Some stormy weather, summer delights and snakes!

Some of you will remember a blog in February 2017 when a storm took out part of an old apple tree in the middle of our garden. After much debate (thanks for your inputs) we decided to keep the remaining tree.

In June 2018 our friend pointed out that the apple tree had taken on the shape of a chicken.

Then last week the weather decided it could do another topiary job of the tree.

This time it really does look like the end. The tree , especially when the Rosa Rambling Rector was in flower, was an important focal point within the garden. So removing it will be sad but hopefully will open up new opportunities.

The apple tree was not the only casualty with Rosa ‘Blush Noisette’ being blown off the pergola although fortunately this was repairable.

The following summer delights in the garden

Rosa ‘Madame Gregoire Staechlin’
Rosa ‘Madame Gregoire Staechlin’
Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’
Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’
Clematis ‘Rhapsody’
Clematis ‘Rhapsody’
Clematis ‘Viola’
Clematis ‘Viola’
Clematis ‘Monte Cassino’
Clematis ‘Monte Cassino’

The clematis and roses are all doing well this year.

This corner always looks good in the summer with the pink Geranium palmatum, roses and delphiniums. Last autumn I added the posts at the back to provided support for Rosa ‘Iceberg’ and Rosa ‘New Dawn’ as they always got lost behind the flowers.

Rosa ‘New Dawn’ has been here for at least 30 years and is looking healthier than ever.

Rosa ‘Iceberg’ has been in for about ten years can now be seen.

Often mistaken for a Rose , Carpenteria californica at the back has been looking great, probably benefiting from the mild winter we had. The pink rose is Rosa ‘Irene Watts’

And now for the snakes.

The mild winter has certainly helped the grass snake population. As soon as the sun comes out you can find them in the garden. This beauty was taking an early morning swim in one of our ponds, probably after our fish for breakfast!

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A major new garden project starts

My last post was on 31st August 2018. Before then I had been blogging almost every week. Since then lack of time has taken over and we had spent a considerable amount of time out of the country. I want to tell you about a new venture in our garden which is going to keep me busy for several years but I intend to keep blogging as it proceeds.

We moved to our house twenty five years ago and shortly after moving in we tried to buy a piece of land at the bottom of the garden. The field is owned by the church and they were asking far too much at the time and the purchase did not happen although the vision remained. Recently we have tried again and an acceptable price has been agreed and we have added 0.3 acres at the bottom of our garden.

The area bounded in red indicates our new garden.

This photograph looks across the land to the fence at the bottom of our current garden. The large beech tree in the centre of the picture is now on our land.

This photograph looks back to the boundary with our neighbour and the corner (to the right of the tree) where the previous photograph was taken from. The large chestnut tree on the right is just outside our land.

The field has been used as pasture land for sheep for as long as people can remember. There is some indication of the ridge and furrow cultivation. Ridge and furrow was formed over centuries by medieval ploughing. The plough would be driven up and down a strip, year after year, decade after decade. This shifted material to one side of the plough, forming the ridge, whilst the furrow gets driven down. At the end of strips you get a headland where the plough turned.

Our intention is to create a wild flower meadow.

Unusually this spring the sheep have been kept on a different field and the grass has been allowed to grow. This has enabled us to better see what we have to work with. I would say that our meadow contains a mixture of native grasses with just a few coarse ones and a few more common survivors such as dandelion, plantain, yarrow, speedwell and meadow buttercup. Pam Lewis (Making Wildflower Meadows) suggest that such conditions are all good signs.

The views from the meadow are classic English parkland.

We had hoped to take possession of the land last October and we started planning.

A chance trip to Rosemoor RHS garden where we saw their wild flower meadow in progress.

And some very handy thoughts about where to begin. The Narcissus Pheasant Eye in the pictures above looked great and a 25kg bag of bulbs was purchased. There are a couple of areas shaded by trees which would be excellent for English Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta and 500 bulbs were purchased. I love seeing Snake’s head fritillary Fritillaria meleagris growing in meadows and 1000 corns were purchased. We were set to begin but the legal side went on and on and we have only just legally purchased the land!

The Fritillaria had to be potted up and will be planted later this year.

The bluebells were all potted up and some of them can be seen above.

The Narcissus have all been planed in various parts of the garden and will need to be lifted and replanted later this year.

So our next steps are:
1. Fence in the field
2. Start cutting the grass in July August.
3. Transplant the bluebells and Fritillaria
4. Lift and plant the Narcissus
5. Scarification to expose bare soil
6. Seed with wild flower mix and Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor
7. And………….

I will continue to blog on this project as it develops. Please let me know if you have any thoughts and suggestions.

View into existing garden from the meadow.

End of Month View – August 2018

18_08_30_9237Finally we have had some rain and the grass is coming back with the exception of the areas where there had been paths in the original walled garden. These totally dried out and will require some reseeding. This is the view I always post on my EoMV but for the end of August it is looking very green and brown as many of the flowers that normally would be at their best eg Dahlias are not out.17_08_25_6898This is the same view this time last year!18_08_30_9243You can see here how the dahlia, which should be about 100cm high and covered in red blooms has become dried up with the lack of water. Hopefully the tubers will be OK for next year!18_08_30_9245This Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff  together with Ricinus communis ‘Impala’ look good because they happen to be on automatic watering as the area is very dry being under the steps. 18_08_30_9238This would have been a good colour combination with Rudbeckia ‘Dwarfs’ and Rudbeckia ‘Cherokee Sunset’ set against  the dark foliage of Dahlia ‘Twyning’s After Eight’ but once again the dahlias have done nothing yet.  Maybe the rain will bring them into life.18_08_30_9240The roses have not repeated but there is still time.18_08_30_9235Some areas have come through relatively well. Here Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ seems to like the heat and Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ towards the back is full of blooms although we did water this.18_08_30_9239This area is more like prairie planting but again the Dahlia ‘Fairfield Frost’ should be covered in white flowers and be at least 30cm taller.18_08_30_9241Salvia ‘Cerro Potosi’ obviously likes the heat.18_08_30_9244And similarly Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ looks very happy.18_08_30_9246This is Cosmos ‘Cupcakes White’, a very nice Cosmos that I will certainly grow again.18_08_30_9248Other areas look very dry and brown although Rosa ‘Alister Stella Grey’ is beginning to repeat.

The good news is the grapes are looking good!18_08_30_9251and oddly the Wisteria is having a second flush.18_08_30_9233Meanwhile by the compost heap I found this young grass snake. Maybe an off spring from the large one I photographed earlier.

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning
August 25th
Total 2018 to-date Average per week
30 647 19

The hours are beginning to add up. In August I have done a lot of hedge cutting. Particularly with Box the current view is to cut in August to help prevent blight.

This has been a difficult year with a cold grey spring followed by a very hot dry summer. I realise this is to be expected in the future as a result of global warming and we will need to adapt to this.

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

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.

 

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.