Wordless Wednesday: Opened Wide

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In a Vase on Monday: a Small Success Story

This may not be the prettiest of vases, but it is nevertheless very much a Small Success Story: a vase of zinnias. My first vase of zinnias!

It could have been a slightly fuller vase, but I didn’t want to take too many flowers from the cutting beds (the most colourful part of the garden) before our last two group visits this week. The pink ones are from ‘Lilliput Mix’, named for the size of the blooms, I think, rather than their height, and the orange and yellow are supposedly ‘Orange King’. After problems in previous years with timing of sowing, I thought I had cracked it last year only to find the resultant healthy seedlings overshadowed by other plants in the cutting beds and barely flowering. Despite better planning, there was still a degree of that this year too but at least I have some flowers; next year I shall dedicate one cutting bed purely to zinnias in anticipation of even better results!

Do you think this coffee pot fridge magnet looks a little like a cup to be awarded for this Small Success Story? It is certainly shiny enough – and what pretty shadows surround the vase too!

Next week I hope to be more generous with my blooms as I shall have said goodbye to garden opening for another year and will once again become a little more relaxed about the garden and its contents. Even just picking a  solitary bloom for a vase would have brought pleasure and if you would like to experience the pleasure of IAVOM yourself then just post your own vase (with any number of blooms – or even no blooms!) and leave links to and from it in the usual way.

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Precious drops

After weeks without,
The ground is dry
And unforgiving,
Plants parched
And gasping
For relief.
Guilty watering
Wets their lips;
This humanitarian gesture,
This act of pity,
Is sadly too late
For some
And it will be
The strong who survive.

So, when one night
Brings but the briefest
Of showers
It is just short
Of a miracle
To see the change,
To smell the change,
As plants lift
Their weary limbs,
Raising their faces
To the sky;
The sweet fragrance
Of greenness
Fills their veins,
Their souls,
And mine
With silent joy.

Precious drops indeed.

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Making a Mockery

I have always said that the Golfer and I make a good team so when one is thinking about how to introduce new roses to the garden a mock-up or ‘mockery’ is just the thing (the Golfer doesn’t like me calling it that as he thinks it sounds derogatory, but it makes a great title!). When the sitooterie was still a twinkle in our eyes (2010), making a full-scale mockery (above) enabled us to make major tweaks to the design and especially determined that it would be (like Hardwick Hall) ‘more glass than wall’. The Big Rose Decision Mockery did not involve such precison, just a quick utilisation of whatever timber was handy and as many clamps as possible to look at different alternatives:

You have to think beyond the random timber and clamps to a structure of 3 x 3″ posts painted in my favourite shade of Wild Thyme but by happy coincidence the Golfer (not known for his aesthetic observations) and I agreed on the version that looked best. The basic idea was to allow for 2 climbing roses adjacent to the Tai Chi lawn and clematis on the posts on the other side (as with roses, you can never have too many clematis); there are further options for bush roses, but they wouldn’t of course require a framework.

Having served its purpose, the mockery in its final form (which, for anyone other than ourselves may be any of the above three…) was dismantled after a few days and the Golfer restrained from going out immediately to buy the necessary timber. With one group visit to the garden down and two to go, we can’t be starting any new projects quite yet – but it doesn’t stop them bubbling up!

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Wordless Wednesday: Open Wide…

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In a Vase on Monday: Days of Future Passed

I thought I was planning a ‘blue’ vase today with a few touches of purple, but as it turned out the purples and pinks outweighed the blues so a reference to the Moody Blues in the title seemed less appropriate; instead, I plucked one of their album titles out of the distant recesses of my brain (but the CD prop is ‘The Very Best of the Moody Blues’ and not ‘Days of Future Passed’) although I never professed to have understood what this title meant.

The blue blooms were larkspur and clary sage ‘Oxford Blue’, while the pinks and purples were provided by dahlias ‘Willo’s Violet’ and ‘Happy Single Juliet’, Amaranthus caudatus, Cosmos ‘Fizzy Rose Picotee and ‘Click Cranberries’, Helichrysum ‘Bright Rose’, Clary ‘Sundae Pink’ and leaves from Heuchera ‘Neptune’. Willo’s Violet has proved a disappointment as I misled myself with its size, expecting something rather larger than this small pompon variety, entirely my fault! This, and two other varieties, were bought as ‘young plants’ from dahlia specialist (Halls of Heddon); I was too late to order them as tubers so young plants, presumably taken from cuttings, were the next best thing and you could choose your approximate week of delivery, which was useful. As long as I read their catalogue more carefully I might order from them again next year…

It has been a struggle to access my ‘vase cupboard’ in recent weeks because the room it is in is stuffed with the contents of the back sitting room, still set up as the ‘pop-up cafe’ required for my garden openings; even so, I didn’t think I had a blue vase of the right size for these blooms and I have improvised…the vase is sismply an empty tin can, wrapped in a piece of blue card and stapled into a cylinder. It certainly does the job.

It was a real pleasure to have the pick of my cutting beds for today’s vase and I look forward to many weeks of similar abundance. Whether or not you have cutting beds or an abundance of blooms, please consider picking even just one stem from your garden and popping it into a container of some sort and sharing it with us by leaving links in the usual way…or just keep the pleasure of it to yourself if you must.

Posted in cutting beds, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 63 Comments

Musings and Amusings

The roses were so wonderful in June and mostly (other than Rambling Rector) still are, apart from looking rather washed out in the endless heat, and as I talked to visitors at our Sunday opening I found myself deciding that the garden simply MUST have more of them! Now, with time to contemplate, those thoughts can be a given more attention and plans made. They would definitely need to be in the area between the house and the sitooterie, the sunniest part of the garden and in full view from the house, and would probably be  climbers and require another structure like our existing rose supports here. No further details yet, but the ideas are bouncing around in my head and perhaps a mock-up of a potential framework is needed to make a firm decision.

Even in the lead-up to the openings, amidst the tidying and sprucing up, there were thoughts of what could be improved on – with the slate chippings either side of the ‘bus shelter’, a magnet for rose petals and twigs which have to be painstakingly picked off in any clean-up, definitely doomed. An alternative harder surface could usefully eat into my stockpile of reclaimed bricks!

Not every niggle will have such a relatively easy solution, and as yet I am unsure how the smallest of the main borders, the one in front of the ‘gallery fence’, can be improved. Like the other three borders, it is filled with pastel perennials but nothing ever looks very happy here because it is fairly shaded, probably only receiving sun from the late afternoon. Behind the fence is the woodland, with a neighbour’s very large and imposing beech tree beyond that, so it is unlikely ever to be any less shady because even in the winter months when the trees are leafless the sun will not be high enough to peer over the fence. I am considering removing all the plants and having it as a raised paved area with pots, which could perhaps contain shade tolerant annuals like busy lizzies – or, being thrilled with the cutting buds, are there enough suitable varieties of shade tolerant annuals for the bed be planted with these instead? Just something else to bounce around with the rose thoughts!

Annuals in the herbaceous borders are another matter altogether, as the only one I have had any success with at all is short nicotiana (Nicotiana alata ‘Nicki Lime’ and ‘Nicki Red’) and perhaps autumn sown cornflowers – I have planted out dozens of choice plants but they have quickly disappeared, whether from slugs, the weather conditions, or the borders already being stuffed. I have come to the conclusion that unless they are in the cutting beds or pots it is not worth the effort, and of course it is disheartening too. Oh, and I will never again be tricked into thinking that nasturtiums are anything other than red, orange or yellow – after being fooled by the red ‘Cherry Rose’ ones last year, I was similarly fooled with ‘Ladybird Cream & Purple Spot’ this year, only to find they were yellow (albeit pale) with red spots. ‘Ladybird Rose’ failed to germinate.

The borders being over-stuffed probably doesn’t help, as perennials bought to plug gaps last year try to fill out to their full potential, and further decisions on what is really worthy of a permanent place are necessary. Much as I love the impact of this Inula magnifica, every year it tries to oust its neighbours and despite frequent trimming really needs to be taken down a peg or two, as do some of the newer aconitum which are far taller than the original plant I had. And with such tall plants behind them, the front of these bold borders do not want piddling little front-of-border plants but something with more substance, even if they do have to be staked. Despite this, these two bold borders are at least the nearest of all the borders to becoming satisfactory.

lI think some dissatisfaction is possibly inevitable at some stage in the gardening year, whether it is the transition between seasons or when there are no pressing jobs to otherwise keep the gardener busy. There is no such dissatisfaction with the cutting beds; I stand and admire them for long stretches of time running, my hands through the leaves and blooms and talking gently to them. I may need to tweak positioning in future – amaranthus are always far taller than the seed packets suggest, for example, and all zinnias will go at the front next time, even the taller varieties. With many of the dahlias only just coming into bud the beds are far from reaching their peak, but this does not reduce the pleasure they give as they progress towards it. Particularly evident in the two pictures below are cosmos, rudbeckia, clary sage, dwarf sunflower, helichrysum, larkspur, dwarf sunflower and amaranthus.

A brief pause in admiring the cutting beds yesterday resulted in the decision to cut down the Winter Sunshine’ sweet peas in the adjacent greenhouse; they have been struggling in the heat and keeping up with cutting them has been hard, with blooms rapidly going to seed, so they have now been added to the compost heap to be graciously replaced by the thankful tomatoes which have been patiently champing at the bit for more spacious accommodation and look much happier in their new quarters. And of course I have had more than two months of continuous blooms from the sweet peas…

It is still too hot for anything other than short and relatively non-taxing jobs like this, but at least the bees and butterflies have been enjoying the heat, unlike the frog in the bottom picture who is no doubt bemoaning not just the drying up of his favourite watering hole but also his unrequited love for the cast iron frog that shared the same trough…


Posted in annuals, cutting beds, garden structure, Gardening, Gardens, herbaceous perennials, Wildlife | 18 Comments