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.
It has been a slow weekend of pottering and faffing around. We are at that point of the gardening year when you suddenly realise that you have to grab the opportunities to garden when you can both due to the shortening days and also the inclement weather. I haven’t quite got that sense of urgency I often get at this time of year when I realise how many bulbs I have to plant or things that need tidying up. I wonder whether its because I seem to have kept on top of the bulb planting this year.
I am really thrilled with this Evening Primrose (Oenothera versicolor ‘Sunset Boulevard’). They were grown from seed earlier in the year and I am hoping they will be perennial and not biennial as it was said on Gardeners World the other night! I love the warmth of the orange flowers, it is working really well with the Autumn foliage.
Today the sun was attempting to shine and although chilly at first it was a pleasant day to be outside. I had to half empty the greenhouse yet again so I could plug in the heater and re-jig all the plants, again, in order to fit just a few more tenders in. This year some have been brought into the house as I will never get them all in the greenhouse – luckily my youngest has moved out so his bedroom is available! There are now only the border line plants to deal with. I have been taking cuttings but I think I will lift one of the Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ and then mulch around the base of the other border line plants.
The last of the bulbs, with the exception of a few tulips, have gone in. I struggle to get Iris reticulata to come back year on year but I read the other day that this is because we plant them in dry and warm areas and this leads the corms to split into smaller corms and then a delay of several years for them to bulk up and flower. The theory is that you should plant them deep in a sightly shadier location which seems to make sense. I thought I would give this a go as I love Iris reticulata and I would be thrilled if I could establish a drift of them. So I have planted groups of corms in two shady parts of the garden and we will have to wait and see.
The other job I wanted to complete this weekend was emptying one of the compost bins. Sadly I sort of failed with this task. I have dug most of the contents out over the last few weeks and used it for mulching but I discovered today that the bottom battens of bin had rotted so I need to replace it. The trouble is that due to the slope of the garden the bins are cut into the side of the hill and when I don’t empty them for ages the moisture rots the wood. I also have to literally dig out the contents as I can only access the bins from above (i.e. standing on ground level with the top of the bin!) which is not very satisfactory. It has been annoying me for ages so after a consultation with my eldest we have decided to build a couple of new bins from pallets, which we can easily access, and have them along the fence line. They will be built in such a way that I can remove the front of the bin and empty them easily. It will also mean that I can really tidy up the area under the willow where the bins are located. Now the willow has been cut back there is more light in this area and all sorts of things are growing and shooting so it would be good to use the space better. So that will be my winter project.
I think it is one of the joys of this time of year that as you slow down you start to have time to look and think and muse and decide on what you might do next year
The arrival of Autumn has been more noticeable this weekend with the first flurry of fallen leaves on the paths. But just as you start to feel sad you spot the first signs of snowdrop leaves beginning to push their way through the soil and you are reminded that Spring isn’t that far away.
With that in mind I have been busy planting more bulbs. The narcissus and crocus went in a few weeks ago so this weekend it was the turn of Alliums and Dutch iris. I discovered Dutch Iris, or Florists Iris, a few years ago more by accident than design. I think I must have bought some in one of the bargain buckets at the local garden centre without really engaging in what sort of iris they were. However when they flowered they were beautiful although a little stiff on their own at the front of the border. I have since learnt to plant them further into the border so they grow up amongst the stems of early perennials such as Aquilegias.
I have been tidying up the patio which is cluttered with pots of perennial seedlings. Some have been tucked away in the cold frames to give them protection over the winter whilst others have been planted out. Some 10 Barnhaven Primulas have gone into the Cottage Garden Border along the edge of the bottom path and under the roses. They have been grown from a ‘Enthusiasts Mix’ so who knows what their flowers will be like but the idea is that they will compliment the spring bulbs and add some real colour that I will be able to enjoy from the house. I also planted out 15 variegated white flowering honesty in the woodland border. I wonder is 15 is a little over the top given the size of my garden but hopefully they will add a magical zing amongst the young shrubs.
This week’s scare-mongering by the media that we are about to be plunged into some sort of ice age has focussed my mind that although it all seems quite extreme I do need to make sure that I have taken care of my tender plants just in case we get a sudden frost or significant drop in temperatures. The Pelargoniums have been cut back and stored away in the greenhouse along with the succulents and tender ferns. Their place on the outside staging has now been taken by pots of bulbs.
There are still some tender plants outside such as the Kangaroo Paw and a Burgmansia which is full of wonderful white trumpet flowers. We have allocated a space for them in the garage and as soon as the temperatures drop to a point when I start to worry they will quickly be moved inside. In the meantime I am really enjoying them especially the Kangaroo Paw which I grew from seed about 4 years ago and am so thrilled with. Its flowers are quite magical especially when the sunlight is at the right angle and back light them.
There is still a little space in the green house for one or two more specials but I am pleased with how good it all looks.
I have to admit that some of my gardening this weekend was down to sheer contrariness. The weather on Saturday was showery and blustery and not particularly warm and needless to say as soon as I had finished my chores the sun went in. However, being of a contrary nature I was not to be deterred, especially, as I am away next weekend and I really needed to get the last of the bulbs in the borders.
The focus of the hour I stole on Saturday was more work on the lower back slope. It is sheltered here so I wasn’t blown over by the gusts of wind which were getting stronger and stronger. More of the old crocosmia were dug up and the ferns re-distributed. I also added a swath of Corydalia solida. I haven’t grown this before I have seen it in many woodland gardens; I am hoping that the foliage will provide a nice contrast to the upright leaves of the various bulbs in this bit of border.
Needless to say I ended up retreated to the garage and my new potting area. Some species tulips and Iris ‘Cantab’ were planted up with the intention of possibly showing them in the new year.
The gusts yesterday afternoon were a precursor to much stronger winds overnight. I think we caught the tail end of the storm which affected Wales and this morning the litter of twigs and small branches from the willow tree spoke of the strength of the wind. I have to admit though that there seems to be a never ending amount of twigs coming off the willow all year round and I find myself often wondering how there is so much left on the tree given the amount I clear up.
I woke to sunshine so I was up and out in the garden by 9:30am. First up was to get the rest of the bulbs in the front garden. I have extended the planting of Tulipa Ballerina and Allium sphaerocephlan across the end of the lawn but I have got as far as carrying it up the other side of the lawn in front of the beech hedge – mainly because the soil gets very wet and heavy here and I’m not convinced the tulips and alliums will do well in this environment.
Bulb planting nearly complete I moved to the back garden and cleared the Big Border of all the tender perennials and the leaves that have fallen to date. The dahlias were all lifted and have been set upside down in trays in the garage so they dry out a little before I store them for the winter. I don’t leave them in the ground in this garden as it is very clay based and gets sodden in the winter in places which really isn’t the right environment for the dahlia tubers to overwinter in. I also lifted the Salvia involucrata boutin and managed to squeeze it into the largest pot I have before store it in the garage for the winter. I have been told it is borderline hardy but I just know if I leave it out, even with a protective mulch, it will be a very cold winter and I will lose the plant.
The border looks incredibly bare now but this is fine as I really need to add some organic matter to it since it was created in a rush back in April and planted up quickly to clear the area for the new workshop. I want to think about this border over the winter and decide how it should be developed. I have noticed this summer that there is a distinct line going diagonally across the back garden which separates the sunny and shady areas and the Big Border is cut in half. So I need to come up with a planting scheme that combines both sun lover and shade lovers but without a clear demarkation. In the meantime I have added some Ornithogalum umbellatum in a drift near the Stipa gigantea which hopefully will look good.
My son came and helped me move the large pots of Agapanthus and Echium under cover and we cleared the first crop of fallen leaves from the patio. It looks so bare and tidy now which made me feel a little sad but then I spotted that the winter jasmine along the patio wall had started to flower. Not only had the flowers started to appear but there were far more buds than I have ever seen on it before and I am sure that this is partly due to me removing some of the competition from the wall earlier this year and giving it a bit of space.
I have more tidying to do particularly in the areas where there are lots of spring bulbs and also some tulips to plant up in pots but generally if the weather was to change suddenly it wouldn’t mean that essential jobs hadn’t been done which is a good feeling. Everything I do now before winter really gets a grip on the garden will be a bonus.