Spring up close

Spring has certainly progressed this last few days with some warm 16c sunshine. You can almost see the plants (and weeds) growing. Although I do not have a macro lens I thought I would share with you some “up close” images of the flowers making their presence know.17_03_15_5092The spring standby, Primrose (Primula vulgaris). Not really a plant that is planted as it is quite happy to plant itself. April 19th is traditionally Primrose Day, marking the death of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli on April 19th, 1881 when Queen Victoria sent primroses to his funeral.17_03_15_5083The radiant yellow flowers of dwarf Narcissus Tête á Tête give a big splash of colour to any bed. One drawback is that the leaves take time to disappear so I plant them towards the back of my borders where the leaves can die back out of sight.17_03_15_5084Mahonia media Charity looking splendid. Mahonia, or Oregon grape are highly prized not just for the beautiful glossy foliage, but because they flower through the winter months.17_03_15_5088Ipheion uniflorum White Star is a small herbaceous perennial growing from a bulb and producing flat, shiny, green, hairless, grasslike leaves up to 30 cm (12 in) long. The stem grows up to 20 cm (8 in) tall and bears a solitary showy flower in spring. Not such a  common spring flower but easy to grow in a sunny position. Here they underplant some roses.17_03_15_5079The first tulip flower of the season. Variety unknown! However, the tulips are coming up all over the garden so we are expecting an excellent display later on.17_03_15_5089Anemone Blanda Atrocoeruleais a very free flowering Anemone, which quickly forms large clumps and multiplies year after year. Plant under trees for a woodland effect, with a carpet of violet-blue flowers appearing every spring. The blue is stunning.17_03_15_5090and Anemone Blanda White Splendour tends to flower a little later but is just as useful in the spring border.17_03_15_5081Prunus Kojo-no-mai is always early to flower17_03_15_5082and looks great for no effort.17_03_16_5097Ribes sanguineum White Icicle has also started flowering.17_03_15_5095This Aubretia, in a warm spot has burst into flower.17_03_15_5094Lastly the view over the garden fence where the lambs are continuing to grow.

The first lawn mowing of the season took place this week and there has been much time spent removing self set alliums.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
20 609 16
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Aconites and others spring delights

After snowdrops Eranthis hyemalis winter aconites are one of the delights of spring. This woodland member of the buttercup family will swiftly multiply to form a glowing carpet of golden yellow flowers each spring. The cup shaped blooms of the winter aconite attract pollinating insects into the spring garden, and associate beautifully with snowdrops and bluebells for a spectacular woodland display. Virtually maintenance free, Eranthis hyemalis are ideal for planting in the dappled shade of deciduous trees, or naturalised in informal areas of grass.

However, I have found from experience they are hard to establish. The cheapest way to buy them is as small tubers but I have not had much success planting these directly in the borders. Maybe I was just feeding the mice but they seldom came up! However, I have found that planting in pots of compost in the autumn and leaving in a cool greenhouse is generally successful. 17_02_22_4980On the right the Winter Aconites and on the left  Anemone Blanda White Splendour which I treat in the same way. An additional benefit of this approach is that the greenhouse gets full of the scent of the Winter Aconites which is fantastic.

17_03_04_5026The border with the snowdrops beginning to fade.

17_03_04_5027The winter aconites ready for planting

17_03_04_5028The border now with a few splashes of yellow which will establish themselves into large clumps over the next few years.

Other spring delights

17_03_04_5031Everywhere you look at this time of year spring bulbs are bursting out.17_03_04_5032Crocus Pickwick coming back every year.

17_03_04_5035Borders of Helleborus Ashwoods Hybrids doing their own thing.17_03_04_5036

 

17_03_04_5037Crocus Joan of Arc under a row of step-over apples with tulips emerging behind.17_03_04_5038What could be more wonderful!

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
15 589 16

Neeleshwar Hermitage Garden

17_02_07_4838For the last three weeks we have been away from Glebe House staying in the Neeleshwar Hermitage Hotel in Kerala, South India. Neeleshwar Hermitage is hybrid of a boutique hotel and an Ayurvedic wellness centre. Its 18 palm roofed villas are scattered across the garden, their porches cooled by spinning ceiling fans, and at the rear of each is a large outdoor bathroom with a tub set in a small walled garden. At the seafood restaurant, tables spill out into the beach.17_02_06_4823 I often think that a the percentage of guests who have stayed before is a good measure of how good a hotel is. This was our third visit and I would estimate that 50%of the guests had been before. This is despite the fact that it is not an easy hotel to get to. We flow from London Heathrow to Mumbai, then from Mumbai to Mangaluru and finally a two and a half hour car ride!17_02_10_4901We first stayed about six years ago when the Hermitage was relatively new. Since then the gardens surrounding the villas has grown significantly and are still being developed.17_02_10_4886Being next to the beach the soil is very sandy and unless watered plants soon dry out. At this time of year the temperature is typically 33c with no rainfall.17_02_10_4904The gardener explained that they plan to clear this area of dried up plants and plant the area with pineapple plants which would then provide fruit for the restaurant. Needless to say in this temperature I did not volunteer to help him.17_02_09_4870The garden is kept alive watering and the cattle egrets love it as the water brings the insects out.17_02_10_4903Around the garden  there are a number of small pools which as well as providing attractive features bring more wildlife to the garden.17_02_07_484117_02_10_488917_02_12_4921This part of the Kerala coast is very underdeveloped and the wildlife is stunning.17_02_12_491717_02_09_4859

The garden is by its location a tropical garden and the following is a selection of plants flowering when we were there.

The other feature worth mentioning is the swimming pool.17_02_15_4952The pool has become part of the garden as well as providing a fantastic amenity for guests.17_02_15_4954At 7 o’clock in the morning the air temperature was around 26c and the water was perfect for a swim looking out over the infinity edge to the beach.

We have now had 13 holidays in India and have traveled over much of the sub-continent. This trip was purly for winter sun and relaxation and the Neeleshwar Hermitage delivered 100%.

Glebe House Garden

No work on the garden for the last few weeks. We arrived home late last night. However, I was very pleased to see a bed full of snowdrops this morning.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
0 550 16

Itea ilicifolia “holly-leaved sweet spire”: a shrub for all seasons

As spring progresses I thought I would profile a plant seldom seen but definitely worth considering,  Itea ilicifolia also called “Holly-leaved sweet spire”.16_08_07_3126Itea belongs to the Grossulariaceae to which Escallonia and Ribes also belong. There are fifteen species of Itea – fourteen from East Asia and one deciduous species from North America – Itea virginica. They are useful shade loving shrubs or small trees.

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Itea on 7th August

Itea ilicifolia as its name suggests has holly-like leaves. They are dark glossy green. The flowers are produced in abundance in narrow, pendulous, catkin-like racemes, up to 12″ (30cm) long. The flowers are tiny and densely packed; greenish-white in colour; and fragrant – a hint of honey scent. Flowering starts in mid summer and will continue well into autumn.

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Itea on July 16th prior to flowering

Itea ilicifolia was introduced by Augustine Henry from Yichang on the Yangtze in central China, in a package to Lord Kesteven who flowered it first in 1895. Bean mentions that the earlier introductions needed wall shelter at Kew. Whether more recent acquisitions such as the Ernest Wilson’s collection, are from a higher altitude, or whether global warming is being demonstrated here, as Itea ilicifolia is becoming a plant more of borders than needing wall protection nowadays. Wall shelter is nevertheless advised in colder and/or exposed situations in eastern counties. 16_08_07_3121Rather lax in habit, Itea ilicifolia is most often grown and trained against a wall where the reflected heat encourages more flowers and better growth, although in warmer parts of the U.K., Itea ilicifolia grows to be a striking standalone plant.

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Itea on 25th January 2017

Summer cuttings of the current years shoots can be taken about July or early August and placed in a sandy open compost in a cool frame – minimum 5° (40°F), damp, and in a well lit atmosphere, should root overwinter. It is widely available from nurseries.

An alternative would be Garrya elliptica the silk tassel bush17_01_25_4682There is no doubt that Garrya can make a striking small bush and also has similar tassels.17_01_25_4683However when grown against a wall and requiring pruning to shape I fine the tassels are considerably reduced in numbers.17_01_25_4684Furthermore the leaves are not as clean and glossy. The main advantage of Garrya elliptica over Itea ilicifolia is that it will cope with north facing walls.

Signs of Spring

17_01_27_4696Everywhere there are signs that spring is on its way. Snowdrops are beginning to come through all over the garden. The Hakonechloa macra (above) has been cut back to make way for the spring bulbs; snowdrops, crocus and Anemone Nemerosa. Elsewhere the new growth is emerging.

Spring always arrives before we have done all those nagging jobs. The last week the weather has been against us. Either wet or bitterly cold. Nevertheless we did mange 18 hours in the garden; removing dead foliage, pruning roses on the walls and generally tiding things up.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
18 538 17

GBFD – Autumn arrives

My first Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day! With so much colour beginning to develop it was too good an opportunity not to miss.

Colder nights are here but no frosts yet. The leaves are colouring up for their annual display.16_10_21_3581-copyThe Virginia Creeper which needed controlling earlier in the year is now coming into it’s own with a magnificent display of colour.16_10_21_3579The Hydrangea petiolaris is having a final fling although the flower heads will stay throughout the winter.16_10_21_3578Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ looks great at any time of year but into autumn it really sings16_10_21_3583-copyand with the light shining through the leaves it becomes magic. One of the best shrubs/small tree for year round interest.16_08_07_3079
Hosta ‘Sun & Substance’ has still got some of its golden elegance and only a few slug holes.16_10_21_3582-copyAnd Euonymus  alatus Burning Bush is living up to its name.16_10_21_3586Even this Cornus alba ‘Sibirica Variegata’ is trying not to be out done before it stars in the winter with its red stems.16_10_21_3587The Mahonia is giving a display and16_10_21_3588Cotinus ‘Nottcutts Variety’ looks great throughout the summer but in Autumn the dark red leaves just add to the event.16_10_02_3538Ricinus communis impala looks fantastic16_10_09_3553

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
35 368 20

The hours have been going up as we begin to get the garden ready for winter!

Many thanks to Christina at My Hesperides Garden. She encourages all garden bloggers to look more closely at the changing tapestry of colour and structure that foliage provides.

End of Month View – August 2016

16_08_24_3297This is a view across the garden into what was originally a walled kitchen garden to the village rectory. The wall at the back is double skinned and could be heated via a fireplace and a system of brick ducts to transport the heat through the wall.  The flower beds were originally only a couple of feet deep when we moved here in 1994 but has since been increased up to 12 feet deep. The pergola on the right is made from green oak and replaced one that was made from scaffolding planks and poles.  The lawn, viewed from above forms a large half circle.

I shall use my “End of Month View” to look at this view and how it develops through the year. The following sequence of photos look at the borders in more detail from left to right.16_08_24_3298The star here is the Rudbeckia ‘Berlin’ with the Osteospermum ‘Tresco Purple’ and the Molinia caerulea grass behind. At this time of year much of this border is looking either green or brown. In the future we intend to get more gems of colour such as the Rudbeckia into the planting schemes16_08_24_3300With the Molinia on the left there is a bank of dahlias,  ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, ‘Fairfield Frost’ & ‘Nuit D’Ete’ together with Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’. I often use dahlias to fill gaps in the late summer borders.16_08_24_3299The Rudbeckia ‘Herbstone’ at the back provides good colour with Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s ghost’ providing structural interest. However the large leaves of Crambe Cordifolia in the centre has become an issue for this border. In late May the flowers can be great (although this year they failed completely) but for much of the year it only provides a mass of leaves. I think it will be gone next year!16_08_24_3302As you can see I designed and built the pond in 2010. We have been delighted with the pond but have struggled with the planting in front. Currently we have ground cover Rosa ‘Snow Carpet’ underplanted with Clematis ‘Chelsea’ neither has done that well which could be because it is a very dry spot. 16_08_24_3304This border on the right has done well this year. The large Nepeta is ‘Six Hills Giant’ with dahlias ‘David Howard’ and ‘Twyning’s After Eight’. In the centre is an interesting Salvia involocruta bethellii. This salvia is cut back in the winter but so far has survived our winters and grows to around 6 feet. We normally mulch the base in winter with dry material to protect it from the frost.

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Salvia involocruta bethellii

 

August delights and disaster

Another week without any rain. The garden is beginning to look very dry and crisp and across the lawn you can see where  hoggin paths went, which were laid in the original walled garden, by the browning of the grass. Due to the hoggin under the turf these areas always dry out first. (Hoggin is a compactable ground-cover that is composed of a mixture of clay, gravel, and sand or granite dust that produces a buff-coloured bound surface. Once laid, the surface is somewhat permeable to water and therefore does not easily hold puddles or generate rapid surface runoff. )

The weather forecast is for more sun and heat into the low thirties next week which by English standards is very hot. So more  brown paths!

The most significant disaster is the large pond in the Italianate area.16_08_07_3109You can see that the water level is low. This is despite frequent topping up. In fact it has developed a leak! The pond was built about 19 years ago and at that stage we used a liner which forms the floor of the pond and runs up behind the walls to complete the pond without any unsightly liner showing. Alas, it also means that leaks are impossible to find. Nevertheless  I have a plan to solve the issue over the next few weeks and will cover it in a later blog.

I do not expect to replant all the water lilies so let me know if you need any.

However, there are many delights to be had:16_08_08_3149

A second brood of swallows sitting on the side of the conservatory waiting to be fed. The dry weather has been good for the swallows and there will soon be hundreds flying around before they migrate.

The garden itself is not looking too bad despite the lack of rain.16_08_07_3066

August is now well under way. Many of the roses are having a second flush of flowers and the dahlias are flowering and demanding dead heading. Seed heads are becoming dry on the poppies and alliums adding to the overall look.

Some of the August delights from the garden are in the following photo mosaic :

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Not to be forgotten is the hanging baskets. This one is on automatic watering which helps the garden maintenance enormously.

 

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
10 132 17

Leggy Irene Watts, creeping thyme and a very prickly visitor

Leggy Irene Watts

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Job done!

Cobbles

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!

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Half done!

Clematis of the week:

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Clematis ‘Elsa Path’

Summer pruning
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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.

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Job done

Creepers

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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.
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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.

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Main garden looking towards the pergola

Gardening hours
This week Since June 19th
31 47