The Busiest of Times, the Quietest of Times

It has been a strange fortnight, beginning as it did with Christmas Day on a Monday; with leap years, I think this must be the first Christmas since I finished work  that has fallen on a Monday and somehow it seems to have created a lot of…well, SPACE! Various regular activities have not been happening because of the festivities and the poor Golfer has not played golf for over two weeks because of frost, flood or fog so we have been rattling round at home rather more than we normally would.

We have certainly not been idle, but have had to turn to more inside pursuits when the weather has not been clement enough for walks or garden tasks, which has been often. Odd hours have been snatched outside where possible, and I am pleased that 2016’s compost has almost all been distributed around the various beds in the garden , leaving the last to be shovelled into bags for later use. Disappointingly, the leaves gathered and bagged last year had not yet fully broken down into lovely leaf mould, so these will need to be stacked out of the way somewhere to rot down further, Last year the bags were heaped on top of the resting compost pile but this had the unintended effect of compressing the compost so won’t be repeated. There are even more bags of leaves from this year too, but I am now of a mind to recycle some of them  as the amount of compost and leaf mould I can use in the garden is not infinite.

Shifting the compost is one of the rites of passage of the season, as it means I can start a new heap in its place, so those snatched hours were most useful, but strenuous too. Another such rite is winter pruning the wisteria, which I nominally carry out on Christmas Eve but was a day earlier this year and made hugely easier by the purchase of lighter stainless steel scaffolding instead of the heavy steel scaffolding we have lugged about in the past. You can see from the photo how we have extended the pergola across the path which in time will mean walking under a floriferous clematis archway.

Other seasonal tasks have included tidying up the viticella clematis, guidance from Thorncroft  Clematis suggesting they can be partially cut down to about 3 feet now, then cut right back later, which has certainly improved their looks although sadly there is still a tangled bird’s nest of C alpina over the top of the colonnade. I am wondering whether to cut back all these spring flowering clematis once they have finished flowering, to rejuvenate them and tidy up the tangled mess – and the lattice could be replaced or at least repainted at the same time. Has anyone else done a drastic overhaul of their C alpinas before? There is also a small project planned for the far end, but on hold until our neighbour has replaced the fence panel.

A certain amount of time has inevitably been spent on gazing – at witch hazels, cornus  snowdrops and the healthy seedlings filling the greenhouse! When all the witch hazels are out I shall probably write a post featuring them, but in the meantime feast your eyes on Jelena, with Ruby Glow and Zuccarinia just coming into flower behind her on the left and right respectively:

The early arrival of some snowdrops last year was a welcome sight, but now they are pushing through the freshly spread compost thick and fast, being ticked off my list with relief when they appear. Summer in this bed sees hardy geranium and some annuals in flower, all white, and a general white/green theme; I am wondering however, whether to move the geraniums and stick just to annuals in future, to restrict competition from the roots of these sometimes thuggish perennials.

I would need to work hard to create a good selection of white and green annuals, but I am sure it can be done – they just need to be added to my vast seed list!  Chloris talked in her recent post about her seed list heading towards the £100 mark and I can easily see why – I tend to be haphazard with my seed purchases, buying from eBay as and when the thought or desire takes me, but I now need to sit down and do an inventory of what I have and is still justifiably required. More to the point, WHERE are seedlings going to go once the seeds are sown? One end of the greenhouse is already pretty full of autumn sown seeds, whereas the other has trays of plants overwintering or just reluctant to get themselves planted; I know I have a little more space this year with the greenhouse extension, but judicious juggling will still be required!

I don’t suppose I shall be the only gardener trying to squeeze as many plants as possible into their greenhouses and gardens during this coming season – and as it has been very quiet amongst this garden blogging community recently I suspect others are also splitting their time between tidying and general maintenance of their gardens when the weather permits and planning and ordering from the warmth and coziness of their houses when it doesn’t. Hopefully the absence of posts is not instead the result of being confined to bed with one of the winter bugs that have been going round. See you all again soon!

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22 Responses to The Busiest of Times, the Quietest of Times

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Vines are so much work when they get out of reach. I think they plan it that way so we leave them alone.

    • Cathy says:

      Although these are reachable (albeit with stepladder for a shortie like me), Tony, but the newer stems get mixed up with the dead ones – an overhaul is definitely in the offing!

  2. Alison C says:

    Well done, it’s certainly a case of a few jobs here and there when time and weather allows but it all helps and makes things easier in the spring. It must look good to have all the compost spread. Your green house is jam packed but all the seedlings look good and healthy. I have, in the past, created a temporary cold frame in spring and things were moved out there to harden off as soon as possible to ease the greenhouse. You might not have space of course. I also hide bags of leaves under hedges.

    • Cathy says:

      I was all ready to move them out much earlier, Alison, but chickened out – they would have been well hardened off by now if I had. But yes, it might be a good idea to have a temporary cold frame – it could fit over the token veg bed within the fruit cage. Thanks for the prompt!The bags of leaves are probably going down beside the sitooterie where tgey they should be reasonably well hidden

  3. Cathy these Christmas holidays at least to me they decentralize and I do not do my chores. Extending the whole compost pile through the garden is hard work, but it pays off. It has the witches hazels already starting to bloom a little: precious. I have never had clematis because of the very cold weather. Does the Clematis alpina hold up well the snowfalls and frosts of -6ºC at least in a row? Because I love it. It has the beautiful greenhouse full of seedlings and very neat. The photos are magnificent and show a beautiful garden. Greetings from Margarita.

    • Cathy says:

      Clematis cirrhosa are winter flowering so I think might be fine for you, and C alpina are generally dormant over winter but it hadn’t occured to me that clematis might be difficult for you in Spain.

  4. Cathy says:

    Lovely to hear an update on your garden. It has been so wet here, with flooding in places (not us as we live on a hill!) so the garden has just been too soggy to do anything, despite the mild temperatures!

    • Cathy says:

      Likewise with floods here in the centre of the local town – which is on a flood plain and to be expected although it happens more often these days. We too are on a hill, but detours were needed fr 2 or 3 days. And yet it hasn’t been wet – but the rivers were still high from the snow thawing. Back to frosts now!

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Here we have had record cold so many days it makes me hibernate. All I can do is dream about what I will plant this summer. I usually leave my clematis alone. None have been tall enough to warrant any snipping. I couldn’t even turn my compost pile right now. It is frozen. Hopefully we will have a January thaw soon.

  6. Chloris says:

    What a beautifully pruned wisteria. I didn’t realise you could partially cut down the viticella clematis now; that is handy.
    My seed list is worrying me and I haven’t even included veg. It’s not just the expense, it’s the work involved- all that pricking out.
    Do you have a favourite witch hazel? I think mine is ‘Orange Peel’, it looks good enough to eat. Is that Jelena in the picture? I love that one too. Livia has disappointed me this year, the flowers aren’t very big.

    • Cathy says:

      It’s the first I had heard about partially trimming viticella, but I was pleased to do it because some have grown so rampantly this year – now I need to make sure I still cut them fully down later on. My eyes are definitely ‘bigger than my belly in terms of seeds, but hey ho! they will get squeezed in somewhere. Harry is still my favourite witch hazel even though he has less flowers than some – but Jelena (pictued) is especially stunning this year. When you see such lusciously big flowers, it is not surprising that we are disappointed with smaller flowering varieties 😉

  7. carolee says:

    Acquiring a witch hazel has moved to the top of the priority plant list! Thanks.

  8. Anna says:

    I hope that The Golfer can return to his golf soon Cathy. I imagine that he could be getting restless. Himself doesn’t play in the winter but the local course was also closed last week because of the weather. You are lucky to have been able to use your leaf mould after a year. My bags usually take at least a couple of years to rot down but then I suppose it varies according to what leaves you have to collect. Flower seed box sorted this weekend and a note made of a few seeds to order. On to the veggies next.

    • Cathy says:

      I wonder if the bags I had last year were in fact 2 years old then, as I was surprised how well they had broken down; ah well, at least I will have some by the end of this year! Still more seed ordering to do, but largely done – soon to be time to start sowing them!

  9. Brian Skeys says:

    It’s an annual problem Cathy. New seedlings needing greenhouse space before the over wintering plants can go out.i think whatever size greenhouse one has it would not be big enough!

    • Cathy says:

      Oh I agree with that, Brian, but I have some longer term plans afoot which might help…. In the meantime, there are some hardy annuals which could probably be stored outside, with cloches for added protection if it gets really cold, and that will help. I am very conscious that mre seed sowing will start soon…

  10. Annette says:

    Have I ever seen the Wisteria in flower on that stunning pink wall? Can’t remember but it must be an awesome sight. I think C. alpina is robust enough to take some beating. I’ve to attack mine at some stage to reduce the tangled masses. I always tell myself that this year it’ll be different with my clems but the climbers always turn into a tangled mass, just too vigorous. We have to replace our greenhouse at some stage and although it’ll always be too small one has to be sensible 😉 …trying anyhow! Have a nice w-e and I hope your weather is better than mine.

    • Cathy says:

      Snowy here yesterday Annette, but not unpleasantly so. Milder but grey today. I have shown the wisteria in flower – it tends to be the end of May when it is in full showing-off mode. Thanks for the encouragement (?) to cut back the alpina – I shall definitely do this after flowering

  11. Ali says:

    I love mulching in winter. And untangling the clematis, and popping out to hunt for snowdrops. Thank goodness we’re over the winter hump now!

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, there’s always something new to find here, or a little job to do. I got the shrub roses pruned on Saturday and the Group 3 clematis too – but those jobs will be creeping up thick and fast soon!

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