Too Soon to End the June Tune!

We say it so often, but it’s hard to believe another month is over and that the garden has moved on thirty days since I last shared views and a video of the garden as a whole. Posting pictures every month is still helpful for me to assess the garden’s progress from month to month and year to year, but please skip through them to get to the video link at the end if you want. You can find an aerial view and a map under The Garden tab above which may help you orientate yourself within the garden.

Above is the usual view from the back of the house, with the streamside grass and shrub border below:

Looking at the shrub border from the opposite end:

The woodland:

The main borders form the bothy:

And the same area from ground level:

The clematis colonnade:

Woodland edge border:

Looking back along the woodland edge border:

The three ‘bold’ borders:

Dahlias and sweet peas in the cutting beds:

Other cutting beds:

Blue & white border:

Rose garden:

Looking back at the house:

And beyond the Coop to the Coop Corner and the mini hostas:

And finally, a link to the video, with some amateur editing this month! You can find it at


Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens | 23 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Glow Davy, Glow

I was waiting for more than just one bloom on Dahlia ‘David Howard’ before I used it in a vase: there is a small handful today so here he is and definitely glowing in a marmaladey sort of way. He is such a distinctive dahlia and after putting off adding him to my collection for a season or two I finally succumbed and know the decision will not be regretted.

Being a very manly sort of dahlia, he definitely did not want any froth or fuss to accompany him, but choosing more severe companions was not as easy as you might think. The hart’s tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium certainly fitted the bill, and a dried piece of twisted hazel Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ found under the tree wouldn’t go amiss either, but the final element was harder to choose. A few rejects later, a sprig of unripe crab apples, Malus ‘Evereste’, joined the others in a shallow dish, supported by a metal frog which was hidden under a layer of washed pebbles. Backing up the ensemble was a vintage Davy lamp, a safety lamp invented by Sir Humphrey Davy in 1815 for use in flammable atmospheres like coal mines.

I always look forward to creating my Monday vase, and to the pleasure I know it will bring being able to view it at close quarters during the coming week; I look forward as well to the banter and community spirit of IAVOM, as many of you pop in to comment or with vases of your own. Please do join us and leave links to and from this post if you have a vase to share.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , | 61 Comments

Musings From an Unopened Garden

It has been an interesting few months in lockdown, with our garden openings cancelled because of it, but it has given me time to explore, enjoy and tweak the garden without the hindrance of days when it becomes public property for a few hours. I say ‘hindrance’, but I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – I have loved the flexibility and freedom it has given me to enjoy it for myself, but nevertheless miss having been able to share it with others and will continue to open it in future years.

The outcome of this exploratory time has been very varied, ranging from new discoveries to close encounters with forgotten friends, from the joy of rambling at my leisure and plucking off spent flowerheads, to schemes for new or updated projects. Even today I noticed a new pleasing combination (above) of Salvia ‘Purple Rain’, Lychnis coronaria ‘Oculata’, heuchera and annual poppy ‘Lauren’s Grape’, and yesterday I spotted flower spikes emerging from calla lilies in the Coop, the fresh new growth having emerged from bare pots during lockdown.

As well as monitoring growth on my bargain mystery clematis, trying to establish the varieties, I have also had to puzzle out established clematis in the colonnade, where varieties have not always proved to be what they are meant to be – top left is certainly not ‘Royal Velour’, top right is ‘Vyvyan Pennel’ blooming after perhaps 5 years of no-shows, bottom right is not ‘Duchess of Albany’ and bottom left is not ‘Rebecca’. None of those mislabelled by me either, having come from the suppliers as such…

I have been fascinated watching a wasps’ nest grow inside the ‘dovecot’ (a folly, not a functioning dovecot), as it gradually fills the limited space. It seems a shame that after all that effort their edifice will just be left empty at the end of the season… The Golfer, however, is less fascinated and gives it a wide berth.

I have had time to notice what a pretty and underrated plant hebe can be, and will look out for more of these short varieties:

Being able to monitor my ‘experiment’ of moving plants from one of the bold borders into pots with little concern for what they would look like in June has been a boon. As it happens, most things have done better than they have done before, thriving it seems on the lack of competition and showing that partial shade was not the reason for their previous failure to do well. Above all, it has demonstrated that cramming a border is counterproductive, especially cramming in new plants lifted from 4″ pots. Of course a sensible gardener would leave space for each plant to mature when planning a new border, but if we like plants most of us also like to fit as many as we can into the space we have got.

Having lost countless plants from failure to thrive, it is an expensive lesson to have learned. Any new plant I buy now will be grown on before being added to a border and all borders will be vetted in due course and plants culled as required. In the meantime, I will rebuild the retaining wall of this border, add fresh soil and replant those of the pots’ occupants deemed worthy.

Reviewing a couple of the borders is a necessary requisite of my other new project, for which that pile of bricks is required – but that’s for another day. So is the realisation that planting an oak tree in the garden is not necessarily a good idea 15 or more years down the line, and removing this misjudged specimen would be sensible before it got any bigger. We have enough shade from our neighbour’s huge and elderly beech tree and our own little woodland without the ever-expanding canopy of an oak tree, so it will have to go – and last Wednesday’s aerial view shows just how much tree cover there is in the garden.

No doubt there will other projects and schemes to keep us busy in the garden till we are able to open again for visitors next year – and at least we were able to open in February, despite the floods!

In the meantime, a few NGS gardens are beginning to reopen for visitors with pre-purchased tickets so if you are in the UK please visit the NGS website to see if there are any opening near you – those opening for the coming week will be listed on the website tomorrow (Monday). There are also virtual garden tours to enjoy and the opportunity to make donations towards the NGS charities, this year specifically focussing on the work nurses do.

Posted in garden structure, Gardening, Gardens, projects | Tagged | 16 Comments

Six on Saturday: Ivy has a Habit…

…not of picking its nose or biting its fingernails, but growing! It doesn’t seem very long since I built a wall around the compost heap, with a feature extension utilising two pieces of stained glass from an old front door, but this is what it looked like yesterday before I introduced it to the loppers and secateurs:

…and here it afterwards:

We might have gone pretty hungry otherwise, because we mightn’t have known that home is where the bread is:

Cutting back Rambling Rector was not such a straightforward task, despite it being an annual one, but at least by tackling it annually the rose no longer reaches the bird’s nest stage when a complete overhaul is required. However, it was made much easier this year by the discovery that lurking in the shed we have a telescopic pruner we had forgotten about – no more perilous reaching to pull down the stems with a fence stake with one foot on the ladder, thank goodness.

It’s not all been pruning and trimming, lopping and hacking, this week and there has been plenty of time for observation, noticing the embryonic flowers on the various witch hazels, for example. I realised a few years ago that the flowers were formed the previous year, but not that they could appear as early as this. It’s a reassuring sign, as some of them skip a year or otherwise flower badly, undoubtedly weather-related and perhaps dependent on the timing of rainfall, and there is no doubt that  Hamamelis ‘Zuccariniana’ will be smothered in blooms this winter, making up for its poor show last time. You can see seed pods here as well as the new flowers – and most of my witch hazels sport generous quantities of these, testament to the number of pollinating insects around in winter.

Further exciting news this week is that I have zinnias! Orange King, Benary Giant Lime and another from Benary Giant Mix, they were sown in mid February with a second sowing in early April as the first had suffered from aphids, and planted out mid-May. It has taken a few years, but I was close to Zinnia Success last year and have now finally cracked it – joy of joys!

I have also discovered a bud on seed sown Trifolium rubens, although it has taken a couple of years to get to this stage; this clover relative makes a pleasing and tactile impact in a border and by next year these potted ones will hopefully be snapped up by garden visitors, assuming we will be able to open ‘normally’ then. My original plant, shown here with astrantia and allium, was bought from a local NGS garden, invariably a good source of interesting plants.

The sixth of my Saturday Sixes is a query: the plant below just seemed to ‘appear’ in one of my borders this year and although without a label it is clearly not a weed. A number of plants have made themselves known this year after an absence and I suspect this is one of those, and on looking through past plant orders I see in 2017 I ordered Aster novae-angliae ‘Andenken An Alma Potschke’ (now Symphyotrichum) which this might be. I have never successfully grown asters before, so does this look like Alma, do you think?

Even if you can’t help with this, do pop over to Jon the Propagator’s blog and see what Six things he and other people have written about this Saturday.

Posted in cutting beds, garden structure, Gardens, herbaceous perennials | 16 Comments

Sizzling in June

Chloris of The Blooming Garden invites us to share our top ten blooms each month but June is one of the many months when selecting just ten is an impossible task, especially when we have already featured some of the stars on our blogs. Some of my ten will therefore be also-rans or dependable stalwarts, stars in their right even though there are shinier stars in the garden.

Many of the roses are having a rest, not so ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ above, nor rambler ‘Anne Marie Viaud’ below (hmm, is that a pile of bricks I see….? Sure is…there must a project brewing!):

I have shown some very starry clematis in the last week or two and I have been pleased to find others that have done little for a few years but are suddenly flowering. Others are vigorous and reliable, like ‘Etoile Violette’ (this one climbing into Rosa ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’, which you can see has been fitted with a tight corset), Prince George’ and ‘Blue Angel’:

June has seen several pots of lilies in flower, all of the Asiatic type, and having tried them in the ground but with little success, I stick with pots. Here we have ‘Yellow County’ and ‘Rosella’s Dream’:

I have not seen this salvia on other blogs, but am really pleased with its performance, especially as it sailed through the (albeit mild) winter without protection: Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’, which I bought at a local NGS open garden two years ago.

Having shown the scented leafed pelargonium in the Coop fairly recently, blooming over a long season, I thought I would share Pelargonium ‘Surcouf’ instead, a gloriously bright ivy-leaved variety which will also flower for months. We came back from a trip to the Isle of Wight last September with cuttings of this from blogging friend Jenny of Duver Diary, now filling a pot.

Since last year, one of my go-to bedding plants is argyranthemum or marguerite, which justifies being included in several pots, on its own or in a mix; with deadheading and sufficient watering and feeding they will continue flowering all season. This one is Argyranthemum ‘Grandaisy Pink Halo’:

I have had sweet peas flowering throughout June, firstly the greenhouse ones which have been in bloom since early April and the outdoor ones which began flowering on June 1st. The former are still doing OK but have suffered in the recent searing heat and will be removed in a week or two, but the ones below (Gwendoline and King George VI) are barely reaching their peak and those on the other support structure are only just coming into bloom, so there are many more weeks of glorious sweet peas to come.

The cutting beds are building up to their raison d’être and several of the inhabitants are now in bloom, but the first were the cornflowers, Centaurea cyanus, and with regular picking and deadheading they will continue to flower over a long period. I grow ‘Black Ball, white and ‘Blue Boy’ but the packet of Black Ball seeds seems to have been mixed instead as there are some oddments amidst the dark maroon blooms. Growing the three types adjacent to each other I don’t mind the mix too much in these circumstances!

The ninth star is actually a combination, but one that never fails to delight, in one of the bold borders: Salvia ‘Neon’, Lychnis coronaria and one of the magenta geraniums, probably G psilostemon. The salvia is pretty hardy although I always take cuttings anyway, but thought I might have lost it last winter as there was a sharp frost after I had cut it back; in a few weeks though there were signs of new fresh growth even lower down and I just cut it further back since when it has come back just as well and vibrant as any other year. Sadly, the photo does not do the combination justice, particularly in the bright sunlight.

My final selection is almost an afterthought, another rose, sadly almost always an afterthought: R ‘Parkdirektor Riggers’. I was reminded of it when up the ladder yesterday cutting branches off the amelanchier, looking wonderful against a clear blue sky. Totally reliable and undemanding, it seems to thrive on the neglect it suffers.

That’s my ten for this month – next month dahlias, zinnias and sunflowers are sure to feature somewhere along the line, with the first two already beginning to flower in the cutting beds. Thanks to Chloris for hosting the meme.

Posted in container & basket plants, cutting beds, Garden Bloggers Blooms Day, Gardening, Gardens, roses | 7 Comments

Scarlet Tigers, Whims and Being Thick

I was working through my list of garden tasks today and had just about finished deadheading, with tying in of clematis to follow, when I spotted this unusual visitor in the blue & white border. It took a fair amount of perusing our butterfly and moth book and a searching conversation with Google to determine for sure that it is was a Scarlet Tiger Moth. Mostly found throughout the south and west of England and Wales in damp wetland areas and coastal sites and flying in the daytime in June and July, sightings have increased further north and into the Midlands in recent years. They often lay their eggs on comfrey, which we do have in our garden, but it is far from being a wetland or coastal site!

Having paused by the blue & white border for longer than intended, on a whim I decided to cut out the stems of rose ‘Snow Goose’ that had finished flowering. Planted against the wall, it had been covered in blooms earlier but had become top-heavy and needed attention. A repeat-flowering rambler, I must have neglected to cut it back last year, but nevertheless have often thought that it wasn’t the best rose for this location anyway. It didn’t take long to cut it down to size and, seeing how well the Trachelospermum asiaticum was doing underneath it, I am now seriously considering taking the rose out altogether…a decision for another day.

The decision has been made about the aconitum, though, and that will be out as soon as it had finished flowering…

A whim is a dangerous thing when one has time on one’s hands, and last week I cut down the honeysuckle on one side of the lychgate, albeit on the basis that similarly severe attention given to another honeysuckle following aphid infestation produced lush new growth the following year. Hopefully, the result will be equally successful, and in the meantime it looks so much better without all that woody growth.

Tomorrow Rambling Rector will be tackled – but not on a whim as this is a routine maintenance task by which time we could have filled our garden refuse bin three times over!

And finally, ‘being thick’…many gardeners may not appreciate just how chuffed I am with my outdoor sweet peas, but this really is the first time I have grown any that are anything other than barely flowering spindly specimens. Instead of trying to grow them on the fence down the side of the cutting beds they have their own bed and purpose-built supports, and are rewarding me with prolific blooms and the thickest of stems, the latter a sure sign of healthy plants.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, pruning, roses, Wildlife | Tagged | 11 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: if I Were a Bird…

Image | Posted on by | Tagged | 8 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Bright Eyes

Today’s vase started with two large red grown-from-seed dahlia blooms, with their bright yellow eyes, and was developed around the theme of ‘bright’, but when it came to arranging them they dominated the rest of the blooms because of their size, so I replaced one of them with Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’, a clematis I know has a good vase life. Even so, the dahlia still looks a little big for its boots!

Joining the dahlia and clematis are Calendula ‘Snow Princess’ and ‘Indian Prince’, both looking better than every other year I have grown them, Cosmos ‘Popsocks’, Limonium ‘Purple Attraction’ (statice), Centaurea ‘Black Ball’ (cornflower), Antirrhinum ‘Liberty Classic Rose’ and, to fill in some gaps, side shoots from a delphinium. On the way back to the house with the pickings I spontaneously picked up a stem of meadow rue (wild thalictrum) that had been pulled out from one of the borders earlier and used the foliage to finish off the vase.

The vase itself is formed of black glass with a wavy upper edge and a lower section that normally contains a glass frog but I removed this and filled the space with biodegradable floral foam which meant the stems could be inserted at an angle.

Those of you who know your musicals will recognise the eyes from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cats’. This was probably the first modern musical I went to, way back in the early 90s, at the behest of Elder Daughter who knew the songs word for word despite her tender age at the time.

I saw a film of the production recently as part of Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Show Must Go On’ on YouTube, where he generously allowed the public to view six of his musicals at no cost – and what an exhilarating production it was, an improvement even on the original (what I remember of the original, that is).

With the coming of blooms in the cutting beds there should be a greater injection of colour into my Monday vases, with less dominance on the pinks and purples of springs – but every garden is different and it is always a pleasure to see what other gardeners have in their Monday vases. Whatever the colour, they are bound to bring pleasure into your life, and if you would like to share them with us too please leave the usual links to and from this post.

ps following on from my promise last week, I have given away six posies, a good start.

Posted in cutting beds, dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 41 Comments

Behind the Gate

Today was due to be the first of our three June openings for the National Garden Scheme, cancelled because of Covid 19, so in the absence of visitors I thought I would share some of the things they would have been seeing today, the highlights of the garden. The three clematis featured yesterday as part of Six on Saturday are certainly one of them ( C viticella, left to right, Rosalyn, Margot Koster, Madame Julia Correvan).

Many of the roses have suffered from recent wind and rain, but ‘New Dawn’ is following on from its exuberance last year with a repeat performance, and is a delightful pale pink, not the white it looks in the picture. Behind and above it rambler ‘Rambling Rector’ is still hanging on although impossible to photograph with the sun behind it.

Hostas have stood up fairly well this summer, although needed watering during the dryer months, and are fairly free of slug and snail damage:

Further down the garden, the little arbour with a bench and mirrored window has looked especially inviting with Strawberry Hill’ clambering over it, settling in well after its introduction a couple of years ago:

Turning 180° to look towards the back of the shed, rambler ‘Rosemarie Viaud’ is at peak flowering stage and is such a pretty shade of purple:

Swivelling round on the same spot visitors would also see the bronze heuchera bed and the Acer griseum, shown often on this blog. The heuchera have all spruced themselves up and filled out as the months have gone on.

In the blue & white border two appropriately coloured aconitum are stunningly in flower and I would normally have hung a little notice on them to warn visitors, informing them they are aconitum (and not delphiniums) and are poisonous. I have mentioned before that I even feel uncomfortable writing about them, which is daft as there will be other poisonous plants in the garden, and am beginning to consider removing them, not just because of their toxicity, but because of their height too, as they dominate the border. They do produce attractive blooms though, especially the blue varieties, and their early spring growth, a shapely feathery mound, is a joy to behold. Sounds like decision time…

Beyond the wall you can see behind them is the fruit cage, the working greenhouse and the cuttings beds. The latter have been fully planted up since mid May and are filling out on a daily basis, with cornflower, cosmos, calendula and sweet peas in bloom, and buds on many more which no doubt will be encouraged to open in the hotter temperatures forecast for midweek. One of the unexpected joys when the cutting beds were first introduced was the pleasure to be gained from the sheer abundance and colour of the contents, no doubt experienced too by any visitors to the garden.

Visitors usually exclaim over the proliferation of allium, whether in fresh or spent bloom form, so they would enjoy these later flowering Allium ‘Miami’ and of course those massive A schubertii:

They might also appreciate the scented leaved pelargonium in the Coop, which seem to have responded to being repotted in fresh compost as they are more floriferous than they have ever been. They would certainly have appreciated a cup of tea and a piece of cake too but these like the visitors, were absent from the garden today.

A few NGS gardens are beginning to reopen for visitors with pre-purchased tickets so if you are in the UK please visit the NGS website to see if there are any opening near you – those opening for the coming week will be listed on the website tomorrow (Monday).

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, cutting beds, Gardening, Gardens, herbaceous perennials, Visiting gardens & days out | Tagged | 20 Comments

Six on Saturday: a Good Year for Clematis?

Based on the display of these two and an adjacent clematis, and the number of buds on many more, I wondered if this year was turning out to be an especially good year for them – but when checking previous posts to remind me of the name of one of them I found I had posted equally floriferous pictures last year, albeit about three weeks later, so perhaps not.

Above we have C viticella ‘Rosalyn’ on the left and ‘Margot Koster’ on the right, the former seeming to create a curtain of colour as it hangs down from its support. I am particularly fond of ‘Rosalyn’, with her scruffy and unconventional blooms:

There are four viticella clematis along this pergola, all visible and readily admirable from our kitchen windows. The blooms on ‘Margot Koster'(below) are bigger and brighter, as are those of the more familiar ‘Madame Julia Correvan’ to her right:

‘Walenberg’, the fourth clematis on this structure, seems to have had a setback and sports only the tiniest of shoots, but is still alive.

Facing this pergola is another, smaller one, attached to the left hand side of the sitooterie, supporting climbing rose ‘Claire Austin’ and Clematis viticella ‘Blue Angel’. The latter was new for last season and although not quite flowering yet she has romped over the pergola and is covered in buds – she also needs tying in, again!

Further down the garden, the Golfer has kindly made some trellis to fit either side of the mirror under the clematis colonnade. Despite still having homes to find for some of the mystery clematis, I decided to move two existing ones instead – ‘Princess Kate’ was sharing a post with ‘Prince George’, whilst ‘Prince William’ was a new acquisition which had been allocated a spot nearby but not on the colonnade itself. Only planted a few weeks ago, the latter would be easy to move, but the former could be more risky.

I had already established that Kate’s new growth was not highly entwined on its support but, having been in situ for three or four years, digging her out could be more problematical and clematis stems are always fragile. However, with a more or less complete rootball and three lengthy stems still intact, the move proved to be surprisingly successful, although the droopy buds later in the day were a concern, largely rectified by a cooler evening and a good watering. There are no buds on William yet, but I don’t doubt that he will be in flower later, beside his wife (both C texensis).

I am sure Kate will be happier here, and in hindsight it was a mistake to have two summer flowering clematis on the same post, especially as Prince George really makes his presence felt, clothing the post with dense foliage which will be smothered in large and attractive ruffled white blooms in due course, as you can surmise from the photo below:

That’s my six (or thereabouts) this Saturday, and if you visit the blog of our SoS host Jon the Propagator you will find many more sixes from around the world.

Posted in climbers, Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday | Tagged | 22 Comments