Six on Saturday – 13/4/19

A gorgeous day in the garden here in Malvern.  Whilst there has been a cool wind, when the sun shone it was almost t-shirt warm.  Especially when you are rapidly going up and down a sloping garden moving pots around. As I hope to do Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post on Monday I thought I would try and avoid flowering photos.  So my first photo is a Cornus backlit by the sun.  I’ve no idea what it is, I’ve had it for ever and it never seem to put much growth on.  I have removed the odd stem in the past to see if I can get those nice red winter stems but I have concluded today that this really isn’t that type of Cornus so I will let it shrub up.

Regal Fern (Osmunda regalis)
Regal Fern (Osmunda regalis)

Some of the ferns are starting to send up their new fronds.  My favourite at this time of year is the Regal Fern (Osmunda regalis). I love the colour of the fronds, a sort of grey burgandy and they are just opaque enough to glow when the sun shines.

 

Arisaema speciosum

Another plant that fascinates me at this time of year is the Arisaema speciosum.  Their mottled stems appear and then their three leaves slowly unfold before the weird spathe type flower appears – quite fascinated.  I grew these from seed probably about 10 years ago now and they flower every year without fail

The winds last month blew most of the flowers off the Camellia (variety unknown) so I was really surprised today to notice there seems to be a second flush of flower buds.  I’m sure they are new buds as opposed to original buds which were slow to open.

I mentioned, at the top of the post, that I have been going up and down the garden all day moving pots.  I decided my focus today was to sort the patio out and plant out everything I can.  I haven’t sown any seeds this year nor do I plan to. I have decided this year to abstain.  My reason for this is that I have been growing plants from seed for at least a decade and I have loved it.  I have all sorts of strange plants in the garden as a result of seed exchanges but at the moment my spare time is limited whilst I love the excitement when something germinates, I hate it when the seedling gets too leggy as I haven’t moved them on quickly enough. It will also give me the chance to get on top of things rather than spending all my spare time pricking out.  The little box above was a seedling I picked up from a walk way at a garden somewhere. It was little more than a matchstick and it has languished in various pots, growing slowly for around 10 years.  It has grown despite me!.  I thought I would treat it today and pot it up into a new pot with fresh compost and give it more of a starring role.  This is the very right hand side of my patio and if we have heavy rain this corner floods and can stay wet for days.  It has always been hard to manage but in recent years I have gone with the conditions and it is planted with a number of iris that like a bit of damp such as Ensata Iris, some Sensitive Ferns (Onoclea sensibilis) and a variegated grass/sedge which likes the damp.  There is also a tall grass which people grow in bog garden which has taken over this corner so I spent a difficult hour digging as much of it as I can out.  This should give the irises more of a chance to establish.

My last photo is the left of my patio.  I need to say here that I dislike my patio and plan to replace it at some point but its down the end of a long list of expense. This photo was taken when I had moved about half the pots of seedlings.  I have a significant number of peony and lily seedlings grown from HPS seed exchanges which I have been dutifully potting on.  Why I thought I needed to try to grow so many I have no idea – I think it was a case of having a go and not expecting much germination.  They are now all relocated up the garden by the top bench where it will be shady and they are out of the way.  In the muddle by the greenhouse are also the various snowdrops I bought back in February and these have all now been planted out with labels. I’m pleased to say that all the little pots to the right of the photo have gone and most of the plants have been planted out.  So next weekend, I will weed the patio ready for some summer patio pots.   I should confess that whilst all those pots have now gone, I have as many to the right of the patio which I am hoping to sort tomorrow.

Thanks to the Propagator for hosting this weekly meme which is really getting me back and engaged with my garden.  I love reading everyone else’s, which you can find in the comments, on the Propagators blog – I have to confess to hardly reading blogs for some years and it a real delight to find so many new and interesting gardeners and gardens.

My Garden This Weekend – 7/6/15

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I have been home alone for most of the weekend with no real plans and it has been blissful.  I have been pottering in every sense of the word.  I started with weeding the patio which was long overdue and is one of those incredibly satisfying garden jobs.  I use the blade of an old screwdriver, whose handle is long gone, and it is just the right size to get between the slabs.

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If I am honest I dislike the patio, I always have, but its well down the list of expenditure and it serves a purpose.  I dislike it because when I pressure wash it the colour of the slabs is revealed and we have a ‘delightful’ pink and yellow checker box effect! Therefore, I rarely pressure wash it.  However now it is weeded and tidied I am rather pleased.  I have never been very good at using the patio for relaxation.  It is normally the home of trays of seedlings and purchases and the small table often houses seedlings etc.  However, in the last couple of weeks my sons have both mentioned that they have sat out in the garden when they have got home and how nice it was.  So I have moved all the trays of seedlings up the garden out of the way and arranged the pots of purchases and other things in a more organised/decorative fashion.  What a difference, even I have sat on the patio and enjoyed a cuppa and read a magazine.

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I have quite a collection of pots many of them accumulated during my brief foray into alpine plant showing.  Above are some pans of alpines which live up by the top bench which there is some shade but also sun at some point of the say.

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I’m not a huge fan any more of pots of mixed plants, preferring instead collections of individual plants in their own pot.  I like being able to ring the changes as things go over.  This collection is by the door to the shed and I have added some succulents as this is quite a sunny spot so they should do well here.

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Round the corner of the shed is what we call ‘quatermass’.  Last year I plunged a couple of pots of zantedeschia into the old tin bath which I was using as a pond and they did incredibly well.  So this year I decided to fill the bath with compost and plant it up exclusively with white zantedeschia.  There is no drainage in the bath so the compost gets very wet when it rains and takes a while to dry out but the plants are thriving.  I did wonder if this was a mad idea but when I visited Brian and Irene’s garden over at Our Garden @19 last weekend I noticed that he had ensata iris growing in sealed pots of compost and they were doing incredibly well too. I had to drag the bath over the gravel this week as it was being engulfed by the neighbouring fern and I see that I need to sort the level out again – opps!

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In the very top photo you can see that all the succulents and pelargoniums are out of the greenhouse and in their summer home on the staging.  As I said I don’t really like mixed pots or hanging baskets any more.  Instead I have planted the window box up with herbs which is already proving very useful and the only hanging basket I have is hanging from the tree by the shed and is housing my Christmas cactus.  I went to a talk at the local horticultural group recently on cacti and succulents which was actually really interesting and the speaker advocating treating your Christmas cactus in this way over the summer so I thought why not.

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And finally one of my collections of plants by the front door.  I was rather than by the Polygala myrtifolia on a recent visit to B&Q so it ended up coming home with me.  I have under planted with some nemesis  and today added a pelargonium and a pot of oregano.  On the other side of the entrance is a deep pink hydrangea, some violas and a succulent.  I think it looks charming and it makes me smile when I pull up in the driveway, far more than any other arrangement I have done in the past.

So that’s my weekend – a weekend of potting up, moving pots, and sweeping.

My Garden This Weekend – 5th May 2014

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Plans for 2014

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I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. To me it seems that you are just putting yourself under pressure to achieve something which will undoubtedly not be achieved and you will feel like you have failed! But that is just my view. Instead I like to have aspirations and plans which I hope to achieve but with the full expectation that life may throw a curve ball and mean they are put on the back burner. Indeed when I read back through my garden journal from this time last year I was going to create a fern border up the top of the garden but this space was taken over by a wood store for my son and then there was the unexpected decision to give up some of the garden for his workshop which put all the other plans on hold and changed the feel and focus of then garden, albeit for the better.

This year I have a couple of ideas I am hoping to implement. First up is sorting out the corner of the patio. As you can see from the top photo it floods when we have heavy rain. I have had a pond here but the someone somewhere must have cleared some drainage and it dried out. It is now dry most of the year but I can’t risk planting anything here that isn’t a marginal plant. The other problem is that all the dust and detritus from the patio finds it way here and it is a challenge to make it tidy. I also feel that some height is needed here. So the plan is to put in some bricks or concrete blocks in which I can rest a wood plank platform. My eldest and I have worked it out so that any flood water could drain away through a gap below the planks. I then fancy a nice acer in a large pot here.

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Then there is the Big Border to come up with an approach for. I feel an inclination to lush exotic looking foliage coupled with some more traditional perennials but it hasn’t crystallised in my mind yet. The far end of the border is partially shady so I will be planting some of the woodland perennials I love here. This is an area that I think will cause much pondering over the coming months.

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The other major project we will definitely have to do is to finish the landscaping around the workshop. Guttering and a water butt need to be put in and the wood store which is where the fern border was going to be needs to be relocated to its final position. We want to create a small seating area by the workshop (in the area above) – it’s one of the few flattish areas. I will need to rejig some of the plants and bring in a load of gravel. There should be enough room for a bench.

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The original woodland border needs some focus and better planting. This was on the list for last year but was a victim of the Big Border/workshop project. I want to add more shrubs along the fence and rejig the smaller perennials more to the front of the border. Originally when the border was created I intended there would be an informal path through the border but with developments last year I no longer think another path is a good idea. This means the focus of the border has changed but I think what I have in mind will be much better than the original plan.

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Then there is the grass path dilemma. This is what was left of the back lawn. It has a camber which means I find cutting it with the mower exhausting and a strimmer justo doesn’t do the job well enough. Then there is the badger and it’s penchant for digging holes in it looking for grubs. Why I don’t know since there is a vast area of grass next door which is neglected and which the badger has to cross to get to my garden! I am toying with putting in a gravel path instead but there is a small voice saying the grass is a nice pause in the chaos of the garden. I suspect that I will still be pondering this in a year’s time.

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Finally two projects I did plan and complete last year. The small conifer bed in front of the workshop is looking fresh and there are bulbs beginning to push through the soil. The woodland slope is my favourite area at the moment. I have planted it with ferns and epimediums and again there are snowdrops and special narcissus in here. I am hoping it will look wonderful in a month or so.

So lots planned and filling my mind in the early hours of the morning but at least there will be things to report back on here!

Water water everywhere

Like so many in the UK we have suffered a very wet week and weekend.  Although, luckily for us our house is on the side of the Malvern hills and so not really at much risk of flooding unlike some people who are having a horrid time.  Whenever we have heavy rain for any period of time our patio floods as you can see above.  We have to put a plank across so the cat can get into the garden and so I can get out and feed the birds without necessarily resorting to wellie boots.

When we first moved here about eight years ago the far right hand corner of the patio (top left in the photo above) was constantly flooded.  The ground is awful just a mixture of builders rubble and poor soil and digging in the corner uncovered lots of gravel  and a rotten fence post.  Obviously  this was a long term problem so I decided that we might as well make it into a pond.  We have to put in some supports for the fence post and these created an edge to the ‘pond’ and when it had drained one day I filled the bottom with large cobbles and planted out marginal plants; things that would enjoy having their roots in the water but not be too bothered when it dried out.  There are a lot of Cyperus glaber in this area which I had grown from seed and which annoyingly self-seed all  over the place.

Anyway, needless to say, as soon as I had done this (above) and was pleased with my pond, already with a resident frog, the water mysteriously disappeared and didn’t come back even when it rained.  My Dad did some investigating.  The Malvern Hills are full of springs which appear and disappear.  Further down the slope from us Dad discovered that some serious work had been done to clear debris and rubbish from a permanent spring, which is almost a waterfall, and the water was flowing very freely.  We suspect that whatever the workmen did improved the drainage and the water that was sitting in the corner of my garden was linked to this spring and now flowing away.  Bye bye pond.

However, having been rather distracted with other things in recent years I have been very good at blanking this corner and it has remained full of cobbles  with Cyperus glaber flowering profusely in the summer and when, like this week, we have excessive rain it does act like a sump with the water slowly by surely draining into  it.  Although not as pretty as when it was a pond.  When I was taking the photo above this morning I noticed that the water was actually running into the corner through the mortar of the wall behind it – so this is obviously where one of the flood springs is located.

On a plus note the ground slopes up a little to the house and garage and so far the water hasn’t got that far.   This flood is a minor inconvenience for us but my thoughts are with those who have suffered much worse and also with people in other parts of the world who have had to deal with flood, hurricanes, serious drought etc.

Succulent Theatre

I am sure you have heard of Auricula Theatres well in my garden there is a Succulent Theatre. 

This was never the intention when my son constructed this staging for me.  Last Spring I was fed up with this particular bit of the garden.  It is at the end of the patio and is an area of gravel just before my neighbours fence.  I have tried in the past to dig into it but not surprisingly it is full of builders rubble and subsoil – my patio is about 5ft below the rest of the garden due to the slope we are on.

In addition this part of the patio has a tendency to flood when we have a lot of rain although in the last two years the flooding has reduced and I can only assume this is because someone has cleared a storm drain or some such thing somewhere.

Anyway, my eldest put together some scaffolding board and breeze blocks and hey presto a staging area.  It has been a real boon.  I use it in winter for pots of bulbs that I am waiting to plant out, in spring from seedlings hardening off or waiting for new homes and in the summer to give my tender succulents a nice airy home.

I just need to sort out covering the fence and it will be sorted.  The only way to grow something up the fence is in a pot which is tucked into the corner of the boards.  There was a passion-flower but it was killed off by the winter in 2009, last year there was Dicentra Scandens but again the winter got the better of it.  Now I have a Clematis in the pot which I grew some seed and which survived -19 in a pot last winter so I am hopeful we might have cracked it.

It is also a very useful place to store my spare terracotta pots!

My garden on a wet and windy May bank holiday

Surprise surprise it is raining on an English bank holiday!  Before the rain really set in I took some pics of my back garden so here is a tour.

This is the patio as you come out of the kitchen.  As you can see there are lots of seedlings waiting to be planted out but its just too wet! My garden slopes up from the house, you can just see a brick wall in the top right hand corner and this runs the length of the patio and is holding the garden up.  So the view from the patio of my garden is like this at the moment….

The purple and pink spikes are, I think, Verbascums.  I acquired some seeds through my gardening club but they were labelled a mixture so I wasnt sure what was going to come up. At first I was disappointed at their height but the colours are lovely.  I’m not sure if they are Bi-annual or not so I will try and remember to collect some seed just in case.  From the patio you go up some steps and this gives you a different view of the same area

I have a central lawn area – well grass, daises, clover etc – lawn is rather a grand term for it.  The ‘lawn’ is in a sort of 8 shape – I was attempting to get some interest but I’m not sure if I like it now.  I put the borders in 2 years ago so this is still all very early days. 

This is what I call my pond border – the pond is behind it.  I love the Ligularia though it seems to be getting very large.  I’m not sure if you can divide them and when I should do this.  The large leaves plants to the right of the picture are Inula hookeri.  Again these were grown from seeds from the club.  I knew they grew tall but I hadnt realised the leaves were so big – they are over a foot long and are swamping my new scared bamboo so at least one of them will have to move.  You can just see the Grecian Urn that I put in the border as a focal point.  Not too much of a focal point at the moment but it does improve the border in the winter.

This is the view from the other end of the border across the pond.  It is a wildlife pond, so no fish but we have frogs.  Recently, if you sit by the pond quietly you can hear them ribbiting (not sure how you spell the noise they make!).  The plant in the pot is another Ligularia which I have yet to find room for and it was looking sad as it wasnt wet enough so I have put it on the slope into the pond.

From the end of the pond you go round into the ‘woodland area’.  I have posted about this before so I wont repear myself.  I have struggled with the area in front of the fence since the ground is full of tree roots from my neighbours trees.  There are a number of small shrubs in there which seem to be doing OK now so we will have to wait and see.  I do wonder though if I will have to winded the border at some time.  I dont like thin borders and this is thin!!

You then look back across the garden towards the area that appeared in the secnd photo.  The slope in the picture isnt me holding the camera funny this is the slope of my garden!!  I am particularly pleased with the border at the top of the picture it is really lush and pretty at the moment, lots of purples.  Soon these will be replaced with yellows and blues.  I am still working on the area in the foreground.  The soil is particularly heavy here – lots of clay but I’m working on it.  The theme for this area is white, pink and a bit of red to liven it up.

So thats my back garden.  I have to say that the photos arent too bad considering the weather conditions and looking at them I am a little happier with the overall effect in the garden although there is still masses to do – isnt there always.  This is our 5th summer here.  The garden was empty except for a huge conifer when we moved in and a few shrubs so I more or less had a blank canvas.  I didnt really get going on it until 3 years ago as I was finishing my degree, working full time and raising two kids on my own.  Now I have completed the degree I have more time and the kids being older and more independent helps as well.

Still raining – I might go in my titchy greenhouse and pot up some more seedlings.