Saturday, 30 June 2012

End of Month Review - June 2012

and so we reach June.  June, like May and April has been largely wet but has also had some rather nice warm days.  Latterly its been stormy and quite windy, not very keen on this development and hope it ends soon.  It means the garden is struggling to stay upright in places.

Anyway, the garden in June is looking like this:

The front garden is looking reasonable at the moment.  I am likely the Rosa Leda by the front gate, this year it is really growing well and covered in flowers.  The pink dianthus is filling out the centre of the knot garden well and I will be planting some white dianthus in the outer triangles soon.  They are currently still in the greenhouse as they have been grown from seed and need to get a little bigger I think before I put them out.
On the front door step I have my Thompson and Morgan trial pots.  They are full of begonias, petunias and geraniums.  Of these plants I only traditionally like the geraniums, but I am enjoying the colour of these more than I thought I would (though I am still viewing the petunias with a bit of cynicism).
The gravel garden (corner) is looking mainly green.  The mexican daisies are doing very well this year but the rosemary has been flattened by the wind and rain.
Another Thompson and Morgan trial plant, I have pots of these geraniums by the back door, I like them a lot (Saxonia Red).
The view as I approach the back garden is dominated by this massive cardoon.  One of the first plants planted in this garden nearly five years ago and grown from seed.  It is huge and I remove the lower leaves regularly to get more light into the planting around it. 

The conservatory border is looking lush, but you see Rosa Portmeirion that is bent over from the recent storm.
The sweet peas are slow to get going but are looking good placed near the Chinese Foxglove.
The coal bunker border (well its in front of the coal bunker so what else could I call it?) is looking good, this is the other side with the cardoon in the background.  It is mainly roses, poppies and self sown foxgloves and nigella at the moment.
The poppies in the pond border are doing incredibly well this year.  I am tagging the ones I really like to collect the seed and preserve.  I do pull up the other ones regularly to create more space.
This is today's favourite poppy, the bees like it too.
The pond border is doing well, but still has bare patches where the seedlings have not yet grown into their spaces.  Soon (she says) this will have zinnias and cleomes doing wonderful things in it, soon.
The roses are doing very well this year, this is Rosa Mundi, now a firm favourite.
This concrete planter is under the Bramley tree, it pre-dates my occupancy of the house.  It has species tulips and alliums in it but in the summer I struggle to know what to do with it.  This year it has Thompson and Morgan trail geraniums in it.  They seem to be doing well at the moment.
The prairie borders are coming on.  They have been hit quite hard by the wind too and need more grass planting in them, but I am relatively pleased with them.
This is the grassy knoll by the side of the pond.  It is some of the soil from the creation of the pond that has been grass over.  This year I have sown nigella seeds into it and it is looking really pretty.  I have let the grass grow on it which I do not usually do, but I am liking the effect.
Further around the pond border iti s just a cloud of orlaya, black cornflowers and nigella, all self-sown.  They look amazing and are far better than I could ever have planted.  Very very pleased with this area.
The wild garden is coming on ok.  The nettles etc have settled down a bit and the ox-eye daisies and clover are flowering well. 
The woodland border is doing quite well, it is filling out nicely now though is a little dominated by teasels and poppies at the moment.
There will be medlars.
The Katsura Tree is growing very well, enjoying the rain I think and it has now had a few years in the ground so it is establishing.
The view back across the pond border is very pink with stachys, lychnis and Rosa Munstead Wood.
This is Rosa Hilda Murrell, a new rose in the garden and flowering really well.  I like it a lot.
I like this view too, it is with the pond border on the right and the coal bunker border to the left.  I like the path of grass between the borders and how it opens out into the formal lawn.  I want to shape the formal lawn further, I think there is scope to widen the borders a bit further around it.  That is an Autumn job.
The vegetable beds which are bounded by the Rosa Hyde Hall hedge, which is getting to look a bit more like it will be a hedge one day now.  The roses are putting on great growth and flowering very well.  Next year it might be knitting together.
There will be courgettes.  The vegetables feel like they are struggling this year, slugs and lack of sun is not helping.
I wonder if there will be sweetcorn, my first year of growing this.  You can see how well the weeds are coming along.  I had a guilt pang after taking this photograph so I can assure you there are now less weeds.
and I finish as usual on the pond.  Its full.  It has never been full this time of year before, look at it last June, but it is full.  The dragonfly nymphs have just started to emerge and all is well.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Oh Sir Clough

I grow quite a few roses, I think all of them purchased from David Austin who is my all time favourite rose grower.  Partially I think because he clearly shares the love of Portmeirion as I do.  I already own his Rosa Portmeirion and Rosa Susan Williams Ellis; both magnificent roses.  However when I saw the rose named Sir Clough well I knew I had to buy one to complete the trinity.
So here it is, the beautiful, the wonderful, Sir Clough.
It is quite a dark neon pink and has this amazing yellow aura at the base of the petals.  It is the only what I would call traditional rose that I own, by which I mean when I was a child growing up in the 1970s I can only remember seeing tea roses, this particular shape and very little scent usually.  This is not a criticism, it just was the fashion of the time.  I have a large collection of roses but they are the old-fashioned cabbage type mainly and overwhelmingly bought for their scent.  I am quite strict in that if a rose has no scent it has no place in my garden (unless it sneaks in under another criteria).  Sir Clough does have a good scent though so it passes all criteria; its beautiful, great colour, wonderful scent and shape plus a good personal rationale for including it.  Every box is ticked.

It also occurred to me whilst looking at the rose buds what a perfect button-hole rose it is, I am toying with having rose button-holes for work, it would be a nice affectation.

So, he meets the most important criteria: he is beautiful, he has some scent and whilst he may not be named after Sir Clough Williams Ellis, I think that highly unlikely and in my head he is anyway so he completes my Portmeirion trio.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Another plant fair, another haul

On Friday I ignored the rain, I braved the mud and I went to Cottesbrooke Gardeners Fair, one of my most favourite events of the year.  What sets this fair out from most of the others is that is concentrates on plants and it attracts some of the best specialist nurseries in the country.  You can buy what may be termed the standard, generally available plants and you can also buy the specialist, plant obsessive, amazing plants.  All types of gardeners attend this fair, going on their own terms and finding what makes them happy.

I've been going for about five years now I think (not sure, time blurs), every year it gets a little bit bigger and definitely better.  The organisation also clearly learns from year to year.  Travelling in has been difficult in previous years, there have been queues of traffic to get in which were really frustrating.  Cars full of people who want to get spending their money are not a good thing to leave waiting in the road!  This year this issue was solved, well certainly when I arrived we pretty much drove straight in with only minimal queueing to get into the car park.

This is all just introduction though, of course the important thing is - what did I buy - well:

These are not in any specific order, I bought this Erodium Manescavii, I loved its amazing colour and its sprawling habit.  I am hoping it might self-seed or that I can divide it at a future date to have more.  (I am sure one of your will tell me the best propagation method).
This is a Primula Walton hybird, for my woodland border.  In true plant-fair fashion I managed to break off the tallest open flower that it had getting it out of the car, yes out of the car, I got it into the car ok, I got it to the car ok, I broke the flower off when I got home.  Did I curse?  just a little.  Anyway, it has beautiful clear yellow flowers that smell a little of honey and I think it is amazing.
I also wanted some ferns for my woodland border so I bought this Dryopteris Erythrosora and Dryopteris Celsa.  Until now I had zero ferns, which just is not good enough.  I never used to understand their appeal but now the beauty of their leaves and structure just wows me.
On the recommendation of Colin from Swines Meadow Nurseries, a good friend made via Twitter, I bought this Papaver Somniferum 'Blackcurrent fizz', currently in the greenhouse until the wind dies down, but this is a beautiful poppy and I cannot wait for it to flower and set seed.  Buying annual poppies is a real investment in the future as the first year you get a brief bit of happiness, but in future years you get ongoing joy.  Am I obsessed with poppies?  just a little.
and finally, well sort of finally, the beautiful, the incredible, Lupinous arboreus prostrata.  My new love this year is the tree lupin.  I have a yellow more upright one already that I thought was really beautiful.  This year it has grown incredibly well, the rain has been good news in so many ways (not in all ways I know, but..)   When I saw these tree lupins on a stall I made a bee-line for them and had to buy one.  The stallholder said I was the first to buy one as people just were not appreciating them.  How unfortunate that is for those people.  Tree lupins are amazing, the rain collects on their leaves and stays in shiny drops that glisten in any late sun.  The flowers are pretty and best of all the scent is as incredible as it was unexpected by me.  I had no idea they had scent, but once I realised they did then I knew I had to have more and more of these wonderful plants.  So now I have two.
So excited was I at the purchasing of the Tree Lupin that I had to tweet a photo of it before I left the fair, yes I am that sad.

Now I said finally, but not quite finally because I did a silly thing.  I left a bag of plants in my friends car.  I also bought a Salvia Silas Dyson and a geranium that I cannot remember the name of but was quite different from other geraniums I have bought before.  When it turns up I will let you know.

So that was my haul.  I had a lovely time, the weather tried to make it miserable but it failed completely.  Now I am looking forward to next year's fair.

Friday, 22 June 2012

How many cuckoos?

Devon Odyssey 5 - the not so gnomish bit of the Gnome Reserve

There are two sides to the Gnome Reserve in Devon that I wrote about in my previous post.  There is the very gnomey, quaint, twee, eccentric, use whatever terms you like, gnome bit and then there is the wildflower bit.  The lady who runs the reserve is extremely organised and gives you your instructions on how your visit should proceed.  After visiting the gnomes you then go back into the house and collect your quiz sheet which you need for the wildflower area.  I was happy to go along with this, I like a good quiz and whilst I would consider it more a method to keep children occupied and interested as they walk around, it seemed the right thing to go along with what she suggested.
The quiz sheet asks you to count the fairies that you see as you wander around and various other things to spot.  The fairies were not that easy to spot, they hid I think.  Immediately you enter through the small gate you are greeted by this rather wonderful pond/lake.  It was so green and lush around it and tranquil.  I was fairly relaxed after wandering around the gnomes but you could not help but exhale as you walk into this area.  It was beautiful.  
The whole area is very wild.  Large areas were just growing as they want.
Some areas were more structured and very beautifully done too.
There was this rather nice herb wheel.  It might not have been the best maintained I have ever seen, but that was ok, if it had been over-managed it would not have seemed right somehow.
There are beds of specific herbs and wild flowers which are helpfully labelled.
By doing the quiz I did find I was looking at things more closely than I would have done otherwise.  In particular there was one question that I struggled with, which was how many cuckoos did I see.  Well, I have never seen a real cuckoo and I was not sure how I would know if I saw one.  This perplexed me and suddenly the quiz that I was only doing for a laugh became a challenge.  Then as I wandered I saw a wooden owl, then another owl, so I wrote on the quiz 0 cuckoos but will 2 owls do?  Then light dawned, the cuckoos would be like the owls, not real.  I also realised I had clearly missed them altogether so had to start the circuit again when I duly spotted the three cheeky chappies hidden in some grass.
There were some gnomes, but much much fewer.  This wildflower garden was a total delight.  Forget any issues you might have with gnomes, go for this bit alone, it is in my opinion worth it.  It is mainly worth it because it is scrubby and a bit wild.  Its not over-managed and its not a carpet of amazing blooms wafting in the breeze that have been carefully developed sown and tended.  This is pretty much the real deal, these are plants that are growing happily with weeds (or less favoured wild flowers) and unmown grass in a beautiful setting.

When I got back to the house I thanked the owner and praised her on this wonderful wild garden.  She was clearly very proud of it and said they had been clearing it from a brambley wilderness for over twenty years. 

I then sat and had a cup of earl grey tea and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the day.  Days do not much get better than this.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


The Devon Odyssey 4 - this involves gnomes........ many gnomes.

I visited the Gnome Reserve in North Devon whilst on my trip away.  A recommendation via twitter led me to this place.  I am not sure what my hopes were on visiting, I think I expected to be mildly entertained but I had a better time than that.
Do not go to this reserve unless you like gnomes, I think it is fair to say that there are many gnomes there engaged in all sorts of events and past-times. I currently own three gnomes.  For many years there was just the one, Sam, bought for me when I was about ten years old from a place we used to drive past on our frequent holidays in Norfolk.  I have cherished Sam, carefully bringing him indoors every winter so that he didn't fill with water and his head pop off when the water froze (this may be a gnome myth, but I stuck to it for years).  This practise was rendered useless by my then husband knocking Sam over one day and knocking his head off.  The head was duly stuck back on, but I can still see the scar.  I bought a small, very cheap gnome a couple of months ago on a whim to keep Sam company and I came away from the Gnome Reserve with a very small reminder too.  I think I am safe though that I will not reach the amount of gnomes the reserve has for a while just yet.
It is a family run business and it is all very gentle and charming.  I was thankfully allowed to enter without wearing a gnome hat, though I was assured it is generally pretty much compulsory. 
The reserve is set in a very beautiful wooded area by the house.  It quiet when I went as it was not yet school holidays, but there was a family or two wandering around as I did and it was nice to see the young children wandering around in this beautiful setting enjoying being outside. 
There are fun tableau as you wander around, there are airports, cars, even a space rocket.
I wasn't sure if this one wasn't a stalker gnome though.  As I continued my wander around it felt like the atmosphere got darker.
Some of the gnomes were less colourful, less friendly looking,
this is a monument to the first gnome, the one who started the collection off.  He is surrounded by many ageing gnomes,
the ghost gnomes, mere shades of what they used to be.  It made me think of 'The Children of the Stones' for some reason, I had recently re-watched this, it had scared me badly when I was younger and there was something about this gnomes and the people who embodied the stones that felt a little too close for me.  It was a relief to walk out into the sunshine again.

After visiting the gnomes I then went for a walk around the wildflower garden, I shall write separately on that as it deserves its own space.  For now though, should you wish to go somewhere gnomish then the Gnome Reserve is for you.  It is quaint and gentle and they make nice cups of tea.  I decided it was a truly wonderful way to make a living.