Saturday, 18 June 2016

It's all a bit Gertrude Jekyll

A friend leaned over my garden gate and gazed down the garden, then shook his head slightly and said "Oh dear, it's all getting a bit Gertrude Jekyll isn't it..."

I don't think he meant 'It's all wonderfully planned, planted and managed, isn't it ?', as, of course, Gertrude Jekyll's gardens all are. Sadly I think he meant, 'It's all a bit out of control and wild as the wind, isn't it?'

Taking my friend's interpretation of a Gertrude Jekyll garden, I can say, with my hand on my heart that I am glad it is 'a bit Gertrude Jekyll', as, if a garden can't be wild, rambling and overflowing in June, then when can it ! It isn't well manicured, but it does celebrate all the many plants which are accelerating towards their zenith, outgrowing their allotted spaces as they do so.

There is so much work to do out there, trying to keep them staked, tied in, cut back, cut down, that I did wonder today if I am a weeny bit crazy, and really I should be lying in a hammock on a square of artificial grass with not a leaf or flower in sight. I could smell the BBQ's firing up in other gardens, and hear people starting to relax and to enjoy the evening, but I just couldn't justify stopping. Whilst the process of gardening is infinitely enjoyable and rewarding ... so is just sitting sometimes.

So, I have resolved to let it become even more 'Gertrude Jekyll' and take time to smell the roses, as well as weed around them. I will sit on the deck chair which has served only as a resting place for my gardening gloves ! I will take the time to enjoy the days of summer which are slipping by so quickly.

We have been busy with new projects, that there has been little time for relaxing. We have developed  three new areas in the garden since March, and they have all needed digging, hard landscaping and  planting but are now well on the way to completion. 

The fourth new area is shown below, and still has a long way to go.

We didn't do the decking ourselves, as we know 'a man who can', but we are beginning work on the raised bed. Topsoil is on order, and then we can start planting hostas and ferns, as it is an area of partial shade. The whole bed will be lined with heavy duty plastic sheeting to keep adjoining walls free from damp. I am in the process of selecting a couple of climbers too.The area is very sheltered so I could try something reasonably tender - perhaps a couple of the Abutilons which I bought at Chelsea.

Above is one of the new areas we have made this season. It is using land which we have never cultivated in 30 + years, so was very hard to dig initially. It is an extension of the exotic garden, and very much in its infancy. Skeleton planting of palms and small tree ferns has been completed and underplanting, such as hostas and brunnera is in place. I have grown loads of annuals to fill gaps, and am waiting impatiently for these to get moving.

 I have grown Amaranthus Caudatus, Amaranthus 'China Town' and Amaranthus 'Velvet Curtain', all for the first time. I will not be growing 'China Town' as you need a magnifying glass to see them, even though I sowed the seed very early! Although you can't see them in the photo there are also Tithonia 'Torch', coleus and zinnias 'Candy Cane. You can just see, bottom right, Ricinus and nasturtiums, starting to put on some growth.

As well as making new areas in the garden, we have been planting up annuals, in pots and tubs.

Again, they need time to fill out, but at least the hard work is done - just watering and dead heading from now on ...

We have also made a purchase from our new, local reclamation yard - a Victorian/ Edwardian garden gate. It has seen better days and needs some tlc, but there is something very quintessentially English - garden about it, and I love opening it, and thinking of the other hands, down across the generations, which have done the same. Cost is not important, but it was actually only £30, which is the equivalent of a few basics in the trolley at Tesco, which seems slightly ridiculous, for all that history.

Underneath the gate as a sort of ornamental threshold, we have put another piece of salvage. This is  a panel from an Indian railing, and shows a depiction of the young Queen Victoria.

What a strange journey indeed, from India to deepest Lincolnshire...

Monday, 30 May 2016

Woke up it was a Chelsea morning ...

A visit to the Chelsea Flower show is probably on the bucket list of most passionate gardeners, and has been on mine for years, but work has always prevented me from attending. Not this year though, so I bought my partner tickets for Christmas - a very cunning plan, as I had to buy one for myself as well!

Our show day was Thursday, and it dawned warm and sunny, and it stayed like that all day, making the weather as perfect as you imagine it will be.

 We headed to the Show Gardens first, and they were absolutely amazing. We were not disappointed!

The BBC were out in force, filming, in the show gardens and it was an interesting process to watch . We also saw the presenters around the site too - Monty Don, Joe Sharp, Toby Buckland and Nicky Chapman. Carol Klein would have completed the set, but it was not to be !

Toby Buckland being filmed for BBC Chelsea coverage

Nicky Chapman in the David Austin stand

The garden designers were also much in evidence, and many were in their gardens, chatting to the public, or giving interviews. Diarmuid Gavin exited from the little gothic tower in his bonkers garden, along with many friends ! How did they all fit in?

The highlights for me were the Japanese designer Kazuyuki Ishihara's garden which was suitably quirky and, although small, was perfectly formed. We happened along at just the right moment when he was showing the crowd his awards.

The garden pictured below was designed by Charlie Albone, sponsored by Husqvarna and was my favourite. I loved the rich, dark palette of the planting, featuring lots of purples and dark pinks. Exotics such as Acacia and Protea were planted alongside more traditional european perennials and all were offset by tiered formal hedging, and flashes of white. 

The garden above was designed by Chris Beardshaw and is the Morgan Stanley garden for Great Ormond Street. Once the show has finished it will be moved to its permanent home there, serving as a place of "privacy and reflection" for parents and families. Considering the terrifying amount of waste 
which Chelsea must create, it is good to know that this garden, at least, is here to stay.

The garden above was designed by Hay Joung Hwang and sponsored by L G Electronics. It represents a Scandinavian lifestyle garden. I loved the way the cool, pale hard landscaping contrasted with the dense informal planting.

On the whole the planting was very similar in many of  the gardens, and using a palette of pastel colours, it utilised cottage garden perennials, packed densely to create a rich, relaxed and informal effect. All the trusty favourites were there - roses, foxgloves,verbascum and poppies, to name but a few!

The Great Pavilion was all I had hoped for - an extravagance of gorgeous flowers and foliage all at their very peak. There were fantastic displays all around, from the New Covent Garden Flower market's all white extravaganza...

... to the stunning colours of begonia Rex and streptocarpus ...

... and the over the top exuberance of the gladioli.

We have been to several other of the 'big' RHS shows over the years, and thoroughly enjoyed them, but Chelsea is clearly the King of them all . The Show Gardens are in a league of their own, and are the heart of the whole event. The quality of the planting and the build is fabulous, and there is so much to learn from them. 

One of the highlights of Chelsea for me was one of the exhibitors, 'Wall End Nursery' featuring  abutilons, with a gorgeous stand, showcasing the range of varieties and colours available. Leila Jackson and Eric Turner hold the National Collection, and are very happy to give oodles  of really good advice . Now I have always loved Abutilons, and have grown them over the years, but have always assumed that they are unable to tolerate low temperatures. Not so! They are much tougher than they look, and some are tougher than others.

After talking with Leila, I bought 2 collections of plug plants, priced, very reasonably, at £10 for 3 plants, and she advised me which of the collection contained the most hardy varieties .

I will post in more detail next time about these beautiful plants, and how they have fared. Needless to say I am excited to start growing them, and get them into the greenhouse and garden.

We had a great day and Chelsea really lived up to expectations. I had envisaged it being uncomfortably crowded, but that was not the case, and in fact it was easy to move around and see the gardens. We left around 3.30 p.m. as the 'late ticket' visitors were coming in, and for a short while it was ridiculously busy.

So, go if you get the chance and immerse yourself in all things planty for a few sublime hours ... 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

The stalwarts

The lazy old grasses are only just beginning to stir, and the roses are weeks away from flowering, but there are some unassuming, hardworking plants out there, doing their diligent duty day after day after day.

At this time of the year, there are certain stalwarts in the garden, filling it with colour, scent and foliage, and I just couldn't imagine the garden without them. They are not the divas of the garden, and would only ever play a supporting role, but they underpin the garden structure at the moment, as we wait for the stars of the show.

Erysimums - both biennial and perennial wallflowers - are giving me more pleasure than just about anything else at the moment. I am growing more and more every year, and trying to get diversity of flower colour, as well as scent.

The ones pictured on the header of this post were sown last summer, and are biennials 'Scarlet Bedder'. The photos do not do the true colours of the flowers justice, as the rich, fiery reds really glow in the late spring garden. They grow to about 30 cm high, and are becoming quite bushy plants now. I grew them in the greenhouse and planted some out last autumn, then ran out of steam and time, and planted the rest in early spring. There are also some 'Persian Carpet' wall flowers, a variety which contains a mix of colours from yellow through to russets and reds.

 It is a variety I will be growing again. They were very easy to germinate and grow on, and are such an economical way to fill the garden with scent and colour.

The perennial Erysimums are still an absolute joy, and there is a wide variety of colours in some young plants I bought last year. Some of the older plants are getting leggy and woody now, as they are very short lived, so I will be propagating them later in the year, to ensure continuation.

Another of my favourites at this time of year are the Brunneras, and they are of interest throughout their long growing season. At the moment, they are still small - leaved but are wreathed in clouds of forget - me - not flowers in a clear, mid blue. As the flowers fade, the leaves begin to take over, as they grow larger and larger.

I'm sure there must be lots of different - and excellent - varieties, but I tend to stick to two know and loved ones, which are 'Jack Frost' and 'Sea Heart'. The silver variegations on both of these is superb.

Cheap to buy, and quick to grow and bulk up, Brunneras are a superb choice. they cope with many different situations but are especially useful in deep, dry shade. The are at home in a traditional cottage garden , or as part of a sub tropical scheme.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

End of the month view

And what a month April has been! We have had everything from warm spring days, with blue cloudless skies, to icy sleet and driving rain. The last few days have seen miserable, unseasonably low temperatures, which felt more like winter than winter itself.

All this cold grey weather has affected growth and checked it very noticeably. However, plants are still filling out, albeit more slowly, and there is less bare earth to be seen every day.

There are lots of reasons to be cheerful at the moment, and the notable joy bringers are the tulips (except for the rogue red one in a pot of pink!), magnolia Stellata, Auriculas, primroses and Fritillaries.

The pond has woken up and is full of small but determined tadpoles, striking out across open water, instead of hugging the banks. Although we have pond skaters, water beetles and snails, there is no sign whatsoever of any sticklebacks, which is very disappointing. They must have died off over the winter. Pond plants are starting to grow and the yellow Marsh Marigolds are in full flower.

Buds are forming on the apple trees and it is to be hoped that the weather has warmed up by the time the blossom opens, otherwise it will be frosted.

The beech hedge is just beginning to unfurl, with certain plants ahead of the others, and showing green.

The veg patch is creaking slowly into life and Early Potatoes are now in, and onions are partially in. Courgettes, pumpkins and tomatoes are growing apace in the greenhouse, ready to be planted out when things warm up.

The new exotic garden now has all large key plants in position. The are lots of perennials already planted, which will come into their own over the next few months, and hundreds of waiting annuals to fill all the inevitable gaps.

There is always a feeling of disappointment at this point in a new garden, as although most of the hard work has been done, it still looks unfinished and raw. It is, however, still just a skeleton, and will only take on its true character when the other elements are there too. It is now just a question of waiting for the plants to grow and put some flesh onto those bones!

I have loved all the Erysimums and they have flowered throughout the winter. 'Bowles Mauve' is a trusty favourite, and the mauve flowers look fantastic offset by the glaucous foliage, but the real star is ... if I recall correctly ...'Winter Spice'. The flowers are a rich dark raspberry pink, and were a very welcome sight in late winter and early spring. Sadly the plants are very short-lived, and mine are going very leggy and starting to fall over after only a couple of years.

Magnolia Stellata has been stunning but is now just past its best.

The greenhouse is stuffed to the gunnels with plants ready to go outside when all frosts are over. Dahlias, cannas and melianthus are all growing strongly, enjoying the heat we have in there when it is really cold. The Abutilon Megapotamicum is covered in flowers, as is the white Datura. The lemony scent from the datura, released in the late afternoon/ early evening is superb.

It has been such as odd start to the season, due to the extremes of weather the poor plants have had to cope with, but, due to the mildness of the winter itself, everything has made it through unscathed, ready to start growing again.

I am joining in Helen's 'End of the month view' meme, and you can read posts from all over the globe , over at her blogsite

'The Patient Gardener'