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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Autumn has decidedly arrived although not the crisp dry Autumn that I prefer, instead it has been a bit grey and quite damp leading to soggy piles of leaves to collect; many have already been collected.
I have noticed that despite the lower light levels there is still interest in the garden mainly from the various asters. I think the smaller flowers add some real texture although I want to add some of the larger and brighter flowered asters next year and maybe some more rudbeckias to lift it all.
The first job was to weed the slope where the Hardy Exotic Border is and plant a mass of mixed daffodil bulbs. I am conscious that many of the plants will die back over the winter and I don’t really want a large bare area so I am hoping the daffodils will add some spring interest and colour until the main planting reappears. As my garden is quite small I need to make ever area work as hard as possible. I am trying to adopt the idea of layered or succession planting as advocated by Christopher Lloyd and also David Culp but of course although I understand the logic and purpose putting it into action isn’t as easy as it appears. I think you really need to understand the plants well and I haven’t quite got there. To help me out I am thrilled to have signed up for a study day at Great Dixter next June.
At the moment my starting point is to give each area a key season of interest. So the border above is a spring/winter border with the conifers and some bulbs which will appear in the new year. Today I have added a few cyclamen to give colour. There is a sprawling geranium in the front of the border which looks wrong and will be relocated elsewhere. I think a Japanese Painted Fern, yes I know another fern, would look good here and I fancy some white vinca or maybe periwinkle around the tree trunk.
A small achievement was finally sorting the area in front of the shed and fence. This has been a bit of a dumping ground since the shed went in over a year ago and has been irritating me for some months. My son plans to put a wood store here, the shed is his workshop, but he is so busy it is well down his list of priorities so I decided to take charge. It is amazing how much things are improved with a quick tidy up, a thick layer of gravel, a bit of fence paint and a few pots. The little auricula is far too small so I need to find one of my other pots to go here. I am thinking maybe a pot of bedding cyclamen.
Elsewhere I planted out the shrubs I bought at the Hergest Croft plant fair last weekend. The Hydrangea Merveilla Sanguine at the top of the slope to add to the foliage interest. I was told it needs good moist conditions and maybe at the top of a slope isn’t the best place but the soil is very heavy clay based here and doesn’t seem to dry out too fast so fingers crossed.
More bare soil but this is where the dead acer was and I am quite pleased with how it is coming along. I have added a Leptospernum myrtifolium ‘Silver Sheen’ and Berberis seiboldii which is quite electric at the moment and should be wonderful in a year or two. Also planted out today is an unnamed double hellebore and some bedding cyclamen. There are lots of spring perennials under the soil here at the front of the border so I have added the cyclamen for interest until I am reminded what is here and where it is!!
I thought I would show you a border I replanted just over a year ago – The Japanese Fern Border. A grand title for a small area alongside the patio which admittedly has other perennials other than ferns but they are all from Asia – apart from the stray Welsh Poppy in the back there. The ferns have really filled out and it looks lush and full and makes me smile.
Just for Yvonne I have include the Primrose Jack in Green at the top of the post which I look at when I sit on the bench.
My friend Victoria has recently said on her blog it is good to get away from your garden for a week or so as when you return you see it with fresh eyes. I think she is right. Having been away from home for a week and then feeling unwell when I finally got into the garden, even though it was ridiculously hot and not my kind of weather, I didn’t feel the same dis-interest as I did a month ago. I do find this time of year hard in the garden. I am more of a do-er so I prefer the Spring and Autumn when there are lots to do; I even don’t mind Winter as I can potter in the greenhouse or make plans. But Summer I struggle with. As I sit in the garden I seem to only see what needs doing and what isn’t working well and this is always a sign that I need to get away for a while.
While I have been away the dahlia have started to flower. This year they are all planted out in large pots as I filled their previous home with other plants. They seem to be doing very well this year, even better than last year. I have been following John Massey, of Ashwood Nurseries, advice and putting a little feed in whenever I water the pots.
It has been too hot to do much but I am known in my family for fidgeting so I decided to give the patio table and chairs a make-over. They, like so much else, has been neglected for the last year or two and were looking pale and dry. So I have sanded them down and applied numerous coats of teak oil. It was satisfying to do as the results are quite quick and I do like the smell of teak oil! The wood has been given a new lease of life and looks, in my opinion, better than when I first bought them, as you can see the grain etc better.
So now the table has had a face lift the Table of Delights has been re-instated. I have to admit that it was for most of Spring covered in seed trays but these are now all sorted or accommodated elsewhere and I am going to try very hard to keep it looking nice! The current residents are: Eucomis autumalis, Aeonium ‘Cornish Tribute’ and Allium flavum.
I’m conscious that I need to start re-potting my bulb collection but in order to do this I needed to sort out the chaos that had taken over part of the greenhouse. This morning when it was cool this seemed like a good idea but this afternoon the temperatures have soared again much higher than they forecast. Anyway, I have soldiered on and I am pleased with the result. A number of aloe seedlings and other smaller succulents, surplus to requirement, have been potted up ready to donate to the local horticultural show in a couple of weeks. All the other greenhouse residents have had a once over and where needed repotted – some borderline plants have been planted out and told they need to toughen up and take their chances!!
The result has cheered me up and I feel as though I have some handle on things – well that is until I go up the garden and see the various brambles that need to come out and the dead acer that needs removing, and….. well you could go on for ever but this is what I enjoy about gardening; there is always something new to interest or challenge you.
What a rewarding weekend in so many planty ways. I spent Saturday at the annual HPS Variegated Specialist Group meeting which was held near by and was fascinating. The attendance was much smaller than at the annual Galanthus group meeting but being smaller number, possibly 30ish, the welcome to a new member was wonderful and the day was good fun. There was an informal AGM, followed by a fascinating talk by the Treasurer, Jane Kilpatrick, on the theme of her first book Fathers of Botany. This was Jane’s first ever talk and I was completely hooked on the story of the missionary plant hunters in China. Then we had a plant auction led by Bob Brown, the Chair, which was great as you learnt about the plants as they were sold off. The afternoon saw us visiting World End Nursery and the owner’s garden which was a great garden but the visit was so much more interesting given the knowledgeable company (at least 3 experienced nurserymen and a plant historian).
I came home feeling really recharged and my interest in the garden reinvigorated. I have cut down all the delphiniums which were just going over. Clearing the flower stems away showed me that the echinacea I had given up on were still there hidden away under the foliage. I am rethinking the Delphinium, which I know may surprise readers given how wonderful they have been, but they take up a lot of room and once they are cut down they leave large gaps in the border. I have made the decision this weekend that as the garden is full I need to be more ruthless and only plants I absolutely love will be given space. I like the Delphinium but I don’t love them as is evident from the few photographs taken of Delphinium compared to the roses. The Delphinium are also suffocating the roses and you could almost hear the sigh of relief as the delphiniums left. I haven’t dug the plants up but I think I might replace them with more foxgloves and aquilegias which I enjoy far more.
I spent today tweaking the Big Border. I removed some campanula and also thalictrum flavum which just don’t appeal to me any more. I moved some of the Calmagrostis ‘Overdam’ around as I didn’t allow enough space for everything when the border was planted up in the spring. I think the border is looking better now as the plants look less hemmed in. As I am on a mission to plant out all my purchases I added a fern, epimedium and peony to the far end of the border. Before I completely ran out of steam I removed a load of Japanese Anemones from the border on the other side of the grass path.
There are a number of plants which I am really pleased about. Firstly the digitalis in the photo above which is just so elegant. It is meant to be digitalis trojana but when I compare my flowers with images on the web they seem far more yellow. I might have to find an expert to ask. I am also waiting for the Cardicronum giganteum to flower hopefully it will do this before I go on holiday next week. I am also pleased with the Watsonia which has come through the albeit mild winter in the ground. Again I’m not sure about the identity of these plants. I had the seed labelled as Watsonis pillansii but this has been queried on Facebook. Whatever they are the flowers are very elegant and make me smile.
Now I just need to find something to recharge my interest in this blog – I am currently struggling to maintain my interest in it so it may be updated less regularly for a while.
After all the rain and cool temperatures we have had it has been a lovely warm weekend; even at times, dare I say it, too warm for gardening. Saturday was spent at the local HPS group meeting which I always enjoy as I rarely come away without learning something. I also inevitably come home with some plants despite telling myself there really is no more room. This week’s purchases are an Iris Louisiana ‘Sinfonietta’ and a Phyteuma scheuchzeri. Apparently the Iris Louisiana likes the same conditions as Iris Siberica and will cope with a little flooding from time to time.
This photo doesn’t convey the wonderful iridescent blue of the flowers which in fact almost match the pot. It is such a wonderful blue that Bob Brown made me go outside to admire the plant before I bought it. Anyway it is planted in the corner of the patio and fingers crossed it will do well.
I also wired up the side fence and planted a Rosa mutabilis which hopefully will spread to cover the fence under the neighbour’s Photinia – I think the colours will complement each other. I then planted out some Aeoniums in the succulent border in the front garden and moved most of the other succulents out of the greenhouse placing them around the patio and up the steps.
To continue the small planting theme I also emptied out the spring bedding in the Jasmine planter and replaced it with Begonias. This is a repeat of what I did last year which isn’t very original but it worked well and I walked round and round the garden centre and nothing really inspired me. I sense that any interest in bedding I may have had is waning and I am tending towards more permanent plantings in pots.
I also did some tidying up in the front garden, cut the grass and pondered what I could add to the Driveway Border to add some extra height and interest now the Irises have gone over and the Crocosmia aren’t yet flowering. I think I need some Verbascum. I am going to go for the Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’ as the white will continue the theme of the Potentilla and the dark red/burgundy flower centres will pick up on the Alliums and Erysium. I just need to decide whether to buy some plants now or whether to sow seed and be patient.
I then set too and tackled the patio border which has been swamped with Welsh Poppies and Bluebells. The new Edgeworthia is being eaten by something and I am assuming its slugs although the Kirengeshoma next to it is also suffering from holes appearing on the leaves and I’m not convinced this is slug damage as they are very regular. Anyway, I thought if I cleared away all the bluebell and narcissus debris then this would reduce the places for pests to hide and provide a healthier environment. I dug up all the Welsh Poppies. I know some people love them but they are like a weed in my garden self-seeding everywhere and I find their yellow flowers distract from the rest of the plants. I am sure en masse somewhere they would look fabulous but not dotted through my border. I also dug up what bluebell bulbs I could locate and I have replanted them up the garden. I know there are still some in the border but they are mixed up in the roots of the perennials and it would mean lifting plants etc. Anyway, the border looks a lot better now and I think the plants will be healthier.
Not bad for a day in the garden. Still lots more to do but then that is gardening for you.
For a change the weather gods have been kind to me and the forecast rain has held back and allowed me to garden to my heart’s delight. In fact I stopped when my back was aching after some five hours of happy pottering and contemplating. The garden is going through one of its lulls of transition from the spring bulbs to the summer perennials. All the colour seems to be coming from Aquilegia and the odd Geraniums at the moment.
You have no idea how happy this view makes me despite the weeds in the patio. The whole patio has been covered in pots of one sort or another for weeks. There was no way you could use the table which was also covered in trays of annuals and the seats didn’t even have anywhere to go. I have spent the morning potting up the dahlias and the last pelargoniums and set them around the garden. This is the first year in ages when I haven’t planted up hanging baskets or mixed pots but they have been such a faff in recent years that I have decided not to bother. However, I needed a home for the dahlias which were in the Big Border last year and had come through the winter stored in wood shavings in the garage so I decided to plant them up one per pot. Hopefully they should look quite stunning once in flower.
The new seating area also has a small selection of pots but as you can see I need to get more gravel to do the rest of the steps but thats a job for a few weeks time when my son is here to move the bags for me.I even bought a new pot for the Acer I won in a raffle recently. I have positioned it on the bottom of the top steps adjacent to a large weed which I have obviously overlooked and need to sort! What you can’t see is that my original Acer which has been in the ground for some six or more years and is in the border to the left has died for reasons unknown. I am a little upset as the boys bought it for me with their late Aunt but plants come and go and I am seeing it as an opportunity to try something new in this area.
I spent the afternoon weeding, dead heading and staking in the Big Border. I am really pleased with this border considering that it was only created last year and wasn’t planted up as it is now until this Spring. I dithered for a while last year trying to decide on how to plant the space but needing to relocate the asters and calmagrostis from the back slope helped clarify my thinking. The main focus of the border is late summer but I have added peonies and yet more aquilegias to give it some interest earlier in the year. Today I added some border auricula which I have grown from seed and which are very run of the mill to the edge of the border as well as some annual scabious and corncockle to fill gaps.
I think there is lots of texture and interest in the border even without lots of flowers but then I have a bit of a thing about foliage. I thought through the planting carefully and I am hoping that as the year progresses it will match the idea in my head – only time will tell.
Despite us having the luxury of a three-day weekend I don’t feel as though I have spent nearly enough time in the garden. I’m not sure why I’ve been in and out like a yo-yo but there has been lots of faffing around rather than setting too in one area. I have realised that all the major projects are more or less completed now and there isn’t really room for anything else major so unless I have a complete change of heart about something, as if (!), the garden layout will remain as it is. So from now on my gardening will be faffing which in some ways is good as I am getting more and more involved in other horticultural things locally which makes demands on my time but will take some getting used to as I am prone to feeling I need to achieve great things all the time – I need to learn to slow down.
The new seating area should help with this as I love sitting here and looking down the garden to the house. At the moment there is a whole group of mason bees humming in and out of the dry stone wall around the bench. We haven’t worked out whether they are making a nest in the wall or collecting the clay and taking it somewhere else but it is a pleasant hum to listen to as you drink your tea.
One of the areas of the garden which has bugged me more or less since we lived here is the corner of the patio. It’s a small area but a nightmare. Firstly there is no real soil here due to builders rubble, secondly all the water when it rains heavily flows into this corner and it floods. When we first lived here we had years when the water stayed permanently and so I planted some bearded irises to make a sort of pond and put in lots of pebbles. Of course once I had made this decision somewhere on the drainage system round here someone cleared something and the corner on fills up when we have lots of heavy rain and then drains fairly quickly. This winter with the weeks of rain we have had to have a plank to get from the higher part of the patio to the bottom step but the water went weeks ago. I did add some Cyperus glaber some years back and they did very well and self-seeded all over the patio. But their stems get broken down by something and because of the way water drains into this corner and because I have a habit of potting up hanging baskets etc sitting on the bottom step and scattering compost all over the place, this corner has become a messy space. Today I dug up all the plants, composting the cyperus, and dug up as many pebbles as I could find. The soil isn’t too bad now due to the compost debris that have ended up here. So I have decided to plant it with some plants that don’t mind the odd soaking but will make it look more glamorous and interesting. I’m considering a canna for this time of year as I think they don’t mind a bit of damp – but we shall see.
Other things that have pleased me is this Rhododendron. I have no idea what variety it is but it was being swamped elsewhere in the garden and suffering as you can see from the terrible state of its leaves. I dug it up some months ago and relocated it to the top of the slope and it has rewarded me with new shoots and there is even a flower opening.
Finally, and probably what I have spent most time on this weekend, I have been prepping plants for the Malvern Spring Show. I have entered some into the Open Garden section, mainly the succulents above but I think the competition is stiff and I don’t think they are all looking as fresh as they could be. I am also, for the first time, entering the AGS show at the Malvern show in the novice section. So more pan scrubbing, grit replacing and removal of old leaves and debris with tweezers. I spent quite a bit of time watching the experts getting their plants ready at the AGS London show last weekend so I am hoping my attention to detail might pay off but I won’t know until next Saturday.
This week is going to be super busy as I have a number of commitments at the Malvern show and I also have to go to work. However, it should be fun and its the side of horticulture that I really enjoy as I get to meet and chat to some really interesting people and that how you learn.
I didn’t have the courage the enter any cut flowers into the Open Gardens competition but if I had it would have been in the rhododendron category. My large rhododendron is smothered in flowers at the moment. I think it is a variety called Happy but its moved house at least once so the label is lost to the mists of time.
Another lovely weekend and this time a three-day one as I had some time due to me. I started clearing the slope on Friday although the rain stopped play after an hour. I am moving the asters and grasses and a few other bits from the slope to the Big Border. I want to plant up the slope with hardy exotics aiming for a jungley sort of look. I have the overall effect in my head but am still working on the possible plants to include plus we need to cut back the slope to allow for a bench.
Saturday was the monthly HPS meeting. Always a good day and despite my initial reservations when I first joined at spending a whole day of my precious weekend at the meeting I really enjoy it and rarely don’t stay for the whole day. This month’s talk was on cut and come again perennials which was interesting. Our speaker, a local nursery woman, showcases a whole range of perennials which I would never have thought of cutting including solomons seal as well as old favourite such as asters and aquilegia. The morning discussion or show
and tell featured a collection of heritage daffodils, various alpines, a Melianthus major flower and to the amazement of everyone an Aeonium Schwarzkopf in flower – I really should have taken my camera. Needless to say I came home with some plants a veratrum for the woodland border and also two small aeoniums which are destined for the succulent border in the front garden.
Today I was outside at 9 setting to. I started off with finishing off re-potting some alpines, mainly primulas, which I am hoping might be up to showing in the novice section of an Alpine Garden Society over the next month. Then I relocated some plants to the cottage border and also the woodland border which really is beginning to have the right feel about it finally – its only taken 3 years.
The next big job was to finish clearing the plants I wanted from the edge of the slope as we want to push the wall back to make way for the bench. This involved relocated a number of Camassia to the Big Border. Hardly, the ideal time of year to do this but I had to do the same last year but with different Camassia and they did OK. As you can see the Big
Border is filling up and I am hopeful that the image I have in my mind will come to fruition. Aside from the shrubs and a couple of structural perennials such as the
Melianthus the main plants are asters and Calamgrostis overdam which I am hoping will link the Stipa gigantea in to the border. I have spread the Camassia through the border in between the perennials as I read or heard somewhere recently that tall late summer perennials were a good way of hiding the dying Camassia foliage.
Having completed the required plant moving I started to dig out the dry stone wall. I have to admit that I was running out of steam by this time but thankfully my eldest son came to my rescue. Any excuse to wield his pickaxe. The stones making up the wall were soon removed and he has dug quite a way back into the slope ready for the wall to be rebuilt and a seating area made. As we worked I could start to see how the planting on the slope could work to create a good jungley effect. I am going plant buying at the end of the week with some friends to Pan Global Plants and Cotswold Garden Flowers so I think this will give me the opportunity to get the main structural components I want.
Oh and we also moved the sink trough into the succulent border in the front garden but I will save that for the End of Month View post tomorrow.
What a lovely weekend it has been – dry, sunny, warm – what more could you ask for. As ever I had some gardening plans for the two days and as ever I knew I wouldn’t achieve them but I do like a plan.
I have been mithering for some months about the area around the workshop which has never been finished. We had agreed that there was an opportunity to put a small seating area by the workshop but the ground needed leveling, along with some steps. Of course in order to do this all the detritus from building the workshop etc had to be moved first as well as plants I wanted to save. We had agreed that the first stage was for my son (the head landscaper) to sort out the top step by the workshop so I could start moving the pebbles and stones across. However, my head landscaper was feeling inspired by the sunshine – or fed up with me moaning – and decided to crack on and sort the whole area out.
We have gone for our usual simplistic landscaping using what we had and put in wood edging and levelled the ground. We now need to top dress this with lots of gravel. The area isn’t that big and having measured up for a potential bench we have now decided, a decision I suspect we will regret, to push the ‘dry stone wall’ back a foot. The head landscaper says this will be straightforward (!!) and the earth we remove will go to top under the border around the Sorbus.
So this is the view from my new seating area – it’s all rather exciting as I thought I was going to spend the weekend weeding.
Well all that was on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday we decided that more gentle pursuits was required so the head landscaper had a lay in and I finally potted up the dahlia tubers, begonia corms and a brugmansia I had succumbed to at the garden centre. I also sowed loads of seed that I have been meaning to sow for the last couple of weeks – saving the job for a rainy afternoon!
To round off the perfect weekend I popped out for an hour to visit the garden at Little Malvern which was open under the NGS scheme but I will save that for another post. Returning home I did a little weeding along the grass path (the photo below was before the weeding) only finishing as the sun was going down – how incredibly satisfying.