After what has felt like interminable cold and greyness this weekend the sun shone and the wind disappeared. It was warm enough to spend half an hour sitting on the bench looking at the garden, taking in all the new growth pushing through the soil and thinking about winter plans and schemes. You realise that some of the plans are not that realistic, some could be more ambitious and others you just need to get on with.
I have been out of love with the Stipa gigantea for some years now but I kept making excuses for it as sometimes when the Autumn sun shone it could look magical. However, since we got the cat it has suffered. She has a predilection for attacking it; performing rugby tackles that I am sure any international rugby player would be proud of and so come the Autumn there are few flower heads on display for the sun to shine through. This is also one of the sunniest and well-drained parts of the garden, ideal conditions for bearded irises which were my first plant love right back to my teens. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for a battle. 5 minutes later the plant was surprisingly out of the ground with little effort at all from me. I do wonder if I was blaming the cat too much and maybe the grass was coming to the end of its life anyway since the root system was not that great considering the size of the plant. Its removal has left me with a lovely new patch beside the steps ready for planting. It needs some enrichment with compost as the soil looks dry and exhausted, but then I will add some bearded irises and Agapanthus. The space is larger than I had envisaged so I will have to extend my plans.
Feeling pleased I also moved the Cotinus further down the Big Border. I have wanted to move it all winter, only by a few feet but its new position is better and just looks right compared to where it was before. I also gave it a light prune to try to give it a better shape. Sunday has been an even more glorious February day so next up was the great Clematis shuffle. I only have a few clematis although I love them. I think I am frightened of them engulfing plants or disappearing over the fence to delight my neighbours and not me. I have started to introduce them hesitatingly but with little understanding. The first to move is Clematis mandschurica which I grew from seed some 4 years ago. It was growing up a small obelisk in the Rose Border but I want to give it more space so it has been moved to be trained along the fence by the conifers. The small obelisk is now home to a blue flowered clematis whose label I can’t find at the moment but it seems to be a less vigorous plant so the obelisk should be a good size for it. Finally Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ which used to grow up an obelisk by the greenhouse was moved from the shady patio border to the big obelisk up by the Workshop. Hopefully here it will have plenty of space and the warmth will encourage it to flower better.
I also planted out three Hepatica noblis bought from Ashwoods just to the right of this photo in the conifer corner. This part of the garden has been a struggle for some time as it is under the Field Maple tree so it’s very hard to get things into the soil due to the trees roots. Two winters ago I added three small conifers which are very slow-growing with the intention that they would provide ground cover. They are interplanted with various small bulbs including last year’s special snowdrop and eranthis purchases. I was thrilled when I was tidying along the edge of the steps to discover some cyclamen had self-seeded so hopefully in a year of two they will be spreading around.
The sun has led the eranthis to finally open their flowers including the pretty Eranthis hyemalis Grunling with its green flecks to the petals. Two of my other Eranthis hyemalis plants are showing signs of self-seeding and spreading which is really satisfying.
The more pottering I did the more jobs occurred to me. Some ferns and acanthus had their tattered leaves removed. I sowed some Barnhaven Primula seeds and potted up a clutch of Auricula seedlings. The patio was swept and leaf debris removed. The stash of last year’s purchases squirreled away in the shade of the house wall were checked over so I could remind myself what plants needed homes. I did a bit of arranging of pots, not my strong point, and collected up this year’s snowdrop purchases into one large pot so they produce a jolly display outside the living room window. When they have flowered I will plant them out in the borders.
I do think you notice more at this time of year probably because you are looking for any signs of Spring and growth. Today, I was pleased to see shoots forming on the stem of the Euphorbia stygiana in the Hardy Exotic border. Just as exciting was to see the colouration of the lower leaves as I was drawn to the plant having seen one at a nursery last April which vibrant red lower leaves. Also in this border daffodils are emerging and should be interesting as I have no idea which ones they are. I wanted some spring colour here to enjoy from the bench so I bought a mix of daffodil bulbs from a bulb merchant and we shall wait and see.
The list of tasks for next weekend, weather permitting, is already forming in my mind and I am researching plants for the various plans I have. I am going to a talk by Anna Pavord next Saturday so no doubt I will come back from that with more enthusiasm and ideas. It is nice to feel so positive about the garden having gone through a bit of a trough and feeling as though I have lost my way. It’s funny how suddenly conversations with gardening friends, a book to review and a few gardening programmes have come together and a light bulb moment has occurred. I just need to work hard to create the ideas in my head now.
This week’s Photo Challenge theme is scale – having something in a photo to show an extreme of scale. As I quite like to do these posts on a Friday evening I tend to use photographs I already have rather than going out to take a photograph especially; it also gives me a good opportunity to look back through photos.
I thought about large and small things and remembered this statue that we saw on holiday last summer at Lake Maggiore. It is a statue a local saint, San Carlo Borrome, or Big St Charles to the locals. The Borrome family are one of the powerful families in Italy and own Isola Bella in Lake Maggiore and as well as many other properties and land. The statue is 23.40m tall on top of a 11.7m pedestal and is one of the largest in the world. One of its claims is that it is one of the largest statues that you can climb up inside. The statue was built, in the 17th century, around a masonry chimney with the body constructed of copper sheeting on a wooden framework and the head and hands are made of bronze.
The temperatures were high this day which explains the heat haze around the statue but I think the inclusion of my fellow travellers in the photo demonstrates the scale well. And no we didn’t climb to the top as it we only stopped quickly on the way back from a tour to Lake Orta.
I haven’t posted about my crafty exploits for a while so I thought an update was due. Having completed the Sheep Pincushion I had started on a beaded scissor case from the same supplier but it was all rather fiddly and for some reason I had fallen out of love with it. I was in that horrid place where you think I really ought to get on with that and then go off finding other things to do.
Anyway, a few weeks back the latest edition of The Stitch magazine plopped through the letter box and I was instantly drawn to the sampler pattern featured in it. It was exactly what I needed – simple and straight forward. Lots of repetition and not on so small a scale (like the scissor case) that I was thinking I needed to get a magnify glass to supplement my glasses.
I ordered the material choosing to go for the colours shown in the magazine as they appealed to me and I wanted to try out the tonal threads. I am sure I have enough embroidery silks stashed away to use up left overs but I was really after a no-think project. This might sound strange but work is so demanding at the moment that I come home with my head spinning and in need of peace and quiet in the evenings with no more information or thinking coming my way. I am even too tired to really engage in social media aside from keeping the blog going. Sitting watching a drama on television while I stitch a repetitive row is just my level at the moment and it is surprisingly relaxing and rewarding.
The perfectionist in me twitches at the photo above as the stitches aren’t spot on but I then remind myself that this is its charm. An added bonus was that I have already learnt two new stitches – fern and chevron. There’s a way to go yet and maybe when I have finished it I might feel inclined to finish the scissor holder (or maybe I will just put that away for the foreseeable future!).
I have struggled with this week’s photo challenge theme: depth. So I have decided to choose some images that show a depth of field, the depth of the garden so to speak.
This photos were taken at Wollerton Old Hall in Shropshire in 2012. A garden I must visit again as I have found looking back through the photographs I took there inspiring at a time when I feel a little confused about the garden.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.