Of Trilliums and other shady things

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Today I went to the inaugural meeting of the HPS Shade and Woodland Group which conveniently for me was held near Tewkesbury where I go for my monthly HPS meetings and in addition to this the talk was by one of our committee members, Keith Ferguson with a visit in the afternoon to his and his wife, Lorna’s, garden. The meeting was attended by some 80 people at a rough guess which isn’t bad for the inaugural meeting of a national group.

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Keith’s talk on Trilliums and other US woodlanders was fascinating and I learnt lots, how much I will remember remains to be seen.  I did learn that it was a myth that trilliums need acidic soil, there are one or two which do, but generally this isn’t the case. I still think trilliums are a bit tricky, I have a couple and only one flowers and in 5 years it has only bulked up to two flowers! I think I need to start mulching more with leaf mould etc. I overheard Keith telling someone that they mulch extensively in November so that seems to be the answer – worth a go anyway.

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After lunch we drove 20 minutes to the Ferguson’s home which is set down a narrow country road within sight of May Hill – a very pretty part of the world.  They have lived here nearly 20 years and worked hard to develop the garden.  Both Keith and Lorna are botanists and are real plants people.  Whenever there is a tricksy shrub that needs identifying at our group meetings it is them we look to and inevitably they know or can make a knowledgeable guess.

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I frequently visit gardens generally on my own, sometimes with a friend or two but this, and a visit with some of the same group last week, are the most enjoyable garden visits I have had for some time.  I think the secret lies in visiting with such knowledgeable plants people who are generous with their knowledge and not in a stuffy or superior way. We had a laugh and it is wonderful to hear a real hum of people talking about plants and indulging in their passion. 2015_05220069One half of the garden, in front of the house is more formal and is very bright being home to lots of wonderful colourful perennials and also the vegetable garden.  The other half of the garden (which altogether is around 2.5 acres) is the newer garden which is devoted to shade loving plants.  Here were clumps of trilliums which make my tiny specimen look even more pathetic. I enjoyed the planting style here as everything intermingles giving a wild appearance albeit managed.  I suspect William Robinson would have approved.  So many new plants to discover and learn about and at the same time familiar plants to see afresh and covert.  I was particularly taken with the Papaver orientale ‘May Queen’ which I have been promised a bit of, although it comes with a warning of being a thug!

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There were also plants that I doubt I will ever grow such as this Berberis jamesiana which Sally Gregson and I were completely bewitched by.  It is hard to propagate and given its size I suspect this is something I wouldn’t be able to grow unless I moved but still it is something to aspire to.

2015_05220092Whilst the reason for the visit was due to the HPS Shade and Woodland Group meeting what I really took away from the Ferguson’s garden was a wonderful demonstration of ‘right plant right place’.  Being botanists they understand what conditions each plant needs and the plants repay this care and attention by growing incredibly well.  It was a lovely afternoon.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May 2015

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Unusually for me I’m a day late with the GBBD post but I had a wonderful surprise on my return from Rome as the Alliums have just started to open their puff-ball flowers and there are a whole array of them dancing above the prostrate rosemary.

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Allium cameleon (above) is a new addition this year and I rather like the pink tones of the buds and newly open florets which then go whiter.  Its a very pretty flower.

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Alliums aside May is the month of the Aquilegia in my garden.  I have loved Aquilegias for years and have a growing range of plants.  I prefer the ones with larger flowers to the more, shall we say dumpy, flowers which I think are related to our native Columbine.  I am rather taken with the second and last of the four above, both in their first year of flower so it was a nice surprise to see what the flowers looked like. 2015_05150041However, I have a special soft spot for Aquilegia canadensis (above).  I adore the vibrancy of the flower but it is also one of the first species Aquilegias I grew from seed and was the start of a quiet fascination.

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Orange seems to be making more of an appearance in my garden than at this time in previous years.  Both Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ and Lathyrus aureus were bought last year.  I like the contrast with the purples which seem to be the prevailing colour in the garden at the moment and I think small dots of orange, especially from the geum flowers which have a habit of nodding above other plants on long stems really add some zing to the border.

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Talking of purple one of the first plants I sought out on my return yesterday was the Buddleja salvifolia.  I have been waiting for it to flower for weeks.  Another new purchase last year it is just heavenly, the leaves are wonderfully soft a bit like Stachys byzantina and the scent is wonderful.

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Umbellifers seem to be creeping into my garden more and more.  I have started to appreciate the added texture their frothy flowers bring.  At the moment this is from Sweet Cicely (bottom) and Chaeropjyllum hirsutum roseum (top).

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In startling contrast we have Arisaema consangineum (I think) which I grew from seed many years ago and seems to really like its new location on the slope.  As ever in my garden the flowers are pointing in the opposite direction to I had planned but I learnt the other day that you can rotate the bulb to put the flower in the right place and the plant will stay like that, the flower doesn’t grow towards the sun like other plants so I might give that a go.

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And finally we have the wonderful Lamprocapbos spectablis ‘Valentine’ which is a real show stopper.  There are other flowers in the garden, the geraniums are just starting to open as are the irises but these are the plants that are flowering their  best today.

For more Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit Carol at May Dreams

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – March 2015

Euphorbia characias 'White Swan'

Euphorbia characias ‘White Swan’

I am really pleased with the garden at the moment; it looks so pretty with the pinks, purples and yellows dotted around the borders. Acting as a gentle foil to the bulbs is the Euphorbia characias ‘White Swan’ which is also flowering now.

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A lot of the colour is coming from the growing number of primulas in the garden.  I really like the Barnhaven Primroses which are meant to be identifable by the yellow eye in the middle of the flower.  None of the ones in this post were sold as Barnhaven Primroses but I think they have become so easy to get now that they are quite prevalent.  I like the pink streaking on the one above.

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This one seems to be the reverse of the one above and I am hoping that it will establish and bulk up.  I have recently sown a couple of packets of Barnhaven Primrose seeds so maybe in a year or two I will have a really gaudy spring garden!

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I particularly like this soft blue primula which is a nice compliment to the narcissus.

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Then there are the hellebores which are also growing in number.  I seem to acquire three or four every year and I have noticed that the yellow ones seem to open much earlier than the others with the dark purples opening last.

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and finally we have a couple of early flowering narcissus – Tete a Tete and a mysterious shortish one, although taller than Tete a Tete

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Not bad for mid March I think, definitely better than last year.

For more Spring Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts pop over to Carols at May Dream Gardens

 

 

My Garden This Weekend – 18th January 2015

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As you can see the garden has had a dose of winter this weekend albeit short-lived with the majority of the snow having melted by Saturday lunchtime. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed that it was too cold to do anything outside as all I wanted to do yesterday was hide inside.  I have been overcome with a tidal wave of grief which has crept up on me unexpectedly during the week, just like when you don’t notice the tide coming further up the beach.  It left me feeling emotional and close to tears for 48 hours not an ideal state of mind when you have to go to work.  It took  a while to identify it for what it was, going through all the usual others things, dismissing PMT, depression, concern about changes at work etc.  No it was grief, cold and hard and something you just have to accept and wait for it to pass.

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I have been getting on with life over recent months, being busy, since Dad died and although I think about him a lot I have felt I was doing OK.  But grief has a habit of creeping up on you and engulfing you when you least expect it.  I suppose I am lucky in that I learnt to recognise and accept it for what it is about a year after my sister died thanks to a wonderful counsellor.  This time it was a book that bought everything to a head.  A beautifully written book, if the first chapter or two is to go by, H for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  The book is about the author training a Goshawk but it is also about her coming to terms with the loss of her father.  Needless to say it starts with her reacting to the news her Dad had died and I suppose it struck at something deep down because I kept obsessing about one paragraph, where they are looking for the father’s car.  I can’t even talk about the story without crying but then again I don’t think that is a bad thing because I believe it is better to let these things happen rather than fight them. We do more damage to ourselves with the British stiff upper lip approach.

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So the only gardening I did this weekend was to move things around in the greenhouse.  Rejigging the pots of bulbs so that those emerging have the best light and the late summer bulbs, such as nerines, are moved under the staging to rest for a while.

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Sunday has been a better day.  Having recognised the grief for what it was, had a good cry, I woke up feeling like my old self again and ready to battle on.  I have been decorating the hall, landing and stairs, which means endless gloss work which I can doing in stages.  So after tackling some of the bannisters Mum and I went out for a jaunt to Ashwood Nurseries which is just over an hour from here.  My boss had given me some garden vouchers for Christmas and I had earmarked them for some more hellebores and some spring flowering shrubs.  A lot of research has been done in recent evenings and a mental wish list drawn up.

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The choice at Ashwoods is extensive and always so well displayed.  I realised I have only visited at this time of year, the last time for a hellebore talk, so I must try to visit again through the year but if this is the quality of the display in early January I can only imagine how wonderful it will be in a few months.

I came home with 3 hellebores – Anna’s Red, Neon Star and Walbertons Rosemary which has been bred to look upwards, 3 heptica nobilis, a clivia and two dwarf rhododendrons that are part of my new planting plan for the border you can see in the second photograph.

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We had a nice lunch, a laugh, talked about Dad, grief, glosswork (Mum is decorating too) and strangely bought a resin tortoise (a gift for my Aunt!).  We are going back in March for my birthday so Mum can treat me to something, probably for the border above.

As for the book …. it is safely back on the shelf waiting for such time as I feel more emotional able to read it.

 

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.