The Bin Man Cometh


I think it was last week that I mentioned that my eldest son had agreed to help me sort out the compost bin chaos out with some new bins.  True to his word when I got home at lunchtime on Saturday from the Hardy Plant Society meeting he had started work on transforming the disaster zone that is my composting area.

Luckily we have access to a supply of pallets so he had managed to bring home 6 in his Defender which is a good start.  The biggest issue we have is the slope of the garden which is most pronounced at the top of the garden where the bins live (you can see the angle from the angle of the fence).  So he had spent some time levelling off (sort of) the area where the new bin was to go.


The advantage of the new bin, apart from its vastness, is that you empty it from the front.  The current purpose-built purchased ones are in fact hopelessly useless.  The bins are constructed from planks of wood that you build up layer on layer so if you want to empty them properly you have to dismantle the whole thing.  In addition due to the slope of the ground etc I actually stand almost level with the top of the bins so I have to dig down into them or alternatively stand in them to empty them which means they don’t get empty and then the actual bins rot which is where we are now.

The first bin has been built and the content of one of the remaining bins has been moved into it (the pile to the left of the new bin in the photo above) and there is still heaps of space.


The front has been added and is secured with rope.  I will be able to store canes in the side of the bin which is a bonus.  There is now a second smaller bin in which the wheelbarrow is currently living as the bin isn’t complete. – they are a bit like Little and Large.   We ran out of large pallets and space so the second bin will be a long thin bin once we have acquired some more pallets, again front opening.  Then, with yet more pallets we are going to build some sort of log store to go under the willow to the right of the new bin.  This I suspect will be more designed as I think my son is talking about breaking pallets up  to create something with good airflow so the logs dry out properly (he uses them for wood-turning) but anything will be a definite improvement on the rickety construction that I generally try to avoid showing in photos.

So the compost bin area is getting serious and hopefully by Christmas it will all be neat and tidy and ready for next year.  I may even paint the bins to match the shed, for some reason this made my youngest laugh!

End of Month View – October 2015

IMG_3271 1

October has been a kind month to this gardener.  We have had generally dry weekends with milder temperatures than normal allowing me to spend some quality time in the garden.  My efforts have been small but widespread and really have been little more than planting out bulbs and some perennials.  I have spent as much time looking, peering and pondering.

IMG_3262 1

As you can see the Field Maple, I think that is what the tree is, is dropping its leaves.  There were nearly as many a week ago and the tree has still more to drop.  I love autumn leaves; they always take me back to my childhood  and jumping into large piles of beech leaves in my parents’ garden.  But I can’t leave these leaves as they make the steps too hazardous.  I also don’t agree with the whole slow gardening approach which argues that you should leave the leaves in borders etc to rot down and feed the soil just as happens in nature.  This does not take into account that we, well I, garden my garden more intensively than happens in nature and the decaying leaves act as an overwinter home for all sorts of slugs and pests.  It always amuses me that those who extol the virtues of slow gardening loudest are also the ones who complain most about slugs!

IMG_3264 1

The milder temperatures mean that a lot of deciduous plants are still looking very green and even attempting a second flush of flowers.  Many of my roses have more buds on them than they did in early summer although I think it is unlikely that many will actually open.  I have started to cut back and tidy the Big Border.  I generally work through the borders on a regular basis cutting back any plants that are going over and once I have an area that is pretty tidy I give it a good mulch of home-made compost.  Due to the number of bulbs in the garden this is probably the best chance I will get in the year to mulch as come early spring there will be too many bulbs pushing through the ground to work round.

IMG_3269 1

The top of the woodland border has really come on this year.  Most of this area was dominated by an Acer which sadly died just over a year ago.  There are quite a few shrubs here now but they are all still quite young and will take a while to bulk up so I have been planting the rest of the border up with other woodland favourites including epimediums, hellebores and honesty.  I am hoping that next spring it will look very pretty. I will also get to see whether I had relocated some snowdrops here or not!

IMG_3270 1

The bottom half of the woodland border is more established having been planted some 3 or 4 years ago. I am pleased with the foliage textures but it needs a bit of tweaking; I’m not sure what exactly but something.  I will have to look back over this year’s photographs to try to identify why my instinct is telling me this area needs some attention.

IMG_3275 1

And finally the grass path which has survived my ponderings of removing it and is now enjoying the unusual prospect of being a fixed element of the garden.  Over the last few months I have added a number of grasses to the garden particularly either side of this path and they have brought some sort of cohesion to the planting as well as providing movement and airiness.  I need to work on the border to the right of the path.  The planting between the grass in the right hand corner and the small prunus is distinctly lacking.  In the spring it is full of hellebores and other spring delights, followed by hostas and I would like to add something to bring interest to overlap with the end of the hostas.  Something to ponder over the winter.

So that is my garden at the end of October.  If you would like to join in the with the End of Month View please do, the more the merrier.  You can use the meme in any way you wish.  I tend to take photographs of the same views during the year, others like to do a tour of their garden, or use the meme to follow a project.  Whatever approach you take all I ask is that you link back to this blog in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below.  It will help us find each other and pop by for a look-see at what is happening in your garden.


Meet the Blogger: Brian of OurGarden@19

2015_05300018Today’s Writing 101 assignment requires me to do a collaborative post with a fellow blogger such as an interview or guest post.  I’m not a fan of guest posts as I think its unfair to ask someone else to write content for your blog but then you could argue that it’s a chance for a blogger to access new readers.


Anyway, rising to the challenge I decided to interview Brian of OurGarden@19.  I have known Brian and Irene for years, they live only 10 minutes from me and when I first moved to this area they ran the local Cottage Garden Society which I joined.  I was involved with the group for a few years attending many a garden talk, visit and ‘do’ with Brian and Irene.  Having left the group I lost touch with Brian and Irene and was pleased to bump into them again when Brian came to give a talk at my local horticultural society – a good talk it was too.  Brian and Irene now run a local garden group,Black Pear Garden Club, which I understand is very successful.


Having helped a number of friends with their National Garden Scheme openings this year Brian and Irene decided to open their own garden for the scheme and to accompany this Brian started to blog. The photos on this post are from my visit to Brian and Irene on the second day of their opening.


So here are my questions to Brian and his answers.

Me:.How long have you and Irene been creating your existing garden?
Brian: 10 years

Me: Given that you work as a gardener, isn’t it a bus man’s holiday creating your own garden?
Brian: It can be but it is the garden I most enjoy working in.

Me: What do you hate/dislike about gardening?
Brian: Having a bad back – (me – I can sympathise with that)


Me: Obvious question but do you have a favourite garden to visit?
Brian: Great Dixter (me – totally agree)

Me: This year you and Irene decided to open your garden for the NGS. This is quite an undertaking given the high standards visitors expect and the logistics needed. Why did you decide to open it for the NGS?
Brian: We have opened in the past for the village church. We have always supported the NGS by helping friends who open, visiting NGS open gardens and because of the charities they donate to.

Me: Did you enjoy the experience of opening for the NGS?
Brian: Yes. We both enjoyed talking to the visitors.

Me: .Would you do it again?
Brian: Yes


Me:  If yes – what would you do differently or is there anything new you plan to add to the garden for next year?
Brian: We opened as a village group of three gardens we have recruited two new gardens for next year. We are opening two weeks later to offer visitors a slightly different viewing period. In our own garden I am growing more biennials such as Sweet Williams, Foxgloves and Sweet Rocket to hopefully be flowering then.

Me:.Do you have any horticultural ambitions? Places you would love to visit or plants you aspire to be able to grow?
Brian: Giardina di Ninfa in Italy – Irene:  Japan. (me – Hello Irene and I agree with both those)

Thank you Brian for taking the time to answer my questions.  I shall look forward to visiting next year and seeing how you have change the planting though I suspect your amazing white wisteria will be over which will be sad.

You can follow Brian and Irene’s garden here

Ferny Fascination

Asplenium scolopendrium crispum

Asplenium scolopendrium crispum

It is very reassuring in life to discover that your proclivities are shared by others, you get an unexpected sense of connection and understanding.  Before you wonder what on earth I am  whittering about or whether this is another of those strange writing assignments I have been doing recently  I must reassure you that I am talking about my plant addictions.

Woodwardia (I think)

Woodwardia (I think)

I was once told by my then doctor that I had an addictive personality.  I don’t think she meant that people would become addicted to me but rather that my nature is such that I have become addicted to things.  It manifests itself in a number of ways, one of them is a compulsion to collect plants.  Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know I have a number of obsessions including bulbs, particularly irises, and ferns.  I love ferns but have never really engaged with understanding them or learning about them as I have always been intimidated by their long names and the slight nerdiness that goes with fern appreciation.  Galanthomania is much the same.

Polypodium cambricum 'Richard Kayse'

Polypodium cambricum ‘Richard Kayse’

Anyway, about a year ago I plucked up courage and joined the British Pteridological Society (Fern Society to you and me).   I have still to read through all the literature they have sent me, some of it is very academic and well beyond my understanding, but their website is very good especially if you are thinking of trying to grow ferns from spores. Yesterday I attended my first meeting with the local group and it involved visiting two gardens of plant addicts.


The first garden was that of Veronica Cross, a well known plant collector, who has real obsessions such as tree peonies.  Apparently she has 150 of these although I suspect this is an exaggeration by her friend, Martin Rickard.  We toured her garden ostensibly looking at her ferns with Martin as our guide but of course many of us are easily distracted by any nice plants, the hydrangea were looking particularly nice. I did start off feeling a little out of my depth especially when the attendees (13 of us) were using a form of verbal shorthand to refer to certain ferns.  However, me being me, I plucked up courage to start asking questions and quickly I find myself getting little tips and bits of advice that were at my level without me feeling daft. I think if you show you are interested and want to learn then gardeners are very generous with knowledge and enjoy sharing their passion.


After lunch we visited a second garden hidden away in the depths of the Herefordshire countryside.  The owner of the second garden is a real plant addict.  Wonderfully enthusiastic, more knowledgeable than he admits and with a really beautiful garden which just showed that gardens of plant addicts don’t have to be bitty in appearance.  Not only did we see an extensive collection of ferns but we also spotted many salvias and agapanthus flowering away and as for greenhouse , it was home to a lovely collection of species pelargoniums as well as a beautifully maintained and stocked alpine house.

Familiar scene - wondering what this is

Familiar scene – wondering what this is

More peering at  ferns and I even began to recognise some, though I suspect today if I went back I would have forgotten them all. Interestingly both gardens employed the use of labels extensively but it wasn’t distracting as the labels were tucked away under the plants.  I think when it comes to ferns you need to label your plants if you are going to collect them as in some cases the difference is so small that even the real experts in the group struggled.


So after a fascinating day with entertaining company I came home with 3 new ferns, all spares from attendees and a need to find out more. I also need to try to work out which ferns I have, most are labelled but there are a few that need identifying.

In a Vase on Monday – Late Summer Glow

IMG_2669 1

My vase this week contains some late summer perennials which are looking good in the garden at the moment.  I have to admit to being a little mean when I cut flowers in the garden.  I really hate diminishing the display and many of my plants are  to young to produce lots of blooms.

This week’s bunch contains some perennial Rudbeckia which arrived in the garden, possibly via bird seed.  One of the pale pinky red echinacea, a larger flowered Aster whose name is long-lost (I much ask Helen Picton which it is), two types of Crocosmia – one of which could well be ‘Sunglow’, an unknown Persicaria, Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ and some Thalictrum – probably delavayi.  It seems the lesson to learn here is I need to keep better notes of what is what!

IMG_2670 1

There is nothing to tell you about the vase as I am sure I have used it before for this post.  It is one I bought in my early teens when on holiday in Venice and I have used it ever since.  It is the perfect vase with a narrow neck which flares at the top thus keeping the stems together but allowing the flowers to spread out.

So this are the colours of my garden at the beginning of September.  For more vases pop over the Cathy’s at Rambling in the Garden

My Garden This Weekend – 6th September 2015

Bomarea salsilla

Bomarea salsilla

With assisting my youngest and his girlfriend move into their new home and attending a fireworks championships at nearby Eastnor Castle yesterday evening, time in the garden has been a little restricted this weekend.  But with a late season sun, hinting at the possibility of an Indian Summer, it was lovely to find a couple of hours today to spend outside.

There is so much to do especially because the recent cool and damp weather has encouraged both ornamentals and weeds to put on significant growth.  In addition I have the ‘pressure’ of a visit from esteemed blogger Cathy of Rambling in the Garden tomorrow evening on her, and her husband’s, trip to the area.  I did, albeit it briefly, panic about the work that needed doing but then I told myself that Cathy is a regular gardener like me and knowing I have a demanding job she will understand and appreciate the odd weed or three.  So instead of running around looking for weeds, tweaking and tidying I picked a border and had a leisurely couple of hours weeding and planting.

IMG_2673 1

The first Colchicums are flowering and for a change this year I have managed to spot them before the slugs do and protect them with a small application of slug pellets.  I like colchicums, I know many gardeners are bothered by the leaves which follow the flowers, seeing them as large and ugly but I beg to differ. If you think about the location you choose for your colchicums and when the leaves will appear, spring and early summer, you can plan your planting so that the leaves fill a seasonal gap left by other plants.  For example they would work well with hellebores and I think Beth Chatto argues they work well with vinca. I like them so much that today I planted out three additional varieties which were lurking on the patio having been bought on impulse last year. In went: Colchicum davissi, Colchicum byzantinum and Colchicum Nancy Lindsay, named after the daughter the inspiring Norah Lindsay, an early 20th century gardener and designer, who should be known better.

Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime'

Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’

I am really pleased with the zinnias this year.  I think I have finally cracked growing them but I think the two varieties I have grown this year are particularly good.  Both varieties are from Chiltern Seeds and I have decided that I will definitely be buying the same seeds again next year despite my decision to really restrict annuals next year.  The only additions will be Rudbeckia and Cosmos.

Zinnia elegans 'Benarys Giant Scarlet'

Zinnia elegans ‘Benarys Giant Scarlet’

The other plant that is fascinating me at the moment is the Bomarea salsilla in the top photograph.  I bought it back in June at the plant sale at Stocktonbury and it has been in flower since.  However, there are only 3 flowers as it seems that the plant produces one flower cluster at the end of each shoot.  It is a member of the Alstroemeria family and is a climber which apparently will reach heights of 3.6m.  I have to decide where its eventual home will be, at the moment it is growing up a temporary cane tripod in the Big Border.  I have planted a tall dark leaved aster behind it which seems to be showing the beautiful flame red flowers off well.

IMG_2680 (2)

I am really fascinated with the seed heads of the Bomarea salsilla. The capsules are slowly getting larger and bigger and I am hoping that they will ripen so I can try to grow some more from seed.

Hopefully we will have some more warm days and evenings so I can do a little catching up on weeding and planting out.

In a Pot on Monday – Unexpected Bloom

IMG_2470There is no vase from me today as everything is rather soggy and I have been distracted by a surprise find in the greenhouse this week.  Having a tidy up and jiggling things around I discovered that Hippeastrum ‘Ever Green’ had produced a flower bud despite my belief that it was resting.


I can only assume that the cool and moist state of the greenhouse this summer has encouraged it and I suppose it means that it won’t be flowering this Christmas.  Never mind I will have to just enjoy the other Hippeastrums I have provided they decide to flower and maybe I might just have to purchase a few more bulbs as a back up.


And here you can see how wonky the stem is due to it striving for light from its place tucked down the side of the staging before its rescue.

For proper Vases on Monday pop over to Cathy’s where you will find links to lots of seasonal floral delights.


End of Month View – August 2015

IMG_2443 (2)

Finally I can stop moaning about the lack of rain as the last week has been decidedly wet leaving the garden looking very lush.  I surprised myself at how much things had grown in the last year when I looked back at last year’s August EOMV post.  It just shows you how easy it is to forget what progress has been made and how things have developed and I think it reinforces the benefits of taking regular photographs of the garden, and maybe participating in this meme.


So to start with the usual path up to the workshop.  I have been on a bit of a grass-fest this last month while I have been on annual leave and you might just spot a Stipa tenuissima  near the foreground.  I want to soften the edges of the steps and given how sunny this part of the garden is with good drainage grasses seem a good partner to the numerous bulbs I have planted here. If you look closely at the far end of the steps you can just spot the cyclamen that have been flowering for the last couple of weeks.

IMG_2402 (2)

Turning left from the bottom of the steps we have the lower path which runs almost along the top of the retaining wall.  The border to the left is really a rose border, although the flowers haven’t been that great this year, and I have been adding other plants such as sedum and penstemons to bring some late summer colour. To the right is the bottom of the Big Border which slopes down from the grass path.  This border’s season of interest is primarily late summer due to the various asters that are planted here.  I am still trying to get their arrangement right since they were originally acquired for the back slope before the workshop gobbled it up.  I struggle with balancing the tall and shorter varieties in a border where they are seen from both sides and which slopes.  I am slowly moving most of the tall asters to the middle of the border and it does seem to be working.  I now need to work on planting around the bottom of the border to disguise the legs of the asters.


From the far end of the bottom path you can look back to the workshop through the Calamgrostis ‘Overdam’.  The Calamgrostis has been victim to my tweaking, being moved by all of a foot backwards into the border.  It was right against the top edge of the border and hemmed in by a tall aster to the point where it didn’t seem to be able to waft in the breeze and what is the point of having grasses if they aren’t allowed to waft.  The aster has been relocated, it’s not looking very happy but hopefully the rain will help, but the grass looks so much better now and there is movement and that’s what I want in the garden – a realisation that has crept up on me during my various garden visits this year.

IMG_2444 (2)

At the end of the bottom path you come to the lower part of the woodland border.  Looking back it hasn’t changed much since last year except the plants are larger.  For now I think it is working although there is a bare path where the Solomon’s Seal was before I cut it down to counter the invasion of the Solomon Seal Sawfly.

IMG_2445 (2)

The other end of the woodland border has seen major upheaval a year ago when the acer died.  I am beginning to get an idea of how I would like it to look and you might spot a miscanthus in the background along with a carex and hosta still in their pots waiting for planting.  This area isn’t as shady as it was due to the removal of the willow canopy and it is interesting to see how the shade lovers have thrived due to the increase in moisture despite the border being sunnier.

IMG_2449 (2)

From the top of the woodland border you find yourself looking across, again, to the workshop, across what was the Bog Garden.  This is now a much drier area due to the holes I over zealously punched in the liner – opps.  If you look back at last year’s post you will see how this area has grown up over the last year and last week I moved the Paulwonia tomentosa from the back slope to this border.  I felt that the Paulwonia was struggling on the slope which is very free draining and  think its height will add interest to its new home.

IMG_2451 (2)

Finally the grass path which runs along the top of the Big Border and is looking very neat thanks to a quick haircut ready for its photocall. In the foreground you can see the Anemanthele lessoniana that has been added in the last week.  There is another to the right of the path and a third at the far end of the border.  I hope that the third one will draw the eye and add some cohesion to my eclectic planting.  I need to work on the border to the right of the path next year as whilst I am happy with it in spring it falls apart the rest of the year.  There are some phloxes here which I have persevered with for a couple of years but I am really tired of now as they aren’t performing and the large white one looks terrible when the flowers fade or get damaged by rain.  I seem to be adopting a warm orange, rust and yellow theme here so I think I might try to see where that goes.

If you would like to join in the End of Month meme you are very welcome – the more the merrier.  All we ask if that you add a link to this post in your post and that you leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can all find you.


My Garden This Weekend – 9th August 2015

IMG_2059 (2)

It seems as though summer has finally arrived, the temperatures have definitely lifted into the 20Cs and the borders are very dry; not great given the plants I have planted out in the last few weeks such as the Echinacea above.

IMG_2063 (2)

I was lucky to receive a gift of a number of Echinacea from Rob Cole at Meadow Farm last weekend.  Rob is known for his breeding of Echinacea and he is working towards breeding some strong varieties which will do well year on year in British gardens. I have planted them out in the top of the Big Border and they have added a real bling along the grass path.


The border isn’t as floriferous as it was a few days ago due to me cutting flowers for the local horticultural show.  I hadn’t planned to enter as I have been so busy at work and as Treasurer of the society I had a lot to do making up prize money etc. However, time was on my side for a change and I had time on Friday evening to put 7 entries together.  I’m glad I did as I came away with two second places, three thirds, and one highly commended.  Not bad for a last minute effort.


In another week this Agapanthus ‘Alan Street’ might have done well despite, like many plants in my garden, leaning distinctly to one side.  I thought it would be better this year with the removal of the majority of the willow but now I wonder if it is just an effect of the slope.  I think if I want to show plants next year I will have to identify them early and stake them.


Given the dryness of the borders my gardening time had to be focussed on the greenhouse which as you can see from state of the tomato plants was a good thing.  I had no intention of growing tomatoes this year but my youngest had a green moment back in the Spring sowing various seeds including tomatoes, peppers, chilli and herbs for his new house.  Sadly with one thing and another the move had to be cancelled and I ended up with all the plants.  Now he and his girlfriend are about to rent a house I am hoping that some of the chillies and peppers might find a way to their new home but I will definitely be left with the tomatoes.  I spent today rearranging everything in the greenhouse so that I can also get in, just about, and water the plants.  A few nice surprises were lying in wait for me beneath the tomatoes – the first fern plantlets had appeared and the Euphorbia cuttings had taken.  These are both firsts for me so I was really thrilled.


Finally I leave you with a photo of my herb window box which like the greenhouse has taken advantage of my lack of attention and is completely out of control.  There are herbs in here, more of my son’s purchases for his original house, but I added a few nasturtium seeds I happened to have and they seem to have gone mad.  I think they look wonderful and am considering trying the same over the prostrate rosemary next year.

And now I have to go and water the garden again… I would so like it to rain.