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!

End of Month View – August 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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