The Front Garden – Bringing Joy

I love my Front Garden at the moment.  I love the vibrancy of the acid yellow Euphorbia and the purple honesty.  I love the way the breeze, or wind today, moves the Anemanthele lessoniana that I relocated here a few weeks ago bringing movement to this otherwise quite staid border. The Anemanthele has been shoe-horned in amongst the emerging asters in a way that any serious or mildly well informed gardener would blanch at.  My excuse, although I don’t really think I need one, is that the asters are making a bid for world domination and they are a complete nightmare to dig out of clay soil.  Plus the act of clearing the whole border of the asters would probably leave me in traction.  So the answer is to dig out the asters as and where I want to add other plants and to see if the addition of 3 large Anemanthele lessioniana and a rather large Watsonia will be sufficient to break up the monotony of the asters.

Asters monotonous you say?  Outrageous!  Well they are if only one or possibly two varieties are dominating the rest and when there is little to make the border interesting for the rest of the year.  Just clumps of dark green foliage sitting there for months on end.  They need friends to bring them joy and enliven them and although I have some Rudbeckias in this border I want more year round interest than just Late Summer.  That was the original plan, an ill conceived one in such a small garden.  If I had acres to play with having borders that peak at certain times of the year would be lovely but in a small garden every square metre has to work very hard and has to bring me joy.

Yes, I have been watching too much Marie Kondo , and that was before the lockdown so no excuse really, but whilst it can become appear a little OCD and perfectionist there are valuable lessons in her message which I have found quite liberating.  It has helped me reorganise and clear out my wardrobes finding clothes I had forgotten about and leaving me loving what is left and also deeply conscious that I really don’t need more clothes (don’t start me on how unsustainable the fashion industry is).  When you relate this to the garden, especially when some of your borders are 10 or more years old, you realise that your tastes have changed, plants have outgrown their spot or conversely struggled on their best.  So now I don’t compromise so much and if there is a plant which really isn’t working its out and if it is lucky it finds a new home elsewhere in the garden.

The result is borders that are full of reasonably sized plants, planted well in good combination informed by years of mistakes, and which most importantly bring me joy.

Six on Saturday – After the Rain

Darmera peltata

I’ve been moving a lot of plants around over the last couple of weeks partly to clear the Big Border for edibles but also to address some of the plants that have outgrown their space or just aren’t looking great any more.  It has made be really aware of how dry the soil was becoming and I have found myself having to get the hose out several times a week to try to help the plants survive the trauma of being unceremoniously hauled out of the ground.

Yesterday late afternoon the rain finally appeared, fine rain, nothing much to write home about and to be honest a little disappointing. But this morning I was thrilled to wake to heavy and persistent rain which only really eased early afternoon.

Going out to take some photos for Six on Saturday post it was lovely to smell that wonderful fresh smell that you only get from a good downfall of rain.  Not only does it smell fresh but there is that wonderful light that comes with the sun starting to push through the mist and clouds making everything feel soft and lush.

So to my Six on Saturday.  First up is Darmera peltata, also known as the ‘Umbrella Plant’.  I grow this plant mainly for its leaves which are umbrella like, hence the name, and do very well in the damp shade border.  However, the flowers make a welcome and interesting addition to the shady border.  Next up are Bluebells.  I have no idea is these are English or Spanish but they have been in my garden for years and come from the hedgerow near my parents old house in the country so I would like to think they were English.

Trillium grandiflorum (probably)

My third is this Trillium which I am super pleased with.  I think it is Trillium grandiflorum but happy to be corrected.  I have had it for some years now and it has appeared every year with one flower.  This year it has decided to produce three flowers which is just wonderful and makes me incredibly happy.

Primula denticulata

Number 4 is Primula denticulata. This individual is just one of a group of ten or more which have developed from one plant grown from seed probably ten years or more ago.  Back in the Autumn I was sorting out the Woodland border and decided to divide up the Primula denticulata quite aggressively and I have been rewarded with more and stronger flowers, proving that plants sometimes do respond well to a little rough treatment.

Camassia

Number 5 are Camassias.  These are starting to be a bit of a weed in my garden.  Having bought a couple of bulbs years back they have been either seeding around or the bulbs bulking up either way I have been redistributing them around the garden and to be honest composting quite a few.

Deutzia

Number Six: Deutzia.  This shrub was in the garden when we moved in 17 years ago and never fails to deliver an abundance of flowers every year.  I’m sure its early this year as I think it normally flowers around the time of the Malvern Spring Show which is the second weekend of May.

I’m anticipating that with the warm weather forecast for next week and the amount of rain that we have had today the garden will really be bursting with new growth and flowers by next weekend.

Take one Aeonium….

Take one group of overgrown leggy aeoniums add…

a pile of old terracotta pots and

a few trugs of sandy gritty compost and you get

a whole load of aeoniums which I am now wondering what I will do with if they take.

When I got my first aeonium it took me some time before I had the courage to chop the top of the plant and pot it up.  But when I did I also, having read up on the subject, took stem cutting which took surprisingly well.  Whenever you cut the top of an aeonium off, if you are lucky, the plant shots from the cut and produces branches so you end up with a more interesting plant.

As you can see I have quite a few stems which I am hoping will reshoot to create interesting branched plants.  As for all the pots of aeoniums, if they take, quite a few of them will be donated to the work charity plant sale next year, where this year, the last batch of aeonium cuttings I took proved to be surprisingly popular.  That is most of my succulents sorted aside from the Echiverias which need to be divided but thats for another day.

 

 

Beardless Iris Study Day

On Saturday  I had the pleasure of attending The Beardless Iris Society study day in the depths of Herefordshire.  I haven’t been to a plant study day for a few years now as I think I was just overwhelmed with plant information but the break has reinvigorated me and the programme appealed to my inner plant geek,

It was only fairly recently that I discovered that there was a Beardless Iris Society, a sub group of the British Iris Society.  In broad sweeping terms, which would probably be frown upon by stalwarts of the society, beardless irises are generally the Siberian irises and Japanese (Ensata) irises along with a few others which don’t have beards. Whilst some in attendance fained a dislike of Bearded Irises I think most, like me, just loved iris in whatever form they took.

The study day started with 3 talks.  A quick round up of Siberian Irises from Alun and Gill Whitehead, our hosts; a talk about European Beardless Iris by Tim Loe; and a talk about the Iridaceae family by Dr Julian Sutton of Desirable Plants.  Julian’s talks are always so informative and engaging and I learnt loads from all the talks; although there seemed to be a difference of opinion about the importance of the number of chromosomes in the hybridising of Iris sibrica  with Iris sanguinea and the significance of I. typhifolia. Most of it passed me by but I do find the discussion about these things fascinating even if I only understand a bit of it.

After a lovely lunch provided by our hosts we went for a visit to their garden, Aulden Farm, which hosts a national collection of Siberian Irises. As ever in the depths of Herefordshire the journey to the garden involved single track roads, encounters with tractors and lots of reversing – all good fun especially when you are in a convoy of 5 cars.

I haven’t been to Aulden Farm for years although I regularly chat with Gill at various plant events.  I seem to remember some years back when there was a drought and everything looked a little dry.  Not so this year, all very lush and bountiful.  Aulden Farm is the type of garden that really appeals to me.  It is a very natural garden without being a wilderness.  The grass fades into the full borders which overflow with all manner of interesting plants.  This isn’t a garden which relies on design and structure nor for that matter is it a garden which relies on unusual plants; it is a garden which seems to capture both extremes in a space which envelopes you in plants and wildlife with paths that encourage you to explore further.

The Whiteheads are plantsmen (or should I say plants people).  They are consummate growers and sell all manner of plants at various groups and events.  They also have an informal nursery at their garden for open gardens days under the NGS and other visitors.  Needless to say being a group of plant fanatics the nursery was the first stop for many.  As ever in these circumstances I take advantage of the distraction to get into the garden and take some photos before it fills with people.

One of the key feature of the main garden is a dry river bed which meanders across the site being more full of water one end than the other – I didn’t really get a handle on the logistics of it.  But the moisture creates the perfect environment for Siberian Irises -as you can see from the photos on this blog post.  They look so good in large clumps and they were so full of flowers unlike mine which have been very mean with their flowers this year.

For some reason I hadn’t really registered that there was a national collection to see in the garden, although I have been told this before but my brain is full of work stuff and was obviously have a sabbatical on Saturday.  Anyway, I was rather surprised to come across a gate leading to a large field like area of garden full of raised beds full of irises. As with any good national collection the beds have a clear planting plan displayed for visitors so you can mostly work out the name of the variety you are admiring. I liked most of them, my tastes are so catholic, but I was interested in the varieties with larger petals (or perianths as I think we were told to call them by Dr Sutton – must check my notes).  I am used to the more simple, natural siberian irises but the hybrids have three larger chunkier perianths which really appealed to me; but then I do love Ensata iris and these have a similar type of flower head.

Having admired the garden I found the nursery empty of visitors so time for me to browse the remains left and do a little plant buying.  On returning home and sorting out my acquisitions from the garden and plant sale in the morning I seem to have acquired 5 new irises which is rather troubling as I have no idea where I am going to shoehorn them into.

I had a lovely day, learnt lots, met interesting people, had good food, visited a lovely garden and bought plants – what more can you ask for.

End of Month View – October 2018

Another month has passed and for me, as a gardener, it has been a bit of a non-event but for the garden with the changing seasons nothing stays still.  Gardening time is now limited to weekends due to the nights moving in and over the last few weeks there has been strong winds, rain, and family events so the garden is looking rather shabby – but I did plant up some pots of bulbs and violas this weekend (above).

The field maple, to the right of the path, is always the first to lose its leaves but I always find it interesting at this time of year to see just how much ever green foliage I have in the garden.  I do like foliage and will always choose a plant with good foliage over one with good flowers as flowers are so fleeting.

Not the best photo but the best I could do between the rain and the low sun at the weekend. Whilst the colour in the photo is washed out with the sunlight this does give a truer impression of the Big Border which is frequently backlit by the sun.  The border is benefiting from Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ‘Lady in Black’ and Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’.  I love this salvia and thought I might have lost it over last winter.  It’s too big to lift now so I risk leaving it in the ground with a thick mulch over it.  I normally take a couple of back up cuttings but these failed this year due to gardener lack of engagement.  The salvia was slow to reappear but it has caught up and is looking stunning.

As you can see the I have a lot of tidying up to do and the grass needs cutting but I have managed to get the majority of the bulbs planted, just the tulips to go in, and I have pruned out some of the willow branches and reduced the large fatsia at the back of the garden.

And I will leave you with a shot of the front garden.  I have done some tidying up here as this week the driveway is being replaced so I have had to remove a couple of old lavenders from outside the front door.  I’m pleased with the space created which will give me a new planting opportunity and I think I will extend the hardy succulent planting that I have here but never show as it’s still quite young.

As ever everyone is welcome to join in with this monthly meme.  You can use it as you wish all I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comments box below – simple!

 

 

Its all about the hellebores – GBBD March ’18

This month we have moved on from snowdrops to the hellebores, although the snowdrops are still just there in the background as if frozen in time due to the cold snap.

I love hellebores, they are one of my many weakness.  I love their nodding demure heads which only reveal their real beauty when you lift them upwards.

I have quite a selection accumulated over the years, normally adding at least one a year, bought from Ashwood Nurseries, so they are all Ashwood hybrids.  They are slowly bulking up and merrily seeding around the garden.

But it’s not all hellebores and snowdrops flowering in the garden.  They are now being joined by crocus, hammelias, and violas which have been flowering since October.

Crocus Pickwick
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise

So these are my floral delights for March.  Thank you to Carol at May Dream Gardens for hosting this wonderful meme.

GBBD January 2018

Grevillea Canberra Gem

The first Garden Bloggers Bloom Day of the year sees a interesting selection of plants in flower, albeit a small choice selection. There are numerous buds a plenty – Hellebores, Eranthis, Snowdrops, Iris reticulata and Magnolia – but as with many a garden visit they will probably look lovely next week.

Grevillea victoriae

So what are we left to enjoy in the second full week of the year? Strangely, two Australian shrubs – Grevillea victoria and Grevillea Canberra Gem.  The former has been in flower since before Christmas and the latter has just started to open its flowers despite being covered for days in a thick crust of snow before Christmas. I’m not sure when Grevillea Canberra Gem is supposed to flower in the UK but mine is rarely without a few  flowers and beloved by the pollinators.

Euphorbia characias

Also in flower in the front garden are the Euphorbia characias.  I do love Euphorbias – wonderful structure, colour and such unusual flowers.

Galanthus ‘Selborne Green Tips’

Since my last post I have been reassured that the above is indeed Galanthus ‘Selborne Green Tips’ which is good to know.  Also joining Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’ and Galanthus ‘Mrs Macnamara’ is Galanthus ‘Colussus’ and Galanthus galantea.

Galanthus colussus
Galanthus galatea

Whilst the woodland border is speckled with hellebore buds there is one already in flower, a reliable early flowerer, and one of the first ones I bought from Ashwoods.

Primula taygetos

Finally I thought I would share this Primula which has been flowering since November and is now just waiting for a home in the garden rather than languishing on the patio.

Thank you to Carol at May Dream Gardens for hosting this meme which is a wonderful way of recording what is in flower each month.