Thursday, 18 September 2014

A brief affair with asters

I have grown perennial asters for several years now and I love their height, their boldness and their colour.  I did not dislike annual asters, I just completely ignored and overlooked them.  This year I have corrected this, this year I decided to try annual asters and see what what I thought of them.
Well it turns out I like them a lot.  Like their perennial cousins they are late to flower in the year, I rather like late flowerers as it means I have flowers late in the season.
There are rather furly-whirly,
and quite nicely paced in showing their full flower.
They mix in well in the border, though they are a bit heavy headed so do droop a little.
Some like to make a sideways appearance.
and they even look good in a mixed posy.

They were very easy to germinate and I shall definitely be growing them again.  Like with several plants I have grown this year I am realising that they need to be grown more en-masse and less sprinkled about, I think they would make an even better effect then.  This is something I always love about gardening as next year is always being planned and improvements always being thought of.  It is a cycle of continuous improvement.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The tree of Damocles

This story began almost a year ago.  Well actually no, it really began almost exactly 90 years ago when a clause was agreed on the land where my house is built saying that that there should be a boundary created by a row of poplar trees.  Most of these trees still stand today and behind one corner of my garden was a very large, very fine, very sprawly black poplar tree.
It has dominated the skyline and my garden for decades and for as long as I have known it it has always had a lean, but did not give me too much worry.
Even when some local scrote set fire to the base of it, it appeared to shrug this off and survive.  But time takes its toll on us all and this time last year a massive limb detached from the tree and plummeted into my garden.  Bearing in mind this corner tree also overlooks a local school, it seemed to me pretty important that it was made safe.  The owners duly sent around some tree people to remove the limb from my garden and they promised to return to deal with the tree itself over the winter.
It is not easy to see from this photo, but the downward branches is the fallen limb going through my horse chestnut tree.

Winter came and went but there was no apparent sign of action.  Then some more of the tree came down.  This time seriously damaging my horse chestnut tree.

I was not pleased but again the tree people came around, removed the limb and I was promised, promised, that the tree would be looked at and made safe.  I need to make it very clear at this point that I was not pushing for total removal of the tree, but I did need to be assured that it was safe as I was now extremely nervous about going down that part of my garden.  It felt like the Sword of Damocles was waiting to fall.
More weeks passed, then more limbs fell from the tree.  This time my Davidia took a serious hit and I was pretty sure it was done for.  More urgent phone calls and again another site visit.
This time they actually seemed like they might do something, except what they wanted to do chilled me to the bone.  Dropping large chunks of tree onto my garden was mentioned and I became very unhappy.
After a few more weeks I finally got them to agree a date when they would come.  They said they wanted to dig up various trees/shrubs from my garden so I firmly refused them permission to do this.  I did remove a few recently planted items such as the Iford Cherry and a Daphne, but the rest I marked up with the now traditional Sainsburys bags and I told them they had to be careful to avoid them.
Of course the day they decided they were coming I could not be at home.  This made me very very anxious but I did not feel that delaying them was a good idea.  I just had to hope for the best and keep fingers and toes crossed.

On my return home the sight of a large, truncated trunk greeted me.
The whole bottom corner of the garden has been opened up.  The light is incredible and gives me huge opportunities to consider what to do in this space.
I am a bit concerned that it has reduced the security at that bottom corner and that does not make me hugely happy, so I am considering planting some hawthorns or the like to fence it in.  It is early days as I need to get used to seeing the garden looking like this before making any decisions.
I do, however, suspect that they did dig up some of my shrubs, either that or two of them have exchanged places on their own volition.  My gingko appears to have done a 180 deg turn.  Now this does give me real concern as this tree was one of the first things planted in this garden so has been in place for seven years now so it had rooted in well.  It might not look much, this is because it was badly damaged in the fire I mentioned above and it has taken a few years to start to re-establish.  I shall be incredibly unhappy if this uprooting harms it.  I shall keep you informed.
I am sad to see the poplar looking so stumpy; on the other hand for the first time in a year I feel safe walking around my own garden and this is good.  I am fairly sure the tree will start to grow again so in future years the problem will return but hopefully it will take a while before this is so.  Watch this space as they say!

There is a small ray of hope for the Davidia.  I dug it up and put it in a container, partly to protect it from further damage when they were pruning the tree but also to help coax it back into life.  When I looked at it this weekend I could see a large bud forming showing new growth.  I am now hopeful it might survive after all.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Something to soothe the seven year itch

Except I haven't got the seven year itch just yet, though there is a whole twelve months to go until the seventh year is done.  September 10th is the seventh anniversary of moving into this house.  Every year I take this as a moment to pause a moment and reflect.  Reflect on what is and what was and what may be.
I look back at how the garden has changed, which is rather a lot.  In the beginning there was no pond, no Wild Garden, no Pond Border or Spring Border.  The Conservatory Border was just a narrow strip and the Coal Bunker border was almost non-existent. 
September is quite a key month for the garden as it is usually this time of year that I start any border enlargement or re shaping I have in mind,  This year though I am not planning major changes to the back garden. I think it is another consolidation year as I did quite a bit of re shaping last year.  I still have quite a lot of bare patches that I need to fill from division mainly of current plants.  
I think the main autumn project this year is going to be further work on the driveway. I have ordered some Rosa Rugosa, some Buckthorns and a Cedar. These will go in with the Pin Oak bought several months ago that has been living in the veg borders for most of the year.  I have already planted a Magnolia 'Little Gem' and a Catalpa purpureans in the driveway and also a couple of fuchsias and some foxgloves and verbascums.  In the Spring I shall sow some wildflower seeds as I want to keep the area informal and not really gardened as such.
Seven years makes this the house I have lived in the longest since I left my parents house. This is quite a surprise to me and I think it might mean I have settled at last.......for now.......

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Tree following, its beginning to turn

or Episode 7 
I am now seven episodes and therefore seven months into following my quince tree and now I can that it is starting to turn.

Last month saw spurts of growth and this spurs have reached as far as they will this year I think.
Meanwhile the older leaves are looking, well, older
Something has been having a nibble and tunnel around in this one.
The first signs of leaf turn are happening, just gently at the moment.
But I expect it to speed up soon.
It is fascinating watching the tree change through the seasons.  I wonder how many leaves will be left next month?

To see more trees being followed look here.  A huge thanks to Lucy for hosting this meme.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A rainy day at Kiftsgate Court Gardens

It is many years since I visited Kiftsgate Court Gardens but it was somewhere I wanted to go back to as it had made quite an impression on me.  It is not that far from where I live really and whilst I seem to be driving that way quite frequently at the moment the moment to stop and go in and not arisen.  The other day I was invited to go for lunch with an old friend and she said I could choose a garden to visit on the way back so after a quick check on the map I knew this was the day to go to Kiftsgate again.

We left on a sunny day and had a very nice lunch and whilst there I admired their rather nice courtyard,
and rather strange hens (these were not on the menu, I checked).
Isn't the honey coloured one adorable?  I said 'look up' to him and he did.

We then set off for Kiftsgate and immediately the dark clouds started to gather.  We drove though a torrential downpour and this then turned into a plethora of small showers that continued for the rest of the afternoon.
I like Kiftsgate, it leads you well on its paths up and down and around and it is a good journey.
It is quite sheltered as you move down the terraces, I was impressed to see this echium,
and this was one of a few Brugmansia, huge Brugmansia I should add.
The garden is quite steep and has some good set pieces that set off the landscape well.
The more it rained the more people gathered in these shelters.  As is often when wandering around a garden conversations took place with total strangers, those happy, nice conversations where you collide and then move on probably never to meet again. 
The borders were looking very colourful.
and I do like a good bit of garden sculpture.  Sculpture is a hard thing to place in a garden, it can often jar and what one person likes another will not.  I liked this one.
I really liked this one, it has a great simplicity of shape yet adds to the space and planting perfectly.
As we wandered around a passing visitor spoke to us just as we reached this spot.  She said it looked like the cover of the Rupert Bear annuals and I knew exactly what she meant.  It really made me smile.
I wandered into the Water Garden, a garden I know that divides opinion, it is the marmite of gardens.  I am going to stick my head above the parapet and say that I like it, it is very green, very minimalist and very soothing.  My friend I was visiting with did not like it very much.  She thought it stood out too much against the rest of the garden and was too green, too minimalist, too soothing to the point of dullness.  I think I like its boldness and and I can imagine sitting on a warm summer evening, sipping a vodka martini and listening to the sound of the water.  It makes a nice foil to the busy and intricate planting in the rest of the garden.
It was good to see some magnificent hydrangeas,
some were just huge.
Though if we are speaking of huge then the Kiftsgate Rose must get a mention.  It is just mahoosive!  I bought one last time I was there and it is not this big yet, it marauders around my hedge as an extra spiny deterrent.
I liked this courtyard too, it was nice soothing and the planting was wonderful.  There were lots of anemonies in flower and the signs of many peonies that must have looked amazing a few months ago.
The eye-lines work well in the garden, the focal points are well positioned;
and I always like really simple but effective areas like the geranium pots on the balustrades.
and of course we had a pot of tea and admired these little chaps by the fireplace whilst we thought about buying a plant or two from the plant area.

So I bought three:
Stipa Brachytricha which is now divided into two and planted in the Conservatory Border.
Romneya coulteri, which was a complete bargain as it was very cheap and really quite big.  I have decided to grow it in its pot for now to get it through the winter, then maybe (but maybe not) plant it out next spring.

and finally.....
this Brugmansai, which is one of the healthiest I've ever seen and for £7 (yes, £7) I think it is the bargain of the year.  I have bought a pot to that in too as it will be coddled over the winter.

In total all three plants cost around £20 - was I happy - yes I was!

So a great day was achieved.