My Garden This Weekend – 7/2/16

IMG_4081

What a glorious morning we have had today especially given that yesterday we had at least 14 hours of non-stop rain.  Having spent yesterday feeling sorry for myself with a bit of  head cold and a blocked ear which has affected my balance a little, I only went outside this morning to see how the garden had stood up to the wind and rain.  Two hours seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and I only came in when my fingers were becoming painfully cold.

IMG_4046

There is something quite special about the sun in the early spring especially after gloomy days and it has a wonderful ability to really illuminate the early spring bulbs and the hellebores.  I have said many times before that Spring is my favourite season especially in the garden.  I enjoy the real thrill of spotting something starting to flower which seems to be so much more intense at the start of the year when we are desperate for reassurance that the winter is retreating.  Not that we have had much of a winter this year.

IMG_4067

The mild weather over the last few months has led to a strange mix of plants flowering.  I was very surprised to have my attention caught by a flash of red and on investigation discovered that Anemone pavonina was flowering probably at least two months early.

IMG_4061

But then again some plants have stuck to their normal timings. Hamamelia x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ is a good example of a plant doing what it is meant to do at the right time regardless.  I have been watching this shrub for some weeks.  Last year it had only three flowers on the whole shrub.  After a bit of research I concluded that the plant was too dry probably due to the neighbour’s sycamore roots; so after a long period of rain I gave it a heavy mulch to try and lock some moisture in and I made sure I watered it during dry spells in the summer.  The plant has rewarded me with a full covering of flowers which are all just opening – how lovely!

IMG_4052

Having taken some photos I pottered around cutting back the deciduous grasses and the ferns which had gone  over as well as collecting other debris from around the garden. Then with the sun still shining and not feeling too bad I decided to sow some seeds from the local HPS seed exchange.  To be honest I have no idea what half of them are, I think they might be shrubs as I seem to remember requesting these as I have a fancy to grow some shrubs maybe for a future garden, not that I have plans to move, but its good to have a challenge.

IMG_4071

Finally, having been thrilled with the Hamamelia flowering I was just as thrilled to discover three flower stems on the Melianthus major; two more than last year.

It always amazes me how uplifting  a couple of hours in the fresh air pottering around can be.

A loggery perhaps?

IMG_4014

Back in November I posted about the new mega compost bin my eldest had built me from old pallets. When I came home from the monthly HPS meeting on Saturday I was thrilled to see that he had built me the second bin he had promised.  I suspect my hard work the weekend before emptying out and removing the last old bin may have encouraged him to get this done or it might have been my heartfelt pleas as the first bin was full despite its vastness.

You can see  the slope of the top of the garden and in particular the drop in the soil level from one bin to the next so we still have to landscape this drop out of existence. What these new compost bins have given me are two large and substantial compost bins which are positioned at right angles to the old bins meaning that I should be able to empty them better. It also means that although large the bins are less visible from the house compared to when the three old bins formed a line across the back of the garden.  This is turn has freed up some space near the top of the steps for me to plant something and this has led to the creation of what I think will be called the loggery.

You will recall that I had the willow, under which the compost bins are sited, heavily lopped back in October 2014.  This left a large pile of logs which have either gone to my friend Victoria for her willow sculptures or to my son’s scout group for burning.  There were however a number of very large logs which were just too heavy for us to carry down the garden so they have been sitting in the way for the last 18 months.  Having emptied out the last compost bin and finding myself presented with extra space I decided to roll the logs down the slope and to pile them up on the corner at the top of the steps to produce a small loggery.  It’s a bit like a stumpery but made with logs and not tree stumps!  Once the ground levels are sorted out the loggery can be established properly and my plan is to fill in the gaps between the logs with soil and to plant it up with ferns and maybe some bulbs such as snowdrops or hepaticas. Having heard Julian Sutton of Desirable Plants talk about the best growing conditions for hepaticas I think this small installation might improve the flowering of my hepaticas which would be wonderful.

Emerging from the Elderberry

August

August

I am sure we all have bits of our garden that we really struggle with and to be honest turn a blind eye to.  I also bet that those areas are ones which are possibly in difficult to get to parts of the garden, or have difficult growing conditions.  My challenging spot is the top right hand corner, as you look from the house; it’s the corner behind the workshop.    As you can see from the photo above the corner suffers from the shade cast by my neighbour’s trees mainly the Elder which is right in the corner.  This has two large conifers, probably leylandii behind it which form part of the hedge along my neighbour’s back boundary.

IMG_3870

But having battled with the elder for years I was thrilled the other evening to get a visit from my neighbour asking if I minded them cutting back some of the branches on the maple to the front of the shed.  During the conversation she mentioned that the tree surgeons would be cutting down the elder and the two conifers.  I felt  a little bad later at how enthusiastic my reaction was; maybe saying ‘Oh good, I really struggle with that tree..’ is a little selfish! I was thrilled when I got home on Friday, just before the light faded, to see the transformation.  Not only had the tree surgeons done a very neat job with no debris on my side of the fence but the amount of light that is now flooding in on that side of the garden is amazing.  It isn’t only the light but the fact that the elder, in full leaf, created such a rain shadow at the top of the garden that I have struggled to grow anything.  As you can see there are three bamboos along the back fence.  The one to the left of the picture above is much taller than the others, in fact the third one has hardly put on any growth since it was planted some years ago and I am really hoping that with the increase in light and moisture the plant will start to thrive.  I am now revisit what plants I can use to plant around the bamboos and maybe I can now consider something more exciting than is presently there.

 

End of Year View 2015

I thought I would do an End of Year View post instead of an End of Month post so I could see how areas had changed through the year.  Starting with the view up the steps to the shed I am pleased with how the border along the steps has filled out.  At the start of the year there was a Stiga gigantea here but it was a sad specimen and taking up a lot of space.  Removing it last January freed up a lot of space which I have filled with agapanthus, peony and a range of bulbs which need sun and sharp drainage. But I wanted some waftiness up the stairs so late in the year I added some Stipa tenuissima.

The start of the bottom path is one of my favourite places to sit and ponder.  I always think that the photos along here never show it off well but there you go. I want to try to beef up the planting along here, bring in more colour through the year but especially in late summer.

The bottom part of the woodland border looked really good in early Summer but it needs to be improved in Spring especially given that Spring is meant to be the season of interest for shady areas.  This being so I have added lots of narcissus bulbs and I am hoping that next Spring my hard work will be rewarded.

The top of the woodland border has progressed slowly this year; I have to be patient and let plants establish and fill out.  Again I have added narcissus in here and there are signs of them coming through.

The final view I am including is along the grass path.  I started the year umming and arhing about whether to replace the grass with something else but I think the grass is a nice counterfoil to the plants and my cat likes it so ….  I want to improve the planting at the start of the path and have started to do this with the addition of Anemanthele lessoniana and repeated it with one towards the end of the path.  I think it draws the eye but also starts to soft the edges.

So that was 2015 in my garden.  I haven’t decided what view will be the focus of the End of Month View in 2016, it needs to be somewhere that photographs well which isn’t the case with much of my garden due to its smallness and the angles needed.

It has been great that so many of you have joined in with the End of Month View meme in 2015 and I really hope that you have found it useful.  I do hope that you will join in again in 2016 and all I ask is that you leave a link to your posts in the comment box of my post for the relevant month and include a link back to my post in your post.  That way we can all connect.

Best wishes for 2016.

Helen

Boxing Day Flower Count 2015

Abelia

Abelia

My Boxing Day Flower Count is becoming a real tradition now as this is the fifth year I have done it.  It is simply a case of going round the garden and counting how many plants are in flower.  Of course when you start thinking about it in detail, as no doubt some people will, you start to wonder if you should count every single Primula vulgaris or each of the red flowered Cowslips or whether you just count one as a representative of the group.  I didn’t remember having these thoughts before and when I looked back on last year’s post I suspect this is because last year, and the years before, the numbers were small – 17 in 2014 compared to 35 today!

Hellebore Anna's Red

Hellebore Anna’s Red

IMG_3682 1 IMG_3700 1 IMG_3704 1

One of the most notable differences is the number of hellebores that are already in flower probably due to the ridiculously mild winter we have had so far.  Last year there was one double in flower which I had bought in flower back in October.  In contrast this year all the flowering hellebores are well established and I anticipate there will be more flowering within the next two weeks given the number of buds appearing.  Also flowering at the moment is the Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Rose’ and Helleborus foetidus.

IMG_3672 1

Then there are a ridiculous number of primulas in flower.  Last year there was a small number with one or two flowers just about showing but this year the flowers are more advanced and in some cases going over.  Here are some of my favourites.

The usual shrubs are flowering: Abelia, Jasminum nudiflorum, Rosemary and this year they are joined by Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’

Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price'

Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’

Other new additions this year are some early Galanthus, although Galanthus Ding Dong has been a resident for a couple of years now.

Galanthus Ding Dong

Galanthus Ding Dong

IMG_3698 1

Galanthus elwesii (probably)

Galanthus elwesii (probably)

Galanthus elwesii Mrs Mcnamara

Galanthus elwesii Mrs Mcnamara

The actual flower count list is as follows:

Abelia
Viburnum tinus ‘
Eve Price’
Jasminum nudiflorum
Rosemary
Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Mcnamara’
Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’
Galanthus plicatus ‘Colossus’
Galanthus elwesii
Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Rose’
Helleborus foetidus
Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’
3 x other unknown Hellebores
Bergenia

Euporbia rigida
Salvia involucrata boutin
Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’
Cyclamen hedrifolium
Cyclamen persicum (I think, bought in 2014 as a bedding plant)
Papaver cambricum
Pulmonaria
Digitalis ambigua
Bedding Pansy
11 x assorted primulas

Euphorbia rigida

Euphorbia rigida

In contrast with previous years the Iris unguicularis has been flowering for a couple of months and seems to have finished now. You can compare this year with previous year’s via the following links

Boxing Day 2014
Boxing Day 2013
Boxing Day 2012
Boxing Day 2011

 

The Bin Man Cometh

IMG_3292

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.

IMG_3295

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.

IMG_3308

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.

2015_05300026

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.

2015_05300021

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.

2015_05300015

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)

2015_05300023

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

2015_05300013

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.

IMG_2709

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.

IMG_2751

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.

IMG_2732

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.