Friday, 28 February 2014

End of Month Review -February 2014

This year so far has been very wet and February has been very wet.  There was a little flurry of snow one day but otherwise it has been remarkably mild with few frosts and generally, well, wet.
I start at the front garden, the Knot Garden was definitely one of my better decisions, particularly this time of year it is a good constant whilst the rest of the garden changes around it.
The side lawn is being populated by flowering crocus at the moment, I love seeing crocii in lawns, they give such good spots of colour.
The quince hedge is flowering well, it has benefited greatly from the recent damper summers and even this wet winter has not put it off.
Just by the side gate are these snowdrops, the original settlers of the garden.  When I moved into this house there were no daffodils in the garden but there was this small patch of snowdrops.  I keep thinning them out a bit each year and they look like they need another thinning.
At the edge of the gravel garden is this clump of crocii, I planted about 5 when I first moved in.  They like this spot.
Around now to the back garden.  This is not a photograph of a cardoon (well it is, but,) this is a photograph of what happens when you let alliums self seed.  This is Allium 'Hair', it even looks like green hair now, it self-seeds with a colonising zeal matched by few others.  I rip it out by the handful as there is always plenty more where that came from.
The borders still look quite bare, there are odd patches of green but I still have not yet had my Spring tidy up. This is largely because it is not yet Spring and I still wonder if there is hard frost to come.
There is colour though, these Iris reticulata are clumping up well, I might be thinning them out when they have finished flowering.
This Euphorbia sikkimensis 'Crûg' Contrast is popping up in various difficult places, it is listed as a creeping perennial, I think this is accurate.  It is a beautiful plant, I have been slow to appreciated euphorbias but I am getting to like them more and more.
The Spring Border is coming into its own now, the hellebores at the back are in full flower and the primulas at the side are giving good colour.  Soon the forget me nots will be flowering, I am pleased with how this border is doing.  The small dead tree fern remains however, resolutely dead.
The Prairie Borders are just a joy, they have looked good even on the windy days when they have moved like waves.  Soon I will cut them back with my new sickle so that the new growth can come through.
The Dancing Lawn is bejewelled by crocii, it is probably my favourite time of year for this lawn.  It needs some more planting this Autumn.
The Prunus autumnalis is flowering well this year.  It is starting to mature well.
I have high hopes for the quince this year too, will this be the year of the first quince?
The Four Sisters are budding up, they will soon be in leaf again,
The Edgeworthia appears to be still alive, so hopefully all will be well.
The Bog Garden and the Woodland Border look ok at the moment, there are still a lot of gaps in the Bog Garden and in the new Heather Spur, but they will get filled as the year progresses.
There are lots of snowdrops in flower in the Wild Garden and some hellebores too now.  I am going to get some more snowdrops 'in the green' soon and thin out what is already there, I am two years behind on my snowdrop planting and I need to get back with the programme.
The Amalanchier is on the verge of doing something.
The Prunus ben-chidori is doing something
Bulbs and day lillies are on their way up
Sedums are seriously considering making a move.
May I pause at this point to introduce the third witchhazel.  Technically it was the first witchhazel to be planted in the garden as it was originally planted in the Bird Feeder border.  There it did not thrive, it flowered twice and then just looked ill.  The other two hamamelis were bought and planted, one in the Wild Garden and one in the Pond Border, they are both thriving and maturing well.  I decided I would move this one as it wasn't doing well and I decided that the worst that could happen is that it would die, it was not looking well anyway.  So last Autumn I dug it up and put it into the Wild Garden, I think the soil there will suit it much better.  Time will tell.
This is a new addition, it is an Iford Cherry, a small weeping cherry.  The originals of this tree are at Iford Manor, Harold Peto's garden.  I had been admiring them for a while and when I saw it on offer I decided I had to get one.  A gardening/blogging/twittering friend also wanted one and as we live close to each other we bought them together to reduce postage.  It will be interesting to see how they develop.
The veg beds have been weeded and dug over, it will soon be time to start sowing again.  The cabbages and broccoli are doing ok and the garlic is just pushing through.
I end as is traditional on the pond, which is very full as it has been all year.  I have been cleaning out some of the leaf detritus and removing parrot weed, I am not sure I made much of an impact on it though.

It is March tomorrow, Spring is now so close I can almost reach out and touch it.  Every year I look forward to Spring so much, this year is no different.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A year on, a snowdrop return

I have visited Easton Walled Gardens a few times over the last year and snowdrop time has come around again so it felt appropriate to return. Now you could argue that once you have seen the snowdrops then you have seen them, lets face it they remain pretty much as they were, except a return visit gave me the ability to see more and to look again.
It was a bright, but breezy and a bit cold day, but it was bright and it was not raining and after the start to the year we have had I see the brightness (did I mention it was bright?) as a real bonus.  It was a good day for having a good wander and a chat and of course a promise of cake.
The first time I visited the gardens I just wanted to look at it all, I was very much looking at the 'big picture', this time I could focus down more.  Firstly we went to the snowdrop talk which was given by a local galanthophile.  The talk was standing room only there were so many people in there.  It was pitched at just the right level and the right length of time.  Not too long and not too complicated but informative and amusing.  I vaguely knew the connection between snowdrops and returning soldiers from the Crimean War, but this speaker also posed a theory that connected snowdrops arriving on this island as part of the celebration of the Christian festival of Candlemas.
We rather liked the snowdrop inspired bunting.
We were then let loose into the garden.  
The swathes of snowdrops are beautiful, they do give the impression of light snow in places.
We loved these red berries set against the snowy background.
There were some early flowering daffodils giving some extra colour,
some purple irises were also making their presence felt.
This moment as you wander along the path and suddenly the white turns to yellow as a sea of aconites starts to take over is just breathtaking.
yet I did just feel a bit observed at times, you know that feeling that you are being watched?
There are a lot of snowdrops at Easton.  Some made a break for freedom by scattering themselves up the terraces,
whereas as others had limboed under the gate, you could hear the theme from the Great Escape being whistled.
Meanwhile back in the garden, the evidence of the mild winter was clear from the flowering cerinthe.

There are delightful displays of spring flowers, simple but effective.  You just can't go wrong with a terracotta pot really.
and yes, purchases were made.  I have already bought some sweet peas last year from Easton, but there is always room for some more.  These bearded irises were on offer, we spent an amusing 15 minutes choosing what to buy.  As we had no clue to the colour of the varieties at first we spent some time googling them on our phones, but then one of our party cheated by fetching the book from the shop and looking them up.  This however was very useful as it meant I did not buy the Iris called 'Yes'.  I very nearly did, it is a funny name and just so positive that I thought it must be worth having.  A look at a picture of it though made it a definite no for me, too wishy washy.  I am sure some people will love it, but in my world a more fitting name would be 'Eurgh'.  (too harsh? ...... maybe......)

So, saved from a disasterous purchase, I bought Iris 'Swazi Princess' (good name, good colour) and Iris Draco, yes, just because of Harry Potter, but it is also a very good colour.

and of course I bought snowdrops, it is against the law to go to Easton and not buy snowdrops. They have a special lock on the door that is worked by a button on the till and until it is pressed you cannot get out.
It got home and quickly planted out the snowdrops, they are to be the underplanting for the Four Sisters.  I like to plant my Easton snowdrops in places that I know I will remember they are the Easton snowdrops.  I can then see how they increase over the years and also it will remain a definite reminder of the visit.
Last year's Easton snowdrops are in the Spring Border, flowering away now just like their distant family in Lincolnshire.
and I end in the knowledge that we will return to Easton for sweet peas if not before, and I look forward to seeing the new alpine bed when it has been planted up.  Visiting the same garden is about reminding yourself about what you know and you liked, looking at how things develop and mature and also the excitement of the new.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Country Living Magazine Spring Fair competition

This is a little bit exciting, well I think so anyway.  I have never run a competition through my blog before but I was given the opportunity to offer two complimentary tickets as a competition prize; I thought about this quite carefully before saying yes, largely because I have never run a competition before and also I admit to not be 100% sure it was something I wanted to do.

Until I thought, why not?  I read Country Living magazine so it is not as if it is just some random unconnected thing.  When I go to Tatton Flower Show I always (always) go in the Country Living tent and rarely come out without buying something.  I have a fantastic vase that I bought a few years ago now that is one of my favourite things ever and I also bought a rather wonderful blue suede coat a year or so after that.  I have fallen to its charms more than once.

So - the official blurb they have sent me:

The Country Living Magazine Spring Fair is the perfect way to start the new season and get inspired with lots of ideas for your home and garden with an array of carefully selected exhibitors, from small producers to craftspeople from across the British Isles. The magazine has a long standing tradition of supporting British designers and makers, a tradition that is reflected in the exhibitors you will see at the Fair.  Our Spring Fair takes place from 19-23 March in the Business Design Centre, London. 

Treat yourself to exclusive pieces from the jewellery and fashion collections, sample delicious regional fare and discover furniture, fabrics and accessories to add country style to your home.

Alongside a unique shopping experience, you'll be able to see the pages of the magazine come to life in a range of seasonal features. From lively talks and hands on workshops, to lamb feeding and a beautiful Spring Garden with experts on hand to give you advice, this year’s Spring Fair promises to be a wonderful celebration of the season. 

Crafting Workshop:  With knitting, stitching, needlework and papercrafts. These interactive sessions from talented craftspeople will bring out your imaginative side and you’ll be able to take your finished item home with you. This year speakers from the UK Hand-Knitting Association and the TV programme The Great British Sewing Bee will share lots of handy tips and give you great ideas during their workshop sessions.

Garden Feature and Theatre: Our beautiful Spring Garden returns this year to bring you the delights of springtime. Designed and built by the award winning team at Horticolous, in partnership with Wilstone, this stunning display will feature spring florals and show you how to plant flowers, fruit and vegetables so you’re ready for the start of the new season.  You will also be able to pick up tips from a range of experts at the various talks and demonstrations taking place in the Spring Garden throughout the Fair.

Lifestyle Theatre:  Featuring talks and demonstrations to help you pick up tips to try at home, including Emma Bridgewater, the BBC’s Jules Hudson, and the contestants from The Great British Bake-Off and The Great British Sewing Bee.

We have a late night Gala Evening on Thursday 20th March where the Fair is open until 9pm and you can shop whilst enjoying complimentary wine. It’s a great opportunity for an evening out with friends and a perfect way to start the weekend.
For more information about the Fair and all our features, please visit our website:

Book tickets now using the special discount code Blog04 and save! Tickets are available by calling 0844 848 0150 or online at at £12. 

To enter the competition - please use the contact form which is in the left side panel - make sure you include your email address and in the message box please say "Country Living Spring Fair Competition' so that I know you are entering the competition.  Only one entry per person please.  All entries to be received by midnight UK time 6th March 2014.

I will randomly draw the winning entry on the 7th March and I will email the winner and with their permission publish the name on here.

Good luck and if you are not successful don't forget the discount code above.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Plantify trial update 4 - Helleborus x hybridus 'Red Lady'

Its been eleven months since I took delivery of Helleborus x hybridus 'Red Lady' as part of a trial I was asked to undertake by I have recently written about waiting for hellebore seedlings to flower, but this time I was waiting for a mature plant to flower.  I knew when I received it that as it was not at that point in bud it would be a year before I could hope to see any results from it, so in terms of a trial it was definitely waiting the long game.
It did what a hellebore does for most the year, which is sit around not looking very exciting.  It also did what hellebores do all year, which is when I am weeding around them, it brought me out in hives as it appears that I am allergic to them.  I am not allergic to much, I would have said I was not allergic to any particular plant, but experience has taught me that weeding around hellebores is painful.

Anyway, this winter the excitement happened, the hellebore started to produce buds.  Now I really like this hellebore, the leaves are a fantastic dark purple around where the flower is forming.  It is a wonderful colour.
The flower itself is no less wonderful, such a great dark red.  I am very pleased with it, it was worth the wait.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Time for action

Is it the time for action yet?

Winter now in its final weeks and what a winter is has been.  Here in my part of the East Midlands we have not suffered anywhere near as much as many have, but there has been constant rain and gales and generally stormy weather.  It has been mild-ish without as much as frost as some winters bring and I still think that snow may yet make an entrance, but the urge is upon me (not the curse I am not the Lady of Shallot (insert own joke about growing onions here)).
Last week I finally got around to my seed buying.  Every year, I am happy to say, I buy fewer and fewer seeds and this is due to various reasons.  Some of it is because the garden is stocking up nicely now on perennials and when I do want more of them I can just take cuttings and/or divide them.  I also now collect a lot of seed from the garden and that makes a good mainstay of my seed sowing in the next year.  There are always some seeds I will buy though I think as there are some annuals that I find seed collection from not as satisfactory as buying.  There are always a few (few?) new plants I also want to try and seed is generally the cheapest way of achieving this.  I used to always buy my seeds in early January, the seed lists would be perused over Christmas and I would buy as soon as I could.  In the last couple of years this has been delayed and delayed as I realised that buying them early just meant they sat waiting to be sown for longer. Also, if you keep your nerve, you can generally find an offer or two that reduces the cost.  Okay, there is a gamble in this as they might sell out of that particular seed you are after, however I am yet to have this happen.  So, I ordered from three different sellers and only remembered one type of seed I had forgotten after I had pressed send.  This means there will be another follow-up order probably quite soon.
I also now delay dahlia buying too.  I actually had almost stopped buying dahlia tubers altogether as for the past couple of years I have grown dahlias from seed as annuals due to a complete failure in storing tubers successfully over winter for several years running.  Again if you hold your nerve there are good deals to be had on dahlias this time of year, but here you do really run the risk of not getting a particular type so you have to decide money over risk.  On saying that, last year I failed to find any Waltzing Matilda, my current favourite dahlia, and this year I have bought three in a three-for-two offer.  This made me very happy and I am going to try really hard to keep them alive over next winter so I don't have to keep buying them.
Sales are also a good time for shrub and tree buying.  I am currently shrubbing up the Wild Garden as it is still evolving.  It is probably not the best time of year for tree/shrub planting as Spring can be on the dry side and it is better generally to get them happy in the ground from Autumn.  It is fair to say though they have not been dry so far this winter, in fact I've been more worrying about them drowning.
So it is almost the time for action, though gardening never really stops here, it can be paused when too wet, frozen, stormy but it never truly stops.

Time for a song?