Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – October 2016

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I’m amazed at how much colour there is in the garden at the moment, especially as there seemed to be very little back in August.  Of course some of the colour is courtesy of the autumn leaves and various berries but there is still a significant floral contribution. This hydrangea is one of those supermarket finds from a year or so ago which to be honest I had forgotten about until I got to the top of the garden today and spotted it.  Such a lovely combination of dark leaves and flower – I think I need to find a better location to show it off better.

Salvia involucrata boutin
Salvia involucrata boutin

Part of the reason I struggle to get to the top of the garden is this Salvia which is going for world domination – its huge.  So much so that I have left it in situ the last few winters with just a mulch to protect it roots.

Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy'
Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’

I actually prefer Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ as the flowers are more delicate and I like the two-tone effect which brings a special light to the border.

Aster lateriflorus 'Lady in Black'
Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’

Although the majority of the asters have been moved to the front garden there are still a few adding to the colour in the back garden.  I think Lady in Black is my favourite aster, it has wonderful dark stems and whatever the weather it remains upright, just wafting around in the wind.

Symphytrochium novea-angliae 'St Michaels'
Symphytrochium novae-angliae ‘St Michaels’

Symphytrochium novae-angliae ‘St Michaels’ is a good strong purple and I like the larger daisy flowers; I also like it as it is named after a local hospice.  This is also doing well in the RHS trial of Symphytrochium novae-angliae which I am acting as recorder for at the local Old Court Nursery.

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I do like Japanese Anemones, this pale pink one is a new addition to the garden and lightens a very green border.

Kirengeshoma palmata
Kirengeshoma palmata

The Japanese Anemone is adjacent to the Kirengeshoma palmata – that pink and yellow combination abhorred by many but to be honest I quite like; well if it’s the right pink and the right yellow.

Colchicum 'Dick Trotter'
Colchicum ‘Dick Trotter’

The second group of Colchicums are flowering.  I bought the corms for these at the Malvern Autumn Show last month.  I do think Colchicums are underrated, yes they have large leaves but they bring so much colour to the garden at this time of year.

Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium

As well as Colchicums there are Cyclamen hederifoliums flowering around the garden.  I particularly like this group and the way they appear to be lining up behind the leaves.

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Another discovery in the depth of the back of the garden – a begonia of some sort bought from a charity plant sale, which seems to be thriving.  I love the way the flowers add pin pricks of colour amongst the foliage.

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Finally, high up above the back planting the Abutilon is flowering.  I can’t remember the variety but I do like the way the flowers look like they are made out of silk and velvet.

Thanks to Carol over at May Dream Gardens for hosting the GBBD meme each month.

My Garden This Weekend – 9th October 2016

Amarine belladiva
Amarine belladiva

So its been many weeks, no months, since I wrote a ‘My garden this weekend’ post. I won’t bore you yet again with my emotional struggles with the garden and my lack of enthusiasm.  Suffice to say that this weekend I had to really push myself to get on with some of the tasks that are needed.  The patio is full of purchases from the summer that need planting out or I will be struggling over the winter to protect the plants.  However, of course it’s not that simple.  I bought the plants for a particular project – the Big Border revamp – but I haven’t made as much progress as I had hoped.

I think I may have mentioned before that I want to replant the Big Border to benefit from the soil which drains very well. My plan is to use it for the various bulbs that I have a weakness for.  I think last weekend I reported that I had started to relocate some of the peonies to Hugh’s Border and I have added a couple of Miscanthus to the Big Border which weren’t happy behind the shed.

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Bits of it are coming together but the main part of the project is to formalise the lower edge of the Big Border.  The path has for some years been edged with Malvern stone found in the garden or logs from  tree pruning.  I have always gardened on a shoestring and never had funds for major landscaping so the garden has developed through hard work and making do with what was to hand.  When the Big Border went in around 4 years ago I wasn’t sure about the path and waited to see where the natural path appeared.  It’s all been a little Heath Robinson.  Originally the path was finished with woodchips but over the years this has disintegrated and the stone edging isn’t strong enough to clearly define the border from the path.  I need it to look smart and tidy.

The trouble is that I have concluded that I need structure and tidiness in my life or I become stressed.  With less time, energy or enthusiasm for the garden this year it has become untidy and this in turn has made it harder for me to re-engage as I just don’t know where to start.  I feel that if I can get some good structure or bones in place then the messiness won’t be so bad – just like edging the lawn makes a huge difference to a garden without you doing much else.  Thankfully funds are a little more plentiful these days and my long-suffering eldest has ‘volunteered’ to help me with putting in some thick wood edging.  Then, probably in the Spring, we will put some wood edging on the other side of the path but probably something thinner.  I will then cover the path probably with wood chip – the cat doesn’t approve of gravel!

img_6741I have moved all the plants along the path edge and the Malvern stone so my eldest can get on with the improvements.  We now have a large pile of Malvern stone to find something to do with. A suggestion has been made that I could use them to create a home for my hardy succulents, alpines and tiny bulbs.  I am resisting using the word ‘rockery’ as I really dislike rockeries but there is a small gem of an idea mumbling away at the back of my mind.

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In my bid to take control of the garden again I have seized the day and removed a couple of large shrubs that I haven’t liked for years.  One went from the border above, as did a large persicaria and some common ferns which swamped the area and used up all the moisture.  The photo doesn’t quite show you how much space there is here but  I am quietly excited as it’s quite a big space and will, after some feeding and soil improvement, provide a home for the remaining peonies that need rehoming.

Hopefully with all our efforts this Autumn the garden will be more manageable next year so I don’t feel I need to spend as much time working in it and I can do some of the other things I want to do without feeling guilty or maybe even just sit and enjoy the garden.

End of Month View – September 2016

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Seriously how is it October? I’m sure it’s only midway through September! But at least I have kinda remembered this month to do the End of Month View, albeit a day late.  I forgot all together last month – sorry.

Anyway, Hugh’s Border isn’t doing too bad considering the general neglect of the garden for some months now.  Things are getting back on an even keel and changes are afoot.  I’m always happier in the garden when I can relocate plants – poor plants.  Because my new neighbours have cleared the boundary line there is now a wealth of sunlight streaming in from the south which means the lighting in the garden has changed giving me new opportunities.

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The shady areas have significantly decreased which is good as it means I have more areas where I can plant more sun-loving plants and most plants that do well in shade don’t mind a bit more sun.  It does mean that the Big Border which was always sunny is now much more sunny and some plants have struggled this year as it is has been too dry for them.  The Big Border has good drainage so I am going to use it for my hardy Mediterranean and Southern Hemisphere plants and bulbs which are one of my plant weaknesses.  I am slowly but surely relocating the more traditional border inhabitants such as the peonies and roses from the Big Border into the surrounding borders where they should benefit from the improved light but with more moisture retentive soil. If you peer closely at the photo above you will see the rusty metal obelisk which was in the Big Border and hosts a rose and clematis.  They have all been moved to Hugh’s Border and had a good dollop of horse manure to get them going.  I like the vertical accent that the obelisk gives this area.

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To be quite honest the improved lighting has, I think, made my gardening life easier.  I have really struggled over the years to get good seasonal interest in the shady parts of the garden.  I love foliage but it gets a little dull being the same, more or less, all year.  So for example in Hugh’s Border I will be adding some peonies, some more Japanese Anemones, and probably some Pacific Coast irises, as well as more bulbs for Spring.

I’ve a lot of relocations to do over the coming weeks so I am hoping for some dry weekends as my gardening time is really minimal these days.   And then there is the tidying up and the bulb planting to get on top of ….it is nice to feel enthused again.

 

Malvern Autumn Show 2016

Old Court Nursery
Old Court Nursery

I am so lucky to live where I do and days like today just remind me of this.  My eldest and I decided at very short notice that we fancied going to the Malvern Autumn Show.  It is literally a 5 minute drive from home so we were able to arrive as the second day of the show was opening and beat the crowds.

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I haven’t been to the Autumn Show for some years, there always seems to be something clashing with it.  We stopped first in the Harvest Pavilion where the serious showing happens.  As you can see we have everything from vegetables through to dahlias.  To the other side of this pavilion is the ‘Open Competition’ for a whole range of plants such as succulents, alpines, foliage, roses etc.  I have quite a few pics of these as I have been thinking for a few years now of entering.  We sussed out the competition so now I have a good idea of the standard I am aiming for.

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Whilst I might be thinking of entering an aeonium or two I really take my hat off to those growers who can produce a trug of vegetables like these – sheer perfection.  I would be chuffed to get 4 ripe tomatoes let alone 5 matching ones or even a whole trug of matching perfection.

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Its not all competitive vegetable and flower growing; the show is very much a local country show that has grown over the years.  Elsewhere there are pigs being paraded, as well as sheep, cows, rabbits and goats  but our preference was to watch the agility dogs and later the gun dogs who were having a lovely time showing off.

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But much as I could watch the dogs for ages the plants inevitably call and we found ourselves in another pavilion which focussed on growing your own (I think).  As you entered there was this display by the National Dahlia Society which I thought was pretty special.  It really shows how dahlias can be used to create a wonderful exotic look – the colour seems a little blown on this photo possibly due to the lighting in the marquee.

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Whilst the dahlias were impressive I was quickly distracted by the Jacques Armand display.  My poor son was suffering from my bulb addiction as I had already bought a considerable number of bulbs from Rose Cottage who had been relocated to the Produce Pavilion having lost their marquee in the wind yesterday. There is always something interesting to buy and between the two nurseries I came away with a good haul of tulips for the front garden, some more colchicums – Nancy Lindsay and Dick Trotter, a large Scilla and some punky looking muscari.

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At the far side of the show ground to where we parked we came to the nurseries.  The number of nurseries both inside and out have grown considerably over the 15 years I have been going to the show.  There is now a reasonable number exhibiting inside under cover with large displays.  I was really pleased for my friend Helen Picton who was awarded another Gold for her display of asters.  I was also rather entranced my the Tale Valley display as it combined all the plants I love; ferns and bulbs and lots of wonderful foliage – food for thought.

 

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – September 2016

 

Grevillea victoriae
Grevillea victoriae

I’ve decided not to focus on the asters this month but to showcase four plants which have just started to flower and whose flowers I am always thrilled to see.  They all need to be sought out in the garden as they can be a little shy.

First up is Grevillea victoriae which has wonderful exotic orange flowers. Similar to Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’ but flowering later.  Last year I thought it hadn’t flowered but discovered all the flowers at the bottom of the shrub.  This year the shrub is a year older and has been moved into a sunnier location and the flowers are beginning to appear higher on the shrub so I am hoping that next year it will look amazing.

Unknown Nerine
Unknown Nerine

I have started to extend the bulb season in my garden with the inclusion of Nerines.  This is the first to flower and is from a hugh pot full of bulbs that I bought for a couple of pounds last year at the local HPS group.  I was really thrilled to see it, and its fellow flowers, as it shows that I have found a good location for it and confirms my plan to plant more Southern Hemisphere bulbs in this particular area.

Massonia
Massonia

I am always pleased when the Massonia flowers in the greenhouse.  I had a Massonia pustulata but I think I lost that and as its name indicates the leaves were quite blistered looking so its not that variety, maybe I will find the label one day but either way I am pleased it has flowered again.

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I have various Colchicums of differing quality and these are always the first to flower and are slowly but surely beginning to spread.  They are one of those plants whose flowers appear under the foliage of other plants but as you pass something catches you eye and you find yourself on your hands and knees looking to see what the colour is from.

So those are my 4 secret gems for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – for more GBBD posts visit Carol at May Dream Gardens

Malvern Hill Destress

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I love the Malvern Hills, particularly the walk from British Camp south towards Midsummer Hill.  The huge skies, far-reaching views and complete serenity, particularly early on a Sunday morning are the things that make my heart sing and recharge me.

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Over a year ago my eldest set me the challenge to walk to the top of all the individual peaks.  I have done the majority and I think the only real summit left outstanding is Midsummer Hill.  I have stopped deliberately checking the hills off as the challenge has had the wonderful effect of making the hills familiar to me and giving me a new way to de-stress. I nearly got lost today as I was day dreaming so much that I came to the edge of a hill and realised that there was no path to take me forward.  I had strayed to the side much to the entertainment of a chap feeding his dog blackberries (!) who pointed out the path to me – we agreed that the reason we were on the top of the hills was to forget everything.

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I have found this last year or so that gardening is no longer the thing that I turn to to relax.  I suspect that it has become a victim of over blogging.  When you are conscious that you writing about something on a regular basis you start to feel a pressure to have something interesting to write about and then you lose your enjoyment, as my son said today the garden and blogging had become a job not relaxation. So of course writing about my walks could be a dangerous thing as I don’t want the same thing to happen.  However, I did write about gardening on the blog for some 9 years at least 3 times a week so I think I have a way to go before there is a problem.

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This morning the grass was thick with dew which in the early morning light looked like jewels.  In fact the grass in the photo above looked like some unusual flower from a distance and it wasn’t until I got close that I realised the ‘flowers’ were in fact dew drops. Walking first thing or in the evening means that I often feel like I have the hills to myself and the wildlife is around before it goes quite in the heat of the day.  Today, I enjoyed watching stonechats and at the furthest point of my walk I sat on the top of the hill while house martins swooped around me feeding before they migrate south.

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You can see how strong the sun was even first thing; wonderful after the grey and wet day yesterday.  I think, from the lack of buildings, that this view is looking out towards Herefordshire. I love the feeling of being on top of the world you get when you can see so far into the distant.

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The view back from where I started – my car is just over the hill in the distance and part way down the other side.  One of the things that are great about the Malverns is that you have areas which are open and grazed and other parts that are very wooded, so lots of variety of habitat.   To get from British Camp, that you can see in the distance, to this point, you dip down and walk through a wooded valley before climbing up again on a very rocky path

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And this is the view from lower down British Camp towards the point of the photo above (they should really be the other way round). If you look very carefully at the wooded hill in the distance (Midsummer Hill) you can see a brown mark and that is the summit that I walked to today – it doesn’t have a name.  Midsummer Hill is the last one I really want to climb and my eldest is going to do that one with me as he says it is quite steep and the paths aren’t that clear.

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However, I’m not in a hurry as I have found my favourite walks depending on my mood and how far I want to walk. I can’t believe how lucky I am to live within minutes of these beautiful hills.

Warts and All Tour – 2016

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Having neglected the blog and the garden this year I have been beating myself about both.  However, I have a week leave from work and have deliberately made no plans as I am desperate for the time to just be and to do all those menial tasks that need doing from time to time but  if neglected become daunting monsters.  Top of my list is to spend lots of time in the garden.  I haven’t set any specific targets of things to do and I know that it needs more time than I have to get the garden looking tip top by the end of the week but I want to get back in touch with it.  Being perplexed about where to start I had a good walk round this morning and thought it would be good to give you a tour of the garden through my camera lens – I last did one back in 2014 so if you want to see what the changes have, or haven’t been, you can click on this link. You can also access a plan of the garden via the tab at the top of the page.

So we start by entering the back garden via the side path – you can see this is a bit of a wood store, with my bags of compost stored under the wood.  The neighbours house is so close that rain rarely gets through so its great for storing things and also overwintering plants that need a bit of protection.

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As we come round the corner you can see that the foliage obsession hinted at by the pots in the top photo continues along the patio.  It has always been quite shady here due to my neighbours’ trees and the soil is that wonderful moist by free draining – this year I have had blue meconopsis poppies flowering here.  You can also see my dinky greenhouse and evidence of plant buying.

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The whole patio with the supervisor about to boss me around.  It needs a weed but isn’t too bad this year.  The patio is quite narrow and we tend to sit on the bench up the garden but there are seats here too which are on my list for a face lift.

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We pass the greenhouse which has had a bit of a tidy up but needs some more work on it.  Currently it is home to my pelargonium, tender succulents and begonias – all of them could go outside but I hate an empty greenhouse.

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The far end of the patio is very sunny and home to the staging which gets used all year for one thing or another – oh and the bin store which is behind the garage.  I still need to work out what to grow up the fence; whatever it is will have to grow in a pot as the ground is builders rubble here.  To the left you can just see the start of the damp corner where water tends to accumulate when we have a lot of rain before soaking away.  I have planted this corner with damp loving irises and grasses which are thriving.  As you can see I haven’t tidied up and there is a stray teapot on its side – this was put here as it is an old pot which was in the garden full of water and a frog had taken up residence in the heat so we moved it carefully to the shade to protect the frog.

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Up the steps, which featured last year on the end of month view meme.  They are looking a little bare at the moment as I have been tidying here but if you look very carefully to the right you can just pick out little pink and white dots which are the flowers of Cyclamen hederifolium – I used this area mainly for spring bulbs.

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At the top of the steps if you turn left you have the bottom path which runs almost along the top of the wall.  I need to work on this area and have plans to improve it over the next year.  The soil, despite being clay based, is very free draining due to the slope and there are parts which therefore become quite dry so I want to change the planting to work with this.

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As the end of the path you go up a slight rise towards the grass path (which runs across the middle of the garden).  This area has always been very shady and to a degree damp but due to my new neighbours chainsaw activity it is now flooded with light.  This, as I have mentioned before, has really challenged me.  I’m not used to see people in the next garden, I am used to a screen of green and I find it difficult.  However, I like the additional light that is coming in and many plants have benefited from it.  So the plan for here is to relocate some of the taller shrubs to the area in front of the fence, not to create a hedge, but to break up the line of the fence and to give some privacy but keeping the light.

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From the shady end of the grass path you look back towards the shed between the Big Border and Hugh’s Border.  Both have done much better this year but still need further work to bring more colour to the left hand side and more cohesion to the right hand side – I have ideas!

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We walk back to the shed and turn towards the back of the garden and you have the top bench, also in need of some TLC.  The planting on the slope behind the bench is doing rather well and my eldest and I have been arguing over whether it is doing too well – he has persuaded me to leave it be but to tie up the abutilon better and I think he is right.

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Looking from the bench to the left of the garden you can see the compost bins in the back ground.  Some people have suggested that I should disguise them but I see no reason to, I find them quite appealing with their grassy slope in front.  The mess in the foreground is mainly the back of Hugh’s Border where the ferns have suffered from a lack of rain for some time.  To the right is the shadier part of the slope where the ferns are doing very well but the ones planted here don’t need as much moisture.

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Up to the compost bins and a look back down the garden at the other end of Hugh’s Border – I think this view is quite pleasing.

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Then we have the very top path which leads nowhere but to behind the shed.  This is the worst part of the garden in need of much weeding and for replacement retaining boards and some gravel or woodchip on the path but the plants are thriving so its not all bad.

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The final view is from the end of the top path looking down the garden towards the house.  I like this view as my intention has been to create a leafy retreat and I think it is beginning to come together.

So I hope you enjoyed the warts and all tour of the garden – I wonder if there will be much change by this time next week.  In the meantime, as it keeps raining heavily, I will go and consider the curtains that I really should make but keep making excuses about.