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.

 

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.

 

 

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 – 15th June 2019

I’m late this week as I have been at my Embrodierers Guild meeting so photos had to wait until I got home, and then I had to wait for another heavy rain shower to pass.  All of which meant that the plants were a little weather beaten and I was a little soggy by the time I had my six photos.

I’m starting with this peony, which I think is Bowl of Beauty.  I was so excited when I spotted the flowers opening this afternoon.  Its been in bud for weeks and just sat there and I convinced myself it was another red peony as the buds were quite dark.  I have a number of the big red peonies but a few years back I invested in a couple of none-red ones as I do like a peony.  However, I suspect I planted them too deeply as there were no flowers.  This peony was relocated last year I think and I was careful not to bury it too far down and I am sure this is why I have been rewarded with flowers.

Just to show you how over grown the garden has got here is the central Big Border from the bottom path.  Yet more dead-heading to do and if you look closely to the left of path you can see the Papaver ‘Patty’s Plum’ fading poorly, but it seems to work with the roses so I think I will leave it.  The red splash towards the back is an oriental poppy and I am going to move that once it has finished flowering to the front garden where its big leaves will be less dominating.  I expect, knowing oriental poppies, that some root will stay behind and in a year or so it will be back in the Big Border.

This is the the Big Border from the middle path.  The Geraniums have gone mad over the last week and I finally have that overflowing look I was hoping for.  I added a few lilies last week to add a bit of glamour.

Back to the plants here is my largest Allium, possibly Purple Sensation.  I love the metallic look of the flowers, they remind me of some sort of lighting installation.

The Allium also gives a useful size context to the Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ which is swamping the area behind the bench.  I left the bench in the photo for size reference and to shame myself into painting it. I think the Hosta is finally the right plant for this spot as I have been looking for something which would have enough presence to fill the space and be seen behind the bench but not a tall plant which would over shadow the bench.

Finally, a not particularly briliant photo of my white Ensata Iris, which is slowly increasing year on year and makes me very happy.

For more Six on Saturday posts from around the horticultural world check out The Propagator’s Blog

Six on Saturday – 1st June 2019

I can never decide if I like Papaver ‘Patty’s Plum’ or not.  The colour of the flower when it first opens is lovely and I can’t resist the tissue like petals but it does fade to a rather miserable brown as it dies.  Having said this my two plants of ‘Patty’s Plum’ are groaning with buds and I am anticipating the best ever show in the next week. There are two because being an oriental poppy when you attempt to move it you can more or less guarantee it will reshoot in the original position from some small element of root you have left behind. Interestingly, the red oriental poppy (name unknown) is always behind with its flowers and there are few obvious buds so far

Some of my alliums are behaving a little strangely this year by growing very tall with smaller flower heads than usual.  It seems to be mainly the alliums with flatter flower heads than the globe flower heads such as ‘Purple Sensation’ although they too seem to have smaller flower heads.  I can’t find the name of the variety above, its like Allium nigrum but has the pink inner petals so I am pretty sure it isn’t Allium nigrum.

I think this Thalictrum might be the  ‘Black Stockings’ admired elsewhere.  I am pretty sure these were grown from seeds some years back.  It is a nice Thalictrum as it isn’t too tall like some Thalictrums.

The Siberian Irises are also not flowering as much as in previous years and I suspect that they and the alliums have been affected by the drought last year.   I do love irises and this has been brought home to me over the last few weeks with all the irises I have included in my Six on Saturday posts.  With this in mind I’m off today to a Beardless Iris study day which hopefully will be interesting.

I thought I would show you some of my more extreme pruning.  The above is a Viburnum which had been neglected and grown tall and leggy with whippy stems – a victim of my lack of gardening over the last couple of years.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed the flowers had gone over so I got my secateurs out and drastically pruned the shrub.  It looked awful at the time but I was pleased to see that new leaves have started to appear so hopefully it will be reinvigorated soon.

I also meant to write a blog post last week about my tin bath pond but work got in the way so I am sharing a photo here.  I have had the tin bath for a number of years.  It was acquired with the intention of creating a pond; it sat on the patio for a year or two but for reasons I can’t remember now didn’t seem to work well so we (well my son) drilled some holes and I used it as a planter for a few more years. Then about 3 years ago I wanted to grow a miniature water-lily, as you do, so we (my son) filled the holes back in and we created another pond.  The lily has grown well over the last couple of years but a water lily on its own is not that interesting so last weekend I stopped at a garden centre which sells pond plants and bought a few bits and pieces to add interest.  I’m hoping it will be more colourful as the summer progresses.

For more Six on Saturday posts check out The Propagator’s blog

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.

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May 2019

Iris Langport Wren

This month the stars of the garden are the various irises and aquilegias.  I have always loved Irises of all sorts.  My love affair started with bearded irises such as Langport Wren above.  Over the years various varieties have come and gone from the garden, mainly due to too much shade, but Langport Wren has ben a stalwart.  Now my garden is more sunny and I have more open border space with good drainage I think I might think about adding some more varieties for next year.

 

Iris Pacific Coast Hybrid

By contrast the Pacific Coast Hybrids are fairly new to me.  The one above I grew from seed and I thrilled it has two flowers this year.  I think they should be know more in the UK as they do very well in dry and shading conditions such as under decidious trees or around conifers.

Dutch Iris – variety unknown

The Dutch Florist irises are also coming into their own.  I add a pack of two each year and have learnt that you need to plant them amongst the late summer perennials so the new foliage of the perennials hides the long gangly stems.  They are like rockets of colour emerging from the undergrowth.

Dutch Iris Miss Saigon

Miss Saigon is this years new addition and I am really pleased as it appears most of the 20 odd corms I planted will flower.

There is a lot of blue in the garden at this moment and this Aquilegia is the most amaze azure blue, it really is a vibrant as the photo indicates. All of my aquilegias come from various seed packets from various seed exchanges so aren’t named varieties and you get some amazing ones but also some not to good.  Another couple of favourites below.

I’ve previously shared my sea of blue camassias which have just gone over but now the cream ones are flowering.  They aren’t as prolific at multiplying and are more elegant than the blues; I like the contrast of the cream spires against the foliage.

Sweet Cicely

Sweet Cicely is another plant that looks fabulous at this time of year.  A wonderful confection of frothy white flowers above the sweet aniseed smelling foliage.

This Centaurea plant sits quietly on the corner of a border but at this time of year is awash with vibrant lilac flowers – so pretty.

In the front garden, which I am trying to remember to include more, the Libertia is drawing attention to itself with its papery white flowers.  The only trouble with Libertia, as far as I am concerned, is that the flowers translate into seeds which translate into a mass of seedlings which get everywhere and are a pain to extract but there are worse problems in the world.

And finally, my first Alliums to flower this year.  I have quite a few types of Allium flowering all through the summer.  I can’t remember the variety of these but they are good doers and come up year after year and the leaves aren’t too large to cause a problem in the border.

Those are my May highlights – for more Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit Carol at May Dream Gardens.

Six on Saturday – 27 April 2019

I had such good intentions of posting my six on Saturday post yesterday. I took the photos in the morning despite Storm Hannah gusting her way across the garden sending my neighbours fence off down his garden. But then it all went pear shaped and I caught my foot in a pile of bed linen sitting waiting for the washing machine – I went flying but got back up and limped on with the housework only to stub the same toe on the stair riser at which point I burst into tears and was told by my son to just stop.

It really knocked the stuffing out of me so even sitting writing a blog post seemed to much until this evening. My biggest worry is that I am off on my travels a week tomorrow with quite a bit of walking so I do hope the bruised toe will be better by then. Whilst my toe is a bluey purple the garden is very blue at the moment with the camassias in full bloom.

I love camassias; they do really well in my garden possibly because of the clay soil but it may also be that they are in a slope  so good drainage. They have been multiplying for a number of years now and I really need to thin some out. I did add a few a couple of weeks back to the front garden but the lesson I learnt was that camassias don’t transfer well when they are about to flower. However, they should look great next year.

But its not all Camassias the Deutzia has just started flowering and as ever is looking stunning.  I inherited it when I bought the house 13 years ago and every year it never fails to deliver a wealth of flowers.

Tulip China Town
Tulip China Town

Last week I showed you Tulip China Town in bud and now its flowering, I think it looks more stunning in bud but its still pretty gorgeous.

And finally, the flowers on the Melianthus major is still unfurling.  The leaves are looking a little frazzled but the flowers are quite wonderful in their weird way.

Those of my highlights this week, next week I’m anticipating the Dutch Iris will be flowering.

For more Six on Saturday posts visit The Propagtor’s blog – who kindly hosts this great meme

Six on Saturday 20th April – Tulips

Tulip Ballerina

As the tulips are coming into their own this week I thought I would have a tulip special for Six on Saturday.

Tulip Ballerina grows in the front garden and is very slowly naturalising.   I planted the bulbs some years back now and each year they appear although I’m not convinced they are multiplying that quickly more a case of coming back year on year and they do seem to have longer stems now.  Today with the sun shining they look quite magical.

Tulip Blue Diamond

Another front garden tulip this year is Tulip Blue Diamond which was in a collection pack from Peter Nyssen. This year is the first year for a few years where I have made a conscious effort to add tulips to the borders.  I used to grow quite a few but the year we had the really hard winter I discovered that the “cute” badger who had decided to visit our garden looking for food had a weakness for tulips and all my bulbs were eaten. As we haven’t seen the badgers for a few years now I decided to have another go and the effort is certainly rewarding me.

Tulip Spring Green

Tulip White Parrot seems to be a later tulip.  Here it is growing amongst some Camassias which will be flowering in the next week or so.  You will see in due course that I have quite a swathe of Camassias in the middle of my garden which have increased year on year to the point where I seriously need to think about dividing them but I will save that until next week.

Another rogue tulip – I think it is meant to be Tulip Elegant Lady which is a pale pink.  This flower reminds me of someone not mixing the paint properly.  I think it has a rather distinctive charm about it.

Tulip Princess Irene

Tulip Princess Irene is another tulip which comes back year on year.  I think it is one of the nicest oranges and works well with so many other flowers especially reds and burgundys

Tulip China Town

Tulip Chinatown has been delighting me for weeks even though it hasn’t flowered yet.  I love its glaucous variegated foliage. The tulip will be pink so it should be quite wonderful.

I will definitely be planting more tulips next year and looking forward to seeing which ones come back up from this year.

For more Six on Saturday check out The Propagator’s Blog