Notes from the Garden – 24/4/16 – Bye bye lawn

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So this was the front garden this morning.  Regular readers will know that I have been procrastinating for some time, maybe years, about the front garden and getting rid of the lawn.  I decided this year that it would go but instead of embracing it head on earlier in the year I have occupied myself with various other ‘essential’ tasks in the main garden.  I suspect there was a small voice questioning whether I was making the right decision, and then there was all the work that would be involved lifting the turf and getting rid of it and really can I keep on top of the main garden so why do I want to make the front garden more work! However, the patio has been filling up with pots of plants for the front garden in anticipation of its make-over so either I donate them all to local plant fairs or I just get on with it.

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Anyway I have completed all the jobs I had come up with that had to be done before I tackled the front garden and set my mind to starting work today.  I have to admit that it was tough going especially as the turf needed to go to the far corner of the main garden up a considerable slope with two sets of steps and a garage in between.  Luckily my youngest son popped round to help and my eldest joined in for the afternoon so between us we started to get a system going between us.  We managed between us to lift about half of the lawn which is a good start and means that I can start to dig over the soil and add some compost.  I have a couple of shrubs that I really want to get in the ground asap so that is the first priority.  And the reason my final niggle was put to bed is because Noel Kingsbury, who visited yesterday with his wife Jo, within a very short time made the observation that the front garden just isn’t me – which I think is what I have been trying to say for a while.

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Now, what to do with the turf?  Yes, I should stack it neatly to rot down and make wonderful potting compost but I don’t really have space for a stacked lawn.  Some of the mossy crumbly bits were placed on top of one of the compost bins to slowly rot down.  Then in a demonstration of how not to lay turf I have started to turf the area in front of the compost bins – creating what my youngest has decided to call Hobbitland!  It has a 50:50 chance; if the turf takes then it will stabilise the slope but if it doesn’t take then so be it.  Even more amusing to my sons was that I turfed around the plants that have self-seeded on the slope – as I said a lesson in how not to turf!!  If it takes then we will keep it in check with a strimmer but the intention is that it will be more wild than tidy and I would love to add crocus and other bulbs and maybe plant some primulas amongst the turf.  There will be more turf to add when we lift the rest of the lawn and it needs tidying up once we have assessed whether it has taken or not – in the meantime the blackbirds are having a lovely evening looking for worms in the sodden turf and I am feeling very pleased.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Your Majesty – From Malvern

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Today is our Queen’s 90th birthday, Happy Birthday Ma’am, and as part of the celebration there have been beacons lit across the country including on Worcestershire Beacon in the Malvern Hills which I live on the lower slopes of.

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The lighting of beacons, although historic, seems to have risen in popularity since the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.  Malvern went the old-fashioned approach then with a large bonfire which was quite wonderful. Sadly the approach seems to have moved towards gas beacons, probably due to health and safety, and the some of that primeval magic has been lost.  However, there is still something very special in seeing people making their way up the Beacon, the highest point in the Hills at 425m, and coming together to mark a special occasion.

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As 8:30 approached people started moving towards the beacon, a lady sang Land of Hope and Glory and a speech was made by the Lord Lieutenant before the beacon was lit.  We sang the national anthem and Happy Birthday, dogs barked and mobile devices were held aloft in an attempt to take a photo.

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It was a lovely way to spend the evening with my sons and their friends, bumping into people we know.  And as an added bonus I can cross off the Worcestershire Beacon from my Malvern Hills Challenge, especially as we took one of the harder routes up the hill.

Back to Basics

Pots of blue and lilac primulas

Pots of blue and lilac primulas

I have a habit these days of trying to catch up with garden magazines over a cup of tea in bed on a Sunday morning. This morning, for the first time in years, I had a copy of the Gardeners World magazine to read.  I have shunned the magazine as being full of the basics and instead have chosen to read other horticultural magazines such as the English Garden and Gardens Illustrated but over the last 6 months or so I have found myself flicking through them looking for something to engage with; they are full of amazing gardens but with little of the horticultural detail I have sought. I think my struggle to find the right sort of horticultural literature is indicative of the changes in my approach to my garden and horticulture which has crept up on me over the last year.

For some years now I have charged around the country visiting gardens, attending shows, talks and workshops many of which have featured on this blog. I have been lucky in receiving invitations to all sorts of events; helped, albeit briefly, build a Cheslea show garden; exhibited plants in shows, including RHS shows; had posts published on a national newspaper website; had a regular monthly slot on the local BBC radio gardening programme; been paid for a number of years to write a weekly blog on gardening; and recently had the blog mentioned in Women’s Weekly.  I have enjoyed it all but now looking back I wonder how I managed to find the energy and I know deep down inside that whilst I have been charging around doing all of this there has been a little voice in my head expressing concern and a dis-satisfaction at the standard of my own garden.

Lamprocapnos spectablis 'Valentine' emerging

Lamprocapnos spectablis ‘Valentine’ emerging

I know now that the energy came from a lack of fulfilment in my previous role at work.  It was not stretching me mentally and I seemed to have a lot of nervous energy and had seriously started to wonder if I was hyperactive.  Having my role change at work drastically, particularly over the last 6 months, has made me understand that I’m not hyperactive I was just bored.  I now have a challenging and demanding role which I am loving, although the learning curve is rather steep, which means that at the end of the day and particularly the end of the working week I am mentally wrung out and this is clearly being reflected in my approach to this blog and gardening.  I have said before that I don’t want to spend much time on social media any more and it’s because I don’t want any more stimulation as I don’t always sleep well.  So since Christmas I have made a conscious effort to avoid social media apart from in small doses and I try to make that early evening and it seems to have

Buddleja salviifolia flower buds forming

Buddleja salviifolia flower buds forming

What I do want to do is practical things.  I suppose as a result of being stretched mentally it is natural to want to do something with your hands and particularly something which doesn’t require too much careful thought.  So in the evenings I sew which I find calming and hopefully as the evenings get longer and warmer I will be able to potter outside.  Pottering in fact is my new gardening mantra and the driver behind this blog post, although I think I may have wandered a little.   My enthusiasm for my garden is as strong as ever but I no longer feel a need to conquer the world; I just want to be a very good gardener and plants person.  I want to grow good healthy plants and I want to create a garden that showcases the rather eclectic mix of plants I have accumulated to their best advantage and that is beautiful.  I want to get my orchids to re-flower, I would be thrilled if my tree peony flowered and if I can nurture the meconopsis blue poppies into flowering I will be elated.

What I don’t seem to have a desire to do is charge around the country visiting and seeing things.  I know it is good for a gardener to see other gardens to get inspiration and I am sure someone famous said something along those lines but I feel my head, the blog and my picture archive is full of inspiration – so much inspiration that it is now overwhelming.  Interestingly when I ran a little survey on this blog asking what sort of posts readers liked the overwhelming first choice were posts about my garden rather than about other people’s gardens and certainly no product reviews.  I found that quite striking and it has been at the back of my mind for a while – it was almost like being given permission to stop!

Cyrtomium fortunei seedlings

Cyrtomium fortunei seedlings

So going back to my morning reading I really enjoyed the Gardeners World magazine.  Yes there were the obligatory sections on taking cuttings but I hadn’t thought of taking Dianthus cuttings, which I plan to try this week, nor have I ever really had a go at basal cuttings so I will also be trying that on my Lamium.  I was reminded to sow some annuals when the ground warms up a little and I was heartened by an article encouraging us to forsake the straight lines of parterres and other popular design solutions in favour of curves – more of that another day (probably).  Importantly, for me, there were no articles on amazing gardens that I, with a small garden and not being able to afford a gardener, will never be able to aspire to – instead I felt encouraged and reassured with some new things to try, just enough to get me outside to enjoy the sunshine and shouldn’t that be what gardening is all about? I will of course go to the Malvern show, and probably Chelsea (particularly as I have a free ticket) and I have a garden visiting trip with friends to the east of the country in June but in the meantime I will potter and go back to the basics.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – April 2016

Primula denticulata

Primula denticulata

The garden is sparkling with colour, lots of spots of colour much like an impressionist painting and I have to say that this is certainly my garden’s best season.  The colour and shimmer is created from lots of small flower heads in a myriad of pastel colours.  So for this month’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post I thought I would zoom in on my favourite flowers this week.

Narcissus Baths Flame

Narcissus Baths Flame

Alot of the colour comes from the various Narcissus which I add to every year.  This year’s new additions include Narcissus Baths Flame which I am rather taken with.  The petals are a buttery yellow, very soft when you compare them to the hard yellow of the obligatory large trumpet daffodils that you see in public planting.  The flowers glow as the light fades and I think that is because of the whiteness of the petals.

Narcissus Sailboat

Narcissus Sailboat

Narcissus Sailboat is another new addition and it definitely reinforces my preference for the paler narcissus; I do like the slightly yellow trumpet.

 

 

Narcissus Thalia

Narcissus Thalia

Narcissus Thalia is an almost pure white – very pure.

Narcissus Cheerfulness

Narcissus Cheerfulness

Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’ is my favourite double narcissus, it has the most wonderful scent which you catch as you are weeding away in the border.  I prefer the single daffodils and I really dont like the blousey over breed narcissus which seem to popular at the moment.

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As the narcissus go over the tulips start but sadly I only have three tulips in the borders this year.  I haven’t planted them for a few years due to badger damage but these three have persisted year on year and are very pretty.  I have decided to risk them again next year as we haven’t had a visit from the badger for a couple of years now.

Imperial fritillary

Imperial fritillary

A lot less elegant than the narcissus is the Imperial fritillary.  This is the first year I have grown them and I am a little disappointed that the plants don’t seem to have developed a tall stem for the flowers as you would expect. I have two from different sources and both have done the same so maybe it is a result of the weather.

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I always forget the Leucojum vernum and are surprised when I first spot their nodding flowers thinking at first they are late snowdrops.  The clump has been planted for some years now and is expanding very slowly; maybe I will invest in some more and create a bit of a drift.

Anemone Bourdeux

Anemone Bordeaux

Anemone ‘Bordeaux’ is a very recent acquisition.  I was seduced by the almost velvet flowers which are working very well with the ageing flowers of Helleborus Anna’s Red and also Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’.  I really hope it reappears next year.

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Not all the colour is from bulbs or primulas as the blossom is beginning to appear.  This week Amelanchier decided to start flowering picking up the blossom of Prunus kojo-no-mai and will soon be joined by the large unknown Prunus that dominates the garden at this time.

Thank you to Carol over at May Dream Gardens for hosting this meme.

Notes from the Garden – 10th April

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I think we have had all four seasons this weekend with wind, rain and heavy sleet yesterday and frost overnight but today spring returned which meant I could get on with my planting plans.

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The focus today was the long border along the top of the wall.  I want it to have a sort of cottage garden feel and in recent years have added a number of roses, alliums and aquilegias.  Today, having weeded I added some Digitalis purpurea ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ and  Digitalis mertonensis both of which should add height to the border.  Also a topiary bay has been relocated to mid-way down the border as it has languished in a pot on the patio for so long that when I tried to move it this week I discovered it had rooted into the ground through the gaps in the paving slabs.  It took two of us to get the plant out of the pot and haul it up the garden but hopefully it will be a lot happier now in the border and the yellowing leaves will green up.  I plan to add some Echinacea seedlings in a few weeks time once they have had a chance to bulk up – they are just starting their third year so hopefully they will be ready to flower this year.

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Talking of seedlings and hoping they will flower I was completely thrilled to discover that all four of my Meconopsisbaileyi ‘Hensol Violet’ seedlings had reappeared.  Like the Echinacea they are in their third year so I am hoping they will flower as well which would be quite amazing.  They have had a good mulch of ericaceous compost to try to encourage them.  In fact there has been a lot of feeding going on with the roses and peonies having a good mulch of manure.

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My epic re-distribution of plants programme is well under way and nearly completed in the back garden – there is just a sad bamboo to extract which I suspect will be a real challenge.  Over Easter I started relocating the hellebores from near the bench to the far end of the Big Border.  Above is Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’ which I think works well with Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and the Amenthalea lessonia.  There is a pale yellow hellebore just past the bottom of the photograph and strangely they all seem to work well together.  I have added some corms of a short bronze leaved crocosmia for interest in late summer. To the right of the photo is a Cotinus ‘Grace’ and its purple leaves are key to the planting at this end of the border.  Although the leaves are not out yet I wanted to ensure that the colour theme was extended throughout the year.

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Its wonderful to see so many plants re-emerging after the winter and every time I walk around the garden there is a new delight, sometimes a small spring flower or a plant that I had taken a gamble with has returned. Who knows what delights will appear over the coming week.

 

And now for something completely different

Morgan 3 Wheeler

Morgan 3 Wheeler

Long term readers will recall that I have an interest in fast cars especially vintage cars; they speak to the romantic in me. Strangely in a moment of serendipity on a visit to a local plant retailer earlier this week we happened upon a flyer for the inaugural Bromyard Speed Festival.  With the event being free and only some 30 minutes from home there was no question over whether we would go.

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What people may not realise is that Bromyard, a small market town in Herefordshire, has a long association with the British motor industry.  Early in automotive history the chairmen of Austin, Bean and Morgan all lived in the vicinity. Consequently it was fitting that in its first year Morgan, located in nearby Malvern, was the feature marque (brand) of the Festival.

Bugatti Brescia T13

Bugatti Brescia T13

Bromyard Speed Festival benefited from the support of Shelsley Walsh, located just 20 minutes away, which is the oldest motorsport venue in the world. Shelsley maintains an intimate charm with spectators being able to walk around the paddocks and stand next to the start line. Given its pedigree it is strange that it is such a small-scale spectator event; there are few, even people who live in the area, who know of its existence.  That charm and intimacy was replicated at Bromyard as the cars motored around the small town centre, revving up the slope and out of corners.  Of course they couldn’t reach the speeds they do elsewhere due to the narrowness of the road and the closeness of spectators but it wasn’t all about the speed it was really about bringing the cars into a new environment which might attract more spectators and of course bringing revenue into the town, which is known for its programme of festivals throughout the year.

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It wasn’t just vintage cars but also more modern cars including a Jaguar Project 7, one of a limited number produced and a mini that had competed in the Monte Carlo mini, numerous Austin Healeys and Morgans. But I still prefer the vintage cars and I wouldn’t let the family go home until we had seen them despite the weather getting chillier.  And I shouldn’t forget to mention the presence of the Sunbeam Bluebird land speech record breaker whose engines were heard in public for the first time in 50 years.  Being a somewhat long car it couldn’t go round the track due to the tight corners but it made its way down the High Street in one direction thrilling the crowd.

Bugatti Brescia T13

Bugatti Brescia T13

It was fascinating to see the expressions on the driver and passenger faces as they went past lap after lap.  Some had an expression of sheer joy, others a fierce determination, some concern as they negotiated the corners and increasing tyre debris and churned up grit from the road that increased during the afternoon.  As the laps for each class progressed the cars were either getting slower or in the case of the vintage cars, faster and more joyful.  Our theory was that having completed laps in the morning and being near the end of the afternoon session with their cars intact the drivers were going all out.  What was also great was to see numerous cars with children or grandchildren as passengers, some of whom were furiously waving to the crowds as they whizzed past.  The guys in the Morgan 3 Wheeler in the top photo took delight in trying to wheel spin their car; strangely after two warnings they didn’t appear for another lap – we assume they were told off!!

Talbot 105 Tourer

Talbot 105 Tourer

Our consensus was that Bromyard Speed Festival was a great event.  Well organised with out of town parking and shuttle buses, plenty of catering options, friendly, welcoming and fun.  We, as a family, hope that it continues as we will certainly be back next year given half a chance.