Fresh as a Daisy

The ground in the plot is covered with fleece to help warm it up after the Winter.  This means it will be ready to receive seeds, bulbs and tubers sooner, into a less wet and cold medium, and that I can then start to force the first flowers through earlier.

The hyacinths which were planted in November time and were forced, start to flush in January / February, along with snowdrops in the garden outside. 

Then in March other spring bulbs start to appear such as Anemones, Grape Hyacinth, and Narcissi and Daffodils.

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I think spring bulbs look very pretty on their own in a clay pot, maybe with a sprinkling of moss, and accompaniment of stray grass leaves.  Like this you will get a longer display and a little of the Spring indoors on your mantlepiece! 

Naturalising species tulips and dwarf Daffodil Rip Van Winkle in the front lawn.

Emerging from the dark

As I write on 9th February 2015 I am sitting looking out at a bright blue sky lit by lots of brilliant sunshine.  The light seems so strong because I suppose we've not had these kind of days through the winter - though it has been on the whole mild with only two days of real snowfall.

I was tramping about with frozen toes in my wellies reciting TS Eliot and 'a cold coming we had of it, just the worst time of year for a journey'... and John Donne's 'it is the earth's deep midnight, and the day's'... and almost as fast as we went into the dark, it seems we are now already emerging to the wonderful smells and sounds of spring! (I am very happy about it).

And then it is all about the bulbs I planted in October / November; and the Hellebores and Snowdrops' welcome appearances:

I'm pleased that all the onions and shallots I invested in for an early start in 2015, last year, have also survived the winter in my home made cold frame (!)

I also took the opportunity to use this time when the plot was (mostly) empty to create some more raised beds.

Now that I have run out of wood I'm going to have to make the last box and save up until next Winter, unless I find some more planks at the dump (my husband won't be pleased!)

First Frost & Last Flowers of the Season

To make 6th November before the first of the frost finally hit, seems quite a good run to me.  It is now quite cold out and a balmy 14 degrees inside the house, as we hold out against putting on the central heating, just persevering with our wood burning stove for warmth.  Friends and neighbours are keeping us stocked with free wood which is helping.

Now is the moment I start outside and realise it is too late to have all those last Dahlias, Zinnias, Nastursiums which we have been so enjoying picking and bringing indoors.  They brought the warm colours of Autumn into the house and made us feel the warmth of the countries from where they originate.  This was a couple of weeks ago at lunch:

Now I am turning my attention to plans for next year's display and taking inspiration from these bright colours.  I do love Sarah Raven's catalogues which are full of these hot, clashing combinations.  These are my current plans for tulip combinations:

I will remember to re-post pictures of how they all turn out against these as a comparison next year.

Continued potterings on the Potager

Yesterday we finally had some rain and I had to pretend I was upset about walking to work in my Wellies (I’d wear them round the house if my husband would let me!)  The garden needs it as it has been quite dry; the leeks and celeriac are particularly deserving, and the Zinnias protest loudly if they don’t get enough rain.  I also think the Dahlias flower better after a refreshing drink.

7am The soft rain and mist of Autumn with added delight

7am The soft rain and mist of Autumn with added delight

So winter is coming and the mornings have been sharply cold...  I am not sure if this is a bit more advanced than last year. 

But I have been busy nonetheless with my latest project to try and resolve one of my main problems in the potager – gardening on a slope.  Not only does this mean there is an inevitable frost-pocket at the bottom, but the water just runs away from the plants in an alarmingly literal manner!  So I’ve decided to plop for raised beds and have been gleefully power-sawing up bits of wood into planks and, so far, I have one in situ.

This is the most important bed:  for the Asparagus.  They were not happy this year as I decided to try and make the most of my small space but overplanting them with Sprouts!! Yes it was a disaster.  A bit like putting a Vogue catwalk model with a bit of rough from the bus stop.  Vogue was distressed by the lack of water and disrupted by BitofRough’s deeply rooting sprouty ways. 

To move on from such metaphors, I put in 2 bags of horticultural sand, 2 bags of horticultural grit, 2 bags of well rotted horse manure, and still it is not satisfactorarily level with the top!  The Vogue of the plant world, (ie extremely delicate and fussy) has been ensconced and we’ll just have to wait and see now if she puts her feet down or gives up.

I like the effect of the raised bed, it seems quite chic and well-ordered which appeals to my Germanic roots I suppose.  But I am worried I’ll be even more limited than before in terms of usable space.

In other, completely unrelated, news, may I present the year's first leek:

An Autumnal August

The weather is changing again and those who find themselves drawn outdoors will have noticed the cold mornings and evenings.  There is the sweet smell of the soil after heavy rain; the aroma of rotting apples bumping the lawn as they fall from the tree; the compost heap groaning with grass cuttings, weeds, spent plants; the waning afternoon sunshine trapped in the greenhouse, hovering just long enough to ripen the last tomatoes and aubergines.......

At this time of year I become wistful for the busy colourful months of May and June when the garden was in full flower.  I do love Autumn, (even when it makes an early appearance) but henceforth I'm going to try and gather inspiration for these months late July, August and into September, to try and add plants to the garden which will still be flowering now.  There's no need for it to all be over this early!

 

At this time of year I always have to go away and read Louis Macneice's poem 'Autumn Journal' written in 1939, for some of his wonderful lines:

'Close and slow, summer is ending in Hampshire,
Ebbing away down ramps of shaven lawn where close-clipped yew
Insulates the lives of retired generals and admirals
And the spyglasses hung in the hall and the prayer- books ready in the pew
And August going out to the tin trumpets of nasturtiums
And the sunflowers' Salvation Army blare of brass
And the spinster sitting in a deck-chair picking up stitches
Not raising her eyes to the noise of the 'planes that pass
Northward from Lee-on-Solent. Macrocarpa and cypress
And roses on a rustic trellis and mulberry trees
And bacon and eggs in a silver dish for breakfast
And all the inherited assets of bodily ease
And all the inherited worries, rheumatism and taxes...'

 Wonderful, no?

This is what I'm reciting as I'm digging.

Delightful Dreamy Dahlias

It is that time of year again - the months which make all the sweat and tears, and cosseting, and mouse/frost-protection -worthwhile!  The dahlias are in flower!

I've known they were on their way, of course, for some time.  I set aside this sunny, free draining, sloping bed at the top of the potager for them, hoping to be rewarded for this consideration:

Clearly not the ideal situation for drying and storing Dahlia tubers over winter, but I had run out of sand and was heating the greenhouse for the duration.  I did lose a couple (RIP), but hoping to be much more organised this Autumn.

Budding up!

Papaver Orientale Miss Piggy is in bud!  I bought this plant last spring and was impressed with the size and quality of the product I received.  (Not like some companies where you get something tiny and wizened in a little pot or -worse- those little micro-propagated plugs which can be disappointing and, at best, very fiddly to handle!)  She will be a big (25cm diameter!) white fluffy flower, with ruffled edges and a black centre.  Just like a certain character's feather boa - I can't wait!!

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Clearly I  have to admit to being a sucker for a bit of temptation and Gardener's World did a feature the other week on Auriculas.  

To be honest this is not a fad for me, as I already have a collection of these gorgeous alpines - but I did take it as another opportunity to be inspired and go off and buy some more varieties!  I got these:

Bran, Starling & Country Park Red (pictures courtesy of Drointon Nurseries)

What no one mentioned on Gardener's World was THE SCENT by Jove!  Fantastic little jewel-like flowers - gently dusted with fine powder-down - with a tempting array of colours and the ability to encourage obsession and attempts at breeding.... yes... but they also have an over-poweringly beautiful perfume!!!  

I've been sleeping with a little yellow one by my bed since February - (not that Auriculas relish those kind of conditions, mind).  I've put him back outside now but there is nothing else like being wafted to sleep by Auricula perfume!

I bought my plants from this Yorkshire nursery whom I highly recommend: www.auricula-plants.co.uk 

My own humble Auricula Theatre, 20th April 2014

My own humble Auricula Theatre, 20th April 2014

Delight in Design

When we first moved into Our House (OH) I worked quickly and without much thought, to try and make a start on the garden.  I was driven to get things into soil by the onset of Winter 2012 (which, as you recall was one of the longest, wettest and coldest we’ve had in recent memory).  It is only as Summer lazily rolled around, and that I’ve stopped sowing and planting, (and, even, been overtaken by the weeding which needs doing); only now, that I’ve started to re/consider my first initial designs for the plans.

I grew up near to one of the most famous gardens in the world, Sissinghurst in Kent, and thought of Vita Sackville-West as having been an intriguing and inspiring figure since I first visited her home.  She was, of course, infamous in her own time and that, together with her charismatic column writings, is compelling reading for a young gardener.

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She is inextricably associated with the glamour of the monied classes, who could afford to waft around overseeing or implementing themselves the construction of fabulous designs and – the crucial thing – could afford to command LAND in the first place.    Of course I’m envious of the perceived luxury of such a life, and wistful to think of a time when there seems to have existed more available time than nowadays (perhaps because there were more people on hand to share the work).  I’m currently reading Agatha Christie’s Autobiography in which she evocatively describes a childhood surrounded by servants; dinner parties with 10 courses as the norm… and a vast garden and area of woodland…  Now what is glamorous, if not all that?

In my humble opinion Vita’s White Garden was one of the best parts of Sissinghurst, because it is so strongly evocative of its creator’s personality and intentions (still?).   It’s immersive, famous, – and romantic.  But the point is ever since I was 13, I’ve always wanted my own ‘Land’, and to design my own (almost) White Garden.  And now I have begun!

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The obvious place for this was the concrete courtyard directly behind the house.  But in June the large hybrid rose already long-established in the raised bed down one wall, bloomed blood red! and I was further hampered by large swathes of pink and red Valerian also in this raised bed.  I’ve always thought I hated Valerian, but standing in the summer half-light basking in the heat coming back off the walls, the warmth of this colour flooded everything and I decided it is wonderful stuff!  Good thing too, as it has self-seeded everywhere!  I could move it, or am considering creating a garden of two half sides; one of white; one of reds.  And the good news is there is a white Valerian!

Initially I didn’t want to consider a rose massacre but now I’m thinking of cutting the old boy hard back this winter and trying to move it too.  Everything in that bed needs taking to task, digging up, and dividing; the raised bed is so free draining that I know it would be beneficial to stick some good humus and fresh top soil too.  And I need to know if it is a concrete box, and has a bottom or if it drains into the ground.  So, while everything is gently beginning its slow wind-down towards Autumn, I’m getting planning.

The first job is to get some very nice guys Kevin and Dan to crack and dig out all the nasty concrete (see 'Renovations') so I can create another green canvas, and cut out flower beds.  I’ve already bought two heavy duty climbing roses from David Austin, which will get up a 3-storey house.  As the back of the house is almost half a storey beneath where ground level starts at the front of the house, there is a bigger area to cover here.  My critera were: in the pink spectrum (before White Garden dreams were grasped); repeat flowering, and capable of a lot of growth around 12ft.  David Austin’s man said there were very few options, and recommended Madame Caroline Testout and Cecile Brunner.  She did actually flower this first season, which was so nice to see (although I know I was naughty to let the bud set, as it should have been pulled off to encourage the rose to put all its energy into new roots and strong growth).

There is also a winter-flowering Jasmine (yellow ! again!) on this elevation of the house which I was persuaded not to yank out immediately only due to calls for clemency from my Grandparents and Husband who all pointed out the joy of having something to flower in the winter.  However, it may now have to meet that compost heap in the sky, not least because yellow does not tone with pink.  And now I’m also ‘going white’…

The second stage is to build a brick wall between the Garage and the Coal Shed, which will have a gate in it.  I had initially planted a Holly hedge, but some time in March / April our very good Neighbourhood Watch TeamJohn&Lynn told us they’d ‘seen off’ some men and a woman who were actually walking around our back yard, eyeing up scaffolding and ‘scrap metal.’  I didn’t like the idea that anyone could walk down from the road and down behind the house and into the garden.  It also makes it impossible to think of having chickens, or a dog or visiting children, running free.  So we’re having a Regulation Height Wall put up (after some very colourful quotes illustrating how much certain Builders dislike the art of bricklaying).  And I will place a trellis across the top just to cheekily create some extra height.

I’ve got two fruit trees which are poised to go into the ground; one is a Cherry, Stella which I bought on a whim from Homebase and which has not flowered and has oozed resin all spring and summer as though it’s mutely injured.  I don’t know why!  I haven’t come into contact with fruit trees before so I’ve got to read up.  It is in a massive pot and has put on a lot of growth and survived my attempts to keep it in check (I read you must prune Cherries during the growing season).  I am going to train it into a fan against the Garage wall, which catches much afternoon sunshine and is warm.  However as we face West, I’m hoping it won’t be too windy for Stella.  Time will tell.  The other fruit tree is very special to me.  I think of her as being an old lady as I’ve had her a long time, but she is only now reaching 1 metre in height:  she is a pomegranate my late Grandma grew from a seed!  And because I can’t get another one with these emotional associations I’m hesitant to put it outside.  But there is this great hot wall, on the back of the Coal Shed, which, beneath the rose which I’m planning, will be the perfect site.  It is draining away on the slope, so it won’t have to put up with any water logging (winter or any other time).  I am thinking of risking it, as once the wall is up it will be in a sheltered nook.