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!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Hoar frost

....No entries for a whole month and I am ashamed to say this rather reflects what I have and haven't done in the garden.   Thankfully, we haven't been flooded but the rain and the short dark days have not provided much of an incentive to get out and as I might be moving it is tricky to know what to do - other than pot up some treasures that will have to come with me - although I have put the bird baths out of the frosts's way and a couple of tender climbers which I hope to over-winter.  

The nerines have put on an excellent show again and one or two really hard frosts have cleared up any possible doubt it being time to cut back anything tender.   
This year there is a real dearth of berries - none at all on the amelanchier which was a great attraction to the birds last winter and for the first time ever the seedpods have all fallen - or been blown - from the Judas tree.   So I am trying to remember to feed the birds as much as possible.
Here are a couple of quick shots of the front privet hedge with a prickly intruder which seem rather seasonal.   Pity I didn't have time to get the tripod out!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Late dahlias and the first falling leaves

Here is one of the beautiful Clair Obscur dahlias that I managed to buy before they sold out for this season - lasting well for this time in October.   We have had no ground frosts yet but they can't be far off so I am savouring these late blooms along with a late flush of roses which I have no hesitation in cutting for the house.  With a few sprigs of honeysuckle they smell just like high summer.
The first leaves to fall are among the most colourful - the little acer (unnamed seedling from Westonbirt arboretum) and the amelanchier.   I can't bear to sweep up the acer leaves but am trying to be tidy around the rest of the garden.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Autumn tints

So the first autumn tints and mists have arrived in what might be my last autumn in this my first own little garden.   I may be off to pastures green - and, of course, it may never happen.   But there is as much to surprise and delight me here as ever - even though I am having to curtail my tulip bulb buying passion.
We had a really dry patch during September when many things seemed almost to stop growing.   The dahlias have been incredibly slow and some are still only just forming their first buds.   I hope they make it before the frosts.   Here are some which have made it.
Other things which slowed up were the Japanese anemones whose flowers were really small until we had a few really good rainfalls (gardeners language!).   Here they are looking cheerful amongst the skeletal leaves of some echinops which did brilliantly again this year - attracting plenty of happy bees!!
Since then we have had several thorough deluges but little harm seems to have been done.   A few things have even thrived on this seasons strange weather - particularly the fucshias.
My thoughts are now turning to potting up little bits of old favourites which have multiplied so well and hopefully transplanting odd treasures.   I am jolly glad of my RHS bibles for advice!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Cobaea scandens

Have just come back in from picking a surprisingly big bowl of blackberries and autumn raspberries.   The latter are so tall I am having to pull them down to reach them!   The only problem with this fruit picking is remembering also to pick all the spiders off myself before I bring them back in the house to join all the others who have taken up residence.   There are so many at the moment, strung between every other stem or twig.

The garden is actually quite dry and I am having to water the pots.   But it is proving to be well worth the effort.   The fuschias are doing really well this year and so are my potted climbers but I am especially pleased with the Cobaea scandens or Cup and saucer plant.   I had my first two flowers last week and there are plenty more to follow.   They open white - a good 2-3 inches across - and gradually turn to a rich purple over 2-3 days, staying so for 2 or 3 more before neatly just dropping off.   At last, some more unusual late-summer colour nearer the house!  

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Thunbergia success

The heat of the past week has been something of a shock but at least the days being slightly shorter has meant things haven't dried out too badly and it almost seems like summer has finally arrived.   Had my first (and probably only) good feed of French beans, more little Sungold tomatoes, one disappointing (small and not very good texture) Marmande tomato and the first blackberries and autumn fruiting raspberries.  The latter have grown to at least 7 feet this year but are producing huge tasty fruit so it's worth the stretch.
Pale orange Thunbergia has taken off at a surprising pace in a slightly shady spot
In terms of flowers, I am pleased with the colour for the time of year.   The dahlias are beginning to get into their stride - a gorgeous deep red one and some stripy magenta/whites are the most striking so far.   But I am really pleased with a couple of climbers which promise to produce interest over the really difficult period coming up - one cobea scandens which I managed to over-winter (the ONLY one!) is scrambling about well into the arch nearest the house and beginning to form flower buds and a vibrant pale orange Thunbergia (Black eyed Susan) has taken off at great speed since I bought it from one of the "sheds" a couple of weeks back.

The roses are all over - or "resting" but there is some lovely colour taking over around them from self-set fennel and the faithful clematis Heiraclifolia as well as a mass of late bloom on Cl.Etoile Violette and the white perennial sweet peas.
Of wildlife interest I have seen meadow brown and common blue butterflies in the garden.   The many swifts seem to have disappeared, unlike the wretched squirrel who is now digging holes in the grass to bury this years's cob nuts.   That tree is going to have to go....

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Crazy spiders

The garden is suddenly full of cobwebs - something I usually take as a sign of late summer as the light begins to turn more golden.   It's also easier to get up at dawn and enjoy the freshness of early morning - but with it LOTS of spiders!   I found this extraordinary apparent double web the other day.   In fact it's 2 cobwebs that have been made within about 3 inches of one another.
You need to look carefully!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Changing places

"Julio" by Diana Roles in pride of place behind vibrant red Crocosmia "Lucifer"
After the best part of a day spent pruning and tidying this week I finally found time to assess the siting of my lovely new piece - and decided it looks a bit too hidden!   So I have swapped Julio with Feuille to have a think about it.   Not sure I've got it right yet as they both deserve a prominent position (also Julio is slightly less tall so from the house it is in some visual conflict with the bird bath behind it) - but it is fun changing things around and I am enjoying the new, more colourful vista.
A bit of a jungle but I like the way Julio and the bird bath complement one another seen from the house
Feuille in the shadier spot - for a while...

  Quite a lot of colour in the garden just now - I am surprised!   My first dahlia has opened - a vibrant red.   Pity something seems to be eating it already so I have put up a few straw-filled flower pots in the hope of catching out the odd slumbering earwig.

A couple of trips to local garden centres provided some cheerful gap-fillers at discounted prices including some ever-endearing violas, blue salvias and a black-eyed Susan which I am hoping to over-winter.

Picked my first cherry tomatoes - very good - and a small crop of French beans is nearly ready.   What a rich, lush place the garden is this August - one must be grateful to the rain for some things.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Welcome "Julio"

"Julio" my new ceramic sculpture by Diana Roles
We have just had a short but fairly impressive thunder storm with some more torrential rain - so no chance to cut the grass or trim back the rampant wisteria, vine and clematis that are all growing like mad into a great tangle in front of the green house, not to mention the golden hop.   I have never seen so much growth in July.

The sun we had has given the dahlias an incentive to start budding up and at long last Cl Etoile Violet is showing its first signs of colour.   I even have a few Sungold tomatoes ripening and some french beans setting in the grow bags by the kitchen.   I have been feeding them regularly so it will be interesting to see if it proves worthwhile.   I have also been feeding my clematis with Growmore on alternate weeks and they are beginning to look healthier....

The most exciting recent development is my acquisition of "Julio", my new ceramic piece from Diana Roles.   I have yet to install it properly and am slightly undecided about its location but it is a huge delight and certainly adds interest to the dull corner which needed brightening - although I'm not sure the space does sit justice and am thinking about swapping it around with my treasured "Feuille 2" centrepiece.   Here is the space and the new piece in position inviting investigation....

The lilies suffered in the extreme heat over the past 10-12 days and went over fast but I will replace them for next year and maybe be a little more adventurous with some bolder colours.

But colours are beginning to heat up.   Crocosmia Lucifer is doing its stuff and contrasting powerfully with a gorgeous magenta Phlox.   I am even enjoying seeing them both in combination with my once white but now pink hydrangea.   Things are set to become even more "dynamic" soon as the dahlias start to bloom in their unnamed and hence unordered state....

View with L, Formosanum, pink hydrangea and he flaming red of Crocosmia Lucifr in the background

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Effects of so much rain

Lilium Formosanum var. Pricei
I have been wondering if the wet weather might be responsible for there being a few more hedgehogs around - with all the slug and snail food available!   I saw a dear little hedgehog crossing my road the other night and there was a hedgehog dropping in the garden today.   I do hope they will come and frequent the garden again - I shall look out for "used" gaps under the fence.

L. Regale decimated by hungry molluscs!
The lilies are not so keen on the massive amount of slugs and snails and a lot of them have been horribly eaten.   But I am thrilled that in the garden centre* the other day I found a lily I have been trying to find for ages - Lilium Formosanum.   Unfortunately it is the smaller, earlier flowering variety L. formosamun Pricei but it is still gorgerous and spurring me on to find the taller, later-flowering variety.

The rain continues to make it difficult to make the most of the lovely crop of soft fruit which has begun rotting on the plants.  I have been picking off the rotten fruit and dropping it on open ground.   Hopefully some of the seeds might take.   The loganberry seems to reproduce its self well from suckers but in my small space I have a problem with the way raspberries "travel" and since the demise of my apricot tree I think it is time to completely re-think the soft fruit patch behind the greenhouse: a winter project.

Our hosepipe ban was lifted this week.   Eureka!

*Squires Garden centre - it was a matter of luck as they were otherwise totally useless on their plant knowledge!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Fruit picking in the rain

 Sometimes I might wish the garden wasn't quite so well-drained but with the rain we are having this year I am counting myself lucky.   Everything is growing like mad.   Happily during the last couple of days the seemingly relentless wind has dropped and the smells in the garden have been absolutely delicious.

Dodging the rain I picked my first fruit this week - raspberries enough to make a decent pie - and most of this years crop of redcurrants - scarcely a dessert bowl full.   What a comparison with last year.   But what I am lacking in redcurrants is more than amply made up for by a plentiful crop of loganberries and blackberries - the best ever.   Whether these balances are more to do with the hard winter or the warm March and wet ever since - who knows?
And here is the recipe for the pie:

Raspberry and redcurrant pie with shortbread pastry 

1 1/4 lbs fresh raspberries
1/4 lb fresh redcurrants, stalks removed
8 ozs white self raising flour
4 ozs cold butter
1 oz dark muscovado sugar
1 oz caster sugar + sugar for sprinkling
1 oz ground almonds
pinch of table salt
1 tablespoon cold water

1. Sieve together flour, caster sugar and salt into a mixing bowl.   Add ground almonds.
2. Add muscovado sugar, breaking any lumps with the back of a spoon.   
3. Add butter chopped into small pieces and rub into flour mixture with hands, adding a little water at a time 
until the mixture sticks together and moulds into a ball.   
4. Cover and chill for 1/2 an hour.
5. Pre-heat oven to Gas mark 5/ 375 degrees F/ 190 degrees C
6. Place raspberries and redcurrants in an oval pie dish.
7. Lightly flour work surface and roll out pastry until larger than the top of the dish.  The pastry is quite fragile so work carefully to try and avoid large cracks.
8. Using the rolling pin as a support ease the pastry over the fruit in the dish.
9. Trim off excess pastry with a knife and pinch edges between finger and thumb to seal and decorate.
10. Pace on a baking sheet in the centre of pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, turning after about 20 minutes to check pastry is evenly cooked.   It will go quite brown.
11. Remove from oven and sprinkle with reserved sugar.   Best eaten quite hot with icecream!!!

Note:  This is very rich pastry so I have not added sugar to the fruit but those with a sweeter tooth may!
copyright Sue Atkinson July 2012

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Old Thatch - Enid Blyton's former home

Old oak pergola, clematis Etoile Violet in foreground
I took advantage of a few spare hours of reasonable weather last weekend to visit Old Thatch, near Bourne End www.oldthatchgardens.co.uk   It is always good to refresh ones ideas and enthusiasm by looking at inspirational gardens and Old Thatch was as exciting on my second visit as my first, four years ago.
Pergola with dominant cerise rose American Pillar

View from pergola (turning round from picture above) - spacious and restful on the eye
Surrounding a beautiful thatched cottage garden designer Jacky Hawththorne has created a series of gardens rooms which link and complement one another elegantly.   I was most envious of the space the old oak pergola allows for growing clematis and roses in a luscious combination.   From Jacky I realised the reason my clematis aren't doing as well as they might is because I am not feeding them enough - they feed theirs with liquid feed every 3 weeks.   Right - so it will be then!
Two other things struck me as powerful: firstly how Jacky uses very sharp contrasting hints in harmonising colour drifts.   In the front garden I loved the use of red lychnis among the pinks and whites but I am never going to be a lover of yellow in my own garden - even thought it works well at Old Thatch.

Drifts of cottage garden plants with sharp red notes of lychnis

The second planting feature which impressed me is the use of strongly contrasting dark red against very light coloured foliage - as in the images following.

Last but not least the garden incorporates elements of fun (The Pencil Garden for kids) and surprise elements like this trompe l'oeil window in the wood pile!
"Things are not always as they appear to be..."

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Sweetest smelling honeysuckle

Honeysuckle with clematis and R Kifstgate
With r. Kifstgate at its mot beautiful - apart from when bedraggled by heavy rain - there is too much to enjoy in the garden just now to spend too much time blogging!   But one thing I have to note is how good it smells - especially thanks to the evergreen honeysuckle.   Although rampant it is easily controlled and doesn't really have any nasty habits but even over the roses and some gorgeous clove-scented white dianthus the smell is all-pervading.   In the house too!

The "Russian ballet" colours are bursting into an energetic dialogue in the rose and herb garden - pictures to follow - and its lovely that the most prolific clematis Etoile Violet will be late flowering this year as it will extend the season's colour.

Have been particularly enjoying the antics of a young blackbird who has both mastered the knack of picking berries off the prickly mahonia and standing waiting for Dad to feed him on anything that's going.   Supplementary benefit bird-style!!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Roses take over

R. William Morris - so aptly named
The roses have survived the torrential rain and incredibly fierce winds to reward me with some luscious blooms.   Not least r. Kiftsgate has begun bursting into flower.   From the bathroom window it dominates the whole vista reminding me of the tower beset with fierce-thorned roses in Rapunzel.   In this view you can just about make out a patch of grass through the archway in the bay hedge and also the new birdbath - a great success with the blackbirds, young and older, just in front of the greenhouse. It shows just how small the garden is.   No wonder it's such hard work keeping it all under control.
From the bathroom window - see the jungle I have created!!!!
Yesterday morning I was greeted with the sight of a male blackbird feeding a very large fledgling.   It put me off going out for a while but they were soon on their way.   I can't imagine he was feeding the young bird mahonia berries (what a digestion!) but he was certainly tucking in himself!

In spite of the dire weather forecast the weather has been good - if windy - this weekend and I managed to plant nearly all the dahlias, making a very strange discovery in the process.   I seemed to remember planting more allium corms last autumn than have surfaced and indeed I had.  I found quite a number still looking healthy just totally dormant in the ground.   I replanted them hoping for better luck next year.   Must look in to what has caused this....

Otherwise most things seem to be catching up - particularly the clematis.   Hopefully this will work in my favour by extending the flowering season.   Must pay some attention to late summer plants to fill any gaps!

Uncovered this delightful planter Diana made when I was pruning recently and have cheated a bit of colour with some things from the garden centre.
Planter by Diana Roles with garden centre annuals

Monday, 11 June 2012

Self-set treasures

Having missed an early spraying of the roses due to the incredible amount of rain we've had during our "drought" I have spent a great deal of time clearing up the horrid yellow black-spotted leaves.   I have taken to sweeping them off the grass but can't do much to keep them out of the borders where they slip between the plants and accumulate waiting for vulnerable victims.   Geranium Phaeum seem vulnerable to mildew - another thing I think they catch from the roses if left unsprayed.   So it is at this time that I am most grateful for the self-set treasures which just do their own thing and seem relatively unaffected by such ailments.
This year I had a wonderful array of aquillegias in all shades of blues, pinks, purples and white and a good mix of pink and white fox gloves.   It is sometimes hard to leave these seedlings when they appear but it is worth restraining ones self.
Other good selfl-seeders in my garden are some of the geraniums - particularly Kashmir white and the silvery-leaved, long-flowering lychnis coronaria (also white version).
I am constantly looking for people to give seedlings to ...    Anyone interested?
Self-set aquilegia with alliums - and that broom again!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Wisteria - a matter of scale

I vividly remember the day I found a special offer on Wisteria at a Bloom's nursery.   Of course I couldn't resist it.   But every year I am reminded that such rashness is not advisable with a garden the tiny size of mine!

My idea was to plant it to cover the left side of the trellis which screens the greenhouse - both for colour and also to form a framework in its own right once the trellis disintegrates.   In fact it is working in both these respects but rather more rampantly than I had anticipated (shades of R. Kifstgate).   The racemes of flowers are massive - at least 12 inches long - but sadly its position means you don't really get to see them properly!    Nonetheless, it is staying.   I wonder if it will survive and become a structure in its own right in years to come.    Hmmm.

Wisteria with R. Zepherine Drouhin
Wisteria on trellis with new bird bath by Diana Roles in foreground

Friday, 18 May 2012

Dahlia id disaster - snails eat labels!

So much for hours of planning my dahlia colour combinations.   In addition to last years' tubers rotting, I just discovered that snails have eaten the labels of most of my potted-up tubers.  Oh well, it will be interesting!

The weather has at least been a bit warmer the past two days and the dahlias are mostly showing growth - very behind last year's progress.

The tulips are almost over now but it's been another learning curve.   Purple Dream have been spectacular - HUGE flowers.   Jimmy and Renaldo are still a great duo as are Burgundy and Ballerina although I have decided to give up on any attempts at second plantings.   Wasteful and expensive it might be, but I shall be giving this year's bulbs away (to those with enough space to take a chance on it) and planting new ones next year to avoid disappointment.   Princess Irene was lovely but not quite as variegated as last years batch.   Here are the last tulip shots for this year!

The green leaf is actually a malformation of the tulip - var. Purple Dream

Gorgeous deep blue centre on Tulip Burgundy

Burgundy and Ballerina - smaller flowers on last years bulbs  with a self-set Geranium Pheum in matching hue!
Spent hours clearing up black spotting leaves today - must find time to spray the roses - and planted up a grow bag in a sunny spot by the kitchen wall with some French beans.   I can keep an eye on them there and they should be easier to water!

Some of the nicest things in the garden are those that happen on their own - like these self-set forget-me-nots lining the brick path.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Swifts in the evening

I managed to get home in time to wander down the garden this evening with my glass of wine - albeit it wrapped in a scarf and thick coat - pick a bunch of lily of the valley and stand and ponder.   These are the precious moments gardeners cherish.   There was no time to start anything (and it was to jolly cold tonight) but the sky had cleared after a light shower so everything was sparkling fresh bright and full of life.  

There is never anything dull about gardening.   This year my hero redcurrant bush is giving me the cold shoulder after my vain attempts to get people to appreciate the value of its efforts last (and I still have fruit from 2010 in the freezer!).  I am trying to remember who I optimistically promised its bumper 2012 crop to, so they are not disappointed.   My dear apricot tree seems to have succumbed to the same canker that killed off a gooseberry standard planted in an adjacent spot.   Some of my most virulent clematis seem to have gone on strike - or at least on go-slow - and the lily beetles I have found so far (plenty) always seem to have been in pairs, mating, although at least I was able to dispatch them in pairs!!!

On the plus side the lily of the valley are going mad - anyone is welcome to some, as per fox gloves, most of the roses seem very healthy (albeit dear Kiftsgate is dropping yellow leaves all around as ever), some of the newer clematis are looking very promising, the tulips have been wonderful, the raspberries and loganberries are flourishing....  

One of the best things this evening was listening to the birds.   I could have been way out in the countryside.   Not least, the swifts are back, peeping and swooping, making my tiny patch seem to spread up into the sky.

On days like today I know that, however much I long for a bigger garden, I will never love the next one as much as this!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

More tulips

Lots to catch up on since the rain and a little bit of sunshine - enough to get out for a few hours over the weekend and start tidying moss from the (slippery) path and training rampant climbers.

But the tulips are a great joy to me so here they are again.   The first shot features a lot of cercis siliquastrum blossoms which have been battered off the tree by strong rain and winds but makes a lovely backdrop!

A rest from path sweeping.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Tulip time

T. Princess Irene, Jimmy, Ronaldo, Purple Dream & ?

I have been sadly remiss and up-dating this month but life has conspired to keep me out of the garden.   At least I haven't been missing beautiful gardening weather but it has been wonderful to have such delicious, plentiful rain.   If only I had got my finger out and bought that second water butt a month ago.

The garden has seen a great turnabout in the past month from looking dry and thirsty to lush and vibrant.   The tulips are a delight although I'm sure what's come up isn't what I thought I had planted.   I was sure I had planted Ballerina in front of my new bird bath - not the mysterious red fellows.   Nonetheless they make a great foil to it!