End of Month View – March 2015

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Well March has been a blustery month from start to finish and last night was the worst for some time.  Whilst the temperatures haven’t been particularly low for the time of year I think we have been lacking in sunshine and many of the plants are behind last year.  As I am on annual leave this week I was thrilled yesterday that the forecast was wrong and we had a lovely sunny day, the calm before the storm.  I spent most of the time weeding and sorting the border on the right of the picture.  I really need to come up with a name for it.  It generally gets called the border formerly known as the Bog Garden but that makes it sound like an egomaniac pop star.  It might get changed to the cherry border or the sorbus border as these are the two main plants in it.

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The cherry is Prunus kojo-no-mai which is a real gem and constantly earns its place in the garden with wonderful wonky branches in the winter, spring blossom and good autumn foliage.  I have added some Iris sibirica to the border which I grew from seed so I am hoping that these will establish.  I had planned to paint/stain the shed this week but I am still dithering about the colour.  My sons won’t engage in the conversation any more as they are bored with it.  When it was first put in two years ago I had just come back from San Francisco where I saw lots of bright and strong colours on the wood facias of houses.  I had thought for the last two years while the green wood dried out that I would stain it virtually black with orange accents.  Then recently it changed to sage green accents to tie in with the back door.  But the more I look at it from the house the more worried I become that as it is of a significant size in the garden that if I paint it very dark it will leap out more and push forward into the view rather than recede which is what I want.  I like the way the door has mellowed to an almost silver colour.  I have toyed with leaving it but it does need some treatment to protect the wood.  The current thinking is a pale sage green for the body of the shed with cream or very pale green accents. Or maybe I should try to find a very pale wood stain. Even I am sick of the subject.

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I spent a ridiculous amount of time yesterday pulling up sycamore seedlings.  I have never known a spring like it.  We always have a few from sycamore in next door’s garden but this year it is like a plague, they are everywhere.  Anyway, the one good thing is that while you are focussing on pulling up the pesky seedlings you spot all sorts of plants beginning to emerge – Dicentra, hostas, epimedium flowers, fern fronds and other woodland treats.

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I think in the next month the Woodland Border will really fill out with plants and colour.  I am waiting to see what appears where as I have lost my bearings along with the dead Acer.  I have decided that I will add lots of early spring bulbs and hellebores to this area as it just so bare.  I need to divide a load of snowdrops so those can go in here and I will have to mark out spots for hellebores before everything disappears underground at the end of the year so I know where to plant them next February/March.  I know I could plant some now but I have already invested in a number of new hellebores this year so it will wait a year.

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The other end of the woodland border looking a little fuller but it needs a quick weed as the dreaded sycamore seedlings are popping up left, right and centre.  I am on hosta watch as I have a large hosta in here somewhere which I want to move but I need it to put its head above the ground first.

So that is my garden at the end of March 2015 showing lots of promise and if I am honest I am rather pleased with it as I think it is looking the best it has ever looked in March.

Everyone is welcome to join in with the End of Month View and you can use it how you wish.  You can show the same area month on month or give a tour or show us the areas that you are most pleased with.  All I ask is that you include a link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below.

 

In a Vase on Monday – Never Work With Animals

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The theme for my vase this week is red.  I wanted to use some of the Euphorbia characias ‘White Swan’ as I love the flower heads.  They have red eyes on each of the flowers, you have to trust me on this one.  Anyway, I have been pondering how to use them on and off all week and decided that the red Polyanthus would pick up the colour really well.

Next puzzle, and I have quickly learnt from other people’s Monday Vase posts that this is as important as the plant material, what vase/container to use.  I remembered a small glazed pot that I bought in Barcelona a few years back which was just the right shade for the polyanthus.  Relocating the vase I discovered it was full of small tissue packets of seed collected on holiday last summer in the Italian lakes.

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The vase is quite wide so I added some prunings of new rose shoots as a framework and I thought the colour of the new shoots worked well with the red theme.  Having photographed my vase outside last week I decided to continue this idea however my furry friend had other ideas.

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As they say never work with children and animals.  How the vase didn’t get knocked over I have no idea.

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So here is the finished vase and you can only just see the vase.  I must work on photographing my ‘creations’ better.  I have to admit that when I cut the Euphorbia (taking great care not to get any sap on my skin) I realised that the flowers were on the wane and you couldn’t see the red centres but never mind I think it looks quite pretty.

For more Monday vases visit Cathy over at Rambling in the Garden and check out the comments box

My Garden This Weekend – 29th March 2015

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My garden this weekend is soggy and blustery which is fine as I have the start of a cold and as I have next week off as annual leave I have decided to give in to the cold in the hope that it goes quickly.

So there has been no gardening – instead there has been photography as I have a new camera which I am surprisingly thrilled with.  I broke my beloved original Fujifilm camera two years ago replacing it with another Fujifilm point and click which was good but has broken twice now and I never really thought the close ups were as good as the old camera.  Anyway, when the camera refused to hold a charge last week despite trying numerous different batteries and chargers I decided to start again.  As ever with anything technical as soon as I start researching the options my brain goes blank just as it used to when I was at school learning fractions.  There is too much choice and I don’t understand all the technical camera jargon; well I understand it for about 5 minutes and

Primula denticulata

Primula denticulata

then it leaves my brain.  I looked at SLRs – don’t want to be lugging one around, I looked at bridge cameras – again they are cumbersome and don’t fit in a bag easily.  I tried to find my original camera no joy. Fed up! I then remembered that when I bought the last camera the guy in PC World had explained to me that all the zoom information was irrelevant if I wanted to do close ups – a step forward.  After reading a few more reviews I decided to buy another Fujifilm but to go for a cheap option with a view to researching something better for the summer.  I can’t cope without a camera available, more so than not having access to the internet so a quick purchase was needed.  I bought a Fujifilm FinePix T500 which is the smallest camera I have ever had and it really is simple – there is a zoom and a macro feature and that is more or less it.  However, this post shows the quality of the photos and I think it is pretty good.  The next challenge will be to see how it does when I go to Rome in May.

Narcissus 'Beryl'

Narcissus ‘Beryl’

Yesterday was the monthly meeting of the HPS Western Counties group, my favourite garden club.  Needless to say there were a few plant purchases but I was surprised to only find one Epimedium for sale despite the number of plants people selling.  Epimedium ‘Black Sea’ came home with me as well as Mertensia virginica, Iris dardanus, Geranium ‘Johnston’s Blue’, Muscari ‘Jenny Robinson’, an Anemone nemorsa, and a herbaceous Clematis.

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The morning discussion is always the best part of the day and it was interesting to hear others views of soil test kits.  The general consensus was that the ones you can buy in garden centres weren’t that reliable and it is more important to see what is growing well around your garden so I am less worried about finding I have alkaline soil having just bought two rhododendrons!  In the afternoon we had a talk from Leila Jackson of T3 nurseries on ornamental legumes which was interesting and a few new to me were noted to investigate.

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Today between the showers I took advantage of a sunny moment to try out the camera and see what had emerged over the last week.  It was very satisfying to find Trillium grandiflorum appearing above ground.  I purchased it over the winter, potting up the corm which had just started to show signs of life when I planted it out a few weeks back.  I did spend some time improving the soil here adding lost of home made compost and wood chips so hopefully it will like its new home and flower next year as well as this year.

Soldanella alpina

Soldanella alpina

I got ridiculously excited when I found Soldanella alpina flowering in the cold frame.  A week ago there was no sign of any flower buds and with one thing and another I haven’t opened the cold frame all week so this was a complete surprise.  I suspect the cold frame has warmed up during the sunny spells which has brought on the flowers.  The reason for my excitement is that I bought this plant, in flower, some 3 years ago and it has never flowered for me since.  This autumn I re-potted it adding fertiliser and I applied slug pellets and gravel around the base to prevent the molluscs eating the flower buds before they had a chance to appear – it seems to have worked.

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In the greenhouse and the propagator indoors the seeds sown a couple of weeks ago are germinating and hopefully this week I will be pricking some of them out.  I will need to rejig the greenhouse yet again to make room for the seedlings and more pots of seeds that I want to sow this week.  I am slowly but surely emptying out the cold frames of plant purchases yet unplanted, with the intention of finding them all homes, and last year’s perennial seedlings.  My biggest thrill are four Meconopsis hensol violet seedlings from last year which have reappeared and I hope will flower this year once I have planted them out.

For the rest of today I am sitting on the sofa looking at the garden which I am rather pleased with and doing embroidery – well there is more to my interests than plans, honest!

Book Review: The Plant Lovers Guide to Epimediums

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I adore Epimediums.  If there was a plant that I might collect it would be these so when I was asked by Timberpress if I would like to review Sally Gregson’s new book The Plant Lover’s Guide to Epimediums I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

I met Sally some years ago when I spent a day at her home learning about plant propagation so I knew she was a good plantswoman but I didn’t know she was a fan of epimediums like me.  Well not like me as she has been researching and collecting them for a number of years now whilst I only really discovered them two years ago.  The book opens with an introduction in which Sally shares her passion for this dainty plant and explains how she discovered the wealth of new varieties that have become available particularly since the Chinese varieties were introduced.  In her view Epimediums are about to take the gardening world by storm. They are already popular with some designers like Dan Pearson who recognise that the plants are excellent for providing ground cover even in tough dry shade whilst at the same time providing interesting foliage with the added bonus of flowers in the early spring. And what flowers.  If you look at one of the newer Chinese species such as Epimedium ‘Egret’ the flowers can be the size of a 10p and they hang from long arching stems just like a fine fishing rod.

Anyway enough of my obsession and back to the book.  Essentially it follows a similar style to the other titles in this series.  Firstly you have a section in which Sally describes different groups of epimediums so ones for good ground cover, ones for acid soil, with small flowers, large flowers, good autumn foliage.  She talks about what plants they associate well with and how to create a woodland setting particularly to show off the plants off well.

Then the main bulk of the book is an alphabetical reference of 123 varieties which are easy(ish) to come by in the UK and USA.  I say easyish as I was particularly struck by Epimedium acuminatum ‘Night Mistress’ and I have yet to source one.  Each description is over one or two pages per variety and has a good size colour photograph, the background of the plant ie: where it was found or who bred it, and a description of the plant and its preferred conditions. 123 varieties! And I thought I had a good range with 12!

The next section is on Growing and Propagating including improving the soil, all epimediums even the drought tolerant ones need improved soil, how to plant, how to maintain the plants, even how to grow them in pots and containers, which hadn’t occurred to me, propagating by seed and division.  We also have the obligatory section on pests and diseases which seem to be mainly limited to vine weevils and rabbits.

Finally, in  my favourite section Sally talks about the history of epimediums, how the Japanese and then the Chinese varieties were introduced into the West and the future of hybridising.  We finish with an introduction to the various plants men and women around the world who are breeding new varieties and, for me, some new nurseries to seek out.

I can see this book becoming a bible for me.  I have already made a list of the varieties I have in the garden, well the ones that I still have labels for, and I will be reading up on them to learn more. But what I really like about this book is that it is clear that Sally is passionate about epimediums.  You can always tell when the writer knows their subject or when they have just done a bit of research before hitting the keyboard and Sally is definitely in the first category.

I suspect that the lovers of epimediums are currently few but if you like woodland or shade plants or are into foliage then you really should consider looking at this book as I am sure you will be stunned at the variety of epimediums available both in flower and foliage colour, shape and size.

In a Vase on Monday – Floating Saucers

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Well here I am again for the second time featuring a vase on Monday – well to be a pedantic its a dish.  As I am joining in with Cathy’s weekly meme I thought I would follow her novel approach and instead of showing my vase on the modern fireplace I have or on the dull coffee table I would go outside.  So here you have a dish of floating hellebore flowers.  In my head the dish was much larger. I am sure it has shrunk over the years in the back of the cupboard. So I couldn’t use all the hellebore I had picked.  The intention was to include one from each variety I have.

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So here are my favourites and prettiest hellebores.  Starting top left we have Hellebore niger which has been flowering since before Christmas, then an unknown dark hellebore (the subject of the watercolour painting I didn’t finish) , Hellebore Ashwood Neon Star,  Hellebore Ashwood Yellow, Hellebore (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) Anna’s Red, unknown  Hellebore seedling (in centre).  In case you are wondering Ashwoods Nursery isn’t far from me!

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I think next year I will have to acquire  a larger dish as I do like displaying hellebores this way. I wonder what other flowers display well like this – any ideas?

For more Vases (or other receptacles) on Monday posts visit Cathy and check out the comments box.