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!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The hazel and the ivy and Christmas garlands

I often wonder at the wisdom of having a hazel tree in such a small garden as it grows so rapidly and I'm sure is responsible for attracting those pesky squirrels, but at Christmas I am only too happy to make use of some of its shoots, or suckers, as a base for garlands. (I always think the term wreath sounds far too funereal). This is also where the ivy I frequently curse for its similarly rapid growth comes in handy, especially the variegated varieties, along with any other combination of evergreen foliage I can find dotted about including holly, the odd twig of bay laurel, euonymus or chiosya. This year my mahonia has put on an extra spurt of growth and the roughly symmetrical spiky pinnate leaves can easily be curved and interlocked with other leaves. I start with 3 or 4 long hazel shoots - about 5 feet - and bend them gently but firmly into a rough circle, fixing with lovely brown garden string or green wire and then weave ivy around, tucking in mahonia and the simpler leaves which make a good base - trimmings from the Christmas tree and some bits of blue spruce left over from a photoshoot came in very handy this year. Then I filled any gaps with holly or the less pliable foliage and finished off with a few baubles and ribbons. I don't know whether it was more fun making them or looking at them but they last well and are not too heavy to hang on any small unobtrusive nail or hook. No pictures as I only thought of it now they've been up for a few weeks and are past their best! Here is a blackbird in the Judas tree in stead!
Decorations aside the last few weeks' storms have been tough on the garden and almost entirely demolished the trellis except for the side which is now supported by the wisteria. What a pity it hadn't managed to grow a bit further! On a brighter note, I have had a great deal of pleasure from all my bird visitors this year and it was well worth investing in a temporary, more frost-proof, bird bath as it is being well-used. For more on the uses of hazel see: http://www.allotmentforestry.com/fact/growown3.htm

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A herald of winter - iris unguicularis

We had our first hard frost last week, bringing down a lot more leaves.   The Judas tree and hazel are virtually bare now and I enjoyed having a good sweep up at the weekend but there are still a lot to go.  I have never known leaves on the trees so late.   In the Marylebone Road, London some of the plane trees are bearing leaves which are still green!   But the cold has brought an end to my fuschias flowering and I miss their cheery colour as I look out of the window.
One heartening sight in the front garden is the iris unguicularis whose blooms always look far too delicate to survive the winter months - but they do.   I would like to divide the large plant and give some away but it is such a solid massive clump I don't think I have the strength.   At least the cats seem to be leaving it alone now although it's early days to determine whether or not the moth balls did the trick!   Further experiments needed....

Monday, 25 November 2013

Chimeric dahlias

Just spotted this interesting snippet on the National dahlia collection newsletter www.national-dahlia-collection.co.uk

Chimeric dahlias
Chimera - definition - a single organism that is composed of two or more different populations of genetically distinct cells

There are quite a number of these chimeric dahlias and whilst they are of great garden interest you will never see them on the show bench because individual flowers are rarely the same colours.
Although we call them chimeric, which really just indicates unstable genes, you will often hear them referred to as varieties with, "jumping genes".
One of the difficulties we have is the website photographs. We try to show the varieties to best effect but, as we ourselves found at Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year, sometimes the variation is significant and Twyning's Smartie came out almost entirely purple! Also we know from you that some of the Blackberry Ripple supplied this year flowered entirely purple this Summer. The problem is that by the very nature of the plants themselves we can never be sure exactly how they will turn out.
Nevertheless, they make an interesting addition to your garden and are worth giving a go.

I would endorse that!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Fuschia in the dark

Before I closed the curtains I had to take a quick snap of this gorgeous fuschia catching the light from the kitchen....   I do hope the frost doesn't catch it too soon.

Robbing a robin of his bath and cat problems

I have been enjoying watching my resident robin and regular visiting blackbird in particular enjoying baths.   The robin dips in and out quite hesitantly but the blackbird could splash for England.   So I am feeling rather guilty since I put my best two ceramic bird baths away for the winter - not least when the blackbird appeared quite suddenly and perched on the empty base almost as if he was looking around to see where the bath had gone.   I am going to have to invest in some frost-proof stand-ins for the next few months, especially as it is finally due to turn cold next week.
Saturday's sunshine provided a great opportunity to lift some dahlias and get the tulip bulbs in.   Having decided just to plant where they will be visible from the house I simply dug three big holes, mixed up bulbs of Ballerina, Burgundy and a new variety for me - the purple/white stripey Zurel - and popped them in with a handful of Fish, blood and bone.   While doing this I was treated to a close-up visit from the robin who is indeed a very smart fellow.   Here he is picking over a newly-planted pot of Rai parrot tulips.
In the front garden, once I had removed the generous unwelcome deposits of a local cat which seems to enjoy emptying its self on my iris unguicularis, I planted 30 bulbs of tulip Princess Irene, a gorgeous and to my mind quite stunning small tulip with its flowers ranging through deep yellow-orange to red-purple in one bloom.   Unfortunately Parkers had a maximum purchase limit of 30 this year as they were on offer!
I had a good clearance with cutting back perennials, leaf-sweeping and redefined the edge of my joke of a grass-patch which needs some serious moss-clearing soon.   Finally, I am experimenting with a new cat-deterrent recommended by a gardener-friend - moth balls!   Since I put holly-leaves on newly-dug area they have just given up and emptied themselves just about anywhere so I am open to suggestions - but no thanks, I don't want to get my own cat!   Let's just see how the moth balls go for now....

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Storm damage

I thought I had escaped the ravages of Monday's storm (thank goodness I had the roof and my 3 chimney pots renovated some years back!) but this morning I discovered the trellis in front of the greenhouse had taken a battering and was on the lean.   I think some of the posts are going to need replacing but it will probably be easier to deal with over the winter months when some of the climbers are bare of leaves.
As it's been so mild there is still much greenery and I can't bring myself to cut back the dahlias and perennials which are becoming a bit scruffy just yet.   The remarkable nerines are busy making their pink explosions and the fucshias are still flowering prolifically - so lots of pink.   Not much to cut for the house except the odd little bunch of honeysuckle which always smells so delicious and reminds me of summer.
I can't wait to get my tulip bulbs to plant when I will make the time for a good clear up and put the garden to bed.   This year I am going to cut everything back, clear all the leaves and have a general tidy up of grass edges etc..   Maybe it's time for a bit of a general re-think of those areas which have got rather out of control!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A mild autumn's colours and a grasshopper under my pillow

Fucshias seem to keep flowering in harmony with pink dahlias
What is happening this year?   First a May bug then, this morning, I found a live - lively - green grasshopper under my pillow!   I didn't bring that in from the garden.   I wonder if it was blown in down the chimney....
We have had torrential rain accompanied by thunder and lightning over the past few days but at least it's been mild so a lot of my dahlias have managed to flower.
Having just put in a sizable tulip bulb order to J Parkers www.jparkers.co.uk my next concern will be getting them planted before the ground goes hard without having to remove the dahlias.
There is a surprising amount of colour left in the garden - I am such a sucker for photographing the delicate leaves of my little acer tree which fall about so elegantly. 
Acer leaf caught on dwarf lilac with self-set fern
The apples have all fallen from next door's trees but I am still picking autumn raspberries - straight into the saucepan to bring to a gentle simmer with a drop of cassis and eat with yogurt - yum.
There are also the odd little surprises like these colchicums peeking out from under some perennials, albeit a little worse the wear from something which obviously thinks they are rather tasty.

Monday, 7 October 2013

A grape surprise

We still seem to be about 3 weeks behind in terms of what is happening in the garden and on return from a short holiday I had to do a massive pruning session with my amazing new gadget - a telescopic pruning stick which extends up to 12 feet!   The grass is growing better than it has most of the year and the squirrel is still digging it up and planting goodness-knows what - cob nuts I suspect as it has virtually stripped the tree bare.

I have a rather inquisitive robin who seems to have taken up residence - or rather assumed my garden as his territory - for the winter and is singing cheerfully at all times of the day and night and there are still plenty of blue tits enjoying nuts and seeds in spite of the many red kites soaring overhead with their funny mewing sort of cries.   It was amusing to see the swifts that had deserted the garden months ago still doing their swooping and peeping in southern France and good to watch them in the sunshine with a beer in hand!

In spite of the sun we have had this year the dahlias are only just about coming in to flower so I doubt I will get to see what they all are this year.  They have never been so late.   This may be partly because they have been so over-shadowed as they have put on a spurt since my major pruning activities.  

But I had one lovely surprise yesterday.   When I went to pick a handful of blackberries and some late raspberries I noticed a few little bunches of grapes on the vine which grows against the outside of the greenhouse.   They are usually pretty sour but I thought I may as well tasted one and they are delicious.   I went on to pick about a pound of tiny, sweet grapes - my first vendange!   It was a bit dark by then - as reflected in the picture!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Vine weevil and lilium formosanum

I was lucky to look out at my window box this morning and see an adult vine weevil on the underside - i.e. the window side! - of a leaf.   http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=234
I shall have to get out the vine weevil killer and give the window box a good drenching to prevent the horrible maggoty grubs eating the roots of things - particularly pansies.   I have had problems with these before but I am very lazy about preventative measures!

Something I am pleased to see is that the buds of the lilium formasanum that I bought as (unpromising) tiny plants last year are just about to burst open.   A well worthwhile lily, I shall certainly persevere with these in future - including treating them for lily beetles and vine weevils I suppose.

Here is one of the first flowers in evening light against my favourite bird bath.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

August rain

It has been wonderful not having to water the garden so much for the past few weeks.   The garden is looking surprisingly green - even the grass is growing although I haven't had to cut it for a month or so.   Not a lot of colour so I am glad I put some fuchsias in pots.
Spent some time clearing and pruning - including completely cutting back the jasmine on the fence at the bottom of the garden.   It has gone bonkers - much bigger than I'd imagined, as my neighbours keep reminding me by hacking the flowering tips off and throwing them back.   Must find something a little less rampant to replace it with.   What a pity.
The dahlias are still growing slowly but buds are forming and I am letting them develop now.   Quite a few that were left in the ground have come up from last year and seem to be at about the same stage as this years new plants.   I bought one new one today - orange.  I am just hoping the colours are not going to clash.
Just beginning to rain....

Monday, 29 July 2013

Grey dagger caterpillar

I found this astonishing caterpillar while pruning the roses yesterday.   According to Ispot www.ispot.org.uk/node/296823 it's a Grey Dagger caterpillar, (Acronicta psi).   The moth looks to be a beautiful mottled grey beast - although I guess I am very unlikely to see it.   I will keep an eye on the caterpillar, just in case I am lucky enough to see it change.   I doubt anything would want to try eating it!

Picked black and white currants yesterday.   That's about it - except for the loganberrries which are producing a few handfuls of fruit every day.  

Also did some major pruning - a small branch off each of the Judas tree and Amelanchier as well as cutting back some of the roses.   Hopefully this will allow the dahlias a little more light so they will get less straggly-looking!

Wonderful rain this weekend....

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Clematis come into their own

At present the garden would be totally dull without clematis.   The medium height deep purple-blue Bonanaza is covering an obelisk, Hagley Hybrid, a paler pink than usual as I think the sun has bleached it somewhat, is coping very well with a shady arch, Etoille Violette's neat purple blooms are prolifically scrambling up the nut tree, Princess Diana is resisting the ants in the soil around its potted roots and making great progress up the Judas tree with a constant stream of reddish pink tulip-shaped flowers and the soft blue flowers of Prince Charles - just commended an RHS award of garden merit - another plant which is is also doing valiantly in a pot behind some of the larger roses.   But I still can't believe what a stalwart herbaceous C. Arabella is!   From the moment it begins to flower it just keeps going - helped with a little tlc of watering, cutting back dead flowers and the occasional feed.   Here it is with some seed heads of Allium Purple Sensation which have done particularly well this year.

Last night we had a wonderful fall of rain.   That will have brought down the last pink petals of Kiftsgate so no excuse now but to give it a good trim (half a day's work!) and see if we have a bit of repeat flowering in the autumn.

Sunday, 14 July 2013


I seem to have spent more time picking red currants than anything else in the garden this past week.   So far they come to 19 lbs and still many more to gather!   I have given a batch to Boulters Restaurant this year but friends are helping out too....

The heat is scorching but some things are still doing beautifully - the jasmine, honeysuckle, clematis Bonanza and other climbers - including of course rosa Kiftsgate whose blooms are turning really pink in the sun - are helping to create shade.

Here clematis Etoille Violet and Rosa Prince Charles make one of my favourite combinations.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Late May bug and other visitors

A very early breakfast in the garden
With the hot weather I have been having to water select areas but the soft fruit is loving it.   Have already picked about 5 lbs of redcurrants and hardly made any visible impression on my one wonderful bush.   The roses are still fabulous with Kiftsgate in full bloom, framing the garden and buzzing with bees.   This year the clematis Arabella adjacent to rosa Pat Austin is also finally doing what I had planned and hoped for and mixing its blooms beautifully with the copper/apricot rose.
Clematis Arabella and rosa Pat Austin - a favorite colour combination
I was somewhat shocked to find a large beetle sandwiched between my pillows - right underneath my head - this morning.   It turned out to be (rather late) May bug or cockchafer beetle and it was still alive!   Arrgghhh. 
A hasty shot of the May bug that slept under my pillar and survived!
I am still doing battle with the squirrel, who seems to be able to gnaw through wire to get the peanut feeder open - so I am leaving it empty for a week.   But the great density of plants along the peripheries of the garden at the moment does seem to be proving quiet a good deterrent for cats.  This one was meowing rather pathetically at me from the other side of the prolifically-flowering rosa Vielchenblau the other morning.
Cat behind shed roof covered with rosa Vielchenblau

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Nameless pink rose

Not only have I lost the name of this beautiful pink rose (which was a gift) but it is virtually hidden behind the winter jasmine growing on the rustic trellis.   You only see it when you are on your way to the greenhouse.   A bit of appalling planning and symptomatic of my extreme lack of space.   Here it is seen from the far end of the garden with next door's climbing Iceberg rose behind it.   Great when other peoples' plants join in!
Can anyone offer any help?

Caught red-handed!

Here is the offending squirrel I watched burying peanuts in various containers and then having drink from the bird bath!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

First raspberries, Kiftsgate roses and crafty squirrel

This week the redcurrants have begun to ripen and I picked my first raspberry.   All the soft fruit is very late maturing but there is going to be masses of it, even strawberries which I have almost totally ignored except for buying some fresh straw to put under them.   According to the RHS The Garden this month (p.72 interesting feature on Hybrid Berries), loganberries are extremely high in vitamin C and are supposed to make THE best jam - we shall have to try that out this year.

Another first are some gorgeous dainty Kiftgate blooms which seem to have particularly fluffy yellow centres.
There is so much going on in the garden just now I barely know where to start.   The rain and warm (but not hot!) weather is proving to be fantastic for growth.   But this morning it was easy.   After disturbing a pair of long-tailed tits on the sunflower seed bird-feeder I noticed the peanut bird-feeder had been sabotaged by the pesky squirrel yet again, so I have tied it up thoroughly with some wire.   Let's see what it can do about that!

Here are a couple of images of favourites from this week.
Rosa Pat Austen drooping but smelling gorgeous
Allium Christophii and rosa Prince Charles -

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Blackbird and robin duet on mid-summer's day

I spent a whole wonderful day in the garden on Friday and several hours on Saturday and Sunday day but I still haven't quite caught up!   Everything is growing like mad and some heavy rain showers are battering the flowers but at least preventing the need for watering.   The late spring has brought an unusual combination of things into bloom and I was surprised to hear the rather comical gurgling-chuckling calls of a fledgling blackbird still attended by its father.   Later on in the evening a male blackbird settled himself on the bay hedge beside rosa Madame Alfred Carriere and entered into what seemed like a wonderful duet alternating his song with a nearby robin, something I have never before heard.
Here he is casting a beady eye on me!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Aquilegia from Sicard, France

When I stayed at Martine and Wout's lovely gite in France I fell in love with their very particular aquilegias - a distinctive purple/blue and white form.   They liked the idea of my random collection so we swapped seeds.   This year I finally have two plants which are flowering.   I am going to leave them to seed freely and hope for the best....

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Rain, roses and bees

We've had some torrential rain this week so everything seems to be growing like mad and there is as much propping up and cutting back as anything else to be attended to.   This includes cutting back some rampant geranium phaeums to make space for planting out dahlias brought on in the greenhouse.   They are definitely much further ahead than those which successfully over-wintered in the ground which I am trying hard to protect from slugs and snails.

The roses are fabulous this year although many are dooping, the stems not being strong enough to support the open blooms.   Is this my problem or does everyone have it?   Some are worse than others - cream Madame Alfred Carriere and deep apricot Pat Austen amongst the worst.   But they are beautiful nonetheless and as I feel there are sufficient to justify picking some I have been taking some in to work.   The scent of a single bloom of thornless pink Zepherin Drouhin - the second rose I bought for the garden and incredibly long-suffering of being moved about and being planted in semi-shade - scented the "washroom" so strongly as to draw comments!   The scent of roses is so often missed in the garden, particularly when the weather is windy as it has been lately.   Another gem which is flowering well this year is a many-petalled little old-fashioned white rosa alba plena seen here about to be engulfed by a rampant golden hop tendril!
One thing I am really chuffed about is how many bees are in the garden.   They seem particularly fond of the raspberry flowers - the canes are simply buzzing with them.    But I do wish they would keep out of the greenhouse - or accept help to get out a little more willingly!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Purples and pinks - Alliums and Judas tree

This must be the first year the big brown seed pods have fallen from the Judas tree, perhaps as a result of the long cold winter.   It wouldn't be the only thing to benefit.   The roses seem to be clearer from black spot than I can ever recall, although Kiftsgate's shaded lower branches are still showering the grass with little yellow leaves as I didn't get out to spray them this spring.

All the roses seem to have more buds this year and I'm not sure if this is due to the weather or the new pruning regime I have adopted on the advice of a professional gardner friend - don't cut them back each year.   They are growing much taller but looking much healthier.

This is the purple and pink time of year for me so here are a few shots of the alliums (as mentioned, I'm sure many of these are self-set), self-set aquilegias and the Judas tree petals scattered along the brick path.
The Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) looks spectacular in the evening sunlight before it's leaves get too big and dark and benefitting visually from the lack of seed pods.   When I look at this picture I can imagine the call of the swifts.


I managed to delete the pictures of the tulips at their wonderful eccentric best!   And several others at the same time.   But here is a detail of the luscious fresh green foliage of Crocosmia Lucifer with a water droplet early one morning which I didn't delete, just for the fun of it....

Sunday, 19 May 2013

First swifts

I heard the first swifts "peeping" in the sky above the garden today, having seen my first swallows of the season a few weeks back.  
The grass has shot up since last weekend with the rain we've had but the new seed I put down is still not growing as it's been so cold.   Most other things have really taken off, some sweet pea seeds I put in pots (rather late but will plunge straight into the ground, pots and all) have germinated really quickly.
At present the lily of the valley are putting on a wonderful and delicious-smelling show,  clematis montana is flowering well, alliums seem to be popping up all over the place - I am sure many of them must have self-set - and any tulip sceptics really should see the delightfully eccentric shapes the long-lasting burgundy tulips are making....   Pics to follow soon.
I have never seen so many flowers on my three currant bushes so I will really have to try and remember who it was I promised the red currants to this year....  

Friday, 10 May 2013

Narcissus Thalia

This year the narcissus Thalia have put on a stunning show.   I am sure they have multiplied since last year.   As the area is completely taken over by lily of the valley later in the year it gets virtually no attention - which the narcissi evidently thrive on!
Here they are in the early morning light.   Worth getting up for!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Bouncing fledglings

On Saturday my bleary-eyed wander into the kitchen was greeted by the sight of 2 lively, healthy and evidently hungry blackbird fledglings bouncing around outside the French windows with both parents in eager attendance.  

The garden has suddenly burst into life and with it its wildlife.   Along with the resident blackbirds - at least 2 if not 3 fledglings, all flying short distances fairly confidently - there have been plenty of blue tits and fluffy young ones, great tits - whose rather tedious call I have only just identified www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nDLF2fxoWQ - green finches, dunnocks and robins.   Nowadays there are always red kites on patrol overhead and while I was clearing last years dead leaves I disturbed a fairly large and very splendid frog.  

The snails have also started waking up and have managed to chomp the tops of all my shooting dahlias in the greenhouse.   Apparently it's due to be a bumper year for slugs and snails after all the rain we had last year.   One can only hope this is good news for thrushes, hedgehogs and the like.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Hellebores and double figures

It's just such a relief for the temperature to be back in double figures and this week the garden's had a thorough drenching - the first rain in several weeks so very welcome.

The hard winter may have been detrimental to we poor humans but it looks like it's done the garden some good.   My hellebores have flowered better than ever before, the blooms lasting longer and several things - including pansies - seem to be thriving, perhaps benefiting from pests and diseases being killed off by the cold...?

Managed to pot up some dahlias (from Wilkinson's) in the greenhouse and give the grass another thorough raking over,  removing a lot of moss before re-shaping it - mainly by giving in to the plants which have been overshadowing it and causing the moss problem.   Not quite satisfied with the curves I have created but it makes a change.

Lots of things bursting in to life - mainly with a yellow theme for now - including forrsythia, mahonia, primroses, daffs and yellow epimedium.   Clematis armandii is well on its way.   It seems spring is finally here at last - hoorah!

Friday, 29 March 2013

A little light at last

Three months and no posts - and no gardening either since I thought about moving.   But today I was tempted to begin a good clear up and rake out some of the moss from the grass.

I am rewarded by finding the solar-powered garden lights have come on this evening - the first time since I can remember.

The gardening year has begun - hoorah!