I’m struggling a little with life at the moment and to top everything else off my car has died on me so I have the irritation of having the phone the garage tomorrow and no doubt part with large sums of money at some point this week. The only time this past week when I have felt calm and at peace as been in the garden. Even though I am not conscious of worrying about things in particular I think when you are ‘working’ in the garden your mind focussing on what you are doing, the plants, what you could plant in a space and the other things which might only be bothering your sub-conscious leave. Interestingly I started off today deciding not to do anything but I twitched around so much that I decided to potter for an hour in the garden.
The theme of removing sycamore seedlings continued and today’s focus was the hardy exotic slope and the back border. I wrote about tackling the back border about a month ago and I am quite pleased so far with how it is going. I am trying for a leafy texture of plants ideally with some all year round interest. I think planting up the area behind the shed has also helped and it feels more gardened now rather than part of the garden which challenges me. I added a half hardy salvia amongst the bamboos – its a bit of a beast so should fill the space here and the pink flowers will work well with the geranium palmatums which can be a little garish on their own. I have also added some impatiens qingchanganica bought from Growild Nursery, a wonderful new online retailer of plants and seeds. Also added was an Athyrium otophorum ‘Okanum’ bought from Sally Gregson when she gave my local horticultural club a talk on epimediums last week.
The hardy exotic slope is coming together and this year I need to add to the shorter perennials to cover the ground and reduce the bare soil on show. You can see there are some daffodils in the border which are OK and interesting but you can’t see them from the bottom of the slope as they disappear behind the bench. I think I might forget about spring bulbs here and concentrate them elsewhere as to me you need to be able to see spring flowers from the house so they cheer you on a cold or rainy day. I am pleased to say that the ridiculous collection of plants waiting on the patio waiting to be planted out is diminishing, its generally one year old perennial seedlings or bulbs now. The downside of this is that the pile of empty terracotta pots is ridiculous and shows just how much effort and funds I invested in growing alpines and bulbs over the last couple of years but I feel a lot happier with the plants in the ground and concentrating on growing perennials from seed.
I am really pleased with how most of the garden is filling out now and the view from the living room (top photo) makes me smile which is very important. I can see great combinations from the sofa; such as the way the blue rosemary flowers pick up on the camassias and then the honesty at the back of the garden. It wasn’t planned at all but seeing it work makes me understand a little how to bring the garden together and make it more cohesive instead of seeming piecemeal; Mother Nature is obviously showing me how things should be!
And then there is the first trillium to flower. I planted it some 4 or 5 years ago and it disappeared but a c0uple of years back it reappeared and flowered. Last year it has two flowers but it seems we are back to one this year but it is flowering which is a thrill. I learnt recently that trillims shouldn’t be planted too deep and if they are they will pull themselves into the right position which is probably why it disappeared for a couple of years. I will have to make sure I mulch well around it to give it a little moisture and hopefully encourage it to bulk up and spread.
Finally I had to smile as my youngest son, 22, has been to Wilkinsons buying herb seed pots in advance of getting his first home. He says adamantly “I’m not a gardener”, he doesn’t want to admit that some of my passion may have rubbed off on him but showing him how to sow a few rocket seeds this afternoon was an amusing delight.
I didn’t do a foliage follow up post last month as I was bored with posting about the same plants all winter – even I couldn’t face another photo of Melianthus major but with the warm weather and spring well and truly upon us there are new leaves appearing even more than the new flowers. I love the freshness of the new leaves something which you get at no other time of the year especially when the late afternoon sun dips down and back lights the leaves. I have a few hostas but they are a plant I want to increase in the garden. The hosta above I have had since my first garden some 20 years ago. I have no idea what variety it is and it has been divided over and over again. This plant is residing under the Prunus kojo-no-mai; I have been dividing it and spread it to create a cushion of hosta under the shrub. It isn’t quite there yet but I think it will look lovely when it is. And yes there are some of the dreaded sycamore seedlings which I have missed.
An example of what I mean about the back lighting of foliage. Here is a run of the mill dogwood which came from my mother’s last garden. The young variegated leaves look wonderfully fresh but late in the day they positively glow and provide a nice contrast to the other green foliage around them.
Acer is another plant that has wonderful fresh foliage as well as good Autumn colour. I love both ends of the year but at this time of year the leaves look so fragile and feathery.
Then we have the wonderful glossy leaves of Cardiocrinum giganteum which look almost like plastic and very unreal. I grew this plant last year but I really don’t remember the leaves being so shiny and yes there is another sycamore seedling – tsk!
Leptospernum myrtifolium was added to the woodland border last Autumn to provide a nice light contrast to the large Fatsia and Rhododendrons which are in the border. It is still a very young plant and is difficult to spot from a distance but I think it will be a good addition in time.
Berberis seiboldiwas purchased and added to the border at the same time. The leaves mature to a reddish-purple but I hadn’t realised that they opened with such a light green hue – like little torches in the border. I think that once the shrub bulks up it will really glow in the spring border.
So here are my Spring foliage highlights, for more foliage delights pop over to Pam at Digging.
The last couple of weeks have given us the occasional bright sunny days with temperatures just nudging 20C. It seems like the garden has had its touch-paper lit and the plants are rushing forward. Every day there seems to be something new opening or germinating. Today’s thrill is the first Anemone pavonina opening its flower. I bought three plants last year from Stocktonbury Gardens, taking great care where I planted them and carefully not removing the seed heads so they might self-seed. They can be hard to establish so I was grateful for the mild winter and the fact that all three have reappeared and have flower buds.
There is still quite a variety of narcissus large and small flowering in the garden but my two favourites are Angels Tears and Sophies Choice, both quite elegant and pale.
Tulips are rare in my garden as over recent hard winters they have been dug up by the badger so I no longer plant them in the borders. However, there are one or two which the badger didn’t get and which flower year on year. Tulip ‘Jan Reus’ is one of the few flowering in my garden at the moment.
Iris bucharica is another new delight. It’s a Juno Iris which aren’t generally easy to grow in the garden, prefering pot culture, but Iris bucharica is the exception and will grow in the border so here’s hoping that they will reappear next year.
I had forgotten I had Leucojum vernum in the woodland border so it was a delight to see it reappear. Hopefully one day it will start to bulk up.
I have a growing passion for Epimediums and the first are flowering with more to follow. I love their dainty flowers and the way they waft above the foliage.
Another new tiny delight is Dicentra cucullaria which I have started in a pot but I think will be fine in the border once I have looked up the right conditions for it.
The honesty has started to flower. I think this one is Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue'; I remember sowing seeds for it but I don’t remember it germinating well but maybe I was too hasty in throwing the seed tray on to the border.
I do though remember sowing Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’. I bought the seeds last year from Avon Bulbs at Malvern show, sowing them that weekend and I am very pleased with the plants. I really like the dark foliage with the purple flowers.
Primulas and polyanthus are flowering away with new ones putting in an appearance on a regular basis. It seems that the polyanthus start flowering later than the primulas. I am particularly fond of the (Drumstick Primula)
There are lots of other small floral delights in the borders and I have included a few of my real favourites.
For more Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit Carol over at May Dreams
I’m sure you won’t mind me saying that I am rather pleased with my garden at the moment. It makes me smile so much especially when the sun shines, as it has been all week, and the small spring flowers glow.
I have been taking advantage of the longer days and have managed to work outside for an hour at least three evenings during the week and I am hoping to make this a habit for the rest of the year while the days are long enough. It is a wonderful way to unwind after a trying day at work. Although having spent some hours this last week digging up sycamore seedlings I could feel irritation creeping back from time to time so I had to restrict myself to sycamore weeding for just 30 minutes at a time. I have never known a year like it, they are everywhere.
The grass path has had its first cut of the year and I have decided to retain it if for no other reason than the cat objects to the gravel paths! I am pleased with the border above – still in need of a name, maybe the Cherry border? It has perplexed me for years ever since it was first created. Earlier this spring I really cleared it out and planted some hellebores, a peony and some other perennials. Various daffodils which were already in the border have been flowering and a host of aquilegia are now putting in an appearance.
The back of the border leads round to the former Bog Garden, again in need of a new name – I’m thinking Camellia border. This has also been a little perplexing for a few years. There are a number of ferns in this border including some Onoclea sensiblis which I hadn’t realised when I bought them a few years back need moist conditions, so I have really mulched the border to try to retain the moisture. One evening this week I added a Cardiocrinum giganteum, Mertensia virginica, Dentaria pinataand a whole host of snowdrops lifted and divided from the other side of the path. I know some people argue against planting snowdrops in the green but for me I needed to do it now as they are swamping some of the epimediums and other spring plants. The larger log to the left of the photo is the cat’s scratching post. The other
The other end of the border. I am hoping that next spring, and even more so the following spring, the border will be a sea of white in early spring. It will be interesting to see how it all fills out over the coming year and to think about ways of improving it more.
I spent several hours in the border above where the worst case of sycamore seedlings has been, the neighbours have a large sycamore just the other side of the fence so I blame them. I first created this border probably 3 or 4 years ago and this spring is the first one when the plants have started to fill out and bulk up. What you can’t see if that there are fat noses of Solomons Seal coming up all over the border but still no sign of the large hosta I am waiting to relocate. My only disappointment is that hardly any of the small narcissus I planted 3 years ago have flowered this year. There is meant to see a sea of yellow here and there is nothing. I don’t know why. The clumps aren’t congested at all so I don’t understand why the narcissus are blind.
I feel that the garden is beginning to have a more cohesive appearance. I just need to continue this through the rest of the year.
Today I have wrecked destruction on the patio border. It looks awful at the moment but hopefully the image in my mind will come together as the year progresses. I removed a small euonymous from here as well as some Japanese Anemones which have been moved up to the back of the woodland border. I have also dug up quite a number of bluebells which I have to say have gone on the compost heap. Outrageous I know but planting bluebells in a border is madness, they are such thugs once they get going and the leaves soon swamp out other plants. In this border there is a whole host of lily of the valley and last year I struggled to spot any. I relocated some of the bluebells last year to the top of the garden where they will cause less problems so I don’t have a problem ditching the rest. I also lifted and divided the clumps of snowdrops here spreading them along the border rather than all clustered at one end. Others were relocated in the woodland border along the top of the wall to try to increase the spread for next year. The reason behind the destruction is because I had a number of plants that needed the wonderful conditions in this border – the elusive moist but well-drained soil; it is also quite shady. So I have planted Blechnum chilense, Peltoboykinia waranabei (a home-grown seedling), Anemonopsis macrophylla seedlings and most scarily four Meconopsis ‘Hensol Violet’ seedlings which I grew last year and have nursed over winter – I so hope they flower, I will be delirious if they do.
I leave you with a shot of the wonderful blue sky we had on Saturday with the flower on the large Prunus against it. Given the winds we have had today I am surprised that so much of the blossom is still in place and the air is positively humming with pollinators on the blossom and other spring delights.
Here we are and the greenhouse is just as full as last month although the occupants have changed a little. Some salvias and an agave which were being overwintered have now moved outside, although I will have to keep an eye on the temperatures. The succulents and pelargoniums have been moved around to make room for seed trays and the remaining pots of bulbs have been moved out to the cold frames or outside completely. Working in such a small space is a constant cycle of relocating plants to give those most in need the best conditions.
I have brought out a heated propagator (the long thin one) to get some seeds which need warmer temperatures going. These are all Mediterranean plants and I want to get them going asap to give them a long season of growth. The other propagator is unheated but I am using it to give some of the seeds a little bit of an edge over the normal greenhouse conditions. It seems to be working as I am starting to have to move out seeds sown only a week ago. I have sown a ludicrous amount of seeds this year especially as I was all for not bothering but it seems to be something deep in my psyche that I cannot avoid. I should say these are all ornamental plants there are no vegetables or fruit seeds.
The two small shelves that my sons bought for my birthday last year are in full use. I have to be careful though as the top one gets strong light and heat being so much closer to the roof and I am currently housing some of my smaller succulents up there. The second shelf has a mixture of cuttings which are bulking up, tender bulbs and more seeds.
This is the top level of the sand plunge whose purchase wasn’t my best decision last year. You can see how much staging space I have lost at one end. I can put some taller plants on the ground here but it is rather tight. I am thinking of putting a plank across the end of the greenhouse between the two lots of staging to give more surface area. I have got a potting bench which fits in here but it’s too low for me and gives me back ache so I use a work surface in the garage which has been put in at the right height. I could get a small bit of staging to go in this space but then again it is very helpful to have the floor space for tall plants to overwinter and I have some southern hemisphere plants which should get quite tall and need space so it’s a case of coming up with temporary solutions as and when they are required.
As you can see pricking out has already started, the tray above is full of rudbeckia seedlings. These of course add to the problem as one small seed tray quickly multiples up into larger module trays with seedlings, and then maybe pots. I am quite good at being ruthless with seedlings. I only prick out a tray of each as I know I don’t have room for 50 odd rudbeckia so I only prick out just more than I want.
I have started to move some of the seedlings out into the cold frame to free up space and to start hardening them off. These are generally hardy annuals so they should be fine with the lower temperatures. I have two cold frames. The one above used to be my mother’s and it didn’t have the middle shelf as I think it is meant to be for tomato plants. Anyway this was wasted space for me so my son has built me a 3rd shelf. Both cold frames have been full over winter with one year old perennial seedlings overwintering and pots of seeds sown last year or the year before waiting to germinate. I always leave the pots of seeds of perennials for at least a year, two if I can, as many need cold to germinate and in my experience it doesn’t matter how much time you spend putting them in the fridge and taking them out it really doesn’t work, they need a good long cold snap with low temperatures.
I have been making myself sort through the contents and bringing out the perennial seedlings to harden off completely before planting out. Some will get repotted just to bulk them up and some have already found their way to new homes with my mother and aunt. This is the part of growing plants from seed where I always fail. I am pretty good at getting plants to germinate but when it comes to pricking out and then growing on, I tend to lose my way. Plants fail due to a lack of the right conditions and then I become despondent so this year’s aim is to do better.
The second cold frame is older but of the same style. Its location by the garage is not ideal. When the sun comes out like this week the compost on the top layer has a tendency to dry out quite quickly so I need to monitor the situation closely. Then the lower shelves are very shady and seedlings don’t really benefit from the environment. Having removed all the overwintering seedlings from here I am now using the lower space for the pots of seeds from over a year ago on the off-chance that some of them decide to germinate – two pots of fritillaries decided to do just that this week. The top shelf is a real mess and is in need of sorting. There are some newly sown seed trays but the majority of the rest are pots of bulb seedlings. The yellow labels indicate that the seeds germinated in 2014 and so if they germinate again this year I will then pot them up into a bigger pot or prick them out.
So there is my complicated greenhouse operation early in April 2015. Sometimes I think I should just go back to tomatoes it would be so much simpler!!
For more peaks into greenhouses visit Julie at Peonies and Posies