Autumn and Winter in the Abbotsford Gardens

28th December 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, Head Gardener Tim looks back on the last few months of the year in the Abbotsford gardens, and discusses the work that will continue into 2022.

After what has seemed a very long flowering season thoughts turned to Autumn pruning and clearing the garden for winter and planning for next season. Although there are several plants that require a winter prune and in the case of the annuals removing altogether, some will be left. These include Acanthus Mollis, Phlomis russeliana, Echinops ‘veitchs blue’ and Eutrochium ‘purpureum’. These large, architectural plants provide interest well into the winter months, when they can look stunning on a frosty morning. They are also important for biodiversity providing birds with food from their many seed heads.

All other vegetation will be composted, this being a mixture of soft and woody materials which are cut finely with additional material in the form of cardboard and used coffee grains. This is covered to retain heat and speed up the decomposition process. The vegetable beds will be cleared and dug over with organic matter incorporated into the surface, allowing the winter weather to break this down into the soil which will again be worked over come next spring. The apple trees will have a winter mulch, an application of bonemeal followed by a covering of organic matter. The floribunda and hybrid tea roses will receive a light prune in late autumn. This is to reduce the risk of any damage caused by snowfall or through high winter wind speeds.

The following spring the roses will be prune harder and to shape, encouraging new vigorous growth with healthy flower heads. The roses will also have a dressing of bonemeal followed by a covering of organic matter around their base. Shrubs such as Buddleia will also be pruned to avoid winter damage, with further pruning in the spring.

Another important job during the autumn has been bulb planting with varieties of Tulips through areas of the walled garden providing drifts of colour next spring. We have added to our bulb planting from last Autumn in the Morris Garden and South Court. We aim to create a successional colour scheme with early spring flowering bulbs such as Muscari, Scilla, and Puschkinia lead into colourful displays of Tulips and Daffodils followed by Alliums and Camassia. The colour continues with the herbaceous borders coming to life and with the addition of many annuals the borders maintain interest through Autumn and into early winter.