I started this blog in 2008 to record how my garden developed, it quickly became a gardening journal and I have loved it every since. I am passionate about horticulture despite working in higher education administration. I have started to re-engage with other hobbies: knitting, sewing and drawing so sometimes the posts on here may be less garden focussed. However, as I don't want to bore you with my new crochet obsession I have started another blog for this and if you are interested there is a link further down this side bar.
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I had an enjoyable, although warm, day today at the local national Alpine Garden Society show. Long term readers will know that I have a growing fascination with alpines and have started showing myself in the Novice section. Today I added a first, two seconds and three thirds to my tally; however I have a way together before I can exhibit the quality of plants I am going to share in this post. I thought I would show you why I love the world of alpine showing.
Whilst there are the cushion plants that many of us associate with the term alpines and plants such as the many campanulas and hardy succulents it is the other categories that draw my attention. Firstly I have a passion for bulbs. I think this is progression of my enjoyment of growing plants from seed. I get excited to see plants germinated and I get the same thrill when a bulb first appears above the soil. Also I think bulbs are more suited to my lifestyle as I can store them away in their dormant period and this makes life more manageable for me. But to be honest it is the beauty and exotic nature of the flowers that really appeal – who couldn’t resist the amazing orange of the Cyrtanthus epiphyticus above.
Take this amazing pot of Allium kurtzianum – the flowers remind me of some mad fluorescent ’70s outfit. I do like the small Alliums and won a first today with Allium sikkimense which has vibrant blue flowers. I am now on a quest to source the Allium kurtzianum.
Another bulb I have never heard of and how pretty is this. I love the broad leaves with the flowers nestling in them. Yet another one for the very long list.
Moving on from my first love bulbs we have the conifers which are creeping into my affections and interest. My friend Brenda and I were particularly taken with this Pinus mugo ‘Sea urchin’ which we felt really lived up to its name. I bought some dwarf shrubs today as this is the second group of plants I want to focus on. They are very slow growing and tend to look after themselves most of the year so again should work well for me.
My third group to focus on should come as no surprise – ferns. The more I look at ferns the more I am amazed at the variety not just of leaf form, colour but also growing environment. I have bought so many this year that I made a conscious effort not to buy any more today. However, I have identified some of this year’s purchases which might do well in pots and be acceptable for showing.
Finally Brenda’s Saxifraga with which she won her first First in the Open section (that’s as the top class). Like me she has been exhibiting in the novice section but today has earned enough firsts to move up. However, there is nothing stopping any one entering a plant into any of the categories or levels if they think it is good enough and her gamble paid off. She was beaming all afternoon, even more so when she won a lovely shiny trophy for the most points in the Novice section.
So this is why I love the world of alpines – there is so much variety, exquisite plants you will probably struggle to find outside of the alpine showing world and great passionate people who are only too happy to pass on tips and encourage you to have a go.
What a rewarding weekend in so many planty ways. I spent Saturday at the annual HPS Variegated Specialist Group meeting which was held near by and was fascinating. The attendance was much smaller than at the annual Galanthus group meeting but being smaller number, possibly 30ish, the welcome to a new member was wonderful and the day was good fun. There was an informal AGM, followed by a fascinating talk by the Treasurer, Jane Kilpatrick, on the theme of her first book Fathers of Botany. This was Jane’s first ever talk and I was completely hooked on the story of the missionary plant hunters in China. Then we had a plant auction led by Bob Brown, the Chair, which was great as you learnt about the plants as they were sold off. The afternoon saw us visiting World End Nursery and the owner’s garden which was a great garden but the visit was so much more interesting given the knowledgeable company (at least 3 experienced nurserymen and a plant historian).
I came home feeling really recharged and my interest in the garden reinvigorated. I have cut down all the delphiniums which were just going over. Clearing the flower stems away showed me that the echinacea I had given up on were still there hidden away under the foliage. I am rethinking the Delphinium, which I know may surprise readers given how wonderful they have been, but they take up a lot of room and once they are cut down they leave large gaps in the border. I have made the decision this weekend that as the garden is full I need to be more ruthless and only plants I absolutely love will be given space. I like the Delphinium but I don’t love them as is evident from the few photographs taken of Delphinium compared to the roses. The Delphinium are also suffocating the roses and you could almost hear the sigh of relief as the delphiniums left. I haven’t dug the plants up but I think I might replace them with more foxgloves and aquilegias which I enjoy far more.
I spent today tweaking the Big Border. I removed some campanula and also thalictrum flavum which just don’t appeal to me any more. I moved some of the Calmagrostis ‘Overdam’ around as I didn’t allow enough space for everything when the border was planted up in the spring. I think the border is looking better now as the plants look less hemmed in. As I am on a mission to plant out all my purchases I added a fern, epimedium and peony to the far end of the border. Before I completely ran out of steam I removed a load of Japanese Anemones from the border on the other side of the grass path.
There are a number of plants which I am really pleased about. Firstly the digitalis in the photo above which is just so elegant. It is meant to be digitalis trojana but when I compare my flowers with images on the web they seem far more yellow. I might have to find an expert to ask. I am also waiting for the Cardicronum giganteum to flower hopefully it will do this before I go on holiday next week. I am also pleased with the Watsonia which has come through the albeit mild winter in the ground. Again I’m not sure about the identity of these plants. I had the seed labelled as Watsonis pillansii but this has been queried on Facebook. Whatever they are the flowers are very elegant and make me smile.
Now I just need to find something to recharge my interest in this blog – I am currently struggling to maintain my interest in it so it may be updated less regularly for a while.
The Council of Perfection dictates many things particularly when pruning is mentioned. However, the Council of Perfection does not work full-time in a demanding job and over commit itself to too many things in the evenings so it will have to except my lackadaisical approach to the hedges.
There are two hedges in the front garden both planted by myself to give privacy. Between myself and my neighbours there is a beech hedge which really has reached its maximum height and I think needs reducing a little – maybe next year. It dips at the end because when the hedge was planted some of the plants did not take and had to be replaced the following autumn.
I am a little wary of the hedge trimmer and find it quite awkward to use so my youngest son took charge of the beech hedge. The sides could be a little tighter and neater as could the top but its a vast improvement on how it was before we started and it will do for another year.
The laurel hedge goes along the front of the garden and was planted one Christmas Eve before I took over the annual responsibility of the family Christmas dinner. Now here is where the Council of Perfection would get very cross with me as they dictate that you are meant to use secateurs for broad-leaved hedges such as Laurel. This is because if you cut the leaves with a strimmer the cut edges will brown and look unsightly. I have done this ever since the hedge was planted but this year it was too warm and life is too short and to be honest the hedge needed it a more drastic cut so I did the whole hedge with the shears. I have really cut it back hard which will benefit it in the long-term even if it has a brown tinge for a while.
Again the hedge dips, this time around the birch, this is mainly because the laurel hasn’t grown as strongly by the tree, no doubt because the tree takes up most of the moisture. I decided to make a feature out of it and I think the dip really shows the white of the birch bark off better.
And yes we didn’t clear up after ourselves very well despite sweeping and raking there are leaves on the road and also along the border in the front of the hedges but the leaves can rot down and there are more things in life to worry about. So a dull and hot job is done for another year and the pruning have been taken to the dump and we patted ourselves on the back and had a well-earned cuppa.
We are going through a bit of a floral lull in the back garden at the end of June. I have just cut back most of the geraniums which had finished flowering so the Big Border isn’t looking as voluptuous along the grass path as earlier in the month. The focus of the Big Border is meant to be late summer and I am hoping that in about a month the border will be full of Asters although it will be its first season so it will be interesting to see what happens. The border to the right of the path is the far side of the old Bog Garden and is in need of an identity. There are phlox and Lobelia tupa about to flower and I think this is an area I might work on next year by which time inspiration may have struck.
The bottom path runs along the bottom of the Big Border and on the other side is the Cottage Border which is really too narrow and proving troublesome. The delphiniums are just going over and I think they will be cut back hard next weekend. Next year I need to be more ruthless and remove the skinny side blooms so the main flowers are even better. The trouble with this border is its depth. I had under estimated how big and floppy the Artemis ‘Sauce Hollandise’ was and although I like pushing amongst the flowers it had become impossible so is pushed back now by supports which isn’t showing the plants to their best. I have a few ideas of where they can be moved to so they can look wonderful next year and I am thinking of replacing them with Astrantia which need a new home. It is clear that the Echinacea planted last year haven’t returned, just as I suspected. I think slugs are to blame. Instead I have some pots of Gladiolus which I will put in amongst the cut back delphiniums which should continue the show.
The succulent trough in the front garden is filling out and despite my dodgy cement repairs I think it is looking quite good and adding some real interest to the border.
The popular staging area is now playing host to pelargoniums and succulents and looking very jolly. I could swap the pelargoniums around and move the Red Vogue ones elsewhere and add more scented pelargoniums with pink flowers but I quite like the vibrancy of the red and pink!
The patio border is very full and about to come into its second season of interest. Its first season is early Spring with snowdrops and other bulbs. Now it is mainly foliage with a yellow and purple theme. The large green bush in the middle is my favourite Kirgenshoma palmata which I adore so it is a real event when it flowers. There is also a yellow rose in the border, Chinatown, which has a fabulous scent and seems to be disease free.
An added view – from the top of the bottom steps looking towards my son’s workshop. I really like the gravel steps as they were built in two stages by my father and then my eldest and they just work so well. It this time of year the sun makes a wonderful effect through the tree and Stipa gigantea to the left.
Finally I will leave you with a view of the new seating area which is adjacent to the workshop. It is a little busy at the moment as I have trays of
perennial seedlings hiding away here in the shade. The tin bath in the foreground is probably going to be used as a small pond which will take the rain water collected by the shed guttering. We are trying it out at the moment to decide if we think it is a good idea.
So this is my garden at mid-year. Please feel free to join in with this meme. You can use it however you like all I ask is that you link to this post from yours and add a link to your post in the comments box so we can all come and have a nose around your space.