Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Tree following December - a new light has fallen

For two years now I have been following this quince tree, praising it, criticising it and generally alternating between hopeful optimism and bemoaning the lack of quinces.  At this time of year I pause and admire the sheer beauty of its leaves.  The red veining that becomes apparent as the colour drains from the foliage.
This is a truly stunning tree and deserves to finish the year with admiration.
A bit of encouragement can go a long way and if this tree ne'er bears a quince it still deserves its place in my garden.
I hope I never get tired of admiring the detail, of enjoying the little things (rule #37).

I feed the tree with liquid seaweed and in very dry months it will get the odd bucket of water.  This autumn though I have given it a little prune.  It is not a big tree but I have opened up the centre of the tree more to allow Monty's imaginary pigeons to fly through more easily.
I have also removed the large overhanging branch from the neighbouring field maple.  This has allowed new light to flood into this corner of the garden.  It might not produce a quince, but who knows, it might.  Either way I feel I am giving it its best chance.  Here's to 2017 and whatever it may bring.

Thanks as ever to Squirrelbasket for hosting this meme - more trees can be found here

Wordless Wednesday - Edgeworthia-watch 2

Monday, 5 December 2016

Book Review: Landscape of Dreams, the Gardens of Isabel and Julian Bannerman by Isabel and Julian Bannerman

I was sent this book to review and what an incredible book it is.  I have had the good fortune to visit a couple of the gardens in the book so I was really interested to know more about Isabel and Julian Bannerman and the gardens they design.

The information that came with the book describes it as "the long awaited book by the Bonnie and Clyde of garden design", (which of course in my head makes them Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty).  To be honest I am not exactly certain what is meant by this.  I assume it means they are a bit rebellious and unpredictable and always one step ahead of the pack.  It's a strange analogy bearing in mind how Bonnie and Clyde ended up.

The book covers gardens they have designed for clients, such as the Prince of Wales who also wrote the foreword,  their gold medal winning Chelsea Flower Show garden, some private commissions and also the gardens they have designed for themselves.  The book is more than a list of gardens, it the traces the story of the Bannermans' lives through their work, starting with their early influences and taking us up to the present day.
The plans and descriptions of the gardens show the inspirations behind them.  This is fascinating to me as I love learning the background to designs.  There is so much more to the gardens than just what you see, there are layers of inspiration and knowledge that meld together to create the final design.

The photographs in the book are many; I found myself studying the photographs and the text carefully.  They fit together well and also help create a feeling of place in the depicted gardens.  It is an interesting walk through the gardens as whilst the designs are quite different, there are different themes that emerge more than once.  You realise you are doing more than reading a record of their design but also seeing its evolution.

It is I believe fair to say that their clients are quite exclusive.  To have a Bannerman garden you are going to be fairly well off.  The title of the book is very apt as they do make landscape dreams come true and to do this you need to be able to fund it.  So you might think from this that basically the book is about the unattainable and what you can only look at in wonder.  I do not think this is so.  The grand structures they make are probably not going to fit into the average garden.  The grand structures are probably not going to be affordable by many either; but look beyond, in front and around that.  Look at the planting that is happening as it is romantic, soft and also very beautiful.  The planting ideas are attainable.  You can create a corner or a border that would follow their principles, you do not need acres or a lottery win to do this.

The Bannermans might be Bonnie and Clyde as prior to this book they have to me felt a little elusive.  I had heard of them yet rarely hear from them if that makes any sense? This book redresses this as it feels very personal and helps open a window into their world.  It is a book that generously and eloquently shares their perspective on gardens.  I truly loved it.

Landscape of Dreams is published by Pimpernel Press

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Dark waters

I love my pond, I really do, it is probably my favourite bit of the garden and it makes me very happy.  I have written previously that I spent quite a while finding the right bench to put by the side of the pond and now that I have one there it is quite truly the finishing touch.
I spend more time than I probably should just sitting on this bench, most often drinking tea, sometimes just sitting.  I peer into the dark waters on a cold day like today and I try to see something.  I don't know what, just something.  In the past I have seen a newt or two; in the Spring it is full of frogspawn.  I often see frogs wandering around the garden yet rarely see them swimming in the pond.  In my mind I picture them doing an unhurried breast-stroke just under the surface.

Yet there I sit, patiently staring into its dark depths.  It is deep, over the top of the welly deep at its heart.  I ponder sometimes on those ponds that people dye black to make them more reflective.  I can understand why they want the reflections, they can be very dramatic and in a less deep pond then the dye stops you just seeing the bottom of the pond.

and still I sit, patiently staring into its depths and I wonder if it was dyed black what chance I would have of seeing anything?  Mine is a different sort of pond, it was planned with wildlife in mind and frogspawn probably isn't welcome in a dyed pond.  My pond would be bereft without the life within it.

and there I still sit, patiently almost meditatively, still starting into its depths and I wonder what I am looking for?


Could be.......

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Book Review - Build a Better Vegetable Garden by Joyce Russell

I was asked if I would like to review this new book by Joyce Russell:  Build a Better Vegetable Garden, 30 DIY projects to improve your harvest.  I was very pleased to receive it as it really is a rather fab book.
There is a great picture contents list at the front of the book so that you can see each of the projects quite clearly.  Then there is a section on buying tools that is really useful.  There are the basic hand tools and then some additional power tools and holding aids explained.  There are also the invaluable safety tips.  You are also talked through the different materials you will need to choose when making the projects.  Although quite brief, if you are a total novice (like I am) then the explanation of different types of timber is really useful.  It is worth reading the introductory pages as they really do give a lot of detailed good advice.

For each of the projects there is a symbol system that gives you the level of difficulty and an approximate amount of hours it will take to complete.  There is also a good clear list of what you need in materials and in tools.  I am currently obsessing about the state of my raised beds so I found the raised bed projects very interesting  (three difficulty stars).  The lean-to polyframe also looks doable for me at four difficulty stars out of ten and looks very effective.  The symbol system works well as it helps me consider carefully where I might make a start.  Three stars looks possible but the Growing Bag Cradle at five difficulty stars might not be first on my list to attempt.

Some of the projects are practical, some are more decorative and some are a bit of both.  There are also tips on how to use the projects once complete and what is good to plant in them.

The photographs by Ben Russell show us what we need to see and displays the projects well.  There is imagination and style with the photographs that lift them from being what could have otherwise been a utilitarian step by step guide.

If I have one suggestion to improve the book it would be that the nice picture contents pages also included the difficulty stars, it would just help give a bit more information as you are browsing the projects.  Irrespective of this I can happily recommend this book.  I am sure it would be of interest to anyone setting up a vegetable plot and also to someone like myself who needs to revamp and improve their plot.  With a nod to the calendar at the time of posting this, not only is this a good gift to buy for someone for christmas, it is a good gift to buy for yourself too.

The book is published by Frances Lincoln

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

End of Month Review - November 2016

November has been mild and cold and has also seen the start of the rainy season.  Lots of rain in has fallen this month, mainly in a two day period and the garden feels more soaked than it has done for many months.  We have had a couple of frosts, but generally it has not really been that cold.

So to the garden:
Well, the driveway actually, where the Pin Oak has turned a beautiful russet red.  This is such a fine tree and I am so pleased I planted it in the driveway as it makes quite a statement.  It is still young but it has settled in very well.  I am hoping it will still start to mature and put on more growth next year.
In the Knot Garden the five cypress trees are starting to grow well now.  They are starting to look like they might actually be there.
On the front doorstep there are still some pelagoniums resisting the cold as is the Bowl of Happiness.
Into the main garden itself and it is one of those days where the sun is bright but the shadows are long.  The Long Shoot is looking a bit dark with a sprinkle of windfall apples on the ground.  The birds and squirrels are enjoying eating them.
In the Pond Border itself the planting is looking exhausted and cold.  It is the time of year when the sedums start to come into their own and I love the structure that they bring to the winter garden.
The grasses by the pond are also providing good structure and work well with the quality of the light this time of year.
The Prairie Borders also shine in the sun.  They have done well this year despite the near total failure of planting cosmos into them for a change.  I have planted some tulips into them to give a bit of Spring colour.  This might be a failure too though as I think the squirrels have feasted on them.
I like this view across the Dancing Lawn towards the Prairie Borders.  It also shows the beech pillars that are not quite pillars yet and of course, Bruce.
The Wild Garden looks sparse this time of year.  The trees are still rather young but they are maturing well now.
The contorted hazel is looking very fine with its autumn leaf colour.
and the mahonia at the top of the garden is also doing well.  It has been joined by a Japanese larch which I am hoping will settle in well.  I know it will make a big tree but I think there is capacity for it at the top boundary.
The Exotic Border has some bare patches but the bamboo and the oak-leafed hydrangea give it good structure through the winter.
The Spring Border is sleeping under a carpet of apple leaves for now.
and the leaf-fall exposes some nests in the boundary hedges.  Not sure what this is the nest of, but it is well made and I am hope that next year it might be used again.
There are still some roses in bloom - this is Sir Clough.
But some of the chrysanthemums have seen better days.
In the veg borders the slugs have eaten pretty much everything except the kale.  Not sure that is a good sign for the taste of the kale.
The greenhouse is full and waiting to be fleeced when the temperature takes a further fall.
and the pond is pretty much full.  The heavy rain the other day topped it up nicely.

I am still weeding the garden as often as I can, the lack of serious frost means that the weeds are still growing.  I tell myself every weed removed now is worth 100 in the new year.  Let's hope this is so.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Wednesday Metre - Sapid

Sapid and ambrosial
Deliciously decaying
Irresistible to those
Who fear the onslaught
Of winter, of frosts, of snow
Allowed to lie,
Mushly lush