Thursday, 31 May 2012

End of Month Review - May 2012

Crikey - May over already! How did that happen?  Five months through the year already, this year is spinning by.

Its been a challenging year for the  garden, its been cold, frosty, dry and very wet and now it has also had a heat wave too.  Who knows what next the weather will through at us?  The garden though it happy at the moment.  All the rain has given it a good start and now with the heat the flowers are starting to open.  It is suddenly very definitely the growing season.
The front garden is still largely green.  I wait, as is tradition, until Derby Day, to trim the box hedging.  Of course this is not unproblematic, which Derby Day?  The one we have now, the original one? (which moved as it was related to Easter), but its most generally been in the first week of June even if they can't quite stay on a chosen day.
This is a new bit of border in the front garden, largely dominated by wallflowers at the moment but it is a nice bit of colour.
The other side of this border is the gravel garden.  This is mainly aquilegias and Valerian at the moment.  The sea holly and the Mexican daisies are yet to really get going.
In general the back garden is showing colour now.  The artichokes and aqueligias in the foreground, with the woad clouding away towards the rear.  I really like the billowy nature that the garden has taken on.
My first oriental poppy is now open and the rheum is flowering too.  Both are great favourites.
I have also cleared some space in the Conservatory border, it was choked up by ox-eye daisies and geranium phaem, now I have somewhere to put some of my many seedlings from the greenhouse.
The welsh poppies are doing very well, here they are with teasels and the dead tree fern.  The dead tree fern has been dead about three years now and even though I have not yet dug it up, it stubbornly remains dead.
The tulips are now past it and dead.  The heat finally finished them off.
The prairie borders still look quite scrappy, the camassias are flowering but are lost with not enough around them to give real effect.  I have bought some more stipa tenussimia seeds and will get some more put in before the end of the year.
The beech pillars, which are currently twigs, are coming on well this year, well the three long term survivors are, the two new replacements are looking a little slow (which may be a sign they are dead).
The catalpa is starting to get leaf.  It is always later than most of the other trees, but always worth the wait.
The medlar is suddenly covered in blossom.
The new tulip tree is just a total joy.  Growing like good'un!  What a great addition to the garden.
The pleached hornbeams are pleaching away and creating the distinction I wanted between the formal and wild gardens.
The hawthorns that create part of the boundary hedge are looking amazing.
My first sweet pea is open and its Cupani, probably my all time favourite.
This broom is flowering like it is on fire.  Its done nothing for about two years but suddenly it is the most incredible shrub and making itself into a real statement.
The pond is still quite full and teaming with life.  It is still full of tadpoles and now it is alive with damsel-fly nymphs emerging from the water.  The electric red and blue flashes of the adults are dancing over the surface laying more eggs for next year.
and the yellow flag iris are now flowering in the pond.  That has made me very happy.

So May has been a good month, full of promise and potential.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Granny's bonnets

Aquilegias - or Granny's Bonnets - it is their time of year to shine.  They are also called Columbine which comes from the latin for pigeon.  How they link to pigeons I am not sure, Aquilegia comes from the latin for eagle, as the petals are meant to resemble an eagle's claw (maybe if you squint?), but why the pigeon reference?  Anyway, they are mainly known as Granny's bonnets from years gone by when grannys wore bonnets.  Neither of my grannies wore bonnets and I am now very disappointed by this.
I have many aquilegias in my garden.  I made sure I had some self-seeded in some of my containers when I moved into this house.  I am not a huge fan of buying named varieties as to me it feels a bit pointless.  Oh I know I am supposed to hanker after Nora Barlow, and she is indeed a fine flower, but Nora, like all aquilegias, is a tart and will be promiscuous with whoever she can be.  The resulting seedlings may or may not take after her and so the one plant will not generate into more.  To have more Noras I have to buy more Noras, well I'm not keen to do that.  So I let my mongrel aquilegias do their promiscuous thing with each other, and I enjoy their random offspring as I have no expectations of them that they can fail to meet.
I do think that this one might have been from a free packet of seeds.  Its quite nice....... for a green flower.
This is my favourite one in the garden at the moment.  A beautiful pink, quite simple in structure, a real joy.
This white one is a close second though.  I have lots of different colours and shapes, all have their own beauty.

Letting them run rampant around the garden leads to some great floaty colour combinations and some beautiful hybrids are created.  I love this time of year and can't wait to see what different types emerge next year.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Chelsea Flower Show - somethings that glister are gold

I have been going to RHS Chelsea Flower Show for ten years now and I always enjoy it.  Some years the gardens impress me more than others and sometimes the weather is kinder than others.  This year was a good year on all counts.  The gardens were generally excellent and the weather beautiful and sunny.  I considered doing a general review of the day but I decided to focus on the one garden that I enjoyed the most.
The Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust garden designed by Joe Swift really caught my eye and the reason is fairly straightforward; it was the use of colour.
These striking arches that take you through the garden were beautifully spaced and the shapes reflected in the pools and paths that kept the linear theme.
The bronze colour of the arches is also reflected in the planting, here at the side and also at the front in the Iris Langport Wren..

Now all that is quite nice, pleasant in fact.  It was as I walked around the corner of the garden though that (in my opinion) the proportions and colour really came together.
Here the spacing of the arches works really well.
It was however, the placing of these trees, Prunus Amber Beauty, whose bark perfectly matches the arches and the planting that really took my breath away.  Quite often I find for me that with these gardens it is one aspect that makes all the difference.  The trees are perfectly spaced, their height works with the height of the arches and they  make a statement but are not over-done.

This is why this garden was the highlight for me.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Yellow mist

or my increasing love affair with woad
I first starting growing woad (Istis tinctoria) about three years ago.  I went to Chelsea Flower Show and it was a popular plant that year.  I am as liable to follow trends as many other people are and this plant seemed so beautiful to me, so ethereal, that I had to have it.  I ordered some seeds and waiting expectantly for them to flower.
What I did not expect was how amazing the sight of clouds of woad would be.  Every year they set seed and every year I have more.  The more I have the more astounded I get at its beauty.  This time of year it is a firm favourite.
Now some people are not a fan of yellow in the garden.  They see it as problematic.  Heaven forbid you would grow two yellows together, that would look dreadful......
.....really awful in fact - totally tasteless to have more than one shade of yellow in the same space ...... except I rather like it.  In fact, I think it looks rather good.
It is probably considered a mistake to put cream and purple with it too.  Oh well, not in my world.
The fluffy flowers show off the shape of this angelica as it makes ready to have its own show.
The acid yellow shows off this dark tulip to perfection.

Another bonus of woad is that on a still, damp, late Spring evening the scent of honey that it gives off is incredible.

If I had the inclination I could use my woad to create blue dye from its leaves.  It is one of the first natural dyes that people used. The Romans noted that northern Britains used to colour their skins with woad, the word 'Picts' comes from 'painted ones'.  Woad has also been used medicinally, though it has some side effects including death which I think makes it a little risky, I think I'll just use it to paint my face blue instead and run around shouting 'liberty' (this is a confusion from a couple of films but in my head it works quite well).
The flowers are not the end of the story, in a few weeks time I will have veils of beautiful seeds to enjoy as well.  Woad is a seriously good plant, easy to grow, it self seeds quite politely with the seedlings being easy to spot and edit out.  I thoroughly recommend it.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Trial 2 - The Begonias

Back in early April  I started to write up about the trial I am taking part in for Thompson and Morgan.  I thought it was time I did an update and as there are now quite a lot of different plants involved I decided to concentrate on the begonias today.

The first batch of begonias arrived back in March, Begonia 'Apricot Shades'.  I mentioned in my previous post that I am not a fan in general of much that is apricot, not even apricots.  However, they started off well but then got quite badly affected by the frost.  My greenhouse is unheated and I think they needed more protection than I gave them.  On saying that, some that looked like they had mushed away are now growing back and from the original twelve I think I  have nine left.  I am not getting rid of the three dead looking ones yet as new leaves may yet appear.
Most are growing strongly:

and this one is soon to burst into its apricot loveliness

The second batch arrived early May, there have still been some chilly nights but these have coped better.  They are Begonia Red Splash and I think it shows that size and timing matter. They were larger plants to start with but I have to say somewhat squashed into their packaging which was a bit of a shame.
A couple of weeks on and they are growing well, as you can see they were budded and flowering when they arrived and now they are unfurling and taking on a good shape too.
The one above is clearly red;
This one clearly isn't - in fact is looks suspiciously apricot to me.  It is a pretty flower though, I rather like it.  I admit though I have no idea what to do with them.  I don't really use bedding plants but I have lots of containers and I think I can see a way forward.  I mentioned previously one of the things I am enjoying most about this trial is growing things I would not usually dream of and being forced to think of what to do with them when they are ready to go out.  Having my imagination pushed is a good thing.

I shall write again soon on some of the other plants and seeds from the trial.