Warts and All Tour – 2016


Having neglected the blog and the garden this year I have been beating myself about both.  However, I have a week leave from work and have deliberately made no plans as I am desperate for the time to just be and to do all those menial tasks that need doing from time to time but  if neglected become daunting monsters.  Top of my list is to spend lots of time in the garden.  I haven’t set any specific targets of things to do and I know that it needs more time than I have to get the garden looking tip top by the end of the week but I want to get back in touch with it.  Being perplexed about where to start I had a good walk round this morning and thought it would be good to give you a tour of the garden through my camera lens – I last did one back in 2014 so if you want to see what the changes have, or haven’t been, you can click on this link. You can also access a plan of the garden via the tab at the top of the page.

So we start by entering the back garden via the side path – you can see this is a bit of a wood store, with my bags of compost stored under the wood.  The neighbours house is so close that rain rarely gets through so its great for storing things and also overwintering plants that need a bit of protection.


As we come round the corner you can see that the foliage obsession hinted at by the pots in the top photo continues along the patio.  It has always been quite shady here due to my neighbours’ trees and the soil is that wonderful moist by free draining – this year I have had blue meconopsis poppies flowering here.  You can also see my dinky greenhouse and evidence of plant buying.


The whole patio with the supervisor about to boss me around.  It needs a weed but isn’t too bad this year.  The patio is quite narrow and we tend to sit on the bench up the garden but there are seats here too which are on my list for a face lift.


We pass the greenhouse which has had a bit of a tidy up but needs some more work on it.  Currently it is home to my pelargonium, tender succulents and begonias – all of them could go outside but I hate an empty greenhouse.


The far end of the patio is very sunny and home to the staging which gets used all year for one thing or another – oh and the bin store which is behind the garage.  I still need to work out what to grow up the fence; whatever it is will have to grow in a pot as the ground is builders rubble here.  To the left you can just see the start of the damp corner where water tends to accumulate when we have a lot of rain before soaking away.  I have planted this corner with damp loving irises and grasses which are thriving.  As you can see I haven’t tidied up and there is a stray teapot on its side – this was put here as it is an old pot which was in the garden full of water and a frog had taken up residence in the heat so we moved it carefully to the shade to protect the frog.


Up the steps, which featured last year on the end of month view meme.  They are looking a little bare at the moment as I have been tidying here but if you look very carefully to the right you can just pick out little pink and white dots which are the flowers of Cyclamen hederifolium – I used this area mainly for spring bulbs.


At the top of the steps if you turn left you have the bottom path which runs almost along the top of the wall.  I need to work on this area and have plans to improve it over the next year.  The soil, despite being clay based, is very free draining due to the slope and there are parts which therefore become quite dry so I want to change the planting to work with this.


As the end of the path you go up a slight rise towards the grass path (which runs across the middle of the garden).  This area has always been very shady and to a degree damp but due to my new neighbours chainsaw activity it is now flooded with light.  This, as I have mentioned before, has really challenged me.  I’m not used to see people in the next garden, I am used to a screen of green and I find it difficult.  However, I like the additional light that is coming in and many plants have benefited from it.  So the plan for here is to relocate some of the taller shrubs to the area in front of the fence, not to create a hedge, but to break up the line of the fence and to give some privacy but keeping the light.


From the shady end of the grass path you look back towards the shed between the Big Border and Hugh’s Border.  Both have done much better this year but still need further work to bring more colour to the left hand side and more cohesion to the right hand side – I have ideas!


We walk back to the shed and turn towards the back of the garden and you have the top bench, also in need of some TLC.  The planting on the slope behind the bench is doing rather well and my eldest and I have been arguing over whether it is doing too well – he has persuaded me to leave it be but to tie up the abutilon better and I think he is right.


Looking from the bench to the left of the garden you can see the compost bins in the back ground.  Some people have suggested that I should disguise them but I see no reason to, I find them quite appealing with their grassy slope in front.  The mess in the foreground is mainly the back of Hugh’s Border where the ferns have suffered from a lack of rain for some time.  To the right is the shadier part of the slope where the ferns are doing very well but the ones planted here don’t need as much moisture.


Up to the compost bins and a look back down the garden at the other end of Hugh’s Border – I think this view is quite pleasing.


Then we have the very top path which leads nowhere but to behind the shed.  This is the worst part of the garden in need of much weeding and for replacement retaining boards and some gravel or woodchip on the path but the plants are thriving so its not all bad.


The final view is from the end of the top path looking down the garden towards the house.  I like this view as my intention has been to create a leafy retreat and I think it is beginning to come together.

So I hope you enjoyed the warts and all tour of the garden – I wonder if there will be much change by this time next week.  In the meantime, as it keeps raining heavily, I will go and consider the curtains that I really should make but keep making excuses about.


Update on the Front Garden


Some readers will recall that back at the start of the year I decided to do away with the front lawn. Since then I have been a busy bee and with the help of my sons the transformation is nearly completed.

The pile of bricks isn’t an art installation but the start of the path that we have been working on this weekend.


My eldest has been a star and spent the morning digging a trench for the bricks to lay in and he managed to get the bricks for 25p each which has made a huge difference to the cost and allowed us to be more generous in the number used.  The next step is to cement them in place and then to put gravel down on the path.  I intend to use the same gravel as the driveway so it blends together.

From being embarrassed by my front garden I now love it – as my son says it is now a proper garden rather than a small lawn with some plants around it!

This week’s obsessions

Iris hollandica 'Autumn Princess'

Iris hollandica ‘Autumn Princess’


Note to self: plant more of these for next year amongst the grasses.

I really discovered Dutch Irises a few years ago but last year the penny dropped that you really need to plant them amongst grasses or grassy looking plants which will support the flowers but also hide the long stems. Whilst the whites, yellows and blues are nice I just adore the colours and tones on this variety, they light up the border in a most elegant way.

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I have re-introduced Lupins in the garden this year having not grown them for years mainly because of the tatty state of the leaves as the flowers fade.  I had forgotten how beautiful the young fresh leaves can be and what an interesting addition they make to the border.  I am also really pleased with the colour of the flowers as they were an impulse buy at the local garden centre back in the Spring when I was looking for some strong colours for the borders.

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Last year I became quite obsessed when visiting a nearby garden with the large block of poppies that were about to open.  I just love the hairs on the buds especially when they are back-lit.

Garden Visit: Montpelier Cottage


I had a delightful afternoon visiting Noel Kingsbury and Jo Eliot’s garden in deepest darkest Herefordshire within spitting distance of the Welsh borders.  I nearly didn’t go as I wanted to get on with the front garden but having planted up half the space in the morning and with unexpected blue skies at lunchtime I set off for what is always an enjoyable drive west.


Noel’s garden is not what many would call the traditional style of garden.  Indeed I ran into someone I know from a garden club who hadn’t visited before and was a little perplexed by the research beds and the intensive planting in some areas and the large meadow and ponds with wildflower planting.   We agreed that it made a nice change from many of the gardens you visit, particularly under the National Garden Scheme, and my fellow garden club member said it had certainly given him real food for thought.


Personally I really enjoy this garden.  I have visited before, last August, when I went for lunch and had a proper tour with Noel.  The garden demonstrates Noel’s interests in plant communities and how perennials, in particular, grow together.  The area above is a series of research beds with various perennials planted out in blocks to see how they fare in Noel’s heavy clay soil  However, plants are allowed to self seed as is evident from the prolific number of aquilegia and trollis which are scattered around the garden and really pull everything together.


I really like the intensity of this area of planting with all the purples and cerise flowers; it was alive with insects.  It is this intense style I am trying to achieve but its a style which looks more natural than the traditional style of perennial planting and I think that although it looks so natural it is quite hard to make work well.  It is one of those things that everyone thinks looks easy until you try it yourself. As the year progresses the grasses and late perennials which are currently hidden amongst the early flowering plant will have bulked up and bring a new wave of interest and colour.


And finally a real surprise as Noel’s Aeoniums are already out on the patio, and have been out for two weeks.  Mine are still lurking in the greenhouse and looking the worse for it so this week they will be moved out into the fresh air and hopefully it wont be long before they look as glossy and healthy as Noel’s.

I’m off to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show tomorrow and it will be interesting to see if any of the show gardens, with all their immaculate planting, have the same sense of place as Noel and Jo’s garden; I suspect not.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May 2016

Lamprocapbos spectablis ‘Valentine’

Lamprocapbos spectablis ‘Valentine’

Every gardener I know seems to be saying this last week ‘Goodness hasn’t the garden shot up this week’ and yes we have been blessed finally with warmer temperatures which coupled with the rain has given plants a real boost.  Needless to say having moaned about the cool spring for weeks and weeks those same gardeners are now moaning that they can’t keep on top of things!  Personally, with my more lackadaisical approach I don’t worry too much about weeds or that the last bit of lawn needs cutting – they will all be dealt with as and when I have time.  At this time of year I am spending more time looking and spotting familiar friends reappearing or studying new acquisitions to see how they grow. So for this month’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post I am going to showcase my favourite flowers this weekend.

Trillium albidum

Trillium albidum

Trillium grandiflorum

Trillium grandiflorum

Unknown Trillium

Unknown Trillium

I am completely obsessed with the trilliums that have reappeared this year, there are two more but they aren’t flowering yet.  To be honest I had forgotten about two of them so did a ridiculous little dance when suddenly I spotted them in the border.  I can’t work out what the bottom one is, it might be that the flower will develop more and be easier to identify over the next week.



Another woodland delight that took me by surprise but not for long and I soon remembered what it was.  Such a pretty dainty flower and I do like the way the petals twist.

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On a larger scale in the shady side of the garden the rhododendrons are flowering, these two are my favourites.  If I ever am lucky enough to have a larger garden with the right soil I will definitely indulge myself with lots more rhododendrons especially those wonderful ones with furry leaves.

Sweet Cicely

Sweet Cicely

Moving out of the shade into the sunshine the first of the umbellifers is flowering, lovely Sweet Cicely, such an pretty flower.

Allium cameleon

Allium cameleon

Allium cameleon is in its second year in the garden and already bulking up well.  It is a short, front of the border allium, much daintier than alliums such as Allium Purple Sensation.  I really like the way the flowers are blushed with pink.


One of those bigger blowsy alliums just starting to open; I can’t remember which but I suspect it is Purple Sensation.  I do love alliums in all their varieties and have them flowering in the garden right through to high summer.


The sea of camassias which have dominated the Big Border creating a delicious blue haze for the last few weeks is coming to an end.  It is only the very top of the stems which still have flowers and I can’t bring myself to remove them until they have lost every single flower.


My favourite Aquilegia, its a seedling of the mckenna varieties with the long spurs at the back of the flower which I much prefer to the more chubby looking aquilegias which I think are varieties of the native columbine, whereas the mckenna varieties come from the USA.   I have lots of aquilegias, I went through a slightly obsessive period of growing them from seed and interestingly certain colours predominate.  I think I will weed out the ones that don’t appeal so much and maybe try to increase the mckenna varieties.  There are some who argue that over time all aquilegias revert to the muddy pink variety.  This just isn’t true what actually happens is they loose their original aquilegias and the muddy pink ones are seedlings which tend to revert back.

So those are the stars of my garden this week for other gardeners blooms pop over to Carol at May Dreams and check out the links.


Notes from the Garden – 8th May 2016


It has finally dawned on me that the best way to photograph the garden is to stand on a garden chair.  That way the viewpoint is above the top of the retaining wall (4ft ish) which holds the garden up above the patio – simple when you think about it!


A sort of panorama of left hand side of the garden if you use the orange tulips as the reference point with the first photou.  I am really thrilled with the garden this year.  Finally after years for labouring, pondering, moving of plants, weeding and wondering it has come together and really gladdens my heart every time I look at it.  It will be interesting to see if I continue to feel this way as the garden progresses through the year but so far its scored 100% since the start of the year.

Moraea huttonii (probably)

Moraea huttonii (probably)

Aside from starting to tackle the front garden planting I have spent quite a bit of time pottering around the garden tidying and weeding.  Yesterday was a cooler day with rain constantly threatened so I spent most of my gardening time sowing and potting up in the greenhouse.  I have finally cleared all the overwintered plants from both of the cold frames and repotted as necessary.  Most plants have come through the winter and it was nice to rediscover seedlings that I had forgotten all about such as a tray of 12 eucomis seedlings.

Today, with the heat I retreated to the shady end of the garden and spent time cutting back snowdrop leaves from the slope so that my fern collection can emerge.  I am sure there are those that will say I should leave the snowdrop leaves to dry out and wither and I know they are right but the snowdrops and ferns live cheek by jowl and the ferns are more important to me that the snowdrops so its a case of tough love.  While I was tidying up I discovered the flower buds above growing amongst very long strappy leaves.  After much pondering I think they are the buds of Moraea huttonii.  I sowed the seeds years ago and the seedlings have languished in pots in the protection of the greenhouse or cold frame as I assumed being South African they needed some protection.  Last year I got fed up with them and planted them out.  The result seems to be healthy looking plants with big fat buds – fingers crossed.

Buddleja salvifolia

Buddleja salvifolia

The Buddleja salvifolia is beginning to flower, a beautiful blue which has come out almost true in the photograph.  However, what really surprises me is the lack of insect activity on the flower heads.  I rarely see butterflies in my garden but it is groaning with other pollinators so I would have thought they would like this buddleja – very strange, maybe its too exotic for the local wildlife.


Finally I am really enjoying this garish combination.  There are other white honesty in this area so the white is even more dominant that this picture implies.  This is where I was thinking the Tulip Rosy Bouquet that I saw at Malvern would help to bring the planting together.  Alternatively, given the honesty is biennial maybe next year I could go for something else in this area, even Lunaria Chedglow would probably be an improvement!  What you can’t see is that on the other side of the rhododendron there is a small pale pink rhododendron which looks wonderful with the white honesty so its all about the choices and viewpoints I suppose.



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.


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.


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.


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.