Thursday, 31 March 2011

End of month review

With due nod to the Patient Gardener I thought I would undertake my first end of month review.

My great joy at the moment is my magnolia.

This is flowering a good two weeks earlier than last year.  I removed some very low branches last year but the shape is good on this tree and I am nervous of spoiling it.

The pond border is still quite raw and new, but it is getting there.  It is only just starting its second year so I am hopeful that it will really fill out this year.

I've planted quite a few day lillies, some iris and roses.  Last year it looked ok, there is still a lot of bare earth, but it is getting better and the weeds are much less so far this year.

The veg beds are mainly in waiting at the moment for the major planting session.  The onions, garlic and broad beans are in and growing and I sowed from spinach seeds last week.  I have never grown spinach before so this is an adventure for me.

The spuds are in the conservatory chitting, I might put them out this weekend.

Another tree I am really fond of.  This is my Katsura, bought on the Isle of Man about two years ago now.  It is beautiful in just about every season, I love the new spring growth, it sparkles in the sun. 

The green house is not full yet, apart from full of potential and promise.

The sweet peas are coming on, as are the dianthus that are destined for the front garden.

Peas, cobra beans and some Cosmos Purity are all coming up nicely.  The covered pots at the end have various cuttings hopefully taking.  There are three cuttings from the Cistus that came with me from where I first lived when I moved to Leicester.  Also some Erysimum Bowles Mauve cuttings and Erysimum cheirii Harpur Crewe.  These both had original plants where I lived before I moved to Leicester.  They have great senitmental value and I take cuttings regularly to ensure that they do not die out.

Finally this is a bit tucked behind the Bramley apple tree.  This area, like most of the garden is still very much work in progress, but it is looking good at this time of the year and I am actually pleased with it.

March has been generally a good month.  Some frost, not that much rain and ended up being nicely mild.   Looking forward to April now.  A very busy month!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Where I met a tree or two

Or gardens I have lived with - part 1

I know this sounds silly, but apart from conker trees I think I did not notice trees really until I was nine years old when we moved into a beautiful Edwardian house.  I look back now and think what an amazing structure the garden had had at some point and as a totally non-gardening family it was lost on us. 

For a start it had many trees whereas in our previous house I have no memories of any trees at all.  In the back garden were various fruit trees, including two damson trees.  I had never heard of damsons before and none of us had a clue what to do with them.  There were a couple of failed jam making attempts, after that the birds and wasps took the lot.  There was also a large silver birch tree that my bedroom overlooked.  The wispy seeds blew into my room and once I realised that they were not some strange form of biting insect I began to look forward to seed time of year.

In the front garden was a laburnum tree.  I thought the flowers on it were one of the beautiful things I had ever seen.  I used to climb up the tree to sit amongst them until my mother noticed and banned me from climbing the very poisonous tree.  Scared me half to death!

As mentioned before, we were a very non-gardening family.  So, first gardening act, we quickly dug up the beautiful soft fruit/veg patch part of the garden to lay it to lawn so we could have a swing and a climbing frame.  Rhubarb continued to come up through the grass for years.  I think it became lawn all over so that we could play football and cricket.  (Can I mention now how much I still dislike cricket?)

(excuse the photo, I was nine when I took it)

Second gardening act was my father pruned the trees in the front garden.  I say pruned, he hacked huge chunks off them until there was nothing left to remove.  Strangers actually came to the front door and complained about the damage he had done.  When we finally left that house about twenty years later, they had just about recovered.

Third gardening act was to plant a magnolia in the front garden.  Our one gardening kindness to that house.  I drive past that tree when I am in the vicinity to check on its progress.  It is still beautiful and a fine legacy to leave behind. 

Oh and don’t think we only did bad things outside, we also had the amazing tiled fireplaces ripped out of every room.  Oops

Friday, 25 March 2011


Duck luring is an ancient art - and it takes time and patience.

Firstly dig a pond 

Then fill with water - this works a treat - the next morning after completing filling the ducks will tease you with an immediate appearence.

Next wait for a year or so before doing anything else - and I mean anything - then have flurry of activity two years later.  Redesign pond area but leave central pond in place.  Finish edging the pond - and yes I do mean hide the flipping brown liner.  Commence planting up and creating new borders around the pond and add the obligatory grassy knoll.

Then, when you least expect it, three years after all this began, come home one night to find three ayupmes on the pond.  (I know the picture shows only two, but Ms Duck is a little shy)
and in conclusion, after getting pond owner incredibly excited by making an appearence, don't be there in the morning and don't be there when she gets home from work, but turn up at about 5.30pm meaning that tomorrow will be an anxious wait to see if they turn up again.

and - lets not forget a twinge of paranoia - will the ducks eat my plants or damage the pond liner?  In which case I might need the cats to try and look a little threatening rather than their current stance of pretending they can't see them as they have large beaks!

(note:  for those of you not from the East Midlands - it is tradition to greet friends and family with 'ay up me duck' it is delightfully gender neutral, friendly and a signal that you are home).

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Whittering, twittering and blogging

I first joined Twitter in 2008 by recommendation of my geeky kid brother.  I did a few half-hearted tweets then got bored and wandered off to have a virtual life on Facebook.  Last year I developed a new interest in Twitter largely due to the arrival of a new VC at work who has an impressive Twitter habit.  I started tweeting about my garden and suddenly people were following me and I found new people to follow and the whole thing has snowballed since then.  This has given me conversations with people I have never met.  I have had the temerity to tweet ‘celebs’ and know the tiny thrill when one actually replies (not often).  But the main excitement is the amount of gardening knowledge I am picking up every day from the amazing blogs of the people I am finding out about.  I am learning so much, tips, plant names I now desire and also about gardeners on other continents.  This is brilliant and I love it.

I love the blog-world too.  I have recently been accepted by Blotanical (which I would never have known about had the Patient Gardener not mentioned it in a tweet).  Being accepted felt like winning a nobel prize for literature.  Maybe I exaggerate a little, but I was delighted and excited and truly encouraged not to stop whittering on incessantly on line.

So maybe actually this is a warning – I am probably the monster you have created.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Broken Glass

Why is there so much broken glass in my garden?  Am I developing the first glass garden? Some of it is bottle glass, I even found one whole small bottle.  Most of it though is clear glass, thinish, plate.  I think it is probably from a long-gone greenhouse.

When I bought the garden (I bought the garden, the house just happened to come with it), the garden was largely a big lawn with a couple of trees.  No sign of a greenhouse that might have been there.  When digging the pond the glass started to emerge and suddenly I realised that there was quite a lot of it.  Plus a fair amount of old bolts and bits of wire. 

So should I call in Time Team?  Get Tony Robinson to find the source of the glass and amaze my neighbours with the glass-age village that used to be present on my back lawn?

Maybe not - I shall just continue picking it up and humming Nick Lowe songs whilst I do so.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Pandora's Box

So is it Spring yet?  It's the vernal equinox is today - so Spring is here.  I can stop asking 'are we nearly there yet'.  Yesterday was certainly a spring-like day - it was the day all the butterflies were let out of their box (apparently Pandora is a collector) - such joy at seeing a little fluttering. 

Love the clear blue of these anemones - they come up year after year, the wild bit of my garden shows spring first with its snow drops, then the crocuses.  As the crocuses start to go over the anemones start to show and the fritillaria meleagris are waiting in the wings.  

I have been dividing quite few plants this year, mainly geraniums and astrantias so far.  These are the plants that have been in the garden the longest, now in their fourth year, so they are getting quite large so they need dividing for their own health.  Also, and this is a big reason too, I have lots of new border I have to fill and plants for free are my best way of filling them.  This has two benefits - free plants are not a draw on my increasingly limited resources (thanks economic downtown!) but also it means that there is a nice rhythm developing across the garden.  The repetition of the same plants makes the informality of the planting less bitty and bobby.

So hello Spring - glad to see you again after such a long, cold winter.  Pandora has let the butterflies go and Hope is working overtime.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Quince hedge

To you this may look like a straggly bit of quincy scrub- to me it is the evidence that my ornamental quince hedge will one day be a success.  It is sitting underneath the lounge window at the front.  The soil is poor and quite often dry, but it is a sunny and sheltered spot.

I wanted to have a quince hedge to remind me of the large ornamental quince shrub that used to be at my old house in Nottingham.  I didn't plant it, I was quite new to gardening at that point and didn't really know what it was.  But I loved its early flowers and how it attracted bees so early in the year.  So this hedge is a little bit of Nottingham here in Leicester.  Oh and for those of you who want to know - it is Chaenomeles superba Crimson and Gold.

and I have a question too - should I dig another pond?  I have a pond, dug about three years ago by a man with a digger and at the same time a bog garden was dug out and lined.  The plan of the pond changed somewhat and the bog garden ended up being a diembodied area with no real link to the pond.  It floats like a 1960s island bed.  I keep looking at it and trying to make it work more with how the garden is, but it just doesn't work.  So - my question is, should I give up and dig it out and make it into a second pond?  It won't take that much digging as the soil has not compacted from when it was created.  I could use the pierced butyl liner as an additonal liner for the new pond.  See, it sounds quite straight forward and almost easy - I am very tempted.......

This is the patch that could be a pond - see, it even looks like it wants to be a pond!  But are two ponds too many? and they still won't particularly link together, there will just be two ponds.  So much more thinking to do.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Monty's return

So I have just watched last night's Gardener's World with the much awaited return of the Monty Don.  I have long been a fan of his relaxed but authoriative style.  I love the soothing sounds of his voice, but I have also found him a gardener I can identify with.  Things he says about his garden are things I have sometimes thought/felt about mine.  Its not a position from years of horticultural study (though  I wish I could find the time to do some proper horticultural study), its about having a relationship with this patch of land we call our garden.

What struck me immediately about last nights first episode was about how personal it felt to be shown around Monty's garden - you could tell from his voice the affection and the meaning the garden has for him.  I expect good things from this series.

But I do have to say that I like Toby Buckland's tenure on GW.  No he wasn't Monty, but he was good and I enjoyed watching him.  I would hope that the producers could find a role for him as the programme continues, lets not have a Stalinist rewrite that pretends he never existed, surely there is room on the screen for Monty and Toby?

Monday, 7 March 2011

Frankenstein gardening

The things I enjoy about this time of year include being able to get home from work in daylight so that I can have an evening inspection of the garden.  I know that I tend to follow the same route around as I go largely as Matt-cat will pre-empt my next stopping point and dash from section to section.  At the weekends I get time to attend to the now germinating fast weeds.  I get a real enjoyment from weeding.  Firstly I can see real, material difference from where I have weeded and where I haven’t.  In my day job I rarely see physical results (unless you count the amount of emails read), but in the garden I can see the difference I have made. 

Weeding also enables me to get up close and study what is happening.  I can see what has self-seeded and edit out the ones in the wrong place.  I can also do a little cutting back as I go along.  But best of all is the Frankenstein moment – when you look at that plant that you are certain has had it from the harsh winter, but instead you can shout ‘its alive!’ (much to the consternation of cats and neighbours).  Of course there are the zombie plants too, are they dead or the living dead.  I have an Erysimum 'Bowles' Mauve that fits into this category.  It is dead, I know it is dead, but the last of its green hasn’t quite withered away.  I took some half—hearted cuttings from the most green bits at the weekend in the hope that they may survive.  It’s not much of a hope though.

Whilst on a theme I might as well finish with the undead.  My two tree ferns have been dead for over a year now.  I really should remove them and admit that they are dead.  Yet still I keep peering into their crowns looking for a sign of life that is not a woodlouse.  I will remove them one day…… maybe in September when I am sure they are still dead.

Oh and I have frogspawn in the pond.  This is a relief.  My pond froze over completely and trapped at least three large frogs that I only spotted once they were truly dead and inflated.  I was worried that the lack of oxygen to the pond might have caused real damage, but it seems to be ok.  Frogspawn and dragonfly nymphs seem to be flourishing anyway.