Aversion Therapy – NaBloMoPo

There are two ways to look at most things in life – either you take a positive approach, the old glass half full approach, or a negative approach, the glass half empty approach.  Being a positive kind of soul, often on the verge of turning into a middle-aged (now there’s positive) Pollyanna I like to find an upbeat spin to most things.  So I will not be saying I have failed with the NaBloMoPo challenge – although I have.  Instead I am going to tell you how trying to write a blog post a day has been a bit like some form of aversion therapy for my blogging habit, albeit unexpected.

I was doing Ok until last week.  Last week was a crazy week.  We had our award ceremonies at work so I spent 4 days hosting VIPs during 8 ceremonies: transporting them backwards and forwards between venues which meant something like 16 coach trips; eating seemingly piles of couscous salad and tartlets and other things which I can’t even remember now; attending two dinners; and making more small talk than any one person should be expected to.  This meant that at the end of each day I was collapsing through the door brain-dead and on the couple of evenings when I might have had time to write something there was definitely nothing there to be said.  So the blog was forgotten.

Now a strange thing happened.  It didn’t bother me that I couldn’t write a blog post and even stranger this weekend I couldn’t be bothered to write one even though I had plenty of time and my head had cleared.  This is very strange indeed as for the past 8 years I have blogged religiously 3 or 4 times a week, and sometimes more.  When I have been away I have missed blogging.  I have often said that I have done it so long that it is part of my routine, it’s a habit – but it seems not.

Why this change?  I don’t really know. There is an element of work being very challenging of late leaving me exhausted but I am also spending more and more time on other things apart from gardening.  Dont get me wrong I love my garden and I am still fascinated by plants but I don’t feel a need to write about it all the time any more.  I have been playing around on the blog experimenting with writing about other things and its Ok but if I am honest doing the NaBloMoPo really made me feel that I was writing for the sake of it and any enjoyment I might have got was lost so why do it.  When I started blogging all those years ago it was primarily to connect with other horticulturally minded people and I have done that which is great but I have also in the last few years met lots of people in the ‘real’ world through the various groups I have discovered.  These groups have led over the last year to me being involved more in horticulture such as my role as recorder for the RHS Symphyotrichum trial and I think my need for horticultural input is being met more, these days, in this way than on-line.

I doubt I will stop blogging, and I will definitely finish the End of Month meme this year but I have a strange sense of being liberated from something which is quite wonderful.

The only reason for this post is to reassure regular readers that I haven’t completely fallen off the planet.

Will it flower?


I am quietly thrilled with the plant above. “Why?” I hear you ask, “It is but a small orchid with no flower!” “But look at the small shoot that has appeared between the leaves and is growing rapidly upwards – it could be a new flower shoot”.

I have never ever managed to re-flower a Moth Orchid, it’s just one if those challenges I have failed at and the plants generally end up on the compost bin. I stopped bothering buying them as I was so fed up but back in the spring I was tempted to have another go. Surely it can’t be that hard, my aunt has one that never seems to stop flowering and she says she ignores it most of the time.

Then back in May when I visited OurGarden@19 I was reminded that Irene is a whizz with orchids and has quite a display.  She kindly gave me some tips about feeding them regularly and watering and that I should cut the flower stem when the flowers have finished down by 3 nodes.  I have failed with this last instruction as each of the 4 plants I have seem to have finished flowering and within a short period the stems go dry and brittle. Maybe I am leaving it too long and need to cut it down before there are no flowers left.  But I have been feeding the orchids and there have been new leaves on all of them and now this shoot so fingers crossed.

End of Month View – October 2015

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October has been a kind month to this gardener.  We have had generally dry weekends with milder temperatures than normal allowing me to spend some quality time in the garden.  My efforts have been small but widespread and really have been little more than planting out bulbs and some perennials.  I have spent as much time looking, peering and pondering.

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As you can see the Field Maple, I think that is what the tree is, is dropping its leaves.  There were nearly as many a week ago and the tree has still more to drop.  I love autumn leaves; they always take me back to my childhood  and jumping into large piles of beech leaves in my parents’ garden.  But I can’t leave these leaves as they make the steps too hazardous.  I also don’t agree with the whole slow gardening approach which argues that you should leave the leaves in borders etc to rot down and feed the soil just as happens in nature.  This does not take into account that we, well I, garden my garden more intensively than happens in nature and the decaying leaves act as an overwinter home for all sorts of slugs and pests.  It always amuses me that those who extol the virtues of slow gardening loudest are also the ones who complain most about slugs!

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The milder temperatures mean that a lot of deciduous plants are still looking very green and even attempting a second flush of flowers.  Many of my roses have more buds on them than they did in early summer although I think it is unlikely that many will actually open.  I have started to cut back and tidy the Big Border.  I generally work through the borders on a regular basis cutting back any plants that are going over and once I have an area that is pretty tidy I give it a good mulch of home-made compost.  Due to the number of bulbs in the garden this is probably the best chance I will get in the year to mulch as come early spring there will be too many bulbs pushing through the ground to work round.

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The top of the woodland border has really come on this year.  Most of this area was dominated by an Acer which sadly died just over a year ago.  There are quite a few shrubs here now but they are all still quite young and will take a while to bulk up so I have been planting the rest of the border up with other woodland favourites including epimediums, hellebores and honesty.  I am hoping that next spring it will look very pretty. I will also get to see whether I had relocated some snowdrops here or not!

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The bottom half of the woodland border is more established having been planted some 3 or 4 years ago. I am pleased with the foliage textures but it needs a bit of tweaking; I’m not sure what exactly but something.  I will have to look back over this year’s photographs to try to identify why my instinct is telling me this area needs some attention.

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And finally the grass path which has survived my ponderings of removing it and is now enjoying the unusual prospect of being a fixed element of the garden.  Over the last few months I have added a number of grasses to the garden particularly either side of this path and they have brought some sort of cohesion to the planting as well as providing movement and airiness.  I need to work on the border to the right of the path.  The planting between the grass in the right hand corner and the small prunus is distinctly lacking.  In the spring it is full of hellebores and other spring delights, followed by hostas and I would like to add something to bring interest to overlap with the end of the hostas.  Something to ponder over the winter.

So that is my garden at the end of October.  If you would like to join in the with the End of Month View please do, the more the merrier.  You can use the meme in any way you wish.  I tend to take photographs of the same views during the year, others like to do a tour of their garden, or use the meme to follow a project.  Whatever approach you take all I ask is that you link back to this blog in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below.  It will help us find each other and pop by for a look-see at what is happening in your garden.



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Here is my response to WordPress’ weekly photo challenge: “(Extra)ordinary.”

I thought for a while about what I might have seen this year that was extraordinary. I was reminded of my trip back in May when I took my Mum to Rome.  She had a desire to see the Trevi Foundation whilst I was determined we would go to the Pantheon and see its amazing brick-built dome; the largest unsupported dome in the world.  My mother was rather blank about this place I kept mentioning. Luckily it wasn’t that far from the Trevi Fountain and with lots of eateries in the small roads around it an ideal lunch destination.

I have been to the Pantheon once before; some 9 years ago the day after my 40th birthday.  I was in Rome on a mad work trip which lasted little more than 24 hours.  Our hosts were so determined that I should see the sights that we did a tour of Rome at midnight which was quite magical but the Pantheon was the one place we couldn’t look inside at that time of night.

I am so glad that I insisted we went to the Pantheon.  It was the highlight of the trip for me.  I found the vastness of the interior awesome especially when you think it was built around 125 AD in the reign of Hadrian, he of the long wall. The opening at the top of the roof is 8.8m in diameter that’s 28.87 ft ; the total diameter is 43.2m (141.73ft). Added to this is its religious significance. I’m not a religious person but whatever your faith or lack of faith you cannot help but be moved by the religious imagery throughout the building.

The Pantheon – a truly extraordinary place.


GBBD October 2015 – Its all about the Asters

Aster frikartii wunder von staffa

Aster frikartii Wunder von Stafa

Having spent the day recording the new RHS Symphyotrichum trial at Old Court Nurseries I thought it would be appropriate to focus on ‘Asters’ in this month’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post.  Above is one of my real favourites, Aster x frikartii ‘Wunder von Stafa’. I love the large daisy like flowers, it has a nice open habit and being of short-medium height works well in the border.

Symphyotricum 'Les Moutiers'

Symphyotricum ‘Les Moutiers’

Symphyotrichum ‘Les Moutiers’ is another one which I have been admiring for the last few weeks.  It has strong stems so needs little supporting and the flowers are more pink that it seems in the photograph.  It has a very elegant habit and a nice height of 4-5ft (difficult to tell on my slope) and is clumping up well.

Symphyotrichum 'Ochtendgloren'

Symphyotrichum ‘Ochtendgloren’

Another aster whose photo doesn’t really show its colour properly is Symphyotrichum ‘Ochtendgloren’. In reality it is a much pinker purple.  A medium height plant so good in front of taller grasses such as Calamagrostis ‘Overdam’.  I am hoping my plant will clump up well as it is such a pretty colour and bounces well off the nearby Cotinus.

Aster trifoliatus subsp. ageratoides 'Stardust'

Aster trifoliatus subsp. ageratoides ‘Stardust’

On a much shorter scale is Aster trifoliatus subsp. ageratoides ‘Stardust’.  I don’t think it is as pretty as the others but it doesn’t mind a bit of shade which makes it a good doer for brightening up woodland planting at this time of year.

Aster novae-angliae 'St Michael's'

Aster novae-angliae ‘St Michael’s’

Finally we have Aster novae-angliae ‘St Michael’s’.   I have to confess that I bought this some years ago as it is named for a local hospice charity, as opposed to the well-known department store, and some of the price went to the charity.  However, it has really been attention grabbing for the last few weeks with its big bluey-purple flowers and interestingly was one of the varieties that we identified today as one to really watch through the trial.  Mine has found it way through various plant moves to the woodland border and is surprisingly looking very good.

So those are my October blooms, for other bloggers’ blooms pop over to May Dreams and check out the comments box.

Meet the Blogger: Brian of OurGarden@19

2015_05300018Today’s Writing 101 assignment requires me to do a collaborative post with a fellow blogger such as an interview or guest post.  I’m not a fan of guest posts as I think its unfair to ask someone else to write content for your blog but then you could argue that it’s a chance for a blogger to access new readers.


Anyway, rising to the challenge I decided to interview Brian of OurGarden@19.  I have known Brian and Irene for years, they live only 10 minutes from me and when I first moved to this area they ran the local Cottage Garden Society which I joined.  I was involved with the group for a few years attending many a garden talk, visit and ‘do’ with Brian and Irene.  Having left the group I lost touch with Brian and Irene and was pleased to bump into them again when Brian came to give a talk at my local horticultural society – a good talk it was too.  Brian and Irene now run a local garden group,Black Pear Garden Club, which I understand is very successful.


Having helped a number of friends with their National Garden Scheme openings this year Brian and Irene decided to open their own garden for the scheme and to accompany this Brian started to blog. The photos on this post are from my visit to Brian and Irene on the second day of their opening.


So here are my questions to Brian and his answers.

Me:.How long have you and Irene been creating your existing garden?
Brian: 10 years

Me: Given that you work as a gardener, isn’t it a bus man’s holiday creating your own garden?
Brian: It can be but it is the garden I most enjoy working in.

Me: What do you hate/dislike about gardening?
Brian: Having a bad back – (me – I can sympathise with that)


Me: Obvious question but do you have a favourite garden to visit?
Brian: Great Dixter (me – totally agree)

Me: This year you and Irene decided to open your garden for the NGS. This is quite an undertaking given the high standards visitors expect and the logistics needed. Why did you decide to open it for the NGS?
Brian: We have opened in the past for the village church. We have always supported the NGS by helping friends who open, visiting NGS open gardens and because of the charities they donate to.

Me: Did you enjoy the experience of opening for the NGS?
Brian: Yes. We both enjoyed talking to the visitors.

Me: .Would you do it again?
Brian: Yes


Me:  If yes – what would you do differently or is there anything new you plan to add to the garden for next year?
Brian: We opened as a village group of three gardens we have recruited two new gardens for next year. We are opening two weeks later to offer visitors a slightly different viewing period. In our own garden I am growing more biennials such as Sweet Williams, Foxgloves and Sweet Rocket to hopefully be flowering then.

Me:.Do you have any horticultural ambitions? Places you would love to visit or plants you aspire to be able to grow?
Brian: Giardina di Ninfa in Italy – Irene:  Japan. (me – Hello Irene and I agree with both those)

Thank you Brian for taking the time to answer my questions.  I shall look forward to visiting next year and seeing how you have change the planting though I suspect your amazing white wisteria will be over which will be sad.

You can follow Brian and Irene’s garden here

In a Vase on Monday 14/9/15 – Butter Curls


Another simple vase from me this week showcasing the Kirengshoma palmata which is looking beautiful at the moment.  This is one of few plants that I would really miss if I was to loose it and I look forward every year to the first flowers appearing.  As I have said before on this blog the flowers remind me of butter curls.

I have added a bit of extra colour with some stems of Callicarpa.  I bought the Callicarpa a few weeks back from Hidcote Gardens and some of the stems are growing horizontally at ground level so need to be removed.  I think the purple berries pick up on the purple tones of the stem and base of the Kirengshoma flowers.


To increase the balance between the yellow and purple/burgundy I have put the stems in a burgundy glass vase which I have shown on here before.

I am rather pleased with the arrangement, it is quite simple but I think elegant and interesting.

For more Vase in Monday posts visit Cathy over at Rambling in the Garden

Ferny Fascination

Asplenium scolopendrium crispum

Asplenium scolopendrium crispum

It is very reassuring in life to discover that your proclivities are shared by others, you get an unexpected sense of connection and understanding.  Before you wonder what on earth I am  whittering about or whether this is another of those strange writing assignments I have been doing recently  I must reassure you that I am talking about my plant addictions.

Woodwardia (I think)

Woodwardia (I think)

I was once told by my then doctor that I had an addictive personality.  I don’t think she meant that people would become addicted to me but rather that my nature is such that I have become addicted to things.  It manifests itself in a number of ways, one of them is a compulsion to collect plants.  Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know I have a number of obsessions including bulbs, particularly irises, and ferns.  I love ferns but have never really engaged with understanding them or learning about them as I have always been intimidated by their long names and the slight nerdiness that goes with fern appreciation.  Galanthomania is much the same.

Polypodium cambricum 'Richard Kayse'

Polypodium cambricum ‘Richard Kayse’

Anyway, about a year ago I plucked up courage and joined the British Pteridological Society (Fern Society to you and me).   I have still to read through all the literature they have sent me, some of it is very academic and well beyond my understanding, but their website is very good especially if you are thinking of trying to grow ferns from spores. Yesterday I attended my first meeting with the local group and it involved visiting two gardens of plant addicts.


The first garden was that of Veronica Cross, a well known plant collector, who has real obsessions such as tree peonies.  Apparently she has 150 of these although I suspect this is an exaggeration by her friend, Martin Rickard.  We toured her garden ostensibly looking at her ferns with Martin as our guide but of course many of us are easily distracted by any nice plants, the hydrangea were looking particularly nice. I did start off feeling a little out of my depth especially when the attendees (13 of us) were using a form of verbal shorthand to refer to certain ferns.  However, me being me, I plucked up courage to start asking questions and quickly I find myself getting little tips and bits of advice that were at my level without me feeling daft. I think if you show you are interested and want to learn then gardeners are very generous with knowledge and enjoy sharing their passion.


After lunch we visited a second garden hidden away in the depths of the Herefordshire countryside.  The owner of the second garden is a real plant addict.  Wonderfully enthusiastic, more knowledgeable than he admits and with a really beautiful garden which just showed that gardens of plant addicts don’t have to be bitty in appearance.  Not only did we see an extensive collection of ferns but we also spotted many salvias and agapanthus flowering away and as for greenhouse , it was home to a lovely collection of species pelargoniums as well as a beautifully maintained and stocked alpine house.

Familiar scene - wondering what this is

Familiar scene – wondering what this is

More peering at  ferns and I even began to recognise some, though I suspect today if I went back I would have forgotten them all. Interestingly both gardens employed the use of labels extensively but it wasn’t distracting as the labels were tucked away under the plants.  I think when it comes to ferns you need to label your plants if you are going to collect them as in some cases the difference is so small that even the real experts in the group struggled.


So after a fascinating day with entertaining company I came home with 3 new ferns, all spares from attendees and a need to find out more. I also need to try to work out which ferns I have, most are labelled but there are a few that need identifying.


photo-1428954376791-d9ae785dfb2dThe boy jumped for joy, he jumped because he could. He could run and jump, laugh and cry, he could express himself how ever he wanted. He was free.

The boy was free of tyranny, free of oppression. He no longer woke at the slightest sound in the night, in fear of his and his family’s lives.  He no longer listened at doors to adult whispered conversations, not for his ears. He no longer wondered what they would eat that day, when the gnawing feeling in his stomach would end. He no longer wondered would he have a future, let alone when he would again receive education.

Today was a new day, in a new home and today was the start of everything…..today he could be a child again.

This is written as Assignment 4 of the WordPress Writing 101 course, we had to write something based on a given photo.