Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May 2020

It’s been a while since I posted a Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (GBBD) post but with my renewed blogging and a sunny morning I thought I would post away.

My approach is slightly different to my previous approach.  I have always taken close up photos of flowers especially for this meme but today I have pulled back a bit so you can see the context the plant is growing in, this is purely because my plants have matured and I am rather pleased with some of the combinations.

I’m starting in the front garden with the mad Euphorbia characias which is collapsing all over the place at the moment.  I adore the chartreuse green of the flower heads and it creates a perfect foil for both the aquilegias (above) and Iris Langport Wren (below).

Also in the front garden is one of my climbing roses.  I’m fairly new to climbing roses as the paving around the house was put by the builders right up to the walls so I have to grow the roses in large containers and only realised this was possible a few years ago, having read that roses didn’t do well in pots.  I do like the way that the orange red flowers of the rose work with the bricks.

Another pleasing combination is the wild yellow flag iris which grows in the small bog garden with the flowers emerging through some self-sown bracken (just as I was thinking the bracken really needed to go).

I’m also enjoying the allium flowers which are growing through the sage and contrasting with the sage flowers.  I can’t claim this is a deliberate planting its more a case of the alliums sowing themselves around and finding much better companions that I would give them.

Last up this month is Lathyrus aureus which I love at this time of year.  I really enjoy the orange flowers which like the Euphorbia provide a good compliment to the purples and blues of the aquilegias and irises.

For more GBBD posts check out the links on Carol’s May Dream blog

Six on Saturday – After the Rain

Darmera peltata

I’ve been moving a lot of plants around over the last couple of weeks partly to clear the Big Border for edibles but also to address some of the plants that have outgrown their space or just aren’t looking great any more.  It has made be really aware of how dry the soil was becoming and I have found myself having to get the hose out several times a week to try to help the plants survive the trauma of being unceremoniously hauled out of the ground.

Yesterday late afternoon the rain finally appeared, fine rain, nothing much to write home about and to be honest a little disappointing. But this morning I was thrilled to wake to heavy and persistent rain which only really eased early afternoon.

Going out to take some photos for Six on Saturday post it was lovely to smell that wonderful fresh smell that you only get from a good downfall of rain.  Not only does it smell fresh but there is that wonderful light that comes with the sun starting to push through the mist and clouds making everything feel soft and lush.

So to my Six on Saturday.  First up is Darmera peltata, also known as the ‘Umbrella Plant’.  I grow this plant mainly for its leaves which are umbrella like, hence the name, and do very well in the damp shade border.  However, the flowers make a welcome and interesting addition to the shady border.  Next up are Bluebells.  I have no idea is these are English or Spanish but they have been in my garden for years and come from the hedgerow near my parents old house in the country so I would like to think they were English.

Trillium grandiflorum (probably)

My third is this Trillium which I am super pleased with.  I think it is Trillium grandiflorum but happy to be corrected.  I have had it for some years now and it has appeared every year with one flower.  This year it has decided to produce three flowers which is just wonderful and makes me incredibly happy.

Primula denticulata

Number 4 is Primula denticulata. This individual is just one of a group of ten or more which have developed from one plant grown from seed probably ten years or more ago.  Back in the Autumn I was sorting out the Woodland border and decided to divide up the Primula denticulata quite aggressively and I have been rewarded with more and stronger flowers, proving that plants sometimes do respond well to a little rough treatment.

Camassia

Number 5 are Camassias.  These are starting to be a bit of a weed in my garden.  Having bought a couple of bulbs years back they have been either seeding around or the bulbs bulking up either way I have been redistributing them around the garden and to be honest composting quite a few.

Deutzia

Number Six: Deutzia.  This shrub was in the garden when we moved in 17 years ago and never fails to deliver an abundance of flowers every year.  I’m sure its early this year as I think it normally flowers around the time of the Malvern Spring Show which is the second weekend of May.

I’m anticipating that with the warm weather forecast for next week and the amount of rain that we have had today the garden will really be bursting with new growth and flowers by next weekend.

End of Month View – March 2020

It is ages since I posted an End of Month View post.  I have been hosting this meme for something like 10 years and I think that I just ran out of steam. But now I have started to post again I thought I would post an EOMV post and as I haven’t posted much for ages I thought I would give you a tour of the garden – front and back. You can access a plan of the back garden here

So we are starting in the front garden.  I have quite a deep front garden and a couple of years back I decided to get rid of the front lawn as it was just boring. I put a path in purely for decorative purposes and to allow some access for me to manage the plants.  The driveway runs parallel to this area, and the photo is from the top of the driveway.  The planting has filled out a lot over the last few years.  There are a lot of asters and grasses in the area to the left of the path, which is much deeper than the photo implies.  I am now working through removing most of the asters as I want interest throughout the year not just in late summer.  I have this last weekend added the Anemanthele lessoniana to the border, which has been relocated from the back garden.

This is a rather boring photo of the front of the house but I am super pleased with the new path that went in last year.  I’m also really pleased with the narrow border under one of the front windows.  It has been a difficult border for years, due to the builders rubble but the various succulents seem to thrive here; so I’m going to do the same on the other side of the front door.

So we go along the lovely new path and down the side of the house, past my son’s wood store and you come to the back patio and my random pile of pots and compost.  But this photo does show you the difference in the height between the patio and the back garden.

Here is my patio, not the most glamorous of patios but it does the job.  Lots of seedlings in pots to be sorted, the majority of these are peony seedlings from a couple of years ago; turns out I’m quite adept at germinating peonies.

A warts and all view of the other end of the patio.  The area to the left used to be the fern border.  However, the ferns were deteriorating as the rosemary was shading them out.  The ferns were moved about a year ago and I decided to remove the border and continue the paving to make this area bigger and more practical.  However, life got in the way and I haven’t yet completed shifting the soil.

You go up the steps at the end of the patio and you find the bark path to your left.  The border to the left is the rose border.  I have accumulated a number of roses here over the years and the border is backed by 3 step-over apple trees which I have trained from whips.  I started off with just roses and herbs but the other week I have added a few plants from the Big Border (to the right) including some Agapanthus divisions.

The border to the right is the Big Border that is going to be home to my edibles, see last post.

If you continue straight up from the steps you come to the grass path on your left and this goes across the top of the Big Border.  The grass isn’t in very good condition at the moment and is covered in soil from my work clearing the border.  I built the retaining wall to the right of the path this time last year and it has worked well.  It has reduced the slope of the border and the plants seem to just look better.  I also like the structure it gives.

View from the other end of the grass path – not a great photo but it gives a sense of the slope of the garden.

From the grass path you can see the back slope of the garden, which is quite steep.  If you look at the garden plan on the blog you will see that there used to be a path along the top of the slope. I have got rid of this over the last couple of years as it served no purpose.  Instead I have more planting space and I have been moving shrubs in along the top of the slope to create some shrubby cover.

And this is the far top corner, which I call Maisie’s Corner as my beloved cat is buried here.  The compost bins were here until a couple of years ago and we removed them as they were a nightmare to manage.  Instead I have a large shady spot and have moved a number of the ferns from the patio border here, along with some shrubs which had outgrown their homes. We buried Maisie here as it was one of her favourite places and I still find it hard to garden here as I miss her so much.

So there’s my garden warts and all at the end of a reasonably wet March.  Given that we are self-isolating now for a while I hope to be able to get out and start to sort it out more.  However, the reality is that my work is very demanding and I’m finding myself stuck in front of a laptop every day but at least I get to sit in the garden for lunch on a sunny day which is a definite improvement on the normal working week.

 

Edibles Again

Some eight years ago I made the decision to give up on veg growing and gave up my allotment.  It had been a love/hate relationship from the start for a whole raft of reasons and I have never regretted the decision.  However, for some reason in the last couple of months I have had an inkling to try growing veg and fruit again but this time at home in my garden. This surprises me as I have never felt a desire to grow edibles at home.  My garden isn’t huge, and being wide and sloping it doesn’t really have the option to have a veg garden at the end.  But then why does the veg garden need to be at the end of the garden, hidden away?

I found myself digging out Geoff Hamilton’s Ornamental Kitchen Garden, one of the first gardening books I was given.  I always remember being fascinated by the idea of mixing up veg and flowers in the garden but for some reason I have never really taken up the challenge.  Now though, having gardened very little over the last two years, I see the garden with fresh eyes and I think why not, lets give it a go.

It started with a short list of a rhubarb plant, maybe an artichoke, and some potatoes.  Nothing much, just things that could be incorporated into the borders and as my son said I do like good foliage and these plants all have nice foliage.  The rhubarb went in about a month ago and this started more thoughts about what to grow.  Maybe some raspberries, and of course a gooseberry bush as I love gooseberries.  As I have a habit of crashing into projects and then regretting it, I decided to wait until I was back from Madeira to see if I still felt the same.

But Madeira just confirmed my thoughts.  I was fascinated by their approach to growing edibles.  The eastern side of the island is what is called the rural side of the island.  Here, vegetables and fruit are grown in any space that seems to be available.  The soil is rich and they plant crops close together, not in rows placed wide apart as we do on our allotments.  I love the lushness and abundance and it got more thoughts going.

The result is that I have decided to really embrace growing edibles and instead of putting just one or two things amongst the flowers I am going to turn the big border in the middle of the garden over to edibles.

This border has always been a challenge for me.  I’ve never really worked out what to do with it.  I like borders to have a feel or a theme something that give them cohesion and this has never really worked in this border.  The drainage in this border is very good due to the slope and there are quite a lot of bulbs planted at one end where they get baked in the sun and at the other end there are a number of hellebores that are thriving.  But in between its all a bit of a mishmash,

So the plan is to slowly clear the border, leaving the planting at the two ends.  There will be a row of raspberry canes along the top edge, set back a few feet from the grass path and the veg will be grown in small blocks following the principles in Geoff Hamilton’s book.  As soon as something finishes, it is replaced with another crop.  To help with this I was given a new cold frame for my birthday and this is already full of seedlings waiting to go out.  I also managed to buy some raspberry canes, a gooseberry bush and some strawberry plants before the garden centre had to close due to the lock-down.  I am stocked up with seeds and other essential supplies so hopefully this new project will give me some light relief to being working at home for the foreseeable.

 

 

 

A fresh perspective

Hepatica noblis

My head is buzzing with ideas, one idea bouncing off another and taking my gardening thoughts in another direction. It takes me back, two, three years ago or even four years back when I was really immersed in my garden.  Over the past period my focus on the garden has been limited for a wide range of reasons which I won’t bore you with but the upside is that I now find myself looking at the garden with fresh eyes.  It’s as if I have moved to a new garden and can start again.  Even better, I’m not so sentimental about plants as I was before.  I find myself looking at plants and thinking this really isn’t working any more or, to be quite frank, I just bored of this plant.  Now for some this might sound a terrible way to think as like many keen gardeners I have often nurtured the plants, coaxing them to establish and grow well. But a garden is not a museum, plants out grow their space, the gardener’s tastes move on and change is, in my opinion, healthy.

Now this picture makes me incredibly happy.  My hard working greenhouse has been helping me in my horticultural pursuits for at least 10 years and has gone through various iterations. When I first got the greenhouse I set it up with staging on both sides and a potting bench at the end.  Its a tiny greenhouse, just enough room for me to stand in the middle and it means I have to spend a lot of time and effort in moving plants around during the seasons to maximise the space.  For the last few years I have had some deep tray staging, the type you can plunge pots into gravel or sand in. I installed it as I was dabbling in alpines and miniature bulbs which I enjoyed for a while but the trouble is that I’m easily lead and a bit of a magpie, attracted to one shiny plant after another. So my poor little greenhouse was trying to house alpines, half hardy ferns, and succulents – a recipe for failure.  Add to that my complete disengagement and failure was guaranteed. Slowly but surely various plants died, or I planted them out, or just got rid of them.  What is now left are the plants that make me happy, albeit it a small and select group.

My new approach is to go back to basics, back to what used to make me happy years back when I first got into gardening.  I don’t engage in a lot of social media any more and I think that has freed my mind up, I’m no longer being lead astray by what others are doing, the latest fade or trend.  Instead I want to create a lovely, pretty cottage garden full of my favourite plants – both flowers and edible.

The greenhouse is the first step in this new approach.  I have removed the deep staging and returned the potting bench.  I’ve decided not to have two sets of staging as later this year I would like to grow some tomatoes in the greenhouse so this space is being used for the remaining tenders that still need a winter home. The potting bench has all that is left of my propagating supplies.  A month or so ago I ditched all the plastic pots and trays, old seed packets etc and started again.

It has been liberating….now my mind is clear and I can think more clearly and plans are forming.

 

 

A Dream of an Herbaceous Border

I spent most of last week trundling around Yorkshire with a large group of friends indulging in visiting gardens, plant buying and eating cake – what’s not to love.  I have been on this holiday for four years now, to different parts of the UK, and this year for some reason I was acutely aware that my taste and preferences in terms of gardens had changed, or maybe had become clearer.  I also found it interesting that some of my preferences were at odds with many of my travelling companions and this seemed to be possibly a generational divide.

It is some years since I wrote ‘reviews’ about specific gardens as they can become quite repetitive to read and my plan was to write a post which captured the gardens that I loved, and why I loved them as well as what I didn’t feel enthusiastic about but maybe others did.  However, looking at my photos I got stuck at the first garden we visited which I adored and took so many photos of.  So before I write a more analytical post of the gardens I thought I would indulge in a little flurry of herbaceous border photos.

The garden in question is Felley Priory, which is in North Nottinghamshire – we stopped on the way to Yorkshire.  I had never heard of it before but I learnt from fellow travellers that it hosts a wonderful plant sale later in the year so obviously is well known in the area.

If you asked me if I liked topiary I think my response would be indifferent but when I stop and think about it I realise that there is a deep sub-conscious attraction to some of these idiosyncratic creations.  I love the topiary at Levens Hall in the Lake District which reminds me of Alice in Wonderland and whilst not on the same scale as Levens Hall I loved the humour in the topiary at Felley Priory.  The topiary is something you encounter before you come across the herbaceous borders which are behind the yew hedges you see in the photo above.

For me the borders were breathtaking.  The planting was of an exceptional quality with a high level of unobtrusive maintenance.  Being someone who struggles with plants flopping I spent some time peering between the plants to see if I could see what supports were being used.  Our group, including professional plant growers and gardeners, all felt that there was no support so well was it hidden.  But supports there were, hidden away and clearly demonstrating the benefits of putting in supports early in the season so the plants grow up through them and not my approach of retrospective staking which never looks good.

I also loved the colour combinations in the borders which was wide ranging but not clashing, as many of the borders we saw later in the week were.  There is also something about the scale of the flowers to each other.  Nothing is big and blowsey and overshadowing anything else.  Each plant is part of the overall whole but allowed to shine in its own way. Some of the other borders we saw elsewhere had a complete imbalance of flower size and colour meaning that the border did not make a cohesive whole but felt very bitty to me – well that was my view.

I really liked this part of the border which is essentially red, white and blue but so subtle due to the inclusion of the burgundy scabious which provides a good link between the red mondara and the blues of the phlox and the eryginium. The skill is that the mondara is a bluey red, if you know what I mean, as opposed to an orangey red again adding to a harmonious whole. I also loved that the gardeners were happy to use white meadow sweet which many would worry was a weed.  The meadow sweet isn’t planted in a large clump or solid ‘drift’ but instead the planting is starting to move more towards the matrix style of planting which we came across a few more times on our trip and is, for me, the way forward.

 

 

Six on Saturday 20/7/19 – A Soggy Interlude

Dahlia Little Robert

I’ve been away for a week visiting gardens in Yorkshire, very inspiring and I will probably share my thoughts and images with you soon.  I only had time on arriving home to unload my plant acquisitions  so I didn’t have a chance to walk round the garden until Friday morning when it was absolutely pouring.  The rain is well overdue and the garden will benefit and hopefully the humidity will be lifted but the rain isn’t very helpful for taking photos and having a look around the garden so these are not my best.

The dahlia is the only one that has grown for me this year.  I bought four tubers and this is the only one that has grown, which is a huge disappointment. I doubt I will bother with dahlias again as they are generally too large and dominant for my planting style.

Gladiolus flanniganii

I love this gladiolus, I have a whole pot of it which I drag under cover each winter to protect it.  Its a small gladiolus and originates from the cliffs of the Drakensburg, I expect I bought it from am alpine nursery when I was dabbling in alpines a few years ago.

Phlox paniculata ‘David’

I did spot that the Phlox paniculata ‘David’ is flowering.  This phlox does really well for me and it smells amazing.  I saw quite a lot of phlox in Yorkshire last week so I bought another one to see if it will grow as well.

I’ve included the flowering agave as the flower is so disproportionate to the size of the plant.  I suspect it is long overdue for repotting; another job to add to the long list of jobs to do.

You may have wondered earlier what plant acquisitions I made so I thought I would show you a picture of them recovering in the rain. Some of them spent 5 days sitting under a coach so they have done very well; we were lucky that our coach driver is also a gardener.  He has driven us for each of our trips over the last four years so is part of the gang now although this year we really challenged him with filling the underneath of the coach and every available space inside the coach with plants. I think I ended up with 21 plants including an echeveria, a fern, a couple of alpines and numerous plants for the Big Border where I am trying to improve the grassy pollinator look.

The other new acquisition on the patio is a new patio set of two chairs and a small table.  We wanted chairs which were conducive to reading and relaxing and these chairs are incredibly comfortable.  I bought them just before I went away so I am now looking forward to having a nice sit down outside when I get home from work next week.

Those are my soggy Six on Saturday, for more posts visit The Propagators blog.

 

Take one Aeonium….

Take one group of overgrown leggy aeoniums add…

a pile of old terracotta pots and

a few trugs of sandy gritty compost and you get

a whole load of aeoniums which I am now wondering what I will do with if they take.

When I got my first aeonium it took me some time before I had the courage to chop the top of the plant and pot it up.  But when I did I also, having read up on the subject, took stem cutting which took surprisingly well.  Whenever you cut the top of an aeonium off, if you are lucky, the plant shots from the cut and produces branches so you end up with a more interesting plant.

As you can see I have quite a few stems which I am hoping will reshoot to create interesting branched plants.  As for all the pots of aeoniums, if they take, quite a few of them will be donated to the work charity plant sale next year, where this year, the last batch of aeonium cuttings I took proved to be surprisingly popular.  That is most of my succulents sorted aside from the Echiverias which need to be divided but thats for another day.

 

 

A new kind of madness

I was reading the introduction of an embroidery book yesterday morning which really spoke to my inner gardener, as much as my embroidery self.  The book,  Needlework Antique Flowers by Elizabeth Bradley is from the early 1990s and belonged to a former member of my Embroiderers Guild who sadly died earlier this year. I love ‘old’ embroidery books as they often have real instructions on all sorts of lost stitches and techniques.  This book is about woolwork which is essentially like tapestry by done with cross stitch instead of tent stitch.  Anyway, I digress, the thing that struck a chord with me was the following comment from the author:

“Modern gardeners and gardening writers seem to fall loosely into two schools.  The first are plantsmen whom I greatly admire.  They really know their charges, can remember their Latin names however often they change, and thoroughly understand what each plant needs to thrive.  Their gardens, although often beautifully designed and laid out, differ from others by their plants also growing perfectly, each well staked and with enough space around it so that it can grow properly and be seen to best advantage…..I as a gardener, fall into a second category that can only be described as the school of enthusiastic amateurs.  I love my plants and know most of their names but just will not make the time to really find out what is necessary to get best out each.”

The reason this struck a chord with me is I often like to think of myself as a plantsmen, although I recognise I am being a little presumptive. Some gardening friends seem to think I am very knowledgeable ad plants (if they read this blog they would know I can’t remember one name from one week to another) and I do research what conditions my plants need but I fail completely when it comes to showing my plants perfectly so they can be seen to the best advantage.

Maybe this passage was in my mind when I spent some time on Sunday morning tackling the big border.  What started out as a little dead-heading quickly become more involved and the large red opium poppy was dug up.  Its huge leaves have been smothering so many other plants and I have decided that it is just to substantial for the border, which I am trying to focus more on grasses, bulbs and grassland plants.  The poppy has been cut back hard and potted up ready to be planted out in the front garden, as part of the editing work that needs to take place.  The camassia foliage has added to the problem as the leaves are dense, sword like and long and when it rains are flattened down on new foliage from other plants which are trying to grow; so they too are being edited. The alliums suffered the most from the suffocating foliage and were growing almost horizontally with weird kinks in their stems. So……

…each allium ended up with its own stake – how mad is that!  I think this must surely be the way to madness.  The lesson I take away from this is to plant alliums amongst less dominating plants.

Whilst, I aspire to show each of my plants to their best advantage, because of my preference for well filled borders I don’t think I will ever grow my plants “with enough space around it so that it can grow properly” .

 

Six on Saturday – 25th May 2019

Tragopodon crocifolius (Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon)

Every so often there are unexpected delights in the garden and this week seems to have delivered more than its fair share.  I have grown Tragopodon crocifolius for years, well I have I have grown it, what I actually mean is that I grew it from seed probably around 8 years ago and it has seeded it self around the garden.  It is a hardy annual and I suspect I got the original seeds from Special Plants.  It sends up a tall stem with these wonderful lilac flowers which then turn to big Dandelion type puff ball seedheads – hence the self seeding around the garden.  Its common name is Jack-go-bed-at-noon because the flowers open in the morning and then close at noon.  To be honest I had forgotten about this plant until I noticed a number of them flowering in the front garden – a nice surprise.

Tulip sprengeri

But much as I love Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon the real thrill this weekend are the Tulip sprengeri flowers.  I have been trying to establish this plant in the garden for a few years.  I have tried sowing seeds in pots, in borders but no luck. Last year I bought a pot of seedlings, which I promptly forgot about as is my habit, but when I built the raised wall around the top border I rounded up a number of small pots of plants from the patio and planted them out and lo and behold one of them was the tulip sprengeri and this time they have flowered. I am really hoping that they will start to seed them and I will end up with a clump like I have seen elsewhere.

Dutch Iris ‘Miss Saigon’ was a new addition this spring.  I planted about 20 bulbs in the garden and they are simply gorgeous, such a special irridescent colour.

Another of my Dutch Iris, this was an early acquisition so there are only one or two in the garden but the white is so pure.

Peonies – have been a challenge for me for years.  I have planted many over the years but I obviously plant them too deeply as until this year I have never had many flowers.  But things have changed – this year the plant above has some 5 blooms on it and I have another one just the same.  Then this evening, while watering I spotted that some of the other peonies, of a different type going by the leaves, have buds too so things are looking up.

Iris Bumblebee Delight

I posted the other week a photo of Iris Langport Wren which has multipled itself over the years and this year felt as though it was the only bearded iris left in the garden.  I love bearded irises and like the peonies have bought many over the years but they seem to have disappeared.  I decided the other day that I needed to rectify the situation and try to add some more varieties.  I thought I would get some at the HPS meeting today but not an iris to be seen, nor at the garden centre on the way home; seems they aren’t in fashion.  But, when I got home I spotted that diminutive Iris Bumblebee Delight starting to flower – so thats two bearded irises but I do need more.

Those are my delights for this week for more Six on Saturday posts check out My Propogator’s blog.