Foliage Follow Up – November 2015

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Having managed to do the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post in a timely fashion this month I thought I would also join Pam over at Digging in the Foliage Follow Up.  I have read Pam’s blog ever since I started blogging some 8 years ago and met her when I went to the Garden Bloggers Fling in San Francisco.  Having a growing preference for foliage it is a logical meme for me to join but I often find myself thinking oh I have shown this or that and so I don’t join in.  This month it dawned on me, I can be a little slow at times, that I should show some of the foliage on my decidious plants so this month I am focussing on the Birch jacquemontii which lives in my front garden.

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My sons bought the tree for me probably about 8 years ago and I love it.  Its one of the few plants that I will be upset to leave if I ever move house and I keep an eye out for seedlings which I might be able to pot up but they are few and far between.  I see this tree every morning from my bedroom window when I look out to see what the weather gods have decided to present us with and it struck me yesterday morning what a wonderful colour the leaves had turned.

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Due to our mild temperatures this Autumn the leaf colour seems to be changing quite slowly and amazingly the birch seem to be hanging on to the leaves despite the strong winds we have had.  The leaves look almost orange in the photographs but this morning in the dull light of an overcast day there was a distinct pale yellow glow to the tree.

So there’s my foliage follow up post this month, not a succulent or evergreen leaf to be seen, makes a change for me.  To see more fabulous foliage pop over to Pam’s Austin garden and check out the comments box for other links.

Garden Blogger Bloom Day – November 2015

Rose Ophelia

Rose Ophelia

Who would have thought that a November Garden Bloggers Bloom Day from the UK Midlands would feature a rose in full glory.  I keep posting ‘last roses’ this year and still they continue.

Fatsia 'Spidersweb'

Fatsia ‘Spidersweb’

At the same time you have the usual seasonal flowers starting to bloom such as this Fatsia ‘Spidersweb’ which is flowering for the first time and I really like the combination of the white flowers with the variegated leaves.  The plant, along with my other two Fatsias are already starting to hum with late pollinators.

Mahonia x media 'Charity'

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

Also popular with the pollinators is the Mahonia.  I am really pleased to discover the flowers on this plant as I ruthlessly chopped it down to the ground probably three years ago to try to encourage more than one stem.  It just sat there for months on end before this time last year there were signs of growth, and now we have the first flowers.

Salvia involucrata 'Boutin'

Salvia involucrata ‘Boutin’

Like the roses the Salvias are revelling in the mild Autumn temperatures.  The Salvia involucrata ‘Boutin’ is like a beacon at the top of the garden with its large bright pink flowers.  I love the exuberance of this plant, it is like a Salvia on steroids and have cuttings growing in the greenhouse just in case I lose the one above if we have a cold winter.

Chinese Foxglove

Chinese Foxglove

Another half-hardy resident is this Chinese Foxglove which I acquired back in the early summer and it has been flowering non-stop ever since.  It has lived in the border but as is slightly tender I have decided to pot it up for the winter and it will probably be stored in the greenhouse or cold frame.  I am just trying to work out how I would propagate it apart from seed.

Gladiolus murielae

Gladiolus murielae

Also waving at me from the top of the garden are the Gladiolus murielae (formerly Acidanthera).  These flowers are particularly satisfying as they are from pots of bulbs that I had discarded on the very top border as there were no signs of growth and then lo and behold in the summer shoots appeared and they have been flowering merrily away.  I am going to leave them in situ, maybe with a protective mulch, to see how they come through the winter.

Saxifrage fortunei 'Conway Snow'

Saxifrage fortunei ‘Conway Snow’

Finally I leave you with a more diminutive treat, Saxifraga fortunei ‘Conway Snow’, one of my alpines saxifragas.  I have a bit of a weakness for these but I am keeping it firmly in check as I really don’t need any more plant obsessions!

To see what is flowering in garden bloggers gardens all around the world pop over to Carol’s at May Dream Gardens and check out the links.

Treat: Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

Iris unguicularis 'Walter Butt'

Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

Today’s post is in response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Treat.”

I have been completely enthralled by the flowers of Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’, a real treat on a cool misty day.  This is the plant’s third year of flowering and last year the paltry two flowers didn’t start to appear until Boxing Day.  So I was completely stunned when something pale and paper like appeared towards the top of the steps at the weekend.  On investigating I discovered not one but three flowers and when I cleared away some of the fallen leaves there are clear signs that there are many flowers to follow – how thrilling.

As for Walter Butt who the plant is named after, he was the former owner of E Bertram Anderson’s house in Porlock.  Anderson (1885-1971), a distinguished plantsman,  worked as a chemist and bacteriologist before retiring to Porlock in Somerset. He was a founder member of the RHS Joint Rock Garden Plant Committee which first met in 1936. Other members included E A Bowles and Walter Ingerswen both with huge reputations in the alpine and bulb worlds and reading the article about Anderson in the RHS ‘The Plantsman’ (Dec 2010) it is clear that Anderson was one of those plantsmen who seemed to have been part of a cycle of eminent horticulturists all sharing information and plants. Anderson is well known for  his raising of the beautiful Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ (Katherine Hodgkin was the wife of his friend Elliot Hodgkin). He was also responsible for raising Galanthus ‘John Gray’ and Galanthus ‘Mighty Atomas well as collaborating with Helen Ballard in the raising of new hellebores and numerous other plants.

Going back to my iris, Anderson considered it as ‘noteworthy because of its size, very pale lavender flowers, almost white in the sun, and its strong perfume’ a description I completely agree with – indeed it is a real treat.


End of Month View – October 2015

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October has been a kind month to this gardener.  We have had generally dry weekends with milder temperatures than normal allowing me to spend some quality time in the garden.  My efforts have been small but widespread and really have been little more than planting out bulbs and some perennials.  I have spent as much time looking, peering and pondering.

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As you can see the Field Maple, I think that is what the tree is, is dropping its leaves.  There were nearly as many a week ago and the tree has still more to drop.  I love autumn leaves; they always take me back to my childhood  and jumping into large piles of beech leaves in my parents’ garden.  But I can’t leave these leaves as they make the steps too hazardous.  I also don’t agree with the whole slow gardening approach which argues that you should leave the leaves in borders etc to rot down and feed the soil just as happens in nature.  This does not take into account that we, well I, garden my garden more intensively than happens in nature and the decaying leaves act as an overwinter home for all sorts of slugs and pests.  It always amuses me that those who extol the virtues of slow gardening loudest are also the ones who complain most about slugs!

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The milder temperatures mean that a lot of deciduous plants are still looking very green and even attempting a second flush of flowers.  Many of my roses have more buds on them than they did in early summer although I think it is unlikely that many will actually open.  I have started to cut back and tidy the Big Border.  I generally work through the borders on a regular basis cutting back any plants that are going over and once I have an area that is pretty tidy I give it a good mulch of home-made compost.  Due to the number of bulbs in the garden this is probably the best chance I will get in the year to mulch as come early spring there will be too many bulbs pushing through the ground to work round.

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The top of the woodland border has really come on this year.  Most of this area was dominated by an Acer which sadly died just over a year ago.  There are quite a few shrubs here now but they are all still quite young and will take a while to bulk up so I have been planting the rest of the border up with other woodland favourites including epimediums, hellebores and honesty.  I am hoping that next spring it will look very pretty. I will also get to see whether I had relocated some snowdrops here or not!

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The bottom half of the woodland border is more established having been planted some 3 or 4 years ago. I am pleased with the foliage textures but it needs a bit of tweaking; I’m not sure what exactly but something.  I will have to look back over this year’s photographs to try to identify why my instinct is telling me this area needs some attention.

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And finally the grass path which has survived my ponderings of removing it and is now enjoying the unusual prospect of being a fixed element of the garden.  Over the last few months I have added a number of grasses to the garden particularly either side of this path and they have brought some sort of cohesion to the planting as well as providing movement and airiness.  I need to work on the border to the right of the path.  The planting between the grass in the right hand corner and the small prunus is distinctly lacking.  In the spring it is full of hellebores and other spring delights, followed by hostas and I would like to add something to bring interest to overlap with the end of the hostas.  Something to ponder over the winter.

So that is my garden at the end of October.  If you would like to join in the with the End of Month View please do, the more the merrier.  You can use the meme in any way you wish.  I tend to take photographs of the same views during the year, others like to do a tour of their garden, or use the meme to follow a project.  Whatever approach you take all I ask is that you link back to this blog in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below.  It will help us find each other and pop by for a look-see at what is happening in your garden.


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.


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.

GBBD October 2015 – Its all about the Asters

Aster frikartii wunder von staffa

Aster frikartii Wunder von Stafa

Having spent the day recording the new RHS Symphyotrichum trial at Old Court Nurseries I thought it would be appropriate to focus on ‘Asters’ in this month’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post.  Above is one of my real favourites, Aster x frikartii ‘Wunder von Stafa’. I love the large daisy like flowers, it has a nice open habit and being of short-medium height works well in the border.

Symphyotricum 'Les Moutiers'

Symphyotricum ‘Les Moutiers’

Symphyotrichum ‘Les Moutiers’ is another one which I have been admiring for the last few weeks.  It has strong stems so needs little supporting and the flowers are more pink that it seems in the photograph.  It has a very elegant habit and a nice height of 4-5ft (difficult to tell on my slope) and is clumping up well.

Symphyotrichum 'Ochtendgloren'

Symphyotrichum ‘Ochtendgloren’

Another aster whose photo doesn’t really show its colour properly is Symphyotrichum ‘Ochtendgloren’. In reality it is a much pinker purple.  A medium height plant so good in front of taller grasses such as Calamagrostis ‘Overdam’.  I am hoping my plant will clump up well as it is such a pretty colour and bounces well off the nearby Cotinus.

Aster trifoliatus subsp. ageratoides 'Stardust'

Aster trifoliatus subsp. ageratoides ‘Stardust’

On a much shorter scale is Aster trifoliatus subsp. ageratoides ‘Stardust’.  I don’t think it is as pretty as the others but it doesn’t mind a bit of shade which makes it a good doer for brightening up woodland planting at this time of year.

Aster novae-angliae 'St Michael's'

Aster novae-angliae ‘St Michael’s’

Finally we have Aster novae-angliae ‘St Michael’s’.   I have to confess that I bought this some years ago as it is named for a local hospice charity, as opposed to the well-known department store, and some of the price went to the charity.  However, it has really been attention grabbing for the last few weeks with its big bluey-purple flowers and interestingly was one of the varieties that we identified today as one to really watch through the trial.  Mine has found it way through various plant moves to the woodland border and is surprisingly looking very good.

So those are my October blooms, for other bloggers’ blooms pop over to May Dreams and check out the comments box.

Plant of the Moment: Salvia Phyllis Fancy

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There are some plants which worm their way into my heart quite unexpectedly and I become completely obsessed with them.  Melianthus major is one but it is getting tough competition this year from Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’.

Salvias are a family I have toyed with over recent years but they haven’t really grabbed my attention.  I have a couple of hardy shrubby ones, the dark blue Salvia ‘Amistad’ and Salvia involucrata ‘Boutin’. I really like the latter although its hugh Barbie pink flowers on gangly rangy stems can be hard to accommodate in the border.  However, Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy is a far more elegant affair, a real lady of the border.

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Her elegant stems tower above the foliage with the flower stems gracefully bending downwards.  In the photograph above they are towering over the favoured Melianthus so you can see how much height they can bring to the border.  This plant is a two year old cutting and has really put on substantial growth this year. It is a taller form of Salvia ‘Waverly’, which is a leucantha hybrid.


The glaucous blue foliage adds a nice contrast to other plants in the border and the leaves are sufficiently large enough to have their own presence.

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In my opinion the flowers of Salvia Phyllis Fancy outstrip Salvia Armistad by a long way and I really can’t understand why it is not more popular. The combination of the lilac white flowers with deep lilac calyxes remains me of an elegant piece of 1920s costume jewellery.  The pale flowers show up in the border, twinkling in the sunshine unlike Armistad whose dark blue flowers in my garden create a dull dark spot in the border.

As with the other more exotic looking salvias, Salvia Phyllis Fancy is frost hardy so  here in the UK I will be taking measures to protect it over winter.  I think I will heavily mulch the larger of my two plants and lift the smaller one.  I have also taken cuttings which I hope are rooting well in the greenhouse.

I was lucky enough to acquire my original plant from my local HPS group where it had been introduced by Olive Mason, a real plants woman, but I know it is available from a number of nurseries including Ashwood Nursery near Birmingham.

My Garden This Weekend – 4th October 2015

IMG_2970What a lovely autumn weekend.  Misty cool mornings followed by warm sunny afternoons. I do love Autumn; its my second favourite season after Spring.

Turning leaves on witch hazel

Turning leaves on witch hazel

We were busy with some family gatherings and a need to buy a new wheelbarrow – yes my lovely purple wheelbarrow is no more. But I did find time to start the mammoth bulb planting project I have on my hands.  I would like to say that this was planned but whilst it may have started like that the reality is that whims and too many opportunities to buy from wonderful bulb merchants have led to a glut of bulbs.  I did make some notes and plans when I place my annual bulb order with Avon Bulbs but then there was last weekends purchases at the AGS Bulb Day and a lack of self-control at the local garden centre when we were buying the wheelbarrow.

Rosa 'Lady Emma Hamilton'

Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’

Continuing with my learning to love my front garden project I have planted some Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ and also Sternbergia lutea near the front door.  Also more Colchicums were added to what is sort of becoming a collection.  Both Colchicum agrippinum and Colchicum speciosum album were purchased at the Bulb Day and have been planted out in the back garden with a dash of slug pellets to keep the molluscs at bay.  For the last two years I have grown lots of small bulbs in terracotta pots but this year I have decided to plant the hardy ones out in the ground, mainly to free up space in the greenhouse but I believe a lot of them will do better in the soil.  So I have been tipping out the pots and planting out ,or for those that need some protection repotting.  I was thrilled to discover that my two bulbs of Galanthus peshmenii have bulked up and there were 5 or 6 chips/bulbs.  Hopefully they will flower before Christmas.

Nerine bowdenii

Nerine bowdenii

I wanted to get on today as I am conscious of how much I want to get done before the winter hits but as is often the case with my gardening my plans went astray.  I have been conscious that the nights are getting colder and so I wanted to get my succulents in and under cover.  However, having tried sand in the deep staging this past year I have decided that it isn’t working well for me.  It retains too much moisture despite the drainage holes and moss has been growing.  So today I spent the morning digging out the sand and lugging it up the garden to go on the very top path.  We then filled the staging with horticultural grit.  The staging is the type you use for plunge beds so the drainage is very good and it won’t hold the water as much as the sand did.  This should reduce the moisture levels in the greenhouse and keep it warmer over the winter.

Sellinum wallichianum

Sellinum wallichianum

Having played mud pies with the soggy sand for the morning and spent a delightful afternoon with my niece I quickly stored away the succulents in their new refreshed home.  Needless to say the list of jobs I wanted to do this weekend hasn’t really been reduced at all but the greenhouse was a job that I had been dithering about for ages so I am really pleased I got it done – one less worry.


End of Month View September 2015

September 2015

September 2015

Whilst the garden might not be as floriferous (there’s that word again) as some at the end of September I am pleased with the range of texture and colour from foliage at the start of Autumn.  The borders along the grass path are looking fuller and more established than a year ago

September 2014

September 2014

I have finally cracked the left hand corner at the beginning of the path which because of its sunny location is home to lots of different bulbs but which needed some form of substance to it.  Adding the Anemanthele lessoniana on either side of the path and again further down has pulled the planting together and I hope will allow me to indulge my planting whimsies whilst maintaining a sort of cohesive look.


The workshop seems to really sit in the garden now as if it has always been there.  I can’t believe it took me nearly 3 years to work out what wood treatment to use and I am really pleased I didn’t rush in and follow my first instinct of black and orange.

September 2015

September 2015

September 2014

September 2014

The older woodland border is filling out and is looking much lusher than the same time last year.  I think the cooler summer has helped a lot. I’m not 100% happy with how this border looks, it needs some tweaking to bring it together better but it is definitely progressing.


The newer end of the border has filled out really quickly since the additions earlier this year and I think this is due to the serious reduction of the willow canopy overhead.  It is surprising how much moisture as well as light the willow blocked out.  I was worried that the increase of light would affect the plants which had been chosen for their preference of shady conditions but they have thrived and done better than ever.  I suppose it makes sense as most ‘woodland’ or ‘shade loving’ plants tend to live on the edges of woodlands rather than completely under the tree canopy.


I am pleased I moved the Paulownia to the former bog garden.  Its height has lifted this area which was looking a bit flat.  I have a lot of ferns here and I just needed some contrast of leaf shape and as I say some height.  I don’t think I am going to pollard the Paulownia as some do.  I know this would give me huge leaves which I do love but I fancy a more tree like shape.  I do think I will cut the branches back each year to see if I can increase the size of the leaves a bit.


Finally the gravel steps up the garden – one of the favourite views of my garden and place to sit.  The border to the left of the steps is the continuation of the area I plant lots of bulbs in because it is sunny and fairly well drained.  This is where lots of my treasures live and it is nice to sit on the step with a cuppa and look at the garden through the plants.

The End of Month View meme has been running for a few years now and any one is welcome to join in and use it as they wish.  There are no real rules but all I ask is that you link back to this post in yours and leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can find your post.