark the occasion.

Sally's tree

Sallys tree, a Sorbus aucuparia “Autumn spire” showing lovely autumn colour.

Year on year, the tree collection is slowly building and hopefully the next generation of Gyslings will be the custodians of a small arboretum with particular trees that have a story to tell. I’ll sign off with a quote from the author Brent M. Jones – “The magic of a tree is metaphorical. It celebrates its place. It brings comfort and beauty. Trees celebrate life.”

Pat Murphy
Harvey’s Point
November 2017


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