Friday, 31 January 2014

End of Month Review - January 2014

January started off with some rain, in the middle it was still raining and as it ends it had continued raining a lot.  I have rarely seen as much rain as we have had this month.  The sky has been quite grey most of the time.
The front garden however has continued to look quite green.
What I find particularly pleasing this time of year is the Winter honeysuckle that is planted by the front gate, it is fairly innocuous looking all year and even now it is mainly looking like a few white blobs on a twiggy shrub; but the scent is probably the best winter scent there is in my view.
The box partitions in the Knot Garden are knitting together really well now.  I am very hopeful they will finally look very hedgy when they start this year's growth.
The quince hedge by the front door is getting a bit more quincy and hedgy every day.  This is good.
and the Sarcococca hookeriana in a pot by the front door is flowering and smelling wonderful.
The winter flowering clematis on the fency thing that divides the side lawn from the Gravel Garden is flowering very well this year.  It is quite a joy.
In the Courtyard the olive tree has moved forward a bit, this is because I was concerned it was too shady where it was.  It has grown well last year but I think it needs more real sun.  I am trying to convince it that it might be still in Italy, not suburban Leicester.
Just in the corner of the Conservatory Border, the fushcia Lady Boothby is being fashionably late.  You might think she is being early thinking it is Spring, but no, m'lady sulked most of last year and finally produced a leaf or too just before Autumn ended.  Now I just hope that when the cold arrives she will not just give up and not return.
This Geranium palmatum is also still growing strongly.  It has been through some fairly hard frosts, but can it survive through snow when it arrives?  Time will tell.
ThEschscholzia californica seedlings are growing well too, they are hardy, but they seem well advanced and if it snows will they get through ok?
The contorted willow by the pond is looking very fine.
All of which hides the truth that the lawns and borders are completely saturated.
The Hamamelis is having its best year so far.  Plants are now settling in enough to start to really thrive.  It reminds me how much time is needed to create a garden as every year most plants get a little bit better.  Apart from annuals obviously.
The pleached hornbeams are still progressing.  I love that the leaves hang in drippy bronzeness at the moment.
There is more bronze (copper) to be found on the not very pillar-like beech pillars.
The Woodland Border and Bog Garden are boggy, very boggy.
The Winter flowering cherry is blooming well now, it was late this year but is making up for it.
The amalanchier buds are starting to swell and show movement like something might happen soon.
The new Virburnum bodnantense 'Dawn' is starting to flower too.  The Wild Garden has seen a bit of shrub planting in the past few weeks so I am expecting good things from it in the next twelve months.  I have had a bit of shift in idea about what I want from it this year, it will be interesting to see how it develops.
The first snowdrops are coming up in the Wild Garden as well, I planted a lot of spring bulbs in this part of the garden and I love it when they start to emerge.
The hellebores are still not quite in flower, and still looking a bit like an egg flower.  Soon, soon.
New growth on the peonies is starting to show.  Spring will be here.
and the Edgeworthia is still alive (well, I think it is).
The veg beds are basically soggy.  The cabbages look ok but the rest is just marshland.
In the greenhouse the sweetpeas and the over-wintering cuttings are still doing ok.  I hope when the real freeze hits (as I am sure it will) they survive.
and the pond?   Its full of course, very full.  It has not really dipped significantly in level in the last twelve months which is good, but also shows how much rain we have had.

I have not spent enough time in the garden in January, I rarely do as the weather is against the garden at the start of the year in my opinion.  I am hoping that February will be a gateway into Spring and allow more garden time.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Ivy Project

I have been a bit ivy-obsessed over the festive break.  It started with some general pruning and sorting out of the side hedging but developed quite rapidly into a 'lets uncover the rowan' project.

I give you exhibit A, which is actually in terms of progress exhibit B because I neglected to take a photograph before I started.
This is the tree that stands right outside the kitchen window.  It has always had a good covering of ivy since I moved in and I have tried a few times to deal with it but never to much effect.  I had been told previously that the best was to remove ivy from a tree was to cut a strip around the base of the ivy to disconnect it from its roots.  This advise was said to me again in a comment on a recent post about ivy, so suitably enthused I decided it was time to try again.
At this point the bird box has not yet emerged, the somewhat spooky bird box.
At this stage the bird box can be seen and the canopy of ivy is disappearing quite well.  I have cut a band around the base of the tree and another one just above the bird box, sort of insurance to help kill it quicker.  I was however quicker realising that my step ladder was not sufficient for the task.  I was going to need a bigger ladder!
Every session meant a bit more daylight getting through the branches.  I was also finding an issue that had been worrying me from the start; the ivy was holding dead branches in place.  This meant I was not only removing ivy but I was checking branches and removing them too if they were dead.  Bearing in mind that during most of this period we were having lots of gales and I was keeping a nervous eye on the greenhouse.
It was looking a lot better though, I was pleased.
I then got more excited than anyone should over the new ladder.  Now I do actually have a very tall proper ladder, but I do not feel very safe on it and wobbled far too much when I tried it.  I feel a lot steadier on a step ladder.
and so the progress continues.  I do not think I am going to get more more removed now, the top-knot remains which I hope will die-off and disconnect over time.  This will happen won't it?  I am keeping an eye on the ivy in case new growth starts to happen.

It has already improved the view from the kitchen window hugely.
I would never have been able to see this robin four weeks ago.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Blackberry Tales 10 - I've got your number

I was wandering around the garden, as you do, camera in hand looking for emerging snowdrops.  They are on their way up now so I was having to be careful not to walk on them in the grass of the Wild Garden so my eyes were looking at the ground when I saw a leaf that caught my eye.  On it very clearly written was a number 1.
I bent down to look closer at this leaf, it definitely had a number 1 marked on it in dead grass stalks.  This was no accident of nature, this could only be deliberate,  but what does it mean?

Is it the front door of the worm who lives at No: 1 Wormhole, Wormsville?

Is it the sign that the first clue of the treasure hunt is hidden under this leaf?

Could it be that this was the number 1 leaf on the tree?
I reckon he knows something about this mystery.

Any of the above seem possible, it will remain the number 1 mystery for this week......

oh - that's what it means - now the light dawns.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Planting interlude

It has been very rainy recently which has also meant it has been relatively mild.  It remains still possible to get some planting done in the dormant pause just before Spring, though recently it has been a case of waiting for an interlude in the rain.

I have already mentioned that I have recently taken delivery of a viburnum and I have also bought a couple more shrubs to plant as well.  This has been rather nicely funded by the selling of an old camera, which made a nice opportunity for a bit of shrub perusing.

Here they are ready to be planted out:
I present to you:

Virburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn', which is the large one at the back.  There is a Callicarpa japonica var leucocarpa, which is a white berry version of the more often seen purple 'Beauty Berry.'  A Calycanthus floridus which has been bought to replace the one I had but it never really thrived and eventually just petered out.  It might not actually be dead but I am pretty sure it is so this is my second attempt; if this fails I shall give up on it.  There is a also a Stewartia pseudocamellia as well.  This too is a second attempt as I (ahem, mutter, shuffles feet and looks embarrassed) might have mown my other one.  I might have got carried away with the new lawn mower last year and mowed it flat.  It was only a baby and I was very cross with myself for being so careless, I still don't know really how it happened as I knew exactly where it was and it was not in long grass that hid it, oh well.

Finally I bought a Punica granatum 'Mme Legrelle'. an ornamental pomegranate that is apparently hardy down to about -12c.  I am a little nervous of this so I have put it in a pot for now so that if (when) the temperature plummets I can put it in the greenhouse this time.  If it gets through the Winter okay I will probably plant it out in the Spring when it is strong enough to keep going.

Of course that meant I needed a planting session, which in turn meant I needed the rain to stop.  Thankfully the rain paused and the sun made a brief but welcome appearance.  After a bit of wandering around with the plant pots they were all placed except for the viburnum.  Where I had wanted to put it no longer seemed the right place.  Suddenly I was not so sure where I wanted it to be.
So I decided to stop and think, to have a moment sitting pondering on the bench, viburnum sitting faithfully and patiently by my side.  As I sat and pondered I realised where it needed to be, there was a spot on the very top boundary of the garden that would be just right, next to the ignored mahonia.  So in it went.

The day's work was done.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

And then there were three

You know that moment when you realise you have invited three quite different members of the same family to stay which could make you feel nervous but you are confident that whilst they have never met before that they will get along together quite well?

Well, I planted a Viburnum opulus several years ago now.  It suffered from drought in its first year but it is now coming along quite well.  This one was bought specifically for its berries, sadly it is not yet large enough to flower or produce berries but I live in hope.

Then a couple of years ago after a visit to Hyde Hall in Devon I purchased a Virburnum plicatum kilimanjaro.  Again it is rather small at the moment and still settling in really.  It flowered a bit this year and I have hopes for great things from it.  This one was bought specifically for its shape and flowers.

For some reason, whilst I knew I owned both of these shrubs and I knew they were viburnums I did not connect that they were related, I did not make that connection in fact until I sat down down to write this post which was intended to start off by saying 'I thought it was time I bought my first Virburnum', when I realised I had two already.

Oh dear.
Anyway, I have just taken delivery of Virburnum number three, x bodnantense 'Dawn'.  This one was bought specifically for its winter scent and the rather nice habit of bearing its flowers on bare stems in the winter.

What does all this tell us, other than I am not good at making connections at times?  Well it tells me that viburnums are clearly a diverse and incredibly useful family of shrubs to have in the garden and that there is viburnum to suit every occasion.  This is good.
Now I just need them to settle down and do what I bought them specifically to do.

I also need to stop wandering around muttering 'these are not the virburnums you are looking for' when clearly they are.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

On a frosty morning

After many days of rain we have now returned to having frosts.  This morning was quite a deep frost and the saturated ground is now frozen.  It is difficult to do much in the garden at the moment but that is alleviated by the blue sky
the pattens of the frost
and maybe more time spent watching birds on the feeder than usual
I am not a 'bird watcher' as such, but like most people and probably most gardening people I do love watching the birds flit to and from the feeders.  I like that I can attracts lots of different birds into the garden.
I think this is a female bullfinch, which really ought to be called a cowfinch.
This is a fantastically rubbish photograph of a thrush, but it was being shy and was the best I could manage.
Heaven forbid anyone would think I was just wasting time really just staring out of the window whilst I made a cup of tea.  Time well spent I think.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The excitement of a new plant

There are few things as exciting to a gardener than a new plant, not just a new plant but a new type of plant you have not grown before.  A new plant has real promise and also a bit of tension. Depending on what the plant is there is that wonder if will it look like I expect, will it thrive, will I kill it by accident?  Will the weather kill it?  If it does die will I replace it? (Three goes an you're out rule!). So many things to consider.

All the best tv and magazine gardeners tell you not to impulse buy, don't just buy what you fancy but plan your purchases to fit in with your garden.  What great advice.......

.....that I am unable to follow.  I would say I am better than I was, I do usually know now where I am going to plant things when I buy them.  In reality I think it is very dull advice, think of all those wonderful plants that you would pass by because you are sticking to your list, no, that is not for me.

For a long time I used to buy and the plants would live in their pot, sometimes for months, before I realised where they could be planted.  Some plants were bought in previous gardens but always lived in pots until they arrived here as I knew I could not plant them where I was living at the time.  Even now my garden has a holding pen where new purchases wait before they get finally some roots into the soil.
Yesterday I took delivery of a new plant.  A total impulse buy, a moment of desire prompted by a photograph taken by a friend uploaded onto twitter.  'Oh that's nice I said', 'yes' came the reply 'it has nice scent too, but not hardy' by the time I had read the response I was already mid-google of this plant, yes it is not hardy, but it could go in a pot, it could live in the courtyard during the summer and the conservatory in the winter (though I might need a bigger conservatory if I keep doing this).  Before I knew what had happened I had tracked down a supplier, not quite the same variety but close enough. The nursery had four left, within minutes it was down to three.
It was exciting from the moment it arrived.  Firstly it was much larger than I expected, I am famously useless at checking size and confusing centimetres for inches, leading to some much larger and much smaller purchases than intended.  I opened the top and it peeked out at me.
A moment later and I had found a large leaf........oh the anticipation.
Then it was fully unpacked, what a beauty - seriously, what a beauty!

This led to two songs being sung, one cool, one not:

Song 1: Wild thing, I think I love you.....

Song 2: A new plant has come (sung to the tune of A new flame has come)

You can decide for yourselves which song is cool.  I haven't forgotten to tell you anything have I?

Maybe what it actually is?  Its a Dombeya wallichii - the plant that started the conversation was a Dombeya rotundifolia - if you know where one is for sale, actually preferably two as I know of at least one other searcher, let me know)