Busy, Busy

The garden seems to be buzzing with busy, busy bees, and the gardener is busy too. A useful couple of hours was spent digging out much of the wild garlic in the woodland, not a difficult task as the soil is more like well-composted leaf litter and just loosening it allowed the bulbs to be lifted. I am not removing all of them, because they are as much at home there as the bluebells, but I need to actively manage them and not just by trying to deadhead them before they set seed. There was another large half-trugful as well as this, so ‘hundreds’ would not be an exaggeration – definitely a job well done!

There is now a screen at the back of the revamped hedge border, disguising the ugly parts of the inner hedge and the random rubbish used by our deceased neighbour to prevent his dog escaping – once constructed (by the Golfer), painted (by me) and erected (‘im again) it is suddenly crying out for some artwork and I await appropriate inspiration…

Down in the nursery beds by the working greenhouse I have erected the main supports for my sweet peas but, like last year, I want to add some cornus prunings to the structure for added climbability…I am always reluctant to cut these after enjoying their colour for the winter months, but already their leaves are sprouting and as this instantly reduces their appeal I guess their number is indeed up. A job for tomorrow, methinks.

The working greenhouse may well be crammed with seedlings and potted dahlia tubers beginning to sprout, but I am not happy with the progress of the former. The minor infestation of greenfly hasn’t helped, but I am now beginning to lose confidence in the compost. Seedlings just don’t seem to be thriving, and second and later sowings are taking longer to germinate than previously. The weather may have played a part too, with some colder nights in January and February which germinated seedlings moved from the house might not have taken kindly to. With records of seed sowing for the last 7 years or so I can easily check my usual germination rates, and the times of pricking out and potting on, to compare with this year, and it is the reluctance to thrive that concerns me the most, and the slow germination that puzzles me. In 2014 poor compost was undoubtedly an issue, and although previously I would have put any failures down to my techniques, by then I had the confidence to look elsewhere for a reason. I am now wondering if those seedlings that have progressed satisfactorily were from the earliest sowings, before I started using this batch of compost. Hmm, what to do? Invest in a new and different compost for seed sowing probably…

The main borders, revamped and greatly edited last summer, are beginning to show evidence of their contents, but it will be two or three months before I really know how successfully they have come through their makeover or where the gaps are – and where some of the plants been relocated. Fingers crossed…

Many of the tulips in containers are in bud but whilst pottering busily, weeding and trimming back, I was surprised to find some tulips in bud in the shrub border too…surprised because I planted a number of clumps there 4 or 5 years ago which flowered in their first year but not at all since. They may now all be label-less as I didn’t expect to see them again and I can’t tell you what this one is:

Equally surprising, but less easily explainable, is the appearance of an iris, also in the shrub border: not surprising in some ways, as there had been a clump of iris-like leaves building up in recent years but, even so, a bloom popping up was definitely a surprise. The clump is only a few feet away from a clump of Iris ensata, growing beside the stream, and my first thought was that this must be one of its progeny – but flowering in March? Could it possibly be Iris unguicularis, more likely to flowering now – but how? I did briefly have a specimen of it, but in a completely different part of the garden and long since gone – so who knows? I thought I had taken a photo of it in full bloom a few days ago, but clearly hadn’t and it is now past its best. Perhaps it will throw up a second bloom?

Also busily getting on without any input from me are various spring flowering Clematis alpina, vying with each other to see who will bloom first…my money is on ‘Constance’:

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14 Responses to Busy, Busy

  1. Are you going to paint the screen? At the moment the black/dark grey jumps out at you. MAy be some wall baskets/pots. Have you ever seen the Patio Festival in Cordoba?

    • Cathy says:

      Haha, it is painted (‘Urban Slate’, which is a dark grey)! Most of our garden woodwork is a grey-green, but I decided on this grey for the (neighbour’s) fence on the other side boundary a year or two ago as I thought it helped the plants in front of it to stand out, which it does. At the moment this screen, being freshly painted, really does jump out, which is why I though something on it would detract from it. Baskets or pots might be difficult as it is pretty shady there, but is worth thinking about (especially whilst waiting for inspiration for something arty!!) – thank you!

      • So you have the opportunity for ivy and ferns and mirrors or even a mural/trellis of an arch with a mirror so it reflects back into the garden.

        • Cathy says:

          The area is surrounded by ivy and I have had to pull strands out the bed below, so definitely no more ivy, and I do have some more ferns ready to plant here too. I like using mirrors in the garden and have a few already – sadly, this area is about 2m from the house, so a reflection would not be ideal, but I do have some orandom bits of mirror which I might just try to see the effect. Do keep throwing ideas at me though please, Carole! I was looking at Etsy yesterday, and there are some nice rusty metal ferns which I am also considering

  2. Cathy says:

    Goodness, a clematis already in flower, an iris… you must live in a very sheltered spot Cathy! All those wild garlic leaves would make some delicious pesto… I haven’t got enough established here yet, but am working on it!

    • Cathy says:

      Early spring is normal for the alpina clematis, Cathy, and it may still be a week or longer before the buds open anyway. I am sorry not to have a photo of the iris in full bloom as I was hoping someone would confirm if it was I unguicularis

  3. You may well be right to blame the compost. There are some truly shocking mixes out there at the moment! As the various companies phase out peat, they are all experimenting with their formulas with very mixed results. I find you can’t rely on one particular brand from one season to the next. Having said that, one company that I’ve found to be consistently good quality is Melcourt – the only problem is sourcing it as it’s not widely available.

    That aside, it’s nice to see a few plants popping up where you didn’t expect them!

    • Cathy says:

      I subscribe to Which? Gardening which helpfully tests compost every year and campaigns for better labelling too, but this year I needed more compost before their test results came out in February. I did start having some locally delivered compost last year, recommended by a friend (and very convenient), which I have now deduced is composted bark, which saw me through the second half of last year, but wasn’t what I used for sowing or pricking out last year. I have had some from them this year but I suspect it was old stock and this is what I think hasn’t helped. The first seeds I sowed this year were sown in a peat based oned from our local garden centre, but pricked out into this bark one. I have now bought an alternative and have resown (again!) a number of seeds but don’t know whether to transfer my existing pricked out ones into this new one as well…

  4. Wow, you have been busy! Everything looks great–inside and out! Enjoy, but don’t work too hard. πŸ˜‰

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Beth – when we look at the brighter and fresher things we don’t notice the things lying around and the soil and weeds on the paths!

  5. Anna says:

    You certainly have been industrious Cathy. I like the colour of you new fence but understand your urge to beautify it. Amazing what neighbours do at times. I’m sure that you’re right to think that the compost might be the culprit. Good luck with finding an alternative. I’ve been using Dalesfoot Seed Compost for the last couple of years for most of my seed sowing but not one hundred percent convinced yet.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Anna. It has occurred to me that the previous owner of this house had some strange practices too, so could even have been the cuprit, but we know that when I thinned out part of the hedge before our neighbour was quick to try and block it up again! The problem with compost is that however good it generally is it is a natural product and inevitably cannot be exactly the same each time. My current ‘fear’ is that it has put me behind where I would have expected to be with the whole process πŸ™„

  6. rusty duck says:

    I would vouch for Dalefoot seed compost. I tried it this year for the first time with (so far, touch wood) spectacular results. With a few handfuls of vermiculite thrown in. The only downside is that it is expensive but I am telling myself that by saving me all the repeat sowings of previous years it is good value.

    • Cathy says:

      That is such a valid point, Jessica – germination and thriving are such integral parts of the seedsowing progress that cost shouldn’t come into it (like the costs of keeping a g/h frost free over winter). I will check out Dalefoot

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