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!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Perfect growing weather (and earwigs!)

Hasn't it been? September with its rain and the recent Indian Summer have given me plenty to keep on top of this year - hence the dearth of posts. Since it's gone back to "normal" now, I'll try for a brief catch-up.
Firstly, this year has proved great for dahlias. Again the pot-grown tubers have outshone those I left in the ground to overwinter but they have almost all flowered with varying degrees of success although the verdict is definitely that in a small garden like mine where space is so restricted, it's worth starting everything in pots to make the most of it. Maybe I will give away this year's tubers to those with more space - or good dry overwinter storage! (Any takers?)
In spite of my initial misgiving, I had mixed varieties fairly well, the dominant hues being through deep crimson through to magenta-white and mid-pink with a few whites and an over-wintered yellow thrown in to shake things up a bit! Daniel's Favourite is a new one to me - almost the opposite of Hayley Jane. Great,strong plant - love it.

Another things that's been (more than) plentiful this year is earwigs. There seems to be at least one fall out of every bloom I cut for the house - hence much chasing them round. They seem to have a strong preference for white blooms, so much so that I have spent a lot of time picking them off as they seem to think that sticking their heads in under the petals hides their tails - a bit ostrich-like maybe! Like lily beetles they also seem a bit dim about camouflage!

In addition to eating the petals, they make a nasty mess with their detritus. However, I think I saw a hedgehog's droppings nearby the other day so maybe there is something positive to come from this!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Between August rains

I am not complaining about the weather. I have never seen the garden so lush at this time of year! Greensleeves applied their third treatment to the grass last week and I have to say I think their visits are worth every penny. Even though I have some very thin patches the overall effect is greener than it has ever been. I'm sure the inhibiting of any moss is a significant factor. Pity they can't do any treatment to prevent squirrels digging holes and burying peanuts. (No, removing the hazel tree hasn't made any difference!)
This year's weather has really suited dahlias. Here are the first to come into flower. In the background two phlox are providing the pink and white. They seem to love it here and have really flourished.
As usual the bit of planning I managed to put in to colour-balancing the dahlias has gone a bit awry and the success of over-wintered plants in conjunction with some of this years new tubers has resulted in some congested areas but it's all good fun. Some of the nicest surprises with dahlias are the freaks of nature - as in this pompon sporting two rogue red petals.

I between the dahlias the heads of alliums have dried out and are beginning to disintegrate. I find it hard to decide when to cut them down - sometimes they decide for me! Likewise the opium poppy heads. The plants go through a lovely transition from green-blue to brown but then the leaves are a bit grotty before they finally dry out. But here's one I'm glad I left as it's made a great background for this splendid shield bug. I read somewhere a recommendation to spend 20 minutes a day just looking at the insect-life in your garden. There's a lot to be said for that (with your glasses on that is!).

St James's Park late summer colour

I don't know if the plantings in St James's Park are always as spectacular as they were this August (may be something to do with state functions...) but I was astonished at the late-summer colour a week or so back. It is not enhanced!!

I particularly like the Mina lobata (syn.Ipomoea versicolour) growing up the post - particularly the inspired combination with a dark-coloured version of Black eyed Susan. I must give it a try next year if I can find a space....

Monday, 24 August 2015

French beans in a grow bag

Picking, pruning and training have kept me really busy over the summer but the majority of the fruit has now been consumed or turned into jam (blackcurrant this year!) and the dahlias are now well in flower (pics to follow). But one of my successes of the summer is the one Growbag in the greenhouse I planted with 6 French beans which just keep on producing beans! I shall be repeating this exercise next year.
Apologies for dearth of posts - will try harder!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Royals in harmony!

I should be working but just found this pic of Regal lilies and a delicious spray of Clematis Prince Charles - such a happy combination, albeit taffled up with hop leaves.

I have struggled to grow this clematis since the first I planted adjacent to the (former) Judas tree succumbed to ants. It is just about doing OK this year in a pot, although nowhere near as well as Cl. Princess Diana which has done amazingly well in a large container.... Pity as I particularly love the blue clematis.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Delicious July rain

This afternoon has brought a good downfall of soft warm rain - and an excuse not to cut the grass or pick the last of the pink gooseberries but sit down and write a new post, albeit brief! As I'm stopping in (for now) I thought it would be fun to show the Regal lilies from above, where the circular formation is seen to best advantage, an angle one seldom gets to appreciate.
The heat of the past few days has brought Kiftsgate's flowering to an end with just the remnants of the pink the petals always turn as they catch a little rain and age. After a battle to cut back rampant forsythia and bay (with attendant climbers and ramblers) from the "winter" or "patio" garden nearest the house it will soon be time to have a major all-round pruning session for Kiftsgate, Montana clematis, bay, various ivies and anything else that is rapidly getting away from manageability! But they have all been doing their bit in providing a great habitat for fledgling birds - especially baby robins who have, this year, taken over from the blackbirds in stuffing themselves full of mahonia berries. This morning I saw one helping ittself for the first time, unaided by an adult. What a digestive system they must have!
I picked a small bunch of sweet peas today, having successfully brought some on in a large pot from bought seedlings. They never seem to come out with the rich colours on the labels but their scent makes up for everything. With the honeysuckle in full bloom, Regal lilies and sweet peas the smells are quite overpowering at any time of day or night!

Lilies in the rain!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Summer colour

No time for blogging just now - but here are a couple of pictures from this week!

Yes, it IS a jungle. I just can't find enough time to spend in it! Not that that's much of an excuse.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Cosmos seeds speedy germination

Thanks to The Garden magazine for saying it's not too late to plant Cosmos seeds in June for late summer flowering. I planted up a few pots last Saturday and here they are popping up only a week later, in spite of germination time on the pack marked as 15-20 days!

Monday, 8 June 2015


What a brilliant name for a web site with comprehensive advice on how to grow great peonies - see peonysenvy.com

This year my white peonies are both doing very well, unlike the common deep pink form which seems to be sulking about being disturbed while a nearby fence panel was replaced, or, more likely, it is too much overshadowed by the rampant Rosa Canary Bird which is STILL flowering, making it harder for me to commit to moving it to goodness knows where. If I can't find a new space for it I may have to resort to putting it out for adoption. This weekend I was thrilled that about 10 pots of lily of the valley I put outside the house with a Help Yourself notice all disappeared - so great to share plants!
Except for Kiftsgate which is budding up as well as ever, all the roses are now flowering, seemingly benefiting from increased light levels and the mid-season clematis have begun to flower - exciting to see the first delicate nodding heads of pale pink-mauve Betty Corning. Cl. Princess Diana is doing really well in a pot on top of the stump of the Judas tree, apparently unaffected by ants this year.
First buds of R. Prince Charles opening with Allium Christophii and a rubbish picture (taken in poor light) of R. William Morris with its lovely old fashioned, many-folded centre. In spite of the administrations of Greensleeves my grass is definitely suffering from being too overshadowed. I am experimenting with an increased watering regime so it's at least less stressed. One area only gets about an hour of direct sunlight a day, which is asking quite a lot of it.
I also need to learn the lesson of keeping my fruit area clearer. The superb crop of foxgloves is taking over the strawberry patch (and will doubtless self-seed even further) and I need to hard-prune my remaining gooseberry bush as it is covered in a great mass of very small fruit - no fun for picking or topping and tailing.
Geraniums, alliums and dahlia plants are all doing well and I was pleasantly surprised to find some Nicotiana Lime Green st Wyevale garden centre on Saturday. Just need a few more hours each day....

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Irresistible alliums

Alliums are so cheerful and so undemanding I just have to keep photographing them. This year there are even more - from what seemed like threads of grass a couple of years back, new flowering plants are actually competing with previously-rampant crocosmia. I have lost track of which varieties the earlier forms are but these three stems particularly caught my eye as the sun crept along the garden path this morning.

I failed to remember to thin out the allium christophii again since last season so their blooms are getting smaller as they fight for space but at least, since the removal of the trees, they are growing more upright and promise to be a picture beneath the many buds forming on rosa Prince Charles.
My one remaining hosta is standing up well against mollusc attack but these little stripey snails are worth hunting out!

Monday, 25 May 2015

".... Get me out of here."

So seldom do "strangers" come into the garden that I am always surprised by their responses. Today a neighbour's son was trying to help prop up a leaning fence post and popped round for my sledge hammer. Just beyond the greenhouse he announced he wasn't going any further (and I can't blame him with Rosa Canary Bird still doing its thing right across the path so you have to contort yourself around it) before then asking if they film "I'm a celebrity...." here as it is just like a jungle! I don't seem to be able to convey this in my pictures but then if I did, no-one would see anything much!
Today was a brilliant gardening day - a whole bank holiday of it - and I managed to get most things reasonably under control. Main objectives were a general tidy-up, trim and tie-back of perennials, dig out some of the mass of Lily of the Valley and dig up the tulip bulbs (I know, terrible but I just don't have space to let them die back) and seek out the dahlias which have overwintered and give them some light and slug-deterrent support. While removing the tulip foliage I found plenty of slugs and snails although the worst damage they do is to a large clump of white bearded irises growing behind the greenhouse. Just as whole stems of buds are about to open they are gobbled right through. Happily this has not happened to the ones nearer the house which stand out so serenely against the deep blue ceanothus.
Another plant which sits well with it is Clematis "Royal Velour" whose first lush bloom appeared this week.
The fruit area seems to be flourishing. In spite of the influx of Lily of the Valley and a mass of self-set foxgloves my blackcurrant bush has about four times more flowers than ever before, there are plenty of strawberries and the gooseberry bush is laden. I love to have an area where I can let the foxgloves do their own thing. They are one of the easiest and most successful biennials to transplant and so valuably fill a boring gap in dull shade.
I have despatched well over a dozed lily beetles this year and decided to pull up any non-flowering bulbs as they seem a great attraction, although I also found an orange-menace on an allium today. So far the later-flowering Lilium Formosanum cultivars seem to be fairly immune to lily beetles.
With regard to larger wildlife, a squirrel very nearly ran straight into me the yesterday morning - not expecting me to be there! But the bird population seems quite different this year. I have frequently seen a magpie passing through the garden and flocks of jackdaws flying about with their loud laughing and chuckling cries. There are the parakeets, red kites and I even saw a heron fly over today but other than robins and blackbirds and a few more sparrows than in recent years the smaller finches and tits seem to have all but vanished - my nesting box remains empty!
Enough rambling. Here are three first roses: Iceberg, extraordinarily formed almost like an old-fashioned noisette rose, Pat Austen and Warm Welcome, both well-complimented by the wisteria.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Superb little dry shade plant - ajuga reptans

This year the Lily of the valley have become so rampant I am going to have to have to dig a huge amount out - hopefully they will find homes. I have picked so many bunches this year and managed to do a few studio shots. But another plant which thrives in deep,very dry shade has flourished too, popping up in an unexpected spot where it looks quite magical.

The variegated Ajuga reptans is a little treasure - I had so neglected it I didn't know it was still there. What a way to treat something so delightful!

A curtain of wisteria

There is so much to do in the garden at present, it's hard to find time for blogging! So I will keep it brief. This year the new trellis has been a great support for the wisteria whose massive racemes of pale lilac flowers are like a curtain and smell divine. Here are a couple of shots. As, I've said before, NOT the best placing and NOT the ideal plant for a small garden but I love it all the same and wisdom in the garden can be very dull....

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

First flowering climbers and returning swallows

My grass had its first treatment by Greensleeves this week along with instructions to do a bit of pruning around the shady areas. I already had! But everything is growing so fast at present I can hardly keep up with it. The lily of the valley is most rampant - marching up the garden and invading everything I don't actively dig it out from. There will be more than I can hope to re-home but I will be trying.
It's hard to decide what has excited me the most, but the return of the cheery swooping and peeping of the swallows ranks very high. The unexpected partnership of early flowers on Rosa Madame Alfred Carriere - budding up profusely since I remembered to train its long stems horizontally - with the cheery pale pink Clematis montana is also very satisfying as they scramble through the bay hedge supporting them.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Vibrant tulips on a sunny Bank Holiday!!!!

Determined to make the most of the day, I got up at 6.00 on Monday and was duly rewarded. After a dull start the sun soon came out, providing ideal gardening conditions - much different from the terrific winds we have today.
The tulips are just about at their peak. I'm still not entirely sure what they all are (object-lesson - keep better records) but the fringed "Curly Sue" is fun and I'm glad of the paler pink to give a bit of relief to the more vibrant colours. The yellow-orange-red Jimmy has enormous flowers, rather dominating its magenta partner Renaldo which I think works better with Ballerina - as in the picture right - one which hung on from last year. Try as I might to get overall shots which (I feel) do the collection justice I decided (eventually) to just enjoy them and their transcience, although I am happy with a few of the closer shots.
The grass is less of a success story with some patches looking quite bare. I don't know if I didn't water sufficiently in the first weeks or if the problem is to do with heavy shade and maybe even a bit too much water in the shadier spots. Time will tell. From a distance it still looks great anyway and I am hopeful it will settle down and green up evenly.
I got seduced by some sweet pea plants at Dorney Court garden centre the other day. I'm such a sucker and I really don't need having to find time to dig a big hole to fill with manure in order to give them a fair chance - but I did. Having saved the off-shoots from the hazel tree when it was cut down I managed to make a couple of very sparse, make-shift wigwam-type supports - one for a pot and another for the new space made by the hazel's removal. The sweet peas are a deep red-magenta "Windsor" and a blue-white mix. Hopefully they will combine with the clematis and golden hop to give me a bit of scented height while I decide whether or not to plant a small pear tree to replace the hazel - a nice slow-growing dwarf one!

Monday, 27 April 2015

A riot of tulips

No - I can't remember what they all are. But that makes it more exciting in a way....

The out of focus blue in the background comes from English bluebells which seem to thrive and self-seed in my garden, even though it's not in the least chalky. More tulip pictures to follow....

Friday, 24 April 2015

Jimmy and Ronaldo tulips in the sunshine

In all their glory....
Another lovely batch of bulbs from J Parkers!

Monday, 20 April 2015

How the new grass is doing

All looking remarkable neat for me - and a bit bare without some of my Diana Roles ceramics - but here is the progress of the new grass after its first trim on Saturday (just over 2 weeks from laying). I am pleased with the way the new trellis is screening the greenhouse too!

Dicentra formosa Aurora

I gave a healthy root-division of this plant to a friend the other day and then completely forgot what it is called - muddling it up with a corydalis. It is (of course) dicentra formosa Aurora - and seems to be doing particularly well in part shade, hence why I wanted to split it up! It seems a much tougher little plant than its larger showier Bleeding Heart relatives.

The lathryus vernus is doing really well this year and it is exciting to see the first Zurel tulip, here highlighted against the bought combination of Jimmy and Renaldo (the closest I will ever get to welcoming football into my garden!)

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Spring is yellow

My new grass has been thriving in the well-timed rain and sun and the garden looks extraordinarily tidy - for now.... This week the first tulips are opening bringing to a close the almost-exclusive reign of spring yellows.

Of all flower colours my least favourite is yellow - the most repugnant combination I think I've ever seen is yellow and pink in the form of laburnam and clematis montana (unhappily a perennial combination I therefore drive past every year!) but since the yellows seem to dominate in early spring I can forgive them - the heady scent of mahonia, the delicate and unexpectedly shade-loving epimedium and the tough little hardy primrose which just keeps on multiplying in my garden are all special in their own right and I just have to forgive the forsythia for its cheerfulness.

But I also love Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii the magenta/purple version of the wild primrose with which it seems to cross well producing some unexpectedly pretty seedlings.

Things will be speeding up from now on - including the number of balls arriving in the garden threatening my lovely Diana Roles ceramics without which - during the recent upheavals - the garden has been looking decidedly ordinary. I wonder if I am legally permitted to adopt a no-returns policy!

Friday, 3 April 2015

A clean sweep and a new lawn

Having made the difficult decision of having the hazel and Judas trees removed (which all took much longer than anticipated due to the problem of not being able to get a stump-grinder down the narrow side passage by the house!) it seemed like a good time to look seriously at the grass. Doing so brought the recognition that something a bit more than scarifying and reseeding was needed so I acknowledged defeat and called in some professional help. Here is the result laid yesterday - wow!

For once I am pleased to see rain on Good Friday!
In spite of its smart appearance my new bird box doesn't seem to be of interest to any of the blue tits but there is a lot of frantic black bird activity near the house. It looks like they are building a nest in the dense forsythia, bay and entwined clematis and Kiftsgate rose branches very near the French windows. Thrilling but a recipe for a lot of ducking out of the way by me and anxious blackbirds! I also really must now succeed in deterring all these wretched cats!