Of Trilliums and other shady things

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Today I went to the inaugural meeting of the HPS Shade and Woodland Group which conveniently for me was held near Tewkesbury where I go for my monthly HPS meetings and in addition to this the talk was by one of our committee members, Keith Ferguson with a visit in the afternoon to his and his wife, Lorna’s, garden. The meeting was attended by some 80 people at a rough guess which isn’t bad for the inaugural meeting of a national group.

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Keith’s talk on Trilliums and other US woodlanders was fascinating and I learnt lots, how much I will remember remains to be seen.  I did learn that it was a myth that trilliums need acidic soil, there are one or two which do, but generally this isn’t the case. I still think trilliums are a bit tricky, I have a couple and only one flowers and in 5 years it has only bulked up to two flowers! I think I need to start mulching more with leaf mould etc. I overheard Keith telling someone that they mulch extensively in November so that seems to be the answer – worth a go anyway.

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After lunch we drove 20 minutes to the Ferguson’s home which is set down a narrow country road within sight of May Hill – a very pretty part of the world.  They have lived here nearly 20 years and worked hard to develop the garden.  Both Keith and Lorna are botanists and are real plants people.  Whenever there is a tricksy shrub that needs identifying at our group meetings it is them we look to and inevitably they know or can make a knowledgeable guess.

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I frequently visit gardens generally on my own, sometimes with a friend or two but this, and a visit with some of the same group last week, are the most enjoyable garden visits I have had for some time.  I think the secret lies in visiting with such knowledgeable plants people who are generous with their knowledge and not in a stuffy or superior way. We had a laugh and it is wonderful to hear a real hum of people talking about plants and indulging in their passion. 2015_05220069One half of the garden, in front of the house is more formal and is very bright being home to lots of wonderful colourful perennials and also the vegetable garden.  The other half of the garden (which altogether is around 2.5 acres) is the newer garden which is devoted to shade loving plants.  Here were clumps of trilliums which make my tiny specimen look even more pathetic. I enjoyed the planting style here as everything intermingles giving a wild appearance albeit managed.  I suspect William Robinson would have approved.  So many new plants to discover and learn about and at the same time familiar plants to see afresh and covert.  I was particularly taken with the Papaver orientale ‘May Queen’ which I have been promised a bit of, although it comes with a warning of being a thug!

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There were also plants that I doubt I will ever grow such as this Berberis jamesiana which Sally Gregson and I were completely bewitched by.  It is hard to propagate and given its size I suspect this is something I wouldn’t be able to grow unless I moved but still it is something to aspire to.

2015_05220092Whilst the reason for the visit was due to the HPS Shade and Woodland Group meeting what I really took away from the Ferguson’s garden was a wonderful demonstration of ‘right plant right place’.  Being botanists they understand what conditions each plant needs and the plants repay this care and attention by growing incredibly well.  It was a lovely afternoon.

An update on the Hardy Exotic Border

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As I have been weeding the Hardy Exotic Border this evening I thought I would give you an update.

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The border was first planted a year ago this month.  The premise is that it is an opportunity for me to indulge my love of foliage and to create a lush border to cover the slope.  Previously I had grown various flowering perennials on the slope but with the introduction of the shed I lost the sunny part of the slope and the area that remains was very shady.  The shade has reduced since I had the willow loped but there is still sufficient leaf coverage from the Prunus to provide the shade the plants need.

 

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The border looks a little scruffy due to the dying narcissus foliage.  I added some mixed narcissus bulbs this spring but I’m not sure that it really worked as when the bench is back in place you can’t see the narcissus.

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The observant of you will notice the increase in ferns over the last year.  I just can’t resist them and I am trying to learn how to identify them but it is a very steep learning curve.  The dark leaved plant in the front of the border above is Impatiens stenantha and is twice the size it was last year so much so that I have had to relocate an Epimedium that it has engulfed.

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The scent on the Buddleja salvifolia is already wonderful and the flowers haven’t quite opened fully.  There are only 3 flower heads this year but I am thrilled that there are lots of new shoots appearing and hopefully next year they will each have a flowerhead. Euphorbia stygiana has also started to throw up new shoots and I suspect will become a real thug in the not too distant future. I would like to try and propagate both of these plants so will have to do some research.

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From the very shady end of the slope and you can just spot the sprinkling of Arisaema consanguineum all of whose flowers seem to be facing up the slope.

I am pleased with the progress in just one year and although there is still quite a bit of bare soil I am going to stop adding now as I know the plants will soon fill out and cover the soil.

 

A Wise Man Said

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Recently a wise man reminded me that you don’t really appreciate things until you lose them or teeter on the edge of doing so.  That wise man was my eldest son and the thing I was considering losing was the garden.

I have been contemplating moving house over the last few weeks.  My youngest is buying his first home and helping him look at mortgages led to me investigating what I could borrow, which inevitably lead to some looking at property websites, and then to a valuation of the house.  We got as far as having an appointment set for last weekend for photographs to be taken and details put on the web.  However, whilst I was away in Rome I find myself thinking about the whole thing a lot and the persistent small voice of my instinct kept saying this was not a good decision right now.  My practical head argued that I was in a position to push myself up the property ladder and this was an investment for my retirement but still the voice of instinct niggled away causing doubt.  Finally, halfway up the M5 on the way home, I decided that the idea should be put on hold for the time being until my desire to move was stronger than just looking to improve my property investment.

On Saturday morning I stepped out into the garden and calm descended on my soul. My cricket like brain stopped jumping and the endless considerations of whether to buy a refurbishment project or a house already done, was there enough garden to satisfy me, was it overlooked, what about trees, what about slopes, how far from work was it, how far from Mum, what about when it snowed…stopped.  No actually they vanished and the garden and I became friends again;  like a pair of old friends reunited after some old disagreement the details of which neither could remember.

How, after all my work, especially in the last couple of years could I contemplate not waiting to see if my plans came to fruition? Would the Big Border finally have a sense of cohesion, would the Hardy Exotic Border look as lush as I imagined and would the tree peony ever flower?  We got to know each other again. I weeded and weeded.  I noted the gaps that needed filling and the odd plant that needed rescuing from being overwhelmed by its neighbours. Also the buds of poppies and irises mistreated over recent years but now forgiving me and offering a peace treaty, a floral supplication, not to be moved for a while.

We are friends again and I feel like a huge self imposed weight has come off me.  I really struggled while I was getting everything ready to put the house on the market with engaging with the garden.  I have become such an all or nothing character over the recent years that there seemed no point doing the garden, pricking out seeds, or buying anything at the Malvern Show and it made me so sad.  I really didn’t know what to do.  Now though I am back rushing outside after work and loving the garden.  There is still plenty of projects and plans that need completing or tweaking to keep me entertained for a few years yet.  Then maybe something will happen or come along that will mean that I have to accommodate less requirements when I move and the decision may seem more obvious and the wrench from the garden will not be so great.

Meanwhile the wise man nods knowingly and I find myself surprised at just how much the garden and some of the plants mean to me.

In a Vase on Monday – Granny’s Bonnets

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For this week’s vase I decided to feature aquilegias which as I said in my last post are a real favourite.  The aquilegias in the vase are the real Granny’s Bonnets, as in one of the common names for Aquilegia, as opposed to the long spurred aquilegias I showed in the GBBD post which I believe hail from the US.

But what foliage to use to show the flowers off?  I decided to go for some woodland plant foliage as after all aquilegias are woodland plants.  So in the vase with the Aquilegia is Bessia, Astible and Maianthemum. Finally to add a little height I added some sprigs of Tellima grandiflora; not a particularly interesting plant but the tiny pink tinged flowers work well with the pastels of the aquilegias.

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And the vase is the simple cheap glass one I have used before but I want to show case the delicate flowers.

For other Monday vases ramble over to Cathys at Rambling in the Garden

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May 2015

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Unusually for me I’m a day late with the GBBD post but I had a wonderful surprise on my return from Rome as the Alliums have just started to open their puff-ball flowers and there are a whole array of them dancing above the prostrate rosemary.

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Allium cameleon (above) is a new addition this year and I rather like the pink tones of the buds and newly open florets which then go whiter.  Its a very pretty flower.

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Alliums aside May is the month of the Aquilegia in my garden.  I have loved Aquilegias for years and have a growing range of plants.  I prefer the ones with larger flowers to the more, shall we say dumpy, flowers which I think are related to our native Columbine.  I am rather taken with the second and last of the four above, both in their first year of flower so it was a nice surprise to see what the flowers looked like. 2015_05150041However, I have a special soft spot for Aquilegia canadensis (above).  I adore the vibrancy of the flower but it is also one of the first species Aquilegias I grew from seed and was the start of a quiet fascination.

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Orange seems to be making more of an appearance in my garden than at this time in previous years.  Both Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ and Lathyrus aureus were bought last year.  I like the contrast with the purples which seem to be the prevailing colour in the garden at the moment and I think small dots of orange, especially from the geum flowers which have a habit of nodding above other plants on long stems really add some zing to the border.

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Talking of purple one of the first plants I sought out on my return yesterday was the Buddleja salvifolia.  I have been waiting for it to flower for weeks.  Another new purchase last year it is just heavenly, the leaves are wonderfully soft a bit like Stachys byzantina and the scent is wonderful.

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Umbellifers seem to be creeping into my garden more and more.  I have started to appreciate the added texture their frothy flowers bring.  At the moment this is from Sweet Cicely (bottom) and Chaeropjyllum hirsutum roseum (top).

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In startling contrast we have Arisaema consangineum (I think) which I grew from seed many years ago and seems to really like its new location on the slope.  As ever in my garden the flowers are pointing in the opposite direction to I had planned but I learnt the other day that you can rotate the bulb to put the flower in the right place and the plant will stay like that, the flower doesn’t grow towards the sun like other plants so I might give that a go.

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And finally we have the wonderful Lamprocapbos spectablis ‘Valentine’ which is a real show stopper.  There are other flowers in the garden, the geraniums are just starting to open as are the irises but these are the plants that are flowering their  best today.

For more Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit Carol at May Dreams

 

Book Review: The Splendour of the Tree

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I am catching up on some book reviews and wanted to share The Splendour of the Tree by Noel Kingsbury with you.  I had anticipated that it would be a book showing various trees, conditions needed, maybe a diagram of their eventual shape, a few photos of fruit, leaves and bark.  However, if I had looked properly I would have noticed the tag line (is that the right term?) – ‘An illustrated history’ and I wouldn’t have been so surprised when I opened the book.

The book is split into a number of sections in which the various trees are grouped: antiquity, ecology, sacred, utility, food and ornament.  Each tree has at least two pages, some a few more.  The narrative commences with a very brief list of facts including the geographical origin of the tree, a brief description, its size, potential age and climate. Then Noel Kingsbury goes on to tell us about the tree and without fail each short essay is full of interesting information and facts which make you sit up and take notice.

For example when reading about the English Elm (Ulmus procera) I learnt that the reason Dutch Elm Disease was so destructive is because without fail all English Elms are the same clone so there is no variation or mutation which can combat the disease.  The Araucaria araucana or Monkey Puzzle is so called because it is a puzzle how monkeys would climb it or even eat it; its French name desespoir des singes translates to monkey’s despair which I prefer! The Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum) is not called this because Judas hung himself from one, after betraying Christ (the branches are too brittle and the trees dont grow tall enough); instead it is named after Judaea, a region of Israel and Palestine, from where the tree originates.

Kingsbury’s writing is accessible and informative without feeling like you are being talked at or taught.  He not only tells us about the use of the various trees, where they originate from and some interesting information but also in many cases he relates them to the humans that live with the various species such as the people in South East Asia who plant out seedlings of Teak (Tectona grandis) in order to maintain the supply of this tree which is so important to their economy. As Kingsbury says in the introduction the involvement of man in the history of the trees came up again and again when he was researching the book whether it was in terms of destruction or the trees ability to grow where they are not wanted – such as the Australian eucalyptus growing in the high plains of Bolivia.

The narrative is accompanied by wonderful photographs by Andrea Jones but unusually for many books of this size (typical coffee table book size) the narrative, in my view, takes precedence over the photographs rather than accompanying them.

Not only will you learn all sorts of things about your favourite trees but you will learn about trees you have never heard of.  I am passing this book, The Splendour of the Tree, onto my eldest son, the cabinet maker, who is passionate about wood and will I know love it.