Wednesday 30 April 2014

End of the month view - April

The end of the month view is decidedly pastel ! Pale fresh greens, yellows and pinks lurk round every corner, punctuated by the richer colours of the tulips.

Usually I start my EOMV garden walk at the bottom of the garden and walk up to the house, but this month, I am doing it the other way round. Who says I can't think outside the box !

The photo above shows Betula Jaquemontii with its beautiful white bark, which is even better for a quick clean! We have recently bought a couple of solar spotlights which, despite my Eeyore - like predictions, work very well, and light it at nights, making it glow in an almost ethereal way . 

The grey- green mound of foliage is Hebe 'Pewter Dome', which keeps its chin up whatever the British climate throws at it. The yellow at the back is Kerria Japonica, the pale pink is Bergenia, and the stronger pink is self seeded Honesty.

Friends gave us these two lovely old chimney pots, which remained intact throughout a long journey, only to roll and become damaged during the turn into our road ! In the small pots on the table are various Sempervivens, and the large pots contain hemerocallis,  Agapanthus and Hostas.

The greenhouses are groaning under the weight of tender young plants, and I have moved lots of larger things out, to give more room. I am hardening off my rose cuttings from last year, and miniature roses grown from seed sown in January this year (Rosa 'garden Party'), before planting them out.

I have posted recently about the Auriculas, which are now in flower, which you can link to here , 'Auricula spectacular' ,  if you would like to.

The large tender plants, which have over-wintered in the greenhouse, have been moved out and are getting a breath of much needed fresh air again !

This bed is ready for an overhaul, as the plants are having to vie for space, and the thugs, like the Lamium, are busy planning a total take-over.

Aquilegia buds are swelling now, and the self seeded plants have popped up in all sorts of places.

One of the dependable stalwarts - Erysimum  - plus a HUGE dock leaf, which I have just noticed !

The photo above shows David Austin's  English rose "Geoff Hamilton', with Sambucus 'Black Lace' behind and Euphorbia  Amygdaloides Purpurea to the left .

Above and below - new growth on Gallica rose hedge 'Charles de Mills', underplanted by the extremely mildewed, and sad looking Rosa 'garden Party', grown from plug plants last year.

Oh dear, my least favourite plant in the whole garden! Why did I plant it ? I just can't think ! I hate the way it resembles raspberry ripple ice cream. My usual rule is that I don't do bi-colours, so I don't know how it slipped through.

Now you're talking ! One of my favourites ! Tulip 'Queen of the Night'- all dark and luscious !

Edging geraniums are still under control at this time of the year, very soon they will be lanky, unruly teenagers, sprawling all over the place!

The photo above shows the weeping birch and the poor old Acer, which longs to grow big and tall, but has to put up with me constantly checking its growth.

The stunning bark of Prunus Serrula, with the border edging of Festuca (grown very cheaply from seed), Piceas and a Lonicera desperate for a haircut !

This shot is looking back up to the house, through the subtropical garden. It is just coming to life, and (phew!!) the Tree ferns seem to have made it through the winter, and they, plus all the ferns, are sending out new fronds.

The Gunnera is deceivingly small at the moment but will soon morph into a monster. It is bottom right in the photo above, and one of the new leaves is pictured below.

The fronds of the Tree fern looking distinctly primeval.

The baby apple trees in the orchard are in blossom, and I am kicking myself for not making a note of the variety of each tree!

The pond is a seething cauldron of life and we saw our first newt in there a few days ago.

Well, Spring has definitely sprung, and has done so spectacularly, putting us, I reckon, a couple of weeks ahead of the norm. Some of my roses are already budding and will be flowering before long, which is much earlier than usual.

It is such a fantastic time of year that I want to spend every minute of every day out here, listening to the frogs and the birds and the lawn mowers ...

Thankyou, as usual to Helen at   The Patient Gardener for hosting the EOMV mem, and if you care to hop over there, you will find much to interest you !

Friday 25 April 2014

Reasons to be cheerful ...

Reasons to be cheerful ... and there are lots of them at this time of year !

It's nearly Apple blossom time - the best bit of the whole year. If that isn't a reason to be cheerful, I don't know what is !

Our new beech hedge, planted as bare root in march, is poised on the brink of unfurling its leaves. At this stage all look healthy, thank goodness, although we have been carrying cans of water right down the garden, to keep them watered.

I'd better whisper this bit, but so far the slugs and snails haven't detected the succulent growth of the hostas, and the leaves are whole and unblemished, with no bitemarks taken out yet. SSShhh!

I'm giggling with glee ... the glorious Pulmonaria 'Blue Ensign' is in full flower, with pure cornflower blue blooms peeping out from under a conifer.

Turn a frown upside down ... my dahlia tubers have nearly all made it successfully through another winter, and are putting on growth, ready for planting out when all danger of frost is over. I overwintered them in the greenhouse, which you would think was sufficient to keep them alive, but I have lost all Dahlia tubers some years, when the temperature has dropped really low. There is a mix of varieties here, but they are all dark flowered, in shades of purple and maroon.

The beds and borders are filling out, and areas of bare soil are diminishing. This means that weeding is diminishing too! Hurrah! Many plants are growing strongly now. The Euphorbia is at its best, well-shaped and not leaning drunkenly to one side, as it tends to do later in the season. 

Spring pots and tubs are at their best now. Muscari, tulips, wallflowers and primulas are at their peak.

The tender new leaves of Acer Palmatum are all unfurled, showing clear, strong colour.

The leaves of this Brunnera just get larger and larger as the days go on. It will be a stalwart of the garden until Autumn now. Fantastic foliage AND a shade lover. Cheerful! I'm nearly bursting with cheerfulness now!

There are some happy accidents as far as planting goes ! I am happy with this grouping, which brings together an interesting mix of colour, shape and texture, I think. There are many unhappy accidents which have escaped the camera !!

These miniature 'Rosa garden Party' were grown from seed sown in January this year. The instructions stated that if the seeds are sown early enough, then they should flower the same year, and these young plants  are starting to flower already. They are really healthy and I have started planting them out as edging to  borders/ underplanting larger roses. 

Interestingly - and definitely a reason NOT to be cheerful - I bought 72 as plug plants last year. they were fantastic, and performed really well, but have developed powdery mildew due to the wet conditions over the winter. Any suggestions, please, as to how to get rid of this ? I am hoping drier conditions and new growth will overcome the problem, but it is not happening yet.

Another reason to bubble with happiness - Magnolia Stellata, the elegant, less blowsy cousin to Soulangeana, continues to bloom.

I planted about a dozen bare root Patio roses in early Spring, and all have taken and are doing well. This is 'Sweet Dream' and it is showing healthy foliage and a pleasing compact habit.

The first leaves of Rodgersia have appeared over the last week - always good to greet old friends !

Giddy with euphoria now ... the tulips are centre stage now, mainly pinks, purples and creams.

Life has returned to the ponds and they are seething with frogs, tadpoles, beetles, pond skaters and sticklebacks. As the water warms up the plant growth is kick started into growth,and all the marginals are making an appearance again. The Marsh Marigolds are out, making a sharp pop of yellow.

But it's not happy smiles all the way! Although there are many, many reasons to be cheerful, there are also reasons to pull a sad face! This is a bird's eye view of my stone sink garden. Yes, I stress that word 'garden'. Although the gravel, pebbles, shells and fossils still remain after the winter, the 'garden' bit has totally vanished! It was full of house leeks, honest, last summer. I blame the pesky fantail doves as I think it was the equivalent of a salad bar for them through the lean winter months.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Auricula spectacular

Two weeks ! That's all ... it's not long is it ? I have been on holiday, and out of the garden for a fortnight, and I can see such a huge difference on my return. The season has advanced so fast in that short time, and the growth has been phenomenal. A short time away enables you to see everything afresh - warts and all - and to see it in some sort of perspective, which you don't get if you are out in it every day. I was surprised by the lushness of the garden now, plants have sprung up and filled out , so vast tracts of bare soil are no longer visible. It all feels quite full now, as Spring advances, and brings that burst of zingy growth to everything.

We have been down in the Deep South, USA, and it has been so interesting to contrast it with the UK, and to see what is blooming, and what is not. The thing that tickled me the most ... hellebores and roses out together! I couldn't believe that roses were in full bloom in certain areas, although it was only early April. So, it's good to be back, and to use that brief window of opportunity for critical planning, when you see the garden afresh, almost with new eyes.


One of the best things though - the Auriculas are coming into bloom...

'Jeff Scruton'
I love the stiffness of these flowers, they have an almost artificial quality, as if they are not real, but are models or paintings. They are the perfect antidote to winter gloom, as the colours are so bright and varied. I have only been growing them for a little over a year, and have found them very easy, thus far. I overwinter them in a cool greenhouse and water them very sparingly, increasing water when they come out of dormancy and begin to put on new growth. They then enjoy a good feed.

There is some controversy between the merits of plastic pots versus terracotta, but even though I was advised from someone from the National Society to use plastic, I prefer the aesthetics of terracotta, so transferred them all into those. They do not appear to have suffered, and indeed, I have read opposing advice too, that terracotta is preferable to plastic.

'Averil Hunter'
Although I love them with a passion, I can also see how some gardeners might hate them, probably for exactly the same reasons ! I could see that the artificial quality of the flowers might be a negative aspect for some people. The stiffness of habit which I love, might be disliked by some , as being lacking in grace and a more natural habit preferred.

'Averil Hunter' in bud

There is a great sense of history surrounding Auriculas, just as there is around roses, and this adds to their appeal, for me.

The original Auricula (Primula Auricula) is a small, usually yellow flower growing in Alpine meadows, whilst the cultivated variety appeared in English and Eurpean gardens from the mid 16th century. One theory for their introduction is that they were brought to England in the 1570's by Huguenot Flemish weavers, escaping from religious persecution. The other theory is that they were exchanged by English and European plantsmen at the time.

However they reached here, however, they soon became extremely popular with rich and poor alike, and were grown in great numbers throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

By the 19th century there were 'Feasts' or shows, where growers of decorative flowers ('Florists') would meet to display their plants. This was very popular amongst working people in the Industrial North and Midlands, and were often held in Public Houses. Copper kettles were often given as prizes, and one often hung outside to denote the show.

'Golden Hind'
Towards the end of the 19th century there was a movement against the artificial nature of these flowers, and they fell from popularity, although still retained a loyal following.  The advent of the First World War diminished their popularity further, and many varieties were lost forever.

A recovery began after the Second World War, which continues to this day, as the Auricula continues to grow in popularity. Breeders have introduced many new varieties, including stripes and doubles, to replace what was lost.

I must be missing something, though, as I have read that they are plants which demand a lot of attention, one source saying that they are more like 'pets' than plants ! Hmm! Although I do poke around them a lot, I can't say that they are demanding. They have been remarkably disease free so far, and are tolerant of somewhat irregular watering. Maybe if you show them, then they require much more close attention.

They must be reasonably happy as several of them have produced babies, which I have successfully potted up.

They are a completely separate aspect of the garden to all others, and I really like that. They stand alone as a small collection of objects of beauty, largely forgotten about for most of the year, but stepping gloriously into the limelight for these few short weeks.