September 17th 2017
It really is becoming the Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, as the nights are drawing in and night-time temperatures are dropping, although usually still in double figures. The dew makes our lawn a sparkly carpet with tracks where some creature has passed by. We have twice recently been visited by an escapee flock of sheep, which has discovered that our wildflower meadow still has lots of tender grass which is good to eat. No damage done, but this is not a practice we want to encourage, as the vegetable beds are immediately next to the meadow.
Over the course of the last week I have picked the last of the plums, and what looks to be the last of the blackberries. We have also brought in some of the pears. We have three different pear trees, which have not produced any eatable fruit in previous years, but this year we have a bumper crop. As I have mentioned earlier, there are very few wasps this year, but one very warm day last week saw dozens of butterflies feasting on the fallen pears, and quite a few tackling the fruit still on the tree. At this time of year we have lots of Speckled Wood butterflies, and also Red Admirals, Peacocks and some Painted Ladies. The usually common Small Tortoiseshell is in short supply so far.
The long border is still full of colour, with the several clumps of sedum spectabile creating large splashes of red. The newly acquired Gerbera plants are also still producing many blooms, which light up the far end of the border. The honeysuckle and clematis over the pergola walk are still flowering, with additional help from the shiny berries which have set. The sweet peas on the obelisk are also still producing blooms, albeit few now, and mostly at the top of the plants. Gazanias and Coreopsis continue adding colour, and a recent garden visit highlighted the glories of Helenium at this time of year. These sunny plants range from about 18 inches tall to five feet or more, and colours range through the yellow, orange and red tones, with many variations of mixed colours, stripes, concentric circles and splodges. This is a family of plants we must definitely add to our garden, especially as the flowering period can be from June through to October. Whats not to like
August 20th 2017
The continuing wet weather is having various effects on the garden at the moment. Firstly, the ground is so boggy that any attempt to work it causes more harm than good. I tried some weeding yesterday, but the roots were bringing up large lumps of sodden soil, disturbing neighbouring plants. Even dead-heading is a risky task, as walking on the soil compacts it so much. Another effect the moist conditions are having is that the fruit crop is really plentiful and plump. Blackberries are huge, juicy and sweet, while the plums are excellent this year. Apples and pears are ripening up nicely, and from a distance the trees look beautiful, with blushing red fruit on high.
We have a number of oak trees of various ages, ranging from fully mature, to quite young. It would seem that the squirrels will have a feast this autumn, as there are so many acorns. Some of the young trees have grown as a result of acorns either falling or being stored by the wildlife, and then growing into seedlings and then saplings. I pull them p whenever I see them, as we have quite enough trees in our garden. The area is really good for oaks.
It might seem a bit soon, but I have started preparing my Christmas wish list. As I go round the garden, I notice plants or tools that I really must have, so they go onto the list. This year we have decided that we must get some plant supports, as several have flopped over onto nearby plants. Particular culprits are Sedum Spectabile and Achillea. Our peony plants are already supported, and the black plastic coated frames remain in position all year, so we only need to guide some of the stems if they are being somewhat wayward. The sedums usually grow fairly upright, and only flop when the large flower heads develop. Hopefully a supporting frame will keep the plant tidier, and will also create an even more stunning display when the heads are collected together. We have a number of these plants with red flowers which flying insects love, and these are the real culprits of flop. We also have a couple of white flowered sedum, which are not nearly so vigorous, although that may be because they are younger as yet. Time will tell.
July 16th 2017
As well as enjoying your garden, you will be able to find lots of jobs to do. Continual deadheading will encourage plants to produce more flowers, as the main aim for them is to produce seeds to continue the species. If you prevent this by removing spent flowers, the plants will produce more flowers in another attempt to create seeds. We allow certain plant to form seeds towards the end of the season, as we then get self-seeded plants the following years. Calendula (marigolds), nigella, nasturtiums, sweet peas, mimulus and lupins are all free self-seeders. Penstemon flowers can be cut back to just above a bud to encourage more flowering. Delphiniums also can be cut back, although this is one plant we do not currently have in our garden. I am not quite sure why not, as I love blue flowers, and the wide range of shades of blue available is very tempting. I think it is a hangover from many years ago, when we were novice gardeners, and delphiniums were deemed to be labour intensive plants. Nowadays we are less nervous, and we do experiment with supposedly difficult plants, and have some success with some, while others live up to their reputations. One can but try. I think that next year I will add a couple to the long border to try them.
Hanging baskets can also be pepped up by trimming of the spent flowers. A weekly feed will also encourage them to continue blooming for weeks to come. Sweet peas need to be dead-headed regularly. One way of keeping them flowering is to cut the flowers regularly, and this also provides you with wonderfully scented cut flowers for the home. Any guests staying with you will be thrilled if their room has a vase of perfumed flowers to welcome them.
Any plants you wish to propagate can have cuttings taken now. One of the easiest to increase by cuttings is the hebe family. I have increased my tally on several occasions by taking off non-flowering side shoots with a heel, and sticking them around the edge of a pot filled with general purpose compost. Keep them moist and cool, and within weeks you will have lots of new plants. I usually leave them till the following season before planting them out, to allow them to grow really strong root systems. We have a smallish, strange shaped area inside a boundary hedge, which I am filling with hebe Red Edge, and then copying an idea we saw in China, whereby the boundary hedge is trimmed to one height, and the hebes are trimmed uniformly to a lower level. As they fill out, the platform of leaves is formed, making a neat filler for an otherwise unproductive spot.
June 25th 2017
A decent amount of rain, albeit only once, and lower temperatures, and the garden is looking refreshed. We try not to water well established plants and shrubs unless they are looking distressed. However, any young or newly planted plants do get some water when the weather is really hot. The heather bed, which was only planted last year, has been a case in point. The soil has been really well conditioned, with the addition of compost and manure, and deep dug with a rotovator, but the subsoil is heavy clay, so the area oscillates from saturated to baked, depending on the weather. Only a month ago, there was standing water around and beneath the bed, whereas right now the top six inches are bone dry. This is despite a mulch of bark. So several evenings we have given the plants a drink, and they are rewarding us with rapid growth.
The fig tree which we planted a couple of years ago has a lot of figs which are plumping up nicely. We have high hopes of enjoying sun-warmed figs later in the summer. The kiwi vine alongside the fig is putting on a lot of new growth, but will not fruit for several years yet.
In the front garden, a hardy geranium which was a gift from my sister-in-law, has grown so much it is swamping a neighbouring heuchera. As the geranium has almost finished flowering, I plan to trim it with shears to remove the dead flower heads, and to lift a major part of it to give more space to the heuchera. The lifted clump will be transplanted into the shade beds, where our collection of hardy geraniums is growing steadily. The range of flower colours is somewhat limited at present, so I shall try to extend it with some new plants. The pulmonaria plants which we transplanted into the shade beds both last year and earlier this year are growing well, so hopefully in a couple of years we will have total ground cover in those beds.
It looks as though this year will be a bumper year for plums and also blackberries, both of which are performing really well. The plum tree is making up for last year, when we only had about three plums. This year the harvest looks to be in danger of breaking branches due to the weight of the fruit. The brambles are in full flower, and bees and other pollinating insects are very busy collecting nectar and making fruit for our breakfasts in autumn. While we are currently in mid-summer, it is enjoyable being able to anticipate goodies in the future.
September 13th 2015
Having spent a couple of days away, visiting four open gardens, we have been inspired anew, this time to create more interest at this time of the year, when many of the summer flowering plants are looking tired. Probable the most stunning garden we visited was created by a group of enthusiastic amateurs, and the colours are stunning. There were several colour themed beds, with lots of sweeps of different plants within a range of shades, looking fresh and vibrant. Crocosmia featured, as did asters and rudbeckia. Lots to think about.
We are starting the annual tidy up, removing some of the aged annuals, yet leaving some so they will hopefully set seeds for next year. Underneath one group of fallen monarda, I discovered three young hebes, which had been put in to grow from cuttings, and being so well sheltered had established very well. The soil condition of the extended long border is quite good, and hopefully a thick mulch of home-made compost over winter will allow for more improvement. Early in the season we planted sweet peas against an obelisk, for cutting flowers for the house. They have been marvellous, flowering freely on lovely long stems. But sadly they decided recently that the plants nearby are a preferable support, and have spread over a lot of the bed. So they have been removed, with the few remaining flowers being brought indoors. The plants thus released from the strangle hold are suitable grateful. Plus, I can see where the weeds have crept in.
August 2nd 2015
Visiting yet another local garden the other day, we were thrilled by the spectacle of more than 6000 different varieties of flowering plants. As ever on our garden visits, we took photos of plants we really would like in our garden, but whether the plants which were doing so well on a light sandy soil will also perform for us on our heavy clay remains to be seen. Some do. There was a penstemon garden, with many different varieties of these lovely plants, one of my personal favourites. They also grow well in our garden, and some which I planted only two years ago, already require to be divided. They are just approaching their peak right now, and will continue until late in the season.
In addition to comparing designs and plants, it is also interesting to compare pests. This garden we just visited has a major problem with both rabbits and deer. Both of these creatures are lovely to see elsewhere, but preferably not in the garden. Our most damaging pests are squirrels, which steal strawberries and peas, and dig up and eat bulbs ant tubers, and planted with high hopes of a brilliant display. Sadly, the squirrels ate more than half of them before I found a method of protecting them. I simply placed a rigid steel mesh over the top of the container, and when the leaves were tall enough to touch the mesh, the squirrels were otherwise occupied with raising their young, so I could safely remove the protection. It is a matter of trial and error, and hopefully the successful method is not too unsightly.
Weeding and deadheading continue to be regular jobs, and cutting flowers for the house, and to encourage further growth is a pleasurable task. The sweet peas are producing many flowers, as are the Clarkia, newly sown this spring along with many other annuals to fill spaces in the new extension bed. Many are doing really well; some such as anagallis are not quite so vigorous. But a leisurely stroll along the border brings into occasional view little clusters of brilliant blue flowers.
July 19th 2015
Once upon a time, the painting of the Forth Rail Bridge was synonymous with an endless task. Now, however, a new paint has been developed to enable the bridge to be painted once to last a long time, if not for all time. If only it were possible to develop a scheme whereby the weeding of a bed was not an endless task! Even the use of weed suppressing membrane is not a sure method of controlling the growth of determined weeds. This year, for the second year following, we took an extended holiday in May, surely the worst time for a gardener to absent himself from the duties of planting, watering and weeding. Now, after nearly two months of really concentrated work, thankfully we feel as though we are nearly on top of the weeding and tidying up.
The long border has been roughly paced out at 50 metres, half of which was added last year. Several plants have been divided to populate the extended part, and several packets of annual seeds were scattered. Lupins and lysimachia were very successfully divided; in fact a single lysimachia was divided into five new plants, three of which we replanted in the long border, one went to each of two family members. All successfully transplanted. A couple of new plants have been purchased, and often the single plant can be divided into two or more which will, in a couple of years, build up into a large clump. The annuals are currently providing a wonderful variety of colours and forms, with the promise of a repeat show next year if they are allowed to self-seed. The brightest splash of colour has for the past few years been supplied by self seeded calendula. Dead heading is an ongoing task, but however carefully we try to get all the seed heads, sufficient survive the cull to produce large swathes of colour again the following year.
June 21st 2015
Today is mid-summer's day, the longest day and shortest night. It barely gets dark even at 1am, about the mid point of the night. There is a glow in the northern sky, which is as close as we get to midnight sun! The birds start singing at an unreasonably early hour. But I love this time of the year. So much in the garden is flowering strongly. Some flowering plants have finished their show for this year. It is now time to deadhead the rhododendrons where possible, and we continually remove the spent blooms of dianthus, clematis and summer bulbs. I plan to take the shears to the forget-me-nots, hoping for a second flowering later in the year.
The shade plants I put in last year, aquilegia, geranium and pulmonaria are all doing well, and the plants are bulking up nicely. We do, however, seem to have lost one of our lychnis plants, and the remaining one does not look as if it intends to produce flowers this year.
We have just had two canine visitors for a weekend, and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves helping me clear the brambles, docks and nightshade which had grown into a thicket alongside the pond. When the water level drops a bit more, I can remove more of the accumulated leaf mold which has fallen in from the overhead trees. This makes a good mulch, but does need careful watching, as there are weed seeds in there as well.
May 31st 2015
So we are on the brink of June, and all that that entails. Grass needs cutting on a very regular basis, weeds seem to be growing faster than ever, and vegetables are progressing well. Hopefully fruit has set, although a frost in early May did interfere with the blossoming of cherries, pears and plums. Mostly our apples are a bit later, so they should be safe. I dont know why I worry about our cherry blossom setting, as we never see any of the fruit, the birds remove the small green cherries long before they are ready. In fact, the flesh is removed, and we find stones hanging on the tree. The large clump of crocus is now in a state whereby I feel able to lift and divide it, planting some in among our Black Mondo Grass, so the purple of the crocus will contrast well with the black strappy leaves of the grass. I shall use a thin dibbler to make holes, so I do not have to disturb the grass, which is well settled. The shade beds are doing very well, with rhododendrons flowering plentifully. The larger rhodos were already here when we moved in, and the shade beds have been created around them, with several new rhododendrons and a couple of azaleas being added to create the backbone of the beds. The smaller plants, such as geraniums and pulmonaria are groundcover and infill around these larger specimens. A very small clump of ransomes, or wild garlic, was planted last year, and now is slightly larger. I believe that this is one of those plants which takes a while to become established, but once it is, it romps away and increases significantly. At least, I do hope so.