Saturday 29 November 2014

'Tis the season to ... cut down trees

It's not the bells which have been ringing out in my neck of the woods, this last few days, but the chainsaws! For some reason, our little cluster of neighbours,  have gone chainsaw crazy and cut down enough trees to keep those festive log fires burning for months.

Yesterday there were actually three chainsaws droning away in unison, in different gardens, and between us, we have made a lot more sky visible. Whole new vistas have been revealed which we were unaware of.  Light is flooding into murky corners, where only ivy was brave enough to grow.  I reckon we will have two to three more hours of sunshine in our garden every summer's afternoon, due to our lovely neighbours removing three very tall, wide and sombre conifers. All the conifers visible at the right-handside of the photo at the top of this post, have now vanished into thin air ! The photo below shows just what they were concealing from us.

Our garden needed some work doing on it, mostly annual maintenance of hedges, pruning and raising of tree canopies, so we called on the ever- affable Richard to come and work some magic. He took off a lot of lower branches on specimen trees to allow more light and air into the garden.

One large sycamore branch was overhanging the wildlife pond, and we were worried that it might puncture the lining, if it fell in as it was sawn through. However, all was well and the offending branch landed on nearby grass with a satisfying thud.

Richard mainly used a manual telescopic saw for the branches, which meant that he did not have to use ladders, or do any climbing. The three tree surgeons who were working next door, yesterday, had a different approach and climbed the trees before the cutting sections above them, with a chainsaw.

Half way down the garden is a massive, prostrate conifer which takes up half the garden and is officially the most boring plant on earth. I hate it with a passion and have been giving it the evil eye for years, hoping it would wither and die. It has resolutely ignored me, and remains in the rudest of rude health. And so began a 'discussion' about its future, which has lasted for months between the Under Gardener and myself. I had already donned my black cap, but the Under Gardener begged for a reprieve for the conifer. Guess who won ? Ten minutes work with the chainsaw  and I now have a whole new area to plant up ... and I have the roses lined up and ready!

Richard also cut down some complete trees for us, mainly old, self set elders strangled by ivy, and an odd multi - trunked self seeded Robinia which was growing way too large. He did the sawing and we did the labouring, trundling up and down the garden with logged branches and barrows full of brash. There are going to be some cracking bonfires over Christmas and New Year.

Now, a whole day of a chainsaw has led to a very full log store, and I feel just like a squirrel must feel when it has a store of nuts for the winter - smug! There is no better feeling than looking at a full log store knowing that the wind may blow, the snow may fall, the power may be off - but if you have a full log store you know you can weather it all in a cosy glow.

Saturday 15 November 2014

The patter of tiny ferns ...

About eighteen months ago I bought an envelope of fern spores from 'The British Pteridological Society' stand, at Tatton Park RHS Show, for £1only, intending to produce squillions of luscious ferns. The enthusiasts on the stand were really helpful and full of good advice. I followed the instructions they gave me carefully (or so I thought) and sowed the spores on the surface of sterile compost, and then put the seed tray in a sealed bag. After a couple of months I checked for signs of any  progress and found the compost covered in a sort of lumpy moss, so ... I threw it out!

When I was at Tatton again this year, I revisited the B.P. Society stand to discuss what went wrong. Turns out, nothing went wrong, and I had thrown the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. The lumpy moss was actually the developing ferns, at a stage of their development when they are termed Prothalli !! Who would have guessed it . 

So I decided to try again and bought 2 packets of spores this time -'Braun's Shield fern' (Polystichum Braunii) and 'Dickins's Wood Fern' (Dryopteris Dickinsii). I chose these varieties as they were recommended for being comparatively easy to grow. 'The British Pteridological Society' have produced a fantastic step by step guide with photos, so I felt more confident of success this time.

I  posted in summer about the process of sowing the spores in ''A ferny thing happened ...', if you care to find out more, but the basic premise is that the spores are sown on the surface of newly sterilised compost. Once sown they are kept in a sealed bag to keep moisture in and bacteria, chance seeds etc out.

When I spoke to the very nice people on the stall they said that it could take a while for germination to occur, but that patience was the watchword, so I put my 2 seed trays in the greenhouse, and left them to get on with germination unhindered .

After a couple of months, the surface of the 'Shield Fern' compost just looked as if it was covered with a fine green film, but that began to grow into what I believe are fernlets or, more correctly, Prothalli ! Yes, we have the patter of tiny ferns ! Babies ! Only Shield Fern babies though, as the Dickins's Wood Fern compost remains a sea of brown.

Shied Fern prothalli
My instruction leaflet informs me that it is best to leave them undisturbed at this stage, so that is what I plan to do. Just sit with my feet up and watch them grow...

Monday 10 November 2014

Settling down for a long Winter nap ...

Every month   'Loose and leafy'  hosts a 'Tree Following' meme, where lots of bloggers from around the world, give an update on a chosen tree. I have joined in whenever I have been able to, and have been chronicling the ups and downs (mainly downs if I'm honest!) of my Fig Tree, Ficus Carica 'Brown Turkey'.

Since March it has been subjected to savage pruning, roofers and builders working around it, and last, but not least, the tail end of a hurricane and subsequent collapse of a nearby wall. Quite a lot of trials and tribulations for one little tree.

It had a very slow start in the Spring, which I now think is probably the norm for fig trees in this country, and not because of the mistreatment meted out by my tree loppers. However, once it was in leaf, it went from strength to strength and the long, warm growing season resulted in strong growth, as you can see from the green stems in the photo below. The green growth has all been put on this season.

Sadly, it only produced one fig this summer ... and that was down to my pruning!

After advice given in comments on my posts by gardeners who know about these things, I have removed the small figlets growing on the tree at the moment, as these stand no chance of ripening. Apparently if the tree was in warmer climes, it would produce some figs in January, but that ain't going to happen in the cold, drear UK !! I have asked Head Gardener Mr Google, who told me to remove all figs which are larger than a pea, as they will not ripen. Apparently the tiny, tiny fruit nestling in the branches are the ones which will grow and ripen next summer, all being well.

Even though many of the leaves are changing colour, there are still a few which think it is still summer, and remain resolutely green.

However, most of the leaves are turning colour and falling quite quickly now.

Although some leaves are an interesting yellow, the tree is not renowned for its autumn colour.

One more strong wind and I think it will be totally bare.

We have had an amazingly sunny and mild autumn which the fig tree has really loved, and the leaves have only really started to turn over the last couple of weeks.

I had to cut this poor clematis ('Polish Spirit')  right back to allow the builder access to the brickwork behind the fig tree, back in the early summer. It usually grows through the fig tree and scrambles around in its branches.

As you can see it has made a full recovery, and is growing back more strongly than ever. The flowers are a rich dark purple, and are freely borne.

I think that my December photos will show my little tree totally denuded, and slumbering deeply, just waiting for the Spring to stir it into growth again !

All it wants now is to go to sleep ...

Thursday 30 October 2014

The sun has (still ) got his hat on...

Most Octobers end rather gloomily, as they merge seamlessly into Novembers, bringing dark and grey and cold. Not this one though! It is like a parade full of cheerleaders who just won't go home. The sun is still shining with a pleasing amount of warmth, and the flowers are being fooled into the longest blooming period EVER! I found a new delphinium flower today, the geraniums are beginning to flower again and the roses think it is still June.

Although there are inevitably gaps in the borders where I have had to cut back, the general feeling is still one of fullness. The Hypericum is flowering again albeit sporadically, and the dahlias have never stopped.

The Hostas that are in the chimney pots have been cut right back, as have all the others in the garden - except one, which is just coming into flower and is as perky as the others were in April !

The Molinea has come into its own this year, as the light has been perfect, and shown its delicate seed heads off to perfection, as they have almost glowed in the mellow October sun. The phormium 'Red Sunset' is more tender than it's green cousins, so will be wintering in the greenhouse when it gets cold.

I bought this Pampas grass about twenty years ago at a really good specialist nursery , and it is by far the best I have seen. The plumes do not stand regimentally upright, but are fulsome, luxuriant and a soft shade of pink.

Now, a little conundrum for you ... how do you get a 5' x 5' banana into a big enough, warm enough billet to get it through the winter ? How do you even get it into the house ? Monty Don makes it look so easy ! However, I am determined it WILL get through this winter with every leaf intact, and have been heard to say that, if necessary, it can come under the duvet with me, if that is what it takes !!

These chaps are enjoying the wonderful sunshine until it is time to form an orderly queue at the greenhouse door. If we keep them dry and protect with fleece/ greenhouse heater during severe cold, then they should get through the winter unscathed.

Before you think it, yes, I know that this Gunnera is in totally the wrong place, but it would be impossible to move/ threaten/ kill now. There used to be a rather nice pond there at one time, until we got Gus, the Aquatic dog, who flung himself in for a quick swim at every opportunity, several times a day. Quickly tiring of dripping dog and muddy paw prints, we filled in the pond and made a bog garden, putting in a tiny little Gunnera ...

(BTW that IS a man standing next to our chimney, as he works on the adjacent one!)

We got this new Lutyens bench a few weeks ago, and it is already beginning to soften in colour and, as it  weathers it will become silvery grey. It is my favourite place for sitting and contemplating. 

Dahlias and Asters are still flowering, as are random sweet peas !

I have only really just discovered the joys of Erysimums, and the one in the photo is 'Bowles Mauve'. They are my kind of plant, as they stay the same, without staking, pruning, coaxing or cutting back. I love the long flowering period and the compact shape. I have planted out half a dozen young Erysimums of different colours/ varieties and am interested to see how they progress. I bought them on offer from 'Hayloft Nursery', online, a couple of months ago.

Cotinus Coggygria 'Royal Purple' never disappoints, whatever the season, and can make even my flower arrangements look good!

Come on 'Sexy Rexy', it's October, not June ! This ridiculously named rose was planted about six weeks ago, and is determined to flower before the end of the season.

The vegetation in 'Top Pond' (as it is imaginatively called) is beginning to die back as the water temperature drops.

The first time I saw the sun streaming through the bark of this Prunus Serrula, I thought that the then -children had tied some sort of dayglo streamers onto it !  It is a beautiful sight, as there are always ribbons of bark hanging off it, and when they are backlit like this, the effect is stunning.

The sub tropical garden is untouched by the advancing season, and dahlias and cosmos are still flowering strongly. The Ligularias have died back, but other than that it remains unchanged. Fatsia Japonica (in the foreground) is totally hardy, and will remain unchanged through out the winter, apart from a few flowers it is beginning to put out. The ferns will disappear, unless they are evergreen, although I have to resist the urge to cut them back anyway, as they look very sad.

The Tetrapanax in the foreground has grown well this season, as it has relished the conditions. It is tender, but has come through two winters with just a thick mulch over it. It is in quite a protected position here, so the micro climate must be beneficial.

Tree ferns and cordylines, mostly newly planted this season.

Nothing says 'smug' like trimmed hedges and a cleared veg patch !

Promise not to snigger... above is the beginning of my beech arch, which has been long in the planning. I have never cut the hedging nearest to the gate and have encouraged it to grow unchecked , in the hope that, when tall enough, it could be formed into an arch above the gate. I had only the haziest idea of how to accomplish this, so when it came to it I had to consult my gardening guru, Google. Google said lots about metal frames and wire and supports which I totally ignored, and I am relying on good old garden twine to bind the whippy branches together to form the shape I want. My assumption is that as the branches age and harden, they will form the arch I want, if I continue to tie in and shape and prune a little. At the moment it is a little lopsided but I am hoping that next season's growth will allow me to even it up.

The grass really is this ridiculous emerald green when the sun is on it and I promise I haven't been photoshopping! It is probably the moss and not the grass giving this effect!

Although it isn't visible, the pond is entirely covered by a huge net to stop the leaves from falling in. We had to cut down all the vegetation in and around the pond before we put it over. 
We are trying to open this area up by cutting down some ivy covered elders, to let more light in. 

So, there it is, a garden in deepest Lincolnshire, UK, at the end of October, looking more like a summer garden that an autumn one, photographed on a day when it was warm enough to sit outside . What a gift this weather has been, and hopefully it will make the winter, when it comes, seem a little shorter.

This post is part of the 'End of the month view' meme, hosted by Helen, at  'The Patient Gardener'. Many thanks for that, and if you visit, you will find a huge variety of blogs and gardens to visit from around the world.

Friday 17 October 2014

It's ok if you half close your eyes ...

Fuchsia 'Lady Boothby'

The garden is slipping into decrepitude, but, like some ageing grand dame of the theatre, it refuses to slip away quietly into its dotage. Although there are swathes of foliage growing more dank more by the day, there are still some plants gamely putting on a show and flowering as if it is July.

Should someone tell 'Sexy Rexy' (below) that it is October ?

Poor old 'Bonica' is flowering for the first time ever, as, newly planted in early summer, the *** dog dug it up not once, not twice but THREE times ! It has overcome adversity, however, and is determined to flower before the end of the season.

Aconitum is one of my favourite perennials, and can be the last man standing of the season. It is hardy, reliable, and doesn't need staking. The blue is a fantastic shade, not really represented well by the camera. I started with one clump and have divided it every year, so it is now dotted all over the garden, at the back of borders, waiting in the wings all summer, before stepping into the limelight from September until November.

And the dahlias are still flowering, not as profusely as they were earlier in the season, but enough to give colour to the beds.

The dahlia above is one of the 'Bishop's Children' I grew from seed this year, and is one I am trying to hybridise, because of the yellow stripe.

This one may be 'fascination', if my memory serves me correctly, as the label is lost in the mists of time.

This is an unnamed variety which has flowed profusely all season, and has been a great asset to the garden.

Another unnamed variety which the bees have flocked to ! It has been smothered in blooms since early summer.

Anenome 'Wild Swan' is a new addition to the garden and this is its first flower. I had to photograph the back of the flower too, as it is equally as beautiful as the front. I love those delicate lilac stripes.

Although I don't really like Asters, they are part of the backbone of the autumn garden, and it would be difficult to get good colour without them. These are not consumed by mildew as many varieties seem to be .

It has been a good year for Passionflowers as they have enjoyed the heat and long growing season. Mine has no fruit though, which I find odd, but is still flowering strongly.

What is not to love about Cosmos ? Still flowering well and looking as fresh as they did in June.

This Hypericum is part of a big second flush of flowers, again due to the long hot summer I guess.

Penstemon 'Wine' is a beautiful rich deep magenta, and it is so easy to take cuttings from. I have a load growing on in the greenhouse, so that I will still have some next year, even if this one succumbs to the frost.

These photos of mine are deceptive, in that I think they give an unrealistic view of the garden. The garden is dying day by day, and the foliage is browning . Most of the beds are well on their way to their winter slumber, and the garden is definitely autumnal. there are growing tracts of bare soil, and I am starting to cut back now. However, there are still many reasons to be cheerful, as shown in the photos of the blooms above, as they seem to defy the advancing season.

Thanks to 'May Dreams Gardens' for hosting 'Garden Blogger's Bloom day' again this month. Do pay a visit to see lots of lovely blogs from across the globe.