End of Month View – November 2014

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November this year has been wet and mild resulting in the weeds and grass still growing, even the drop of temperature earlier this week was short-lived and we are back to mild temperatures for the time of year and fog. Whilst I’m not so keen on the continual dampness the fog does add to the real autumnal feel which is nice as there are less fallen leaves in the garden this year due to the removal of the majority of the willow and some of the large prunus.

The hardy exotic border and new seating area remains my favourite part of the garden and I hope the plants are hardy enough to come through whatever this winter throws at us. I am hoping that it will be a mild winter and the plant will have another year to establish before they have to cope with prolonged cold.

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I am surprised at how lush the garden still is. The Rose Border (formerly the Cottage Garden Border) is filling out and I am hopefully for a good display next year when the roses, aquilegias and geraniums start to flower.

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I worked through the Big Border last week, weeding and cutting back.  I want to move the Cotinus to the corner of the border in the foreground and I need to build up the log edging of the path but aside from that the border should look after itself now until the hellebores flower in the early spring.  I will cut the hellebore foliage back probably in late December.

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The other end of the Big Border.  I have also tidied up the border on the other side of the grass path and as I mentioned last week this is an area I want to tackle next year to make the planting stronger, it can’t get any weaker!  I have finally got the start of an idea of what I want to put in here and it won’t surprise you to learn it is foliage based.  I have a hankering for a dark-leaved banana or maybe as Rusty Duck has suggested a hardy Hedychium and this has led to me deciding to extend the hardy exotic planting from the slope behind but with plants that appreciate a little more light.  2014_11280005

The other end of the border I am talking about which has been much shadier but I suspect will be lighter now due to the willow being cut back so drastically.  The planting here is predominately foliage based so I think I will finally be able to make the whole border work rather than it feeling like two halves.

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The next area due an autumn tidy up is the original woodland border.  Again it will be interesting next year to see how the shade has been affected by the tree work.  I think I need to do a little re-jigging just to stop plants swamping each other but I need them to reappear in the spring so I can remember what I had planned to do. However, I am very pleased with how the changes I made to the back of the border have worked out this year adding depth and interest as well as height.

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Going down in scale the spring/patio border is at one of its low points in the year.  The late summer interest is well over but hopefully come early spring there will be lots of colour from snowdrops and other bulbs.  Saying that I have a sneaky suspicion that I meant to add more bulbs this autumn and if so I have failed to do this.

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The staging is still working hard and currently supporting the collection of pots planted up with collections of various alpine plants and the hardy succulents.  It is also hosting all the pots I have emptied of dahlias.  Last year I planted these up with tulips which were OK but I think I want to add some more permanent plantings in them so I have decided to leave them empty over winter.

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Finally the hardy succulent trough has been more successful than I ever anticipated.  The various sempervivums have bulked up and filled out.  However, I will be happier once my amateurish concrete repair mellows a little.

As ever any one is welcome to join in this monthly post and use it how they wish.  Some focus on one area of their garden and others the whole garden.  All I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can come and visit you.

My Weekend This Week – 18/10/2014

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Autumn has decidedly arrived although not the crisp dry Autumn that I prefer, instead it has been a bit grey and quite damp leading to soggy piles of leaves to collect; many have already been collected.

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I have noticed that despite the lower light levels there is still interest in the garden mainly from the various asters.  I think the smaller flowers add some real texture although I want to add some of the larger and brighter flowered asters next year and maybe some more rudbeckias to lift it all.

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The first job was to weed the slope where the Hardy Exotic Border is and plant a mass of mixed daffodil bulbs.  I am conscious that many of the plants will die back over the winter and I don’t really want a large bare area so I am hoping the daffodils will add some spring interest and colour until the main planting reappears.  As my garden is quite small I need to make ever area work as hard as possible. I am trying to adopt the idea of layered or succession planting as advocated by Christopher Lloyd and also David Culp but of course although I understand the logic and purpose putting it into action isn’t as easy as it appears. I think you really need to understand the plants well and I haven’t quite got there.  To help me out I am thrilled to have signed up for a study day at Great Dixter next June.

2014_10180007At the moment my starting point is to give each area a key season of interest.  So the border above is a spring/winter border with the conifers and some bulbs which will appear in the new year.  Today I have added a few cyclamen to give colour.  There is a sprawling geranium in the front of the border which looks wrong and will be relocated elsewhere.  I think a Japanese Painted Fern, yes I know another fern, would look good here and I fancy some white vinca or maybe periwinkle around the tree trunk.

A small achievement was finally sorting the area in front of the shed and fence.  This has been a bit of a dumping ground since the shed went in over a year ago and has been irritating me for some months.  My son plans to put a wood store here, the shed is his workshop, but he is so busy it is well down his list of priorities so I decided to take charge.  It is amazing how much things are improved with a quick tidy up, a thick layer of gravel, a bit of fence paint and a few pots.  The little auricula is far too small so I need to find one of my other pots to go here.  I am thinking maybe a pot of bedding cyclamen.

Elsewhere I planted out the shrubs I bought at the Hergest Croft plant fair last weekend.  The Hydrangea Merveilla Sanguine at the top of the slope to add to the foliage interest.  I was told it needs good moist conditions and maybe at the top of a slope isn’t the best place but the soil is very heavy clay based here and doesn’t seem to dry out too fast so fingers crossed.

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More bare soil but this is where the dead acer was and I am quite pleased with how it is coming along.  I have added a Leptospernum myrtifolium ‘Silver Sheen’ and Berberis seiboldii which is quite electric at the moment and should be wonderful in a year or two. Also planted out today is an unnamed double hellebore and some bedding cyclamen.  There are lots of spring perennials under the soil here at the front of the border so I have added the cyclamen for interest until I am reminded what is here and where it is!!

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I thought I would show you a border I replanted just over a year ago – The Japanese Fern Border.  A grand title for a small area alongside the patio which admittedly has other perennials other than ferns but they are all from Asia – apart from the stray Welsh Poppy in the back there.  The ferns have really filled out and it looks lush and full and makes me smile.

Just for Yvonne I have include the Primrose Jack in Green at the top of the post which I look at when I sit on the bench.

My Garden This Weekend – 14th September 2014

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I have been a busy bee this weekend and have achieved lots of the plans I have had rattling around in my head in the early hours when I haven’t been able to sleep recently.  I have been saying for some weeks now that the patio border needed a re-jig to give the newish Edgeworthia more space.  So today I lifted a large Astrantia and divided it. In the space left behind I planted the Edgeworthia which was formerly in the space to the right of the above photo.  The Astrantias have been replanted to the front of the border along with Hosta ‘Cherry Berry’ and a Painted Japanese Fern which was being smothered by the Kirengeshoma palmata. I am much happier with the border now which is important as this is my view from the living room window.

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Another of the things I have been wanting to do is to plant up the assorted alpine perennials into large pots.  I have planted up five shallow pots with a whole range of plants; trying to group plants that need the same conditions together.  The plants should grow better than in individual pots and I don’t really have the right environment in the garden for them so this is the best solution.

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I also rescued a couple of ferns from the large woodland border where they were being swamped by other plants and replanted them along the woodland slope which is taking on a real ferny feel.  I have been struggling with the badger visiting the garden again despite the lack of tulip bulbs or bird food.  He seems to be fascinated with digging up my Arisaema which are on this slope or alternatively trying to fell the Cardiocrinum giganteum which I am trying to establish.  I am hoping by planting more ferns and other perennials on the slope I will deter him though I doubt this will actually work.

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But the thing I am really pleased, in fact triumphant about, is tackling the corner above.  This photo was taken about a month ago when the dead Acer was removed.  Since then I have decided that the huge willow which dominates the top of the garden and which blocks the light to this area and much of the garden causing plants to lean needs to be significantly reduced in height.

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The tree is hard to photograph as it is so vast but the right hand branch grows across the Prunus tree causing it to grow sideways instead of upwards.  I have instructed a tree surgeon to reduce the willow down to about 4 metres, just above the split in the trunk, and to remove a couple of branches from the Prunus to stop it tipping over.  The neighbour behind me doesn’t like anything over the fence so cuts all the branches back and this means the tree has grown lopsided and is now, along with the Willow, in serious danger of tipping over.  The removal of so much overhead foliage and branches is going to have quite an impact on the garden and the light; and hopefully moisture.

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I have cleared the weeds and scrubby stuff from the corner and I have had to dig out a whole load of soil.  The badger, yes him again, attacked the small retaining wall under the compost bins the other winter digging huge holes and tipping the stones all over the place.  Now the Acer has gone I can get into the space and pull back the piles of earth created about a year ago and refind the wall and attempt to rebuild it.  My dry stone wall building skills are not in the same league as my father’s or even my eldest son’s but they will do for now. I have now rebuilt the wall and it isn’t too bad; it certainly looks better than the above photo.

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The soil I have been pulling back is very good as its the overflow from the compost bins above.  What you can’t see is that one of the wooden bins is collapsing and the compost piles are ridiculous.  So next weekend I need to tackle them, pulling off the uncomposted stuff and then I am going to drag the rotted down compost down to the area in the photo above.  This will be spread around to improve the soil and drainage and then I will leave this area until Spring.  This way I can see how the removal of so much of the willow and prunus will affect the space and decide what to plant here.  I have a whole host of ideas but I suspect to start with there will be at least two shrubs or maybe a shrub and a small tree.  I also want to paint the fence this week in the evenings while I have the chance. I am also thinking of getting some sort of screening panels to go between the bamboo and border and the compost bins behind.

I hadn’t planned to tackle the corner this weekend but I am thrilled with my achievement even if I ache all over.

My Garden this Weekend – 1st June 2014

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After all the rain and cool temperatures we have had it has been a lovely warm weekend; even at times, dare I say it, too warm for gardening.  Saturday was spent at the local HPS group meeting which I always enjoy as I rarely come away without learning something.  I also inevitably come home with some plants despite telling myself there really is no more room.  This week’s purchases are an Iris Louisiana ‘Sinfonietta’ and a Phyteuma scheuchzeri.  Apparently the Iris Louisiana likes the same conditions as Iris Siberica and will cope with a little flooding from time to time.

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This photo doesn’t convey the wonderful iridescent blue of the flowers which in fact almost match the pot.  It is such a wonderful blue that Bob Brown made me go outside to admire the plant before I bought it. Anyway it is planted in the corner of the patio and fingers crossed it will do well.

imageI also wired up the side fence and planted a Rosa mutabilis which hopefully will spread to cover the fence under the neighbour’s Photinia – I think the colours will complement each other.  I then planted out some Aeoniums in the succulent border in the front garden and moved most of the other succulents out of the greenhouse placing them around the patio and up the steps.

To continue the small planting theme I also emptied out the spring bedding in the Jasmine planter and replaced it with Begonias.  This is a repeat of what I did last year which isn’t very original but it worked well and I walked round and round the garden centre and imagenothing really inspired me.  I sense that any interest in bedding I may have had is waning and I am tending towards more permanent plantings in pots.

I also did some tidying up in the front garden, cut the grass and pondered what I could add to the Driveway Border to add some extra height and interest now the Irises have gone over and the Crocosmia aren’t yet flowering.  I think I need some Verbascum.  I am going to go for the Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’ as the white will continue the theme of the Potentilla and the dark red/burgundy flower centres will pick up on the Alliums and Erysium.  I just need to decide whether to buy some plants now or whether to sow seed and be patient.

I then set too and tackled the patio border which has been swamped with Welsh Poppies and Bluebells.  The new Edgeworthia is being eaten by something and I am assuming its slugs although the Kirengeshoma next to it is also suffering from holes appearing on the leaves and I’m not convinced this is slug damage as they are very regular.  Anyway, I thought if I cleared away all the bluebell and narcissus debris then this would reduce the places for pests to hide and provide a healthier environment.  I dug up all the Welsh Poppies. I know some people love them but they are like a weed in my garden self-seeding everywhere and I find their yellow flowers distract from the rest of the plants.  I am sure en masse somewhere they would look fabulous but not dotted through my border.  I also dug up what bluebell bulbs I could locate and I have replanted them up the garden.  I know there are still some in the border but they are mixed up in the roots of the perennials and it would mean lifting plants etc.  Anyway, the border looks a lot better now and I think the plants will be healthier.

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Not bad for a day in the garden.  Still lots more to do but then that is gardening for you.

My Garden This Weekend – 5th May 2014

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Despite us having the luxury of a three-day weekend I don’t feel as though I have spent nearly enough time in the garden.  I’m not sure why I’ve been in and out like a yo-yo but there has been lots of faffing around rather than setting too in one area.  I have realised that all the major projects are more or less completed now and there isn’t really room for anything else major so unless I have a complete change of heart about something, as if (!), the garden layout will remain as it is.  So from now on my gardening will be faffing which in some ways is good as I am getting more and more involved in other horticultural things locally which makes demands on my time but will take some getting used to as I am prone to feeling I need to achieve great things all the time – I need to learn to slow down.

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The new seating area should help with this as I love sitting here and looking down the garden to the house. At the moment there is a whole group of mason bees humming in and out of the dry stone wall around the bench.  We haven’t worked out whether they are making a nest in the wall or collecting the clay and taking it somewhere else but it is a pleasant hum to listen to as you drink your tea.

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One of the areas of the garden which has bugged me more or less since we lived here is the corner of the patio.  It’s a small area but a nightmare.  Firstly there is no real soil here due to builders rubble, secondly all the water when it rains heavily flows into this corner and it floods.  When we first lived here we had years when the water stayed permanently and so I planted some bearded irises to make a sort of pond and put in lots of pebbles.  Of course once I had made this decision somewhere on the drainage system round here someone cleared something and the corner on fills up when we have lots of heavy rain and then drains fairly quickly.  This winter with the weeks of rain we have had to have a plank to get from the higher part of the patio to the bottom step but the water went weeks ago.  I did add some Cyperus glaber some years back and they did very well and self-seeded all over the patio.  But their stems get broken down by something and because of the way water drains into this corner and because I have a habit of potting up hanging baskets etc sitting on the bottom step and scattering compost all over the place, this corner has become a messy space.  Today I dug up all the plants, composting the cyperus, and dug up as many pebbles as I could find.  The soil isn’t too bad now due to the compost debris that have ended up here.  So I have decided to plant it with some plants that don’t mind the odd soaking but will make it look more glamorous and interesting.  I’m considering a canna for this time of year as I think they don’t mind a bit of damp – but we shall see.

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Other things that have pleased me is this Rhododendron.  I have no idea what variety it is but it was being swamped elsewhere in the garden and suffering as you can see from the terrible state of its leaves.  I dug it up some months ago and relocated it to the top of the slope and it has rewarded me with new shoots and there is even a flower opening.

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Finally, and probably what I have spent most time on this weekend, I have been prepping plants for the Malvern Spring Show.  I have entered some into the Open Garden section, mainly the succulents above but I think the competition is stiff and I don’t think they are all looking as fresh as they could be.  I am also, for the first time, entering the AGS show at the Malvern show in the novice section.  So more pan scrubbing, grit replacing and removal of old leaves and debris with tweezers.  I spent quite a bit of time watching the experts getting their plants ready at the AGS London show last weekend so I am hoping my attention to detail might pay off but I won’t know until next Saturday.

This week is going to be super busy as I have a number of commitments at the Malvern show and I also have to go to work.  However, it should be fun and its the side of horticulture that I really enjoy as I get to meet and chat to some really interesting people and that how you learn.

I didn’t have the courage the enter any cut flowers into the Open Gardens competition but if I had it would have been in the rhododendron category.  My large rhododendron is smothered in flowers at the moment.  I think it is a variety called Happy but its moved house at least once so the label is lost to the mists of time.

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End of Month View – April 2014

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I did say I was going to start this monthly meme with the view from my back window but I forgot and the light is now appalling so instead you have a view of my front garden taken yesterday when it was sunny.  The front garden was the theme of last year’s End of Month View posts and long-term readers will know how I struggle to engage with this area.  However, I think it is getting there and the lovely orange Ballerina tulips which I have extended along the end of the lawn are really helping.  I will add more of these next year and try some up the other side although it may be too wet there.

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Sticking with the front garden  I have planted up the old sink with sempervivums and sedums. I realise having seen some crevice gardens recently this is a poor imitation but it uses some of the stone I had lying around, although my concrete patching is also not the best but at least it has character!  I have added an Aloe striatula and a sad looking Agave which was lurking in the greenhouse.  I intend to add some more tender succulents in late May.

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The pot display area is slowly losing its bulbs and gaining more succulents.  I am using it to display what is good or due to flower and then when they go over I move them and replace with something else.  I have pelargoniums lurking in the greenhouse which I will have on here in the summer.

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The Spring/Patio border is predominantly green at the moment.  I think it has two seasons of interest firstly in early Spring when the snowdrops are out and then in high summer when the various perennials are flowering.  There are some bluebells at the far end which have been there more or less since we moved in.  However their foliage swamps everything around them and my interests have changed and I want to plant more interesting plants in this area so the bluebells will be coming out and moving to the back of the woodland border up the garden.

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The Camellia border (formerly the Bog Garden) is filling out and the ferns are putting on growth.  I have moved some Arisaema to this border from elsewhere in the garden where I thought it was too dry for them.  Hopefully this new location will suit them better and there will be a good display.  I’m not sure how well the Iris siberica will do as although the moister soil will be good for them it is rather shady and I keep reading that they like sunshine.  I will have to see how they do.

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Finally the Cottage Border which runs along the top of the wall and is a nightmare to photograph.  Again it is looking very green and lush. The delphiniums are really putting on weight and hopefully will flower well.  There are still some daffodils flowering and at the far end of the border the white honesty is looking fabulous.  On the other side of the path is the Big Border which is beginning to sparkle with blue camassias flowering.  I am hoping that by the end of May the colour will really be coming through.

So there is my garden at the end of April which has been a relatively mild and pleasant month.  There are some frosts forecast later this week but hopefully in a week or so it will be alright to bring the tender plants out from under cover.

Anyone is welcome to join in with this meme and use it how they like.  I just ask that you add a link to your post in the comments box below and a link to this post in yours, then we can all see whatever one else is doing.

End of Month View – March 2014

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I have decided to include the view from my living room window as the opening of the End of Month View post.  As you can see Spring as arrived with daffodils, hellebores and young growth of the willow tree.

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The staging is looking a little quieter this month. The irises and crocus have gone over and are being replaced by narcissus and tulips.  As the bulbs go over they are beginning to be moved off the staging to rest somewhere else and will probably be replaced with succulents.  I have followed the advice given last month and purchased a Trachelospermum jasminoides to cover the trellis.

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Small but physically challenging progress has been made on the front border with the old glazed sink being put into place.  I now need to patch up the render on it.  It was originally done by my Dad for my Mum and has started to fall off so hopefully over the next few weeks I shall be playing with concrete etc.  Once this is done the sink will be used for succulents such as sempervivums.  I am planning to also have them around the base of the sink and supplement these with some hardy exotics such as hardy varieties of agave or aloe.

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The former Bog Garden now the Camellia border is beginning to show signs of life.  I have planted some Iris siberica in here from elsewhere in the garden and they are looking lovely and fresh.  There are signs that the astilbe and ferns will also be putting in an appearance soon.  Hopefully this time next month there will be less earth showing.

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The Spring/Patio border has lost its white drift of snowdrops and the bluebells are only just beginning to produce flower spikes. I have thinned the snowdrops, although probably not as much as I should have, and spread them down to the other end of the border. I have also added an Edgeworthia to the greenhouse end which is little more than a stick at the moment but I am hopeful that the foliage will add to the lush summer effect I am aiming for.

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Finally the Cottage Border which is along the top of the wall you can see in the top photograph.  I think this is my favourite part of the garden especially at this time of year. The narcissus are starting to flower, they are mainly Narcissus Cheerfulness which has a lovely scent.  I have tried to limit the range of plants in this border, an approach I am trying to adopt more and more to create a sort of matrix effect albeit on a small-scale.  As well as roses there are delphiniums, aquilegia and geraniums in this border so the theme is early summer.  I took Yvonne’s advice last month and rethought the bay standard as she was right it will probably sucker.  Instead I have added a small obelisk which needed a home and the clematis which was growing along the trellis behind the staging but is deciduous and not fulfilling the role that is needed.  The step over apples along the top of the wall are beginning to leaf up and I am looking forward to blossom in the next month or so.

That is the garden at the end of March which has been a kinder and drier month than its predecessors.  Now that the clocks have gone forward an hour I am hoping to get the odd hour of gardening in after work in the evenings and hopefully in April it will be even more evident that the season is progressing.

Anyone is welcome to join in with the End of Month View and to use it in their own way.  It would be great though if you could link to this post in yours and also leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can find you.