Six on Saturday: Firsts

Every ramble this week has brought another first in terms of what has started blooming, with almost all the roses now having begun to flower, but only a few profusely. I was well pleased today, however, to find the first blooms open on my outdoor sweet peas (these are Gwendoline and King George VI) and the first dahlia (my oldest dahlia, and with very variable blooms quite possibly a seedling). Everything else may be behind any sort of norm, but that is not the case with those two.

The cutting beds are beginning to fill out, but plants have not yet reached their full height and blooms are a couple of weeks later than in recent years. Calendula are currently the brightest and best of them (Snow Princess, Orange Prince, Sunset Buff)…

…. but cornflowers were the first to flower. The two on the left, Red Boy and the two-tone blue one that I seem not to have noted the variety of, are new to me this year and very pretty:

There is a striking depth of blue in the blue & white borders, courtesy of Clematis ‘Kingfisher’ and Delphinium ‘Dark Blue with White Bee’. The clematis has been there for a number of years but never flowered well before, no doubt because I was incorrectly cutting it back in early spring as a Group 3 clematis, instead of the Group 2 it actually is – one of the reasons I don’t intentionally purchase the latter! The latter is new to me this year and having come in just a 1 litre pot I am surprised at how well it has grown and am thrilled to have it blooming already.

Climbing rose ‘Wollerton Old Hall’ is a fairly recent addition, possibly arriving in 2019, but didn’t begin climbing last year and had only a couple of blooms, but has finally accepted the garden as its new home and beginning to make a show of itself with its very pale apricot blooms, so pale they are almost off-white:

These are just some of my firsts this week and I could easily have exceeded my Six for Jon the Propagators’ Saturday meme many times over. No doubt other bloggers will be sharing many firsts amongst their June joys too.

Posted in cutting beds, dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday, Summer | Tagged | 9 Comments

Playing Away

When you are preparing to open your own garden it can be hard to find or make the time to visit any other gardens, especially as June is invariably the peak month for garden openings. However, we managed it last Sunday and hope to visit another this coming weekend. This one, on the edge of Cannock Chase, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty made up of deciduous woodland and heathland, borrowed from this landscape and had a ‘woodland edge’ feel to it. The owners also incorporated a range of artefacts within the garden and overall there were a number of similarities with parts of our own.

We don’t, however, have any caves in our garden…


Posted in Gardening, Gardens, open gardens, Visiting gardens & days out | Tagged | 6 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Fit for a Princess

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, herbaceous perennials, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged | 5 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Standing Under the Shoulders of Giants

I have never created a vase of such gigantic stature before, for a variety of absences – lack of particularly tall plants, tall vases and a place to display the finished article, not to mention that excessive height can be a little daunting to a shortie like me; this no longer applies to people, I hasten to add, although it did when I was a self-conscious teenager. Today’s humongous vase is therefore now sitting uncomfortably in my usual vase spot in the kitchen.

I have mentioned the sudden appearance of the camassia before, for such is the flower stem in today’s vase. I think one or two may have shown their faces the year before, but now there are about 8 flower stems. They will have been bought from Peter Nyssen where I buy the majority of my bulbs, but not in the last 5 years which is why their sudden appearance is all the more surprising. Also surprising is their height: Camassia lechtlinii ‘Semiplena’, which is what they must be, would normally grow to a height of 70-90cms, whereas this stem (cut as near to the base as possible) is a whopping 137cms (40″)!

Adding another stem of the same could easily crowd out whatever vase I was able to find, so instead I cut a leaf of stately native male fern Dryopteris filix-mas, stately but at 112cms ((44″) not a patch on the camassia. Both had to have their ends lopped before being held in place in a £1 car boot bargain Caithness Glass vase with its typical heavy bottom with some clear glass pebbles, giving a finished height of 102cm (40″). I had intended the

camassia to be placed directly in front of the fern but, having put the water in first, I kept misjudging how much would be displaced by the pebbles and had to keep emptying some out, disturbing the stems. Turning Isaac Newton’s metaphor on its head to give the title, there is a teeny tiny and rather embarrassed looking teddy standing at the base of the giants in the vase.

If you can find some material in your garden of whatever size to pop into a vase or jamjar or other receptacle today, then please do share it with us by leaving links to and from this post. Props are welcome but by no means compulsory!

And note the strange multi-layered nature of the petals in the close-up shot below, giving the appearance of camera shake:

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , , | 36 Comments

Six on Saturday: Not All Visitors are Pink

Later than in most years, the roses are gradually coming out to play; ‘Strawberry Hill’ was the first, climbing over the arch at the back of the main borders. She has a very dishevelled appearance, as if she got dressed in a hurry in a distinctly strawberry shade of pink.

‘Olivia Rose Austin’, the rose I showed on Wednesday, really is the most perfect ‘quartered’ rose and a glorious shade of pale pink, not that you would know from the sun-bleached photograph of her on location. She came to visit for the first time early last year, and quickly settled down into a shapely and healthy bush, immediately becoming one of my favourites.

The third rose to get going this year is ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, said by some to be the most popular rose ever. She has been resident here for a number of years but moved house about three years ago, leaving the gallery fence for a new abode at the end of the shrub border. She has taken a little while to settle in but this year her decision to move was rewarded and she is looking wonderful, with more blooms than I have ever seen before, even at this early stage. She is a deeper and brighter pink than the other two, and very appealing – probably set to become another favourite!

I have managed to get a close up of one of the bees from the bird box, and am fairly confident it is a tree bumblebee Bombus hypnorum, a species not known in the UK till 2001They are associated with open woodland and are commonly found in gardens that have a similar type of habitat, nesting in cavities such as old birds’ nests, bird boxes, or roof spaces. It visits a wide range of flowers, particularly those of soft fruits, such as raspberries and blackberries, emerging from hibernation early in the spring, around February or early March; males are seen in late May and June but by July the nests are usually defunct. The bees buzzing around the entrance are males, and harmless.

Meanwhile, ‘our’ red mason bees have filled up some of the nesting tubes, capping them with ‘mud’, after having seen no activity there since they hatched early in April, leaving me a little concerned that they might not have coped with the frosty nights following the emergence from their cocoons. They tend not to be active after June, by which time leafcutter bees will have emerged and will quickly fill any empty tubes, destroying rose foliage as they do so!

Lastly, the sixth of my Six on Saturday, the meme hosted by fellow blogger Jon the Propagator, is another visitor, very cautiously made welcome – despite the shock of finding him right outside our back door! He is of course ‘just’ a humble grass snake, and therefore harmless, but I did double check as I am pretty sure I have never seen one before. Apart from the compost heap, our garden isn’t really the ideal habitat for it, although when I saw him he was basking in a sunny spot – sadly I didn’t see which way he slithered off. It feels a privilege to play host to hedgehogs, bees, a grass snake and a range of birds in the garden, although wood pigeons are categorically excluded from this welcome!


Posted in Gardening, Gardens, mason bees, roses, Six on Saturday, Wildlife | Tagged , | 23 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Just Perfick!

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, roses, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged | 7 Comments

The Earth and the Fulness Thereof

Did I
Close my eyes
For a moment,
Leave the room,
Or turn my back?
Were the trees
Not bare
With hardly a sprinkling
Of green?
Were the borders
Not empty,
Straggly and brown?
Were posts
Tight and unyielding,
Sweet peas
Mere seedlings?
Each new leaf
A miracle,
Each emerging clump
Small, but perfect,
All long lost friends
Welcomed back.
Then suddenly…
But surely
It did not happen

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, Poetry | Tagged | 12 Comments

End of Month View: Clouts Have been Cast

The old adage ‘neer cast a clout till May be out‘, whether it refers to the month of May or may (hawthorn) blooms, no longer has much relevance for most gardeners, as climate change has moved the seasons forward. I daresay there are still some traditional gardeners who insist that certain things should not be sown or planted out till such and such a date, and even I have found that later sowings of annual have often quickly caught up with any earlier ones. Anyway, here I am fully on top of seed sowing and planting out despite dry and frosty April and the damp squib that much of May has been – now with a warm dry spell it’s a matter of waiting for blooming to begin.

In the meantime, have a peek at where the garden is on this last day of May, a quick post squeezed in as an extra after the weekly In a Vase on Monday and with minimum commentary, starting with the usual view from the house above, and the streamside and shrub border below, from both directions:

Next, the woodland, the view from the bothy over the main borders and the main borders from ground level:

The clematis colonnade (spring clematis over, summer varieties still in bud) and bronze heuchera bed, then the woodland edge border from both directions:

The three bold borders, now beginning to have something to show for themselves:

Through the gates to the cuttings beds:

And on to the blue & white borders, the rose garden and through the clematis collonade to the main borders:

Back towards the house and the snowdrop border with the start of summer annuals, and the defrocked wisteria:

And finally to the Coop, Coop Corner and shady courtyard:

Whew, that was whirlwind tour! Now take it more slowly by watching the video instead…

Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens | 12 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Dark and Brooding

I had no preconceived plans for today’s vase but, once rambling with the secateurs began, it was the range and complexity of form of aquilegias in the borders that jumped out at me. Instead of a dolly mixtures confection, however, I chose one of the deepest and darkest, seed-sown from a Touchwood Aquilegias blend called ‘Indigo Pompoms’, pairing it with equally dark Centaurea ‘Jordy’, unopened flower spikes from an unnamed heuchera, blood-red Astrantia ‘Bloody Mary’ and the marked foliage of Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’.

A shapely heavy-based vase in dark brooding colours, bought from a car boot sale on the Isle of Wight in 2019, seemed an appropriate receptacle and in hindsight could have held more of the same, for greater impact. An unglazed black chicken from my large collection of hen ‘things’ accompanies it, pondering over the big chicken question of which came first, while she broods.

If you would like to share a vase of any sort today, please link to and from this post so we can enjoy your findings too. See you soon!

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 28 Comments

Six on Saturday: Visitors

In less than four weeks time we will be welcoming visitors as we open our garden for the National Garden Scheme, so we continue to crack on with necessary tasks in the garden. Now in our 5th year of opening ( although the planned June opening was cancelled last year because of the pandemic we had already managed a February opening before lockdown began), we are beginning to feel like old hands and there is not a seemingly endless job list as there will have been in the early years – in truth, I feel very much on top of it, although the Golfer’s list of task is not reducing very rapidly as he will keep going out and playing golf…

Almost all the pots are now planted up, the tulips having delayed the process because of their relatively late arrival and subsequent determination to hang around. Above are the four lead effect planters on the paved area, planted up with a new combination of petunia, verbena, osteospermum, calibrochea, diascia and lobelia, with a small cordyline to give a bit of height and add a ‘thriller’ to the ‘fillers’ and ‘spillers’. They should have filled out to a reasonable degree before we welcome any visitors…

…human visitors that is, as we have already had a number of less welcome visitors, like the woodpigeons I mentioned recently who systematically stripped the buds from my wisteria. Not very clear (because there is little evidence to make clear) on the photo below is the mere dozen or so racemes that are just opening as the wisteria gears up for what would normally be its showstopping moment of glory. It will not happen again, I assure you…

This year, I have tried to get in the habit of inspecting the lilies (all in pots) regularly for early signs of lily beetle but up till this week had only come across a single specimen; something has changed, and today I removed at least half a dozen of the blighters – this one seems to have somehow got himself squished…

Whilst lily beetles might elicit an irked growl from me when discovered, our next unwelcome visitor is on a par with the wood pigeons and has made me Very Angry and prompted Immediate Action…the purchase of fence spikes and an ‘animal repellant’:

I rounded the corner of the working greenhouse on my first-ramble-of-the-day midweek, to find a patch of cornflower in the cutting beds broken, smaller plants scuffed out of position and one of the posts supporting two layers of netting knocked over. The culprit, undoubtedly a cat, had clearly been disturbed in a neighbour’s garden, jumped onto the fence and down into the middle of the cutting bed, oblivious of the netting…the resulting mayhem must have been quite a sight (and sound, possibly) as he tried to extricate himself. There are at least 3 cats that regularly parade through our garden as if it was their own, but in this case we know exactly who the guilty party was as we found several clumps of white and ginger fur nearby. Why he lost so much fur and why it wasn’t on the actual scene of the crime remains a puzzle… It will not happen again, I assure you…

It may be coincidence, but we have not seen a cat anywhere in the garden in the few days since the animal repeller (designed to repel certain animals by ultrasonic waves inaudible to humans) was placed in situ, temporarily hanging on an existing bracket before being affixed to the wall.

Our final visitors have received a cautious welcome, having taken up noisy residence in a birdbox near the back door. Just above head height, the buzzing of the drones outside the entrance may be a little alarming at first but hopefully we will not get in each other’s way. I did, however, observe a dramatic incident of a larger bee (another queen, or a different species of bee?) being forcibly escorted downwards from outside the birdbox. I have not identified the residents yet, but they are a small dark species with a hint of white on their bottoms. I couldn’t get any closer for a better picture…

And that’s my six (or is it just 5?) for our genial host Jon the Propagator’s Six on Saturday meme

Posted in garden pests, Gardening, Gardens, open gardens, Six on Saturday | Tagged | 14 Comments