In a Vase on Monday – Never Work With Animals

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Garden This Weekend – 29th March 2015

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

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

Primula denticulata

Primula denticulata

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

Narcissus 'Beryl'

Narcissus ‘Beryl’

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

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

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

Soldanella alpina

Soldanella alpina

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

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

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

My Garden This Weekend – 22nd March 2015

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The spring equinox has brought a weekend of heavenly gardening weather.  The sun has shone and there was a light breeze which wafted the big lumbering bumble bees around.  The scent from the hyacinths which are planted just at the top of the first flight of steps is absolutely wonderful.

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It is amazing how much the plants have come on in the last week.   I have two camellias both of them bought from the bargain section of a garden centre.  This one is stunning, covered in flowers and seems to be thriving since it was moved to the old Bog Border.  The other camellia which is planted next to it has two flowers and the leaves are still sad and chloroitic in appearance.  I think it is due to be removed as I have struggled with it for years.

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The main area of my focus this weekend was at the top of the garden which has been sadly neglected.  I have struggled with this area ever since it was created.  The soil can get dry and it is quite a sunny site, probably more so now that the adjacent trees have been loped.  I find that I need an idea/theme, call it what you will, to get my head around planting a border and this just hasn’t happened with the top of the garden.  Last weekend I weeded the border and realised that it wasn’t actually too bad.  The three bamboos are fairly well established now.  There is also  a fig tree which I had started to grow against a fence but decided to move up here and let it grow more naturally rather than train it. Today I added two evergreen shrubs which I hope will bulk up and add substance to the border as well as mask the fence when you look up the garden.  The white flowered shrub that you can see (apologies for the quality of the photo but my camera has broken again and I was struggling with my son’s camera) is Vibrunum tinus ‘Eve Prince’ and right at the end is an Elaeagnus x ebbingei which I am hoping will cope well with the dryish conditions.  I have also added a Lathyrus vernus and Nepeta Giant Six Hills’ which should work well with the already established Geraniums palmatums. Less obvious from the above photo is the work I have done on the other side of the path.  This is part of the slope that goes behind the workshop and was a mass of weeds last week.  I have dug it over and added garden compost and green waste to break up the clay.  Then I planted out a collection of plants which had been living on the patio for far too long.  I think I might call this the waifs and strays border as they are all plants that I didn’t know where to plant for one reason or another.  There are a couple of hydrangeas, a miscanthus, a mahonia, and an agapanthus as well as some small shrublets.  Who knows they might all establish and gel together but at least they are in the ground and have a chance now rather than languishing in pots on the patio.

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Elsewhere in the garden the first Epimediums are starting to flower.  They really are impossibly difficult to photograph.  This one is  the first I acquired some years back, the label long lost.  I now have 11 or 12 different ones and I was thrilled to see flower buds appearing on last year’s acquisitions including Egret which I had been warned could be hard to establish.  I also spotted the fat snouts of hostas beginning to push through the soil, the first fern croziers and the fresh young foliage of geraniums.

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Looking at the garden there is plenty of colour from the fresh green shoots and spring flowers but it is so hard to catch.  I especially like the way the low spring sunshine lights up the garden. I did some weeding and sorting of the Big Border rescuing two geraniums and an aster which had been engulfed by the Euphorbia characias ‘White Swan’ which seems to want to grow a foot across from where I intended it to grow.  Having replanted the rescued plants and moved a couple of grasses which were planted poorly last year this border has moved into the ‘watching brief’ category by which I mean that I have no plans to add to the planting, aside from some annuals, and I want to see how the plants develop and whether I have gaps or have planted too closely.  I feel as though I have got the majority of the back garden to this point now which is very satisfying and allows me time to focus on propagation and  day to day maintenance which will help me achieve the garden that lives in my head.

 

 

Foliage Follow Up – March 2015 – Geranium palmatum

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This month I have decided to focus on one particular plant for the foliage follow up as I keep showing the same old plants month in, month out.  My chosen plant is Geranium palmatum which I personally think is a wonderful foliage plant before the electric pink flowers appear.  Read any description of the plant and you will see it is frost hardy and short lived.  I have a number of these plants grown from seed several years ago and they have come through the last two winters unscathed although admittedly the winters have been mild.  I think the lowest temperature we have had is -4C.  However, we have had some real frosts which have left the Melianthus major leaves scorched but the most the Geranium palmatum has suffered is some of the older leaves going a blotchy red colour.

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I like the leaves as they have a nice ferny texture to them and quite different to other geraniums.  They are called palmatum I think due to the palm leaf shapes.  You will also see how fresh and glossy the leaves are even in March and they stay like this all year.  The only maintenance is to remove the older leaves as they fade.

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And look at this wonderful fresh new shoots forming in the middle.  As you can see Geranium palmatum grows from a central stem, like Geranium madrense, so cannot be divided like many other Geraniums.  I think the only way of propagating it is by seed and I plan to collect some seed this year as an insurance policy in case we have a hard winter this year.  But….2015_03150007what really fascinated me where the shiny red leaflets clustered around the leaf stems.  So vibrant and attractive and I don’t remember having spotted them before.  I only noticed them when I was cutting back dead leaves and weeding around the plant and became completely fascinated by them. They remind me of onion skins, the ones just under the dry outer skins, almost silk like. Its amazing what you discover when you really look at your plants.

For more Foliage Follow Up posts visit Pam over at Digging

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – March 2015

Euphorbia characias 'White Swan'

Euphorbia characias ‘White Swan’

I am really pleased with the garden at the moment; it looks so pretty with the pinks, purples and yellows dotted around the borders. Acting as a gentle foil to the bulbs is the Euphorbia characias ‘White Swan’ which is also flowering now.

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A lot of the colour is coming from the growing number of primulas in the garden.  I really like the Barnhaven Primroses which are meant to be identifable by the yellow eye in the middle of the flower.  None of the ones in this post were sold as Barnhaven Primroses but I think they have become so easy to get now that they are quite prevalent.  I like the pink streaking on the one above.

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This one seems to be the reverse of the one above and I am hoping that it will establish and bulk up.  I have recently sown a couple of packets of Barnhaven Primrose seeds so maybe in a year or two I will have a really gaudy spring garden!

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I particularly like this soft blue primula which is a nice compliment to the narcissus.

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Then there are the hellebores which are also growing in number.  I seem to acquire three or four every year and I have noticed that the yellow ones seem to open much earlier than the others with the dark purples opening last.

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and finally we have a couple of early flowering narcissus – Tete a Tete and a mysterious shortish one, although taller than Tete a Tete

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Not bad for mid March I think, definitely better than last year.

For more Spring Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts pop over to Carols at May Dream Gardens

 

 

Greenhouse Review – March 2015

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I have been meaning to join in with Peonies and Posies monthly meme on the greenhouse for a while but I keep forgetting.  Luckily I spotted a post elsewhere which has reminded me so here I am.  My greenhouse is tiny, a mere tiddler compared with P & P’s gorgeous greenhouse – not that I am jealous at all! I did do a monthly greenhouse post back in 2012 and you can read the first one here to find out a bit more about my greenhouse.

Essentially it is a small 6′ x 4′ greenhouse with power to it.  It has been through a number of guises since 2012 as I have floundered around in my gardening interests, trying this and that, and have almost come back to where I started.  I don’t grow tomatoes in the greenhouse any more. Well to be honest I don’t grow any edibles at the moment, that might change in time but as of today there are no plans to. Last year I went a little off piste and invested in a sand plunge as I thought I wanted to grow and show alpines but it has become quickly clear to me that for a number of reasons, not least time, this is not something I want or can to do at the moment. I am looking for a way to reinvent the plunge and I am thinking making it into a heated prop bench might be interesting.2015_03080024

So the pots of bulbs are being moved out into the garden and I am looking for places for them to thrive.  That is with the exception of the tender bulbs particularly South Africa ones which I have a weakness for at the moment.  I don’t know if that will last as I seem to be experimenting with all sorts of plants at the moment.  Due to the bulbs my succulent collection, which I was quite proud of, was overwintered in the garage which was fine for a while but somehow, when I moved them back to the greenhouse, I think they caught a chill or I over watered them but the result was I have lost about half of the plants. It is a pity but it frees up some space for  new plants.  I don’t think I will be replacing them with succulents but again we shall see.

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You will also have noticed my shameful collection of pelargoniums which were also overwintered in the garage.  They need re-potting into fresh compost and regular feeding from now through the season.  Again I have lost a few.

All this dithering and being distracted with this and that, has resulted in the losses and I think the tiny greenhouse really brings into focus the scatter gun approach I have had over the last few years to gardening.  However, I am moving forward in a positive way knowing much more what I am really interested in and what makes me happy which can only be a good thing.

As you will have spotted I have been sowing seeds of various annuals and also some perennials.  Spending a couple of hours sowing the seeds made me very happy and it feels like I have come home.

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You can see how well used the greenhouse is.  The bit of space you can see on the floor is actually normally occupied by a Bottlebrush plant, grown from seed, which I am toying with planting out this year as it is just getting too big to be overwintered in the greenhouse and I think the plant needs to get its roots down into the soil.

I also have two 3 tier cold frames which are full at the moment with overwintering perennial seedlings, and more pots which I am hoping to spot some seeds germinating in soon. My goal this year is to do a better job of growing on seedlings which is my weakness.

Thank to Julie for hosting this meme which is meant to be posted around the 11th of the month.