In A Vase on Monday – Camellia

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The vase this week is a simple one which doesn’t really require me to say much.  The camellia flower is from a small camellia I have growing in a pot.  It is a plant I rescued from one of those ‘bargain’ areas in a nursery and planted out in the garden.  However, it was apparently unhappy as the leaves were very yellow, despite me having another very healthy camellia near by.  So like many a good gardener before me I dug it up and put it in a pot with lots of ericaceous compost and I have been rewarded with healthy glossy leaves and half a dozen or so of these sumptuous pink blooms.

For more Monday vases visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden

End of Month View – January 2015

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Another year and the start of another series of End of Month posts.  Time for some new views, projects and pondering.

I plan to start with the view above which is the grass path between the Big Border and the former Bog Garden which is in need of a new name but first of all it needs some sort of identity.  I have some plans for the area on the right of the photo to give it more structure and interest but I think there will be a pinky/red/white theme picking up on the prunus flowers and the berries of the sorbus.  The Big Border still needs some rejigging to get the planting looking right.  The Euphorbia dominates the border and I want to try to tie it in with the planting around it more but I’m not sure how yet.  There are lots of asters and late flowering perennials in this border but I think I want to try to give it interest earlier in the year.  I have added some bulbs but I can’t remember where so I shall be watching to see what comes up and where I need to add more.

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This is another view I haven’t included before and shows the whole of the former Bog Garden as well as the newish Hardy Exotic Border.  The tin bath is earmarked to be filled with some white Zantedeschia. It will be interesting to see how much light this border will get now that the willow that shaded most of it has been significantly reduced.  I want to tidy up the planting on the left hand side to try to reduce the impression that plants have been dumped there, which they have to a degree.  I also fancy a bit of sculpture and I have my heart set on some willow sculpture which would be kind of ironic.  The other thing that bothers me is the camber of the grass path which slopes down the garden and is quite frankly hopeless as I find it impossible to cut.  I keep bouncing back and forth between taking it up and replacing with a gravel path or relaying the grass on a flat base.

As an aside I am also hoping to sort out the border along the fence which has troubled me ever since it was created.  The bamboo are doing very well but I need to add some other plants, maybe shrubs, to fill the border and provide a good back drop (and mask the fence).  I just can’t think what and I haven’t really applied myself so I need to make a concerted effort this year.

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I am particularly taken with the view up the garden from the patio to the shed so I have decided to include that this year. I suppose the view is mainly of the shed and gravel path which won’t change much during the year but I do put out pots on the steps and I intend to do more.  Also the Stipa gigantea is on the list from removal this Spring.  It has done well for years now and unwittingly was positioned so it catches the afternoon sun especially in the Autumn.  However since I got my darling cat it has suffered from her attacks particularly in the summer when crickets seem to live in the middle.  It is also planted in the wrong place as for years I have had to cut back the leaves which were engulfing every thing including the steps so its going.  In its place I intend to plant things that love the sun and good drainage like bearded irises which I love far more than grasses and maybe some hardy agapanthus.

The other part of the garden I thought I would focus on was the Woodland Border at the end of the grass path.  This is a couple of years old now but has had to have some replanting as I lost an Acer last year which dominated part of the border.

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Over the Autumn and Winter I had added a Viburnum, Berberis seiboldii and a Leptospernum myrtifolium.  The border has benefited from the emptying out of one of the compost bins and last week before the cold snap I gave it a good mulch of wood chip.  So now I will be waiting and watching to see what comes up where.  I know there is a large Hosta Sum and Substance in there as well as a couple of clumps of Solomons Seal.  I think this border just needs some tidying along the front edges maybe with some more bulbs for next year but we shall see.

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The rest of the Woodland Border which has a number of shrubs in it but as they are bare stems are difficult to see.  I am hoping that the Mahonia in the background will put on some real growth this year.  It was cut back to the ground two years back as I wanted to stop it growing on one stem taller and taller.  It has branched now and is starting to grow but sadly there were no flowers this year.  I also need to tweak the end of the Big Border in the foreground which is quite frankly shabby most of the year.  There is a large Dicentra here which dies back and leaves a gap so I need to think about what to plant with it to hide the gap when it dies back.

So those are this year’s End of Month Views.  Hopefully next month there will be a little more green and less brown and maybe even some new plants added – the greenhouse and cold frame are full of things waiting to go out.

All are welcome to join in with the End of Month View meme (EOMV).  All I ask if that you link to this post in your post and leave a link in the comment box below so we know you have joined in and can come for a look.  You can use it in any way you wish.  Some do as I do and look at one particular area through the year, others do a tour of the garden or feature whatever is pleasing them.

If you want to get an idea of what is where in my small garden take a look at the Garden Plan which you can find from the tab along the top of the post.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle

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A different take on the Weekly Photo Challenge theme of Twinkle.  Late afternoon sunshine twinkling on the twinkling spent flowers of Abelia.

 

 

An Early Autumnal Outing

Crocus speciosus oxonian
Crocus speciosus oxonian

In need of some gentle stress relief and an escape from all the trials and tribulations that are plaguing my existence at the moment I set off cross country towards the welsh borders and the autumn plant fair at Hergest Croft.

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I have visited a number of times, the last time in Spring, but I have been meaning to visit to see the autumn colour.  The journey was a typical autumnal one with patchs of bright blue skies and sunshine and then periods of mist and dampness.  Luckily being on the side of a hill the garden was clear of the mist and the sun soon burned off the residue.  As well as Hergest Croft’s own plants for sale, including a wide selection of acers and interesting specimen tress, there were a number of small nurseries selling their wares.  I was particularly looking for something to replace the dead acer in the woodland border and after much discussion and advice I came away with a berberis seiboldii and a leptospernum myrtifolium as well as a hydrangea, hellebore and some bedding cyclamen.

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Having completed my purchases I went for a mooch around the grounds.  First up is the rockery/ferny area near the house which I have visited in spring as the ferns have been unfurling so it was good to see it at this time of year.  There are so many herbaceous plants with interesting autumn foliage which I think are overlooked in preference for trees and shrubs. I think the autumn tints above are from Darmera peltata.

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I was particularly taken with this area since it is the effect I am trying to achieve, albeit on a smaller scale, on the slope in my garden.  I also discovered the amazing purpley blue crocus in the top photo.

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I was also interested in this herbaceous border which was still looking good despite the cooler temperatures and the battering we have taken in recent days from the rain.  The planting and colours are reminiscent of what I am trying to achieve in the borders in my garden so again seeing them at this time of year has helped me form better plans and ideas in my head to take forward to next spring.

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Hergest Croft is one of those gardens where I find myself looking up as much as around me.  When I visited in the spring I was taken by the height of the rhododendrons and the way the light played through the spring leaves of the beech trees.  I think in a week or so the autumn leaf colour will be even stronger but the mellow buttery yellows of the birches against the pines/larches (?) was quite lovely.

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It is at this time of year, and maybe spring, that we really appreciate the beauty of trees especially when you see the white bark of the birch in stark contrast to its surroundings.  I saw children intrigued by the peelings of the paperbark maples as well as, strangely, quite a few people head first in the trees looking for labels! There is a wonderful arboretum at Hergest Croft which is wasted on me due to my ignorance about trees but I did recognise the collection of sorbus trees.  I think sorbus is one of my favourite trees and I have a few in the garden but I am now wondering if I can shoe horn in another one. I was particularly taken with the pale orange berries of the Sorbus ‘Copper Kettle’ but also the shape of the tree.

Sorbus 'Copper Kettle'
Sorbus ‘Copper Kettle’

Before leaving and wending my way home I had a nose around the conservatory which was looking the best I have seen it.  I suspect this is because they have brought all the tender plants in pots in. I was particularly impressed with the Brugmansias although I am now worried mine might get this big and my greenhouse is so much smaller.

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My Garden This Weekend – 14th September 2014

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I have been a busy bee this weekend and have achieved lots of the plans I have had rattling around in my head in the early hours when I haven’t been able to sleep recently.  I have been saying for some weeks now that the patio border needed a re-jig to give the newish Edgeworthia more space.  So today I lifted a large Astrantia and divided it. In the space left behind I planted the Edgeworthia which was formerly in the space to the right of the above photo.  The Astrantias have been replanted to the front of the border along with Hosta ‘Cherry Berry’ and a Painted Japanese Fern which was being smothered by the Kirengeshoma palmata. I am much happier with the border now which is important as this is my view from the living room window.

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Another of the things I have been wanting to do is to plant up the assorted alpine perennials into large pots.  I have planted up five shallow pots with a whole range of plants; trying to group plants that need the same conditions together.  The plants should grow better than in individual pots and I don’t really have the right environment in the garden for them so this is the best solution.

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I also rescued a couple of ferns from the large woodland border where they were being swamped by other plants and replanted them along the woodland slope which is taking on a real ferny feel.  I have been struggling with the badger visiting the garden again despite the lack of tulip bulbs or bird food.  He seems to be fascinated with digging up my Arisaema which are on this slope or alternatively trying to fell the Cardiocrinum giganteum which I am trying to establish.  I am hoping by planting more ferns and other perennials on the slope I will deter him though I doubt this will actually work.

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But the thing I am really pleased, in fact triumphant about, is tackling the corner above.  This photo was taken about a month ago when the dead Acer was removed.  Since then I have decided that the huge willow which dominates the top of the garden and which blocks the light to this area and much of the garden causing plants to lean needs to be significantly reduced in height.

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The tree is hard to photograph as it is so vast but the right hand branch grows across the Prunus tree causing it to grow sideways instead of upwards.  I have instructed a tree surgeon to reduce the willow down to about 4 metres, just above the split in the trunk, and to remove a couple of branches from the Prunus to stop it tipping over.  The neighbour behind me doesn’t like anything over the fence so cuts all the branches back and this means the tree has grown lopsided and is now, along with the Willow, in serious danger of tipping over.  The removal of so much overhead foliage and branches is going to have quite an impact on the garden and the light; and hopefully moisture.

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I have cleared the weeds and scrubby stuff from the corner and I have had to dig out a whole load of soil.  The badger, yes him again, attacked the small retaining wall under the compost bins the other winter digging huge holes and tipping the stones all over the place.  Now the Acer has gone I can get into the space and pull back the piles of earth created about a year ago and refind the wall and attempt to rebuild it.  My dry stone wall building skills are not in the same league as my father’s or even my eldest son’s but they will do for now. I have now rebuilt the wall and it isn’t too bad; it certainly looks better than the above photo.

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The soil I have been pulling back is very good as its the overflow from the compost bins above.  What you can’t see is that one of the wooden bins is collapsing and the compost piles are ridiculous.  So next weekend I need to tackle them, pulling off the uncomposted stuff and then I am going to drag the rotted down compost down to the area in the photo above.  This will be spread around to improve the soil and drainage and then I will leave this area until Spring.  This way I can see how the removal of so much of the willow and prunus will affect the space and decide what to plant here.  I have a whole host of ideas but I suspect to start with there will be at least two shrubs or maybe a shrub and a small tree.  I also want to paint the fence this week in the evenings while I have the chance. I am also thinking of getting some sort of screening panels to go between the bamboo and border and the compost bins behind.

I hadn’t planned to tackle the corner this weekend but I am thrilled with my achievement even if I ache all over.

A fine example of hedgehoggery

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It is a family joke that my parents, especially my father, loved to dome shrubs when he was pruning.  I often despaired as to me the beauty of many shrubs is their ranging wide-spread form.

Over the last few days I have been seeking solace in Christopher Lloyd’s The Adventurous Gardener and reading bits of mum which amuse me.  The passage entitled ‘Some Reactions to Cutting Back’ made her chuckle too.  In it Lloyd discusses the differences between pruning and cutting back:

“Pruning is supposed to be for the welfare of the tree or shrub; cutting back is for the satisfaction of the satisfaction of the cutter. Some gardeners have a cutting back mentality..”

Lloyd argues that regular cutting back of shrubs which should have “branches laden with swags of blossom” turns them into a “kind of hedgehog on stilts”.  Mum and I laughed as this reminded us of Dad and his doming.

Shortly afterwards I went out to tackle the Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’ which has been outgrowing its space in the front garden (see top photograph – taken in May). If we have heavy snow the branches can snap so I wanted to give it a good cutting back which I also hoped would promote more flowers next year since over the last few years the amount of flowers have declined.  The Grevillea has a very coniferous appearance with branches splaying out.  The shrub was completely dominating the border in the front garden which was fine but it had got to the stage were the branches at the back were beginning to obstruct the footpath and crowd the birch.

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And the result? A dome much to my mother’s amusement.  A fine example of ‘hedgehoggery’.  However I don’t see how else I could have pruned it! I suspect I should have cut it further back as you should prune a shrub to smaller than the actual size you want but I was worried that if I went further it would look really awful. No doubt I will regret this decision and if so I will prune it again next year and be more aggressive.   I shall give the shrub a feed and hope that it will reshoot in a less dome like fashion.  Now to work out what to plant in the border in front of it which is a disaster.

My garden this weekend – 22nd September

Actea rubra
Actea rubra

My poor garden has been suffering from neglect and a lack of enthusiasm from its owner.  I was unwell at the beginning of September – a mixture of stress and exhaustion and then two weeks ago my mother had a stroke.  It was one of those awful things when the phone wakes you from a deep sleep and you enter that strangely timeless world that is the hospital A&E department at night-time.  I am pleased to say though that she was home within the week and although she is having to learn to speak properly again and has a weakness in her right hand she is in high spirits and very determined to overcome things.  Last weekend, the first one she was home, I was so shattered after numerous visits to the hospital, as well as a stressful week at work and worrying about my Dad who himself isn’t well that the most I managed was to weed the driveway.  I nearly posted a picture of the weed-free gravel which would have been very sad but I was so pleased to have done something which left an obvious change to the appearance of the garden after weeks of little activity!

Bulbs have started to arrive
Bulbs have started to arrive

This weekend I have trekked to Plymouth to take my youngest back to University.  This involves a 3 hour drive each way and an overnight stay in a hotel.  I don’t sleep well away from home so tiredness continues!  Anyway, I was determined that I needed to make myself re-engage with the garden as I have boxes of bulbs arriving and this really isn’t the time to pull the curtains and avoid the garden completely.  I have been waiting for some months for the weather to cool down and for some rain to make the ground more workable that there is now a ridiculously long list of plant moves that are needed.  I suspect the period of inactivity in the garden didn’t help with my enthusiasm as I am someone who needs routine and if I stop doing something then I struggle to start again.

So today I started to tackle the very top border. I needed to clear this area in order to relocate a Euphorbia which needed to be moved from the new Cottage Border before I can plant bulbs in it.  I have been struggling for some years now with the top border.  It runs along the very top of the slope in front of the fence and about 3 years ago I planted some bamboo in it to provide a light screen and to mask the house behind.  Back in spring I planted Pyracantha along the fence and painted the fence dark brown which shows off the plants better.  I have decided that this border will have a foliage focus, this is an approach I mentioned a few weeks ago where I am planning to try to create interesting foliage borders along the boundaries and then focus the very floral planting in the middle of the garden.  I dislike this border so much I rarely go up there so it makes sense to plant things which are robust and bulky with good foliage.

The re-planted driveway border
The re-planted driveway border

The bearded irises that were in the top border have been relocated to the front garden.  I have rejigged the border along the side of the driveway and increased the amount of irises in it.  I am trying to reduce the range of plants in borders and planting more of the varieties I choose so there is a more cohesive effect rather than my usual dotty approach.  The top border was cleared aside from the bamboo, a hydrangea, a syringa (I think) and the fence planting.  I have now added the Euphorbia, Aralia Cordata ‘Sun King’ and Sorbaria Sem (both bought from my HPS group a couple of weeks ago and featured on the Foliage Follow-up post on the 16th), a Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’, a couple of large-leaved geranium seedlings and also Impatiens omeiana.  I think I still need some smaller ground cover plants at the back of the border but I am planning to top-dress with wood bark which I think will help.

The replanted top border
The replanted top border

I am really pleased with the result.  I was surprised yesterday when I was reading Carol Klein’s Favourite Plants that I had the majority of the plants mentioned in the book.  I found myself wondering why my garden doesn’t look as amazing as Carol’s.  Aside from the fact that I have a demanding full-time non-gardening job I think this has shown me that I have the material to hand to create a wonderful garden but I need to combine the plants better and work harder on day-to-day maintenance;  I am finding the combining of plants fascinating at the moment.