My Garden This Weekend – 23rd November

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There is nothing better for the soul than a couple of hours in the garden, steadily working through a border, clearing and tidying especially on a grey damp Autumn day when any garden time feels like a gift.

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I have been cutting back, weeding and collecting leaves in the borders either side of the grass path, although its more of a mud path at the moment and I really do need to sort this out in the next season.  There are few flowers in evidence aside from some cyclamen and violas but the garden is still full of colour and texture thanks to the evergreens.  I continue to be more attracted to plants with good foliage either evergreen or deciduous.  Having had a very catholic taste in plants over probably the last 20 years I now find my interest becoming more focussed on certain groups of plants: good foliage, bulbs, ferns, woodland plants and I find myself looking at the borders to see how I can utilise the space better and incorporate more of my favourites.

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One of the borders that I have struggled with for some years in the border in front of the old pond.  I need to bring some cohesion to the space.  The more shady end isn’t too bad and I think there is some structure forming but it is the opposite end by the workshop that really challenges me.

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The bare soil is witness to my indecision and confusion.  It isn’t a big space I know but it needs to have some impact due to its location and I am crippled with indecision here.  It is currently home to late spring perennials including lathyrus and aquilegia as well as various digitalis but there is no wow or impact here.  I have toyed on numerous occasions over the last year with putting in a rockery or a crevice garden here; I thought it would blend in with the path and the slope of the border would help.  I am full of enthusiasm when I have been to one of the Alpine Garden Society meetings but although I love alpine bulbs and some alpines my reaction to rockeries, even the modern crevices, in the flesh is indifference.  I can’t get excited about the tiny plants and all that stone.  I need foliage, texture, glossy leaves, fine leaves, silver leaves, lushness with seasonal floral highlights to add sparkle.

As I posted a few weeks ago I was inspired by Keith Wiley’s approach and coupled with an article in the RHS The Garden magazine by Roy Lancaster on evergreens this month I can feel some ideas forming in the recesses of my mind which hopefully will have formulated properly by next spring.

2014_11230026The next task is to tidy up the Woodland Border and the Rose Border (top of the wall) and to clear the way for the bulbs which hopefully will be appearing in the near future.

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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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End of Month View – October 2014

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October seems to have been a wet and windy month but it has certainly been a busy month for me resulting in not much gardening time and of course with the evenings drawing in things aren’t going to improve until the Spring.

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I’m amazed at how much the succulents have filled out in the trough in the front garden.  I was worried when I planted it back in the spring that I hadn’t included enough plants but now I am far more happy.

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Here it is in situ and I am again pleased with how well the succulents planted in the border have done.  I do need to lift the Aeonium but I am going to risk the other succulents.

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The staging area is entering its winter period and is currently home to various pot of mixed alpines.  There are also a number of tender perennials in pots that are being collected here ready to overwinter storage. This area continues to work well and keeps my rapidly growing and eclectic collection of plants in some order.

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The patio border is now loosing its summer clothing but I know that there are lots of bulbs waiting to appear come the spring and this is one of the first areas I am going to tidy this weekend.  It is definitely more balanced since I moved the edgeworthia to the left which just shows you shouldn’t shoe horn plants into spaces rather than make an appropriate space for them.

2014_10300021The cottage border hasn’t really changed.  There are still some roses appearing but the plants are definitely shutting down for the winter now so I will give it  bit of a weed and tidy and wait for the bulbs to appear.  I am pleased with how this area has developed over the last couple of years.  When I dug up the back lawn two years ago I was completely intimidated by the space and procrastinated for ages trying to work out where and if to put in paths.  In the end the path showed itself as it was the logical route to the plants.  It was meant to be a narrow access path not a feature but its now my favourite route around the garden and also the cat’s favourite sun-bathing location.

I need to do some tweaking to the Big Border on the right of the path.  Its just a case of re-positioning some of the plants so the lower ones hide the legs of the taller ones.  I find that planting a slope, as this part of the border is, quite challenging as you not only have to take into account the view from the front of the border but also how the plants relate to each other as they go up the slope and in this case the border is also viewed as much from the back so in fact it is a sloping island bed – what a ridiculous idea!  I am still pondering moving the Cotinus at the end of the border.  Its rather large and whilst I know I can prune it I think the rest of the border will work better without it so I am considering a new location for the shrub.

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The far end of the Big Border is quite shady and home to several spring flowering woodland plants and a small Magnolia but I need to add some interest for other times of the year – maybe improve the foliage textures and find something to go in the bare patch in front of the magnolia.

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Finally my favourite part of the garden – the new seating area.  Its looking a little messy as I have added some fine gravel from the greenhouse which might not have been the best idea but with use the small grit will work its way down between the larger stones and hopefully it will look OK.  The tin bath pond is being emptied over the winter and I will start again in the spring once I have decided what plants to use in it.  It has had Zantedeschia in it but they won’t overwinter in the pond so I will probably store them overwinter under cover.

I think there is still a lot of interest in the garden but mainly from foliage which is rapidly becoming more important to me than the flowers. I do think that there needs to be some stronger structures included to give it winter interest so I will have a think about this over the coming months and see what ideas I can come up with.

If you would like to join in with the End of Month View meme you are very welcome.  There are no real rules, you can use it as you want. You can feature one area through the year or you can do a tour, whatever.  I do find it is very helpful in making you look critically at your garden but also it helps you to see how things have changed and improved over time.  All I ask is that you put a link to this post in your post and add a link to your post in the comments box.

 

 

 

 

My Garden This Weekend – 26th October 2014

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A nice horticultural weekend has been had with yesterday spent at my HPS group meeting.  As ever an excellent day was had with an interesting group discussion in the  morning about what is looking good in gardens mainly chrysanthemums. A bit of plant buying over lunch including a rather nice Nerine ‘Kinn McIntosh’ and a Polyxena corimrosa to add to the bulb collection. I also was given a rather large Viburnum which has been planted today; I am always amazed at how generous gardeners are not just with plants but with knowledge as well.

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The afternoon talk was on mistletoe which I have to admit I thought might be a little dull but as with the fungi talk last year it was completely fascinating.  Our speaker, Jonathan Briggs, dispelled many myths about mistletoe, explained amongst other things how they were our only native white berry evergreen semi-parasitic plant, and how the real centre for mistletoe in this country is the Severn Valley including Herefordshire and Worcestershire.  Hardly surprising given that there seems to be mistletoe everywhere around here but I don’t think I had really noticed how little there was elsewhere.

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Despite the weather temperatures being warmer than normal for this time of year we have had really stormy skies and strong winds so some of the trees around the boundary are nearly bare of leaves and I need to start the big leaf collection.  I am particularly keen on the autumn colour of the Prunus kojo-n0-mai which simply glows at the moment.  Having planted the viburnum my focus today was planting the latest bulb purchases and making a decision about what should and shouldn’t be overwintered in the greenhouse.  I have been procrastinating and dithering because I didn’t really know what winter conditions I should give my bulbs or some of the borderline hardy plants.  Thanks to

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the contributors on the Alpine Garden Society forum I have received advice and I plan to leave the greenhouse unheated and open for the winter unless the temperatures really drop in which case I can shut the door and if really bad turn the heater on.  Research has made me decide to overwinter the tenders in the garage.  The majority will be allowed to dry out but there are some that need a bit of moisture and I will put these to stand in saucers so I don’t flood the garage.

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Having finally decided to dedicate the greenhouse to the bulbs I have relocated all the succulents and the bulbs have now taken over the whole space.  There are also some primula marginata which I have a love/hate relationship with as I haven’t managed to get them to flower this year and some crusted saxifragas which are the nearest to alpine dome plants I plan to get.

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I have even had a go at some cuttings which are in the propagator on the shelf.  I know how to take cuttings but I never have much luck.  Most of them, the fuschia and pomegranate, are from display stems brought to the club meeting yesterday but I have also had a go at some cuttings from Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’.  I expect I am a bit late doing these but who knows they may take which would be fab.  Actually I did manage to get the Malmaison carnation cutting I got from the club last year to take so who knows my luck might be changing. Moving all the pots around was quite time-consuming but at least its done now.  I have a few succulents I want to dig up from the garden and overwinter under cover but the rest will be left in situ and get a thick mulch of used compost  topped off with straw.

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I have a couple of days off at the end of the week as hopefully, weather permitting, the tree surgeons are coming to tackle the weeping willow which swamps the top of the garden.  This time next week, all things being equal, this view will be very different which I find exciting but also a little scary.