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.

 

 

 

Back to Basics

Pots of blue and lilac primulas

Pots of blue and lilac primulas

I have a habit these days of trying to catch up with garden magazines over a cup of tea in bed on a Sunday morning. This morning, for the first time in years, I had a copy of the Gardeners World magazine to read.  I have shunned the magazine as being full of the basics and instead have chosen to read other horticultural magazines such as the English Garden and Gardens Illustrated but over the last 6 months or so I have found myself flicking through them looking for something to engage with; they are full of amazing gardens but with little of the horticultural detail I have sought. I think my struggle to find the right sort of horticultural literature is indicative of the changes in my approach to my garden and horticulture which has crept up on me over the last year.

For some years now I have charged around the country visiting gardens, attending shows, talks and workshops many of which have featured on this blog. I have been lucky in receiving invitations to all sorts of events; helped, albeit briefly, build a Cheslea show garden; exhibited plants in shows, including RHS shows; had posts published on a national newspaper website; had a regular monthly slot on the local BBC radio gardening programme; been paid for a number of years to write a weekly blog on gardening; and recently had the blog mentioned in Women’s Weekly.  I have enjoyed it all but now looking back I wonder how I managed to find the energy and I know deep down inside that whilst I have been charging around doing all of this there has been a little voice in my head expressing concern and a dis-satisfaction at the standard of my own garden.

Lamprocapnos spectablis 'Valentine' emerging

Lamprocapnos spectablis ‘Valentine’ emerging

I know now that the energy came from a lack of fulfilment in my previous role at work.  It was not stretching me mentally and I seemed to have a lot of nervous energy and had seriously started to wonder if I was hyperactive.  Having my role change at work drastically, particularly over the last 6 months, has made me understand that I’m not hyperactive I was just bored.  I now have a challenging and demanding role which I am loving, although the learning curve is rather steep, which means that at the end of the day and particularly the end of the working week I am mentally wrung out and this is clearly being reflected in my approach to this blog and gardening.  I have said before that I don’t want to spend much time on social media any more and it’s because I don’t want any more stimulation as I don’t always sleep well.  So since Christmas I have made a conscious effort to avoid social media apart from in small doses and I try to make that early evening and it seems to have

Buddleja salviifolia flower buds forming

Buddleja salviifolia flower buds forming

What I do want to do is practical things.  I suppose as a result of being stretched mentally it is natural to want to do something with your hands and particularly something which doesn’t require too much careful thought.  So in the evenings I sew which I find calming and hopefully as the evenings get longer and warmer I will be able to potter outside.  Pottering in fact is my new gardening mantra and the driver behind this blog post, although I think I may have wandered a little.   My enthusiasm for my garden is as strong as ever but I no longer feel a need to conquer the world; I just want to be a very good gardener and plants person.  I want to grow good healthy plants and I want to create a garden that showcases the rather eclectic mix of plants I have accumulated to their best advantage and that is beautiful.  I want to get my orchids to re-flower, I would be thrilled if my tree peony flowered and if I can nurture the meconopsis blue poppies into flowering I will be elated.

What I don’t seem to have a desire to do is charge around the country visiting and seeing things.  I know it is good for a gardener to see other gardens to get inspiration and I am sure someone famous said something along those lines but I feel my head, the blog and my picture archive is full of inspiration – so much inspiration that it is now overwhelming.  Interestingly when I ran a little survey on this blog asking what sort of posts readers liked the overwhelming first choice were posts about my garden rather than about other people’s gardens and certainly no product reviews.  I found that quite striking and it has been at the back of my mind for a while – it was almost like being given permission to stop!

Cyrtomium fortunei seedlings

Cyrtomium fortunei seedlings

So going back to my morning reading I really enjoyed the Gardeners World magazine.  Yes there were the obligatory sections on taking cuttings but I hadn’t thought of taking Dianthus cuttings, which I plan to try this week, nor have I ever really had a go at basal cuttings so I will also be trying that on my Lamium.  I was reminded to sow some annuals when the ground warms up a little and I was heartened by an article encouraging us to forsake the straight lines of parterres and other popular design solutions in favour of curves – more of that another day (probably).  Importantly, for me, there were no articles on amazing gardens that I, with a small garden and not being able to afford a gardener, will never be able to aspire to – instead I felt encouraged and reassured with some new things to try, just enough to get me outside to enjoy the sunshine and shouldn’t that be what gardening is all about? I will of course go to the Malvern show, and probably Chelsea (particularly as I have a free ticket) and I have a garden visiting trip with friends to the east of the country in June but in the meantime I will potter and go back to the basics.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – April 2016

Primula denticulata

Primula denticulata

The garden is sparkling with colour, lots of spots of colour much like an impressionist painting and I have to say that this is certainly my garden’s best season.  The colour and shimmer is created from lots of small flower heads in a myriad of pastel colours.  So for this month’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post I thought I would zoom in on my favourite flowers this week.

Narcissus Baths Flame

Narcissus Baths Flame

Alot of the colour comes from the various Narcissus which I add to every year.  This year’s new additions include Narcissus Baths Flame which I am rather taken with.  The petals are a buttery yellow, very soft when you compare them to the hard yellow of the obligatory large trumpet daffodils that you see in public planting.  The flowers glow as the light fades and I think that is because of the whiteness of the petals.

Narcissus Sailboat

Narcissus Sailboat

Narcissus Sailboat is another new addition and it definitely reinforces my preference for the paler narcissus; I do like the slightly yellow trumpet.

 

 

Narcissus Thalia

Narcissus Thalia

Narcissus Thalia is an almost pure white – very pure.

Narcissus Cheerfulness

Narcissus Cheerfulness

Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’ is my favourite double narcissus, it has the most wonderful scent which you catch as you are weeding away in the border.  I prefer the single daffodils and I really dont like the blousey over breed narcissus which seem to popular at the moment.

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As the narcissus go over the tulips start but sadly I only have three tulips in the borders this year.  I haven’t planted them for a few years due to badger damage but these three have persisted year on year and are very pretty.  I have decided to risk them again next year as we haven’t had a visit from the badger for a couple of years now.

Imperial fritillary

Imperial fritillary

A lot less elegant than the narcissus is the Imperial fritillary.  This is the first year I have grown them and I am a little disappointed that the plants don’t seem to have developed a tall stem for the flowers as you would expect. I have two from different sources and both have done the same so maybe it is a result of the weather.

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I always forget the Leucojum vernum and are surprised when I first spot their nodding flowers thinking at first they are late snowdrops.  The clump has been planted for some years now and is expanding very slowly; maybe I will invest in some more and create a bit of a drift.

Anemone Bourdeux

Anemone Bordeaux

Anemone ‘Bordeaux’ is a very recent acquisition.  I was seduced by the almost velvet flowers which are working very well with the ageing flowers of Helleborus Anna’s Red and also Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’.  I really hope it reappears next year.

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Not all the colour is from bulbs or primulas as the blossom is beginning to appear.  This week Amelanchier decided to start flowering picking up the blossom of Prunus kojo-no-mai and will soon be joined by the large unknown Prunus that dominates the garden at this time.

Thank you to Carol over at May Dream Gardens for hosting this meme.

Notes from the Garden – 10th April

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I think we have had all four seasons this weekend with wind, rain and heavy sleet yesterday and frost overnight but today spring returned which meant I could get on with my planting plans.

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The focus today was the long border along the top of the wall.  I want it to have a sort of cottage garden feel and in recent years have added a number of roses, alliums and aquilegias.  Today, having weeded I added some Digitalis purpurea ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ and  Digitalis mertonensis both of which should add height to the border.  Also a topiary bay has been relocated to mid-way down the border as it has languished in a pot on the patio for so long that when I tried to move it this week I discovered it had rooted into the ground through the gaps in the paving slabs.  It took two of us to get the plant out of the pot and haul it up the garden but hopefully it will be a lot happier now in the border and the yellowing leaves will green up.  I plan to add some Echinacea seedlings in a few weeks time once they have had a chance to bulk up – they are just starting their third year so hopefully they will be ready to flower this year.

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Talking of seedlings and hoping they will flower I was completely thrilled to discover that all four of my Meconopsisbaileyi ‘Hensol Violet’ seedlings had reappeared.  Like the Echinacea they are in their third year so I am hoping they will flower as well which would be quite amazing.  They have had a good mulch of ericaceous compost to try to encourage them.  In fact there has been a lot of feeding going on with the roses and peonies having a good mulch of manure.

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My epic re-distribution of plants programme is well under way and nearly completed in the back garden – there is just a sad bamboo to extract which I suspect will be a real challenge.  Over Easter I started relocating the hellebores from near the bench to the far end of the Big Border.  Above is Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’ which I think works well with Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and the Amenthalea lessonia.  There is a pale yellow hellebore just past the bottom of the photograph and strangely they all seem to work well together.  I have added some corms of a short bronze leaved crocosmia for interest in late summer. To the right of the photo is a Cotinus ‘Grace’ and its purple leaves are key to the planting at this end of the border.  Although the leaves are not out yet I wanted to ensure that the colour theme was extended throughout the year.

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Its wonderful to see so many plants re-emerging after the winter and every time I walk around the garden there is a new delight, sometimes a small spring flower or a plant that I had taken a gamble with has returned. Who knows what delights will appear over the coming week.

 

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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