Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – June 2014

Geranium pratense 'Splish Splash'
Geranium pratense ‘Splish Splash’

The garden is starting to don its summer finery and the geraniums are one of the key players.  I hadn’t quite realised that I had so many varieties as I have.  Most of them have been grown from seed at some point or another including some from a random mix of seeds so I’m not sure what variety the majority are but that doesn’t detract from their beauty.  Splish Splash is my favorite as each flower is different and that really appeals to me.

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The camera has made this blue just a little more vibrant than it actually it; it a more baby blue.  I do like how the blue flower works against the magenta/burgundy seed heads.

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The camera has definitely injected some electricity into the blue of this unknown geranium.

Geranium palmatum
Geranium palmatum

I have a number of the Geranium palmatum all grown from seed two years ago.  I am particularly pleased with these as the seeds were labelled something different not as glamorous.  I bought a Geranium palmatum a few years back and lost it in the very cold winter we had.  I must make sure I collect seed from these in case we have a cold winter this year.

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Geranium sanguineum striatrum
Geranium sanguineum striatrum

Two more unknown geraniums, both unknown varieties, but still loved.

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Some Campanula again grown from seed some three years ago and again variety unknown but the blue is very good.

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The Delphinium along the Cottage Border have started to flower. Yet again all grown from seed some years ago.  They are looking wonderful this year compared to last year when their flowers were snapped off by strong winds.  Some of them are around 6ft tall.

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Also adding vertical interest to the borders are foxgloves.  I have the ordinary Digitalis purpurea and Digitalis purpurea f.albiflora which self seed themselves around the garden. But my absolute favourite at the moment is Digitalis mertonensis (commonly the Strawberry Foxglove) below.  2014_06140045logoFor more Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit Carol at May Dreams Garden.

My Garden This Weekend – 13th April 2014

Maianthemum racemosum
Maianthemum racemosum

Anyone who follows me on twitter regularly will know I have been whining about being ill since Wednesday evening with a cold.  In fact we are pretty certain it was flu as I was completely knocked for six and hardly left my bed or the sofa until this morning.  It has left me feeling quite tired but the sunshine today was just what I needed to start recharging the batteries and get myself back to normal.  There is  nothing more restorative than a slow shuffle, that’s how bad I was, around the garden to see what is growing.  In fact I think I noticed far more than normal.  I  was thrilled to discover my trillium has returned this year with at least three flowers.  This is at least the third year it has flowered so I think I might invest in another one or two this year at Malvern Spring show.  There are so many flowers about to open that the changes seem to happening now on a daily basis.  I was particularly taken with the Maianthemum racemosum (above) which I have always preferred to Solomons Seal.  I thought I had removed all the Solomons Seal from the garden after the disgusting and extensive sawfly attack last year but I noticed today that the spikes of growth were reappearing.  I shall leave them to see how they do but the first sign of the sawfly and they are out.

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My son helped out and cut the front grass and finished off the new seating area.  I have the following week off work and I had planned to put the gravel down in this area but I suspect my energy won’t be enough.  However, I can now plant up the slope behind the seating area and my new planting area in front which will free up some space on the patio.  Whilst  he beavered away I plodded along weeding and tidying the Cottage Border, which runs along the top of the wall.

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I have been meaning to stake the Delphiniums here for a week or so and it was this task that got be out into the sunshine.  I have learnt from bitter experience that you really need to stake delphiniums early or you end up with a right mess.  I follow Christopher Lloyd’s advice and use bamboo canes.  For the smaller clumps I tie each steam to a cane but for the larger clumps I make a web of string running between the canes; it seems to work.  I grew all the Delphinium from seed and I think they are dwarf variety.  This is good as there can be a wind which whips across the garden despite the neighbours trees along the boundary and the shorter height stops them getting snapped off too much.  Many people tell me they can’t grow Delphinium as the slugs cause too much damage.  I get slugs in my garden generally not an excessive amount but enough.  My approach is to scatter some slug pellets around the plants just as the very first shoots break  the soil.  I believe this kills the slugs that leave in the soil and I think these cause more damage.  If the plant starts life strongly then it is more robust to deal with other attacks.  I also get little slug damage on hostas.

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The planting in the border is quite restricted to late spring/early summer but I want some colour later in the year so on a whim I have sown some hardy annuals straight into the soil.  I haven’t done this before.  Normally I sow in trays, prick  out, harden off etc but the plants are often scrawny as I never have enough time to do things in a timely manner so they get leggy.  I am hoping that by sowing straight into the soil the plants will be more compact and robust and will flower later in the season.  I also added some Cerinthe seedlings sown last Autumn which, yes your right, are getting leggy and need planting out.  We shall see how they do.

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I thought you might be amused by the state of my compost heaps which are growing an interesting selection of plants at the moment.  So far I have found healthy growing specimens of Sweet Cicely, Lily of the Valley, a Scabious (I think), Rhubarb, and a large Angelica.  I suppose it’s the mild winter we have had that has built  up the heap in the heap and promoted the growth but it is interesting as I don’t remember composting half of them and it shows just how rubbish I am at cutting up plants to go on the heap.  I am eyeing up the Angelica as I think I have a location for it.  To be honest I thought it was a biennial so I am surprised it has reappeared.

The idea of having the whole week  ahead and good weather forecast is amazing. I have no plans for the week apart from taking the car to the garage tomorrow so I am going to see how it pans out.  I might do a little  garden visiting, I might do a little planting, maybe some sowing, maybe some pricking  out – who knows I may even just sit in the sun and enjoy the view.

My garden this weekend – 9th March 2014

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Yellow describes this weekend – the sun has shone, the daffodils have bloomed and I have had two happy days gardening. Last weekend having only one day’s good weather I charged around the garden and the same was true yesterday but today, being greeted by a second sunny day the sense of panic gardening eased and I almost managed to potter!

2014_03090013As ever I had a ridiculous list of jobs I wanted to achieve this weekend.  The priorities were pruning the roses and emptying the second compost bin.  The drive for pruning the roses came from a talk last Monday at the local horticultural society  on roses.  The speaker advocated hard pruning at this time of year.  It turns out that despite my smallish garden I have acquired 9 roses, with most of them purchased in the last two years but it still didn’t take long to prune them.  As for the compost bin, as I said in my last post, my compost making is really slap dash.  I bought an extra bin this time last year but it ended up being filled with the turf we lifted to make the Big Border so my plan for being organised failed.  Anyway,  the first bin was emptied about a month ago but the bins were still overflowing and out of hand.  With my eldest son’s help we soon emptied the second bin – it was good to see that only a small layer on top was not composted down.  The contents were put on the Big Border as a thick mulch as you can see above (I must round off that angular corner on the path).

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After this arduous job was completed I spent the rest of the day weeding and tidying the 2014_03090020cottage garden border along the top of the wall.  It was pleasing to see the Delphinium shoots just beginning to nose through the soil.  As I have in past years, I took the opportunity to scatter some pre-emptive slug pellets.  I have found that doing this gives the plants a chance to get good strong shoots above ground and they seem to do well.  At my local HPS group they call this approach The Valentines Day Massacre because shoots often start to appear around Valentines Day!

I know that I planted out some peonies in the Big Border but as yet there are no signs of any emerging shoots.  However, the tree peony which has had a rough ride in recent years since I bought it, is rewarding me for planting it out last spring and feeding it by producing some lovely new shoots. Who knows this year it may flower again like it was when I bought it, I seem to remember it had a beautiful soft yellow flower.

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Today, I started off with a little planting.  First up a Grevillea victoriae in the front garden border to add a little evergreen colour and also hopefully some more of the wonderful exotic grevillea flowers which I love.  Then the last big plant move for a while – moving a large persicaria from near the workshop to the woodland border.  It was a bit of a beast but it is moved and well watered in which means I can start to sort out the area around the workshop soon.

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Next up I brought all the hardy succulents out of the garage where they have over wintered.  I stored them under cover, despite their hardiness, due to the plants being in small pots and I was worried they would freeze if left outside.  The majority of these plants are destined for the border in the front garden under the window along with the aloes etc.  They need a lot of tidying up but I think I will do that when I have decided what is going where.  In the meantime they have had a good water so they should perk up.

2014_03090042I had planned to sow more seeds but instead I decided that I needed to follow my resolution this year to be a better gardener and sort through the cold frames.  They are both full of pots of seeds, some sown a year ago, and seedlings from last year.  Some of the seedlings have died over winter.  I suspect that the compost I potted them up in was too damp which is why all my compost is now under cover.  I have decided I’m not allowed to sow any more seeds until I have sorted both cold frames out – not sure if I will stick to that.  The auriculas grown from seed two years ago were all repotted with fresh compost and last year’s auricula seedlings were also potted up.

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One cold frame has been sorted now and a start on the second.  I am thrilled to see I have peony seedlings from seed sown last year.  Peonies start by putting a root down first so it can be a good year before there is any sign of life above soil – patience is essential.

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The work was rounded off by sweeping up the patio and removing the last of the winter debris and mulching the roses with manure.

A completely satisfying and rewarding weekend – here’s hoping that next weekend will be as good.

My garden this weekend & GBBD – 14th July 2013

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I haven’t done a Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post this year but I thought I would combine one for July with this week’s weekend post – if you see what I mean.

The garden is very dry at the moment.  We haven’t had any real rain for weeks now and you can tell. The plants that are struggling the most are perennials planted out in late April/May when it was quite damp but obviously they haven’t had much of a chance to put down their roots and establish.  It is interesting to see how much better the annuals are doing in this regard but then I suppose that demonstrates the differences between annuals and perennials.  Bits of the garden are looking great, such as the rose, Anthemis ‘Sauce Hollandaise’ and Delphinium combination above, whilst other areas are struggling and there are large gaps appearing.  The gaps are from where early spring flowers have finished and have today been cut down but the plants that are meant to come on to replace them haven’t put on much growth; possibly due to the border in this area being overcrowded and too much competition for moisture.  This is going to be addressed as part of the Autumn project.

2013_07140035logoThe Delphinium have done well this year although some of the flower heads have been quite dumpy.  Again I think overcrowding is partly responsible plus a lack of water.  I don’t tend to water the garden apart from when I first plant new plants out but I am having to water the whole garden once or twice a week at the moment and I suspect I could water more but I am currently working on the basis of a really good soaking is better than a quite splash.2013_07140031logo

There has been a lot of thinking going on here at Patient Gardener headquarters.  I came home from San Francisco not only with specific ideas but also with a more open mind to what you can do with colours and using plants and ornamentation.  I also want to develop and explore the world of alpines more.  The current planned big project for the Autumn is to convert what is left of the slope into a rock/scree garden.  The asters and other daisies will be redistributed around the garden.  Possibly into the Big Border to provide interest after the delphs finish and the Big Border needs sorting to bring the old and new border together and to thin out the plants in the old section.

I have decided to paint the new workshop a very dark brown but I also want to pick out the window frame and the outside edges in a different bright colour and every time I think about it orange or terracotta is what I see – although I don’t know what I will use to do this.  I think this is really prompted by the Achillea that is growing to one side of the shed.  The flowers open a very pale buttery orange and then get darker and brighter.  Painting the shed dark brown will show them off better and picking up the colour as a highlight will tie them together.  I can extend this by having pots of orange flowering bulbs etc at other times of the year.

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2013_07140019logoThe back of the Big Border, the newer bit, is hotting up with the Dahlias starting to flower.  The orange one below is a Bishop Children’s seedling from last year and I  love the colour.  The pink one (below) is new this year and is Dahlia Juliet from Sarah Raven.  It is smothered in flowers and really makes up for the rubbish non-existent dahlias I had last year.

The Digitalis is going over but has been sumptuous with its creamy flowers providing a wonderful contrast to the Cotinus.  I think they are perennial ones so I am really hoping they will be back next year.  There are annual poppies popping up here and there but the flowers have on the whole been quite small which is disappointing.  2013_07140026logoI am rather chuffed that I planted Geranium Victor Reiter (below) in front of the dahlias as its pink flowers are really picking up the colours of the tender perennials.

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There are lots of flowers going over but there are also signs of the late summer crew beginning to set flower so hopefully next week the colours will be brighter and more exciting.

For more Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit Carol’s blog May Dreams Gardens

My Garden This Weekend – 7th July

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Having been away for a week and then recovering from jet lag and exhaustion from a full on trip and heavy workload before it has really been two weeks since I really spent time in the garden.  Of course, it is now very hot so I am working around it by gardening early morning or in the evening which I have discovered is a lovely time to be in the garden.

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There has been a major change to the garden in my absence with the arrival of my son’s workshop.  Despite sending me messages to say it had been installed he refused to send photos which was a little worrying.  Anyway I needn’t have worried as I think the shed looks great.  As my Mum says it gives the garden the character it has been missing.  There has been no real focal point and somehow by adding the greenhouse the dynamics have changes and the paths seem to work and it feel more cohesive.  The jury is now out on the colour the workshop should be.  My inclination is dark brown/black like the fence.  I think this would help the shed recede a little and would be a good backdrop for plants.   My Dad on the other hand thinks if I paint it dark it will stand out more – I am inclined to listen to my instincts.

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In the meantime the Digitalis ‘Dalmation Cream’ has been flowering its socks off.  I am rather pleased with the combination of the deep burgandy  spots against the Cotinus leaves.  The Cephalaria gigantea is also covered in flowers and proving very popular with the bees.  I am really pleased about this as the Cephalaria is one of the plants that got  moved rather late in the day and looked decidedly sad for some time.  Also unlike some of the small Scabious it seems to how its flowers better and there is no need to stake or support.

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I am particularly pleased with the Delphinium.  They were grown from seed three years ago but last year, the first year they should have flowered, they had their flower stalks unceremoniously chopped off by the winds.  This year I staked them very carefully and luckily they seem to have benefitted from it and are putting on a wonderful display.  They are Dwarf Delphinium which I didn’t realise at the time of buying the seed but I think has paid off as if the flower stalks were taller they would most definitely be snapped off.

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When I was in San Francisco one of the gardens had step-over apples, well that’s what I call them, but this expression was met with blank looks from the US bloggers, they call them espalier.  The ones I saw were much older than mine and covered in apples so I was keen to see how mine were doing in their second year.  On three plants I have probably 6 apples which isn’t that bad I think.  I spent some time today pruning back the side shoots; it took me ages to find advice on this but luckily Geoff Hamilton’s ‘Kitchen Garden’ came to the rescue.

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Finally, the roses are starting to flower and I will need to do some research to remind myself which variety  is which.  However, I do really like this pink one which has a good height and lots of flowers.

It’s nice to be home in my  own garden after visiting so many other gardens.  Ideas are already forming of things I can change and improve and the list of projects for the Autumn will probably get quite long.