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.

Six for Saturday 9th February 2019

Not a lot of gardening has happened today; the wind and cold were not really conducive to pottering. Despite the skies being heavy with wintering clouds, there were moments when the clouds cleared and the sun shone through making the Anemanthele lessoniana glisten.

The Phormium, growing in the same border as the grass, is one of those plants that I am in two minds about.  At this time of year I love it especially when it is back-lit by sunshine but come the summer it doesn’t work very well with the perennials I have in the border but then again I am thinking about reducing the amount of asters in the border so we shall see.  

Another plant that comes into its own at this time of year is the Arum italicum which provides  a lovely backdrop to the early spring bulbs; this particular plant grows as a pretty skirt under the camellia below which looks like it might flower any day now.

Finishing on the foliage theme I thought I would share a photo of one of my Aeoniums which are thriving in the greenhouse.  The mild winter has led to unusually high temperatures in the greenhouse which has meant the plants have continued to grow rather than going dormant as they normally do at this time of year. 

For more Six for Saturday posts check out The Propagator’s blog whose great idea this meme was.

Thoughts from the Garden – 8/1/2017

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At this time of year any time snatched in the garden is a welcomed treat.  Here in Malvern it has been mild but also very damp with heavy rain on Friday and rain again overnight on Saturday and most of this afternoon.

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I have a lot of tidying to do and I am prioritising those parts of the garden where the bulbs will be emerging over the next month or so.  I always start with the back slope as I have a lot of Galanthus nivalis planted here, so many that last year I had to divide them and spread some into the adjoining borders.  The slope has historically been very shady and so is planted with ferns and epimediums.  It’s quite amazing how much debris you can clear away from such a small area by the time you have collected up all the fallen leaves, weeded out various seedlings and cut back the dead fern fronds. Over the last year some Iris foetidissima have self-seeded here which I think I will be removing the next chance I have as I want to add another epimedium. It will be interesting to see how the removal of the boundary trees affects this border and whether my ferns will continue to thrive.

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The end of the slope just before the bench has really filled out over the last few years. The Fatsia japonica ‘Spiderweb’ seems to have settled in and has lots of new leaves.  The problem I have is how close it is to the fern, whose name I have lost as I was one of my first ferny acquisition, so I am thinking I might have to move the fern but I will think about it for a while.

img_9076 I also need to move this Adiantum which has been looking very unhappy for the last year.  Adjacent to it is Galanthus ‘Galatea’ which should be fully open in the next week if the sun shines.

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Also close to opening is Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’ which is growing in a drier border under the Field Maple.  I am really pleased with both of these as I took the decision a couple of years ago to risk my special snowdrops in the ground rather than keep them in pots and so far they have rewarded me with reappearing each year and beginning to bulk up.

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Due to the rain overnight this morning was very foggy with little sign of the Malvern Hills behind the house.  I was torn as yesterday I had finally bought an extra tree for the front garden and I wanted to plant it.  I have felt deep down for some years now that the front garden needed a third tree to balance the Silver Birch and Sorbus.  It really irritated me over Christmas so yesterday I popped down to the local plant nursery and bought a Sorbus pseudohepehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’.  I toyed with another Sorbus vilmorinii like I have in the back garden but it seemed daft to have two the same when there are so many lovely varieties to choose from. This morning, despite the fog I decided to get it planted as I was concerned that next weekend might be much colder and not so conducive to tree planting.  I also started weeding the front garden and mulching it.  It’s a big job as this is its first winter and there are lots of persistent weeds to deal with. I have some planting I want to do over the coming months so some preparation is needed.  Sadly I didn’t get far as the drizzle reappeared and set in for the rest of the day but at last it was a start.

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Notes from the Garden – 13th March 2016

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Finally a glorious spring weekend which has seen me bumbling around the garden just like the big lumbering bumble bees that have been visiting the hellebores and primulas.  My head has been spinning with ideas and plans over the last few weeks so it was a real relief to start putting some of them into action.  I have one of those long mental lists with one thing dependent on another and I am sure I will forget the sequence so I must write it all down when I write up my garden journal later.

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My first task was to round up the various coloured primulas from around the garden.  I love coloured primulas.  I know a lot of people can be quite snobby about them but I think they have a lovely old fashioned charm to them.  I had been using them along the paths but they were dotted around, one here and one there, and really made no impact whatsoever.  So I collected all the pink ones up and have planted them in the shade of an Abelia by some deep pink/mauve hellabores.  The hellebores leaves will eventually cover this area so will mask the primulas’ leaves when they are looking tatty during the summer.  I see this view from my living room window and I am amazed how much just planting a handful of same  primulas has lifted this area with the pink of the hellebores intensified.  I have done the same with the purples which are planted with the Crocus ‘Pickwick’ and the yellow/orange primulas which are under the Hammelias.

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Next on the list was the Big Border.  I have decided to move the asters and some of the grasses to the new borders in the front garden – yet to be dug.  I want to use this space for sweet peas and dahlias this year so I wanted to clear everything that needed moving so I could see the space left and to start thinking about the layout and how I can fit in the plants I want to include.  The asters have been divided and potted up and are now cluttering up the patio so hopefully they will start to irritate me which will push me onwards with the front garden.  The bright fresh green leaves you can see are Camassias which should look great in about a month.  I like the little Narciussus Tete a Tete as well and I think I will add to these for next year.  I am also thinking that I might risk tulips again and hope the badger doesn’t appear and dig them all up.  I would love to fill the gaps between the plants in this border with bright tulips in the Venetian colours I love at the moment.

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The other job crossed off the list was the replacement of the shambolic bamboo supports for the step over apples with a more organised pots and wire system.  I painted the posts the same colour as the highlight on the shed to give a more cohesive look and my eldest son wired them up.  It was amazing how much difference it has made, without the bamboo canes with the branches tied to them you can actually see the structure of the step-overs.  Whilst we haven’t had a lot of apples off the trees I am hugely proud of the apple step-overs as I know little about pruning fruit trees and started with 3 apple whips and some limited instructions from the nursery.

The sweet peas sown last week are starting to germinate in the garden and today I sowed a batch of Cerinthe retorta which I prefer to Cerinthe major. Cannas and Agapanthus are also showing signs of life in the greenhouse and the Dahlias have been potted up with hugh expectations.

Wherever my gardening mojo has been lurking for the last few years it seems it has decided to come home – thank  goodness.

My Garden This Weekend – 7/2/16

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What a glorious morning we have had today especially given that yesterday we had at least 14 hours of non-stop rain.  Having spent yesterday feeling sorry for myself with a bit of  head cold and a blocked ear which has affected my balance a little, I only went outside this morning to see how the garden had stood up to the wind and rain.  Two hours seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and I only came in when my fingers were becoming painfully cold.

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There is something quite special about the sun in the early spring especially after gloomy days and it has a wonderful ability to really illuminate the early spring bulbs and the hellebores.  I have said many times before that Spring is my favourite season especially in the garden.  I enjoy the real thrill of spotting something starting to flower which seems to be so much more intense at the start of the year when we are desperate for reassurance that the winter is retreating.  Not that we have had much of a winter this year.

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The mild weather over the last few months has led to a strange mix of plants flowering.  I was very surprised to have my attention caught by a flash of red and on investigation discovered that Anemone pavonina was flowering probably at least two months early.

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But then again some plants have stuck to their normal timings. Hamamelia x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ is a good example of a plant doing what it is meant to do at the right time regardless.  I have been watching this shrub for some weeks.  Last year it had only three flowers on the whole shrub.  After a bit of research I concluded that the plant was too dry probably due to the neighbour’s sycamore roots; so after a long period of rain I gave it a heavy mulch to try and lock some moisture in and I made sure I watered it during dry spells in the summer.  The plant has rewarded me with a full covering of flowers which are all just opening – how lovely!

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Having taken some photos I pottered around cutting back the deciduous grasses and the ferns which had gone  over as well as collecting other debris from around the garden. Then with the sun still shining and not feeling too bad I decided to sow some seeds from the local HPS seed exchange.  To be honest I have no idea what half of them are, I think they might be shrubs as I seem to remember requesting these as I have a fancy to grow some shrubs maybe for a future garden, not that I have plans to move, but its good to have a challenge.

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Finally, having been thrilled with the Hamamelia flowering I was just as thrilled to discover three flower stems on the Melianthus major; two more than last year.

It always amazes me how uplifting  a couple of hours in the fresh air pottering around can be.

My garden this weekend – 25/10/2015

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It has been a slow weekend of pottering and faffing around.  We are at that point of the gardening year when you suddenly realise that you have to grab the opportunities to garden when you can both due to the shortening days and also the inclement weather. I haven’t quite got that sense of urgency I often get at this time of year when I realise how many bulbs I have to plant or things that need tidying up. I wonder whether its because I seem to have kept on top of the bulb planting this year.

Oenothera versicolor 'Sunset Boulevard'
Oenothera versicolor ‘Sunset Boulevard’

I am really thrilled with this Evening Primrose (Oenothera versicolor ‘Sunset Boulevard’).  They were grown from seed earlier in the year and I am hoping they will be perennial and not biennial as it was said on Gardeners World the other night! I love the warmth of the orange flowers, it is working really well with the Autumn foliage.

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Today  the sun was attempting to shine and although chilly at first it was a pleasant day to be outside.  I had to half empty the greenhouse yet again so I could plug in the heater and re-jig all the plants, again, in order to fit just a few more tenders in.  This year some have been brought into the house as I will never get them all in the greenhouse – luckily my youngest has moved out so his bedroom is available!  There are now only the border line plants to deal with.  I have been taking cuttings but I think I will lift one of the Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ and then mulch around the base of the other border line plants.

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The last of the bulbs, with the exception of a few tulips, have gone in.  I struggle to get Iris reticulata to come back year on year but I read the other day that this is because we plant them in dry and warm areas and this leads the corms to split into smaller corms and then a delay of several years for them to bulk up and flower.  The theory is that you should plant them deep in a sightly shadier location which seems to make sense.  I thought I would give this a go as I love Iris reticulata and I would be thrilled if I could establish a drift of them.  So I have planted groups of corms in two shady parts of the garden and we will have to wait and see.

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The other job I wanted to complete this weekend was emptying one of the compost bins.  Sadly I sort of failed with this task.  I have dug most of the contents out over the last few weeks and used it for mulching but I discovered today that the bottom battens of bin had rotted so I need to replace it.  The trouble is that due to the slope of the garden the bins are cut into the side of the hill and when I don’t empty them for ages the moisture rots the wood.  I also have to literally dig out the contents as I can only access the bins from above (i.e. standing on ground level with the top of the bin!) which is not very satisfactory.  It has been annoying me for ages so after a consultation with my eldest we have decided to build a couple of new bins from pallets, which we can easily access, and have them along the fence line.  They will be built in such a way that I can remove the front of the bin and empty them easily.  It will also mean that I can really tidy up the area under the willow where the bins are located.  Now the willow has been cut back there is more light in this area and all sorts of things are growing and shooting so it would be good to use the space better.  So that will be my winter project.

I think it is one of the joys of this time of year that as you slow down you start to have time to look and think and muse and decide on what you might do next year

My Garden This Weekend – 18/10/15

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The arrival of Autumn has been more noticeable this weekend with the first flurry of fallen leaves on the paths.  But just as you start to feel sad you spot the first signs of snowdrop leaves beginning to push their way through the soil and you are reminded that Spring isn’t that far away.

With that in mind I have been busy planting more bulbs.  The narcissus and crocus went in a few weeks ago so this weekend it was the turn of Alliums and Dutch iris.  I discovered Dutch Iris, or Florists Iris, a few years ago more by accident than design.  I think I must have bought some in one of the bargain buckets at the local garden centre without really engaging in what sort of iris they were.  However when they flowered they were beautiful although a little stiff on their own at the front of the border.  I have since learnt to plant them further into the border so they grow up amongst the stems of early perennials such as Aquilegias.

Callicarpa (Beauty Berry)
Callicarpa (Beauty Berry)

I have been tidying up the patio which is cluttered with pots of perennial seedlings.  Some have been tucked away in the cold frames to give them protection over the winter whilst others have been planted out.  Some 10 Barnhaven Primulas have gone into the Cottage Garden Border along the edge of the bottom path and under the roses.  They have been grown from a ‘Enthusiasts Mix’ so who knows what their flowers will be like but the idea is that they will compliment the spring bulbs and add some real colour that I will be able to enjoy from the house.  I also planted out 15 variegated white flowering honesty in the woodland border.  I wonder is 15 is a little over the top given the size of my garden but hopefully they will add a magical zing amongst the young shrubs.

Impatiens stenantha
Impatiens stenantha

This week’s scare-mongering by the media that we are about to be plunged into some sort of ice age has focussed my mind that although it all seems quite extreme I do need to make sure that I have taken care of my tender plants just in case we get a sudden frost or significant drop in temperatures.  The Pelargoniums have been cut back and stored away in the greenhouse along with the succulents and tender ferns.  Their place on the outside staging has now been taken by pots of bulbs.

Anigozanthos flavidus (Kangaroo Paw)
Anigozanthos flavidus (Kangaroo Paw)

There are still some tender plants outside such as the Kangaroo Paw and a Burgmansia which is full of wonderful white trumpet flowers.  We have allocated a space for them in the garage and as soon as the temperatures drop to a point when I start to worry they will quickly be moved inside.  In the meantime I am really enjoying them especially the Kangaroo Paw which I grew from seed about 4 years ago and am so thrilled with.  Its flowers are quite magical especially when the sunlight is at the right angle and back light them.

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There is still a little space in the green house for one or two more specials but I am pleased with how good it all looks.

My Garden This Weekend – 27/9/15

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What a glorious autumnal weekend it has been.  I do love this time of year and I always find myself feeling like it’s the start of the year not winding down to the end.  This is the time of year when gardeners are planning for spring; planting bulbs, thinking about seeds to show so we are already planning for next year – it’s all rather positive in my opinion.

Anemone hupehensis 'Lady Emily'
Anemone hupehensis ‘Lady Emily’

Talking of planting bulbs in my bid to learn to love my front garden I decided to buy one of those large bags of big daffodil bulbs you can buy from DIY stores and plant them out in the front border.  Whilst I prefer the smaller narcissus I generally see the front garden from the house and so I think that the large daffodils will make more of an impression.  Half way through planting out the bag my trowel snapped in half!  I don’t know how long I have had it, probably at least 8 years and it has worked very hard but it is no more.  The only alternative I would find was one of those thick plastic trowels that was given away with a magazine.  It did the job eventually but it was hard work, a bit like trying to cut paper with the child safe scissors.  Anyway, a new trowel has been ordered.

Nerine bowdenii about to open
Nerine bowdenii about to open

The rest of yesterday was spent pottering around the garden.  Planting things out for next year such as some Sweet Rocket, potting up bulbs, moving succulents under cover and weeding.  It was nice to be so leisurely especially as I was home alone so no one was expecting meals at certain times.

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Today I spent a happy day at the Alpine Garden Society Bulb Day.  I hope this becomes an annual event as it was so nice to hear experts talk about specific species such as crocus, colchicums and nerines and also to get the chance to buy bulbs from suppliers including Pottertons and Jacques Armand.  I came home with a lot of brown bags full of treasures from a huge Hippeastrum bulb to tiny allium bulbs – talk about David and Goliath.

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Oh and I also bought Christine Skelmersdale book on Bulbs which will be interesting reading over the winter.

My Garden This Weekend – 20/9/15

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We have had a lovely early Autumn weekend which has allowed for some gardening as well as a wander round the local flea fair.  Parts of the garden are looking really good right now and I am particularly pleased with the combination of Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ and the Melianthus major.  I hadn’t heard of the Salvia before this time last year when I bought my first one from the local HPS group but having included it in my September GBBD post I then spotted it in Helen Dillon’s article in The Garden.  It really is a beautiful salvia and I would highly recommend it; though it needs winter protection.

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Having felt inspired about the big border in the front garden after Kate’s recent visit and having pondered a visit to a nursery to buy some beefier plants, I decided in the early hours the other morning that I probably had everything I needed already around the garden.  So I have been busy relocating plants, all of which were too crowded in the back garden,  to the front garden. The objective is to try to stop the Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’ from dominating the border.  It is a beautiful plant especially when it is covered in its spidery red flowers but given its size it really draws the eye.

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I have struggled with this border for a few years now and because I don’t spend much time in the front garden I have never really engaged with it so my mind doesn’t ponder it late at night and no ideas form.  But my front garden is a good size, it is the size if not bigger, of many a suburban garden and so it is outrageous that I, a keen gardener, neglect it.  The planting here has been too polite and the plants too dinky to compete with the Grevillea.  Kate and her husband’s comments triggered something in my mind and I had one of those light bulb moments.  I decided to embrace the space and to find large evergreen foliage plants to provide some balance to the Grevillea.  So I have moved in an Euphorbia stygiana, a Melianthus major that was in too shady a site, a Phormium Yellow Wave, a young rosemary and a young sage.  These will hopefully add substance to the existing planting which include Libertia, some bearded irises, and other Euphorbia whose name escapes me.

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I relocated the Libertia peregrinans to the driveway border as the amber leaves were just jarring.  In the driveway border they pick up on the orange tones of the crocosmia and of the flowers of Grevillea victoriae.  The driveway border is coming together especially as I have made an effort over the last few weeks to tidy it up!  The new Stipa tennuissima add some movement and I have also added Oenothera ‘Sunset Boulevard’ whose flowers are of a similar colour to the Libertia foliage.

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I also added some Wallflower ‘Fire King’ which should take over the red baton from the Geums. Now that I feel I have got a handle on two sides of the ‘lawn’ I need to turn my attention to the third side – alongside the beech hedge.

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Not very inspiring is it!  My son suggested widening the border along the hedge but that will mean the proportions of the lawn will be affected and I think its size works well in the space.  I have Alchemilla mollis planted along here to mirror the same on the other side of the lawn.  I want to break both sides up and I am thinking that maybe some ferns might work here – I will need to research some tough native ferns I think. But then again maybe I should consider widening it by a foot?!

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The end of this border nearest the house has a little more variety and I have a rodgersia and another euphorbia to add which I think will work.  The soil here never really dries out and the clay in it means that most things grow well.  But I am constantly improving the soil in my garden.  I have confessed before to being a bad compost maker, I am more a compost ingredient piler upper.  My excuse of a bees nest in one of the heaps has now gone so I have also removed the top of one of the heaps and I will now start to add the compost to the borders as I plant and weed.

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You can see how out of control my compost making is from the photo above.  The gap through which you can see the wheelbarrow is where the middle bin is – somewhere under there! The compost just a few inches from the top is ready to use, I just need to excavate the actual compost bin.  Then it will be a case of emptying the tops of its two neighbours into it and over the winter and spring emptying them as well.  It really isn’t the right way to make compost but it works for me.  I want to get on with this as we are planning on putting a screen here in front of the heaps to disguise them.

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The hardy exotic border on the slope is filling out having been planted about 18 months ago.  I have had to do some thinning as I was over optimistic about the space and this is where the Euphorbia stygiana in the front garden came from.  I have added some ferns to the slope behind the bench which should fill out well and add a nice backdrop to the bench.

I am now going to order Will Giles book on the new exotic garden, so sad I didn’t get to visit his garden and meet him before he died recently. I am slowly beginning to focus my efforts and plant buying on the plants I really love and move away from my normal magpie tendencies to plant buying and I intend to be less polite in my planting from now on.

Apologies for the misty photos. I thought when I took them first thing this morning they would be atmospheric but actually they just look foggy!