In a Vase on Monday: Xtravaganza

IMG_5510It was a fortnight since I last picked blooms from my own garden for a vase so there was always going to be plenty of choice – caution was therefore thrown  to the wind and I picked the boldest and brightest blooms. Snipping with gay abandon, I finished with a worryingly large bunch which was left for a few hours in a bucket of water whilst I searched for a vase big enough to contain such abundance. IMG_5517Jostling for position were Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ (below, top left), Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ (top middle), sweet pea ‘Purple Pimpernel’, Inula hookerii and Scabious ‘Cherry Pie’ (top right), Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’, Dahlia ‘Karma Amanda’, Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and Echinops ritro (bottom left), Sweet William ‘Black Prince’, Crocosmia ‘Canary Bird’, Verbena bonariensis and Dwarf Coreopsis (bottom centre), Dahlia ‘Noordwijk’s Glory’, Dahlia ‘Karma Fuchsiana’, a partial view of Allium sphaerocephalon and more of that gorgeous knautia and the rudbeckia (bottom left). The red Amaranthus caudatus needs no further introduction but is not as striking as the green version I used a fortnight ago. Xtravaganza.1 Xtravaganza.2A wide neck vase was essential for this floral extravaganza but the limited length of some stems meant it couldn’t be too tall – nor too bright, to detract from the the blooms. A chunky globular green glass vase that was purchased largely for its decorative value, predating In a Vase on Monday by many years, fitted the bill well. Props were a Mother’s Day gift of the Ed Sheeran CD entitled, for some unknown reason, ‘X’, given to me by Younger Daughter because she thought I might enjoy the music (I did) and an extravagant looking titanium IMG_5520quartz cluster. Titanium quartz is formed by bonding titanium to quartz by a natural electrostatic procedure and combines the properties of both. Amongst other benefits, it is believed to heal the auric field and bring insight, compassion joy and spiritual insight. Even with the titanium coating you can clearly see the quartz’s distinctive hexagonal structure and note how it has grown at different rates over its creation. It is a pleasure to see these blooms across the table from me as I write and no doubt for several more days this week. After last week’s visit, I asked my Mum if she picked blooms for herself as well for her visitors – alas, only rarely it seems, as she prefers to see them in the garden. Many of those who post a vase on a Monday used to feel that way too, but have gradually come to realise that the pleasure of bringing blooms inside can equal the pleasure of seeing them in their natural state, and the joy of creating the vase, however simply put together, just adds to that pleasure – so we can highly recommend the weekly habit. Do join us – leaving links to and from this post so that we can share in your joy. IMG_5519

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 66 Comments

End of Month View: It Really Is!

Having erroneously anticipated the end of the month for much of the last week, the end of July is finally well and truly nigh and I can post an EOMV with a clear conscience, knowing that it really is August tomorrow! Helen the Patient Gardener kindly hosts this meme where we can add links on her blog to what’s happening in our gardens at the end of each month – do look at her blog and follow the links to lots of other gardens.

Having had a good tidy-up in preparation for my NGS visitors yesterday it didn’t take long to whizz round this morning and photograph my monthly views, although as I did so I found I was already plotting and planning minor tweaks and improvements and I sense there will soon be A List… For today though, here is the view from the back of the house, the badly frost damaged pots in the foreground featuring for the last time as I have already bought replacements:

IMG_5507The shrub border is becoming an increasingly interesting feature as the plants settle in and become  more established. I am especially looking forward to seeing the new grasses make their various statements:

IMG_5508The woodland changes little during these summer months:

IMG_5491Having the bothy chimney as a viewing platform pays off at this time of year as it gives a good view over the herbaceous beds:

IMG_5492The same beds from ground level:

IMG_5493You can’t really see the blooms on the clematis from this distance, but they are currently flowering on seven out of the eight posts of the colonnade. The heuchera and Acer griseum border in the foreground had the tile edging replaced just before we went away, raising it slightly to reduce run off from the previously sloping bed.

IMG_5494The foliage in the woodland edge border keeps the momentum going with or without blooms:

EOMV1The bold borders  are looking reasonably bold and colourful, the only disaster being the nasturtiums in the baskets which succumbed to heat or inadequate watering some weeks ago – or perhaps they had just flowered themselves out… Addition of annuals is proving to be a real asset in the top left and bottom borders – you can just see Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ in the former and Centaurea ‘Black Ball’ and Sweet Pea ‘Purple Pimpernel’ are still going strong in the latter. I have come to the conclusion that there is too much tall growth on the crocosmia, hemerocallis and inula in the top right border to attempt to squeeze anything shorter in as well, but there are a few additional sunflowers making a localised impact.

EOMV2IMG_5498Just a peek through the gate at the fruit cage and veg bed, and the greenhouse and cutting beds:

IMG_5501 IMG_5500The blue & white borders are now dominated by echinops, just starting to colour up, the first of the phlox and the reliable veronica in the bottom picture.

IMG_5502 IMG_5503There is still a lull in the rose garden, but some colour is provided by the mixed pink annual seeds that were sown in the two main beds, mostly from the extra poppy seeds that were sprinkled around. I really need to plan for just two or three varieties of compact pink annuals here for next year, I think.

IMG_5504White annuals and foliage plants have kept the momentum going in the special snowdrop border, and building up the new level with additional compost and topsoil has definitely boosted the soil so hopefully the snowdrops will benefit too.

IMG_5505Finally, I have been rethinking the ‘hedge border’, and noting how well Hydrangea aborescens ‘Annabelle’ has done here – I have never been a huge hydrangea fan, but Annabelle is lovely and such a good girl that I am wondering whether to add a further couple of ‘green’ or white hydrangea to her right, including behind the Rambling Rector’s arbour where access is a little awkward… Something to ponder over anyway.

IMG_5506It has been a relatively good year so far for blooms in the garden – but I wonder if things will be fizzling out by the end of August? Thanks to Helen we can keep a record of such changes from month to month.

Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens | 27 Comments

In the Bag

IMG_5488…is a ‘chopped up’ snowdrop bulb, my first experiment in ‘chipping’ or ‘twin scaling’ snowdrops.

In readiness for this later experiment, when replanting my special snowdrops in their newly elevated home earlier in the year I kept back a bulb of ‘Maidwell L’, one of the snowdrops I have had the longest and therefore a well established little clump, potting it up and making sure it was watered periodically during the drier months. Freda Cox describes the process of chipping in her book ‘A Gardener’s Guide to Snowdrops’ and there was an article covering it in the July/August ‘Which? Gardening’ magazine and it was the latter I followed as I had read it most recently. The techniques are essentially the same but Freda Cox used vermiculite rather than perlite and took the precaution of using a fungicide.

First of all I unearthed the bulb from the pot, relieved that there WAS still a bulb for me to work on and pleased that it had developed two additional bulblets since I last saw it; the skin was then gently peeled from the bulbs:

snowdrop.chipping1The pleasure of finding 3 bulbs instead of one was tempered by discovering that two of them were damaged or infected in some way, but I took the decision to work with these damaged ones as well but to keep them separate. The next step was to slice off the top and the base (with a sterilised sharp knife), retaining a section of the basal plate to which the scales are attached, and then cutting the bulbs vertically into 2, 4, 8, 16 or even 32 sections, each with a tiny section of the basal plate. I cut the larger two into eight sections and the smaller one into 4, but you can see how damaged the two bulbs are so I am not hopeful of any results with these ones:

snowdrop.chipping2IMG_5487The sections of bulbs were then placed in plastic bags in a mixture of peat and perlite and moistened before the bags were sealed. They are meant to be placed in an airing cupboard for 6-8 weeks but in the absence of this they are tucked in a dark corner of the kitchen next to the Aga, where I will try and resist the temptation to inspect them too frequently! In time new bulblets should appear between the scales but this could take anything up to 6 months – I will keep you posted!

Not yet in the bag is inclusion of our garden in the NGS Yellow Book, and although a preliminary visit from the Assistant County Organisers today was largely positive there are some issues which need to be addressed, particularly maintaining access round the garden and clearing unnecessary clutter, as well as the inevitable issue of parking. Inevitably a little apprehensive about the visit, I nevertheless recognised that as the garden is a reflection of myself if it was deemed not suitable for inclusion then that was fine by me as I garden essentially for my own pleasure; if on the other hand it was considered of wider appeal then it would a shame to keep it to myself. A further visit has been provisionally arranged for June next year, around the time it would potentially be opened if it was to be included at a later date. Again watch this space – but don’t hold your breath!

Posted in Gardening | 36 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Nigella, Undressed


Image | Posted on by | Tagged , | 16 Comments

In Mum’s Vase on Monday


Despite rapidly approaching 90, my Mum never fails to have a little pot of blooms on the chest of drawers in the guest bedroom when we or other visitors come to stay – a gesture that was one of the contributory factors to the commencement of the Vase on Monday meme, that and the desire to rekindle my own long-gone habit of picking and plonking at the start of the week. I am therefore pleased to be able to give her full credit for the above vase, which was waiting for us on our arrival here on Saturday. On checking she was OK with me hijacking her vase for my Monday post, she doubted its credibility compared to my ‘carefully arranged’ vases, and I had to reassure her that in truth ALL my vases were essentially picked and plonked, confirming just how effective an informally collected selection of blooms can be.

On a small island just off the coast of western Scotland my Mum’s largely untended garden suffers from a large quantity of rain, late springs and short summers, salt laden air and fierce winds at times, not to mention a very shallow layer of soil above slate bedrock – far from ideal conditions for gardening. However, amidst the neglect certain plants still maintain their presence, reliably flowering year after year with some, like the hebes, flowering pretty much all the year round.

IMG_5478In the vase, a stoneware creation from the local Argyll pottery, are two of these valiant hebes (a dark and a light blue), pink achillea, a gorgeous dark pink bud of honeysuckle, self-seeded ox-eye daisy, pink mallow, corn marigold, frothy alchemilla flowers and a lovely blue brodiaea  which so far resists any attempt on my part to establish it in our garden.

Placing the vase in front of an old mirror augments the beauty of the blooms, but made it a nightmare to photograph, and in its original location on the chest of drawers you would have seen the reflection of a pile of clothes and other travel paraphernalia as well as that of the vase! Careful manoeuvering of both mirror and vase onto the bed and judicious cropping eventually brought about an acceptable result, with the addition of a little tower of slate pebbles from the beach outside my Mum’s house as a localized prop. The tiny ‘up’ sticker with the arrow pointing downwards on the main picture always reminds me that this mirror used to be in my elder sister’s bedroom when she was a teenager, the sticker no doubt a freebie from a typical 60s magazine like ‘Fab 208’!

Whether you are at home or away, what can you forage to put in your vase this Monday? Do share it with us by adding a link to your post in a comment on this one, and include a link in your own post to this one too – we would love to see what you have included today. And thanks of course go to my Mum for allowing me to share her vase with everyone!


Posted in Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 80 Comments

Camaraderie in Cumbria


It is a long journey from home up to my Mum’s in the west of Scotland but the Golfer and I always ensure we take advantage of stop-offs on the way – whether it be gardens or properties or golf courses (for the Golfer to add to his golf score card collection). The annual Gardeners’ World 2 for 1 booklet includes some smaller and less well-known gardens and thus we made a pleasant diversion On Friday to Cobble Hey Farm and Gardens near Garstang.

IMG_5456A little off the beaten track but still not far from the M6 this hillside garden has a wide range of perennials and woodland plants with a stream running down the hillside through the garden and lovely views of the surrounding Forest of Bowland. As a working farm the owners have to balance their obvious love of gardens with animal husbandry and the farm now also attracts families by enabling children to feed the young animals as well as providing a fun play area, nature walks and a conservation area, thus appealing to a wider range of visitors.

The gardens are dedicated to the memory of the owner’s late mother, who enthusiasm inspired her to continue with her love of gardening and although some areas are still in various stages of progress or yet to established the ambition is to develop the woodland, grasslands and gardens to create a haven of peace and tranquillity. This tranquillity is already in evidence in many parts and I particularly liked this long border filled mostly with hostas (main picture above) and the embryonic grasses garden (below).

IMG_5445Taking advantage of the campervan, we were stopping a night on our travels north, near Grange-over-Sands in the South Lakes as we had a special assignation – with Anna of Green Tapestry and Himself. We met at Holker Hall, not far from where their static caravan is, and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon making each others’ acquaintance and admiring the gardens, pictures below. As I have said several times recently it is such a delight to be able to put faces to blogger’s names and learn a little more about their non-blogged selves – lovely to meet you, Anna!

IMG_5457 IMG_5461 IMG_5468 IMG_5469 IMG_5471 IMG_5472

Posted in Gardens, Visiting gardens & days out | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

July Joy in the Cutting Beds

IMG_5443Julie of Peonies and Posies encourages those of us with cutting beds to share them on the last Friday of the month and although she is gallivanting across the USA at the moment and not tending her own cutting beds I am sure she will be more than happy for us to continue the meme in her absence.

Seeing the above bed every time I ramble to the bottom of the garden really warms the cockles of my heart and confirms the general success of the beds. Having several strong and bushy dahlias in this bed contributes to this success of course – but it isn’t just dahlias and you can see nigella, tagetes, poppy, Sweet William, Briza maxima and a stray sweet rocket plant. As well as having a wealth of plants for cutting, I have realised that one of the other joys of the cutting beds is the pleasure of having a patchwork of different colours, something that you don’t get with colour themed borders!

The other cutting beds are not quite so full of colour, with plants waxing and waning – and a few not waxing very well at all, particularly zinnias. Below, the stars are allium heads, Ammi majus, bupleurium and Rudbeckia ‘Chim Chiminee’ which is just coming into flower.

IMG_5442Daucus carota ‘Purple Kisses’ mix is so far proving to consist only of the ordinary white version with none of the expected crimson, but the clary and Ammi visnaga are living up to expectations. There are tithonia and zinnia in this bed too but still a long way off flowering.

IMG_5441I realised that the heads of the ‘Earth Walker’ sunflowers are missing off this last photograph –  a shame as they make a lovely contrast with the shorter ‘Ruby Eclipse’ next to them. The autumn sown cornflowers are still flowering their socks off. There is ammi in this bed too and you can just see some of  the ‘Tall Spencer’ sweet peas against part of the fence – next year I may grow more of them along this fence as it is a sun trap and they seem to have enjoyed the location. You can see one of the pots here that have been dotted through the beds with dahlias and chrysanthemums – for want of space elsewhere in the garden!

Whether I pick the blooms from these beds or not they have brought untold pleasure by just being there – and I look forward to planning for next year with the knowledge and experience I have gained in this first proper season of ‘growing for cutting’.


Posted in cutting beds, Gardening, Gardens | 30 Comments