In a Vase on Monday: the Gaiety Club

Today I am celebrating the abundance of the cutting beds with the brightest dahlias and zinnias available, with a few others for support.

David Howard is in there again, with Geoffrey Kent (red), Dorothy Rose (pink), Top Totty (purple, and sadly only visible on the view above) and ‘Happy Single Juliet (single, cerise), with zinnias Benary Giant Lime, Orange King and a pink and startlingly bright red from Benary’s Giant Mix. They are joined by Rudbeckia ‘Marmalade’, Salvia viridis ‘Oxford Blue’, Antirrhinum ‘Liberty Classic Rose’ and Bupleurum rotundifolium.

I have a sneaking suspicion that ‘Gaiety Club’ may be a misnomer and that it is not the sort of place where cocktails abound, as suggested by the spotty cocktail umbrella but, if the addition of Amaranthus ‘Hot Biscuits’ is anything to go by, more of a club with leather armchairs and sleepy gentlemen nodding off in the daytime – but let’s continue to pretend otherwise and maintain their jolly image…

Instead of the deliberate contrasts of the main vase, I also have a more subtle vase of sweet peas to enjoy, culled yesterday by stripping all the blooms to ensure flowering is maintained, which seems an eminently sensible routine to get into. I have mentioned the combination of Gwendoline and King George VI several times and am really pleased with the pairing, although a random lilac one has recently appeared in the mix, presumably from just a single seed.

I know both these vases will bring me pleasure during the week and I wonder what those of you reading this post might find in your own gardens to pick and pop in vase or jamjar to bring you pleasure too. Please share them with us by leaving links to and from this post.

Posted in cutting beds, dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , , | 45 Comments

Six on Saturday: the Cutting Beds

Before this post was written, I had to check back on the blog to see when the cutting beds first came into existence, and was surprised to find it was as long ago as 2014. Their creation was the result of an increased love of flowering plants at the expense of paltry attempts to grow vegetables, and a growing admiration for the cutting beds shown on other blogs, whilst their success has been directly proportional to my increased proficiency in seed sowing and dahlia cultivation.

Although they are called ‘cutting beds’, I suppose only a small proportion of blooms are actually cut, with flowers for Monday vases and for posies to give away. The unexpected bonus, however, is the sheer attractiveness of them in their own right, unlike my other borders which can be a bit haphazard at best, and their bright colourfulness, a contrast to the colour-themed borders. Also, with being emptied at the end of the season and planted to a rough plan, the plants do not compete with each other in the same way as they do in the borders and are therefore more likely to thrive.

The upshot of all this is that I spend a great deal of time just standing and gazing at them – at the abundance of blooms, their colour, their detail, their health and sturdiness, the bees and other pollinators they attract – and my heart swells with …um, pure joy, I suppose it must be. All except the dahlias have been grown from seed and in only a few months – just how wonderful is that? Nature is indeed a master at what she does.

In the bed above there are six different dahlias and sweet pea ‘Sorbet Mix’ from Chiltern seeds, the latter proving to have a rather disappointing colour range, unlike my choice of two individual varieties (Gwendoline and King George VI) on the support in the adjacent bed (below), along with a further six different dahlias. Having picked almost all sweet pea blooms from this support this morning, as recommended by Monty Don, flowers temporarily look a little sparse.

These two beds were new for this year, created by reducing the size of the fruit cage, and have already proved their worth, if only for the success of the sweet peas. It seems to have worked well having most of the dahlias together as well, rather than split between the other beds and large pots.

Moving to the other four beds, in the first we have scabious, antirrhinum, rufolfia, Amaranthus viridis, Cosmos ‘Popsocks’, pink clary, Calendula ‘Orange Prince’, Rudbeckia ‘Rustic Dwarf’, helichrysum, limonium and some leftover cornflowers:

We also have some Ammi visnaga, but the less said about that the better…

Curiously, about 30cm away in the adjacent bed there are some craspedia, grown for the first time, that are struggling too, and I sometimes wonder if it could be something to do with the soil or location of this spot. In the same bed, though, are Sunflower ‘Velvet Queen’ which although slower to mature than some years is still doing OK, Clary ‘Oxford Blue’, that wonderful overwintered antirrhinum and Amaranthus caudatus.

Moving along, in the next bed is a glorious stand of cornflower, so much the better for the netting, Calendula ‘Snow Princess’, Rudbeckia ‘Marmalade’, Helichrysum ‘Silvery Rose’, Scabiosa stellata, alonsoa and Amaranthus ‘Hot Biscuits’:

The fourth bed is mostly filled with cosmos and zinnias, cosmos from the Double Click series in three different shades, and Zinnia ‘Orange King’, Purple ‘Prince’, ‘Benary Giant Lime’ and ‘Benary Mix’, with Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ and a white helichrysum separating the two types of blooms. Success with zinnias has certainly come with experience, learning finally that they don’t like to be crowded. They supposedly don’t like root disturbance either, but that has never been an issue for my with my pricking out and potting on; time of sowing doesn’t seem to matter either as my February sowing did well but was troubled by aphids, and the second sowing did equally well, with both coming into flower at the end of June.

That’s my colourful six for today, and I shall now go over to our Six on Saturday host, Jon the Propagator, to see his – why don’t you do the same?

Posted in cutting beds, Gardens, Six on Saturday | 16 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Bullseye!

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Too Soon to End the June Tune!

We say it so often, but it’s hard to believe another month is over and that the garden has moved on thirty days since I last shared views and a video of the garden as a whole. Posting pictures every month is still helpful for me to assess the garden’s progress from month to month and year to year, but please skip through them to get to the video link at the end if you want. You can find an aerial view and a map under The Garden tab above which may help you orientate yourself within the garden.

Above is the usual view from the back of the house, with the streamside grass and shrub border below:

Looking at the shrub border from the opposite end:

The woodland:

The main borders form the bothy:

And the same area from ground level:

The clematis colonnade:

Woodland edge border:

Looking back along the woodland edge border:

The three ‘bold’ borders:

Dahlias and sweet peas in the cutting beds:

Other cutting beds:

Blue & white border:

Rose garden:

Looking back at the house:

And beyond the Coop to the Coop Corner and the mini hostas:

And finally, a link to the video, with some amateur editing this month! You can find it at


Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens | 23 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Glow Davy, Glow

I was waiting for more than just one bloom on Dahlia ‘David Howard’ before I used it in a vase: there is a small handful today so here he is and definitely glowing in a marmaladey sort of way. He is such a distinctive dahlia and after putting off adding him to my collection for a season or two I finally succumbed and know the decision will not be regretted.

Being a very manly sort of dahlia, he definitely did not want any froth or fuss to accompany him, but choosing more severe companions was not as easy as you might think. The hart’s tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium certainly fitted the bill, and a dried piece of twisted hazel Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ found under the tree wouldn’t go amiss either, but the final element was harder to choose. A few rejects later, a sprig of unripe crab apples, Malus ‘Evereste’, joined the others in a shallow dish, supported by a metal frog which was hidden under a layer of washed pebbles. Backing up the ensemble was a vintage Davy lamp, a safety lamp invented by Sir Humphrey Davy in 1815 for use in flammable atmospheres like coal mines.

I always look forward to creating my Monday vase, and to the pleasure I know it will bring being able to view it at close quarters during the coming week; I look forward as well to the banter and community spirit of IAVOM, as many of you pop in to comment or with vases of your own. Please do join us and leave links to and from this post if you have a vase to share.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , | 61 Comments

Musings From an Unopened Garden

It has been an interesting few months in lockdown, with our garden openings cancelled because of it, but it has given me time to explore, enjoy and tweak the garden without the hindrance of days when it becomes public property for a few hours. I say ‘hindrance’, but I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – I have loved the flexibility and freedom it has given me to enjoy it for myself, but nevertheless miss having been able to share it with others and will continue to open it in future years.

The outcome of this exploratory time has been very varied, ranging from new discoveries to close encounters with forgotten friends, from the joy of rambling at my leisure and plucking off spent flowerheads, to schemes for new or updated projects. Even today I noticed a new pleasing combination (above) of Salvia ‘Purple Rain’, Lychnis coronaria ‘Oculata’, heuchera and annual poppy ‘Lauren’s Grape’, and yesterday I spotted flower spikes emerging from calla lilies in the Coop, the fresh new growth having emerged from bare pots during lockdown.

As well as monitoring growth on my bargain mystery clematis, trying to establish the varieties, I have also had to puzzle out established clematis in the colonnade, where varieties have not always proved to be what they are meant to be – top left is certainly not ‘Royal Velour’, top right is ‘Vyvyan Pennel’ blooming after perhaps 5 years of no-shows, bottom right is not ‘Duchess of Albany’ and bottom left is not ‘Rebecca’. None of those mislabelled by me either, having come from the suppliers as such…

I have been fascinated watching a wasps’ nest grow inside the ‘dovecot’ (a folly, not a functioning dovecot), as it gradually fills the limited space. It seems a shame that after all that effort their edifice will just be left empty at the end of the season… The Golfer, however, is less fascinated and gives it a wide berth.

I have had time to notice what a pretty and underrated plant hebe can be, and will look out for more of these short varieties:

Being able to monitor my ‘experiment’ of moving plants from one of the bold borders into pots with little concern for what they would look like in June has been a boon. As it happens, most things have done better than they have done before, thriving it seems on the lack of competition and showing that partial shade was not the reason for their previous failure to do well. Above all, it has demonstrated that cramming a border is counterproductive, especially cramming in new plants lifted from 4″ pots. Of course a sensible gardener would leave space for each plant to mature when planning a new border, but if we like plants most of us also like to fit as many as we can into the space we have got.

Having lost countless plants from failure to thrive, it is an expensive lesson to have learned. Any new plant I buy now will be grown on before being added to a border and all borders will be vetted in due course and plants culled as required. In the meantime, I will rebuild the retaining wall of this border, add fresh soil and replant those of the pots’ occupants deemed worthy.

Reviewing a couple of the borders is a necessary requisite of my other new project, for which that pile of bricks is required – but that’s for another day. So is the realisation that planting an oak tree in the garden is not necessarily a good idea 15 or more years down the line, and removing this misjudged specimen would be sensible before it got any bigger. We have enough shade from our neighbour’s huge and elderly beech tree and our own little woodland without the ever-expanding canopy of an oak tree, so it will have to go – and last Wednesday’s aerial view shows just how much tree cover there is in the garden.

No doubt there will other projects and schemes to keep us busy in the garden till we are able to open again for visitors next year – and at least we were able to open in February, despite the floods!

In the meantime, a few NGS gardens are beginning to reopen for visitors with pre-purchased tickets so if you are in the UK please visit the NGS website to see if there are any opening near you – those opening for the coming week will be listed on the website tomorrow (Monday). There are also virtual garden tours to enjoy and the opportunity to make donations towards the NGS charities, this year specifically focussing on the work nurses do.

Posted in garden structure, Gardening, Gardens, projects | Tagged | 16 Comments

Six on Saturday: Ivy has a Habit…

…not of picking its nose or biting its fingernails, but growing! It doesn’t seem very long since I built a wall around the compost heap, with a feature extension utilising two pieces of stained glass from an old front door, but this is what it looked like yesterday before I introduced it to the loppers and secateurs:

…and here it afterwards:

We might have gone pretty hungry otherwise, because we mightn’t have known that home is where the bread is:

Cutting back Rambling Rector was not such a straightforward task, despite it being an annual one, but at least by tackling it annually the rose no longer reaches the bird’s nest stage when a complete overhaul is required. However, it was made much easier this year by the discovery that lurking in the shed we have a telescopic pruner we had forgotten about – no more perilous reaching to pull down the stems with a fence stake with one foot on the ladder, thank goodness.

It’s not all been pruning and trimming, lopping and hacking, this week and there has been plenty of time for observation, noticing the embryonic flowers on the various witch hazels, for example. I realised a few years ago that the flowers were formed the previous year, but not that they could appear as early as this. It’s a reassuring sign, as some of them skip a year or otherwise flower badly, undoubtedly weather-related and perhaps dependent on the timing of rainfall, and there is no doubt that  Hamamelis ‘Zuccariniana’ will be smothered in blooms this winter, making up for its poor show last time. You can see seed pods here as well as the new flowers – and most of my witch hazels sport generous quantities of these, testament to the number of pollinating insects around in winter.

Further exciting news this week is that I have zinnias! Orange King, Benary Giant Lime and another from Benary Giant Mix, they were sown in mid February with a second sowing in early April as the first had suffered from aphids, and planted out mid-May. It has taken a few years, but I was close to Zinnia Success last year and have now finally cracked it – joy of joys!

I have also discovered a bud on seed sown Trifolium rubens, although it has taken a couple of years to get to this stage; this clover relative makes a pleasing and tactile impact in a border and by next year these potted ones will hopefully be snapped up by garden visitors, assuming we will be able to open ‘normally’ then. My original plant, shown here with astrantia and allium, was bought from a local NGS garden, invariably a good source of interesting plants.

The sixth of my Saturday Sixes is a query: the plant below just seemed to ‘appear’ in one of my borders this year and although without a label it is clearly not a weed. A number of plants have made themselves known this year after an absence and I suspect this is one of those, and on looking through past plant orders I see in 2017 I ordered Aster novae-angliae ‘Andenken An Alma Potschke’ (now Symphyotrichum) which this might be. I have never successfully grown asters before, so does this look like Alma, do you think?

Even if you can’t help with this, do pop over to Jon the Propagator’s blog and see what Six things he and other people have written about this Saturday.

Posted in cutting beds, garden structure, Gardens, herbaceous perennials | 16 Comments

Sizzling in June

Chloris of The Blooming Garden invites us to share our top ten blooms each month but June is one of the many months when selecting just ten is an impossible task, especially when we have already featured some of the stars on our blogs. Some of my ten will therefore be also-rans or dependable stalwarts, stars in their right even though there are shinier stars in the garden.

Many of the roses are having a rest, not so ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ above, nor rambler ‘Anne Marie Viaud’ below (hmm, is that a pile of bricks I see….? Sure is…there must a project brewing!):

I have shown some very starry clematis in the last week or two and I have been pleased to find others that have done little for a few years but are suddenly flowering. Others are vigorous and reliable, like ‘Etoile Violette’ (this one climbing into Rosa ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’, which you can see has been fitted with a tight corset), Prince George’ and ‘Blue Angel’:

June has seen several pots of lilies in flower, all of the Asiatic type, and having tried them in the ground but with little success, I stick with pots. Here we have ‘Yellow County’ and ‘Rosella’s Dream’:

I have not seen this salvia on other blogs, but am really pleased with its performance, especially as it sailed through the (albeit mild) winter without protection: Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’, which I bought at a local NGS open garden two years ago.

Having shown the scented leafed pelargonium in the Coop fairly recently, blooming over a long season, I thought I would share Pelargonium ‘Surcouf’ instead, a gloriously bright ivy-leaved variety which will also flower for months. We came back from a trip to the Isle of Wight last September with cuttings of this from blogging friend Jenny of Duver Diary, now filling a pot.

Since last year, one of my go-to bedding plants is argyranthemum or marguerite, which justifies being included in several pots, on its own or in a mix; with deadheading and sufficient watering and feeding they will continue flowering all season. This one is Argyranthemum ‘Grandaisy Pink Halo’:

I have had sweet peas flowering throughout June, firstly the greenhouse ones which have been in bloom since early April and the outdoor ones which began flowering on June 1st. The former are still doing OK but have suffered in the recent searing heat and will be removed in a week or two, but the ones below (Gwendoline and King George VI) are barely reaching their peak and those on the other support structure are only just coming into bloom, so there are many more weeks of glorious sweet peas to come.

The cutting beds are building up to their raison d’être and several of the inhabitants are now in bloom, but the first were the cornflowers, Centaurea cyanus, and with regular picking and deadheading they will continue to flower over a long period. I grow ‘Black Ball, white and ‘Blue Boy’ but the packet of Black Ball seeds seems to have been mixed instead as there are some oddments amidst the dark maroon blooms. Growing the three types adjacent to each other I don’t mind the mix too much in these circumstances!

The ninth star is actually a combination, but one that never fails to delight, in one of the bold borders: Salvia ‘Neon’, Lychnis coronaria and one of the magenta geraniums, probably G psilostemon. The salvia is pretty hardy although I always take cuttings anyway, but thought I might have lost it last winter as there was a sharp frost after I had cut it back; in a few weeks though there were signs of new fresh growth even lower down and I just cut it further back since when it has come back just as well and vibrant as any other year. Sadly, the photo does not do the combination justice, particularly in the bright sunlight.

My final selection is almost an afterthought, another rose, sadly almost always an afterthought: R ‘Parkdirektor Riggers’. I was reminded of it when up the ladder yesterday cutting branches off the amelanchier, looking wonderful against a clear blue sky. Totally reliable and undemanding, it seems to thrive on the neglect it suffers.

That’s my ten for this month – next month dahlias, zinnias and sunflowers are sure to feature somewhere along the line, with the first two already beginning to flower in the cutting beds. Thanks to Chloris for hosting the meme.

Posted in container & basket plants, cutting beds, Garden Bloggers Blooms Day, Gardening, Gardens, roses | 7 Comments

Scarlet Tigers, Whims and Being Thick

I was working through my list of garden tasks today and had just about finished deadheading, with tying in of clematis to follow, when I spotted this unusual visitor in the blue & white border. It took a fair amount of perusing our butterfly and moth book and a searching conversation with Google to determine for sure that it is was a Scarlet Tiger Moth. Mostly found throughout the south and west of England and Wales in damp wetland areas and coastal sites and flying in the daytime in June and July, sightings have increased further north and into the Midlands in recent years. They often lay their eggs on comfrey, which we do have in our garden, but it is far from being a wetland or coastal site!

Having paused by the blue & white border for longer than intended, on a whim I decided to cut out the stems of rose ‘Snow Goose’ that had finished flowering. Planted against the wall, it had been covered in blooms earlier but had become top-heavy and needed attention. A repeat-flowering rambler, I must have neglected to cut it back last year, but nevertheless have often thought that it wasn’t the best rose for this location anyway. It didn’t take long to cut it down to size and, seeing how well the Trachelospermum asiaticum was doing underneath it, I am now seriously considering taking the rose out altogether…a decision for another day.

The decision has been made about the aconitum, though, and that will be out as soon as it had finished flowering…

A whim is a dangerous thing when one has time on one’s hands, and last week I cut down the honeysuckle on one side of the lychgate, albeit on the basis that similarly severe attention given to another honeysuckle following aphid infestation produced lush new growth the following year. Hopefully, the result will be equally successful, and in the meantime it looks so much better without all that woody growth.

Tomorrow Rambling Rector will be tackled – but not on a whim as this is a routine maintenance task by which time we could have filled our garden refuse bin three times over!

And finally, ‘being thick’…many gardeners may not appreciate just how chuffed I am with my outdoor sweet peas, but this really is the first time I have grown any that are anything other than barely flowering spindly specimens. Instead of trying to grow them on the fence down the side of the cutting beds they have their own bed and purpose-built supports, and are rewarding me with prolific blooms and the thickest of stems, the latter a sure sign of healthy plants.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, pruning, roses, Wildlife | Tagged | 11 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: if I Were a Bird…

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