In a Vase on Monday: Sugar Rush

With sugary colours in mind, centred on Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’, I was contemplating including a rogue wallflower which I think was from a batch grown from seed some years ago. I remembered growing ‘Sugar Rush Purple’ and possibly others from this series (and could consult my seed sowing list to find out), but on Googling this it was clearly not the purple strain as the wallflower I now have is more of an ordinary blood red – and not in fact sweet enough to work well enough with the rhododendron anyway.

Instead, I plucked complementary Fritillaria meleagris, slightly past-it blooms of Hellebore ‘Dorothy’s Dawn’, ex-Coop hyacinth ‘Woodstock’, blooms from a new Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve which I will try hard to keep perky and prim rather than letting it become old and woody, pretty leaves of Geranium palmatum (I think!) and a sprig of foliage from Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’. A sugar bowl from a child’s toy tea set (IKEA) and a toy spoon are the props for today, and the vase is a caged glass cylinder that came to me with a potted hyacinth or other bulb some years ago.

I haven’t cropped the bird’s eye view photo below, as the sunlight was casting some interesting shadows – no orbs this week though!

There were several routes that could have been followed for a vase today, and I suspect this will now be the case for many, many months – ‘hurrah for spring!’ I was going to say, but here there have been ‘hurrahs’ throughout the winter months, and I am very grateful to our garden for all the seasonal joys they produced.

Are there any seasonal joys to be found in your garden at the moment that you would be willing to pick and pop in a vase, where I am sure they would still bring you pleasure? If there are, please consider sharing them with us by leaving links to and from this post.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, Spring | Tagged | 20 Comments

Six on Saturday: Wisteria in Bud!

The buds on our wisteria are swelling nicely and in profusion…but sadly I am not the only one who has noticed, as you can see from the photo above… The blame rests, I am pretty sure, on the chunky shoulders of those big fat wood pigeons who have been strutting around the garden recently, showing off their pigeony charms to fellow pigeons – and I am not best pleased to say the least! Last year was an unusually poor year for blooms on the wisteria, the lower branches being largely devoid of flowers, and it was the first time I had heard mention that birds (and especially pigeons) can be responsible for stripping wisteria buds in this way. I don’t know if that was the reason behind the poor showing last year, but this year the evidence was there for all to see – several complete buds on the ground, and the remains of an unknown number of shredded buds….grrrr! Whether or not there will be a continuation of this devastation is anyone’s guess, but any pigeons in the vicinity will undoubtedly be given short shrift, just in case…

The good news, however, is that my efforts in the working greenhouse last weekend seem to have paid off, with all seedlings transferred into fresh compost and now looking visibly perkier and, although probably coincidentally, with no sign of any further greenfly. Having resown the most recent sowings in the alternative compost, a good indication of the difference between them can be seen in these two trays of scabious, sown just days apart, in the new compost on the left, the old on the right…even on germination seedlings in the first compost are smaller, so no wonder there is a knock-on effect on progression of growth.

I regularly fail to notice when the amelanchier is in flower, mainly because of where it is, and am usually alerted when looking out of the kitchen windows and seeing it diagonally across our neighbours’ gardens (because of the ‘dog-leg’ of our own); it’s certainly in full bloom now, and looks better against the background of a blue sky. Unfortunately, I didn’t get SoS photos taken till later in the day, but you will get the general idea.

Last week’s Clematis alpina ‘Constance’ is now fully open, and joined now by ‘Pamela Jackman’ and the chunky lantern-shaped bulbs of  C koreana ‘Amber’. Each of the eight posts on the clematis colonnade has been planted with both a spring and a summer flowering clematis (pruning needs care!), although three of the spring varieties need to be replaced but with limited stock at the specialist suppliers that will have to wait until later in the season.

Down in the Coop, as the spring bulbs begin to wind down attention can be turned to later flowering ones, and watering eucomis, calla, nerines and the like has begun again. It’s always exciting to see them re-emerge, and first to thank me is Eucomis pole-evansii:

I will finish my Saturday Six for Jon the Propagator’s weekly meme (do visit his blog for other sixes) with some more spring colour. I could show you the pretty pinks and spotted throat of Rhodendron ‘(Christmas) Cheers’ but I shared the first glimpses of that last week so instead

…oops, too late, it just slipped out! Ahem, instead I will show you another in a succession of hippeastrum in the Coop, this time ‘Happy Memories’. To the right of it is a glimpse of the supposedly orange ‘Naranja’, definitely a wrong ‘un.


Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, garden pests, Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, seed sowing, Six on Saturday, Spring | Tagged , | 27 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Cheery

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, Spring, Wordless Wednesday | 13 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Five Elegant Ladies Drop in for Easter

Just as I knew daffodils would appear in a Monday vase a few weeks ago, it was equally inevitable that there would be tulips in my vase today now that their season is just beginning to kick off. So here they are, five tulips in my ‘full moon’ vase (as I think of it), with a twig of twisted hazel to add another dimension. I am not convinced the twig adds anything, but I had changed its position so many times the tulip stems were in danger of being damaged, so I left it where it was.

Neither am I convinced, as the tulips began to open, that they are elegant ladies, as my scrap of paper, listing which tulips were planted in which tub or pot, stapled to a Peter Nyssen catalogue suggests. I have vague recollections of removing tulips from the container these were cut from and putting them elsewhere but, if so, didn’t note what was put in their place. Studying the aforementioned list might well yield which variety they actually are – if I have a spare moment! *

* my rare spare moment suggests they might be ‘Dynasty’ which, when it was first screened in the 1980s (not that I watched it myself), featured a number of ladies who would no doubt have considered themselves elegant. So yes, elegant ladies!!

Accompanying the vase is one of my numerous chicken egg cups (a vintage plastic example) with a nominal egg as a token nod to the Easter season. I am sure there will be other vases with a loosely Easter theme today – will one of them be yours? If you can find something from your garden or foraged locally that you can pop into a vase, then please do join us, leaving links to and from this post so we can share what you have found.

Ladies or not, the beauties above are not the only ones who have dropped in for Easter as you can see from the top photo, which also shows a number of orbs. Are they merely reflections of sunlight on specks of dust or are they balls of energy of some sort…? You decide for yourself – but please also note the blue orb in the bottom picture…

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, Spring | Tagged , , | 30 Comments

Six on Saturday: Damage Limitation

Thank you for all the comments about compost during the week; as with all garden problems, it is reassuring to know that many other bloggers have encountered poor quality compost at times too. Thankfully most of us in our blogging community will recognise that the problem is not of our own making (apart from the injudicious choice of compost), but inexperienced gardeners may not realise the individuality of composts and blame themselves for their failures. This batch of mine was either very variable or suited some seeds and seedlings less well than others – some were stunted but had good root growth, whereas others were sturdier but had very little root; the turning point for me, however, was a sudden failure to germinate, further delaying what had already become a delayed process.

My indecision was transformed to a pressing desire – NEED – for change, and a visit to the garden centre brought home a bag of a different compost (sadly high in peat), into which a fresh batch of a token number of seeds was made. In barely a day, zinnias were sprouting – no problems here, thank goodness, so I set about limiting the existing damage in the greenhouse, potting on wherever I could or re-pricking out in the fresh compost. Although the season will inevitably be delayed by a few weeks, all being well things should catch up in due course, and hopefully there will be evidence of growth and progress in the coming weeks to confirm this.

Meanwhile, I have 44 trays to wash…

There was just time towards the end of the afternoon to plant out my January-sown sweet peas, which have been hardening off outside for a couple of weeks; with two nights of negative temperatures forecast for early next week, I wondered whether to postpone this for another week, but was reassured by Monty Don on Friday night’s Gardeners’ World, who was planting out his own…I can always blame him if the frost gets to mine!

Inside the working greenhouse, just to the right of the sweet pea supports, are pots of dahlias beginning to sprout – this first sign of them waking up after their winter slumbers is nearly as exciting as the first seeds (successfully) germinating!

Other signs of growth include the seemingly sudden clothing of rose bushes in fresh new foliage – this is ‘Olivia Rose Austin’:

At the other end of the seasonal spectrum we have a late showing of blooms on Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ which seems to flower whenever it chooses,  any time from December to now – it is such a pretty pink, and I am happy to see it whenever it graces us with its pinkness:

Similarly finishing off the winter season is the annual cutting back of the three cornus at the end of the shrub border, a task I delay for as long as possible, sorry to lose their colourful stems till later in the year. It never ceases to amaze me how much growth takes place during the year, reminding me how reticent I was to cut them down in the early days.

Sneaking in as a cheeky seventh and spotted on my way back inside after taking the (strictly) six photographs shown above, is Clematis alpina ‘Constance’ which one could almost get away with saying was ‘open’: hurrah!

Thank you to the host of this Six on Saturday meme, Jon the Propagator, for hosting; please consider now visiting his blog to look at other Sixes this Saturday.

Posted in dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, seed sowing, Six on Saturday | 17 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: End of March Views

Posted in End of Month View, Gardens, Wordless Wednesday | 15 Comments

Busy, Busy

The garden seems to be buzzing with busy, busy bees, and the gardener is busy too. A useful couple of hours was spent digging out much of the wild garlic in the woodland, not a difficult task as the soil is more like well-composted leaf litter and just loosening it allowed the bulbs to be lifted. I am not removing all of them, because they are as much at home there as the bluebells, but I need to actively manage them and not just by trying to deadhead them before they set seed. There was another large half-trugful as well as this, so ‘hundreds’ would not be an exaggeration – definitely a job well done!

There is now a screen at the back of the revamped hedge border, disguising the ugly parts of the inner hedge and the random rubbish used by our deceased neighbour to prevent his dog escaping – once constructed (by the Golfer), painted (by me) and erected (‘im again) it is suddenly crying out for some artwork and I await appropriate inspiration…

Down in the nursery beds by the working greenhouse I have erected the main supports for my sweet peas but, like last year, I want to add some cornus prunings to the structure for added climbability…I am always reluctant to cut these after enjoying their colour for the winter months, but already their leaves are sprouting and as this instantly reduces their appeal I guess their number is indeed up. A job for tomorrow, methinks.

The working greenhouse may well be crammed with seedlings and potted dahlia tubers beginning to sprout, but I am not happy with the progress of the former. The minor infestation of greenfly hasn’t helped, but I am now beginning to lose confidence in the compost. Seedlings just don’t seem to be thriving, and second and later sowings are taking longer to germinate than previously. The weather may have played a part too, with some colder nights in January and February which germinated seedlings moved from the house might not have taken kindly to. With records of seed sowing for the last 7 years or so I can easily check my usual germination rates, and the times of pricking out and potting on, to compare with this year, and it is the reluctance to thrive that concerns me the most, and the slow germination that puzzles me. In 2014 poor compost was undoubtedly an issue, and although previously I would have put any failures down to my techniques, by then I had the confidence to look elsewhere for a reason. I am now wondering if those seedlings that have progressed satisfactorily were from the earliest sowings, before I started using this batch of compost. Hmm, what to do? Invest in a new and different compost for seed sowing probably…

The main borders, revamped and greatly edited last summer, are beginning to show evidence of their contents, but it will be two or three months before I really know how successfully they have come through their makeover or where the gaps are – and where some of the plants been relocated. Fingers crossed…

Many of the tulips in containers are in bud but whilst pottering busily, weeding and trimming back, I was surprised to find some tulips in bud in the shrub border too…surprised because I planted a number of clumps there 4 or 5 years ago which flowered in their first year but not at all since. They may now all be label-less as I didn’t expect to see them again and I can’t tell you what this one is:

Equally surprising, but less easily explainable, is the appearance of an iris, also in the shrub border: not surprising in some ways, as there had been a clump of iris-like leaves building up in recent years but, even so, a bloom popping up was definitely a surprise. The clump is only a few feet away from a clump of Iris ensata, growing beside the stream, and my first thought was that this must be one of its progeny – but flowering in March? Could it possibly be Iris unguicularis, more likely to flowering now – but how? I did briefly have a specimen of it, but in a completely different part of the garden and long since gone – so who knows? I thought I had taken a photo of it in full bloom a few days ago, but clearly hadn’t and it is now past its best. Perhaps it will throw up a second bloom?

Also busily getting on without any input from me are various spring flowering Clematis alpina, vying with each other to see who will bloom first…my money is on ‘Constance’:

Posted in Gardening, Gardens | 14 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: a Little Love

Still reeling from the abundance of March blooms, it took me longer than usual to choose from amongst them for IAVOM. There were a number of options for teeny vases, but I was hoping for something bigger this week and eventually decided to start with some of the fragrant narcissi from the Coop. The Coop is a lean-to greenhouse leaning against the wall of our extension, and the window of our ‘shower room’ now opens into it: curiously, today I found myself detecting the whiff of hyacinth and narcissi inside the house, through the closed double glazed window!

Clutching stems of Narcissus ‘Erlicheer’, I rambled around the garden and added rehomed white hyacinth, Leucojum ‘Gravetye Giant’, Narcissus ‘Snow Baby’, Hellebore foetidus and leaves of spotty laurel. Picking out this charity shop vase because of its colour, reflecting as it does the green of the hellebore and the laurel, I decided to have the side with the motif facing the front, unlike the previous time it was chosen, and this gave me the title which up to that point had eluded me. Whether or not we agree with the sentiment expressed on the vase (after all, why am I less than 5 feet tall if this was the case…?), I am sure there will be a poem in the selection of romantic verse brought together in ‘The Nation’s Favourite Love Poems’ that expresses how we have felt at some point in our lives. Not that I was asked for my favourite – John Donne’s ‘The Expiration’ – which is not included…

Do share your favourite love poem if you like, along with something gleaned from your garden or foraged nearby and popped into a receptacle of some sort – or perhaps share the love by giving your pickings to a friend, family member or stranger.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 41 Comments

March Blooms: Reelin’ and a Rockin for Six on Saturday

Once I began dipping my toes into the pleasant waters of the garden blogging community, some months after the blog was born, I quickly discovered and participated in various memes like Garden Bloggers’ Blooms Day, Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day, End of Month View and Wordless Wednesday, some informal and some with a host like our friend Jon the Propagator with this Six on Saturday meme. As well as sharing what was going on in our gardens, they often proved to be a useful tool for keeping a monthly or weekly record. Some of these memes have fallen by the wayside over the years, and some I have continued informally for my own records.

One such meme is the monthly blooms day, which still continues but I never felt part of any community and eventually just posted in my own right, happily joining Chloris’  friendly Top Ten Blooms meme for the period she hosted it at a later date, and now posting again on my ownsome – when I remember! I am pretty sure I didn’t post a round-up of them in January or February, so decided to pull my socks (shorter socks, now the weather is improving of course!) up and get back into the routine, albeit rather late in March. Out came the camera and the March blooms ramble began…leaving me reelin’ and a rockin’…. rockin’ with the joy of all the colour, and reelin’ with the sheer abundance!

The only sensible way to give you a taste of this abundance was in roughly themed collage form with the briefest of summaries but, even so, editing photos was a lengthy process, but hopefully it is worth it – and do forgive me if you have a garden full of bare soil and sticks at the moment…

Let’s start with the Coop, with fragrant narcissi, hyacinths, hippeastrum, hepatica, cyclamen and muscari:

Most of these blooms are from bulbs or corms, so let’s move on to bulbs in the garden, particularly narcissi, fritillary, muscari, leucojum, wood anemone, Anemone blanda, scilla, muscari, hyacinth (released from an indoors pot some years ago), the first (species) tulips and even some named snowdrops still:

Somehow I seem to have acquired a few dozen hellebores over the years (how do these things happen?!), albeit some still fairly small, but my goodness they are mostly at their peak now and an absolute delight – here is just a selection:

Not as abundant – although I love them dearly for their variable flowers and spotty, silver or just plain green foliage, and must indeed add more – are pulmonaria and here are just a few of those that are performing nicely:

Shrubs and climbers include Clematis armandii, Prunus mume ‘Beni Chidori’, Viburnum bodantense ‘Dawn’, Lonicera standishii ‘Budapest’, Daphne mezeurum ‘Rubra’, witch hazel Hamamelis ‘Amethyst’, Abeliophyllum distichum, dwarf Rhodendron ‘Ptarmigan’, Camellia ‘Yuletide’, Skimmia ‘Kew Green’ and a hedgerow wild prunus:

Finally, the others, bellis, comfrey, primroses in various forms, including cowslip, violas, a plain-leaved brunnera and that almost perpetually flowering arabis:

Whew! It’s no wonder I was reelin’ after all that lot – all this and it’s only March! I am now off to our host Jon’s blog to see the varied contributions of other gardeners, who no doubt will have some exciting things to share too.

Posted in Garden Bloggers Blooms Day, Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday | 30 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Cuckoo in the Nest

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, Wordless Wednesday | 15 Comments