Tuesday, 30 June 2015

End of Month Review - June 2015

June has been a month of fairly chilly, rather hot, a bit rainy and yet rather dry.  Thankfully we were spared frost though it looked a bit close at times. Whilst the garden still feels a bit behind, it is now growing apace, things are happening at last.
In the driveway the foxgloves are flowering, I am going to move more into the driveway over the autumn and then hope that they will self-seed in future years and multiply.  I love these white foxgloves which were a gift, they add a wonderful shaft of light.
Moving into the front garden, after a recent bought of cutting back the hedges so I can get into the garden I found the remnants of a gate.  I don't think I knew of this gate, but it is useless so it was no great find.  Still, a bit of garden archaeology none-the-less.
The Knot Garden has had its first trim and is looking green and lovely.  The roses are all doing well, from the Leda closest to the camera and the Graham Thomas glowing yellow by the hedge.
By the front door the Gertrude Jekyll rose has had its first flush and is now recouping to flower again.  The three pots of pelagoniums from The Vernon Nursery are doing very well.  They kindly sent me these to try and I am very pleased with them.
The gravel garden is looking quite lush.  It is mainly self-seeded and never watered so it does self-regulate what will grow there well.
On the metal coal bunker thing that sits under the kitchen window, that serves no purpose other than to host pots of fuchsias, it is doing its job well as the fuchsias are very happy there.
The Rosa Maidens Blush, once a small scraggy thing that I referred to as manky, is now a thriving tall bush of a plant.  It does not flower for long but it is worth it when it does.  It does rather block the view from the kitchen window now, but I don't mind.  I will cut it back hard this autumn I think.
The table is now full of pots.  There are all sorts on here (no liquorice sadly).  The begonias are just starting to flower, there are pelagoniums and a couple of crinodendrons have appeared after falling in love with them in Wales this year.
The pots by the way into the back garden are also doing well, as are the roses and the cardoon.  The Tea-Tree tree is also growing very well, it had to have a bit of a trim as it was spreading sideways a bit too much and I want more of a column from it.
The view up the garden looks quite bouffant.
The Long Shoot looks like I like it to look.  Lots of colour, quite good height and I am happy with the shape of the formal lawn at the moment.
The courtyard has acquired a couple of small acers to add to its collection.
and the pellie stand has proved to be a good idea.  It makes me very happy.
The view across the Conservatory Border also makes me happy.  When I look at this view I realise I have quite a lot of roses and as I breathe in and inhale their scent I know this is no bad thing.
This is the view back along the Long Shoot from the other way, I don't often take this view but I like it and I think it works.
This is the view down towards the formal lawn taken from the Bermuda Triangle.  Usually I focus on this view in the winter when the growth is less and the shapes more defined but actually I don't know why I wait as I like it at the moment.  Esme decided she wanted to feature as well.
The Prairie Borders are now coming into their own.  The Stipa tenuissima is growing well, the echinops are getting huge and the Verbena bonariensis (which you cannot see well from this view) is getting ready to flower.
The Tree Lupin border is dominated by the tree lupin which is huge this year and covered in flowers.
The Dancing Lawn is looking a little dry and has acquired a clover-patch.  I just hadn't the heart to mow all of it, it was growing so well and the bees love it.
The Bog Garden is looking very colourful.  It is now quite well established, it has taken a few years to reach this stage but it is now a good addition to the garden.
The Wild Garden is all tall grass, ox-eye daisies, thistles and nettles.  It buzzes with life and generally I like it.  The soil is quite fertile and the grass does get rather long.  I am going to try and reduce the vigour of the grass with yellow-rattle as I think it needs it.
In the top corner I have cut back the cow parsley as it had finished flowering and I am trying to reduce the amount it seeds.  It also gives more space for the other planting to develop.  These white foxgloves are doing very well.
The view back down the garden, over the Dancing Lawn towards the Tree Lupin Border is one I like a lot.
In the hedge the Kiftsgate rose is starting to flower.  It has lurked for a few years but this year it is going for it big time.  I wanted something large and spiky to be a natural barbed wire, this rose does the job well.
The Four Sisters are doing well, the Carol Klein acer has enjoyed not having a late frost.  The Philadelphus Belle Etoile is flowering well and the Edgeworthia is still alive.  The Clethra is getting ready to flower in a few weeks time.
I have strimmed around the veg beds, it needed doing, I had sudden 'oh crikey the garden is a mess guilt' after a visit from a friend who wanted to look around the garden.  She was kind enough not to make bad comments, but still I felt a bit ashamed.  The veg is coming along well.  The peas are podding and the cobra beans are thinking about flowering.  I am growing fewer spuds than in previous years which has given me more room for broccoli.
I am also growing kale and perpetual spinach this year.  Now I have to cook with it.
The greenhouse is still fairly full.  There are some seedlings to be put out and some perennial plugs from one of those 'lucky dip 48 perennial plugs' offers.  These only arrived the other day and they are tiny so I cannot imagine planting them out until next year, however for a fiver they were good value and it was worth a punt.
The pond (yes this is the pond) is getting really quite low of water and really very full of weed.  I will sort it out this autumn, promise.  More worryingly I have not seen any damsel or dragon flies yet this year. I am hoping they are just a bit delayed and not disappeared.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Product Review - Gtech HT05-Plus cordless hedge trimmer

I was approached the other day to see if I would like to review the Gtech HT05-Plus cordless hedge trimmer.  I agreed and the hedge trimmer duly arrived.
I took one look at it and thought 'light saber', this made me smile.  The hedge trimmers take about three hours to charge, you have to plug the charger into the handle of the trimmer which means you do need to find somewhere you can leave this long appliance.  I left mine on the kitchen table and this worked out well.
The handle is telescopic and the trimming head can be angled either straight or at 90 degrees so you can cut across the top of hedges.  The battery promises around 45 minutes, so with this in mind I set out to find things to trim.  This is not a good time for trimming hedges as birds can still be nesting, I was very aware of this so knew I had to choose carefully.
One job I knew I needed to do was to cut back the entrance to the house, the holly hedge on one side and the mixed hedge on the other had grown to make the entrance really quite small.  Some trimming later and the trimmer had made short work of this task.  I was very pleased.

I then moved into the garden itself.  A thought had struck me whilst I was thinking about jobs I needed to do.....
.....the Manx Rose has grown hugely already this year and it needed cutting back.
It is now much smaller and neater,
The trimmer worked through its quick thick stems with no problems at all.  I have no qualms about using trimmers on this type of rose, it does them no harm at all and it will grow back well.  The main downside is that if it does not re-flower I will miss out on its wonderful black rose hips this year, a shame but not the end of the world.

I then thought that I had not tried the angled head option.  I stood there for a moment or two wondering what I could trim.  I looked down the garden, pondering pondering, and then my eyes fell upon the pleached hornbeams.
Five minutes later the top growth had been trimmed.  The telescopic handle and angled head meant I did not have to resort to a ladder as usual.  This is a great benefit for me as for one thing it saves quite a bit of time and faffing about.  Also, I am not hugely good with ladders, I wobble.  I only have to be a step or two up and I start to wobble, so a wobble-free task is a good task.

I was probably trimming for about thirty minutes all told and the battery was holding up well, there was no diminution in power.  I can happily recommend these trimmers, they did what they said they would and they did it well.....

.... and it reminds me of a light saber, who would not want to trim hedges with a light saber?

The trimmer can be purchased from  www.gtech.co.uk  and retails at £119.95 including free delivery and a 30 day money back guarantee.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Questions - Lady Ursula Cholmeley

Lady Ursula Cholmeley is the owner (with her husband) and inpirational/motivational force behind the revival and restoration of Easton Walled Gardens.  The introduction on the website calls it Lincolnshire's 'lost' gardens and this is an apt description.  The gardens date back to the 1500s but had falled into total disrepair.  Since 2001 these gardens have been cleared, restored and re-planted and this remains work in progress.  Every time I visit I usually find something new to see.  It is a garden I enjoy any time of year, but the snowdrops are worthy of note and Ursula has made Easton the sweet-pea garden to visit.  Based mainly in the the part of the garden called 'The Pickery', she grows hundreds of sweet peas using over 100 different varieties.  I love sweet pea week, (this year it is July 5th - 12th but the sweet peas last longer than that if you cannot get that specific week), I wander up and down the rows of sweet peas, sniffing them, admiring them and noting down names.  I have bought my sweet pea seeds from Easton Walled Gardens for the past few years and I always find a new variety I 'have' to try this time.
This year Easton Walled Gardens is also hosting a photography competition for the first time.  This is very exciting, it is a place that is heaven for photographers.  The prize is £500 and there is a prestigious panel of judges.

The Questions

In which garden do you feel happiest?
Easton Walled Gardens (of course)
If you could only have five gardening tools, which would they be?
Decent secateurs, Joe’s gardening gloves, wheelbarrow, sharp trowel and ladies spade.
If you could only have five garden-related books, which would they be?
RHS encyclopaedia of garden plants, Christopher Lloyds ‘Meadows’, Anna Pavord’s ‘Bulb’ ‘A bunch of Sweet Peas’ by Henry Donald and, if possible, access to the internet.
What was the most defining moment of your life so far?
Deciding to restore Easton Walled Gardens.
What are you most proud of?
That we are still working on it!
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
Repair walls, design and plant new areas, train new gardeners and set up a foundation to ensure the future of the gardens.
Who are your garden heroes (no more than three)
John Tradescant, Charles Jencks and Beth Chatto
What skill would you like to learn and why (does not have to be gardening related)
We have some excellent and interesting gardeners from Europe who visit the gardens. I would love to be fluent in at least one foreign language.
If you could visit any garden right this minute, which one would it be?
West Dean.
What is your current plant obsession?
Which garden tool is never far from your hand?
My iphone: For making notes and taking pictures to remind me of our successes and failures when planning next year’s plantings.
What is your favourite gardening/plant related word?
‘Plantist’ – slightly derogatory word (poor banter) that my teenage children use to describe their mother. See also J. Clarkson ‘Vegetablist’
What do you wish you could do better?
Predict the weather!
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far?
Oh dear, there are so many, I think working with plants means you never stop learning.
What makes a perfect day for you?
Weeding with the sun on my back, discussing gardening with my horticultural friends, lots of tea and cake.
If you had one piece of advice to offer to someone what would it be?
Have a go, don’t wait until everything is perfect, just try it
Gnome or no-gnome?
Gnome..all the way.

I was really pleased that Ursula agreed to answer the questions and very grateful.

Next time:  Chris Collins

(photo from Easton Walled Garden's twitter profile).

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Rosa Fighting Temeraire - more than just a rose

Last autumn I bought the David Austin rose 'Fighting Temeraire'.  It was was of those, saw the name, checked the flower only very briefly and then purchased moments.  The Temeraire was a 98-gun ship that took a vital part in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 when Nelson defeated the French and Spanish fleet in the War of the Third Coalition, one of the Napoleonic Wars (can I just confess here that until I looked this up I had never heard of the War of the Third Coalition even though I knew of the Battle of Trafalgar.  Apparently it was followed by the War of the Fourth Coalition and I can only assume preceded by One and Two.)  Anyhoo, the ship played a very important role and was finally broken up in 1838.  There is a painting of the ship being towed to its final berth which was painted by J.M.W. Turner in 1838.  This painting was apparently voted the nation's favourite painting in a poll run by BBC Radio 4 in 2005 and can be seen in the National Gallery.

Most important of all though is that this is a painting I grew up knowing the name of from a very early age.  My maternal grandparents had a print of it over the mantelpiece in their lounge and it was something that was just 'always there'.  So when I saw the name of the rose, I knew I had to buy it.
and what a beauty it is.  I am so glad I did, it is really good addition to the garden and I am already greatly enamored of it.
I may need to buy a couple more ......

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Portmeirion Echiums

Every time I visit Portmeirion I usually spend a moment or so standing in front of at least one echium having envious thoughts.  This year seems to be a bumper year for their echiums.  To say they are growing like weeds does not explain the scale.
The light was in the wrong place for this photograph, but you get the gist.
They were in full bloom and the bees were loving them.
and next year's crop was on its way.

There is of course more to Portmeirion than stunning echiums, much is written of its micro-climate and they do grow some incredible plants and trees there.
This Crinodendron hookerianum was one of several, flowering away, it was stunning, so much I used one of its flowers for a Wordless Wednesday.

There has clearly been a lot of work on the Village gardens in Portmeirion.  I have written previously about the Gwyllt  and other elements of the Village but I have never particularly focussed my writing on the gardens.  
 Yet the planting is worthy of note.  There has been a lot of work and a lot of improvements carried out on the planting and it is clearly showing.  These alliums outside of Mermaid made a good display.
Similarly these alliums alongside Neptune are good.
These hostas are still bedding in as much of the planting appears to be work in progress, this is a shady spot and it works well.
There are many tree ferns in Y Gwyllt and I thought these were being used well here in the Village.  This area has been replanted since my last visit and looks more clear, more stripped back and I think it is good.
This area that leads down from the bandstand has been in the process of restoration for a couple of years.  There is now the start of a yew hedge and some cypress trees and when they bed in and start to grow properly they should look good.  You can see how rocky the landscape is behind them.
Looking up back to this point is the cascade.  This has been almost completely cleared, I had never noticed the little cave opening to the side before.  The water is red/rusty and it needs planting up, but I am hoping that when I return it will be starting to look more like its original glory. 
Alongside the Bristol Colonnade there is a bed of David Austin Portmeirion inspired roses, the Portmeirion and the Sir Clough rose.  There are also some of the Susan Williams Ellis roses planted in the Village.  Of course I grow all three of these roses, Sir Clough is one of my absolute favourite roses.
Portmeirion also benefits from many stunning stone planters.  These are all planted up well and will soon be in the their full glory.
In front of the Town Hall the planting has been stripped right back to show its construction of rocks.  I really liked this.  It makes such good use of this area and is a great opportunity for some imaginative planting.
The slope in front of Chantry and Dolphin is also making use of its scree terrain.  It is definitely coming along very well.  When I was last here I admit I did not bother photographing this area as, quite frankly, it did not look great.  It is now getting more established and I think next time I visit it should look even better.
So now I find I am photographing the planting in the village itself and thinking how well it is working with the architecture.  Which is good as the whole aim of the village is to fit and enhance the landscape, not jar with it.
The trees at Portmeirion have always been an important part of the Village, but it is good to see a focus to be now on the softer planting.
Some of the most interesting plants are the ones clinging to the rocks.  I think this is Gaultheria shallon, it spreads up along the rocks towards the hotel and is very effective.  I think I just have not noticed it before as it probably has not been in flower when I have been.  
This tiny plant was just clinging on.
The unexpected plantings are always a joy.  That plants are allowed to self-seed and just add colour dotted around is a nice touch.  
There were many foxgloves flowering on this visit, they looked good.
Many of the rock had this Naval Wort growing on them, again I think I had not seen it before as I have not visited in June for quite a while.
I was fascinated by this fuchsia growing out of the wall, clearly a very old plant that had been cut back and re-sprouted.
I finish with the thought with which I started, the echiums.  Just take a moment and appreciate them.  

As said above, it is a real joy to see the gardens being improved and restored.  I am already looking forward to my next visit to see how they progress.