End of Month View July 2017: a wobble, some growth

Only a few days ago, I have to say I had a bit of a wobble both on social media and off. I’d been sowing lunaria seed, without a potting shed to sow them in, so they’d been blown around my windtunnel of a garden. Then, when all the pots were ready, I put them on my growframe, which promptly collapsed:

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Around an hour or so of work, fetching back and forth, getting tools, forgetting tools, squeezing past pots and garden furniture: and that’s not including time invested in the pots it collapsed onto!

There followed a good few minutes of me ranting to the Welsh rose: when was it going to end? When would I have a garden, and a shed, and all the really boring things I was hoping (nearly two years after moving) to take for granted? This month’s EOMV is really in the shadow of all of those questions, I suppose. Let’s try not to think of the foundations of walls, still unlaid:

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And instead try to focus on all the things that are currently going right with my garden and my plants.

Outdoors

For a start, the ornamentals on the decking are doing wonderfully:

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The zonal pelargoniums just keep on giving; the cosmos has bounced back from the Bord na Mona compost; and the “Fat Head” lavender, although it’s gone over, is still looking and smelling great. Somehow I’ve made a salvia collapse again, just dry up then rot. Who knows? At least I haven’t killed any of the lavenders. Yet.

Acer “Anne Irene” is still looking lovely:

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As is the new shady perennial bed, a selection of pots where the Hebe once lolled and flopped:

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Vegetables are also generally going pretty well:

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We’re getting two or three tomatoes ripening, every few days. I’ve been cutting the existing trusses back, as most of the plants now have blight, so it’s a race against time! I can pick lettuce almost any day and—if we could just stop getting it in the veg box—the same goes for kale.

Along with delphiniums and eryngiums, the courgette “Nero di Milano” has been chewed to a stump by pests, but it yet might recover; meanwhile, the other courgette “White Volunteer” is thriving, as are my buddleia cuttings, and of course The Buddleia They Couldn’t Kill:

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Long-term readers will know I have a history of killing off buddleia cuttings, but these seem to have taken: there’s new growth in those pictures. And my zonal pelargonium cuttings are so happy, they’re trying to flower!

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(I’ve since pinched out the flowers, to try to get the energy back into the leaves.)

The lavender cuttings damped off, unfortunately, even though they weren’t bagged or anything. I think they just needed a degree drier: probably even just dampened grit at first.

Indoors

Speaking of thriving, though, Gwenfar mentioned that I seem to have had a lot of success with house plants, so let’s briefly tour those. The Ficus “Tineke” I bought as a small pot plant is now over a metre tall:

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You can also see some of the Billbergia x windii pups, now fully fledged plants, behind it. Elsewhere, these pups are so happy in only their first season that one is flowering:

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I thought they were meant to be monocarpic, but the mother plant is still in that pot on the left, despite it having flowered last year just after I bought it. The obligatory spider plant in between is doing all right, I guess: but then I’ve never seen them thrive, except when they really take off and become a nuisance.

My streptocarpus collection, all (without meaning it) from Dibley’s, are also thriving. “Caitlyn” is coming to its end, while “Crystal Ice” is meant to flower practically all year long:

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Neither of them, I think, can beat my first ever strep “Katie”, which flowers for around seven or eight months and produces deliciously indigo flowers, soft and paddy to the touch like a cat’s paw:

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A random lump of Christmas cactus is putting on new bunny ears of growth, suggesting that it’s rooted:

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Its parent plant is once again confusedly flowering, alongside a peace lily that’s all leaf and an M&S pot rose that’s all twig:

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Beyond them, into the front garden, you can see the bronze fennel and echinacea, next to a stump of delphinium, amidst a sea of recently raked-in Phacelia tanacetifolia seed, covered with pellets!

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Even my Ceropegia woodii cuttings rooted, although layering in a separate pot didn’t work out:

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Finally, I sowed some more coriander—hopefully less likely to run to seed, this side of the solstice—and pampered my “Bush” basil and “Basil” mint (confusing, no?) a little by topping up their soil with compost:

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Maybe there are some successes to be had, amongst the difficulties that the garden currently presents. And the Lunaria seed? Well, I had just enough left in the packet to re-sow:

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Hope triumphs over adversity. Although you’ll note the cable ties, bottom left and right: trust in Allah, but tie up your shelving all the same.

End of Month View June 2017: still building

As much of the first crop of flowers of 2017 have started to fade, the garden seems to take a month-long breath at midsummer, during which I’ve been building the foundations for the first retaining wall. More of that later, though.

Right now, the House Acer is still doing wonderfully:

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It keeps wanting to bud lower down. Right now I’m starting to let it do that – maybe in preparation for hacking it back over winter and moving it….

If it doesn’t survive the move, Acer “Anne Irene” may still be small, but it seems to be settling in:

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The Rose They Couldn’t Kill and the Buddleia They Also Couldn’t Kill are doing well:

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The antirrhinum is still weaving itself amongst the buddleia spikes.

The row of tomatoes, White Lisbon onions, broad beans and bronze fennel is doing well:

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The tomatoes especially are suckering like wildfire, and I’m having to rub or pinch off axil shoots every day or two.

As are the kales, lettuces and backup onions:

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Both look great with the newly repainted furniture, although I would call it a mint-blue rather than “gentle sage.”

The hebe is cuddling up to the geranium, tiarella and the mints:

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It’s another remarkable plant, always covered in bees and even at one point hosting a cinnabar moth.

The philadelphus has lost its single bloom, and now looks merely like some kind of ghoul trying to envelop the euonymous:

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I’m undecided as to what to do with it next year. This is the first that it’s flowered (I think everything is glad of the removal of the privet) but I’ve also been told it responds well to being cut right back, so who knows? If I do cut it back, the euonymous—tangled up as it is—will have to be sacrificed.

The Zaluzianskya phlox and Anthemis tinctoria by the back door have had a second flush of flowers, the latter thanks to some judicious deadheading:

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The annuals and perennials opposite them look happy:

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The lavenders are still out; the pelargoniums will carry on for months; the Geranium sanguineum var striatum, and Lamium Red Nancy are both filling out since RHS Chatsworth (the former responding well to pruning); and the cosmos that Gwenfar kindly looked after when the Bord na Mona compost nearly did for it are bouncing back (along with their cousins, bought as larger plants and already flowering):

Rather worryingly, though, our new compost bins show evidence of something landing on them considerably more heavily than a cat:

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I guess it could be the fox I’ve heard about, but I do wonder if someone tried to use all the back gardens as a passageway. How could they do that? Especially when everyone surely knows it’s a building site instead!

(Thanks to Helen Johnstone for hosting the EOMV meme. Helen’s taking a break from blogging, but the meme lives on!)

End of Month View May 2017: my garden right now, from building site to blank canvas

Since last month’s EOMV one big thing has happened, followed by a lot of little ones: the trench footings went in; and the log store and water butts were reconstructed. This turned the garden into—if not a completely blank canvas, then certainly something with more potential for redrawing:

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But that photo is a good couple of weeks old already; what about now?

Edibles

The veg is starting to look great; so far, nothing has nibbled the kale:

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I’m hoping that it won’t have to go under cover before we eat it; I’ve noticed cabbage whites tend to avoid kale. They don’t know what they’re missing!

The garlics are doing well, even the ones that have permitted a pak-choi underplanting:

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That certainly lasted longer than the lettuces, which were stripped to ribs.

The Axis Of Tomato/Borlotti/Pea-Latvian is also thriving, just as the overwintered peas have probably podded their first and last:

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Ornamentals

The acer is basking in the sun:

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And someone is basking on the acer:

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The Rose They Couldn’t Kill is also full of itself:

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And the Buddleia They Couldn’t Kill has been joined by antirrhinums, dug up from the trench soil, I suppose:

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These have taken over from the myosotis, which has now relaxed back, its flowering done.

The shady pots are thriving:

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The queer, opposite-leaved shrub that keeps growing up through the euonymous is glad of the loss of the privet:

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So much so that it appears to be about to flower:

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Which means I might finally work out what it is!

The Lavendula stoechas “Fathead” is going ballistic:

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And the Lavendula angustifolia “Hidcote” isn’t far behind:

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Cirsium rivulare “Atropurpureum” has avoided being eaten this year, and fended off cuckoo spit, both in part helped by me dousing it with water as puddle and spray respectively:

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And the cheap pelargoniums we moved with from Cogges are into—what?—their fourth year maybe:

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I might try cuttings again this year, although they’ll probably damp off.

Landscaping

Last, but not least, I’ve built another compost bay alongside the first:

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This should really help with my use of my own compost, because one bay can be left to properly compost down, while I start on the other (especially when I add the pine cat litter, which tends to lock up nitrogen as it rots.) After a few weeks of turning the old compost, it’s ready; meanwhile, the new one can just keep receiving new material until I’m done.

Given the escape of compost from the existing bay through gaps in the pallets, I dismantled an entire pallet with wrecking bars:

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And threaded the pieces through the pallet walls, blocking gaps. This meant I could transfer the existing compost into the new bay:

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Leaving the old bay empty, and I was able to line it with the remaining sawdust from the log-store cutting, plus some rooster poo pellets as an accelerator:

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Amazingly, I must have around half a cubic metre of compost, or 400–500 litres. That should get my growing off to a good start: once I’ve built those darn walls!

(Thanks to Helen Johnstone for hosting the EOMV meme. Helen’s taking a break from blogging, but I find these posts very useful myself, so I’m going to carry on anyway. Sometimes the point of a meme is it has its own momentum…!

This month, though, the Chelsea Fringe is also promoting the #mygardenrightnow hashtag on Twitter, and I’m hoping I can release this post in time for that. Thanks to Michelle Chapman for her efforts there!)

End of Month View April 2017: the last few days as a building site

I’ve been away in Amsterdam for a week, and my phone suddenly died: these two things have made it difficult for me to do any gardening or blogging, respectively. But during my holiday I did take some photos of the Keukenhof tulip fields, which I’ll share in another post.

Now that I’m back, what does the garden look like? Well, for the next few days only, still something of a building site:

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But there’s plenty going on, even since last month.

Back garden landscaping and furniture

That previous photo was taken from one of my new sitting places, up near the compost bin. Here was my situation today, with someone to keep me company:

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Elsewhere, the longer trench is still yet to collapse:

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And the shorter trench is now entirely squared off to to the right width and (spirit) level:

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One final bit of landscaping in the back garden: to make space for the cement van to come up the driveway, I’ve had to move the log store and water butt from the driveway. Gwenfar kindly gave me a second water butt, so I was able to keep most of the water:

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And the log store will do just fine in a separate, spread-out location:

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Also kindly, a neighbour has lent me their chainsaw. So when I move the log store back, I’ll be able to saw it up and stack it much more neatly.

Back garden edibles

Edible gardening is still a bit tricky: I’d have hoped to have beds in place by now to put things like the “Super Aguadulce” broad beans, into as they’re romping away but starting to suffer from lack of roots and sustenance:

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The salvia, rosemary and Lavendula angustifolia “Hidcote” above are also putting on new growth (ignore last season’s dead “Hidcote” in the pot at the bottom right. That’s had its final warning now!)

The overwintered Latvian peas are starting to give more and more flowers:

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Again, though, if they’d been in beds, they’d probably have been more manageable: it’s tough to even get any pea pods off them at the moment.

The “White Lisbon” spring onions are almost all up, and the “Italian Giant” parsley seedlings have had good germination (which surprised me) although the next round of broad beans have barely germinated:

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To the bottom right are the mixed cosmos. They’re past the seed-leaf stage nowq, although I had one die off very early on, and another three die while we were away in Amsterdam, despite considerable watering before we left.

The “Solent Wight” garlics are bulking up, at the very rear of the garden, although the phacelia and sunflowers in front of them have yet to appear:

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In the growhouse, the seedlings are happy:

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I haven’t had amazing germination of lettuce (started off indoors)—Tantan (left) better than Buttercrunch—but now they’re up they’re putting on true leaves.

Back garden ornamentals

Star of the show remains the Acer palmatum var dissectum at the rear of the garden:

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Now the apple tree is gone, it seems to really appreciate the exposure, light and comparative warmth there.

The Daphniphyllum himalaense is once again putting on its neon-green new growth:

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It really needs repotting, not least because that pot keeps blowing over. I think it’s root-bound, but doesn’t mind it too much.

The primula are handing over to the pelargoniums and pulmonaria:

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Unlike the new delphinium and eryngium I bought, the pulmonaria seem fine. The former two are sadly almost dead, as you can see top right!

The assortment of hardies are very happy:

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(Left to right: Stipa tenuissima, Geranium (!!!), Anemone hupehensis “Hadspen Abundance”, Tiarella “Sugar and Spice”, mint, chocolate mint, and Impatiens omeiana “Pink Nerves” out from the growhouse for a spree; it’ll return at night, to avoid it getting eaten.)

Geum “Prinses Juliana” is a lovely almost blood-orange orange:

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Making up for the premature death of the Lamprocapnos (eaten at the base, I think.)

The Crocosmia that were hidden by both privet and apple tree are bouncing back, as are some kind of seedlings (a maple or similar?)

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And the buddleia and myosotis still bring some cheer to a corner of the mudpit:

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Finally, the Welsh rose’s favourite flower, photographed along with the Welsh rose’s favourite cat:

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Lavendula stoechas “Fathead”, and Felis catus “Fathead”!

Driveway

As mentioned above, the log store is gone. Before (from November):

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After (now):

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Pleasingly (well, Indie seemed interested) the Meconopsis cambrica has come back:

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I do absolutely nothing with this plant, and it just self-seeds all along the north-facing wall of the house, and is a joy:

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Its flowers even close in the cold or at night, which is adorable.

Front garden

So far, the area I dug over round the front, and planted with phacelia, sunflower and other bee-friendly plants, is doing very little indeed:

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The spring bulbs might have mostly flopped:

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But white bluebells have taken their place:

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I believe (from the scattered blue forms) that these are the Spanish sort. I can’t say I have the visceral reaction against them that others have!

Finally, two reliable perennials, the Centaurea montana and Choisya ternata (mumble Tropical mumble?) have started to take off:

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The smell from the choisya is lovely, close up: of course, the previous owners have planted it somewhere that you can’t really get close to, where the wind blows the scent away.

But we can change this! And we are doing. Once the walls are in place, there’ll be no stopping me.

(Thanks to Helen Johnstone for hosting the EOMV meme!)

End of Month View March 2017: a deconstructed garden

A lot of my End of Month Views in the past have lamented the lack of progress in our landscaping, so perhaps I should think of a more positive spin for this one. It’s true that, in overview, our garden does look like a mudpit:

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But those trenches are now complete; the concrete for the footings is booked in for the beginning of May: we have reached, in both literal and metaphorical senses, the lowest point of this enterprise. Indeed, it feels like we have all the separate pieces for a great garden, lying around the place: it just needs putting together.

Ornamentals

For starters, the inherited Acer, which I cherish, has suddenly broken bud, with slightly flaccid leaves accompanying tiny red flowers:

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The hardy perennials in the ornamental border have been augmented with Pulsatilla vulgaris “Alba”, Eryngium varifolium and some Delphinium “Excalibur”:

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The Cirsium rivulare “Atropurpureum” is thriving this year, protected by both pellets and a full saucer of water:

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The pellets are ferrous phosphate (largely non-toxic) so we’ve been using them liberally around the garden. Before you judge, any long-term reader of this blog will know exactly what kind of a war is waged here, with everything from Iris to squash being frequently ruined; see below for more!

The Lavender “Fathead” has survived among the crocuses and is starting to put on new growth:

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Unlike the “Hidcote”, and the salvias from last year’s cuttings workshop, all of which died off indoors over winter! I have a suspicion I’ve also thrown my Salvia “Ember’s Wish” away, somewhere along the line….

A couple of cheap-and-cheerful primroses are keeping the stalwart Pelargoniums company, alongside a new Ipheion uniflorum “RHS Wisley”:

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When I repotted that container, it was clear that it stays very wet at the bottom, despite the drainage holes; in the long term I need to think about what I will pot in it.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis “Alba” is going off like a rocket:

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Our spring containers are also shifting from Iris “Blue Note” and Crocus “Spring Beauty” to a mixture of tulip and Narcissus:

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The hellebores and cyclamen alongside the patio doors remain a joy, and the blossom on the cherry sapling outside the front of our house likewise.

Finally, by the back door are two night-scented phlox (Zaluzianskya ovata):

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Looking rather dull in that photo; but replanted immediately and already starting to fill out a bit.

Vegetables

Indoors, our lettuces “Buttercrunch” and “Tantan” have just started to sprout:

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In passing, I note that our Cosmos seedlings are doing well:

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Alongside a surprisingly good crop of parsley, which I was always told was tough to germinate and I should wait six weeks:

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This only took a couple of weeks!

Outdoors, the broad beans “Super Aguadulce” are already growing rather tall:

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Harking back to the Cirsium, there’s probably too many pellets around those Echinacea purpurea “Double Decker”, but it’s worth noting that one of them was reduced to a stump in a week! I’ve used the pellets more sparingly elsewhere, but by that point in the day I was rushing to get pellets down and photos taken.

Our five pots of garlic “Solent Wight” are sending up leaves, up by the back fence:

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Kale “Blue Scotch Curled” is just peeping through, although the new pea “Latvian” are still dormant (one of them was revealed to be shooting when I watered it, however:

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In the background, the Impatiens omeiana “Pink Nerves” is just starting off again (its first shoot of this year having wilted slightly in a too-hot growhouse) while the snowdrops are left in the green to go over.

Finally, the three peas “Latvian” that I overwintered are starting to flower! Amazing:

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I’m not convinced I’ll get much yield from them, but it’s nice for a legume to be flowering so early.

And the unexpected

The jasmine and buddleia that we can’t seem to kill are both shooting:

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Elsewhere, the removal of the privet has revealed a number of plants that were hitherto struggling underneath it; what looks like a Myosotis is going wild alongside stray spring bulbs:

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And who knows what this is a shoot of?

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Exciting, isn’t it?

(Thanks to Helen Johnstone for hosting the EOMV meme!)

End of year review 2016: out of the frost came forth sweetness

Apart from a few tweets I’ve barely posted anything during December. I’ve needed some time this month to rest, and to wrap up a few work-related things, and also to try to enjoy the Christmas season. This time last year we’d only just moved, and despite being one of the most Christmassy people I know, I’d missed out on the celebrations, and felt it.

This winter, however, I have a hankering to review the garden during this, the turn of the year. Since Christmas, hard frosts have fallen on Sheffield:

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Frosts thick as light snowfall; frosts with imprints in them; frosts not melting all day if the weak, low, daytime sun cannot reach them.

Layout and landscaping

To get some idea of which parts of the back garden are worst hit, I’ve taken another in my occasional series of almost indecipherable photos out of the back window:

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Reflections of the curtains aside, you can probably see that the compost corner is frosted, despite being quite a slope. I would expect frosts to form where cold air could sit, but—possibly because the house leaks heat—the lowest point of the patio is entirely unfrosted, despite being walled on three sides. The backdoor decking is also unfrosted, unlike its raised equivalent:

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Only a little later in the day, some of the garden does get sunshine:

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Making it difficult to work out precisely why the back left corner is unfrosted: is that just this morning’s sun at work? Or does that southwest-facing corner keep heat from night to night:

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Here, where the compost bins used to be, is the site for one of the new walls, which I will need to start digging in late winter so I can plant out in mid-spring. All is still in flux, and all provisional; but it’s interesting and somewhat heartening to see the future site of raised beds and greenhouse both, entirely free of frost by mid-morning.

Trees and woody shrubs

Woody structures remain, where I’ve not cut them down yet. There’s the euonymous I’d hacked back, much more visible since the privet has been removed:

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I’d thought to hang the bird feeder there, where birds could eat without being seen by the several local cats including our own. But it seems the birds can’t see the nuts either, so I’m about to move it to the acer at the other end (invisible in the photo above, with the glare of the rare sunlight on the back fence.)

Closer up, it’s clear that the acer, so lovely this past year is clearly coming into bud:

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I’m in two minds as to whether to hack it back or not. It’s been a lovely tree, but one day I will have to either move it or remove it; as I’ve been told that acers can survive coppicing, maybe I should do that sooner rather than later.

I’ve hacked back the buddleia in two stages, the same as last year:

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It’s likely to come back just fine, as it usually survives ill treatment far better than the ill-fated cuttings I took from it. Another candidate to move at some point this next year, but I imagine it will fare much better than the acer.

Flowering, or not

Despite our continuation of the previous owners’ neglect of it, the winter-flowering jasmine is still trying its darnedest to put on a few flowers:

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This makes me more determined to move it somewhere more amenable to its health, next season. In comparison, my row of hardy perennial pots (most from this year’s RHS Malvern is largely dormant:

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The foliage on Tiarella “Sugar and Spice” and Stipa tenuissima is still hanging in there, but other than that there’s little sign of life.

The autumn-planted pea “Latvian” is surviving remarkably well:

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This is despite the row of pots being blown over a few times, most recently by Storm Barbara.

The clearing of the privet and most of the brambles behind the shed has revealed this mystery little plant:

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And, despite the weather, and the season, and the darkness, the zonal pelargoniums are still completely earning their keep:

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I know some people find them a bit brash—is there a DIY shop that doesn’t stock them every spring?—but they flower some nine months of the year and are very undemanding plants. If we need space-fillers while some of the landscaping work goes on, I’ll definitely pick at least a few of these.

New shoots

Bulbs are shooting all over the place. There are crocus and something else peeping out from under viola in planters around the front:

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Different planters have different mixes in them, based on the bulb selection I used last year, but I don’t think I’ve mixed crocus with iris, so I think that stray shoot must be something else.

In other planters, there’s evidence that something eating the shoots:

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Which I hope the frost will deter. More crocuses are evident around the Welsh rose’s present from Gwenfar, Lavender “Fathead”:

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And in the re-sited growframe, on the upper decking to keep it out of the way of landscaping, weighted and tied down to prevent the storms from knocking it over, are some speciality bulbs:

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From left to right: Galanthus “Ophelia”, Iris “Purple gem”, some kind of Scilla, and Iris “Katharine Hodgkin”.

Fingers crossed they escape being nibbled, like they were last year; fingers crossed, indeed, that we all—the bulbs, the acer, the landscaping and me—have a more exciting but less nibbled new year.

End of Month View July 2016: all still stalled

I thought June’s EOMV post showed me at my most frustrated and embattled, but I now see that I ought to have considered myself in for the long haul. Both my energy levels and the weather have been terrible since, and so I’m only just putting together a tardy July EOMV.

The landscaping of our garden and our neighbours’ is, well:

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Stalled. Next door’s nephew has ended up on another job, so he won’t be finishing their fencing any time soon. And won’t be starting our fencing until after that. If it weren’t for the politics of neighbourliness we’d have got someone else in by now, except they’d have a month’s lead time too. The Welsh rose did say she heard our neighbour giving someone a talking-to today, but nothing seemed to come of it.

Plants, on the other hand, move on: inexorably. I’ve even had to trim the privet that I hoped would be gone by now:

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It’s neither straight nor neat, and I don’t really care. In the lower photo, top right, you can see it isn’t trimmed at all; because I didn’t want to damage this hebe, which has been covered in bees the past few weeks:

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The flowers on it are starting to go over, but other plants are starting to take the place, including the buddleia and the crocosmia I’ve been intermittently trying to save from the landscaping that might never happen:

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Heaven knows what I’ll do to save that lovely, now bronzed, acer.

One thing I’ll be happy not to save is the apple tree that has almost completely taken over the garden:

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It gets in the way of everything I try to do, and blocks light from all except the few plants I have on the decking. Moving around the garden has become hazardous for someone over six foot tall:

On the other hand, the burgeoning of other plants is heartwarming. Although the Latvian pea plants are starting to go over—cheering in itself, as we have seed crop for next year—the blown chard have recovered well from the flower heads being trimmed, and our two tomatoes are starting to bulk up with their first flowers:

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Although the Lamprocapnos is struggling a little bit, my other RHS Malvern plants are happy, and the Geum “Prinses Juliana” might even throw a few more flower spikes out:

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It’s also cheering to see the Impatiens omeiana recovering more and more while undercover and away from the predators that are everywhere:

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And once I’d put the squashes out of the way of the same, scent-hidden with sage, they too have gone full gangbusters:

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Some of them probably need repotting, especially now that I’ve found limited plants suitable for potting into the bigger containers.

Although a lot of people find common zonal Pelargonium plants somewhat tacky and “bedding”-y, I can’t help but feel great affection to these few that we brought all the way from Oxfordshire:

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They’re showing the rosemary and Anthemis (respectively) just how to go about flowering, brightening up the decking and just firing off pellie scents and flowers so red and pink that they look like a printer’s error, hyperreal inks accidentally offset from reality itself.

Finally, despite an urgent and severe prune over winter—and it still managed to strangle the motor inside our boiler by creeping inside the outflow pipe!—the jasmine by our front door has flowered, and its scent is obvious every time we pass it:

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We might not yet have many plants we truly love: but the ones we do, love us back in equal or greater measure. And affection from a plant, like that from a pet or a wild animal, or your landscaper of choice, can’t be bought or sold.

(Thanks to Helen Johnstone for hosting the EOMV meme.)

End of Month View June 2016: hope feels a long way away even though it’s only fifteen miles

The solstice might seem an arbitrary point in the modern calendar, but to plants it’s all too crucial: the inversion of changes in daylight length cause leaf crops to bolt, and garlics to cease swelling their bulbs. How we garden ends up changing gradually too. In which case, now we’ve passed midsummer, I want to use this End of Month View to take stock of what’s happened in the garden so far this season.

I can’t say I’m in the best of moods at the moment, and looking back on the first eight months of the new garden, there’s a lot to be disappointed with: the landscaping is stalled, logjammed even; few cuttings have rooted (there’s more dead buddleia, which I didn’t even have the heart to report); and I’ve never experienced a season in which so much has been eaten by pests.

Well over half of the leaf crops, and all of the carrot seedlings, have disappeared. Even broadbean leaves and ornamentals have been grazed, and sometimes stripped bare. That combined with my inability to make large-scale changes that might dry out the garden and protect the crops has been completely demoralizing.

But hope springs eternal. Here’s what hope looks like:

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Not the nearby Peak-District village, but lettuce seedlings. Sown after midsummer, they’ll either bolt to blazes, or they’ll actually get confused, and not bolt at all (this does happen with coriander, I think.) But I just have to hope, because I don’t have much else left.

Well, I do still have two sage cuttings from my forays with Grow Sheffield, and five squash seedlings:

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After these photos, I put water bottles in the two large tubs, to permit watering the roots without rotting off the stems. Shortly after that, one of the two squash seedlings was consumed completely, down to a stump.

However, at least the Tiarella “Sugar and Spice” has bounced back from being eaten:

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The Cirsium rivulare (Atropurpureum) has done too, although it’s still missing all except one flower spike:

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The Geum “Prinses Juliana” behind it is apparently inedible. Meanwhile, the Impatiens omeiana “Pink Nerves” has recovered to about the point where I originally bought it:

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Shortly after this photo, it went back under cover, having started to be eaten again.

Miraculously, the two lots of peas “Latvian” have not just thrived in themselves, but also protected the lettuce “Buttercrunch” underneath them:

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They’ve also just started flowering the most gorgeous claret-and-geranium-coloured flowers:

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Rainbow chard and Salvia “Ember’s Wish” are doing OK:

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And this random rose—which I saw elsewhere, so more about later—makes me think of candyfloss and strawberry Chewits:

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Finally, we’re having to trim our hedges, even though many of them are to be removed eventually. They’re just out of control. So I took the opportunity to turn our once-square-blocky front hedge into a vaguely topiarized chain of more interesting bobbly bits:

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I’ve had this go-with-the-flow idea for trimming in the back of my head, ever since Monty Don tried his hand at a bit of topiary in Big Dreams: Small Spaces this year. In the programme, he suggested to a wannabe gardener (both of them with shears in their hands) that she should try to cut the long priet hedge in the shape it wanted to be cut, rounding it off whenever it felt right to do so, rather than trying to turn it into a geometric, straight-edged wall of green.

“If it’s going to end up looking like a caterpillar,” I think Monty said, “then so be it.”

So be it.

(Thanks to Helen Johnstone for hosting the EOMV meme.)

Very quick End of Month View May 2016

It doesn’t really count as a full EOMV post, but here’s a review of what’s flowering in our garden at the moment, in a single vase!

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The Tulipa “Antoinette” dominates the centre, with its flowers having turned slowly from a lemon-drizzle yellow to this gorgeous raspberry-cherry pink. Around it are red Valerian flowers, blue Centaurea montana, and an orange Geum “Prinses Juliana” off to the left. Below are a Choisya ternata, variety unknown, and the flowers of some variegated shrub that looked completely uninteresting until it produced them!

The garden as a whole is a confusing mixture of the pretty and the ugly at the moment, as we await landscaping work and tidying up of next door. But this vase hopefully captures some of the beauty in it, the diamonds that are easy to find in the rough.

End of Month View April 2016

The main change since the end of March has been our neighbours removing a third of our unwanted privet and replacing it with a fence. Otherwise good news, this has also unfortunately had the unwanted effect of making our garden look like the extension of a building site:

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We’re hoping they’ll put the fence up this week; what they do with that poor pile of excavated subsoil is another matter entirely.

Down on the patio, our two inherited climbers are starting to leaf up; honeysuckle and winter jasmine:

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They could both do with more sunlight, so that’s on our long-term plan. Underneath the euonymous we tried to canopy-lift, the bed is nice and airy, but still very dry:

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I imagine the privet is contributing a lot to that, but we might need to revisit what gets planted here.

By the back door, Narcissus “Pipit” has just started to come out and will hopefully soon be accompanied by Tulipa “Temple of Beauty”:

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It’s noticeable how slower these bulbs are compared to the ones up on the decking:

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(Tulipa “Christmas Exotic” there having been a Wordless Wednesday in the past.) It’s also noticeable how the pot at the far end (which gets two doses of sun at this time of year) is so much more advanced. Narcissus “Delnashaugh” is multi-flowered, but not completely out yet:

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Elsewhere on the decking, our row of garlic pots has been manured, which has improved their look and reduced the yellowing of their leaves. They’ve also been joined by a row of broad-bean pots:

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Tucked in between them for a bit of shade from the wind is Salvia “Ember’s Wish”, which suffered from pest damage but is coming back with some new growth:

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On the lawn, I’ve planted out several (more) lettuces of both Tantan and Buttercrunch, and improvised a temporary and rather eccentric windbreak until the fence goes up:

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(The wind was roaring over them as I planted them out, so it seemed only fair.) The buddleia is beginning to shoot everywhere:

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And over on the shady side the Daphniphyllum himalaense is putting on new, neon-green growth that bodes well:

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Less so my third hardy-exotic purchase, the Impatiens omeiana, which I moved out of the wind into the growhouse to stop it from being buffeted and wilting:

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I’ve since been told it needs moist, cool shade: which is hard to find in our garden at the moment. We’ll see if it lasts. The rest of the growhouse is looking remarkably tidy:

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The Latvian peas have started to sprout; all the lettuce seedlings are going crazy; and we’ve had a few (but only a few) rainbow chard seedlings germinate. Not sure what caused the others to fail or at least be checked. Our carrots have begun to sprout little “rabbit-ear” seed leaves:

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I think a few of the first row I sowed, that I thought I’d basically killed by watering then letting to go dry, might have survived. At any rate, I’m doing a lot of thinning here: I always seem to plant carrots too thickly.

The apple tree is starting to leaf, and will blossom soon:

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The unknown Acer is looking lovely, with a sudden burst of plum-coloured leaves all over:

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Lovely though it is, the Acer pains me somewhat, as it’s in entirely the wrong place and its roots are likely tangled up with the dead Prunus and the rear privet, all of which we’re likely to want to remove. We’ll see what new developments future months bring.

(Thanks to Helen Johnstone for hosting EOMV!)