This is a great time of year to take stock on what’s worked in the garden over the season and where changes beckon.  Decisions made and changes implemented this week will shape how the garden will look next year.

Rock garden conifer switcheroo

Juniperus x media 'Old Gold'

Better suited to this site – Juniperus x media ‘Old Gold’

Whilst I love where I’ve planted most of my rock garden conifers, one has been bothering me all summer.  The Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ filled this space above the huge base stone of the rock garden, but it never augmented it.  It was too much of a full stop.  An impulse buy at my local garden centre precipitated its removal.

Juniperus squamata 'Holger'

Before – a lovely conifer but not looking quite right here.

This Juniperus x media ‘Old Gold’ took its place.  I wish I could explain why it stood out at the garden centre but I can’t.  Its label was so faded it was almost illegible and it had no price.  It took a long time for the garden centre manager to be tracked down for a price which was a bargain £12.

I think I like it because it reminds me of the many shaped conifers I saw in Japan.  Nothing there is left to its own devices.  This plant bares the scars of many a past prune and then I had a go at it with my secateurs to thin it out and give it space between its branches.  I understand that the japanese call this process the creation of  ‘Ma’ – meaning a pause in time, an interval or emptiness in space. The plant just looks better somehow.

I also got the wire out to raise a floppy bough to a horizontal plane to create space between it and the branch below, which in turn was wired to raise it above the rock below.  You just wrap the wire carefully around the branch and bend the wire to the desired position.  Easy peasy.

Podocarpus nivalis ‘Kilworth Cream’Podocarpus nivalis 'Kilworth Cream'

I wasted half an evening researching conifers this week, looking for a one that could work in semi shade.  I skimmed over the pictures of the many Podocarpus varieties as none appealed to me.  But when I went to my garden centre this Podpcarpus practically leapt out into my trolley.  The arrangement of the little leaves is charming and it obviously wants to grow in a slightly lopsided spreading manner.  I am a big fan of internet research but this is a good example of why getting out to a garden centre is a good idea, lockdown or not.

Podocarpus nivalis 'Kilworth Cream'

Being brutal to a BerberisBerberis darwinii

This gnarled old Berberis is at the top of the rock garden and is a favourite of mine. When it flowers it becomes a flaming bush, smothered in orange flowers – a burning buffet for bees. Sadly, this one had two huge dead branches in its centre and the other branches were so heavy I worried more would flop, break and die.  I decided to have another go at ‘Ma’ here and give it a brutal pruning to try to create a loose cloud pruned tree.  I read that it’s a bit late in the year to be doing this.  You’d have to tell me that I’m condemning the plant to certain death to stop me once I get an idea in my head though. I sense that this is tough.

This tree has to work from three angles – from the path that runs alongside it, from the lawn below and from the base of the rock garden.  The resulting tree looks better from all three angles and I can’t wait to see it in flower next spring. The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot the Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’, relocated to its base.

Berberis darwinii

From the lawn below…

From the rock garden…

Cercis canadensis ‘Pink Pom Pom’

Cercis canadensis leaf

The bronzed leaves of the Cercis canadensis cling to the tree at this time of year, dangling like bronzed heart-shaped lockets.  Despite some strong winds one night this week, a few just won’t let go. Cercis canadensis leaf

Table-top displayViolas for winter displayViolas for winter display

This bistro set has been moved to this spot by my back door so that it can serve as a stage for the containers of spring plants.  These lavender coloured violets are acting as pathfinders for the many pots of spring flowers to follow.  Here’s a picture of the waiting room of terracotta pots and pans filled with mini bulbs, each packed with endorphin inducing flower power.  Happiness to come.

New Fruit – Loganberry canes

Loganberry canes

I hadn’t planned to buy these but the flavour of my late mother’s home-made loganberry jam tingled on my taste buds as I saw them in the garden centre.  Forget the bulb planting – getting these in the ground is my first job this weekend.


This seasonal diary is part of a weekly link-up of garden bloggers from around the world, called Six on Saturday.  For more information and links to other blogs crammed with gardening activity, check the blog of host The Propagator.