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 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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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 – 21st September 2014

Aster trinervius 'Stardust'

Aster trinervius ‘Stardust’

Unlike some parts of the country we have been lucky to have a couple of days rain towards the end of the week.  It was mostly light persistent rain but there were a few real downpours which have filled up the water butts and everything is looking fresh again.  Given that Saturday was a damp and overcast day I ‘gardened’ under cover repotting all the miniature bulbs which are stored in the greenhouse now.  There are already some signs of narcissus and oxalis appearing which makes me really happy.  The greenhouse is being given over to overwintering my various alpines so won’t have any heating this year; I will be storing the tender plants in the garage which has a good size window with a work-surface under it.

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I am finding that my tastes have been changing over the last year or so and I am becoming more focussed on certain plant groups which should hopefully mean that the garden looks less chaotic in the future! I am pleased with some of the plant combinations I have created this year.  At the moment this combination of crocosmia, witch hazel with its autumn leaves and the asters is making me smile – it is so vibrant.

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Today, due to my general need to sort, tidy and have a more cohesive approach today, with the sun shining, I decided to continue the clearing I started last weekend and tackle my nemesis – the compost heaps. As you can see my compost heaps are a far cry from the organised and tidy heaps we regularly see on Gardeners’ World but I would say to Monty, in my defence, that I am an amateur garden who has a full time demanding job and no time for turning and moving stuff from one heap to another.

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The two heaps nearest to you in the chaotic photo were emptied this spring, truly, but we never got around to emptying the one nearest the fence and I suspect its been a good year or so since we did and even then I don’t think its been emptied properly for years.  I only needed to remove a small amount of the top layer before I came across good quality compost.  Look how wonderfully friable it is – Monty would be impressed, well maybe!

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A couple of hours later and not only had I emptied the bin completely – yes me on my own, both my sons were out – but I had dismantled and removed the bin.  Some of the lower planks had rotted through which is hardly surprising.  The amount of compost was ridiculous.  I shovelled it down to the border below where the Acer was removed the other week and where I want to plant some new shrubs and add hellebores and spring bulbs.  The stones at the front of the area are a loose retaining wall which I need to redo once everything else is sorted.

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The height of the border has significantly increased but it will go down once it has had time to settle and been rained on plus I want to rake it down the border further once some of the perennials have died back. The compost is so thick here that you sink in it as you walk over it – this makes me very happy indeed.  You can also see that I have painted the fence alongside the space for the compost bin. I would have painted more except I could feel my muscles seizing up – I will do the rest as each bit is more accessible.  It all looks very smart but if you look the other way…

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You can see some of the chaos I have created in the process and left for now!  The bin needs rebuilding and will be shorter than before due to the rotten timbers.  I then need to fill it with a pile of stuff you can’t see and also tip the overflow from the other bins into it.  Then in a month or so when I have tidied and cut back more perennials I will empty out the other bins and use the compost to mulch them.

So for the second weekend on the trot I am tired but happy.  I think the weather is starting to turn so I will need to start moving tender plants under cover in the next week or so.  In the meantime I am researching shrubs for the border above and also peonies for somewhere else.

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.