In a Vase on Monday: Snow in Summer

The photograph doesn’t do today’s blooms justice as in reality they look like one big fluffy snowball – and having omitted to take an overhead shot you will have to just form your own impression of their snowy whiteness.

The inspiration for the vase has been in my mind for a couple of weeks, with a very unexpected and unseasonal  bloom – can you see what it is? Yes, it’s a hippeastrum/amaryllis – blooming (outside) in August! This was the bulb that thrilled me in March last year when it produced not one or two but FOUR flower stems with very double white blooms and a hint of green at the throat, variety ‘Alfresco’. Along with other bulbs from previous years I hope for more flowers this last winter, but not having leaves let alone flowers was ready to throw the bulbs out and cease trying to get them to flower again – but was instead persuaded by Joanna to put all the used bulbs in one pot to make watering and aftercare easier. Finding an emerging flower spike a few weeks ago was certainly not anything I had anticipated!

Even though the stem was immediately earmarked for a vase it wasn’t until vase preparation day that its companions were chosen and I had no preconceived ideas for these – but the glorious white purity of Dahlias ‘Snowflake’ and ‘Karma Serena’ easily won the day, ably assisted by equally white and pure Phlox ‘Rembrandt’ and Cosmos ‘Purity’. Spent heads of Daucus carota for green contrast and texture were rejected as just not in keeping with the white frothiness of the blooms, the weight of which required a solid based vase. This sage green jug seemed to do the trick and cosmos petals hinted at newly fallen snow.

Whether containing the unexpected or not, a vase on Monday is a great way to start the week, bringing simple and subtle pleasures, so why not join us by finding material from your garden to pop into a vase or jam jar today and share it if you like by leaving the usual links to and from this post.

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | 81 Comments

Derbyshire Diversions

We enjoyed a couple of days in Derbyshire recently, postponed from June when it was originally going to be tagged onto our visit to the Chatsworth Flower Show. Not surprisingly, as well as admiring floral displays at Haddon Hall (above and on Wordless Wednesday) and the well preserved property itself, we squeezed some garden visits into our time away, including some opening as part of the National Garden Scheme – a group of gardens at Barlborough near Chesterfield and a cut flower garden at ‘plague village’ Eyam called Wild in the Country.

I really enjoyed our visit to Wild in the Country, a small rectangular plot devoted entirely to growing flowers and foliage for cutting, the owner’s dream and made possible with a small inheritance. There, a range of raised beds were laid out with a mix of perennials and annuals, helpfully accompanied by comprehensive labels with honest information about the usefulness of the plant (the owner won’t, for example, be growing gaura again, despite it supposedly being a current favourite of florists). Local florists and wedding planners come to pick their own blooms, paying per stem, and although it would be difficult to make a living from it the joy the owner gets from spending time in a job she loves is incalculable. Sadly, although I took pictures of individual blooms, I omitted to take photos of the whole plot, but if you click on the link above there are pictures there.

It is always interesting to visit a group of open gardens as they can vary tremendously in both size and content, and having now opened our own garden for the NGS it is good to chat to other owners and compare experiences and ideas. The two best things taken away from this group opening, however, were not specifically garden or plant related (although I did buy some useful donations-only plants from one of them) but instead a yummy new cake recipe which I look forward to trying for myself and an idea we had considered ourselves but were unsure how practical it would be:

Visitors and regular readers will be aware that we added to our 6×8 feet greenhouse by installing another of the same size bought from eBay but cut in half, which left a narrow passageway between them, just sufficient for a slimline water butt and access to the butt and the smaller greenhouse for a small gardener. It certainly did the job, extending greenhouse space by 50% but having a smaller space to heat when required, but manoeuvring would certainly have been easier without the narrow access. The water butt here is undoubtedly the most used of the nine we have, and I was therefore reluctant to even consider glazing the gap between the two greenhouses as it would mean losing this convenient water source. As you can see from the photo above, one of the Barlborough gardens has successfully joined two greenhouses together and despite their different width.

Having seen this, we immediately began discussing our options, considering moving the smaller greenhouse to meet the larger one, or alternatively glazing over the access, and of course checked this out on site soon after we got home. The second suggestion was the preferred and easier option but the difficulty in buying extra glazing bars meant that, like before, buying a cheap eBay greenhouse for parts was the most practical solution and the search is now on! Water storage would still be an issue, however, as there are currently three water butts fed from the greenhouses, one an overflow from the main one in the access way and located within the adjacent fruit cage, and the third against the end fence. Lateral thinking was clearly required and, with the reluctant sacrifice of a small part of one of the cutting beds, it should work having all 3 butts lined up side by side against the back fence.

We could, of course, just splash out on a brand new 6 x 12 greenhouse – but that’s just not how we do things here!

Posted in garden structure, Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, projects, Visiting gardens & days out | Tagged , | 14 Comments

In a Much Bigger Vase on Wordless Wednesday

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End of Month View: August Beckons

The last few months have been stuffed with so many dates, particularly with the garden openings and a baby due, that I hadn’t really looked beyond the end of July – and all of a  sudden we are in August with a full month in the garden and very few dates on the calendar! Looking back at photographs from the end of July last year, it was noticeable that the garden is more lush and blowsy now than it was then, and possibly a little more colourful. There are generally more plants in the borders than before, I suppose, although not in the cutting beds which are laid out in exactly the same way although admittedly there are some extra dahlias in big pots. With another fairly dry summer, it has certainly not been wetter than last year either, although July was not quite as sunny as in 2016. Regardless of comparisons, there is still plenty of summer to come in the garden!

Have a look for yourselves, with views not in the slideshow format this month so the pictures are bigger – and don’t forget you can check out a map of the garden under The Garden tab above, to see where everything fits into the garden as a whole. Finally, although Helen the Patient Gardener no longer hosts this EOMV meme, I am still grateful to her for instigating this monthly record.

From the back of the house

Shrub border and partially revamped path

Shrub border from the other end (with the Golfer filling the bird feeders!)

The woodland

Main herbaceous borders from the bothy chimney

The borders from ground level, the hostas still looking good

Bronze heuchera bed and clematis colonnade

Woodland edge border, the mid-hedge fille out after its pruning last year

Woodland edge border from the other end

Bold border #1

Bold border #2

Bold border #3

Cutting beds…

….and more cutting beds

Blue & white borders

Very bare rose garden

Clematis Prince George and C Mary Rose on the colonnade

Through the colonnade to the main borders again

The snowdrop border in summer, looking back towards the house

Posted in cutting beds, End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens, herbaceous perennials | 38 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Sunny

As I am exercising the meme hostess’s privilege* of preparing my post in advance, I won’t know until Monday itself whether it’s sunny outside – but if it’s not, I can look at this vase instead and pretend…and if it’s pouring with rain I can keep myself dry with the plastic sheet which was used as the backdrop for the photographs!

As you can see, today’s vase is a celebration of all the sunny blooms that are brightening up the garden at the end of July, a range of yellows, oranges and russets. The focal points are perhaps orange pompon Dahlia ‘Happy Hallowe’en’, Sunflower ‘Earth Walker’ (and what I thought was a clever title on Wordless Wednesday clearly wasn’t, as no-one picked up on it – that’ll teach me…) and a crocosmia, probably just a humble old-fashioned montbretia which I though had been eradicated from the bead where it was cut. Joining them are my unnamed but good do-er peachy dahlia, Inula hookerii, a pale yellow sunflower which is either ‘Italian White’ or ‘Vanilla Ice’ and three rudbeckia: ‘Irish Eyes’, R hirta and R ‘Gloriosa Daisy’. Oh, and Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ which has been grown for the first time and at last I can appreciate why people find this variety so attractive with the dark underside to its petals.

The sunny blooms were stuffed into a rustic green glazed jug which may or may not have some age to it and sunglasses were at the ready to protect myself from the brightness of the end result. Whatever the weather outside, it’s good to bring some of our gardens inside so we can enjoy them at closer quarters – so why don’t you find something to pick from your own garden and plonk in a vase to bring you pleasure during the way, whether your blooms are sunny or not. Just leave links to and from this post if you would like us to share in that pleasure.

* not actually a privilige at all as anyone can prepare their vase in advance and schedule their post if it works better for them that way

Posted in Gardening | 69 Comments


Now that our garden openings are done and dusted for this year it not surprising, for those that know me that is, that instead of resting and relaxing my thoughts have already turned to improvements that could be made – nothing major, just tweaking. I’m sure the Golfer would have been happy with a bit of r&r but he felt duty bound to lend a hand on the tweaking project shown above, widening the path that leads past the shrub border. ‘The Poet’s Wife’ (a lovely yellow David Austin rose) has a rather exuberant tendency to be over-familiar with anyone using the path, so a patch of cobbles was lifted from the end nearest the house to be replaced with spare slabs which will be reused to widen the length of the path. Reusing materials means the end result won’t look materially different, but will certainly be more practical. The turf has been removed and the extra strip placed in position but still needs to be laid properly:

Other tweaking is plant related; I have been very aware of the attractive blowsiness of our summer borders with plants spilling over each other, as in the bold border below, but this doesn’t give any new plants the chance to thrive and be seen. Next year I hope to use discrete plant supports early in the season but in the meantime a critical eye will be cast for both underperformers and those at the other end of the spectrum who are pushing out their neighbours.

One real underperformer is crocosmia, and although I thinned and culled clumps last year and at least have a handful of blooms now, they are still little more than clumps of unattractive and unhealthy looking leaves for most of the year. When Googling ‘underperforming crocosmia’ brings up a post from this very blog from October last year as the first search result, then perhaps this should tell me that I really ought just to get rid of them altogether. I can’t even remember if I have ever had healthy looking clumps of my various varieties (Lucifer, Canary Bird and Constance)… Would putting some in pots to pop into the borders just in case they deigned to flower just be prolonging the dilemma? 

Not underperforming are these honeysuckle, currently growing enthusiastically on the boundary fence between the woodland edge border and one of the bold borders, but which will be moved to the woodland itself to grow over the wire arbour, and the everlasting pea next to the clematis colonnade which detracts from the clematis and overshadows the geranium growing at their feet and which will therefore be moved to the back of the woodland edge border. Ordinary sweet peas will take their place along both parts of the dividing fence.

We often hear the phrase ‘right plant, right place’, and I suppose I am learning to be a bit more discerning because not only do I want to shift plants around so that they are in ‘the right place’, but also want them to be the ‘right plant’ in the first place, not just something of the right size or colour to fill a gap. Abstaining from buying plants throughout 2016 kickstarted this process and brought me to the point of reflection where I am now, with no intention of losing the informal tapestry of the borders, just making them more meaningful. That’s the general idea, anyway!

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, projects | 13 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Look, Earthwalker!

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