Turning Japanese

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I have to start with declaring, as it will quickly become obvious, that I know nothing at all about bonsai.  But with the power of google I am willing to have a go.

At our recent horticultural show one of the members donated a couple of bonsai trees to the plant sales table and my youngest bought one.  He has always had a fascination with Japan and had wanted a bonsai for years so at £5 it was rude to turn it down.  As the show drew to a close and we were clearing up there were a couple of small cotoneaster shrubs which were being grown as bonsai but in a standard plastic pot.  The gentleman who had donated them, having noted my son’s interest, gave him one of them and needless to say it ended up sitting on my patio table waiting for something to be done.

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Having found an old shallow square terracotta pot while tidying up, the germ of an idea started to form.  I looked around the garden and sourced some bits of Malvern stone and set to creating a Japanese masterpiece – being a natural optimist what else would it be!  It took some time to tease the roots apart and clipping the more tangled fibrous ones so I had something manageable to handle.  I then carefully assembled the rocks into an outcrop, although I am sure it is completely incorrect geologically.

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Getting the little tree to balance on top of the rocks while I spread the roots over the rocks was very tricky and fiddly. I can spend ages doing embroidery but this sort of thing I find very difficult and have little patience with probably because the roots didn’t want to stay where I wanted them to.  I weighted them down with gritty compost and then top-dressed with gravel.  I think maybe bonsai are normally topped dressed with moss but the gravel will hopefully hold everything in place until it establishes and then I can always add moss.  You will note in the top picture there is a small cane holding the branch up and this is to try to push the tree into a more upright position.  Saying that I recently saw some photographs of venerable old trees in Japan which were supported in just the same way!

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Continuing the Japanese theme I was thrilled that little fernlets of Cyrtomium fortunei (Japanese Holly Fern) have started to appear.  The spores were collected from my own plant so this makes them extra special.  Building on this success I sowed Pyrrosia lingua ‘Ogon Nishiki‘ spores which I got from my favourite nursery Growild in Scotland.  You have to sow spores on sterilised compost and my preferred method is to bake the compost in the oven – leading to cries of ‘What is for dinner today? Oh the old family favourite John Innes!!’.

There’s a chance I might be going to Japan next year so maybe I will get to see these growing in the wild which would be amazing.

Ferny Make-over

Athyrium niponicum

Athyrium niponicum

It’s interesting how your approach to the garden changes when you have time on your side.  I don’t mean a few hours but when you have a couple of weeks with few plans and so you can ponder and potter without clock watching and worrying about everything you want to achieve in an unrealistic time. Yvonne, a regular commentator on this blog, is often nagging me about the need to sit on the bench and rest.  What she doesn’t realise is that I do a lot of sitting on the bench but this leads to pondering and considering and then ideas form which then turn into tasks or projects.

This week I have taken the approach of doing chores first thing, crossing things off a long list, and then going out into the garden and seeing how the mood takes me.  One of the first areas I have tackled is the patio border.  The border is in two parts either side of the greenhouse.  This is the first area I planted when we moved in some 11 years ago and it has benefited over the years from continual adding of compost.  The foundation of the beds is some form of builders sand or grit, I’m not sure what, but either way it drains pretty well.  However, due to the shade of the wall the borders are shady and retain moisture for longer than the rest of the garden giving me that elusive moist but well drained soil that is often mentioned in gardening books.

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As this border is the view from my living room  I have tried to make it have year round interest.  In early spring there are snowdrops and some narcissus but I have been increasing the amount of foliage interest rather than relying on flowers.  There is a loose colour theme of yellow and white which is fulfilled by a yellow Chinatown rose that has just gone over, the Kirengshoma palmata, the white flowers of a siberian iris and the various variegated foliage.

The changes I made this week are minor but have made a huge difference to the impact of the border.  When I was in Ireland the group commented on how the Irish gardeners seemed to always be moving their plants. I kept quiet at this point as I am a terrible mover of plants and to demonstrate this I have to confess to moving the Blechnum chilense above all of a foot to the left. As you can see the Edgeworthia is making a bid to be a tree rather than a shrub and it needed under-planting.  The idea is that the Blechnum will provide interest beneath the canopy of the Edgeworthia. I don’t know why the Edgeworthia is growing like this.  I bought it mail-order and it arrived with a bare stem and 3 buds at the top and has carried on from there.  I don’t think I would have chosen one growing like this if I had been looking in a nursery but it will be interesting to see how it fares.

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I love the Blechnum chilense. I am trying to learn more about my ferns and blechnums are one group that seem fairly easy to pick out as their fronds are quite distinctive.  Once it is established I understand its fronds can grow up to 5ft which will be quite something and no doubt will lead me to having to move some of the smaller surrounding plants.  It is also meant to be evergreen so I should have something lovely to look at all winter.

Kirengshoma palmata

Kirengshoma palmata

The Kirengshoma palmata is becoming very large now and I think that I might have to pluck up the courage and divide it next year before it completely outgrows its space.  It is a wonderful plant which really should be grown more.  They suffer a little from slug damage when young but once they are established the slugs don’t seem to bother so much with them.  As I have said before the flower buds always remind me of butter curls. The plant dies back in the winter and I am left with the rose and an acanthus which are somewhere underneath it and the winter jasmine on the back wall.  As I sit here pondering, looking out of the window, I think some yellow and white crocus might do well in here for early spring interest – now where is that bulb catalogue!

 

 

GBBD August 2015

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I seem to have missed a few months of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day but with two weeks of annual leave ahead of me and few plans I find myself finally with time to join in.  The garden is entering its second phase of summer colour with echinaceas, rudbeckias, crocosmia and asters all opening.  The zinnias are just opening, a week later than I had hoped as they were grown for last week’s show!.

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I quite like zinnias and I think I might grow them again next year as well as cosmos which I haven’t grown for years and suddenly find myself missing.

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The other annual that I am loving at the moment is this nasturium which is making a bid for world domination from the window box.  I think this variety has a nice velvet tone to it.  The packet of seeds were some old Thompson & Morgan trial seeds I found in the bottom of the box so sadly I don’t know what variety they are.

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A new addition to the garden is this Chinese Foxglove.  The stem above is one of the shorter ones but the spires are just going over.  It has flowered for a month or so and adds a nice contrast to all the daisy type flowers at the moment.  Its tender so I will have to dig it up and pot it up for the winter or maybe risk it in the ground with a heavy mulch to protect it.

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The Primula florindae has been wonderful since early July.  It has had 3 stems of flowers, with two reaching 3ft tall.  The strangest thing is I don’t remember where it came from or planting it.  I can only assume I tried growing it from seed and discarded the compost and then it decided to show its face.  I have three or four young plants which I bought this year not realising that this was growing in the garden so hopefully I can create a nice display for next year.

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I thought I would share one of my clumps of violas.  I have a growing fondness for them as they are such good doers, flowering for months on end and all you need to do is dead head them and every so often chop them back to prevent them being too scraggly.  The one above Viola cornuta Clouded Yellow is almost at the point of needing a good chop back.

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And I have cyclamen flowering.  I think this is Cyclamen hederifolium but I’m not very sure at all.  They too have been flowering for a week or two and I wonder if the low temperatures this summer have confused them.

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Finally in complete contrast to the diminutive cyclamen I thought I would share the first flower on the brugmansia with you.  Sadly you can see the flower has suffered from the unseasonal weather but hopefully the other buds that are fattening on the plant will benefit from some nicer summer weather.

For Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts from all over the world visit Carol at May Dreams

My Garden This Weekend – 9th August 2015

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It seems as though summer has finally arrived, the temperatures have definitely lifted into the 20Cs and the borders are very dry; not great given the plants I have planted out in the last few weeks such as the Echinacea above.

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I was lucky to receive a gift of a number of Echinacea from Rob Cole at Meadow Farm last weekend.  Rob is known for his breeding of Echinacea and he is working towards breeding some strong varieties which will do well year on year in British gardens. I have planted them out in the top of the Big Border and they have added a real bling along the grass path.

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The border isn’t as floriferous as it was a few days ago due to me cutting flowers for the local horticultural show.  I hadn’t planned to enter as I have been so busy at work and as Treasurer of the society I had a lot to do making up prize money etc. However, time was on my side for a change and I had time on Friday evening to put 7 entries together.  I’m glad I did as I came away with two second places, three thirds, and one highly commended.  Not bad for a last minute effort.

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In another week this Agapanthus ‘Alan Street’ might have done well despite, like many plants in my garden, leaning distinctly to one side.  I thought it would be better this year with the removal of the majority of the willow but now I wonder if it is just an effect of the slope.  I think if I want to show plants next year I will have to identify them early and stake them.

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Given the dryness of the borders my gardening time had to be focussed on the greenhouse which as you can see from state of the tomato plants was a good thing.  I had no intention of growing tomatoes this year but my youngest had a green moment back in the Spring sowing various seeds including tomatoes, peppers, chilli and herbs for his new house.  Sadly with one thing and another the move had to be cancelled and I ended up with all the plants.  Now he and his girlfriend are about to rent a house I am hoping that some of the chillies and peppers might find a way to their new home but I will definitely be left with the tomatoes.  I spent today rearranging everything in the greenhouse so that I can also get in, just about, and water the plants.  A few nice surprises were lying in wait for me beneath the tomatoes – the first fern plantlets had appeared and the Euphorbia cuttings had taken.  These are both firsts for me so I was really thrilled.

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Finally I leave you with a photo of my herb window box which like the greenhouse has taken advantage of my lack of attention and is completely out of control.  There are herbs in here, more of my son’s purchases for his original house, but I added a few nasturtium seeds I happened to have and they seem to have gone mad.  I think they look wonderful and am considering trying the same over the prostrate rosemary next year.

And now I have to go and water the garden again… I would so like it to rain.

End of Month View – July 2015

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July has whizzed past in the flash of an eye and here we are at the end and you would be forgiven in thinking that we have gone forward to the end of September it is so cool.  It feels as though the garden has slowed down with flowers lasting longer in bloom and the later flowers taking longer to open.

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I thought I would start this End of Month tour in the woodland area which really focusses on foliage at this time of year apart from the hosta flowers. There is a space where I had to cut the Solomon’s Seal down as it was being stripped by Solomon Sawfly.  I think I will relocate the Solomon’s Seal as it was suffocating the Hosta; this will also allow me to plant something new in the area between the Hosta and the Witch Hazel (just on the left hand edge of the photo and I am wondering about including a smaller and darker leaved hosta or a fern to provide some contrast – I need to sit on the bottom step and consider it more.

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Going back to the bottom path between the Cottage and Big Border this area isn’t doing too bad but it needs to mature and fill out.  I have been adding plants to both border so hopefully now if I sit back and wait they will fill out and have good interest throughout the year.  I do need to add more bulbs to each area.  I want to add some more Alliums to the Cottage Border to give a rhythm through the length of the border and maybe add some daffodils to the Big Border.  It already a significant number of Camassias but I think would benefit from some earlier daffodils.

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The middle path between the Big Border and the Rowan Border (formerly the Bog Garden) and I am really pleased with how this area is beginning to work.  Moving the purple phlox along a foot or too  and adding the Anemanthele lessoniana seems to have connected the two sides of the path.  The Agapanthus and Phlox appear to mirror each other and the grass and leaves of the orange Crocosmia are connecting. There are still pockets where I want to tweak the planting but that was ever so.

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The popular shed shot.  I realise now that I should have removed the Ammi majus before taking this photo as it is flattening the Stipa tenuissima, probably as a result of the rain.  I want this area to have airy planting as it is very good for catching the afternoon sun and I think this would have a nicer feel than dense heavy planting.  I was learning today about transitions between areas of gardens and how you need to have quieter areas between those of sun and shade or bright colours and pastel.  I found myself realising that my planting has begun to have the same feel throughout the garden with the exception of the woodland/shady area.  I think I had got into a mindset that everything had to be ‘look at me!!!’ with lots of interest and all points of the year.  So I am now thinking about what I learnt to day and how this would work in my space. IMG_1943Back to the shady part of the garden and I suppose you could say that this area has a different feel to it and that the seating area by the shed is a sort of transition area.  I am pleased with how the old Bog Garden has filled out, although the Regal Fern seems to be engulfing everything.  I know I want lush and full planting here but not if other plants are going to be swamped.  It maybe that I need to swap the Siberian iris with the plant that is under the fern so that the iris’s foliage can grow up through the fern.  Another thing to ponder over a cuppa in the sun.

So that is my garden at the end of July.  I have just had a look back to last July’s End of Month View post which had some of the same views and I’m glad I did.  I can see from that post how much things have filled out since last year and how my efforts are starting to pay off not just with the appearance but with the health of the plant.  The woodland border looks really parched last year but this it isn’t doing to bad and I think the mulch I put down in Spring when the soil was very damp has helped.

Anyone is welcome to join in with this meme.  All I ask is that you include a link to your post in the comments box below and you link to this post in your post.  That way the circle is completed and we can all find each other and come for a visit.

 

My Garden This Weekend – 26/7/15

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I haven’t posted about my garden for  a few weeks due to my travels but despite the rain over the last few days I have managed to spend a few hours outside, weeding and tidying.  It is always amazing how much the weeds grow when you turn your back for a week. In my absence the Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ has flowered; flowers which are welcome in the shady woodland area.  This plant is especially popular with my cat as I have discovered that she likes to sleep under its leaves on a sunny day.

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Another surprise was the discovering that the Cautleya spicata robusta is flowering as is the Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’ behind it.  I did plan this combination so I am pleased that it is working well. The Melianthus major does seem to be swamping the Cautleya and I would have previously thought about moving one of them. However having seen Hester Forde and Carmel Duigan’s gardens in Ireland last week I have realised that I can plant more densely, although of course it will mean more management.

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I decided last week that I need to add more grasses to my garden, particularly after visiting The Bay Garden. I have used grasses before but I think now I understand better how they can lift a planting, adding movement, and light.  I have started with adding a Stipa tenuissima to the edge of the Big Border so it softens the edge of the border alongside the steps.  Here it catches the late afternoon light and yesterday looked magical, although today it looks rather sodden.  Also in this border I have added a Chocolate Cosmos whose flowers I am hoping will bob around amongst the Stipa, and a Campanula lactiflora.  The Campanula is only a couple of feet tall as the nursery woman I bought it from had been experimenting with doing the Chelsea Chop on Campanulas to see how they responded.  It seems a good idea as the plant is flowering well and isn’t flopping everywhere or in need of staking.  I will have to remember to do the same thing next year.  I have pulled up most of the spent opium poppies and Ammi majus but I have left one ammi as I would like to collect the seed – hence the messy plant draped across the plants.

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I have also added a Anemabthele lessoniana to the corner of the Rowan Border.  I think the bronze tones pick up on the Digitalis ferruginea, and there is a bronzey flowered day lily here which has just finished flowering.  Yesterday I planted out some Oenothera ‘Sunset Boulevard’. The only problem is linking this combination with the purple phlox which I am loath to move as it does well in this position and is the start of a group of phloxes which have taken a while to establish.  However, I would also like to add a Rose ‘Hot Chocolate’ to this space and this may bridge the gap between the two groups.  It is a sumptuous red rose with a touch of bronze in it; I discovered it on the last day of my trip and it is definitely on the ‘get’ list – ‘get’ you note, not ‘want’!!

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Aside from rushing around planting plants ahead of the rain I have finally sorted out the path behind the former Bog Garden.  This path is a real problem in the winter and during wet periods at other times of the year.  There seems to be a spring which runs down the slope just by the bench causing the start of the path to be sodden.  The other problem is that this path is important during the winter as I try to avoid the grass path as it is very slippery.  The solution has been to buy some paving slabs which almost look like cut off logs and then I surrounded them with wood chip.  It looks so much neater and is far more practical now.

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I leave you with a new acquisition – Gladiolus flanaganii.  I couldn’t resist the flowers and it is meant to be hardy so we shall see; with my grass head on, I think it might look good with some Anemanthele lessoniana.

Oh and this is my 1500th blog post!!!!

 

My Garden this Weekend – 12th July 2015

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Thankfully today and over night we have had a good deluge of rain, topping up the water butts.  Sadly, whilst it appears a lot of rain the actual total for the last 24 hours is only 1.6mm which will only really impact on the top inch of the soil but its something I suppose. My love of strong colours is slowly becoming more apparent in the garden, at the moment I am loving the heliotropiums that I have flowering in a pot.  They were planted with vibrant orange calibrachoa but the plants never did well producing one stem at a time whilst the other stems withered.  I wonder if I planted them out too early given the coolness of the spring and early summer.

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I am particularly pleased with the flowers on the Aloe striatula.  This is growing in the front garden under the window by the succulent trough and was a bit of an experiment.  It has come through the winter fine and I think I would like to add more although I know that I might lose them if we have a particularly hard winter.

Petunia exserta

Petunia exserta

The species Petunia exserta have started to flower.  As with many species the flowers are much smaller than the hybrids that we are used to seeing.  I like the purpleness of the buds before the flowers open but I’m not really a fan of petunias so I will see how these do over the summer.  I’ve also planted out lobelia spicata and some agastache to fill the gaps where the early perennials have been cut back so hopefully there will be a second burst of colour.

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I’m also enjoying this flower whose label has disappeared.  Its small plant and I know the seeds were from the Alpine Garden Society but that’s as far as it goes, but it is a lovely colour.

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A new bench has also appeared by the shed.  Hewn by hand from a tree by my eldest during his week on a Ray Mears Woodsman course this week.  Its made from Sweet Chestnut which they felled with axe and hand-made saws. It is extra special to my son as the great man sat on the bench with him the other evening when he dropped into the course.  I asked if he had asked Mr Mears to sign it but my son scoffed at this suggestion, although I suspect he wishes he had thought of this.

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I haven’t shown you the patio border since it was full of snowdrops in early spring.  This time of year is it’s next prime moment of interest with the Kirengshoma being the star of the show.  I am not one to boost but I have to say that to date I haven’t encountered a Kirengshoma better than my specimen, of which I am every proud.  In this combination I like the link between the hosta flowers and the actea behind.  I am hoping that the actea may flower this year.  It has been blind for a few years now and I’m not quite sure why.  In the spring I moved it slightly sideways so it wasn’t competing with Kirengshoma so much and hopefully this will help.

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The other end of the border is beginning to fill out and continues the green/yellow/purple theme.  I don’t think I will plant the two peony plants you can see in the border as they will quickly out grow the space. Whilst I like the bright colours I also really enjoy the textures of foliage and this seems to interest me more and more.

I’m off to visit gardens on the east coast of Ireland tomorrow so who knows what inspiration I will gain over the coming week.