June view 2009

June view 2009
View of rose and herb garden, June 2009

Small Garden Story

Over some 15 + years, I have been photographing the evolution of my small (85 x 15 foot) garden and it seems a waste not to put these records into some sort of context. Beginning here in April 2010 this Blog is intended to both act as a diary and to share past and present successes (and some failures), pleasures and disappointments with fellow garden-lovers. In due course, I intend to fill in some of the background and early days but that will have to wait until the winter months!

Monday, 31 May 2010


There were no less than 8 sparrows all together under the bird-feeder at 7.30 this morning, 7 young and one adult male who visited briefly.   Briefly, because although the young ones were feeding quite happily on their own, they mobbed him for food as soon as he appeared!   Don't know where they are nesting but I do hope they stay.

The sun is coming out - but it's a Bank Holiday...?!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Rain at last

In spite of it being wet and quite chilly during a visit to the Rare Plant Fair at Kingston Bagpuize house today, we have had some delicious rain this week - just before things really started drying out.    I put out most of the dahlias to harden off today so they have had their first proper watering.   I am awaiting the on-slaught of slugs and snails but hoping all the baby-bird feeding will see them put to better use!   The blackbirds have three very bouncy, chirpy young who seem to delight in hopping between perches in the shrubs near the house and a family of sparrows seem to have discovered a good spot for easy feeding under the bird feeder - a delight. 

Picked my first roses today and the last (common) paeony.   Rosa Madam Alfred Carrier has settled in very well after being moved.   I think I am lucky as I understand from friends that they don't like being disturbed.   This year some stems of my R Kiftsgate look-alike have found their way over the arch to join her so it should be a gorgeous mingling of white turning pink-tinged with the hint-of-apricot white.

The clematis montana is virtually finished now but the mid-season flowerers are all starting to open.   My only loss to the winter was Pistachio which was very nice so I think I'll replace it - and find out if it was the winter or the positioning it didn't like.   I lost a lot of allium christophii too although some are flourishing so it's hard to imagine that was down to the cold.   I MUST replace them, they are such good value for their wonderful seedheads.

Bought a new low-growing clematis today from grower Marcus Dancer www.clematisplants.co.uk who told me he is developing 2 new colourways of Clematis Arabelle which I maintain no garden should be without - a dark purple one and a mauve-pink.   I so need a bigger garden....

Monday, 24 May 2010

Rapid developments

With the last 2 days' heat things have come on rapidly.   I now realise I have 33 dahlia plants to find space for + the phlox which came free!   It now seems a blessing that there are gaps as a result of the hard winter.   So many new developments in the plant department; the first mid-season clematis are opening (usually higher up than I can appreciate them), the first roses, the stunning white iris I put in the vegetable patch as there was no other space now makes me feel guilty for not finding it a better home, an astonishing variety of colours of aquilegia which I can take no credit for as they just seem to do their own thing and come up different colours each year....   Too much to list.

The heat has had its effect on the wildlife too.  I have seen and heard my first swallows or martins - must learn to tell which are which, two May bugs and a couple of bats.   There are also plenty of (proper) bees.

Put down my secateurs at 9.00 tonight after dead-heading tulips and pondered with a glass of wine until the last colours drained away at about 9.35.   Such energy in the garden just now - its quite intoxicating in its own right.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Lily beetles

When I opened the kitchen door early this morning Mrs Blackbird hopped onto the step and had a good look in at me - I thought she was actually going to come inside.   She didn't but kept stopping to have a look at what I was up to in the garden in between feeding her cheeping brood.

Installed beautiful new ceramic ground piece from Diana (www.dianaroles.co.uk).   It deserves a better backdrop but otherwise works perfectly in its chosen spot - picture to follow.

Caught and dispatched 7 lily beetles today then managed to dislodge 2 more who did their clever trick of turning black side up so I lost them.    Returned later to find 2 more - the same ones? - and used new technique of placing one hand underneath and catching with the other before squashing.

Potted up about 25 tiny seedlings of clematis "Minuet".   I just can't bear to throw them away....

Spent over an hour in the sunshine picking off black-spotted rose leaves and noticed I still have some unidentifiable fungi growing in the grass.

Beautiful day and still, warm evening.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Pluses and minuses

A really warm day - almost summer.   Everything is coming on fast now - geranium phaeums, the massive recemes of wisteria - a big mistake in my tiny garden but fun - the mid-season clematis and the roses are all budding up well.   The loganberry has flowers as do the raspberries and strawberries and at the top of the bush the redcurrants are even beginning to show a tiny bit of colour.

Also, I picked off a lot of black spotty leaves from the roses, 2 lily beetles - such a bad design fault being red! - and the geranium phaeum, of which I now have 4 varieties, are suffering badly from mildew.   But whoever said you could have it all....

Had a salad of curled parsley, lambs lettuce and American land cress from the garden tonight.   Very satisfying - and quite peppery.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A long evening

This evening, photographed "Burgundy" tulips which are just about going over.   They have been wonderful - long-lasting and getting better by the day.   Stayed in the garden until 9.35 - until it was virtually dark.   I find it a great time for thinking and planning what I want to do - accompanied by a glass of wine of course.

So many scents but as it has been so dry (yesterday's cloud bursts seem to have done little but wet the surface) and so cold, things are coming out in quite a different order, which is fascinating.   My erratic clematis pruning evidently contributes to this.   I am very excited about a lot of tiny seedlings which have appeared underneath my clematis "Minuet" which I shall pot up now I have recognised them!

In the bare patch beneath the old ceanothus I cut down - where the grass is NOT growing - something has been scratching and I suspect it was the hedgehog as there was also a sort of hedgehog-sized path under the fence.   He has done me a favour as I think  I will abandon the grass and make it home to a new piece of Diana's ceramics I am about to acquire ... Very exciting!

Picked two bunches of lily of the valley for the house.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

A dry, richly-scented week

During the past few days the wind has dropped and the garden has been idyllically calm so the scents of the richest-smelling flowers are hanging thickly in the air - lilac, lily of the valley, scented pansies and I can even smell the scent of the clematis montana which is often eclipsed.   I have been digging up and giving away lily of the valley as it grows like a weed in comparatively poor, dry, part-shady soil here and forms dense clumps which are progressively marching across the garden from east to west.   Still, they provide great ground-cover, wonderful cut-flowers and can be dug-up relatively easily, so I don't mind. 

Moderate amounts of rain seem to have fallen around and about but Maidenhead has been completely dry for weeks now so my grass seeds haven't started to germinate yet    The up side is a dearth of slugs and snails.   There have been frosts most weekdays but luckily they haven't caught anything here, even  my young apricot tree which doesn't have any fruit on it yet but I was worried that its planting position might make it vulnerable to frost.

As announced by Teddy the dog next door, a hedgehog visited the garden overnight, leaving tell-tale droppings and the blackbirds nesting in the honeysuckle and ivy on the fence between me and my neighbours are on their second brood.   Hopefully, some of them will survive this time.   With the dry weather many birds are enjoying both ceramic bird baths - a pair of collar doves doing a book-end trick on the one in the herb garden.

No more lily-beetle sightings for a few weeks - maybe they don't like the dry weather - and not many greenfly either - yet!     

Under glass, most of my dahlias are now growing well in the greenhouse and seeds of cobaea scandens, sweet pea "Matucana" and eccromocarpus scaber "Tresco mixed" are all germinating in the house - probably far too late but better than not at all.   I also acquired two very small tea plants - camellia sinensis - from a Twinings tea job at the studio, which I shall have to give plenty of TLC.   They like warmth, moisture but not direct sun - hmmm.

Rain is forecast today.   The sun was shining at 6.30 this morning but it is clouding up as I write.   Unpopular, I know, but I do so hope it does rain!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Chilly week

Comparatively little has happened since my last post - especially considering the time of year, when everything is normally happening so fast. That's because it has been so cold! But the alliums and regal lilies are forming buds, the wisteria is beginning to show colour and the clematis montana I cut back hard last year and my lovely Judas tree (cercis siliquastrum) are looking splendid, especially seen one behind the other from the kitchen window.
At the bottom of the Judas tree my massive comfrey plant (symphytum officinale) is beginning to unfurl its remarkably-constructed flower heads. I am so glad I planted this - even though it does need a lot of keeping under control. The bees love it, its' leaves make great fertilizer and I have just discovered that it has other wonderful soil nutrient-releasing properties (ref. Forest Gardening www.agroforestry.co.uk). So I have great hopes that transplanting my Falstaff rose adjacent to it will prove a success. In fact it does look as though it's doing well....

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Tulip trouble

The (wonderful, welcome) rain had battered my lily-flowered tulips but there are still a few left.   Last year I had some wonderful orange/red ones and decided to buy some more to plant with Tulip Burgundy for a striking orange/magenta contrast to wake up the garden.   I must have bought the orange/reds from a garden centre somewhere but thought they answered the description of Ballerina.   However, it turns out they are not!   The mystery tulip is on the left.   It has an almost rose pink/red stripe down the centre of each petal going orange to the edges and is simply stunning.   I am looking everywhere to try and identify it!    (Maybe United States?)   Ballerina has hints of orange but basically looks red - shown centre with Burgundy.   On the right is fringed Pacific Pearl - a beautiful almost blood red.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Cold start to May

Yesterday evening, while I was raking the moss out of my "grass" and re-seeding it for what really must be the last time - or I dig it all up and start again - the clouds were finally blown away by the bitingly cold wind and the sky cleared with the result that this morning we had frost. Luckily it doesn't seem to have done any damage but I wouldn't be surprised if we have another one tonight.

Did a lot of tidying and tying in of roses, clematis etc. over the weekend and the garden looks quite neat and bursting with energy - clematis montana, cercis siliquastrum and next door's white lilac all just breaking into flower in comfortable harmony and the potted laburnam I'm training as an espalier in front of the kitchen windows is a picture. I don't know how much longer it will last in its pot - especially now I have stopped its roots from growing through and blocking the drain underneath!

A magical evening light but jacket and gloves for the constitutional with a glass of wine again after labeling up a few more dahlias and watering the overseeded grass.