End of Month View – April 2017

The front garden is really coming into its own now and delivering the vibrant colours I hoped it would. The tulips are just beginning to go over but I will definitely be adding loads more to the bigger border for next year.  I think I will add more oranges, rusts and reds probably including some Tulip Ballerina which have been growing in the front garden for a few years now and come back reliably year on year.

Looking from the upstairs window you can see that the planting is definitely thicker nearer the house than towards the back of the border near the Grevillea.  However, there are lots of asters now pushing through the soil as well as some bronze fennel and Miscanthus.  I have some Cardoons I might add if there is enough room as well as Rudbeckia and Zinnia seedlings which will add some seasonal bulk while the permanent residents get established.

I am also pleased with the combination of the Honesty flowers and the lime green Euphorbia flowers so I hope to add more Honesty for next spring as well.  The whole intention is to have lots of rich bright colours for as much of the year as possible and I think for this part of the year I am starting to achieve it.

The tulips will soon be joined by Irises.  It will be interesting to see what colours as I have moved the tubers so much that I don’t know what is what any more.  These will then be joined by some Nectaroscodum which will add height but I want to add lots of alliums, the big Allium christophii to add impact.

If you would like to join in with the End of Month View please do.  It would be great if you could add a link to your post in the comments below and link to this post in your post. Enjoy.



RHS Malvern Spring Show 2016

The UCARE Garden
The UCARE Garden

I can’t remember the last time I went to RHS Malvern Spring Festival and it wasn’t freezing cold and/or raining.  This year we were treated with a beautiful sunny day which really bought the plants to life especially in the show gardens.  I took my mother this year as she is really getting into gardening and wanted to look at greenhouses.  She isn’t that keen on the showgardens so we didn’t spend much time looking at them but I did spot a few that I really liked.  Of the ones I saw The UCARE Garden was my favourite.  I really liked the planting with the orange of the Dryopteris erythrosora picking up on the orange flowers of the euphorbia and the rust of the water feature.  Blue, being a complimentary colour, works very well with the orange and whole is contained by the box edging with its frothy fresh spring leaves.  The garden won a silver-gilt and I believe lost points over some of the planting but given that the season has been so cold until now its a wonder that the designers had the material they did to work with.

The Sunken Retreat
The Sunken Retreat

I was also attracted to The Sunken Retreat again because of the oranges but I also liked the clean lines of the hard landscaping and the sunken seating area (sorry no photo) which means the plants are at eye line.  My mother really didn’t like this garden instead she preferred this one

The Water Spout
The Water Spout

Her reason was that she could see herself in this garden, there would be things to do and lots of different plants to look at.  She felt the others were very set pieces with plants that were all flowering now but what would they be like in a months time and they were too precise and designed for her.  I have to admit that I probably would be bored with the two gardens I liked but as I said to Mum they show you have to combine plants to get good effects – she still wasn’t convinced!


Before the showgardens our first stop was the floral marquee which is always my favourite part of the show.  I think there might have been less nurseries this year as it felt very spacious even when we returned later in the day and the showground was full. Next year I think I will go to the show on my own as in recent years I have always been with someone and I never look properly as I am too busy talking or pointing things out.  Anyway, I did see some of my favourite nurseries.  I always love Fernatix’s stand but then I would be quite happy with a garden that was all ferns; they are just so elegant and create a wonderful atmosphere.

Hardys Plants
Hardys Plants

Hardys Plants stand looked wonderful as ever but a particular achievement this year as Rosie Hardy is in the middle of creating her very first RHS Chelsea Show Garden which I am really looking forward to seeing.


I was also taken with this eye-catching display; it was nice to see a display which made you look up.  But then again I always love bulbs and I was particularly taken with Tulipa Rosy Bouquet which I can see bringing together the white lunaria and cerise rhododendron in my garden.

Tulip Rosy Bouquet
Tulip Rosy Bouquet

So those are my highlights from RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2016.  I think the show continues to improve year on year and having visited a number of similar events around the UK I still think it is the best.  Its hard to explain why,  but trying to put aside it closeness to home, there is just such a nice atmosphere and it always seems friendly with nurserymen happy to are information and advice.

Book Review: The Plant Lover’s Guide to Tulips


index2I have to admit that I didn’t greet the new The Plant Lover’s Guide to Tulips by Richard Wilford, published by Timberpress in association with Kew, with the same incandescent excitement as I did the one on epimediums but then I am a bit of an epimedium nut.  To be fair tulips have had a hard time in my back garden thanks to the tulip crazed badger that visits in the winter.  It became so soul destroying that I gave up growing them apart from in the front garden when the evil stripy fiend can’t get to them.

Anyway, back to the book.  It follows more or less the same format as the other books in this series from Timberpress and positively groans with sumptuous photographs, the majority taken by the author, leaving you in no doubt that your world would be a much better place with the addition of some tulips even if they are only in a pot.  Richard Wilford is well placed to write about tulips.  He has worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for 26 years with a particular interest in bulbs and is a member of the RHS’s Bulb Committee. This is not his first outing as a writer since he wrote Tulips, Species and Hybrids for the Gardener, also for Timberpress, which was published in 2006 as well as Alpines: From Mountain to Garden (2010) and Growing Garden Bulbs (2013) both published by Kew.

Richard starts out by giving a little bit of a history lesson and then explaining that there are 3 main ways you can grow tulips in your garden: mass bedding, in a mixed border or in pots.  For each approach he gives examples of which tulips best and illustrates his advice and recommendations appropriately so for bedding you have the obvious choice of the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland and for mixed borders and to a lesser degree containers he turns to Great Dixter for inspiration. There is a discussion on what plants would work well with the tulips in pots and the mixed border but to me of more interest were the paragraphs on planting tulips in a gravel garden, rock garden and unexpectedly a woodland garden.  I was very surprised that there were some tulips that would take some shade so welcomed a list of suitable varieties and the advice given about using tulips in this way.

The book then goes on to explain tulips as a genus and describe each of the 15 classification groups of tulips giving examples and some illustrations.  The language is straight forward and accessible so you don’t get in a muddle with petals, tepals, sepals and other such botanical lingo.  This section also identifies which groups generally flower when and interestingly which groups of tulips are good for naturalising.  I was interested to learn that tulips, unlike most other bulbs, do not bulk up their bulbs each year but produce a new bulb each year.  This means you need to ensure that the plant isn’t allowed to dry out before the foliage has died naturally or the plant will not have time to produce and bulk up the new bulb.  Understanding this helps you to understand why many tulips don’t do well if left in the ground year on year or even lifted and stored, unless you can given the bulbs the right conditions.  It left me thinking that in future I will concentrate on those groups of tulips which might naturalise.

Then you have 100 different tulips set out for you, arranged in colour groupings, with each variety given a page and well illustrated. The entries give a little history of the variety and detailed description as well as telling you the classification group, height, bloom time, preferred growing conditions and suggestions for ways of using that variety in your borders, which other tulips or plants would work well with it and also some alternative but similar looking tulips.  I particularly liked the inclusion of alternatives as it does really depend on which bulb merchant you go to as to which variety might be available.

The final section covers planting tulips, including advice on growing in containers and also growing species tulips, what conditions they need, propagation and pests.  I was surprised that there was no mention of the predilection that badgers and many other rodents have for tulip bulbs, the section focussed on the tulip fire virus and slugs.  I suspect Richard may not have experienced the disastrous combination of tulips and badgers, indeed I rarely meet someone who has,  but I would have expected the book to mention the problems of mice and squirrels. As with all the books in this series there is a short section on where to buy and see tulips at the back including sources outside of the UK.

I enjoyed reading this book more than I was expecting to, I learnt some interesting bits of information and I found myself rethinking  the possibility of growing tulips in my garden albeit in containers. I know from social media that tulips seem to have become increasingly popular in recent years so if you are into your tulips or thinking about giving them a go I would recommend this book as it helps to demystify those classifications which you see in bulb catalogues and on websites and provides planting of inspiration on how to use these jewel like flowers in your garden.


My garden this weekend – 19th May 2013


I have been completely immersed in gardening this weekend and its been wonderful.  The sun has shone and now on Sunday evening I have pleasantly achy limbs.

I have been busy planting out plants that were waiting on the patio in the new border.  Tree peony (label lost its waiting so long), Paeonia lectiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, two Ashwood hellebores, Hamamelia xintermedia ‘Aphrodite’, half a dozen dahlias and I also relocated a Cephalaria gigantea which was shoehorned into the old narrow top of the wall border.  I am going to have to keep a careful eye on them and water and feed carefully to help them recover from the trauma.  I still have some chrysanthemums to add as well as lots of annuals to fill gaps.  The other issue is that the small plants that were at the front of the old border are now near the back of the new one.  I am in a dilemma whether to move them now or leave them be and move them in the Autumn which I think might be kinder.

New big border
New big border

As a diversion I also had a meeting at lunchtime about the summer horticultural show at my local club which I am helping with.  I am now stewarding the flower entry judge but apparently I’m not allowed to give hints about my own entries.

Today I went for a little more gentle gardening and spent several hours potting up seedlings, I planted the first hanging basket and completely repotted my pelargoniums.  Instead of just topping up the compost in the pots, I completely emptied the pot and replaced the compost.  Its been a few years since they were originally potted up so I thought this would do them good plus I could  use the old compost on the new border.  The pelargoniums have been put out along the gravel steps and on the top of the wall.  My son, on returning for a weekend away, said he thought quite Mediterranean – well the sun was shining for a change.


The bare path at the top of the steps is the workshop site which is changing rapidly – it’s quite scary.

Finally this afternoon I treated myself to an excursion to the far side of Herefordshire, just over an hour away, to visit Hergest Croft.  I have had a desire to see rhododendrons for a few weeks, they take me back to my childhood, and I knew that Hergest Croft had a collection.  My trip was very worthwhile but I will save that for another post.

Finally I will finish with a photograph of the bog garden which has thrived on the cooler and damper conditions that we have had so far this year.  It’s all very lush and the Rheum (or maybe its a Rodgersia) seems to be getting out of hand and popping up everywhere so I may have to edit that at some point.




Any one who reads this blog will know that I have had a nightmare winter with a badger digging up all my tulips that I had planted in the back garden borders.  Luckily I had decided not to spend too much on tulips for the back garden this year as I wanted to see how well the previous year’s tulips did.  Instead I bought mainly narcissus as well as some tulips for the front garden.  I must have known that the tulip crazed badger would be coming to visit.  Anyway, late in the bulb buying season when there wasn’t much left I decided to empty out the tin bath of the lavender plants that weren’t doing that well and fill it with tulips – I think I saw something similar on Gardeners World.  The only bulbs I could find were in the bargain bin at the local DIY store and so I ended up with two packets of mixed and a couple of packets of another variety, something like Angelique but possibly not.

I filled the bath with compost and grit to help with drainage and packed the bulbs in tightly, you can see how tightly in this earlier blog post.  I was a little worried about how tightly they were packed in but I needn’t have worried as, I think you will agree, the bath looks fab and I am really chuffed with it.  Especially as the badger didn’t discover the patio, he would have to go down some steps to access, it and so instead of a mass display in the garden I am satisfying my love of tulips with this display.


Although of course there are the front garden Tulipa Ballerina which have opened and have been a triumph in my humble view.  My son has persuaded me that I need to balance them with some more on the other side of the lawn and I think I might even go across the bottom as well – why not!!   I was worried that they would look a bit like a bedding scheme planted straight down the side of the lawn so I tried not to plant them too regimentally although it wasn’t that easy.


This is the view from the front door which I am really enjoying at the moment especially when the morning sun lights them up and they are damp from dew.  They are interplanted with some small headed alliums which hopefully will follow on with a similar effect but in purple – we shall have to wait and see.


Maybe too many bulbs?

I was watching Gardeners World the other week and they had a bit on tulips featuring a wonderful garden which had a stunning display of  tulips.  I had read about Utling Wick before and how the owner plants around 9000 tulips each year – makes my display appear quite pathetic.

I was particular interested in the bit about planting tulips in pots and my imagination was caught by the large metal planters full of tulips.  I have an old tin bath that I have struggled over the years to successfully plant up.  This summer it has had lavender in but it has still not looked as wonderful as it did in my imagination.  Anyway having been inspired by the planters at Utling Wick I raided the bargain bucket at the local DIY store and bought 60 odd tulips in a range of colours: red, yellows, purples, pinks.  I also had a packet of unknown tulips that had come in a selection pack. Today the lavender were unceremoniously removed and the tulips planted  The owner  of Ulting Wick had commented that when you plant tulips  in pots  and containers you need to be generous and plant them much closer than you would in borders.  As you can see I took her instructions to heart!  Maybe too much.

There were two packets left over: Tulipa Angelique and Tulipa Purple Flag and these have been planted in a tall blue pot – also crammed in.  We shall  see what the results are like but at the end of the day it only cost be £8 so hardly any investment.  Fingers crossed it will look fabulous.

Bulb Obsessive

Many a good gardener I know has a secret seed addiction, I say secret as its easy to hide those guilty unsown seed packets but bulbs? Well its not so easy to hide the sacks and packets bulging with bulbs and corms. I have noticed over the years I have been blogging that there seems to be a heightened sense of panic and guilt the nearer we get to the end of the year as gardeners face the fact that they really were never going to plant those 200 tulips bulbs.

I am far from guilty and each year more bulbs find their way into the garage waiting to be planted.  I do try to be good and this year in the Spring I made a note in my garden notebook of what bulbs I needed to add to what border.  I dutifully consulted my notebook when the glossy bulb catalogues arrived but as the pages turned more delights winked at me and the list grew.  But no! This year I was going to be sensible, I had a tight budget so I would not succumb to impulse buys and I didn’t, how good am I?  But then it went a little pear-shaped; I spotted some cheap bulbs in Wilkinsons and well you can never have enough narcissus and then I joined the Spalding Bulb Blogger Group and was sent a selection of 100 mixed spring bulbs as a thank you.  Oh dear, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that!

Well over the last two days I have planted around 200 bulbs.  This may not sound a lot to some but my garden isn’t that big.  I have planted Tulip Ballerina in the front garden along one side of the newly shaped lawn.  These have been interplanted with Allium Sphareocephalon which I saw earlier in the summer at Cotswold Garden Flowers (see top picture).  I have also planted Narcissus Tete-a-Tete, Minnow and Canaliculatus in the front garden among the edging of Deschampsia.  Today I finished off the patio border with some Narcissus W P Milner and also planted up some Anemone Blanda and Mixed Iris from Spalding in pans.  This is on top of the Narcissus planted last weekend.

But there is still a pile of bulbs waiting to be planted in the garage.  There are some tulips mainly Jan Reus to go on the slope to supplement the ones already there; some Allium flavum,  some Miscari and another bag which I can’t remember.  In my defence most of the ones I ordered from Peter Nyssen have been planted, it is the free ones which are looking for homes.  Oh and then I was watching Gardeners World last night and saw a tin bath planted up with masses of tulips  and now I  want to go to the local garden centre to buy lots more tulips to plant up  my tin bath.

So there you go not only am I self-confessed seedaholic but am also a bulb obsessive – healthy addictions I think as they only lead to brighten the  world.

I adore tulips

I am seriously chuffed with my tulips this year despite the colours not being quite what I expected.  It is all very pink and girly and the flowers are really working well with the blossom on the prunus and amelanchier. I think my Cottage Garden Border is beginning to look good.

The variety in the foreground (I have lost the name) has been flowering since the beginning of the month which I think is wonderful value for money.  They are looking a little bowed today due to the rain we have had.  In fact some of them are looking like they won’t be flowering much longer

I have been braver and more exuberant with my tulips this year as a result of a talk I went to last May by Fergus Garrett at Coton Manor.  Fergus explained about adding out of season interest to a border with tulips.  He talked about planted the bulbs around perennials so that as the perennials reappear their leaves hide the fading tulip leaves.  Of course it helps if you choose tulips without large leaves and as you can see I have failed in this respect but I do like the lushness of the foliage.

There are still some gaps probably because I couldn’t remember what was planted in the border when I was bulb planting.  I shall follow Fergus’s advice and make a note in my garden notebook to add more for next year. I think I need something as an antidote to the pink.  I had thought I had bought Spring Green so maybe that’s what I will go for.  It is my experience that in the second year the flowers are often smaller so it will be interesting to compare these photos with next years.