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tarablog sep2016

By Tara Lissner, Swiss Gardening School

It is true that most of us who garden spend a fair amount of time discussing the weather; too hot; too dry; too windy; too wet; too wet; too wet. Well this summer we’ve certainly had a lot to discuss, with the incredibly wet and cool start in May and June to the tremendous heat of August – never a dull moment. Our gardens are so quickly affected by the changing weather conditions especially when it is holiday time and we are not on hand to adapt our habits day-by-day or week-by-week. In my experience it is always best to err on the side of caution and this is a perfect example of why. Early this summer I left half a dozen newly purchased perennial geraniums amongst a group of larger pots hoping they would be happy (and sheltered) enough during my week-long absence – I came home to crisp leaves and parched soil. I was so sad I immediately moved them to a more shady spot, drenched them with water and have been nursing them back to their original state ever since. Note to self, always pay a teenager to water even for a short trip.

The hydrangeas this summer have been just spectacular and although they need quite a lot of water, if they are in the correct position in the garden they will have given you quite the show. There has been a renaissance of the hydrangea in recent years with more and more varieties becoming easily available, this year I found a very pretty new (to me) variety called Hydrangea arborescens  “Incredible Pink”. As the name suggests it is pink but not the bright showy pink of my childhood. Each petal is delicately edged in pink giving an overall dusty pink colour (see photo above) – just gorgeous, now all I have to do is find a reasonably shady spot for it in my garden, no easy feat.

The results in my vegetable garden have been quite interesting this year. The seed potatoes I took great care in chitting and planting up have gone astray and may have ended up in Australia because they are nowhere to be found where they were planted. On the other hand those I deemed too inferior to plant and added to my compost have put on leaf and are now showing quite the crop. I’m afraid they will be too green to eat but it just shows you when the conditions are correct plants will grow.

The tomato glut is well and truly on its way and should be enjoyed for as soon as there is a dip in the overnight temperature all will be lost. To get the most out of your crop tie up the fruit laden branches to keep them off the soil; remove the uppermost growth so as to divert the energy to the existing fruit, it is too late now to encourage new fruit; finally, to allow for greatest sun exposure and therefore ripening, trim away any leafy branches covering the fruit. Such bliss to grow your own tomatoes – there is nothing quite like the flavour.

I’ve started thinking about the autumn and am getting ready to plant some kale. Seeds germinate very quickly and can be sown directly outside now or in small pots to be transplanted in a few weeks. Kale plants are rather large with a circumference of at least 30cms which means it may not be prudent to plant out too many. In this case I use the seedlings I won’t be planting as micro greens for salads and sandwiches – they give quite a kick. Perhaps you have also noticed the number of kale plants, especially the black variety Kale Nero di Toscana, which has been incorporated into many public plantings in villages such as Founex and Divonne. Something to keep in mind for your floral beds for next year, it gives texture, colour, height and great form and is delicious!

Before I forget, do check your box wood plants. The pesky box wood caterpillar, la pyrale du buis, is still present in this area (active until October) and chewing furiously on the small leaves of your shrubs and hedges. Brown patches, cocoons of webbing, skeletal leaves and of course the black and green caterpillars are all signs of an infestation. For more details see this RHS page.

In case you were concerned, the perennial geraniums have returned to their original glory and are ready and waiting to be planted, but that is another days work.

What's on

Jardi l'Isle – Marché et troc des plantes, L'Isle – Sunday 11 September, 09:30-16:30
Located above Morges this bijoux annual plant exchange and plant market jump-starts the autumn season. With many local perennials nurseries present it is the ideal place to pick up some plants and advice from expert growers. The plant exchange allows amateur gardeners to swap their plants for those of other - a super idea especially if you've got too many plants. Jardi l'Isle

European Heritage Days, 10-11 September
This weekend sees the return of the annual Journées européennes du patrimoine 2016, European Heritage Days. This year the theme is "Oasis des villes, oasis des champs". A number of events will take place in gardens, parks and plazas at over 360 locations all over Switzerland including 20 in Geneva, a number in Nyon and one at the Château de Prangins. The official website is in German and French journees du patrimoine, this is the site for Geneva information.

  • The Château de Nyon will host two rose planting sessions in the gardens below the Château which will be run by the well-know local rose grower Alain Tschanz, Saturday and Sunday from 14:00-17:00 Chateau de Nyon
  • The Musée romain de Nyon has a temporary exhibition all about Roman gardens. The website is in English Musee romain de Nyon

An ideal opportunity to explore the region especially as the weather forecast looks promising.

Marché d'automne ProSpecieRara, Lausanne - Sunday 11 September, 09:00-17:00
In collaboration with the city of Lausanne, the annual autumn market of this Swiss foundation will be held on Sunday at the Cantine de Sauvabelin, Signal, Lausanne. There will be many food and drinks stands including heritage vegetables, along with mini workshops on a how to save tomato seeds and how to plant a fruit tree. marche d'automne

Centre de Lullier, Portes Ouvertes - Saturday 23 September
The Geneva horticultural school opens its doors to the public to showcase their students. A hidden gem in the Geneva countryside. Lullier

1ere Marché aux Plantes de l'Arboretum, Aubonne - Sunday 2 October, 09:00-18:00
The Arboretum launches into the world of the plant market with its first this October. Many well-know local and less local swiss growers of perennials, fruit trees, roses, herbs and bulbs will be present. The RTS 1 swiss radio show “Monsieur Jardinier", presented by Christine Magro will have a team live on site for their early morning show. Arboretum

Fêtes des plantes et du jardin, Lasna, Belgium 30 September - 2 October
A little further afield for those who might happen to be in Brussels for the weekend this bi-annual event at the jardins d'Aywiers brings together almost 200 professionals from the horticultural world. From wooden garden houses to bug hotels anything you could every need for your garden. jardin d'aywiers

La fête aux dahlias, Morges

The floral displays continue in Morges with the exuberance of dahlias until the end of October; enjoy the colours in the parks along the lakeside. As with the tulips, the dahlias are dug up at the end of the season and sold to the public on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 October from 10:00-16:00 in the gardens of the Château de Morges. Tubers may be ordered from the tourist office in Morges until Thursday 20 October. Dahlias in Morges

Le Jardin des Cinq Sens, Yvoire

This inspiring, restored walled garden remains open everyday from 10:00 until Sunday 9 October – it is well worth a visit. Le Jardin de Cinq Sens

We are delighted to get started with our workshops and master classes this autumn. Our course list is expanded regularly so keep an eye on our Facebook page for regular updates.

This new season sees us continue our series of stand alone two-hour morning workshops. Each will be held off-site at a specialist nursery or garden. Evening master classes will return in October.

Don't forget all registration and payment is via the website by means of PayPal, sign up so as not to be disappointed.

Workshop - Gardening with grasses, Thursday morning 22 September, 09:30-11:30, Roussillon Fleurs, Meyrin
This workshop will explore the incredibly versatility of these plants in your borders. They will bring colour, texture and season-long interest to your garden. Students will have the opportunity to examine the grasses closely and appreciate their differing growth habits and needs. We will pay particular attention to individual requirements. In addition to a box of grasses to take home, students will also benefit from a 10% reduction on any plants purchased on the morning of the workshop.
Gardening with grasses

Workshop - The Edible Garden - Winter vegetables, Tuesday morning 27 September, 10:00-12:00, La Ferme de Budé
We are delighted to return to this organic farm and market in the heart of the international centre of Geneva. After an exploratory tour of their vegetable garden we will learn the secrets of winter vegetable gardening, managing expectations by planting the correct varieties. Learn what to grow this winter - kale is at the top of the list.
The Edible Garden - Winter vegetables

Looking forward to gardening with you this autumn.

Author's bio


An enthusiastic, self-taught gardener, Tara Lissner is passionate about gardening and eager to share her zeal and knowledge with other gardening fans.

In 2012, she joined forces with Hester Macdonald, a British-trained landscape designer, to launch the Swiss Gardening School.

(Photo by Jean-Luc Pasquier)

Swiss Gardening School