In a Vase on Monday: distraction

I’m taking a little of my own advice to my revising boys: if you’re stuck and nothing is going in, stop and do something else productive for a while. Well, I’m proof-reading a book and needed a break, so out into the garden I went, scissors in hand, to snip some blooms for a quick Monday vase to join in with Cathy and other garden bloggers.

Gosh, it’s lovely and warm out there in the sunshine – the birds are singing, the bees are buzzing and the flowers are, well, flowering. Tempting as it was to sit on the Erigeron steps and soak it all in, I quickly snipped a few sprigs of the Erigeron (which is looking gorgeous), some hardy geraniums (which are just starting to flower – look at the delicate veining on that pink one!), ox-eye daisy (coming in to flower), Cerinthe major (self-sown and seemingly flowers for ever), chives, forget-me-nots (almost all gone to seed but still flowers to be had) and Centranthus ruber in bud (I prefer the tiny flower buds as they’re a darker red than the pinker flowers). They’re all plonked into a lovely new jug from Waitrose which I bought as a present to me last week for this very purpose.

I’m off to the Chelsea Flower Show tomorrow with David – a whole day out in London looking at beautifully designed and planted gardens and loads of other garden-related stuff. Yippee. I’ll take my camera and will share my highlights here later in the week. Have a good one. Bye for now.

In a Vase on Monday: effervescent

The starter for today’s vase was cow parsley – there is so much of this lacy loveliness billowing along the lanes and some has even crept into the garden. Joining it in the larger vase are several stems of dark purple aquilegia, some nigella, a few fronds of fennel and some long stems of Briza media (quaking grass), a lovely grass that is perfect for vases. This is yet another self seeder which has generously spread itself widely.

In the small green vase are some pink scented pelargonium flowers that I snipped off a couple of leggy plants we bought at a plant sale at the weekend, some more briza, a fennel frond and the very last of the ‘Black Parrot’ tulips I found hiding among the foliage.

There’s a lot going on in the garden – we completely cleared the rampant weeds from one half of the terrace where we grew veg and annuals for cutting last year and we moved five of the Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ to here to add height and rhythm. We didn’t realise quite how chunky they’d be when we planted them last year and several were planted too close together or too near other plants. Hopefully they’ll transplant and settle in well.

It was a weekend of plant sales – a large one at the local National Trust visitor centre and a smaller one in a nearby village – and we bought a load of lovely plants to fill gaps and to go into this newly cleared area. Foxgloves, salvias, ajuga, verbascums, Centaurea nigra, cornflowers, cosmos and more. Lots of beauty to come.

In other news… Study leave has started here. My daughter went into school on her own this morning remarking ‘Well, this is a vision of the future!’. Indeed. Exams for my younger son are scattered throughout the next five weeks; the eldest’s start after half term. I’m doing my best to not stick my oar in but instead stick to tea-making, cake-providing and exuding an air of calm…

Thank you for your comments on my blog in recent weeks, sorry I haven’t responded or visited many blogs recently. It’s all been a bit full-on but I’m hoping to catch up soon. I’m starting with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see her flowers and what others have found to put in a vase this fine Monday.

Wishing you a very good week. Bye for now.

[By the way, there’s been some good news for Agnes recently (for those of you who’ve been cheering it on; thank you). The website appeared in The Guardian Weekend magazine last weekend in Annalisa Barbieri’s advice column and an education guru tweeted about it a couple of days ago; the stats have since rocketed. Sixteen months after launching, Agnes seems to be gaining traction and hopefully it will become more widely known and inform and inspire more girls.]

 

Arrivals and departures

Arrivals

  • Frothy, abundant swathes of cow parsley are lining the hedgerows and verges and lending a certain romance to the landscape.
  • Hawthorn blossom is covering the hedges in its white flowers (and wafting its love-it-or-hate-it scent).
  • The swallows have returned and are getting ready to nest again in the goat shed (I wrote about them last year here).
  • As I sat in the car waiting for my daughter to finish her ballet class in town yesterday evening, I watched a flock of swifts wheeling about and scything through the sky and it lifted my heart. There were always loads each summer when we lived in London but we don’t often see them here on the cliffs and I miss them.
  • Our Californian poppies have started flowering – many of these are self-sown but they’re easy to pull out from where I don’t want them. Other flowers that are exceedingly generous with their presence here are borage, Ammi, Nigella, Cerinthe major, Linaria, forget-me-nots, nasturtiums. I mostly let them do what they want because I am very relaxed in my approach to the garden. Controlled chaos is the order of the day. (Much like indoors.)

Departures

  • Apart from a few stalwart ‘Queen of Night’, the tulips are over for another year. They’ve been wonderful but it’s time to snap off the fat seed pods developing atop the stems and let the leaves photosynthesise away and pump nutrients back into the bulbs as they fade. I am intending to dig most of them up and store them somewhere dark, dry and cool until November when I’ll replant those that are still plump and healthy. But I say that every year…
  • Today is Leavers’ Day at school and my eldest boy’s last day. He’ll go back in to sit his A-levels but his time in the school system is over. No more lessons. He and his friends spent yesterday afternoon and very early this morning ‘decorating’ the school in readiness for a morning of chaos and fun. I hope we managed to dissuade them from some of the more extreme pranks they’d planned but I am waiting slightly nervously to hear how it went. It’s a last hurrah before the exams. He has mixed feelings about leaving school – he’s definitely outgrown the place but feels sad it’s come to an end. Any end of an era is unsettling. I also have mixed feelings about this so I am keeping as busy as it is possible to be. After 18 plus years of three children at home, they’re about to start fledging…
  • My 16-yr-old son also has his final day at school today and will be on study leave from Monday. Again, he’ll go back in to school to take his GCSEs (which started with a ‘terrible’ French speaking exam this Wednesday) but formal school is over until September when he’ll be in the sixth form (as long as he does well enough in the exams!). It’s all go here.

I have a packed weekend ahead – village duties, gardening, plant fairs (I may indulge) and calming my teenagers. Wishing you a lovely one.

End of Month View: Enchanted April

April began with a chilly and rainy Easter, saw high-20-degree summer temperatures mid-month with glorious, long sunny days and is ending as it began – chilly and rainy (boo). The dramatic rise in temperatures and sunshine that we had for a week or so boosted flowering (and the weeds) and it feels as though everything has rushed to catch up, flowering-wise. There are bluebells at the bottom of the garden and some of my long-awaited, much-loved tulips are already past their best with others just reaching their peak. Today’s heavy rain with more forecast for tomorrow may well finish them off so I’ve picked a load to bring inside to enjoy a little longer.

As well as tulips, the highlight of April has been the forget-me-nots. There were none in this garden when we moved here but my mother-in-law brought a few plants with her from her garden a couple of years ago and they have made themselves very much at home. I absolutely love them – the tiny blue flowers with yellow centres, their delicate but robust nature and the fact that they spread about the place without any help. The trick is to recognise their leaves and not weed them out (unless you want to, of course!).

All our Narcissi have either finished flowering or have been munched by slugs and snails. The ones in the front (sea-facing) garden fared much better this year than those in the back garden where we are overrun by garden molluscs. Sadly, the wonderful display of N. ‘Actaea’ we had last year wasn’t to be repeated, despite planting more bulbs in the winter. The slimy critters didn’t even wait for many of them to flower, they munched the flower buds right off! Grrr. We have frogs and toads (I disturbed a huge one yesterday when I was weeding), and there are definitely thrushes and blackbirds around, but they don’t seem to be eating enough to control the levels. So, the time has come to unleash the nematodes. With one of the best names ever, Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita, is a parasite that kills slugs and snails without harming other creatures. You mix them with water, sprinkle onto your soil and let them get to work.

Elsewhere, the pear, cherry and greengage blossom is starting to go over but the apple blossom (my favourite) is starting to appear. There are deep-pink buds dotted all over the trees, their petals tightly bound together like miniature pink sprouts. I love how these unfurl, releasing their delicate scent and clothing the trees in beautiful flowers – expect lots of photos!

All the grasses we’ve planted in the sea-facing side of the garden over the last couple of years – Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Miscanthus ‘can’t remember’ and Stipa tennuisima – are all going great guns and bulking up, adding interest, structure and rhythm to the planting. I’m really chuffed with how well the tulips work with the grasses and I’m looking forward to seeing how the perennials here (Linaria, Campanula, Scabious, Eryngium etc) do this year. I intend to plant some more brightly coloured perennials to create a longer-lasting tapestry of colour, form and texture. There will also be annuals – sweet peas and cosmos at least – to add to the mix.

Soon the lilac tree will put on its fleeting, beautiful and deliciously-scented show and there will be aquilegias dotted all over the place – these are already sending up their flower buds – and I’ll be pleased I didn’t dig them out. Nigella foliage is everywhere (but it’s easy to pull it out where it’s not wanted), with flower buds starting to appear, and tidy mounds of geraniums are getting ready to flower. And, if I get a move on with the Phasmarhabditis, hopefully more alliums will make it through to flowering this year.

Here are rather a lot of photos of the garden at the end of April. You might like to make a cup of tea…

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Tulips. I’m making notes of ones to plant for next year – I’d like to add some dusky pinky ones like ‘Belle Epoque’ and ‘Apricot Impression’ for a start…

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David has been planting Luzula nivea (Snowy woodrush) – a lovely grass for dry shade – to the right of the path. The lilac (top right of pic) is covered with buds.
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A row of Euphorbia oblongata (to the mid-right of the pic), Nigella, daffs that flowered and were promptly shredded by slugs and snails, rhubarb growing well and weeds…
New growth on the lavender hedge (plus rogue strappy leaves which could be gladioli or crocosmia).
The steps after the Erigeron was cut back quite  hard.
Looking down, to the left of the steps, with weed clearing and mulching the young fruit trees in progress.
Baby gooseberries!
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Looking down to the right of the steps (with trashed trampoline – the winter storms wrecked it; its days are numbered).
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Himalayan birch whip with fresh leaves and a flower.
Bluebells and builder’s sack (full of perennial weeds).
Cassie the wonder-dog keeping an eye on David who had treats!
Iris in the bluebells

New flag iris leaves in the pond

Erigeron recovering after its short back and sides last week.

 

EOMV (End of Month View) is hosted by Helen, The Patient Gardener.

In a Vase on Monday: an aide memoire (tulips)

Our garden has almost reached peak tulip and although there are plenty of other tempting vase-fillers I decided to pick one of each tulip that is flowering today and make a note of the name, as much for my own records as anything. I’m not very good at keeping notes of plants (pretty rubbish, in fact) so I’ve been back through my email orders and tried to put the correct names to each tulip. All of these are repeat flowerers – none were planted this winter just gone and some were planted as long ago as 2014 (‘Ballerina’ and ‘Brown Sugar’ were the first I planted here). Most, including those two, were bought from Sarah Raven and others were from Crocus.

Above from left to right:
A very diminutive ‘Arjuna’ which isn’t thriving where it’s planted (must move and see if it does better as it’s a lovely tulip).
The red one is either ‘Seadov’ or ‘National Velvet’. I know we have both somewhere in the garden!
I think the yellow/red one should be a ‘Ballerina’ but it has been affected by tulip breaking virus which causes stripes or flame-like effects. I need to read more about this.
Fourth from left is one of my favourites, ‘Sarah Raven’ –a striking, dark-red lily-flowered tulip.
Next is ‘Request’, which I love. I’ll try to remember to plant more of these.
The large, red lily-flowered one is, I think, ‘Red Emperor’.
Next is ‘Black Parrot’ which isn’t fully out.
And the purple tulip is ‘Passionale’.

From left to right above:
I think the very dark purple is ‘Havran’ (or it could be ‘Queen of Night’!).
Next is definitely an ‘Avignon Parrot’ (flamboyant and beautifully scented).
Another lily-flowered tulip affected by the virus (think it should be ‘Ballerina’).
A rather tatty specimen of one of my favourites ‘Brown Sugar’ which, yes, smells of brown sugar. It’s divine.
And possibly my all-time favourite, ‘Ballerina’, looking like it should do (also scented).

Above, left to right:
‘Queen of Night’ (or it could be ‘Havran’!).
A ‘Brown Sugar’ affected by tulip breaking virus (still smells lovely though).
Finally, a big, blowsy lipstick-pink ‘Pink Impression’.

I think it’s fair to say that the garden and I were thoroughly reacquainted this weekend. Two days of glorious spring sunshine and a determination to Get Something Done Outside led to about 10 hours of gardening over the two days. I’ve got dirt under my fingernails and scratches on my arms, and my gluteus are certainly feeling it today but it was so FANTASTIC to spend several hours head down in the borders. It’ll keep me going this week as I sit at my desk.

I’m joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and the other IAVOM-ers. Do click on the link to see what she and other bloggers have found for their Monday vases.

Hope you have a good week.

 

In a Vase on Monday: flower power

My long-awaited tulips are coming into flower – reds, oranges and purples in various hues – so I had to pick a few for a Monday vase to sit on my desk. Joining the tulips are:

  • forget-me-nots, which are hitting their stride at the moment and I’m delighted on a daily basis to discover where they have put themselves this year. These are among my favourite spring flowers – so generous and pretty
  • a few Anemone coronaria – one deep purple ‘Mr Fokker’ and a few zingy red ‘Hollandia’. I bought three ‘Hollandia’ plants at Great Dixter plant fair last weekend; just couldn’t resist the redness of them. The fair was inspiring (as Great Dixter always is) but most of the plants were very expensive. Even so, we did splash out on a few other plants (delicate epimediums, a few more Anemone blanda to join some existing ones and a couple of lovely deep purple vincas) and then we just had a good mooch around.
  • and a little bit of Cerinthe major (a third-year self-sown plant).

I absolutely adore this time of year. It’s like greeting old friends and making new ones out there in the garden. And this week has started off gloriously sunny with a forecast for more of the same. Spring is (I’m saying it quietly and with my fingers crossed) properly here.

I’m joining in as usual with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and other bloggers from around the world for the Monday vases. Sorry I haven’t been visiting many blogs recently or posting much. I have a lot of editing work, which is great, and exam-stressed boys to attend to, not so great, and there is little spare time at the moment. Thank goodness for flowers and coffee to keep me going!

I hope all’s well and you have a good week with plenty of sunshine and flowers to enjoy.

Heartswell

It has been such a long winter that the sight of fruit blossom feels like a deliciously cool glass of water on a baking-hot day. This small cherry tree in my mother-in-law’s garden is such a pretty sight, covered in just enough pale pink blossom to be absolutely beautiful rather than blowsy. We had a flying visit to Norfolk for a couple of days this week to see David’s mum and help to get her garden ready for the growing season ahead. After all the gardening she’s done for us over the years, we wanted to repay some of her kindness and do as many of the heavy and physically demanding jobs for her as we could. We chopped, sawed, lopped, dug and planted, and it was wonderful to be outside in the spring sunshine. There have been precious few days so far this year when we’ve been able to be outside for any length of time, let alone get very much done, so it was a great feeling. We drove home rather tired but pleased that we’d prevented the possibility of her trying to climb ladders to chop branches (which has been known!).

Back home, the boys (they didn’t come with us) are busy revising for their important exams in May/June. Well, I say they’re busy revising but there is mostly going to bed late and getting up late, eating Everything In The House and quite a bit of other displacement activity. The sound of guitar strumming drifts from both of their rooms at frequent intervals but I suppose that’s a great way to relax your brain in between re-reading Jekyll and Hyde for English Literature or trying to get to grips with social influence in Psychology. I’ve been super-busy with editing work, so the three of us are getting through a lot of coffee and Easter chocolate!

To add to all the excitement, it was our Village Spring Show today. In an attempt to keep my stress levels below danger point, I only entered some daffs (came second), muscari (again, second) and a badly printed photo (nada). Baking maestro, David, entered a Brioche Loaf (and won; see below) and my daughter entered an Apple Pie, coming joint first with the other entry in that class. (A photo of her delicious pie is on my Instagram account.)

One of the perks of being on the Gardener’s Association committee is that you get to do all  the clearing up afterwards, which means that you can rescue any left-behind flowers. These beauties were mostly not grown by me!

We’re getting up early tomorrow to drive to Great Dixter’s Spring Plant Fair. I can’t wait – I have cash in my pocket and a mind full of spring gardening thoughts. If that wasn’t enough, we have more of David’s baking for dinner – garlic and olive rolls – to go with spaghetti Bolognese (cooked by me, I hasten to add). My heart and my tummy will be full.

Wishing you a lovely rest of the weekend.