Sunday, 31 July 2011

July End of Month Review

According to Neil Sedaka July is a 'like a fire cracker all aglow' (Calendar Girl).  This is a good description to start my July end of month review.
There is a lot of pink in the garden at the moment.  A surprising amount of pink actually, I would not have said I was a pink gardener, but apparently I am.  In the foreground one of my all time favourite David Austin roses, the Portmeirion rose.  Bet you are all surprised at that!  It is such a good performer.  It is one of the first to start flowering every year and is now bulking up to be a really good plant.
Some of the colour combinations should not really work, but these cosmos, shasta daisies, Californian poppies and the aster work together brilliantly in my world.  Really pleased with how this looks.
and let's hear it for the Echinacea Purpura.  I have lots of this, all grown from seed a few years ago.  Here it is with a Stipa Gigantica also grown from seed and a rather pink dahlia.  Yes, pink is doing well at the moment.
But life is not all pink.  The Crocosmia Lucifer shoots red fire into the garden.
The sunflowers are doing their job and attracting lots of bees.
and I have a new love this year, zinnias.  So easy to grow and so beautiful.  I will be growing lots more of these next year.
In the veg garden the broccoli is coming on well.  I can grow broccoli to this stage really well, I have failed to ever harvest any.  Will this year be different......?
Onions, garlic and potatoes are now largely harvested.  I think I might have harvested the onions a little too soon for some of them.  But I am pleased with the crop I have and it is a much more successful crop than last year.  Better watering and weeding on my part has really paid off.  Where there was space I have planted out my wallflower seedlings.  I have lots, no really, lots.  I might have too many but we will see.
The cooking apple tree, (think they are Bramleys) is laden down as usual.   It is an old tree and huge, but it crops like crazy every year.  Soon it will be time for apple crumble, apple sauce, apple and sultana cake and a variety of jam bases.   It is without doubt a splendid tree.
The eating apple tree (no idea what it is) is also heavily laden for the first time in about three years.  This is great except I don't eat raw fruit so I will be giving away most of these that I can.  It is a lovely tree, but quite frankly of little interest to me.
Except that the birds love the windfalls.  I tend to let them lie and watch as they are slowly pecked away.  Also the local foxes come and take them.  I love watching them pick them up and wander off to eat them.

My Medlar 'Nottingham' tree is doing very well this year.  Now in its third year it has put on a real growth spurt.  Last year I made Medlar jelly for the first time, it is amazing.  The colour is a beautiful dusky ruby red and it tastes wonderful with meat.
The meadow area is coming on well, though getting now to be a little past its best.  The plug wild flowers I bought a couple of years ago are now really coming on.  I just need more of them.
I hesitate a little before putting this photograph up as I know that some will totally disapprove of my methods.  This is not an alien landing strip but the marked out areas for my prairie planting.  I confess I have glyphosated the grass.  It might not be the best or most environmentally thing to do in the world I admit, but I can clearly see the shape I need to dig over.  I will start digging this over soon so that the frosts over the winter will break the soil down nicely.  It also removes the many many lawn weeds that will be a menace to deal with if I don't deal with them harshly at this stage.  I would prefer to do it in a more garden-friendly way and I am not a regular or routine user of chemicals at all, I am happy to listen to effective and efficient alternative methods I could use. 

I am growing a few varieties of grass from seed, some echinops, echinacea and sanguisorbas all ready to go in next spring.  I am also collecting as many self-sown Stipa Tenuissima that I can and potting them on ready to populate the area.  It is a big project and one that I will blog about separately as it progresses.  Its the first major project I have undertaken in the garden since completing the pond and I am very excited about it.
For those of you who think that all looks great and all is well I have to show you this.  This is Geoffrey lying on a Stipa Tenuissima.  The cats have laid (quite literally) this patch bare.
I blink for a minute and Chesney has replaced Geoffrey.
Chesney likes attacking grass.  Thanks Chesney.
The pond remains really low.  Despite some rain it is probably as low as I have ever seen it.
I finish on this image of cosmos peeping through my garden bench.  The cosmos have been wonderful this year and as ever I think I should have grown more.

Big thanks as ever to Helen and her blog the Patient Gardener for hosting the End of Month Review.

Monday, 25 July 2011

I've been expecting you

I know I am quite predictable, so to those who know me the subject of this post will be no surprise.  In previous posts I have mentioned that one thing that guarantees a plant a place in my garden is if it has some sort of association for me.  This association might be because it reminds me of someone, or of a time or a place.
I have blogged before about Portmeirion, my favourite place on earth, and plants that remind me of there are obviously very welcome.  I still mourn that the nursery that used to be based at Portmeirion has not re-opened.  Buying plants from there was my regular end of holiday treat.  Recently David Austin launched the Susan Williams Ellis rose.  Susan Williams Ellis (1918 - 2007) was the daughter of Clough Williams Ellis the creator of Portmeirion and general all round brilliant architect.  Her mother was the author Amabel Strachey and her god father was Rudyard Kipling.
Susan is most remembered for her pottery, she created and owned Portmeirion Pottery.  Susan was however a brilliant artist and particularly interested in sea life.  Originally Portmeirion Pottery made souvenir goods for Portmeirion but it quickly became a brand in her own right.  Probably the most famous design is Botanic Garden, but there is so much more to Portmeirion pottery than that.  In particular I collect the 1960s patterns such as Dolphin and Pantomime, which I find really attractive.  (The Prisoner fans amongst you will know that Pantomime is one of the patterns that features in his kitchen).
I bought the Susan Williams Ellis rose not knowing really what it would look like, but I have not been disappointed.  I bought three, one for the back garden, one for the new side border in the front and one for to be the centre of my knot garden (or more accurately: my knot-quite garden).  It is beautiful.  Small, delicate and a great perfume.  A really good addition to my garden, thank you David Austin!

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Yellow Rose of Texas

My father has a lot to answer for.  One thing in particular is that whenever I see a yellow rose, the song 'The Yellow Rose of Texas' starts running through my head.  I only knew the first two lines though, never got beyond 'is the only rose for me'.

So I decided I would write a blog post about the song and illustrate it with the yellow roses that I grow.  The one above is Rosa 'Graham Thomas'.  This is a great rose, a lovely yellow that fades rather wonderfully as it gets older.   It is about four foot tall and a strong grower.  I have this in my front garden and it is a real joy.
So back to the song.  I looked it up on Wikipedia and found the origins of the song are a folk song about how Emily D West (or Emily Morgan) helped win the Battle of San Jacinto in 1838 in the Texas Revolution.  So far so good.  The first published version dates from 1858 and it has been around in various different guises every since.  However, when looking at the original lyrics it starts to bear not too close examination.  Let's just say times have changed and the lyrics thankfully have as well.  The story of the song can be found here
This is Rosa 'Blythe Spirit', I have already written a blog post about this rose, but it is the other yellow rose that I grow and it is really doing well this year.  Last year was its first year in the garden and I think it sulked a little, but now it is growing strongly.
Apparently the song was recorded and released by Mitch Miller in 1955, displacing Bill Haley from the number one spot.  My father would have been 19 in 1955 and maybe this is why he sang it so often.  It is certainly a song I have inherited (along with a variety of  songs by Tommy Steele, Guy Mitchell and don't even get me started on Frank Ifield!)

I shall still sing no further than the second line, but at least I know the history of the song now which is quite a fascinating story about Emily D West who you can find out more about here

Sunday, 17 July 2011

M'Lords and Ladies

We are now six months into the year and we move from phase one of flowering into the summer/autumnal phase.  This means many things but at the moment most noticeable is the plethora of seed heads currently appearing in my garden each with their own beauty.

This striped Nigella seed head is glorious and mixes with the still flowering Nigella in the garden.  It is the best of both worlds, such a good plant and it self seeds around so well.

It will be of no surprise that I have plenty of poppy heads too.  These are marvellously glaucus and look ready to burst, though there is a while before these will ripen fully.
These aquilegia seeds look like eyes, they shine so brightly.
The clematis seed head is brilliantly fluffy, and again it is still flowering so you get a wonderful mix of yellow flowers and fluffy seed heads.
This is one of my species tulips about to set seed.  The numbers of these tulips are slowly increasing in my garden and I have grown to love them very much.  I like growing tulips in general, they remind me of my maternal grandfather who had borders full of red and yellow tulips.  The species tulips are a relatively new discovery for me and they have so much to offer.
Not sure of the name of this plant, I bought it last year from Cottesbrooke Plant Fair and it has small daisy bright pink flowers.  It has settled in well and I grow it by the pond.  I love the small seed heads, not more than a centimetre across but perfect.
and then there is woad.  I started growing this a couple of years ago, it too self seeds well.  It has clouds of acid yellow flowers in spring when there is still not a lot of other colour in the garden and it keeps flowering for quite a while.  Then these veils of seeds appear, first green then turning to near black.  I am really pleased I started growing this on a whim, it is a great plant.

Winter seed heads are often displayed, but I like this phase of seed production, it is a good time of year when still all seems possible to achieve.  I suppose the word to sum it all up is fecund and on that note I shall stop for today with a little bit of Lords and Ladies, seems early for these berries but they are so beautiful.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Its enough to make a Maiden Blush

"He was in the garden smelling the gillivers and looking at the plants,
when the girl came out quickly to the heap of coal which stood
by the fence.
"I suppose these are cabbage-roses?" he said to her,
pointing to the bushes along the fence.
She looked at him with startled, big brown eyes.
"I suppose they are cabbage-roses when they come out?"
he said.
"I don't know," she faltered. "They're white with pink middles."
"Then they're maiden-blush.""

I grow Rosa 'Maiden's Blush' outside my kitchen window.  When I moved into this house there was a strange ivy covered lump, about three foot tall outside the kitchen window delightfully growing in my wonderful retro crazy paving (this is my attempt to make my crazy paving sound funky and cool - did it work?).  I carefully removed they ivy hoping to find a statue or something really exciting, what I found was a rotting tree stump which fell apart when I touched it.  So I decided to grow a rose there instead.

I wanted to grow this rose because of the mention in Sons and Lovers.  I am not actually a huge DHL fan, but he is probably Nottingham's most famous author; though Alan Sillitoe could argue with that and I have certainly read more Sillitoe than DHL.  (see previous post 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning').

It has a good strong scent and it is growing into a really nice bushy shrub rose.  I like it......

...... but ......

Yep - you've guessed it, it has a tendency to be manky; however a different manky from the Rosa 'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain' referred to in a previous post.
About a third of the buds at any one time fail to develop and die before opening.  This is a real shame.  It lessens the amount of flowers on the shrub, but also it spoils the look to some extent as well.

I remove them regularly whilst I am generally deadheading.  It is disappointing though.

But it is a pretty rose......
..... and they do fade beautifully from pale pink to an almost white/pink.

..... and the view from kitchen window would not be as pretty without it.  So if its good enough for DH Lawrence, then its good enough for me.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

A Tale of Two Gardens 2 - the Veddw

The first half of this fine day was spent at The Laskett, (see previous post), I say fine day, there was some rain but in the afternoon the weather cleared and the sun came out.

 I drove in a small convoy to the Veddw.  Sat nav failure meant I would have struggled to locate it on my own so I was grateful to follow someone, though for part of the journey I wasn't 100% I was following the right car!

Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes, our hosts and owners of the Veddw had arranged for a picnic lunch.  We brought a variety of things with us (Chocolate and ginger cake was my contribution) and we had a lovely relaxed lunch where we had time to actually talk to each other and get to know each other a little better.

I must admit though, I was desperate to wander off around the garden.  I had seen the photographs in the Stephen Anderton book 'Discovering Welsh Gardens'  (never expecting that one day I would be meeting the photographer for the book, Charles); and I had read The Bad Tempered Gardener written by Anne (see previous post) so in some ways I thought I knew what to expect.  Oh how wrong was I!
Yes obviously the photographs showed the garden, but the scale and structure of it was not so easy to imagine.  The front of the house has formal elements and a meadow area.  I loved the meadow, it was not large but stunningly beautiful in its simplicity.
The rear of the house is largely structured through hedges surrounded by woodland.  It fits into a bowl in the landscape so that you walk around the top and then wander through the hedges, finding your way into rooms and areas.
Did I like everything about the garden?  Well in truth some of the planting in the hedge rooms would not be what I would choose.  To some extent I felt at times that the hedges were the point and any planting in between was distracting.  This is however just quibbling.  It is also fair to say that some of the planting altered some of my plant prejudices.  I have long disliked alchemilla mollis, but the frothy mounds of this plants were quite stunning.  I think I might have to get some now.....

The garden feels very green, apart from the bits which are not and there are flowers aplenty.  The use of colour and texture is clever and is a theme that runs through the whole garden.
Colour is often kept to the foliage but then you turn a corner and find a bench or the reverse side of a wall and there it is ....

I really enjoy the feeling of discovery and I moved through the garden.  Not everything is obvious and you have to explore it piece by piece.  Walking behind the wall in case something is there, listening to the sound of water and turning corners until you track it down.
There is a lot of play of light and dark, this also works incredibly well.  I felt like I spent the time emerging from one area to the next, then sitting on a bench and just enjoying the incredible peace.  Unlike the Laskett there are seats a plenty, it feels like a garden you should sit in and enjoy (preferably with a glass of red).
One thing that always strikes me when I visit a garden I have read about is that the one thing that is not (and probably cannot be) conveyed is the sense of scale.  Some areas in these gardens are really quite small.  As a suburban gardener, like a huge amount of gardeners I do not measure my garden in terms of how many acres.  So when I look at the glossy magazines/books I often sigh wistfully and wish I had the space to garden with imagination.  When I visit these gardens I find that the actual view that is being shown is not that big, it could be replicated (should you wish to) in your own garden and actually it turns out that size might not matter so much after all and that what limits me is not the space available but my imagination and courage.

Finding my way around the Veddw was a real joy and a different experience from The Laskett which I enjoyed in parts, but was disappointed with.  This could be because I had not built up such expectations of this garden, but I had noticed it in garden writing and had it on my mental list to seek out; so it was not that I went there cold without expectation.  I came away wanting to return, I had found a real gem.