Monday, 31 October 2011

End of Month Review - October

"From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!" (A Cornish Litany - anonymous)

It is the last day of October and the day before All Saints Day or Hallowe'en as it is known in this corner of the world.  This poem was written on a small wooden plaque that hung in my parents' kitchen for much of the time I was growing up, it was a souvenir from one of our many cornish holidays and whilst its senitiment was not something that means anything to me, I still think of it this time of year.
The leaves are turning.  At this time of year I always think I should have more maples.
I have three hamamelis, this is the last one to lose its leaves.  The others turn a more flame/orange but this is a beautiful yellow.  Not much more than a twig at the moment, but it is growing and thriving and it will get larger.
The Medlar 'Nottingham' is ablaze with colour.  This is a wonderful tree, beautiful large blossom from the first year I planted it, it fruits well and then the leaves turn so prettily.  A great all-rounder.
The borders are now past the turning point for the season.  There is still some colour, but the brown punctuation points of the echinacea are now coming into their own and the grasses are starting to go golden.
The last few flowers are just hanging on until we get the first frost.  We had a threat of frost this month, but it has not really struck yet.  The dahlias are still flowering though I have stopped deadheading them in the hope that I might get some seed from some of them.
The new extension to the pond border is looking rather sparse.  The wallflowers are in and I am waiting for my rose order to arrive.  I have also planted some bulbs in here, various tulips, alliums and the odd daff.
These persicaria orientalis remain one of my favourite plants this year.  Grown from seed these are an annual, they are over 6 foot tall.  I am hoping to be able to collect seed from them so that I can grow them again next year. 
This is my row of pleached hornbeams.  You will notice they are not pleached.  They have been in situ for just over a year now and so next year I intend to make a start at pleaching them.  I am nothing if not ambitious!
The prairie borders still look a bit bare too - but the stipa has taken quite well and I have a greenhouse full of it.
I am not intending to put these out though until the Spring.  They are very small and I want to get them a little bigger before letting them out into the wild.
I also have a lot of cuttings in the greenhouse and some seeds.  Most of these will have to come into the conservatory when it gets really cold.  I really need to get a heater for the greenhouse.
The eucomis leaf cuttings are looking ok.  Not doing anything visible but they seem ok.
I've been clearing the parrot weed out of the pond.  It looks a bit better now, I think I am going to really struggle to get all the blasted stuff out though.  The pond, whilst still very low, is slightly higher than it was due to some very welcome rain this week.

So its been quite a good month, I reason that its meant to look a bit untidy and a bit straggly this time of year so I feel quite relaxed about it. 

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

Friday, 28 October 2011

A Hallowe'en Tale

So recently I went to Westonbirt Arboretum.  It was a beautiful early autumn day perfect for a walk in the woods.
The colours of autumn were shining in the sun.  It was one of those, this a great day to be wandering around, enjoying the great outdoors and looking at trees days.  Until things began to take a sinister turn......
As I wandered along the many twisting turning paths I suddenly entered a part of the Silk Wood with a different feel.  There was dark and light - and I realised I was walking towards something quite disturbing.
Was this a prison for trees?  Why were they caged so?  There were clearly dangerous and have to be kept separate from each other and definitely away from the general public.

I mean - look at this one, it is definitely getting ready to pounce - I could almost feel the tension building up within it....
and this one - it looks sort of harmless but I am certain it is penned up for a reason.

Now the more gullible amongst you may believe the stories of it being protection against deer, rabbits and other fluffy big-eyed animals - but I have seen Bambi and I don't believe he ever ate a tree.  No - these trees are dangerous and I for one was very grateful to get away from this area and into the safer parts of the wood where the trees are safe to be alongside the public without additional security.
For those of you who take part - hope you have a great Hallowe'en.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Quince envy

This time last year I planted a quince tree.  I have always wanted a quince tree and a runcible spoon to go with it.
It is a good healthy tree and I assiduously watered it throughout the year to help it survive the considerable lack of rain we have had this year.
Buds formed and I got very excited.  I really like the downy leaves on this year.  I had not realised they were so pretty as a tree in themselves never mind the eldorado of the quince fruit to come.
The blossom opened and then my excitement went into overload.  Would I have quince fruit this year.......?
....... no I would not.  The blossoms did not set and just fell off once the flower time was over.  I was hugely disappointed. 

So why I am writing this now?  This was months ago I should be over this disappointment by now.  Well in truth I am over it as with anything that happens in the garden there is always next year.  I did not really think I would be so lucky as to get fruit in the first year of planting.  This is however the time of year when magazines contain quince recipes.  On Twitter people are talking of their quince gin and quince jelly.  When staying in a B&B recently I had their home-made quince jelly on my toast for breakfast and this has all led me to have a real case of quince envy.

Next year I will be watching my tree even more keenly hoping for that elusive fruit.


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Full of cheer

 Sometimes you seek out special places and sometimes you come across them sort of by accident.  As mentioned in my previous post I recently spent some time near Bath/Chippenham to attend a course at Special Plants Nursery.  This was a two day course so a B&B was required.  After some hunting around the recommended list I was given I chose one called Ridleys Cheer.  (Partly I admit because I liked the name!).

The website says it has an 'entrancing and secluded garden'.  Now visiting a garden in October is on the edge of when most gardens looks good and descriptions like that can hide a multitude of sins, but I thought I would give it a go.  To my relief there was indeed much to look at.  The garden itself is certainly a labour of love and you quickly realise that whilst there are many roses and some lovely planting, the owners love trees.

They bought the house c1968 and have slowly added to the amount of land that they have to create a space that covers several acres.  They boast of 125 different rose varieties, but this was not the time of year to appreciate that fully unfortunately.

The glory of this garden is the arboretum.  Yes they have their own 2 acre arboretum in which they have planted over 4000 trees.  It is the most incredible space.  I went for wander in the late afternoon and ended up just sitting and listening to the sounds of the trees and the birds.  (I didn't know pheasants coughed!).  As the light fell it wasn't eery, it was just peaceful and serene.  I think the owners started to think I had got lost I was out there so long.

They have many magnolias which just makes me want to return in magnolia time to see them in their glory.

They also have wildflower meadows complete with rams (I avoided the rams even though I was told they were harmless).

I do sometimes wonder if it is obligatory to plant Silver Birches in threes?  They do look stunning and I like the effect - but I do get the desire to see four in a group, or maybe six.  Maybe even numbers just look a bit too grid like?

I stayed an additional night than I actually needed to as I wanted to go garden-bothering on the way home and I was so glad I did.   The B&B involves lots of bone china cups of tea, and tiny thin sausages that don't look that exciting but crikey they tasted wonderful.  Also the joy of quince jelly to have with my toast too which made me hope that I get some quinces from my tree next year.  It is not the most modern B&B you will ever stay in, but the owners were so friendly and caring and so happy to talk gardens that it was worth it...

and I am fairly sure that the best breakfasts involve special spoons for the jam.

Monday, 17 October 2011

It was all a bit special

I work in education, I like education, I would go so far as to say that I fundamentally believe in education as being 'a good thing'.  So it is probably not too much of a surprise to find out that I like learning about things and in particular about things that I enjoy.
I recently went on a propagation workshop to improve my considerably shaky propagation skills.  I then a few days later went down to near Bath to Derry Watkins' Special Plants Nursery to take part in her course on running your own nursery.  Yes it is a sort of dream that lurks at the back of my mind, what I need to be sure of is how much of a dream it is - hence the course.
I am not going to actually talk that much about the course.  It was excellent, very informative and gave me lots to think about.  It was a much needed reality-check about running a nursery - the joys and the pitfalls.  I came away with much to think about and I can unreservedly recommend it.
I also came away with quite a few new plants as the nursery has such a good collection it was just too hard to resist.  I know there are those who I can hear sighing about 'plant collectors' rather than having a clear scheme.  In my defense (and I don't actually feel defensive) I knew exactly where each plant was going to go and one in particular had been on my 'to buy' list for ages (she says sounding defensive!).
However the garden has to be given more mention because it deserves it.  The garden is set in a very slopey position with amazing view of the Cotswolds landscape.  I particularly liked this boundary of miscanthus.
The garden makes great use of its position.  It takes you around each level and you weave through the paths around it.
You go through informal to formal.  I really liked this wild flower meadow effect bit.
There is very effective structural use of hedges and black lily turf.  This works because it is precise hedging with the dark but quite unstructured look of the black grass-like planting.
I'm not sure this picture shows this well enough, but the colour of the planting fits perfectly with the colour of the metal cut-work sculpture.
The use of colour and structure throughout the garden is, as you would expect from such a gifted plantswoman, extremely good.
The metal cut-work appears on sticks too in the garden.  I rather like this figure particularly again the dark dahlia foliage and the bright green grass.
At the side of the house there is a path made of broken terracotta crocks.  It looked great and sounded even better when walked on.  A really nice touch.
This semi-circular beech enclosure is something I have seen in various gardens and I like the idea of it.  If I had room I would consider doing something similar myself.  I have to say though that I was not keen on the plant in the middle.  I don't know what it is, it is a tender succulent sort of looking plant and it wasn't for me; probably because I'm not keen on that kind of plant.  What I was sure about however....

....were the portholes cut in the side.  These I liked a lot.

This is by no means the whole garden, there is much more to see and it is worth going to see.  It opens for the NGS and also every Tuesday - but take lots of money, the nursery is excellent!