Wordless Wednesday: Gorgeous Gertie

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In a Vase on Monday: Canny

Unlike elsewhere, lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) has not become an entrenched and borderline nuisance here; quite the opposite, it has not been easy to establish, but now I finally have a few (just a few) plants that have actually flowered this year. Despite not having any blooms before, I knew what to expect from the fragrance and was not disappointed.

I cut the small handful of stems for today’s vase, and padded out the contents by including Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff, which more than makes up for lily-of-the-valley’s reluctance to establish) and Tiarella ‘Pink Bouquet’ with its subtly pink frothy spikes. Numerous vases were tried and rejected and on impulse I tried the blooms in this teeny (non-functioning) toy watering can, and was pleased with the asymmetric result, which was most definitely ‘canny’. ‘Canny’ is a northern and Scottish dialect word that means nice or pretty, and is particularly common in north east England, especially around Newcastle and the surrounding areas. The dialect here is known as ‘Geordie’, as are the locals, and today’s prop is an amusing little book designed to teach the lingo, or ‘Larn Yersel’ Geordie’.

Small, simple, but sweet, and bringing as much pleasure as a larger or more elaborate vase. Would you like to pick something from your garden, either simple or elaborate or something in between, and share it with us today? To join us, just leave links to and from this post.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, Spring | Tagged | 27 Comments

Six on Saturday: Some Combinations

As the garden continues to burgeon and more plants start flowering some pleasing combinations have been appearing, like the combination of aquilegia (Green Apples), astrantia (Star of Beauty) and allium that I have enjoyed in previous years, although it’s not the best of photographs. Staking these allium is on my list of to-do jobs for tomorrow, to right the nearly 45° angle they are currently standing at.

The rediscovered Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ has been further enhanced by Tulip ‘Victoria’s Secret’ and Astrantia ‘Ruby Wedding’…

… whilst Victoria’s Secret also features alongside a white aquilegia and Centaurea ‘Jordy’…

… and with bunny tails grass Lagurus ovatus and another clump of Astrantia ‘Ruby Wedding’…

Distributed throughout the borders, that batch of 50 tulip bulbs has certainly proved its worth, but there are other combinations that don’t involve them, like the glorious shade of pink of Rhododendron yakushimanum ‘Vintage Rose’ and its neighbour R ‘TorchLight’. The adjacent Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ would have complemented this pairing but if it had reached its full height yet.

Finally, not a combination but a contrast, is the bog-standard lily-of-the-valley Convallaria majalis and the refreshingly different C majalis ‘Golden Slippers’:

Thank you to Jon the Propagator who hosts this Saturday meme, where you will find links to other Sixes from around the world, and who I am sure won’t mind me throwing in a bonus picture of the wisteria:


Posted in Gardens, herbaceous perennials, Six on Saturday, Spring | Tagged | 32 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Candle in the Wind

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The choice of material for my Monday vases is widening almost by the day, and I have been torn between a mix of May’s finest blooms and some more specific selections while the chance was still there; even the latter offered conflicting choices, so today you can have two for the price of one, or ‘buy one get one free’ (BOGOF).

A week ago I picked a posy of bluebells, wild garlic and Cerinthe ‘Kiwi Blue’ (the latter variety recommended by Susie) to brighten up the location of voluntary work that I do, and was astonished at how attractive such ordinary blooms could be when put together; today I have recreated that posy for you, placing it in a little blue & white jug. I would have preferred a vase with a narrower neck to restrict splaying out of the stems, but needs must, and I loosely tied them together instead. The BOGOF prop is made up of letters from a game called Upwords, a little like Scrabble but with the option of stacking letters and changing words throughout the game to score extra points.

Since their first bloom back last month I have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to share some of my sweet peas, an early variety called ‘Winter Sunshine’, bred to flower at lower light levels and grown in the greenhouse. They look and of course smell wonderful and I commend them to you. Today they are popped into the largest of my car boot sale Caithness Glass vase buys and are giving me great pleasure on the kitchen table in front of me.

So there we have them, two IAVOM vases for the price of one. Would you like to contribute one or more vases to this weekly meme? To join us, post your vase or vases and leave links to and from this post.

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Six on Saturday: Distractions

With so much going on in the garden at this particularly fecund time of year it is very easy to get distracted and diverted to another task, tying in wayward stems, checking progress or otherwise being reminded of things other than the task in hand that want doing – but overall it has been a more than satisfactorily productive time recently, aided by the weather which has made any task more pleasurable. Spotting new things emerging or blooming results in further distractions, like admiring the tulip above, T ‘Victoria’s Secret’. I planted some of these in one of the borders some years ago and they have regularly returned since then, so for this season I splashed out on a further 50 of them which are distributed around different borders, where their crinkly buds are now beginning to open.

During the week, I noted in my 5 year garden diary that climbing rose ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’ had been the first rose to open one of these preceding years, and realised that I hadn’t checked on her this year (too busy looking down at burgeoning borders than up at clambering roses like this one); sure enough, there were a number of blooms which we can be sure were flowering before Wordless Wednesday’s ‘Munstead Wood’, which has now been summarily knocked off the top spot of First Flowerer. As always, Madame is difficult to photograph, due to her clambering habits:

Also discovered between tasks was this emerging plant in the woodland edge border, not seen before. There is a possibility it might be Fritillaria persica ‘Ivory Bells’, a bulb I bought last season but which didn’t make itself known then, so I shall be watching the developing buds with great interest. I removed 2 lily beetles from the plant today, critters known to like fritillaries as well as lilies, so that adds weight to the identification.

One task completed without distraction or diversion was netting the cutting beds, carried out now that the beds are fully planted out other than a couple of spaces reserved for a delayed sowing of rudbeckia. It is such a satisfying moment getting to this point and  knowing that, subject to marauding slugs, snails and cats, the beds will be a mass of colour in little over a month (the bottle collars are protecting sunflower seedlings and the handful of larger plants are overwintered antirrhinum and scabious):

For the last couple of years I have made the effort to trim back the old fronds of ferns, and the effort is always so very much worth it, to see the beautifully architectural new fronds emerging. Not all these new fronds are the fresh green we often expect, and this fern with a long-hidden label is a gorgeous russet colour (the luxurious foliage behind it on the left is that of colchicum, still looking healthy because it hasn’t been battened down by a lot of rain):

When we open the garden all the helpers have name labels, with mine also informing visitors that I am the Gardener and the Golfer’s that he is the Dogsbody, and true to form he is very diligent when asked to do specific tasks and especially in the lead-up to the openings. However, he took it upon himself to make a start on weeding the paths, so I must share with you how good a job he makes of it – and of course the difference it makes. We have used various materials for our paths, but this section certainly requires the most intensive work so do feel free to ‘ooh and ah’ at the result. The metal birds in the forefront of the picture had been perched on a nearby wall but the wooden base they were attached to disintegrated and they fell off, adding another job to the Golfer’s list.

Jon the Propagator kindly hosts this Saturday meme, giving us the opportunity to share six things from our gardens every Saturday, so do consider popping over to his blog to see more sixes.

Posted in cutting beds, Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday, Spring | 25 Comments

Pleasures, Pressures and Puzzles

There are lots of things bringing pleasure in the garden at the moment, not least this twisty-petalled tulip in the purple mix I used in my Monday vase and the raindrops on it after a proper shower of rain, albeit still short, and the first rose I shared yesterday. In truth, I could post numerous photos of the abundance in the garden that brings new pleasures every day, but I will share just a few of them today, mixed in with a hint of pressure and puzzlement.

We open the garden for the National Garden Scheme (NGS) again on the 22nd and 26th June but have a group visit the week before, so there is a little bit of pressure from the reducing number of weeks till then. Fortunately, I feel pretty much on top of preparations at the moment, especially having planted out most of my seedlings and dahlias over the last few days – they will enjoy the current warmth and dampness, but no doubt so will slugs and snails, so I must be vigilant. The cat deterrent has been switched on again too, in an attempt to discourage the local neighbourhood felines from jumping off adjacent walls and fences onto the cutting beds below; although the beds have not yet been netted, a cat caught in the netting could have disastrous consequences for the plants below (and may not do the cat much good either).

Much as I love to admire trays of seedlings in the greenhouse, I have been gawping just as enthusiastically at the newly-planted-out little plants in the cutting beds:

I sowed a batch of Lagurus ovatus (bunny tail grass) back at the end of September, belatedly planting them out in March and making a second sowing, now also planted out, and I was pleasantly surprised to spot this today:

I am also loving how quickly the trees reclothe themselves, embracing the garden in a big green hug:

I mentioned that the Golfer has revamped the water butt next to the new grass border, so painting the new fence and trellis behind it was one of my jobs this week. It certainly seems to open the area up, assisted by the removal of the ivy that had somehow become entrenched in this corner and was challenging a clematis that grows on the existing trellis. Behind this is now an empty area of about one square metre, tucked in the back corner of the woodland edge border and not quite visible on the second photo, the product of removing a dead and now decayed tree stump. An unexpectedly empty space is a bit of puzzle, but with no idea yet with what it could be filled, the emptiness will have to simmer for a while:

The rhododendron next to it is one of a number currently bringing pleasure, especially as their promise of blooms belies the dryness of last summer:

I am loving the blue and white frothiness of bluebells and wild garlic in the woodland, the largely blank woodland floor of a couple of months ago now a distant memory; it doesn’t however, distract from the sorry sight of the Lanky Lodger on the bench, awaiting a decent burial methinks, nor the sheer overpowering of The Fence, which I am still puzzling about but would like to have made a start on disguising before the arrival of our June visitors:

My biggest puzzle, though, is the (ex) Snowdrop Border, with no idea and not even a vague one of its potential new role – the only definite is that it will need to have some year-round interest, as it is in full view of the kitchen windows. There is a constant whirring in the background of my brain as I puzzle out a potential theme or scheme, dipping into books and magazines and television programmes to get some inspiration. Fortunately, there is no pressure to make a decision as the bed is filled with annuals for the summer, but I am hoping for inspiration to strike by autumn so I can begin its makeover – definitely a case of watch this space (but don’t hold your breath)!

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Wordless Wednesday: the First Rose, Hiding its Light Under a Bush(el)

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In a Vase on Monday: Purple Rain

There may appear to be little effort involved in plonking a few tulips in a vase, and I agree with you, but the simplicity of such plonking belies the attractiveness of the result, so I make no apology! The tulips are all unnamed specimens from various cheap mixes but all beautifully purple in their own individual ways.

Today’s prop is more theoretical than usual, as like many other UK gardeners I have been hoping for some rain to slake the thirst of the April garden; in the UK midlands the forecast gave us a good chance of some rain yesterday, when this post was written and, hurrah! we had some rain – all 0.4mm of it! The garden, however, did appear grateful for the small mercy.

If you would like to share a vase, plonked or arranged, showcasing some of the contents of your garden, whether wet or dry, please do so by leaving the usual links to and from this post.

… and ps you may be interested to know that last week’s perky bellis are still looking just as perky!

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, Spring, Weather | Tagged | 31 Comments

April Races Ahead and Passes the Baton on to May

Shots like the one above are not done justice by minimising the resolution to save storage space on WordPress, because on a sunny day like it was yesterday the blossom on the apple and crab apple, the pots of tulips and the newly foliaged trees stood out crisply against that clear blue sky. You will just have to take my word for it if you choose to join me on a quick look around the garden on the last day of a very dry and relatively sunny April. The garden is very different from a month ago, and the view above is what I see from the kitchen windows; to the immediate right of this is the streamside grass and shrub border, seen as usual from both directions:

We can then walk through the woodland, full of bluebells and wild garlic and with wood anemones very much on the wane, towards the bothy from where can look out over the main borders and beyond, before viewing the same areas from ground level:

Pivoting from the same spot we look through the woodland edge border before walking through to the bold borders and what is now the grass border. The Golfer has been working on the area around one of the water butts, which was literally a work in progress when the photo was taken. Previously the water butt had been boxed in, and it surprised me how different the corner looked when it was dismantled. It has also highlighted an unexpected gap in the corner of the woodland edge border behind where the butt is, previously filled by the stump of a hazel cut down a number of years ago but which has now completely rotted away. A new opportunity!

Through a gate in the wall we reach the working end of the garden, with sweet peas on their supports and trays of young plants ready to be planted out in the cutting beds, and a peep inside the greenhouse, now past peak capacity as more planting out takes place:

Back through the gate we walk past the blue & white borders, through the rose garden, under the clematis colonnade and then amongst the main borders, highlighting how quickly herbaceous plants clump up as temperatures and light levels rise:

Heading back towards the house we pass what is no longer the snowdrop border but which is yet to be renamed, now emptied not just of snowdrops but some striking hellebores and other white spring bulbs; the border was recently planted up with five different shades of limonium (statice), an easy and reliable annual. We can also look up to observe the progress of the wisteria against the gable end of the house:

Down the side of the house we can look into the Coop, where all the spring bulbs apart from one amaryllis are over and the journey towards later flowering eucomis and nerine has only just begun. Filling the gap will, in due course, be fragrant-leaved pelargonium and a small collection of streptocarpus. Behind the Coop is the recently rejuvenated Coop Corner, where large-leaved Clematis armandii is being given a second chance, despite losing all its leaves against the back fence.

To get a three-dimensional experience of the garden, you might like to watch the video below, and to see how the different parts of the garden fit together there are aerial photos and a map under The Garden tab above, plus an annotated map showing the usual points from which photos were taken and the route of the video tour. I apologise for any shakiness in the video and have, prompted by Annette, looked into purchasing a gimbal to reduce this but decided the outlay is not justified.

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