End of Month View – April 2016 – Hugh’s Border

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Hugh’s Border has really filled out in the last month especially with the hostas planted under the Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ emerging. I am determined to crack this border this year.  It looks Ok but in previous years there has been something lacking and it has felt bitty and not really me.  Over the last month I have added some lupins with red/orange flowers and also Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’.  These will add to the red and orange theme that seems to be the emerging in this area.

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Here’s the other end of Hugh’s Border (Hugh is the owl).  This part of the border is more woodland/shade planting.  The Pulmonaria are beginning to go over which I am sure will disappoint the bees.  Just behind them are some trillium and lots of Onoclea sensibilis as it seems to have decided to spread after sitting quietly for years – I presume due to the mild wet winter.

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Here is the other end of the woodland bit of the border (nearest the bench).  The big round leaves are Cardiocrinum giganteum which has reappeared this year and hopefully will flower. The lime green strappy leaves are Iris sibirica, I think it is a pale blue variety but it hasn’t flowered for a few years due to being moved so maybe this year will be the year when I discover which variety they are.

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This is the front of the border and the area of the border which has been really perplexing me.  I have moved a couple of hellebores here from near the bench as it was difficult to see their flowers in their old location.  It seems hellebores like to face the sun so from the bench you just saw the back of the flowers in their new location you can see the flowers from the grass path.  I am trying to bulk up the planting and foliage textures in this area so plan to add to it as the year progresses.

So that is the border at mid Spring, lots of new shoots appearing and promise of things to come.

If you would like to join in with the monthly meme you are very welcome.  All I ask is that you add a link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comments box below.  You can use the meme however you want – to focus on one area in particular, to look around the whole garden, whatever suits you.

 

Notes from the Garden – 24/4/16 – Bye bye lawn

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So this was the front garden this morning.  Regular readers will know that I have been procrastinating for some time, maybe years, about the front garden and getting rid of the lawn.  I decided this year that it would go but instead of embracing it head on earlier in the year I have occupied myself with various other ‘essential’ tasks in the main garden.  I suspect there was a small voice questioning whether I was making the right decision, and then there was all the work that would be involved lifting the turf and getting rid of it and really can I keep on top of the main garden so why do I want to make the front garden more work! However, the patio has been filling up with pots of plants for the front garden in anticipation of its make-over so either I donate them all to local plant fairs or I just get on with it.

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Anyway I have completed all the jobs I had come up with that had to be done before I tackled the front garden and set my mind to starting work today.  I have to admit that it was tough going especially as the turf needed to go to the far corner of the main garden up a considerable slope with two sets of steps and a garage in between.  Luckily my youngest son popped round to help and my eldest joined in for the afternoon so between us we started to get a system going between us.  We managed between us to lift about half of the lawn which is a good start and means that I can start to dig over the soil and add some compost.  I have a couple of shrubs that I really want to get in the ground asap so that is the first priority.  And the reason my final niggle was put to bed is because Noel Kingsbury, who visited yesterday with his wife Jo, within a very short time made the observation that the front garden just isn’t me – which I think is what I have been trying to say for a while.

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Now, what to do with the turf?  Yes, I should stack it neatly to rot down and make wonderful potting compost but I don’t really have space for a stacked lawn.  Some of the mossy crumbly bits were placed on top of one of the compost bins to slowly rot down.  Then in a demonstration of how not to lay turf I have started to turf the area in front of the compost bins – creating what my youngest has decided to call Hobbitland!  It has a 50:50 chance; if the turf takes then it will stabilise the slope but if it doesn’t take then so be it.  Even more amusing to my sons was that I turfed around the plants that have self-seeded on the slope – as I said a lesson in how not to turf!!  If it takes then we will keep it in check with a strimmer but the intention is that it will be more wild than tidy and I would love to add crocus and other bulbs and maybe plant some primulas amongst the turf.  There will be more turf to add when we lift the rest of the lawn and it needs tidying up once we have assessed whether it has taken or not – in the meantime the blackbirds are having a lovely evening looking for worms in the sodden turf and I am feeling very pleased.

 

 

 

From small things

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I have been on annual leave this week and as ever had plans to spend time sorting the garden out, as well as redecorating the living room – I am always over ambitious! Firstly, the weather at the start of the week was not very conducive to gardening being dreary and wet and various unexpected family commitments eat into more of my time. It was becoming increasingly frustrating.  Finally on Wednesday having painted the woodwork I found myself outside exploring the garden to see what had emerged over the previous few days.  I am particularly obsessed with my epimediums at the moment and which ones are flowering.  Most of them seemed to be sulking last year but this year, possibly due to the wet winter, they are virtually all (there are some 14 different varieties at the moment) full of flower buds.  Anyway, during one of these forays into the flower border I somehow stepped backwards, caught my heel on the nearby step and managed to fall right over and literally roll down the garden and into the border stamping off Primula denticulata flower stalks on my way.

It really knocked the stuffing out of me and I had to sit on the offending step for a while before I risked standing up; luckily I hadn’t done any real damage which was a relief.  However, despite not banging my head, the tumble left me completely befuddled and I just couldn’t work out what I had been planning to do in the garden and what I had planted to do where.  Quite unsettling.

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So I drifted into the front garden to cut back a few plants that I remembered had been offending me for some time from my bedroom window.  Looking around I noticed the trough under the front window and how dishevelled the succulents appeared.  Suddenly, this trough become the focus of all my efforts and I spent probably an hour slowly removing all the plants, cleaning them up and replanting.  I planted the trough with hardy sempervivums back in April 2014 – you can see a photo in this post.   Since then it has fared well surviving only with the occasional splash of water as I water the pots outside the front door. However, as is their wont the semps have multiplied and multiplied, worse than rabbits, and basically they had run out of space and were growing on top of each other.  So much so that many of them barely had any roots in the soil.

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Interestingly, the semps that I planted in the gravel around the base of the sink looked a lot healthier.  They haven’t multiplied quite so quickly, probably less favourable conditions, and were looking full and glossy.   Having emptied out the trough and removed all the dead foliage I replanted possibly more sparsely than last time and then I used some of the leftovers to continue the planting along the edge of the border the sink stands in.  It is located in one of those narrow borders that builders insist on putting in against the front of a house but which are full of rumble and hopeless for growing most things.   As the rumble makes it very free draining I have over the years added compost and planted it up with lavender and bearded irises all of which are doing well.  I think the semps along the front edge will provide an interesting contrast and hopefully help to cover the ground.

Having completed this task and being pleased with the result I found that my head had cleared and got a second wind and started to work through my original plans for the back garden.  Over the last few days I have made significant changes to the Big Border which I think will move the garden forward over the next year.  So “from small things …. big things one day come”.

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End of Month View – March 2016

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I had a sudden panic today when I realised that tomorrow is the last day of March and I had forgotten all about the End of Month post, not very good when you are the host of the meme! I am on annual leave this week and have managed to get a few hours in the garden between rain and decorating the living room.  The grass lawn has been cut and edged and its amazing how it being neat makes the rest of the garden appear neat, which I can assure you it isn’t.

The border looks alright but I have plans as part of my bid to colour up the garden this year.  I have this week bought a Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ which will go in the border here.  I saw the rose in a garden somewhere between Dublin and Cork last year and have been looking for the plant for a while only to find it in a plant retailer just down the road.  It is a sort of orangey red, hard to describe, and I think will work well with the Amenthalea lessonia which also has orange in its leaves.  I will also be adding some red lupins and oriental poppies although I worry it might all be a little too much but we shall see.  I probably need to find some different, lighter tones of red or orange to lighten the planting and provide some depth.

Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-ma

Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-ma

The Prunua incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ which is the main structure in the border is just beginning to bloom.  I love this shrub with its pretty delicate spring flowers and then in Autumn the leaves colour up before the slightly twisted stems provide interest during the winter.  Today I have added Galanthus ‘Flora Pleno’ around its stem to provide interest early in the year.

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The other end of the border continues to perplex me but there is a niggle in the back of my mind that I might have a lightbulb moment.  The border used to be quite shady and I have sort of planted along those lines but it isn’t as shady as it was since the willow had a significant haircut.  There are  a lot of ferns in the border and the signs that the Cardiocrinum giganteum is returning, maybe it will flower this year.  I want some colour at this end of the border aside from green but I want to also improve the textures. I think some hostas would add a good contrast to the ferns and maybe some pale foxgloves but I can’t think what to add for colour later in the year – more pondering to be done.

You can see what the border looked like in February here

All are welcome to join in with the End of Month meme and you can use it as you wish; maybe focus on a particular border, or do a tour of the garden whatever you find useful then you can follow its progress through the year.  All I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below.

 

Notes from the Garden – 26/3/2016

Euphorbia x pasteurii 'Phrampton Phatty'

Euphorbia x pasteurii ‘Phrampton Phatty’

It seems as though we are due another wet Easter but at least yesterday was a gloriously sunny day.   The media is full of Easter being the weekend when people start to engage with their gardens which always surprises me as I have been engaged with mine all winter; but I suppose I am in the minority.

Narcissus 'Geranium'

Narcissus ‘Geranium’

The daffodils and narcissus are really coming into their own now. I was surprised at the reaction to me showing you Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’ last week as I thought it was quite a well known narcissus.  So I thought I would follow up with this week’s favourite Narcissus ‘Geranium’.  It is a beautiful strongly scented tazette narcissus with on average three flowers per stem.

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Having spent the morning decorating it was a relief to get outside into the fresh air and make the most of the opportunity before the forecast rain came.  I have crowded my head with so many ideas and plans that it was a delight to just potter around the garden tidying up and weeding.  I found no less than 8 flower stems on the Epimedium ‘Egret’ ready to flower within the next week when the sun returns which is very exciting as there was only one flower stem last year.  Working my way through the border reminded me that the planting isn’t so bad and maybe coming up with grand plans during the winter isn’t the best idea!

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Despite the season seeming to settle down there are still some plants which have decided to flower early such as this Honesty – I think it is Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’.  I’m a little vague as it’s a chance seedling which has decided to plant itself by the wood store but whatever it is its very welcome.

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And now a little boosting but I was so thrilled to receive a mention in this week’s Women’s Weekly that I cannot help myself. So if you have found yourself here from reading the magazine then you are very welcome. Now with the weather looking set to stay wet for the rest of the weekend I think its time to go back to the sewing.

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Notes from the Garden – 20th March 2016

Epimedium

Epimedium

Not such a gorgeous weekend as last weekend which was disappointing given it was the Spring Equinox but fingers crossed Easter will see a change and temperatures will start to improve.  The garden certainly appears to be waiting for the green light although the epimediums seem to have decided they have waited too long.    I am particularly pleased to discover flowering buds on the majority of the other epimediums; worryingly I seem to have accumulated 13 over the last few years.

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I do like spring as you have time to really look and see all sorts of delights emerging rather than being overwhelmed with things to look at as you are in the summer. I would like to claim that the combination of the white hyacinth and phormium (above) was planned. But it was a lucky accident with the lime green on the leaf seems to pick up the same colour at the base of each flower.  There are lessons to be learnt here about how plants combine well and that is something I have been reading a lot about recently.

I am reading Andrew Lawson’s The Gardeners Book of Colour which is brilliant.  I have read essays and books about colour with the obligatory colour wheel before but none have ever explained colour, tones and saturation as clearly as Andrew does.  I haven’t got far through the book but I am already thinking about how colour creates an atmosphere and how I might try to use this in my garden especially given the big rejig that is going on.  I am also reading Sarah Raven’s Bold and Beautiful which is also inspiring as I love strong colours but I worry about them looking garish in English light.  I am hoping that between the two books I might learn something useful about combining plants and colour and take my bitty garden forward.

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In the meantime I have sown the first seeds in the new propagator – Cobea scandens which I have wanted to try for some years.  I have pruned the prostrate rosemary that falls over the wall back hard so it looks a little embarrassed showing its legs but I know it will re-shoot like mad.  I have also cut back some of the tatty fern foliage from around the garden; it is great to see the new furry fronds ready to emerge as soon as the weather warms up. Peering in the borders I found both Iris danfordiae and iris tuberosa flowering but my photos arent up to standard so I will try again for next weekend.  This is the first time both have flowered in the garden so I am hopefully they might establish.

I’ll leave you with what is in my opinion the maddest narcissus

Narcissus Rip Van Winkle

Narcissus Rip Van Winkle

 

End of Month View – February 2016 Hugh’s Border

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Ok so the quick-witted amongst you will have spotted that this isn’t my front garden which I said last month was going to be the focus of the End of Month Meme.  And you are right. I had fully intended to focus on the front garden in the meme this year but having written last month’s post, received lots of inspiring comments and done much pondering I think I have decided to dig up the front lawn and re-design the space.  Now I am sure that would be very interesting to follow on the blog month by month but as I don’t know when I will have the time and/or energy to start the work and as I am pro actively working on reducing unnecessary pressure on myself to compensate for the pressures of my new role at work it seemed silly to me to set myself up to feel like I was failing every month. No doubt when I do get my act together I will be showing you the progress on the front garden but I’m afraid you will have to settle for another year of the main garden this year.

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Having made that decision I was then perplexed about what to focus on this year.  My garden isn’t that big and there certainly isn’t anything new to showcase but I was determined to focus on something I hadn’t focussed on before so I have ended up with the border you can see in the photographs.  This is what has been known as the former bog garden and you can locate it if you look at the garden plan.  When I first started blogging a large portion of this border was a pond put in to the convenient hole left by a huge inherited conifer that we had removed.  It was a foolish place to put a pond as it was under the Prunus and Willow so I spent my life, or so it seemed, fishing leaves out and really putting a pond near the top of a sloping garden is just fundamentally wrong.  Some years back I decided to fill it in and create  bog garden.  To be honest this was a very lazy approach to dealing with the pond liner and not the best idea I had especially given that I become a little over enthusiastic in puncturing holes in the liner and inadvertently improved the drainage so well that the likelihood of a bog garden was remote.  So now it is just a border which is mainly in the shade but with the shed end in the sunshine.  Interestingly, when I took the photographs for this post I was struggling to find a good view, which is why it has rarely featured on the blog, but then I stumbled on the view from the shed (top photo) which I really like.  It’s almost as if I designed the border deliberately to be that shape!

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Like I have said the border has a sunny end, just in front of the bench and when we put the bench and gravel in a few years back we cut into the border to create a bigger gravel area where I could also put some of my pots.  Not a very prepossessing collection I know but these are the remnants of my dabbling in alpines and they need to be sorted and tidied.  My intention when I put the bench in was to try to create an area which would be surrounded in plants in high summer like a hide away.  I haven’t achieved this as I have been just too conservative in this area and I need to throw caution to the wind and go for it.  You will see there are a number of hellebores in this bed.  These are last year’s hellebores acquisitions and I was looking for a new location, rather than group all my hellebores in one area.  The only trouble with this location is that, just like dahlias, hellebores face towards the sun (well they do in my garden) and consequently when I sit on the bench I am looking at the back of the flowers.  I have decided to move these plants further along the border to the shady end near the grass path  so I can actually see the flowers.  Then I need to start thinking about how to achieve the feel I want here.  I think some big leaved plants would be good….more pondering will now take place.

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This is the view of the shady end from the grass path.  Again I have struggled with this area – in fact I have struggled with all this border.  I am trying to get a more cohesive feeling and move away from the bittiness that predominates so much of my garden;  the downside of having a magpie approach to plants.  In the back of the border there is a paulownia, which I am growing as a tree rather than pollarding, and lots of ferns.  I think I need to start incorporating some hostas in this end and the hellebores will also add interesting foliage when I move them but I feel it needs something maybe a bit more architectural or striking to give it some sort of focus…. maybe the fatsia japonica Variegated that found its way home from today’s HPS meeting would be a good starting point.

As for what I call this border, well the ‘former bog garden’ doesn’t trip off the tongue so I am think maybe I will call it Hugh’s border as that is the name of my willow owl.

If you would like to join in with the end of month view meme you are very welcome to.  There are no rules but I do ask that you link to this post or blog from your post and if you leave a link to your post in the comment box below then we can all find each other.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day 15/2/2016

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February is really becoming hellebore time in my garden although unusually I haven’t added to the collection yet this year although I am sure there is still time. Above is a selection of some of those that are looking good this week. Interestingly the colours don’t seem as strong this year with Anna’s Red looking no darker than my long-established dark pink hellebore and the yellows seem very pale.

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I need to relocate some of the hellebores so the flowers are easier to see and I don’t have to step into border to take photos.

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I do like the yellows so I might see about adding to these instead of more purple and pinks.

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Crocus tommasinianus are beginning to spread under the Field Maple which is very satisfying.  Sadly this year with the seemingly endless overcast days it is rare that the flowers are actually open so I was lucky to catch these crocus open the other day.

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I’m also really pleased to find some hepaticas flowering this year.  I planted two groups last year in opposite sides of the garden to try to work out what was the right environment for them.  It seems that the more shady damper area is preferred to the dry shade area so I will relocate the hepaticas from the less desirable spot.

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The snowdrops are also slowly but surely spreading around the garden and are beginning to form a white haze on the back slope.

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I have a growing number of named varieties in the garden, acquiring a few more each year.  I think this is one I got some years ago but I have lost the label so I have no idea what it is but the flowers seem larger than Galanthus nivalis, in particular the outer petals are longer.  I will have to see if I can find a record on this blog or in my label box of what it might be.

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The last of my favourites this week is this unknown camellia which although quite a small shrub is smothered in bloom, luckily we have not had many frosts so the flowers haven’t gone brown.

Also flowering in the garden are pulmonaria, cyclamen, witch hazel, and slowly but surely the various narcissus.  This is Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’.IMG_4106For more February blooms from around the world visit Carol at May Dream Gardens and check out the links.