Planning for the future – a design challenge III

Back on November 26th 2016 I blogged about Planning for the future – a design challenge where I discussed the issues and some of you added your thoughts.

The main issue was we wanted a design to tidy up the space behind the wall and between the yew hedges but this is an area that gets very little sun and we wanted it to be relatively maintenance free.

Then on September 29th 2017 I blogged  Planning for the future – a design challenge II which described in detail what we planned to do.

17_09_27_7283Then at last work began.  The main reason for the delay was the lack of availability of the contractor we wanted to do the work.17_09_27_7282Removing any old turf, weeds etc to give a level bed. Note the soil was excellent quality and we now have a large heap waiting for use else where.17_09_27_728617_09_27_7287Then the design was very carefully marked out. Note the very large set square leaning against the hedge to assist this.17_09_28_7311The areas where there was to be bricks was then dug out and a thick weed membrane covered the whole site. Crushed quarry waste was then inserted to provide a base for the bricks. This may look complicated but it helps ensure no weeds come through in unwanted areas of the final construction.

The success of this build depended on getting all the angles correct. The little yellow box on the tripod to the right of the picture is a laser leveling tool. This was set to the slope of the lawn and thus all measurements could be taken from this laser as the bricks were laid.

A wooden template was used to get the angles correct and the course along the bricks straight. At the same time the height of the bricks were measured from the laser.17_10_05_732117_10_05_7323Metal edging was put around the lawn to give a sharp edge and gravel inserted.

17_10_05_7322The other areas between the gaps in the yew hedging was also paved in a similar way to create a unified design. The joints were pointed with a two part filler which produces a rock hard finish to prevent future weed growth.

At this stage the contractors had finished!17_11_23_745717_11_23_7458I had always planned to source the trees and plant them myself. First I prepared the planting holes digging out any rubbish and getting the soil levels right so that they could be covered with gravel. We decided to go with Sorbus ‘Autumn Spire‘ – narrow, upright small trees with excellent autumn colour once established. I wanted to find trees that were at least a metre high and these were supplied by Mail Order Trees18_01_29_8460On January 18th 2018 the trees were finally planted and the gravel spread out. You can also see that having removed all the rubbish and piled up soil from this area the bottom of the wall needed some attention.18_05_18_8684And on 18th May these were beginning to achieve our vision for the area. The bottom of the wall having been cleaned up and repointed.

The extra paved bits between the yew hedges really integrates the design.18_05_18_8686This photograph shows the final finish on the paving.18_06_10_905918_06_14_875518_06_22_9121And by 18th June the trees had already put on a significant amount of growth. They will need regular watering and some of the lawn needs some attention to establish good sharp edges.

The contractors were Ben and Sam whose company Stonetree I would recommend to anyone needing quality work.

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning July 7th Total 2018 to-date Average per week
20 482 18

It really has been too hot and dry to do much despite having been on holiday.

 

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Too much sun after Hoby Open Gardens

18_07_10_9123Have just been away for two weeks following Hoby Open Gardens and it has been hot; very hot for England at 32 centigrade! And we continue to have had no rain of any consequence since the middle of May. 18_07_10_9124We left a garden looking quite good but now it is crisp and dry. Our soil is a sandy loam and tends to dry out quickly but in an English climate this is usually not an issue..18_07_10_9125The main lawn was the walled kitchen garden for a large house next door and the interesting thing now is that wherever there were paths in the original kitchen garden the lawn drys out fastest as you can see in the above.18_06_14_8766The lawn on June 16th before the sun!

So rather than show pictures of dried up plants I thought I would go back to the open garden event.18_06_17_8771After a hectic week getting everything ready the weekend arrived and was a great success. Eleven gardens opened, included Glebe House, and in addition we provided lunches, tombolas, an art exhibition, plant stalls,a white elephant stall (ie a junk stall), a Pimms bar and lets not forget the cream teas. Our garden was one of the venues for cream teas and after Diane had made 250 scones we made almost £900 on the teas alone. Overall the money is still being counted but it looks like we have made almost £7500 which, for a village of just 100 houses, is excellent.  The money is going to do some improvements in our 13th century village church.18_06_22_9093The roses were stunning with Rosa Rambling Rector covering the old apple tree and Rosa Bobby James on the right just coming into flower. Probably one of the best comments was when one of the visitors said she always came into our garden to see the rose ‘Rampant Rector’!

Here are some of the roses in the garden:

18_06_22_9119The main pond had recovered from when it emptied itself  and the water stayed crystal clear.18_06_20_9087and there were no snakes to be seen here either.

18_06_22_9118We only have one hanging basket and luckily it is on automatic watering so it just as good now.

The dahlias were a bit disappointing as the slow spring had held back the flowers. The only flowering dahlias were Dahlia Arabian Night and Dahlia David Howard. Now they are all struggling due to lack of rain.18_06_22_911018_06_22_9109The Delphinium Black Knight and Rosa ‘Iceberg’ made a great show.18_06_22_9113This shrub always provides interest. It is Carpenteria californica with Rosa ‘Irene Watts’ in the foreground. Carpenteria californica is quite a rare plant in English gardens and it needs a sheltered position as it is rather tender.18_06_22_9105June is peak season for poppies which self seed throughout the garden.

We do not have a huge vegetable plot. However, for open gardens even the vegetable plot needs to be weed free.

Elsewhere there were plenty of flowers  to see.

18_06_22_9111As you can see the hedges had not been cut. Actually we ran out of time, however, the current thinking is that it is better to cut box hedging a little later to help prevent blight.

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning June 30th Total 2018 to-date Average per week
0 462 18

Holiday week so no gardening.

 

Almost ready for open day!

Make no mistake, opening your garden is hard work. Just weeding and planting is hard enough but then there are a multitude of other jobs that need to be done.  We have 250 scones in the freezer waiting to become cream teas, there is an art exhibition to be put up, lunches to be prepared, advertising to be done, garden chairs and tables to be put up etc etc etc. Then just when you think you have got there a storm called Hector tries to rearrange the garden!

Anyway just a couple of hours to go before the first visitors start to arrive so I am posting some of views in the garden (in case you cannot get here!). I will do a more detailed walk around when I have a spare minute.18_06_14_8764We do enlist friends to help and Chris pointed out that the tree looks like a chicken!chicken

And now for the rest of the garden

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2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning June 9th Total 2018 to-date Average per week
75 452 20

Should be able to have a day off now!

 

Unexpected garden watering!

The last week has been very busy preparing for our open garden event in one week. You can imagine my surprise and shock when I came out of the house to hear a very strange sound coming from our large pond. On close inspection I discovered that the hose to the water fall and rill had separated and the pond had emptied overnight on to the garden.18_06_08_8746Fortunately I had put the pump on a concrete block so that the pump had not totally drained the pond and the fish were safe.18_06_08_8747Exactly where all this water went I have no idea but I will not need to water this part of the garden for some time. To give you an idea of the amount of water I have been refilling it with a garden hose turned full on. I estimate it will take up to sixteen hours to replenish the water.17_05_23_5810So just one more thing to sort out for our open day!

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning June 2nd Total 2018 to-date Average per week
53 377 17

 

End of the Month View – May 2018

18_05_31_8669The weather this spring has meant everything is a bit late. Further more once things came out they seem to go over very quickly. This time last month the tulips were bursting out but now they have all gone. However, they looked fantastic for a couple of weeks. Likewise the alliums seem to be going over quickly and now at the end of May the roses are looking great. Interestingly the above average rain we have had has resulted in many of the flowing shrubs putting on great displays and the lawn has never looked greener.To the left of the pond the main rose is Rosa ‘Shot Silk’. It does not repeat well but is usually the first rose in the main part of the garden to flower. 18_05_31_8677The rose that normally has the accolade of being first is Rosa ‘Madame Gregoire Staechlin’ which is also out at this moment. Again not a repeat flower but gorgeous never the less.18_05_31_8662To the right of the pond is Rosa ‘Alister Stella Grey’ and Rosa ‘Crown Princess Margareta’Rosa ‘Alister Stella Grey’ is a fantastic rose, flowering through the summer into Autumn Rosa ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ has the most beautiful peach coloured flowers.18_05_31_8671Else where next the the big pond is another beauty, Rosa ‘Fantan Latour’.18_05_31_8672Not really a climber but no one told it! It had covered the whole of this wall although the flowers tended to be near the top so we cut it back very hard to just above the Choisya ternata and it has returned a great display.18_05_31_8659To the right of the main garden behind the urn is another favorite,  Rosa ‘Alchemist’. Well named as the flowers start of gold a slowly change to cream.18_05_31_8670Another view towards Rosa ‘Alchemist’ with Aruncus dioicus is the middle ground.18_05_31_8678Not all the roses are climbers. Until last year we thought these were  Rosa ‘Irene Watts’ and as a result of my blog there was an extensive conversation which resulted in us finding out that they are in fact Rosa Pink Gruss an Aachen. Apparently many rose nurseries have been incorrectly supplying Rosa Pink Gruss an Aachen as Rosa ‘Irene Watts’. What ever the name they are great roses.18_05_31_8679Near by by the back door we planted Lonicera periclymenum ‘Scentsation’ to give off a scent as we step out of the house. It is great to see it coming into its own.

 

In two weeks the garden is open to the public. See advert in the side bar. There is still lots to do including getting many dahlias planted.

 

The wall across the lawn has been looking good and is just about ready. Maybe a final weed is required.18_05_31_8660I am sure Allium Christophii are planning to take over this part of the garden!18_05_18_8656Two different globe Alliums always put on a good show under the pleached lime hedge. However, you can see the effect of the winter on the lavender where several plants have died! In addition to these losses we have also lost some salvias and a Euphorbia ‘Mellifera’.18_05_31_8665The border to the right with the  Allium Christophii  and some very large Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’.18_05_31_8661Looking closer you can see Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ starting to flower.18_05_31_8676The Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ looking great climbing into Rosa ‘Sombreuil’18_05_31_8667The border to the left of the main lawn was planted up with grasses etc last year and is beginning to develop although we need to do plenty of weeding here.18_05_31_8668On the edge of this bed Geranium ‘Patricia’ and Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ provide a great mix of colour.

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning May 26th Total 2018 to-date Average per week
35 324 15

Do have a look at Helen The Patient Gardener’s blog where you fill find links to other gardens at the end of April. Thank you to Helen for hosting this meme.

The luckiest toad in the garden

At last the last few days we have seen the sun with temperatures up to 28c which is very hot for England at the beginning of May. Yesterday I had noticed a very large toad in our main pond. The sides are steep and I was afraid that it could not get out so I moved it to our more natural pond which has sloping sides so that animals can get in and out easily. 17_04_25_5373As I mentioned last week, this pond is currently full of tadpoles and it seemed an ideal home for the toad.18_04_22_8620

This morning we were showing some friend around the garden and they were fascinated with the number of tadpoles. I mentioned that as it was so warm the grass snakes might come out to feed on the tadpoles. As I said that I noticed the familiar tail of a grass snake.18_05_08_8651But to my surprise the large toad was being swallowed whole even though the size of the toad was about three times the circumference of the snake. After a few minutes the snake took fright and slid into the pond with the toad still in its mouth.18_05_08_8652

Not a good photo as things were moving quickly however you can see the snake’s mouth and the toad by the reeds on the right with the snake’s body curving to the left in the water.

Again the snake was frightened and took off into the undergrowth without the toad. Amazingly the toad was OK apart from a few scratches and a large amount of shock. He has been moved to another pond and seems to be recuperating OK.

The snake was about 80cm long and this was the first snake sighting this year. On another nature note the swallows have arrived back some five weeks later than they did last year!

End of Month View – April 2018

April has been another strange month. Its been cold, wet and dull for most of the month, to the extent that any gardening was out of the question. Then we had a very short three days of sunshine and temperatures at least 10 degrees higher at 26c. And did we get out to work in the garden with around 90 people coming around the garden on the 22nd! We were lucky that day was also dry although there was a cold wind. But the last week has gone back to where we started, cold, wet and windy.18_04_22_8612At last colour is coming back to the garden with the tulips bursting out. 18_04_22_8632Looking down on the garden we can see the the lawn has benefited from all the rain. The alliums have also grown at an incredible speed, in some cases bloting out the tulips. 18_04_22_8631Looking further round to the left the wall across the garden is about to burst into life and the Tulip Red Impression that fill the left hand border are coming into flower.18_04_22_862918_04_22_862118_04_22_862318_04_22_8611Tulips are the main feature at this time of year in this part of the garden. the Red Impression always works well against fresh green foliage and also the purple honesty.

18_04_22_8613Last year under-planted some roses with Anemone blanda atrocaerulea. the idea was to give some interest when the roses are only just coming into leaf. It is great to see it working again.18_04_22_8626The bed to the corner of the wall is full of tulips and far to many alliums! When we get some gardening weather I shall remove some of them. The red tulip, Tulip Ad Rem at the back of this picture were planted in 2014 and continue to put on a good display.

Tulip Hageri Splendens is now in flower across the stoned edged circle bed. This was planted at the end of 2016 and are coming back well.

One of my favourite tulips is Tulip Ballerina. 18_04_22_8620It was great to see some frog spawn in one of our ponds and now it is tick with tadpoles. This small pond does not have any fish in it so the fish do not eat the tadpoles. however, if it were warmer I would expect to see grass snakes having a feast.

Looking back a year at End of the Month View – April 2017 its is amazing to see how behind the garden is this year. In April 2017 there were roses in bloom, apple blossom on the trees and the first swallows arrived on April 3rd. No sign of them yet this year! In many ways we are four weeks behind normal.

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning April 21st Total 2018 to-date Average per week
8 211 13

The poor weather and a week skiing in France has resulted in little work this month with the exception of the three days mentioned above.

Do have a look at Helen The Patient Gardener’s blog where you fill find links to other gardens at the end of April. Thank you to Helen for hosting this meme.

End of Month View – March 2018

18_03_29_8568Another frosty morning but at last all the roses on the wall have all been pruned. It has been slow work with a week of snow on the ground and at least another week of rain. 18_03_29_8570There are a few roses that still need sorting out. A bit late but I am sure they will survive. 18_03_29_8571The weather certainly resulted in an early finish for the snowdrops which were looking great. In the last week the sun has come out and the temperature is more back to normal, around at 11c. With the extra temperature you could almost see the garden bursting into live. This bed should be full of tulips in a few weeks and it is great to see flower buds coming through as well as leaves.18_03_29_8572One big job that has been completed is the annual cut of the pleached lime hedge, Tila platyphyllos rubra. See Creating and maintaining a pleached lime hedge

18_03_22_8560The Indian limestone paving by the house was put down about twenty years ago and has started to move losing much of the grout.18_03_22_8558This is in the process of being lifted and re-bedded and re-grouted.

 

It should be finished in another week.

 

I am not a big fan of daffodils. They look great when they are out but the leaves do hang around for a long time after flowering. The solution I have used to good effect is to plant them around the boundary of the garden which is effectively the back of the beds. The leaves can then be left as other plants grow up in front of them.

 

Iris Histrioides Katherine Hodgkin has been a success elsewhere in the garden. At the end of last year I planted them through the Stone edged circle bed. I was concerned that the squirrels had been having dinner on the bulbs as last month there was no sign of them. However, they are now out and looking great. Over time I hope they will multiply and form a snake through the bed.18_03_25_8564This little gem flowered for the first time this year. This is Erythronium Snowflake and they were planted in 2015. A long wait but worth it so I may be tempted to buy some more!18_03_25_8562Another good doer is the corkscrew hazel, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’, which always has a good display of catkins.

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning March 24th Total 2018 to-date Average per week
36 160 13

A busy week and the average is beginning to grow towards last years average of 20 hours a week.

Do have a look at Helen The Patient Gardener’s blog where you fill find links to other gardens at the end of March. Thank you to Helen for hosting this meme.

Ten day traveling up the River Mekong

the-laos-mekongThis was part of a holiday we had recently in Laos. The first ten days were travelling up the Mekong River from Vientiane, the capital of Laos to Chian Saen and the “Golden Triangle” where Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos come together.17_12_04_7537We were travelling on the RV Laos Pandaw one of specially-designed luxury small ships for exploring remote and often hard-to-navigate rivers. Each ship, hand-crafted in brass and teak, is an object of beauty in itself. The ships are small scale, and the atmosphere is informal, and very friendly. On our trip there were a total of 15 guests although there could have been up to 20. See here for more information on Pandaw.

Vientiane, Laos’ national capital, mixes French-colonial architecture with Buddhist temples such as the golden, 16th-century Pha That Luang, which is a national symbol. Along broad boulevards and tree-lined streets are many notable shrines including Wat Si Saket, which features thousands of Buddha images, and Wat Si Muang, built atop a Hindu shrine.

The distance we traveled up the river was 900 kilometers. For much of the journey there is a panorama of mountains with the jungle coming down to the river.

Parts of the river  is wide and relatively slow whereas other parts have

rapids which need to be negotiated with some care.

The boat stops a couple of times each day for us to go ashore. 17_12_04_7532Typically this would be to a small Laotian village or to an ethnic village. There are 49 officially recognized ethnic minorities in Laos representing four
ethno-linguistic families: Tai-Kadai, Mon-Khmer, Hmong-Mien and TibetoBurman.
These in turn all have many branches and sub-groups. Many of these ethnic groups are very poor living barely at a subsistence level.

The Laotian village called Ban Muangnuea

were each house has an area growing greens etc. This village was the most prosperous one we visited.

17_12_05_756117_12_05_7570

The next stop Ban Pak Lo a  Khamo tribal village

17_12_05_7597The children always come out to meet the boat whenever it stopped.

A very poor village. Their electricity is provided by the dynamo hung into the waterfall. Enough for a small light and to recharge a mobile phone.17_12_05_7598

The Mekong River is changing rapidly with Chinese  and Thai investments happening every where.

We passed through the Xayabori Hydroelectric Dam which is being constructed by the Thai government with 95% of the electricity going to Thailand.17_12_06_7642Ashore again to visit  the Khaung Si waterfalls and a butterfly garden.

We then arrived at Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Luang Prabang Province in northern Laos, lies in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Inhabited for thousands of years, it was the royal capital of the country until 1975. It’s known for its many Buddhist temples, including the gilded Wat Xieng Thong, dating to the 16th century, and Wat Mai, once the residence of the head of Laotian Buddhism. This is a beautiful town which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 and the centre of the town is endowed with a legacy old ancient red-roofed temples and french-Indochinese architecture.

Each morning at dawn there is a alms giving ceremony called Tak Bat when processions of saffron robed monks carry baskets into which locals (and some tourists) place sticky rice. There are strict guidelines on how to behave if you join this ceremony and the Pandaw team ensured we did it correctly.

The night market was disappointing as most of the stuff on sale had clearly been mass produced, probably in China. However, as often is the case in south east asia the food market was great.

Baci Ceremony is specific ceremony in Laos which has been practiced for hundreds of years. The purpose of this Laotian ceremony is to to call escaped spirits back to the body, an animist tradition that is very important for Lao people before major events such as weddings, births, travel or when welcoming friends, to bring good luck. The ceremony involves the tying of white cotton strings around person’s wrists and the prayer saying or well wishing for the person that the ceremony is intended for. This ceremony was followed by Lao traditional dance.

The facilities on the RV Laos Pandaw are first class. From morning coffee to the cocktail hour and dinner the service was impossible to fault.

Local people collecting sand from the river for construction.

17_12_10_7956

The Pak Ou Caves, a Buddhist sanctuary and an elephant camp

Many of the villages we visited are very poor and we wanted to do our bit to help. Our excellent guide, called Bee, suggested that in a particular village they needed shoes for the children and blankets to keep warm at night. We made a collection and Bee and the Pandaw team sourced the shoes and blankets. The village was called Ban Pak Sith

17_12_10_7899

The next stop was in Pak Beng, one of those places that only exists because it is half way between the Golden Triangle and Luang Prabang. As such when we where there in the middle of the day it was more or less deserted. The village is full of hostels etc for boats to overnight when the place gets full of people. We needed to stop in order to do some formalities for our boat. However, the most interesting thing were the vegetable gardens (see photographs below) which provided produce for the many hostels and restaurants.

Another stop, this time a Lao Lum village.

Finally we arrived at Huay Xai and the “Golden Triangle”

17_12_11_7999And said our good byes to the crew of the boat with many great memories of the Mekong River.17_12_09_7862

End of Month View – February 2018

18_02_24_8528The view across the garden has not really changed yet since the start of the year but elsewhere as we will see spring is beginning to burst out. It has been very cold -5c at night for the last few days and the outlook is snow so it is lucky I have taken some photos already.

Over the years we have split and planted snowdrops in a number of our beds and at this time of year they reliably put on a great display for little cost. I have never gone out of the way to buy some of the expensive snowdrop bulbs and have been more than happy with the effect that is created. There are some singles which were probably here 25 years ago when we moved here and some doubles which we introduced. The great thing about snowdrops is that once they have finished flowering the leaves etc soon die off and can be removed and the bed is ready for the next display eg tulips etc.18_02_25_8536Some of the cyclamens are also out with snowdrops and Iris Histrioides Katherine Hodgkin. These all look a bit frosted.

I had hoped for some new planting of crocus this year but unfortunately the grey squirrel has dug them up and eaten them. The odd thing is that once established the squirrels seem to leave them alone. Next year I will have to plant them in pots (out of the way of the squirrels) and effectively “plant them in the green” which has worked before.

Here are some of the Glebe House Hybrids. See Ashwood Hellebore Nursery18_02_25_8543The aconites  Eranthis Hyemalis that I planted last year have come back and are in flower. See Aconites and others spring delights18_02_25_8540Crown imperial fritillary are coming through at a great speed. They have been coming back each year for 15 years now.18_02_24_8532One of the delights of the winter border is Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ looking really good against the yew hedge. It does have a habit of running which means a bit of work later in the year to control it and maybe some free plants from the runners! However the colour at this time of year is hard to beat.18_02_01_8523One of the jobs that I have been slow to do this year is tidying up the climbing roses. This is Rosa ‘Shot Silk’  and you can see extensive vertical growth from last year. These vertical growths need to be persuaded into the horizontal. Unfortunately they are not well behaved and often you will find they have grown up behind the wires which can mean having to remove the wire, releasing all the other branches that have been fixed to the wire in previous years!18_02_01_8525In addition some of the growth has died back and this needs to be removed.18_02_24_8526After about six hours of work and many scratches then you can stand back and admire the result. To a large degree this is the main maintenance work on a climbing rose.

That’s the good news but we do have many climbing roses that all need tiding up. “Before” and “After” for Rosa ‘Alchemist’ a great rose that has been here for at least 25 years.18_02_25_8542And another one just completed, Rosa ‘Alister Stella Grey’.18_02_25_8545Lastly the Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ which has been trained horizontally above a lot of different spring flowers is really visible this year as there are also three Rosa ‘Jacques Cartier’ which are normally in front of the pyracantha. These had not done well recently and we have cut done right down to grown level to regenerate them.

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning
February 174th
Total 2018 to-date Average per week
10 70 10

So far this year we are well behind last years average of 20 hours a week. It is no wonder I am still pruning the roses! When the snow stops I must get out and do some more!

Do have a look at Helen The Patient Gardener’s blog where you fill find links to other gardens at the end of February. Thank you to Helen for hosting this meme.