Still Fine at Nine

Today is the ninth anniversary of Rambling in the Garden – how on earth did that happen?! To mark the occasion, I have popped some blooms and foliage into the personalised vase that was handpainted for me by Elder Daughter some years ago: Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’, Hellebore ‘Winter Moonbeam’ and Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’.

Last year, on the eighth anniversary, I talked at length about all the things I had gained from blogging, many of them unexpected, but I will reiterate the final paragraph:

This leads on to the greatest benefit of my blog: the camaraderie of all those who read and comment on it regularly and especially my blogging friends, who have all contributed to the benefits already mentioned in one way or another. Sharing or exchanging information or advice, offering support in many guises, generously sharing and exchanging plants and seeds – the list is long. Not just publicly through our blogs, but by email and exciting little packages in the post, and sometimes in person too. I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.

This holds true just as much as it did then – so thank you for sticking with me or, if you have begun rambling with me only recently, choosing to come alongside. Here’s to another year!


Posted in garden blogs, Gardening, Gardens | Tagged | 39 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: the Lion Roars

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged | 6 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Teeny-Weeny

The first Anemone blanda are opening, and as blue is always such a welcome sight in the garden I have picked a few buds for today’s vase and popped them into a stoneware inkwell, along with almost perpetually flowering comfrey Symphytum ‘Hidcote Blue’ and a little piece of witch hazel Hamamelis ‘Rubin’ with its coral red spidery blooms picking out the pinky red of unopened comfrey blooms.

Several hours after putting the vase together I found the leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens‘, black mondo grass, which had been cut for inclusion but forgotten; a belated indoor photograph includes them and shows the anemones now opened in the warmth of the house. The grass seems to ‘lift’ the overall appearance and is definitely a worthwhile addition.

The teeny prop is a weeny tea tray, handmade and handpainted in France. To give you an idea of scale, the inkwell is approximately 7cm high and the tray 7cm between handles.

If you would like to join us by posting a Monday vase of any size, the contents garnered from your garden, then please leave links to and from this post.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 31 Comments

Six on Saturday: Pink Sticks and Purple Kings

As well as all the snowdrops and hellebores, I have added numerous other plants of winter interest in recent years, mostly as a result of what I have seen and read on other blogs, especially that of blogging friend and plant encyclopaedia Chloris, of My Blooming Garden, and am now myself very much an ambassador for the practice. Having already earmarked several pink sticks for today’s Six on Saturday, the meme hosted by Jon the Propagator, I set out to photograph them but was sidetracked by a flash of pink in the woodland edge and was delighted to find this Erythronium dens-canis ‘Purple King’ in bloom. Not having had much success with erythronium in the past, its presence (a year after planting) certainly put an extra smile on my face. Such lovely marbled leaves too, although in close-up I can see I am not the only one to think so…

Moving on to the pink sticks, we have Daphne mezereum ‘Rubra’, a recent replacement for one that was lost to last year’s long hot summer; sadly, lack of planning means it is not close enough to a path to catch the fragrance at close range:

A more common winter resident is Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, which readily pumps out its sweet fragrance, especially on mild sunny days. Although in flower intermittently since October or November, these later blooms are more substantial and make a greater impact:

Close by, stems of Japanese apricot Prunus mume ‘Beni Chidori’, also fragrant, are clothed in bright cerise pink blooms:

Chloris has shown a pretty specimen of Abeliophyllum distichum, sometimes known as  white forsythia, on her Six on Saturday contribution today; here it is one of my newer acquisitions and it was probably on her blog that I first came across it. Mine is most definitely nobbut a stick or two yet, but the flowers bloom just as sweetly:

My sixth contribution, grown in the Coop and not only not a stick nor wholly pink, is a pot of Hepatica nobilis, such dainty little flowers. Please do not examine the picture too closely, however, as some of the green dots are not a feature of the blooms but a minor infestation of greenfly which has plagued me and the contents of both Coop and working greenhouse over winter…

Posted in early spring, Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, Six on Saturday, winter interest | Tagged | 22 Comments

Looking Back at the Snowdrop Season

Not just looking back, but still enjoying some of the specials in the snowdrop border (above), arriving late to the party, whilst assessing the season as a whole. It has been an odd season, with many more specials than usual pushing their way up in December, some even in November, with commons also making a start before Christmas. Despite this, the commons seemed to take a long time to reach flowering stage and were then over perhaps quicker than usual (see below), whilst the specials seem to have had a long and extended season. Meanwhile, the hellebores that flower alongside them are not yet at their peak.

Some of my established specials have not flowered at all this year and sadly I have also lost well over a dozen different varieties, a risk faced by all of those who enjoy a collection of special snowdrops – although I have never lost as many as this in one season. Reasons will vary, but the majority of my losses this year seemed to be either amongst those planted at around the same time two years ago or in one particular part of the border.

For some years now I have started new bulbs off in a deep 9cm ‘snowdrop pot’, sunk into the border, before planting them directly in the ground once well-established. At first I put off the planting out as long as possible, but knowing that snowdrops like to be divided every 3 years or so I am getting braver about it – although I still like the sense of security of them being in pots, better protected and easier to find when not in growth! Anyway, it may be that the potting mix (usually a mix of soil-based, perlite and leaf mould) I used for planting new bulbs two years ago was somehow not satisfactory, and certainly on emptying the pots the remaining mixture was more clay-ey than I would have expected – no way to be sure that was the reason though. The geographical possibility for failure, however,  was more clear-cut, as I found a pot buried under two or three inches of soil in the border, complete with struggling bulb, plus another little group of bulbs out of their depth in the same part of the border, where I had gradually topped up soil to level it off in recent years; these were resued but others, I suspect, have been buried alive… A lesson learned, it seems, although an annual mulch with leafmould will ideally still be part of ongoing maintenance.

Other annual tasks will include the thinning of congested clumps, with ‘spare’ bulbs exchanged, gifted or sometimes sold on eBay. With a large collection I am now realising that relatively close planting can bring issues of seeding amongst other clumps, and cross-pollination of varieties – not necessarily problems, but certainly identification issues. Sometimes I will push developing seedheads down into the soil in the midst of a clump, and sometimes nip them off, but my plan for next year is to resist buying new varieties and focus on establishing those I have and exchanging varieties when opportunities arise. Meanwhile, my maps and lists are up-to-date, leaving just the sprinkling of bonemeal on both the special border and in the woodland edge, where the natives are, as an outstanding task – whilst continuing to spread the latter around!

Why not enjoy a final glance over my shoulder at some of the later flowering varieties? Clockwise from top left: Phillipe André Meyer, the huge but slightly past it Fieldgate Forte, Green Man and the not-always-evident hints of yellow on Lady Elphinstone…

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, snowdrops | 19 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Big Golden Sun on a Damp Day

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged | 12 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Flags

Flags on flags with flags…or rather iris on paving slabs with a couple of Union Jack flags!

If the ‘Tête-à-tête’ hadn’t been in flower for the first time last week and therefore automatically destined for Monday’s vase, these iris would have been there instead. Fortunately still good enough for cutting a week later, these redundant Iris reticulata potted in readiness for our cancelled February garden opening will probably now be composted, as they don’t consistently perform in open ground and, at a few pounds per 25, are cheap enough to be disposable. There are three varieties – Clairette, Blue Note and Painted Lady – and once picked I decided rather than mixing the colours I would just plonk them in the vase, a vintage willow pattern gravy boat, as they were. A few wayward sprigs of witch hazel Hamamelis ‘Zuccariniana’, stunningly beautiful this year, were added to bring out the soft yellow in the patterning on the iris, but I am not sure they really bring much extra to the display.

Irises being sometimes known as ‘flags’, including these two little flags (retrieved from party food way back in the days when I was still working, most probably during a celebration of William & Kate’s royal wedding in 2011) was always on the cards, and not the first time they have been pressed into service as props for a Monday vase. Photographing them on flagstones in the garden just goes to show how what a curious thing language can be, often with several meanings for the same word – no wonder playing with words can be great fun!

Playing with vases can be fun too, and popping something from your garden into a vase on Mondays  is a most enjoyable game. If you would like to join in, please leave the usual links to and from this post.

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, early spring, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | 47 Comments

Six on Saturday: the Streamside and Other Projects

I got a shock looking through photos to try and find one which showed the overgrown streamside border because, at this leaner time of year, I had somehow forgotten how floriferous and leafy the garden is in summer! The one above was taken at the end of August but there was even greater abundance in the July view I considered; neither shows the streamside border very well, but one end of it is just visible under the pergola on the left of the photo. The (pumped) stream runs between the border and the grassy area, not that you can really see it because much of the border has filled out and spilled over to conceal it. Sandwiched between the paved area and the stream, the border has also become home to an unwelcome quantity of couch grass, and if you watched the end of month video last week you will have seen that work began last week to eradicate it and blitz the border as a whole.

As well as removing couch grass, the pretty but rampantly spreading Geum rivale was in for the chop, with clumps of persicaria and various grasses downsized and dormant clumps of astilbe and painted ferns rescued and replaced. Once the thinned out plants were replaced in the now empty border, any loose soil was swept up and sifted before replacement to avoid any snippets of couch grass sneaking back in. The task was not without mishaps (but fortunately with no dislodging of rocks or sending of loose soil into the stream), and saw me flat on my back like a stranded beetle at one point and left the Golfer hobbling all week with an extremely bruised foot after a slab he lifted broke in his hands and landed on it…ouch! But the end result was worth the pain and the effort, as you can now see the stream again!

Other tasks, in what must have been an especially busy week as I completely forget about posting a Wordless Wednesday picture, were minor and completely without mishap – more seed sowing and pricking out, cutting back clematis, ordering more (why not?) roses and other outstanding tasks like preventing the frequent falling over of these top-heavy galvanised containers, which would normally sit decoratively in the shrub border, by filling them with concrete to  add stability:

… and lifting the dovecot folly off its post to tackle removal of the remnants of the wasps’ nest which filled it last year, leaving the Golfer to make detours to get to the shed to avoid walking past it. The ‘entrance’ will then need to be discretely blocked to prevent it happening again:

By including several photos of the streamside border project, I must have already more than filled my SoS quota, so shall leave it at that for this week. Do visit our Saturday host Jon the Propagator to see his six and those of other bloggers who, I am sure, will have been dutifully strict in their counting.

Posted in garden structure, Gardening, Gardens, projects, Six on Saturday | 37 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Keen as Mustard

Narcissi are always not far behind snowdrops, hellebore and crocus, keen as mustard to remind us that spring is just around the corner.

With the first ‘Tête-à-tête’ opening here this week, their appearance in a vase today was probably inevitable. Accompanied by a sprig of twisted hazel catkins, they make a cheery vase in this iconic mustard tin. The tin being a prop in itself, an additional prop seems unnecessary, but you could choose to add this vintage ‘Beetleware’ mustard dish if you like; I myself put it back on the shelf.

If you can find something in your garden today to pop in a vase to bring cheer to your week, then please consider sharing it with the IAVOM community by leaving links to and from this post.

Posted in early spring, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , | 40 Comments

End of a Sunny Month View

February will leave us with the impression that it was a generally sunny month, and a fairly dry one too, with our weather monitor confirming we had only 38mm of rain, unlike stormy February last year when we had 130mm! The maximum temperature was 16°C and the minimum -6°C, with the milder days triggering a range of garden tasks.

One task I intended to carry out ‘over winter’ was clearing and revamping the narrow streamside border on the other side of the pergola in the above picture, now riddled with couch grass, but it wasn’t one I was rushing to do as it was unlikely to be straightforward, sandwiched as it was between the paved area and the stream itself, with the added complication of the butyl stream liner under part of it. Realising that it is now more spring than winter, I prevaricated a little more yesterday, then finally got stuck in, aided by the Golfer, lifting some of the slabs, removing the plants I wanted to keep and thinning them as required, and painstakingly teasing out as much couch grass root as possible. Lifting the slabs made the job easier and after a couple of afternoon’s work it is almost done, although the border will look very empty when the plants are put back but at least the stream will be less hidden!

And that’s my explanation for the upheaval on the paved area, evident in some of the photos and on the video, so let’s have a quick ramble and see what’s changed during February, continuing with the adjacent streamside grass, now full of crocus and narcissi:

The woodland, with bluebells, wild garlic and fritillary foliage clumping up:

The view from the bothy at the end of the woodland, looking out over the main borders, and the same areas from ground level:

The woodland edge border, carpeted in snowdrops and dripping with hellebores, from both directions:

The three bold borders, which I shall be working hard to embolden this year, still look anything but bold, but new shoots are increasingly visible:

Through the gate to the nursery beds and the working greenhouse:

The blue & white border and rose garden, again with not much going on but new growth evident:

Through the main borders:

And back towards the house, past the special snowdrop border:

Finally, a quick peek into the Coop and round the back at the Coop Corner:

It’s hard to believe that in a couple of months the garden will be full of abundance once more, with trees in full leaf, herbaceous perennials luxuriant in foliage, and early blooms of allium, aquilegia and astrantia filling some of the borders; in the meantime, however, there is plenty to enjoy in the garden as it transitions from winter to spring, so why not get a more rounded view by watching the monthly video?

Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens | 8 Comments