My Garden This Weekend – 16/2/15


I am still aching from my gardening session yesterday which shows either just how unfit I have got over the winter or that I took on more than I should have.  It doesn’t matter though because despite the aches I am really pleased with what I achieved and it certainly clears your head and recharges you mentally before another week at work.


Not the most prepossessing photo but it signifies a good couple of hours work and much hauling of heavy and awkward objects.  This is the space that was formally occupied by the Stipa gigantea and I was intent on improving the soil so I could plant out at least one of my new peonies.  Having dug up the couple of bearded irises which had disappeared under the skirt of the grass and hadn’t flowered for years I added a bag of gravel and some sand to improve the drainage and break up the residual clay.  This was then topped off with three bags of green waste compost from the local council which is like black gold. The initial planting has been done although its hardly obviously but I am assure you that a Peony Immaculata, Agapanthus ‘Alan Street’, Agapanthus ardernei hybrid and the original irises have all been planted.  The Agapanthus had been growing in pots on the patio and overwintering in the garage.  However I read somewhere that deciduous Agapanthus are generally hardy so I have taken a gamble and planted them out – fingers crossed.  I now need to think about what additional planting is needed to fill in.  I am thinking of Aquilegias as I have a number of plants to plant out but I also need something for late summer but without strappy leaves.


Before I added the compost etc to the border above I took a soil sample so I could test the PH.  Now I know it is basic horticultural practice, what you could term gardening 101, but I realised the other day that I had never tested the soil in my garden.  I planted a rhododendron from my last garden when we moved in and as it has done alright I had assumed the soil was acidic. My neighbour has a wonderful Pieris (top pic) in his garden which grows over my fence and is healthy and floriferous so knowing Pieris need acidic soil I don’t think my assumption was too daft.  So I was completely flummoxed when the test showed the soil was alkaline (7.5).  This is Ok for the bearded iris and means I don’t need to add lime to the soil but it got me wondering about the rest of the garden and the two rhododendrons I had recently bought.  Three further tests later from different parts of the garden and the conclusion seems to be that the soil is alkaline this would explain why eranthis do so well in my garden but I am still perplexed as to why the Pieris looks so good and what to do with the two new rhododendrons!

2015_02160018Of course the obvious thing to do having spent a couple of hours digging and lugging heavy things is to empty a small greenhouse of the pots of bulbs (heavy with gravel), remove the overwintering tender plants from the garage and generally re-organise the whole lot.   As I have been indecisive over the last 6 months or so I have gone off the idea of showing plants as I just do not have the time to ensure they are up to standard and I don’t need any more pressure or stress in my life at the moment as there is enough in my working life.  This being so I decided that I really didn’t need to keep the pots of bulbs in the greenhouse especially as the likelihood of sustained long temperatures was past.  I do like seeing the pots of alpines and bulbs in alpine houses but I have discovered that I get more of a feel good factor from a collection of tender plants and I was missing mine which had been banished to the garage.


The view above makes me much happier.  I have still got some pots of bulbs in the greenhouse including some S. African ones which won’t do well outside and the Narcissus bulbocodium whose hardiness I’m not sure on and need to research.  As the bulbs go over they will be moved to under the staging to dry out and rest.  I will have to rejig things at some point in order to accommodate the hall hardy annuals I want to sow but I am OK for time at the moment.

As you can imagine after all that labouring I was quite exhausted but I was thrilled at what I had achieved.  I have no plans at all for next weekend so weather permitting I will have two days to garden and hopefully the other two peonies will be planted.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Lots of hard work. do you need any more plants in your triangle? Seem quite a lot when they fill out> Still nice and hot. Had two ‘spins’ in my boyfriend’s CX 150 1958 gorgeous red Jag that he has been restoring for 20 years! Still a few jobs on it as seems to be the case with Classic cars. My small poodle/bischon dog squeshes in behind my seat, air but not too keen. Manual steering and doule the clutch like the olden days – fun!

  2. Brian Skeys says:

    I really should test our soil Helen. We have Rhododendrons, Pieris and Magnolia which do very well and a Camellia whose leaves have turned yellow over the last two years despite feeding it Ericaceous fertiliser!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Brian
      I have one camellia with glossy green leaves and one with more yellowish leaves and they are next to each other! I do wonder if plants need for acidic soil is overplayed and whether some varieties are less dependent.

  3. sueturner31 says:

    I too decided last autumn to plant outside some deciduous aggies, I have given them a good mulch so hopefully they will come through unscathed. I got so fed up with lugging huge pots into the shed every winter. They have two chances…..

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Sue
      I have one which was planted out more by accident than design a few years back and it has come back year on year but no flowers. It was very immature when it was planted. These two have big root balls so I am hopeful that they might flower

  4. alison says:

    An inspiring blog, Helen. No wonder you feel pleased, you’ve put in a huge amount of work! I’ve never tested the soil here but our one Camellia and one Rhodi seem to do very well so guess we are doing something right. The weather here (Warwick) was dire over the weekend (or seemed particularly so as I’ve just returned from 3 weeks of glorious weather in NZ) so I haven’t done a thing in the garden yet. But you’ve certainly inspired me to get out there and start!

    1. Yvonne Ryan says:

      Hi Alison – Still lovely weather in Auckland – 26 degrees today, pool 26.5! Lovely starry night and 19degrees! Garden need lots of watering tho’! – one acre of concrete/clay! Nearly lost a few of the ‘bird bush’ plants as not enough watering!

    2. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi ALison
      Its strange as my rhodi and a camellia are doing well but it makes you start to wonder. I think I will pot upmy new rhodies and see how they do

  5. Chloris says:

    What a great job done. We have been so lucky with the weather, it has been wonderful to get outside and get on with projects.
    You have so many intriguing looking pots, I am looking forward to seeing what you have in them. I love your little pot of Narcissus, which one is it? It looks a bit like the lovely ‘ Spoirot’.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Chloris
      It definately not Spoirot as I know I dont have that. I think it is a numbered one but I will try and remember to have a look and let you know.

  6. rusty duck says:

    I can vouch for Agapanthus being hardy. I left mine in the ground this winter and dumped a few inches of bark on top to be safe. I was absolutely amazed last week to see new shoots already poking through.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Jessica
      I have quite a few border line plants in the garden which I heavily mulch, no doubt we will have a hard winter soon and I will loose them but there are only so many pots a girl can overwinter without a large greenhouse to accommodate them 🙂

  7. alison says:

    Very cheeky I know but can’t resist a quick response to Yvonne (Ryan) as it’s Auckland from which I have just returned!
    However, perhaps more to the point, I spent a couple of hours in the garden this morning (I said I was inspired by your blog, Helen) and was thrilled to ‘uncover’ lots of green shoots of sturdy little bulbs pushing through the soil. I feel my gardening year is truly underway now.

  8. It just goes to show that even with the scientific method, gardening can always throw up surprises!

  9. Joe Owens says:

    Hi Helen. I so enjoyed visiting this particular post. right now all I have to look at is piles of snow outside my door. Thankfully I have the Amaryllis, African Violets and orchids blooming inside to take my mind away to happier and more colorful days. Your post has aided that as well. Now i want to go plant something!!!!

  10. Love the look of your greenhouse post tidy up Helen!

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.

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