Notes from the Garden – 8th May 2016

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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!

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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.

Moraea huttonii (probably)
Moraea huttonii (probably)

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.

Buddleja salvifolia
Buddleja salvifolia

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.

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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.

 

 

Back to Basics

Pots of blue and lilac primulas

Pots of blue and lilac primulas

I have a habit these days of trying to catch up with garden magazines over a cup of tea in bed on a Sunday morning. This morning, for the first time in years, I had a copy of the Gardeners World magazine to read.  I have shunned the magazine as being full of the basics and instead have chosen to read other horticultural magazines such as the English Garden and Gardens Illustrated but over the last 6 months or so I have found myself flicking through them looking for something to engage with; they are full of amazing gardens but with little of the horticultural detail I have sought. I think my struggle to find the right sort of horticultural literature is indicative of the changes in my approach to my garden and horticulture which has crept up on me over the last year.

For some years now I have charged around the country visiting gardens, attending shows, talks and workshops many of which have featured on this blog. I have been lucky in receiving invitations to all sorts of events; helped, albeit briefly, build a Cheslea show garden; exhibited plants in shows, including RHS shows; had posts published on a national newspaper website; had a regular monthly slot on the local BBC radio gardening programme; been paid for a number of years to write a weekly blog on gardening; and recently had the blog mentioned in Women’s Weekly.  I have enjoyed it all but now looking back I wonder how I managed to find the energy and I know deep down inside that whilst I have been charging around doing all of this there has been a little voice in my head expressing concern and a dis-satisfaction at the standard of my own garden.

Lamprocapnos spectablis 'Valentine' emerging
Lamprocapnos spectablis ‘Valentine’ emerging

I know now that the energy came from a lack of fulfilment in my previous role at work.  It was not stretching me mentally and I seemed to have a lot of nervous energy and had seriously started to wonder if I was hyperactive.  Having my role change at work drastically, particularly over the last 6 months, has made me understand that I’m not hyperactive I was just bored.  I now have a challenging and demanding role which I am loving, although the learning curve is rather steep, which means that at the end of the day and particularly the end of the working week I am mentally wrung out and this is clearly being reflected in my approach to this blog and gardening.  I have said before that I don’t want to spend much time on social media any more and it’s because I don’t want any more stimulation as I don’t always sleep well.  So since Christmas I have made a conscious effort to avoid social media apart from in small doses and I try to make that early evening and it seems to have

Buddleja salviifolia flower buds forming
Buddleja salviifolia flower buds forming

What I do want to do is practical things.  I suppose as a result of being stretched mentally it is natural to want to do something with your hands and particularly something which doesn’t require too much careful thought.  So in the evenings I sew which I find calming and hopefully as the evenings get longer and warmer I will be able to potter outside.  Pottering in fact is my new gardening mantra and the driver behind this blog post, although I think I may have wandered a little.   My enthusiasm for my garden is as strong as ever but I no longer feel a need to conquer the world; I just want to be a very good gardener and plants person.  I want to grow good healthy plants and I want to create a garden that showcases the rather eclectic mix of plants I have accumulated to their best advantage and that is beautiful.  I want to get my orchids to re-flower, I would be thrilled if my tree peony flowered and if I can nurture the meconopsis blue poppies into flowering I will be elated.

What I don’t seem to have a desire to do is charge around the country visiting and seeing things.  I know it is good for a gardener to see other gardens to get inspiration and I am sure someone famous said something along those lines but I feel my head, the blog and my picture archive is full of inspiration – so much inspiration that it is now overwhelming.  Interestingly when I ran a little survey on this blog asking what sort of posts readers liked the overwhelming first choice were posts about my garden rather than about other people’s gardens and certainly no product reviews.  I found that quite striking and it has been at the back of my mind for a while – it was almost like being given permission to stop!

Cyrtomium fortunei seedlings
Cyrtomium fortunei seedlings

So going back to my morning reading I really enjoyed the Gardeners World magazine.  Yes there were the obligatory sections on taking cuttings but I hadn’t thought of taking Dianthus cuttings, which I plan to try this week, nor have I ever really had a go at basal cuttings so I will also be trying that on my Lamium.  I was reminded to sow some annuals when the ground warms up a little and I was heartened by an article encouraging us to forsake the straight lines of parterres and other popular design solutions in favour of curves – more of that another day (probably).  Importantly, for me, there were no articles on amazing gardens that I, with a small garden and not being able to afford a gardener, will never be able to aspire to – instead I felt encouraged and reassured with some new things to try, just enough to get me outside to enjoy the sunshine and shouldn’t that be what gardening is all about? I will of course go to the Malvern show, and probably Chelsea (particularly as I have a free ticket) and I have a garden visiting trip with friends to the east of the country in June but in the meantime I will potter and go back to the basics.

My Garden this Weekend – 12th July 2015

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Thankfully today and over night we have had a good deluge of rain, topping up the water butts.  Sadly, whilst it appears a lot of rain the actual total for the last 24 hours is only 1.6mm which will only really impact on the top inch of the soil but its something I suppose. My love of strong colours is slowly becoming more apparent in the garden, at the moment I am loving the heliotropiums that I have flowering in a pot.  They were planted with vibrant orange calibrachoa but the plants never did well producing one stem at a time whilst the other stems withered.  I wonder if I planted them out too early given the coolness of the spring and early summer.

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I am particularly pleased with the flowers on the Aloe striatula.  This is growing in the front garden under the window by the succulent trough and was a bit of an experiment.  It has come through the winter fine and I think I would like to add more although I know that I might lose them if we have a particularly hard winter.

Petunia exserta
Petunia exserta

The species Petunia exserta have started to flower.  As with many species the flowers are much smaller than the hybrids that we are used to seeing.  I like the purpleness of the buds before the flowers open but I’m not really a fan of petunias so I will see how these do over the summer.  I’ve also planted out lobelia spicata and some agastache to fill the gaps where the early perennials have been cut back so hopefully there will be a second burst of colour.

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I’m also enjoying this flower whose label has disappeared.  Its small plant and I know the seeds were from the Alpine Garden Society but that’s as far as it goes, but it is a lovely colour.

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A new bench has also appeared by the shed.  Hewn by hand from a tree by my eldest during his week on a Ray Mears Woodsman course this week.  Its made from Sweet Chestnut which they felled with axe and hand-made saws. It is extra special to my son as the great man sat on the bench with him the other evening when he dropped into the course.  I asked if he had asked Mr Mears to sign it but my son scoffed at this suggestion, although I suspect he wishes he had thought of this.

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I haven’t shown you the patio border since it was full of snowdrops in early spring.  This time of year is it’s next prime moment of interest with the Kirengshoma being the star of the show.  I am not one to boost but I have to say that to date I haven’t encountered a Kirengshoma better than my specimen, of which I am every proud.  In this combination I like the link between the hosta flowers and the actea behind.  I am hoping that the actea may flower this year.  It has been blind for a few years now and I’m not quite sure why.  In the spring I moved it slightly sideways so it wasn’t competing with Kirengshoma so much and hopefully this will help.

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The other end of the border is beginning to fill out and continues the green/yellow/purple theme.  I don’t think I will plant the two peony plants you can see in the border as they will quickly out grow the space. Whilst I like the bright colours I also really enjoy the textures of foliage and this seems to interest me more and more.

I’m off to visit gardens on the east coast of Ireland tomorrow so who knows what inspiration I will gain over the coming week.

 

 

 

An update on the Hardy Exotic Border

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As I have been weeding the Hardy Exotic Border this evening I thought I would give you an update.

May 2014
May 2014

 

The border was first planted a year ago this month.  The premise is that it is an opportunity for me to indulge my love of foliage and to create a lush border to cover the slope.  Previously I had grown various flowering perennials on the slope but with the introduction of the shed I lost the sunny part of the slope and the area that remains was very shady.  The shade has reduced since I had the willow loped but there is still sufficient leaf coverage from the Prunus to provide the shade the plants need.

 

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The border looks a little scruffy due to the dying narcissus foliage.  I added some mixed narcissus bulbs this spring but I’m not sure that it really worked as when the bench is back in place you can’t see the narcissus.

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The observant of you will notice the increase in ferns over the last year.  I just can’t resist them and I am trying to learn how to identify them but it is a very steep learning curve.  The dark leaved plant in the front of the border above is Impatiens stenantha and is twice the size it was last year so much so that I have had to relocate an Epimedium that it has engulfed.

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The scent on the Buddleja salvifolia is already wonderful and the flowers haven’t quite opened fully.  There are only 3 flower heads this year but I am thrilled that there are lots of new shoots appearing and hopefully next year they will each have a flowerhead. Euphorbia stygiana has also started to throw up new shoots and I suspect will become a real thug in the not too distant future. I would like to try and propagate both of these plants so will have to do some research.

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From the very shady end of the slope and you can just spot the sprinkling of Arisaema consanguineum all of whose flowers seem to be facing up the slope.

I am pleased with the progress in just one year and although there is still quite a bit of bare soil I am going to stop adding now as I know the plants will soon fill out and cover the soil.

 

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

 

A Wet Saturday

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It has rained heavily for 48 hours on and off which is good as the garden has had a good soaking and the water butts are full or even overflowing.  However, it does mean there has been no gardening for me today.  In fact all I managed outside was to water the greenhouse, which seems somewhat mad, when the rain is bashing on the glass, and to take a few photos as I like the softness rain brings to plants.

I am really pleased with the driveway border at the moment.  Any one who has read this blog for some time will know my struggle to engage with the front garden and how I really tried to put some effort into it last year.  My efforts are now paying off which is very satisfying and encouraging.  The bright orange Tulip Ballerina have gone over and have been cut back.  They are now followed by Alliums and Nectaroscordum which are actually holding their heads up this year, presumably due to the wet winter we have had.  I am also enjoying the white potentilla which has come into its own after about 3 years of sulking.

Iris Bumblebee Deelite
Iris Bumblebee Deelite

I really like this Iris.  It is a smaller flower than many of the other bearded irises, less blowsy and I think this helps it stand up to the weather.  I think the veining on the falls is quite special possibly more butterfly like than bee like.

Buddleja salviifolia
Buddleja salviifolia

Talking of butterflies the new buddleja has started to flower and the scent is quite intoxicating despite there only being two flowers at the moment.  I am sure when it has had a chance to establish it will be stunning.  I have planted it behind the new bench with the idea that you will be able to enjoy the scent whilst sitting in the garden.  No sign of any butterflies yet but hopefully they will be attracted to it soon.

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An unknown Aquilegia which must be self-sown as I never buy Aquilegias given they are so easy to grow from seed.  I am sure this is a new appearance this year.  It is quite tall and I like the way the flower head drops.  It is also a simple flower very different from the normal complex Aquilegia flowers.  I might collect the seeds on the off chance that they come true although with the number I have in the garden it is unlikely.

Arisaema speciosum
Arisaema speciosum

The Arisaema speciosum are flowering better than ever before and I was feeling rather pleased that I had relocated them to the old bog garden thinking the moisture was helping.  However I heard recently that although they like humus rich soil they also like good drainage and not having their feet in the wet – opps.  I may have to rethink.

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Finally a Libertia, variety unknown, which is flowering its socks off in the front garden in the shelter of the laurel hedge.

Hopefully the weather will be drier tomorrow so I can get on and play.