Sunday, 11 November 2012

Resurrecting the garden diary

I set this blog up years ago as a garden diary and find to my amazement that it is still extant although I haven't used it for about three years.  I have been working away in the side garden today and wanted to have a big review of the year and a think about where to go with it.  I might even go on and have reviews of other parts of the garden so I thought that might be rather too intensively gardenish even for people who like gardening so perhaps the thing to do was to collect them all up here.  The endlessly useful end of month view process (which I confess I haven't kept to religiously this year) hosted by Helen at patient gardener provides lots of pictures and lots of food for thought and has really helped with this process.

The side garden is the only part of the garden which is the scale and size of the gardens  I used to have before we came here.   This was where I started although it was really born in 2009 after it had spent quite a time as a builders' yard.   This picture shows it at the end of January 2011.  There is very little going on in January and the path through to the workshop and the field is worn and muddy every winter.  We have got as far as talking to a builder/contractor friend about a path.  Every winter I hate slipping and sliding and curse the mud and the way it makes everything look tatty.  Every summer I forget how bad it was.

The same view at the end of January 2012 with the same muddy path in deep shade!  I planted some evergreen plants down this end of the side bed to try to give some structure: an Euonymus fortuneii which should ultimately get quite large, three sarcococca hookeriana humilis (sweet box) which has sweet smelling winter flowers and seven hellebores of various kinds.  Last year I left the fennel in the back bed to stand through the winter and I have done the same this year.

End of February 2011 and the hellebores and the snowdrops are in flower.  The hellebores keep going for weeks and weeks.  I wish I had been more disciplined about keeping a garden notebook when I first put these in so I would have some idea what they are although I suppose hellebores throw up so many lovely forms it almost doesn't matter.

I seem not to have taken the distance view at the February 2012 but these detail pictures show that the snowdrops are filling out and the hellebores hanging their graceful heads.  I think that I should establish some more hellebores in the back bed so that all the flowering is not concentrated at one end of the side bed.  There are a couple in the back bed already but there is scope for some more on the right as you go through into the field.

End of March 2011 and the hellebores are still going strong, the daffodils are flowering and the pulmonaria Diana Clare is out.  I love the strong blue of this and I have split it up and put some more further along the bed.

This is 2012 with lots of small red tulips, Praestans Fusilier, flowering with the pulmonaria.  I liked the red and blue so much that I have just put 40 more tulips into the side garden.  The ones I have put in today are Scarlet Baby, part of the Peter Nyssen order (this is their image too).

Scarlet baby

End of April 2011

End of April 2012 and graphic evidence of the usefulness of the end of month view.  I had not remembered how much better the garden was this year and that it was almost entirely down to planting out tulips.   I am not sure whether they will come up a second year.  I haven't had much success with planting tulips into the ground and keeping them in previous gardens but this soil is very well drained so they may persist.  I shall plant out some more this month, keeping back some from those I am waiting to put into pots just to be sure to have some of this vibrant red and orange colour.  Last year's were Ballerina and Hermitage.  I shall plant the remainder of the General de Wet and Avignon (the rest have gone into the cutting garden) out here.

End of May 2011 and the garden is mainly foliage apart from the hardy geraniums and the odd allium.

End of May 2012 and everything is far lusher and more vivid, principally because of all the alliums I put in.  I wonder if I can rely on them to do their stuff again this year?  I haven't ordered any more so I really hope so.  I know they can naturalise and even take over from talking to friends who have a superabundance but so far they have not started to do that for me, in fact I seem to lose some every year.

End of June 2011 and the main colour is the day lillies.

End of June 2012.  This shows the oriental poppies.  They are the bane of my life: beautiful for a fleeting week or so and then leave devastation behind them.  They also want to take over the world and this year I have thrown away half a dozen plants, guiltily.  This photo also shows that it is really worth having foxgloves.  I have a few seedlings that Karen gave me in the greenhouse but I didn't sow any more seed this year - mistake!

End of July 2011.  I suspect this was the highlight of the 2011 garden.  The eremurus were stunning and the crocosmia Lucifer is always fantastic.

July 2012.  Oddly having the gazebo up because we were having a party makes the garden look better, perhaps because it distracts the eye from the fact that there is not a whole lot going on!  The crocosmia is good though as is the geranium Anne Folkard which flowers and flowers and spreads as it goes.

End of August 2011.  This demonstrates what always happens here - everything stops apart from the brave rudbeckia in this photo which was going last year.  I lost that last winter.  How can you lose a rudbeckia?  I thought they were tough as old boots.  I think this is an example of something which happens to me quite a lot.  The plants that are really happy here such as the fennel and the michelmas daisies muscle out those which would happily grow but have yet to make a big clump.  I need to police new plants much more rigorously until they have really got their roots down and do a bit more judicious pulling up of the bullies.

End of August 2012.  The foliage was better this year (all that rain?) and the shasta daisies are earning their keep.  They have only just finished flowering which is pretty fantastic.  I like them even though they are far from unusual.  This is making me feel I should do some serious editing of the side garden.  There are too many aquilegia which I like but which have hardly featured in the record of what works in here.  The corner where the crocosmia and persicaria sit side by side needs rejigging, with the persicaria moved into the shadier area along with some of the geranium.  I wonder if I should just bite the bullet and dig up either all the poppies or all the michelmas daisies?  Giving room to two such thugs means that other things are being crowded out.

End of October 2011 - practically no colour!  Must have missed taking an end of September set.

And again no end of September for 2012 ( that seems to be telling me that there is nothing worth taking photos of!).    October shows that same tiredness and flop this year too.  I know this is the case but looking at the whole year in this way really makes the point that the side garden is a spring and early summer place.  I might sacrifice some of the aquilegia, geranium or the poppies and michelmas daisies for a couple of places in each border which are really motoring in September and October.

Time to go away and do some serious thinking.  I hate bringing things in here which die and it happens sadly frequently.  I need tough plants but also things which will provide really singing colour in late summer and early autumn.  Things which put down deep roots often thrive and things which do not need a deep, moist soil.  I have previously tried and failed with dahlias which have gone to live much  more happily in the cutting garden.  Any suggestions gratefully received.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Side garden

Yesterday the trellis went up in the side garden. Ian made it from scrap wood and we painted in a soft dark green. It seemed to take years to paint but it looks great.

Today I planted out a melianthus which I bought as a tiny and very cheap plant and which I have been growing on. I also planted the dierama pulcherrima which I bought when F and I went to Aberconwy nursery after our Bodnant visit. Then there was a catmint and a soft yellow potentilla. I moved a bit of sedum from the other bed and planted out a dark purple sedum Picolette. It all looks a bit empty and thin at the moment. It needs some climbers and they must be able to be cut back fairly hard from time to time to maintain access to the tank. Clematis viticella would work well and we have also ordered some honeysuckles, two each of Tellmaniana - large copper yellow flowers in June-July, Halliana - white flowers changing to yellow. Fl. June-Sept., Belgica - early purple and yellow flowers from May to July. Might not be room for the clematis as well.
The side garden is doing quite well for its first year. The clary has been a big success, lovely colours of soft pink and blue. I think it is an annual type which I would certainly grow again. The white foxgloves which I grew from seed are still flowering and have been stunning. The major problem with them has been the wind which has sent the flowers every which way. I suppose I should have staked them but had not thought foxgloves would need it. Certainly last year's were fine without staking. Perhaps we have just had much more wind this year.

The colours are mainly purples, pinks and blues with some strong magenta from a geranium, Ann Folkard I think. I have planted out an Artemisia Powys Castle which I grew from a cutting last year and hope the silvery foliage will be good in there. At the moment it is more about foliage than flower which is ok by me.

The other bed, the one which was there when we came, or at least half of it was, is a bit of a curate's egg. The oriental poppies are superb when in flower but smother everything else and leave a huge bare swathe when they are cut down. It still looks a bit sad and stony and bare. I tried to fill the gaps with cosmos which self sowed from last year in the cutting garden but there are not enough to fill out properly as they don't make a big meaty plant in my stony soil. The ones in the cutting garden are quite a bit bigger than the ones in the side garden. Next year I shall grow lots more from seed and plant out ten or twelve in the space where I currently have five. At one end it is looking quite good now with a crocosmia lucifer just going over and three fennel plants which I grew from seed coming into flower. Fennel is good here. I shall sow some more this autumn. The Johnson's Blue geranium looks good and should be split a bit more so that some can go on the edge of the new bed by the trellis.
I need to work out what bulbs to put out there. I should have a lot more tulips I think. Last year I put some Ballerina out in the side bed and they were lovely. Think we need more ballerina in both beds and some Spring Green as well.

Friday, 7 August 2009

We dug up the early potatoes last week. These are Arran Pilot which has cropped well. We also dug up the Charlotte potatoes, great taste, definitely one to grow again and a single line of Ratte which we had from Emma and Ian and which produced a heavy crop, though with perhaps not the most interesting taste.

I lifted the garlic a month or so ago. Goodish crop of Cristo, fine crop of Arno, nothing much from Marco. The red onions produced a very disappointing crop but the white onions are spectacular, big onions, very little damage of any kind. They are drying on the slatted bench in the wooden greenhouse. Need to check the variety and consider growing again.

The peas are still cropping well and the beans are reaching for the sky. There is a lot of blossom on the green and runner beans although not much to be seen amongst the riot of leaf of the borlotti and the Trail of Tears. The broad beans have stopped now. I think it is worth having a go at an autumn sowing to try to elongate the cropping season. My second sowing in late spring produced beans which were only a week or two behind the early spring sown ones.In the cutting garden the echinacea has established much better this year. I love it and will look for some other varieties to have another row. All the cosmos is self sown bar a couple of plants which came up from my greenhouse sowing. I think the seed was not fresh enough but if they self seed as well again next year they will become something which the garden is never without. I loved the white cosmos at Bodnant. I will try growing quite a lot from seed next year as they are an ideal plant to put in front of chopped down oriental poppies.The fennel is lovely again. I will sow some more from the kitchen garden one when it sets seed. Three plants from last year's sowing are in the side garden and are beginning to bulk up. They are a lovely plant. Perhaps I should look for a bronze one too.

The sweetpeas are better than ever. These are the sweetest smelling. I am particularly pleased that I grew these myself from seed. They include some Sarah Raven seeds given to me by Zoe which I think are these deep coloured ones.They all have lovely long stems and are ideal as cut flowers - just what the cutting garden is supposed to be doing!A rather bleached out picture of some of the new bed in the side garden. The euphorbias really earn their keep as do the erysimum bowles mauve. The clary which I grew from seed has also been a good and tough addition. The white foxgloves have been a lovely flower but really suffered from the wind tunnel effect at the side of the house.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Busy day

Another sorting day. I planted out the scabious and the knifophia in the side garden and sowed some more radishes, beetroot and carrots in the field, helped by Em. Her Ian did some digging and it was a hot, hot day. After not too much time she had to decamp to the stone bench under the wild cherry tree and we joined her not too much later.

The tomatoes are planted out now, with only one solitary pot still languishing in the greenhouse.

Yesterday I planted out nicotiana and cosmos in the side garden in front of the warzone which is the cut down oriental poppies. I have tried to weed the side garden today too but the stony soil and the prolific weeds which have sprung up from the mulching (moral, use compost to fill planting holes, not as a mulch) makes it a thankless task. Still everything looks green and fresh and growing again after the cold start to spring.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

End of June

Where did the last couple of months go? One minute I was blogging away fairly frequently about the garden and suddenly here we are and I have said nothing for weeks.

The garden is slowly returning to its usual state of semi-wildness as opposed to the total overgrown mess it was when I got back from my long walk. One of the problems with a naturalistic garden, full of self sown seedlings and every thing jostling for position, is that it easily tips over into chaos. Three weeks of neglect had left it so overgrown it made me want to cry. Now a week of hours of cutting back, weeding, taking out some of the thousands of opium poppies threatening to drown out everything else in the new bed, has just about returned it to something which looks as if it is meant. Not great, not perfect, but in the loosest sense a garden rather than a mess.

I must must must remember next year that the oriental poppies and the foxgloves need staking. Every year I am seduced by how sturdy they look in May and every year we get a ferocious wind slicing along the valley which leaves everything tipsy and twisted. I have also cut back the huge amounts of growth on the poppies as the flowering finishes and am left with a lot of bare soil and mess. I am wondering about zinnias or more cosmos. I suspect zinnias would be better. next year I should try growing some from seed.

to do:
Sow more lettuce and other salad stuff - done
Sow more carrots and beetroot - done
Finish cutting back poppies - done
Weed poppy bed - started
Plant annual succession (??)
Move heuchera
Move marguerites - done
Weed behind new bed
Mulch path with wood chippings
Tie up sweet peas -done
Weed side bed - started
Dig up lavender - done

so much to do

Friday, 17 April 2009

mid April


A lot has been happening over the last week or two. Last weekend we planted the potatoes, at Easter as tradition dictates: Arran Pilot (first early), Charlotte (second early), Pink Fir Apple (maincrop). We also planted a couple of rows of samples given to us by Emma: eight Ratte, five Belle de Fontenay, and six Rooster. All these went into the new bed in the field between the raspberry rows where there will eventually be rhubarb, and in the new lower half of the cutting bed where there will eventually be flowers.

The first sowing of broad beans, peas and mangetout are coming along well in the greenhouse and will soon need to be planted out. I have also sown carrots (just showing today), celeriac (no sign) and beetroot (up and growing strongly). Yesterday I sowed chard and a couple of days ago two sorts of cabbage, Greyhound and Calibos. A couple of weeks ago I sowed some Little Gem lettuce and some mixed salad leaves and they are growing quite strongly.

Ian has sowed more tomatoes this week, together with cucumber and courgettes. So far there is very little outside except for the garlic and onions, all growing well.

I need to weed and rake the slice of the cutting garden which will have to take root veg. There is just no room in the kitchen garden.

Side garden

I have planted out the three fennel plants that I grew from our own seed, sown in October of last year and overwintered in the greenhouse. They are in the sunnier of the two beds in the side garden. I also planted out seven dianthus, also grown from seed and looking a bit sad and straggly having been in the coldframe for a couple of months, three pulsatilla and three more white foxgloves. Into there also went a phlomis from Great Dixter and three eremurus.

In the shady bed went the other three eremurus, three smyrnium perfoliatum , five arum creticum (these last two also from Great Dixter) and the other three pulsatilla. I know the eremurus really like full sun, but there is sun for a fair part of the day and just not enough room in the other bed for all of them.

The side garden is starting to look a bit more garden like now, although still with patches of bare soil. All these plants sound great but they are tiny! Once the alchemilla and the hardy geraniums have filled out it will be better. The grass seed on the resown lawn is a bit hopeless. Perhaps it will need to be done again.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The side garden

Further progress on the side garden today. I planted out 12 white foxgloves and lifted and moved 8 alchemilla mollis from the gravel in front of the house to the edges of the new bed. I also planted out two new hardy geraniums from Crug Farm Plants. Shamefacedly I have to admit that I don't know the varieties as I have had these in pots for about a year and have lost the labels.

The side garden is still looking empty but not quite as desolate as last month. I still have some potted tulips to plant out and some eremurus later in April. I suspect the eremurus will be happier in the other bed. This one is likely to be too shady but I have so many I will give it a go. It is a pain to plant things out in here at the moment. The soil as always here is stony and shallow. I wonder how much of what has gone in will survive.
In the greenhouse I sowed Clary and Orlaya Grandiflora, both hardy annuals. I also sowed some carrots and celeriac in guttering which, perhaps surprisingly, worked well last year.