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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
It’s the end of January and so time for a new view for the End of Month View meme. In a bid to make myself really focus on the front garden I have decided to air my dirty linen in public so to speak and have this as the focus for the meme this year. Any one who has read this blog for some years will recall that the front garden was the focus of the EOMV meme in 2013 and you can see a round up of that year’s posts on the subject here.
The two photos above should give you an idea of the layout of the front garden and yes the lawn, if we are audacious enough to call it a lawn, is looking awful. It needs a good cut as the grass doesn’t seem to have stopped growing but the garden nearest the house can be in shade nearly all day meaning that it doesn’t dry out very well. In fact the whole lawn is full of moss which is a good indicator of how damp it can for most of the year. We also think there is a spring which runs along under the beech hedge, although I suspect it is one of those springs which appears when there are high water tables. I think the above photo distorts the perspective and it seems that the border to the left of the lawn is quite wide whilst the border at the end of the lawn is quite narrow – in fact it is the opposite way round.
This photo gives you a better indicator of how narrow the driveway border is and also demonstrates how unhealthy the lawn is. This border has a bit of an orange theme going on with the libertias, a number of different crocosmia, geums (although more red than orange), tulip ballerina and a Grevillia vicotriae which has orange flowers. There is an edging on the driveway side of oregano, a very yellow leaved one, and on the lawn side Alchemilla mollis. When I squared the lawn off, it was formerly oval, I went through a period of being obsessed with accentuating the shape of the lawn with edging of one plant. I tried an approach of having a reduced plant pallet and going for impact but it just jarred with me. I started breaking this repetitive planting up with the addition of a couple of stipa tennuissima and also the libertia but it needs something else so I shall be watching this year to try to decide what that elusive something might be – possibly some bigger foliage.
Some might recall that I had a row of Deschampsia along the end of the lawn but if you read the post from the end of 2013, you will see that, I concluded that this was creating a screen like a barrier at the end of the lawn. I have spent the last two years continuing to struggle with the front garden. However back in the summer Kate from The Barn Garden visited and pointed out the obvious to me that I should really take the same approach with the front garden as I have with the rest of the garden and indulge my love of foliage and architectural plants. It is so obvious it is ridiculous. So I have re-jigged the planting back late in the summer adding various plants that were lurking in pots on the patio or needed moving from elsewhere. In went a melianthus major, a phormium, euphoribia rigida and some bearded irises. The various bergenias which had replaced the Deschampsia in a near row along the front were re-arranged into clumps. As shrubby salvias seem to do well in this locations as does the cistus I also added a rosemary and sage. I am really pleased with this new approach, it feels right, so this year I will be watching to see how it progresses and whether anything needs to be added.
Finally if you look at the top photos you will see there is a border running along the beech hedge and next door’s garage wall. This is quite a narrow border and has another row of alchemilla mollis – when these flower on both sides of the lawn it looks great but far too regimented for me. I have also added some aquilegia seedlings which had been hanging around on the patio for far too long. However, I think this border could really benefit from the addition of some ferns to add some contrast and height. That would of course give me another excuse to buy more ferns – not that I am obsessed with them at all!
So this is the view I shall be boring you with at the end of each month for the next year. Any one can join in with the meme and you can use it as you wish. Some like to give a tour of their garden, some like to focus on one particular area – what ever works for you. All I ask is that you add a link to your post in the comment box on my post and that you link in your post to this blog – that way we can all connect with each other and pop by for a visit.
Back in my early teens there used to be reference on the news to the EU butter mountain which bemused me. I had these quite grotesque images of oozing mountains of butter. I was reminded of these this weekend when I emptied out my seed box.
In my last post I wrote about my lack of engagement with things and how unsettled I felt. Writing the post helped me to sort my feelings out, as it so often does, and as one of the commentators so rightly said naming the problem out loud is a real step forward in itself. So Sunday afternoon I confronted the seed box that had been brooding on the coffee table sending me accusatory glances. I had dug it out a few weeks before in response to Anna, of Green Tapestry’s, comment that she needed to check her seed box before ordering seeds. How terribly sensible I thought and something I really should do. When I had been feeling more positive a few weeks back I had spent time on the Sarah Raven website putting endless packets of seeds into my virtual shopping basket. Well of course I needed some zinnia seeds as they were wonderful last year, oh and I fancy some cosmos and some ammi again, oh and maybe some nigella, what about some foxgloves to get going as they are biennial, and maybe some dahlias from seed and so it went on.
I was stunned on tipping out the seed box on just how many packets I had managed to cram in over the last few years and these didn’t include some recent special purchases. It really was a seed mountain and had been created just as the EU butter mountain had – bought with no prospect of being sown. How terrible and wasteful. Sorting through I found 5 packets of assorted cosmos, a couple of foxgloves, nigella and all sorts of other things. In fact the only thing that I didn’t have that was on my wish list were zinnias. So I have decided to only buy zinnias this year and to use up what’s in the seed box.
It has to be acknowledged that some of these seeds have been there a while and may not be viable any more. However, being someone who likes a challenge and gets a perverse thrill out of making something work that isn’t meant to I found myself really taken with the idea. So much so that I set to there and then and sowed 5 packets of seeds which needed cold to help them germinate – hopefully the freezing temperatures we have had the last few days will do the trick. It may even be that by sowing this eclectic mix of seeds I achieve the real cottage garden feel that I am looking for.
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.
The only snow in 2015 – January
Excitement over Melianthus major flower – February
Stockton Bury Garden – March
Shed finally painted – April
Rome – May
Great Dixter – June
Dublin – July
Noel Kingsbury’s Garden – August
Wonderful woodland garden – September
Symphyotrichum trial – October
Iris unguicularis flowering early – November
Malvern Hills – December
Another tradition here at the PatientGardener blog is a round up of the year. It is always interesting to look back and remind yourself of places you have been and things you have seen or it seems, as is the case this year, places you haven’t been. I was surprised that I really haven’t been out and about as much as I have in the past but then I am reminded that this year has been challenging from a work perspective and I have struggled with exhaustion and uncertainty as well as still working through the grief of losing Dad at the end of 2014. Saying all that it hasn’t been that bad a year and whilst I haven’t been out and about that much, the places I have been to visit have been exceptional with a number finally crossed on a long term wish list.
Just as we are ending 2015 with a mild winter we started the year with a mild winter with only a scattering of snow over one weekend. Looking back through photographs it appears that I did a lot of gardening this year and really focussed on looking after my garden better. I was rewarded in February with flowers on the Melianthus major which is a plant I just adore for so many reasons. I started my garden visiting at the very end of March with the first of a number of visits to Stockton Bury Gardens in Herefordshire. This is a favourite garden of mine being quite close and always having a good selection on interesting plants. The garden work continued into April and I finally decided on what colour to paint the shed much to every one’s relief.
Then in May the travelling started. The month started with the annual visit to the Malvern Spring Show, always a delight which boost my gardening enthusiasm. This was closely followed by a trip to Rome with Mum. It was nice to do a city break although I remain unconvinced that cities are my favourite holiday destinations. June was a real highlight as I finally got to visit Great Dixter and Sissinghurst. I spent 3 days in the area, attending a study day at Great Dixter (which I might repeat in 2016 depending on other plans). Then if that wasn’t enough I spent a wonderful week on a garden visiting trip in Dublin and Cork led by Noel Kingsbury. During the week I got to visit another 3 gardens on my wish list: Helen Dillon’s Garden, Hunting Brook, and June Blake’s garden.
Off the back of this trip I was invited to a gardener’s lunch at Noel and Jo’s garden in Herefordshire. A delightful place, completely different to my garden, planted in a wilder style but full of interest and atmosphere. In September I indulged my growing interest in ferns and attending a British Pteridological Society visit to two local gardens, one owned by the esteemed Veronica Cross and the other owned by a passionate plantsman who rarely opens his garden. It was a great day in the company of passionate plants people such as Martin Rickards; I learnt a lot.
In October we had the first meeting of the RHS Symphyotrichum trial. I have been asked to act as recorder for the trial which is being held at the local Old Court Nurseries, rather than RHS Wisley. Asking me to undertake this task is a bit of a leap of faith for the RHS as I don’t think they have used a non-RHS recorder before. The trial will last for 3 years.
November was a challenging month at work but I did manage to go to the AGS Annual Conference over a weekend in Stratford which I really enjoyed as I reconnected with friends and may have made plans for a trip to Greece in late 2015. As for December I was lucky to finish work on the 18th and so I have had time to recharge the batteries and tick another couple of hills off my Malvern Hills Challenge. And just to round the year off properly I hope to visit Kew Gardens on Tuesday with some friends.
What will 2016 bring, who knows. There will probably be more significant changes at work but I am determined to get the balance between work and home better this year. I have a trip to North Essex planned in early summer, another short trip to Devon with Mum in the summer when I hope to include a few gardens I have wanted to visit for a while and then the trip to Greece, or possibly Japan (although I’m not sure that trip is going ahead). Then there will be the usual trips to the RHS Malvern and Chelsea Shows.
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
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.
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’
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 elwesii (probably)
Galanthus elwesii Mrs Mcnamara
The actual flower count list is as follows:
Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’
Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Mcnamara’
Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’
Galanthus plicatus ‘Colossus’
Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Rose’
Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’
3 x other unknown Hellebores
Salvia involucrata boutin
Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’
Cyclamen persicum (I think, bought in 2014 as a bedding plant)
11 x assorted primulas
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
Weeding in the garden today, listening to a big fat bee buzzing around the Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, and feeling the sun on my back you could be forgiven for thinking it was Spring. This assumption was reinforced by the flowering of snowdrops, hellebores and primulas with even the Daphne putting in a show. However it is mid December with the shortest day just two days away. This winter has been incredibly mild so much so that it is hard to believe we will be recovering from the over indulgences of Christmas in just 5 days.
After weekend after weekend of rain it was with pure delight that I was out cutting back hellebore leaves first thing this morning, making the most of the blue skies in case they were going to be short-lived but I needn’t have worried as the fine weather lasted longer than my energy levels or my back muscles.
I don’t ascribe to the ‘slow gardening’ approach at this time of year which advocates leaving all the tidying up until the spring. I think it is fine if you have a garden that is grasses and late summer perennials but with a garden like mine that I like to look as good as possible all year and which is planted in the layer style it is important to keep on top of things. I’m not talking about putting the garden to bed for the winter – what a waste of a quarter of the year and so many delights. Instead I love to potter and tidy and consider. With the amount of rain we have had this month I am glad I take this approach as lifting the sodden thick layers of sycamore leaves revealed the hellebore flower buds above which were struggling to push their way through just as some of the bulbs were, you can see how little light has got to them.
Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’
Back on the 5th December I shared my surprise at discovering a snowdrop about to open. Finally this weekend I have had the privilege of seeing the flowers fully open and this has helped me confirm that its identify is Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’, a very elegant flower with long outer petals and a nice nodding head.
Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’
The main borders have been tidied and cleared of leaves and decaying stems cut back. I still have the very back borders to do and I have a scheme around the compost bins that I am hoping I might get a chance to carry out before I return to work on the 4th January, which does seem a very long way away being next year! Though no doubt having seen the forecast I will spend more time day dreaming over seed catalogues and making plans for gardens to visit this year.