Wordless Wednesday: By the Light of the Fire

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In a Vase on Monday: Victoria and Susan Have No Secrets

The three plummy purple parrot tulips in this first vase of May are Victoria’s Secret and it is certainly no secret how gorgeous they are, and as they have reappeared for at least three years I am especially pleased to see them. Almost hiding amongst them is a twig of similarly coloured Magnolia ‘Susan’ which has been in the garden for…. hmm…. maybe 15 years or so but has never produced more than 2 or 3 blooms.

Admittedly she was not planted in an ideal location but at the time lateral thinking created the space especially for her and with more than 20 blooms this year she has finally forgiven me for her substandard quarters. I don’t think I have ever drawn attention to her, not because I wanted to keep secret my landlord lapses but purely because there was nothing to show. I rather like seeing her blooms against the ‘Composition with green, purple and pink’, which was painted in the style of Mondrian at around a similar time on outdoor grade MDF and treated with three coats of exterior varnish and still satisfyingly durable after all those years outside.

Joining the two girls are a couple of stems of one of the many aquilegia that have shot up in recent weeks, spikes of the obligingly good do-er great woodrush Luzula sylvatica and one of my new favourites, annual or short-lived perennial squirrel tail grass Hordeum jubatum. These were grown from seed sown in September and planted out a month ago where they surprised me a couple of days with these gorgeous velvety heads which will open out into feathery flower spikes in due course. On seeing these heads I immediately sowed more, in the hope they will reach a similar stage rather more quickly in these milder months. Isn’t it gorgeous? SO tactile…

As we equate having no secrets with being ‘an open book’, that’s what today’s prop is; knocking the vase over onto my original prop, an e-book version of my current read (‘Why We Sleep’ by Mathew Walker), I swapped it for my next read, the more stable paperback ‘Your Life in My Hands’, a junior doctor’s story by Rachel Clarke.

Today was the first time this year that I felt spoilt for choice when creating my vase; with temperatures in the 20s for several days the remaining tulips are unlikely to last long  and it was a shame not to use some while they were still at their best. There are a number of other spring delights that could have been chosen, from lily-of-the-valley and pulmonaria at one of the scale and frothy rhododendron at the other, with fragrant sweet peas and colourful Clematis alpina somewhere in between. What a joyous time it is in the garden at this time of year, on my patch at least, as spring has still not yet made it some northern hemisphere gardens.

There may be plenty of seasonal blooms in some of our gardens, but our vases do not actually need to contain blooms as many IAVOM posts have testified over the years, nor need they be vases. Creative thinking or sheer necessity has opened our minds to what we can find in our gardens and bring inside to extend our pleasure, so do give it a go if you have not already done so: it could change your Mondays for ever! You could keep it to yourself as your own secret pleasure but if you would like to share the result, as most of us do, just leave the usual links to and from this post.


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Wordless Wednesday: Apple Blossom

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End of Month View: April, Not really the Cruellest Month

TS Eliot described April as
‘….. the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.’

Many roots have certainly been stirred here with a fairly average month of rainfall but, rather than acting cruelly, April always offers hope and promise with the bare beds and borders of March transformed into green mounds of expectation. EOMV is a great way of keeping records and comparing our gardens from month to month and year to year, and I am grateful to Helen the Patient Gardener for hosting the meme. If you visit her blog you will find links to several other EOMVs as well as see what is happening in her garden at the end of April.

In the picture above you can see how this area has been transformed in the last month with pots of tulips and violas and an ever-increasing amount of GREEN as the trees join in the rush to get their clothes on again. Below is the streamside grass, now growing nearly as long as the daffodil foliage it harbours, and the shrub border; note crab apple ‘Royalty’ on the right (with its dark leaves and equally dark pink flowers, looking prettier than it ever has done) and the recently trimmed and transformed variegated holly in the top left. The view from the other direction is also shown.

The woodland is at its most floriferous, with bluebells and wild garlic joining the primroses, wood anemones and rhododendron ‘Cheers’:

The main borders seen from above and from ground level, borders that were largely bare soil a month ago when those pots looked empty:

The clematis colonnade from both sides, showing the various Clematis alpina:

In the woodland edge border, shown from both directions, hellebores are fading and there are some barer patches where epimedium leaves have  been trimmed for the first time. There are fat buds on most of the rhododendrons here too, and Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ is pushing up its first new shoots.

Having worked hard to improve them, the three bold borders are looking promising and the addition of annuals in due course will help fill them with colour for several months. As yet, as it is in the main borders too, there is currently little flowering apart from the odd tulip and straggly wallflower.

The blue & white borders are looking nicely blue (and green!) with grape hyacinth and brunnera:

The revamped rose garden, however, is currently the dullest part of the garden and it is hard to know how well the new roses will be performing by the date of the garden openings in June. We can but wait and see – and hope…

The snowdrop border is still making an impact even without the snowdrops, as the hellebores here seem to grow bigger than those in the woodland edge, having little competition. Note the piles of turf are still there, due to be collected by our neighbour tomorrow.

The new semi-shaded border behind the recent greenhouse addition has been planted up today, and despite the absence of a coordinated plan it still looks fairly presentable just with the addition of foliage colour and texture – but needs more work. Hostas and ferns are still waiting to be potted up.

My monthly views are essentially to record the seasonal progress of the garden so are always shown just as they are, warts and all. If you want to see how the areas fit together there is a map under The Garden tab above; the last picture is of part of the area labelled as ‘chickens’ on the map, of which a new version is now required! I shall add it to The List…

Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens | 22 Comments

Ina Vase on Monday: All White’s All Right

I picked a mixture of tulips for today’s vase, some of the purple mix I spurned last week, newly blooming Merlot from the shrub border, Exotic Emperor from a big pot of tulips grown for cutting, White Dream from one of my bargain buys and what I think might be Spring Green – but couldn’t resist just using the white ones in the end. I say ‘white’, but in fact all three varieties are painted in various ways with deliciously green markings which I find especially appealing. In the short time between cutting and photographing the Exotic Emperor was puffing himself up and flaunting his robes to ensure we all knew who was in charge in the group; even the addition of sprigs of twisted hazel could not keep him in check.

The stems were placed in the denim blue stoneware vase that was given to me in the mid 70s, a vase that appears to be in the style of famed potter Keith Murray and for a long time was the only vase I owned. The white

addition this week is a piece of apophyllite, one of my favourite gemstones and one that enhances energies and connects the physical with the spiritual, releasing blockages and promoting calm. It is made up of cubic and pyramidal crystals and is often found in association with pink stilbite, so in this case is technically not ‘all white’.

Tulips are very much the flavour of the month in the UK at present so may appear in many other vases today; indeed some of our blogging community have recently been enjoying tulips to the full at the Keukenhof Gardens in Amsterdam. Will there be tulips in your vase today, or will it be some other spring blooms (autumn blooms in the southern hemisphere) that you have been enjoying in your garden? Please consider sharing them with us too, by leaving links to and from this post in the usual way.

And here, just because I can, is a bonus, a little vase of my first sweet peas, with a couple of local hedgerow sprigs of pussy willow:

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , , | 61 Comments

The Clock is Ticking

I knew the month of May was rushing up pretty quickly, but hadn’t registered the fact that this meant it was less than eight weeks until we opened our garden again for the National Garden Scheme (NGS). Good Grief! That does not sound long at all and briefly I wondered if we would be ready in time.

I know of course that we WILL be ready and that there is less to do than might appear. The garden, of course, is helping us by filling in its own gaps with burgeoning perennials reappearing after their winter rest, whilst seedlings in the greenhouse are rapidly filling their trays and demanding to be potted on and, no doubt, planted out in two or three weeks. I am keeping on top of this pricking out and potting on process, evicting as many plants as possible from the greenhouse to allow room for this ongoing process. The cutting beds are currently covered in pots, mostly cuttings or offsets grown for sale or those annuals nearly big enough to plant out, but these beds will soon be needed in their own right so the pots will be moving on again. Still in the greenhouse, the potted dahlias are in various stages of growth with some still not sprouting, but again I hope to have got them all planted out in the next few weeks, clearing the decks for tomatoes – and so it goes on!

Keeping on top of these tasks, utilising wet days for all that pricking and potting, is a must and on drier days I have continued working my round the garden weeding each bed in turn – but it is so easy to get sidetracked by other things! We have rather put off the job of laying the little patch of artificial grass in front of the sitooterie (having bought the ‘turf’ in December), but with the new greenhouse project complete there was no reason not to knuckle down and I worked through a wet afternoon and stripped the existing mossy turf which will be going to a neighbour to grass a new embankment (I love this reciprocal upcycling!). Hopefully the fake stuff will be laid this week but I shan’t do it until its predecessor has been relocated.

The area behind the new greenhouse is still waiting to be planted up, but some spare plants and a discounted purchase of a few bits and bits and bobs at our local garden centre are still awaiting an order from Crocus to be delivered so they can be arranged and planted up at the same time; the order, however, arrived unannounced (courtesy of my email junk box) today so at least the planting can be progressed once the forecasted wet weather has moved on. Don’t ask what the plants are as they were purchased more than three weeks ago and I can barely remember!

The new greenhouse was not originally planned to happen quite yet and I am trying to avoid conjuring up any more new tasks before the openings. A necessary non-plant based task is repainting the internal fences, but it is hard to ignore other possibilities that crop up, like another tempting pile of bricks from our neighbour or the brief consideration given to cutting down the variegated holly tree which was gradually engulfing the shed. The latter saw a compromise with the lower branches being removed, allowing more light both to the shed and to the area below the tree which, not surprisingly, is very dry.

No doubt the ensuing weeks will be equally filled with the mundane routine keeping-on-top-of-it tasks and the temptation of new ideas – and then the last-minute cake-making and poster-putting-up will begin… Bring it on!

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Wordless Wednesday: Chaenomeles Curiosity

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