Tuesday, 31 March 2015

End of Month Review - March 2015

March has not been that warm this year, it has had quite a few frosts and at times has been down right chilly.  The upshot of this is that I think the season is a week or so behind where it was this time last year.  The Magnolia is still tightly in bud and the acers are just thinking about unfurling some leaves.  This does not trouble me as last year they got hit by late frost, I am hoping that they might escape such a frost this year.

I start in the driveway, which is now making me smile.
The lump of tree is to stop people accidentally parking on my planting.  The strip of narcissus is making me very happy.  There have been some crocii and snowdrops previously but they did not make the impact that the daffodils have.
The cedar, which is not much more than a twig at the moment, is getting knobbly, this also makes me very happy.  I have been hankering after a space to put a cedar for quite a while and the driveway has given me this opportunity, it will be a much-loved tree.
and the Aconite Lawn has suddenly given a flush of aconites - how exciting is that?  True, none of them have flowered (ignore that speck of yellow, that is celandine), but now at least I have hope that maybe next year I will get some flowers.
The Knot Garden is looking patient, like it is waiting.  It is.
As I walk through to the back garden I pass this Clematis chirrhosa 'Freckles' which has been flowering since last December.  Such a wonderful plant.
The back garden looks cold and rainy, that is because it is raining whilst I am taking these photographs.
These dwarf narcissus are one of my favourite things at the moment.  I do not remember planting so many but they have come up well this year and are a real joy.
The Rheum is on its way up, I love how bright red it is at the moment.
The Courtyard is also waiting, the rhododendron luteum is heavy in the buy as is the camellia.
There are two new residents in the garden, waiting to be placed, please meet Alice and Richard.
The Prairie Borders are now in their worst moment of the year.  They have just been cut back and they are waiting for the new growth to get going.
Whereas the Spring Border is coming on really well.  The Camellia Jupiter is showing a flash of red flower and the hellebores are all flowering really well.  The rest of the border still looks a little sparse as I am still planting it up.  I have been taking my time doing this.
The Grassy Knoll now has some daffodils planted in it.  I am rather pleased at their specks of colour.
and the Tree Lupin Border is also making me happy.  The contorted willow by the pond is showing good spring colour.  The other willow is covered in its furry pussy-willow flowers and at the far corner the Prunus Ben-Chidori is flowering well.  There are quite a few tulips in this border and they are now on the way up.
The Dancing Lawn has finished its crocus moment and now has a few daffodils dotted around in it.
In the Wild Garden itself there are daffodils and now colour from the hyacinths planted last year.
If it was not such a cold and rainy day then these anemone blanda would be open too.
The violets are flowering well,
and there are quite a few chinodoxia dotted around in the grass and they are doing very well this year.
The Tulip Tree is showing new growth,
as is the Katsura Tree.  I do love the promises that Spring makes,
which includes the promise of colchicum in the Autumn.
The Four Sisters are just waiting a little longer before launching into Spring
and Bruce poses under the gorse as he thinks the colour complements his fur.
In the Long Shoot there are many daisies in the formal lawn.  This is a very good thing, from one small patch I have encouraged them to spread and they are responding.  All that mowing around them has paid off.
The Rosa Hyde Hall hedge is greening up.  The veg beds are a disaster zone, they need weeding and manuring, they will look better in April - promise.
The greenhouse is quite full of cuttings and overwinterings and the first tentative seeds have been sown.  It really needs to warm up a bit further before I get into full swing with sowing.
The pond is quite full, of water, parrot weed and frogspawn.  I am hoping for a good tadpole year this year.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

A Day at the Hardy Plant Society AGM

I have recently joined the Hardy Plant Society .  There is a good local group nearby who put on an interesting programme of speakers and there are usually some plants sales as well.  It is a good way of getting access to some specialist nurseries without having to travel too far.  What also prompted me to join was the AGM lecture day which was being held in Nottinghamshire this time.  There were two lectures being held, one by John Grimshaw who is the Director of the Yorkshire Arboretum as well as a writer, RHS committee member and botanist.  The other lecture was by Bleddyn and Sue Wyn-Jones from Crug Farm Nursery, a nursery I have visited several times as I rate it so highly.  It is now pretty much impossible for me to visit North Wales and not call in.  The presence of Crûg meant that there would be plant sales from the nursery, I needed no further convincing to attend this event.
The AGM was held at Portland College in North Nottinghamshire.  When we arrived, which was quite early, the plant sales had already started.
There were a few nurseries selling their plants including Norwell Nurseries,  We wandered around all the stalls first, getting a feel for what was on sale but then headed back to the Crûg stand to start buying.  I was quite restrained, I came away with:
Chrysosplenium macrophyllum, I fell for this immediately, just look closer at those flowers:
the plant label describes it as 'a must have plant when seen in flower' and 'positively obscene', well how could I refuse such a plant?

I also bought this:
a very blurry plant I am sure you will agree (it was blowing half a gale when I took these photos, honest).  It is a Ranzania japonica, it does not look much at the moment but has very pretty lilac/pink flowers and it will look good in my woodland border.

From the other stalls I came away with:
Anisodentea 'El Royo'.  I have tried this plant previously and whilst it got through the worst of the winter a couple of years ago, it died at the last moment.  This time I think I might try someone where a little better drained and a little more sheltered as they are meant to be quite tough.

I also bought Clematis recta Purpurea:
yes, blown horiztonal - it was gusty. I have not tried this clematis before so I am expecting great things from it.

and finally (actually not finally, but finally in terms of plants)
an Acanthus mollis from the Society members' stall.  I have grown this in other gardens and it is a plant I like to have.

I also picked up some free seeds, quite a few free seeds and this made me happy too, especially as I got some Euphorbia stygiana seeds, a plant I have recently written about in a post for the Leicestershire and Rutland Gardens Trust.

The lectures were excellent.  John Grimshaw took us through a personal journey of Plants, Gardens, People.  It was an entertaining and informative talk.  I liked his concept of hyphenated gardeners (I so want to hyphenate that), saying that he was not an alphine-gardener, a perennial-gardener etc etc, he is just a gardener (and quite a gardener at that!).  John ended his talk giving out some free white poppy seeds originally sourced from Sissinghurst.  Yes I got some, how could I not?  A reminder of a good day, a plant I love more than most others and a link back to Sissinghurst.

After the AGM then there was the talk from Bleddyn and Sue about their plant hunting trips to Vietnam.  This was also fascinating and at times quite saddening.  The country has lost much from its years of war and the effects on the population and the effects of climate change mean that the forests are being stripped of their trees to grow crops to sell for food and also for fuel.  This is completely understandable as there is limited choice as to what the people can do, but for the plants of the area it is very damaging.

All in all it was an excellent day.  The next AGM is in the southern counties, it might also be a must-do event.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Preview of RHS Malvern Spring Show Festival gardens

Towards the end of last year I wrote a post about a crowd funded garden that was being proposed for the RHS Malvern Spring Festival.  I am pleased to say that the garden reached its funding target and will now happen.  I have already decided I am going to visit the Festival this year so I thought I would look ahead to what some of the gardens would be like.  The Festival has show gardens and also what I am previewing here, the Festival gardens aimed at inspiring new gardeners.  I will preview the show gardens in another post.
Firstly I am going to mention the Genetic Conservation Garden by Tessa and Caitlin Mclaughlin, partly because it is the first on the RHS information page about the gardens, but also because it is the one I have written about previously mentioned above.  So I am not going to say much more about it here other than I am really looking forward to seeing it.
Next to catch my eye was this garden, 'Mad as a Hatter' designed by Gary Birstow.  It caught my eye as Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite books (probably only beaten by Through the Looking Glass), but this garden is more about hatters than Alice, it is particularly referencing the 'madness' that hatters appeared to have from inhaling mercury fumes.  This is something I knew nothing about so it was a good interesting fact.  The plants used are inspired by Frome Valley so I think it will be a good garden to see.
Still on an Alice in Wonderland theme is the 'Alice in Wonderland' garden by Lorna Davies.  This is to commemorate 150 years since the book was published.  The planting aims to show the colours of the book such as the reds and whites of the Queens.  I do have to comment that the plan could be seen to not compare well against the other garden plans as it is less pictorial.  One thing to remember with the Malvern Gardens is that the designers often do not have the vast resources that Chelsea Flower Show designers can attract, so the garden design quality cannot be judged by the look of the brochure plan.  
The next garden is 'Still Beating the Blues' designed by Emily Sharpe which is based on a painting by Swarez.  I confess to having to google Swarez.  The garden aims to be a retreat from hectic urban life.  It looks minimalistic and calming and will be interesting to see.
The above garden is called 'Mindfulness' and is designed by Contained Gardens.  It looks a very contained space is inspired by the words from a young male suffering from depression.  "The garden is comforting and solid yet transparent providing a safe space with easy escape routes" is how it is described in the blurb.  Like many of the plans (both for this show and Chelsea) I find the plans often do not help me really visualise the space.  I will be interested to see how this looks in reality.
This garden, 'Lets Get you Home' designed by Stacey Gibson, intrigues me as the tree dominates so completely.  This is not a bad thing, I love a good tree and I am looking forward to finding out what type of tree it is.  The garden is about the journey from when someone finds out they have a terminal illness, through to their treatment and to the help Marie Curie provides in supporting the person.
Finally there is 'Nature' designed by Kate Durr.  This plan is riot of greens and looks really vibrant and interesting.  It is dominated by three Cor-ten steel panels. Yes I had to google Cor-ten, it is a steel that weathers (rusts) in a stable way that means it does not need painting.  The words senuous and sultry are used in the description, apparently the planting flirts with us from behind its Cor-ten steel boundaries, would it be wrong to be thinking 50 shades of green?........

I am really looking forward to my visit, the gardens will be top of my agenda to visit on the day and I shall write about the realities on my return.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Butterfly Conservation - new membership offer

Now that Spring is definitely upon us the insects are starting to emerge in the garden.  Looking out for the first butterfly is always an exciting time.  I have been asked by the Butterfly Conservation people to let you know that they have a new membership offer this year that is valid until 31st May 2015. 

The details can be found here: http://butterfly-conservation.org/90/join.html

Butterflies are more than just pretty fluttery things, they are an important part of the eco-system and a key quality of life indicator in our natural habitats.  More information on this can be found here: http://butterfly-conservation.org/45/why-butterflies-matter.html

The offer includes:
-Their member only gardening book written by Kate Bradbury 
-A welcome pack with membership card, set of collectable postcards and useful information
-Butterfly magazine three times a year, packed with fascinating features and stunning photos
-Essential advice on gardening for butterflies and moths
-Regular e-newsletters with the latest news, info and offers
-Membership of your local branch, with regular newsletters 
-Invitations to local guided walks, talks, conservation action days and social events

The all important promotional code to use is:  GARDEN1550

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Quince Hedge (again)

I have given a couple of updates already on my quince hedge which is made up of Chaenomeles x superba 'Crimson and Gold'.  The first update is here in 2011 when it had been planted for about three years and then again here in 2014 when it was starting to look a bit more hedgy.
The hedge has come on quite well in the last year.  It is hard to see well in this picture (gawd knows why I went for slanty pictures again) but it is thickening up fairly well now.  I now am gently trimming it so that it is not going about the height that I want.  When the top growth reaches the windowsill I level it off.  I am also trimming the side shoots so they are not going over the path.  I am hoping that this will encourage it to thicken up further.
This year it has been flowering for weeks.  It first started to flower before Christmas and it has given some very welcome colour.
Now the bees are starting to buzz around on the warmer days I am hopeful I will get a few quinces this year.  I have had a few little ones in the past and I hope I get more.  Unlike the quince tree in the back garden, chaenomeles fruit much more quickly and easily.

I shall report back next year on how it has progressed.  It remains work in progress, as does the garden in general.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

I was tempted

The past couple of weeks have been a little busy, I am holding off from seed sowing as it is still a bit early but there has been some plant buying.  Well it was hard not to, I was tempted (that is my excuse and I am sticking to it).

Firstly I see an offer for bargain hellebores from Thompson and Morgan.  I am a member of the trial panel for Thompson and Morgan but I am also a paying customer the same as anyone else.  When bargains like this land in my email inbox it would be churlish to refuse.
They arrived looking healthy and in really good condition.  They may not flower for a year or two but I can wait, that is part of the joy of hellebores, it is delayed gratification.

The other day I went to a talk by Tom Mitchell of Evolution Plants at the Nottingham group of the Hardy Plant Society  I have been going to their meetings for a few months now and they have had some interesting talks and some good plant buying opportunities.  Tom gave a very interesting talk about his plant hunting habits and plants that he collects and then afterwards there were plants from his nursery to buy.
This Helleborus occidentalis waved encouragingly at me and pleaded to be bought.  Well how could I refuse?  I do have a lot of hellebores, some named varieties and some that are hybrid seedlings.  They are a key part of my spring border and I have many in various parts of the garden.  This little beauty is a very welcome addition.

The next day I went to a talk by Brian Ellis of Avondale Nursery hosted by the East Midlands Group of Plant Heritage.  I have visited this nursery on a couple of occasions and already have plans to go again the near future.  The opportunity to hear Brian give a talk and buy a plant or two was too much to miss.  The talk was interesting and took us through the three national plant collections that Brian hosts.  So many tempting photographs were put before us, it was a visual shopping list.

Brian had bought many plants with him and I left with two of them:
Peony tenufolia, which is the pot that might on first glance look empty but there is a lovely fat bud growing.  I have been after one of these peonies for a while so it was not something I could walk away from.

The other plant is Veratrum album.  A plant I have not been looking for as long, but it is on the list of buy when you see it.
The leaves alone are wonderful, which is a good thing as it may be a year or three before I see a flower.

I know there will be more plant buying in the year, but Spring plant buying always seems special.  It is acknowledging that the growing season is about to really get going.  Let the fun commence!