Sunday, 29 June 2014

End of Month Review - June 2014

What an extraordinary growing season it has been this year.  The winter was mild and the spring warmish and wetish.  June has also been very warm at times and (thankfully) provided rain when it has been needed.  Everything is growing like, well, like something that grows really well.

The Knot Garden has been trimmed and looks a lot better.  The box really is forming little hedges now, as long as the blight stays away from them this remains a part of the garden I like a lot.
The lavender that lines the path is a bit over grown really, but it smells so wonderful as I walk through it I cannot trim it back yet.
The pots on the front door step are looking good too, I have quite a few pots this year around the garden and they make me happy.  The intermittent rain means they are not too much of a chore to water at the moment either.
The Gravel Garden is doing well, the washing line vebascum, that sits under the washing line when it is out, it also growing well.  I can see that there is at least one seedling to create next year's verbascum already making itself known.
I do not water the Gravel Garden, it has to live or die by its own volition.  This year it is looking quite good I think.

Around from the Gravel Garden is the Rosa Maidens Blush.  I love this rose very much as it is directly in front of the kitchen window.  The scent from it is incredible and even though it has a tendency to be a bit manky it is growing really well this year.  I feed it regularly with liquid seaweed and it seems to like that a lot.
Past this rose is the path into the back garden.  I like the view with the Rosa Hyde Hall hedge to the left and the Pond Border to the right and how it leads up through the pergola.
The table that used to hold one pot now holds many pots.  On quick glance you could be mistaken into thinking I had decided to have a display table, I assure you this is just a random collection of pots.
The coal bunker is a clue that this is the Coal Bunker Border.  This back view shows the Rosa Claire Austin standing proud.  She is a large vigorous rose with great creamy coloured flowers.  The cardoons are also in bud, they will be flowering soon.
The Courtyard is making me very happy, it is definitely a bit pot-tastic at the moment and that is what I wanted it to look like.
The view over the Conservatory Border is also looking good and shows how blousy the garden is at the moment.  Lush is the best word I think to describe it.
This is the view from the front of the Conservatory Border, I like how different the border looks depends which side of it you stand.
The Coal Bunker Border also looks different from the front, you can see the Rosa Alan Titchmarsh quite well.  This is rather a good rose and I am probably fonder of the rose than I am of who it is named after.  Maybe if he lived in my garden I would feel differently, but then if he lived in my garden he might live in a tent and make a mess.  I need to move on from this line of thinking.....
Now that the Burtonesque Curl is getting planted up I am loving how the formal lawn moves around under the Bramley tree to who knows where..... well, I know where, the garden isn't that big, but from this view point humour me, who knows where....
The Pond Border is looking very full, I keep removing nigella to allow for more planting.  I tell myself it is a good weed-suppressant.
Under the Bramley tree the concrete planter has been planted up with largely Thompson and Morgan trial plants.  It is starting to look rather colourful.  The nicotiana at the front the planter were planted last year and lasted over the winter, they are a flowering joy now.
The Spring Border, which was extended last Autumn, is getting slowly planted up.  I am not in a hurry to do this.  It needs a mix of shade-loving and sun loving plants depending on where they are placed in the space.
I took these photographs after some heavy rain, the Prairie Borders look suitably flattened.  The echinops are getting really quite big now and you cannot see, but there is verbena bonariensis threaded through the borders now and that will soon be flowering.  I am yet to decide whether this was a good, bad or just pointless idea.
The Prairie Borders lead into the Bog Garden and Woodland Border, I like how they move from one area to the next.
The Primulas are dying back in the Bog Garden and the ferns and euphorbia are making themselves known.
The Wild Garden is looking a bit flat too, apart from the trees/shrubs planted through it.  The Catalpa and the Tulip tree are doing very well in particular.
The Tree Lupin Border is looking quite green at the moment, the dahlias, ricinus, tithonia and zinnias are yet to get flowering, but they will.
The Four Sisters are also doing well, the Philidelphus 'Belle Etoile' is flowering well, the Carol Klein acer is recovering still from late frost but new leaves are appearing.  The Edgeworthia is still, I repeat still, alive.  All is well.
The veg beds are quite full, the sweet corn is looking short.
but the peas are beginning to look full.
The 'Tomtato' has definite toms, cannot tell about tato yet.
In the greenhouse I interrupted Bruce mid-wash.  He is the guardian of the greenhouse and supervisor of all that happens within it.
The greenhouse is less full than it was, but there is still some planting out to be done.
and the pond?  Well I'm a bit ashamed of the pond in reality.  It is choc-a-block with parrot weed at the moment.  I really do have to clear it once the tadpoles and dragon-fly larvae are finished.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

A precious moment in time

Last year I went to the Garden Museum's Garden Literary Festival which was held at Tom Stuart Smith's garden.  I enjoyed my day there so much I decided that this year I would attend the whole weekend so I booked immediately when the tickets came on sale.  This year it was held at Petworth House, a National Trust property and the home of Lord and Lady Egremont.  I had never been to Petworth and it is a bit of a distance from me, but I looked it up and the lure of the festival was too strong.  Knowing that the festival was to be held in the family's own private part of the gardens added to the attraction.
The weather was very kind to us and the sun shone all weekend.  The talks were many and varied and all the ones I went too were hugely enjoyable.  I had the same experience as I felt last year, the weekend is a moment of pause and reflection.  I have always seen my garden as more than just a collection of plants, I have written previously about what it means to me and the symbolism and memories that are attached to various plants and areas.  The festival feeds those thoughts of the significance of the garden.  It gives my mind time to turn from daily life and think more deeply about what a garden is rather than what it does.  I really hope they have another festival next year as I think it is one of the most enjoyable events I have ever attended.
The gardens were beyond expectation, not that I knew what to expect.  I quickly realised that I was not visiting a good garden, but a great garden and that is not a description I use lightly.  What made these gardens particularly special was that they are their private garden, pretty much as private as my garden.  It is where the family go to relax, to sit and enjoy a beautiful sunny evening, to walk and talk and just be.  The spaces worked beautifully.  There are many high hedges creating private spaces (rooms) that link between each other.
The garden works with vistas and openings.  There are focal points to draw the eye but you cannot move quickly, you have to stop and inspect the planting as it is thoughtful, relaxed  and very effective.
If you did not stop to inspect you could miss the real beauty of what you were walking past.  At first this wall planting looked like a green climber/wall shrub of some sort, good green glossy leaves and very well pruned.
On closer inspection it is a Magnolia, just imagine how this must look when covered with blooms?
This gravel area at first sight could have been easily walked through, but I stopped to inspect a rather fine romneya and very quickly I realised what a calm space it was.  There was far more happening than could be deduced in a quick glance around.
It was a garden that needed to be experienced rather than just seen.  It made me think about the show gardens at Chelsea and the like and the time (brief) and the distance (long) involved in viewing them.  The show gardens cannot be experienced, they can only be viewed, to some extent they are just an outside book for us to glance at, absorb as best we can and move on.  I already thought this, but being in a garden this special really brought that home to me.
There are many areas of the garden, too many to show in one post in fact, if you ever get the chance to visit I cannot recommend it enough.  There is much to admire:  the many roses, many just romping along these hurdle fences.
Roses also adorned these apple trees, for a brief moment fooling me into thinking they were still in blossom.
The garden is drenched in the scent of roses.
The walls were alive with wild self-seeded flowers, like foxgloves
and the ubiquitous mexican daisy
I went home thinking I need a wall suitable for daisy colonisation.
and if you get the chance to attend the literary festival, especially if you are interested in reading about gardens or indeed someone who writes about them, then it is worth going.  It is not the cheapest event you will ever go to and the cost is an issue I fully admit, but it was definitely of value as I know I will be thinking about different elements of different talks and the inspiration from the garden for many months to come.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Dombeya

The Excitement of a New Plant - part two

Six months ago I bought a Dombeya rotundifolia on a whim, a not ashamed, not going to pretend otherwise, a very definite whim.  When I wrote about its arrival earlier this year I said that I have watched many gardening television programmes and read many gardening magazines and books and one piece of advice that they often give is not to buy plants on an impulse or whim.  You should know what you want to buy and where you are going to put it.  There is an atmosphere around whim-buyers of naiveity, waste and lack of planning.  It is probably the sort of thing 'beginner gardeners' do, those who are still wet behind the ears.  It might be just me, but I feel there is a general 'official' tutting at those with no plant purchase control and yet in reality I think most gardeners do it as (funnily enough) we love plants.

Even after saying that I feel the urge to justify, to say that I do plan most of my plant purchases and more often than not I do know exactly where they are going.  The real fun though I am sure is when the impulse fairy takes control and you buy that plant that just made you say "ooooooh".  I like a good whim-purchase, that plant you did not know you wanted until you saw it and then you just had to have it.  Sometimes a whim will sit in its pot for a while whilst I consider where it will go, but it will always go somewhere and I cannot recall ever regretting such a purchase.

I do not regret buying the Dombeya at all.  It lived for the first few months in the conservatory as they are not hardy.  I put it outside a few months ago and joy of joys some buds appeared.  The buds got larger and larger and then,
then the first flower opened,
then another,
the whole fat round flower head opened up.  The scent is like sweet vanilla ice cream, the sort you buy from ice cream vans.  It is, without doubt, very pretty.
I am extremely pleased with my whim.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Tall trees and falling branches

By the side of the top of my garden, just over the fence, is this rather large very fine, poplar tree, I think it might be a Black Poplar.  The tree is about eighty years old, it is covered in ivy and a few years ago it survived a fire that was lit at its base by vandals.  It has been part of my skyline as long as I have lived in this house, the squirrels love it and I have always thought it a rather good thing.
That is, I thought that until late last summer when a huge branch detached itself and fell into my garden.  It was wedged at an angle through my horse-chestnut tree and impossible for me to deal with.  I rang the Council as it is on their land and they duly despatched someone to remove the branch and tidy up the main tree a bit.

All was well, until last week that is, when yet another huge branch detached itself and landed in my horse-chestnut tree.  Yes, in it, it did not reach the ground, it lodged itself precariously making the bottom end of my garden a no-go area for me as I was really worried it might suddenly fall.
At first I could not work out what was different when I walked into the garden, I could see it looked darker at the top of the garden and then I realised that the conker tree seemed to contain rather a lot of poplar leaves.
I could that my poor tree was quite badly damaged by the falling limb.
I could also see that a significant chunk of the poplar was no longer there.  So the Council received another call.  Thankfully the head groundsman remembered the event last year so understood quickly what had happened  and came around to have a look.  He quickly decided that it would need specialist work so arranged for a tree surgeon to do the work.
I was not only worried about the danger of a huge limb falling on me, but also the damage to the underplanting.  Not only the damage already done by falling bits of tree but also how it would survive the removal process.  I was not happy.
I tied orange plastic bags to the plants I needed the tree surgeons to notice.  
This worked well, after they had gone the grass etc was flattened but the marked plants were pretty much intact.  The amalanchier had been damaged by the limb fall and the Peltoboykinia I bought the over day has got a bit flat, but it will recover.  All in all I am very relieved.
The horse-chestnut has been tidied up nicely, though it does have a wound running through it.  It will look ok again though in a year or two.
My worry now is this branch which is overhanging my garden, it looks to me like it might come down.   Which for some reason does not stop me from standing underneath it and looking up.  The tree surgeon could not deal with the main poplar today as it needs a lot of work, it might even need a cherry-picker to be used to get it down so that it does not cause any further damage.  The whole tree might actually have to come down as it is old and probably diseased, it is clearly distressed as bits are dropping of it.  Thankfully that will only happen if there is no hope for it at all.  I suspect there will be a follow up episode to this post fairly soon once it is decided what will happen next.