Monday, 31 March 2014

End of the month view

The view at the end of March is distinctly yellow ! It is the predominant colour and leaps out to smack you in the eye from daffodils, forsythia, kerria,  japonica and cowslips. Now, although not a fan of yellow flowers generally, I can make an exception for all these heralds of Spring as they are so very welcome at the end of a dreary winter.

The pond is full of frogspawn, and the frogs are still having a froggy - riot in there, a non stop party to which all are invited. The first clump of spawn appeared overnight on 12th March, to be followed by dozens more over the next few days. The marginal plants have been triggered into growth already and Caltha Palustris (Marsh Marigold) is in full flower.

Although Spring is extremely welcome, I always feel a brief wave of despair when I look at the garden, as although lots of things are growing, there are still huge stretches of bare earth. I can never fully visualise how the garden will develop that exuberant abundance later in the season. The lush growth and flowers of summer are hard to imagine at this time of year. This is when blogging comes into its own, as I, like all garden bloggers, have a million squillion photos of the garden throughout the seasons, so it is easy to remind myself how the garden burgeons over the next few weeks. Looking at photos can be so useful, as they are hard evidence that things will improve!

Cowslips by the pond
A couple of weeks ago, we planted 50 new bare root beech hedging plants, to enclose the north and east side of the veg plot. Because of the mild winter we had to get them planted as quickly as possible after they arrived, as the leaf buds were very well developed, and the plants were coming out of dormancy.

The sub- tropical garden hasn't had the battering is usually gets every winter, and hopefully there has been no check to growth, as the palms and more tender plants have had no need to recover from very low temperatures.

The geraniums are well into growth, and I do like them at this time of year, as they are like Yorkshire puddings on a tray - all neat and round and uniform. I know they are just biding their time before they begin their annual sprawl!

All the roses are now in strong growth, including the dozen or so bare root plants which are just beginning to establish. In the photo above is a hedge of 'Charles de Mills' , underplanted with Rosa 'Garden Party'. All have remained in leaf throughout the winter, giving welcome structure to the garden.

All the Euphorbias are looking splendid at the moment, fresh and colourful, dense and compact. They are a lovely dark contrast to the pastel colours of the flowers.

This is Clematis Armandii, flowering for the first time, and is is another plant which breathes a sigh of relief when the winter passes without  a spell or two of really cold weather. It is a tender plant which really benefits from some winter protection, but it is well worth the effort. The flowers are large and gorgeous, and I thought they were scented, but this one certainly isn't.

The borders are springing into growth, perennials are pushing through, shrubs are beginning to leaf up and bulbs are flowering. Some shrubs are flowering, mainly forsythia, Kerria, Magnolia Stellata and Flowering Currant (Ribes).

Primula Denticulata (above) the Drumstick Primula, sits well with some naturalised hyacinths (below), which were originally grown in the house, as forced bulbs.

There is good news in the greenhouse as the Auriculas have started to bloom, so I have moved them outside onto the old stepladders, which desperately attempt to morph into an Auricula Theatre. The first one to flower was a large double, in an unusual delicate orangey - yellow, and it was followed soon after by a tiny single, dark red . I am very cross with myself as I have lost the labels for both, so if anyone out there knows the name of these little beauties, please would you let me know!

The 'EOMV'  has been a real pleasure to put together this month, as I have had a wealth of subjects to choose from to photograph ! Throughout winter, it is usually a case of 'Hunt the bloom', and there is no selection process. If it's in flower, it gets photographed. This month, for the first time in this new season, I have had a profusion of subjects, which means that Spring has most definitely sprung!

You can see many other 'End of the month views' at 'The Patient gardener', hosted by Helen Johnstone. There is a big diversity of gardens from around the globe, and some excellent blogs to hop across to.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

And I didn't give a fig...

I was hopping idly from blog to gorgeous blog, as you do, and I came across this meme on '  Loose and leafy', called 'Tree Following' and I think it is such a cracking idea. The premise is that you choose a tree and then post about it regularly for a year,  on the 7th day of each month ,including photos, information, musings and anything you like really . It is a good opportunity to focus in on one tree and really look at it carefully, photograph it, think about it, research it  and, basically, love it !

Ok, once I was hooked on the idea of the meme,  all I had to do was to choose a tree. I didn't think that would be a problem, as we have quite a few to choose from in the garden, but it doesn't even have to be your own tree for you to join the meme. It could be in a park or a wood, or even someone else's garden. My first thought was to choose my favourite tree, which is Prunus Serrula, as I wanted to photograph those wonderful long strips of red, translucent bark with the sun shining through them. Then I realised that the branches are so high that I couldn't easily get photos of buds, leaves or flowers. Not such a good choice.

My next choice was Betula Jacquemontii, my second favourite tree, as I was interested in recording some of the insect life which it supports, and the birds which swing through its branches. Tempting...

However, I have decided to choose a tree based, not on my emotional response, but on interest throughout the year. One I know little about, so would benefit from learning about. It is ... ta dah... the Fig tree, Ficus Carica, 'Brown Turkey' (which has been awarded an AGM).

It has grown against a south facing wall in a sheltered part of the garden for about twenty years, in the poorest soil, filled with bricks and builder's rubble. It has thrived on my neglect. Every Autumn, I prune it back cruelly, just to keep it to a workable size, and it never complains. I know that I planted it, but I have no recollection of doing so, nor can I remember where I bought it. It must have been quite unusual in Lincolnshire twenty years ago, I suppose.

Here is my confession. I have never eaten ONE of the beautiful figs which it produces so freely for me every year. I do like figs. When we are on holiday in hot, wonderful places, we buy them in the local market and eat them almost with reverence. When they grow in our garden, we leave them to rot on the tree. I do not understand this, nor can I explain it, nor am I proud of it. Maybe this meme will change it.

Already this meme has taught me lots, and I feel bad about the way I have mistreated this poor tree. It should have had winter protection - but no one told me , or the tree, that it was tender. I bought it in my 'gung-ho' days of gardening, when my world was full of young children and full time work, and I had little time to research what I planted. I knew it needed a sheltered spot , but didn't realise that I should have also given it winter protection. Anyhow, it has survived exceptionally well, coping with temperatures of minus twelve one winter. I also knew vaguely that figs like poor soil, and quite like to have their roots constrained. Having just checked the RHS site, I see that this is indeed true, and promotes heavier fruiting!

I am feeling a little guilty at my flagrant mistreatment of this poor tree, but, to be honest, it has thrived on my neglect. Fig trees should be planted against a wall (south facing if possible) in free draining soil. They respond well if they are grown in a 'planting pit' , lied with slabs, and containing a layer of broken crocks/ builder's rubble at the bottom, with soil laid on top. The slabs should stand a little proud of the soil to prevent the roots spreading from the 'pit'. Alternatively, they can be planted in containers, as they grow well when they are restricted in this way.

Here in the UK , Spring is springing and the first trees are coming into leaf. My fig has fat green leaf buds which should open in a week or two, so hopefully the next 'Tree following' post will show my boy fully clothed !

Friday, 28 February 2014

End of the month view

What an exciting end of the month view it is, as we slide seamlessly from winter into Spring. Proper, frothy, blossomy Spring. I feel giddy with excitement and I'm sure I can feel the ground boiling and heaving with all that growth going on down there.

We can take a stroll from the stream at the bottom of the garden, if you like, and meander up to the garden, until we reach the house, where we can have a cup of tea. If we want to celebrate the tipping of the season, we could always have something a little stronger. A little sherry perhaps ?

Although the water in the pond is still decidedly icy, it must be warming up to some extent, as aquatic plants have started into growth. The sticklebacks are very active now, and there are tiny flashes of silver as they dart through the water. I keep looking for the big eyes of the frogs, watching me in total stillness from the margins, but as yet it is too early. I know from the myriad of forums and blogs that I spend far too many hours on, that there is frogspawn already, in ponds further south. Here in Lincolnshire we are still waiting.

The tips of Water Iris leaves

The next section looks fine now, as it just sports a few bonfire piles of brash, but, it has been much more dramatic over the last month. It held the fallen Bramley apple tree which blew down in a gale a couple of months ago, then that tree was joined by a HUGE conifer from next door, which was uprooted in a gale a couple of weeks ago. It crashed through the beech boundary hedge and wedged itself behind the garden gate, so we could hardly even get access. The orchard area was completely taken up with two large fallen trees. Luckily, a (very reasonable) man with a chain saw spent a day logging them both, and all we have left now is fodder for the open fire.

Walking through the exotic garden and into the ornamental pond garden, it is noticeable that things are being kickstarted into growth. This rose, Reinne de Violettes, was planted at the back end of last year, and is obviously very happy with its new home, as it has put out lots of fresh, new growth already.

All my new barefoot roses, both old roses and Patio roses are showing leaf buds, so I assume that they are building a good, unseen root system. Some of the roses are showing beautiful, dark red, new growth which is very attractive.

Chainsaw man was invited back for another day and he topped off a holly tree near the house, an unruly Viburnum Tinus and a Box hedge which thought it was a tree! I am doing my utmost to let light and sunshine into my south facing plot, to maximise the happiness of all my roses ( currently numbering about 200. Eek! Must stop! Need help fast!).

The Exotic Gardener (aka partner who, sorry to disappoint, oversees the Exotic garden!) has already got the mower out this year. A little too eagerly, I thought, but he seemed to enjoy himself. He has also done some edging so there are bits of the garden looking all crisp and tidy.

The rest of the beds and borders all contain little fizzes of excitement, as new foliage emerges blinking into the light. There are miniature lupin leaves, feathery Fennel and the shooting stems of Angelica.

Every time I stop and really look, I notice something new in bloom, or just about to break bud. The Ribes is itching to take the stage, and the pink of the flowers can already be seen. Kerria Japonica is just starting to flower, Mahonia, Pulmonaria, snowdrops, and bergenia are all out, while Iris Histrioides is ablaze with gorgeousness . Why can cameras never capture the true shade and intensity of purple and dark blue flowers ? Iris Histrioides is the most glorious rich, dark indigo, yet through the lens, it becomes a washed out blue. I will grow more of this scrumptious plant next year and keep them in the greenhouse so that I can worship right up close and personal.

The daffodils we planted in the autumn are just coming into flower in the grass in the orchard, and there are some sweet 'Tete a tetes' in pots, and next to the pond. Clematis Armandii has been unchecked by the weather this year, so far, and is full of buds. Clematis Cirrhosa 'Wisley Cream' has been flowering for weeks now, and has been a joy. It is very delicate and easy to overlook, but well worth a closer look.

Clematis Armandii
Because this winter has been so mild, so far, casualties have been zilch. In many cases growth has not even been checked, and plants have kept their leaves, and in some cases kept flowering sporadically.

So, if you fancy a peep into the greenhouse, there are lots of rose cutting coming out of winter dormancy and growing away strongly. There are pots of tulips, waiting for their turn to shine and the sweet peas are getting tired of being restricted in their little pots and are desperate to romp away.

Nearly done now, we can go into the kitchen and put the kettle on, but we need to walk through the conservatory to do that, so we can see how the plants there are also waking up. The fuchsias , some three or four years old, are putting out fresh new foliage, and I have started to water them again.

Now, how do you like it ? Milk? Sugar ? Think I've got some digestives somewhere ...

Helen at 'the Patient Gardener' is hosting 'the end of the month view', so why not hop over there and enjoy lots more gardens, and discover some fantastic blogs too! Find them at

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Blogger's Bloom Day - February

My initial thought was that I wouldn't be able to find enough blooms in the garden to drum up a halfway respectable post for 'Blogger's Bloom Day', because when I look out of the window, all I can see are tones of brown and green. However, when I went outside armed with the macro lens, I was surprised how much there actually was in bloom. OK, we're not talking armfuls here, just tiny flowers dotted here and there amid the gloom, but enough to photograph.

The star of this (limited cast) show is undoubtably Iris Histrioides, which is totally gorgeous. I saw a photo of one on someone else's blog recently, rushed out and bought 3 for the cool greenhouse, then found a couple growing in the garden, which I had planted in the Autumn and totally forgotten about. Good job I'm not a squirrel - I'd starve!

The Hellebores are coming into their best at the moment and I particularly like this speckled one. As I have never bought one, these must all have come from a couple of plants which were here when we moved in, over thirty years ago.

I love the dark, rich reds of the buds before they open.

This is the palest one I possess and I might do a bit of breeding from this one, later on, when it is ready for pollination.

This Hellebore has very finely cut leaves, and has unusual pale buds and flowers. It stays looking good throughout the year, and is a real favourite of mine for shady places. I think it is Argutifolius, but am happy to be corrected, as I have never been sure what it actually is !

The delicate, bell like flowers of 'Clematis Cirrhosa Wisley Cream' are easy to miss, and look lovely as they blow in the wind.

Clematis Armandii is not far behind, and those flowers should be opening in a few days. I have lost a couple of plants before, as they are tender, and haven't coped with the low temperatures over the last three winters. So far this Winter, there has been little weather cold enough to have a detrimental effect. I can't wait for the flowers to open and fill the air with fragrance.

Not a bloom, but I couldn't resist this photo showing new growth in my summer flowering clematis 'Polish Spirit'.

Most of my Euphorbias have been kickstarted into growth, and this Martinii is no exception. They provide a welcome splash of colour in the winter garden.

You really can't ask for more from a shrub than you get with Viburnam Tinus - healthy evergreen foliage, vigorous growth, nice rounded habit and to cap it all, lovely white perfumed flowers, when very few shrubs are more than a collection of sticks !

The winter Jasmine has been flowering for months already and shows no sign of stopping yet. It is planted near the back door so that we can see it every time we go out. I couldn't have a garden without including it. One of the cheeriest plants there is, it brightens up many a gloomy winter's day.

Not technically blooming yet, but, oh , so close ... These wallflowers will be out soon and I swear I can smell them already!

Early stalwarts, the Snowdrops, are well into their flowering period now, and at their peak.

Apologies for poor focusing this photo, believe it or not, this was actually the best shot I got of these Pulmonaria ! Had to share it because they are newly out, and it is so lovely to greet them again!

Bit of a cheat because I bought these Primulas from the local Garden Centre about 3 weeks ago, and they are in pots. However, they are in bloom, they are in the garden, so I guess they just qualify!

And the good thing about getting low down and dirty with your plants, is that you notice the small harbingers of Spring even sooner than you would otherwise !

So ... Happy Blogger's Bloom day, which takes place on the 15th day of each month, thanks to the hard work of ' May Dreams Gardens'