A stroll around the garden

Although I haven’t been keeping an end-of-month record of the garden this year, I’m glad I have the photos from 2018 to see how everything has matured since the end of June last year. One striking difference is how much greener the grass is from all that rain we had earlier in the year.

Anyway, here’s a little tour to show you what the village garden safari visitors saw over the weekend when they visited our garden. It was overcast when I took these pictures, so imagine hot sunshine, a light breeze, the distinct smell of the sea and birds singing, and a weary pair of gardeners raising a mug of coffee to you from their chairs in the shade.

Salvia hot lips
Salvias and Verbena rigida in the raised planters. ‘Hot Lips’ loves it here.
garden wall
I bought a bistro table and two chairs for under the old apple tree in the back garden and several people stopped to sit in the shade for a while.
Nepeta 'Walkers Low'
This bed was a riot of osteospermums and nasturtiums last year but I’ve planted three insect-friendly Nepeta ‘Walkers Low’ along the path edge. I bought it as one plant about six weeks ago, divided it into three, potted them on until roots poked out of the bottom of the pots, then planted them out. They seem very happy. In the background there are the step-over apples underplanted with geraniums and chartreuse Euphorbia oblongata to the right of the pic.
Mixed border
The border by the back wall is a mixture of blue/purple, pink and orange. Iris sibirica has gone over but there are agapanthus coming into flower and asters later in the year. Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ is also coming into bloom. Please avert your eyes from the slightly scrappy path. You see those pine cones? Hundreds of them. I’d cleared them all the day before. Every time the wind blows, more drop from the pines. If you have any tips for what to do with them, other than use as firelighters, I’d be grateful. They don’t compost well.
Hollyhocks and roses
Moving round the side of the house to the sea-facing side, here are remarkable self-sown hollyhocks growing in cracks in the paving and the prolific rose bush that has no scent, sadly (as it’s next to the house). The lavender hedges are just coming into flower.
mini-orchard
Looking down onto the mini orchard and more lavender from the top terrace – the bees, hoverflies and butterflies love it there and you can hear crickets/grasshoppers singing their songs in the sunshine.
steps and rose arch
Looking down the Erigeron Steps to the rose and jasmine arch (both starting to flower) and the wildflower patch beyond, and our black cat hiding in the daisies.
Garden pond
Looking down onto the pond area, which we’ve recently cleared, with the wild area beyond (and bench on the area where we’ve had bonfires!). David relaid the flag stones around the pond (yet to be pointed) and we planted up the beds with heucheras and geraniums (permanent) and cosmos and snapdragons (temporary) and should mature to form lovely mounds of foliage with flowers in spring/summer. All the new beds (and bare soil elsewhere) have been mulched with bark chippings made from the tree work we had done last summer to help keep moisture in and cut down on weeds. Lugging trugs and trugs of that up the steps has improved my fitness levels somewhat!
lavender
Down the steps to have a closer look, you can see David’s ‘work in progress’ in the background. It’s going to be a covered seat with a cedar shingle roof and climbers growing up the sides. The hosepipe wasn’t there for visitors to trip over.
mini orchard
The little apple and pear trees are growing well – there’s a load of apples coming but hardly any pears this year. Maybe next. Again, more bark mulch to keep moisture in. I love the little areas of randomly mixed flowers down here – see next photo…

Dollymixture planting

Crocosmia and grasses
The border around the orchard is a mix of grasses (Stipa tenuissima and Calamagrostis) with perennials like Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ (just coming into bloom), Verbena bonariensis, osteospermums and heucheras. You can just see the mounds of Gypsophila ‘Gypsy Pink’ tucked into the edge of the border, an emergency purchase from a local supermarket to fill the gaps here!
mixed border
Moving along the path a little to see more of the planting. I love the way the lavender hedge above now peeps over the wall and ties in visually with the lavender below. Repeat planting is a very useful design tool.

Hoverfly in flight
We’re trying to plant as many plants that are beneficial for insects as possible – lavender, verbena, salvias, geums, poppies, scabious, wild flowers and many others are insect-magnets. Above you can see a hoverfly coming in to land (more luck than judgement on the part of the photographer!).
Erigeron karvinskianus
The two most commented-on plants during the garden safari were Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican fleabane) and Stipa tenuissima, both looking rather lovely at this time of year.
Light blue salvia
I can’t remember the name of this blue salvia but it’s perennial and lovely 🙂
Pale pink rose
This rose was a gift about 5 years ago, planted elsewhere in the garden, moved twice and is now in its final home, breathing a sigh of relief and sending out beautiful scented blooms.
Garden planting
I’m really happy with how the different levels are working – lavender on top of the wall, mixed border below, further mixed border, pond area. I’m looking forward to seeing how these all fill out and develop.
Rose 'The Garland'
I think this rose is ‘The Garland’, a highly scented climber from David Austin. I say ‘I think’ because David and I bought a rose for each other at roughly the same time and temporarily planted this one in a trug while we cleared the area and the labels got muddled. I am not very good at keeping track of labels… Anyway, it’s been here for a couple of months and is looking happy. The hope is that it will eventually cover this fence and look fabulous.

So, here we are, nearly at the bottom of the garden. I haven’t shown you the area to the right of the rose in this picture because it’s more of the same (geraniums, grasses, Erigeron, Artemisia and ivy) or the wildflower area in detail but I’m sure you’ve seen enough for now.

Hope your week is going well. I’ll be back soon x

In a Vase on Monday: the first day of July

June has passed by in a blur and I feel as though I’ve skidded into July with a definite need to slow down a little and smell the flowers. Our village garden safari happened this weekend – the weather was a-ma-zing, plenty of people visited the open gardens and lots of money was raised for charity. We certainly enjoyed sitting in the shade, chatting to visitors and not gardening for a couple of days 🙂 I’ll show you a garden update in my next post but in the meantime here’s a blue spotty jug of summer flowers to join in with Cathy’s Monday vases. Thanks to her, as always, for hosting.

The lavenders and jasmine are beginning to flower and there are clove-scented pinks. Joining these fragrant beauties are some Nigella seedheads (which I think I almost prefer to the flowers), a dark-flowered sweet William, some Erigeron karvinskianus and a few flowerheads from the lovely grass Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster.

Building work is starting on Wednesday to renovate the ‘sunroom’ at the sea-facing side of the house. This is the final room to be updated and I’m really looking forward to being able to use it. Currently it’s full of camping equipment, old shoes, weights and the rowing machine, an old cupboard, a bike, and other assorted ‘stuff’. All this needs to be moved out and found new homes. (Cue much muttering and discontent among the troops.) The boys are not happy about losing their ‘weights room’ and we need somewhere for the rowing machine, so the next big job in the garden is to customise an old shed or build something suitable. Things are never quiet around here…

Have a great week!

 

Poppylicious

The poppies have been magnificent this year.
Each flower starts off tucked away as a tiny bud.
They grow into plump, hairy nodding buds.
The stem starts to straighten, sending the bud skywards.
Nearly there.
The bud case turns turns brown and starts to split…
revealing the delicate, papery bright-red petals. They remind me of crumpled silk or crushed tissue paper.
They nod about for a couple of days, bringing joy to bees and gardeners.
Before discarding their petals on the ground and…
revealing their perfectly designed seed heads.

Hello. How’s it going with you? It’s been all about getting garden safari-ready here, which is very boring to everyone who isn’t interested in the garden, especially our teenagers. I was going to pull out these poppies – they’ve passed their peak but they’re still flowering so I’ve left the clumps where they are for now and noticed that they had flowers at each stage of development, so I thought I’d record it here. I find the whole process of seed to plant to flower to seed fascinating.

We had a massive push outside this weekend. My mother-in-law came to help and, as usual, galvanised us to do more than we’d planned, so it is looking great even if I’m not (exhausted, grubby, terrible hay fever-face at the end of each day). I’ll take some photos towards the end of the week so you can see – of the garden, not me, obvs!

The weather has been amazing but I’ve had such revolting hay fever which doesn’t combine well with sticking my head into ornamental grasses to remove bindweed. Nothing seems to be helping, so I just keep splashing water on my face and carrying on. What with all the gardening, having a nose like a tap and having everyone at home and all that entails, I am exhausted and looking forward to having an excuse to sit in the garden and do nothing other than chat to any visitors who wander in. In the meantime, I’m off outside with my pockets full of tissues.

Have a good week.

A good day

Mowed grass design at Wisley Salvia and bronze fennel Pink rose Tall alliums against roses and hedge Allium and peony View at RHS Wisley Phlomis The old laboratory at RHS Wisley Evergreen shrubs for topiary Candlabra primulas Wild meadow with willow edging Alliums Peony

My son is home. The dog gave him her special howl of happiness that she only does when her very favourite people are all together in their pack. There’s a mountain of bedding and clothes that need washing, boxes of books and bags of shoes. He’s already surveyed the contents of the fridge, cuddled the cats, commented on how lovely it is to be able to use a clean toilet and is now lying on his bed surrounded by suitcases and boxes. Happy. I’ve put a chicken in the oven to roast and we’ll have that in about an hour with new potatoes and salads, followed by scones with clotted cream and fruit. He’s been existing on pizza and skipping lunch and needs feeding up.

David had the bright idea that we should go and collect him today via the RHS garden at Wisley for a wander and a reminisce and coffee and cake en route. I didn’t need much persuasion. We used to live about 30 minutes away and would visit regularly when the children were small. I also volunteered here for a couple of years, working once a week in the Trials Department, and I also surveyed all the model gardens as part of my garden design course. I pretty much knew every metre of the gardens in detail, specific plants, views and buildings. But it’s changed quite dramatically since our previous visit about 4 years ago. There’s a major new visitor ‘experience’ (opening tomorrow, so the signs said), with a new plant nursery and various other attractions. All the model gardens have disappeared(!) and there’s construction work for a new plant laboratory, world kitchen garden and learning centre.

When we first used to visit with our babies and toddlers, we’d be among the youngest visitors by far, there was always room in the car park and you could easily wander round and not see many people. It felt like a horticultural haven where only Very Keen gardeners went. Today, there were car park attendants in hi-vis jackets, several overseas coaches, loads of people of all ages, lots of children running about, an outdoor music and dance performance going on for smaller children and a real sense that the garden was a destination, a great attraction. If it gets more people outdoors, looking at plants and enjoying all the benefits, I’m all for it but the place seems to have lost a little of its charm. Maybe there’s no place for charm at the forefront of horticultural progress.

Anyway, it was still possible to get photos without people in them of gorgeous plants! Alliums. Alliums everywhere – tall ones, taller than me, short ones, enormous globes and vibrant purples – all buzzing with bees. Glorious. And sumptuous peonies and roses whose scent hits you before you round the corner and clock them. There are still delightful touches here and there – a mown design in a patch of perfect lawn, lovely hooped hazel or willow (not sure) edging alongside the meadow. It was certainly a treat to spend a few hours here soaking up plant inspiration before collecting our boy and bringing him home for the summer.

Right, I must get that dinner on the table. Hope you’ve had a good weekend.

 

Friday flowers

I’ve missed posting Monday vases for the past couple of weeks so here are some flowers for Friday 🙂

The lupins and clematis are in my mother-in-law’s garden. We can’t grow lupins here because a red alert goes out for miles around and all the slugs and snails in the neighbourhood make a slimey trail straight for them. The same goes for delphiniums. And dahlias, although David is de-ter-mined to try growing them again this year so we have a few precious specimens in pots and I’ve been on snail watch… Also, it’s very windy here which plays havoc with tall top-heavy flowers. We don’t have much luck with clematis, either. Most varieties don’t like chalk, according to expert clematis growers. The sweetpeas are also not from our garden! They’re grown by a lovely friend whose garden I had an impromptu tour of this morning – it’s a wonderful cornucopia, a feast for the senses, and she kindly said I could go back with my camera some time.

So, there you are. Some beautiful Friday flowers not grown by me.

I hope all’s well with you. Life plods on here. My daughter and younger son are half way through their end-of-year exams and the eldest will be home from university on Sunday as it’s the end of his first year (which has flown by). His sister will have to vacate his bedroom which has become an extension of hers (because it has wifi and hers doesn’t!) and I’m clearing the backlog of laundry and filling the fridge and cupboards in readiness.

Have a lovely weekend.

PS I’ve been having trouble commenting on blogs that aren’t WordPress. Sorry to my blogging friends who are on Blogger, etc (CJ, CT et al). I am reading and would love to comment but for some reason I can’t! I will ask my technical support to take a look.

Rewilding – the Chelsea Flower Show 2019

Chelsea is as much a fantastic event for people-watching as it is a place to soak up horticultural inspiration and there was a noticeably incongruous juxtaposition yesterday between some of the gardens and the punters. Glossy, shiny, fashionably dressed visitors* vs lots and lots of wildflowers, liberal use of the naturalistic planting style and rusty steel. There were several areas that looked just like the bottom of our garden or a slice of any hedgerow or riverbank in the countryside. Nature knows best. Cow parsley, ragged robin, grasses, foxgloves, birch and beech and other hedgerow shrubs and trees. Lush, relaxed and ‘wild’ and it was a joy to see. One wildflower that really caught my eye was Adonis annua (Pheasant’s eye) which has scarlet flowers atop bright-green divided leaves. It was used to stunning effect on the Dubai Majlis garden (which was one of my favourites of the show). The most popular cultivated flowers were irises, foxgloves, roses and geums. Shrubs or trees that cropped up a few times were Pinus mugo, Cornus and Pittosporum tobira. One unusual tree that was getting a lot of attention was Aesculus pavia, a small form of horse chestnut native the the US with lovely flowers that were covered in bees.

While it was mostly magnificent, as usual, there was nothing particularly startling or thrillingly unusual at the show. There were some gorgeous gardens with beautiful colour palettes, lovely planting combinations and clever landscaping – and there’s no denying the incredible skill of making these gardens in 19 days – but there was nothing that struck me as totally out-of-the-blue new. It could be that Chelsea has become too corporate and is not the place to find exciting new and challenging design any more. I’m sure commentators have been saying this for several years but I properly noticed it this year. Maybe the RHS has sacrificed the cash cow of Chelsea to the movers and shakers of the business world and it’s the smaller, newer shows at Malvern or Chatsworth where you’ll find new ideas…

Anyway, we still had a lovely afternoon out (day tickets are over £100 each, so we went for the 3.30–8pm tickets which was long enough) – we had a lot of fun and it was a treat to be looking at skilfully put together gardens. I took my camera with the wrong lens (annoying) so all my photos are quite cropped but here’s what caught my eye:

PLANTS AND PLANTING COMBINATIONS

PLANTS AGAINST A COLOURED BACKGROUND

You can clearly see the red flowers of Adonis annua against the sandy-coloured wall.

WATER

EDGES

IN THE FLORAL MARQUEE

*Overheard at Chelsea –
An immaculate man: “I took the kids down to the Cotswolds last Bank Holiday.”
His equally well-dressed friend after a long pause: “What do you do there?”
Two women friends discussing slugs and snails: “I find that eggshells baked in the Aga then crushed works quite nicely.”
I wasn’t eavesdropping, honestly 🙂

In a Vase on Monday: the prince of marigolds

There’s a sturdy self-sown Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ that’s pumping out the most glorious blooms at the moment. I absolutely love this plant, with its deep orange flowers and burnished coppery tones on the reverse of the petals. I found the original seed packet (Sarah Raven) still had some seed in it a couple of weekends ago. The best before date was last year, but I sowed them anyway and kept my fingers crossed. Several seeds have germinated but were munched by *something* in the greenhouse, so I’ve brought the tray into the kitchen where I can keep an eye on it! Hopefully, there will be a few more plants to dot about the garden in a few weeks.

Anyway, the large plant in question is encroaching on a rose, so I cut the closest flowers off for a Monday vase. Joining them are some stems of red Salvia, Geum ‘Blazing Sunset’, some bronze fennel, some Linaria and several stems of Briza  – a lovely grass that Cathy at Rambling in the Garden kindly sent me a few years ago. (Cathy hosts this Monday-vase gathering; do click on the link to see her roses and links to many other vases.) The Briza has made itself very much at home in our garden but luckily, it’s easy to pull out where we don’t want it and seeds itself into gaps where we’re quite happy for it to be.

For the past several weekends, we’ve been spending every spare moment in the garden, working hard to tame and control the chaos all in readiness for the village garden safari at the end of June. A biannual event, the safari raises money for the Pilgrim’s Hospice and it’s a great motivator for Getting Things Done. We wouldn’t have achieved half as much as we have without this deadline. I love effervescent, naturalistic tapestry planting, so most of our borders are of the ‘let’s bung this here and that there and see if it works’ approach and I’m delighted with how it’s coming together so far.

Of course there have been failures, either because our chalky soil is too alkaline (even for some plants that are meant to tolerate it), because it’s been too dry (there’s only so much watering one can do) or because we have a ridiculous number of slugs and snails. My amateur science view is that our cats deter the blackbirds, etc, who eat the slugs and snails and so there is an imbalance. We decided to do something about it after we kept losing dahlias, sunflowers, etc, year after year and have introduced a biological control (the nematode Phasmarhabditis) which is watered onto the soil where they seek out snails and slugs and, well, kill them. They are harmless to other wildlife so are a much better alternative to chemicals. Hopefully, this may mean we can grow  dahlias and other slug-food plants without them being reduced to stumps within days. Has anyone else tried this? Did it work?

In other news: the coal tits are no more, sadly. I’m fairly confident it was not down to the cats as there was absolutely no evidence of harm done to birds at all. One day, standing within a few feet of the nest, you could hear the baby birds calling; a couple of days later you couldn’t. I don’t know what happened. Maybe they fledged while we weren’t looking and are happily hopping about the hedgerows. That’s what I hope, anyway.

Family-wise, my daughter has returned from a week in Barcelona on her return leg of the Spanish exchange. She loved it there, had an amazing time and isn’t particularly thrilled to be home. Let’s just leave it at that. One week left of school and then it’s half term, exams are after half term, then it’s the gentle slide into the summer holidays. My eldest will be home from uni in a couple of weeks to work for P&O over the summer. If you’re travelling to France via the Dover–Calais ferry, he might be checking you in 🙂

I’m off to the Chelsea Flower Show tomorrow for a massive dose of horticultural inspiration. I’ll report back soon. Hope you have a lovely week.