Friday, 30 September 2011

End of Month Review - September

I could almost review September from just this photograph.  It has been a month of great beauty, with latterly incredible sun and even some much needed rain earlier in the month.

However I will go on to show the parts of the garden I am reviewing this time.
The gravel garden corner is really looking good.  I am happy with the mix of self-seeded verbena bonariensis, the erigeron karvinskianus, rosemary and sea hollies.  I am hoping it continues to self-seed and develop.
Vegetable wise the broccoli is still growing, but suddenly looking a little holy in places.  I think as usual I will probably not harvest any, this is probably my last attempt.
The wallflowers are ready to go out, I have some time off work in the next couple of weeks so they will get put out soon.
I like the nasturtians running through the stachys.  Not a planned look, but one I am definitely enjoying.

Also not planned are these self-seeded stachys in my amazing retro crazy paving (as Dr Who would say, crazy paving is cool now). 
This is my favourite dahlia, a Twinings variation.  It has flowered and flowered and flowered.  Such a good doer.
These yellow dahlias are from the Bishops Children seed mix.  I have remained unsure of them.  Sometimes I have found their yellow cheerfulness a great thing, today I didn't quite get the love for them. 
This red one though, that is a great one and one of my current favourites.
These persicaria orientalis have grown from see this year.  They are over six foot tall.  I love them to bits!
They have great flowers when looked at closely.
Equally stunning are these perennial helianthus.  They are looking great this time of year.  A real flash of colour.
I still have some roses, this is Gertrude Jekyll, a great rose.  The Cosmos Purity I have stopped deadheading so that I can collect seed.  I have even had to buy some brown paper bags so that I can collect in traditional fashion.

The prairie borders are underwhelming at the moment, but next year.......
The foliage on the Medlar tree is starting to turn, the little hard fruits are sitting there being hard and looking like a cat's bottom.
and this milk thistle seedling is an unexpected returner.  I grew several of these from seed about three years ago, they self seeded a bit at the time and I moved on to grow other plants.  Suddenly this seedling has appeared from no-where.  Very pleased to see it.
The zinnias are mixing with the Cosmos Dazzler and the Stipa Gigantica.  they have looked really good this year.
and the pond, my poor long-suffering, drought hit pond.  Still incredibly low.  We are still in need of rain.

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

Monday, 26 September 2011

Childhood dream come true

The first gardening I ever got involved with was with my then neighbours, the Smallwoods.  I was about four years old and I would spend long amounts of time next door helping them in their garden.  They had no children of their own and I think they enjoyed passing on their gardening knowledge to me.

One thing they had in their garden that I greatly admired was a huge horse chestnut tree.  As a child I loved conkers; not playing games with them with string put through them, that damaged their glossy auburn beauty.  I just wanted to collect and own them.  Not really understanding why these bright jewel like seeds turned into dark brown dried up things within a matter of days.
I tried to grow a tree from a conker many times.  I could get them to germinate but my mother said you needed a big garden to grow one and so they were never planted out.  Of course I had no idea either how long it would take my inches tall seedlings to be a conker-producing tree.

It was a great delight when I moved into my current house to find a large conker tree at the bottom of the garden.  A dream come true!

The first year I lived there, there were no conkers on the tree.  I moved in in September so I sort of thought maybe the previous owners had collected them all already (how could they possibly leave the behind?)

The second year there were no conkers on the tree.  It had a few sparse flowers, but no actual conkers.  Such disappointment.

Last year again a few sparse flowers, but hurrah hurrah - I collected two conkers and was hugely pleased by this development.

This year the tree was covered in flowers.  I got quite excited.

I watched as the small conkers developed.
I kept an eye on its progress...
.... and joy of joys conkers actually came to be.
It even had quads

So many conkers!
Now I admit this is not a huge amount really, but considerably more than I have had before.  Which raises questions.  I have no idea how old the tree is, but it is fairly old from looking at the size of it.  I have also failed to find out how old/large a tree has to be before it provides conkers.

It is well known now that horse chestnut trees are under threat from bleeding canker, my tree currently looks ok, but cases have been reported in the Midlands so I hope that it stays safe.  I would hate a situation like we had with Dutch Elm's Disease and the devastation of the population of this beautiful tree.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Little house on the....

I have long been a fan of prairie planting, with Piet Oudolph being a major inspiration for me as alluded to in a previous post.   It has long been a desire of mine to include some prairie planting in my garden, but it has taken me a while to work out how and where.  Earlier this year it finally became more clear what I wanted to do as I finally identified the area I wanted to use.
This part of the garden is quite sunny, its to the right of the pond towards the back boundary of the garden.  The other side of the pond in the left hand top corner is the meadow area, but the woodland border creates a break between the areas so I think this will work in terms of not looking too 'patchy' or jumbled.
Firstly to plan our the borders I did do some rough drawing.  I am not actually someone who usually draws out actual plans of the garden, but this I wanted to be right.  Next I used the lawn mower to just cut around the areas I thought I would use as the prairie borders.  This helped me quickly see physically what the borders would look like as they were delineated by long grass.  This worked even better than I had hoped and meant I could reshape without committing a spade to the ground first.

Next task was to kill off the grass bits of the border.  I use glyphosate to do this, which I know is controversial but I have struggled badly with other new borders by the many many perennial lawn weeds that I have.  This also helped me be even more clear about what the shapes should look like.

Next the digging had to commence.
Lots of digging.  It was great when it was done and actually didn't take as long as I thought it would.  Also a bit of helpful rain was good as it loosened up the ground.

At the same time that this was going on, I was sowing seeds for the borders.  I needed to fill them as cost effectively as possible and buying fully fledged plants was just not on the agenda.  So in the green house I sowed Stipa Tenuissima (lots), Stipa Gigantica (not so much), Echinops Ritro, Echinacea Purpura and Echinacea Pallida.  I wanted to keep the amount of variety fairly limited and rely heavily on the Stipa Tenuissma as the main grass.
I ended up with about 60 Stipa Tenuissima plants from this, which was a good start, but probably less than a quarter of the plants I need to fill this area.  I also have been transplanting self-sown Stipa Tenuissima from other parts of the garden into these borders.  Plants for free are such a great help.  Time in the season is cracking on so the ability to sow many more and get to planting readiness means I might not get many more in this year.  I do have a second batch on the way and they have now germinated so hopefully they will get in before the frost arrives.
So as you can see from this photograph, clearly no where near enough plants, but I spaced them out and tried to pretend they were a crowd.
They are now all planted and seem to be thriving and I will keep you updated as to progress and there is still much to be done.....


Something keeps digging some of them up, particularly the Stipa Tenuissima.  I get home every evening and I replant one or two.  Was it pigeons I wondered?  Could it be foxes?  There are a lot around here.  Someone even suggested badgers.  Now foxes are still not off the hook on this one, but one culprit has been identified:

A final thought - how many people out there can start thinking about the quite old television series 'A Little House on the Prairie' and not start humming the theme from 'The Waltons' - or is it just me?

Friday, 16 September 2011

Barbarous in beauty

"Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the
Stooks arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what
lovely behavior
Of silk-sack clouds! Has wilder, willful-waiver
Meal-drift molded ever and melted across skies?"
-   Gerard Manly Hopkins, Hurrahing in Harvest, 1918

I wanted to find something that would sum up September in the garden, 'barbarous in beauty' fitted the bill exactly.  What an amazing phrase.
September is a month of turn and change.  It is a month full of hope in the garden: fruit is falling from the trees in ripeness: leading to jam making, pie, crumble and cake making and oodles of apple sauce.  The dahlias are at their best and the zinnias are flowering like crazy.  It is the month of conkers, that brief period of horse chestnut beauty.  The pinkness of the summer borders is giving way to oranges and yellows again.  As we start in the Spring, we end in the Autumn.  It is a cliche, but the circle does keep turning.
The first Autumn crocus is always a joy.  Another sign of the season change is when I mow and scythe my meadow area.  My lawn usually gets a full cut once or twice a year and whilst I love the meadow when it is in full flow, I like the calm and peace of the grass when it just stretches out towards the winter.
September is a time to reflect, to think about the summer just disappearing and the autumn that is on its way in. 

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The First Four Years

September 10th marks the fourth anniversary of my moving into this house.  The house became mine on the 6th, I planted my tree fern and a canna in the garden on the 7th and I actually moved in properly on the 10th.  Yes, I started planting before I had even slept here!
There was not much in the way of planting here when I moved in.
But crikey the potential was just amazing.
I planted.
Work areas were developed.

Flowers flowered.
The wild meadow got going.
There have been winters.
There have been Springs
The cats settled in and the pond was created.
I have had some of the lowest times ever in this house and yet also some of the happiest.  Its only been four years, the garden bears no recognition to what it looked like when I moved in.  I bought this house because of the garden and I will stay in this house because of the garden.  Well, for the meantime anyway......