My Garden This Weekend – 8/2/15


After what has felt like interminable cold and greyness this weekend the sun shone and the wind disappeared.  It was warm enough to spend half an hour sitting on the bench looking at the garden, taking in all the new growth pushing through the soil and thinking about winter plans and schemes.  You realise that some of the plans are not that realistic, some could be more ambitious and others you just need to get on with.


I have been out of love with the Stipa gigantea for some years now but I kept making excuses for it as sometimes when the Autumn sun shone it could look magical.  However, since we got the cat it has suffered.  She has a predilection for attacking it; performing rugby tackles that I am sure any international rugby player would be proud of and so come the Autumn there are few flower heads on display for the sun to shine through.  This is also one of the sunniest and well-drained parts of the garden, ideal conditions for bearded irises which were my first plant love right back to my teens.  I took a deep breath and prepared myself for a battle.  5 minutes later the plant was surprisingly out of the ground with little effort at all from me.  I do wonder if I was blaming the cat too much and maybe the grass was coming to the end of its life anyway since the root system was not that great considering the size of the plant.  Its removal has left me with a lovely new patch beside the steps ready for planting.  It needs some enrichment with compost as the soil looks dry and exhausted, but then I will add some bearded irises and Agapanthus.  The space is larger than I had envisaged so I will have to extend my plans.


Feeling pleased I also moved the Cotinus further down the Big Border.  I have wanted to move it all winter, only by a few feet but its new position is better and just looks right compared to where it was before.  I also gave it a light prune to try to give it a better shape.  Sunday has been an even more glorious February day so next up was the great Clematis shuffle.  I only have a few clematis although I love them.  I think I am frightened of them engulfing plants or disappearing over the fence to delight my neighbours and not me.  I have started to introduce them hesitatingly but with little understanding.  The first to move is Clematis mandschurica which I grew from seed some 4 years ago.  It was growing up a small obelisk in the Rose Border but I want to give it more space so it has been moved to be trained along the fence by the conifers.  The small obelisk is now home to a blue flowered clematis whose label I can’t find at the moment but it seems to be a less vigorous plant so the obelisk should be a good size for it.  Finally Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ which used to grow up an obelisk by the greenhouse was moved from the shady patio border to the big obelisk up by the Workshop.  Hopefully here it will have plenty of space and the warmth will encourage it to flower better.


I also planted out three Hepatica noblis bought from Ashwoods just to the right of this photo in the conifer corner.  This part of the garden has been a struggle for some time as it is under the Field Maple tree so it’s very hard to get things into the soil due to the trees roots.  Two winters ago I added three small conifers which are very slow-growing with the intention that they would provide ground cover.  They are interplanted with various small bulbs including last year’s special snowdrop and eranthis purchases. I was thrilled when I was tidying along the edge of the steps to discover some cyclamen had self-seeded so hopefully in a year of two they will be spreading around.

Eranthis hyemalis Grunling
Eranthis hyemalis Grunling

The sun has led the eranthis to finally open their flowers including the pretty Eranthis hyemalis Grunling with its green flecks to the petals.  Two of my other Eranthis hyemalis plants are showing signs of self-seeding and spreading which is really satisfying.

The more pottering I did the more jobs occurred to me.  Some ferns and acanthus had their tattered leaves removed. I sowed some Barnhaven Primula seeds and potted up a clutch of Auricula seedlings.  The patio was swept and leaf debris removed. The stash of last year’s purchases squirreled away in the shade of the house wall were checked over so I could remind myself what plants needed homes.  I did a bit of arranging of pots, not my strong point, and collected up this year’s snowdrop purchases into one large pot so they produce a jolly display outside the living room window.  When they have flowered I will plant them out in the borders.


I do think you notice more at this time of year probably because you are looking for any signs of Spring and growth.  Today, I was pleased to see shoots forming on the stem of the Euphorbia stygiana in the Hardy Exotic border.  Just as exciting was to see the colouration of the lower leaves as I was drawn to the plant having seen one at a nursery last April which vibrant red lower leaves.  Also in this border daffodils are emerging and should be interesting as I have no idea which ones they are.  I wanted some spring colour here to enjoy from the bench so I bought a mix of daffodil bulbs from  a bulb merchant and we shall wait and see.

The list of tasks for next weekend, weather permitting, is already forming in my mind and I am researching plants for the various plans I have.  I am going to a talk by Anna Pavord next Saturday so no doubt I will come back from that with more enthusiasm and ideas.  It is nice to feel so positive about the garden having gone through a bit of a trough and feeling as though I have lost my way.  It’s funny how suddenly conversations with gardening friends, a book to review and a few gardening programmes have come together and a light bulb moment has occurred.  I just need to work hard to create the ideas in my head now.



29 Comments Add yours

  1. upsidediy says:

    Your Eranthis Hyemalis are beautiful. The yellow is precious. My daffodils are popping up everywhere….just the leaves, but the excitement of the blossoms I can hardly contain myself! Oh and you aren’t talking to yourself! 😀 Hello I’m here too! Teehee 😀

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Upsidediy
      Welcome. I love the expectation of spring, its my favourite season

  2. Christina says:

    We finally worked on the garden today, I’ll be sore tomorrow! My daffodils have foliage now, my first time to see them in bloom : )

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Christina
      I really ached on Monday after gardening at the weekend, I am so out of shape

    2. Christina says:

      Same here! I decided all winter, eh i’ll workout spring-fall when we’re back in the yard 😉

  3. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Glad you do use your seat – even if still cold Our hot dry spell broken, pool now only 24 so cloudy – hope more sun to warm up again! I loved being hot and sweaty and being able to cool off under a cool shower or pool. As you probably know NZ’rs are keen coffee drinkers and local cafes have bags of coffee grounds each day. I have been collecting lots from “Local” – Auckland Regional Champion Cafe – so need to spread on garden – concrete clay – and also add to compost heaps.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Yvonne
      I havent tried using coffee grounds. Do they make a good mulch? I have heard they are good for keeping slugs at bay but I dont know if you have slugs in NZ

  4. Tina says:

    That happens to me too–I get into a rut, feel like I’m stuck with the same boring plants, then have a conversation with a gardener (or, read a blog!) and WHAM! I’m full of ideas.

    Glad I’m not too weird.

    Oh, and it’s perfectly okay to blame the cat.

    1. In Australia, we blame the possums for everything. I thought perhaps it was just an Aussie thing; glad it’s not! (In fact, thinking back, I used to blame the squirrels when I lived in England – but then they did dig up every single bulb I planted!).

    2. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Janna
      I also blame a badger for digging up tulip bulbs. I cant blame the mice or squirrels much now as the cat does earn her keep with keeping them at bay.

    3. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Tina
      Oh that has made me feel better to know that Im not the only one either.

  5. Anna says:

    I chuckled at the thought of your cat rugby tackling the stipa but can see the attraction. My stipa is at the allotment but looked rather sad for itself last year. How wonderful to be able to sit out in the sun for half an hour and ponder. We woke up to fog yesterday which lingered until lunch time before giving way to a cold grey afternoon. Do you know of any pale yellow eranthis Helen? If so I could be tempted 🙂

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Anna
      There is a pale yellow one called eranthis schwefelglanz – Avon Bulbs sell it.
      If you look back probably to last week there is a photo on my blog


  6. It seems to me that gardening is a long process of shifting things and finding where they are happiest..

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Rachel

      Well it is for me. I think when you understand the plants better and know what conditions they need it is simpler but I have a habit of buying plants I know nothing about and I never find the information on them in books or on the internet very helpful so shifting occurs. I have been asked if my plants have wheels on them!!

  7. Andrew says:

    Helen – in case you wanted to bulk up your snowdrops and acontes, you can buy them ‘in the green’ from Eurobulbs (at very reasonable prices).
    To add my thoughts on eranthis ‘Schwefelglanz’ – don’t plant it with the ordinary yellow version as they make the colour look muddy.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Andrew
      I have kept the 3 types of eranthis very separate so they dont muddy each other thanks for the tip though

  8. rusty duck says:

    Love the photo of the bed in front of the workshop with the different spring bulbs coming up. I’ve only grown Stipa gigantea once, not here, and as soon as it started to develop the lovely seedheads a cow stuck its head over the fence and gobbled the lot.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi RD
      so glad I’m not the only one who has struggled with Stipa gigantea. Mine did look good once, pre cat days

  9. Chloris says:

    It is this time of the year; we get a sunny day like yesterday and Spring seems to be round the corner. Everything is waking up. What a lot you got done, how satisfying. I love your Eranthis Grunling. I have only got hyemalis, I am clearly going to have to do something about that. Have you got Orange Glow? I have rather fallen for that too.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Chloris
      I havent got Orange Glow as I’m not that keen on it preferring the more yellow ones. I spotted some white ones on a website but I havent yet found a source for them.

  10. bittster says:

    Your stipa story gave me a nice chuckle. This plant has been on my want list for a few seasons now so I suppose I’ll need to check in with the local cats once before committing!
    The pot filled with your new snowdrops sounds like a fantastic thing to see each day out the window. Something nice for those days when bench sitting isn’t in the plan.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Frank
      I do try to have some spring interest outside the living room window at this time of year for cold grey days, it makes such a difference

  11. How exciting to find the cyclamen seeded in the garden. Here, we mulch heavily for our hot summers and, thus, rarely have seedlings, with the exception of hellebores which can’t be stopped. I think you made a good trade, ousting the Stipa for bearded irises. Stay focused and carry on!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Marian
      I dont tend to mulch until Spring to keep in the winter moisture so I think that helps plus these had seeded into the gravel steps.

  12. I love grasses, Helen, and fondly imagine they will provide needed winter interest. This year, however, they look decidedly scruffy above the foot of snow that still covers the garden. I can’t wait to spring to cut them down — not having a rugby playing cat to help me! How delightful to stroll around your garden that shows all the promise of spring. P. x

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Pam
      I have to admit being less keen on grasses than I used to be. Partly because the cat attacks them or chews them but also they never look that great in my garden.

  13. Lea says:

    Lovely to see the first flowers of Spring!
    I’ve had daffodils coming up for several weeks. Then they just stopped and sat there with buds that seemed reluctant to open. Finally today, the first bloom!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      hi Lea
      I expect the temperatures dropped or they were waiting for the sun to shine and warm them up. Enjoy

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s