A fresh perspective

Hepatica noblis

My head is buzzing with ideas, one idea bouncing off another and taking my gardening thoughts in another direction. It takes me back, two, three years ago or even four years back when I was really immersed in my garden.  Over the past period my focus on the garden has been limited for a wide range of reasons which I won’t bore you with but the upside is that I now find myself looking at the garden with fresh eyes.  It’s as if I have moved to a new garden and can start again.  Even better, I’m not so sentimental about plants as I was before.  I find myself looking at plants and thinking this really isn’t working any more or, to be quite frank, I just bored of this plant.  Now for some this might sound a terrible way to think as like many keen gardeners I have often nurtured the plants, coaxing them to establish and grow well. But a garden is not a museum, plants out grow their space, the gardener’s tastes move on and change is, in my opinion, healthy.

Now this picture makes me incredibly happy.  My hard working greenhouse has been helping me in my horticultural pursuits for at least 10 years and has gone through various iterations. When I first got the greenhouse I set it up with staging on both sides and a potting bench at the end.  Its a tiny greenhouse, just enough room for me to stand in the middle and it means I have to spend a lot of time and effort in moving plants around during the seasons to maximise the space.  For the last few years I have had some deep tray staging, the type you can plunge pots into gravel or sand in. I installed it as I was dabbling in alpines and miniature bulbs which I enjoyed for a while but the trouble is that I’m easily lead and a bit of a magpie, attracted to one shiny plant after another. So my poor little greenhouse was trying to house alpines, half hardy ferns, and succulents – a recipe for failure.  Add to that my complete disengagement and failure was guaranteed. Slowly but surely various plants died, or I planted them out, or just got rid of them.  What is now left are the plants that make me happy, albeit it a small and select group.

My new approach is to go back to basics, back to what used to make me happy years back when I first got into gardening.  I don’t engage in a lot of social media any more and I think that has freed my mind up, I’m no longer being lead astray by what others are doing, the latest fade or trend.  Instead I want to create a lovely, pretty cottage garden full of my favourite plants – both flowers and edible.

The greenhouse is the first step in this new approach.  I have removed the deep staging and returned the potting bench.  I’ve decided not to have two sets of staging as later this year I would like to grow some tomatoes in the greenhouse so this space is being used for the remaining tenders that still need a winter home. The potting bench has all that is left of my propagating supplies.  A month or so ago I ditched all the plastic pots and trays, old seed packets etc and started again.

It has been liberating….now my mind is clear and I can think more clearly and plans are forming.

 

 

Safely stored away

A bit of a panic today when I saw that temperatures might go down to 3C tonight and tomorrow night. 

Whilst I had started to move some of my tender plants under cover a few weeks ago the job was far from complete.  I had been putting it off partly due to the hefting of heavy pots but also because the greenhouse with a few pots tastefully arranged was looking very smart. 

So with fingers quickly beginning to chill I scooted round the garden between showers collecting up the assorted pots.  The pelargoniums were cut back and in some cases transferred to small pots to over winter.  The succulents were gathered and in at least one case potted up into a larger pots.  This left the bergonias and the tender ferns which had got ridiculously big over the summer and obviously benefited from some months in the heat.

As you can see my greenhouse is tiny just 8ft x 8ft but it works very hard. I have rearranged the staging over the summer, trying a different layout to see if the space works better.  Previously the staging ran along both sides – we shall see how I get on over the winter; but I cant change it quickly due to the amount of gravel in the gravel trays.  The deeper gravel trays have drainage in the bottom of them so when I water the top layer the bottom layer also gets a soak.  I take this into account when I arrange the plants so for now I have placed the pelargoniums and bergonias underneath so they benefit from the residual water from the ferns and bulbs.  The other staging is shallower and with no drainage holes so I use the bottom shelf for either resting bulbs or succulents which do better kept almost dry over the winter.

I will rearrange as the months progress especially as the bulbs flower and pass on but I seem to have managed to get a better arrangement this year which allows me to stand in the greenhouse and see everything which is an improvement on last year.

There’s just the rest of the garden to sort out now, oh and a large box of bulbs to sort.

A good clean up

I generally have little interest in gardening in August, its normally too hot for me and I think I’m just waiting for Autumn to start appearing round the corner, one of my two favourite months. This year I’ve been even worse given the heat wave we have endured since May.  However, apart from a bit of regular watering the garden has got on with things itself and to be honest I think the heat has not just stopped plants growing and flowers forming but also slowed down the weeds and the grass.

However, now we have had some good downpours of rain over the past couple of weeks and the temperatures are cooling down my gardening mojo has come out  of aestivation. (isn’t that a good word – its equivalent to hibernation but due to heat) and work has started again.

First up was the greenhouse which has unusually been sitting empty for most of the summer.  The temperatures, exceeding 50C, have just been too hot even for the succulents.  With it more or less empty I decided to take the opportunity to give it a good clean out and despite its age it isn’t looking too bad now.  The next job is to put new gravel in the gravel trays and to sort through the array of potted items to decide what is worth saving and what needs to go on the compost heap.  I doubt I will be doing much serious seed sowing in the future, aside from ferns and some more unusual experimental seeds.  I fail year after year with annuals, especially at the seedling stage and I’m tired of sad and leggy plants so I am ditching this approach.  The greenhouse will, I think, be more for hosting my tender, succulent and fern collections through the colder months.

Next on my list to tackle was the old compost area at the top of the garden.  I blogged some months back that I had gone to the dark side and now use a council garden waste collection service and I had hoped to clear the old compost space back in May but the heat put paid to that.

As you can see the compost heaps which had been sitting there now for a couple of years were full of reasonable quality compost.  My pragmatic approach has been to pull all the compost out and layer it over the surrounding area.  The grass here, which you can just see above, is dead, and has never rooted very well since it was laid some years back. I am working on the basis that the layer of compost is so thick that it will smoother the grass into dying.  It way work, it may not but I have done something similar before and it was fine.  I was quite triumphant as I managed to man-handle most of the pallets at least half way down the garden on my own before my son had to step in and take them the rest of the way and to the dump.

This is my new planting area a couple of weeks ago just before we had a day of heavy rain.  I have done more work on it along the edges to tidy it up and plant it.  A holly hedge has gone in along the fence line using some seedlings gathered from my mother’s garden.  Then I have planted the space up with a collection of plants which have been waiting on the patio for a home.  The backbone of the planting will be from a camellia, a couple of hydrangeas, a viburnum and possibly a tree peony which is being crowded out elsewhere.  I have then added five assorted ferns.  I hope to add more from my collection but I am waiting to see how moist the front edge of the area is. I have also this last weekend added loads of narcissus bulbs and some cyclamen hederifolium.  I also plan to add snowdrops, some are in pots on the patio and I need to thin them out elsewhere in the garden.  I would like to add trilliums and some other woodlanders so the plan is to let the leaves from the willow and prunus remain on the soil and maybe even add other fallen leaves from elsewhere in the garden to try to build up the leaf litter for these plants.

Now I’m moving on to the next projects – a new driveway, moving the fern border on the edge of the patio which has outgrown its spot, and finishing removing the old path along the top of the garden and planting the space is provides.

My hope is to create a more densely planted garden which looks after itself more allowing me more time for my textiles – we shall see if the plan works.

My Garden This Weekend – 9th August 2015

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It seems as though summer has finally arrived, the temperatures have definitely lifted into the 20Cs and the borders are very dry; not great given the plants I have planted out in the last few weeks such as the Echinacea above.

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I was lucky to receive a gift of a number of Echinacea from Rob Cole at Meadow Farm last weekend.  Rob is known for his breeding of Echinacea and he is working towards breeding some strong varieties which will do well year on year in British gardens. I have planted them out in the top of the Big Border and they have added a real bling along the grass path.

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The border isn’t as floriferous as it was a few days ago due to me cutting flowers for the local horticultural show.  I hadn’t planned to enter as I have been so busy at work and as Treasurer of the society I had a lot to do making up prize money etc. However, time was on my side for a change and I had time on Friday evening to put 7 entries together.  I’m glad I did as I came away with two second places, three thirds, and one highly commended.  Not bad for a last minute effort.

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In another week this Agapanthus ‘Alan Street’ might have done well despite, like many plants in my garden, leaning distinctly to one side.  I thought it would be better this year with the removal of the majority of the willow but now I wonder if it is just an effect of the slope.  I think if I want to show plants next year I will have to identify them early and stake them.

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Given the dryness of the borders my gardening time had to be focussed on the greenhouse which as you can see from state of the tomato plants was a good thing.  I had no intention of growing tomatoes this year but my youngest had a green moment back in the Spring sowing various seeds including tomatoes, peppers, chilli and herbs for his new house.  Sadly with one thing and another the move had to be cancelled and I ended up with all the plants.  Now he and his girlfriend are about to rent a house I am hoping that some of the chillies and peppers might find a way to their new home but I will definitely be left with the tomatoes.  I spent today rearranging everything in the greenhouse so that I can also get in, just about, and water the plants.  A few nice surprises were lying in wait for me beneath the tomatoes – the first fern plantlets had appeared and the Euphorbia cuttings had taken.  These are both firsts for me so I was really thrilled.

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Finally I leave you with a photo of my herb window box which like the greenhouse has taken advantage of my lack of attention and is completely out of control.  There are herbs in here, more of my son’s purchases for his original house, but I added a few nasturtium seeds I happened to have and they seem to have gone mad.  I think they look wonderful and am considering trying the same over the prostrate rosemary next year.

And now I have to go and water the garden again… I would so like it to rain.

My Garden This Weekend – 26th April 2015

 Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Valentine'
Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Valentine’

Today the forecasters predicted low temperatures of around 10C and wind and maybe rain.  Now I would certainly have welcomed the rain since it hasn’t really rained all month and whilst the established plants are fine those I have been planting out over the last month are struggling.  However, the reality of the weather is that we have had an amazingly beautiful spring day with temperatures reaching around 18C this afternoon.  We had rain overnight, not enough to make much difference to the water butts but at least it was some.  I was meant to take my mother out to buy a lilac for her garden as a birthday present but she was so convinced by the weather forecast that we went and bought it during the week meaning that today I was free to play in the garden.

2015_04250061The focus of my efforts today was to address all the seedlings that have been germinating and need pricking out.  I am very good when it comes to sowing seeds but the looking after them once they have germinated, certainly beyond the initial pricking out, leaves something to be desired. I am trying very hard to do better. It is that time of year when space is at a premium and I am conscious that in a week or so I will be sowing the tender annuals such as zinnias.  Both the cold frames are full on the top shelves although the bottom halves are empty since this is very shady and not ideal for seedlings but good for storing tall plants over winter.  Anyway, as ever it started out with some organised pricking out and then the greenhouse got yet another reshuffle.  The temporary shelf was replaced with a wider one – its amazing what wood you have to hand when your son is a cabinet maker.  Whilst this was a distraction I finally took cuttings of the aeoniums and malmaison carnations which I have been meaning to do for weeks. I am really hoping that with a little care I can get the carnations to flower this year. I have started to pull some of the larger plants out during the day to start hardening them off so hopefully it won’t be too long before the space issue is no more.

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The border along the patio which I really sorted back in March is looking so much better now. By removing all the bluebells the lily of the valley has re-emerged and its fresh leaves look very pretty.  Sadly there aren’t that many flowers and I wonder if this is because the plants have been swamped for years; time will tell.  The four meconopsis poppies are still in existence and have grown slightly, hopefully if we have the rain they forecast later this week they will put some real growth on.  2015_04250021

But the thing that has been occupying most of my thinking is the front garden.  I was going to say I have a love/hate relationship with it but that would be far to generous – I hate it.  I always have and it has defied all my attempts to engage with it and make it something I am proud of.  Maybe that is a little harsh since obviously it’s not the garden’s fault that I don’t like it but I do despair particularly with the area at the very front by the birch.  I have added loads of organic matter and mulched it over the years but as soon as we have some dry weather the clay in it turns to rock and it is pointless trying to weed or plant or anything.  I have blamed some of my apathy on not enjoying working in the front garden as it’s not very private but both the laurel (not my best idea) and beech hedges I have planted have grown and provide a degree of privacy. I squared off the lawn a few years back to provide some formality and have tried an approach of planting an edge of alchemilla mollis, bergenia and as you can see ballerina tulips but whilst I love the tulips I think this style/approach isn’t me. When I was weeding here earlier in the week I found myself telling myself off.  The front garden is the size of many a small garden and here I am ignoring it whilst I am desperate for more space for the plants I love in the back garden.   It dawned on me that part of the problem is that my favourite plants are woodland plants and I enjoy planting shady borders. Whereas the front garden is anything but shady and I need to embrace a new range of plants and a new approach to make the most of this space.  2015_04250020Where to start? It occurred to me that I needed to consider plants that could cope with baking in the clay in the summer so I started to re-read Beth Chatto’s The Dry Garden which was quite inspiring.  The thought process lead to the notion that really I should just dig up the lawn and be done with it.  Lawn is far to grand a term as it is mostly moss which goes dry and yellow in the summer. I think I find the strong shape of the lawn quite limiting for some reason, I much prefer the more relaxed approach I have in the back garden.  I also looked at the recent book on A Year in the Life of Beth Chatto’s Garden which is very photogenic but lead me to conclude that a dry garden wouldn’t necessarily work given the wet clay in winter and to be honest I struggled to see me working with this style of planting.  Then by chance yesterday, I won Dream Plants for the Natural Garden in the raffle at the local HPS meeting and this coincided with a thought that maybe I could finally get grasses to work in the garden.  So the current thinking is to go for a naturalistic approach.  I want to add a small tree and I can visualise some Stipa gigantea catching the morning sun, then….. well that as far as I have got.  My block at the moment is that there is no reason for anyone to go in the front garden.  The front door is roughly in line with the side border where the tulips are so anyone coming to the house walks up the driveway and to the door.  I have toyed with putting some sort of path through the garden but again it would be too contrived and no one would use it.  I think there needs to be some sort of path or clearing if only to assist me with working in the space but I just can’t visualise it yet.

I don’t plan to do anything drastic until late summer/autumn so lots of time to think and plan and draw up lists of plants.

 

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

Greenhouse Review – March 2015

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I have been meaning to join in with Peonies and Posies monthly meme on the greenhouse for a while but I keep forgetting.  Luckily I spotted a post elsewhere which has reminded me so here I am.  My greenhouse is tiny, a mere tiddler compared with P & P’s gorgeous greenhouse – not that I am jealous at all! I did do a monthly greenhouse post back in 2012 and you can read the first one here to find out a bit more about my greenhouse.

Essentially it is a small 6′ x 4′ greenhouse with power to it.  It has been through a number of guises since 2012 as I have floundered around in my gardening interests, trying this and that, and have almost come back to where I started.  I don’t grow tomatoes in the greenhouse any more. Well to be honest I don’t grow any edibles at the moment, that might change in time but as of today there are no plans to. Last year I went a little off piste and invested in a sand plunge as I thought I wanted to grow and show alpines but it has become quickly clear to me that for a number of reasons, not least time, this is not something I want or can to do at the moment. I am looking for a way to reinvent the plunge and I am thinking making it into a heated prop bench might be interesting.2015_03080024

So the pots of bulbs are being moved out into the garden and I am looking for places for them to thrive.  That is with the exception of the tender bulbs particularly South Africa ones which I have a weakness for at the moment.  I don’t know if that will last as I seem to be experimenting with all sorts of plants at the moment.  Due to the bulbs my succulent collection, which I was quite proud of, was overwintered in the garage which was fine for a while but somehow, when I moved them back to the greenhouse, I think they caught a chill or I over watered them but the result was I have lost about half of the plants. It is a pity but it frees up some space for  new plants.  I don’t think I will be replacing them with succulents but again we shall see.

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You will also have noticed my shameful collection of pelargoniums which were also overwintered in the garage.  They need re-potting into fresh compost and regular feeding from now through the season.  Again I have lost a few.

All this dithering and being distracted with this and that, has resulted in the losses and I think the tiny greenhouse really brings into focus the scatter gun approach I have had over the last few years to gardening.  However, I am moving forward in a positive way knowing much more what I am really interested in and what makes me happy which can only be a good thing.

As you will have spotted I have been sowing seeds of various annuals and also some perennials.  Spending a couple of hours sowing the seeds made me very happy and it feels like I have come home.

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You can see how well used the greenhouse is.  The bit of space you can see on the floor is actually normally occupied by a Bottlebrush plant, grown from seed, which I am toying with planting out this year as it is just getting too big to be overwintered in the greenhouse and I think the plant needs to get its roots down into the soil.

I also have two 3 tier cold frames which are full at the moment with overwintering perennial seedlings, and more pots which I am hoping to spot some seeds germinating in soon. My goal this year is to do a better job of growing on seedlings which is my weakness.

Thank to Julie for hosting this meme which is meant to be posted around the 11th of the month.

My Garden This Weekend – 16/2/15

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I am still aching from my gardening session yesterday which shows either just how unfit I have got over the winter or that I took on more than I should have.  It doesn’t matter though because despite the aches I am really pleased with what I achieved and it certainly clears your head and recharges you mentally before another week at work.

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Not the most prepossessing photo but it signifies a good couple of hours work and much hauling of heavy and awkward objects.  This is the space that was formally occupied by the Stipa gigantea and I was intent on improving the soil so I could plant out at least one of my new peonies.  Having dug up the couple of bearded irises which had disappeared under the skirt of the grass and hadn’t flowered for years I added a bag of gravel and some sand to improve the drainage and break up the residual clay.  This was then topped off with three bags of green waste compost from the local council which is like black gold. The initial planting has been done although its hardly obviously but I am assure you that a Peony Immaculata, Agapanthus ‘Alan Street’, Agapanthus ardernei hybrid and the original irises have all been planted.  The Agapanthus had been growing in pots on the patio and overwintering in the garage.  However I read somewhere that deciduous Agapanthus are generally hardy so I have taken a gamble and planted them out – fingers crossed.  I now need to think about what additional planting is needed to fill in.  I am thinking of Aquilegias as I have a number of plants to plant out but I also need something for late summer but without strappy leaves.

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Before I added the compost etc to the border above I took a soil sample so I could test the PH.  Now I know it is basic horticultural practice, what you could term gardening 101, but I realised the other day that I had never tested the soil in my garden.  I planted a rhododendron from my last garden when we moved in and as it has done alright I had assumed the soil was acidic. My neighbour has a wonderful Pieris (top pic) in his garden which grows over my fence and is healthy and floriferous so knowing Pieris need acidic soil I don’t think my assumption was too daft.  So I was completely flummoxed when the test showed the soil was alkaline (7.5).  This is Ok for the bearded iris and means I don’t need to add lime to the soil but it got me wondering about the rest of the garden and the two rhododendrons I had recently bought.  Three further tests later from different parts of the garden and the conclusion seems to be that the soil is alkaline this would explain why eranthis do so well in my garden but I am still perplexed as to why the Pieris looks so good and what to do with the two new rhododendrons!

2015_02160018Of course the obvious thing to do having spent a couple of hours digging and lugging heavy things is to empty a small greenhouse of the pots of bulbs (heavy with gravel), remove the overwintering tender plants from the garage and generally re-organise the whole lot.   As I have been indecisive over the last 6 months or so I have gone off the idea of showing plants as I just do not have the time to ensure they are up to standard and I don’t need any more pressure or stress in my life at the moment as there is enough in my working life.  This being so I decided that I really didn’t need to keep the pots of bulbs in the greenhouse especially as the likelihood of sustained long temperatures was past.  I do like seeing the pots of alpines and bulbs in alpine houses but I have discovered that I get more of a feel good factor from a collection of tender plants and I was missing mine which had been banished to the garage.

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The view above makes me much happier.  I have still got some pots of bulbs in the greenhouse including some S. African ones which won’t do well outside and the Narcissus bulbocodium whose hardiness I’m not sure on and need to research.  As the bulbs go over they will be moved to under the staging to dry out and rest.  I will have to rejig things at some point in order to accommodate the hall hardy annuals I want to sow but I am OK for time at the moment.

As you can imagine after all that labouring I was quite exhausted but I was thrilled at what I had achieved.  I have no plans at all for next weekend so weather permitting I will have two days to garden and hopefully the other two peonies will be planted.

My Garden this Weekend – 25th January 2015

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With a little sunshine this weekend and a slight increase in the temperatures the first hellebores are starting to open.  This is the plant that hooked me on hellebores some 7 years ago.  I used to use it as my avatar on twitter and Blotanical.  It is one of the Ashwood hybrids and I love the yellow and red combination.

Galanthus Selborne Green Tips
Galanthus Selborne Green Tips

 

The mystery snowdrop has opened and I am none the wiser.  I know where and when I bought it but I can find nothing written down in my notebooks or on the blog about what it is.  Ho-hum

At last I have found the label for the snowdrop – Galanthus Selborne Green Tip

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Although I like the special snowdrops I have bought I still feel more anticipation at waiting for the clumps of ordinary Galanthus nivalis to open.  I also have the double Galanthus nivalis Flora Pleno which is already beginning to spread despite only being planted just over a year ago.

Eranthis hyemalis
Eranthis hyemalis

Eranthis grunling
Eranthis grunling

Eranthis schwefelglanz
Eranthis schwefelglanz

My eranthis are beginning to appear around the garden which is pleasing as some were only added a year ago.  Unlike the snowdrops I can tell the difference between these three.  Eranthis hyemalis is the ordinary one, schwefelglanz is a pale yellow and grunling has green stripes to the flowers. I think there are some more which I would like to collect, I heard tell of a double the other day so I will be seeking those out.

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The very first daffodils in the garden are about to open.  I have no idea what variety they are, they came with the garden but they always flower early.  This picture amused me as I think they look like two geese or ducks – but then I may have a strange imagination.

I did find some time to do a few gardening tasks over the weekend although I found after an hour outside my toes were quite frozen despite several layers of socks.  I am pleased that I tidied up the driveway border in the front garden and also the Big Border.  The garden is looking more ready for Spring than it has in any other year which is satisfying although there are still some areas that I need to tackle but these will involve more heavy duty work and some shrub rearranging.  Today I mulched the woodland border just managing to get the wood bark down before the bulbs had emerge too much making it tricky.  Like many gardeners I have spent some time over the winter thinking about the garden and planning what I want to grow and plant over the coming season.

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I am going through a period of working through various emotions and trying to work out, as much as is possible, what I would like to achieve in various aspects of my life.  I suspect this need to have a plan or objective is due to several uncertainties in my life that I have no control over at the moment.  One of the things I can control and plan is what I want to do in the garden over the coming season and what will make me happy.  I have mentioned over the last month how I have been inspired by some television programmes and books and I feel that I have a much clearer idea in my head of how I want the garden to develop, finally.  Part of this is re-engaging with my old love of growing plants from seed and in particular some annuals that I haven’t grown for years including rudbeckia and zinnias.  My pocket diary this year has the saying ‘Do more of what makes you happy’ on the front and I have taken this as my motto for the year.   I spent yesterday evening sorting through my box of seed packets and sorting out what I hope to sow this year and when, for no other reason than the flowers make me happy – no planning for shows etc.

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Part of my frustrations come from only seeing the garden at weekends although already this is starting to change and I almost get home in day light.  I have invested in recent years in a number of miniature bulbs, partly with a view to showing, but also because I love their daintiness.  However, I don’t get to see them properly as they are in the greenhouse and its generally dark.  I don’t have the time, working full-time, to perfect the plants for showing and I am someone who needs to do something well if they are going to do it – I hate failing.  I have decided to put showing on the back burner until I can do it properly unless there is a show near home and I happen to have something looking good.  My friend, Dee, posted a picture of iris reticulata on Facebook today on display in her home and I think this is what I want to do more – bring the pots into the house as the bulbs are about to flower.  I have invested in a plunge bed and I hate waste so I have been exploring the possibility of converting it into a heated propagator which it seems is very feasible, thanks to advice from friends on twitter.  This will mean that the annuals etc I want to grow from seed and the cuttings I would like to try taking will get a better start so hopefully all will turn out for the best.

I sometimes think I should rename the blog – The Indecisive Gardener – as I change my mind so much.  I think some of this is due to the overload of images and information you can get via social media so I need to step back a little bit to let my head clear.  I spend a lot of time on social media in the evenings, especially at this time of year, as it’s a distraction and it stops me chewing my fingers (a very bad habit).  I had been doing some embroidery which I have blogged about before but the project I was working on is a little fiddly and I have been avoiding it so I have today ordered some new materials for  new project which should be a good distraction and a calming influence until the evenings are light enough for me to play in the garden after work.

My Garden This Weekend – 18th January 2015

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As you can see the garden has had a dose of winter this weekend albeit short-lived with the majority of the snow having melted by Saturday lunchtime. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed that it was too cold to do anything outside as all I wanted to do yesterday was hide inside.  I have been overcome with a tidal wave of grief which has crept up on me unexpectedly during the week, just like when you don’t notice the tide coming further up the beach.  It left me feeling emotional and close to tears for 48 hours not an ideal state of mind when you have to go to work.  It took  a while to identify it for what it was, going through all the usual others things, dismissing PMT, depression, concern about changes at work etc.  No it was grief, cold and hard and something you just have to accept and wait for it to pass.

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I have been getting on with life over recent months, being busy, since Dad died and although I think about him a lot I have felt I was doing OK.  But grief has a habit of creeping up on you and engulfing you when you least expect it.  I suppose I am lucky in that I learnt to recognise and accept it for what it is about a year after my sister died thanks to a wonderful counsellor.  This time it was a book that bought everything to a head.  A beautifully written book, if the first chapter or two is to go by, H for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  The book is about the author training a Goshawk but it is also about her coming to terms with the loss of her father.  Needless to say it starts with her reacting to the news her Dad had died and I suppose it struck at something deep down because I kept obsessing about one paragraph, where they are looking for the father’s car.  I can’t even talk about the story without crying but then again I don’t think that is a bad thing because I believe it is better to let these things happen rather than fight them. We do more damage to ourselves with the British stiff upper lip approach.

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So the only gardening I did this weekend was to move things around in the greenhouse.  Rejigging the pots of bulbs so that those emerging have the best light and the late summer bulbs, such as nerines, are moved under the staging to rest for a while.

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Sunday has been a better day.  Having recognised the grief for what it was, had a good cry, I woke up feeling like my old self again and ready to battle on.  I have been decorating the hall, landing and stairs, which means endless gloss work which I can doing in stages.  So after tackling some of the bannisters Mum and I went out for a jaunt to Ashwood Nurseries which is just over an hour from here.  My boss had given me some garden vouchers for Christmas and I had earmarked them for some more hellebores and some spring flowering shrubs.  A lot of research has been done in recent evenings and a mental wish list drawn up.

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The choice at Ashwoods is extensive and always so well displayed.  I realised I have only visited at this time of year, the last time for a hellebore talk, so I must try to visit again through the year but if this is the quality of the display in early January I can only imagine how wonderful it will be in a few months.

I came home with 3 hellebores – Anna’s Red, Neon Star and Walbertons Rosemary which has been bred to look upwards, 3 heptica nobilis, a clivia and two dwarf rhododendrons that are part of my new planting plan for the border you can see in the second photograph.

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We had a nice lunch, a laugh, talked about Dad, grief, glosswork (Mum is decorating too) and strangely bought a resin tortoise (a gift for my Aunt!).  We are going back in March for my birthday so Mum can treat me to something, probably for the border above.

As for the book …. it is safely back on the shelf waiting for such time as I feel more emotional able to read it.