My Garden This Weekend – 9th February 2014

Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno'
Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’

There has been a preponderance of pondering going on over recent weeks and not much activity in the garden due primarily to the interminable wet weather which we won’t dwell on as everyone is weary of it now.  Even I, the inveterate optimistic, find my patience wearying out. Saturday was a complete waste of time garden wise – wind and rain, however Sunday saw a rare blue sky and the sun attempting to shine through; so a chance to spend some time outside.

Iris histriodies 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'
Iris histriodies ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’
Bulbicodium vernum
Bulbicodium vernum

The patio staging is beginning to have some floral gems showing.  All the pots have shoots showing but I am particularly thrilled by the Bulbicodium vernum.  I have never grown this before and bought it on a whim when ordering other miniature narcissus bulbs.  I am completely entranced by the plant: the deep maroon of the shoots and the almost silk like petals.  I hope that when it opens fully it will continue to be marvellous.

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The outstanding stars of the garden at the moment are the Hellebores which are just opening their flowers.  I am thrilled that the two I bought from Ashwood Nurseries last year have not only reappeared but are flowering profusely especially as I lost the Hamamelis I bought at the same time. There are some other hellebores which grow on the top of the wall along the patio and the lighter coloured flowers are opening whilst the dark purples are still tight buds.  I am thinking that I should add some more hellebores to this border possibly following the line of the path and maybe interplanted with some small ferns.  I have yet to really come up with a plan for the whole border so this might be a good starting point.

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As you can see in these photographs there are snowdrops opening and around the hellebores it is Galanthus nivalis f.pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’. My friend Victoria gave me several pots of these from her new garden last year and I am really pleased that they are flowering since they were neglected for a while on the patio.

I spent an hour or so today in the sun picking up twigs and branches that had been blown down.  It never ceases to surprise me how many branches and twigs can come off two trees and there still be an extensive canopy overhead. I then finished off cutting back the grasses including giving the Stipa gigantea a real haircut which I may or may not regret later in the year.  Sadly the sun disappeared and a cold wind appeared forcing me into the garage and to pot up some Jasione laevis which I grew from seed in 2012, hopefully this year they will flower.

Crocus sieberi tricolor
Crocus sieberi tricolor

As I have said before one of the things I like about Spring, which surely is only around the corner, is that you  really focus on the individual flowers unlike Summer when you tend to notice the overall impact rather than the individuals.

Hopefully soon we will all be able to start really enjoying our gardens.

End of Month View – February 2013

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Unsurprisingly nothing has really changed in the front garden since last month’s post.  It is as  drab as ever.  Though to be honest the grass that is growing amongst the expanding moss is getting longer but it never dries out enough to be cut.  I am very hopeful that the weather will start to warm up over the next couple of weeks so I can get on with all the plant moves I have planned for this area.

I started them yesterday morning by digging up three nondescript Cornus from in front of the Birch.  They had been planted there probably 2 or 3 years ago and has just sat there.  I suspect that it is just too dry for them and there is too much competition from the laurel hedge, birch and Grevillea.  Instead I have some Phlomis russelina which I want to plant in front of the birch.  I think their architectural leaves will look excellent against the birch especially in the winter when they are frosted and they will provide a nice contrast to the Grevillea.

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When we had a slightly warmer spell, or should I say day, earlier in the month I did start to tidy the border by the driveway and mulch it.  I have still to finish this but I need some more mulch and I didn’t think it would be a good idea to mulch on frozen soil!  I have a small bay tree which is going into this border hopefully this weekend if I can get it out of its  pot.  This should add some height to what I see as a very flat area. The tulips, alliums and narcissus are all being to sprout so hopefully there will be some colour soon.  I am at the point where I need to see what I have planted, perennial and bulb wise, do their stuff before I can understand what else needs to be done.

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Then there is bamboo corner, or the corner of doom, to deal with.  I have to finish squaring off the lawn here (this is also apparent in the photo above) then I need to  clear the bed and re-do the planting.  I want to add some shrubs to provide structure with the bamboo and help to screen next door’s wall before adding the smaller perennials.  The original intention was that the ‘lawn’ wouldn’t go as far as the path along the top of it and instead there would be a border with a stepping stone in the middle.  I am now hesitating on this and wondering if that will make cutting the grass a nuisance, also its quite  shady here so I need to come up with some low plants (I don’t want to block light to the living room) that will also be robust if they are accidentally stood on.

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There is also the issue of moving the large Cistus from under the living room window. This is going towards the front of the front garden and again I think the evergreen foliage will provide a nice contrast to the Grevillea although I will need to so some cosmetic pruning first.

So there is my front garden this month which I am not very proud of but I really need to sort out as its embarrassing.  Featuring it on the End of Month posts is shaming me into sorting it out – well that’s the plan – if the EOMV suddenly stop you will know I have failed!!

If you would like to join in with this meme you are very welcome – add a link to your post in the comments box and please link to this post from your blog so readers can find other EOMV posts.  There are no rules about what you post.  Maybe you want to focus on one area through the year or given a general tour, whatever suits you is fine with me.

My Garden This Weekend – 24th February 2013

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The cold has continued so there has been no real gardening done which is quite frustrating.  I have my fingers crossed that by next weekend, the first weekend in March and my birthday weekend that things will be warming up.

Despite the cold the weekend hasn’t been without its horticultural flavour.  Yesterday, I spent the majority of the day at my local Hardy Plant Society meeting.  This is the first time I have attended this group’s meetings mainly  because they have a day long meeting which isn’t great when you work all week and your weekends are precious.  However, this group’s meeting kept being mentioned to me and I discovered last weekend at the Galanthus event that people travel from Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire to attend the Western Counties meetings.  I was advised not to miss the discussion in the morning so ever one to follow advice, well at least once, I got there for 10:30 and left around 3:30 and I have a fab day.  I learnt lots including just how little I actually knew, bought plants, acquired free seeds and will tell you more later in the week.

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Today I wrapped up warm and spent an hour in the garden.  The main task was to sort out the step-over apple trees.  I started them off this time last year and had been tying in the branches during the spring and early summer.  The ties looked awful, like a row of damp and frozen washing hanging forlornly on a washing line.  So today I removed all the ties, which was good as some of them were rubbing the branches.  I tied the branches in again with just one tie, or two at the most, this time done better and I also cut the upright canes down to the horizontals – something which had been irritating me for weeks when I looked out the living room window.

My second job was to sow some alpine seeds which arrived this week from Alplains in the USA.  I have sown Fritillaria pudica and Allium obtusum v. obtusum and placed them on the patio so they at least benefit from the continuing cold weather.

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My eldest son meanwhile was taking out one of the branches of the inherited Prunus tree.  We inherited three trees with the garden and two of these are in the top left corner of the garden – a willow and a prunus.  Both far too large for their location and the willow has swamped the prunus over the years.  I probably should have the tree surgeons in to tackle the willow but access is awful and I suspect the cost would just be extortionate due to this.  Over the last year my son has started to tidy the trees up but taking out the branches he can reach and cutting back stumps from where our predecessors and neighbours have chopped branches off.  Of course, as a hobby wood turner, he has an alternative motive but he also cares about trees a lot and the state of ours irritates him hugely.  The branch that came out today was removed as it was out of balance with the rest of the tree and also grew over where I planted a new Sorbus last year.

So all in all some annoying task were achieved this weekend and ticked off the list and I have a lot of food for thought from the talk on Saturday,  Another good weekend.

My Garden This Weekend – 17th February

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The garden is definitely showing signs of spring this week.  Primroses are starting to flower and shoots are pushing through the ground in the borders.  I think the slightly warmer temperatures and a few dry days have really helped.  They have certainly cheered me up.

Sadly the badger also seems to have woken up and there were numerous holes around the garden where the badger had been seeking out the tulip bulbs.  The badger’s visit have also resulted in my plans for a fern border being changed.  My son has a wood store against the fence where the badger accesses the garden and the badger’s excavations have undermined the structure. We have come to the conclusion that the only way forward is to accept the badger’s presence,  so on Saturday afternoon it had to be moved to a new location and I waved good-bye to the planned fern border.  It’s not all doom and gloom as there is still some space for the ferns I had planned to group together and actually moving the wood store means I can access the compost bin better.

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I was glad to see that my early intervention with the slug pellets has certainly benefited the Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ whose foliage is looking shiny and healthy.

I managed to grab a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon in the garden and this allowed me to cut down many of the deciduous grasses.  They had reached the point were they were looking incredibly battered and broken.  In the past I have cut the grasses carefully, sorting through the new shoots to remove the old stems.  However, having watched Carol Klein’s Life in a Cottage Garden and seeing her take the  shears to her this year I was more gungho with my approach.  I also cut back the foliage on the epimediums so that their flowers would be visible within a couple of weeks.

There was also time to pot up some plants I had received to review from the Plant Me Now plant scheme and the snowdrops which I bought from Avon Bulbs.

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Then today, Sunday, has been a true horticultural fun day.  I have spent the whole day emerged in the world of galanthus courtesy of the Galanthus Group, specialist group of the Hardy Plant Society.  The group’s objective is to make the varieties of snowdrops more accessible to everyday gardeners and although many of the 80-100 attending were real experts there were also a few like me who knew nothing but didn’t feel out of place.  We had two talks in the morning by Jim Almond  and Joe Sharman, then after lunch we went off to visit a local garden, Ivy Croft, to admire the collection of snowdrops.

I will fill you in more with details of the day later in the week but suffice to say that I have finally discovered what the fascination is with galanthus.  It isn’t until you see lots of different varieties together that you start to understand the sheer variety out there. I bought a couple to add to the three I bought earlier in the week and even better I won one in the raffle – a delightful Galanthus ‘Sarah Dumont’ which has a yellowish ovary.

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I have lots of plans for the garden but I am really enjoying going to local talks and meetings as I am meeting interesting and knowledgeable people who are very generous with their knowledge and generally fun to spend time with.

My Garden this Weekend – 10th February 2013

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This weekend it has been wet and misty which to be honest has been a blessing as I needed to get on with finishing decorating the dining room.  I am pleased to say the walls and ceiling have been done and the first coat is on the woodwork so the room will be finished some time during the week and I will be hanging up my decorating togs and hoping to don my gardening clothes.

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Despite the greyness of the weather the garden is beginning to take on its bright spring greenness. The snowdrops are finally beginning to flower although they seem very shy this year and are not a patch on the ones we saw at Painswick which were far more substantial.

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I was surprised to find these two Iris reticulata flowering as they really haven’t had the heat they needed over the summer.  I think the blue one if ‘George’ but I can’t remember the name of the purple one.  This one was growing at a really strange angle as a large stone had rolled over the bulbs but they still managed to grow up ad around it.  It just shows how determined plants are to grow.

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The Fatsia which looked so forlorn and bedraggled when it was caked in snow is positively shining although that might have something to do with all the rain.  Annoyingly we have more snow forecast tomorrow morning.  I am hoping that the temperatures stay a little too high and its doesn’t snow.  It would be nice if it stopped raining for a really signficant period of time as the ground is sodden and today it didn’t really take any time at all before the patio was flooded which shows just how high the water table is.

Although gardening has been a non-starter this week I  have booked to go to the San Francisco Garden Blogger Spring Fling which I am terribly excited about.  I shall be meeting up with lots of American bloggers and Victoria, and maybe Michelle.  So June is going to be a busy month with a family holiday in Cornwall at the beginning of the month and a solo and first trip to the States at the end of the month!

My Garden This Week – 3rd February 2013

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Not a lot has happened in the garden over the past week – well I haven’t done much but the garden has been busy getting on with it by itself as it has a habit of doing.

I felt quite anxious yesterday since I only managed to grab half an hour in the garden and walking round it I just felt overwhelmed by all the jobs that need doing.  I have decided to redecorate the dining room, which has needed doing for about three years now, and I made this decision based on the forecast of cold and wet weather this weekend.  Of course, there I was painting the ceiling with bright sunshine streaming in through the window and I could feel my anxiety coming back.  This is completely ridiculous as it is only just February and whilst the bulbs are putting on a spurt most of the perennials are keeping their heads firmly down.  The trouble is I feel as though I have finally woken up after being in a trance for the last three years or so since my sister died and everywhere I go in the house or garden I see stuff that needs doing.  I’ve done the bathroom and want to get the dining room done before Spring really arrives and I can focus on the garden.  Of course in the garden I have a whole load of projects I want to carry out but also there is alot of maintenance that has been very neglected and I can’t even think where to start.

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Today having got up early and done the second coat of paint on the ceiling I grabbed an hour and half in the garden before the rain came.  I went for another walk around the garden but this time with a different head on.  I noticed the tulips emerging in the early summer border and it seems that my black  and white friend hasn’t munched as many of the tulips as I thought he had.  It might not be as stunning a display as I had hoped but it should still be good.    But the best thing was that it appears some Trillium seeds have germinated which I sowed back last April – who said I wasn’t patient!!

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As the back grass is still so sodden I decided to confront my nemisis  – the front garden.  The re-design ground to a halt back in late summer when I just gave up due to the rain.  As I said on my End of Month post I have planted quite a few plants in the borders and I was pleased to see that the Salvias were still doing OK despite the recent cold and there were new shoots on the peonies which were unceremoniously moved last year.  I had planned to dig up the three Cornus which are going but instead I ended up weeding and cutting perennials along the driveway border.  There are signs of crocus coming through and I wanted to make sure I can see the flowers when they appear.  There are quite a few gaps in the border as I hadn’t quite decided what to add to supplement what is already there and I really need to see it in flower to decide how to move forward.  Lurking on the patio were 10 pots of wallflower seedlings – all red – so I decided to pop these in the gaps where they would at least have a chance of growing and flowering and would add interest while I consider my options.  Having top dressed with bark I felt a bit more positive about things.

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I am still thinking about how I take forward the idea of losing the back lawn and in particular the need to have some sort of path through the space.  To make it works it would need more steps which is fine as we have already built a number but there is something that is resisting this idea.  I don’t want more hard landscaping.  Due to the garden sloping up from the house when you look at the garden from the house you are very aware of retaining walls etc.  I was struck when watching Monty Don’s French Gardens by a formal garden where they had lifted the paths, reduced maitenance and had grass instead.  I like the sense of the place.  Then today I was looking at the witch hazel and found myself drawn to the mossy lawn and thinking I like this bit of lawn – maybe I could just keep a corner of lawn.  This thought has been running through my head all day and I find myself drawn to the idea of having sort of grass stepping stones through the borders.  They would be more lozenge shape and different sizes and maybe  not all of grass but of other alternatives such as mentioned in Beautiful No Mow Yards.  So the lawn steps would be like reverse island beds and wrapped around by planting.  Well its an idea and may come to nothing but its the first one that has really grabbed my attetion.

I think this time of year is when the best ideas come to mind.  It is easy to see and assess the garden better when you are presented with the bare bones rather than distracted and dazzled with summer flowers etc.

I have a busy horticultural week ahead with a snowdrop trip with two blogging friends and also a meeting of the Alpine Garden Society so no doubt I will have even more ideas by next weekend!!

The Greenhouse Year – February

Things are warming up on my greenhouse, although the temperatures haven’t really yet been high enough for the heater to be put away.

It was a bit too grey, cold and windy to do much in the garden yesterday so I spent a couple of hours tidying up the greenhouse.  I have sown, pricked out and potted up.  You can see my broad beans are beginning to germinate and I have  also pricked out some eranthis seedlings though these will be going out to the cold frame in the next couple of days before the greenhouse gets too hot for these early spring gems.  I have  also potted up  some small passionflower plants I had  in the hope that they will really grow this year and fill the greenhouse with flowers. I still need to pot up my two Callistemon plants which are looking a little pot bound, I am very  proud of them as I managed to get them to grow from seed a couple of years ago and it isn’t that easy to get the seeds to germinate.

I’ve sown some tomatoes.  It may be too early I don’t know but we shall see.  This is just phase 1 of the sowing extravaganza I have planned this year, I am ignoring the fact that I have to prick them all out.   There has been some dithering about  whether to set up the propagator tray or/and the heated tray.  I decided in the end at this stage to go for the long narrow propagator as I learnt last year that many seeds don’t benefit from bottom heat and in fact it can have a detrimental affect on the seeds.  I will get the heated tray out in a few weeks when I am sowing more tender annuals and perennials. In case you are wondering in the various trays above are: sweet peas, cauliflower, artichokes, tomatoes, chilli, petunia, acquilega, dahlia and sainfoin.  The acquilega have been sitting outside for about a month so they have had a good freezing and hopefully this will aid germination.

Lurking below  is a tray of cyclamen persicum which I germinated last year.  No flowers this year but hopefully by next winter they will have bulked  up enough to give me some winter colour in the house.  You can also see some of my succulents over the back.

My Aloe is just ridiculous now and I really don’t know what to do with it.  As you can see it is growing sideways, it has been doing this for sometime well before it push put under the seed trays.  There are lots of baby aloes which I can remove and I already have others in the house.  There is part of me that thinks I should collect some of the babies and throw the plant but I hesitate as it flowers and the flowers are quite attractive so I feel a little cruel throwing such a healthy plant just because it is cumbersome.  Oh and you can see a solitary holly cutting in a large pot – sadly the others didn’t take and I need to pot up the one left. The tall leaved plants at the back are Watsonia which have really benefited from this winter in the greenhouse hiding under the bench.  The leaves have filled out and are a better green.  I am hoping they might flower soon especially as I grew them from seed about 2 years ago.

I have to confess to neglecting my Melianthus major.  I noticed the other day on looking out of the kitchen window that the leaves were drooping and looking very brittle.  Panic watering followed but the real problem was that the plants were well overdue for potting up and so there was no moisture reservoir for them to draw on.  I have now potted them up and tidied the plants but some of the leaves are still very dry and sad-looking.  On a positive note there are lots of new leaf shoots apparent all the way down the stem.  They are so big now that the only place for them is on top of the potting bench so whenever I am working in the greenhouse they have to be evicted.  I will need to start hardening them off soon so this year  they can be planted out  in the garden.

I have also tidied out the cold frame and potted up some Viper Bugloss.  The cold frame is currently full of hardy annuals and young perennials sown last year so I will need to get them hardened off soon as well to start making room for the next crop of seedlings from the greenhouse.  I suspect space is going to be a premium very soon and I  found myself wondering about a poly tunnel the other day, completely out of the blue whilst walking across campus at work.  I think if I can grow on a reasonable number of perennial seedlings then I need to think about over wintering them ready to be sold next Spring (2013).  Then the following day I spotted a plastic greenhouse in a local superstore at a very low-cost and I am seriously wondering about getting one especially as I could grow my tomatoes on in it and that would make life in the proper greenhouse better.

If you have a greenhouse and would like to join in this monthly meme of what is growing in your greenhouse then join in on the 20th of each month and  post a link in the comment box  below.

 

 

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – Feb 2012

As ever at this time of year I am surprised at how much is flowering in the garden despite it looking bare.  But its a case of bending down and peering rather than being overwhelmed by masses of flowers.

The little group of crocus, I would love  to know which ones they are, had only just  opened after a couple of weeks of extreme cold and then this morning I noticed they were already over.  I am so glad I took the photograph on Sunday.

The snowdrops are just beginning to open as you can see from this frosty example.  It will be nice to see them open properly and hopefully with a few more days of sunshine they will be at their best.

My Hamamelis Pallida is flowering really well considering it was only planted just under a year ago and I spent the year worrying that it would take as there was so little rain but it seems to be fine and no doubt next year it will be even better.  This was my birthday present to myself last year, this year I think it will be a Sorbus tree.

You can see how frozen my Eranthis got.  They are now defrosted but sadly my comings and goings during the week are when the light is too poor for photographs.  On a side note I am thrilled to have germinated the seed of these, they only took a year to germinate – who said I wasnt patient.

Finally on the back fence there is a splash of colour from the Chaenomeles.  It was moved last year and I am hoping that in this new, and better, location it will thrive and flower more profusely.

There are some primulas in flower, a daffodil about the open and hellebores with  tight buds so hopefully next month there will be more to show.

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Half hearted winter wonderland

I am getting quite bored of this cold now.  I know it isn’t as cold as they have had in some parts of Europe or the US but it is getting annoying.  We haven’t even had much of a snowfall (though as I type snow has started to fall!) just cold which makes it impossible to garden and generally miserable and frustrating.

Last night they were forecasting 5-10cm of snow overnight but on waking this morning there was no more than a cm, if that, and it was more ice than snow.  I had bought in lots more bird food especially apples which are popular with the blackbirds, thrusts, redwings and fieldfares.  While I was pouring warm water in the bird baths and top up the feeders I took a few photos of the garden.  As you can see it is rather a half hearted winter wonderland more a winter after thought.

However, amongst the grey and cold there is a small oasis of almost warmth and growth – the greenhouse. It is the only part of the garden where plants aren’t covered in some horrid icy slush and look like they might be growing.  Seedlings are starting to emerge and if it is a little warmer tomorrow I might hide out in it and sow my sweet pea seeds.  So at least I will get a gardening fix one way or another.