Monday, 31 March 2014

End of Month Review - March 2014

March has given us a bit of most sorts of weather, some hard frosts, some warm days, quite a lot of rain but also some dry periods and the odd hail storm.  Yes Spring has arrived.
Which means that the Magnolia is about to burst into flower,
The camellia and the Acer 'Orange Dream' in the front garden are looking ok, a bit ivy-overwhelmed, but ok.
The Knot Garden is looking like it needs a trim really quite soon, but not yet, not Derby Day yet.
and this may look like just a bunch of leaves to you, but to me it is a peony grown from seed and this year it has a bud.  I am more than a little excited about this.
The quince hedge is growing nicely, enjoying this sun and the recent further rains.
The back garden is starting to show real signs of life and colour now.  I love this time of year when it starts to really put a spurt on.
The olive tree in the courtyard has had a bit of a prune to open it up in the centre a bit, the camellia is flowering and the rhododendron luteum is heavy with bud.
Despite the shadow of the house, colour is returning to the Conservatory Border, the red of young rheum leaves is particularly noticeable.
Some red tulips are flowering in the Pond Border and there is a big fat bud on the tree peony.
In the lawn random blue anemones are popping up all over the place.  This makes me smile.
The Crown Fritilleria are now flowering on the borderline between the Conservatory Border and the the Spring Border, they are clumping up well now.
The concrete planter is celebrating Spring by looking really rather good in my opinion.  The primroses and pansies have all over wintered ok, as has the nicotiana that can just be seen in the bottom corner.
I like this view across the pond, it shows the day lilies that are coming up.
The Spring Border is looking very good, which is good as it is now Spring.
The Tree Lupin Border is looking a little scrappy, the willow and tree lupin are doing well and the woad is on its way up, but at the moment it is patchy.  This border is always under-planted at this time of year as I fill it out with dahlias and tithonia to give it hot colour in the Summer.
In the Wild Garden the Katsura tree is leafing up well.
The Medlar (foreground) and Quince (background) are leafing up too and showing signs of blossom buds.  This is good.
The Tulip Tree is doing that beautiful leaf-unfurling thing that it does.  This tree is worth growing for this moment alone, it has such grace.
The Corkscrew Hazel is surrounded by anemone blanda and looking very happy.  After so many years of being in a pot it is now maturing well and loving being planted in the ground.
The Bog Garden is a little sparse, but the primula and snakeshead fritilleria steal the show this time of year.
The Wild Garden in general makes me happy.  It has had a lot of planting over the last twelve months and I expect great things from it this year.
Meanwhile on the edge of the Wild Garden the Edgeworthia hangs on to life.  It reacted badly to the sharp frost the other day, but it is ok and still not dead.  This is good.  Every year it does not die makes a little stronger for the next year, this is my hope anyway.
The Long Shoot looks a bit scrappy too, but stuff is on the move and growth is appearing.
The veg beds are mainly dominated by spring greens and purple sprouting broccoli.  The green manure has been dug in and the spuds will be planted out soon.
The garlic is growing well and inter-woven with yellow wallflowers.  They need planting out really into the main borders.
The sweet peas are now living on the table outside of the greenhouse, itching to be planted out, soon I tell them, soon.  I must also sow the next batch to get them going.
I end on the pond as is traditional.  It is very full, of water, parrot weed and frogspawn.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Episode 1 - a meeting with trees

It was a sunny, rainy, haily, cold sort of day so it seemed a good idea to go and visit Hammond Arboretum in Market Harborough.  I have never visited this place before but had seen it in the Yellow Book and it looked interesting and thankfully not too far away either.  So, trusty side-kick was recruited to come along and off we went in search of trees and cake.
The arboretum was planted by Francis Hammond, headmaster at Market Harborough County Grammar School from 1909 until 1923, when he moved to live close by until he died in 1937.  He liked a good tree clearly and planted some rare specimens, many of which still survive.  The arboretum is not huge, but it is a nice spot, sandwiched now between the School and the housing that has grown up around its boundaries.
The trees are all beautifully labelled.  It is not often that the words 'beautiful' and 'label' go together in the context of garden-labelling, but these were worthy of note.  Not too large, beautifully scripted and giving just the information required.  We liked.
You will note how blue the sky is in the top couple of photographs.  Well then it suddenly hailed, a lot.
It was clear that the arboretum is a labour of love for the group who now look after it.  There was some pretty underplanting in some areas.
Many of the trees were really quite old, this Cornus Mas was flowering away but clearly had some age.
There were some rare Philadelphus, the base of this one looked weird.
There was a 'True Service Tree', which made me think of it being a 'really useful engine' (I read the Rev Awdry's Railway series maybe too often to my children').  I had no idea what it meant really so had to google it when I got home, apparently the Sorbus domestica is quite a rare tree still.  Apparently the name has nothing to do with 'service' as we understand it, it is from the middle english 'serves' and relates to the latin name 'sorbus'.  Quite frankly I found this disappointing.
This Austrian Black Pine was enormous!
There was also new planting to be seen.  We were slightly bemused to see some small hamamelis penned in like this.  It could not have been to ward off rabbits, so we thought maybe it was art.
There was one tree that took more of our attention than any other, but that took so much of our attention that it will be a blog all on its own.  Bet you can't wait!

Episode Two

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Spring, you have been missed

Spring is my current favourite season and in some ways might always be my favourite (in Summer I shall say this of Summer, shhh).  I think I even know why Spring is my favourite, its because I eagerly wait for its return.  I do not even realise at first that this is happening, but when it finally turns up its like ‘there you are! Where have you been? I’ve been waiting sooooo long for you!’  It’s the equivalent of standing by one of the lions in Nottingham’s Market Square waiting for someone and trying to look like you are not (this is actually impossible to achieve).  Enough of lions, move on.
Though of course I could stick lions briefly to consider whether ‘if March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb’?  Now that makes me have to think back to what it was doing at the beginning of the month, which I think was not very much its been pretty mild these last couple of weeks, so what happens if it comes in like a lamb I wonder?  It is getting colder again at the moment so it might be going out like a chilly lion?
We have just had the Vernal Equinox which means the year has moved onto a new phase and it is now officially Spring in my world.   It’s a good time to have a quick look at the Spring Border, to see if it looks Springy and it does.  I would like to tell you that I planned the Spring Border completely, siting it specifically by the Bramley tree as it creates nice shady conditions for much of the year but in Spring before the leaves arrives it has good clear light.  This is sadly not completely case but there are elements of truth in it.  The Spring Border came into being as when I first moved into the house I had three buckets of hellebores looking for a home.  There was very little border anywhere at that point but I thought that the hellebores would like the part-shade by the side/to the rearish of the Bramley and the soil was good and fairly moist despite being so close to the tree.  The hellebores loved this border, flowered well and started to self seed merrily.  The next Spring I bought some Erythronium ‘Pagoda’, I dotted some around the garden but where they grew the happiest was in the same spot close to the Bramley.  The other side of the tree I planted some Fritillaria imperialis and these grew equally well and made a nice link from the Conservatory Border to what was then called the other side of the Bramley border.  By the time the next Spring was coming I was already thinking I had a Spring Border on my hands and I wanted to add to it, so in went some pulmonarias.  Apparently not everyone likes these plants and I can understand why, the pink/blue habit of the flowers is a little odd and the leaves are a little spotty (which as it is called lungwort I tend to think of the spots as phlegm, moving on…) yet bees love them and they do pop up rather wonderfully and flower away despite what the weather is throwing at them, so I am rather fond of them.
Last year the Spring Border got a bit of a boost.  It got planted up with some Primulas from the Thompson and Morgan trial I have been taking part in and they added some great bright colour.  There is also a small Acer ‘Orange Dream’, also from Thompson and Morgan and that is doing well too.  There is also a camellia in the corner of the border that sulked for a couple of years but now is starting to flower quite well.
Whilst feeling flushed with success I expanded the border considerably last Autumn as part of a general major border/lawn re-negotiation of territory (a negotiation the lawn always loses out too, never mind).  
So at the moment it is looking rather bare for about half of the border’s now size, but that will be remedied, oh yes.

(This last photograph was taken several weeks ago on a frosty morning)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

For the love of willow

I have been thinking about willow quite a bit recently, my neighbours have a fantastic willow tree on their drive way that is currently covered in furry catkins.  The tree is quite dull for most of the year but for this brief moment in time it is stunning.  I do like a good willow, Alyson Hannigan is a good willow, as is Warwick Davies.  I have long wanted a weeping willow, they are such dramatic trees.  I remember playing in the willow tree that was in my maternal grandparent's garden. I used to hide under its weeping branches, and usually get covered in ants in the process, that was not so good.  I do not have anywhere near the space for a proper one sadly.

I do have a couple of willows, a Salix 'Scarcuzam' I have written about previously and one that lives by the pond.  Its name is I am afraid now lost but I think it is a Salix cinerea, or 'grey willow', I am more than happy to be corrected on that.  It was an early purchase for the garden which I remember buying after reading a magazine article about it.  The photographs of it made it a must have plant.
As with most of my plants, it was but a twig when I bought it and I planted it on the pond side of the Tree Lupin Border thinking it would be rather nice there, it is.
The catkins are just superb.  They start a dark grey, they then develop a red flush before finally opening up to reveal masses of yellow pollen.
It is truly beautiful this time of year.
If you want something that gives 'Spring interest', few shrubs are as interesting as this in my opinion.
It picks up the late afternoon sun so well, and it is now a good size.  It will grow bigger so I will have to control it at some point, but for now it is a joy.

It is,sadly, remarkably dull the rest of the year though.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A bit of support

This time last year I booked onto a willow plant support making course at Coton Manor.  Something urgent happened on the day and unfortunately I was not able to go so I hoped that they would repeat the same course next year.  It was incredibly cold and snowy that day last year so whilst I was upset at not getting a day off and that I had lost the money for the course, I was sort of glad not to be outside.  Fast forward to this year and I was booked on again, and this time I was determined to go.  I have been going to the Coton Gardening School for well over ten years now, usually one or two a year, sometimes three.  This year I am booked onto two and I always enjoy them and I always enjoy my first visit of the year to Coton as it sets the season in motion is always a pleasant experience.  For some reason though I have never visited just to see the garden, its not that far from where I live really but I just don't make the journey.
So this year I changed this, I went to visit the garden a couple of days before the course to see the last gasp of this year's snowdrops.  I have never visited there in snowdrop time so it was a nice treat, which of course also involved cake.
The spring flowers were looking wonderful.  It was a lovely warmish day too on Sunday which made the visit even more enjoyable.
We found some small chickens,
and some bigger birds
I thought this one looked particularly fine and I think he did too.  I did consider whispering 'croquet' into his ear, but I couldn't see where his ear was so decided against.
We also found a carpet nest as well.
I also checked out the plant supports as homework for the forthcoming Wednesday.  They are rather impressive.
We also spent some time considering this pruned and trained yew.  It looks on the face of it rather brutal, but there was new growth already showing and the way it is trained upwards to keep the shape was fascinating.  I shall enjoy looking at how that develops.
Wednesday dawned and back to Coton I went, this time in quite thick fog and damp chilly air.
I had my trusty secateurs with me as we had been told we would need them.  The course was excellent as it did what it said it would do, it taught me how to make plant supports.  We had a brief introduction and a discussion about materials, a wander around the garden looking at various plant supporty/willowy things; then a demonstration and then we were let loose to make our own.
I made a hoop.  I was quite pleased with my hoop.
I was even more pleased when I got my hoop plus other bits home and put my completed rose support together.
It might not be perfect but its better than the rubbish supports I had previously.  More will be made, definitely more.  I am now eyeing up the hedges and bending twigs in a knowing manner.

and for May Day I might consider making a wicker man and sing Sumer is Icumen In .......