Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May 2020

It’s been a while since I posted a Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (GBBD) post but with my renewed blogging and a sunny morning I thought I would post away.

My approach is slightly different to my previous approach.  I have always taken close up photos of flowers especially for this meme but today I have pulled back a bit so you can see the context the plant is growing in, this is purely because my plants have matured and I am rather pleased with some of the combinations.

I’m starting in the front garden with the mad Euphorbia characias which is collapsing all over the place at the moment.  I adore the chartreuse green of the flower heads and it creates a perfect foil for both the aquilegias (above) and Iris Langport Wren (below).

Also in the front garden is one of my climbing roses.  I’m fairly new to climbing roses as the paving around the house was put by the builders right up to the walls so I have to grow the roses in large containers and only realised this was possible a few years ago, having read that roses didn’t do well in pots.  I do like the way that the orange red flowers of the rose work with the bricks.

Another pleasing combination is the wild yellow flag iris which grows in the small bog garden with the flowers emerging through some self-sown bracken (just as I was thinking the bracken really needed to go).

I’m also enjoying the allium flowers which are growing through the sage and contrasting with the sage flowers.  I can’t claim this is a deliberate planting its more a case of the alliums sowing themselves around and finding much better companions that I would give them.

Last up this month is Lathyrus aureus which I love at this time of year.  I really enjoy the orange flowers which like the Euphorbia provide a good compliment to the purples and blues of the aquilegias and irises.

For more GBBD posts check out the links on Carol’s May Dream blog

End of Month View April 2021

One of the positive outcomes of being working from home and my son being furloughed is that various jobs we have spoken about for a while are getting done.  A case in point is the widening of the patio.  If you look back to my tour of the garden at the end of March you will see that there used to be a border along the base of the wall which I had emptied of the ferns which had outgrown the space.  The other weekend we finally got around to paving the space to widen the patio; due to the lockdown rules we have had to use what we had so the slabs aren’t laid properly in sand and we have had to fill in with small paving slabs and bricks.  Maybe one day we will do this better.

My little greenhouse is at capacity at the moment and it hasn’t worked this hard for years.  I’m just getting to the point where some of the tenders that are housed in here (out of shot) will be able to go out and the tomatoes will be planted up.

The view as you go up the steps from the patio and you get a clue as to why the greenhouse is working so hard – the Little Veg Bed.

I’m really pleased with the border along the top of the wall but it is really hard to photograph, as is most of the garden. I have focused the border on a very English border style.  The backbone of the border is three step over apples which I have trained for some years now and the prostrate rosemary. Then the border has the majority of my roses which I appear to have been collecting without really realising it.  I have interplanted around the roses with herbs – sage, curry plant, sweet cicely.  These are accompanied by alliums, a stray camassia, geraniums, and some other perennials.  It is all looking very lush and full and I am very pleased with the texture of all the leaves.

The creation of the Little Veg Bed was completed this past weekend.  I haven’t removed all the flowers leaving a border of flowers at each end and also two clumps which comprise of agapanthus and alliums which I don’t want to use. Having cleared the border as much as I was going to I have planted out the sweet peas and mangetout and sowed a few salad crops.  Again like the patio we have had to make due with what we could find for the plant supports; the price you pay when you get rid of everything in a big clear out and then decide to grow veg just before a lock down but I think it works.

The border at the far end of the garden has suffered from my loppers. There is a huge Euphorbia xpasteurii ‘Phampton Patty’ in this border which was completely swamping things.  As a result of a conversation in the summer with Bob of Cotswold Garden Flowers I have chopped it down to the ground and will wait to see if it re-shoots.  It has meant that I have cleared lots of space for the herbaceous plants that I needed to relocate to make the veg bed.  If the Euphorbia re-shoots I will try to keep it under control more.

The top of the previous border going up to the top of the garden which is looking quite nice.  The Rhododendron ‘Happy’ is just beginnging to flower and appears to have for forgiven me for another experiment with the loppers. There is a bit of thinning needed in this border especially as there is a large persicaria in there trying to take over but it can wait for now.

Looking back from the top of the garden to the Little Veg Bed and you can see that it is in a really central location which goes against the norm but I love it.

And the shady back of the garden which is a little out of control at the moment but in a good way.  The slope is home to most of my fern collection and there are fern fronds appearing everywhere. I’ve recently moved the bird table here originally as it I was in the way when I was doing some weeding but it has stayed put (for now) and means that my son’s workshop has become a sort of hide so he gets to watch the birds while he is doing his cabinet making.

My final shot this month is the top of the slope at the back of the garden which has been taken over by Honesty and is quite mad.  I have been thinking I need to sort it out but my youngest son who dropped round the other day (keeping the appropriate distance) was amazed at the colour and thought it was great so it gets a reprieve for now.  However, I will need to get the stems out as they go over as I dont want any more self sown honesty – honestly!

The Front Garden – Bringing Joy

I love my Front Garden at the moment.  I love the vibrancy of the acid yellow Euphorbia and the purple honesty.  I love the way the breeze, or wind today, moves the Anemanthele lessoniana that I relocated here a few weeks ago bringing movement to this otherwise quite staid border. The Anemanthele has been shoe-horned in amongst the emerging asters in a way that any serious or mildly well informed gardener would blanch at.  My excuse, although I don’t really think I need one, is that the asters are making a bid for world domination and they are a complete nightmare to dig out of clay soil.  Plus the act of clearing the whole border of the asters would probably leave me in traction.  So the answer is to dig out the asters as and where I want to add other plants and to see if the addition of 3 large Anemanthele lessioniana and a rather large Watsonia will be sufficient to break up the monotony of the asters.

Asters monotonous you say?  Outrageous!  Well they are if only one or possibly two varieties are dominating the rest and when there is little to make the border interesting for the rest of the year.  Just clumps of dark green foliage sitting there for months on end.  They need friends to bring them joy and enliven them and although I have some Rudbeckias in this border I want more year round interest than just Late Summer.  That was the original plan, an ill conceived one in such a small garden.  If I had acres to play with having borders that peak at certain times of the year would be lovely but in a small garden every square metre has to work very hard and has to bring me joy.

Yes, I have been watching too much Marie Kondo , and that was before the lockdown so no excuse really, but whilst it can become appear a little OCD and perfectionist there are valuable lessons in her message which I have found quite liberating.  It has helped me reorganise and clear out my wardrobes finding clothes I had forgotten about and leaving me loving what is left and also deeply conscious that I really don’t need more clothes (don’t start me on how unsustainable the fashion industry is).  When you relate this to the garden, especially when some of your borders are 10 or more years old, you realise that your tastes have changed, plants have outgrown their spot or conversely struggled on their best.  So now I don’t compromise so much and if there is a plant which really isn’t working its out and if it is lucky it finds a new home elsewhere in the garden.

The result is borders that are full of reasonably sized plants, planted well in good combination informed by years of mistakes, and which most importantly bring me joy.

End of Month View – March 2020

It is ages since I posted an End of Month View post.  I have been hosting this meme for something like 10 years and I think that I just ran out of steam. But now I have started to post again I thought I would post an EOMV post and as I haven’t posted much for ages I thought I would give you a tour of the garden – front and back. You can access a plan of the back garden here

So we are starting in the front garden.  I have quite a deep front garden and a couple of years back I decided to get rid of the front lawn as it was just boring. I put a path in purely for decorative purposes and to allow some access for me to manage the plants.  The driveway runs parallel to this area, and the photo is from the top of the driveway.  The planting has filled out a lot over the last few years.  There are a lot of asters and grasses in the area to the left of the path, which is much deeper than the photo implies.  I am now working through removing most of the asters as I want interest throughout the year not just in late summer.  I have this last weekend added the Anemanthele lessoniana to the border, which has been relocated from the back garden.

This is a rather boring photo of the front of the house but I am super pleased with the new path that went in last year.  I’m also really pleased with the narrow border under one of the front windows.  It has been a difficult border for years, due to the builders rubble but the various succulents seem to thrive here; so I’m going to do the same on the other side of the front door.

So we go along the lovely new path and down the side of the house, past my son’s wood store and you come to the back patio and my random pile of pots and compost.  But this photo does show you the difference in the height between the patio and the back garden.

Here is my patio, not the most glamorous of patios but it does the job.  Lots of seedlings in pots to be sorted, the majority of these are peony seedlings from a couple of years ago; turns out I’m quite adept at germinating peonies.

A warts and all view of the other end of the patio.  The area to the left used to be the fern border.  However, the ferns were deteriorating as the rosemary was shading them out.  The ferns were moved about a year ago and I decided to remove the border and continue the paving to make this area bigger and more practical.  However, life got in the way and I haven’t yet completed shifting the soil.

You go up the steps at the end of the patio and you find the bark path to your left.  The border to the left is the rose border.  I have accumulated a number of roses here over the years and the border is backed by 3 step-over apple trees which I have trained from whips.  I started off with just roses and herbs but the other week I have added a few plants from the Big Border (to the right) including some Agapanthus divisions.

The border to the right is the Big Border that is going to be home to my edibles, see last post.

If you continue straight up from the steps you come to the grass path on your left and this goes across the top of the Big Border.  The grass isn’t in very good condition at the moment and is covered in soil from my work clearing the border.  I built the retaining wall to the right of the path this time last year and it has worked well.  It has reduced the slope of the border and the plants seem to just look better.  I also like the structure it gives.

View from the other end of the grass path – not a great photo but it gives a sense of the slope of the garden.

From the grass path you can see the back slope of the garden, which is quite steep.  If you look at the garden plan on the blog you will see that there used to be a path along the top of the slope. I have got rid of this over the last couple of years as it served no purpose.  Instead I have more planting space and I have been moving shrubs in along the top of the slope to create some shrubby cover.

And this is the far top corner, which I call Maisie’s Corner as my beloved cat is buried here.  The compost bins were here until a couple of years ago and we removed them as they were a nightmare to manage.  Instead I have a large shady spot and have moved a number of the ferns from the patio border here, along with some shrubs which had outgrown their homes. We buried Maisie here as it was one of her favourite places and I still find it hard to garden here as I miss her so much.

So there’s my garden warts and all at the end of a reasonably wet March.  Given that we are self-isolating now for a while I hope to be able to get out and start to sort it out more.  However, the reality is that my work is very demanding and I’m finding myself stuck in front of a laptop every day but at least I get to sit in the garden for lunch on a sunny day which is a definite improvement on the normal working week.

 

Edibles Again

Some eight years ago I made the decision to give up on veg growing and gave up my allotment.  It had been a love/hate relationship from the start for a whole raft of reasons and I have never regretted the decision.  However, for some reason in the last couple of months I have had an inkling to try growing veg and fruit again but this time at home in my garden. This surprises me as I have never felt a desire to grow edibles at home.  My garden isn’t huge, and being wide and sloping it doesn’t really have the option to have a veg garden at the end.  But then why does the veg garden need to be at the end of the garden, hidden away?

I found myself digging out Geoff Hamilton’s Ornamental Kitchen Garden, one of the first gardening books I was given.  I always remember being fascinated by the idea of mixing up veg and flowers in the garden but for some reason I have never really taken up the challenge.  Now though, having gardened very little over the last two years, I see the garden with fresh eyes and I think why not, lets give it a go.

It started with a short list of a rhubarb plant, maybe an artichoke, and some potatoes.  Nothing much, just things that could be incorporated into the borders and as my son said I do like good foliage and these plants all have nice foliage.  The rhubarb went in about a month ago and this started more thoughts about what to grow.  Maybe some raspberries, and of course a gooseberry bush as I love gooseberries.  As I have a habit of crashing into projects and then regretting it, I decided to wait until I was back from Madeira to see if I still felt the same.

But Madeira just confirmed my thoughts.  I was fascinated by their approach to growing edibles.  The eastern side of the island is what is called the rural side of the island.  Here, vegetables and fruit are grown in any space that seems to be available.  The soil is rich and they plant crops close together, not in rows placed wide apart as we do on our allotments.  I love the lushness and abundance and it got more thoughts going.

The result is that I have decided to really embrace growing edibles and instead of putting just one or two things amongst the flowers I am going to turn the big border in the middle of the garden over to edibles.

This border has always been a challenge for me.  I’ve never really worked out what to do with it.  I like borders to have a feel or a theme something that give them cohesion and this has never really worked in this border.  The drainage in this border is very good due to the slope and there are quite a lot of bulbs planted at one end where they get baked in the sun and at the other end there are a number of hellebores that are thriving.  But in between its all a bit of a mishmash,

So the plan is to slowly clear the border, leaving the planting at the two ends.  There will be a row of raspberry canes along the top edge, set back a few feet from the grass path and the veg will be grown in small blocks following the principles in Geoff Hamilton’s book.  As soon as something finishes, it is replaced with another crop.  To help with this I was given a new cold frame for my birthday and this is already full of seedlings waiting to go out.  I also managed to buy some raspberry canes, a gooseberry bush and some strawberry plants before the garden centre had to close due to the lock-down.  I am stocked up with seeds and other essential supplies so hopefully this new project will give me some light relief to being working at home for the foreseeable.

 

 

 

A fresh perspective

Hepatica noblis

My head is buzzing with ideas, one idea bouncing off another and taking my gardening thoughts in another direction. It takes me back, two, three years ago or even four years back when I was really immersed in my garden.  Over the past period my focus on the garden has been limited for a wide range of reasons which I won’t bore you with but the upside is that I now find myself looking at the garden with fresh eyes.  It’s as if I have moved to a new garden and can start again.  Even better, I’m not so sentimental about plants as I was before.  I find myself looking at plants and thinking this really isn’t working any more or, to be quite frank, I just bored of this plant.  Now for some this might sound a terrible way to think as like many keen gardeners I have often nurtured the plants, coaxing them to establish and grow well. But a garden is not a museum, plants out grow their space, the gardener’s tastes move on and change is, in my opinion, healthy.

Now this picture makes me incredibly happy.  My hard working greenhouse has been helping me in my horticultural pursuits for at least 10 years and has gone through various iterations. When I first got the greenhouse I set it up with staging on both sides and a potting bench at the end.  Its a tiny greenhouse, just enough room for me to stand in the middle and it means I have to spend a lot of time and effort in moving plants around during the seasons to maximise the space.  For the last few years I have had some deep tray staging, the type you can plunge pots into gravel or sand in. I installed it as I was dabbling in alpines and miniature bulbs which I enjoyed for a while but the trouble is that I’m easily lead and a bit of a magpie, attracted to one shiny plant after another. So my poor little greenhouse was trying to house alpines, half hardy ferns, and succulents – a recipe for failure.  Add to that my complete disengagement and failure was guaranteed. Slowly but surely various plants died, or I planted them out, or just got rid of them.  What is now left are the plants that make me happy, albeit it a small and select group.

My new approach is to go back to basics, back to what used to make me happy years back when I first got into gardening.  I don’t engage in a lot of social media any more and I think that has freed my mind up, I’m no longer being lead astray by what others are doing, the latest fade or trend.  Instead I want to create a lovely, pretty cottage garden full of my favourite plants – both flowers and edible.

The greenhouse is the first step in this new approach.  I have removed the deep staging and returned the potting bench.  I’ve decided not to have two sets of staging as later this year I would like to grow some tomatoes in the greenhouse so this space is being used for the remaining tenders that still need a winter home. The potting bench has all that is left of my propagating supplies.  A month or so ago I ditched all the plastic pots and trays, old seed packets etc and started again.

It has been liberating….now my mind is clear and I can think more clearly and plans are forming.

 

 

Six on Saturday 20/7/19 – A Soggy Interlude

Dahlia Little Robert

I’ve been away for a week visiting gardens in Yorkshire, very inspiring and I will probably share my thoughts and images with you soon.  I only had time on arriving home to unload my plant acquisitions  so I didn’t have a chance to walk round the garden until Friday morning when it was absolutely pouring.  The rain is well overdue and the garden will benefit and hopefully the humidity will be lifted but the rain isn’t very helpful for taking photos and having a look around the garden so these are not my best.

The dahlia is the only one that has grown for me this year.  I bought four tubers and this is the only one that has grown, which is a huge disappointment. I doubt I will bother with dahlias again as they are generally too large and dominant for my planting style.

Gladiolus flanniganii

I love this gladiolus, I have a whole pot of it which I drag under cover each winter to protect it.  Its a small gladiolus and originates from the cliffs of the Drakensburg, I expect I bought it from am alpine nursery when I was dabbling in alpines a few years ago.

Phlox paniculata ‘David’

I did spot that the Phlox paniculata ‘David’ is flowering.  This phlox does really well for me and it smells amazing.  I saw quite a lot of phlox in Yorkshire last week so I bought another one to see if it will grow as well.

I’ve included the flowering agave as the flower is so disproportionate to the size of the plant.  I suspect it is long overdue for repotting; another job to add to the long list of jobs to do.

You may have wondered earlier what plant acquisitions I made so I thought I would show you a picture of them recovering in the rain. Some of them spent 5 days sitting under a coach so they have done very well; we were lucky that our coach driver is also a gardener.  He has driven us for each of our trips over the last four years so is part of the gang now although this year we really challenged him with filling the underneath of the coach and every available space inside the coach with plants. I think I ended up with 21 plants including an echeveria, a fern, a couple of alpines and numerous plants for the Big Border where I am trying to improve the grassy pollinator look.

The other new acquisition on the patio is a new patio set of two chairs and a small table.  We wanted chairs which were conducive to reading and relaxing and these chairs are incredibly comfortable.  I bought them just before I went away so I am now looking forward to having a nice sit down outside when I get home from work next week.

Those are my soggy Six on Saturday, for more posts visit The Propagators blog.

 

Six on Saturday – 13th July 2019 – Boundaries

My six this weekend are all about the boundaries because I am celebrating getting my privacy back.  Long term readers of this blog will know that my old neighbours neglected their garden and it was overgrown with a thick barrier of ash and sycamore trees between our two properties which gave me reasonable privacy.

When the new neighbours moved in 3 years ago they did what any of us would do and cleared the garden.  It was quite alarming for me as I suddenly felt like I was in a goldfish bowl.  All the screening above the fence line was gone.  This might not seem such a big deal but our gardens slope up from our houses and so with all the angles you often feel like you can be seen by your neighbours in your garden and they can see you which I don’t like.

Then to make matters worse because the garden had been neglected for so long the fences hadn’t been cared for and in some places it was only the trees and shrubs that were holding things together.  So over the past two winters the fences have disintegrated or have bits missing and it has looked a real mess.

Not any more, they have had the fences replaced and we now have a lovely 6ft fence which is rather beautiful.  Sadly, for the neighbours, as they are at the end of the road they are responsible for all the fences around their property so this must have cost a lot but I think it is fab.  Suddenly, I have my privacy back and it brought home to me just how much I had missed that privacy.  I think there is actually even more privacy than before as the fence is higher than the old one.

Not only have I got my privacy back but I have gained about a foot along the fence line.  I need to fill in the trench left from where they dug out all the old tree roots etc but once I have done that I can play around and give some of my plants more space.  I had left some Hawthorne seedlings grow up in recent years in anticipation of new owners clearing the garden and now I think I will cut the Hawthorne trees back to create more of a hedge along the fence which will in turn allow my Liquidamber tree to have more light and thrive.

The new fence at the end of the patio.  The fence here was previous held up by a variegated ivy that I planted which was OK.  The bamboos in pots were added when they cut all the trees down as it meant they could see straight from their garden down on to my patio which was horrid.  The new fence is higher and somehow I think has obstructed the view but I think the bamboos may stay.  Now they have a smart backdrop I may think again about what is around them and smarten it up.

As I am fixated with fences at the moment I thought I would include my back fence which you can just about make out through the undergrowth.  The garden slopes up to it and last year I removed the path that used to run along the top of the garden as it was never used and was a waste of growing space.  I am encouraging a wild and hardy exotic look up here. There is a huge thistle which has appeared from somewhere which sort of messes up the look of the planting but I was intrigued to see how big it would grow.  Behind it is a fig tree which I had to prune hard last year as it had a lot of long branches going off at angles and I wanted more height than width.  This year it is smothered in figs.  I need to work out when I am meant to harvest them and what to do with the fruit as I don’t think I’ve eaten fresh figs before.

And finally my side fence which is the same style as the neighbour’s new fence but shorter.  I thought I would include this as my final six as it another boundary photo and includes my marmite rose which I included in a previous post.  I inherited this rose when we moved in about 16 years ago and for years and years it had one or two flowers.  Then my other neighbours also indulged in some heavy handed pruning and cut everything back hard meaning that the rose suddenly benefited from light and more rain and this is the result!

For more Six on Saturday posts visit The Propagator’s blog.

I’m off to Yorkshire later today garden visiting for a week so I hope to have some interesting gardens to share with you soon.