Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why do you write your blog?

I've been wondering about this lately. Well, not so much why others write theirs, as why I write mine and whether this is sufficient reason. I write it for myself, and if others enjoy it that is the icing on the cake. This sounds a bit perverse, but I read something similar in another blog I can't find again now, so it's not just me!

There are two reasons for this. Presenting an account of what I have done in public helps to motivate me to get something done in the first place. Secondly, I live a rather isolated life and publicising my gardening endeavours changes that a little.

I want only those people to read it who actually care about it, so I deliberately try to resist prettification and tricks that might make it more appealing. On the other hand, I hate to think that people might comment because they feel sorry for me, if for example there are no other comments to a particular post: I want them to comment because they had something to say, just as I do. And yet I want reading my blog to be enjoyable for the ones who put a little effort in, so quite often I sneak my nicer pictures in a little further down a posting, as a reward! At other times I weaken and feel more attention-seeking, and I pick a tricksy title (ahem, like this one) and some eye-candy (of a strictly horticultural kind, usually) to start off with.

Originally I didn't intend to blog every day. In fact the plan was quite specific and different, and the blog's URL gives it away. I have an old gardening book, from the 1930s although my edition is 50s, which sets out tasks for the garden on a weekly basis (with further sections on what to do generally over a month too). I wanted to try to keep to it for a year and I thought this would make a good, structured blog. But when I began on the garden it quickly became clear that it needed so much remedial work that there would be no time or energy left to get round to the tasks specified. Now, it seems that perhaps I will manage it some time in the next few weeks, which is very exciting to me! I will say more about the book when that time comes.

But I wonder why other people blog, and what they get out of it, and whether they get in quite as many existential tangles over it as I do?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Plants planted

Today I finally got my new plants into the ground. After a huge amount of weeding, I was happy at last that it was ready, and here they all are waiting:

And here's the bed after with them in place:

Out of interest, here's what the bed looked like in January of this year (the lovely white foliage plants were euphorbia but they didn't really like the shady damp ground)

Even in the winter, the fence is less visible. About 4 years ago I planted a dog rose and a field rose either side of the apple tree. Well we all make mistakes. I haven't dug them out but I have cut them back hard. The growth the dog rose puts on each year is formidable! The cutting back and planting of a greater number of smaller plants here has helped the proportions, although it won't really be settled in for a couple of years of course.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

urgent warning - read now

To English gardeners - in Surrey we have 2 degrees forecast for tonight. If like me you have put tender things out, you might like to put something over them or bring them in if possible.

Monday, April 27, 2009

To Granny's, and back

This week-end we went to see my husband's Granny (and other family). She is 92 and has lived in the same house and garden for about 50 years. This is one of her lilac trees.

On the way back we let the dog out at a motorway service station, and the area round it was surprisingly nice:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Butterfly confetti

I'm so tired I can't remember exactly what I did today. The main thing though was clearing space to put out my new plants. I thought this would just be some light re-weeding, but it became clear I should cut back the two climbing roses (ahem, they being a dog rose and a field rose!).

So the plants still aren't in the ground, and I will be busy with other things for the next few days. I will post again soon!

a little closer...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

That was quick!

I will show you what was inside tomorrow.

Meanwhile here's the current view from my study window:

And finally here's a colour-tweaked version of Pippa from yesterday, showing that she's not really a hen!

PS middle picture now brightened

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More photos

More photos they said - so here they are.

(The main work I did today was watering in the morning - all the pots, new seedlings, and things I've moved; then in the afternoon beginning to cut down the hypericum. I've done most of the top of it, so I'll tackle the roots tomorrow and I hope to get the soil improved and the rose in.)

Thank you all very much for the comments by the way - a longer reply follows tomorrow!

Spot the two helpers here: one bounds around, the other supervises:

This view looked a lot prettier by the end of the day when I decided to move our indoor geraniums out, but I forgot to take a picture then and I wanted to include this one today because it was the first day this year that I put the parasol up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More excitement

First off, can anyone tell me what butterfly this was, who joined me for my morning cup of tea?

I didn't get a good shot of the apple trees today, but here are a few bluebells to be going on with:

Today I was over the moon to receive a cheque from my father to pay for some new plants. So I took out the list I'd made for whenever, and began mulling it over again. I decided to use the opportunity to buy all new plants - ie nothing that I'd ever had before. I had a very enjoyable rummage through a couple of books, and after a while ordered the following from Long Acre Plants:

3 x Asarum europaeum (this is mainly foliage, kidney shaped leaves, shiny, called wild ginger)
2 x Tricyrtis formosana 'Dark Beauty' (these are called toad lilies, they flower in autumn and look fascinating)
1 x Tricyrtis 'Amanagowa' (similar to above)
2 x Uvularia grandiflora var pallida (these flower in the spring, cream coloured slender dangling flowers)
1 x Uvularia grandiflora (same but in yellow, a month apart)
1 x Speirantha convallarioides (white spikey flowers in spring, evergreen)
1 x Geranium nodosum (a mauve hardy geranium)
1 x Athyrium niponicum var pictum (a fern)

So I'll see how that little lot stands up to my tender mercies! They're to go in a bed of fairly damp shade. I know people say you should get 3's or even more of things, but I'd rather get more different things and split them after they spread out a bit. I'm very excited about growing some new plants, it feels like getting to know new people. (some of us should get out more...)

This morning I planted some leeks, twice: once the wrong way and once the right way (make a hole with a stick, place the leek in and fill with water). My husband said please do ask if I'm not sure about anything - but I had no suspicion there was anything special about how to plant leeks!

Then I went to a local nursery and bought 7 alpines. I've put them in an old china sink for now but I know they will get too big for there; I'll plant them on eventually.

Then I mowed the lawn, took Pippa out for a short walk since it was her first in nearly a month (just out of her season), and then - spotted our first borage flower. I love borage: we put the flowers with mint leaves and chunks of lemon in a jug of water. I also put them in ice-cubes to cheer us up in drinks over the winter. I took this picture in the evening and the flash went off, which is why the colours are a bit odd, sorry.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Some ideas from Nottingham

Yesterday I was in Nottingham Arboretum, which is more like a public park in some ways. Here are some of the things that really struck me:

This shows the kind of planting I really like. I love the height, the volume, the contrast in texture and density, the substance of it all. Evergreens can be a bit stolid but with fireworky-grasses like this, it's much more fun to look at:

Here what I like is the beautifully harmonised colour tints - all soft pinks and smokey browns. Not necessarily my favourite colours in themselves but I think they've been put together very well:

And finally, these tulips - cups of light, but they would be so much less successful without the pansies and greenery:

It's happened

Today, with trees full of apple blossom above deep forget-me-nots, the garden is afloat again. A strong current carrying me along, and all I have to do now is keep my head up! (photos to follow tomorrow)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Things I am going to get rid of

As soon as I have time, I can't wait to see the back of the following plants:

1. Spirea douglasii. Utterly horrid huge thing with muddy pink dusters of "flowers". Graham Stuart Thomas on it: "This shrub is one that nurserymen delight in including in cheap collections of shrubs" - I can well imagine, it suckers like nobody's business.

2. A hypericum, planted less than 2 feet from a holly and a lovely spirea arguta. I ask you!

3. A common viburnam. I planted this, I didn't realise it wouldn't flower and fruit like a garden variety. I don't hate it, it grew fast and hid the fence just as I wanted it to, but it'd done it's job.

So, what to replace with? 3 will be a red chaenomeles that I have already in a pot. 2 - now we're getting exciting, this will be a blue hibiscus. And... [drum roll] the hypericum will provide space for my favourite rose, Ophelia, and some euphorbias which I adore but they find the rest of the garden too damp. O's roots will go down far enough to find the water (which is never far here) but they will like the driest surface we have.

PS I will also sadly get rid of our broom. Nearly all of it is dead and the part that isn't gets massacred by snails. It won't be replaced because the hebe next to it has already squeezed it out.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A down and up day

I had a tough time this morning. I was weeding the big curved bed, which I did thoroughly three weeks ago. It got to me, because I found it overwhelming, since I'd done it so recently. This time it took me about a quarter as long, but I forgot that detail when I was busy throwing a strop. I rang my mother and bleated at her about it, and then I felt better.

Now I have planted part of it up with things moved from elsewhere in the garden. 2 fennels, although I have a feeling these might not thrive because the tap roots were deeper than I expected. 3 clumps of iris sibirica - very robust plants, I love them. 1 very thuggish cranesbill, which has deep burgundy flowers - starting now. 1 hellebore seedling from the front garden. 2 alchemilla mollis found on the compost heap. All of these are real bruisers, will fight off the weeds for me with some hoeing around them. Then lots of little echium seedlings to grow up through a rose that is scrambling on the ground.

The pictures aren't from the same place, but you get the idea. It ain't Chelsea, but then I wouldn't want it to be. The apparent space in between is partly used by the smaller plants, which are tiny still, and partly for things to grow into.

Next door: quite something to contend with.

And a bonus picture - a little heuchera just planted out, and a bluebell that will be pulled up soon.

PS - forgot to include in the list of things planted, 2 clumps of black poppies grown from seed I collected 3 years ago.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Do you think seedlings actually breed?

There seem to be more and more seedlings every day, even if I don't sow any more!

At the moment this is my favourite plant - a viburnam judii, with the most gorgeous perfume:

I thought you might also like to see this snap of Velvet, just about to drink from the pond:

And finally this is a front garden in a village near us. I am determined now to sow deep red wallflowers and plant creamy white narcissi and some more primulas, for next spring:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Words of wisdom for you

I am able to impart two gems from recent experience:

1. Nymans garden in April is pretty much heaven on earth, especially if you like camellias and magnolias. Some pictures follow; out of interest - the house you see is not as old as you might think, this part was early 20th century. It was destroyed by fire in the late 40s.

2. Putting industrial quantities of couch grass into your compost bins over a 3 month period is stupid. I didn't know what it was. I do now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Every year I forget how different trees look with leaves on. Not so much trees in particular actually, but how different everything looks when they do. It's like putting the furniture back into a room.

I notice it most in the garden. Our apple trees are stealthily coming into leaf: they seem to change most quickly over night. Out on walks, many paths are actually brighter in the winter, when the leaves have fallen - an inversion that pleases me.

This afternoon we plan to go to Nymans ( It won't be the same if the sun isn't out but I hope we go anyway. I believe they also sell some plants there........

PS A couple of houses on our street have small areas of lawn in front of them which haven't been mown yet this year. Each is now studded with cuckoo flower (cardamine pratensis). Our next-door neighbour though, whose garden is wild from the half-point back, has none. I think they need mowing to simulate a meadow. I love this flower and have tried moving some into a border but they don't really like it. I'd like to leave a patch of grass - they just appear from nowhere round here if you leave it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cull of blogs

Now, a tricky subject.

My list of blogs I read has got too long. To read them all would take me several hours a day. I'm going to remove many of them.

If this includes yours, I'm very sorry if you are disappointed by that. The reason is not that I don't find what you write interesting - I wouldn't have added you in the first place if I didn't - but that I simply don't have enough time.

It's difficult because I'm afraid it probably will include people who do comment on here. I'm sorry that I can't reciprocate fully, but gardening (and blogging) is only one of several things I have to get through each day, The others are nearly all far less enjoyable, but needs must I'm afraid.

Now I will grit my teeth, and get on with this cull.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Guess what...

... yet another busy day!

It rained overnight, and the garden looked so much the better for it today. All washed and freshened up. No doubt this applied to the weeds too but never mind!

First thing, I found out that Whichford Pottery will give me a credit note for the pot of theirs that broke over the last few winters. I don't know how much for yet, but I spent a pleasant time over breakfast with their catalogue.

Then I went out and spent ages tarting up the patio. I binned the broken pots, planted out various plants from them, and filled others with self-sown pretty things to look nice over the week-end (mainly forget-me-nots, and something I had hoped would be dicentra but I suspect is welsh poppies).

I planted out 2 of my very numerous tomato plants. I know it's very early but if we lose them, the are plenty of reinforcements. They're under a light movable cold-frame at the moment.

Finally a picture of what the boggy bed looks like at the moment, with another of what it looked like on the 10th January.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another busy day

I did 6 hours today. It was meant to be our last sunny day before the visitors arrive, but I think the forecast has changed now. At this rate they'll have to eat, sleep and everything else out there - the house will be a tip!

I finished the herb bed. I made a note to take cuttings of the purple sage which is looking elderly. I love sage plants and so do the bees. Then I weeded the bog garden - hard work. Weeded in the square garden, then moved some self-sown nigella there from the pea-bed. Mowed. Planted out some peas. Did 3 lots more weeding. Moved the patio furniture back into place.

In my next life I will be a non-organic gardener. Either that or I'm going to cultivate solely and deliberately, weeds.

I took another round of photos today but not until after 7pm. It seemed light to the eye but not to my camera! I will take some more another time.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Did too much

It was always going to happen at some point: I did a bit too much today and I'm shattered. It's the extra daylight that fools me, it makes me keep going longer.

I didn't start till about 10:30. Went up the street with the wheelbarrow to buy 2 big bags of mixed compost, for potting on seedlings. - and some tea-bags since we'd run out and that's a crisis in our house.

Then I did some watering indoors. I finished off digging out the weeds and grot from the patio, weeded a few pots, and weeded the path up the side of the garage. I weeded the big oval flowerbed, then another bed, divided some plants in it, planted out another, and weeded about half of the herb bed. At that point I conked out; it was about 7:10. Not all that long but it was more work than I would ask of someone else, which is a measure I try to keep in mind.

Pictures will be by courtesy of my husband since I didn't have my camera out today, but I will post them tomorrow.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Some people can't keep away!

Too much happened today not to blog about it...

1. I found a dead frog in the pond and had to fish him out with a net. Loads of the frogspawn has - do you say germinated? though, and is wriggling around.

2. A robin got stuck in the fruit cage and had to be let out.

3. While digging in a completely different bit of the garden, and one recently created, I found a label for a rose which is nearly 30 years old and which I've never known the identity of. I was over the moon. It is called Deep Secret - or originally Mildred Scheel - bred by Tantau in Germany and introduced in 1977. She's about 4 feet tall, very healthy, a hybrid tea, with dark red flowers with golden stamens and a gorgeous perfume. Flowers from late June until the heaviest frosts. I have several pictures of it but none represent the colour properly, which is a bit deeper than blood - sorry to be gory!


I'm going to be very busy over the next week, getting the house and garden ready for visitors, so I will be offline for most of that time. If I don't pop up on your screen before it, have a good Easter.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Company in the garden

Today as I was weeding, I felt I was being watched. Can you see him?

These days I rarely see birds in the garden while I'm out, although I see many from the window. Clearly Mr Robin had spotted that my feline companion was out for the count!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Busy day

I was in the garden today from just before 9 to nearly 5, with about an hour's break in total - which was also spent in the garden.

I tidied a veg bed near the tool shed which had become rather a dump. Some things get moved around from one place to the next, and until the leaves come more, they're unsightly wherever I put them. Rolls of chicken wire are the main culprit, but they will be used soon in a new fence.

Next I tidied another area, by the main compost bins, for the same reason.

Then I weeded inside the big glass cold frame. Not my favourite job - I'm so clumsy, I have a horror that one day I'll fall into/onto it but it's too big to move easily.

More tidying after that, mostly in the veg garden. There's a lot to be done in there, I will be spending a full day there tomorrow.

I planted out the astilbe's I found still growing in pots, and also a heuchera, and weeded some of the bog area.

I planted up the remaining sweet peas.

Then I tackled the pruning of a big shrub rose. I am very keen on roses and compared to the rest of gardening, I know a fair bit about them. This means that our roses clearly displaying signs of neglect is embarrassing. Still, I don't do gardening for show, it's just a nice spin-off, and I am hopeful that the plant will have benefited as well as my garden-cred...

I then shredded all the prunings.

Next I tidied the greenhouse.

I put the heap of ivy we pulled out of the hedge last autumn in the bin.

Then I mowed the lawns.

Finally I began on weeding but I was pretty tired by then. It feels odd to be tired when it's still good daylight!

And then I took the pictures. These aren't especially flattering: the idea is to try to show exactly what you see as you walk round.

But at this time of the year, the best flowers are at the front: