Wednesday, 31 August 2011

End of month review - August

"August is the dying month
When hot July struggles to keep her hold
Moving toward a hopeless chilled September
Pretending to be summer
As if children heading back to school stir the cold from the sky"  

(From August is the dying month, Wanda Swim Strunk )

It feels like the chilled September may have already arrived.  The last couple of days have had a decided nip in the air.  The mornings are getting darker, the nights are drawing in fast.  In four weeks time we will have had the autumnal equinox.  Time is moving on.
and not all in the garden is good.  This border in the front garden is just a mess.  I would say I am going to dig it up and start again, but that implies some sort of planning in the first place.  I have removed several large shrubs from this border that blocked out the light, but otherwise it has been totally unsatisfactory 'spot' planting.  Its time to reassess.
The gravel garden (tiny corner) is coming on quite well.  The  Erigeron karvinskianus has really done well in this dry corner and a Verbena Bonariensis has self seeded itself happily in there.  The rosemary and thyme is also coming on well.
I am really pleased with this part of the garden.  The cardoons were one of the first things I planted in this garden almost exactly four years ago now and they are doing really well.  I originally planted about eight of them, now only two remain as they were too big and took up too much space when they really got going.  I like how this one is working with the cosmos in particular.
I think this cosmos and this purple orach is one of my favourite combinations at the moment.  The colours I think shouldn't work, but I have never really cared too much about what should or should not be.  This makes me happy - nuff said.
These persicaria are about four foot tall and have grown this year from seed.  They are wonderful and add great structure and height.  Wish they would flower though.
I have newly created bits of border ready to fill in the new year.  I want the frost to break down the soil before I commence any real planting in it.
This area is just a cat-decimated flipping mess.  It makes me sigh and makes me cross.  The plants are actually starting to recover a bit now, but it looks scrappy.  Next year the planting should bulk up more and then hopefully the cats will leave it be!
The apples are falling from the trees like there is no tomorrow.  This seems early for this level of windfall.  I am blaming the drought (rightly or wrongly).  Still, the birds love them and so do passing foxes so not all is lost.
My new prairie borders are dug over and ready to go.  I am currently dithering whether to let these get frosted to break down the soil as mentioned earlier, or whether I should get the seedlings out of the greenhouse and into the ground before the season really turns.  Decisions, decisions.
I do have quite a lot of seedlings ready to go in and I can't sow any more until these are gone to make some room.  I think I need at least treble the amount of grasses I currently have on the go and it is too late to sow more now.  My impatience is starting to show.  I want to see results but I know that if I rush things it will just look an unholy mess.  Thinking, thinking.
The dahlia border is not brilliant.  The dahlias are just rather small.  They are pretty, especially the ones that are the miscellaneous Twinings offspring, but they have not filled out as I would had hoped.  I shall blame the convenient drought again.
Some of the dahlias have been stunning.  This Twinings offspring in particular has performed magnificently.  I would not say I was usually the pale pink type, but this subtle pink veining and its prolific flowering ability has made it a winner in my book.
and I need more zinnias.  I have said a few times they have been my revelation this year and they really are.  I shall grow lots next year - lots and lots and lots.
The medlars are coming on well this year.  The tree has sprouted a good twelve inches, it is clearly settling in well now.
The broccoli has not disappeared yet to the hungry caterpillars.  Yet.
The ornamental leeks are still growing well.  I wonder how many years I can keep them growing, this is their second year so far.  I know I should dig them up, but I am fond of them now.
My beds of wallflowers are doing brilliantly.  I am so pleased with them.  I am expecting a riot of colour next Spring!
The pond remains really low and now really choked with that parrot/feather weed thing.  So cross that it was put into the pond (not by me) I shall remove what I can this winter to give the other planting a chance.

So that is August, the year feels like it has turned, the leaves are starting to fall.  September is on its way.

Thanks as ever to Helen, the Patient Gardener for hosting this meme.

Wordless Wednesday - Bark!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Art of Fine Deadheading

"Close my eyes and go to sleep
It's not as easy as it seems,
Close my eyes and go to sleep
I'm jumping fences, counting sheep
I'm counting fences, jumping sheep
I'm fencing jumpsuits in my sleep
I'm counting fencing, I can't think"  (Sleep (Fingers Lullaby)  written by Johnny Fingers, from 'The Art of Fine Surfacing' The Boomtown Rats)

Its been busy at work lately.  Actually its been really busy at work lately.  Not sure I am getting this across accurately or with enough feeling, its been really really busy at work lately.
At times like this when it is all go and there are lots of competing priorities (which is all the time), I love this time of year most of all.  There is nothing better after a long day than the evening garden inspection/wander.
This involves getting home, getting changed and then heading straight for the greenhouse.  After inspecting that all is well in there and deciding whether it will need watering tonight or not, then it is pick up the secateurs and do the rounds.
I try and start in the front garden, because I actually quite often don't and so it is not really as looked after as it should be.  One day I will be happy with my front garden, but not yet.

Then it is head out into the back garden.  I try and do the route from different directions as if I look from different angles I will notice different things.  As I go round I deadhead and its not a vicious dead-heading.  I don't use it to vent anger or transfer feelings, it is about absorbing myself in what needs to be done and clearing my mind of anything else.  The cosmos, dahlias and roses need regular attention and it is for me the most stress-releasing, gentle wind down possible.  This simple routine grounds me nicely and by the time it is done I am in a fit state to start dinner preparation or whatever else I need to do in the evening.

Of course now the evenings are quickly starting to draw in.  Soon it will be too dark to carry out my summer routine.  Its not a good time of year when I can't see my garden until the weekends, but I cope.  I use my wind down time to catch up on the my garden reading and do my garden planning for the new growing season, which has almost the same wind down effect.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Rosa 'Portmeirion'

I know I have done a few posts about roses so this is the last one for this year - promise.  It was fairly obvious though I think that I had missed out one very important rose in my garden and that is Rosa 'Portmeirion' from David Austin.
As mentioned in previous posts, Portmeirion is a very special place for me, so it was obvious that once I saw there was a rose named after it I had to have it.  I bought my first Rosa 'Portmeirion' quite a few years ago at my previous house, so when I moved I knew I would have to buy another to replace it in the new garden.  I have to honest and say it took a couple of years to settle in at the previous house.  The rose bush at my current house now four years old (bush not house), was one of the first things to go into the new garden and it has settled in extremely well.  It flowered strongly in its first year and is now maturing into a really good sized plant.
It is quite similar to Rose 'Gertrude Jekyll' in colour and in scent, so it is certain that I chose it exclusively for the name in the first instance.  It is a slightly softer pink than Gertrude, and currently a bit more vigorous as well.  Now however, I regard it as one of the best performers in my garden and clearly one of the best roses.  It is one of the first roses to come into flower and is still flowering well.
It does not suffer from the inherent mankiness that some of my other roses do so that makes it easy to look after and grow.  The first bush I bought is placed in the conservatory border, near the early evening wine drinking bench.  The scent just wafts across beautifully and I think that now, irrespective of its name, it is possibly my favourite rose.

I bought three more last year and they are coming on well, though the dry summer has held them back.  I am expecting great things from them next year.

Happy sigh.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

California dreaming

A few weeks ago I used this photograph of Eschscholzia californica, the Californian Poppy as my Wordless Wednesday picture.
Janet left a comment asking for more photos as this flower opened.  I am happy to oblige:
Such a beautiful flower.  It took me several attempts to get these allegedly easy plants to grow, but once I managed to get them going they now self-seed around beautifully.

Simply stunning!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

My american friend

or Centaurea americana 'Aloha Blanca'
I grow a lot of my plants from seed and quite a few of these are annuals.  I grow the usual suspects like Cosmos, cornflowers, nasturtians and cerinthe.  I know if I sow these they will grow and I will be happy with the results.  Every year I usually buy a couple of new plants to me as well.  This year I sowed this, the 'Basket Flower'.  Yes it is a form of cornflower, so on that scale not exactly a wild exotic adventure for me, but all the same I was interested to see how it would develop.
It germinated quite easily and to be honest was not that exciting at its early stages.  I only really got interested when the buds started to form.  Not actually sure why it is called the Basket Flower, did wonder if this stage was sort of basket looking, maybe.....?
It went through a delightfully tufty stage (the older generation out there will now be thinking about squirrels,  the rest of you just google it, carefully!).
Suddenly after being in the bud stage for several days it really began to open.
and then there it was.  It apparently can grow to 4-5ft tall.  I will let you know about that one, it is about 18inches tall at the moment. 

I bought mine from Chiltern Seeds and they are a hardy annual.  Certainly so far they seem good value and I live in hope of great height from them, though I wonder if the drought will have hampered them.  I will certainly grow them again next year.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Asteraceae and friends

I have long been a fan of daisies and daisy like flowers.
 I brought a sprig of ox-eye daisy from a previous garden.  It now romps around with gay abandon through the conservatory border.  I thin it regularly and have transplanted a spring to the pond edge in the hope it will romp around there too.  It is sort of a nuisance in that it is so thuggish, and yet it is so pretty.  It dances in the breeze and the seedlings are easy to spot to remove.  I need to cut it back at the moment, it is looking scruffy from its first flush of flowering, but I like its simplicity.
Then there is the Erigeron karvinskianus, the Mexican Daisy; beloved of Gertrude Jekyll and the Arts and Crafts garden movement.  I am trying to convince mine to self seed around, to get into the nooks and crannies and soften the delightful crazy paving that surrounds my house (in terms of crazy paving, delightful is code for grey concrete).  

The Shasta Daisy, this one is Leucanthemum x superbum 'Phylllis Smith', I love the shagginess and messiness of this flower.  It still has the simplicity of a daisy, it has not wandered quite in the double flower world.  It also nods nicely and pulls itself through other plants in a very pleasant way.  It is a good strong plant but does not thicken up very quickly.  I wish I had more, but they tend to be expensive and so far I buy one a year usually from Tatton Flower Show.
Echinacea 'Purpura' is another favourite.  It has the simple daisy look.  The colour is superb and they are as tough as old boots.  Another perk is that bees love them.  Though last year I seemed to find a lot of dead bees hanging underneath the flowers.  This was really strange and disconcerting and if anyone can explain it to me I would be grateful (unless it is a less-spotted bee monster in which case I would probably rather not know).
Cosmos 'Purity', not a daisy but has the simple daisy look.  I know that I like this shape of flowers as it looks like a flower a child would draw.  When children this is what we think flowers look like.  With my level of art skills it is still about all I can draw so maybe that embeds the affinity. 
Even in dahlias I like the single flowered, open, look.  I think this one is 'Waltzing Matilda'.  It is meant to be 'Dark Desire' but was sent to me in error, the sort of error you only realise when it flowers.  I know other gardeners have had exactly the same happen to them this year, is is a conspiracy I wonder?
Now we are entering Aster time.  This is a recent addition to my garden, I had always avoided asters before.  I think I associated them badly with my parents' garden from the 1960s.  This one is so vivid, such an amazing colour and it has bushed up really well this year.  Now I need to start propagating from it if I can, I want more!

A bonus of this simple type of flower is that in general bees and insects love them.  They can find their way in easily and  they are less likely to be sterile than the double-flowered versions.  I do also grow blousey flowers, but the simple ones tend to be my favourites.  Had my son been a girl he would have been called Daisy.  This would have meant that my two children would have been called Rose and Daisy, the two old ladies from Pigeon Street, lucky lucky escape for them both.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

So Ms Bueller, what do you want to do today?

I decided it was time I had a day off work, the opportunity arose so I grabbed it and booked a couple of days leave.  I pondered whether to spend time in my garden, or to take advantage of an extra day on the weekend and go garden bothering.  Garden bothering won.
So I went to Long Close Gardens in Woodhouse Eaves which is open daily for the NGS.  You pay by honesty box, which is a fine tradition and one I love to see as it shows that people still have faith in the innate goodness of people.
It is a large garden, and you are greeted by a large, formal, sweeping lawn ends at some stone steps and these knot gardens.  The box is accurately clipped and the simple design is very effective.  I have a sort of knot garden at the front of my house, but because I could only afford young cuttings three years on it is still not quite knitting to form little hedges.  One day it still won't look as good as this.
Down the steps leads to you to another formal lawn, surrounded by flower beds.  The garden is built on quite a slope and is cleverly terraced so that you travel down the garden hardly noticing the changes in level, until you look back.
The flower borders hide the change in level well.  I liked this technique very much.
The planting is good.  I love these Cleomes, a while ago I tried to grow some from seed and failed miserably.  A then colleague who hailed from California thought I was mad to grow them, she said they were weeds as far as she was concerned.  Proves the oft said cliche, weeds are just plants in the wrong place.
Through an almost hidden gate is Pene's Potager.  Again the box edging is beautifully clipped.  The beds are filled with some vegetables and also a collection of Penstemons.  There appears to be something going on with Penstemons in Leicestershire, its the second NGS garden I've visited this week that have included a collection.  I quite like them, but not sure I love them that much and now I am scared that if I buy one suddenly I will going the Leicestershire trend and end up with a collection.
In true classic style you are drawn down these paths to see what is just beyond your sight.
There is a third terraced lawn.  Again edged by good planting.
This hedge shows the drop in level you have just walked, just cleverly disguised.
There are statues.....
..... and gazebos, I really like the red Bishop of Llandaff dahlia at the side of this, it shines some colour into the area.
There is some wonderful colour dotted around, these agapanthus are an amazing blue.
There is a real feeling of exploration.  From dark into light.  The garden is now getting more wild, with areas of long grass, some of which that have recently been cut back.
There is a wildflower meadow, apparently not ploughed in living memory, but it had just been cut so I missed that at its best.
The trees and shrubs are wonderfully mature.  There are lots of conifers, many look like the remains of a Victorian collection.  I am not a fan of conifers particularly, but these have the space to grow and are not the bog-standard pyramid types so it felt like they belonged.
The garden gets increasingly damp as you continue onwards.  There is a small stream and some ponds, all of which look virtually dry in this drought year we have been having, but the planting remains lush and happy looking.  I loved the play of dappled light on these leaves.
There is an almost meadow of Gunnera.  A huge patch of it and it is such a stunning plant.  Mine died in the winter and this just made me want to get a new one.
When arriving at the Gunnera I realise I have circled around.  I am now at the bottom of the third lawn, which is edged with a long border with wonderful late summer colour.
There is beautiful bark, peeling away paper like and gleaming in the sun.
There are lovely berries giving an early Autumn feel to this part of the garden.  The leaves are starting to turn in some areas.  As I drove home I was astounded at the amount of orange fallen leaves on the roads.  The drought has made leaf-fall come early.
The maturity of the planting is evidenced by the beautiful twisted trunks of the rhododendrons.  I sometimes think that their tangled growth below is more beautiful than the blousy flowers above.
I think that I am not alone in this, but I do enjoy not seeing perfection in these gardens.  There is nothing wrong with this border, but it is not immaculate and fully planted.  To me this is showing a garden that is real and not one just designed for show.  I went to another NGS garden on Sunday.  It was truly immaculate, there is no other word that could describe it.  There was not a lawn weed, not a razor sharp clipped edge and not a weed to be seen.  Its perfection made an untidy gardener like myself a little uncomfortable, it felt like this was not a garden to be enjoyed, but one to be kept perfect for the visitors above all else.

However on saying that, most of the garden was beautifully planted and this was clearly just one bit that wasn't up to the usual standard.
As I thought I was just about to leave I looked to the side as I had nearly missed this small quiet place.  Literally next to the gate as you leave the main garden.  The large pot is a gently trickling water feature and it is shady and peaceful.

This is not an innovative garden, it will not show you anything that you have not seen before, but this is not a criticism.  It is a peaceful and tranquil garden, helped hugely by it being a Friday when I visited and no one else was there at the time.  I came away thinking that I needed more hydrangeas and wishing that my planting was a mature as theirs.
Compared to Ferris Bueller my day might not have seemed that exciting, but I enjoyed this garden visit very much and realised that I do need to get out more and visit more gardens.  I am compiling a list......