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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Ashwood Hellebore Nursery

18_02_15_8485There have not been many perfect sunny days so far in 2018 and I was lucky to be part of a private visit to Ashwood Hellebore Nursery with the Leicestershire & Rutland Gardens Trust on an exceptionally sunny day.18_02_15_8486This was the first time I had visited the nursery and I have to say the stock looked very healthy and was extensive.

The guided “Hellebore Tour” gave us a fascinating insight into the history of Ashwood Hybrid Hellebores. 18_02_15_8489Part of the propagation shed full of hellbore stock.18_02_15_8491Our guide explaining the process of pollination and selection. I had heard that they were trying to develop hellebores which held their heads up. However, this is no longer the case as they found that, with the open flower upwards, they suffered from the rain etc. They now concentrate on flowers whose backs have more interest as it is the backs that are most viable from above.

never the less the stock plants clearly demonstrated why their hellebores are world famous.

18_02_15_8507As well as the hellebores, the private visit included a tour around “John’s Garden”. John’s Garden is the private garden of John Massey, owner of Aswood Nurseries. It is situated behind the nursery in a canal-side setting, in the lovely open countryside of South Staffordshire. The garden has been developed since 1998.18_02_15_8503We were lucky to have John taking us around. He is an encyclopedia of plant knowledge and a great guide which made that garden come alive. He explained about transparency pruning and the importance of respecting a tree’s natural shape and form. The garden has a lot of shrubs that have been pruned in this way and I am sure any gardener would find this interesting.18_02_15_8505

Throughout the garden there are some great examples of sculpture. The canal can be seen towards the back of some of these pictures.18_02_15_851318_02_15_8512Looking both ways along the pond.

As you would expect there are many interesting plants. The garden worked exceptionally well as a winter garden but from the photos of the garden at other times it would certainly be worth a visit on one of the open days.

 

End of the Month View – January 2018

Its the end of January and for one reason and another I have hardly done any gardening this year. We were away for five weeks travelling in Laos in December which was great but while we were away lots of little admin jobs seem to stack up waiting to be done. I will do some travel blogs on Laos shortly now that I have got the list of jobs done.

Before we went away we had a concentrated tidy up of the garden. Thank goodness we did as the weather has not been great since we got back with snow, frosts and rain and even more rain! As a result there are lots of gardening jobs waiting to be done and February is going to be very busy!18_01_29_8456This was one of the rare bits of sunshine looking across the garden and I will be honest in this photo it looks almost identical to the November EoMV18_01_29_8458But looking a little closer we can see many alliums and tulips already making considerable growth.18_01_29_8459Similarly in this bed but it also highlights the climbing roses that will need to be tamed in February. (I know it is a bit late but I am sure they will survive.)18_01_29_8457Elsewhere spring bulbs are starting to put on a show. This bed is largely snowdrops and aconites.  18_01_29_8464Here the snowdrops and aconites mingle with some really beautiful Cyclamens (variety not known) and an Iris Histrioides Katherine Hodgkin. This really is the essence of spring.18_01_29_8461This bed is more designed with Yew balls under planted with Hakonechloa macra. In spring clumps of snowdrops come up to extend the interest in the bed.18_01_29_8462Aconites and Iris Reticualata bring real colour to the spring beds.18_01_29_8463As I said we have had some very hard frosts, -7 c at times and the Euphorbia ‘Mellifera’, a plant that has marginal hardiness in this area has not enjoyed the cold. I think it will be OK but has certainly been knocked back a bit.

17_03_23_5108Other jobs completed have been the potting up of around 80 dahlia tubers. These had been drying out in our garage but have now been potted up in potting compost and are crowding into the green house. The above photograph is from 2017 but you get the idea. Around the end of February I will start watering them and with any luck they will produce great plants for planting out around the end of May when the frosts should have finished. In addition there has been more clearing some of the dried herbaceous plants from last year.

17_05_31_5882For those of you who remember this huge Crambe Cordifolia we said at the time that although it looks spectacular it was crowding everything out and we planned to move it. Well that was one of the jobs we have done so we can cross it off the list! The roots were over 60cm but I have replanted it elsewhere and I expect it to sulk for a year and then take off again.

18_01_29_8460The five new trees of Sorbus aucuparia ‘Autumn Spire’ also arrived and needed planting in the area behind the high wall. This almost completes the Design Challenge I mention last year and I will do a blog on this later in the year.

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning Jan 20th Total 2018 to-date Average per week
12 30 10

Given that last year we did on average 19 hours a week you can see we are well down on that!

Some of you will know that I took on the EoMV blog from Helen Johnstone last year. Helen is now back from her break from blogging and would like to take back the hosting of the EoMV which she had been doing since March 2009. So, if you would like to join in with the End of Month View please do. I suggest you add a link to your post in the comments below and also visit Helen and do the same there. Thank you for supporting the EoMV while I “baby sat” it and please come back to Glebe House Garden as often as you wish.

End of Month View – December 2017

The end of the month and the end of the year!  Happy New Year and good gardening in 2018.

I have not been able to get into the garden much during the last few weeks. Much of “putting the garden to bed” for the winter was done in November so I will use this opportunity to look back over the year.

Click on the small images to see them full size.

January

17_01_30_4716Many of the beds look exactly as they were following the winter clean up. However, there are signs of spring to be seen.

February

17_02_24_4992February brought a storm which removed a branch from an old apple tree. I was undecided as to whether to keep the reduced tree or to start again.  So far we have keep it.

Elsewhere snowdrops are filling many of the beds

March

17_03_01_5017The arrival of lambs in the field beyond our garden is always one of those events to make you smile.

Spring flowers are everywhere now.

April

17_04_07_5243The garden is beginning to glow with tulips, blossom and the first roses.

May

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Roses really start to come out now. And everywhere flowers of every kind are looking great.

June

17_06_14_6204All the borders are filling out. The pond that was finally repaired is also looking as it should and the water lilies that spent almost a year out of the water have survived!

July

17_07_12_6694Herbaceous plants are taking control of the borders now. The alliums are still there but the herbaceous plants are the stars now.

August

17_08_25_6891In January these beds looked empty. Now the flowers are up to six feet high in just a few months.

September

17_09_27_7307Borders are now “more” than full. Staking the plants is the biggest issue to prevent them falling on each other.

October

17_09_29_7312Autumn is on its way but around the garden there are still plenty of flowers.

November

17_10_30_7446The first frost of the year. the dahlias do not like it but some of the roses continue to flower. Now is the time to take the climbing roses off the wall for pruning and tying in their new growth for next year.

December

The borders have all been cleared ready for another spring in November. We have escaped to the sun. The garden has been told to look after itself!

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning December 23rd Total 2017 to-date Average per week
0 1004 19

An average of 19 hours a week and by week we have:2017-hours

I hope these pictures have wet your appetite for the new gardening year. Looking forward to 2018 and a Happy New Year to you all.

If you would like to join in with this meme you are very welcome – add a link to your post in the comments box and please link to this post from your blog so readers can find other EoMV posts. There are no rules about what you post. Maybe you want to focus on one area through the year or give a general tour, whatever suits you is fine with me.

Berberis koreana (Korean Barberry) ‘Red Tears’ an excellent plant with four seasons.

17_09_27_7290

September 27th

Ever so often a chance purchase of a shrub gives a pleasant surprise.  Berberis koreana  ‘Red Tears’ was one such purchase and it is certainly worth considering for any garden.

Berberis, commonly known as barberry, is a large genus of deciduous and evergreen shrubs from 1–5 m tall found throughout the temperate and subtropical regions of the world. Extremely hardy, Berberis koreana (Korean Barberry) is certainly one to consider for almost any garden. Berberis koreana grows with a dense, oval to rounded habit, at a moderate rate, up to 4-6 ft/120-180 cm tall and wide. It performs best in full sun to part shade, in dry to moist, well-drained soils and is not fussy about soils provided they are not soggy or wet. The main Berberis koreana cultivar is ‘Red Tears’

Berberis koreana  ‘Red Tears’ will give four seasons of interest:-

17_04_02_5164

April 17th

This semi-evergreen shrub is native to the Korean peninsula and Japan. Its bark is reddish brown and the twigs are densely armed with short spines in groups of one to five. At this stage the main interest are the very crisp green leaves.

17_04_25_5369

April 25th

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April 25th

In mid-spring, this small, multi-stemmed. semi-evergreen shrub produces striking pendulous clusters of golden-yellow flowers. At this stage the flowers are beginning to hang in clusters but are not fully open. The leaves are also getting a red tint to their edges

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May 10th

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May 10th

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May 13th

By now the flowers are fully open and have quite a “honey” scent which fills the still evening air.

17_08_19_6845

August 19th

17_08_19_6846

August 19th

The flowers are followed by an abundance of tiny oval fruits which at this stage are yellow tinged with red.

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August 25th

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August 28th

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August 28th

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August 28th

17_08_28_6936

August 28th

The fruits ripen to bright red by the fall and are attractive to birds.

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September 27th

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September 27th

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October 9th

and then persist across the winter. Therefore extending the season of interest of this ornamental shrub.

Overall Berberis koreana  ‘Red Tears’ is an excellent shrub giving year round interest with virtually no maintenance.

Other points to consider:

Pro:

Fairly pest-free, easy to grow and to care for. Light pruning may be required to maintain a lovely shape. Drought tolerant and  deer resistant, what more could you wish for!

Perfect choice as a single specimen plant or massed in borders, for foundation plantings or as an informal barrier, screen or hedge.

Against:

The shrub can sucker from the roots and form colonies

End of Month View – November 2017

This year November has been the major clean up of the garden ready for winter and more importantly ready for spring.17_11_23_7452You can see that most of the herbaceous materials have been removed. In some ways I would liked to have keep more of the seed heads for the birds etc., however, in order to plant the bulbs (over 1500 bulbs, see list here)  and spread mulch we need access to the beds.17_11_23_7453The twiggy material goes through a shredder and is then added is bagged up ready to add to the compost heap, the softer material goes straight on to the heap. Only the pertinacious weeds (eg ones with tap roots) get thrown away. In this way we recycle at least 95% of all the plant material. The green link stakes are stored in one of our outbuildings. Given we have 1000’s of such stakes in many different sizes this is quite an exercise in itself. If anyone has a good suggestion of how to store these stakes I would love to know it.17_11_23_7455A border almost totally cleared ready for bulbs etc

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And the same corner in August!

17_11_28_7465Tulip bulbs ready for planting17_11_28_7464And the under-gardener planting bulbs on a cold, crisp November day.

17_11_24_7462Now we have easy access to the climbing roses I need to turn my mind to pruning and tying in the new growth.17_11_28_7463To the right of the pond more tulips bulbs waiting to be planted.17_11_24_7460The plastic sheet hanging from the pergola serves two purposes. It keeps the rain off the wooded bench but more importantly it keeps the rain off two small peach trees which are planted in tubs either side of the bench. This should avoid peach leaf curl.17_11_24_7461Another border ready for winter and the spring.17_07_27_6785And the same border in July.17_11_28_746717_11_28_7466Elsewhere we have planted bulbs and have spread a mulch dressing onto the soil. This is Ivy’s bed on the garden map. There is plenty more mulch spreading yet to do!

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning Nov 25th Total 2017 to-date Average per week
30 1004 21

If you would like to join in with this meme you are very welcome – add a link to your post in the comments box and please link to this post from your blog so readers can find other EoMV posts. There are no rules about what you post. Maybe you want to focus on one area through the year or give a general tour, whatever suits you is fine with me.