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, 29 December 2014

Tree-felling and fighting blue tits

After making the tough decision that my hazel and Judas trees had to go, I have been struggling to find reliable people to carry out the task. Then 3 came along at once! Suffice it to say that just before Christmas the deed was done. Unfortunately, the hazel stump still needs to be removed as the stump-grinder was too big to go along the passageway by the side of the house, so it is still taking up a lot of space which I was hoping to use to plant my potted-up tulip bulbs. Hoping we can resolve that one asap....
At the same time I had the totally dilapidated trellis removed and replaced with a more substantial structure. It's actually - visually - a bit more substantial that I would have liked, but it was a necessary job well done and well-timed as the ground is now rock-hard after the recent frosts! Inevitably, the narrow access for all these activities necessitated lots of tramping across my tiny patch of grass, so it will need some major attention. But with the frosts it will have to wait a bit. It is rather exciting having to plan what I will do with the new space and light!
One of the things concerning me about the tree-removal is how the birds will respond. I've become used to seeing flocks of long-tailed tits, blue tits, blackbirds, robins, chaffinches and the odd sparrow making use of them. But I came across a really shocking sight on Christmas Eve. What seemed like a tiny bundle of yellow feathers flopping about on the brick terrace revealed itself to be two blue tits locked in combat. I shot out and disturbed them but only to see them fly into the hedge before landing again on the ground and grappling with one another most aggressively. After repeatedly disturbing them and seeing the same thing recur - watched from a nearby branch by another blue tit - they eventually went into next-door's garden, carrying on the battle. One of those cases where we have to realize that nature is nature, red in tooth and claw, whatever we'd like to do change things. But I would like to know what it was all about!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Lily disease

I have been having troubles with some of my pot-grown lilies and don't seem to be able to find any direct visual reference to a similar condition so thought I'd post some (rather sad) pics. The lily leaves begin to turn brown from the bottom of the plant, spreading up the stem as the flower buds become deformed and finally fail. It seems that they are rotting so I guess it must be some sort of rot or fusarium problem - maybe caused by watering in the wrong way! It seems lily culture is more complicated than I had anticipated. Anyway, it seems there is no cure, so I shall have to do some digging-up and disposing of infected plants and hope for the best with those remaining....

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Pruning in the rain

Another warm but rainy Saturday after the hottest days of the week (while I was shooting Christmas food!) but not so wet as to prevent a good pruning session - nothing is quite so satisfying, especially when it reveals hidden treasures struggling for light. Contrary to general advice I am having to cut back R Kiftsgate as it looks so untidy and it's thorny stems dangling about quite a hazard. The hop leaves peppered with snail holes are also best tidied making space to see the budding clematis better. Clematis Etoile Violette and Diana are both really late this year which I consider a bonus in keeping the flowering season going before the dahlias come into their own. My new Cl. Sunny Sky is performing really well, brightening up a dark spot - still in it's pot! The pretty little flowers of Cl. Betty Corning are looking a bit fragile but it seems to be establishing itself quite well. In spite of neglect there are a couple of huge flower heads budding on the agapanthus - lovely to photograph on my fabulous 100mm macro lens.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Lilium longifolium and delicious rain

Today we have the perfect gardeners' rain - it is warm but not windy and the rain is coming down gently, just what we need even though it is Saturday and I had plans for making redcurrant jelly. What a lovely excuse to just look.... The lack of recent posts reflects my pre-occupation with the garden. I've been enjoying the best of the roses and trying to keep the jungle growth under control, along with picking a good crop of soft fruit and my first (and probably only) crop of sugarsnap peas. I really need to re-think the fruit garden and make more space for veg.. Fruit may be incredibly easy to grow but it takes a lot of time to pick and then distribute to those who make better use of it than I do. Almost every day in June seems to bring something new. This week has included discovering a splendid frog, the first cosmos flowers, nasturtians, perennial clematis and lillies Regale and Longifolium. I am so glad I persevered and tracked down the latter, recommended by Christopher Lloyd as later-flowering than most. I have 2 pots - one of bulbs bought at a garden centre which have just begun to flower, the other bought on-line are still building up to budding - the promise of things to come. They are evidently different varieties each with their individual beauty. The trellis is a total disaster area, the weight of plants toppling it over and squashing a lovely pink rose and clematis Minuet against the greenhouse - something I should really have dealt with in the early spring - object-lesson!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Diana Roles Open Studio

Had a wonderful evening yesterday at Diana's Open Studio in Sunningdale but didn't excel at taking pictures! Oh for more to space to have more of her beautiful work!!! Here are a few images which really don't do either her lovely garden or her work justice. The only thing to do is see it for yourself. The last open day is Saturday - www.dianaroles.co.uk for details

Monday, 9 June 2014

Long evenings and a stag beetle sighting

My 9.00 pm stroll with wine glass in hand brought an unanticipated treat on Saturday night - a large stag beetle circling over several neighbouring gardens. I think it may even have landed in my Judas tree. I hope it doesn't see it as suitable site to lay eggs, it is looking rather unhealthy this year. A friend has seen several just recently.
In spite of the weather it's still a great novelty to have long enough evenings to allow for some actual gardening. This evening I went out with a mug of tea and managed to plant out most of my dahlias before it began raining. After buying fewer tubers this year (2 did not come up at all - oh dear Parker's!!) I now discover I have spaces to fill. That is a novelty! The roses mostly seem to be doing well this year, seeming to have benefitted from a hard spring pruning - all except Bourbon rose Prince Charles which flowers only once and - apparently - not at all this summer. Hopefully it will forgive me next year (lesson learned!). In the past few days my Kiftsgate has begun its great display. It really is the metaphorical icing on the cake. The only down side with it is a very bad case of black spot as I haven't managed any preventative measures. The little old white rose pictured suffers particularly badly as a result of Kiftsgate shedding infected leaves onto it which seems to limit its growth. It's still a little treasure though. I still haven't managed to pick the first rather weedy-looking raspberries. But the birds haven't beaten me yet. I think that's the only advantage of having neighbours with cats.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A few reasons for not planting in tight spaces

It is wonderful to be able to go down the garden during these light evenings - even if tonight I first had to don a warm coat! Today I noticed the first wild strawberries ripening, the first raspberries on their way and my tiny Sugarsnap pea plants are showing their first blooms too. This is remarkable to me given that they are so tightly squeezed between the strawberries, a gooseberry bush and tall raspberry canes which are completely overshadowing them - virtually all day. To reward them for their efforts I decided to water them - and the heavily fruit-laden strawberries - with some liquid fertiliser. Great idea, except that in trying to squeeze between things I managed to loose my balance, tread on a young pea plant and then break most of it off in trying to replace the dislodged support stick. Grabbing hold of the nearest thing to help my balance was an even worse idea - it being the gooseberry bush. At least this time I managed to get the whole thorn out unlike the last time when it went in so deep it took about a week to work its way out again. Unfriendly things gooseberry bushes! One other first today - my new Clematis "Sunny Sky" which I threatened to re-home since its flowers proved to be much bigger than I had anticipated (as I bought it on-line) has endeared me by performing so well in its temporary spot - still in its pot - and has begun flowering. I think it's going to have to stay.... Pictures to follow when the light is better.

Monday, 2 June 2014

First Kiftsgate flowers and Diana Roles Ceramics on show

I came home this evening to find the first little white buds unfolding on my rampant Kiftsgate rose - always so exciting with the promise of a halo of white buzzing with bees stretching nearly half way around the garden. The whites are quite prominent at present - white peonies, a few white fox gloves, Iceberg and Madame Alfred Carriere roses - and the first flowers of Mrs Sinkins "pinks" which remind me how my Dad used to grow them in such plenty that I used to pick bunches to fill both hands. Gardens are places that hold so many memories yet at the same time they are so liberating.... I am really looking forward to visiting another garden on 12th June - Diana Roles is opening her garden to show her wonderful ceramic pieces as a part of the annual Surrey Artists' Open Studios. She will also be welcoming visitors on Saturday 7th, Sunday 8th and Saturday 14th June. For more details see www.dianaroles.co.uk and www.surreyopenstudios.org.uk Diana's totally individual pieces are major focal points in my garden. I can't imagine it without them...

Monday, 26 May 2014

Whitsun rain drops

Of course it's raining - it's Whitsun bank holiday! It has not entirely stopped me from going in the garden although I am glad I cut the grass, did a bit of cutting back of rampant foliage and some tying-in of drooping plants yesterday. I'm quite sure my neighbours think me bonkers going out with the camera on a tripod and my rain coat and hat on but the rain drops are so pretty - a few at a time!!

Astonishing creature

I was experimenting with some close-ups and decided to photograph the wonderful fibonacci rhythms in the unfurling recemes of comfrey flowers when I discovered there was more than just flowers at the other end of the lens! Happily this remarkable creature seemed quite happy to stay put while I photographed it from several angles. Next project - to discover what it is!

Upton House Bog Garden

On Saturday we visited the National Trust's Upton House near Banbury. Luckily the rain stopped long enough for me to explore the gardens. The bog garden was my favourite - oh for the space to have a little stream and grow some of those gorgeous primulas and irises. This is a very special secret corner, beautifully designed with the biggest slug-free patch of hostas I think I've ever seen. Here are a few "snaps".

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Shades of Monet

Having visited Monet's garden 3 times now, I would happily go back another time. Not just to see his garden, his fabulous kitchen inspired me to paint mine bright yellow complimented with blue oddities.... But looking back at pictures I took of the garden at the weekend, I am reminded of his wonderful series of Rouen cathedral in its changing light. The two shots here taken from a similar angle have a very different feel to them - just because the light is different. I am thrilled with the alliums this season. I suspected they were self-seeding last year but I am now certain as one has popped up next to the greenhouse where I most definitely did not plant it! Pity about the leaves, but you can't have it all! I can't help but photograph them. Here the late-opening leaves of a potted hibiscus provide a great contrast. The garden is going through a very mauve phase at present - plenty of aquilegias, the rediculously huge wisteria falling like a curtain from the remnants of the rustic trellis and Bonanza(below), the first of the summer clematis to flower. The mix of sun and rain are providing wonderful growing conditions so that my grass seed has finally germinated and is even starting to fill up some of the bald patches!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Dwarf bearded irises and late April showers

We had such an unexpectedly brilliant bank holiday weekend that I was inspired to leap out of bed and almost straight out into the garden. (I loved the early morning light on my breaksfast, left!) Now it seems May has brought us April showers and a return to cooler temperatures. Professional gardener friends tell me their seedlings are hardly growing, it's been so cold and my grass seed has only just begun growing during the past week. But not everything is so shy. There is a thick carpet of leaf-growth over wilder areas of the garden - wild strawberries and aquilegia leaves tangled with rampant lily of the valley on their intrepid march towards the house.
Among the more exciting developments in the past week are the first flowers on two of three dwarf bearded irises I bought a few years back from Wootton's. The third seems to have disappeared. It is difficult keeping the corms exposed to enough sunlight in my overcrowded little space. But it is worth every bit of effort - as you can see. The other really satisfying development is that my neighbours have had their fence fixed and I managed to dodge the showers yesterday to wire in the flowering stems of loganberry. Also happily it doesn't look too new! The scented clematis montana seems to have survived unscathed and I have been prompted to give the the akebia quinata a major cut back. I will try and keep things a bit more under control from now onwards (ha ha ??)

Monday, 28 April 2014

Hostas and....

I adore the elegant spikes of hosta leaves as they emerge. It is such a shame that my enthusiasm seems to be equalled by SLUGS! Except for this lovely variegated Francis Williams, which grows in a large pot where I can keep some control over the slug population, I have given up on hostas for the time being. Snails are also causing me grief in the greenhouse - attacking the emerging dahlia shoots which must be much tastier than the tubers, which I actually tried eating the other day and would most definitely NOT recommend. Planted a row of sugar snap peas at the weekend and I confess to safeguarding them with a good sprinkle of slug pellets....

Monday, 21 April 2014

More than an April shower and tulip appraisal

Yesterday's forecast showers turned into a prolonged and at times torrential downpour (Easter Sunday - a familiar story?) but by the evening it had subsided and left a lovely misty evening heralding this morning's beautiful fresh start. It felt quite hot in the sun as I took my constitutional with a cup of tea and the bird song was prolific. It's now back to normal (note the raindrops on the window...)!!
So much is bursting into life with enchanting surprises around every corner including some self-set English bluebells and yellow poppies (unfortunately the true deep blue is lost in this jpeg).
My tropaeolum speciosum has survived in its pot, its bright green shoots rushing out to grab whatever it can, there are buds forming on many of the roses - in spite of my very late, heavy pruning, the first geraniums - phaeum and macrorrhizum have begun to flower and buds are forming on some dwarf bearded irises (although I think my choice of colours was a bit dodgy...). Several clematis are budding up well whereas others are very slow to get started. These include Cl Etoile Violette, usually quite rampant, but hopefully this means she will flower late, extending the season. There are even a few spaces - I think I can even justify a new summer-flowering clematis.
I am a bit disappointed with my tulips this year. Ballerina has come out a rather even and much less orange-red and Rai, which was so spectacular last time I grew it, is a rather even and much paler pink than I had anticipated. I think I should stick to Estella Rijnfeld on the parrot tulip front. A few bulbs are keeping going and their raspberries and cream colouring is stunning even if the flowers are now much smaller (as I probably haven't looked after the bulbs properly!). I have made an interesting discovery with my planting of Princess Irene in the front border. Where some of the bulbs have been heavily shaded by some self-set aquilegias they have come out far more yellow than those growing in full sun. They are gorgeous this year. Following on from these observation I am wondering if tulips have the same "chimeric" nature as dahlias (see my post from November last year). Anyway, such variations simply make things more exciting! I am pleased with the contrast of the lily-flowered T Burgundy and T Ballerina with the lovely stripey T Zurel, seen here in the early morning and later in full sun. Having seriously pondered selling my greenhouse the fact that the dahlia corms I planted only 2 weeks ago are already beginning to show signs of life is making me pleased I decided to take no action. I have also decided to defer having my over-grown Judas and hazel trees cut back until after the leaves have fallen. Trying to do anything now the garden is fully "switched on" would be a nightmare - for me and for anyone trying to do serious tree-pruning. Happily, we now have a date for the broken fence panels to be replaced so I need to get busy safeguarding any vulnerable plants in the vicinity. I am not at all concerned about a rampant variegated ivy I brought home as a small pot plant from a photo shoot some years back but a particularly pleasing scented pink Clematis montana (a seedling from my Mum's) which is just getting the hang of climbing over the new arch may need a bit more help. It will be interesting to see what happens! Happily, these days I tend to look on plant mortalities more as an opportunity to grow something new than too much of a disaster. I do not feel the same about my collection of Diana Roles garden ceramics though!!!!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Unusual partners

I thought I'd change the layout - hope you like it. (I seem to have lost the ability to make paragraphs which is confusing but the new layout doesn't seem to help!)
The mild winter has brought some strange partners into flower together - not least this fucshia seen through the potted laburnam outside the kitchen windows which is flowering beautifully this year. From the bathroom window this little splash of colour caught my eye this morning. The blue Clematis Macropetala on the left balances nicely with the randomly self-seeded forget me not on the right. Tulips Ballerina are not as interesting this year - much more red than I had hoped but still very cheery.
Here is a detail of Cl Macropetala's delicate blue flowers that the birds have spared this year
A couple of tulips (Ballerina and Burgundy) snapped off by the wind or snails are giving me great pleasure in the kitchen.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The exquisite little blooms of epimedium are some of the first and most delicate treasures of the spring - almost like tiny daffodils and they are wonderful for brightening up a dark corner. Although I cut back the leaves before they flower the new foliage soon puts on a spurt and has almost covered the flowers again now! I have been remiss - not many posts of late! Part of the reason is that there have been a few unsightly structural disasters - next door's fence still remains on the "to do" list, largely due to the shortage of good fence panels and available labour, also the demise of my rustic trellis has rendered the view down the garden unsightly now the greenhouse is again in full view. But basically things are going well and everything is bursting into life - not least the birds who have been in full voice while I have been gardening this weekend. In particular the blackbirds have been doing their magical humming and twittering to themselves from hidden positions in dense shrubs. I even managed to record one - along with various other visitors. Frequent visitors include the blackbirds, robins, blue tits, green finches, great tits, chaffinches and there is usually a red kite or two hovering overhead, plus rooks, wood pigeons and magpies in abundance. I am hoping something will nest in my new bird box!
I received my dahlia tubers yesterday and potted them up immediately. Unfortunately some of them had broken up quite badly but rather than throw them away I just remembered that they are supposed to be edible so I am going to have a go at cooking them. Watch this space! The tulips - what I consider to be the spring equivalent of dahlias - have put on a great spurt in the past week and are coming into flower. Not quite what I'd imagined but we shall see what they're like when they all open fully. I'm hoping the reds will open to be more orange. It's so hard to tell from catalogues plus the fact that the same named variety bulbs seem to have great variation in flowers from year to year.
In the "winter garden" I have had a nice surprise. For the first time ever the little acer seedling from Westonbirt arboretum has put on a show of flowers. It's a rotten day for photography but this gives you some idea...
We have had a few welcome showers today. Of course this usually happens when I have decided to water my pots and fill up the bird baths but it's been particularly welcome as I put down a plentiful supply of chicken manure pellets I found while I was clearing out the greenhouse yesterday which - I confess - Stinks and need to be encouraged to disperse as soon as possible. At least no-one will be thinking about sun-bathing!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Signs of spring

In spite of all this rain the garden seems to be flourishing and greenery appearing very early on some perennials. I saw a wren dashing about this morning and watched a female blackbird enjoying a great splashy bath - I wish I dried out so quickly after a shower! Lots of spring flowers appearing - mahonia smelling gorgeous, crocuses, snowdrops, the first primroses - so early - and pink and white hellebores. The latter really do seem to thrive on neglect. I wish I had more space for them. At the front the iris unguicularis is putting out masses of delicate blooms. The greenhouse seems to be holding together but the winds have caused some serious fencing problems - next door's fortunately for me - but still needing serious attention. Have located suppliers of rustic poles to repair the trellis so that's a project for the list! :http://www.barlowsofhermitage.co.uk/