Friday 27 June 2014

Best bib and tucker

I don't know if this is just me, or whether we are all the same, but when friends or family are due to visit, I clean in places I hardly knew existed. Who is going to run their finger along the top of a wardrobe, or check for rolls of dust under a chest of drawers ? But somehow I feel impelled to clean there, just in case. The rest of the time I can live happily surrounded by dust, as I am out in the garden anyway !

I feel the same way about the garden too, and happily share with nettles and weeds without a second thought, but when I know that people are coming to look around the garden, I get the same hysterical urge to make it look its best. I venture into every nook and cranny and make sure that  everything is staked, deadheaded and behaving itself. Working until dark is fine ...

So, when my partner and I were idly chatting a couple of weeks ago about the garden, one of us - probably him - mentioned the NGS  (Yellow book), and suggested that we apply to open our garden for them next year. We had had a couple of glasses of wine. It seemed like a good idea.

We opened our garden for the NGS (National garden Scheme) in 2010 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience although the thought of it was quite scary initially. We intended to open again the following year but the terrible winter totally decimated the garden, killing lots of large exotics like tree ferns and palms and also the extensive hebe hedging. The low temperatures caused such devastation that we had to pull out of opening and replant. It has taken this long for new planting to establish itself.

Opening your garden for the NGS is a fantastic opportunity to make lots of money for charity and to chat with lots of passionate gardeners and swap ideas. Before we opened I had expected those visitors to be very knowledgable and very critical, if I am honest. Turns out that the former was true and the latter was false! Everyone was very forgiving and friendly, willing to share knowledge and ideas and to overlook the flaws in the garden.

So, that decision taken after a couple of glasses of wine became a reality, and we quickly received notification that Helen, our local organiser would be paying us a visit. Boy, did that goad us into action! We gardened through torrential rain, searing sun and darkness to get the metaphorical dust off the top of the wardrobe . We bought new plants to fill in gaps, and cut back unruly ones. We did unheard of things like raking the gravel and  weeding between the raspberry canes. We waded into the ponds to remove excess weeds and cut back the marginals. 'Headless chickens' wouldn't begin to describe us, we worked every hour to get that garden to look as good as we possibly could. When we looked around it we saw only the flaws, the work undone, the rough edges. We asked ourselves why we were bothering to apply when we would surely be turned down.

Helen, our local organiser duly came, one warm sunny morning last week, and we showed her around the garden. She was lovely and very positive, and not critical in the slightest. And she told us, as we enjoyed tea and carrot cake sitting in the garden, that we are IN!  Fantastic news ! And, to be fair, she actually told us BEFORE the carrot cake was in view, so it was a fair decision and not cake-based at all !

Euphoria presided at our house for all of a day. We drank more wine, we had a meal with friends, we drank some fizz... then reality set in !

Instead of spending a little time resting on our tiny laurels, one of us said "So, what improvements do we need to make before next year ?" and then we made a list. A very long list !

So now we are back out in the garden, planting, pruning, weeding and planning until late in the evening ... working towards our opening day next summer.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Sacrificial lambs

I know when I plant them, that one day they may have to be sacrificed to the Great Deity of Planting Distances. I water them, feed them and nurture them, in the full knowledge, that in the future, they will be dug out and slung, unceremoniously, on the compost heap.

overcrowded border in need of a good cull !

When I began to garden, all those years ago, I adhered strictly to planting distances, and lived with acres of bare soil, until the plants filled out. This could take years, if shrubs were involved. Now, I have always disliked bare soil, as my mother used to say 'nature abhors a vacuum', so what does nature do ? Why, encourage weeds to colonise the bareness, that's what !

Taxi for the Daylily and the Ligularia !

My inexperienced self was discussing this with a gardening friend, and bemoaning the vast tracts of brown, around my tiny plants, and she gave me the benefit of her wisdom. Her advice was 'cram them in' ! She probably phrased it better than that, but that was the essence of it.

A difficult call ... the fern and the Penstemon in front of it ?

She said she planted things close together initially, to give an instant effect, and to cut down on the weeding. When things began to grow, and fill out, and the plants were becoming crowded, she dug them up and moved them elsewhere. Brilliance ! Simple yet so effective !

What's needed here ? drastic cut back of the geranium and the Heuchera outed, perhaps ?

So that is what I did from then on - planted densely, then when plants began to encroach, dug them up and into a new bed. This worked effectively for 30 years, as the garden grew and developed, as there was always an area I could move the plants into. Always a new bed to dig, or an existing bed to extend. Until now ...

No contest - get your coat poppy!

To be honest, I couldn't think of anywhere to move my excess plants too, as after thirty plus years, all beds have been dug. It was an odd sensation to realise that my usual method would no longer work.

And you !
About this time every year I have to do a sweep of the garden, and define every plant, making sure that it has its own space to grow in. I plant very densely anyway, so have to monitor growth closely. This is a very personal thing, as one woman's well spaced plants, are another woman's overcrowded ones. I am always interested to see how other gardener's manage spacings, and the results differ greatly. Some people prefer a circle of bare soil, or visible mulch, around each plant, whereas others have the plants tumbling over each other, in a dense tapestry.

All the photos in this post are the 'before' shots ! They all show the evidence of my over planting , and my next job is to go round and gently dig up the plants which are suffering through overcrowding and find them a new home.

A poor Ligularia desperate for a new home where it can spread its wings !

My own tapestry is extremely dense by this point in the year, so there are quite a few plants which will have to be carefully dug out and rehomed - some in the compost (erm, the brick red perennial poppy) and others potted up and given to friends.

There is a young peony in there begging for release !

While I was walking round, deciding on my sacrificial lambs, a cunning plan started to form... I spotted a border which could do with being cleared out, extended and replanted. Yippee ! A double whammy ! A home for those crowded out plants, and an opportunity for more colour. The part of the border needed fettling, too much thuggish lamium, too many self seeded aquilegias and not enough structure. I had thought of it as a difficult border as it is shady, but it was only shady because the silver birch had low branches, which could be removed. I lifted the canopy of the birch, allowing much more sunlight in, and all my sacrificial lambs escaped the compost heap !

Nature's way of telling me to get digging!

And now I have the dreaded bare earth again!

Sunday 15 June 2014

Garden Blogger's Bloom day - it's all about the roses ...

Hallelujah ! The roses are out so it has to be summer. They are out in all their gorgeousness and lusciousness and softness, and they are to be worshipped.

Because I am a Rose Geek and a bit of an anorak, I have listed all the roses in the garden and a little information about each. I have listed them in the order that you would come upon them in the garden, but, to be truly geeky, I should probably have listed them in their categories, like 'Patio' and 'climber'.

The rose at the top of this post is a Gallica, 'Charles De Mills', good scent but not a repeat flowerer, so you have to make the most of its fleeting beauty. It is currently struggling to hold its head up, due to the heavy ran we have had. I fear it will be an even briefer show than usual, this year.

'Bonica' is not quite in flower, but won't be long. It is a modern shrub rose, which performs very reliably and is extremely healthy. It repeats well right into autumn.

Another which will be in full flower very soon. I think this is the modern shrub rose 'Buff Beauty', another healthy, reliable, repeat flowerer. I lost the label years ago, so am never 100% sure that it really is 'Buff Beauty'.

'Cinderella' is a vigorous climber with glossy leaves. It flowers prolifically right through from May to autumn. The books say it is only 2-3m tall, but mine clearly hasn't read the books, as it is 3m already and showing no signs of slowing down.

'White Cloud' a lovely pure white repeat flowering climber. Often the first rose in the year to bloom, and the last to finish . Fantastic in the twilight as it just glows.

'Rosa Mundi', one of the oldest roses, with a fascinating history dating back to the 1600's. It has not bloomed yet, but it won't be long!

The David Austin English rose 'Abraham Derby'. This one was very slow to get going, but is turning into a lovely rose now.

A most unusual and lovely rose - 'Alissar Princess of Phonaecia'. The single flowers are rimmed with vibrant pink, and the centre is a darkening splodge of raspberry. It is classed as a shrub rose, and seems to be a repeater, as it hasn't stopped flowering since May.

This is 'Pink Abundance' which flowers its socks off all season, and seems very resistant to black spot and fungal infections. It is classed as  a Floribunda.

The first of the Patio roses, 'High Sheriff' is a very pale yellow. This is my first season of growing Patio roses, and I planted about ten bare root plants in early spring. I am interested to see how well they perform.

I have about a hundred of these miniature roses 'Garden Party' which I am using as edging for borders and to underplant larger roses. I grew some from seed this year, and , from an early sowing, they have been flowering for about three weeks now. I bought some as plug plants last year, and they grew quickly and flowered well. I am not totally convinced though as they are prone to fungal infections and look a bit leggy somehow.

Another David Austin English rose - 'Charlotte', a pale yellow with pin tinged buds. I have found that it is prone to fungus, and isn't as robustly healthy as most of the other DA's. Still gorgeous though, it has a slightly 'uncombed' look to it, a touch of shagginess !

'This Sceptr'd Isle', a DA English rose, in shell pink. Apologies for poor photo!

'Teasing Georgia', DA English rose, seems paler in my garden than in the many photos I have seen, but I do like the delicate pale yellow of the petals.

'The Countryman' is quite a rich pink in colour. It is another DA English rose, and they are all renowned for being disease resistant and healthy.

I bought this as a patio rose, 'Caribbean Dawn', but it is much more vigorous than  would expect of a patio rose. It is only supposed to grow up to 60cm in height, and mine is there now after less than one season in the ground. Hey ho ! I am happy whatever  !

'Winchester Cathedral' yet another DA English rose. 

'Shropshire Lad' - DA English rose

'Aloha' is a most unusually coloured climber and looks well next to the delphiniums. There is a clematis 'Nelly Moser', growing through it too.

'Antique' is another climber which I bought because it was a bargain. Not quite sure yet if I like it or not ...

'The Shepherdess' is one of my favourite DA English roses. It is the softest pink imaginable.

'Munstead Wood' is a dark, dark red DA English rose and has just won an award in the USA for its scent, which is fantastic.

'Reine des Violettes' is an Old rose, a 'Hybrid Perpetual', bred in 1860. This is its first season with me, so I don't know how it will fair. I have read that it requires good cultivation to give of its best, so it is probably not the easiest rose to grow.

'St Swithins' was bought in memory of my dear mum, whose birthday was on St Swithin's day. A very special rose to me. It is another DA English rose.

'Wisley' - DA English rose

The last remaining flower of this single red rose, which is unknown.

'Lady Diana' was a gift from my aunt and is a climber. It took years to establish but has suddenly got into top gear this year.

Shrub rose 'Marjory'

'Rosa Rugosa Glauca' - no garden should be without it, fantastic foliage all season, with fleeting pink single flowers

A new climber to me, 'Jasmina', which was another bargain. The jury is out as it has not yet bloomed this season, but is full of buds.

I can't wait for the Old rose 'Mme Isaac Perriere', a Bourbon, to flower for the very first time in my garden.

'Geoff Hamilton' - DA English rose

'Gentle Hermione' DA English rose

'Wollerton Old Hall' is my favourite rose of all. It is a DA English rose and it looks like a waterlily. The colour is so subtle and the perfume wonderful. It is extremely vigorous.

'Jude the Obscure' - well loved DA English rose

'Paul's Scarlet' - climber

'New Dawn' - 25 year old climber

'Teenage Spirit' - Patio rose

'Tuscany Superb' - David Austin climber

'William and Catherine' is a fairly new introduction to the David Austin catalogue , and has a somewhat stiffer habit than some of the more lax roses. It holds its flowers up all the time.

'Veichenblau', an unusual single climber, is just coming to the end of its flowering period, which has been disappointingly brief to say the least. I don't think it has enjoyed the heavy rain we have had. 

The rain has affected many of the roses and some flowers have been lost or spoiled. However, the sun has made a brief appearance today so maybe that is a good omen!

Blogger's Bloom day, hosted over at  'May Dreams Gardens' is a great way to see what is flowering right now, around the globe. There are some fantastic blogs to catch up with !