Friday, 31 October 2014

End of Month Review - October 2014

October has seen the much needed return of rain and the arrival of Autumn.  It has also been a mild month, as I write this the last day of the month is due to reach 20c this is remarkably warm.  
The magnolia in the front garden is starting to lose its leaves, a good sign that Autumn is here.  It is also covered in buds already for next year.  It looks like it will have lots of flower next year, which is something to look forward to.
The Knot Garden looks suitably knotty.  The hedges have been trimmed fairly recently in readiness for the winter.
The Quince Hedge is still not quite a hedge yet but it definitely growing much better now and getting quite bushy.  I am hopeful it will flower well in the Spring.
Around the corner to the side of the house and the gravel garden is still very green and very covered in Mexican daisies.
The rarely seen Bird Feeder border, (or should it be the green hose border?) is dominated by the Manx fuchsia this time of year.  Every year it grows a bit stronger and a bit bigger.  It has done very well this year.
The cardoon in the Coal Bunker Border is already putting on new growth for next year.  I worry a little about this as we have all the cold, frost and snow to get through.
The asters that were so wonderful just a couple of weeks ago are now a mess of dead flowers.  It is not an attractive habit, but these are quite a nice colour in their deadness so I shall let them be for now.
In the Courtyard, along with more green hose, the Rhododendron luteum has it's Autumn colouring and the camellia is covered with buds.
The Sarcoccoa confusa has lots of berries that are on their way to turning black.  Soon it will be placed on the front door step so that it can do its winter thing.
From the rear of the Conservatory Border the garden looks mainly brown and green now, there seems little other colour.
Looking closer though, there is still colour to be found.  The Pond Border is still doing quite well with the cosmos, tithonia and zinnias still flowering away.
The Rose Hyde Hall hedge is still flowering well too.  I am hoping that will thicken up even further next year.
This picture of the Prairie Borders makes them look vast, they are not really, but I like the idea of them being so.  They are in full Autumn mode now with the Echinops looking fairly dead.  The Verbena bonariensis is still flowering well and proving that it should be there after all.  I think it has spent most of the year trying to convince me that it is in the right place and it has succeeded.  I am even looking forward to how it develops next year now.
To the rear of the Prairie Borders and to the right of the Woodland Borders there are the Aldi Acers.  These are a special type of acer that were very very cheap.  They have been in situ for six years or so now and are developing really well.  They provide wonderful flashes of colour this time of year.
The top corner where the great tree catastrophe took place has been planted up with several more shrubettes and some white foxgloves c/o Miss S.  I am hopeful they will look really good next year.
The Gingko appears to be surviving the digging up, turning around and replanting horror that took place.
and the snapped off Davidia is showing some new growth.  I live in hope that it will survive.
Meanwhile Bruce (his gingerness to his minions) is trying to push the Horse Chestnut tree over.
The Wild Garden is looking quite Autumnal and I have great hopes for it next year.  There are now many more bulbs in it and more shrubs.  The leaning Catalpa in the centre of this photograph is going to get some attention once it has gone into dormancy.  It needs staking back upright and I think one of its two main branches needs to come off it make it have one lead.
The Spindle tree is colouring up well.
The other gingko is turning buttery yellow. 
and the Medlars need harvesting soon but I think they like a bit of frost first if possible.
In the Tree Lupin border the echinacea are doing their brown cone thing and the dahlias are still flowering.
I have planted out one of my two tree dahlias I have grown from seed.  I am assured that if I mulch it well it will get through the winter.  My cautiousness means I am still keeping the other one in the greenhouse this time, but if it does get through ok then it will join its sister outside.
Meanwhile the other peonies are showing how the recent winds have affected them.
and the lone rose from the abandoned, never really got started, side border flowers to itself in misery.  I might give this area more thought this Winter.  It lacked purpose and direction so never came to be. I shall have to stand and stare at it a few times to see if inspiration strikes.
The Four Sisters however are happy in their world.
After three years of sulking because I moved it to a more sheltered, more suitable location; the Carol Klein acer has grown well this year.
and the Edgeworthia has grown very well this year.  I will anxiously watch it all Winter and I vaguely hope for flowers next year.
I just love how Autumn colour ripples through the pleached hornbeams.
The veg borders look a bit sad.  The sweetcorn needs removing now but produced really well this year.  The broccoli I did not remove from last year looks like it might broccle again, now wouldn't that be rather wonderful?
The greenhouse is looking full of various overwinterings, cuttings and seedlings.
and his gingerness.
and the pond?  Yes its still a disgrace, yes I am going to clear it out, maybe even before the end of November.  It will be done (promise).

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Blackberry Garden Plant of the Year Award 2014

This is the second time I have made this award so I think I can call this now an annual award.  Last year the award took place in later November so I might be peaking a little early, but it feels like the right time.  Yet even as I write this I wonder about the winter plants that are effectively disenfranchised by this act.  Of course they could be considered for next year's award so I shall move merrily on.
I have been thinking about this award for some time now as there is quite strong competition this year.  This also seems to indicate I am taking it more seriously and, as ever, probably over-thinking a light-hearted jape a little too much.  I have also categorised the runners up and also rans leading up to the victrix ludorum to give a sense of the route this award-musing has travelled along.

The first category is then for ‘sentimental wishing you had performed better this year, usually you wow me’, which is a long winded way of saying ‘also ran’.  This award has to go to Persicaria orientalis, one of my all time favourite annuals that I would recommend to anyone. 
It has height, vigour and late flowers apart from this year when it was smallish, weakish but did manage to flower ok and is still flowering now.  I am now also holding a grudge against mine as mine do not self-seed where I know of another garden (yes, I mean you) where they self-seed prolifically – prolifically!  This will not stop me from growing them next year though and maybe next year they will get into the running for the main award.  (Hint, trying self-seeding, it will gain you brownie points).

The second category is ‘simple is best’ and goes to a marigold.  I grow two types of marigolds, Indian Prince and Art Shades and the prize in this category this year goes to Art Shades.
I love all the different shades.  Unlike most packs of various colour seeds I have yet to see one that makes me say yuk, there is usually one shade that I feel they have snuck in as no one will buy it in its own right, but in Art Shades I do not suspect this.  They are all good.

Next we have the ‘why are you still not choosing a poppy?’ category. 
Well partly because I find it hard to choose between them, but if I had to choose a poppy for performance this year then I think it goes to the Eschscholzia who have flowered for months and are still trying to flower as I write.  The Shirleys did put in an early bit for recognition and even as I write this I think they do deserve a special mention as the runner up of a runner up.

Then we go on to the ‘Aren’t you having a bit of an aster moment at the moment?’ category.  Well yes I am, there are definitely more asters in my garden now then there were last year.
They have been wonderful and I have been very pleased with them, but I think they get a ‘just a little more effort and I think you will definitely be in the running next year’ award.

Now is the time to get a little more serious as in reality three plants vied for the top award and the deciding between them was hard.  Now is the time for decisive decisions as competitors in the BBC programme The Apprentice would say.
The first runner up, after much thought is the Hesperanta, aka Schizostylis.  I bought this plant from Derry Watkins’ nursery, Special Plants, about three years ago.  It was a good strong healthy plant that immediately was divided before planting so I then had three plants.  Now I have about six, some of whom are quite small but they have nearly all flowered this year.  They have flowered for many weeks and are a wonderful coral-red colour.  This plant very very nearly won and if I was placing a bet I think it will do next year as well in the running (top tip).

The second very close runner up was the Dombeya rotundifolia, this plant flowered fairly briefly earlier this year but made a great impact when it did.
It was however pipped to the post by an annual, Chrysanthemum Rainbow (or as Mr Ranyard calls it ‘Hippy Rainbow Love Child’ which is almost reason enough to make it the winner of the year).  These annuals grew well, they survived slugs and did not suffer too badly in the dry weeks.  They produced all sorts of different coloured combinations of flowers that largely reminded me of the stripy 1970s tank tops my elder brothers used to wear (maybe in their dreams they still do….).
It is not the most tasteful of flowers, it does not appeal to all, but I fell very much in love with it and will definitely be growing it again.
You may ask the methodology for making this final choice, it is actually quite simple.  I realised that I had photographed this plant probably more than any other (apart from poppies of course).

So there we have it, the victrix ludorum is awarded and the competition begins again for next year.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

100 more muscari

It is bulb planting time of year, a time of year I enjoy very much.  I regard each bulb planted as a promise that Spring will return.  For the last couple of years I have not been planting quite so many bulbs.  This year has been different.  A couple of hundred snowdrops went in (in the green) this Spring and this Autumn has seen the progression of my bulb planning planting.
I feel like I have spent much of the year waiting for this moment.  I was very influenced by my visit to Evenley Wood way back in April.  As I walked around I felt myself compiling a bulb and plant list.  People often talk of gardens/places being inspirational, well Evenley Wood definitely was.

So my garden now contains a Camellia 'Cupido', I first saw this plant just before Christmas last year but I thought it a little pricey to be honest.  I did not buy it and regretted this almost immediately, it was worth the money and I should have given in.  Then I saw one in flower at Evenley Wood and this reinforced my mistake, it was now firmly on the 'next time I see one I am going to buy one' list.  Then, thanks to Thompson and Morgan inviting me to their press day a few weeks ago I was offered one.  Well, that was fate knocking on my door, I said yes and it has arrived.  It is covered in buds and once it flowers I will show you what it looks like.  At the moment it is a slightly ordinary looking shrub.

Also added to the list were Narcissus cyclamineus.  These thankfully like acid soil and I have quite acid soil.  So there are now 50 of these in the Dancing Lawn ready to do amazing things next year.  There are also another 20 or so in the front driveway here and there.  I am expecting much naturalising and drifting (this may take a while).

I am also a person who dislikes hyacinths in the house intensely.  I find the smell overwhelming and unpleasant.  Several years ago when I moved into my railway cottage in Nottingham I was surprised to find hyacinths growing in the garden.  There I found the scent tolerable, if not pleasant.  Then when wandering around Evenley I saw they had some fantastic dark blue ones growing under the trees.  So, Hyacinth Peter Stuyvesant has been duly bought and planted.

I have increased the amount of species tulips in the garden, and in particular Tulipa Whittallii, which is possibly my favourite tulip.
Finally I have added 100 Muscari armeniacum to drift down the Wild Garden, from the Heather Spur towards the Tree Lupin Border.  If this works (this is a bit of a large if) then it will look rather wonderful in a year or two.  Next year I will just accept it looking not too bad.

So, watch this space, I will be reporting back.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

An October Garden

In my Autumn garden I was fain
To mourn among my scattered roses;
Alas for that last rosebud which uncloses
To Autumn's languid sun and rain
When all the world is on the wane!
Which has not felt the sweet constraint of June,
Nor heard the nightingale in tune.

Broad-faced asters by my garden walk,
You are but coarse compared with roses:
More choice, more dear that rosebud which uncloses
Faint-scented, pinched, upon its stalk,
That least and last which cold winds balk;
A rose it is though least and last of all,
A rose to me though at the fall.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Suddenly this poem sums my garden up.  A week or so ago all was still (unseasonably) warm and very (unseasonably) dry.  Suddenly the rain has arrived, cold and mist too and Autumn is definitely upon us. 
As I walk around my garden the roses are still there, some with their buds balled by rain and some flowering still quite heartedly.  There are now many asters in my garden as I have bought quite a few this year, and I have several cuttings/root spurs in the greenhouse making even more plants for next year. 

I have wandered around a couple of aster gardens in recent weeks, at AvondaleNursery and at Picton and I have formed opinions about asters.  Actually I have reinforced my opinion about asters and I shall take the opportunity to share my very personal view with you.

I like them tall.  There it is, I have said it.  I am not keen on any below knee height.  You can call this being short-ist and I think it actually is.  I look down on the lower asters and, well, I look down on them.

You can tell me they are useful in small gardens, I will fundamentally dispute this as they look equally short in a small or large garden.  Height goes up not along.

You can tell me they have their place and there I will agree with you, they do and that place is not in my garden.
But you say, this is unreasonable, we disagree, we think they are wonderful.  Well that’s great, as I said this is a very personal view and applies only to me and my garden.  I am not saying no one can or should grow them but I have yet to find one I could give a home to.

Gosh that turned into a bit of a rant didn’t it? and I didn’t even mention the ‘pink flowers look like prawns’ conversation.*

*not all pink, but some specific wishy-washy pinks apparently.  I rather link some pinks but I now I wander around my garden looking for prawns. (thanks T)