Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Big Mow

Every year, usually in September, I give the lawns their first full cut of the year.  For most of the year I allow the Wild Garden to grow wildly and I mow paths through it.  Then at that moment, when the wind changes and the air starts to feel like Autumn, I know the time is right for the big cut.
One of things I like about the Wild Garden is that you cannot really see it until you are quite close.  The mowed formal lawns lead up towards it, with the Exotic Border on the left.  The pleached hornbeams create the boundary between the near and far of the garden.
I also like that each year the Wild Garden has a slightly different character.  Some years it seems to be mainly nettles, some years there are many thistles, this year there was a lot of ragwort.  The insects and wildlife love the Wild Garden.  It buzzes and hums with life.  It is usually full of moths and butterflies, bees and hoverflies.
Step one of the big mow weekend this year started on Friday after work.  I rushed home and mowed all the formal lawns.  This usually takes around an hour to do, depending on how long I have allowed the grass to grow.

Actually before Step 1 there is Step 0 which is the scything of the Wild Garden.  This tends to happen a few days before the actual mow.  Partly to pace myself, partly to let wildlife leave the area before the mower is deployed.  I use an Austrian scythe which I have had for several years now and it cuts down the weeds and long grasses effectively.  It makes the remainder at a reasonable length for the mower to tackle.  So, scythed and formal lawns completed this meant that next there would be mowing.
About an hour later and the mowing is complete.  It has only had a high cut so far and I will mow it again  probably this weekend with a slightly lower cut.
The Big Mow changes the character of the garden for the autumn and winter months.  It makes it feel more open.  Suddenly the boundaries and corners reappear.
The trees in the Wild Garden also become more distinct.  They seem to stand taller and in reality they are getting taller, a little bit every year.  Some have been in the garden quite a few years now and suddenly they seem to be like real trees.  This is rather exciting.
I also uncover and carefully mow around the jewels that appear in the garden.  These beautiful red berries of the Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum).
The timing of the Big Mow also enables the pink cyclamen to be admired.

At some point soon I will sow some more yellow rattle seeds.  I have been sowing it for a couple of years now and whilst it does self-seed I like to give it a hand as I am trying to increase the amount I have.  The Wild Garden remains an important part of the garden.  It does reduce a little year on year as I cultivate a new area or think of a change I want to make, but I cannot imagine it will all disappear.  Certainly for now, long may it last.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

An overdue visit to Easton Walled Gardens

I have a confession, I have managed to inadvertently miss the sweetpea season at Easton Walled Gardens.  I have not missed the sweetpea season there for three years and I did not intend to this year but its been a busy year and things happen as they do.  Suddenly it is September and autumn is in the air.  So when I heard that there was an Autumn Fair at Easton Walled Gardens I jumped at the chance to visit.
The fair was very good, fudge, a pen and soap were purchased.  I could have bought a lot more but there is another fair in November so I thought I should behave myself a little.  It was difficult to behave myself as the fair was packed with interesting stalls.  Crafts and foods were available and all were relatively local to Easton. Once the purchasing was complete we went for a wander around the gardens.  It was quite a grey day and rain kept trying to make its presence felt but this was not going to get in our way.
The long border was looking very good.  The colours and planting all working together extremely well.
The vegetable gardens were neat and tidy as ever.  I always like the vegetable patch as it is so well managed, better than I could ever achieve.  I am always delighted to see the tiny tractor waiting in the borders for its tiny tractoring work.
We wandered behind the greenhouses and noticed these brightly planted borders.  I don't remember seeing them previously and I thought they were very well done.
Niches are filled with pot plants,
.... and I loved this display particularly.
Into the Pickery and there were still some sweetpeas to be seen......
...... but it was dahlias that were stealing the show.
Look closer, this dahlia is just an amazing spike of pink craziness.
This border of amaranthus merged into grasses and zinnias,
again it was a look closer moment.  This combination is just stunning.
Even on this grey day the sunflowers were shining to give us some colour.
Yes I am again going to say look closer, because I am fairly sure that these salmon dahlias should look rubbish with these sunflowers but they really do not.  The colour mixing is spot on.

We left Easton happy with our purchases, somewhat full of cake and agreed that the gardens were looking top notch.

There is going to be an Artisan Food Fair at Easton in November, so I am going to make sure I get back there for that.  I have always been fond of Easton as I think it is a special place and this visit did nothing but reinforce this.

Wordless Wednesday - Snow Princess

Sunday, 10 September 2017

A decade of gardening at Blackberry Cottage

It does not feel that long ago that I wrote this blog post after living in this house for four years:  I reread this post when thinking about what I was going to write and I found it fascinating to see the rawness of the borders at that stage.  I also find the photographs of when I first moved in a great reminder of how things have moved on.
This photo really makes me smile as it shows the Conservatory Border and how it looked after I had made my first plantings.  There is the now long dead tree fern, looking rather spiffing.  One of the other patches of green is the cardoon that still flourishes in that border.
This is almost from the same position taken in June.
This is the view from the top of the garden.  There is no pond, there are no Prairie Borders.  The eating apple tree was a wonky divided trunk and the house stands baldly.
This is not quite the same position as I am closer to the apple tree, but its fair to say the house is less exposed now.  This is the view across the Woodland Border.
So happy anniversary garden.  I have never gardened anywhere for ten years before.  I am now knowing the joy of watching plants and trees mature that I have planted.  There is a sense of settlement in the garden and the rawness is long gone.  Whilst I still make changes there is a sense of structure now and a framework to work around.  This garden is without doubt the reason that this house is my home.  My connection to this patch is strong and its power to be my sanctuary where I go to recharge and take refuge from the world is beyond measure.  I have no idea if I will still be living here in ten years time, I suspect I might be; but where-ever I am this garden will be a happy memory.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Tree Following: September 2017 - leave it hanging

was a Quince that hung Upon a garden tree; Papa he brought it with him home, And ate it with his tea

(Edward Lear) 

but not my quince, no picking from this tree, not yet.  I watch the quince carefully, I dare not touch it or breathe on it.   The Quinceling is too precious to be picked.

Thanks as ever to Squirrelbasket for hosting this meme.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Book Review: Secret Gardens of East Anglia by Barbara Segall

I am lucky enough to know Barbara Segall the author of this new book, Secret Garden of East Anglia, a private tour of 22 gardens.  When I saw that it was going to be published I knew I had to get hold of a copy and I was very pleased to be sent one by the publisher to review.
The foreword is by Beth Chatto, the doyenne of British gardening (well in my opinion anyway) whose garden is in East Anglia but definitely does not fit the description of secret.  Barbara is also an East Anglia resident and she explains her love for her adopted county and the garden gems it is home to.   Barbara tells us that the chosen gardens characterise the 'regions various styles' and show the owners' passions for their gardens.  I would agree with this, it is a large region and very varied and yet there is something that when you are travelling in the area you recognise as being East Anglian.

I had three main reasons for wanting to read this book, firstly as mentioned above, I know Barbara and I love her writing.  Secondly I used to holiday regularly in East Anglia and I know particularly the north of the county well.  Thirdly it includes a garden I am very fond of, Ulting Wick, when I buy books on gardens I often like there to be at least one garden that I actually know.  This is because I compare my view of the garden with the author's.  If we concur then clearly the author knows that they are talking about, if we disagree; well then I am fascinated to understand their point of view.  So far I have only visited two of the gardens featured in the book, some like East Ruston Old Vicarage and Columbine Hall are already high on my list of gardens I want to visit and now I have read this book, there are several more added.
Ulting Wick (Photo by Marcus Harpur)

As the title says this book covers 22 gardens.   All of the gardens are privately owned and all but one open sometimes to the public.  I like that Barbara gives us some of the history of the gardens and how their owners have gardened them.  Each entry features a photograph of the owners in their own gardens and there is a real sense of pride shining out of all of these photographs.  You can recognise in these faces the love that we gardeners have for our gardens.  No matter what the size of our patch, there is that smile that we have when we look out and think its looking pretty good today.  Barbara cleverly uses the love the owners have for their gardens to be part of the attraction for wanting to visit.
Columbine Hall (Photo by Marcus Harpur) 

The photographs are by Marcus Harpur who very sadly died recently.  This book is a fitting testament to his work and shows his skills at their best. In her introduction Barbara says that his photographs make the gardens 'glow' and this is an apt description.  The use of light and shade in the photographs is a masterclass.  The use of shadows is particularly noticeable and the colour of light.  They really are stunning photographs.
Elton Hall (Photo by Marcus Harpur)

The book contains a handy map to give you an idea as to where the gardens are.  I spent quite a while studying the map and working out a plan of where stay in the area in the best travelling distance to some of the gardens.  There is also information on how to find out when the gardens are open to the public.  I would say I am not sure which one I would wish to visit first but actually the one that I have not visited previously and really caught my eye is number 16 (buy the book to find out which one it is) (see what I did there?......).  

I really enjoyed this book.  It reminded me of days spent on the north Norfolk coast when I was younger, it reminded me of visits I have already made to some of these gardens and it reminded me I still have so many to see.

Secret Gardens of East Anglia is published by Frances Lincoln.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Bridal Flowers 4 - Penultimatum

It has been a few weeks since I last wrote about growing the flowers for my daughter's wedding and the wedding date is now romping towards me at great speed.  So this is the last write up I will do before the big day in October.  I have never grown flowers for a specific reason previously, never mind to a specific date, so it is both exciting and terrifying in equal measures.

So how are things doing?
The sweetpeas have been good and productive.  I have had lots to pick for the house and the scent has been wonderful.
I am however looking anxiously at them now, hoping they will keep going for just a few more weeks.  I would love to be include some in the flowers.
The Forest Deep Root Planter is home to some of the more precious dahlias and the tiger lilies.
The Tiger Lilies are peaking too soon.  I do not think they will last long enough now.  So I took advice from the florists of Twitter and I have taken some drastic action.  I have dug up some of the lilies and moved them into pots.  One is in the shade and cool part of the Courtyard and another has been bought into the cold part of the outside loo.
Some have been bound to restrict them from opening.  I have never carried out plant cruelty like this before and I feel a bit guilty about it, but needs must.  I am deadheading the flowers quickly too when they do manage to open.  This may all be to no avail, but at least I have tried.
Dahlia Waltzing Mathilda has started to flower and is producing lots of buds.  I am fairly hopeful it will still be flowering when I need it to be.
The vegetable beds are a riot of colour, mainly orange from Tithonia in this bed.  They are loving the manure-enriched soil.
This border is currently more pink and also has lots of marigolds flowering well.
There are also many other flowers currently in the garden.  Of course currently is not really a lot of use if they are just a memory in a few weeks time.  So dear reader there is rigorous deadheading.  So much deadheading, whatever the equivalent of the Chelsea Chop is in late summer is happening now.  I am being careful not to cut back everything just in case they do not bounce back in time, but I am hopeful I should have enough.  I also have my eye on all sorts of foliage material that I can use.  I am trying to make sure I have flowers that mean something to the brides as well as, quite frankly, what I have growing that will be in flower.  This is why certain dahlias and tiger lilies are causing me so much angst. This project is making me appreciate, evaluate and think creatively in ways I never have before. It has been really interesting to realise this, one of those learning moments when the outcome of what I have started will be much more than the flowers grown.

I am also buying the supplies I need to make up the buttonholes and bouquets so I can practice ahead of the day.  I only (only!!) have to make up ten buttonholes and the brides' bouquets so that is not a huge list and should be doable.

Next time I update you will be after the day - wish me luck!

Bridal Flowers 1

Bridal Flowers 2

Bridal Flowers 3

Thursday, 31 August 2017

End of Month Review August 2017

This August has been a bit strange weather-wise.  It has been a bit chilly, rather rainy and then decides to throw in a heat wave just in time for the bank-holiday.  August is also, in my view,  a bit of an odd month for gardening: much is at its peak whilst much is past its best and much are just struggling to be.

The big job to be done this August was some hedge cutting.
The front hedge has gone from being around ten foot tall to about four foot.  It took a couple of days but I am really pleased it is now done.  I got scratched to bits and very insect bitten but it is worth it.  My very wonderful Stihl chainsaw made it possible for me to tackle it easily.
The Knot Garden is loving the additional light that the lower hedge lets in.  I need to keep it better under control.  Part of the issue is that birds nest in it so I cannot trim it for several months of the year and it does grow very quickly.  I shall, however, try and do better.
It was a hot sunny morning when I took these photos and the garden was looking colourful.
I have managed to grow cosmos quite well this year. This patch is just by the bird feeder and it struggles some years, but the cosmos has filled it up with pink and white loveliness.
The Pond Border it looking very full.  You can just see the pink haze of the tall sanguisorba, this plant is amazing and I am so glad I planted it.  Bees and hoverflies also love it.
The Conservatory Border has also done well this year.  The yellow Blythe Spirit rose in the foreground has particularly flowered well.
The Courtyard is looking very green.  I have potted on some of the plants this summer and they seem happier for it.
The spikeys and pelagoniums also seem to be happy.  Whilst it looks a little shady in this photo, the sun comes around the corner and they bask for most of the day.
There is fruit in the garden, the Bramley tree is heavy with fruit as usual.  It always produces a big crop.
There is still my rather precious solitary quince,
and as ever the Medlar has fruited well this year.
The Prairie Borders are doing very well.  I do need to thin out the echinops a bit as they are taking over a little.  I have also planted some perennial sunflowers in the borders this year.  These are a bit of a thug so I am going to have to keep an eye on them, but they will be flowering soon and should add some new interest to this area.
The exotic borders look quite lush. This Musa ventricosum is about three years old now.  Every year i dig it up and keep it safe from frost. It is growing very well this year.
I rather like this view across the Dancing Lawn back towards the Exotic Border.  The sweep of the eating apple tree makes a nice frame.
The teasel patch has been good this year too.  I let the stem skeletons stand all winter as the finches love the seeds and also they add good structure.  This patch varies year on year, due to the biennial nature of the teasel I find I have a good year and then a slightly less good year.  The stems are as spikey as the flowers and care has to be taken when weeding near them.  I have scratched myself on them more times than I care to think about.
The Four Sisters are also doing well.  The Carol Klein acer was badly wind-burned last year, but has recovered well thankfully.
The Clethra is such a good shrub, it has good flowers and wonderful scent, I think it is rather under-rated which is rather a shame.
The Edgeworthia has put on a good ten inches of growth this year.  There are also flower buds forming on it already for next spring.  I shall watch it anxiously all winter as I always do, but it is getting to be very well established now.
The fernery has enjoyed the recent rain and is doing very well.  I am really pleased I decided to use this dark shady corner for ferns; little else seems to want to grow here except nettles.
The Hyde Hall rose hedge is in need of a prune, I shall tackle it with hedge trimmers when the main flowers are over.
I have not grown a lot of vegetables this year as most of the vegetable borders are turned over to wedding flowers for my daughter (have I mentioned this previously? I am not sure I have.....).  This border is mainly sweetcorn, french beans, a solitary slug-eaten cabbage and some dahlias.
Whereas this border is a delightful tangle of beans, courgettes and sweetcorn.  I thought I would try the Three Sisters approach and it has worked really well.  It looks good and the randomness of it pleases me hugely.  I cannot remember a year when I have actually enjoyed growing vegetables as much as I have done this time.
I am not going to show you the cut flowers in this post, I shall update on the wedding flowers soon  (have I mentioned this before......??)  These are the sweetpeas, they are starting to show their age a bit now, I hope I can keep them going for a few more weeks.
In the greenhouse there are seeds and cuttings,
and some tomatoes and chillies.  I am not a great grower of tomatoes, these plants were a gift.  I have kept them alive long enough to fruit which for me is quite an achievement.
I end as ever on the pond.  It is not as full of parrot weed as it has been in previous years.  It has also refilled a bit from all the recent rain.  It remains one of my favourite parts of the garden.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.