Thursday, 23 November 2017

Irritating Plant of the Month - November 2017

or - the wrong sorbus.

I used to have a very lovely Sorbus cashmeiriana, but it up and died last year which was rather a shame.  Except it was not quite dead, so I decided to buy a new sorbus but wait a little before buying a direct replacement; I bought a very lovely Sorbus Joseph Rock.

I planted the tree and waited for it to flower, which it very obligingly did in this its first year.

I waited for the berries to form, which they obligingly did.

I waited for the berries to colour up, which they obligingly did and I posted a proud photograph of my beautiful little tree.
It is a very beautiful tree, but it is not a Joseph Rock as someone pointed out to me.  The berries should be yellow.

This is a bit irritating, but at the end of the day it is still a beautiful tree.  I might just have to buy a Joseph Rock though now....

Sunday, 19 November 2017

I stayed at home

It's the time of year when things are getting cold outside, the light is getting precious and the darkest days of winter are yet to come.  I find myself planning ahead and booking events so that I know I have things to look forward to.  This is generally a good plan, except when it turns out it isn't.

I should have been somewhere this weekend.  I bought the ticket, I arranged to meet up with friends I have not seen for several months and I looked forward to it.....

..... until about three weeks ago.  Then I started to think that I needed to the time to do other things.  I really could do without having the day off from work on the Friday, I really could do with some time in the garden and, well frankly, the thought of driving there and back did not fill me with joy.  I did not decide there and then not to go, but in truth once that seed is planted it tends to set deep roots.

Days went by, more and more reasons started to build as to why being at home was a better idea.  An invite for lunch arrived, I could have just turned it down but I didn't want to.  I accepted the lunch invite and then I knew that I was not going to go to the booked event.

My instinct was right, that nagging voice telling me to stay at home is rarely wrong and I learned long ago to listen to it.  I knew I needed some down time at home and I needed some time in the garden.
It turned out to be a good day for weeding.  The front border was soon weeded, then I moved into the back garden and weeded the Exotic Border and the Woodland Border.  As always I tell myself that one weed removed this time of year saves me two hundred next year so I spent the day feeling virtuous.  So virtuous that I am sure that the cheesy chip sandwich I had for lunch would contain no calories whatsoever.
I was out in the garden until the light was getting low.  I was rewarded by the sight of one the Aldi acers that is currently a shock of coppery red leaves that are hanging on just that little bit longer than the other acers.  I stopped and stood by it for a moment and thought what a good day it had been.  I had not stuck to the original plan and  part of me was sorry not to have met up with my friends and missing out on a very interesting day.  As a general rule I cannot afford to buy tickets for things and just not turn up; but sometimes listening to that inner voice is the right thing to do.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A letter to the garden, a year on

Dear garden,

It has been a year since I last wrote to you and whilst I note you did not give me the courtesy of a reply; I feel that I should have not waited quite so long before contacting you again.

When I wrote to you last year I was feeling guilty for neglecting you, I felt I had not kept on top of the weeding as well as I should have done and generally I garden-shamed myself.  Oh dear, dear garden, oh dear dear dear.  What can I say?  I cannot say I have kept my promise as I look around and see as many weeds and nettles as before.  The vegetable borders have been cleared, I say that with a spark of hope that I might gain some credit for that?
The front garden needs serious attention, the lavender edges are weedfilled and straggly.  I gave them a serious trim with the hedgetrimmers the other day.  I cut into the old wood in that way you are not supposed to in the vain hope that they will either recover well or just die.  I think I need to replace it if truth be known and that raises some interesting questions.  Should I replace it the same or move on and have something new?  Maybe something new is in the air and I should ring the changes?  I shall have to ponder some more on this.

The back garden is still nettle-heaven, especially in the sidelines of the vegetable garden.  They managed to suddenly become unmanageable.  Next year I will try and do better.  There are thankfully other parts of the borders I am now happier with than last year.   I think the Pond Border and the Conservatory Borders both worked well this year.  The Coal Bunker Border is passable, it still needs a bit of work but it has had some good new additions in the last year, in particular the Heptacodium miconiodes, a name that I can never remember but a great shrub nonetheless.  It filled a gap rather well and also made me think more about what surrounded it which I think is the sign of a good planting choice.

So I feel a little more positive about how the year has gone, but as ever I feel guilty that I have not looked after you well enough especially in this your tenth anniversary year.  So here are my promises* to you for the next twelve months:

1.  I shall try and write to you more often
2.  I shall revamp the front garden
3.  I shall make more effort to keep on top of the nettles (not physically, that would sting to much).

Best wishes, write soon,
Your guilt-ridden gardener xxx

* promises - like pie crust, are made to be broken #justsaying

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Book Review - The Secret Gardeners by Victoria Summerley

I was intrigued by the title of this new book from Victoria Summerley, I wanted to know who the secret gardeners could be.  I was sent a review copy and whilst I have not paid for this book, my opinions are as ever my own.  I was impressed with the book when it arrived as it is nicely large and pleasantly heavy like all good books that cost around £30 (though you can buy it for less at a well known online book store) should be.
The 'secret gardeners' referred to in the title are a variety of famous people.  There are singers, actors, designers, entrepreneurs and more represented and what links them together is that they are all creative.  These people live in the most magnificent houses with equally stunning gardens.  Most of the gardens are private, but some have some public interaction.  Whilst the people might be 'celebrities', this book is not about their fame, it is about their gardens and this is why I enjoyed the book so much.

I turned each page making 'wow' noises to myself.  The gardens vary hugely in character as do their owners. There were many aspects of the gardens that caught my eye:  Terry and Maggie Gilliam's garden has strong connections to Terry's work.  The lion and rhinoceros cannons from Baron Munchausen fit in perfectly with the garden.  The tsunami hedge in Allen Jones' garden is also a thing of wonder.  There is not a disappointing garden in the book, they have all earned their place.  By learning more about the gardens I felt that we were getting interesting insights and I found myself drawn to the owners as to own a good garden must say something good about them mustn't it?

What all of these gardens show us is that their owners love their gardens and connect with them.  I particularly appreciated the people who ensured that their gardeners got a mention and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall won the 'I will be photographed with my gardener' award.

I will never to be able to afford to replicate what they have on the scale that they do; but I can draw inspiration from what I see.  This book is a fascinating insight into that common ground I have with these secret gardeners, which is the garden.

The Secret Gardeners is published by Frances Lincoln

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Is this the end of the road?

The weather has now taken a chilly turn and we have had a couple of good frosts.  Nothing too cold really as yet, but enough to convince some of the summer flowers that they have reached the end of the road.
The dahlias were not keen on the first frost of the season, but braved it out for a little bit longer.  The second frost confirmed their dislike of cold and they went into shut-down.  I can remember when I first started growing dahlias; I knew that they should be lifted when they had been blackened by frost, but I wondered if I would know when they had been.  Once you have seen what frosted dahlias look like then you are left in no doubt.
Their once glorious flowers now look browned and sad.
This one looks like the Gravy-Fairy has ladelled it.  I do not routinely lift dahlias any more, I let fate decide whether they survive or not and many do come through.  This year I grew more than usual so I decided I would lift some of them.  They are currently sitting upside down in a crate so their stems can dry before I pack them up for the winter.  There will be much keeping of fingers crossed hoping that they revive in the spring.
The cold does not only upset the dahlias, the crop of tithonia also decided to up and die from the frost.  I grew them in one of the raised vegetable beds this year and they responded really well.  I think the well-rotted manure helped them grow to a good size and flower for an extended period.  This has made me consider about improving the soil more in my flower borders as the difference in growth has been astounding.
The cosmos has become frost-translucent.
and the marigolds are also struggling to keep going.
Amid all this dying back, not all the summer flowers are ready to give up just yet.  The astrantia are tough as old boots and enjoying a late second flush.  They will die back eventually but this reminder of summer is welcome whilst it lasts.