My Garden This Weekend – 8th March 2015

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What a wonderful weekend it has been.  Saturday was bright and sunny and warm enough for gardening in a T-shirt and for sitting and contemplating with a cuppa.  Luckily I bothered to check the weather forecast for a change and focussed all my energies on outside gardening jobs leaving Sunday for seed sowing and potting up which can be done under cover.

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I have dug out the cane domes and placed them over the new peonies that were planted over the last few weeks.  This will help me remember where they are until they put in an appearance and I also think the domes are rather charming.  I have added an Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ to the border, you can just see it in the top left corner.  I had been looking for one having seen it in ‘The Layered Garden’ but having secured one at the local HPS group I started to wonder why I had been attracted to the plant.  It is rather a strange combination with yellow streaks on the foliage and pinky new growth – it was christened the ‘ugly plant’.  However, when I planted it out I was won over again as it works very well with the pink hellebores so maybe my first instinct was right – I knew where I wanted to plant it before I bought it.

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I am pleased with this bit of border now especially when the sun lights up the hellebores.  This border is ‘done’ for the time being while I wait to see how the plants fill out and then the plan is to try to add a little late summer colour.

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I’m thrilled that the Hepatica noblis are flowering although I have to admit that they were only bought last month – the test will be to see if they reappearing next year.  I have bought a couple more and I am planting them over the other side of the garden so hopefully at least one group will establish.  However, I also have some hepatica seeds germinating in the cold frame which were sown as fresh seeds last April.

2015_03080015I got myself in a bit of a pickle the other week when I finally got round to doing a soil test and discovered my soil was alkaline, which wasn’t great given I had just bought two small rhododendrons.  I have been dithering around about them and decided to plant them up in pots and display them by the shed.  Once they have flowered and it gets warmer in this part of the garden I will move them into the shadier part of the garden and make sure they are watered well so they produce buds for next year.

I haven’t been very good at using pots in the garden for some years now.  I used to be really good at baskets and summer bedding in pots but I seem to have lost the knack and I do actually prefer the more mono planted pots but with several grouped together.  So the plan is to do more of this to create seasonal displays.

Finally I found enough energy to remove an unnamed and unloved shrub growing near the compost bins which has never really done much and had got battered when the tree surgeons were throwing the large willow logs around.  It came out fairly easily which was perhaps part of its problem.

I had come up with a scheme for this small area the other week when I was having a tea break – its to the right of the bench.  After adding lots of green waste compost I planted white Digitalis, Epimedium perralchicum ‘Wisley’, some lily of the valley, and a Polypodium cambricum ‘Oakleyae’.  I also replanted some self-sown Pulmonaria.  There is a gap left in the middle of the planting for a Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ which is growing elsewhere but has needed a new home; I just need to wait for it to put in an appearance so I know where it is.

 

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It’s only a small area but it is a start to the style of planting I am trying to adopt with lots of texture and contrast and hopefully not much soil showing once the plants get going.  I plan to add some white honesty next year so I will need to remember to show honesty and white digitalis on an annual basis although I may get lucky and they might start to self sow.

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Sunday was grey and damp so I used the time to sort out the greenhouse.  The pots of bulbs which have finished flowering were moved out to the cold frames – I am regretting, a little, getting the plunge staging (not in the photo) as I haven’t enjoyed the pots of bulbs this winter and I want to plant them out in the garden.  I am toying with getting some sort of warming cable system for them to create a propagation unit but I am waiting to see how I get on this season before I invest more funds in something I might change my mind about.  There is a sorry tale associated with the empty space but I will share that later in the week when I join in the monthly greenhouse meme.

However, I am happy to say that my seed sowing mojo has returned with gusto and I have sowed quite a few packets today.  I found myself really enjoying the process.  I had forgotten how much I love that sense of anticipation. I also potted up a dozen aquilegia and dianthus and 3 primrose digitalis; some of them might even be good enough in a few weeks to sell at the local HPS group – wouldn’t that be good.

 

 

 

End of Month View – February 2015

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February seems to be ending on some sunny days which make a welcome relief after the recent grey and cold.  It was a delight today to potter in the garden without having to wear a coat.  As you can see from the state of the grass path it has been very wet here and the path is looking muddy.  It does take a lot of wear and I keep wondering about replacing it with a gravel path, a bark one doesn’t appeal.  However, my cat loves the grass – she sunbathes here and if often seen leaping around on it chasing some leaf or twig.  She doesn’t really like my gravel paths choosing instead to creep along the stone edges so I think it will remain but I may lift it and level it.

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The border alongside the steps has seen the most work this last month and although it looks rather bare there are lots of plants emerging.  I have also been adding some geraniums and boykinia along the stone edge to try to soften it.  I love the watsonia leaves with the sun shining through them at the bottom of the obelisk it is such a useful plant and really should be grown more.

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There is still little to see in the woodland border although I have spotted some narcissus coming through and hopefully the epimediums will start to flower soon. Once plants start to emerge I want to work on improving this area.  It needs more cohesion and really being a woodland border it should have lots of hellebores, erythroniums and spring bulbs right now – something I will need to address.

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The other end of the woodland border looking very bare and dull also.  More work to do but also so much potential for plant buying!  I have been doing some on-line shopping so hopefully these purchases will have an impact this time next year.  I should add some snowdrops and eranthis here too or maybe some crocus and some ferns and possibly digitalis but I would also like some late summer/autumn interest.

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Another view across the grass path and there has been a change since last month as I have moved a Cotinus into the foreground.  I wonder how useful this view is as the grass path seems to be featuring too much.  Maybe I will find a spot to take a better shoot of the old bog border from for next month.

So there we are at the end of February.  It is looking generally tidy, there are splashes of colour from hellebores and bulbs and so much beginning to emerge through the soil.  I have started to implement some of my planting plans and have other ideas up my sleeve including painting the shed and hopefully over the next couple of months with lighter evenings and possibly more favourable weather I might be able to really make some progress.

Anyone is welcome to join in with the End of Month meme and you can use it as you wish.  We post on the last day of the month, or thereabouts, and some of us show the same shots of the garden every month, whilst others give a more general tour.  All I ask is that you leave a link to your post in the comment box below and link to this post in your blog post – that way we can all find each other and come for a visit.

 

 

End of Month View – January 2015

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Another year and the start of another series of End of Month posts.  Time for some new views, projects and pondering.

I plan to start with the view above which is the grass path between the Big Border and the former Bog Garden which is in need of a new name but first of all it needs some sort of identity.  I have some plans for the area on the right of the photo to give it more structure and interest but I think there will be a pinky/red/white theme picking up on the prunus flowers and the berries of the sorbus.  The Big Border still needs some rejigging to get the planting looking right.  The Euphorbia dominates the border and I want to try to tie it in with the planting around it more but I’m not sure how yet.  There are lots of asters and late flowering perennials in this border but I think I want to try to give it interest earlier in the year.  I have added some bulbs but I can’t remember where so I shall be watching to see what comes up and where I need to add more.

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This is another view I haven’t included before and shows the whole of the former Bog Garden as well as the newish Hardy Exotic Border.  The tin bath is earmarked to be filled with some white Zantedeschia. It will be interesting to see how much light this border will get now that the willow that shaded most of it has been significantly reduced.  I want to tidy up the planting on the left hand side to try to reduce the impression that plants have been dumped there, which they have to a degree.  I also fancy a bit of sculpture and I have my heart set on some willow sculpture which would be kind of ironic.  The other thing that bothers me is the camber of the grass path which slopes down the garden and is quite frankly hopeless as I find it impossible to cut.  I keep bouncing back and forth between taking it up and replacing with a gravel path or relaying the grass on a flat base.

As an aside I am also hoping to sort out the border along the fence which has troubled me ever since it was created.  The bamboo are doing very well but I need to add some other plants, maybe shrubs, to fill the border and provide a good back drop (and mask the fence).  I just can’t think what and I haven’t really applied myself so I need to make a concerted effort this year.

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I am particularly taken with the view up the garden from the patio to the shed so I have decided to include that this year. I suppose the view is mainly of the shed and gravel path which won’t change much during the year but I do put out pots on the steps and I intend to do more.  Also the Stipa gigantea is on the list from removal this Spring.  It has done well for years now and unwittingly was positioned so it catches the afternoon sun especially in the Autumn.  However since I got my darling cat it has suffered from her attacks particularly in the summer when crickets seem to live in the middle.  It is also planted in the wrong place as for years I have had to cut back the leaves which were engulfing every thing including the steps so its going.  In its place I intend to plant things that love the sun and good drainage like bearded irises which I love far more than grasses and maybe some hardy agapanthus.

The other part of the garden I thought I would focus on was the Woodland Border at the end of the grass path.  This is a couple of years old now but has had to have some replanting as I lost an Acer last year which dominated part of the border.

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Over the Autumn and Winter I had added a Viburnum, Berberis seiboldii and a Leptospernum myrtifolium.  The border has benefited from the emptying out of one of the compost bins and last week before the cold snap I gave it a good mulch of wood chip.  So now I will be waiting and watching to see what comes up where.  I know there is a large Hosta Sum and Substance in there as well as a couple of clumps of Solomons Seal.  I think this border just needs some tidying along the front edges maybe with some more bulbs for next year but we shall see.

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The rest of the Woodland Border which has a number of shrubs in it but as they are bare stems are difficult to see.  I am hoping that the Mahonia in the background will put on some real growth this year.  It was cut back to the ground two years back as I wanted to stop it growing on one stem taller and taller.  It has branched now and is starting to grow but sadly there were no flowers this year.  I also need to tweak the end of the Big Border in the foreground which is quite frankly shabby most of the year.  There is a large Dicentra here which dies back and leaves a gap so I need to think about what to plant with it to hide the gap when it dies back.

So those are this year’s End of Month Views.  Hopefully next month there will be a little more green and less brown and maybe even some new plants added – the greenhouse and cold frame are full of things waiting to go out.

All are welcome to join in with the End of Month View meme (EOMV).  All I ask if that you link to this post in your post and leave a link in the comment box below so we know you have joined in and can come for a look.  You can use it in any way you wish.  Some do as I do and look at one particular area through the year, others do a tour of the garden or feature whatever is pleasing them.

If you want to get an idea of what is where in my small garden take a look at the Garden Plan which you can find from the tab along the top of the post.

My Garden This Weekend – 11th January 2015

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Amongst the gusty wind and grey skies there were moments of still and sunshine this weekend when the garden shone giving me the perfect opportunity to get some horticultural therapy and take photographs.

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I get such a thrill seeing plants emerge at any time of year, watching leaves unfurl and buds open but at this time of year there is something particularly special when you see the first shoots of snowdrops, narcissus, crocus and eranthis pushing through the soil. I suspect this is the reason so many plantsmen (and women) end up becoming glanthophiles; in desperate need of some horticultural enjoyment at what is a bleak time of year they turn to the few plants that are showing signs of life.  I have snowdrops, both everyday and a few special starting to flower, but for me it was spotting the eranthis pushing through the soil that really thrilled me.

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They have such a strange way of emerging with the frill of leaves pulling the flower bud out of the ground all ready to open, they completely intrigue me. Elsewhere the camellia and hellebore buds are still forming but beginning to show some colour so it shouldn’t be too long before they open.

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My mother asked me the other day what on earth I found to do for an hour and half in the garden at this time of year which amused me.  I can always find something to do.  Although I have an editing list, running around in my head, of plants that I want to move or simply remove, this weekend I was feeling a little weary so I indulged in pottering, one of my favourite gardening activities.  I worked my way through the Woodland Border weeding, cutting back perennials and generally tidying.  This border saw quite a change last year with the death of the Acer and I am still working out how to fill the gap.

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As you can see the border is looking very sparse in interest although I know that the border is actually full but everything is sleeping below the soil, there are lots of shoots beginning to push through the ground.  But it does need structure and form and I know from looking at it through the past year it needs sorting out so the plants look better. I have just started reading Keith Wiley’s new book ‘Designing and Planting a Woodland Garden’ which has got me thinking.  In it he groups plants, aside from shrubs and trees, into one of six groups and he talks about how you use plants from each group with each other.  He also says that whilst we are better at taking into account the right growing conditions for a plant we seem to have forgotten to think about how the plants actually work together.  I have also been watching a new Alan Titchmarsh series, ‘Britain’s Best Back Garden‘, where he meets everyday gardeners in a rich variety of gardens.  I have found the programme fascinating as many of the gardeners are very passionate about their gardens, often with no formal training, and their gardens are amazing; full, lush, floriferous. Between the book and the programme I have found myself reassessing the back garden and my approach and coming up with plans. Nothing drastic but I want to incorporate some more interesting shrubs and remove those that have only a short season of interest and don’t earn their keep.  I also want to improve my overall approach to planting to be braver and trust my instincts more rather than worrying about whether the conditions are right, what people will say, how quickly the plant will grow etc.

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Above is the woodland border from the patio and you can see that there is a bit of winter interest at this end but there is also so much potential and scope for me to really improve it.  I think I might feature this area in the End of Month View although it is quite hard to find a good angle to photograph it from, but then again yo can say that about most of the garden.

 

End of Month View – November 2014

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November this year has been wet and mild resulting in the weeds and grass still growing, even the drop of temperature earlier this week was short-lived and we are back to mild temperatures for the time of year and fog. Whilst I’m not so keen on the continual dampness the fog does add to the real autumnal feel which is nice as there are less fallen leaves in the garden this year due to the removal of the majority of the willow and some of the large prunus.

The hardy exotic border and new seating area remains my favourite part of the garden and I hope the plants are hardy enough to come through whatever this winter throws at us. I am hoping that it will be a mild winter and the plant will have another year to establish before they have to cope with prolonged cold.

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I am surprised at how lush the garden still is. The Rose Border (formerly the Cottage Garden Border) is filling out and I am hopefully for a good display next year when the roses, aquilegias and geraniums start to flower.

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I worked through the Big Border last week, weeding and cutting back.  I want to move the Cotinus to the corner of the border in the foreground and I need to build up the log edging of the path but aside from that the border should look after itself now until the hellebores flower in the early spring.  I will cut the hellebore foliage back probably in late December.

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The other end of the Big Border.  I have also tidied up the border on the other side of the grass path and as I mentioned last week this is an area I want to tackle next year to make the planting stronger, it can’t get any weaker!  I have finally got the start of an idea of what I want to put in here and it won’t surprise you to learn it is foliage based.  I have a hankering for a dark-leaved banana or maybe as Rusty Duck has suggested a hardy Hedychium and this has led to me deciding to extend the hardy exotic planting from the slope behind but with plants that appreciate a little more light.  2014_11280005

The other end of the border I am talking about which has been much shadier but I suspect will be lighter now due to the willow being cut back so drastically.  The planting here is predominately foliage based so I think I will finally be able to make the whole border work rather than it feeling like two halves.

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The next area due an autumn tidy up is the original woodland border.  Again it will be interesting next year to see how the shade has been affected by the tree work.  I think I need to do a little re-jigging just to stop plants swamping each other but I need them to reappear in the spring so I can remember what I had planned to do. However, I am very pleased with how the changes I made to the back of the border have worked out this year adding depth and interest as well as height.

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Going down in scale the spring/patio border is at one of its low points in the year.  The late summer interest is well over but hopefully come early spring there will be lots of colour from snowdrops and other bulbs.  Saying that I have a sneaky suspicion that I meant to add more bulbs this autumn and if so I have failed to do this.

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The staging is still working hard and currently supporting the collection of pots planted up with collections of various alpine plants and the hardy succulents.  It is also hosting all the pots I have emptied of dahlias.  Last year I planted these up with tulips which were OK but I think I want to add some more permanent plantings in them so I have decided to leave them empty over winter.

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Finally the hardy succulent trough has been more successful than I ever anticipated.  The various sempervivums have bulked up and filled out.  However, I will be happier once my amateurish concrete repair mellows a little.

As ever any one is welcome to join in this monthly post and use it how they wish.  Some focus on one area of their garden and others the whole garden.  All I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can come and visit you.

My Garden This Weekend – 23rd November

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There is nothing better for the soul than a couple of hours in the garden, steadily working through a border, clearing and tidying especially on a grey damp Autumn day when any garden time feels like a gift.

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I have been cutting back, weeding and collecting leaves in the borders either side of the grass path, although its more of a mud path at the moment and I really do need to sort this out in the next season.  There are few flowers in evidence aside from some cyclamen and violas but the garden is still full of colour and texture thanks to the evergreens.  I continue to be more attracted to plants with good foliage either evergreen or deciduous.  Having had a very catholic taste in plants over probably the last 20 years I now find my interest becoming more focussed on certain groups of plants: good foliage, bulbs, ferns, woodland plants and I find myself looking at the borders to see how I can utilise the space better and incorporate more of my favourites.

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One of the borders that I have struggled with for some years in the border in front of the old pond.  I need to bring some cohesion to the space.  The more shady end isn’t too bad and I think there is some structure forming but it is the opposite end by the workshop that really challenges me.

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The bare soil is witness to my indecision and confusion.  It isn’t a big space I know but it needs to have some impact due to its location and I am crippled with indecision here.  It is currently home to late spring perennials including lathyrus and aquilegia as well as various digitalis but there is no wow or impact here.  I have toyed on numerous occasions over the last year with putting in a rockery or a crevice garden here; I thought it would blend in with the path and the slope of the border would help.  I am full of enthusiasm when I have been to one of the Alpine Garden Society meetings but although I love alpine bulbs and some alpines my reaction to rockeries, even the modern crevices, in the flesh is indifference.  I can’t get excited about the tiny plants and all that stone.  I need foliage, texture, glossy leaves, fine leaves, silver leaves, lushness with seasonal floral highlights to add sparkle.

As I posted a few weeks ago I was inspired by Keith Wiley’s approach and coupled with an article in the RHS The Garden magazine by Roy Lancaster on evergreens this month I can feel some ideas forming in the recesses of my mind which hopefully will have formulated properly by next spring.

2014_11230026The next task is to tidy up the Woodland Border and the Rose Border (top of the wall) and to clear the way for the bulbs which hopefully will be appearing in the near future.

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My Weekend This Week – 18/10/2014

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Primrose Jack in Green

Autumn has decidedly arrived although not the crisp dry Autumn that I prefer, instead it has been a bit grey and quite damp leading to soggy piles of leaves to collect; many have already been collected.

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I have noticed that despite the lower light levels there is still interest in the garden mainly from the various asters.  I think the smaller flowers add some real texture although I want to add some of the larger and brighter flowered asters next year and maybe some more rudbeckias to lift it all.

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The first job was to weed the slope where the Hardy Exotic Border is and plant a mass of mixed daffodil bulbs.  I am conscious that many of the plants will die back over the winter and I don’t really want a large bare area so I am hoping the daffodils will add some spring interest and colour until the main planting reappears.  As my garden is quite small I need to make ever area work as hard as possible. I am trying to adopt the idea of layered or succession planting as advocated by Christopher Lloyd and also David Culp but of course although I understand the logic and purpose putting it into action isn’t as easy as it appears. I think you really need to understand the plants well and I haven’t quite got there.  To help me out I am thrilled to have signed up for a study day at Great Dixter next June.

2014_10180007At the moment my starting point is to give each area a key season of interest.  So the border above is a spring/winter border with the conifers and some bulbs which will appear in the new year.  Today I have added a few cyclamen to give colour.  There is a sprawling geranium in the front of the border which looks wrong and will be relocated elsewhere.  I think a Japanese Painted Fern, yes I know another fern, would look good here and I fancy some white vinca or maybe periwinkle around the tree trunk.

A small achievement was finally sorting the area in front of the shed and fence.  This has been a bit of a dumping ground since the shed went in over a year ago and has been irritating me for some months.  My son plans to put a wood store here, the shed is his workshop, but he is so busy it is well down his list of priorities so I decided to take charge.  It is amazing how much things are improved with a quick tidy up, a thick layer of gravel, a bit of fence paint and a few pots.  The little auricula is far too small so I need to find one of my other pots to go here.  I am thinking maybe a pot of bedding cyclamen.

Elsewhere I planted out the shrubs I bought at the Hergest Croft plant fair last weekend.  The Hydrangea Merveilla Sanguine at the top of the slope to add to the foliage interest.  I was told it needs good moist conditions and maybe at the top of a slope isn’t the best place but the soil is very heavy clay based here and doesn’t seem to dry out too fast so fingers crossed.

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More bare soil but this is where the dead acer was and I am quite pleased with how it is coming along.  I have added a Leptospernum myrtifolium ‘Silver Sheen’ and Berberis seiboldii which is quite electric at the moment and should be wonderful in a year or two. Also planted out today is an unnamed double hellebore and some bedding cyclamen.  There are lots of spring perennials under the soil here at the front of the border so I have added the cyclamen for interest until I am reminded what is here and where it is!!

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I thought I would show you a border I replanted just over a year ago – The Japanese Fern Border.  A grand title for a small area alongside the patio which admittedly has other perennials other than ferns but they are all from Asia – apart from the stray Welsh Poppy in the back there.  The ferns have really filled out and it looks lush and full and makes me smile.

Just for Yvonne I have include the Primrose Jack in Green at the top of the post which I look at when I sit on the bench.