Six on Saturday: Wild and Weedy Part 2

Time ran away with me last Saturday because I failed to admit that I have a tendency to be quite relaxed about weeding, ie I don’t do it very often! In the more informal parts of the garden, like the woodland and woodland edge I just let them get on with it, removing them only if they get out of hand although I do try and deadhead dandelions before they set seed. Elsewhere, the borders are so stuffed that weeds are not always apparent during the main growing season and I tend to wait till the herbaceous plants die down before I have a blitz on anything unwanted. I do, however, particularly enjoy weeding the cutting beds when they are emptied of annuals and dahlias to leave them relatively pristine for the winter. And of course weeding the paths and paved areas is one of the few gardening tasks I delegate to the Golfer as open days approach!

Comments following last week’s post highlight the weeds we all seem to have and the particularly troublesome ones that most of us are very grateful NOT to have, like marestail (I really feel for you Anna and Sandra…). I also recall comments from another blogger many years ago, having spotted a small patch of lesser celandine in a photo of our woodland edge, wondering how I kept it under control. It’s not a very large patch and it occasionally pops up elsewhere, but I try not to let it flower or set seed; they sent me photos of their garden which was literally overrun with it…. on that scale I think I would have used weedkiller, something they were reluctant to do.

In my time there are plants I have introduced here and then subsequently removed because they have proved to be too vigorous or promiscuous – like bronze fennel, golden hop, variegated ground elder and no doubt many others. There are others that seed around but which I don’t mind, like the winter pansies/violas above, and Lychnis coronaria below. These seedlings will be teased out of the paving and potted up.

I am not sure if I introduced cowslips to the garden or whether they just appeared, but they are certainly rampant in the streamside grass where they are not doing any harm and look pretty with the spring bulbs growing there, but I daresay a degree of culling will be required at some time in the future.

I planted Erigeron karvinskianus some years ago but it has taken ages to establish; now however, it is beginning to pop up elsewhere which I am more than happy with it although I don’t think I want it to populate every single crack in the paving in the garden as it seems to do in some gardens I have visited !

I could say the same about grasses Anemanthele lessonia and annual Briza maxima, but in truth I would rather they were not quite so profligate; at least they are easy enough to pull out and a small number of the former can be potted up to sell at open days.

If I wasn’t already up to my allotted six for Jon the Propagator‘s weekly Six on Saturday meme I could also have included ivy, as I introduced a large number of named ivy plants, purchased from local supermarket Morrisons, around 20 years ago and some time later realised how quickly it establishes – hey ho, at least the spiky one I have sneaked in below is a little bit different!

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday, wild flowers | Tagged | 1 Comment

Rambling Outwith the Garden, Again

As promised, we have had another night away in the campervan, disguised on this blog by advance scheduling of posts, and with a bit of juggling put together an itinerary of three gardens on the first day, and a more formal garden on the second. As on previous visits, many properties are only open on certain days so could not be included. Having travelled north to Cheshire , west (north west really) to Shropshire, this time we went south to Northamptonshire, still only 50 or 60 miles from home, and began our trip at Kelmarsh Hall, a Grade I listed house surrounded by gardens and parkland.

The garden itself is classed as Grade II*, ‘a garden of national significance and known for their relaxed charm and ‘haphazard luxuriance’. Much of the immediate landscape  was brought to life during the late 1920s and again in the 1940s, with the help of garden designer Norah Lindsay and landscape architect Geoffrey Jellicoe. Despite their grand canvas, the gardens are said to have an intimate, feminine feel, occasionally broken by wide pastoral views over a lost medieval village or the 18th century Lake. Visiting mid September, the acclaimed borders were past their best and I seem to have taken few photographs, but I could see how things would have been different even just a month ago.

Whilst there, I came across this plant which I was unable to identify until I saw it another garden later in the day, learning that it was Chelone obliqua:

Moving on to Holdenby Hall, once the biggest house in Elizabethan England, subsequently becoming the palace of James I and Charles I, before becoming Charles’ prison after his defeat in the Civil War. The garden includes an Elizabethan garden designed by Rosemary Verey, including only species available at the time. There is a falconry centre on site too and we enjoyed a demonstration of the art of falconry; there were also a number of stainless steel art installations when we visited.

It was time to move on to Coton Manor, a garden I have visited before and enjoyed greatly for its borders, exuberant pots and use of water – and its wide range of plants for sale! I certainly enjoyed it as much as before, even though the plant sales area was a little shabby and needed attention; I think it would have been August when we visited last time, and it would be interesting to see it again during other seasons, with spring blooms, bluebell woods and annual meadow all on offer.


Our second day took us to Stowe, where inn the eighteenth century, the powerful Temple-Grenville family chose to create an idyllic landscape filled with temples. Amidst these large gardens, they built the most lavish temple of all, Stowe House. This temple was so grand that even Queen Victoria was bewildered by its interiors, but excessive spending eventually led to bankruptcy and the house was saved only by its use from the 1920s by the independent Stowe School. The gardens and estate are managed by the National Trust. Very much of its time, the gardens are full of hidden meanings with the various temples and artifacts place at strategic points within the landscape on the separate Paths of Vice, Virtue and Liberty. It may not be a garden for the 21st century, but we all know the benefits of a striking focal point and borrowed landscapes in our own gardens, and one had to admire the skills of those early designers. Here are just some examples of the grandeur of the place:

We were well walked out after treading all these Paths and grateful that Stowe was the only place on our itinerary that day, heading home after another intensive mini break. Did I head home with some more plants? Of course I did!

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Wordless Wednesday: Uncomfortable Bedfellows

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In a Vase on Monday: Optimism

This week, after a very dry August, we had three consecutive humid days with temperatures in the low 30s, then followed by a short and torrential downpour on Thursday, for which I was very grateful and I am sure the garden was too. I was brushing past the still-burgeoning cutting beds a day or two later on my way to fill watering cans from what was probably now a full water butt, when I inadvertently broke an overhanging stem of a sunflower. Most of the sunflowers are at the back of their bed and staked, but this was one had self-seeded right in the front corner. Admittedly it has not grown huge, being a very accommodating and readily pickable 3 or 4 feet tall, but the stems are still quite thick and heavy.

Instead of putting the branched stem, which had two or three flower heads as well as a couple of spent blooms, onto the compost heap, I trimmed it and popped the budded stems into a vase on the kitchen window sill. I was very much enjoying the structure of the stems and buds and as Monday approached, it occurred to me that it would make a very suitable vase. Will the buds open? No idea, but I shall remain optimistic, and to accompany the potentially sunny blooms I have added a sky blue cocktail umbrella to protect us from their heat. The vase itself is a cheap glass one which was probably a ten pin bowling trophy for the Golfer or myself.

The photograph of the vase does not really do it justice, failing to highlight the architectural structure of the stems and buds (the angle of the shot, perhaps?) but this won’t stop me from enjoying the real thing. I hope you too can find something to pick from your garden to pop in a vase and bring you pleasure; if you do, please consider sharing it with us by leaving links to and from this post.

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Six on Saturday: Wild and Weedy

What makes a weed? We might tend to think of weeds as being plants we don’t want in our garden, plants we haven’t planted and certainly not planted in the places where they appear. This could include both wild flowers and grasses as well as the more profligate self-seeders amongst our own cultivated plants perhaps. Today I thought I would pick out the six worst ‘offenders’ for my Six on Saturday offering for Jon the Propagator’s weekly meme. They will not strictly be the worst, as I am not including the perhaps inevitable presence of dandelions, couch grass, bindweed and ground elder. The first two of these appear throughout the garden but the latter sneak in under the fence stretching from the main borders to the fruit cage and but so far restricted to that boundary.

The first of my six is the mock strawberry, above, Potentilla indica, which has been in evidence since we first came here 25 years ago but which is increasing, not helped by needing a trowel to remove it. I used to think it was a wild strawberry and edible; sadly it isn’t! Equally intractable is creeping woodsorrel, Oxalis corniculata, which used to be confined to the rose garden but is now appearing throughout the garden; at one time I tried to remove them before they flowered and the seeds ripened, but I am rather negligent these days!

Pooping up everywhere is this rose bay willowherb relative, an epilobium of some sort. Usually evident and easily removed by hand when they are small, sometimes they appear in a border and grow to a sizeable and healthy plant before their cover is blown. The seeds on the one below are just about ready to pop:

Early on in the life of the woodland I decided I had had enough of the yellow archangel, Lamium galeobdolon, and waged a war on it; with shallow roots it is fairly easy to pull out but the smallest stolon fragment with just one pair of leaves can grow into a new colony, and stolons break readily and it can quickly carpet an area to the exclusion of other plants. In the UK it is now an offence to plant or otherwise cause to grow these species in the wild. Mine has spread again so the war will continue, but here is a prettier white version which may or may not be a ‘dead nettle’

I was pleased at first to see these violets appearing in the garden, but now they have increased exponentially I am less pleased with them, especially when they rarely flower:

I am including Herb Robert or Geranium robertianum as my sixth because it is widespread throughout the garden, but I have a completely different relationship with it, perhaps because it is a geranium? It romps happily in the woodland and pops up here and there but mostly I will let it be although it is easily pulled out if it appears in a border or anywhere else it overstays its welcome. Every so often a white flowered example appears instead of the pink, which is always good to see.

I was going to include some of the potentially thuggish self-seeders too, but they will easily fill up another post so I will stick with just these wild and weedy ones for today!

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, pests and weeds, Six on Saturday, wild flowers | 24 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Chip Off the Old Block

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In a Vase on Monday: Bee Magnet

As is often the case at this time of year, choosing the contents of my Monday vase was not easy but in the end I deliberately avoided the more predictable options and chose blooms which are all bee magnets, being careful to ensure I was not cutting stems with buzzy visitors!

Star of the show is the oreganum O ‘Rosenkuppel’, now beginning to bulk up after a slow start. accompanied by the Succisella pratensis I featured on Saturday, an unnamed sedum that is probably S ‘Autumn Joy’ and Verbena rigida, accompanied by the delicate airy seedheads of Amenanthele lessonia. This verbena is new to me this year and I am not sure how hardy it will prove to be, but do have cuttings in the hydropod as a back up. The stems are in a small purple vase which unusually is not Caithness Glass but a lighter and probably cheaper alterative, possible IKEA. Sadly I have no bees, real or otherwise, to use as a prop (but will ensure one is added to my prop collection soon!), although a hoverfly did visit the vase when it was being photographed, but I do have a magnet!

If you have blooms or other material from your garden you like to share with us today In a Vase on Monday, then please leave the usual links to and from this post.

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A Mixed Bag of Six on Saturday

If I had taken the above photograph first, a pleasing combination of hollyhock (ignore the foliage!), Persicaria ‘High Society’, climbing rose ‘Strawberry Hill’ and, just creeping into the bottom left corner, Lychnis coronaria, I might have gone down the line of other pleasing combinations. However, I had started in the greenhouse and was rambling aimlessly for the last three of six ‘things in the garden’ for Jon the Propagator’s popular Saturday meme, so further combinations will have to wait for another week.

I meant to include the contents of the hydropod propagator as one of my ‘surprises’ in last weeks post, but forgot. I had taken cuttings (mostly salvia, penstemon and persicaria) only a few days before, and already roots were appearing: a week later roots are developing well on a majority of the cuttings, an extraordinarily exciting process to monitor on a daily basis.

I will wait another week or so before I pot the more advanced cuttings on, but when I do so I shall be trialling some coir, mixed with perlite or grit to grow them on. We went to Gardeners’ World Live last Sunday, courtesy of free tickets from Karen of Bramble Garden (thanks Karen!) and I took advantage of a trial offer of coir compost discs. Like many and hopefully all of us gardeners, reducing our peat usage is of paramount importance, but finding a good alternative is difficult, with availability and quality both big drawbacks. Coir, A bi-product of coconut processing, has been mentioned a lot, and I was keen to try it for myself so these discs were a good opportunity to do so in small quantities – each disc (from e-pots) absorbs up to 500ml of water and a pack of 10 makes about 10 litres of compost. I have already sown some seeds in the resultant compost, and potted on some young plants, so will report back in due course. If it proves successful, for larger quantities Coco and Coir seem to provide reasonable value, although good peat free alternatives are inevitably going to be more expensive than the ubiquitous peat-based composts.

Also in the greenhouse, I have been harvesting a good crop of tomatoes, including my first beefsteak tomato: ‘Big Daddy’, a variety I am trialling for Which? Gardening. As a regular consumer of tomato chutney, making enough jars for next year is always a priority, so skinning four or five large tomatoes instead of 2lbs of cherry tomatoes has been a gamechanger!

There was a welcome burst of sunshine mid-afternoon as I made my photographic SoS ramble, and as I passed the main borders the fragrance from these nemesia was glorious, no doubt accentuated by the gentle breeze which accompanied the sunshine – even though vanilla is not something I particularly enjoy in a culinary context, as a fragrance in the garden it is somehow more acceptable!

I was not the only one enjoying this September sunshine, as this Succisa/Succisella pratensis was being well worked over by the local bee population, none of whom would oblige by perching on a bloom in the most photogenic way. This is a plant that was added last year but has just begun to thrive and has been blooming only for a couple of weeks; hopefully it will prove to be a good do-er in future years.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, herbaceous perennials, propagation, Six on Saturday | 24 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Morning Mist

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Thirty One Speedy Days of August

I had to keep reminding myself that it was the end of August today, a relatively uneventful month with very nondescript weather, days and overcast days with occasional sunny periods and relatively little rain. Perhaps it was on a mission to get itself out of the way and move onto something a little different?

The garden has certainly moved on from its summer glory, with less colour in evidence in most of the borders but inevitably there are some plants that keep on giving throughout the summer months and many of the roses are flowering again (look at Rural England climbing into the apple tree in the top right of the above picture), although many of the clematis are flowered out. I am deadheading and cutting back on an almost daily basis now, but the garden is not entirely shabby yet – and the annual and dahlia beds are as colourful as ever. Do look through the photos and see you what you think, starting with the views from the back of the house above and below, and then watch the short video afterwards for a three-dimensional tour.

The shrub border also from the other direction, looking back towards the house:

The woodland , the view of the main borders from the bothy at the far end and the same view from ground level:

The clematis colonnade and heuchera bed, then the woodland edge border from both directions:

The three bold borders:

The dahlias and cutting beds:

The blue & white borders, rose garden and walking through the main borders we saw earlier:

Returning towards the house, the annual border and the view across the paved area:

Into the Coop and then towards the exceedingly leafy Coop Corner, where I spied some out-of-season blooms on the Clematis armandii:

There are some tucked away bits you don’t always see photos of, but the video will give you a glimpse of some of them so do take the 5 or 6 minutes needed to watch it within this blog or click here, and then let’s all see what September has in store for us!

Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens | 17 Comments