Sunday, 21 December 2014

Time is fleeting

What an apt thought for this the shortest day, time is fleeting (with due reference to Richard O'Brien, Little Nell and Patricia Quinn).  On the shortest day no sooner as it got light then it starts to think about going dark again.  This could be quite a sad thought but of course it means that the turning point has arrived.  Slowly, gradually, minute by minute first the evenings will get lighter and then after a little wait, the mornings start to follow suit.

I had arranged some time ago to spend the day wandering around Calke Abbey in Derbyshire with a couple of friends.  There was a local food fair on and a good walk on a winter's day seemed a good plan.

It was a very good plan, yes there was a period of time when I was wandering around with cheese in one pocket and fudge in the other, but that is what pockets are for.
It was a beautiful day so we the feeling to wander upon us we went off for a turn around the lake.  The sun shone for most of the time and the views across the reservoir were beautiful.  We stood for a while and discussed sheep.  It turns out one of the three of us knew more about sheep than the other two.  This was not particularly hard in my case as I know little about them.
The turn around the lake involved stopping and admiring ducks.  There were further pauses to inspect buds on trees looking about to spring into action and also to wonder at the pussy willow where its furry paws were on the verge of opening.  All hopeful signs of Spring when we knew that the worst of Winter is yet to come.

Further along we stopped and looked over walls and marvelled at the views across to Calke that we had never seen from this angle before.
 and we talked and talked, talked and laughed, laughed and talked.
(thanks to Ms S for the photo)

It can only be described as a great day out and a good start to the Christmas week.  There might have also been a stop for tea and cake, well, it would have been silly not to.  I think it is fair to say that we made good use of the shortest day.

Thursday, 18 December 2014


Sometimes it is only when I start writing about something that I remember something else totally different.  This happened when I sat down to write this post, I was going to call it Evergreens, but then I remember Evergreen, which is not just some lame excuse to add a Barbra Streisand song to the blog at all (yes it is, shush).
This is not actually my favourtie Streisand song, that is definitely 'The Way We Were', which is also probably my favourite film with her in too.  Anyway, as usual, I have digressed before even reaching the point of this post.

Evergreens and I have an uncomplicated relationship in that in general I dislike them.  I find them dull and uninteresting.  The majority of them just sit there looking green at you, all the time, like they are for ever green or something similar.  You can tell me they give all year colour and  I will tell you that is no excuse for sitting there looking green all the time.  Dull, dull, dull.


of course there is an except, it would be a shorty ranty blog without an except now wouldn't it?

Except for the evergreens that I like and grow.  Such as:
my Magnolia 'Fairy Blush', which these days is looking positively healthy after a moment of relocation.
There is also the Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem', which I am hoping turns out to be quite a gem.
Camellias in general are great love of mine, to the point I try and pretend they are not evergreens at all.  This is a new one to me, I am trialling it for Thompson and Morgan, it is rosthorniana 'Cupido'.  I had lusted over this plant when I first saw it so when I was offered it to trial it was more than churlish to refuse.  I am waiting for it to flower and it is covered in buds so I have high hopes for it.

Then there is the Griselinia littoralis, the Kapuka.  You may look at this and see a small, underwhelming hedging plant.
I, however, look at it and see the Dancing Tree in the Gwyllt at Portmeirion.  A magnificent huge specimen that can only make you look at it in awe.  I do not have the microclimate that the Gwyllt has, my Griselinia may never dance, but in its heart I know that it wants to.

But I end on the example of everything I dislike about evergreens embodied in one plant
I present to you the laurel.  This flipping plant took up the whole top corner of the garden when I moved in.  I swiftly had it cut down and the tree man said he had killed the roots so they did not need grubbing out.  Either he was playing fast and loose with the truth or the laurel was refusing to die, either way seven years on there it is, springing up whenever and where-ever it can.  It just sits there, being green.  It is dull.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The driveway project - there has been progress

Way back in May I wrote about starting work on planting up the driveway to my house.  This has been a pretty much ignored piece of land since moving here several years ago.  The time was right though for something to be done and to make it into something a bit more pleasing.
The driveway started off as very overgrown, very brambly and very nettley.
I do not want it pristine and looking particularly gardened, but I do want it to look a little more like someone loves it. I also need to keep the bottom end of the drive where it meets the lane as rather prickly and inhospitable to people.  I don't want passing people to think they can dump stuff there, leave litter or generally mess up the space.  I love its wild look and want to encourage it to develop as it was already trying to without my interference.

During the year I have added some plants, there is the pin oak I have already written about.
I also planted out a Catalpa purpurea, which I have great hopes for.  It was flowering when I planted it and so hope that it will flower again next year.  Also I have planted a few hydgrangeas, some fuchsias and a Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem'.  This is a rare planting of an evergreen for me, I am  not a huge fan of evergreens but this one is rather special so it has been allowed through.
Some white foxgloves and verbascums have been added and quite a few narcissus which I hope will naturalise.  I have even (when I finally got around to it) painted the front of the shed so it looks a bit better.
I knew that the main bulk of the planting though had to be done during the dormant period of the year when it was best to plant bare-root trees and shrubs.  The order was duly made (and added to) and then it finally arrived at the beginning of the week.
I opened the box with great excitement when I got home from work.  In side were 10 Rosa Rugosa, 4 female and 1 male Buckthorn, a larch and a 'Balm of Gilead' Poplar.  You might notice it was a little dark when I got home from work.  As it was the beginning of the week I did not think I could leave the plants in the box until the weekend.  Frosts were due and I was worried that they might dry out too much.  So torch in hand I went out to heel them into the veg beds.
They looked a little underwhelming in the dark, a bit like a cluster of dead twigs, but I was now happy that they would not die from neglect during the week and I went inside.

The end of the week came and I had some time when I could get out and do some planting.  The buckthorns have been planted along the fence I put in place in May.  This should make a nice boundary.  The Rosa rugosa have been split so that five are in the very bottom of the drive by the lane.  There are several self-seeded wild roses in this patch already and I want these roses to bulk them out.  I also added a couple of rooted cuttings from the Manx rose as they will add a nice level of thorn as well.  The other five rugosas have been planted in the top corner of the back garden where the boundary has been broken back by the tree catastrophe earlier this year.  This should form a nice prickly hedge.

The larch has been planted at the top of the drive, just along from the pin oak.  I have a real love of larches, there is one at Easton Walled Gardens that I make a pilgrimage to every time I visit.  I stand in front of it and say that one day I will plant one, and now I have.
I am beyond excited waiting for it to start leafing up in Spring.  (The picture above is the EWG tree, mine is a small dead-looking twig at the moment).

Which brings me to the slight problem.  Yes, there is a slight problem with the Poplar.  I failed to plant the Poplar and it is still in the vegetable bed.  When I came to plant it up in the space I had alloted to it, it was clear that the soil is not hugely deep or good and I think it will be a waste of time planting it there, it will not survive.  This is a shame as this was the furthest from the house I could put it and I do not want to move it really any closer.  I am currently wondering if it could go in the back garden right at the top boundary.  I will wait and see if inspiration strikes!

I am not going to show you pictures of the new plantings, they do look like dead twigs, but I will report back in the Spring.

Thursday, 11 December 2014


or - do not under-rate me
Alyssum is one of the first plants I learned the name of when I was a child.  My mother used to line the pathway through the front garden with an alternate mix of white alyssum and blue lobelia.  Even when we moved house, this pattern moved with us only changed in later years with the addition of tagetes.  For most of that time I rather liked Alyssum, mainly because I thought it was called Alison and that we shared the same name.  It was rather a disappointment to find out I had misheard it all those years.

Gardening fashions change and as yet I have never tried alternating blue lobelia and alyssum, though as I write this I know that next year I probably will, I can even visualise where I can do it (watch this space....).  I have also never consciously planted alyssum, and yet there it is, growing merrily away in my garden this year.  I am not 100% sure how it got there, I suspect an 'annual border mix' of seeds that I trialled last year; I half wonder if this has been a late developer.  It took until it flowered for me to realise what it was and when I did realise I smiled in recognition and decided that it could stay for nostalgia's sake.
This was wrong of me, this was damning with faint praise a plant that has flowered for months.  It has attracted bees filled the space well.  It is a bit straggly and unruly in some ways, but that is something that rarely troubles me.
It has a delicacy that I rather like when closely inspected.  This is a good garden plant yet I hardly ever see it in any other gardens.  This is a shame as it is now on my 'must grow next year' list.  I am determined to practice with this plant in other locations as I think it is a good plant for using in a mixed border.
It is now November and it is still flowering away.  It has even been through two or three sharp frosts and looks untouched, I am impressed.

I do give you a small health warning though, I think it is impossible to consider this plant without singing the opening bars of Alison by Elvis Costello.  If you like the song (as I do) then this is not really a problem, but it can amuse the neighbours if you do it out loud in the garden as you're gazing lovingly at the plants.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Tree following - Envy

Oh dear, the green-eyed monster has come a-calling.  It has been tapping on the window for a while but the other day it rang the bell and demanded entry.  Why is this you ask?  Sad to say I have had my head-turned by another quince, could be a better quince, could be a more productive more beautiful quince.  It has, dear reader, put my quince in the shade.

Is this the fore-warning of infedeltiy – am I going to replace my quince with a newer, more quincy/beautiful model?  Is my quince the Ruth in comparison to Mary Fisher?
Well, I am making no promises.

At Easton Walled Gardens they have this quince – it produces quinces (a key factor for a quince tree in my world) and it has very beautiful leaves that even without a quince included makes it a tree of desire.
and what does my quince do as a counteraction to all this?
There are similarities, but mine looks a bit scabby.  I have, however, invested time in my quince; we have developed a relationship and a commitment to each other.  (well, I have made a commitment I am not seeing much in the way of quinces as proof of commitment in return).  If I dispose of this quince now and replace it with another I will be back to the start of the waiting game.  At least with the devil I know I am several years in already.
Patience is a virtue – but dear quince be warned, there are others out there competing for my attention so next year I expect an obvious sign, a fruiting of your commitment.

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