In a Vase on Monday : C’mon You Reds!

IMG_5697Despite the mixed success of the cutting beds in this experimental year, it is still a joy to be able to take advantage of the blooms that have been successful, augmenting them with material from elsewhere in the garden – and the combination of dahlias and hardy annuals this year has brought an abundance that has been missing from the end of previous summers so there is plenty to choose from.

Having decided to stick to reds, I began with Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’, Dahlia ‘Karma Naomi’, Amaranthus caudatus and dark leaves of a Bishop seedling from the cutting beds, with blooms of reliable ‘Parkdirektor’ climbing rose, Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, Persicaria ‘Firetail’, foliage of Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’, flower spikes and leaves of Heuchera ‘Big Top Burgundy’, hardy Fuchsia magellanica, a precious flower stem of  Atriplex hortensis (red orache, which I have tried several times to grow from seed in the hope it will seed itself around) and honeysuckle berries from elsewhere. See them all closer up in the collage below:

cmonreds1Normally shying away from larger vases I knew showing these rich cardinal coloured blooms to their best advantage required more than just trimming their stems short and shoving them in a small vase with a large aperture. Scanning my shelves, I turfed some ancient pot pourri from this green glazed Bretby vase (bought for the decorative value of its greenness many years ago) and filled it with floral foam, enabling the longer stems to be supported at an angle and thus creating a wider vase than usual. I have avoided using floral foam for many months due to its non-recyclability but it certainly gave me the confidence to achieve this vase today and I am chuffed with the result which shows off the various shades and textures of the materials.


Props were a reproduction England football shirt and an incomplete sheet of ‘Penny Red’ postage stamps – the Golfer is getting used to strange requests to borrow items of his random paraphernalia!

I looked to see what was in my vase on the August Bank holiday Monday last year and it was a shabby chic vase of  soft pink roses, sweet peas, sedum, cosmos and clematis – very different from the rich reds of today, the only common factor being heuchera flower spikes. What will you find in your garden today or forage locally to pop in a vase – and was it very different from what you were plonking a year ago? Please share it with is by leaving links to and from post.


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Cutting Remarks in August

IMG_5686Although parts of the cutting beds have now run out of steam, observing the cutting bed above, still awash with life, has brought so much pleasure over recent months, bringing also a colourful realisation of the unexpected bonus of having dedicated cutting beds  – although in retrospect it seems daft not to have anticipated it! This bed has been full of blocks of colour and form for several months, with coreopsis, nigella, tagetes, rudbeckia and the dried heads of poppies and briza supporting the powerful impact of five dahlias. One of the dahlias is in a pot and has not made such a stocky plant as the others – note: plant all the dahlias in the ground next year and some in each bed.  Not such an easy decision to make is whether things in this bed have done so well because of the soil and position or if was purely the intrinsic nature of the plants. Neither do I know if the success with dahlias will continue in future years but I shall undoubtedly be buying more varieties and pressing on regardless!

Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ (below right) is just out of shot on the left of this bed and a real star, although quite floppy. Equally starry is Rudbeckia ‘Chim Chiminee’ (below left) in the adjacent bed, with fascinating petals that begin rolled up and uncurl over a long period.

cuttingAug.1The rest of this second bed now has little else of merit, with Ammi majus and a stray sweet rocket towering over everything else and a sluggish dahlia in the corner behind the allium seed heads. Note: does this bed still need more organic matter to break up the more compacted soil?

IMG_5687The clary sage in the next bed has responded to being trimmed back by producing more beautiful bracts – note: order pink as well as blue varieties for next year. Ammi visnaga is as sturdy and reliable as last year and is definitely my favourite of the umbellifers. Amaranthus  ‘Green Cascade’ has been another star this year and although its red counterpart in the next bed has not done nearly as well both have been in flower since the middle of June so no complaints there!

IMG_5688Out of picture in the left of the bed are a solitary and second rate Zinnia ‘Purple Prince’ and a similarly solitary tithonia: note these were grown from last year’s seed so is it worth using fresh seeds for these in future? Not that I have had much success with zinnias grown from fresh seed either.

cutting.Aug.2You can’t quite see the sweet peas against part of the fence in the above bed but they are visible in the next. They have been a big asset for cutting and although have benefitted from a very sunny position they also suffered from drying out quickly – note: grow a larger quantity all along this fence and water more frequently. The sunflowers continue to shine at the far end of the bed and have also been in flower for a couple of months as has Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’ – my cosmos never reach the height they are supposed to (3-4 feet) and I have no idea why and the only flowers on Cosmos ‘Polidor’ in the foreground are even shorter. Having removed the large clump of spent cornflowers the two pots with a further dahlia and a chrysanthemum are very visible. Sarah Raven’s instructions for chrysanthemums suggest a 2 litre pot which is what they have are in but seems a bit small to me. This is the first time I have grown them so I shall report back in due course! And all those little black pots? I did wonder whether  to remove from them view before I took the photograph but I shall come clean: they are pots of dormant snowdrops bought recently from Avon Bulbs… ;)

IMG_5689The records of sowing and planting out and flowering I have kept this year will prove very useful for planning the beds in the future but – note: work out a planting layout in advance and not just before planting out.  I certainly need to make sure that heights of plants are given more consideration than colour – note: consider tall/medium/short beds. A slight flaw is the reduction in details of the records as the season went on, presumably as my days got busier, and flowering times increasingly became recorded as ‘mid July’, ‘early August’, etc – note: don’t be busy… (only joking!). The records do show, however, that the first seeds for this season were sown on 31st August last year and although I have wallflower and stock seedlings sown in June, until last week I had not even thought about seeds for next year at all – so having used eBay for many spontaneous purchases of seeds recently I had a blitz and rectified the situation although none will be sown before the end of August!

cuttingAug.3Thanks go to Julie of Peonies and Posies who has invited bloggers with cutting beds to share monthly updates on her blog. Do check out the gorgeous photos she has included in her post as well as links to other cutting bed posts. Being able to share experiences and knowledge and support in this way is so useful, particularly for those of us new to the concept of dedicated cutting beds. Even a small bed or patch is worth considering and it has certainly encouraged me not only to grow more from seed but to grow varieties I might not have otherwise considered – and even if you don’t always cut the blooms they certainly bring added colour.

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Meet the Family

IMG_5676The recent showers we have been blessed with combined with the still warm August temperatures means that the small amount of grass we have has grown both quickly and lushly. I usually cut the Tai Chi lawn with a small push mower but this streamside grass, being on a slope and with some cowslips and other plants growing through it in places, is cut with these useful shears which are used single handed:

IMG_5677I had just finished trimming and was neatening the edges when I realised that under the edge was a few inches of path where the grass had progressively overgrown it! A few sharp lunges with the spade detached the excess along the length of the path, revealing an additional cobbled brick width. It still needs tidying up, but a further shower curtailed gardening activities at that point so I gathered up the tools instead and was about to recycle the bits of turf when I realised who might like them…so, meet the family:

LBDD MMQC ssmdWe have had chickens since 2000 with the odd gap between batches and it is about a year since we lost our last one so have had a twelve month break. We both felt the time was right and were ready for more so brought our new family home about 4 weeks ago. From the top and left to right let me introduce you to Lavender’s Blue and Dilly Dilly (Bluebells), Mary Mary and Quite Contrary (Buff Orpingtons) and See Saw and Marjory Daw (Black Rocks). The middle two aren’t laying yet but we are getting three eggs most days from the others, albeit still fairly small. Apart from having to clean them out it is great to have slipped back into our old chicken routines again!

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Wordless Wednesday: Cherry Ripe, Cherry Ripe, Ripe I Cry…


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In a Vase on Monday: Use and Ornament

IMG_5661IMG_5660Is ‘neither use nor ornament’ a particularly British phrase, I wonder? Meaning something is a waste of space? That is my general feeling about the tree lily that is still towering statuesquely above my head, albeit not quite as statuesquely since I removed 3 blooms from it for today’s vase – even if I did need a ladder to get to them! In a vase and nearer eye and nose level I can appreciate it a little more than previously, although perhaps the fragrance would be rather less powerful if it wasn’t quite as close to my nose! There’s no pleasing some people…

The size of the blooms meant that the choice of vase would be limited and rather than a plain rose bowl I chose this heather IMG_5665coloured Caithness Glass bowl, a car boot find from a few years ago (the original Caithness Glass landscape colours are harder to find these days). The individual stems of the lily were quite short and needed support so I tried to cover the plastic ‘frog’ with purple glass pebbles but, having recently used some  for an on-going project, there weren’t enough so the vase was topped up with rose quartz tumble stones which gave a two-layered effect. Already keeping it simple by allowing the lilies their single moment of solo glory, the only props were a Caithness Glass perfume bottle that was a gift and a pair of leaves detached from the stems.

IMG_5663So for today and a few days the lily is briefly of use and ornament, but I am afraid that the bulb will still be finding a home at the back of the woodland edge border, somewhere where it can look down on us lesser mortals and show off its attractive satiny pink petals to the bird population and its enticing stamens to passing bees… In the meantime I feel I am begrudgingly doing it a favour by featuring it in today’s vase and look forward to choosing my real favourites again next week!

What favourite flowers will fleetingly fill your floral flasks today? Roughly translated, what blooms will you find in your gardens today to fill a vase or other container? Just post links to and from this one so we can all share in the pleasure they bring you.




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Garden Bloggers Foliage Day: Filling Up With Foliage

I know I have taken a closer look at the new shrub border recently in one of my posts, but as the season continues and the plants continue to mature I have increasingly become aware of what an important part the foliage plays in a new border – and of the impact made by the structure of shrubs and other plants that will still be standing during the winter. On the left of the border the three cornus are thoroughly enjoying the freedom of a bed instead of being contained in their previous pots – and they have responded to my hesitant cutting back of their colourful stems earlier in the year. I look forward to the reward of more plentiful colour when winter comes.

IMG_5654A new pulmonaria has bulked up in just a few months and the ornamental quince Chaenomeles ‘Madame Butterfly’ behind it, also enjoying freedom from containment, has quinces for the first time ever. Below, the value of grasses is already evident with Carex ‘Limeshine’, Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’, Carex ‘Bronco’ in the foreground and Pennisetum ‘Moudry’ behind. A garden centre rescue Fuchsia magellanica has quickly bulked up into a shapely bush, having also responded to a severe trim, and just emerging above the fuchsia is a fruit laden bough of crab apple ‘Yellow Hornet’ which will provide autumn colour. Foliage colour is also evident in Sedum ‘Thunderhead’, Loropetalum ‘Black Pearl’ and Nandina domestica ‘Obsessed’.

IMG_5655Lonicera purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ and Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ look as if they have been here for much longer than a part season and will continue to bring interest in the winter months. Although not fully hardy, the dark red Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ between them will also be a great asset to foliage colour for as long as it survives.

IMG_5656There is till space in the border, particularly towards the back, but there are several tall grasses, still tiny plants and tucked behind other things so not yet visible in these photos, like this one which I think is Pennisetum ‘Malepartus’ – I don’t expect them to do great things this autumn as they have mostly only been in situ for few months. The small shrub with bright green foliage and a few white flowers is Choisya dewitteana ‘White Dazzler’, which is meant to have two flowering periods each year and is already dazzling, albeit in a small way.

IMG_5657I love the dark glaucous foliage of Sedum ‘Jose Aubergine’ and the stunning bright greenness of Carex ‘Everillo’ in this corner, but the unusual leaves of Persicaria ( formerly Tovara) virginiana Painter’s Palette’ also show promise – this poor plant has been moved around the garden to several different locations over the years but perhaps this will be its final resting place. Behind them are a rehomed peony, Lonicera standishii ‘Budapest’, witch hazel ‘Magic Fire’, Rose ‘The Pilgrim’, Daphne mezereum ‘Rubra’, a prostrate rosemary and Pittisporum ‘Tom Thumb’ just hidden in the corner. And a few dandelions…

IMG_5658The fact that I stop and study this border as I ramble and run my hand through the grasses or admire the different shades of foliage instead of just walking past is proof of the value of foliage – if proof was needed – and I am convinced that it is through Christina’s encouragement of bloggers to share their foliage in this monthly meme that I have come to appreciate foliage in its own right, blooms or no blooms. Thank you Christina.

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Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow – an Overall Overhaul

I didn’t deliberately knock down part of the wall I showed yesterday just for the pleasure of rebuilding it, and it was definitely a coincidence that I mentioned to the Golfer earlier in the week that I needed a new bricklaying project – honest….! I blame Monday’s vase – and shoddy workmanship… ;)

Looking for decent little bunches of grapes on the ornamental vine (climbing over an arch between the two main bold borders) for Monday’s vase, I was struck with the sudden desire to remove the whole vine. It no longer served its original purpose and keeping it in check meant it was not the most attractive of shapes either – and tended to shade the corner of the right hand border as well as scrambling onto the netting of the fruit cage on the other side of the wall. No sooner said than done, and it quickly became a heap on the path – but not before standing on the little retaining wall to reach one of the higher stems dislodged a brick and then another…. and yet another. Not only that, but my lovely hare, only recently relocated here so he could be seen better and hanging on two screws on these bricks, suffered appalling injuries and needs an urgent appointment with the vet or perhaps  a superglue surgeon…

IMG_5649Not letting these accidents get me down and neglecting a continuation of the weekend’s ivy clearing I launched instead into the start of a major overhaul of some of the borders. Having noted whilst clearing ivy from the fence how dry the back of the herbaceous borders were, I  decided there would be some merit in removing all the plants and digging in more organic matter before replacing them, taking the opportunity to thin out the largest clumps and remove redundant labels. The bold border where the vine was removed was full of uninvited clumps of Croscosmia ‘Lucifer’ and a graveyard of redundant labels so what better place to start. It doesn’t seem long since a similar exercise was carried out and I am beginning to be of the opinion that the aforesaid Lucifer, although making a fiery impact in a good year, is a bit of a thug on the quiet – he was therefore reduced to a few corms in one corner and other crocosmia and hemerocallis taken in hand too and moved to the back, allowing space at the front for shorter plants and next year’s annuals. Soil conditioning will come later, once I have decided what to use, but already the bed looks less of a cluttered shambles – see below, and below that for the same border (full of sword like leaves) at the end of last month:

IMG_5648IMG_5499IMG_5650Oh – and overalls were involved too, as alongside cutting the devil down to size I was applying quick coats of Wild Thyme to some of our recently revamped benches, just in case we ever decide to sit on any of them!


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