Autumn Gardening Calendar
October 22nd 2017
The high winds brought down lots more twigs and small branches from the oak and willow trees. These being all dry dead wood made them ideal additions to the bonfire, which has now devoured lots of acorns and seeding weeds, leaving us lots of lovely ash ready to be added to various beds later. We have cleared some of the vegetable beds, and taking advantage of a couple of dry days one of the ground level beds has been rotovated to allow the frosts to break up any remaining clods. All the beans have been taken out. This year has been wonderful for French Beans, and we have many filled tubs in the freezer. Also courgettes and spaghetti squash plants have been cleared.
The heather bed has been given its autumn tidy up, but due to the very wet weather recently, the soil is soaking despite having had lots of organic matter added when being prepared. We have lost quite a few plants, and one of the dwarf conifers is also looking sorry for itself. However, those plants which are there have grown to a good size, and we have decided that a few white cyclamen dotted among the heathers will look good. The initial plan to have some flowering heathers in bloom all year round has worked well, and as the plants grow, the flowering will look increasingly impressive and attractive.
The meadow was mown last week as well, somewhat later than hope for, but again the wet weather interfered with our plans. The idea was to drop the long grasses in early September, and allow the seeds to fall before picking up the cut top growth. A two day window of hopefully dry weather meant that the whole process had to be accelerated, and the long overdue cut meant that the grass was very damp at the base, so it looks untidy now. Had we managed to cut earlier, the grasses would have sent out new growth which could have been finally cut down to a clean and tidy finish. We have decided that next year, we will keep it cut shorter, although not as short as the rest of the grass. This should allow some of the weeds to disappear, while the gasses will be strengthened. Maybe.
Spring Gardening Calendar 2017
May 14th 2017
Following a brilliant week away visiting various gardens in Scotland, we have returned to find plenty to do in our garden. One of the gardens we visited had nearly all their plants labelled, which is always such a pleasing find, as we can then add lovely plants to our wish list. So on our return, we ordered a hand held labelling machine, and have spent a happy few days labelling lots of our plants. The most important in our view are the many types of heather in the heather bed. When we bought them, we had three of each of about fifty varieties, and we planted all three together, hopefully to grow together to form a mass. Although the bed is only about a year old, the plants have mostly made good growth. We have lost a few, but mostly we are very pleased with them. Once they are all labelled, we can assess which we need to top up, as there is a range of flowering seasons, so that hopefully there will be at least one variety in flower at any time. We bought more winter flowering varieties, as the bed is visible from our lounge, so there is colour interest when most other plants are resting.
I have spent quite a lot of time deadheading the daffodils, although we still have narcissi in flower, so the job cannot be completed yet. The front garden required some attention, with a particularly vigorous geranium needing to be severely divided and relocated. It was swamping some cyclamen and a couple of bergenia. I planted three clumps in the shade beds, and after only two days the newly moved plants are looking quite good.
Another task this week was to tidy up one of the large bamboo clumps. We inherited five such clumps, planted in a straight line, about five metres apart. We do not know the variety, but the canes grow to about two to three metres tall. The clumps are very untidy, with old papery layers tearing off in the wind, and making a mess throughout the entire garden. I stripped out one clump two years ago, and I am just managing to keep up with cleaning it out each year. Two clumps have been totally removed, and the final two will be stripped out later this year, The task has to wait now, as there are several birds nests being built in the middle. However, hopefully, once cleaned, I should be able to keep on top of tidying each year.
The season is now in full swing. All our daffodils are at their peak, with the narcissi still to flower. The goat willow is in full flower, and is much beloved of bees and other hungry flying insects, as well as young squirrels, who seem also to enjoy the plump round catkins. Some years ago we planted a Kerria Japonica, hoping for lovely yellow flowers. However, the flowers were single, and not very impressive. So we bought another, ensuring that this had double flowers. We did not remove the first one, fortunately, as it now bears numerous wonderful single blooms which really stand out among the leafy shrubs which surround it. This spring seems to be a good one for forsythia, as most of the ones we have seen on our travels are really laden with their bright yellow blossom. Cherry trees are also putting on a brilliant display.
My favourite season would seem to have arrived now, with daffodils flowering everywhere, on road sides and in woods as well as in gardens. A near neighbour has about eight acres of paddocks wherein many hundreds of daffodils flower every year, a cheerful sight indeed. I fully intend to start an annual to do list, as every year at this time I decide I really want some winter aconites, but then I completely forget about them at the time to plant them. Likewise ransomes. There is a wooded valley not far from us where in June the aroma of garlic on a hot day is truly evocative. I did plant some a couple of years ago, but lost them last year when they were under water for three months. Not many plants can survive that.
In the raised vegetable beds, leeks, parsnips and celeriac are coming to an end, and spring onions are beginning to suffer from having been frosted. The main plots were cleared and rotovated last autumn, and are sitting under a mulch of compost, hopefully being enriched through the kind efforts of earthworms. Autumn digging is a task we always aspire to, but seldom manage. However, the fact that our Brussels sprouts and cabbages were decimated by a visiting rabbit enabled us to clear the patches early. So, while it has been a mild winter, there have been a few frosts, which hopefully should have helped break up the clumps of soil.
There are still a lot of leaves lying in corners, and clearing them must be a priority before the grass starts to grow, or we will have lots of slimy dead patches. Another task we try to do at this time of year is washing out all the seed trays and pots, so they are clean when we want to start sowing seeds, or taking cuttings.
January 29th 2017
A couple of really mild days last week allowed us to do some much needed tidying up in the garden. I have finally managed to strip out the second bamboo patch, which was seriously infested with brambles, some of which were thicker than my thumb. They did provide some good fruit last year, but as we have plenty of others which do give us sufficient blackberries, the ones in the bamboo have been destroyed. Actually, that is an over optimistic statement, as all I have done is cut them down to ground level, and they will re-grow as soon as the weather becomes milder. The whole clump was so old that it has formed a hummock, which we will have to try to level before chancing the lawn mower over it. Quite which tools will achieve this we have not decided yet, as the mound is formed from old roots, which have turned solid. The mini-digger we used last autumn to extend the long border was totally unable to make any effect on it. However, I am sure we will think of something.
Currently we are experiencing frosts, which are lasting throughout the day time as well as nights. They are having the effect of making the remaining parsnips extra sweet. The cold causes these vegetables to convert some of their starches into sugars. Celeriac performs in the same way. One aspect of the frosts is the beautiful patterns of cobwebs on many of the shrubs. A local wildlife artist tells us that long tailed tits collect cobwebs for their nests. They should do really well in our garden.
I think that this week is the time for a bonfire, as the bamboo waste is filling up the fire patch. I want to burn it all before any wildlife decided to take up residence. We do not object to wildlife, but we have made a couple of refuges for animals and reptiles, so I want to keep the bonfire patch to myself.
On a positive note, I have noticed the first of our snowdrops in flower this past week. Always a cheerful sight.
Winter Garden Calendar
This is a good time to have a bit of a clean up. Collect up all your tools, a bucket of warm water and a wire or stiff bristle brush. Brush off the majority of the dirt on your tools, then scrub the remaining off with the warm water. Then rinse and let them air dry or wipe them with a towel. Once your garden tools are properly dry is a good time to sand any wood handles to make them smooth. This will prevent any splinters, as well as protecting the wood from ingress of moisture. Finally, rub in a coating of an oil such as teak oil.
Also, now is a good time to remove any rust on your tools. A wire brush is a good option for knocking off the majority of rust, but then a medium grade sandpaper and a drizzle of vegetable oil will do an excellent job. Also check to see if any cutting tools need sharpening. Once all your tools have been washed and dried, wipe over all blades or tines of spades and forks with a thin layer of vegetable oil to prevent rusting during the winter months. Any tools which have moving parts, such as shears or secateurs, having be cleaned should have a squirt of oil onto the bolts or rivets, to keep the movement free. Using a bit of wet and dry sandpaper, work oil into the blades, removing the build up of grease and plant matter. Any tools which come into contact with the soil should be oiled with vegetable oil not a petroleum based oil which could contaminate the soil.
Another job to do now is to empty and wash all your plant pots and trays. Brush out any remaining soil or compost, and wash thoroughly in warm, soapy water. This will not only prevent any pests from contaminating your next year's plantings, but it will look so much nicer to have rows or stacks of clean pots, ready for use in spring. Job satisfaction is a reality when these tasks are finally completed. Finally, throw out any rubbish not required for next year, and you can shut the door on your potting shed or greenhouse with a clear conscience. And just think how good it will feel next time you want to use any of these items to find them all clean and ready to go.
November 19th 2017
I really think that I am an obsessive when it comes to bonfires. I have just had what will be the last fire of the season, as we do have hedgehogs in the garden, and I do not want them to be harmed. We have created an area set aside for wildlife, hedgehogs, frogs, toads and insects. Piles of logs, branches and twigs have been carefully put into a space between two paths, with a number of smallish trees, and many brambles, are left undisturbed so the wildlife have a refuge. We know that toads live in there, we think that hedgehogs do as well, and insects definitely do. Some of the logs are rotting down nicely, so there is a place for burrowing insects to hibernate. But back ti the bonfire. We had quite a lot of garden matter with seeds, so not suitable for the compost heap, and some timber which came to light when the garage and a shed were sorted out. We have an old greenhouse base where we burn our fires. The garden waste was piled at one end of this base, and the timber at the other. So the timber was thrown onto the grass, a large pile of screwed up paper was covered by the garden matter moved over from one end to the other. After some fallen twigs were added, the fire was good to go. I do enjoy micro-managing my bonfires, but today the result is that every last bit of rubbish has been consumed, even freshly cut matter being added as the long border was being tidied up for winter. We now have another lot of lovely ash ready to be added to various beds next spring, or maybe even over winter, as it will make a good mulch.
The season has been so good so late, that I have not yet started feeding the wild birds. I do not continue feeding during spring and summer months, as we live in the country and there is plenty for the birds to collect naturally. I am wary of making the birds too dependant on food put out onto tables or in feeders, so I wait till there is not a great deal for them to collect and then the bird table comes out. It only takes them a couple of days to find the food, and the squirrels are even quicker. We have two ponds in the garden, so it is not urgent that I put water out, but when there is water in the bird bath, it is wonderful to watch the small birds splashing the water all around while they bathe their feathers.
Lawns still need attention if the weather is mild. Fallen leaves should be removed before they become wet, and block light from the grass. Any grass cutting should be at a height is about 4cm, any shorter will cause stress to the lawn, creating bald patches. Scarification, aeration and top dressing can be carried out as long as the ground is not waterlogged. Avoid walking on grass which has frost on it, as this can cause footprint shaped brown patches. If you have finished lawncare for the season, remember to clean and dry your lawnmower before storing it, to help prevent rusting. Do not feed your lawns with the remains of your summer feed as these contain too much nitrogen, which will cause an excess of growth which will be vulnerable to disease. An autumn feed is better; it contains more potassium and phosphorus to encourage root growth and hardiness.
Ponds also require attention at this time of year. Remove all dead foliage, and any leaves which may have blown on to the surface. By now, tender plants should have been brought in to over winter in trays of damp sand or even buckets of water. Any barley straw bales which have been used to reduce algae growth should now be removed and added to the compost heap, after resting for twenty four hours on the edge of the pond to allow pond insects to find their way back into the pond. If you have been feeding fish during the summer months, this should now be stopped, as the fish will not eat the food, which will rot and cause problems. Hardy waterlilies and pond plants can be lifted and divided, while overgrown marginal plants should be trimmed.
If you, like us, have heavy clay soil, cover your beds with a thick mulch instead of working and compacting wet ground, and gradually the soil condition will improve. Used gro bags, and the spent compost from containers can also be added to your beds, as this will help improve the texture of the soil, and will break up clay clumps
November 4th 2016
One of the iterative jobs of this time of year is leaf collecting. For some reason, our cars seem to create a vortex, and many of the fallen leaves end up in a corner where we usually park. Two small sheets of plywood make very useful grabs for picking up large amounts at a time, and these are then added to the builders bags in the compound, where they will eventually turn into leaf mould, a very valuable additive for beds, either flower or vegetable beds. Those leaves which fall on the grassed areas are collected with mowings, and added to the compost heap, where they form useful aerators. Usually grass cutting has ended several weeks ago, but a mild spell can allow the continued growth of grass, and if the lawns are not cut, albeit with a high cut, and brushed, they will look scruffy all winter. A final tidying up of the edges of beds will present a well cared-for appearance throughout the winter season.
If you have not planted daffodil bulbs for spring flowering, now is the time to do it. Other spring flowering bulbs which can be planted now are anemones, crocus, fritillary, bluebells, aconites and lily of the valley. A selection of these will provide you with a cheerful splash of colour in the spring, and planting them now enables you to look forward to the warmer days even before winter has truly started.
As your herbaceous perennials turn yellow, cut back the finished foliage, lift and divide large clumps to maintain vigorous growth, and top dress with a mulch of either compost or wood chippings, to help keep the soil warm a little longer, to suppress weed growth, and eventually to provide nourishment to the plants as the worms pull the matter down among the plant roots.
October 9th 2016
We have been having some much needed rain, just gentle proper rain which does lots of good to the garden, without making huge puddles. The pond water level is exceptionally low, and the duck house is high and dry, so this rain is very welcome. The past few weeks have been very mild, with high pressure keeping days and nights mostly warm, although there was one frost last week. However, it was not severe enough to affect any plants, many of which are still flowering, especially the sedum spectabile, which is providing nourishment for lots of insects.
Now is the time to be preparing hyacinths for Christmas. They make a wonderful fragrant gift, or can be used to brighten up your home. You need to look for specially prepared bulbs in garden centres, which have been heat treated to encourage early flowering. Having chosen you container, place a layer of damp compost in the bottom. You do not need to add any fertiliser. Place the bulbs on the compost, making sure that they are not touching each other or the sides of the container. Fill with more compost around the bulbs, making sure to leave a space between toe rim of the container and the compost, for ease of watering. The tips of the bulbs should just show above the surface of the compost. Now place the container in a cold dark place, ideally around 9°C, maybe in a garage, shed or cellar. Cover with black plastic to keep out the light, and leave them for about ten weeks. Check them regularly and water lightly if the compost feels dry. When the bulbs have shots a few inches high, place the container in a bright, cool position. Do not put them near a radiator. Keep the compost damp, and flowering should occur in time for Christmas. After they have finished flowering, they can be planted out side, and they should flower again the following year.
Autumn Calendar 2016
October 30th 2016
There are still many jobs to do in the garden, even though thoughts are turning towards winter. Any remaining summer bedding containers can be emptied now, and replanted with wonderful winter displays. There are now quite a few different winter flowering bedding plants available now, such as pansies, dianthus, bergenia, cyclamen, wallflower to name but a few. Add the vast selection of foliage plants, such as ivies, dwarf conifers, heuchera and ferns and the possibilities are endless. We try to use plants which can be used again later in a garden bed, but this is by no means essential. Some foliage plants are trailing, some are upright, some blanket cover, some are green, some can be red or yellow or even black. A feature plant such as a cordeline, surrounded by ivies, and a couple of heucherellas will create a stunning display to last through the duller months. If you choose brightly coloured foliage, you will have a cheery beacon to put beside your front door, or outside your living room window.
Perennial plants should be trimmed back, and if they are large they can be divided while the soil is still warm. When your borders are tidied up, mulch them with bark, spent mushroom compost or leaf mould, which will suppress weed growth and keep the plants insulated against winter frosts. This mulch also gives a "finished" look to your borders, which I find very satisfying.
This is also the time for planting bubs for spring flowering. Daffodil, tulip and allium
bulbs can be spread throughout your borders, or naturalised in the lawn areas. This is also a good time to plant clematis. Trees and shrubs can be moved, and hedges can be planted. As you see, there is much that can be done.
October 2nd 2016
Having just returned from a short city break in Antwerp, we are in full swing with tidying things as growth slows down. A hopefully last hedge cut has been completed, so they can now be left till after baby bird fledging next spring. A photinia hedge has also had a hair cut, so it should thicken up next growing season. The decorative grass which we bought last year has been wonderful, and we set some small pots of compost to collect falling seeds, and we now have a collection of seedlings, which will be planted in a drift in the meadow after the final cut, which will probable take place within the next couple of weeks.
While in Antwerp, I visited three totally different green spaces. The first was the Botanical garden, which was very small, probably no more than two acres, but beautifully maintained, and every plant and tree was labelled, which I find very helpful. An outdoor cactus bed suggests that the weather is not too severe, although there was also in indoor cactus display as well. The various benches were put to good use during the mid-day break, and I saw a number of people looking quite closely at the labels on different beds. Being quite late in the season, a lot of plants had finished flowering, and had been tidied up, but any plants with interesting seedheads had been left. One in particular was a clump of caster oil plants, with their crimson seed pods.
The second green space was the city park, a large area with meandering paths round branching ponds. Several of the paths had jogging distances marked, but sadly the grass areas were all fenced off, with solid metre high fences, so only the ducks could enjoy these spaces. I couldnt help but feel that an opportunity had been wasted.
The third green space was a bit further out of town, and is among other things a sculpture park and museum. However, there is an area of gardens, with two rectangles surrounded by hornbeam hedges. One enclosure had simply sections of hedge separating beds of grasses, the other enclosure contained a more formal area with ponds, and Italianate beds of plants. Outside these two rectangles there were many paths wandering around and through a mixed planting of bamboo, shrubs and a couple of topiary cut trees. While following any particular path one would frequently be faced with a choice of directions to go, so there were many options for enjoying the plants. This is a design style we both thoroughly enjoy. On our way to this part of the park we were amazed to see a cricket match in full swing. So we sat and watched as we ate our sandwiches.
Summer Calendar 2016
Work is progressing on the jungle area, when other tasks are not too pressing. Lots of brambles have been cleared, and the boundary has been reached. Decisions have had to be made about the degree of pruning of a spreading damson tree. While the fruit is small, it is very sweet, so we want to try to maintain the performance of the tree. Admittedly this is a jungle area, but it is also the southern boundary to our garden, so we want to make sure that plenty of light is available to the plants we choose for this area. We recently bought some Calla Lilies, some of which have flowers so dark that they look almost black. The rest are in graduated shades of orange, so they should create a stunning display when positioned.
Using logs from the leylandii we had removed, we have made a raised area in the centre of the jungle, to try to improve drainage. Also, if we plant some large phormium tenax in the raised area, they will create a tunnel-like effect. Also, a trumpet flowered climber will enhance the impression. We do not intend to try to grow exotic plants, but will be searching for hardy plants with large leaves or large flowers, or even dramatic colours. It will be fun searching for plants to complete this area.
Many of the annuals are slowing down now, particularly the marigolds, which are looking really scruffy by now. Some seeds are being left to set for next year, as the splash of colour is really cheerful for most of summer. However, we are considering what we can put in instead. Maybe we will use more osteospermum or even antirrhinum, both of which produce colourful flowers for a lengthy season. Several shrubs are having a late second blooming, which is always a mere shadow of the original show. Our weigela, two brooms and one potentilla are all enjoying late August and early September.
This is the time to be thinking about spring bulbs. Daffodils need to be planted about now, to ensure a spectacle in March or April. Crocus corms also should be planted now, so a colourful show can be enjoyed in late winter. Any cheerful flowering in early spring, dispersing the glooms of winter will be most welcome. Spend a little time now to prepare for the end of winter to bring ample rewards when most required.
September 18th 2016
It was during the hottest September day since 1911 that I had to lay a new bonfire. The old base had grown somewhat solid with soil that had been in among the roots of the conifer stumps removed many years ago, and successive bonfires had been laid on top of an increasing pile of lovely clean ash and soil. As we were preparing the area to be planted as a jungle, with large leaved and exotic looking plants, we decided to remove all this sediment and start a new bonfire from ground level. The earlier preparations for the jungle involved cutting back an old elderberry bush, and trimming an overgrown apple tree, as well as removing an unwanted ash sapling. The resultant pile of branches had been sitting for a week, drying out ready for burning, so I set to with saw and secateurs, cutting the large pieces down to manageable sizes. However, it was far too hot to even consider lighting the fire, so it had to wait till the weather was rather cooler, which occurred a day or so later. I love bonfires, and spend ages tending ours, cleaning up all the twigs and fallen branches which are not wanted in the wildlife area.
So now we are all tidied up and ready to continue the preparation of the jungle area. We have many short lengths of tree trunk left over from when all our leylandii removed, so in the centre of the jungle area we have created a raised area using these trunk segments as retainers. We can now plant some medium height plants, to create the impression of greater size. Cordelines and phormium will certainly look the part, as will palms. A tree fern would be magical, but I doubt it would survive our heavy clay soil. We shall be scouring the nurseries for inspiration probably for the next few years. We already have a mature fatsia japonica which will be a centre piece of the jungle garden, and we may well add a couple more to really make for an atmospheric feel.
August 28th 2016
Suddenly the August Bank Holiday weekend has arrived, and produce shows abound. A recent trip to an allotment show saw us gazing at monster leeks and onions, and huge long carrots. We have a reasonably good harvest of spring onions, and our leeks are thickening nicely, but we prefer to eat them when they are small and sweet, rather than wait for maximum size. There are also two rows of beetroot, red, yellow and white, which have grown to a very respectable size. Beans have done well this year as well, especially French beans. We used to be able to grow really good runner beans, but recently the mice or maybe birds have been eating the young plants at ground level. This year we tried growing some in cells in the greenhouse, and planting them out with ground sown seeds alongside. But the wildlife still feasted.
The strawberry plants have made lots of green growth, and the fruit are just starting to ripen, so we have to be quick each day to pick them before the mice and blackbirds enjoy a feast. We also have several batches of bramble cane, and those on the southern side of the copse are just now becoming really sweet and juicy. The Victoria Plum tree has only a few plums as a late frost destroyed most of the blossom. However, they are beginning to turn now from dull green to slightly rosy green.
Last year was the first year for the fig tree to produce small figs, of which one has survived, and is growing nicely. There are also quite a few new figs, so we will have to wait and see how many survive into next year. Due to the cool summers, figs do not set and ripen in one season as they do in Mediterranean lands, but take two years to develop and ripen.
July 10th 2016
Our recent break in the Isle of Wight was thoroughly enjoyable, despite the weather being somewhat unpredictable. We started off with a couple of days in Winchester, visiting family and finding time for a trip to Mottisfont Abbey, a National Trust property with good gardens. Nestled in the Test Valley, there are sweeping lawns with majestic trees, ducks and swans on the fast flowing river, home to large brown trout, and a justly renowned rose garden. The problem with flowers like roses is that they do require decent weather. Most of Mottisfonts roses are old fashioned, meaning that they flower just once a year, normally in June. It was June when we visited, but there had been so much rain that many of the blooms were spoilt, being brown and droopy. The garden staff were quite dispirited about the sorry display, but it was all due to things beyond their control. However, it was possible to see that in a good year, the roses would be stunning. It was also interesting to see that other plants were allowed, such as foxgloves and nepeta among many. Some gardeners believe that roses should be displayed on their own, but this would make for an empty garden after the blooms faded, whereas in Mottisfont, the colour would continue throughout spring and summer.
In our own garden work continues apace. Last year we cleared a bed around a medlar tree, and planted a mixture of hebes and potentillas. Sadly, the wet winter made a puddle of this bed, and all but one of the hebes died, having been waterlogged for nearly three months. So we are re-working the bed, adding a lot of grit to aid drainage, and planting heathers instead of hebes. Heathers should be somewhat more tolerant of wet weather, if this is how our climate is going. The heathers we are planting are a mixture of winter flowering and year round flowering. That way we should maintain interest at all times. Its really quite exciting. The medlar tree has flowered this year, having had a year off last year. The flowers are really quite attractive, but we have not been able to try the fruit yet. The idea of eating rotten fruit does not appeal.
Spring Calendar 2016
A visit to a really good nursery last week resulted in the purchase of quite a few plants, destined to fill some gaps created by the ravages of winter. Our visit to Wales rekindled my love for wild primroses, so I bought a few to add to the shade beds. These had been well filled by last autumn, but three months of being under water meant that many of our plants have disappeared. Sadly there is no sign of the wild garlic which I also love, but only time will tell if the plants will re-appear. So in the meantime, some winter aconites and the primroses will fill a few spaces.
Last year we visited several gardens in Devon, at one of which we bought a delightful grass with large, dangly flowers and seed heads. This was placed in the gravel bed, and has done its work well. The area is covered with young grasses, many of which I plan to transplant to the meadow, hopefully to establish a healthy colony.
The cuckoo has returned this week, and with temperatures actually hitting double figures, it would seen that spring really is about to arrive. Trees and hedgerows are greening up quickly, and the birds are busy either building nests or sitting on eggs. Just before we went to Wales the sparrows which had nested last year in our nesting box were settling in. However, since our return, I have not seen and sign of them at all. I do wonder what has happened to them. The pond was also full of frogspawn, but there is none at all there now, and no tadpoles either. I wonder if the mallards have eaten it all.
The forsythia and viburnum have been brilliant this year, but the effect is fading now as leaves open, hiding the flowers somewhat. The red hawthorn in the front red bed is looking really healthy, with lots of clusters of bud, so hopefully there will be a good display later. Being coloured, it flowers later than hedgerow hawthorn, which is already in flower now. I hope our lilac will produce some flowers this year. This is the joy of spring, so many unanswered questions, and the pleasure of anticipation
May 15th 2016
At last we have been able to spend time in the garden. To the accompaniment of many birds celebrating the warmer weather, we have been busy catching up. We have inherited from the previous owner five large clumps of bamboo, planted in a straight line. They produce canes about two metres long, and also lots of untidy paperlike leaves, which blow over the entire garden. We have decided to remove two of the five, but this week I made a start on clearing out one of the three we intend to keep. It has not been cleared for about four years, and is riddled with bramble canes, which are now impeding the mowing of the grass. So I got rid of it all, and the new shoots are now looking quite healthy. However, when I made a start on one of the two clumps, I had to stop when I discovered a blackbird's nest with three eggs in. I just hope that the parent bird came back soon after I left that part of the garden, as the temperature was falling this afternoon.
So my next job was to finish weeding the front garden, and to apply a top-up of bark, which acts both as a mulch and a decorative finish. Being new and damp, it is a lovely nearly black colour, a wonderful contrast to the plants and shrubs. However, I have no doubt that once it has dried out, and when the blackbirds start throwing it all around, the neat tidy appearance will be somewhat subdued. I managed to clear and cover about half of the front garden before a slight rain shower sent me in for a welcome cuppa. Tomorrow should see the job finished. There is a real sense of achievement when a job like that can be crossed off the list. Typically, jobs are added to the list at a faster rate than those crossed off.
The next major job for me is to try to sort out the tunnel beds, which have run riot with periwinkle spreading throughout. I do like the plant, and it performs really well with lovely blue flowers for a large part of the season, but one can have too much of a good thing, and we most definitely do have too much periwinkle.
May 1st 2016
So we return from our trip to South Wales, to find our garden has dried out quite a lot. The weather however is still so cool that daffodils are still flowering well, as are the Forsythia shrubs. Many of the shrubs are slowly waking up, but with temperatures in the low single figures, there is no huge enthusiasm in the long border. Large areas of former grass have developed into moss patches, but there are signs that the grass will re-grow, although slowly. There are currently no signs of the many hardy geraniums and pulmonarias we planted in the shade beds over the past few years, but we are waiting to see whether any return in time after being under water for three months. Even the Woodruff has disappeared. Both our front and back gardens have large goat willow trees, which are heavy laden with fluffy catkins. These glow in the evening sun, and look truly amazing. However, as they fall the debris is significant, and require several hours a week sweeping them up, and removing them from the pond.
One of my over-riding memories of South Wales is the abundance of wild flowers in the verges; violets, cowslips, primroses, wild garlic, anemones both white and blue, and plenty of blackthorn and hawthorn in the hedges. Add in the masses of daffodils and narcissus, and there was a veritable feast for the eyes. We were staying with friends for a few days, and took a large bunch of daffodils from our garden, but we soon found out that the daffodil is Wales national flower for a very good reason. There were huge drifts alongside every road, and although some were going over the overall effect was really bright and cheerful. I do love the joy and promise of this time of year.
At last a couple of dry weeks with some sun and a gentle wind has allowed the garden to start to dry out. Some areas will take quite a long time to come back after over two month under water, but it is amazing that some of our plants have survived the drowning. We will have to order more bark chippings, as the blackbirds have managed to throw our mulch all round, and the lower layers are rapidly composting. A bark mulch is both decorative and functional, as it helps retain moisture during dry spells, and suppresses weed growth. As it breaks down it also feeds the plants, so it is totally a win win situation.
As the rest of the garden begins to dry out we can start the spring maintenance, albeit somewhat belatedly. One day last week was so warm we even sat out for an hour on the patio, after a long session of weeding and tidying up in the vegetable garden. Some areas will not be visited for a while, as the surface is covered with soggy wet leaves, which will need to be raked off once dry, but walking on them at the moment will cause damage. The ride-on mower has been taken for a service, so when it returns we can probably use the grass collector and brush to gently sweep up the debris.
Meanwhile, signs of growth are increasing, with green buds on many of the trees and shrubs. The white willow catkins are opening, showing brilliant white against the sky. The catkins on the Garrya Elliptica are gently swaying in the breeze, and a Hamamelis Mollis is covered with small flowers on leafless stems. Today is the first day of Spring, and the garden is responding brilliantly.
March 13th 2016
A trip to the garden centre at this time of the year presents many temptations in the form of racks of bedding plants looking very colourful. If you select your plants carefully, making sure that the somewhat cursory watering has benefited your choice, these can be a good value method of purchasing plants. Many of the bedding plants will actually over-winter; some of them, if hardened off correctly, will last for many years. We bought a tray full of mimulus plants several years ago which lasted for three years in the open ground. The tendency towards milder winters assists this as well, as many of these plants can tolerate a mild frost as long as it is not too prolonged.
So a purchase today of a couple of trays, potted on and kept in the greenhouse for a while until frost risk has passed, then put out in containers, and you can have an entire season of colour, followed by hopefully several years of repeat flowering out in your garden beds. We try to plant up our containers about now, and keep them frost free to allow the small plants to fill out, so that by the time you are ready to put the containers out into their summer positions, they are already filled with colour. Many of the offers from the supermarkets are spring flowering bulbs, which can be placed outside immediately, where you can see them from the house, then after flowering is finished, plant the bulbs out into the garden to enjoy in years to come. That way you get double value from your purchase.
March 6th 2016
Today being Mothers Day, I have been noticing the great number of daffodils flowering on the verges around the lanes. Following on from the snowdrops, and in some places overlapping the snowdrops display, the cheerful yellow is a positive proof that spring is near. However, the snowfall has challenged that theory.
We are busy planning our next round of visits; South Wales is our destination hopefully in early April. We have friends to visit near Newport, from where we plan to visit several gardens along the length of the southern region. The first to be explores is Dewstow Gardens and Grottoes. When it was rediscovered in 2000, it had been smothered in undergrowth for over 50 years, and underground tunnels and grottoes including ferneries and ponds are a major feature. It sounds like a fun garden to visit. Somewhat further west can be found the Botanic Garden of Wales. There is a wonderful pictorial map of the different areas, which include a large glass house, an ice house, futuristic vegetable gardens, a Japanese garden, and much more. I will report back after our visit.
There are also several interesting sounding gardens near the Botanic Garden, and I also want to visit St Nons Chapel, allegedly the birth place of Saint David, patron saint of Wales. Hopefully the weather will have improved by the time of our visit, as our plans involve a great deal of outdoor activities.
February 14h 2016
A short walk around our local lanes showed definite signs of Spring in the hedgerows. Blossom is showing already on the blackthorn bushes, probably a full month before our similar bushes will flower. We have a south facing area of scrub where the majority of trees are blackthorn, yet ours flower several weeks later each year than those I our neighbour's paddocks. These in the lanes have beaten even these for early flowering. The snowdrops are just about at their best now, even those which have been severely flooded during the past month and a half. Daffodils are beginning to show yellow. Sadly, the local highways department came round with a mini digger and dug trenches into the verges to drain puddles. Not only was this a waste of time as the trenches do not lead to lower land, but they dug up several clumps of daffodils, some of which were actually in flower and left the bulbs exposed to the winter weather. I sometimes wonder whether these people look at what they are doing.
During a drive out on Thursday, we noticed hawthorn hedger showing plenty of green leaf, and catkins are plumping up already. One delight in Sardinia was the flowers at the roadsides. Many of the hillsides are covered with euphorbia, which were topped by fresh growth in many different hues. Ornithogalums were in full flower, and the sage and thyme shrubs are putting out lots of fresh leaves. The aromas were delightful.
The water is gradually receding from our garden, but the land is still saturated, so we cannot do any clearing up yet. It is pleasing to see that some of the plants have survived; snowdrops, polyanthus, daffodils and cyclamen are putting on a brave show. I am so pleased to see them.
January 17th 2016
So, as winter finally arrives, but the water is still around in our garden, we have started planning garden visits for the year ahead. We are planning a few days with friends in Newport, S Wales, in April, and then a few visits en route to St Davids.
Near Newport itself, is a very interesting sounding garden, Dewstow gardens and Grottoes. This is a lost garden with tunnels and underground grottoes buried under thousands of tons of soil for over 50 years. Built around 1895 the gardens were buried just after WW2 and rediscovered in 2000. It looks like a really magical place to visit, with rock gardens and water features above ground, and tunnels and a labyrinth below ground. Whats not to like here?
Another visit we are planning is to The National Botanic Gardens of Wales, situated at Middleton Hall, Carmarthenshire. This was first opened in May 2000, making it the first national botanic garden of the new millennium. It is winning many accolades, so we intend to check it out. It features many attractions, including walks, lawns, lakes, a massive glasshouse, nature reserve, a double walled garden, Japanese, Sculpture and bog gardens and borders as well. It sounds as though we shall be busy for at least a day visiting it all. I shall report back after we have seen these two gardens, as well as any others we happen across on our travels
January 3rd 2016
So at last we arrive into 2016. We can only hope that as the year progresses, all the dire warnings about El Nino bringing weather chaos to the world prove to be unfounded. Its mildly amusing to remember that only a few years ago we were all being advised to plant our gardens with drought resistant plants in readiness for the onset of a Mediterranean climate in Britain. I suspect we will soon be advised to plant water lilies and mangroves in readiness for further inundations.
On a more positive note, the New Year has brought the usual crop of catalogues from seed and plant companies, so the annual session of planning is about due. As there is absolutely nothing we can do in the very flooded garden at present, we may as well start the dreams. At this stage we plan the vegetables to be grown, as well as designing various planters and also supplementing the perennials in the several beds. It helps to think ahead, allowing us to forget about the lake which is presently our garden. We do venture out to feed hens and wild birds, but every step causes more damage to the grass paths, currently under several inches of water, so we are keeping our forays to an absolute minimum. However, many a lazy hour can be enjoyed watching all the small birds visiting our feeders.
Winter Calendar 2015
-January 10th 2016
The winter has been so mild thus far, that many plants are preparing for spring. There are buds breaking on the willow trees, and also on some of the weigela shrubs. An Osmanthus has buds which are plumping out ready to burst into beautifully scented flowers. Helebores are flowering, at least those which are above water, and some geraniums are showing considerable new growth. The garden is so wet even where it is not under water that we have not felt inclined to wander round looking for signs of the coming season. Normally we would be seeing snowdrops peeping through the soil, but all are under several inches of water, so we will have to wait and see whether they have managed to survive the soaking. All the shade beds and the rope sculpture and set within the lake, the pond is completely overwhelmed and its margins have disappeared, so we have to be wary if venturing that way, as a six inch deep lake could quickly become a three foot deep quagmire.
Our floods are caused by the drainage dykes not being able to empty, due to the ultra high river levels. Until the rivers drain out, the ings into which our ditches empty cannot drain in their turn. So we have to wait. Meanwhile, it is still raining. I want to get out soon to trim down the perennials which we left for winter protection. The pentstemons will be producing new growth soon, as will many of the other flowers and shrubs. Enforced idleness palls after a while, and I am getting very twitchy.
Jobs for November
The work of November is to a large extent a continuation of what you started in October but ideally no tree pruning unless you live in a sheltered southern spot and the weather is mild enough to ensure that any wounds will heal up before infection sets in.
Continue to collect fallen leaves and either compost or bag them to make leaf mould, especially deal with leaves which have fallen into a pond or are excluding sunlight from smaller plants and on the lawn. Continue to remove annuals which are no longer in flower and cut back perennials.
Protect any tender plants from frost which could come any day now. Gunnera plants need the crowns protecting with their own leaves and straw as well if you live in a cold area, any containers with flowers in which you are over-wintering should be wrapped in bubble wrap to prevent the roots being frosted and lift them off the floor to prevent waterlogging.
Winter bedding should be finished in the next week or so and all spring flowering bulbs should be in very soon now. Roses should be pruned down to about half their height to stop the wind rocking the plant and disturb the roots.
Generally clean up and bin, burn or compost the rubbish.
If vegetable beds come empty they can be dug or rotovated in readiness for next year. Carry out or arrange servicing of garden equipment so you wont have irritating breakdowns next year when all the mechanics are rushed off their feet.
Then put your feet up and start making plans for the year ahead.
November 22nd 2015
As the weather forecasters warn us of impending snow and wintry conditions, I decided to wander round the garden looking at the plants which still have flowers on them. And there are many. Some hardy geraniums are on a third flowering, showing delicate blue or lilac splashes of colour among the fallen leaves. Dianthus are also having another go, both the Sweet William and the carnation types. Some cyclamen are still in flower, as are some of the geums, which have been showing since July. There are also quite a lot of lobelia flowers, where they were used as space fillers earlier in the year. The sedum spectabile still have their flower heads on, although I am not sure how much flower is left, but there is still colour, and on sunny days insects still visit them.
Moving further round the garden, the potato vine has masses of flowers, and there are a few honeysuckles still in bloom. The wind stripped three late roses last week, but colour is plentifully provided by the ever willing polyanthus, many of which we lifted and divided this year. Many of the shrubs which were showing for a second time, have now given up, but one weigela is still bravely sporting red blooms. A winter flowering viburnum is showing well, with lovely scented blossom. And the pampas grass plumes are spectacular at this time of year.
There are still flowers on four hydrangeas, and several heathers are in their prime. Some of the annual bedding plants have not given up the struggle yet, antirrhinum, malope and calendula type marigolds are still pretending that it is summer. However, I expect them all to realise this coming week that it is time to go.
We even had a very late showing by some cowslips, normally a spring flowering plant, but I think quite a few plants are being confused by our changing weather patterns.
October 25th 2015
I have just looked back to what I wrote this time last year, and conditions are amazingly similar. We were in the middle of a warm but damp autumn, with lots of leaves still on the trees. Likewise this year; although there is a lot of leaf clearing to do, there is still a significant covering of green leaves in the trees. Last year we were waiting for a dry spell so we could complete the last cut of the grass. This year, the lawns have had their last cut, but the meadow still needs a final cut and collect of fallen grass.
We are still collecting strawberries from the raised beds, although the fruit does not have a great deal of flavour, and they are not very long lasting. This is probably because the ripening is not being aided by much sunshine. The apples are falling faster that we can cope. We are expecting visitors next week with two children, so we shall probable put them to work collecting the windfalls in a wheel barrow, and take them to the pigs next door. As these children are town dwelling, they will probable enjoy to see the animals, sheep, pigs and cows as well as chicks and geese. We also have the offer from another neighbour of a riding lesson for them if they want, so we shall be fully occupied.
I have made some mint jelly this week, but the apples are not very juicy, so the yield is quite low. I shall have to make at least one more batch to keep up with demand, and even then I am not making much of a dent in the apple crop. We intend to make apple juice, but so far have not managed to make time for the task. Must make the effort next wek, after our visitors have departed.
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.
June 18th 2017
The past two days have been really hot, with temperatures in the high twenties. This is wonderful for vegetables and flowering plants, and the recently protected redcurrants are ripening nicely. We should be able to enjoy home made redcurrant jelly at Christmas this year. Usually the birds manage to get in to them, but a concerted effort this year has resulted in a crop for us. Likewise, netting has been put over a morello cherry tree, which is fruiting for the first time. Not a lot, but definitely not for the birds.
With the weather being so warm, and with very little wind, our garden is suffused with the perfume of Philadelphus We like to sit under the shade of the willow tree when it is too hot to work, and we have been surrounded by this scent.
We have had some of the planned tree work done, and it has opened up some areas, and let more light into others. The area beside the pond, where ferns and hostas have been planted, is shaded by a number of mature oak trees. The largest one had a long branch which over the years has been drooping lower and lower, making the area very dark, and impeding passage through the walkway. As half of this branch was dead, we decided that it would improve both the area and the appearance of the tree if the entire branch was removed. So it was cut down, and now the hostas and ferns have more light, while still being shaded from the brightest summer sun. Two large leaved plants planted there last year, a rogersia and a reum, will both benefit from the slightly higher light levels.
As all the rhododendrons have finished flowering, we have been dead heading them, hopefully to encourage flowers next year. Only two of the rhodos are mature, so this is not as arduous as it sounds, and we feel that the shrubs do benefit from the removal of the dead flower heads, which are trying to make seeds. Many of the early flowering shrubs, which have finished flowering now, are being trimmed lightly to retain pleasing shapes. This pruning must be done as soon as flowering has finished, as next years flowers will appear on wood grown this year.
The vegetable garden is developing well, and salads are enhanced with carrot thinnings. I recently saw a recipe for a green pesto made using the tops of carrots, and as I prefer not to throw anything away if possible, this is one recipe I plan to use
May 21st 2017
What a wonderful time of year this is. Each and every time we venture out into the garden, there are new treasures to enjoy. Our conversations are liberally sprinkled with comment such as "Did you see" or "Have you noticed". It is such a pleasure to see former plans coming to life. The reworked tunnel beds are filling out nicely now, with bedding plants filling any spaces among the perennials. The meadow is also looking good, with many flowering grasses raising their heads above the lower plants.
In the orchard, there are many signs that this year could be a bumper year. Lots of pears have set, but we will have to see how many are left for us. Likewise the plums, which this year have not been subjected to a late frost during blossom time; if all the small plumlets mature, there will be broken branches. Sadly, half our medlar tree has died and needs cutting out. We do not enjoy the fruit, but the tree was such a lovely shape, and the blossom, which is just emerging, is most attractive.
Similarly, about a third of our cherry tree has also died. We wonder if the extreme wet of last year had a detrimental effect on them. However, if we reduce the height of the surviving cherry limbs, we might be able to net the tree, and save some of the fruit from the permanently hungry pigeons, which eat them as soon as they are set, not waiting for ripeness.
Work on the jungle area has stopped at present for two main reasons. Firstly, we have plenty to do elsewhere in the garden, especially in the long border, where the first third requires major weeding, and the last third which still requires to be planted with Camellias and Azaleas. Secondly, the fence which surrounded the former hen run needs to be cleared. However, at the moment it is offering support to an ancient apple tree which produces lovely tasty apples. We have arranged for a tree expert to come and do some strategic trimming of several trees, and he has plans for this apple tree which involve creating supports for the lower branches. Until these supports are in place, we cannot remove the fence. At least, that is our current excuse
April 5th 2015
As I write this, the sun is shining and very warm, the temperatures are in double figures, and birds are singing their hearts out. The dawn chorus starts at about 5 oclock, and is really tuning up now. Our nesting boxes are being seriously investigated by sparrows, and the cobwebs around the windows and fascia boards are being collected by long tailed tits for their nests. This has to be one of the best times of the year.
Daffodils are in full bloom, as are the forsythia bushes. Flower buds on the chaenomeles are beginning to break open, and many of the shrubs leaf buds are fattening up nicely.
In the shade beds, the pulmonaria and geranium planted last year are already spreading and flowering. It would seem that conditions are ideal for them. Last year also I planted a bronze euphorbia, and that is beginning to show signs of happy growth. Another plant which seems very happy in our garden is Sweet Woodruff, a low growing white flowered plant which loves shady places, and grows happily on banks or at the foot of trees. We have a couple of clumps planted in a raised bed under forsythia and cornus shrubs. It has grown slowly and steadily for several years, but this year it is showing a huge increase, with little plantlets spreading out in all directions. I plan to use this as a nursery bed, and take some of the plantlets for other places where ground cover is required.
As the weather warms up, more and more jobs become urgent. The area under the medlar tree is now desperate for cleaning out, although the ground is still seriously waterlogged. However, if I do not get it done soon, the brambles will start growing strongly again, and we will lose the work already done. I have finished edging the shade beds, but again the ground is so wet that the grass paths are in danger of becoming mud tracks. This is a problem I worry about every year, and every year things do improve, so no doubt drier weather is on the way.
March 29th 2015
So now the clocks have changed, and we have all had to spring forward. Every day brings more and more signs of new growth. The forsythia is looking really good. When we first planted it the thirty foot high conifer hedge was still in place, and the forsythia was struggling for light, but since the removal of the hedge it has gone from strength to strength. We still have a lot of work to do on the apple and pear trees, which have grown into very strange shapes as a result of their search for light. Consequently, there are many crossed limbs and a lot of weak branches which require some TLC. These trees have enjoyed the last two years with plenty of light, and now I feel that they are ready for some major surgery. I plan to make the operation last about three years, doing one third of each tree each year. Time will tell whether that is the right thing to do or not.
The very overgrown herb bed is being given a make-over, and several of the larger shrub herbs are being relocated to act as underplanting around three new Silver birch trees, which are being put in one of the shade beds, with grass paths round all sides, so if the mint, for example, becomes too enthusiastic, it will be controlled by the mower. It should make for a fragrant area.
A large piece of garden ephemera has been created and positioned; using seasoned timber, a large square frame has been made, with holes drilled along all four sides. White rope has been threaded through, making a moon gate, which we have placed in front of the viburnum plicatum to make a frame ready for when it shows off its white flowers later in the year. We just need now to convince our grandson that it is not a football goal!
March 15th 2015
The jobs are really piling up now. There is still an amount of twig and branch collecting to be done, as the oaks and the willows seem to shed bits as soon as even a gentle wind blows. Some of the dead oak limbs have been seriously attacked by woodpeckers, which makes them very fragile, and liable to fall. I think the squirrels are the culprits in the willow, biting off tender young shoots to make their dreys.
The snowdrops are going over now, so this is the best time to lift, divide and relocate them. Our soil seems to be very suitable for snowdrops, as they bloom brilliantly, and increase rapidly. I have started to write a list of jobs to do later as I notice them now. For example, a clump of lovely purple crocuses needs dividing, and I think they will look super planted among our black ornamental grasses. The late afternoon sun highlights the grasses, and the crocuses will glow in the sunlight. Also, we have an area where cyclamen are naturalising and spreading. One new patch has moved into the path of the mower, so I shall move it somewhere else.
I have a number of new Penstemons to plant in the tunnel bed with the other, already established plants. This probably needs doing now, to give the plants a chance to settle in before the growth season starts in earnest. This is such a lovely time of year, with so much to look forward to.
I am still looking at winter colour in the garden. The most evident winter flowering bulb is the snowdrop. Ours are already showing white, and some years they can be visible before Christmas. Late January, through February to March is the best time for these early harbingers of cheer. There are many different varieties, both single and double, and different heights as well. Some are even scented. The best way to create a natural looking drift is to throw a handful of the bulbs across the area where you want them to grow, then plant them exactly where they land. However, the most successful method is to plant then in the green, that is while they still have leaves on the bulbs, so they have a chance to settle in to their new home before dying back.
Another really cheerful winter flower is the Winter Aconite, with its bright yellow flowers showing in late January into February. These were originally woodland plants, so they do really well in humus rich soil beneath deciduous trees. They are very hardy and tolerant, and like snowdrops, are best planted out in the green. However, if you want lots, the ideal is to buy corms. These are small, round, dry-looking objects, which can be tricky to grow. These plants do not like to dry out, so keep a watch on them, with water being offered if necessary.
Cyclamen also flower during the winter months. The pinkish flowers of Cyclamen Coum emerge before the leaves, which form a clump of dark green, arrow shaped leaves marbled with silver veins. As with snowdrops and aconites, cyclamen coum grow well in moist shade beneath trees. Partnered with hardy ferns, they make a stunning winter display.
However, there are many other winter flowering plants which are not bulbs. Heathers come in all shades and flowering seasons. So we have colour all year round. Some even have coloured leaves, which increases the show. Hellebores also cover a wide range of varieties. The Helleborus, or Christmas Rose, flowers from December to March, bringing interest during the quieter months in the garden.
November 20th 2016
Many creatures will be preparing to hibernate by now, and we can help in our garden even if we only have a very small plot. A hedgehog shelter can easily be made by leaning an old board against a wall, fence or log, and cover it with leaves or soil. The resulting tunnel will provide a dry and safe shelter for hedgehogs. If you put dry straw or leaves near the entrance they can make a cosy nest.
An insect hotel can easily be made, using a length of pipe or a wooden box, filled with tubes such as bamboo, twigs and sticks, creating cavities of various sizes, suitable for insects of various sizes.
A pile of logs or wood in a shady corner of the garden will provide shelter for many creatures. Toads, frogs and slow worms will love this for over-wintering and sheltering during hot weather. Also, some insect larvae will feed on the rotting wood, so you would be providing a larder for insect eaters. Hedgehogs also might decide to hibernate in a bonfire heap, so do check carefully before lighting your fire.
Creatures which do not hibernate may well require help at this time of year. A bird feeding station, kept well supplied with a range of suitable foodstuff, will soon be the centre of attention, and you may well be surprised how many different species of birds your garden can support. Ivy can also be a valuable food source, as it flowers and sets seeds at times when other plants do not. The flowers will last well into autumn, providing valuable nectar for late flying butterflies, moths and hoverflies, while the waxy leaves provide shelter for many insects and birds.
The best message for you to help all these creatures is not to tidy up too well, leave areas undisturbed where possible, sit back and watch the outcome.
March 8th 2015
This past week has really convinced us that spring is well on the way. Monday and Tuesday we spent in the Lancashire, with blizzards and high winds to contend with. However, those conditions quickly passed, and fluffy white clouds scudded rapidly across the skies. On our return we noted ever more signs of life in the garden. Hellebores are flowering strongly, crocus flowers are brightening a dark spot, and many buds are beginning to break open. Our White Willow tree has buds which look silver against a blue sky, which was on the menu all day yesterday and part of today as well. I have been tidying up the shade beds which, being under trees, collect a vast quantity of leaf and fallen timber. Where the plants are herbaceous I allow the leaves to lie, but they have to be removed from the perennials and shrubs, as well as from the grass walks. The pulmonaria I planted last year are already showing signs of flower buds.
It is very gratifying that the beds are mostly cleaned of the nettles and brambles which were the majority of the original plants. Encouraged by this success, I have today been cleaning out another area, where Rose of Sharon has become somewhat straggly, and suckers from either wild damsons or similar have colonised the patch. If I can deal with the suckers, I thought this would be an ideal spot for a small collection of silver birch, underplanted with the hypericum and maybe some bergenia as well as spring bulbs. Daffodils are already in the bed, and I have a large area of bluebells which require dividing, so they can be moved later in the year.
December 28th 2014
This year seems to be going out like the proverbial lion! Strong winds have been busy pruning the old branches from our oak, poplar and ash trees. The grandchildrens swing set had a narrow miss when a branch landed nearby, but the damage would probably have been slight even if there had been a direct hit, as the wood is quite rotten, after the attentions of woodpeckers. The open part of our garden is still waterlogged after all the rain during the middle part of December. However, the raised beds are pleasingly high and dry. They have produced a bumper crop of spinach and beetroot, but sadly the pigeons also like spinach, so there is not a lot left now. We shall have to invest in some bird scarers. They are also partial to our cherries even before they ripen, so we are often left with stones on stalks, all the flesh eaten off!
Last night brought the sharpest frosts so far this winter, but only a couple of degrees below, and fortunately none of the snow being experienced by other parts of the country. However, I shall be bringing in my pots from the patio for the next few nights, forecast to be very cold.
Christmas brought us a fig tree, and the promise of a Kiwi tree and some penstemons. Spring is already being anticipated. It will no be long now till the first snowdrops start showing through. I am eagerly awaiting the new season
December 14th 2014
Significant storms have brought disruption to several parts of UK, but yet again we seem to have escaped the worst. We have had some considerable rainfall, leaving standing water in many parts of the garden and surrounding countryside, but the very strong winds and very low temperatures have passed us by.
A couple of weeks ago I planted a container with spring flowering bulbs, and the instructions said that they could be safely left outside over winter, unless the weather became extremely cold. I have to admit that I might need to pt it into the greenhouse, simply to protect it from our squirrels. This morning I found that it had been excavated, and three of the bulbs were sitting on the surface of the pot. I have now covered the pot with a sheet of wire mesh, topped with a restraining house brick. If that is not sufficient protection, I shall bring it in.
Our granddaughter made a birdseed pudding at school recently, so I am now keeping up with feeding the wild birds, so I can hang the pudding out at Christmas when the granddaughter can watch the birds feeding from it. I find that it can take a week or so for the small birds to find the regular source of winter food, but I was pleased to notice seven or eight at a time today, flying down to grab a morsel, then returning into the shelter and safety of the nearby juniper bushes. I clad the table with wire mesh last year, to try to keep the squirrels off, but so far they have overcome my efforts. I shall have to make the entrance smaller. Sadly, this then prevents blackbirds and doves from entering. So I have to scatter some seed on the ground, which pleases the pheasants and moorhens. Hey Ho. They are probably all hungry.
November 2nd 2014
So it was officially the warmest Halloween on record, and this must be the first time we have had to cut the grass in November. The weather is so mild that the grass is growing fast and fresh still. I have been tidying up the edges of the borders, having recently invested in an edging tool and edging shears. They make the task so much easier than before. I have also been clipping some of the hedges, where the previous owner here planted lots of spiraea along the boundary. Sadly they have been somewhat neglected, and are now quite leggy, with most of the flowers on the top of tall twiggy stems. However, they are very hardy, so I am cutting some right down, some to about 50cm high, and some to about 90cm. That way I anticipate a variety of flowering heights next year. Each year I shall completely cut down about a third, to allow new growth from the base.
Earlier in the year we bought some bulbs, so they must be put out in the garden this week, before the cold weather sets in. The battle with fallen leaves is in full swing now, with the poplars and ash having shed nearly all their leaves, while the oaks and willows are still hanging on to theirs. Hopefully we can collect most before they either get too wet and soggy, or before they are buried under snow!
June 1st 2014
So Chelsea has been and gone, and we would all be smitten with gardening fever, if it werent for the vagaries of the British weather. Almost non-stop rain since part way through the Chelsea week, and there is so much standing water in our garden that we cannot get out into the beds without causing damage. I transferred a heavy bag of sharp sand using the wheel barrow, and left long muddy tracks across the grass. Not ideal!
However, the images and impressions from the show will last for quite a long while. This year I felt was different from other years, in that many of the show gardens had very similar planting, incorporating grasses, cow parsley and other indigenous plants. There was a great deal of green, and other restful colours, especially in the memorial gardens. I particularly liked the Help for Heroes Hope on the Horizon garden, which is being transferred in its entirety to a site where wounded soldiers are being cared for, and will be able to benefit from the peace and tranquillity of the garden as part of their recovery programme. Its designer, Matthew Keightley, incorporates the various senses, having paths edged with herbs, so when visitor brush along, the aromas will be released, the plants demonstrate different shapes such as the tall spires of foxgloves, low clumps of geraniums, cubes of box, and the waving fronds of many grasses. I feel that this was a truly worthy winner of the Peoples Choice Award for 2014.
June 22nd 2014
Last week we went to Birmingham with two visits planned. On the Wednesday we visited the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which we have been wanting to visit for many years, while our daughter was studying at Birmingham University, but somehow it never happened. There is an impressive range of glass houses, at least part of which is a Grade 1 Listed Building. A variety of climatic regions are covered, with plants from all over the world.
Outside there are lots of different areas to visit, as you leave the glass houses you find yourself on a long terrace, named The Loudon Terrace after John Claudius Loudon, who planned the gardens in 1830. When we visited there was a Leptospermum shrub about twelve feet tall, absolutely covered with small white flowers and bees. It was truly spectacular. There is a vast area of sloping lawn which was being used freely by families; at one edge is a gazebo, further down is a Victorian bandstand surrounded by decorative planting, and further still is a large Aviary surrounded by rose beds.
Many paths lead round and from the lawns into other areas, each with its own charms and planting. Within the building complex is a Japanese garden which is not very inspiring, but beyond it is a National Bonsai collection, with some truly excellent examples of this art form of gardening. This display was opened in 1993, and is changed regularly. Well worth a visit even if Bonsai is not your cup of tea.
February 8nd 2014
More ideas to come out of our visit to Cambridge involve the shade beds under the conifers and weeping willow tree. The Botanical garden in Cambridge has a woodland area, which we studied quite closely to see what plants they put in the deepest shade. Apart from bulbs, the majority of the ground cover plants were either Pulmonaria or Geranium, with Bergenia and ivies intermingling. Pulmonaria is said to be a good plant for deep shade, as the flowers are mostly showing during Spring, before the tree leaves fill out, so our bed which I plan to prepare this spring should be a good prospect for this plant. I like the fact that while it self propagates quite freely, it is still a quite tidy neat plant, not given to flopping everywhere. However, it seems that it is a tricky plant to grow from seed; I cannot find any of the normal suppliers stocking seeds.
Our garden is totally waterlogged at the moment, with unscheduled ponds cropping up all over. Even the parts of garden under trees are very wet, as the clay soil doesnt drain through easily. Where we have had heavy traffic compressing the subsoil, the puddles are extra long lasting. Still, they will disappear eventually. Some of the birds are displaying already, a sure sign that they believe that spring is not too far away.
Last week we went to Cambridge University Botanical Gardens, where there is a Winter Garden, specifically planted to look and small good during these lean months. It is surprising just how many shrubs are flowering and smelling at present. The Hamamelis Jalena is spreading its powerful scen over the winter garden, and the winter box, sarcococca confusa is a very small flowered shrub which has a really powerful scent, a plant smelled long before seen.
Throughout the garden snowdrops are flowering, the many different varieties varying in size, both of leaf and flower. Another strongly flowering bulb is the cheerful winter aconite, or eranthis, meaning spring flower. These were showing bright yellow among the grass, and alongside the snowdrops they made a wonderful promise of spring.
One effect we really liked and fully intend to copy was low evergreen shrubs such as euonymus fortunii silver queen interplanted with the spectacular red stemmed dogwood, cornus alba sibirica. The cornus shows its colour particularly well if kept cut back regularly, as the best colour is on the newest growth, so this arrangement will be kept manageable in height. We have some of this cornus at the back of a shrub area, which we leave untrimmed, so we can see the colour on the top of the plant over the rest of the bed. We plan also to plant cornus among our hebe red edge, enhancing the red theme. The downside of visiting wonderful garden is that we come back with lots of new work to do! But then, that's what we enjoy.
This week the strong winds have been a major factor. We have a number of mature oak trees, and these shed quantities of leaf, twig and branch debris when the wind is as strong as it has been this week. The grandchildren have a trampoline which is sited under one of these trees, ideal in summer when welcome shade is cast, but at this time of year the safety net makes a trap for lots of the trees unwanted bits, and it is a major job cleaning out all the litter. It gets put onto the compost heap eventually, but is a chore beforehand. Also the leaves and smaller twigs become entangled in the plants in the beds alongside the drive. Last week I discovered a flowering cyclamen which had become swamped by oak twigs.
A couple of conifer trees are also shedding; needles which can be collected by the lawn mower, and which create a lovely soft, natural material for the paths which meander through the trees.
The colours are steadily changing now, with Horse Chestnut trees looking glorious, and the other trees gradually following suit. Hedge cutting is again taking place along the lanes, as there are no nesting birds to disturb. Harvesting continues to be a major task, and it looks to be a truly bumper year for apples. Lots to do, and still reasonable temperatures!
My late mother loved the sight and scent of indoor flowering hyacinths. She used to plant up several bowls, and she always had one for us. This is the first Christmas she has not been here with us, and I am sad to report that I completely forgot about this wonderful addition to our Christmas celebrations. By now it is too late to do it myself; if I want some I will have to buy them ready to flower from a garden centre or the like. However, I have put it into my diary for next year to plant some up ready for a Christmas display. To get indoor flowers, the bulbs have to be subjected to a forcing process. The best results come from heat-treated bulbs, which have already been prepared for the forcing system. The best results are obtained by planting three bulbs of the same colour in a bowl of bulb fibre, leaving the tips proud of the top of the fibre. Moisten the compost, and place the pots in a dark, cool place for about ten weeks, which will allow the flower buds to develop. When he growth is about 2 inches high, bring the pots out into the light and warmth. You should be rewarded a couple of weeks later with beautiful colour and perfume which will fill the room you place the bowl in. Maybe position it in your hallway, to crate a wonderful welcome to your seasonal visitors. I always plant the spent, exhausted bulbs in a quiet spot under the trees. There is no guarantee that they will survive, having been specially bred for a single show, but I have quite a few which over the years have reverted to bluebell-like flowers. I hate to throw away any plant which has tried so hard for me