My Weekend This Week – 18/10/2014

Primrose Jack in Green

Primrose Jack in Green

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 17/8/14 – A Warts & All Tour

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I have weeded, dead-headed, cut back and generally given the garden a good sort out this weekend and during the evenings last week.  It was long overdue and the chaos that has been irritating me for weeks, if not months, is as a result of holidays, other commitments and weather either heavy rain or a heatwave.  I garden to relax, to de-stress and the lack of time I have had outside has taken a toil on me, the garden and the blog.  Anyway, as its all tidy, in fact over tidy, I thought I would take you on a warts and all tour.  I did a tour around this time last year and looking back I can see I have done some of the things I said but not others – some areas have improved and others not.

2014_08170020 We will start the tour by entering the back garden via the side path and you will see the ridiculous amount of seed trays and pots of seedlings I have.  I have been saying to online friends recently that I need to stop buying seeds.  ‘No’ they say, there is always room for seeds but to be honest I seem to have lost the fascination with growing things from seed.  I am sure it will come back at some point but I feel a real need to regroup at the moment.

Going round the corner we are on the patio with is long and thin and runs along the back of the house.  There are borders either side of the greenhouse between the patio and wall.  These were the first places planted up and have had a few changes over the eleven years we have been there but I am pretty happy with them now.

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I am especially pleased with the fern border as I love the textures here and most of the ferns are evergreen so it even looks Ok in the winter.

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At the end of the patio we find the steps up to the back garden and just to the right is the staging which appears every month in the End of Month View.  The steps are quite narrow 2014_08170030and are the only access to the back garden so everything – plants, compost etc have to be dragged up here by hand; wheelbarrows are useless.

The gravel steps, at the top of the steep steps,  which were finished last year have been a boon. When we moved in this was all grass, in fact the garden was mainly grass, and there was a path of large paving slabs which sloped with the angle of the garden and were really slippery.

If you stand at the top of the steep steps before the gravel steps and turn left you have the newish path that runs between the ‘Cottage Border’ and the ‘Big Border.  This was put in as an access path but I use it more than any other path in the garden and its the cat’s favourite place to sunbath.

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The Cottage Border has been the focus of much irritation over the last few months.  You may recall that it has been home to a collection of delphiniums which looked wonderful.  However, they only flowered for a couple of weeks and the foliage and size of the plants were smothering everything around them and then when the stems were cut down large holes in the border appeared.  I made the decision to take them out as they were boring me!  Today they were lifted and the border tidied and sorted.  I have a collection of plants waiting to go in which should add texture and foliage interest and compliment the roses.

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Big gaps in the borders have appeared which made me smile as I have been saying for a while I don’t have any more room.  However, I want to think through my options carefully.  I have had a range of plants in this area and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t do messy or the billowing prairie/grass look – I am too much of a neat nick. The plants I love are ferns, roses, irises, epimediums, peonies and bulbs such as narcissus and crocus and I think I need to focus on these more.

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As the path curves up to the right you come to the original woodland border.  This is the first year I have been pleased with it – I am such a tough critic.  I have been mentally stuck with having small short woodland plants in this area which are great in the spring but dull the rest of the year.  This spring I moved things around and added some large plants

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including melianthus, some asters, persicaria and euphorbia.  They have given the border substance (although the persicaria really needs reducing before it engulfs its neighbours).  This is the sort of planting I enjoy and am trying to replicate elsewhere in the garden. The

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path brings you to an area of sadness.  Here was an Acer that my sons and late sister bought for me some years back.  It has looked stunning for years but for some reason that I cannot fathom it died this winter.  This weekend we pulled it out and it has left a large gap in the border.  You can see how dry the soil is and this is due to the neighbour’s trees whose roots fill this area.  Interestingly though the fatsia planted two years ago just the left of the photo is going great guns.  Turning our back to this area we have the grass path in front of us which runs along the other side of the Big Border to the first path.  On the left of the path is the front of the Not Very Bog Border and this is another area I struggle with.

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I am pleased with the Big Border – I need to add some shorter plants along the edges to hide the legs of the asters etc and I need to sort out the far end as there are too many strappy leaves here so its all a little samey.  I have some ideas I just need to implement them.

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This is the most, probably, troublesome area.  The ground gets quite dry here and I have been trying to find a character for it for years.  In fact I said the same a year ago when I did the tour of the garden.  There are some rusty foxgloves which do well here and also ferns but then, as you will see, I have lots of ferns elsewhere.  I am toying with removing the Spirea to the right of the variegated Cornus and replacing it with a Cotinus.  I think this might give the foxgloves a good backdrop and I have some Crocosmia and Geums that I was thinking of putting in here which would also look good with a purple background.

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At the end of the grass path if you turn left up the gravel steps you head to the new seating area which I love.  However, there is this corner which perplexes me.  It the other end of the border in the photo above – in fact the whole border challenges me.  There are phloxs in here which have looked wonderful albeit bitty and also Lobelia tupa.  I am thinking of moving the lobelia to the Big Border and also maybe the Phloxes and starting again but with what?

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The new seating area is in front of the Hardy Exotic Border and I though I would pull the seat out so you can see how it is coming along and so I can weed.  Again I am pleased with the textures here and its all foliage based.  I could move the Lobelia tupa here but I’m not sure there is room.   Turning around we have the Not Very Bog Border which is alright but looking back to last year’s post there was more interest with the bronze foliage of the Ligularia.  However, I am going to leave it to establish and fill out and see how things go.

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If I moved the Cotinus to this border it will also provide a backdrop to this area which might be good.

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There is a secret path which runs between the Not Very Bog Border and the Slope.  I have been planting my growing collection of epimediums and ferns around this area but there is room for more. We go to the end of the path and there are some slabs steps which go up and to the right and lead to a path along the top of the slope.  You can see a small border at the base of the tree and I need to sort this out as it has suffered neglect.  There is space in here for a shrub at the back and I have a number of ideas which I will investigate.

2014_08170051The long narrow border along the fence has been a struggle over the years.  I planted some bamboo in here four years ago to act as a screen to the neighbour’s house behind and they are now finally establishing and filling out.  I want to add some more big foliage in here but again need to decide what.

As you can see the path needs sorting.  It was covered in wood chip which the birds and badger loved and in the winter it was like a mine field to walk along because of the holes dug in it.  I want to replace the bark with gravel and hopefully I will find the time and energy to do this soon.

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All my tidying up has added to the compost heap which was out of control before I started.  You can just see the bamboo to the left of the heaps which I thinned today.  This is just to the right of where the Acer has been taken out and acts as a screen to the bins when it isn’t collapsing everywhere.  I am thinking of taking the bamboo out and possibly moving it somewhere in front of the back fence and replacing it with an ever green shrub.  The biggest problem I have now which only came to light yesterday is that the top branch of the willow has snapped and it has partially fallen.

2014_08170053I need to get a tree surgeon to sort it out and also to look at the whole tree which is far to big for its location.  I’m not sure how the surgery will affect the light in this area so I will probably have to wait and see before I make any significant changes to the planting.

I am currently reading Margery Fish as I like her attitude and she liked the plants I do.  I think I might try and fit in a trip to East Lambrook in the coming weeks to see what it looks like at this time of year as this is when I struggle most as my favourite plants have all finished.  I have a couple of weeks leave coming up so I hope to do some planting and planning then.

Anyway, that’s my garden warts and all

My Garden This Weekend

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After a slow start this weekend has been wonderful for working in the garden.  I would say pottering but I think my idea of pottering isn’t the same as others.  Saturday was a wash out which is fine as we needed the rain.  I went to the HPS garden club meeting and amazingly I didn’t buy anything possibly because I have been feeling a little jaded recently but also probably because most of the plants were summer flowering perennials which I really don’t have much space for at the moment.  Because my youngest had come home from University on Friday I was keen to spend some time with him so I forgo the afternoon talk which after all was on Heleniums, not a subject I am particularly interested in.

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As my neighbours have gone off on their annual holiday the first job on Sunday was to get the beech hedge between our properties cut; so that was Sunday morning gone.  But in the afternoon I got to play.  The Hardy Exotic Border has been my project this year and I have been adding plants to it over the last few months.  Today I added a Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum), Blechnum spicant and Arisaema consanguineum.  I think the this area is now full in fact, as in many other bits of the garden, I suspect it is overfull and in a year’s time I will be editing it but for now I am happy with the effect.

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The Hardy Exotic Border tapers down into a shady and narrower part of the slope.  This has snowdrops and narcissus in but also bluebells which have turned out to be a mistake as the long leaves smoother the epimediums and emerging ferns and I love these far more than the bluebells.  So I continued along the border digging up the bluebell bulbs which will be planted somewhere else out of the way.  I relocated a hosta and some geraniums and now the border is predominantly epimediums, ferns and arisaema; in this case Arisaema speciosum.  These poor plants have been moved from the old bog garden since firstly I was worrying it was too damp for them and secondly you can’t see the flower spathes unless you lie on the floor.  I am hoping the slope will be more suitable to them and it should make it easier to see the flower spathes next year.

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Having relocated the Arisaema I had space finally to plant the new Cardiocrinum giganteum.  I bought the bulb at the Malvern Spring Show and it has been in a large pot on the patio getting taller and taller.  I don’t know if it will flower and if it does I think it might be monocarpic so that will be that but I have been trying to grow one for years so I am quite excited at the prospect.  The old Bog Garden (top photo) is looking quite good now a real mix of ferny textures with the odd big leaf from the Cardicocrinum and another large-leaved plant whose name escapes me.

A most satisfying day spent pottering in what is quickly becoming my favourite part of the garden.

My Garden This Weekend – 15th June 2014

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Some times you have to listen to people when they are giving you advice and you also have to listen to your body when it is protesting.  I haven’t done either very well recently.  Consequently, by the end of Saturday I was completed exhausted and my body ached all over.  I suspect a two day trip to Plymouth to see my youngest son’s end of University design show driving for 3 hours each way in 25C degrees and standing up lots in a warm studio may have been one thing too many.  So today I have cancelled my plans and decided not to attend the Stocktonbury Gardeners Market or Noel Kingsbury’s open garden or the other garden I was toying with.  Today I followed one of my commentators, Yvonne from New Zealand’s, advice and scheduled some sleep and rest.

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Everything seemed to be even bigger and lusher when I got home on Saturday afternoon despite it only being 24 hours since I went away.  I suspect that what really happens is that I returned with fresh and less jaded eyes.  So much to do but I have to remind myself that there are no major jobs to be done and so a day of pottering was prescribed.

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Someone asked me how wide the path between the Cottage Border and the Big Border was.  I am rubbish at measurement so I can show you it is one sleeping cat wide! This seems to be Maisie’s new favourite sleeping place, I think it is nice and warm in the sun.

2014_06080010Being over tired I was awake early so decided to start my gardening pottering early in case it turned out hot again.  So 8:30 saw me tackling the wilderness that is the top border.  This border runs along the front of the top fence and I have started to grow Pyracantha and Chaenomeles along the fence to provide coverage.  In front of these are three Phyllostacys flexuosa to add coverage above the fence line.  I am pretty sure this is the type of bamboo as if you look at the stems they zig zag which is just amazing to me.  The plants have been in probably 4 years now and this is the first time the stems have zig zagged so much so that I had forgotten that was what attracted me to this variety in the first 2014_06150014place! I have also added a Dahlia Imperalis and Cephalaria gigantea to the border as well as some Geranium palmatum.  I have been remiss in keeping an eye on this border and the Cephalaria has grown to nearly 7 ft tall and flopped all over the path.  The weeds were out of control and the Pyracantha needed serious pruning and tying into the fence and I also wanted to thin out the bamboo so the zig zags were more noticeable.

At the end of the path is a pot with a dahlia to add a focal point although this morning it was hard to see the focal point! I did struggle with corralling the stems of the Cephalaria gigantea so I must remember to stake the stems earlier next year.  This area is all a little hit and miss without a real plan and I suppose in my head once the plants in the Hardy Exotic Border (on the lower side of the path) have grown up the view from the path down on the garden will be obscured and you will need to peer through leaves.  At the moment this is the view and to give you some idea of perspective and steepness of the slope you can just see the bench on the new seating area at the bottom.

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After lots of tying in and pruning I decided a more gentle activity was required so I weeded the patio which was looking very green with lots of grass and weed seedlings.  As I said to my son I have done the bottom and the top of the garden which should make everything in between look neat!

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I also pruned back the rosemary but that’s for another post.

At the end of the day I am pleased I decided to be sensible as I feel relaxed and recharged and when I look outside I don’t feel a sense of despair when I see the weedy patio.

 

End of Month View – May 2014

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Due to the amount of rain and cool temperatures we have had in recent weeks the plants in the Cottage and Big Border have grown quite big and lush but the flowers are being slow to show their faces.  The Aquilegia are almost over but the Delphinium and Roses are getting ready to take over in the Cottage Border.  On both sides of the path the Geraniums are forming buds and hopefully it will just take a few days of sunshine and warmer temperatures for them to open.

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The path from the other end.  I have under planted the Cotinus with white Corncockle which may or may not work, we shall see.

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The staging is now home to some of the Pelargoniums, Sempervivums, some sun loving alpines and a few late flowering bulbs such as  Dichelostemma Ida-Maia.  The remaining gone over bulbs will shortly go into the greenhouse under the staging to dry out and I will move the tender succulents out to replace them.

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I am pleased with how the ‘Hardy Exotic Border’ is going.  There is some filling in to do with smaller plants.  I also have a trug full of tulip bulbs from the big pots and I think I am going to plant them out in this border.  If they flower, and I know many tulips don’t do well in their second year, then they will bring a colourful splash before the hardy plants get going again.

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The Damp Border is filling out with ferns and astible.  It isn’t the most photogenic border but one of those that you can appreciate more close up.

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The Trough in the front garden also isn’t that photogenic but it was only planted out a month ago and I need to add some pots of tender succulents around the Trough.

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For those long-suffering readers that endured last year’s End of Month Views on the front garden here it is now and finally I am enjoying it.  I think it just needed another year to bulk up.  There are gaps to be filled and some balancing to do but finally it makes me smile when I pull up on the driveway.

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Finally the middle path along the top of the Big Border.  I should be including a shot of the Patio Border but I am camera-less as the camera I have been borrowing from my son has gone with him to London for the weekend and mine is at the menders.  I am very pleased with how well the Big Border has filled out.  You wouldn’t believe that this time last year it was only a month old.

All are welcome to join in with this monthly meme and use it how they wish.  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 all come for a nose around your garden.

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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