19 Apr 2017

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Perennial tulips

There's a corner of the veg patch garden where, in late 2013, I planted tulips that I'd bought during a visit to Sarah Raven's Perch Hill Farm.  Her shop is unbelievably tempting so I was very restrained in coming away with just two bags of bulbs.  One set didn't do at all well but these, her 'Apricot Beauty' set have come back and flowered every year since - now in their fourth year of flowering.  That's very good value.

The Exotic Emperor's are aptly named - they open in the form that we'd expect from a tulip but, as the flowers age the petals widen fully to resemble Chinese water lilies. It's quite spectacular and they seem to last for a good month.  The other two varieties in the set let the Emperor have his day then Apricot Beauty opens to support the now open-petalled show before Spring Green thrusts up to counterpoint the final lily-like days of the Emperor.  It's a great display, subtle but showstopping. The Emperor still rules but there are a few less of the other two.  Reinforcements will be acquired this autumn. I'll put it in my garden diary now in case that thought slips away over the summer.




Top to bottom:  Spring Green, Apricot Beauty, Exotic Emperor

9 Apr 2017

Thinking pink: Rhubarb, how do you eat yours?

Red champagne, early March


Not only am I surrounded by blossom but there's rhubarb and purple sprouting broccoli to pick too - what's not to love about spring!  The rhubarb season is now well under way here in the south-east of the UK - and hopefully where you are too.

I'm spoilt for choice this year as both my Champagne rhubarb plants have got off to a good start this year with nice long pink tasty stems.  Since the above photo was taken, both plants have produced a flower stalk - swiftly removed by me - which shows they're not entirely happy growing under the fruit trees. I'll be moving both plants next winter into a sunnier spot with good rich soil.

The Glaskin's Perpetual that I grew from seed a few years ago has been a little slower off the mark. I can live with that though because a friend lets me pick from her very vigorous rhubarb growing on one of the allotment gardens in the flats. Lovely long pink stems have been brought into my kitchen since mid-March. Amazingly, this friend doesn't even like rhubarb so never picks it; I think that's why it's so healthy, its strength has never been depleted by regular picking! Until now, of course. ;)  She doesn't know what variety it is, could be Timperley Early going by the timing.

Using an old school crate to keep marauding animals away.


At the shared allotment I counted eight rhubarb plants. Eight!! They're quite small so the team thought a little experiment might be in order. A few weeks ago, we chose the runt of the litter to see if we could force a few stems; a tall black bin was placed over the plant and weighed down with a brick. In just a few weeks the bin was removed to reveal a few pretty stems - tall, bright pink, tender and with beautiful yellow green leaves. The proper time to force rhubarb is when the crown is just beginning to show buds - I must remember that for next winter after I've mulched around the plants.  The RHS advices to stop forcing rhubarb in April and not take any more stems from the forced plant so that it has time to recover, or to not pick at all from that plant for a few years.

With all these stems to choose from, I'm have a grand old time discovering new recipes.  At first I made a compote for yogurt by chopping the stems into 3" lengths, roasting them in the oven, cooling, then chopping stem ginger into this. Simple and tasty.

Then I got a little more adventurous as my niece was coming over for supper. I whipped up meringue for a pavlova, filled with cream and laid roasted rhubarb and chopped stem ginger over the top. Tasty and visually tempting.

Pretty in pink.


The stems kept coming so I turned to Nigel Slater's Tender II - a veritable tome of inspiration for fruit growers.  Sloe Rhubarb grabbed my attention; a simple affair of roasting rhubarb stems in the oven with a bit of sugar and a good slug of sloe gin. (Plus, later, a few blueberries.) Nigel writes that sloe gin can be hard to get hold of - a very good reason to forage for sloes in the autumn and the reason my foraging has produced a well stocked cupboard.  I served the delicious results with some single cream which Mr Slater says is not strictly necessary. Although sometimes it just is.

Loving the sloe life - and pleased to find a use for my grandmother's Victorian sundae glasses


With a team get together at the allotment yesterday, a cake was needed so a traybake recipe on the Tesco website looked appealing.  It was a bit of a faff to make with lots of washing up after but the results were surprisingly very very good. (The recipe calls for walnuts; I had a bag of mixed nuts so my topping also has almonds and pistachios.)

Perhaps not just for tea time?
It was not a cake of beauty but its looks belied the tastiness within. Think sponge cake with a layer of sweetened rhubarb topped with a nutty oaty buttery flapjack topping and you're there. It was very well received at the allotment and I can heartily recommend you give this one a go.  I haven't tried, but imagine this would also be very nice warm with custard.  The recipe is on the Tesco website here: Traybake

And speaking of custard, and with the sun beating down (at least for today), my next foray into rhubarb heaven will have to be rhubarb fool, with cream of course.

How do you eat yours?








6 Apr 2017

Thoughts on a sunny day

For a week forecast to be cloudy but mild, it's turning out rather splendidly.  I've seen bright warm sunshine every day. I was so enjoying the garden yesterday, looking at some of the amazing colour juxtapositions and  making the most of a dry and bright day to get some more gardening done,  that I ran out of time to post these Almost Wordless Wednesday photos. These are just iphone pics, snapped while wandering in the sunshine but I hope they give a flavour of what I enjoyed. I'm loving this spring weather - the perfect climate for me, not too hot!


So worth going out in the cold to plant bulbs in November - although these are the cheap ones planted three years ago and now coming back for their fourth showing. Bargain!


Drought border - so dubbed because the hose won't reach that far.
Lavender is coming back so strongly next to the Erysimum Bowles' Mauve that it's squeezing out a bronze Carex in between the two. Iris 'Edith Wolford' at the back gets a nice baking heat on its rhizomes, Cerinthe (left of pic) self seeded for which I'm always grateful, Euphorbia behind the Cordyline australis (trunk seen) will be interspersed with grasses when they reshoot and there's a curry plant and Stachys byzantina to echo the silvery leaves of the Erysimum just out of shot.  And I found my nemesis, the Rosemary Beetle, sunbathing on the Perovskia (behind the lavender)! 


Nice calm Anemone blanda and Galium odoratum in the shady border.


Mmmm, zingy!
Schiaparelli pink Pineapple sage flowers against euphorbia in the 'washing line' drought border.


Can anyone shed light on what this is? It's a cuckoo in the nest of my Sambucus nigra pot. Looks quite interesting though!


And, of course, frothy blossom everywhere! Cherry blossom (left), apple blossom (right)

How's the week shaping up in your spring garden?


2 Apr 2017

Ransoms, rhubarb + rosemary beetles - My March Garden



The garden has really come alive in the past few weeks so this End of Month look-back makes for a really useful record for future years. March is the first month of spring in the gardening calendar but I don't remember seeing spring unfurl quite this quickly before. By mid-March, February's hellebores, snowdrops and crocuses had given way to primroses and daffodils. The little violets that I look forward to each year have been and gone but primulas, muscari, wood anemones and forget-me-nots have opened in their place. I breathed a sigh of relief that winter was over and spring beginning with all the anticipation for getting the garden started again.

~ Some of the tulips in the spring border ... All from a £5 supermarket bag
except, top left, 'Exotic Emperor' from Sarah Raven ~


But that rapid turnover wasn't the end of it. By 20th March, I was posting photos of open tulips on my Instagram feed. The crocuses in the sieve planter had been replaced by bright red dwarf tulips, the borders were brightened by purple wallflowers, honesty, cerinthe, cowslips, primulas and lungwort (a name that does no justice to pretty Pulmonaria) - even the pear tree had buds about to blossom.

Main pic pear blossom
Right row from top: blueberries, honeyberries, strawberries
Bottom row from left: quince, gooseberries, apple, plum

In the last week of March tulips were in full swing, beautiful white daffodils had bloomed and died (so quick!), petal confetti from fruit tree blossom covered the garden and regular pickings could be taken from rhubarb stems and purple sprouting broccoli.  (As well as overwintered kale and chard.)



The weather of course has been all over the place which explains the early arrival of so many flowers. Temperatures up and down like yoyos, clear blue skies tempting us outside into bitingly cold winds only to be followed by mild cloudy days. We've even had a couple of days when it felt hot like early summer. No wonder spring is rushing by! Hopefully April will be a steadying influence on the garden - I've already had to get the hosepipe out for the plants in the middle garden waiting to go into the soil. I'm also on a daily watch for rosemary beetle - there have been nibblings on my lavender (I can't grow rosemary here anymore thanks to these brutes) and I must have squished 30+ beetles in the past few weeks, with bonus points for the ones getting busy with the baby making.




I was curious to see whether spring was this early last year and checked back on photos.  The first tulip opened on the 2nd April but it took until the 11th before the display had any impact. A similar story is repeated throughout the garden - asparagus shoots, ransom buds, cherry and apple blossom are all a good two weeks ahead of last year as is the rhubarb (first pickings were on 16th April last year).

Spring has definitely come a good two to three weeks early here in the South of England. Mild winter? Climate change? All I know is that four years ago settling snow fell in the run up to a bloggers meet up at Great Dixter on the 28th March. I remember it clearly because the meet up was two days after my birthday and it was my first visit to Dixter. I was desperate to go and, serendipitously, the snow melted away on the day.  This year, I'd have driven down to Sussex in warm sunshine. It will be very interesting to see what effect this has on the garden in weeks to come. Let's hope that it doesn't mean we'll get autumn in July!

Linking to 
Helen's End of Month View for March at the Patient Gardener
and to Sarah's Through the Garden Gate at Down by the Sea

and looking forward to reading how everyone else's plots and gardens are faring.




22 Mar 2017

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday - Spring Harvest

~ Just add rice ~

Walking through the veg patch yesterday evening, I could see that strong winds had, yet again, done for my purple sprouting broccoli so I had to nip in and try to prop it up without having any string on me.  (Note to gardening self - always have a bit of twine in your pockets.)

There were a number of PSB stalks ready for cutting (luckily I had a pocket knife in my garden bag) to which I quickly added some yellow chard, Cavalo Nero kale, pink stems of Red Champagne rhubarb, plus a few salad leaves of wild rocket, sorrel, baby chard and baby beetroot.  And, just like that, I had the makings of a nice supper.  I just added some Camargue and Wild Rice to the cooked veg, and some stem ginger and yogurt to the rhubarb.  My first (almost) all veg patch supper* of the year.

Can I just say what good value the wild rocket has been this winter? I eat salad with everything, even breakfast if I'm having eggs, and these leaves have stood over winter as a really good cut and come again crop.



* Leaves of chard and kale were finely sliced and stir fried in olive oil with shallots, garlic, chilli and grated ginger; the stems were steamed with the broccoli stalks while the rice cooked. I usually add a dressing of tamari soy sauce to spice things up a bit as well.  The rhubarb stems were roasted for a short time in the oven then mixed with chopped stem ginger and plonked on top of yogurt.  I'm no chef but I like tasty fresh food!

21 Mar 2017

Working together at the allotment

~ What I took on last year. Not bad as plots go ... ! ~

A shared allotment can be a complicated business if y'all do your own thing.  This seemed to be the arrangement when I was asked to jump in and help Doreen, a local octagenarian, keep her allotment plot last autumn. I was offered a large 5ft by 20ft overgrown bed to maintain while three other helpers kept up the rest of the plot. The others had a baby (now there are two) so plot visits were infrequent, if not impossible, whereas Doreen and I would regularly pop up, drink tea and hatch plans before pottering off to dig (in my case) or visit plot friends (in hers). We rarely saw the other helpers and their beds remained untouched through the winter, to the point that weeds built up, veg was ignored - except by me, hah! - and bean wigwams (with old pods) were left standing. It was a frustrating vision, particularly as Doreen (the 80 year old) and I like a nice tidy plot. But it was hands off - for now - as the others had, in fairness, managed the plot for the past few years when Doreen couldn't.

Fast forward to early March and a pleasant surprise awaited. In the days since my last visit, the bean wigwams had been dismantled and the beds hoed. Apparently the others had sprung into action! Then I had a message to say that mulch had been ordered and did I need anything? No, but it did make me think. Wouldn't it be nicer if we managed the plot together rather than individually? I pictured a plot filled with three lots of the same veg and little room for anything else. Bonkers. I decided to resolve the situation.

Last weekend, we met up and agreed very amicably to work as a team. Hoorah! Now we could start to plan properly. The first thing was to make the plot child safe for the toddlers. Rusting metal poles used for holding fencing in place had to go, as did sharp edged metal cages used as cloches. Rotting bed edges were remade with new wood. Nettle patches have been removed. The huge pile of raw edged chicken wire, tangled netting and fencing stakes have been neatly stashed out of the way and a broken cold frame has been dumped. The others brought a friend along on Sunday afternoon to dig up a grass path between the beds ready for mulching with bark chips while we tidied, cleared, weeded, raked, mulched and chatted.  It was windy and a bit chilly but so so good to be busy working together. I do love a bit of community action - we achieved so much in just a few hours! And once the plot was empty and tidy, I felt motivated to stay on after the others had left and strim the long grass.

~ Team work = progress! ~


Working together as team, when it works, is fantastic - each plays to their own strengths and everyone goes home with the rewarding feeling of having got things done without being too knackered! On a practical level, compromise may be needed. We won't always be working alongside each other as I can get to the plot more easily than the others so the work won't be evenly shared, but I accept that. I'll be going little and often while the others can pick up the slack at the weekends. Expectations have to be realistic but as long as there's also good communication, a little diplomacy and a lot of enjoyment, it looks like being a fun year ahead - I just hope there will be enough veg to go round in the summer!


I do like to chat so a bonus to taking the rubbish to my car meant that I got to meet other allotmenteers as I went back and forth. (I like to recycle rubbish where I can.) On my walk, I noticed that Geranium phaeum was in bloom and growing massively on one of the plots so I asked if I could help myself to a bit. Within minutes the gardener had cheerfully dug up a large clump for me, saying it grows wild on the plots, and accepted a pile of sturdy metal grids in exchange. Allotment life at its best!



15 Mar 2017

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Pink

~ Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)
Never mind yellow - Spring is also full of pink.
Although I'm not sure that tulip should be in bud in mid-March.

11 Mar 2017

Stumped! And a bittersweet solution



Sometimes (actually, with increasing regularity) I despair at the culture we live in, where statistical results and budget take precedence over common sense and communication.  This past week I've seen tree works carried out by undertrained and badly equipped contractors acting on the orders of disinterested landlords and I've also had a conversation with a lad on our estate who is struggling to keep going with his chosen career of horticulture. In both instances, I believe budget played a part.

My alarm bells starting ringing a couple of months back about the tree works when notices were posted about which trees would be affected. We're in a conservation area so permission has to be sought from the local council for any tree works - yes, even when I want to prune my fruit trees in spring apparently!  I checked the online planning application and map and was satisfied that my fruit trees were unaffected by this cull but, stupidly, missed the threat to the cherry plum tree growing next to our playground area.


~ Last week ... ~

It's too late now, of course, but I'm wondering why on earth anyone would want to destroy a healthy, prolific and beautiful fruit tree. It was small, as trees go, the perfect urban tree - covered in bridal confetti blossom during late February and March and hundreds of sweet yellow plums in July. The problem here is that there is no programme for regularly maintaining the trees and shrubs on the estate - the budget conscious powers-that-be ignore the situation until it becomes a problem.  The tree was allowed to grow unchecked until it reached the first floor and the lower branches stretched out across the pathway next to the border.  Pruning the lower branches back would have resolved any hazard to pedestrians and left tenants with a beautiful tree and delicious fruit to eat. But, no. What we have now is less than a stump.  It was the only tree marked out to be 'felled and poisoned', despite there being several over-tall conifers blocking the light to flats on the second floor. Even the contractors were perplexed at the loss of this beautiful tree.  It might seem overly sensitive to some but I have felt truly saddened by this all week.

~ Why would anyone not want this outside their window? ~


To be fair, the contractors were pleasant young men working to a job sheet and, worryingly, their employers had sent them in with incomplete safety measures. No ladders, no safety gloves; at least these lads sported hard hats with face shields but stood on walls to reach tree canopies, with one steadying the other by the ankles. They even showed me scarred arms from wearing thin fabric gloves to operate chainsaws and hedge trimmers! They were unable to identify the trees that they were chopping at; one of them explained that he was new to this work and still learning. The surveyor who had visited before them should surely have known what he was looking at?  I mean, how hard is it to identify a Viburnum x bodnantense in December? The pink scented flowers should provide a big clue but these shrubs were labelled as cotoneaster trees. Elsewhere in the grounds, a Hebe and Elaeagnus were marked on the map as 'unidentified trees'. *rolls eyes heavenwards and shakes head*

The contractors were careful of my newly raked soil when pruning out the epicormic stems of the limes in the middle garden. (In fact, even there these stems weren't pruned correctly, being chopped off half way.) By some miracle the ivy on the limes, currently housing several nesting birds, was left alone. The council planning department had deferred to a member of the local Conservation Area Committee to verify that they had no objections to the tree works requested and the woman consulted (not a tenant here) actually asked for the ivy on the lime trees to be pulled off!!! Words fail me!!  (I know I dislike ivy when it's spreading on the ground, but ... my little birds!!) AND, it's absolutely no business of hers if I, as caretaker of the garden, am happy for ivy to grow up the trees as it has done for years.  Flippin' cheek!

*Takes a deep breath and calms down*   There was a silver lining to this cloud as I asked the lads what would happen to the wood chippings of their morning's work and was told that I could have them.  So it seems that a decision has been made as to what to line the circle of the middle garden with.  Not grass, fake or real, nor gravel but bark chippings.

And what about the young man I mentioned who desperately wants to be a gardener?  He was ten months into his training at the same college I attended when he was asked to leave. This allegedly was due to his being late on half a dozen occasions in that ten month period. Colleges have to keep records on attendance for their funded programmes and lateness lowers the statistics, and statistics are numbers, not reasons. I get it, lateness is not acceptable but let's put this in perspective - it used to take me 40 minutes to an hour to drive there; he used public transport where the overcrowded trains would frequently be cancelled creating a domino effect on the rest of his 'walk-train-walk-train-walk' journey.  Did he give up and go home? No; he persevered and got there.  Was he offered help and advice?  No ... leaving him floundering, working indoors and disillusioned. He's a pleasant, polite and bright lad (and, yes, I am biased because he's one of my son's friends) and I hate to see enthusiasm and a passion for doing what you love thwarted in any young person.  Hopefully my on the spot careers advice will have given him a few avenues to pursue with potential for a job, voluntary work at Kew and a possible apprenticeship in his future. And he offered to volunteer for the community gardens here. :o)

What a week!

~ You can't even buy these plums in the shops ~
PS.  I've just discovered that Thompson and Morgan sell cherry plum trees as bare root hedging plants ... and I was considering replacing the Euonymus hedge in the middle garden. Maybe another problem solved?
PPS. Please forgive my ranting. I sometimes forget how much I learned during my garden design training which included a lot of horticulture and focus on plants. I certainly wouldn't expect everyone to know a Viburnum from a Cotoneaster but would have thought that someone practising arboriculture would be trained to know the difference! 

9 Mar 2017

#mygardenrightnow In the Veg Patch early March



Last weekend I joined in with Veg Plotting's engaging #mygardenrightnow meme with pics of me in the middle garden as that was where I'd been working but ... "What about the veg patch?", do I hear you ask? Indeed. Still loved, rarely forgotten. That space has been quietly trundling along over winter supplying me with kale, chard, beetroot, a few herbs, wild rocket and bucketloads of inspiration to be outdoors. (I haven't yet nailed the winter salad that I hope to achieve this year.)

Now depleted winter veg but, ooh look!, here comes rhubarb and psb!

From top left: Herb bed (Tarragon, mint in buckets, chives, hyssop, thymes);
Wild garlic (ransoms), Tarragon, Chives.
The gaps will be filled with parsley, coriander and dill and fennel also grows in the garden.

Seeing the garden spring back into life over the past few weeks has brought good cheer and a reason to walk through every day, sometimes lingering to pull a weed or two and making plans.  It's not just veg that's grown here though and my favourite spot right now is the patch under the apple tree - I like to think of it as my "spring border. As soon as the fruit trees were planted, I wanted to pretty up the soil underneath so every year since I've randomly dropped in primulas, mini daffodils, violets, snowdrops and crocuses - all of which are gradually spreading out and providing much needed sustenance for early pollinators.


Last year I transplanted some of the hellebore seedlings from the middle garden and am delighted to see that they've started to flower this spring. The more the merrier!



I'd like to claim that I actually planned the planter above but the sad reality is that I ran out of time in autumn 2015 and plonked crocus bulbs in so that they weren't wasted ... and since last spring had completely forgotten they were there, proving the point that bulbs thrive on neglect.  Most gardeners have their fails but, happily, I seem to have turned this one around.

Inside the veg patch, the raspberry canes have been cut down, empty beds are weed free and mulched where possible - hence the cages over the asparagus bed.  Purple sprouting broccoli is finally starting to sprout to my huge relief. A couple of the plants had got so enormous that they regularly toppled over, blocking the path or crushing other plants depending which way the wind blew. These plants were 'Early summer purple' so wouldn't have sprouted until May; that was bad planning on my part as I now need the bed for other veg so, spur of the moment, I heaved them out. Yep. That was probably a really stupid decision in terms of future harvests but, lesson learned, I should have known by now to place them at the back of the bed, firm them in and tie them up.  The supporting stakes were not strong enough for such big plants. And at least I can now get to the far end of the Veg Patch. Every year a learning curve.

I'm really happy with the veg patch at the moment, although there's still work to be done.  I still have a little bit of hungry gap veg and, more importantly, I have space to get the ball rolling again - and, serendipitously, a bit of free time coming up to do just that.


I've read that #mygardenrightnow will be back in June, joining the Chelsea Fringe online. Look out for news about that nearer the time from Veg Plotting.

5 Mar 2017

#mygardenrightnow - progress in the middle garden

Ooh, look! It's me!


There's a garden bloggers meme running - for this weekend only! - hosted by Michelle at Veg Plotting blog.  Come join us and check out what other garden bloggers are up to this weekend!


It might not look like much but progress was made in the middle garden yesterday. This is the little garden which I look out on from two floors up and which I started to clear last year.  I've been taking my time as there was a lot of ivy and other stuff that needed to be got rid of (mostly on the occasional day off work) but, finally, I'm redoing the layout.

As with all garden design, it was important to get this step completed first before I could introduce new plants but over the last year, I've acquired lots of plants for this space - some bought, some given, some adopted from my mother's garden.  These plants have been shuffled around the garden in their pots while I deal with one area or another but timing is now crucial.  Spring is here and these plants need to be in the ground, so the layout has to be finished. Yesterday's task was to level off the soil where I'd dug out weeds, bricks and tree roots, hack back some more ivy and clear under the Euonymus (spindle) hedge ready to chop it back more. All done by 6pm, just as the light was fast fading.

Luckily, when I got in, I spotted Michelle's weekend meme #mygardenrightnow; photos were needed so, at 8 am this morning, before taking my garden waste to recycling in the rain, I snapped a (rare) quick pic of me in the garden.

13 months ago - 7ft wide hedges and ivy creeping up to the tiny weed filled oval of gravel.

What a difference a year makes! This morning (when the sun briefly reappeared from behind rain clouds)
I'm still deciding whether to keep gravel in the centre or replace with grass or chippings. 

26 Feb 2017

Wisley inspired early spring colour



At the onset of spring, we gardeners navigate towards colour like a thirsty man towards an oasis. We can spot an emerging snowdrop or primrose at fifty paces, swoon at crocus, irises and Hamamelis and can accurately identify a Daphne or Sarcococca from a whiff of scent on the breeze.  Even in a mild winter, deprivation of outdoor time in our gardens and the sight of grey skies can feel endless and leave us longing for spring to begin.

I am not immune to this and for my quick fix antidote I took myself off to RHS Wisley on Valentine's Day -  my gift to myself. That was just over ten days ago and I can't believe how many spring flowers have opened since then. As I set out, I was blissfully unaware that it was half term and the gardens likely to be busy - they were but, strangely, the only clue was that the overflow car parks were in use.  Once in the gardens, all was calm and peaceful, just how I like it.  Families, couples, visiting groups, even schools, were all there but Wisley's 60 acres had easily absorbed them all without anyone's enjoyment being compromised.

Bursts of colour were my motivation for visiting, especially the newly expanded Winter Walk, but first I headed off to see the butterflies in the Glasshouse.  To be honest, the textural planting is what lures me inside but it's still thrilling to see so many colourful butterflies swooping and gliding around. A spotter's guide is available for a small donation so I was able to identify the ones that stayed still long enough for me to photograph, although there were quite a few on the guide that eluded me. And not just because the lens on my camera kept steaming up.

Back outside, it was warm enough to grab a sandwich from the cafĂ©* and sit outside watching the ducks on the Winter Walk lake. Aren't they gorgeous! I'm hopeless with birds, anyone know what kind of duck this is?  His plumage was attracting a lot of attention!

Wisley ducks


Sitting by the lake, I was surrounded by colour. The Winter Walk is just, wow, breathtaking! I promise, it's worth a trip to the gardens to see, it's such a treat for colour starved eyes.  I've been many times in the past when multicoloured stems of dogwood and Rubus lit up the water's edge but this year the planting has been extended to the borders opposite the water.  Rivers of iris against a backdrop of red witch hazel and golden willow - dramatic planting with the look of an impressionist painting. (I know I can be a plant nerd but I swear my heart beat faster at this sight.)

~ Iris histrioides 'Lady Beatrix Stanley', Hamamelis x intermedia Rubin, Prunus serrula (for red bark and spring blossom), Salix alba 'Golden Ness' in background.




Stems of Cornus stolonifera flaviramea (green), C sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire', C. sericea 'Coral Red' (centre front), C. alba 'Kesselringii' (purple/black) and Rubus cockburnianus (white bramble)
Stunning, huh?

I recently met some garden owners whose previous gardener had overlooked the colour and scents available in spring, leaving them with a view of clipped box balls, yew hedges and muddy lawns. Tidy but sterile - what a missed opportunity! The collage below shows a tiny bit of the colour I found on my walk.

Clockwise from top left:  Calluna vulgaris 'Wickwar Flame'. Camellia japonica 'MarguĂ©rite Guillon', crocus, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aphrodite', Iris histrioides 'Lady Beatrix Stanley', Hellebore (unknown)

I love to be outdoors throughout the year so, for me, a slow meander through the gardens gives an opportunity to fully appreciate spring unfolding. I marvel at the synchronicity of nature's timing, providing for wildlife who then return the favour by providing a service in the garden. Cyclamen seeds have a sweet coating that's irresistible to ants who carry the seeds away from the parent plant to increase chances of germination, while bees love the early nectar they can find from hellebores, crocus, heathers, witch hazel and iris. Even camellias which would appear to be too tightly petalled to be of use, lure bees in.  I spent a happy hour last spring watching bees all over the camellia under my window at home.

A favourite plant that I was delighted to discover in the borders was Hellebore 'Anna's Red', named for garden writer, Anna Pavord.  I last saw these at Great Dixter a couple of years ago; they're a stunning addition to the species, a deep red with marbled leaves raised by nurseryman Rodney Davey over a 12 year period. I really want some of these beauties in the garden at home; as luck would have it, the RHS plant centre has some for sale.  I had to beat the rush hour traffic back so resisted but, next visit ...

Hellebore 'Anna's Red'


My visit was a very successful and inspiring day out, especially as entrance was free as I'm a member of the RHS. The butterflies will be in the Glasshouse until Sunday 5th March, entrance is free to garden visitors.  And I presume the winter walk dogwoods will have to be cut back soon.



(*)  I chose a very affordable kid's lunch bag, choice of 5 items for less than a fiver, which I filled with drink, 2 sandwiches, fruit and crisps. It was all very fresh and delicious.




21 Feb 2017

On with the plot

~ Rosemary flowering at the allotment ~


I couldn't resist a quick visit to the allotment this morning.  The sun was shining, the air was warm and having cleared the veg patch yesterday afternoon, I couldn't wait to see what was happening up at the plots.  Having not been up for a while, I half expected to see a fair bit of chickweed and couch grass.

19 Feb 2017

Never mind the roses

Hellebore atrorubens
~ Wisley borders, Valentine's Day - Hellebore atrorubens aka the Lenten Rose ~

It's rare that I can look back on a week so positively plumped with gardening goodness but the past seven days have been  just that - filled with gardening hygge, the feel good vibe that I get when surrounded by nature, chatting to fellow garden enthusiasts or getting my hands into the soil or around a pair of secateurs.

17 Jan 2017

Pig Latin for gardeners

(Photo: Looking back on the glory years!) 


I'm fascinated how language constantly evolves and new words pop up. I discovered an amazing new-to-me word the other day - 'veganuary'. Heard of it?  I hadn't until I spotted the term in a vegetarian magazine. That should have given me the clue but of course I read it as VEG-anuary - what a brilliant word to start the food gardening year, I thought!  After reading the article, I realised the word was coined to adopt January as the month when people are challenged to try vegan (animal free) eating habits.


10 Jan 2017

Digging up the past

Agapanthus

Hello and Happy New Year!  I'm wondering should I retitle my blog 'The Absent Blogger'?  I've not been around much recently! My 2016 stats show that I started twice the number of posts as were finished and published, leaving lots of good ideas and lovely experiences still sitting in my intray. Hmmm, not good. Writing went on the back burner for a number of reasons, the most recent of which was making the time to clear my parents' home before it was sold just before Christmas.  So why 'digging up the past'? Because I was allowed to dig up several plants to bring back to London as a living reminder of the garden that my mum loved.

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