I was going to say I shall be glad to see the back of February and hopefully the cold weather but it appears that it will be staying with us a little longer and I have the prospect of snow on my birthday.
As you would expect the garden hasn’t changed significantly over the last month due to the season but I have done quite a bit of tidying up; mainly of leaves and weeds with a little bit of pruning thrown in for fun. You can just about make out my stripped bamboo canes at the back of the garden in the above picture.
I haven’t got to the point of being able to cut the grass yet despite it shaggy appearance as its either been too wet or too cold – for the gardener not for grass cutting, but the edges have been tidied a couple of times.
This border is on my ‘to tackle’ list this year although I have to admit its a bit down the list mainly as I struggle with it but there is a germ of an idea of how to bring it together at the back of my mind which needs to be explored. Another area is the area you can see in the background of this picture where the compost bins are. Now I get rid of my garden rubbish through the green waste collection service I want to get rid of the compost bins and plant up this area with shrubs and woodland loving plants.
However, before I do that I need to tackle the area at the top of the garden. In the photo above you can just about make out the top path in front of the bamboos and this is going. Well it has almost gone now as this weekend we removed the timber which edges the bottom edge of the path and holds up the back border. We put them in about 9 years ago and they are basically scaffolding boards which unsurprisingly have rotten over the years. I have tried various approaches to this space but they just haven’t worked as I have never been able to visualise it in my mind properly. However , interestingly as we removed the wood supports the penny clicked and I can now see how to plant up the areas with hardy exotics – something I have wanted to incorporate into the garden for some time. I just had to remove the visual constraints of the wood to free up my imagination.
So that is my garden at the end of February. I hope that by the end of next month the weather will have warmed up and the narcissus will be flowering and bringing more colour to the photos
Everyone is welcome to join in the End of Month meme. All I ask is that you link to this post or blog in your post and that you leave a comment in the comment box so we can find each other.
I look forward to seeing your gardens wherever they are in the world.
It has finally dawned on me that the best way to photograph the garden is to stand on a garden chair. That way the viewpoint is above the top of the retaining wall (4ft ish) which holds the garden up above the patio – simple when you think about it!
A sort of panorama of left hand side of the garden if you use the orange tulips as the reference point with the first photou. I am really thrilled with the garden this year. Finally after years for labouring, pondering, moving of plants, weeding and wondering it has come together and really gladdens my heart every time I look at it. It will be interesting to see if I continue to feel this way as the garden progresses through the year but so far its scored 100% since the start of the year.
Aside from starting to tackle the front garden planting I have spent quite a bit of time pottering around the garden tidying and weeding. Yesterday was a cooler day with rain constantly threatened so I spent most of my gardening time sowing and potting up in the greenhouse. I have finally cleared all the overwintered plants from both of the cold frames and repotted as necessary. Most plants have come through the winter and it was nice to rediscover seedlings that I had forgotten all about such as a tray of 12 eucomis seedlings.
Today, with the heat I retreated to the shady end of the garden and spent time cutting back snowdrop leaves from the slope so that my fern collection can emerge. I am sure there are those that will say I should leave the snowdrop leaves to dry out and wither and I know they are right but the snowdrops and ferns live cheek by jowl and the ferns are more important to me that the snowdrops so its a case of tough love. While I was tidying up I discovered the flower buds above growing amongst very long strappy leaves. After much pondering I think they are the buds of Moraea huttonii. I sowed the seeds years ago and the seedlings have languished in pots in the protection of the greenhouse or cold frame as I assumed being South African they needed some protection. Last year I got fed up with them and planted them out. The result seems to be healthy looking plants with big fat buds – fingers crossed.
The Buddleja salvifolia is beginning to flower, a beautiful blue which has come out almost true in the photograph. However, what really surprises me is the lack of insect activity on the flower heads. I rarely see butterflies in my garden but it is groaning with other pollinators so I would have thought they would like this buddleja – very strange, maybe its too exotic for the local wildlife.
Finally I am really enjoying this garish combination. There are other white honesty in this area so the white is even more dominant that this picture implies. This is where I was thinking the Tulip Rosy Bouquet that I saw at Malvern would help to bring the planting together. Alternatively, given the honesty is biennial maybe next year I could go for something else in this area, even Lunaria Chedglow would probably be an improvement! What you can’t see is that on the other side of the rhododendron there is a small pale pink rhododendron which looks wonderful with the white honesty so its all about the choices and viewpoints I suppose.
I think we have had all four seasons this weekend with wind, rain and heavy sleet yesterday and frost overnight but today spring returned which meant I could get on with my planting plans.
The focus today was the long border along the top of the wall. I want it to have a sort of cottage garden feel and in recent years have added a number of roses, alliums and aquilegias. Today, having weeded I added some Digitalis purpurea ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ and Digitalis mertonensis both of which should add height to the border. Also a topiary bay has been relocated to mid-way down the border as it has languished in a pot on the patio for so long that when I tried to move it this week I discovered it had rooted into the ground through the gaps in the paving slabs. It took two of us to get the plant out of the pot and haul it up the garden but hopefully it will be a lot happier now in the border and the yellowing leaves will green up. I plan to add some Echinacea seedlings in a few weeks time once they have had a chance to bulk up – they are just starting their third year so hopefully they will be ready to flower this year.
Talking of seedlings and hoping they will flower I was completely thrilled to discover that all four of my Meconopsisbaileyi ‘Hensol Violet’ seedlings had reappeared. Like the Echinacea they are in their third year so I am hoping they will flower as well which would be quite amazing. They have had a good mulch of ericaceous compost to try to encourage them. In fact there has been a lot of feeding going on with the roses and peonies having a good mulch of manure.
My epic re-distribution of plants programme is well under way and nearly completed in the back garden – there is just a sad bamboo to extract which I suspect will be a real challenge. Over Easter I started relocating the hellebores from near the bench to the far end of the Big Border. Above is Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’ which I think works well with Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and the Amenthalea lessonia. There is a pale yellow hellebore just past the bottom of the photograph and strangely they all seem to work well together. I have added some corms of a short bronze leaved crocosmia for interest in late summer. To the right of the photo is a Cotinus ‘Grace’ and its purple leaves are key to the planting at this end of the border. Although the leaves are not out yet I wanted to ensure that the colour theme was extended throughout the year.
Its wonderful to see so many plants re-emerging after the winter and every time I walk around the garden there is a new delight, sometimes a small spring flower or a plant that I had taken a gamble with has returned. Who knows what delights will appear over the coming week.
It seems as though we are due another wet Easter but at least yesterday was a gloriously sunny day. The media is full of Easter being the weekend when people start to engage with their gardens which always surprises me as I have been engaged with mine all winter; but I suppose I am in the minority.
The daffodils and narcissus are really coming into their own now. I was surprised at the reaction to me showing you Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’ last week as I thought it was quite a well known narcissus. So I thought I would follow up with this week’s favourite Narcissus ‘Geranium’. It is a beautiful strongly scented tazette narcissus with on average three flowers per stem.
Having spent the morning decorating it was a relief to get outside into the fresh air and make the most of the opportunity before the forecast rain came. I have crowded my head with so many ideas and plans that it was a delight to just potter around the garden tidying up and weeding. I found no less than 8 flower stems on the Epimedium ‘Egret’ ready to flower within the next week when the sun returns which is very exciting as there was only one flower stem last year. Working my way through the border reminded me that the planting isn’t so bad and maybe coming up with grand plans during the winter isn’t the best idea!
Despite the season seeming to settle down there are still some plants which have decided to flower early such as this Honesty – I think it is Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’. I’m a little vague as it’s a chance seedling which has decided to plant itself by the wood store but whatever it is its very welcome.
And now a little boosting but I was so thrilled to receive a mention in this week’s Women’s Weekly that I cannot help myself. So if you have found yourself here from reading the magazine then you are very welcome. Now with the weather looking set to stay wet for the rest of the weekend I think its time to go back to the sewing.
Not such a gorgeous weekend as last weekend which was disappointing given it was the Spring Equinox but fingers crossed Easter will see a change and temperatures will start to improve. The garden certainly appears to be waiting for the green light although the epimediums seem to have decided they have waited too long. I am particularly pleased to discover flowering buds on the majority of the other epimediums; worryingly I seem to have accumulated 13 over the last few years.
I do like spring as you have time to really look and see all sorts of delights emerging rather than being overwhelmed with things to look at as you are in the summer. I would like to claim that the combination of the white hyacinth and phormium (above) was planned. But it was a lucky accident with the lime green on the leaf seems to pick up the same colour at the base of each flower. There are lessons to be learnt here about how plants combine well and that is something I have been reading a lot about recently.
I am reading Andrew Lawson’s The Gardeners Book of Colour which is brilliant. I have read essays and books about colour with the obligatory colour wheel before but none have ever explained colour, tones and saturation as clearly as Andrew does. I haven’t got far through the book but I am already thinking about how colour creates an atmosphere and how I might try to use this in my garden especially given the big rejig that is going on. I am also reading Sarah Raven’s Bold and Beautiful which is also inspiring as I love strong colours but I worry about them looking garish in English light. I am hoping that between the two books I might learn something useful about combining plants and colour and take my bitty garden forward.
In the meantime I have sown the first seeds in the new propagator – Cobea scandens which I have wanted to try for some years. I have pruned the prostrate rosemary that falls over the wall back hard so it looks a little embarrassed showing its legs but I know it will re-shoot like mad. I have also cut back some of the tatty fern foliage from around the garden; it is great to see the new furry fronds ready to emerge as soon as the weather warms up. Peering in the borders I found both Iris danfordiae and iris tuberosa flowering but my photos arent up to standard so I will try again for next weekend. This is the first time both have flowered in the garden so I am hopefully they might establish.
I’ll leave you with what is in my opinion the maddest narcissus
Finally a glorious spring weekend which has seen me bumbling around the garden just like the big lumbering bumble bees that have been visiting the hellebores and primulas. My head has been spinning with ideas and plans over the last few weeks so it was a real relief to start putting some of them into action. I have one of those long mental lists with one thing dependent on another and I am sure I will forget the sequence so I must write it all down when I write up my garden journal later.
My first task was to round up the various coloured primulas from around the garden. I love coloured primulas. I know a lot of people can be quite snobby about them but I think they have a lovely old fashioned charm to them. I had been using them along the paths but they were dotted around, one here and one there, and really made no impact whatsoever. So I collected all the pink ones up and have planted them in the shade of an Abelia by some deep pink/mauve hellabores. The hellebores leaves will eventually cover this area so will mask the primulas’ leaves when they are looking tatty during the summer. I see this view from my living room window and I am amazed how much just planting a handful of same primulas has lifted this area with the pink of the hellebores intensified. I have done the same with the purples which are planted with the Crocus ‘Pickwick’ and the yellow/orange primulas which are under the Hammelias.
Next on the list was the Big Border. I have decided to move the asters and some of the grasses to the new borders in the front garden – yet to be dug. I want to use this space for sweet peas and dahlias this year so I wanted to clear everything that needed moving so I could see the space left and to start thinking about the layout and how I can fit in the plants I want to include. The asters have been divided and potted up and are now cluttering up the patio so hopefully they will start to irritate me which will push me onwards with the front garden. The bright fresh green leaves you can see are Camassias which should look great in about a month. I like the little Narciussus Tete a Tete as well and I think I will add to these for next year. I am also thinking that I might risk tulips again and hope the badger doesn’t appear and dig them all up. I would love to fill the gaps between the plants in this border with bright tulips in the Venetian colours I love at the moment.
The other job crossed off the list was the replacement of the shambolic bamboo supports for the step over apples with a more organised pots and wire system. I painted the posts the same colour as the highlight on the shed to give a more cohesive look and my eldest son wired them up. It was amazing how much difference it has made, without the bamboo canes with the branches tied to them you can actually see the structure of the step-overs. Whilst we haven’t had a lot of apples off the trees I am hugely proud of the apple step-overs as I know little about pruning fruit trees and started with 3 apple whips and some limited instructions from the nursery.
The sweet peas sown last week are starting to germinate in the garden and today I sowed a batch of Cerintheretorta which I prefer to Cerinthe major. Cannas and Agapanthus are also showing signs of life in the greenhouse and the Dahlias have been potted up with hugh expectations.
Wherever my gardening mojo has been lurking for the last few years it seems it has decided to come home – thank goodness.
There is nothing quite like a few stolen hours working in the garden on a chilly early Spring Sunday to make you feel heroic and pleased with yourself. The choice of task on such a day needs to be given careful consideration; this is not the time for slow and pondering chores but for those tasks that will warm you up and encourage you to stay outside just that little bit longer.
One of my favourite jobs at this time of year, although to be honest at any time of year, is sowing seeds and potting up tubers. This week saw me potting up half a dozen dahlia tubers, agapanthus corms and sowing sweet peas. These small achievements are particularly significant to me as they signal a step change in my approach to the garden. I am revisiting my original floral loves. Dahlias haven’t graced my garden for one or two years and sweet peas haven’t put in an appearance for possible five years. I love sweet peas they were one of my earliest love affairs with flowers. When I got married back in the 1980s I wanted sweet peas in my wedding bouquet but was told the end of May was too early so instead I have sugar craft sweet peas in a floral arrangement on my wedding cake. I grew them successfully in a previous small garden when I lived in Berkshire but they have been a real battle since I moved to the Midlands. This year I am determined to succeed, just as I am with dahlias which should do better with more space in the Big Border when I have relocated the asters to the front garden.
It was interesting to read the comments on the border which I am featuring this year as the End of Month View. Many couldn’t see why it needed improvement but for me it is lacking a sense of cohesion, as is much of my garden. I believe the garden has suffered in recent years from my dabbling with various plant groups such as alpines and over zealous undirected plant buying. It just isn’t right and it niggles at me. Whilst I have a good working knowledge of plants I don’t have much of an idea about design. Not so much how to organise the space as I think the layout of the garden works and I have a pretty clear plan for the front garden. What I need to learn is how to put plants together to get the effect I am striving for.
I have tried planting in terms of colour, seasons of interest, exotic, cottage and nothing seems to meld the bitty components together. The garden is neat and tidy and pretty but it doesn’t excite and it doesn’t have that generousness that I admire in my favourite gardens. I have read and listened to many a talk on succession planting etc but this isn’t what is missing either. I read two articles today in a copy of Gardens Illustrated that talked about planting. One was by Troy Scott Smith, head gardener at Sissinghurst which described how Vita Sackville West’s approach was to pile on the planting to create a wow moment and not worry about later and the other article was by Arne Maynard on a planting scheme at Cottesbrooke where he talks about deciding on the atmosphere you want to create. Somewhere between the two there was an almost light bulb moment – I could sense the eureka moment just being beyond my grasp.
I have decided to start by writing a list of all my favourite plants, things I have to have in the garden. Then I will organise those by season of interest and growing conditions and see where that takes me. Initially I can see something quite relaxed in the front garden with a late summer focus of asters, grasses and salvias with iris and poppies earlier in the year. In the back garden I want to focus on roses, peonies, sweet peas, foxgloves (all very cottage garden) but then move into dahlias and cannas (very dramatic and exotic) – I’m not sure how those two different styles will combine or whether I will have to sacrifice one for the other.
While I plan I have started to tidy the garden and to make the changes I have already decided on. Some ferns from the back slope have been potted up ready for the shady part of the front garden. They have been replaced by a division of a persicaria which should help knit the slope together and provide a good under-storey to the taller shrubs. I also emptied out the old tin bath which was home to some zantedeschia last year – they have been planted out on the slope to add to the lush foliage I am trying to cultivate in that area – I will wait to see how water tight the bath is as I am hoping to try a small water-lily in it, something a bit exotic maybe.