Tuesday, January 28, 2014

R.I.P Arthur George Lee Hellyer

My favourite picture of Arthur and me, walking and discussing the garden.

It is difficult, and slightly scary, to believe that it is 21 years since I lost my daddy - almost to the moment when he gave his last breath.

He had a long and illustrious life. Soft and gentle by nature. Hardworking and dedicated to his writing until a few weeks before his death; he is still held in high esteem by many horticulturalists and writers including Robin Lane Fox, with whom he worked for many years. In 2012 Robin Lane Fox wrote a wonderful article about The Haphazard Gardener, for me this was a seal of approval.

Without Arthur and his wife Gay the story of The Haphazard Gardener would not have been possible because without their vision and hard work there would not have been a garden to cherish.

It is with great affection that I remember Arthur, and know that he will still be happy and at rest at Orchards.

The house that Arthur & Gay built. Complete 1938.
I'm guessing that the lady in black is one of their mother's.

The photograph was taken by Navana Vandyke and is now with the National Portrait Gallery.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Little Bit of Gardening

A Little Bit of Gardening

There is very little growing in our new garden. Two 'dwarf' conifers - one on either side of the garden, which, I know from past experience will, once they decide to grow to their full potential, take off and not stop until they have reached 3m or more in height. One of these conifers' resides with two variegated Hebe - planted in a raised bed, with a scattering of crocus beneath (all of which were desperately pushing themselves out of the ground).

Running beside a low boundary wall a narrow south-facing border contains one enormous Weigela, two Fuchsias, short in habit with weeping branches and another splattering of crocus. Low growing plants include an Erodium and a Campanula. Planted against the back wall, tucked in a corner beneath the vent to the boiler is an Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride'; which to my great pride I had recognised before we found the label buried beneath the built up soil.

Two ivy (the previous owner obviously didn't know the rule about planting in odd numbers), grow either side of the 'shed' door. I use the word shed advisedly...It is a lovely long single storey brick building, divided up between the neighbours.  The majority of the ivy will be removed...I always like the notion of wrens sheltering in the ivy during the winter, as we saw so often at Orchards but I've yet to see one wren! Sadly neglected too the ivies scramble over the wall into the neighbour's garden and more worryingly into the gutters and under the tiles.

My main aim today, with the sun on my back, was to remove one small conifer and prune, deadhead and tip back the hebes. It took several hours of painstaking pruning to remove most of the deadwood, but as with most gardening, when you are up close and carefully observing, I noticed three separate stems with new flower buds, in varying stages of bud development. And it's only the 10th January.

I didn't grow variegated hebe at Orchards, so maybe this early flower is normal. Reading up online about hebes in general it is stated that some species will give winter flowers.  Eager for knowledge I contacted www.lynash.co.uk a nursery who specialise in hebe.  Within hours - with the aid of pictures I'd sent - they gave an identification of Hebe franciscana Variegata.

Deadheading the spent blooms will help to promote additional flowering but generally speaking the shrub needs little or no pruning. Shortening some of the stems however, will give a bushier growth.

Hebe, named after the Greek goddess of youth are a varied mix of evergreen shrubs. Some suitable for the rock garden and others growing to the height of a small tree, with foliage in a variety of colours, burgundy, bronze, green and variegated. And within this are further variations.  

They can be grown as hedges, specimen plants and rock plants. The leaves too are different shapes. Some are less hardy than others. Most dislike cold winds but can be cut back hard into old wood to recover. They enjoy cool summers and mild winters and are best in loose well drained soil whether it be alkaline or acid in sun or shade.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winter Light

I was listening to a conversation on the  radio travelling along the M20, between two ladies, one who loved January, the other claiming she found it dull and difficult and for her the year should begin in June.

I wanted to shout – open your eyes – look around you at the beauty of winter. I was frustrated at not being able to stop to photograph the dramatic scenes as we whizzed towards a grey, threatening sky; a steely-grey with a promise, no, a certainty of rain.

Behind us a watery sun shone, lightening the trunks of the wayside silver birch trees, making their purple twiggy stems an even stronger contrast. Old Man’s Beard shuddered in the wind. A small copse of ochre-yellow willow glowed – a stronger comparison against the backdrop of lush pale green pastures. Red cornus stems (at least I think that was what they were), and small crab apples hung like Christmas baubles. Some of the scrubby hazels sported tight buds, whilst others had mature catkins dancing in the breeze.

Open your heart to nature – look at your surroundings. There is a wealth of winter beauty to be seen.

And to quote @Littleashgarden from Twitter – ‘There is so much beauty to be seen in the details of winter…'