Wild flower meadow project update (August)

Things have certainly moved on since this project started. We now have a fence (except for the field gate which should arrive this week). The lime tree in the picture has had its canopy raised so I can walk under it. This should create a dappled shade enabling wild flowers to grow under the tree. In the recent exceptionally hot spell (34c) it also provided one of the coolest parts of our garden!

The major and exhausting job has been cutting the existing grass and scarification to expose the soil prior to seeding.

The grass was first cut as short as possible. Even then there remained a lot of thatch as these fields have been a sheep meadow for several hundred years. Then my little scarifier has done the work to cut into the thatch and pull it up.

The thatch then needs to be raked up.

Without the right machine this is very much a manual job and quite exhausting it is too!

The thatch is beginning to loosen up so that when we seed the seed can make contact with the soil and hopefully germinate.

Interestingly although we have only brought about 26m into the field we do seem much closer to the pond. This pond was the fish pond for the rectory next door. It is therefore at least 300 years old and could have been a medieval fish pond. The level is maintained by a small weir on the stream which runs along the edge of the field.

So far I have scarified the whole field in one direction. Now I need to do the same in the other direction!

Right from the start we decided to get some mature trees. A visit to Majestic Trees and we now have three trees on order. A Liquidambar styraciflua

A Fagus sylvatica ‘Tricolour’ and

a Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’. These trees will be planted in October when we should expect more rain. As you can see from the pictures they are on extensive watering systems.

Lastly we now have brought the meadow seed. We were fortunate to have a long established wild flower seed supplier near us called Naturescape. Discussions with them certainly helped us choose the seed. We have gone for three different seed mixes:

The ditch which forms the ha-ha at the edge of the garden is always going to be damp and we have gone for Wetland Meadow Mixture:

Latin NameEnglish NameMix Composition
Achillea millefoliumYarrow2.50%
Centaurea nigraCommon Knapweed9%
Filipendula ulmariaMeadowsweet8%
Lathyrus pratensisMeadow Vetchling3%
Leucanthemum vulgareOxeye Daisy7%
Lotus corniculatusBirdsfoot Trefoil4%
Lotus pedunculatusGreater Birdsfoot Trefoil4%
Lychnis flos-cuculiRagged Robin2%
Ononis repensCommon Restharrow2%
Plantago lanceolataRibwort Plantain4%
Primula verisCowslip3%
Prunella vulgarisSelf Heal8%
Ranunculus acrisMeadow Buttercup9%
Rhinanthus minorYellow Rattle10%
Rumex acetosaCommon Sorrel8%
Sanguisorba officinalisGreat Burnet2%
Serratula tinctoriaSawwort1%
Stachys officinalisBetony2.50%
Succisa pratensisDevilsbit Scabious3.50%
Tragopogon pratensisGoatsbeard2%
Trifolium pratenseWild Red Clover3%
Vicia craccaTufted Vetch3%

The areas under the Lime tree and the Horse Chestnut tree will always be dry and we have been advised that a Hedgerow Meadow Mixture would work well there:

Latin NameEnglish NameMix Composition
Achillea millefoliumYarrow3%
Agrimonia eupatoriaCommon Agrimony4%
Alliaria petiolataGarlic Mustard7%
Centaurea nigraCommon Knapweed6%
Digitalis purpureaWild Foxglove3%
Filipendula ulmariaMeadowsweet4%
Galium mollugoHedge Bedstraw4%
Geranium pyrenaicumHedgerow Cranesbill1%
Geum urbanumWood Avens5%
Hypericum perforatumCommon St. John’s Wort2%
Knautia arvensisField Scabious4%
Lathyrus pratensisMeadow Vetchling3%
Leontodon autumnalisAutumn Hawkbit2%
Leucanthemum vulgareOxeye Daisy5%
Malva moschataMusk Mallow5%
Malva sylvestrisCommon Mallow4%
Prunella vulgarisSelf Heal5%
Silene albaWhite Campion5%
Silene dioicaRed Campion7%
Silene vulgarisBladder Campion2%
Stachys sylvaticaHedge Woundwort6%
Torilis japonicaUpright Hedge Parsley4%
Verbascum nigrumDark Mullein3%
Vicia craccaTufted Vetch5%
Vicia sylvaticaWood Vetch1%

And for the bulk of the field a Summer Flowering Butterfly & Bee Meadow Mixture:

Latin NameEnglish NameMix Composition
Achillea millefoliumYarrow3%
Anthyllis vulnerariaKidney Vetch3%
Campanula glomerataClustered Bellflower1%
Campanula tracheliumNettle Leaved Bellflower1%
Centaurea nigraCommon Knapweed8%
Centaurea scabiosaGreater Knapweed5%
Daucus carotaWild Carrot4%
Echium vulgareViper’s Bugloss4%
Galium verumLady’s Bedstraw8%
Geranium pratenseMeadow Cranesbill2%
Hypericum perforatumCommon St. John’s Wort3%
Knautia arvensisField Scabious5%
Lathyrus pratensisMeadow Vetchling3%
Linaria vulgarisCommon Toadflax1%
Lotus corniculatusBirdsfoot Trefoil7%
Lythrum salicariaPurple Loosestrife2%
Origanum vulgareWild Marjoram2%
Prunella vulgarisSelf Heal10%
Rhinanthus minorYellow Rattle7%
Scabiosa columbariaSmall Scabious4%
Stachys officinalisBetony4%
Stachys sylvaticaHedge Woundwort3%
Succisa pratensisDevilsbit Scabious2%
Trifolium pratenseWild Red Clover3%
Verbascum nigrumDark Mullein2%
Vicia craccaTufted Vetch3%

In addition we added some seed of Cowslips, Oxeye Daisy, Greater Hawbit, Salard Burnet and Pignut. We will probably seed the area around the end of August.

One unexpected benefit of the meadow is it gives us another view into our garden.

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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!

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.

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

 

The luckiest toad in the garden

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

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

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

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

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

End of Month View – April 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of Month View – March 2018

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

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

 

It should be finished in another week.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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