Foliage Follow-Up – April 2015

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I didn’t do a foliage follow up post last month as I was bored with posting about the same plants all winter – even I couldn’t face another photo of Melianthus major but with the warm weather and spring well and truly upon us there are new leaves appearing even more than the new flowers. I love the freshness of the new leaves something which you get at no other time of the year especially when the late afternoon sun dips down and back lights the leaves. I have a few hostas but they are a plant I want to increase in the garden.  The hosta above I have had since my first garden some 20 years ago.  I have no idea what variety it is and it has been divided over and over again.  This plant is residing under the Prunus kojo-no-mai; I have been dividing it and spread it to create a cushion of hosta under the shrub.  It isn’t quite there yet but I think it will look lovely when it is.  And yes there are some of the dreaded sycamore seedlings which I have missed.

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An example of what I mean about the back lighting of foliage.  Here is a run of the mill dogwood which came from my mother’s last garden.  The young variegated leaves look wonderfully fresh but late in the day they positively glow and provide a nice contrast to the other green foliage around them.

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Acer is another plant that has wonderful fresh foliage as well as good Autumn colour.  I love both ends of the year but at this time of year the leaves look so fragile and feathery.

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Then we have the wonderful glossy leaves of Cardiocrinum giganteum which look almost like plastic and very unreal.  I grew this plant last year but I really don’t remember the leaves being so shiny and yes there is another sycamore seedling – tsk!

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Leptospernum myrtifolium was added to the woodland border last Autumn to provide a nice light contrast to the large Fatsia and Rhododendrons which are in the border.  It is still a very young plant and is difficult to spot from a distance but I think it will be a good addition in time.

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Berberis seiboldiwas purchased and added to the border at the same time. The leaves mature to a reddish-purple but I hadn’t realised that they opened with such a light green hue – like little torches in the border.  I think that once the shrub bulks up it will really glow in the spring border.

So here are my Spring foliage highlights, for more foliage delights pop over to Pam at Digging.

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – April 2015

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The last couple of weeks have given us the occasional bright sunny days with temperatures just nudging 20C.  It seems like the garden has had its touch-paper lit and the plants are rushing forward.  Every day there seems to be something new opening or germinating.  Today’s thrill is the first Anemone pavonina opening its flower.  I bought three plants last year from Stocktonbury Gardens, taking great care where I planted them and carefully not removing the seed heads so they might self-seed.  They can be hard to establish so I was grateful for the mild winter and the fact that all three have reappeared and have flower buds.

 

Narcissus Angels Tears

Narcissus Angels Tears

Narcissus Sophies Choice

Narcissus Sophies Choice

There is still quite a variety of narcissus large and small flowering in the garden but my two favourites are Angels Tears and Sophies Choice, both quite elegant and pale.

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Tulips are rare in my garden as over recent hard winters they have been dug up by the badger so I no longer plant them in the borders.  However, there are one or two which the badger didn’t get and which flower year on year.  Tulip ‘Jan Reus’ is one of the few flowering in my garden at the moment.

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Iris bucharica is another new delight.  It’s a Juno Iris which aren’t generally easy to grow in the garden, prefering pot culture, but Iris bucharica is the exception and will grow in the border so here’s hoping that they will reappear next year.

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I had forgotten I had Leucojum vernum in the woodland border so it was a delight to see it reappear.  Hopefully one day it will start to bulk up.

Epimedium Black Sea

Epimedium Black Sea

Epimedium Rose Queen

Epimedium Rose Queen

Epimedium x warleyense 'Orangekonigin'

Epimedium x warleyense ‘Orangekonigin’

I have a growing passion for Epimediums and the first are flowering with more to follow.  I love their dainty flowers and the way they waft above the foliage.

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Another new tiny delight is Dicentra cucullaria which I have started in a pot but I think will be fine in the border once I have looked up the right conditions for it.

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The honesty has started to flower.  I think this one is Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue'; I remember  sowing seeds for it but I don’t remember it germinating well but maybe I was too hasty in throwing the seed tray on to the border.

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I do though remember sowing Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’.  I bought the seeds last year from Avon Bulbs at Malvern show, sowing them that weekend and I am very pleased with the plants.  I really like the dark foliage with the purple flowers.

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Primulas and polyanthus are flowering away with new ones putting in an appearance on a regular basis.  It seems that the polyanthus start flowering later than the primulas. I am particularly fond of the (Drumstick Primula)

There are lots of other small floral delights in the borders and I have included a few of my real favourites.

Omphalodes cherry ingram

Omphalodes cherry ingram

Anemone nemorosa 'Westwell Pink'

Anemone nemorosa ‘Westwell Pink’

Anemone Lipsiensis

Anemone Lipsiensis

Bergenia 'Bressingham White

Bergenia ‘Bressingham White

Sweet Cicely

Sweet Cicely

For more Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit Carol over at May Dreams

In A Vase on Monday – Narcissus

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I am really getting into Cathy’s weekly meme – In a Vase on Monday.  As someone who has never really embraced picking flowers from the garden or arranging flowers it is becoming a bit of a revelation to me.  To the point where last weekend I went to a flea fair with my eldest and came home with a couple of small vases including the blue patterned jug and bowl above.  I knew I wanted to use the jug for narcissus as I think they would make  wonderful combination, however on reflection I decided to use a different blue and white vase again, like last week, with an oriental theme.

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The narcissus are the from around the garden and show what a variety I have accumulated over the last few years.  I hadn’t realised there were so many different ones and I have to admit to forgetting the names of many.  I know there is Sophie’s Choice, Pheasants Eye, Tete a Tete, Thalia, Cheerfulness in there. I obviously have a preference for the white and paler yellow narcissus.

The real benefit of cutting the narcissus and bringing them indoors is that I get to benefit from their scent which I often miss in the garden.  I have also realised that by bringing some flowers in each week I get to enjoy the garden in the evenings when I get back from work.  I am even toying with taking some to work to put on my desk!!

For more Vases on a Monday ramble over to Cathy’s (Rambling in the Garden) and check out the comments box

 

 

The Greenhouse Review – April

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Here we are and the greenhouse is just as full as last month although the occupants have changed a little.  Some salvias and an agave which were being overwintered have now moved outside, although I will have to keep an eye on the temperatures.  The succulents and pelargoniums have been moved around to make room for seed trays and the remaining pots of bulbs have been moved out to the cold frames or outside completely.  Working in such a small space is a constant cycle of relocating plants to give those most in need the best conditions.

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I have brought out a heated propagator (the long thin one) to get some seeds which need warmer temperatures going.  These are all Mediterranean plants and I want to get them going asap to give them a long season of growth.  The other propagator is unheated but I am using it to give some of the seeds a little bit of an edge over the normal greenhouse conditions.  It seems to be working as I am starting to have to move out seeds sown only a week ago. I have sown a ludicrous amount of seeds this year especially as I was all for not bothering but it seems to be something deep in my psyche that I cannot avoid.  I should say these are all ornamental plants there are no vegetables or fruit seeds.

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The two small shelves that my sons bought for my birthday last year are in full use.  I have to be careful though as the top one gets  strong light and heat being so much closer to the roof and I am currently housing some of my smaller succulents up there.  The second shelf has a mixture of cuttings which are bulking up, tender bulbs and more seeds.

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This is the top level of the sand plunge whose purchase wasn’t my best decision last year.  You can see how much staging space I have lost at one end.  I can put some taller plants on the ground here but it is rather tight.  I am thinking of putting a plank across the end of the greenhouse between the two lots of staging to give more surface area.  I have got a potting bench which fits in here but it’s too low for me and gives me back ache so I use a work surface in the garage which has been put in at the right height.  I could get a small bit of staging to go in this space but then again it is very helpful to have the floor space for tall plants to overwinter and I have some southern hemisphere plants which should get quite tall and need space so it’s a case of coming up with temporary solutions as and when they are required.

As you can see pricking out has already started, the tray above is full of rudbeckia seedlings.  These of course add to the problem as one small seed tray quickly multiples up into larger module trays with seedlings, and then maybe pots.  I am quite good at being ruthless with seedlings.  I only prick out a tray of each as I know I don’t have room for 50 odd rudbeckia so I only prick out just more than I want.

 

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I have started to move some of the seedlings out into the cold frame to free up space and to start hardening them off.  These are generally hardy annuals so they should be fine with the lower temperatures.  I have two cold frames.  The one above used to be my mother’s and it didn’t have the middle shelf as I think it is meant to be for tomato plants.  Anyway this was wasted space for me so my son has built me a 3rd shelf.  Both cold frames have been full over winter with one year old perennial seedlings overwintering and pots of seeds sown last year or the year before waiting to germinate.  I always leave the pots of seeds of perennials for at least a year, two if I can, as many need cold to germinate and in my experience it doesn’t matter how much time you spend putting them in the fridge and taking them out it really doesn’t work, they need a good long cold snap with low temperatures.

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I have been making myself sort through the contents and bringing out the perennial seedlings to harden off completely before planting out.  Some will get repotted just to bulk them up and some have already found their way to new homes with my mother and aunt.  This is the part of growing plants from seed where I always fail.  I am pretty good at getting plants to germinate but when it comes to pricking out and then growing on, I tend to lose my way.  Plants fail due to a lack of the right conditions and then I become despondent so this year’s aim is to do better.

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The second cold frame is older but of the same style.  Its location by the garage is not ideal.  When the sun comes out like this week the compost on the top layer has a tendency to dry out quite quickly so I need to monitor the situation closely.  Then the lower shelves are very shady and seedlings don’t really benefit from the environment.  Having removed all the overwintering seedlings from here I am now using the lower space for the pots of seeds from over a year ago on the off-chance that some of them decide to germinate – two pots of fritillaries decided to do just that this week.  The top shelf is a real mess and is in need of sorting.  There are some newly sown seed trays but the majority of the rest are pots of bulb seedlings.  The yellow labels indicate that the seeds germinated in 2014 and so if they germinate again this year I will then pot them up into a bigger pot or prick them out.

So there is my complicated greenhouse operation early in April 2015.  Sometimes I think I should just go back to tomatoes it would be so much simpler!!

For more peaks into greenhouses visit Julie at Peonies and Posies

Book Review: Outwitting Squirrels

 

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I was asked to review Anne Wareham’s latest book – ‘Outwitting Squirrels, and other garden pests and nuisances’. The book’s strap line intrigued me “101 cunning stratagems to reduce dramatically the egregious effects of garden pests and honest advice concerning your changes of success“. Knowing Anne I knew she would not hold back with her views and although I may not agree with her at least they would be well argued.

I hadn’t expected the book to be so amusing.  Anne has a way of presenting herself as quite a serious person, intent on debate and improving the way people write about and criticise gardens but there is real humour between the covers of this book right from the introduction.  And I was surprised to discover myself laughing out loud and agreeing with her from the get go.

The book looks at a range of pests and diseases but also nuisances which the gardener has to endure in their bid to achieve their idea of paradise. She has only written about those that she has personally encountered so sadly for me there is no reference to the dreaded badger.  In the introduction she states that many gardeners bring problems upon themselves in one of three ways either by growing vegetables and fruit, growing things in a greenhouse and/or by being a perfectionist or gardening with one. I have to admit my gardening life is a lot less stressful since I gave up growing edibles, a bit of slug damage doesn’t send me over the edge in the same way as caterpillar damage on the cabbages did.

We then have short chapters on various pests from deer down to slugs and snails and red spider mite.  Each chapter is a chatty amusing narrative full of anecdotes of situations Anne has encountered or heard about but at the same time you learn all sorts of interesting information such as your garden has on average 200 slugs per cubic metre (yuk!) She presents various solutions to the pest and her take on whether indeed they work and at the end of each chapter there is a quick reference dos and don’t of dealing with that pest.

Now what you need to realise is that this book is not a reference book with colour photographs of the pest or disease and step by step instructions of what to do.  Instead it reminds me of conversations I have had at local gardening clubs where people share their horror stories and you quickly learn that really there is no solution to whatever it is that is plaguing your garden so the best approach is to learn to live with whatever and to try to control it through observation and good gardening.  There are no quick solutions in gardening, what might work for one will not work for someone else and this is really Anne’s message.  Yes you can try all sorts of things to keep the deer/rabbits/cats out of our garden but at the end the day the only solution is to install a fence (over 6ft for deer!) or to learn to live with the problem.

I was particularly pleased to read the chapter on slug and snails where Anne points out that the real problems are the tiny earth dwelling slugs and that the only real solution is a small application of slug pellets early in the season which is followed up every couple of weeks – hooray at last common sense prevails! All this collecting slugs at night, beer traps, copper bands etc is a waste of time.  What you need is to keep your border tidy, encourage birds etc and to stop fussing about the danger of slug pellets as if you use them very sparingly they won’t harm the wildlife.

The book goes on to look at other problems such as box blight, clematis wilt and algae.  Having battled with algae for many years Anne has learned to accept it and to take a relaxed approach to fishing it out on a regular basis or alternatively adding black dye to the water.  The final section is on human related problems – people, experts, noise, legal problems, garden machinery etc.  The what to do conclusion under experts really sums up the ethos of the advice Anne is giving “Value your own opinion and experience; there are people who experiment and thereby save you having to do it – but it’s not a bad approach for you either. Talk to your neighbours. They may know some useful things about gardening conditions , but do add a pinch of salt, as they may know less than you do”.

I think the benefit of this book is it makes you laugh at the problems which can drive some gardeners insane.  It puts things into perspective and almost gives you permission to trust your own instincts and not to care quite so much.  After all gardening is meant to be relaxing and enjoyable not a daily challenge. It is a good read not to heavy in content, light-hearted but with a serious message.

In Vase on Monday – Oriental Charm

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This week’s Vase on Monday features just one species – the Prunus Kojo-no-mai. I wanted to capture the charming cherry blossom before it went over.  The flowers lower down the branches are already going over possibly helped on their way by the bees which seem drunk on the nectar.

I knew exactly which vase I wanted to use.  I bought it many years ago when I was a teenager and we travelled as a family a number of times to Australia stopping in Hong Kong or Singapore en route.  One such trip coincided with my Mum’s birthday and so we went for a day trip over the border into China.  This was when England still held the lease on Hong Kong and the borders were very tight.  They took an itinerary of all our cameras, watches etc which was checked when we came back across the border to make sure we hadn’t sold them.  We were told not to photograph the locals as they believed that their souls might be captured by the cameras.

It was a real eye-opener for an impressionable 16 year old.  We travelled by train in packed carriages with local people carrying net bags with various live animals in them such as ducks which you knew was for their family’s dinner.  We got a red star in our passports and were then put on a coach for the official tour.  We went to a typical house, obviously we didn’t notice the shanty town that we drove through, and were happy to believe that everyone lived in houses such as the two storey large detached house we visited.  I also remember that we went for a real Chinese meal and also to see panadas but they were all crated up ready for shipping somewhere.  Finally, we went to a typical department store! It was so typical that it only sold things aimed at the then small tourist industry and this is when I bought this vase.  When we came out of the store we had to wait for our coach and collected as a group on the pavement.  You could tell how unusual it was for westerners to visit as we were soon surrounded by local people who stood and stared at us.  Interestingly one of the American ladies who had ooed and arhed over the caged animals was completely freaked out at being stared at herself!

The black box beside the vase was bought on one of our visits to Hong Kong.  The little landscape inside is carved out of cork and is incredibly fragile.  Somehow I have managed to keep it in one piece all this time.

So there you go a little bit of the orient for Monday.

For more Monday vases visit Cathy over at Rambling in the Garden

Fruits of my labour

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I have finally painted the shed.  As I said in my End of Month post I have been dithering about what colour to paint it for a year or more.  The first plan was black with orange accents but as time progressed I realised that this would make the shed stand out like a sore thumb, not really what I wanted.  I then settled on a green with paler green accents.  Then when I was writing the post and looking at the photos I decided that actually I quite liked the colour the shed was.

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The majority of readers also agreed that the natural colour worked well in my garden.  So I opted for a clear preservative with a willow accent just to give it a little character.  I am incredibly pleased with it.  It looks smart but also a little bit individual and the clear preservative has enhanced the natural silvering of the wood.  Apart from part of the side of the shed (above) where I had wiped out my brushes from staining the fence last year with a view to doing the shed the same colour but it’s not that obvious when you are in the garden.  We have agreed that the bench and step risers will stay the same colour as they currently are.  The willow ties in with the back door to the house which I like.

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Next up I have commissioned my eldest to make me some better supports for the step over apples rather than my Heath Robinson bamboo cane and string contraption.  The new supports will be painted willow and if I am lucky he is going to turn some finials to go on top of the posts which should look rather smart.  Then I might suggest an obelisk but I will keep quiet on that idea for a while as he is a busy chap.