Foliage Follow Up – November 2015

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Having managed to do the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post in a timely fashion this month I thought I would also join Pam over at Digging in the Foliage Follow Up.  I have read Pam’s blog ever since I started blogging some 8 years ago and met her when I went to the Garden Bloggers Fling in San Francisco.  Having a growing preference for foliage it is a logical meme for me to join but I often find myself thinking oh I have shown this or that and so I don’t join in.  This month it dawned on me, I can be a little slow at times, that I should show some of the foliage on my decidious plants so this month I am focussing on the Birch jacquemontii which lives in my front garden.

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My sons bought the tree for me probably about 8 years ago and I love it.  Its one of the few plants that I will be upset to leave if I ever move house and I keep an eye out for seedlings which I might be able to pot up but they are few and far between.  I see this tree every morning from my bedroom window when I look out to see what the weather gods have decided to present us with and it struck me yesterday morning what a wonderful colour the leaves had turned.

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Due to our mild temperatures this Autumn the leaf colour seems to be changing quite slowly and amazingly the birch seem to be hanging on to the leaves despite the strong winds we have had.  The leaves look almost orange in the photographs but this morning in the dull light of an overcast day there was a distinct pale yellow glow to the tree.

So there’s my foliage follow up post this month, not a succulent or evergreen leaf to be seen, makes a change for me.  To see more fabulous foliage pop over to Pam’s Austin garden and check out the comments box for other links.

Will it flower?


I am quietly thrilled with the plant above. “Why?” I hear you ask, “It is but a small orchid with no flower!” “But look at the small shoot that has appeared between the leaves and is growing rapidly upwards – it could be a new flower shoot”.

I have never ever managed to re-flower a Moth Orchid, it’s just one if those challenges I have failed at and the plants generally end up on the compost bin. I stopped bothering buying them as I was so fed up but back in the spring I was tempted to have another go. Surely it can’t be that hard, my aunt has one that never seems to stop flowering and she says she ignores it most of the time.

Then back in May when I visited OurGarden@19 I was reminded that Irene is a whizz with orchids and has quite a display.  She kindly gave me some tips about feeding them regularly and watering and that I should cut the flower stem when the flowers have finished down by 3 nodes.  I have failed with this last instruction as each of the 4 plants I have seem to have finished flowering and within a short period the stems go dry and brittle. Maybe I am leaving it too long and need to cut it down before there are no flowers left.  But I have been feeding the orchids and there have been new leaves on all of them and now this shoot so fingers crossed.

If we were having tea right now…..


If we were having a cup of tea right now I would be telling you about my fab weekend at the Alpine Garden Society annual conference. I learnt all sorts of things, many of them not to do with plants.  For example I learnt that New Zealand’s only native mammals are bats (is that right Yvonne?) which makes it strange that the Speargrass (Aciphylla), a native, is a very prickly thing when there is no need for it to be as there were no browsing natives!!

If we were having a cup of tea right now I would tell you that I am very weary as I didn’t get to bed until 1am due to gossiping in the bar last night, I am getting too old for such outrageous behaviour

If we were having a cup of tea right now I will admit to buying two more books today: Autumn Bulbs by Rod Leeds and The Well-Designed Mixed Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust. Manning the second hand book stall this morning was quite reassuring as it appears my book purchasing addiction is not unusual.  It occurred to me that us plantaholics seem to often also be book mad and if we aren’t buying some plant to shoe-horn into our garden, we are buying a book to shoe-horn on to a bookshelf.  We are just collectors looking for things to collect.

If we were having a cup of tea right now I would tell you how pleased I am that I got to buy some fresh Hepatica japonica seed as well as some narcissus and lily bulbils.  Last year I didn’t notice that certain seeds sent into the AGS seed exchange which have to be sown fresh or bulbils which won’t travel well in the usual packaging were available so I was determined this year not to miss out on this one day opportunity.  I will have to make sure I get sowing next weekend.

If we were having a cup of tea right now I would tell you that I am wondering what possessed me to sign up to the NaBloMoPo challenge this month.  I have two days this week where I won’t be home from work until probably 8:00/8:30.  On top of this as I was away for the weekend I have had little opportunity to take photographs in the garden and I didn’t take any at the conference so I don’t have many prompts or ideas for posts – oh dear, I will have to get my thinking hat on.

If we were having a cup of tea right now (and you were into plants) I would be asking you why you don’t join the AGS.  You don’t have to be interested in the ubiquitous cushion plants or those you might associate with rockeries.  ‘Alpine’ covers all sorts of bulbs, in fact most bulbs that aren’t tender (and even that isn’t always stuck to) as well as those plants that grow in the wooded foothills so things like Peonies, Aquilegia, Primulas, some delphiniums, and my favourite, ferns.  But more importantly as well as having access to the wonderful AGS seed distribution scheme you can go to events like this weekend and meet all sorts of passionate plants people and hear fascinating talks which continue over lunch or dinner – such a nice change to work.

A horticultural weekend away


A quick post today as I am away for the weekend in Stratford upon Avon attending the annual Alpine Garden Society AGM and conference.

The theme of the conference is Reaching for the Heights and so far today we have explored the mountain heights of Turkey and also Nepal.  The Turkey talk was by the Wallis, well known for growing amazing bulbs so this talk was very appealing to me – lots of crocus and the talk on Nepal started in the lower wooded slopes so my fascination with woodland plants was satisfied. Before that the E B Anderson Memorial Lecture was on the plants of New Zealand which I enjoyed as I really don’t know much about that part of the world.

Of course there were opportunities for plant buying and me being me I bought two ferns from Keith Wiley.  I also bought some bulbs and seeds from the distribution scheme which need sowing ASAP which is exciting as I missed out last year.

So now I have to dash to dinner and the plant auction which is always a laugh and at times very competitive.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.


My garden this weekend – 25/10/2015

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It has been a slow weekend of pottering and faffing around.  We are at that point of the gardening year when you suddenly realise that you have to grab the opportunities to garden when you can both due to the shortening days and also the inclement weather. I haven’t quite got that sense of urgency I often get at this time of year when I realise how many bulbs I have to plant or things that need tidying up. I wonder whether its because I seem to have kept on top of the bulb planting this year.

Oenothera versicolor 'Sunset Boulevard'

Oenothera versicolor ‘Sunset Boulevard’

I am really thrilled with this Evening Primrose (Oenothera versicolor ‘Sunset Boulevard’).  They were grown from seed earlier in the year and I am hoping they will be perennial and not biennial as it was said on Gardeners World the other night! I love the warmth of the orange flowers, it is working really well with the Autumn foliage.

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Today  the sun was attempting to shine and although chilly at first it was a pleasant day to be outside.  I had to half empty the greenhouse yet again so I could plug in the heater and re-jig all the plants, again, in order to fit just a few more tenders in.  This year some have been brought into the house as I will never get them all in the greenhouse – luckily my youngest has moved out so his bedroom is available!  There are now only the border line plants to deal with.  I have been taking cuttings but I think I will lift one of the Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ and then mulch around the base of the other border line plants.

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The last of the bulbs, with the exception of a few tulips, have gone in.  I struggle to get Iris reticulata to come back year on year but I read the other day that this is because we plant them in dry and warm areas and this leads the corms to split into smaller corms and then a delay of several years for them to bulk up and flower.  The theory is that you should plant them deep in a sightly shadier location which seems to make sense.  I thought I would give this a go as I love Iris reticulata and I would be thrilled if I could establish a drift of them.  So I have planted groups of corms in two shady parts of the garden and we will have to wait and see.

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The other job I wanted to complete this weekend was emptying one of the compost bins.  Sadly I sort of failed with this task.  I have dug most of the contents out over the last few weeks and used it for mulching but I discovered today that the bottom battens of bin had rotted so I need to replace it.  The trouble is that due to the slope of the garden the bins are cut into the side of the hill and when I don’t empty them for ages the moisture rots the wood.  I also have to literally dig out the contents as I can only access the bins from above (i.e. standing on ground level with the top of the bin!) which is not very satisfactory.  It has been annoying me for ages so after a consultation with my eldest we have decided to build a couple of new bins from pallets, which we can easily access, and have them along the fence line.  They will be built in such a way that I can remove the front of the bin and empty them easily.  It will also mean that I can really tidy up the area under the willow where the bins are located.  Now the willow has been cut back there is more light in this area and all sorts of things are growing and shooting so it would be good to use the space better.  So that will be my winter project.

I think it is one of the joys of this time of year that as you slow down you start to have time to look and think and muse and decide on what you might do next year