Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Centaurea montana 'Amethyst in Snow'

It was the picture on the label that did it for me - bought from Archers Low Nursery a couple of months ago, with the buds not even formed. It has not disappointed me even though there is only one flower in bloom, with many more to come.

I have always loved Centaurea montana; especially 'Parham' but it is possible that this cultivar is my most favourite to date...

Centaurea montana 'Amethyst in Snow'

Monday, April 28, 2014

Is this the way to do it?

Do you save old pots? Especially old terracotta pots - I do, until the narrow crack widens and the need to repot is essential. The old plumbago - a present from a friend of many years had weathered the winter outside in the shelter of the wall, where any winter sun would have warmed it. It looked dead but the stems were still flexible. A diligent picking over of all the browned leaves revealed new leaf buds pushing through. Lifting the pot to a table to do this job edged the crack of many years standing to open further.

We brought a new pot from Archers Low Nursery just as they were trying to close on a sunny spring day. Sarah, ever helpful and accommodating allowed us a late purchase of a lovely square brown pot.

The plumbago was reluctant to give up its position in the cracked pot without some persuasion. With hammer in hand OH dealt with it swiftly - almost too swiftly for me to take a picture!

This is not a conventional way to repot a plant. There were several reasons for the destruction of the pot. One we had no crocks left - now we have enough to last us years. Two I feared damaging the plumbago if I tapped it out the usual way and three I wanted to pick over the topsoil carefully before the muscari bulbs tumbled out. And apart from that it just wouldn't budge from where it had grown happily for many years.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tiarella 'Pink Skyrocket'

These will look beautiful when planted out
together...seedling acer and Tiarella '
Sky Rocket'

I found this little gem in a nursery sale a couple of weeks ago. I am not sure what delighted me the most - the attractively marked leaves or the beautiful flower stems, with the deeper pink buds opening to a soft pale pink, fading to white.

I have always been a lover of Tiarella but in my Sussex garden they quite often succumbed to the dreaded vine weevil; fingers crossed it won't happen again. 

Tiarella's common name is Foamflower. It grows well in full or partial shade, with average to moist soil conditions. The beautiful deeply-cut leaves are marked with deep red in the centres and along the veins.

Evergreen and easy to grow and maintain, with the removal of dead leaves and flower stems in spring rather than autumn or winter. If you want to cut it back do so between April and July.

Close up of the beautiful flowers

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recycling Plants

I have always been a recycler of plants, be it the trimmings from stems brought in from the garden; these placed in the tiniest of vases if necessary to live out their last hours still being admired rather than thrown in a bin, to viable cuttings taken from prunings of shrubs or climbers in the garden. Always an avid propagator, it may well have been one reason why I opened my own nursery in the early 1990s and with over 7 acres to fill I had plenty of  places to move shrubs that may have outgrown their original space. But now with a new garden to ‘design’ and plant, my views on recycling plants have altered. 

   It is easy to be cynical about other peoples’ choices and planting. I scratch my head and wonder why, with such a small space would anyone plant three of the same conifer, (especially when we dug them out from a narrow border to find that it had all of a few inches in which to grow before the roots hit a thick layer of plastic, which sent them running underneath all the slabs), two identical hebes, a weigela left unpruned for so long it was a tall gangly, tangled mess.

Raised bed with hebe & conifers.
 Ivy on the wall, weigela to the righthand side

Our rear garden (call it that at the stretch of the imagination) is, (so I was told) approximately forty feet in length, with a well-built brick building at the end. We own one part of the long length of it, as it runs into the neighbouring garden and is then converted into a couple of small dwellings. Our other neighbour has a longer garden with a tall boundary brick wall at the end, as do the other neighbours on our terrace, all backed by the same boundary wall.

   A very narrow border runs down one edge of this length, more shady during the day than the north side and is (was) planted with a ‘dwarf’ conifer – one of those that is sold in a three inch pot and in truth stays fairly well behaved until suddenly after a decade (do trees have a similar life span to a cat i.e. one of our years to seven of theirs) they grow steadily at about two feet or more a year. This has not been recycled. 

   By the time I reached the opposite side of the garden where a small area of raised bed, in which two identical conifers was growing rapidly from their early modest beginnings, I was becoming used to the idea of not recycling plants. The guilt I would have felt in my old garden in Sussex quite absolved. 

Tangled Weigela
   The large tangled weigela suffered the same fate; I know I could have pruned it hard etc etc but those days are over. However I had mixed feelings about removing the two ivies that grew either side of the outbuilding door, but once again, badly neglected over the years it was shabby once pruned back and full of dead leaves and dust. And once again, we have this area earmarked for espalier fruit trees… although OH has announced he would like a wisteria! Compromise has to be made in such a small space…only time will tell who leans heaviest!

   But it's too late for second thoughts…only one ivy remains as we wait for the plant to die back sufficiently to remove it from the wall without damage. We cut away a large section in the middle of its growth, removing the stems that were clinging to the bricks and mortar by only a few inches, until they dried a little and we can cut more…as soon as the leaves look a little pallid we will be back to pull them off the wall.  We felt glad that we found no nests in the ivy (often a favourite place for small birds, especially wrens). In the long term it is a good thing because the facia needs painting and the gutters are no longer littered with ivy growing along its length. 
Two fuchsias, weepy in habit remain in the narrow border. I need to buy a suitable pot to take them both. So they too will be recycled. Two large variegated hebes have already been repotted and we hope will be integrated into the design of the back garden.

Dying ivy being removed from the wall

The large specimen of box was recycled. This grew against the low wall. It had no ‘back’ and a very large pop belly. Whilst it waited for clipping we dropped it into the biggest pot we could find and covered with compost. As it was going against the wall of the house, the lack of ‘back’ didn’t matter.

A low growing conifer, also sadly neglected over the years, leant forward across the front pathway looking for light.  Within an hour and a half we had the sprawling mess, cut down, chopped and bagged and the stump removed… I love this kind of gardening…it leaves you with a huge sense of satisfaction. On this piece of dividing wall grows a Hydrangea petiolaris, which I had already pruned back against the wall…two new clematis are now planted to grow up and through the stems. The box has a new home in the front of this planting. Primrose and winter aconite are planted nearby.

So do I advocate recycling? Yes if at all possible…

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Delightful Gift

Remembering me from thousands of miles away, my lovely daughter Sorcha, arranged a gift with a nursery who I follow both on twitter and facebook. A welcome email from Pollie Maasz included a couple of enticing photographs of her wonderful stock plants, along with a message to purchase plants for my Mothers Day gift. Wise daughter to send this such a present ...

Hemerocallis en masse at Pollie's Nursery
With very little notice, Pollie and her husband were gracious enough to allow us to drop in. It was lovely to meet a virtual friend. Who in the spirit of a true gardener was willing to share both time and knowledge. It was the late Rosemary Verey who told me that from every garden visited, you will come away with an idea, and or a piece of knowledge - maybe not to be used immediately but to always keep it: in your head, your heart or better still for most of us in a notebook.

Whilst discussing daylilies, three of which I inherited from my father's Sussex garden I commented on the fact that the 'orangey' one, (I guessed to be Hemerocallis fulva) which was always the earliest to flower, succumbed to Hemerocallis Gall Midge every year. Pollie was able to explain to me the life cycle of this little pest, go to the RHS website to read. If you are introducing daylilies into the garden for the first time it is always best to avoid the early flower varieties.

The garden is full of promise and I am really glad that I've agreed to return to collect my plant/s later in the year, thus (hopefully) affording me the opportunity to save on postage and buy more. AND see Pollie's plants in all their glory.

Pollie's Nursery bed
The selection on Pollie's website, is almost too enticing to make a choice. My original (draft) list doubles my gift, well there is no problem in treating myself is there? The first plant Jelly Dancer took up the cost of my already generous gift. I could easily double the order. I have held back with only 40' of garden, still not designed, common sense must prevail...

A further ponder on the choices made and I've changed my list again. There are so many things to consider but I will very soon send in my order, even if I have to wait another year to collect the plants

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Field of Yellow

Yellow en masse has never been a favourite colour for me, but watching the development of this enormous field of rape has made me smile each time I've passed by. Maybe it is the the sharp contrast of the black windmill. The rape grows beside a narrow but very busy road with solid white lines either side. Each time we passed we looked for a place suitable to stop to take some shots before the rape was harvested. Swinging into the field keeping to the tractor wheel ruts we were able to take a few pictures.

In the centre of the field on the opposite side of the road, a copse stands in a recently ploughed field.
A scene which is just as magical - full of expectation.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Secret No More

The Broadwalk - Walmer Castle Gardens

Walmer Castle Gardens. For me this garden is a gem, with a mix of planting that will please us both. 

Philip more of the ordered, clipped, neat tidy persuasion and me the wild, natural look: there is plenty of both styles of planting in this garden. Having said that he loved the clipped ruggedness of the yew hedges that formed a backdrop to The Broadwalk. 

There is a wooden seat at the end of The Broadwalk, where you can sit and view not just the length of the twin herbaceous borders, but a distant vista across a croquet lawn and out into the wildness.

I can see a string of elephants in the undulating yew hedge. This hedge, neglected during the war, then damaged by the harsh winter of 1947, was cut into this interesting shape. I am assuming that prior to this it was a neat line. 

Old photographs of the mirror herbaceous borders in their full flowering glory, are a treat that will have to wait. I was informed by a member of staff that one of the borders has been left fallow, in order to tackle a bindweed problem. However this garden has a wealth of trees and plants to enjoy.

There will be further posts about this delightful garden.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A River of Red

I am almost certain that this is Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin'. It is a shrub that I coveted in the Italian gardens that grew it as a hedge in place of the laurel that surrounds the garden of No 3 and the majority of the town's gardens. There is something enticing about this glorious display of bright red new growth. I have seen it locally in rivers of red, blocks of scarlet and specimens, clashing with bright pink cherry blossom. 

It has to be forgiven for any is a delight and can not only make me smile, yet begs me to stroke the soft young leaves.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Clematis 'Brunette'

What a delight this Clematis is. New to me - it was flowering gaily in a small independent garden centre I happened upon. It is a little shy about showing its flowers to me but then it is only small. Next year with more growth I should be able to snap the flowers without sitting down. Planted next to Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride' the two plants are on their way to give lots of spring contrast.

Clematis 'Brunette'

Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride'