The Autumn clean up

This is the week when it really started to feel like winter. Its been damp and dark all week with very little sunshine. It has not been particularly cold, in fact at 14 degrees centigrade it is warm for the time of year. All the herbaceous foliage is dying and continually wet. Cutting it out is one of the least enjoyable jobs in the garden.

_mg_1398However, looking back to June to achieve rose displays like this work is needed now. This is Rosa Alchemist a vigorous climbing rose, perfect for covering a garden wall. It produces old-style rosettes of fully double golden yellow flowers that are flushed with orange and get paler with age. Unfortunately it rarely repeats but the flower scent is heady and intoxicating. _mg_1409Also, as this photo shows, there is a large Buddleja alternifolia next to the rose. The soft mauve flower are a perfect foil to Rosa alchemist. But it flowers on last years wood so ideally needs one third pruned out each year to keep its to size with plenty of new wood and hence flowers. Unfortunately this is one of the jobs that often seems to get overlooked!  Not this year.16_10_17_3567The space by the corner of the wall was where the Buddleja was. It needed a chain saw to cut through the trunk! Short term it also gives us other planting opportunities in the foreground. But the Buddleja will be back with many new shoots from the bottom.16_10_17_3566The Rose has also grown and needs the old wood removing and the new shoots tying in horizontally to maximise the flowers. Several hours later and we have:16_11_02_3617We only do it once a year but it is worth it for the eight weeks of flowers.

With a walled garden there are lots more climbing roses to tame so we are going to be busy. However, this week has been sorting out the dahlias which are being lifted now the frost has taken their tops off.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
20 456 21

At last, progress on the pond!

DSC01280A previous blog described the problems we have been having with one of our ponds that had developed a leak. This was back in August and ever since then we have been trying to get it fixed.16_08_10_3163Having removed the liner the base of the pond was dug out further ready for a concrete base. 16_10_09_3558The next stage was to get the sides and base to dry out ready for fiber-glassing.  This meant we have had to put plastic sheeting over the pond.

If you look at the above pictures you can see that we have taken the opportunity of this disruption to revive the bed beyond the pond. The very large rose in the centre of that bed is Rosa omeiensis  pteracantha. This wild rose has very wide, decorative, reddish prickles that sit on a long base on the young shoots. It is therefore also known as barbed wire rose. The flowers are typical “wild rose” type and always flower early in spring.rosa-omeiensisThe rose does get huge and we decided to cut it down to the ground and let it shoot up again. Within a couple of weeks it was vigorously shooting.16_08_09_3161Meanwhile the water lily plants from the pond have been sitting on some spare ground.16_10_09_3559New planting cages were obtained together with aquatic compost to plant up the water lilies. We then just waited wand waited for the fiber-glassing company to arrive. Then at last they came last Saturday and what a change they made.16_11_02_3620Fiber-glassing is an excellent way to water proof a pond. There is no untidy liner to worry and leaks (if they occur) can easily be repaired.16_11_02_3619

Connections for the pump and electrics can also be done through the side of the pond which gives a much more tidy solution compared with a liner.16_11_03_3623The pump has been connected up and will supply a water feature which empties into the rill. The various terracotta chimney pots are just to provide some shelter for any fish and the stack of blocks in the corner is a shelf for marginal plants. 16_11_05_3626And then at last the pond was filled!16_11_05_3631The water lilies were planted up in the new plant cages16_11_05_3630and placed in the pond. There are basically to varieties, a red and a white one. They are both quite vigorous and are suitable for a pond of this size. So we now need to sort out the marginals and also finalise the water feature to restore the pond to it former glory:2010_20100621_434

This week we have also had the first frosts of winter. Looking again at the dahlias,

see what the frost has done. However, I will not feel so bad about digging them up now!

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
17 417 21

More hedges and wild life

08_07_16_2797There are a number of yew hedges in the garden. This is looking along the area behind the garden wall and when we originally moved in this area was effectively a small paddock. As it ran south west to north west when we had any degree of wind it certainly blow up this side of the wall. We put the yew hedges in to provide some shelter for any planting we did. Over the years they have grown into substantial hedges but of course they need cutting although only once a year.

Another job done. Looking towards the cottages, on the left is a utility area including the compost heaps. (see Compost: Hidden dangers) On the right is one of those areas we are always meaning to do something with but never quite get there.21_06_16_2706Quite a difficult area as it gets little sun and on the right, in our neighbour’s garden, is a large sycamore tree creating even more shade. The wall is also about 14 feet high! Let me know if you have any good ideas.16_09_01_3356Another hedge that needs cutting each year is a beech hedge with some hornbeam  Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine columns. What is always amazing is the amount of growth that can occur in one year as shown above with the hedge cutting half complete.16_09_18_3468The completed cut.

As you can see above that the pond is still not repaired.( Pond develops a leak ) Every morning I check the pond for animals which have fallen in as the sides are vertical making it impossible for them to get out. Normally I find a couple of frogs, maybe a toad and possibly a Common Newt. However, one morning it was a Common Shrew16_09_05_3371and another to my surprise a Great Crested Newt.

Great Crested Newts have full legal protection under UK law making it an offence to kill, injure, capture, disturb or sell them, or to damage or destroy their habitats. I was not ware we had Great Crested Newts in our garden and was delighted to see this one which has now been moved to one of our other ponds along with the other frogs, toads and Common Newts.

Autumn is coming fast but some plants are still looking great.


Ricinus communis impala

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
26 251 18

Compost: Hidden dangers

With quite a large garden we can make plenty of compost. In fact we compost all vegetable matter with the only exception of weeds such as dandelions, couch grass and some annual weeds such as milkweed which have a habit of coming through the composting process. Any woody cuttings, including hedge trimmings, are shredded and bagged up. These shreddings are then added to green vegetation, particularly lawn clippings, as they go on to the compost heap. Adding these woody materials to grass largely stops it going slimy and into silage.16_09_02_3365Bags of shredding waiting to be added with a pile of composted compost that will be used as mulch later this year. As you can see the compost area is also a general storage area with some logs from a local farmer and some pots of gravel.16_09_02_3366The compost bins have been renewed this year after the previous ones rotted away after having given service for twenty three years. The bins are constructed with marine plywood sides with planks that slot into the front to give access for emptying and also filling.16_09_02_3367We basically have three such bins. There are holes in the plywood to let animals into the heap and also for some aeration of the heap. The two bins on the right are used to receive materials from the garden, the bin on the left is used when we need to turn the heap in one of the two right hand bins. We find that turning the heap speeds up the compost process and gives a much better final result. The only downside is it is very hard work turning the heap!16_09_02_3368The left hand bin just after we have turned the compost from the centre bin. (plus a few leaves from the trees under which the bins are located).16_09_02_3369 The compost ready for mulching.

So where is the hidden danger. I was standing in the half full middle bin turning the half composted materials into the left hand bin using a fork. I suddenly realised that as well as compost I had a quite large grass snake on my fork! We have always had grass snakes around the compost bins but normally they get out of the way when I am doing work there. I had been concerned that with the new compost bins they would not be around this year and it was a pleasant surprise to see this one although in the circumstances a bit of a shock! This one was about a metre long and very active. The snake had not been injured and made a fast escape through one of the holes at the back. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a camera in time so here is an older photo of a similar snake in our garden.2010_20100624_582They are not dangerous but the thought of me standing in the compost heap with a snake trying to make a quick exit up my trouser legs beggars belief. I shall have to remember to tuck my trousers into my socks next time I turn the heap!

At last we have had some welcome rain. However, the weather forecast for next week is also looking very dry.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
24 195 18

Disaster update and cobbles complete

The leaking pond

In a previous blog I mentioned that the one of our ponds had developed a leak! The pond was built about 19 years ago so I expected a fair amount of silt.16_08_08_3150 “Do I really have to get into this?”16_08_08_3153“Who planting all these waterlilies?”16_08_08_3155“That’s better we can actually see some water now”DSC01280“OK, where did you say the fish were?”16_08_08_3157“That silt will be a great mulch for the garden”16_08_09_3161Temporary store for the water lilies which will need to be watered frequently.16_08_09_3160And we found some treasure! Having dug down six inches below the liner and previous pond floor level we found a midden of old bottles, perfume, drink medicine etc.

We did manage to catch a number of fish, newts and frogs and they now have a new home in one of our other ponds. So the next stage will be to put the pond back together, a subject for a later blog.

The contractor doing this work is David Greaves


At last I can announce that the moss from between the cobbles has been removed. See Yew balls,cobbles and creepers16_08_26_3309As you can see it is quite a large area and Diane has spent at least 30 hours doing it by hand!DSC01281The  tools for the job. She tells me it will need doing again in 10 years. Quite a job!

Autumn in the garden

It continues to be dry and hot which has resulted in autumn coming early to parts of the garden. Some of this has been removed together with the errant weeds although we do like to leave some of the seed heads for the birds.16_08_18_3245

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
12 171 17

Hedges, Hedges, Hedges………

Once again it has been very dry and everything is beginning to look very crisp. However, although it’s later than normal,  I have finally got around to cutting hedges; the boundary hedge and the box hedging.

16_08_01_2961A mixed hedge along the boundary which we put in some years ago to reduce the wind coming across the field. There is a large shrub and flower border along the hedge and in order to make hedge cutting easier and to enable the border to be maintained from the back we have narrow gravel paths between the back of the border and the hedge.

We have utilised box hedging in a number of ways.16_08_04_2973 Here the hedge lines the main entrance to the garden and leads the eye into the main event.16_08_04_2974Around a small lawn in Ivy’s bed, (and that yew hedge needs cutting next week).16_08_04_2975Between the gravel and the border in the Italianate area, a more formal part of the garden.16_08_04_2977Edging the base under the pergola although at this time of year it almost disappears under the plants!16_08_04_2976In the Japanese bed together with clipped yew balls and Hakonechloa macra. 14_07_16_2885All the hedge cuttings are shredded and are mixed with lawn cuttings and added to the compost heap.

Clematis of the week


Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’

Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’ is a large deciduous climber with pinnate mid-green leaves tinged grey. White flowers marked and tipped green and often tinged with pale violet to 7.5cm in width have purple-black stamens. Flowers midsummer to early autumn.

Gardening Hours
This week Since June 19th Average
20 122 17

Lets hope for a bit of rain next week.

Leggy Irene Watts, creeping thyme and a very prickly visitor

Leggy Irene Watts


Irene Watts is an excellent rose and deserves a place in any garden. These bushes had been in for around sixteen years and had got rather leggy. This year we took the plunge and cut them all down to around one inch in January! Adding some rose fertilizer and a mulch we then waited………….and waited………… and after eight weeks new growth broke through and the bushes took on a new life.07_07_16_2773

The bushes are compact again, have been flowering for over eight weeks and look set for another sixteen years.

Clematis of the week


Clematis Ascotiensis

Clematis Ascotiensis is a very nice shade of blue, it has large flowers and they bloom from June to September. The height will be around 6 to 8 feet and the spread around 3 feet.

Creeping Thyme

Any paved patio area needs planting pockets.11_07_16_2866There are many low growing plants to consider but Creeping Thyme is my favorite.11_07_16_2865The drainage will need to be good but then it will look after itself, giving a great aroma when you walk on it and insects love it.

A prickly visitor


It is not often we see hedgehogs during the day. This one was quite small so maybe it had lost its mother and was looking for a new home. We fed it some peanuts and ‘June drop’ apples which it seemed to enjoy. And then it left our garden, crossed the lane and went into a neighbouring garden. However, we do have lots of hedgehogs living in our garden as evidenced by the little black piles we come across on the lawn and we have a number of wood heaps where they make their home.

Another sunny day; another photograph


The last week we have finally had some summer weather. With temperature at 32c in the garden and high humidity it has not been gardening weather.  The sun beds have been used a lot this last few days. As always in England the heat ended in a heavy rainstorm which can play havoc with the flowers. The rose growing over the arch is Rosa Ghislaine de Feligonde.  Clusters of small flowers bearing a sweet musky fragrance are produced repeatedly throughout the summer into the autumn. Blooms vary in colour going from orange/yellow to cream. The rose in the tree is Rosa Bobbie James, a vigorous rambler capable of considerable climbing feats, especially into trees or hedges. In addition in the foreground is Nepeta x faassenii, Osteospermum Tresco Purple and Rudbeckia Berlin.


Gardening hours
This week Since June 19th
25 72

Yew balls,cobbles and creepers


This part of the gardens is called the japanese garden mainly because of the granite Japanese lantern that you can see in the centre although we have planted it to give a Japanese look and feel. Originally area between the box hedging was planted with a  a variety of hebe bushes which were pruned to shape but over time they became woody and tended to lean too much on the box. So a few years ago we took the hebes out and replaced them with box balls and Hakonechloa macra. Alas the balls suffered from blight and so they were rapidly removed and replaced by yew balls. Now they are all due their annual clip. This will be followed by a fungicide spray as a precaution against the blight.


Job done!


The garden is situated on what must have been an old river bed. There is no shortage of river cobbles that seem to come up where ever you dig. These have been used  to good effect to make hard landscaping around the garden as can be seen above. The courtyard at the front of the house is also cobbled. This dates back to when the house was the stabling and coach house to the rectory next door. IMG_7748
Overtime the moss between the cobbles starts to take over. Every ten years it’s down on your hands and knees to remove the moss; a job that can take hours!


Half done!

Clematis of the week:


Clematis ‘Elsa Path’

Summer pruning

By the side of an old pig sty there are three double-U pear trees and some step over apples. July is the time to prune them. Strong laterals are cut back to three good leaves and sub-laterals to 1 inch.


Job done



Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is one of those plants that behaves for most of the year and then suddenly it explodes into growth and action is required to prevent the house disappearing.  A ladder and secateurs does the job but maybe it will need doing one more time before the end of the year.
The date 1977 on the side of the house which is now visible is the date an extension was added to the old part of the house. Old materials were used and it looks like it was always there.

Despite the rather strange summer weather the flower beds are looking very full. Interestingly the dahlias are only just coming into flower, a good four weeks later than normal.


Main garden looking towards the pergola

Gardening hours
This week Since June 19th
31 47

Art and Alliums


Back home after a week and a half away and it is not looking too bad. However, there is work to be done. The lawn never stops growing and needed a good cut.


It is not looking too bad although speedwell continues to be the main weed which is very hard to eliminate. Any suggestions?

We had arranged for the Hoby Art Group to spend some time in the garden. 13641192_10154394986859575_7592941501705427053_o

Looking at the yew hedge in the centre I can see some more work required!

Clematis of the week:


Clematis Viola making a fantastic display and this plant is only three years old!

_MG_1313 Alliums can look fantastic. Here typical mixtures of Alliums with Rosa ‘Shot Silk’ on the wall.  07_07_16_2784The issue in our garden is that they love to self seed so although the seed heads can look great we have to remove them before they seed.07_07_16_2786

It has rained on several days so not so much time in the garden!

Gardening hours
This week Since June 19th
12 16