Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Them bones, them bones ...



This is the time of year when I am eternally grateful for box, photinia, euonymous and everything else which retains its colour, shape and form over winter. The dry bones of the garden are indeed evident now, and standing alone in the spotlight. As the season progresses they will fade gently into the background, as we focus on the new upstarts taking centre stage. When the delphiniums are in full flower, no one will notice the leaves on the holly tree. But for now, I am enjoying them in the stripped down beauty of the late winter garden.

At least, at the moment, it is easy to see the skeleton of the garden, laid bare as it is, and not masked by other plants. It is a good time to take stock of the basic design, to plan and imagine changes and to try and make improvements.


Gardens are kind and forgiving things, they give us a fresh start every spring, so that we can try to improve on the previous years, to enjoy successes and to make new mistakes - or even the same old mistakes over again!


I look at the patches of bare earth, and promise that this year I will get it right. Plants will not become overgrown, fall over, fail to thrive, survive without being fed, limp on without staking or pruning ...


The garden is so much more simple when it is seen at this time of year, before the succession of plants begins to appear, and then, just as naturally, to disappear. How simple would the conifer and heather gardens of the 1970's be to look after, as they never changed in any way, but remained the same month after month. No gaps left by early perennials dying back, or by bulbs finishing. The contemporary garden, however, is a tapestry which changes day by day, and what looks fantastic one week can become a travesty very rapidly.


Planning that succession of form, colour and texture is an easier task at this time of year when there is little else to distract the eye.


There are changes afoot in our garden this season, and one development is that the area shown in the photo below, will be planted up as an extension to the sub tropical garden. It has only taken us 35 years to cultivate this bit for the first time! It has been made a lot easier by the purchase of a chain saw - which I have finally agreed to after 35 years, as my partner is the most accident prone person I know, and shouldn't be let loose with a spoon, never mind a chainsaw. However, he has promised to have proper safety training and to wear all safety aids, including full chainmail!



He and a friend have felled a silver birch, leaving us with a nice new chunk of garden to plant up!


Spring must be springing as I spotted frogspawn in the wildlife pond for the first time yesterday. Lots of it ! No evidence of the proud parents yet, but I expect they will be cavorting in the water very soon.


The garden has suffered little damage so far this winter, and our lowest temperature has been minus five degrees. We have invested in a max/ min thermometer which has been really useful for charting variations in temperature. I will whisper this bit ... "we haven't lost anything yet" ...  in fear of waking the slumbering garden gods and incurring their wrath. Tender stuff has been affected superficially, but will recover quickly once dormancy ends, and real growth begins. The Melianthus Major in the photo above has barely been checked and is now putting out new growth.


We have four different Tetrapanax throughout the garden, and this is the most exposed one, which has suffered the most. It has lost leaves but the plant itself is fine. Abutilons have made it through so far without any protection other than that offered by neighbouring plants. All the tree ferns have kept their fronds with no evidence of browning yet.

Ours is not a spring garden, and we don't go big on bulbs, but just add a few every year, to what is already there. There are some splashes of colour evident from daffodils, crocuses, hellebores and pulmonaria, but nothing very exciting. My favourite is Iris Reticulata, which is late to bloom this year, for some reason, and has only opened fully over the last couple of days.


There are also three different varieties of Hamamelis  by the back door, so that they give maximum enjoyment. They are nearly over now, but H. Intermedia 'Pallida' is still radiant.


Viburnam Bodnantense 'Dawn' is just making a welcome appearance too.




To see other gardens around the globe, please visit Helen at  'The Patient Gardener' and join her for 'End of the month view'. Thank you to Helen for hosting this meme every month, and giving those tantalising glimpses into some wonderful gardens.








26 comments:

  1. How exciting to make room for more gardening space! Be careful with the chainsaw. Were any of your tropical plants damaged by the -5 temperature?

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    1. I know - more garden space = buying more plants! Win win!

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  2. I agree with you on the bare bones and the ability to take stock... hard to believe that in a few months those bones will be almost fully clothed!

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    1. I find it so hard to remember how it looks and fees when everything grows like crazy! I can get a little overwhelmed by all that bare earth, until I look back at photos from the previous summer !

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  3. No frogspawn here yet. I've read that taking black and white photos of the garden is a good way for seeing the structure of the garden.

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    1. Interesting! bet you will spot some any day now Sue!
      Will have to try the b/w photo idea as I can imagine t working really well.

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  4. It's good to see the garden pared back to its bones but i think I would miss all my little bulbs, they bring such colour to the garden at the moment. The new shoots show promise of the delights to come. We too don't have any frogspawn yet, but there is still time.

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    1. We have some bulbs but they are mainly in pots near the house so we can enjoy them. Clematis Armandii is in bud so I can't wait for that to flower ...

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  5. Another good way of seeing the garden is to turn your images into monochrome (easy digitally) then you aren't distracted by the colours of flowers. Minus 8°C plus strong winds has killed some of my new Melianthus (I grew them from seed last year). I think one has survived so if it flowers this year I'll have fresh seed.

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    1. Ha ha ha, you and Sue are of one mind about the b/w photos! Will give it a try!
      So Melianthus is hardy down to somewhere between -5 and -8 then, as all mine survived -5 quite well. I do love them, and am growing more this year, but they are slow to germinate even though they are in the propagator. Good luck with your flowers this year!

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  6. I am surprised that all those tropical looking plants have survived such cold weather. You must have a great micro climate. You will find that the chain saw comes in handy. He just has to be careful.

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    1. A lot of our plants which look tropical are very hardy, and the tender ones are snuggled up in the heated greenhouse.
      He has promised to be careful at all times !

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  7. Hi Jane, I enjoyed reading your thought on your garden at this time of the year and seeing the accompanying photos! I totally agree with you the green back bones of the garden are so important and winter is the time to really assess the garden.
    In my garden I think I focused too much on planting flowering plants, mainly roses and didn't pay enough attention to balance them out with evergreens. When the whole garden is in flower in spring, summer, and autumn here in Southern California, it is too colorful for my taste, too wild, too bold and I am longing for more green to rest my eye on. It also simply has started become to much for me to deadhead considering the time that I have to work in the garden. I am trying to rectify the situation starting this year, so instead of planting a new rose I will be planting a yucca like plant ;-)!
    Wishing you a wonderful spring!
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Very brave to plant a spiky plant rather than another rose! I guess you have a fantastic climate for growing flowering plants, Christina.

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  8. I'm glad you've escaped too much winter damage. Did you do anything to protect the tree ferns? Do I remember you writing about putting straw around the crown? I'd love to get a couple for here but am worried about how hardy they would be. They're not cheap after all.

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    1. I would have thought they would have loved living with you Jessica, as your climate would suit them down to the ground. They are hardier than you think, and , yes, the crown is usually protected with straw, and a jaunty little 'hat' (often a plant pot saucer) on top of that.

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  9. Beautifully written. I am currently working on my planting plan. Each year I swear to streamline and embrace simplicity. I'm sure you can guess how well that goes! I have a wonderful thermometer which records the max/min temperature in the garden and the read out is sent to a device in the house. I have kept detailed weather records this year as the winter has been significantly colder than the previous ten years and we have had much more snow. I hope we will be able to look back at my notes and see it was a hiccup and not a trend.

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  10. How great that your temperature reading is sent to you in the warm, cosy house Susan, and you don't have to venture out into the cold! TMonitoring the weather is really interesting and I love looking back to other years to compare. How cold did it actually get with you this winter ?

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  11. What a wonderful post - so full of reflection and anticipation! I'm glad your garden was spared this winter. We went unscathed last winter, but this year's extended lows, ice storms and howling winds were rather merciless on many gardens. I'm still waiting to see what will return - my Melianthus included.

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  12. Gosh Anna, your winter sounds dreadful! Whereabouts are you on the globe? Spring is on its way, thank goodness so I hope everything recovers well , including your Melianthus!

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  13. Frogs spawn already That's great. I must keep an eye out in our ponds. Our Melianthus Major has been knocked back this year but it is a big plant and always seems to come back.

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    1. That is interesting Steve. I was wondering how hardy Melianthus actually are, as it is the first winter mine have coped with.

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  14. Hello Jane, I'd be hard pressed to recognise the first picture as taken in winter! I'm glad we had another mild winter as that helps the new plants in my garden establish better, though we have lost a few borderline hardy ones. I'm planning on this year being the year that the rest of the garden becomes cleared out and all the scrub and piles of rubbish are taken out so that I can start planning new borders for the rear-half of the garden, which is currently a bit of a no-man's land.

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    1. Gosh, Sunil, you sound as if you have lots of work planned for the coming season! Will look forward to hearing about your progress!

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  15. What a lovely garden you have! I am sure your cutting garden will be wonderful, looking forward to following your progress. Have you started sowing you seeds yet?

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    1. Thank you for your comments Pauline. Seed sowing is well underway and I am about half way through now.

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