Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Trial - 11 Its been a while

or the winter update.

Yes it has been quite a while since I last did a proper update on my Thompson and Morgan trial plants.  Funny how time just slips by when you take your eye off it.  I was wandering around the garden as I do and thought that it is a good time now to give an update as it is in winter that things seem laid most bare.

Let me start with a flower because winter needs flowers:
Pansy 'Mystique Blue Halo', which as been flowering away for several weeks now.  It has been frosted and even snowed on (but not a huge amount of snow) and it still looks ok.
This batch are in a pot on the garden table and this photograph was taken after quite a heavy frost the night before, so you can see they stand up to such treatment quite well.

Also outside in a pot are these Lewisia 'Elise mixed'
These plants were new to me when I received them last year.  I was unsure what to do with them but I put some into various pots and they flowered really well.  This pot also contained some petunias, they are now long gone.  I thought the Lewisia would be dead by now but they seem to be quite happy so far.

I have been growing this Photinia x fraseri 'Pink Marble' for over twelve months now.  I was sent three and all three are growing well.  This one went into a pot as I did not know where to put it at first and it has grown well.
The other two are in the Wild Garden and I did think I had lost them over the summer as they sort of disappeared into the other growings.  When I cleared the area in the Autumn there they were, still growing away quite well, so I have decided they are clearly good tough plants.  I like having this on in a pot in the Courtyard, it gives quite good foliage colour.

Then there are the Garrya 'Elliptica',
I was sent three of these but this is the only one that has survived.  This is not the fault of the plants, the other two were victims of the great poplar disaster that happened this year.  They did not survive several pummellings into the ground.  This one has come through and is growing rather well.
It has developed good strong tassels this year and whilst it is a plant I feel quite ambivalent about in general, it has won itself a few points for its tenacity and it is safe for the time being.

It probably seems odd to show plants out of season, but why not, it is still growing well and if it looks alright in winter then it can only improve in the growing season.  So now I present the Rosa 'Garden Party' which I grew from seed.
Not only has this flowered well over the summer but it also survived a relocation.  All three of the plants that germinated and were planted out have survived and are growing well.  I am rather pleased with them.  They did flower in their first year which I think it pretty good for a rose and whilst small, they are rather sweet.

Finally for this post there is the Camellia rosthorniana 'Cupido'.
It has had buds on for weeks and I am incredibly excited about seeing it in flower.  I had wanted one of these shrubs from the first moment I saw them so I am looking forward to when it flowers.

I am now waiting for my delivery of seeds and plants for this year's trial and this year there will be better updates, promise.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The writing of the lists

or seed buying time
It is the time of year to be staring longingly at seed catalogues, making lists and over buying.  Yes the depth of winter is the perfect time to be spending those non-gardening hours pondering the plantings yet to come.

I am someone who loves to order on-line yet but for some reason my seed buying involves very paper-based preparations.  Well, some paper based some not so.

Let me explain:

My seed list collation is an all-year thing.  I keep a list in my phone of plants I have seen and I want to grow.  I keep the list so that when seed buying time comes I can look back on it, dismiss half of it as pure fantasy and buy the odd few that still make it to the final cut.  A good example of such a plant this year is Clary Sage.  I have been aware of Clary Sage as a name for many years but not actually very aware of it as a plant as a real thing in a real border.  One day last summer whilst visiting a garden I saw this plant, I recognised it as a sage of some sort but did not know its name.  Clary Sage I was informed and I was immediately taken with it.  Onto the seed list it went so I could research it and buy as appropriate.  I am waiting for my delivery of said seeds.

Then there is the receiving of the catalogues which is itself exciting.  These arrive in waves over the Christmas break.  These have to be inspected in turn, looking for the usual seeds I buy but also with an eye out for the unusual.  Lists are made, compared and the cheapest seeds are bought from the reliable sources.  I have bought (stupidly) from unreliable sources in the past and funnily enough, the seeds are unreliable.  My most unreliable purchase last year were my echium seeds that germinated, grew and when they flowered they turned out to be Evening Primrose.  I was amused, but not impressed.  I think I might have finally learned my lesson on this one.

Finally there is the seed list from the previous year, as I write down what I have ordered and from whom every year.  This means I have a reminder of my old reliables plus the new recruits.  It also means that if I have a poor set of seeds from one company I can identify this easily and not buy from them again.

I say finally, but it is not finally at all because there is also the twitter aspect.  The photos of desirable plants that make you ask for the name and note it down so you can add to the list.  That happens quite a bit.

I said at the beginning of this post that winter is the best time to buy seeds, well I am going to temper that statement a little.  As the problem is if I receive the seeds in January I want to sow them.  Most of them will sit untouched until April/May, so really I prefer to spread my seed buying over a couple of months rather than rush into it.  So that is what I have done this year as not everything has been ordered yet, somethings are still in wishlist stage.  Then at least I will not be rushing to sow too early, hopefully.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The question of the day

It is the time of frost and rain which limits the time I can spend in the garden.  Rain means staying indoors and frozen ground means I can get outside but there is little effectively I can do.  This is frustrating and useful at the same time as I wander around the garden considering things.

These are the most recent considerings, firstly:
Should I add some box balls under the pleached hornbeam.  Partly I think yes, partly I think no the simplicity is better.  Even as I write this I am voting again for no, maybe this is a non-question.

Second question:
Why is there a row of Stipa Tenuissima in the Conservatory Border?  I am happy that Stipa is growing there, but why in a row?  The answer to this question is self evident too, I predice Stipa relocation in the Spring.

Question 3:
Should I move this bamboo?  Now this is a real question and I am totally undecided on this.  This bamboo has been problematic for several years now.  It was originally planted elsewhere in the garden and I relocated it as I did not like where it was.  It sits in the Pond Border now and the dark sticks behind it are Helianthus maximiliani.  If you know of this perennial sunflower you will probably know two things: a) it is a good sunflower, it flowers well and adds good height to the border year on year.  I like this.  b) it is a bit of a thug, it does need controlling, which once you realise this is not too hard to do, but you do need to keep it in check otherwise it will quickly creep and take over the whole border.  This poor crowded bamboo is testament to this creeping.

There is an issue with thinking of relocating this bamboo again though, for one thing that I have not got a clue where to move it to.  Secondly it did not thank me for moving it the last time.  It struggled and struggled and had it not been for the advice of a twitter friend (Jim I mean you) I would have dug it up and composted it last year.  The advice I had was good, it was struggling and looking weedy.  I tweeted a photo of it saying it was heading for compost and I was advised to cut it down to the ground and keep it well watered.  It did spring back up really well and has become a better plant.  So now I do want to lose it, but I do not think it is happy where it is either.

I think I am going to relocate it.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Adamantine doors

O winter! bar thine adamantine doors:
The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.

He hears me not, but o’er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchain’d, sheathed
In ribbed steel; I dare not lift mine eyes;
For he hath rear’d his sceptre o’er the world.

Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.

He takes his seat upon the cliffs, the mariner
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch! that deal’st
With storms, till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driven yelling to his caves beneath Mount Hecla

The poem above is a wonderfully dramatic ode to winter.  I love Blake's use of language and imagery.  In particular the reference to adamantine doors, which in my mind conjours up images of Wolverine knocking on them to come in with his adamantium claws (now there is a poem just waiting to happen.....)  

We are now deep in the throes of winter.  A time when the weather pixies allow themselves full throttle and play with the world at their whim.  We rely so heavily on the weather pixies that to displease them is to gamble beyond what is reasonable.  Of course knowing what displeases them is a secret and not one that they share.

We all know that attempting to wash a large amount of laundry that will require outside drying is sufficient to waken the wrath of the rain pixies.   I do not know if they think it is taunting them but they feel obliged to make their presence felt.  Usually waiting until you gone out somewhere and left the washing on the line so that you get back to washing wetter than when you hung it out.

We also know that a bit of a dry period makes the rain pixies sulk and refuse to come back until the drought is well established and you are begging for rain.  Then they invite their cousins the flood pixies to visit as well.

The frost has started to make its presence felt and thoughts start to turn as to when and how much snow will arrive in the new year.  2014 saw relatively little snow where I live, I wonder if 2015 will be as kind.  I say kind, yet there is something rather wonderful about a snowy day, as long as I am home safe and not having to go out anywhere. 

Winter brings the cold but also the wonderfully mellow light, much less harsh than the strong beating sun of the high summer. 
There is little to beat a good bright crisp winter day.  Maybe it is the respite from all the other weather pixies that have taken a day off that makes it so peaceful.  I know that I treasure them and the time that they give to allow some time in the garden.  Let us hope we have many this year.