What a glorious morning we have had today especially given that yesterday we had at least 14 hours of non-stop rain. Having spent yesterday feeling sorry for myself with a bit of head cold and a blocked ear which has affected my balance a little, I only went outside this morning to see how the garden had stood up to the wind and rain. Two hours seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and I only came in when my fingers were becoming painfully cold.
There is something quite special about the sun in the early spring especially after gloomy days and it has a wonderful ability to really illuminate the early spring bulbs and the hellebores. I have said many times before that Spring is my favourite season especially in the garden. I enjoy the real thrill of spotting something starting to flower which seems to be so much more intense at the start of the year when we are desperate for reassurance that the winter is retreating. Not that we have had much of a winter this year.
The mild weather over the last few months has led to a strange mix of plants flowering. I was very surprised to have my attention caught by a flash of red and on investigation discovered that Anemone pavonina was flowering probably at least two months early.
But then again some plants have stuck to their normal timings. Hamamelia x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ is a good example of a plant doing what it is meant to do at the right time regardless. I have been watching this shrub for some weeks. Last year it had only three flowers on the whole shrub. After a bit of research I concluded that the plant was too dry probably due to the neighbour’s sycamore roots; so after a long period of rain I gave it a heavy mulch to try and lock some moisture in and I made sure I watered it during dry spells in the summer. The plant has rewarded me with a full covering of flowers which are all just opening – how lovely!
Having taken some photos I pottered around cutting back the deciduous grasses and the ferns which had gone over as well as collecting other debris from around the garden. Then with the sun still shining and not feeling too bad I decided to sow some seeds from the local HPS seed exchange. To be honest I have no idea what half of them are, I think they might be shrubs as I seem to remember requesting these as I have a fancy to grow some shrubs maybe for a future garden, not that I have plans to move, but its good to have a challenge.
Finally, having been thrilled with the Hamamelia flowering I was just as thrilled to discover three flower stems on the Melianthus major; two more than last year.
It always amazes me how uplifting a couple of hours in the fresh air pottering around can be.
Back in November I posted about the new mega compost bin my eldest had built me from old pallets. When I came home from the monthly HPS meeting on Saturday I was thrilled to see that he had built me the second bin he had promised. I suspect my hard work the weekend before emptying out and removing the last old bin may have encouraged him to get this done or it might have been my heartfelt pleas as the first bin was full despite its vastness.
You can see the slope of the top of the garden and in particular the drop in the soil level from one bin to the next so we still have to landscape this drop out of existence. What these new compost bins have given me are two large and substantial compost bins which are positioned at right angles to the old bins meaning that I should be able to empty them better. It also means that although large the bins are less visible from the house compared to when the three old bins formed a line across the back of the garden. This is turn has freed up some space near the top of the steps for me to plant something and this has led to the creation of what I think will be called the loggery.
You will recall that I had the willow, under which the compost bins are sited, heavily lopped back in October 2014. This left a large pile of logs which have either gone to my friend Victoria for her willow sculptures or to my son’s scout group for burning. There were however a number of very large logs which were just too heavy for us to carry down the garden so they have been sitting in the way for the last 18 months. Having emptied out the last compost bin and finding myself presented with extra space I decided to roll the logs down the slope and to pile them up on the corner at the top of the steps to produce a small loggery. It’s a bit like a stumpery but made with logs and not tree stumps! Once the ground levels are sorted out the loggery can be established properly and my plan is to fill in the gaps between the logs with soil and to plant it up with ferns and maybe some bulbs such as snowdrops or hepaticas. Having heard Julian Sutton of Desirable Plants talk about the best growing conditions for hepaticas I think this small installation might improve the flowering of my hepaticas which would be wonderful.
It’s the end of January and so time for a new view for the End of Month View meme. In a bid to make myself really focus on the front garden I have decided to air my dirty linen in public so to speak and have this as the focus for the meme this year. Any one who has read this blog for some years will recall that the front garden was the focus of the EOMV meme in 2013 and you can see a round up of that year’s posts on the subject here.
The two photos above should give you an idea of the layout of the front garden and yes the lawn, if we are audacious enough to call it a lawn, is looking awful. It needs a good cut as the grass doesn’t seem to have stopped growing but the garden nearest the house can be in shade nearly all day meaning that it doesn’t dry out very well. In fact the whole lawn is full of moss which is a good indicator of how damp it can for most of the year. We also think there is a spring which runs along under the beech hedge, although I suspect it is one of those springs which appears when there are high water tables. I think the above photo distorts the perspective and it seems that the border to the left of the lawn is quite wide whilst the border at the end of the lawn is quite narrow – in fact it is the opposite way round.
This photo gives you a better indicator of how narrow the driveway border is and also demonstrates how unhealthy the lawn is. This border has a bit of an orange theme going on with the libertias, a number of different crocosmia, geums (although more red than orange), tulip ballerina and a Grevillia vicotriae which has orange flowers. There is an edging on the driveway side of oregano, a very yellow leaved one, and on the lawn side Alchemilla mollis. When I squared the lawn off, it was formerly oval, I went through a period of being obsessed with accentuating the shape of the lawn with edging of one plant. I tried an approach of having a reduced plant pallet and going for impact but it just jarred with me. I started breaking this repetitive planting up with the addition of a couple of stipa tennuissima and also the libertia but it needs something else so I shall be watching this year to try to decide what that elusive something might be – possibly some bigger foliage.
Some might recall that I had a row of Deschampsia along the end of the lawn but if you read the post from the end of 2013, you will see that, I concluded that this was creating a screen like a barrier at the end of the lawn. I have spent the last two years continuing to struggle with the front garden. However back in the summer Kate from The Barn Garden visited and pointed out the obvious to me that I should really take the same approach with the front garden as I have with the rest of the garden and indulge my love of foliage and architectural plants. It is so obvious it is ridiculous. So I have re-jigged the planting back late in the summer adding various plants that were lurking in pots on the patio or needed moving from elsewhere. In went a melianthus major, a phormium, euphoribia rigida and some bearded irises. The various bergenias which had replaced the Deschampsia in a near row along the front were re-arranged into clumps. As shrubby salvias seem to do well in this locations as does the cistus I also added a rosemary and sage. I am really pleased with this new approach, it feels right, so this year I will be watching to see how it progresses and whether anything needs to be added.
Finally if you look at the top photos you will see there is a border running along the beech hedge and next door’s garage wall. This is quite a narrow border and has another row of alchemilla mollis – when these flower on both sides of the lawn it looks great but far too regimented for me. I have also added some aquilegia seedlings which had been hanging around on the patio for far too long. However, I think this border could really benefit from the addition of some ferns to add some contrast and height. That would of course give me another excuse to buy more ferns – not that I am obsessed with them at all!
So this is the view I shall be boring you with at the end of each month for the next year. Any one can join in with the meme and you can use it as you wish. Some like to give a tour of their garden, some like to focus on one particular area – what ever works for you. All I ask is that you add a link to your post in the comment box on my post and that you link in your post to this blog – that way we can all connect with each other and pop by for a visit.
I am sure we all have bits of our garden that we really struggle with and to be honest turn a blind eye to. I also bet that those areas are ones which are possibly in difficult to get to parts of the garden, or have difficult growing conditions. My challenging spot is the top right hand corner, as you look from the house; it’s the corner behind the workshop. As you can see from the photo above the corner suffers from the shade cast by my neighbour’s trees mainly the Elder which is right in the corner. This has two large conifers, probably leylandii behind it which form part of the hedge along my neighbour’s back boundary.
But having battled with the elder for years I was thrilled the other evening to get a visit from my neighbour asking if I minded them cutting back some of the branches on the maple to the front of the shed. During the conversation she mentioned that the tree surgeons would be cutting down the elder and the two conifers. I felt a little bad later at how enthusiastic my reaction was; maybe saying ‘Oh good, I really struggle with that tree..’ is a little selfish! I was thrilled when I got home on Friday, just before the light faded, to see the transformation. Not only had the tree surgeons done a very neat job with no debris on my side of the fence but the amount of light that is now flooding in on that side of the garden is amazing. It isn’t only the light but the fact that the elder, in full leaf, created such a rain shadow at the top of the garden that I have struggled to grow anything. As you can see there are three bamboos along the back fence. The one to the left of the picture above is much taller than the others, in fact the third one has hardly put on any growth since it was planted some years ago and I am really hoping that with the increase in light and moisture the plant will start to thrive. I am now revisit what plants I can use to plant around the bamboos and maybe I can now consider something more exciting than is presently there.
I thought I would do an End of Year View post instead of an End of Month post so I could see how areas had changed through the year. Starting with the view up the steps to the shed I am pleased with how the border along the steps has filled out. At the start of the year there was a Stiga gigantea here but it was a sad specimen and taking up a lot of space. Removing it last January freed up a lot of space which I have filled with agapanthus, peony and a range of bulbs which need sun and sharp drainage. But I wanted some waftiness up the stairs so late in the year I added some Stipa tenuissima.
The start of the bottom path is one of my favourite places to sit and ponder. I always think that the photos along here never show it off well but there you go. I want to try to beef up the planting along here, bring in more colour through the year but especially in late summer.
The bottom part of the woodland border looked really good in early Summer but it needs to be improved in Spring especially given that Spring is meant to be the season of interest for shady areas. This being so I have added lots of narcissus bulbs and I am hoping that next Spring my hard work will be rewarded.
The top of the woodland border has progressed slowly this year; I have to be patient and let plants establish and fill out. Again I have added narcissus in here and there are signs of them coming through.
The final view I am including is along the grass path. I started the year umming and arhing about whether to replace the grass with something else but I think the grass is a nice counterfoil to the plants and my cat likes it so …. I want to improve the planting at the start of the path and have started to do this with the addition of Anemanthele lessoniana and repeated it with one towards the end of the path. I think it draws the eye but also starts to soft the edges.
So that was 2015 in my garden. I haven’t decided what view will be the focus of the End of Month View in 2016, it needs to be somewhere that photographs well which isn’t the case with much of my garden due to its smallness and the angles needed.
It has been great that so many of you have joined in with the End of Month View meme in 2015 and I really hope that you have found it useful. I do hope that you will join in again in 2016 and all I ask is that you leave a link to your posts in the comment box of my post for the relevant month and include a link back to my post in your post. That way we can all connect.
Best wishes for 2016.
Weeding in the garden today, listening to a big fat bee buzzing around the Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, and feeling the sun on my back you could be forgiven for thinking it was Spring. This assumption was reinforced by the flowering of snowdrops, hellebores and primulas with even the Daphne putting in a show. However it is mid December with the shortest day just two days away. This winter has been incredibly mild so much so that it is hard to believe we will be recovering from the over indulgences of Christmas in just 5 days.
After weekend after weekend of rain it was with pure delight that I was out cutting back hellebore leaves first thing this morning, making the most of the blue skies in case they were going to be short-lived but I needn’t have worried as the fine weather lasted longer than my energy levels or my back muscles.
I don’t ascribe to the ‘slow gardening’ approach at this time of year which advocates leaving all the tidying up until the spring. I think it is fine if you have a garden that is grasses and late summer perennials but with a garden like mine that I like to look as good as possible all year and which is planted in the layer style it is important to keep on top of things. I’m not talking about putting the garden to bed for the winter – what a waste of a quarter of the year and so many delights. Instead I love to potter and tidy and consider. With the amount of rain we have had this month I am glad I take this approach as lifting the sodden thick layers of sycamore leaves revealed the hellebore flower buds above which were struggling to push their way through just as some of the bulbs were, you can see how little light has got to them.
Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’
Back on the 5th December I shared my surprise at discovering a snowdrop about to open. Finally this weekend I have had the privilege of seeing the flowers fully open and this has helped me confirm that its identify is Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’, a very elegant flower with long outer petals and a nice nodding head.
Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’
The main borders have been tidied and cleared of leaves and decaying stems cut back. I still have the very back borders to do and I have a scheme around the compost bins that I am hoping I might get a chance to carry out before I return to work on the 4th January, which does seem a very long way away being next year! Though no doubt having seen the forecast I will spend more time day dreaming over seed catalogues and making plans for gardens to visit this year.
Fatsia japonica ‘Spiders Web’
If you were to ask me if I liked variegated foliage I wouldn’t immediately say yes but then again I wouldn’t immediately say no either. It’s not something I have a firm opinion on and I don’t really understand why some people say such things as ‘I don’t like yellow flowers in my garden’ as there are so many shades of yellow, different shaped flowers and it depends on different light etc. But I like foliage – a lot. So it isn’t that big a leap when you are fascinated with texture, colour and form of leaves and how they work together to start to develop an interest in variegation.
Walking around the garden to take foliage for this monthly meme hosted by Pam over at Digging I realised just how many variegated plants I have and of course at this time of year the variegated plants really come into their own.
Bergenia cordifolia ‘Tubby Andrews’
However, it is clear from these photographs that I prefer the white, grey, green variegations more than the yellow/green variegations. I do like the Bergenia above but the yellow is a pale yellow rather than the bright yellow of plants such as Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ which I really don’t like at all.
I find the variation of the variegated foliage in Cyclamen hederifolium particularly fascinating. You do get some amazing patterns and now that my cyclamen are seeding around the garden it will be interesting to see what new leaf patterns form. I really like the top almost silver form and if you look at the Arum picture above you can see some other silver leaves which are of a Pulmonaria seedling, which I am really pleased with and am hoping I will be able to divide.
Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan’
And I will finish with my most obvious variegated plant in the garden – Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan’ which is always magical when it has rained or there has been a frost or dew.
For more foliage follow up posts visit Pam at Digging in Austin.
The mild Autumn is certainly causing some surprising combinations in the garden this December. There are a number of flowers which seem to have been in flower for months and it is almost as though they have been frozen in time like Sleeping Beauty. Here we have Gladiolus callianthus which are putting on an excellent display at the top of the garden. They are a welcome surprise this year as I tipped a number of pots of bulbs out on to the top border as there was no sign of life and they had hardly flowered last year. Then lo and behold lying on the top of the soil they started to grow and they have been wonderful for months. They are meant to be moderately hardy but I think I will risk them outside over the winter and see how they get on. I suspect as they come from the mountainous regions of Africa that they might be a bit hardier than we think especially if they have good drainage and don’t get too sodden.
Salvia involucrata boutin has also been flowering for months and like the Gladiolus seems frozen in time. The plant which is some 4 years old is huge now so I won’t be lifting it this year but am relying on cuttings and a thick mulch around roots. I’m glad I decided not to lift it as it means I have enjoyed the flowers for a lot longer than normal.
Alongside the hangers-on are the usual seasonal delights. The number of shrubs, especially those that flower outside of Summer are increasing in my garden. They often have small delicate flowers which come into their own when there isn’t much showy competition. Here we have an Abelia, variety unknown, which is very popular with the pollinators when we have a sunny day. I enjoy the combination of the pale flowers with the burgundy stems and calyx.
The Jasminum nudiflorum seemed to come into flower early last month and the flowers are just started to go over, no hanging around for them like the Gladiolus and Salvia. I think this rain soaked bloom looks almost transparent in some lights.
Euphorbia rigida, albeit a small and young plant, is already illuminating the front garden. I really like the combination of the glaucous leaves and the acid green flowers. Just behind this plant is Salvia armistad which I haven’t lifted and is still just about in flower and the deep blue/purple flowers contrast wonderfully from afar with the Euphorbia.
Finally an unknown Primula. There are a lot of primulas in my garden, with the numbers increasing year on year as I am a sucker for the Barnhaven Primrose website. This one is a straight forward lilac Primula vulgaris and probably due for dividing in the Spring. It is one of the first real spring flowers to open and makes me feel optimistic that Spring isn’t really that far away. I have a couple of different snowdrops that are producing flowers but not open enough yet to include and the Iris unguicularis which I featured a few weeks ago is still producing flower after flower which is making me very happy after waiting for a few years for it to establish.
So those are my floral December highlights. For more Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit May Dreams.
Hellebore Anna’s Red
I hate to say I have had a good gardening weekend when so many people are coping with floods or howling gales, but I have. At this time of year I think we are grateful for any time we can steal to get outside and work in the garden so I was thrilled to steal about 3 hours over the two days this weekend.
I have spent most of the time picking up leaves, weeding, and cutting back perennial flowers. I’m not a great one for leaving lots of winter debris as I believe this provides homes for slugs and snails and I think when you garden a space extensively you need to try to maintain good garden practice. I tend to start the Autumn/Winter tidy up with those areas that are heavily planted with spring bulbs so that I don’t damage emerging shoots. I’m a little behind due to the recent wet weekends so was really pleased to tidy areas such as the Asiatic Fern border, which I look at when I wash up. There aren’t many bulbs here as it is constantly moist throughout the year but as the ferns are wintergreen and this is their real season of interest I want them to look their best. I spent quite a bit of time removing the ever invasive Soleirolia soleirolii (Mind Your Own Business) which normally carpets this border and wondering what possessed me to plant it in the first place.
There are more ferns on the slope. Different ferns which like a bit of better drainage. This border is also full of spring bulbs so it was delightful to clear away the debris of the fallen leaves and spot shoots pushing through the soil. As you can see, if you look carefully, there are some random self-sown plants appearing. I think the grey leaves at the top of the border is some form of thistle and I am inclined to leave it to see what it does. I have also found a Geranium palmatum seedling which is good as I love that geranium but I am wondering what the border will look like in the summer with its mad big pink flowers everywhere – I can always move it if need be though.
Tidying up revealed that the Crocus speciosus had been flowering but for some reason not well. Some of the plants have long lax stems, some of the flowers haven’t formed properly barely covering the stamens and some flowers have been eaten. I can understand the cause of the latter but I don’t understand the first two problems. The crocus are meant to flower in late September/October, roughly when I planted the corms. I wonder if the mild wet weather have confused the crocus causing the lengthening and weakening of the stems. Whilst some were covered in leaves which might add to the problem, there are just as many growing in this way where the leaves were removed a while ago. Hopefully next Autumn they will flower better and create the lilac haze I was hoping for alongside the top steps.
Clearing the leaves also allows you to discover all sorts of delights. As I posted last time I discovered the first snowdrop of the year yesterday, I suspect it might be Mrs McNamara. Today I spotted another one with the first signs of a flower forming, this time I know it is Galanthus plicatus ‘Colossus’ as the label is still there. It appears that this snowdrop often flowers around Christmas so I think it is on track to do that.
Also found where the fat buds of Hellaborus niger; an extra flower stem this year so I think it is safe to say that this plant is well and truly established now although it has taken many years to achieve this. I also spotted that some of the other hellebores were already budding up to the point that I removed the leaves from Hellebore Anna’s Red and one other. I am waiting for the buds on the other hellebores to be a little bigger before I remove the leaves. And then there are the Epimediums to think about – I need to work out which I should remove the leaves on and which not, oh dear….
What a surprise! 5th December and the first snowdrop is flowering in my garden. Even more surprising is that it isn’t Galanthus Ding Dong which I know I have and thought was my earliest snowdrop. I can’t find a label with it and I have been very careful in labelling snowdrops with substantial black labels which will stand out but there is nothing here at all. I am completely mystified as to what it is. I will have to wait until the flower opens properly and then maybe someone can id it for me. I will also do some rummaging through my label box to see if there are any clues there.
I am not completely inept when it comes to labels and plant names. I know that this is Primula palinuri grown from AGS seed probably 3 years ago. It flowered for the first time last year in time for the Boxing Day Flower Count but then it was living in the greenhouse cosseted and pampered. It has spent the summer out on the patio amongst the various pots and for some reason was overlooked when I moved all the tenders back under cover but it seems to be doing very well despite the buffeting it has received in recent days.
This out of focus photo represents expectations. It shows one of three emerging flower heads on my Edgeworthia. I am very hopeful that this year, year 2, there will be good flowers. It is planted within sight of my living room window so hopefully it will be something to cheer me through the winter.
And adding to my expectations of a floriferous spring is this unknown Camellia. It is positively groaning with flower buds given its size and I have noticed that the rhododendrons and, very exciting, the witch hazel are full of flower buds which I think is as a result of the mild and damp summer we have had.
Whatever the reason it gives you something to look forward to in the New Year, which is always good.