End of Month View – April 2016 – Hugh’s Border

IMG_4693 1

Hugh’s Border has really filled out in the last month especially with the hostas planted under the Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ emerging. I am determined to crack this border this year.  It looks Ok but in previous years there has been something lacking and it has felt bitty and not really me.  Over the last month I have added some lupins with red/orange flowers and also Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’.  These will add to the red and orange theme that seems to be the emerging in this area.

IMG_4697

Here’s the other end of Hugh’s Border (Hugh is the owl).  This part of the border is more woodland/shade planting.  The Pulmonaria are beginning to go over which I am sure will disappoint the bees.  Just behind them are some trillium and lots of Onoclea sensibilis as it seems to have decided to spread after sitting quietly for years – I presume due to the mild wet winter.

IMG_4703

Here is the other end of the woodland bit of the border (nearest the bench).  The big round leaves are Cardiocrinum giganteum which has reappeared this year and hopefully will flower. The lime green strappy leaves are Iris sibirica, I think it is a pale blue variety but it hasn’t flowered for a few years due to being moved so maybe this year will be the year when I discover which variety they are.

IMG_4706

This is the front of the border and the area of the border which has been really perplexing me.  I have moved a couple of hellebores here from near the bench as it was difficult to see their flowers in their old location.  It seems hellebores like to face the sun so from the bench you just saw the back of the flowers in their new location you can see the flowers from the grass path.  I am trying to bulk up the planting and foliage textures in this area so plan to add to it as the year progresses.

So that is the border at mid Spring, lots of new shoots appearing and promise of things to come.

If you would like to join in with the monthly meme you are very welcome.  All I ask is that you add a link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comments box below.  You can use the meme however you want – to focus on one area in particular, to look around the whole garden, whatever suits you.

 

Notes from the Garden – 24/4/16 – Bye bye lawn

IMG_4657

So this was the front garden this morning.  Regular readers will know that I have been procrastinating for some time, maybe years, about the front garden and getting rid of the lawn.  I decided this year that it would go but instead of embracing it head on earlier in the year I have occupied myself with various other ‘essential’ tasks in the main garden.  I suspect there was a small voice questioning whether I was making the right decision, and then there was all the work that would be involved lifting the turf and getting rid of it and really can I keep on top of the main garden so why do I want to make the front garden more work! However, the patio has been filling up with pots of plants for the front garden in anticipation of its make-over so either I donate them all to local plant fairs or I just get on with it.

IMG_4690

Anyway I have completed all the jobs I had come up with that had to be done before I tackled the front garden and set my mind to starting work today.  I have to admit that it was tough going especially as the turf needed to go to the far corner of the main garden up a considerable slope with two sets of steps and a garage in between.  Luckily my youngest son popped round to help and my eldest joined in for the afternoon so between us we started to get a system going between us.  We managed between us to lift about half of the lawn which is a good start and means that I can start to dig over the soil and add some compost.  I have a couple of shrubs that I really want to get in the ground asap so that is the first priority.  And the reason my final niggle was put to bed is because Noel Kingsbury, who visited yesterday with his wife Jo, within a very short time made the observation that the front garden just isn’t me – which I think is what I have been trying to say for a while.

IMG_4684

Now, what to do with the turf?  Yes, I should stack it neatly to rot down and make wonderful potting compost but I don’t really have space for a stacked lawn.  Some of the mossy crumbly bits were placed on top of one of the compost bins to slowly rot down.  Then in a demonstration of how not to lay turf I have started to turf the area in front of the compost bins – creating what my youngest has decided to call Hobbitland!  It has a 50:50 chance; if the turf takes then it will stabilise the slope but if it doesn’t take then so be it.  Even more amusing to my sons was that I turfed around the plants that have self-seeded on the slope – as I said a lesson in how not to turf!!  If it takes then we will keep it in check with a strimmer but the intention is that it will be more wild than tidy and I would love to add crocus and other bulbs and maybe plant some primulas amongst the turf.  There will be more turf to add when we lift the rest of the lawn and it needs tidying up once we have assessed whether it has taken or not – in the meantime the blackbirds are having a lovely evening looking for worms in the sodden turf and I am feeling very pleased.

 

 

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – April 2016

Primula denticulata

Primula denticulata

The garden is sparkling with colour, lots of spots of colour much like an impressionist painting and I have to say that this is certainly my garden’s best season.  The colour and shimmer is created from lots of small flower heads in a myriad of pastel colours.  So for this month’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post I thought I would zoom in on my favourite flowers this week.

Narcissus Baths Flame

Narcissus Baths Flame

Alot of the colour comes from the various Narcissus which I add to every year.  This year’s new additions include Narcissus Baths Flame which I am rather taken with.  The petals are a buttery yellow, very soft when you compare them to the hard yellow of the obligatory large trumpet daffodils that you see in public planting.  The flowers glow as the light fades and I think that is because of the whiteness of the petals.

Narcissus Sailboat

Narcissus Sailboat

Narcissus Sailboat is another new addition and it definitely reinforces my preference for the paler narcissus; I do like the slightly yellow trumpet.

 

 

Narcissus Thalia

Narcissus Thalia

Narcissus Thalia is an almost pure white – very pure.

Narcissus Cheerfulness

Narcissus Cheerfulness

Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’ is my favourite double narcissus, it has the most wonderful scent which you catch as you are weeding away in the border.  I prefer the single daffodils and I really dont like the blousey over breed narcissus which seem to popular at the moment.

IMG_4488 1

As the narcissus go over the tulips start but sadly I only have three tulips in the borders this year.  I haven’t planted them for a few years due to badger damage but these three have persisted year on year and are very pretty.  I have decided to risk them again next year as we haven’t had a visit from the badger for a couple of years now.

Imperial fritillary

Imperial fritillary

A lot less elegant than the narcissus is the Imperial fritillary.  This is the first year I have grown them and I am a little disappointed that the plants don’t seem to have developed a tall stem for the flowers as you would expect. I have two from different sources and both have done the same so maybe it is a result of the weather.

IMG_4515 1

I always forget the Leucojum vernum and are surprised when I first spot their nodding flowers thinking at first they are late snowdrops.  The clump has been planted for some years now and is expanding very slowly; maybe I will invest in some more and create a bit of a drift.

Anemone Bourdeux

Anemone Bordeaux

Anemone ‘Bordeaux’ is a very recent acquisition.  I was seduced by the almost velvet flowers which are working very well with the ageing flowers of Helleborus Anna’s Red and also Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’.  I really hope it reappears next year.

IMG_4557 1

Not all the colour is from bulbs or primulas as the blossom is beginning to appear.  This week Amelanchier decided to start flowering picking up the blossom of Prunus kojo-no-mai and will soon be joined by the large unknown Prunus that dominates the garden at this time.

Thank you to Carol over at May Dream Gardens for hosting this meme.

Notes from the Garden – 10th April

IMG_4547 2

I think we have had all four seasons this weekend with wind, rain and heavy sleet yesterday and frost overnight but today spring returned which meant I could get on with my planting plans.

IMG_4536

The focus today was the long border along the top of the wall.  I want it to have a sort of cottage garden feel and in recent years have added a number of roses, alliums and aquilegias.  Today, having weeded I added some Digitalis purpurea ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ and  Digitalis mertonensis both of which should add height to the border.  Also a topiary bay has been relocated to mid-way down the border as it has languished in a pot on the patio for so long that when I tried to move it this week I discovered it had rooted into the ground through the gaps in the paving slabs.  It took two of us to get the plant out of the pot and haul it up the garden but hopefully it will be a lot happier now in the border and the yellowing leaves will green up.  I plan to add some Echinacea seedlings in a few weeks time once they have had a chance to bulk up – they are just starting their third year so hopefully they will be ready to flower this year.

IMG_4533

Talking of seedlings and hoping they will flower I was completely thrilled to discover that all four of my Meconopsisbaileyi ‘Hensol Violet’ seedlings had reappeared.  Like the Echinacea they are in their third year so I am hoping they will flower as well which would be quite amazing.  They have had a good mulch of ericaceous compost to try to encourage them.  In fact there has been a lot of feeding going on with the roses and peonies having a good mulch of manure.

IMG_4384

My epic re-distribution of plants programme is well under way and nearly completed in the back garden – there is just a sad bamboo to extract which I suspect will be a real challenge.  Over Easter I started relocating the hellebores from near the bench to the far end of the Big Border.  Above is Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’ which I think works well with Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and the Amenthalea lessonia.  There is a pale yellow hellebore just past the bottom of the photograph and strangely they all seem to work well together.  I have added some corms of a short bronze leaved crocosmia for interest in late summer. To the right of the photo is a Cotinus ‘Grace’ and its purple leaves are key to the planting at this end of the border.  Although the leaves are not out yet I wanted to ensure that the colour theme was extended throughout the year.

IMG_4532

Its wonderful to see so many plants re-emerging after the winter and every time I walk around the garden there is a new delight, sometimes a small spring flower or a plant that I had taken a gamble with has returned. Who knows what delights will appear over the coming week.

 

From small things

IMG_4356 1

I have been on annual leave this week and as ever had plans to spend time sorting the garden out, as well as redecorating the living room – I am always over ambitious! Firstly, the weather at the start of the week was not very conducive to gardening being dreary and wet and various unexpected family commitments eat into more of my time. It was becoming increasingly frustrating.  Finally on Wednesday having painted the woodwork I found myself outside exploring the garden to see what had emerged over the previous few days.  I am particularly obsessed with my epimediums at the moment and which ones are flowering.  Most of them seemed to be sulking last year but this year, possibly due to the wet winter, they are virtually all (there are some 14 different varieties at the moment) full of flower buds.  Anyway, during one of these forays into the flower border I somehow stepped backwards, caught my heel on the nearby step and managed to fall right over and literally roll down the garden and into the border stamping off Primula denticulata flower stalks on my way.

It really knocked the stuffing out of me and I had to sit on the offending step for a while before I risked standing up; luckily I hadn’t done any real damage which was a relief.  However, despite not banging my head, the tumble left me completely befuddled and I just couldn’t work out what I had been planning to do in the garden and what I had planted to do where.  Quite unsettling.

IMG_4358 1

So I drifted into the front garden to cut back a few plants that I remembered had been offending me for some time from my bedroom window.  Looking around I noticed the trough under the front window and how dishevelled the succulents appeared.  Suddenly, this trough become the focus of all my efforts and I spent probably an hour slowly removing all the plants, cleaning them up and replanting.  I planted the trough with hardy sempervivums back in April 2014 – you can see a photo in this post.   Since then it has fared well surviving only with the occasional splash of water as I water the pots outside the front door. However, as is their wont the semps have multiplied and multiplied, worse than rabbits, and basically they had run out of space and were growing on top of each other.  So much so that many of them barely had any roots in the soil.

IMG_4353

Interestingly, the semps that I planted in the gravel around the base of the sink looked a lot healthier.  They haven’t multiplied quite so quickly, probably less favourable conditions, and were looking full and glossy.   Having emptied out the trough and removed all the dead foliage I replanted possibly more sparsely than last time and then I used some of the leftovers to continue the planting along the edge of the border the sink stands in.  It is located in one of those narrow borders that builders insist on putting in against the front of a house but which are full of rumble and hopeless for growing most things.   As the rumble makes it very free draining I have over the years added compost and planted it up with lavender and bearded irises all of which are doing well.  I think the semps along the front edge will provide an interesting contrast and hopefully help to cover the ground.

Having completed this task and being pleased with the result I found that my head had cleared and got a second wind and started to work through my original plans for the back garden.  Over the last few days I have made significant changes to the Big Border which I think will move the garden forward over the next year.  So “from small things …. big things one day come”.

IMG_4400

 

End of Month View – March 2016

IMG_4395 1

I had a sudden panic today when I realised that tomorrow is the last day of March and I had forgotten all about the End of Month post, not very good when you are the host of the meme! I am on annual leave this week and have managed to get a few hours in the garden between rain and decorating the living room.  The grass lawn has been cut and edged and its amazing how it being neat makes the rest of the garden appear neat, which I can assure you it isn’t.

The border looks alright but I have plans as part of my bid to colour up the garden this year.  I have this week bought a Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ which will go in the border here.  I saw the rose in a garden somewhere between Dublin and Cork last year and have been looking for the plant for a while only to find it in a plant retailer just down the road.  It is a sort of orangey red, hard to describe, and I think will work well with the Amenthalea lessonia which also has orange in its leaves.  I will also be adding some red lupins and oriental poppies although I worry it might all be a little too much but we shall see.  I probably need to find some different, lighter tones of red or orange to lighten the planting and provide some depth.

Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-ma

Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-ma

The Prunua incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ which is the main structure in the border is just beginning to bloom.  I love this shrub with its pretty delicate spring flowers and then in Autumn the leaves colour up before the slightly twisted stems provide interest during the winter.  Today I have added Galanthus ‘Flora Pleno’ around its stem to provide interest early in the year.

IMG_4391 1

The other end of the border continues to perplex me but there is a niggle in the back of my mind that I might have a lightbulb moment.  The border used to be quite shady and I have sort of planted along those lines but it isn’t as shady as it was since the willow had a significant haircut.  There are  a lot of ferns in the border and the signs that the Cardiocrinum giganteum is returning, maybe it will flower this year.  I want some colour at this end of the border aside from green but I want to also improve the textures. I think some hostas would add a good contrast to the ferns and maybe some pale foxgloves but I can’t think what to add for colour later in the year – more pondering to be done.

You can see what the border looked like in February here

All are welcome to join in with the End of Month meme and you can use it as you wish; maybe focus on a particular border, or do a tour of the garden whatever you find useful then you can follow its progress through the year.  All I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below.

 

Notes from the Garden – 26/3/2016

Euphorbia x pasteurii 'Phrampton Phatty'

Euphorbia x pasteurii ‘Phrampton Phatty’

It seems as though we are due another wet Easter but at least yesterday was a gloriously sunny day.   The media is full of Easter being the weekend when people start to engage with their gardens which always surprises me as I have been engaged with mine all winter; but I suppose I am in the minority.

Narcissus 'Geranium'

Narcissus ‘Geranium’

The daffodils and narcissus are really coming into their own now. I was surprised at the reaction to me showing you Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’ last week as I thought it was quite a well known narcissus.  So I thought I would follow up with this week’s favourite Narcissus ‘Geranium’.  It is a beautiful strongly scented tazette narcissus with on average three flowers per stem.

IMG_4337

Having spent the morning decorating it was a relief to get outside into the fresh air and make the most of the opportunity before the forecast rain came.  I have crowded my head with so many ideas and plans that it was a delight to just potter around the garden tidying up and weeding.  I found no less than 8 flower stems on the Epimedium ‘Egret’ ready to flower within the next week when the sun returns which is very exciting as there was only one flower stem last year.  Working my way through the border reminded me that the planting isn’t so bad and maybe coming up with grand plans during the winter isn’t the best idea!

IMG_4340 1

Despite the season seeming to settle down there are still some plants which have decided to flower early such as this Honesty – I think it is Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’.  I’m a little vague as it’s a chance seedling which has decided to plant itself by the wood store but whatever it is its very welcome.

IMG_0051

And now a little boosting but I was so thrilled to receive a mention in this week’s Women’s Weekly that I cannot help myself. So if you have found yourself here from reading the magazine then you are very welcome. Now with the weather looking set to stay wet for the rest of the weekend I think its time to go back to the sewing.

IMG_4347 1

Notes from the Garden – 20th March 2016

Epimedium

Epimedium

Not such a gorgeous weekend as last weekend which was disappointing given it was the Spring Equinox but fingers crossed Easter will see a change and temperatures will start to improve.  The garden certainly appears to be waiting for the green light although the epimediums seem to have decided they have waited too long.    I am particularly pleased to discover flowering buds on the majority of the other epimediums; worryingly I seem to have accumulated 13 over the last few years.

IMG_4283 1

I do like spring as you have time to really look and see all sorts of delights emerging rather than being overwhelmed with things to look at as you are in the summer. I would like to claim that the combination of the white hyacinth and phormium (above) was planned. But it was a lucky accident with the lime green on the leaf seems to pick up the same colour at the base of each flower.  There are lessons to be learnt here about how plants combine well and that is something I have been reading a lot about recently.

I am reading Andrew Lawson’s The Gardeners Book of Colour which is brilliant.  I have read essays and books about colour with the obligatory colour wheel before but none have ever explained colour, tones and saturation as clearly as Andrew does.  I haven’t got far through the book but I am already thinking about how colour creates an atmosphere and how I might try to use this in my garden especially given the big rejig that is going on.  I am also reading Sarah Raven’s Bold and Beautiful which is also inspiring as I love strong colours but I worry about them looking garish in English light.  I am hoping that between the two books I might learn something useful about combining plants and colour and take my bitty garden forward.

IMG_4311

In the meantime I have sown the first seeds in the new propagator – Cobea scandens which I have wanted to try for some years.  I have pruned the prostrate rosemary that falls over the wall back hard so it looks a little embarrassed showing its legs but I know it will re-shoot like mad.  I have also cut back some of the tatty fern foliage from around the garden; it is great to see the new furry fronds ready to emerge as soon as the weather warms up. Peering in the borders I found both Iris danfordiae and iris tuberosa flowering but my photos arent up to standard so I will try again for next weekend.  This is the first time both have flowered in the garden so I am hopefully they might establish.

I’ll leave you with what is in my opinion the maddest narcissus

Narcissus Rip Van Winkle

Narcissus Rip Van Winkle

 

Notes from the Garden – 13th March 2016

IMG_4248 1

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.

IMG_4239

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.

IMG_4245 1

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.

IMG_4260

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.

Notes from the garden – 6th March

IMG_4184 1

There is nothing quite like a few stolen hours working in the garden on a chilly early Spring Sunday to make you feel heroic and pleased with yourself. The choice of task on such a day needs to be given careful consideration; this is not the time for slow and pondering chores but for those tasks that will warm you up and encourage you to stay outside just that little bit longer.

One of my favourite jobs at this time of year, although to be honest at any time of year, is sowing seeds and potting up tubers. This week saw me potting up half a dozen dahlia tubers, agapanthus corms and sowing sweet peas. These small achievements are particularly significant to me as they signal a step change in my approach to the garden. I am revisiting my original floral loves. Dahlias haven’t graced my garden for one or two years and sweet peas haven’t put in an appearance for possible five years. I love sweet peas they were one of my earliest love affairs with flowers. When I got married back in the 1980s I wanted sweet peas in my wedding bouquet but was told the end of May was too early so instead I have sugar craft sweet peas in a floral arrangement on my wedding cake. I  grew them successfully in a previous small garden when I lived in Berkshire but they have been a real battle since I moved to the Midlands. This year I am determined to succeed, just as I am with dahlias which should do better with more space in the Big Border when I have relocated the asters to the front garden.

IMG_4201 1

It was interesting to read the comments on the border which I am featuring this year as the End of  Month View. Many couldn’t see why it needed improvement but for me it is lacking a sense of cohesion, as is much of my garden. I believe the garden has suffered in recent years from my dabbling with various plant groups such as alpines and over zealous undirected plant buying. It just isn’t right and it niggles at me.  Whilst I have a good working knowledge of plants I don’t have much of an idea about design. Not so much how to organise the space as I think the layout of the garden works and I have a pretty clear plan for the front garden. What I need to learn is how to put plants together to get the effect I am striving for.

Crocus 'Pickwick'

Crocus ‘Pickwick’

I have tried planting in terms of colour, seasons of interest, exotic, cottage and nothing seems to meld the bitty components together. The garden is neat and tidy and pretty but it doesn’t excite and it doesn’t have that generousness that I admire in my favourite gardens. I  have read and listened to many a talk on succession planting etc but this isn’t what is missing either. I read two articles today in a copy of Gardens Illustrated that talked about planting. One was by Troy Scott Smith, head gardener at Sissinghurst which described how Vita Sackville West’s approach was to pile on the planting to create a  wow moment and not worry about later and the other article was by Arne Maynard on a planting scheme at Cottesbrooke where he talks about deciding on the atmosphere you want to create. Somewhere between the two there was an almost light bulb moment – I could sense the eureka moment just being beyond my grasp.

IMG_4199 1

I have decided to start by writing a list of all my favourite plants, things I have to have in the garden. Then I will organise those by season of interest and growing conditions and see where that takes me. Initially I can see something quite relaxed in the front garden with a late summer focus of asters, grasses and salvias with iris and poppies earlier in the year. In the back garden I want to focus on roses, peonies, sweet peas, foxgloves (all very cottage garden) but then move into dahlias and cannas (very dramatic and exotic) – I’m not sure how those two different styles will combine or whether I will have to sacrifice one for the other.

IMG_4215 1

While I plan I have started to tidy the garden and to make the changes I have already decided on.  Some ferns from the back slope have been potted up ready for the shady part of the front garden.  They have been replaced by a division of a persicaria which should help knit the slope together and provide a good under-storey to the taller shrubs. I also emptied out the old tin bath which was home to some zantedeschia last year – they have been planted out on the slope to add to the lush foliage I am trying to cultivate in that area – I will wait to see how water tight the bath is as I am hoping to try a small water-lily in it, something a bit exotic maybe.