Foliage Follow Up – November 2014

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With my interest in plants becoming more and more foliage based there are few flowers in the garden at the moment.  However, the garden is still full of colour and texture from the various evergreens.  I adore the Melianthus major; it hasn’t stopped performing all year.  Grown from seed probably three years ago this plant is around 4ft high now.  I have two other plants all grown from seed at the same time but they are much smaller and in shadier situations so it shows how much the plant benefits from some direct sunshine.

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And you can’t go wrong with Fatsia japonica for evergreen interest.  This plant is probably around 7ft tall and is smothered in flowers at the moment.  I see so many Fatsias planted out in full sun looking ill and more yellow than green; despite their exotic looks they need shade to do well.

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A plant that is increasingly growing on me is Buddleja salviafolia.  A new acquisition this year which seems to like its location on the back bank.  The leaves are gloriously soft and velvety a little like Stachys byzantina.  It will be interesting to see how it fairs through the winter.

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It wouldn’t be a Foliage Follow Up post without the inclusion of some ferns. The two I have chosen are deciduous so will probably disappear in the next couple of weeks.  Above is Athryium niponicum, the most elegant of ferns. This variety is probably ‘Burgundy Lace’.  Below is an unknown fern although I suspect it is another Athryium as the foliage shape seems very similar to the Athryium niponicum. I like the warm buttery tones it takes on in the Autumn which until recently were picking on up on the autumn colouring of the Prunus kojo-no-mai which it is planted by.

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Another plant that delivers in more season than one is the Kirengshoma palmata whose leaves also take on a buttery tone as they fade.

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Getting to the other end of the size range to the Fatsia we have cyclamens which are really winning me over.  I find myself buying them for their foliage rather than the flowers which are to be honest either white or a shade of pink. But who could not fall for the marbling on the leaves above.  I am pretty sure this is Cyclamen hederifolium but this assumption is based purely on the fact that it is an autumn flowering cyclamen.  Below is another one and you can see how much the leaves can differ.

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I have recently discovered Cyclamen graecum which generally have darker green leaves and the one below was bought because of the darkness of the leaves.  It is still a young plant but hopefully in a year or two it will be stunning.

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For more foliage follow up posts visit Pam at Digging – a favourite haunt of mine on a grey damp Autumn day.

Embracing the slope

2014_05260038Sometimes you happen upon a speaker or hear a talk which causes you to have one of those light bulb moment.  Such an occurrence happened this weekend at the Alpine Garden Society annual conference in Stratford.  The majority of the speakers talked about a particular genus – who knew there were so many species of Meconopsis about particularly parts of the world.  For me the speaker of the conference was Keith Wiley who gardens with his wife at Wildside in Devon.

I have known of Keith for some years now and the whole time my youngest was a student at Plymouth University I tried to visit his garden but its openings never coincided with my visits to the area and sadly it will be closed next year.  I have seen his work at The Garden House and read his book Gardening on the Wild Side.  I knew that he had created vast ravines in his new garden but I had never really understood the reasoning why.

Keith’s talk was about a broader view of the woodland border.  Oh good thought I, lots of nice ferns, epimediums and erythroniums which will make a nice change to all the cushion and scree loving plants in the talks so far.  However, Keith’s talk was more than that, it was about creating an environment to grow ‘woodland’ plants and how you do this when you are presented with a flat field with no trees and you have a love of many woodland plants.  The solution is to create the hills and troughs, banks and ravines that many of us saw him building on The Landscape Man and now it makes sense.  By taking this approach Keith has created borders which face north, south, east and west and by planting trees and shrubs on the tops of the mounds and banks he is creating shade.  As he explained woodland plants don’t need to grow under the tree canopy just in the shade created by the trees and shrubs.

As many know I have a sloping garden.  It probably slopes at 45 degrees.  I am so used to it the slope doesn’t bother me to work on but I do struggle with how the plant it and achieve the best results. I have never yearned for a flat garden but I have to admit having a garden sloping up from the house has, and continues, to challenge me.  Sometimes I almost feel paralysed by the borders and this leaves to dithering and inertia and dis-satisfaction in the result.

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So what has changed? Well Keith talked about mirroring nature in the borders and how he used inspiration from sights he had seen around the world and indeed in others gardens to create vignettes and views.  Admittedly his vignettes are equal to a substantial size of my garden and when I asked him later what he followed the erythroniums with in his magnolia glade he admitted that the interest in the garden moved to another area.  This is a luxury I don’t have, every part of my garden has to work hard to give as much interest as possible but talking with others and looking carefully at Keith’s photos I can see how I can use many of the plants I already have in a better way with the shorter geraniums underplanting the taller and more vase shaped woodlanders such as Maianthemum racemosum. I am also going to think about how I position some of my shrubs in order to create more shaded areas for my favourite woodlanders.

It is interesting as many of Keith’s ideas weren’t particularly revolutionary and I had heard and seen various elements that he was using in various places but somehow it was how he brought it all together, and of course his infectious enthusiasm, that really struck a chord with me.  As he said to me when we discussed his talk this morning – slopes give you so much more scope and interest and why would anyone want a flat garden!

So here I am home ready to plan and scheme over the coming winter and learn to love and embrace my garden taking into account how the slope and positioning of taller plants can provide different environments for my favourite plants.  Roll on the spring.

 

*The photos are of the Big Border back in May which actually looking back isn’t too bad and I need to do more looking back at photographs before I make any rash decisions.

My Garden This Weekend – 2nd November 2015

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An interesting long weekend has been had.  I had a couple of days off at the end of the week as the tree surgeons were coming to tackle the vast weeping willow at the end of the garden.  I really should have tackled sorting out the tree when we moved in some nine years ago but given the lack of access from the front and the slope I have put the problem off.  On top of that the tree is situated in the far corner of the garden and its roots disappear off across my neighbours gardens.  To remove the tree completely would result in considerable upheaval not just in my garden but in three others.

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You can see how the tree dominates the top of the garden and completely swamps the cherry next to it. The tree was approximately 40 foot tall and the branches twisted and contorted causing the tree to be incredibly top-heavy.  Earlier this summer, in the high winds we had, one of the top most branches snapped leaving the branch hanging over the neighbour’s garden.  Luckily the neighbour to the left isn’t very interested in her garden and the top of her garden is quite overgrown so she wasn’t bothered with the branch hanging down into it.

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The chaps, four of them, had a tough job working out how to deal with the tangled mess.  Luckily the non-gardening neighbour had agreed to them accessing the tree through her garden and this proved to be a huge bonus as all the whippy branches were taken out this way instead of the guys having to negotiate my busy garden. It was quite mesmerizing to watch the tree surgeon up the tree.  I was stunned at how they move around without seemingly any thought slowly but surely reducing the tree.  We spent some time considering the cherry tree which had grown mainly to the right due to the willow engulfing it on the left.  It looks terribly sparse but with some consultation it was trimmed and shaped to try to give it a better appearance and hopefully with  the better light it might re-shoot and grow better.

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You can see that we have kept the logs.  Some my eldest is going to keep for wood turning but the very big logs are going to go to his scout group for them to use to sit on round the camp fire and also to use when they train the scouts to use axes – a vast improvement on the pallets they currently use.  I am sure some will also disappear off to various friends’ wood burning stoves. The willow was reduced to 4m and I have to admit that for 24 hours I was wondering what had possessed me as it looks so stark.  However, being willow, I know it will bounce back next spring and in no time at all the compost bins will disappear from view under its cascading branches.

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After all the excitement of the tree surgery my efforts the following day seem paltry but I succeeded in sorting out the front border in the front garden which has been irritating me for ages.  As long-term readers will know I featured the front garden on the End of Month View last year and it perplexed me all year.  I removed a line of deschampsia which edged the lawn as I felt they were a barrier to the rest of the border.  When I first cut the lawn into a rectangle I had a notion to edge the borders with alchemilla mollis to provide a lime green cohesive edging. I did this along the two long sides and it looks quite good.  I then added alchemilla mollis along the bottom edge when I removed the grasses but they haven’t done well at all; probably due to the border being in full sun which becomes quite baked in the summer.  So the Alchemilla was ripped out.  I then dug up the various plants in the border apart from the shrubs as well as some bergenias in the side border and also some libertia that was disappearing under the laurel hedge  These, along with the two shrubby salvias, some francoa and a bronze leaved libertia which I divided, were replanted in the border.  I know all these plants do well in the conditions as they are the plants that have been thriving here for the last few years.  I tried very hard to avoid planting in straight lines and create a more random flowing effect but I don’t think I have quite achieved it.  However, I am really thrilled with the effect I have managed to achieve especially as it has been done with existing plants.  Hopefully the plants will now settle in, bulk up and spread and give me all year round interest with little maintenance.  The intention was to use a limited plant palette which picks up on the red of the grevillea and shrubby salvias.

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