My Garden This Weekend – 19th April 2015

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I’m struggling a little with life at the moment and to top everything else off my car has died on me so I have the irritation of having the phone the garage tomorrow and no doubt part with large sums of money at some point this week.  The only time this past week when I have felt calm and at peace as been in the garden.  Even though I am not conscious of worrying about things in particular I think when you are ‘working’ in the garden your mind focussing on what you are doing, the plants, what you could plant in a space and the other things which might only be bothering your sub-conscious leave.  Interestingly I started off today deciding not to do anything but I twitched around so much that I decided to potter for an hour in the garden.

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The theme of removing sycamore seedlings continued and today’s focus was the hardy exotic slope and the back border.  I wrote about tackling the back border about a month ago and I am quite pleased so far with how it is going. I am trying for a leafy texture of plants ideally with some all year round interest.  I think planting up the area behind the shed has also helped and it feels more gardened now rather than part of the garden which challenges me.  I added a half hardy salvia amongst the bamboos – its a bit of a beast so should fill the space here and the pink flowers will work well with the geranium palmatums which can be a little garish on their own.  I have also added some impatiens qingchanganica bought from Growild Nursery, a wonderful new online retailer of plants and seeds.  Also added was an Athyrium otophorum ‘Okanum’ bought from Sally Gregson when she gave my local horticultural club a talk on epimediums last week.

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The hardy exotic slope is coming together and this year I need to add to the shorter perennials to cover the ground and reduce the bare soil on show. You can see there are some daffodils in the border which are OK and interesting but you can’t see them from the bottom of the slope as they disappear behind the bench.  I think I might forget about spring bulbs here and concentrate them elsewhere as to me you need to be able to see spring flowers from the house so they cheer you on a cold or rainy day.  I am pleased to say that the ridiculous collection of plants waiting on the patio waiting to be planted out is diminishing, its generally one year old perennial seedlings or bulbs now. The downside of this is that the pile of empty terracotta pots is ridiculous and shows just how much effort and funds I invested in growing alpines and bulbs over the last couple of years but I feel a lot happier with the plants in the ground and concentrating on growing perennials from seed.

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I am really pleased with how most of the garden is filling out now and the view from the living room (top photo) makes me smile which is very important.  I can see great combinations from the sofa; such as the way the blue rosemary flowers pick up on the camassias and then the honesty at the back of the garden. It wasn’t planned at all but seeing it work makes me understand a little how to bring the garden together and make it more cohesive instead of seeming piecemeal; Mother Nature is obviously showing me how things should be!

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And then there is the first trillium to flower.  I planted it some 4 or 5 years ago and it disappeared but a c0uple of years back it reappeared and flowered.  Last year it has two flowers but it seems we are back to one this year but it is flowering which is a thrill.  I learnt recently that trillims shouldn’t be planted too deep and if they are they will pull themselves into the right position which is probably why it disappeared for a couple of years.  I will have to make sure I mulch well around it to give it a little moisture and hopefully encourage it to bulk up and spread.

Finally I had to smile as my youngest son, 22, has been to Wilkinsons buying herb seed pots in advance of getting his first home.  He says adamantly “I’m not a gardener”, he doesn’t want to admit that some of my passion may have rubbed off on him but showing him how to sow a few rocket seeds this afternoon was an amusing delight.

 

 

My Garden This Weekend – 15th June 2014

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Some times you have to listen to people when they are giving you advice and you also have to listen to your body when it is protesting.  I haven’t done either very well recently.  Consequently, by the end of Saturday I was completed exhausted and my body ached all over.  I suspect a two day trip to Plymouth to see my youngest son’s end of University design show driving for 3 hours each way in 25C degrees and standing up lots in a warm studio may have been one thing too many.  So today I have cancelled my plans and decided not to attend the Stocktonbury Gardeners Market or Noel Kingsbury’s open garden or the other garden I was toying with.  Today I followed one of my commentators, Yvonne from New Zealand’s, advice and scheduled some sleep and rest.

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Everything seemed to be even bigger and lusher when I got home on Saturday afternoon despite it only being 24 hours since I went away.  I suspect that what really happens is that I returned with fresh and less jaded eyes.  So much to do but I have to remind myself that there are no major jobs to be done and so a day of pottering was prescribed.

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Someone asked me how wide the path between the Cottage Border and the Big Border was.  I am rubbish at measurement so I can show you it is one sleeping cat wide! This seems to be Maisie’s new favourite sleeping place, I think it is nice and warm in the sun.

2014_06080010Being over tired I was awake early so decided to start my gardening pottering early in case it turned out hot again.  So 8:30 saw me tackling the wilderness that is the top border.  This border runs along the front of the top fence and I have started to grow Pyracantha and Chaenomeles along the fence to provide coverage.  In front of these are three Phyllostacys flexuosa to add coverage above the fence line.  I am pretty sure this is the type of bamboo as if you look at the stems they zig zag which is just amazing to me.  The plants have been in probably 4 years now and this is the first time the stems have zig zagged so much so that I had forgotten that was what attracted me to this variety in the first 2014_06150014place! I have also added a Dahlia Imperalis and Cephalaria gigantea to the border as well as some Geranium palmatum.  I have been remiss in keeping an eye on this border and the Cephalaria has grown to nearly 7 ft tall and flopped all over the path.  The weeds were out of control and the Pyracantha needed serious pruning and tying into the fence and I also wanted to thin out the bamboo so the zig zags were more noticeable.

At the end of the path is a pot with a dahlia to add a focal point although this morning it was hard to see the focal point! I did struggle with corralling the stems of the Cephalaria gigantea so I must remember to stake the stems earlier next year.  This area is all a little hit and miss without a real plan and I suppose in my head once the plants in the Hardy Exotic Border (on the lower side of the path) have grown up the view from the path down on the garden will be obscured and you will need to peer through leaves.  At the moment this is the view and to give you some idea of perspective and steepness of the slope you can just see the bench on the new seating area at the bottom.

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After lots of tying in and pruning I decided a more gentle activity was required so I weeded the patio which was looking very green with lots of grass and weed seedlings.  As I said to my son I have done the bottom and the top of the garden which should make everything in between look neat!

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I also pruned back the rosemary but that’s for another post.

At the end of the day I am pleased I decided to be sensible as I feel relaxed and recharged and when I look outside I don’t feel a sense of despair when I see the weedy patio.

 

The Greenhouse Year – April 2014

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2014_04190015Another month has passed and the greenhouse is full to bursting although the winter occupants are beginning to move out and the new spring tenants are starting to move in.  There has been a slight swop over with the succulents moving across the greenhouse to the slatted benching and the seedling trays moving to the gravel beds.  I think the seed trays do better with the humidity around them.  I really need to move the succulents out to make room for seedlings etc but I think it will be another few weeks before I can risk the weather.

The new shelves on the back wall are proving to be a wonderful investment.  They are freeing up some space and the agaves, aloes and pelargoniums on the top shelf seem to really like the heat.  Other

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occupants include Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus) which I have grown from seed and a bulbine frutescens also grown from seed.

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Seedlings are beginning to appear but I haven’t really started my sowing yet so you can see why I need more space.  The majority of seeds sown to date germinate well in the outside cold-frame but tomorrow I am planning to sow some tender annuals.  The grassy seedlings are white/cream camassias grown from seed collected from the garden last year.  I am quite pleased with them.

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The lower shelves are crammed full of pelargoniums, dahlia tubers and chrysanthemums.  They could all do with more light but with some regular moving around they will be fine until its warm enough for them to go outside.

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The small floor space is rather crowded with the plants that are too heavy or tall to go on the racking.  I think the Salvia involucrata boutin can be planted out on the slope soon. The Aeonium is in serious need of chopping so I might do that tomorrow.

So that’s my tiny greenhouse this month – I hope you enjoyed the tour.

My garden this weekend – 9th March 2014

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Yellow describes this weekend – the sun has shone, the daffodils have bloomed and I have had two happy days gardening. Last weekend having only one day’s good weather I charged around the garden and the same was true yesterday but today, being greeted by a second sunny day the sense of panic gardening eased and I almost managed to potter!

2014_03090013As ever I had a ridiculous list of jobs I wanted to achieve this weekend.  The priorities were pruning the roses and emptying the second compost bin.  The drive for pruning the roses came from a talk last Monday at the local horticultural society  on roses.  The speaker advocated hard pruning at this time of year.  It turns out that despite my smallish garden I have acquired 9 roses, with most of them purchased in the last two years but it still didn’t take long to prune them.  As for the compost bin, as I said in my last post, my compost making is really slap dash.  I bought an extra bin this time last year but it ended up being filled with the turf we lifted to make the Big Border so my plan for being organised failed.  Anyway,  the first bin was emptied about a month ago but the bins were still overflowing and out of hand.  With my eldest son’s help we soon emptied the second bin – it was good to see that only a small layer on top was not composted down.  The contents were put on the Big Border as a thick mulch as you can see above (I must round off that angular corner on the path).

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After this arduous job was completed I spent the rest of the day weeding and tidying the 2014_03090020cottage garden border along the top of the wall.  It was pleasing to see the Delphinium shoots just beginning to nose through the soil.  As I have in past years, I took the opportunity to scatter some pre-emptive slug pellets.  I have found that doing this gives the plants a chance to get good strong shoots above ground and they seem to do well.  At my local HPS group they call this approach The Valentines Day Massacre because shoots often start to appear around Valentines Day!

I know that I planted out some peonies in the Big Border but as yet there are no signs of any emerging shoots.  However, the tree peony which has had a rough ride in recent years since I bought it, is rewarding me for planting it out last spring and feeding it by producing some lovely new shoots. Who knows this year it may flower again like it was when I bought it, I seem to remember it had a beautiful soft yellow flower.

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Today, I started off with a little planting.  First up a Grevillea victoriae in the front garden border to add a little evergreen colour and also hopefully some more of the wonderful exotic grevillea flowers which I love.  Then the last big plant move for a while – moving a large persicaria from near the workshop to the woodland border.  It was a bit of a beast but it is moved and well watered in which means I can start to sort out the area around the workshop soon.

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Next up I brought all the hardy succulents out of the garage where they have over wintered.  I stored them under cover, despite their hardiness, due to the plants being in small pots and I was worried they would freeze if left outside.  The majority of these plants are destined for the border in the front garden under the window along with the aloes etc.  They need a lot of tidying up but I think I will do that when I have decided what is going where.  In the meantime they have had a good water so they should perk up.

2014_03090042I had planned to sow more seeds but instead I decided that I needed to follow my resolution this year to be a better gardener and sort through the cold frames.  They are both full of pots of seeds, some sown a year ago, and seedlings from last year.  Some of the seedlings have died over winter.  I suspect that the compost I potted them up in was too damp which is why all my compost is now under cover.  I have decided I’m not allowed to sow any more seeds until I have sorted both cold frames out – not sure if I will stick to that.  The auriculas grown from seed two years ago were all repotted with fresh compost and last year’s auricula seedlings were also potted up.

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One cold frame has been sorted now and a start on the second.  I am thrilled to see I have peony seedlings from seed sown last year.  Peonies start by putting a root down first so it can be a good year before there is any sign of life above soil – patience is essential.

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The work was rounded off by sweeping up the patio and removing the last of the winter debris and mulching the roses with manure.

A completely satisfying and rewarding weekend – here’s hoping that next weekend will be as good.

My garden this weekend – 22/12/13

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As a child I had a proclivity for making mud pies and generally messing around in the garden –  as a small child I even came in with a slug in my mouth!!  This proclivity has stayed with me through my life, the mud pies not the slug eating, and I am never happier than when I am wielding a fork and turning the soil or up to the elbows in compost sowing seeds and potting up. This weekend I have had the luxury of indulging all aspects of my enthusiasm.

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I have sown the first batch of seeds for the coming year.  These are seeds are from the Alpine Garden Society seed distribution scheme, which I helped with on Thursday.  I was pleased to get the majority of my first choices although because I compiled my order in a hurry I seem to have requested seed for three different varieties of peony.  I sowed the peony seeds and other seeds, such as Ranunculus and Anemone, that need a cold special to help with their germination and have left them on the patio table ready for the cold spell that is forecast.

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Today I really indulged my mudlark tendencies and started to dig up the plants that I have decided to remove from the bog garden that was.  I have said before that the bog garden (above), formerly the pond, just doesn’t retain enough moisture to be a successful bog garden so it is being redesigned to make a woodland border and to give my two camellias a new home.  We have also decided to use some of this area, which is next to the workshop, to create a small seating area. While I was digging around working out what was going where I found an area of old pond liner under the wood chip path which probably explains why it is so sodden and slippery.  After much hefting of gravel and stones and mud that had accumulated on top of the liner I managed to pull it out and re-level the area.  Hopefully it will dry out now, although it still doesn’t explain why the bog garden is so unbog-like!

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I have also planted three new roses which arrived this week from Peter Beales.  Two of these, Anna Pavord and Ophelia, were planted in the Rose/Cottage Garden Border along the top of the wall.  The third, Eden Rose, has been planted under the obelisk which was relocated to the Big Border back in April.  I am hopefully for many beautiful roses in early summer.

The weather has been cold and windy so the gardening efforts have been short and sharp and I have had to dodge the rain on a number of occasions by ducking into the greenhouse and checking up on my over winter succulents such as the Aloe aristata ‘Cathedral Peak’ above and peering at the Cyclamen persicum which I grew from seed probably 4 years ago to see if they will finally flower this year.  I have been feeding them diligently and I do believe I can detect a few flower buds forming which is rather exciting. I have also moved a pot of Iris reticulata ‘Cantab’ into the greenhouse to bring them into flower early.

I’m not sure how much I will be able to do in the garden before the end of the year as the forecast indicates more rain and lowering temperatures but at this time of the year, for me, every opportunity to spend time outside playing in the garden is a bonus.

My garden this weekend – 24th November 2013

Darmera peltata fading leaf

Darmera peltata fading leaf

I would like to think that Monty Don would be proud of my compost making abilities but deep down I know that he would despair at my complete lack of organisation and efficiency.  I have good intentions and even got a third compost bin this year with the plan to have an efficient and well organised system where one bin is turned into another thus aerating the compost and producing fine crumbly compost at the end.  However, as ever in my life it seems, my plans and what actually happened bear little in common.

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It was all going well until the grand workshop plan come into being and as a result the back lawn was dug up.  This presented us with a large amount of turf and nowhere to really stack it.  Lo and behold an empty compost bin was just sitting there and before I knew it the bin was no longer empty but full of turf.  Because of this unexpected ‘harvest’ all the bins were full by mid summer and with my recent tidying up I have had to resort to using an old dustbin and also making extra piles of material as you can see above.

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Emptying compost bins is way down the  list of jobs I want to do of a weekend but I realised on Saturday that I had done all the essential bulb planting and really I should sort the bins out before I created even more chaos.  Amazingly the compost bin full of turfs had completely rotted down into loam.  There were a handful of mossy bits but that is it.  So I spent Saturday afternoon spreading the loam around the borders as a kind of mulch.

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The majority of it went on the back border by the top fence.  The slope is quite steep here and the soil is predominantly clay based so a struggle to dig.  I have a rhododendron I want to move here and then I went to develop this area, along with the other bits I have mentioned in recent weeks, for my growing collection of spring bulbs and woodland plants.  Hopefully the thick layer of loam will make this easier for me to do.

Crocus pulchellus 'Zephyr'

Crocus pulchellus ‘Zephyr’

Of course once I  had emptied the bin it was full again with the contents of the dustbin and the extra pile but at least there is some semblance of order – or so I tell myself.

I have spent the last week attending graduation ceremonies at work.  Part of my job is to look after the University’s VIP guests, escorting them to and from Worcester Cathedral.  It can be fascinating and I get to speak to some amazing people including this week a Noble prize winner, a Duke, an Earl and a medieval scholar.  But it can be quite exhausting making small talk, chasing after people, managing senior staff expectations not forgetting two late evenings after two dinners.  Therefore it was hardly surprising that when Sunday dawned grey and with biting winds I retreated inside.  It is strange at this time of year to only see the garden two days a week but I was thrilled to see the  buds on my Crocus pulchellus ‘Zephyr’ beginning to unfurl. My eldest also managed to source me a free supply of bark chip so hopefully next weekend, when I am less weary, I can mulch the front garden which is one of the few things I would really like to do before the really cold weather arrives.

I think from now until the New Year any jobs I do in the garden will be a bonus.

Product Review: Dalefoot Seed Compost

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I don’t tend to review products as I feel that in order to provide a good review I need to test them properly and I am just too disorganised for that.  I can read a book, consider a plant but testing a product is more challenging.  However, I was rather tempted by the email asking me (some time ago – I told you I was disorganised) if I would consider review a new peat-free seed compost from Dalefoot Composts

Peat-free is one of those subjects that can really divide gardeners.  The alpine plant growers I know through the Alpine Garden Society tend to still rely on John Innes which is peat based.  However, there is a growing movement in horticulture that gardeners should stop their reliance on peat in composts.  I think the attraction of peat based composts is that they are good at retaining moisture whereas the majority of alternatives dry out very quickly and are hard to re-wet.  Personally I don’t have any strong views.  I do use John Innes for my bulbs and alpines and without guilt as I figure the amount I use is so small that it hardly makes an impact and really I would like to see the plant producers change their practice  across the board first.  When it comes to seeds and general potting up I sometimes go for peat free but it generally depends on what is available since there are a number of peat free brands that having used once I have no desire to use again.

Dalefoot Compost was particularly interesting to me since it is made of a combination of bracken and sheeps wool.  The bracken provides a high level of potash which is good for fruiting and flowering and the sheep wool provides nitrogen but also helps with water retention!  Interestingly, according to their website, rhubarb in Yorkshire is grown in wool!

Larkspur seedlings

Larkspur seedlings

I have to admit that I was anticipating a small bag of seed compost probably enough for a seed tray not a full size bag.  Unfortunately life got very busy at this point and it is only recently that I have got around to sowing some perennial seeds and so an opportunity to try out the compost became available.  I was surprised by the very open quality of the compost, I really dislike claggy compost as I feel the germinating seedlings have little chance of pushing through it. I sowed a range of perennials and annuals and  watered them well.  They went in the greenhouse and over the last three weeks, since sowing, I have only had to water them once a week and even then the seed trays haven’t completely dried out – this was very pleasing as I have struggled with before with peat-free compost and with germinating seeds you really don’t want to have the moisture of the compost changing radically.

Today, I was delighted to see that the Larkspur and Cerinthe had started to germinate and look good and strong.

Admittedly the compost is quite  expensive compared to the standard and well-known makes you can get in your local garden centre.  This is a bit of a stumbling block for me but it depends on how much compost you use and what your budget is like.  I suppose it comes down to that old adage ‘You pays your money, you take your choice’. However,  I will definitely consider using this compost again as I really like the texture of it and if peat based compost is going to be withdrawn from the market over the coming years then this would be an excellent alternative.