Monday, 30 September 2013

End of Month Review - September 2013

September has been an interesting month.  It has had a real chilly bit, a bit of rain and lots of sun.  As I write this I am hoping for some rain as the garden really is quite dry.  It is also the month of the autumn equinox, the month that the earth tips a little further leaving summer behind it and welcoming autumn.
The front garden has been looking good all year, it is quite a change for me to think this but I now have a much improved relationship with my front garden.  I still regard it as having some problems, but in general it works ok.
When I talk of problems I now largely mean things like this border by the front door.  I hear you say it looks ok, well yes, at the moment it does from this angle, but its not right, it has no focus and it is full to bursting with couch grass.  It needs work!
The gravel garden has been ok this year.  Not spectacular, but ok.
Now this pleases me much more, this is what I see when I walk into the back garden.  The amaranthus adds some great red and the perennial sunflower 'Lemon Queen' is in full swing.
The Bird Feeder border is looking reasonable, it also needs work as it also lacks focus.  I have never really considered it properly I have just stuffed plants into it, this is quite obvious.
This is the view from the back of the Coal Bunker Border, the pink aster is rather wonderful at the moment.  The dead grass marks out where the border re-shaping is due, I will dig this over after it rains.
Moving along this is the back of the Conservatory Border, the Anemones have been wonderful this year and the Rosa Portmeirion is having a good second flush of flowers.
Right in the corner is Rose Sir Clough, one of my favourite roses.  I just wish it had a touch more scent.
Looking across the border, over the Formal Lawn to the Pond Border, I am relatively happy with this view at the moment.  It is looking a bit autumnal but I don't mind that.
This is the Conservatory Border from the front.  The Rudbeckia add some welcome colour at the front.
The Coal Bunker Border is full of asters, perennial sunflowers, californian poppies and some cosmos.  It is quite large and blousy and I am pleased with it.
The Long Shoot divides the Coal Bunker Border and the Pond Border.  Again the dead grass where re-shaping is due is apparent.  It is not a lot of shaping, but I want a more rounded effect at the end and a slightly narrower route in.  I just want less lawn in general really, it is slowly becoming mainly paths though the Formal Lawn will remain as I see the green relief of it as important.
The Pond Border still has a lot of colour too.  The perennial sunflower is a huge thug, but it gives such a brilliant splodge of colour and needs no staking that I am happy to accommodate it.  It runs really easily but these can be pulled up with relatively little fuss.
The vegetable beds are becoming empty.  I am still harvesting some cobra beans and courgettes.  I need to do something with the yacon, if only I knew what....... The other beds are either empty or have wallflowers in them ready for transplanting to the borders.
The Four Sisters are coming on well this year.  The worry is whether the Edgeworthia will get through the winter.  Time will tell.
Up past the Four Sisters leads to the Dancing Lawn and the Tree Lupin Border.
Bits of the Tree Lupin Border have done quite well, lots of colour which is what I want.
This view of the same border is not so good, but the peonies were wonderful at their peak.
The Wild Garden has been mowed, suddenly the garden seems much bigger.  It takes about an hour to do a full lawn mow this time of year, but then this time of year I always keep hoping its had its last cut.
The Bog Garden looks dry, that's not a good look for a Bog Garden is it?
The Sorbus Cashmeriana planted last year has provided some beautiful white berries on red stalks, this makes me very happy.  The berries are coming on well in the hedgerow in general, lots of rosehips and haws shining away.
The teasel patch is tall and providing seeds for the birds.  It is also providing seeds for many seedlets next year, I spend a lot of time editing out teasels but I do love to have a nice big patch of them in the Wild Garden.
The Prairie Borders are looking rather blonde at the moment.  I am pleased with them this year, I have planted lots of Verbena Bonariensis in them for next year and I am hopeful this will be a good addition.  The weeds have not been too bad and they have not flopped too badly either.
In the eating apple tree the Clematis cirrhosa Freckles is starting to flower, this feels rather early but it welcome all the same.
The greenhouse is full of cuttings, autumn sowings and stuff waiting to overwinter.  I am so pleased that I am getting a full year of use from it.  It was a bit empty over main summer but it has been in use in some form or other all year.
I end with a look at the pond as is traditional.  It is full of parrot weed that I will have to remove again.  The water level is a little low but it has never been that low this year.  Usually I consider it to be properly low if  Ellis Island appears, a rock in a fairly deep part of the pond, but I have not seen it at all this year.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme. 

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Cambridge Return

Its that time of year when I have to spend a couple of days in Cambridge for a series of work related meetings.  As last year I stayed at Murray Edwards College so I was able to say hello to the Little Free Library again.
It was looking rather bonny with a little flower posy.  I decided this visit I really must wander around the gardens more than I had last year, it was a particularly nice sunny afternoon and I did not feel in a particular hurry.
One of the first sights to greet you as you enter the front of the college is this rather wonderfully planted circular bed.  This is apparently the 'Magic Roundabout', and according to the Murray Edwards website this year the theme of the planting is Gram Parsons.  I confess to not really knowing who that was so I had to look him up.
Closer to the door there are wonderful pot displays of fantastic colour that blazed away in the late September sun.
As I wandered around I found some great under-window planting by the halls of residence.
The tennis court had this great dahlia border along the side of it.
There is some great use of huge foliage plants in the borders, it was noticeable the amount of large-leaves that were present and I think used incredbily well.
There was also a pointy tree garden, I do love a good pointy tree garden and whilst this was only a relatively small space these box pyramids made a real impact.  It made me pause for thought for a moment.
Back around to the other side of the college and there is this entrance path with the gazebo.
This is quite a woody, wild underplanted area and I loved the colchicums coming up.
There is a lot of ground cover and ivy covered lumps.  I wondered what was under the lumpy ivy-bumps, I wondered if you feel asleep under one of the trees if you might not get covered over quickly by ivy and become one of the lumps for ever.  Maybe I have been too many scary stories recently......
There is also the Dame Rosemary Murray garden, named after the first female VC  at Cambridge and a key person in the foundaton of New Hall, (which was later renamed as Murray Edwards College) and is a recreation of the College's 2007 Chelsea Flower Show entry which won a bronze medal.  It is a great small garden and good to see that it was re-used within the College grounds so that everyone could enjoy it.  It certainly seems fitting that it was named after Dame Rosemary Murray, who was known to do some weeding/planting herself.

I am looking forward to going back again next year and seeing how the gardens are developing.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

New Moon on Sunday

Ok, I know the lyrics say Monday, but it’s close.

Oh ok, I also know it is not a new moon on Sunday either, its waning gibbous, but waning gibbous on Sunday is not a song, however it does sound like the start of a good ghost story.
Sunday is the autumnal equinox, at 20.44 you should look up at the moon and know that the earth has moved just that bit more into another phase.  The nights will continue to get longer, which is always a difficult time for me.  Already as I get home from work I consider myself lucky that there is still some light left, to lose my nightly garden inspection is not a time I look forward to.  I reach that point in the year when I only really see the garden at weekends.  This does have the benefit that weekends are even more looked forward to, I also get up and out quicker at the weekends this time of year as I know the light is precious.

We have just had a bit of a chilly spell, then this weekend a slightly warmer spell which will be followed by a chilly spell again.  I start counting the days to when there will be the first frost, to when the dahlias get blackened leaves and the nasturtiums turn into a disgusting slimy mess that smells quite unpleasant.
I already know I am looking up at the trees a lot at the moment.  My pruning saw hand is getting twitchy, I am mentally noting branches that I want to remove.  I am staring at the apple trees in particular and thinking they need quite a bit of work.  Actually maybe more work than I can do, I might have to get someone who knows what they are doing to deal with them as it is more than the odd branch that needs looking at.  I do enjoy a good pruning session on a chilly autumnal day, it keeps me warm and I like the altering of the light and the boundary hedge shape that results. 

It is also the time of year when the plants from outside start moving inside.  Now I have always said I am too lazy to faff around with lots of delicate plants that need to come in for the winter.  I know that that I am too lazy to do this, so why when I go into the conservatory now does it look like this? 
Best of all though it is not the end of the gardening year, but very much the beginning of much planning, digging, planting and sowing.  There are shrubs and trees to consider as now is the best time to plant them before the soil goes cold.  I have areas of lawn to remove to extend and reshape the borders, these need to be done before the frost hits so that the freeze will help break down the soil (less digging, it works a treat!).  I also have quite a batch of cuttings hopefully rooting away merrily in the greenhouse and this year I am going to have a real concerted effort to do some autumn sowing of hardy annuals.  I have various seeds and under the advice of Mr Ranyard I have waited until the equinox to sow them.  Well why not, it has been a bit cold this week and it will be a bit warmer at the weekend so it seems sage advice to me.  I will even sow some sweet peas, I have never had a lot of success with autumn sown sweet peas and I usually wait until the Spring.  I am of the opinion that sweet peas, just the same as their more edible cousins, benefit from successional sowing.  I sow some every now and again and that means that as I write this I am still able to bring in a few blooms every week to perfume the kitchen window sill.
I will let you know how the autumn sowing goes.

A song, you say, a song! well what else would I choose?

Thursday, 19 September 2013

A nest of Rovers

Have I mentioned how fond I am of Portmeirion?  The chance arose to go to Festival No: 6 and I decided I really should go.  This did involve camping and I am not a good camper, it is not something that I get pleasure from and to be frank, it rained a lot and blew half a gale so it was not a great experience in that respect.  The Festival itself though was brilliant and I enjoyed it hugely.
It did give me stress though, people were not walking around some of the trees/shrubs and branches were getting broken.  Some planting was walked through ( I visibly winced at times).  Some areas of planting were carefully protected but some inevitably did suffer.
The lawns also suffered, the combination of so much rain and so many feet was not going to end well for the lawns.
Though clearly some foresight had been used, this border had been emptied and looking at the state of it this was a very good idea, you cannot flatten what is not there.
I also have to say that this planting around the Central Piazza is probably some of best planting I have seen at Portmeirion.  At times I have felt that the planting has missed the mark, it was not that it was bad, but it lacked that zing that made you stop and look and say 'that is good'.  I wondered if this planting and the re-opening of the Portmeirion Nursery were a coincidence?  I was delighted to see the nursery open again and I imagine that I might pop in there sometime in the future.  I didn't get a chance to visit the nursery so I can make no comment about what it sells but I can't wait to find out when I next visit.
I do have a small criticism though, the labels were left rather too openly on some of the planting, not good labels to show the customers what a plant is, but just the labels they were sold with.  Quite frankly this just looked a bit shoddy.  I can understand they may want to label plants (though I have said before I find labelling problematic), but at least do it with some style and consistency.  I shall dismount from my hobbyhorse now, it was a great festival and lovely to visit.  To see the Gwyllt alive with people enjoying being there was brilliant, yet the peace of the End of World was still there.  Our next visit is already planned.
and we found a nest of Rovers.