All change

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Dissatisfied with the left border, I bribed Raewyn with home made scones and jam to come and cast her expert eye over it. I just keep sticking plants in wherever there is a spare inch of soil, giving no thought to how big things will grow or how everything will fit together. Raewyn sat pondering with pencil and paper and rearranged the whole left border and some of the main border.  The trouble with friends with an expert eye is that they leave you with lots of work to do!  Having spent all weekend in the blazing sun digging, uprooting, planting and watering. The Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ has been gathered from around the garden and planted together in a feathery fountain. The astilbe was really unhappy at the lower level so has now been planted in the deeper soil of the higher level.  I am now much happier with the overall appearance which will be finished off with an architectural angelica archangelica at the back.

First of all I got rid of all the winter pansies that had brought so much pleasure in the early months but were now past their best. I dug out great swathes of crocosmia that was crowding out so much all over the garden and even found some things I forgot I had.

August 2010 May 2011 July 2011

Unfortunately, I managed to knock the one flower off the red rose, let’s hope there are more where that came from. Now the crocosmia has gone from the main border, the beautiful salvia “Wendy’s Wish” has been brought forward into the sunshine and looks lovely with the dark red dahlia.

The front rockery is completely out of hand. I made a big mistake planting so much cosmos all over the garden; I didn’t realise how dense the feathery foliage would be. The artemisia has really spread out and made itself at home and the aliums tower above slowly turning from green to purple. However, the smaller candy stripe cosmos has worked well with the anenomes in the dividing border.

May 2011 July 2011

Although most of the leaves were covered in red rust spots and were removed, the hollyhock flowers are rather majestic.

The veg have been enjoying the sunshine and quietly getting on with the business of growing. The cabbages are huge and one provides 3 or 4 meals. Now I have removed some of the bigger ones, the later ones have more room to grow. The salad leaves are lovely and enjoyed by the whole family and neighbours alike. I keep nibbling on the peapods and some have developed the sweetest tasting peas. The carrots have encouraging foliage although I haven’t investigated further and the onions are pushing themselves up out of the ground; much more successful than last year.

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It’s starting!

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The garden has been just green for weeks and I have been waiting in anticipation for everything to burst into flower. I rather thought that it would all happen at once but it is happening slowly with each day presenting a new treasure.

So many things have given me a thrill this week.

The two roses have each got two blooms.

 

We have been eating rather a lot of cabbage this week!

It’s difficult to see in these photos but my lovely corkscrew grass has got amazing flowers.

The anenomes really zing out amongst the candy stripe cosmos The agapanthus is huge and beautiful
Fabulous colours in this hanging basket

The dahlias are almost fully open

This phlox is very pretty but it probably would have benefited from the ‘Chelsea Chop’

Blighted!

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Despite my best efforts to nurture my sickly tomatoes, I came to the conclusion (with the aid of the Gardener’s World magazine and my dear friend Jean) that they were not wind damaged as suspected but blighted, so they had to go. I felt I was cheating by going to the garden centre to replace them with 4 lovely specimens. I was so spoilt for choice, I bought 4 different varieties: ‘Moneyspinner’, ‘Beefeater’, ‘Shirley’ and ‘Italian Plum’. I’m not sure it was worth the aggravation of growing them from seed, apart from the price of course!

Last year I planted one of those mint plants you get on the fruit and veg shelf in Asda. It provided us with lovely mint all year but did not survive the severe winter. Well, I say it didn’t survive, it did actually provide another few leaves but, once picked, that was it. Still, not bad for an Asda herb. When shopping for new tomatoes, I also picked up a couple of different mint plants, one is lemon mint and the other a black peppermint.

The garden is very green. I think this is what’s known as the ‘June gap’ when everything is just on the verge of flowering but very little is. My lovely salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ continues to flower profusely whilst there is just the hint of an emerging purple dahlia. I must admit I am finding the crocosmia quite thuggish in overshadowing its neighbours; probably not suited to my small garden.

I can’t begin to describe how thrilled I was to discover pea pods! I was unsure about the pollination of peas but have since found out that they are classed as self-pollinators as pollination takes place within the flower without the need for insects.

Since opening the mesh covers, the pea plants have gone mad. I have run out of twigs and supports for them so they are just hanging on to anything they can get their tendrils round.

I harvested my first perfect cabbage this week and gave it to my son, James.

The strawberries have provided another bowlful. I just hope they are as tasty and juicy as the last lot. Monty Don says that the best way to eat them is warm from the sun, sprinkled with white pepper. I haven’t tried the white pepper but they are certainly better when they have not been chilled in the fridge.

When visiting Powerscourt House and Gardens last week, Charlotte and I were fascinated by the candelabra primula on sale in the pavillion. Imagine my delight when Raewyn spotted one when visiting a little garden centre in High Legh. It is still in the pot but I am sure I will get at least 3 new plants from it. Raewyn also spotted 2 different geums after I admired her’s. It’s worth knowing what things look like when not in flower.

Agapanthus Alba Eryngium Osteospernum
Zanzibar Pink Bicolour

What a difference a break makes

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Have just returned from a wonderful holiday at Abhainn Ri luxury cottages in County Wicklow. Despite my concerns, the garden seems to have thrived without me. I got the feeling that it was rather relieved to have a break from my fussing and apart from the hanging baskets looking a bit sorry for themselves, everything seems to have continued to flourish.

This morning I harvested my first bowl of strawberries with the promise of many more to come.

The apples are developing nicely although I wonder if there are too many and that maybe I should sacrifice a few to benefit the others.

 This is my one tiny Redlove apple which I haven’t got the heart to remove.

You can hardly see the tiny buddleja ‘Buzz’ which got held up in the post when we were away on holiday. At least it looks as if it might survive which is more than can be said for the other sorry specimen which I have put in a pot.

 
This tangled mess is the raised bed containing leeks and onions.  I am so proud of my lovely cabbages. They are not developing firm hearts but I am not sure when they will be ready to eat.
 The peas have gone mad and the covers have been removed to allow for pollination of the flowers.  There are plenty of salad leaves for us to feast on and the celery is coming along nicely.
I am really worried about my poor sickly tomatoes. They have been fed and kept watered but they are just not happy. I have grown them from seed; maybe I should have just bought plants?  
 Short-stemmed lilies
 Amaranthus and dahlia

A Guided Tour

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I’ve been unusually unbusy in the garden this week. The rain over the past couple of days has been very welcome and seems to have roused the garden  from its sunbathing stupour. Everything is fresher and more alert.

I’ve had another seed disaster with Nicotiana and Oenothera, neither of which has germinated. Some seedlings appeared but I am sure they have wafted in while the trays were outside in the sunshine. Both have been sown again and I am going to keep them indoors until they germinate, or until I learn to recognise plants from weeds, whichever is sooner! Of course it’s back to the fridge with the Oenothera for the next four weeks. Sowed some purple and white honesty that came free with my magazine along with the free WHITE sunflowers.

As I haven’t done much this week I thought I would just do a progress report around the garden so hang on to your hollyhocks as the saying goes. Speaking of hollyhocks…

The apple tree is looking much healthier this year, I only got 5 apples on it last year. Most of the blossom has gone now and I’m sure I can see some tiny apples forming, or it could just be wishful thinking!

The Redlove apple tree is also looking splendid with its rosy foliage. Even if it wasn’t going to provide me with juicy apples, it would still be a very attractive tree. The blossom was the deepest pink although there was only a tuft at the top and on one of the branches. Lorra says I shouldn’t allow it to fruit this year but I think the temptation of producing an apple with red flesh might be too much to resist.  
This is the first aquilegia I planted and was kindly donated from my sister, Charlotte. I spend much of my time pulling up the seedlings (these ones I do recognise) but they are so pretty I have allowed them to spread into other areas of the garden. I even shook a seedhead under the silver birch tree last autumn to fill a space and the seedlings are dependably flourishing there.Now I have two more lovely aquilegia to keep me busy.  
 I am so disappointed with the giant aliums this year. Although I now have 5, increased from the original and huge 3, they are very much reduced in size.  
This is the black leafed dahlia I thought I had lost, it took ages to show any sign of life this year. I don’t know its name but I am very fond of its dark foliage which forms the perfect backdrop for the profusion of bright yellow flowers which continue until the first frost. I think I bought it after a trip to RHS Tatton. I’m not sure how it will fare in a pot, I’ve always put it in the garden in the past where it’s had lots of room to expand.
 In the foreground is my magnolia stellata which was free except for postage. I was very disappointed when my little twig arrived but, although it’s still not much more than a twig, I am happy that it has some lovely, healthy  leaves and I am sure it will be stunning when it grows up.The short-stemmed lilies in the background were also free with one of my numerous orders. I gave some to dad and put the others in this pot. They look like little palm trees.  
I am very fond of this purple geranium and its abundant flowers pouring over the edge of the garden. I didn’t know I liked geraniums as I had only met pelargoniums before and wasn’t keen on them. When Raewyn told me I needed one in my garden I was none too pleased. Now I have two! Now I know I said I wasn’t going to buy any more plants but I do have another 4 geraniums on order and I am hoping they will arrive later this month. My new hellebore can just be seen peering out between the winter pansies which have also sprung into life. I had started to remove the pansied as I put in more plants but now they look at me with their little faces and I haven’t the heart to take them out.  
I am so pleased with the new rose, Swan Lake. It looks so radiant with its glossy new perfect leaves. I am concerned that it is a bit overcrowded by the sambucus.
I was very concerned about the sambucus when I planted it last year. It seemed to get lost and couldn’t really be seen among the other plants but this year it has come back with a flourish. I love plants with dark foliage and these feathery leaves sway so rhythmically in the slightest breeze.
I had a thing about grass last year and bought this rye grass at RHS Tatton against Jean’s advice. I put it in a pot as I didn’t want it to run riot. It didn’t do much last year but it seems to be making more of an effort at present. I am hoping it will soon throw up some flower spikes so I can justify my purchase.

Well, that’s the flowers, now for the fruit and veg.

I just wanted to introduce you to my little scarecrow who sits in the raised veg bed encouraging everything to grow. He hasn’t got a name but has been known to pop up in another part of the garden. Strange that this only seems to happen when my younger sister, Lorra, has paid me a visit!

I remember sitting on the patio last year and eating blueberries straight from the bush. Can there be anything more pleasing than that? The flowers are all but gone now, replaced by a blue haze with such promise.
I had some lovely beetroots last year although I think I cooked them too long – about 3 days I think! I am hoping for a good harvest this year and have thinned them out a little but I try not to disturb things too much, preferring to sow thinly in the first place.
I feel I have struggled with these cabbages this year but have you ever seen a more perfect specimen? Not a nibble or a blemish on their perfect leaves. I am convinced now that the initial failure was due to my heavy handedness when transplanting from tray to soil. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they continue to develop without further mishap.  
The carrots have now got proper leaves and seem happy. Again I have sowed thinly because, according to Monty Don, a carrot fly can smell a disturbed plant from half a mile away. This is just one section of the bag. The section on the right is where the cat like to jump in a leave deposits but my ‘cane garden’ seems to have stopped it in its tracks and even the disturbed seedlings are finding their way to the light. I will plant up the two remaining sections as soon as I get round to it.
It took a good few hours to prick out these lovely little celery seedlings. Celery anyone?
The potatoes seemed to take a while to get going but now they are positively rampant! The compost is almost up to the top of the bags. Admittedly, I have fed them this year with potato fertilizer so here’s hoping for a bumper crop.
I am so pleased with my peas after the disastrous start. No one ever told me what a ‘pea stick’ was so I’ve just used twigs I have found under the trees in the garden and they seem to be doing the trick. They are so pretty, I hope I haven’t planted them too close together.
The raspberries are growing well under the tree. Some of the leaves of the sickly one that was removed died back but it seems to be surviving. I will have to think about supports for them soon.
I sowed these salad leaves about a week ago and can’t believe they’ve come up so quickly. Another couple of weeks and they will be on the dinner plate!
The strawberries are looking good and have had many flowers. The three plants in the top of the planter are last year’s main plants, the rest are the runners.

Cabbages and Cats

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Only 4 of my original 9 cabbages remain. I blame myself as I can’t see any evidence of them having been nibbled. I think I must have damaged the stems as I planted them in the soil as the stems are just sheered off. The remaining 4 seem to be quite sturdy now and 11 new ones have been transplanted from tray to soil. The beetroots have been thinned out and some ‘cut and come again’ salad leaves sown.

I must have been too keen when planting my peas as the new ones are now growing and look healthy enough. Lorra brought me a little scarecrow who now sits watching over them with his little sign which says ‘grow seeds, grow!’

A cat seems to have taken a liking to my carrot bag and has on several occasions jumped into it and left several deposits. The young seedlings have been thrown around on several occasions now and I am hoping that the canes I have ‘planted’ will dissuade it from using my carrot bag as a toilet.

It took me nearly all day to prick out what seemed like a million leeks, I didn’t realise how reliably they would germinate. I have managed to give some away so I won’t have to plant them all into the soil. The pots at the front are Cosmos Sensation.

Most of the dahlias have pushed out new leaves and have been planted in the back of the border, just need to remember to buy some plant supports for them. For a while it didn’t look as if my black leafed dahlia was going to make an appearance but I needed to be more patient, it just took a little longer than the red ones.

Flowers are starting to appear on the strawberries.

It is very kind of J Parkers to send me free gifts but don’t they know I haven’t got any room left? Two free camellia ‘Lady Campbell’ and ‘Debbie’ are in pots and 6 free echinacea are still waiting. I found good homes for the 100 gladioli!

6 verbena bonariensis have replaced those lost over the winter.

The orchid continues to flourish.