Sap is Rising

IMG_3891Yesterday was the mildest January 1st in the UK since 1918, a pleasant 12ºC and a welcome change from the hard frosts and frozen ground of the last week or so. Whether it was this, or an awareness of the new year and a time for assessing the garden and life generally, or perhaps the aftermath of reading about Anthony Woodward’s  sense of place in ‘The Garden in the Clouds’ (thanks for the recommendation, Annette!) but as I rambled and tinkered I felt my oneness with the garden even more than usual – and a sense of achievement at what has been created. In its relative bareness the skeleton 0f the garden was out of the cupboard – and I was pleased with what I saw. Even though projects came thick and fast in the latter months of 2014 they were still essentially ‘tweaking’ – the cherry on the cake, the star on the top of the tree, opening the box a little wider – but the basic structure remains the same (albeit with more planting space). I have no idea whether inspiration will strike in the same way this year, but on past experience and knowing how much I enjoy this kind of creativity it would seem quite likely!

So, the structure is OK (for now) but as mentioned in yesterday’s poem the garden has its own agenda and doesn’t always come up with the hoped for goods. My new dedication to seed sowing did not materialise into the wealth of colour I had hoped for – and I could see from the year of EOMVs of the bold borders from the previous post that they had failed in their boldness and ran out of steam quickly. Following the latter post I decided to collate by area all my EOMVs for the different parts of the garden and print them off for ready reference – a bit fiddly but not onerous – and the sheaf of paper shown above is the result.

It proved to be such an interesting exercise – I knew, for example, how much the trees frame the outline of the sitooterie and the paved area:

paved…. and how the woodland ebbs and flows over the season:

woodland…. but maybe had not fully appreciated how little colour there is the main borders:

borders They are full of plants and there are periodic highlights, but they are nothing like the borders I intended – I have still not succeeded with plants like penstemon which are leafy but mostly flowerless and there are many others that are just not flourishing the way they should be. Feeding and watering may be part of the answer (although not for the penstemon) but I suspect there is more to it than that – much as I love the colour green and the different shapes and textures they are not meant to be foliage borders! Ah well, something for me and the garden to work on in 2015…

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45 Responses to Sap is Rising

  1. great post and loved the pics. Best Wishes for 2015

  2. mjarz says:

    What a revealing photo exercise. Well worth the time. Thanks for sharing.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks – the quality isn’t as good on a small scale of course but for reference it’s fine (and of course I can always then go back to original ones if I need to). It was a really helpful exercise.

  3. Annette says:

    Perfect way to see what worked and didn’t, Cathy. You have achieved so much, so give yourself a pat on the back (I can only do that through my comments) and give yourself time to change the things you’re not happy with. After all gardening is an art and we spend our lives towards perfecting it…hoping that we never really reach this state of perfection because it’s a lot more fun and challenging the way it is, I think. As for the lack of flowers – could it be lack of light? My penstemons flower almost all year and are by no means spoilt creatures. Actually they’re getting quite bold and I have to have a serious word with them! Happy gardening (and I’m glad you like Anthony!) 🙂

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Annette – you are quite right about not really wanting to achieve ‘perfection’ and I certainly don’t strive for it. I know the main borders have increasingly been affected by shade from the woodland, but removing those two trees will improve that. I know I didn’t prune the penstemon properly in the past and now know to cut them back to the lowest new shoots in the spring. Would you concur with that? I also aim to feed borders during the growing season which I haven’t done before. I really resonated with AW so am very grateful for you to introducing him 🙂

      • Annette says:

        I think feeding is quite important so I always put out a thick layer of manure in autumn. As for pruning, some say cut back by half but Garnet is so vigorous, I shall cut back more. They tend to get leggy and woody if you don’t prune. As trees develop adjustments have to be made underneath. A good way which has been introduced and promoted by Princess Sturdza at the famous gardens of Vasterival in France is transparency pruning, Cathy. Might be worth checking that out? Have a good weekend

        • Cathy says:

          I do spread (throw) the homemade stuff on all the borders over winter and have just started emptying last year’s compost bin and disperse it around the garden. Hopefully this year I will be able to focus on existing planting instead of dreaming up new projects, so the penstemon suggestions are all useful.Thanks for info re transparency pruning – I looked it up and in a way that is what I already do on things like the magnolia.

  4. johnvic8 says:

    Very nice post…and certainly thought provoking. One can see the value in capturing various areas regularly (EOMV) and then observing the implications of a year of growth. Have you just suggested another task for me in the coming year?

  5. bittster says:

    You’ve put together a great reference there. I love these summaries of the seasons, and it really is interesting to see the “ebb and flow” over the year. I also love doing it as a comparison of years too, it’s amazing to see how much those slow growing trees and shrubs really do come along.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Frank, and I have wondered about going back and doing the same for 2013, my only other full year. It is fortunate that when we bought the property in 1996 we kept a photographic record of all our renovation and building work in the early days and then the development of the garden – the trees of course are VERY noticeable, and it’s something that’s easy to forget when we plant them 😉

  6. Pauline says:

    It is difficult to have lots of colour in all the borders at the same time. I have taken the easy way out and have different parts of the garden peaking at different times, so there is always something to look at.
    I agree with Annette re. Penstemons, there hey flower on and on for months, but they do like light. It’s good to compare photos from last year, you have done so much in your garden, you deserve a rest!

    • Cathy says:

      I don’t think I am looking for a replica of some of the famous herbaceous borders Pauline, just more blocks of colour rather than little patches – I’ll get there! Thanks for the comment about penstemon – until Annette mentioned it I never even considered that could be an issue.

  7. Hi, Cathy! I’ve just nominated you for a Leibster award. I do hope you’ll accept although I fear you may not, as I know you’ve declined before. However, I do enjoy your blogs and feel you are worthy of being asked again! Hope you mind mind and feel free to say no!

  8. mattb325 says:

    It’s great to see the garden evolve through the seasons – the little woodland is so charming!

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Matt – the trees in the woodland were planted in 200 and apart from removing the 2 tallest and densest trees it has worked really well and generally looks fairly natural, which was the intention

  9. Anna says:

    Oh what an interesting exercise Cathy. I’m sure if you can produce almost eternally flowering astrantias you will crack penstemons. Which other plants are not living up their reputation? Maybe it could pay dividends to sit down with a list of them and study their individual growing requirements in detail. It might result in some plant shifting come spring but could pay dividends in the long term 🙂
    PS Don’t mention the star on top of the tree – ours has gone missing 😦

    • Cathy says:

      It was certainly an illuminating thing to do. As with the old hot borders I am going to take out all the plants in these borders and give them a nip and a tuck before they go back in, which the older astrantias and geraniums probably need. Who know what else I will found? Unless your star (oops, sorry to mention it) has fallen into wrapping paper for recycling hopefully it will turn up – I lost our Christmas tablecloth for several weeks until I found it in the Christmas tree box when we came to put the tree away on 6th January… 😉

  10. Kris P says:

    I think these kinds of exercises are helpful Cathy. I just compared quarterly views of various areas of my own garden for a post I published this morning and was dismayed by the sameness of certain areas. I think I’ll expand my comparison to a month by month review (now that I have a little more than 1 year of photographic data) to see if that changes the story. I think I need to shake free of selecting plants based on what I like in other people’s gardens and focus on what actually flourishes in mine. Easier said than done when given plants pull at your heartstrings…

    • Cathy says:

      Never a truer word spoken than those last couple of sentences, Kris!! The comparisons help on so many levels and make it easier to be objective about what we see – well, hopefully they do!

      • Kris P says:

        Hi again Cathy. I wanted to let you know that I nominated you for a Liebster award, which you deserve for all sorts of reasons, not the least being hosting the “In a Vase” posts every week! If you choose to accept, you’ll find more information, including a list of questions to respond to, here:

        • Cathy says:

          You are very kind Kris, and I am chuffed that you have nominated me and feel a little churlish declining, but I am afraid that is what I will do. I feel it is an honour to be hosting the In a Vase meme – I am confident it would have been a success with or without me!

  11. croftgarden says:

    If you are going to feed your plants suggest you use a top dressing of garden compost and a slow release fertiliser such as bone-meal. Don’t over feed or you’ll get too much soft growth.
    Creating a garden takes time and you have to let it evolve, so give your plants time to settle. Not everything will thrive, so you can be ruthless if it’s mediocre and try something else. You have achieved so much and worked so hard, so perhaps it’s time to let the garden rest a little and settle into its new structure.
    Sitting and just looking is not easy sometimes, but it is the best way of getting to know your garden. I’m looking forward to see how the garden evolves this year, even if I have to bribe the Golfer to hide your brick-laying trowel!

    • Cathy says:

      As I said to Annette it will hopefully be a year when I can let the garden rest and nurture what’s already there – not sure about the resting for myself though (and exercise is one of my relaxations) but you are welcome to come and wrestle my bricklaying trowel from my itchy fingers! 😉 ps do you think blood, fish and bone is too strong for a general fertiliser?

  12. Clever idea if I thought there was any hope for my shady, mostly-green garden. I have a friend who says, “If you squint, it’s all green anyway,” and somehow I find his words a comfort. You are lucky to have three distinct and lovely garden areas to tinker with, carry on!

    • Cathy says:

      Haha, I like that – although actually, Marian, I am lucky to have more than 3 distinct and lovelyish areas to tinker with…. 😉

    • I love the “if you squint, it’s all green anyway” It demonstrates what I felt after reading this post Cathy. So what that it is all a bit green, green is good as long as you have shape and form you can get away with the need for colour.It seems to me that you are doing a wonderful job with your garden and all its parts. 2015 can be the year that you allow some colour in? Do you have bulbs under there waiting to push through and colour your patches.Interesting post. D.

      • Cathy says:

        Thanks Dorris for your kind words about the garden and that post, which in retrospect was me thinking aloud. In a nutshell, I probably need to give my plants some TLC rather than rely on Nature to take its course!

  13. Chloris says:

    Another interesting post. I think it is such a good idea to take photos of the same view to see how it evolves through the year. I think I will try that this year. You learn a lot from it.
    I can’ t wait to get back to gardening again and planning new projects.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Chloris, and even though it’s almost thinking aloud it does help to focus the mind – and other people’s twopennyworth is always interesting and invariably useful. It was indeed a joy to be out pottering after the frosts had gone as it seemed ages since I had last ‘gardened’! I wonder what projects you have up your sleeve(s)?

      • Chloris says:

        I have lots of projects but I can’ t get started just yet. I am recovering from pneumonia and I have to get a lot fitter before I can garden again. I have never had such clean finger nails, it is 5 weeks since I did any grubbing. I can’ t wait. As you can imagine, the longer I sit around, the more elaborate my plans become.

        • Cathy says:

          Oh Chloris, I am so sorry – you have been suffering in silence unless I missed a reference to it. I do so hope that you are on the way to full health again. And clean finger nails? I hardly know what they are although I did catch a glimpse of them once or twice over Christmas. Hmm, re your plans, I sense it will be something of Taj Mahal proportions, no! – recreating the Alhambra in Suffolk…lovely! 😉

          • Chloris says:

            I did mention that I had a chest infection 4 or 5 weeks ago but as time went on and it developed into something nasty I preferred not to talk about it. Blogging has been a great escape. Anyway I am on the mend now thanks, but still annoyingly weak. As to the Taj Mahal, I will have to leave that to you. I don’ t have the brick laying skills.

  14. jenhumm116 says:

    Hi Cathy, that’s a really clever idea to print your views off like that. I have to say it took me quite a while to create the ‘galleries’ for my recent Yearly round up, but now I’ve done them i wonder if I might be able to copy them out of WordPress? I don’t think I could go through it all again…..

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, these things can be very time consuming. I do make sure that my photos are filed into different folders as I upload them – like EOMV, GBBD, In a Vase, etc and by month too – so that always helps when I am trying to something like an overall review

  15. Brian Skeys says:

    Hi Cathy,
    It is always interesting to review the year with photos to see how things change.
    In my experience growing perennials from seed can be a little disappointing in the first year, re flowering, given time to mature I think you will see an improvement. BFB is a good balanced fertiliser,I stopped using it because the foxes would dig up plants where I had used it in the planting holes. I now use rose fertiliser for all flowering plants, it has a higher level of potash than BFB.
    As we all know no two seasons or gardens are the same, let alone gardeners!
    Best wishes for 2015

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks for the info on BFB and rose fertiliser, Brian – I just happened to have bought a big tub of it in JTF’s sale last week but could probably have picked up bonemeal instead 😦

  16. Hi Cathy, how lovely to have that oneness experience at the start of a new year like that. I love your exercise of printing out the different views through the year, I really must try to be more organised about regular photographs this year, such a valuable tool in assessing success and failure. I suspect you are going to find loads of interesting ways to express your considerable creativity in the coming year, though you do have a most excellent structure to build it all round. I suspect you will have loads of fun working out how to inject more colour in to those borders. Anna’s idea of comparing the preferred growing conditions of the differ plants you have is a good one, I’ve grown penstemons successfully on heavy clay in partial shade so perhaps you need to explore different varieties? Sour Grapes always did really well for me. Enjoiy, I look forward to seeing what you get up to!

    • Cathy says:

      Hi Janet – great to have your comments again. I am sure I am not alone in missing them! I realise, post oneness moment, that I definitely need to focus on plants rather than projects – I’ll give it a try!

  17. it is interesting seeing the views through the year Cathy, time for planning, regarding your penstemon, I think Annette could be right regarding light, I do not grow them as from what I read my climate is not warm and sunny enough, the other thing that I wondered is they usually say if you get a lot of foliage with no flower they could be over fed, so put it on a diet 😉 it will be interesting seeing what you do, Frances

    • Cathy says:

      And it is interesting to read all the different comments, Frances. I realised last year (sorry, 2013) that I had not been pruning them correctly, so expected better flowers in 2014 but didn’t get them although the plants are healthy enough. I’ll get there – watch out for blooming penstemons this summer!

  18. mossfighter says:

    Thanks for this interesting & entertaining post “sitooterie” is such a fun word, I don’t hear it or see it enough.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks for your kind words – it was going to be an ‘orangery’ when I built it but the orange tree died so I renamed it, and am so glad I did as ‘orangery’ is too posh for our garden anyway!

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