Ceiling

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This year I have decided to try and participate in the weekly photo challenge set by Cathy, Sandra, Melissa and Jane – I came across it via Cathy’s blog.  I like the idea that they have published the list of weekly challenges at the start of the year so lots of time to ponder.

Anyway, this week’s theme is ‘Ceiling’ and my immediate reaction was to post the above photograph.  I take few pictures of interiors unless I am in some historic building and to be honest I am happier when I am outside.  I have developed a bit of a thing over the last year of taking photographs looking up through tree canopies, I love the light play especially through fresh spring or autumn leaves.  Of course this photograph is a winter’s scene but still the contrast of the bright blue sky last weekend and the trees’ silhouettes was enough to stop me on my walk to try and capture it.

As this blog is primarily a gardening blog I think a ceiling of trees is very apt.  Now to ponder next week’s theme of card!

Patterns of the Palm House

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Last week, on a rare dry day, I made my very first visit to Kew Gardens in London.  It is almost ridiculous that I have never visited before but living where I do it involves at least 6 hours on trains so you can understand why I have talked myself out of a visit time and again.  However, as I wanted to meet up with some horticultural friends who live in London and who I hadn’t seen for just over a year it seemed a good venue for a Christmas get together.

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The main attraction was the Palm House, which was particularly apt as I was with a group who are very into exotics and knowledgeable on the subject. However,  I found myself distracted completely by the structure of the Palm House with most of my photographs looking up beyond the foliage to the roof.  The Palm House was built between 1844 and 1848 by the architect Decimus Burton and the iron maker Richard Turner.  It was the first large scale structural use of wrought iron.  Sadly the Temperate House, which is even larger, is closed for restoration and will probably be shut until 2018 but I might get around to another visit by then!

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I loved the spiral staircases which take you to the top of the Palm House and on to a walkway from where you can look down on to the foliage.

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You also get to see close up the detail of the building’s construction.

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I found the contrast of the lush tropical foliage with the hard and geometric structure fascinating, especially with the benefit of a beautiful blue sky in the background.

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Just like the structure of the building many of the plants housed here have strong architectural shapes, such as this Dioon spinulosum (I think!).

We also visited the Alpine House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which I really enjoyed but is hard to photograph well unless you take plant close-ups which I didn’t as again I was distracted by the overall view.

All in all it was a lovely day out despite leaving home in the dark and a return journey completely in the dark.  Maybe a summer visit will allow a longer visit with the opportunity to explore the outside of the gardens more.  Maybe an overnight visit would be an even better idea, maybe to coincide with RHS Chelsea – I feel a plan forming!

 

 

Boxing Day Flower Count 2015

Abelia
Abelia

My Boxing Day Flower Count is becoming a real tradition now as this is the fifth year I have done it.  It is simply a case of going round the garden and counting how many plants are in flower.  Of course when you start thinking about it in detail, as no doubt some people will, you start to wonder if you should count every single Primula vulgaris or each of the red flowered Cowslips or whether you just count one as a representative of the group.  I didn’t remember having these thoughts before and when I looked back on last year’s post I suspect this is because last year, and the years before, the numbers were small – 17 in 2014 compared to 35 today!

Hellebore Anna's Red
Hellebore Anna’s Red

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One of the most notable differences is the number of hellebores that are already in flower probably due to the ridiculously mild winter we have had so far.  Last year there was one double in flower which I had bought in flower back in October.  In contrast this year all the flowering hellebores are well established and I anticipate there will be more flowering within the next two weeks given the number of buds appearing.  Also flowering at the moment is the Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Rose’ and Helleborus foetidus.

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Then there are a ridiculous number of primulas in flower.  Last year there was a small number with one or two flowers just about showing but this year the flowers are more advanced and in some cases going over.  Here are some of my favourites.

The usual shrubs are flowering: Abelia, Jasminum nudiflorum, Rosemary and this year they are joined by Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’

Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price'
Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’

Other new additions this year are some early Galanthus, although Galanthus Ding Dong has been a resident for a couple of years now.

Galanthus Ding Dong
Galanthus Ding Dong

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Galanthus elwesii (probably)
Galanthus elwesii (probably)
Galanthus elwesii Mrs Mcnamara
Galanthus elwesii Mrs Mcnamara

The actual flower count list is as follows:

Abelia
Viburnum tinus ‘
Eve Price’
Jasminum nudiflorum
Rosemary
Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Mcnamara’
Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’
Galanthus plicatus ‘Colossus’
Galanthus elwesii
Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Rose’
Helleborus foetidus
Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’
3 x other unknown Hellebores
Bergenia

Euporbia rigida
Salvia involucrata boutin
Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’
Cyclamen hedrifolium
Cyclamen persicum (I think, bought in 2014 as a bedding plant)
Papaver cambricum
Pulmonaria
Digitalis ambigua
Bedding Pansy
11 x assorted primulas

Euphorbia rigida
Euphorbia rigida

In contrast with previous years the Iris unguicularis has been flowering for a couple of months and seems to have finished now. You can compare this year with previous year’s via the following links

Boxing Day 2014
Boxing Day 2013
Boxing Day 2012
Boxing Day 2011

 

Unseasonably spring-like

Helleborus (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) 'Anna's Red'

Weeding in the garden today, listening to a big fat bee buzzing around the Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, and feeling the sun on my back you could be forgiven for thinking it was Spring.  This assumption was reinforced by the flowering of snowdrops, hellebores and primulas with even the Daphne putting in a show. However it is mid December with the shortest day just two days away.  This winter has been incredibly mild so much so that it is hard to believe we will be recovering from the over indulgences of Christmas in just 5 days.

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After weekend after weekend of rain it was with pure delight that I was out cutting back hellebore leaves first thing this morning, making the most of the blue skies in case they were going to be short-lived but I needn’t have worried as the fine weather lasted longer than my energy levels or my back muscles.

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I don’t ascribe to the ‘slow gardening’ approach at this time of year which advocates leaving all the tidying up until the spring.  I think it is fine if you have a garden that is grasses and late summer perennials but with a garden like mine that I like to look as good as possible all year and which is planted in the layer style it is important to keep on top of things.  I’m not talking about putting the garden to bed for the winter – what a waste of a quarter of the year and so many delights.  Instead I love to potter and tidy and consider.  With the amount of rain we have had this month I am glad I take this approach as lifting the sodden thick layers of sycamore leaves revealed the hellebore flower buds above which were struggling to push their way through just as some of the bulbs were, you can see how little light has got to them.

Galanthus elwesii 'Mrs Macnamara'
Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’

Back on the 5th December I shared my surprise at discovering a snowdrop about to open.  Finally this weekend I have had the privilege of seeing the flowers fully open and this has helped me confirm that its identify is Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’, a very elegant flower with long outer petals and a nice nodding head.

Galanthus elwesii 'Mrs Macnamara'
Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’

The main borders have been tidied and cleared of leaves and decaying stems cut back. I still have the very back borders to do and I have a scheme around the compost bins that I am hoping I might get a chance to carry out before I return to work on the 4th January, which does seem a very long way away being next year!  Though no doubt having seen the forecast I will spend more time day dreaming over seed catalogues and making plans for gardens to visit this year.

 

Always Trust Your Instincts

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This photograph represents a serious amongst of angst and irritation that I have experienced over the last few weeks.

I have had my small greenhouse (6′ x 4′) for probably 8 years and it has a small thermostatically controlled electric heater.  Anyone who has read this blog for a while will know that I use the greenhouse extensively throughout the year.  In recent years it has been home to a tender succulent collection which came through the recent cold winters, when we had temperatures down to -18C for days on end, unscathed.

I have never been tempted to use bubble-wrap. In fact the use of bubble-wrap seems so wrong to me as in my mind it could create condensation and this isn’t great for overwintering plants possibly leading to Botrytis cinerea. However, for some obscure reason I seem to have lost my ability to listen to my instincts, never a good thing, and I have started to doubt myself.  Having changed things around in the greenhouse so I can display my alpine collection I have been feeling all at sea and somewhat bewildered about using a sand plunge.  So no surprise that reading about others putting up bubble wrap I trotted off and bought a role along with the fiddly plastic widget things for attaching the plastic to the frame.

Now this blog might be called ‘The Patient Gardener” but I am not really a patient person especially when it comes to fiddly and tricky inanimate objects.  Over two weekends I have carefully cut panels of the wrap and painstakingly attached them to the sides of the greenhouse which worked reasonably well.  Then it was time for covering the roof. What a faff! It isn’t easy to hold up a sheet of bubble wrap while you try to push one of the tiny plastic widgets into the gully in the frame.

That was two weeks ago.  In a matter of days the panels on the roof started to droop and it was clear that the clips that are meant to hold the wrap on the side bars were coming off. More time was spent using more clips to secure the panels better but No! the panels were intent on coming adrift which defeated the whole object.  Then to make matters worse when I went in the greenhouse this weekend to sort out the problem I found myself in a slow cold shower.  My theory about the condensation had proved to be right and there was a constant drip drip of cold water on to my alpines – disaster.  The one thing alpines don’t like is winter wet so here I was creating an environment that was exactly what they, and to be honest me,  didn’t like.  I have also noticed that the light levels are reduced by the opaqueness of the wrap which isn’t what you want for plants growing and flowering over winter as it produces plants with long drawn out stems.

I have to be honest that at this point I had a complete sense of humour failure and the bubble wrap on the roof was removed in a matter of minutes with a lot of muttering and maybe a few profanities.  What a complete waste of time and money.  It has cost me more to buy the wrap and fixings than I would spend heating the greenhouse even in a very cold winter and I haven’t noticed any increase in the greenhouse’s temperature when the wrap was up.

I am so cross that I didn’t trust my instincts and allowed myself to be swayed by others’ views.  I am sure that if you have a large greenhouse then bubble wrap will have an impact your heating bills which will no doubt be much higher than mine.  I can also see it is good for partitioning off an area of the greenhouse which you want to keep warmer but it isn’t for me or my plants.

Interestingly on the day I had to dry my hair after getting so wet removing the loathed wrap I went to a lunch with my local Alpine Garden Society Committee and shared my tribulations with others.  The general consensus was that bubble wrap wasn’t ideal for alpines and that it would be better if I cover the pots with fleece if the temperatures drop and if I am really concerned then I can put a layer of bubble wrap on top of the fleece to provide a little more protection.

The lesson learnt is to trust my instincts and not follow everyone else blindly if it doesn’t make sense to me.

Winter

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Winter has never been a favourite season for me or even a mildly welcomed one. It is the bottom of the pile. I have found it too still, too grey and obviously too cold. My preference has always been for spring and autumn. Both seasons of significant change, generally fine weather and less overwhelming than the blowsy bountiful, bright summer.

However I am slowly beginning to appreciate winter more. Despite a loathing of snow and it’s inconveniences I find the way it blanks out all the details liberating. Every thing seems new, fresh to the eye. The skeleton trees come into their own, sinister and dark against the leaden skies. In contrast the bright pristine snow glistens and softens everything into velvety undulations.

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Sometimes we have a hoar frost and we enter the mystical and magical world of Narnia. As with the snow there is a silence which conversely can be deafening. No birds sing or flit through branches, nothing stirs. I particularly enjoy the melting of the ice and snow when a soft chime of dripping water rings out and there is anticipation that winter will soon pass and life in the garden will start afresh.

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So far this year we have been spared the ‘joys’ of snow and ice; a welcome respite from my perspective. It has been relatively mild although almost overwhelming wet. The Malvern Hills are known for their springs and the crystal clear water they produce. Consequently living on the side of these hills we are at the mercy of the springs and excess of water appearing seemingly wherever. The garden has developed a new sound of water seeping through the ground – it feels very earthy.

Although there hasn’t been a whiting out of the details as in recent years I am still finding winter an interesting season. The slowness of the season means that there is time to think and consider, to reflect, to plan. The perennials are no longer dominant, their showy flowers have disappeared and even the seed heads have gone having been flattened by the wind and rain. The garden is now waiting. The borders have been weeded and mulched, shrubs pruned. The mild winter has allowed the luxury of reviewing borders, removing and rejigging planting and creating new empty spaces waiting for inspiration to strike.

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Winter is no longer a period of inertia and frustration. I am appreciating it as a breathing space, a time for me to rest, clear my over horticulturally obsessed mind and to refocus. It’s a time for the garden to show me what it needs in the coming year. Come spring we will be ready.

Birmingham Botanical Garden Glasshouses

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I felt in need of some plant therapy this weekend.  I don’t feel as though I have had much horticultural time for the last few weeks particularly over the Christmas break when I was decorating.  Sunday’s forecast was cold and grey so a quick bit of research pointed me in the direction of Birmingham Botanical Garden and its glasshouses.

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I have never visited the gardens before and it is just under an hour’s drive so an easy outing.  You enter through the Tropical Glasshouse whose heat was very welcome after the 3C outside.  The lushness was strangely comforting and quite reviving.  The glasshouse was built in 1852 and is a Grade 1 listed building, its Victorian history positively exudes from its pores and I amused myself imagining Victorian ladies being awed by the exotic planting.2014_01120025I was also reminded of the importance of looking up when you are visiting any sort of garden as high up were various glamorous orchids. From the Tropical greenhouse you go through into the Sub-tropical greenhouse.

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After the exuberance of the Tropical glasshouse the Sub-tropical one was a little disappointing.  But signage quickly explained that the planting was being revisited over the Autumn and Winter and a diagram explained the future organisation of plants into shady dry, shady moist, sunny dry and sunny moist.  Saying this as I walked around the glasshouse there were parts which looked great, maybe they were the bits that had already done and if so then it wasnt at all obvious they were recently planted.

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I love the metal framework of the glasshouses, so beautiful.

From here you enter the Mediterranean glasshouse and here if you needed a wake up call you certainly got one with masses Coleus and Poinsettia all down one side.  I’m not a fan of Coleus particularly but I have to admit that, as you can see below, they certain give  value for money when grouped en mass.

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Finally I walked through into the Arid House.  I have been avoiding these since I had an asthma attack on entering the dry atmosphere of the arid house at Oxford Botanic Garden.  For some reason the environment in Birmingham’s Arid House was fine for me, maybe it’s because it’s a larger space but I enjoyed walking around here despite n0t particularly liking cactus.  I was fascinated by the various other non-cactus arids including Sand Lily, Acanthus sennii and Acacia.

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Despite the cold the glasshouses had warmed me up enough to have a wander around the gardens.  I was very impressed since they promise to be excellent as the year progresses including rock, alpine, fern and woodland gardens.  I liked the way the gardens were laid out, with many plants grouped according to the plant hunter who had discovered them, rather than by plant family.  I think I will try to go back again this year to see the gardens when the weather is kinder and it is more floriferous.

By the time I drove home the blue  sky had disappeared and the sky was becoming misty.  I drove back via Worcester and crossing the Severn River the scale of the current flooding was very apparent.  I don’t think I have seen the extent of flooding so great even in 2006 when we had severe summer flooding.  It was strange to think that no more than an hour before I  had been wandering amongst exotic climbers and palms – I have to say I felt much better and relaxed as a result

Foliage Follow Up – December 2013

Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium

Despite being December and the start of winter there is still a lot of foliage interest in the garden and hopefully most of it will remain now all winter.

I love Cyclamen and more so for the vast differences in the patterns on the leaves than the flowers which seem very similar to me.  The patterns and variation on the leaves can differ dramatically within each species.  The one above, Cyclamen hederifolium, is a new acquisition and has blush pink flowers although there are not many of them in evidence at the moment.

Melianthus major
Melianthus major

Melianthus major continues to shine in the Big Border.  I love its serrated leaves especially when it has rain and the raindrops are caught like jewels along the leaf rib.

Saxifraga 'Silver Velvet'
Saxifraga ‘Silver Velvet’

I do  like the way the leaves on the Saxifraga ‘Silver Velvet’ are turning.  The deep burgundy is slowly bleaching from the outside to a bright pink.  This is the first winter this plant has been in the border so I have my fingers crossed that it will survive.

Ajuga reptans
Ajuga reptans

Another dark leaved perennial that looks good all  winter is Ajuga reptans.  It is especially good with the bright fresh shoots of bulbs pushing up alongside it.  I have only ever seen this form of Ajuga but I have recently been reading Marjery Fish and she mentioned some other varieties which I shall have to investigate.

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Finally there are the Epimediums which I seem to be acquiring quite  a few of.  There are the evergreen ones such as above – I can’t remember the name of this one and it is now too dark to go and look at the label.  Then there are the deciduous ones like below, Epimedium ogisui, whose leaves turn as they fade and I really like the added interest they bring to the border.  I think we are so busy looking at the Autumn foliage of shrubs and trees that we forget to look down at the perennials.

Epimedium ogisui
Epimedium ogisui

I hope you enjoyed my wintery foliage but if you would like some warmer offerings pop over to Pam’s blog Digging where you will find links to many other posts with some from warmer climes.

The Cowl is Finished

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The Cowl is finished and my manic expression doesn’t indicate that it was a hard pattern more that I was trying to take a photo of myself using an iPad and discovered it really was quite hard to do plus I hate having my photo taken so I shall stick to things I don’t have to model in future!

Anyway, I really enjoyed crocheting the Cowl. The pattern was very simple just double crochet with a chain in between and then on the following row you double crochet into the chain gap etc. I had to do some shaping which was new for me but I think it went OK and the cowl bit itself was simple as with crochet it is easy to go round and round and make a tube, much easier than with knitting I think.

The pattern for those interested was from Simply Crochet and by Sara Huntington, I decided to omit the teddy bear ears. The wool is Rico Basic Super Big Aran in stone grey.

Now to find another project which I won’t have to model!