Spring has Sprung

A little too late this morning for the solar eclipse, which in my part of the country was disappointing event due to heavy cloud, the finally sun appeared mid morning and it was a simply glorious day to do some gardening.  It was even warm enough just to wear a gillet. I hoed, edged, pruned and managed the first lawn mow of the year.  It was a very beneficial morning, not only for the garden but for me too.  Having been very low and negative for a while I perked up no end.  I even fell in love with my garden again.   It is very understandable that gardening is seen as therapeutic and seeing all the new buds on the shrubs and plants beginning to burst through the soil, it boosted my spirits no end. Last year I planted a whole heap of daffodil bulbs and was expecting a glorious display but since planting them I have had trouble with animals, cats and squirrels digging things up so what I do have I’m fairly happy with. The ones above are in the sunny border and are big and blousy.  The others around the garden are just about to flower and if we continue to have a sunny few days I think they will be out by the end of the weekend. The two shrubs that always herald spring, for me anyway, are the yellow of the Forsythia and the raspberry red of the Ribes.  Both are bursting with buds, with the Ribes being marginally ahead.

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The one very special plant I love to see every spring is the Peony with its red lipstick shaped shoots.  I spoke to it very nicely asking it to produce some flowers this year; it failed to flower last year.  There are a lot of Aqualegia dotted around and as I planted lots of new ones last year I hope they will come true to their variety.  Over the past years all the ones I did have reverted to pasty pink.

I am pleased to see the Astrantia has made it through to another year. IMG_2232 Last year I pruned the Montana Elizabeth a little too heavily and worried I may have killed it off.  Fortunately this is not the case, it is scrabbling over the shed and covered in tiny little buds. Followers of my blog may remember that I caretake the front garden as it is owned by the upstairs flat which is tenanted.  It has Just been re-let and new tenants are due in shortly.  I am hoping, as with previous tenants, they are not gardeners and more than happy for me to continue to look after it.   I gave it a bit of a tidy this morning and have moved into the back garden a number of the Day Lily offshoots.  It is looking healthier this year than I’ve seen for years and as it had spread considerably I thought I would dig some of it up before the tenants arrived.  After all it is a plant I put in, so I feel that’s only fair, don’t you?  It is a vibrant orange and will look good in the sunny border in my garden at the rear. Finally, I want to share the Kerria with you which is at the side of my bay window.  I love the button yellow flowers on this variety.

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Happy gardening everyone!

Book Review : First Ladies of Gardening. 

Thank you Frances Lincoln Press for sending me The First Ladies in Gardening to review.  I am a little late with this post, the book was published on 5 March 2015.



The first thing that struck me was the fabulous photo of Himalayan blue poppies and purple aquilegia on the end papers.  I wanted to stop before I had even begun to take in the beautiful photograph by Marianne Majerus.  Just the first of many photos in the book.

On turning the pages I knew this was going to be a book to linger over and savour.  I only got as far as the first couple of pages before dwelling a while on the next photo, and make notes of ideas. 

The First Ladies of Gardening, written by Heidi Howcroft, explores the influential role of women garden designers on English gardens, particularly their own gardens.  The first garden is the glorious Upton Grey Manor in Hampshire, originally owned by Gertrude Jekyll and restored by Rosamund Wallinger. 

The book has two sections, chapters about “Pioneers of Design” with gardens such as Waterperry (Beatrix Havergal)  Sissinghurst (Vita Sackville-West) and Beth Chatto’s garden.  The second section is “New Directions” featuring newer and less well known gardeners including Sue Whittington’s London garden and Helen Dillon’s garden in Ireland. 

It is packed with informative details about the gardens, the history, how they are laid out and the specialities of each garden such as the vignettes at Kiftsgate Court, along with the famous ‘Kiftsgate’ rambling rose.  I particularly liked the list of signature plants at the end of each chapter.

I have been luck enough to have visited a number of the gardens but now have added a few more to my “must visit” list. 

This is not a small book by any means, definitely one for the coffee table to be browsed through at leisure.  Whilst you may not buy this for yourself, it would make a wonderful present for anyone who loves gardens.  In fact, it would even whet the appetite of those who have yet to discover the joy of beautiful and interesting gardens. 

The publishers Frances Lincoln have very kindly given me a reader’s offer,  to order First Ladies of Gardening at the discounted price of £16 including p&p* (RRP: £20), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG290. 

*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from oversea

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day 15 Feb 2015

Two happy things today. The first is that there really are blooms in the garden and second, it is a beautifully sunny day here on the South coast of England. This makes writing a post for Garden Bloggers Bloom day a bit of a treat; I haven’t contributed to this monthly meme hosted by Carol of May Dreams Garden blog for a while.

I had to take my iPad out to take photographs because my laptop has died making my camera pointless as I won’t be able to transfer photos using a memory card. Also I am writing this post on the iPad and anyone trying to write using the WordPress app will know how frustrating it can be.   The iPad actually takes some excellent quality photos so not being able to use my big camera is ok.

Anyway, here goes!

Hellebores
Always lovely to see this time of the year. A bog standard variety and I always promise myself to buy new ones but never get around to it.

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Snowdrops
Like the hellebores, these are a common garden variety but come up every year and are pretty.

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Primroses
There are only a few, the others are still to flower but there is plenty of time.

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Pieris ‘Forest Flame
A shrub that is guaranteed to have something worth photographing at anytime of the year.

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Iris ‘Gordon
Regular readers will probably be fed up with seeing these by now. This early pot is almost over now, but there are some in the other pots that are just about to come out, so more to photograph.

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Hydrangea
Can I get away with dried flowers? I think so!

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Japanese Amenome
Last month I showed my Japanese Anemone which was flowering. Lo and behold it is still flowering, despite the snow and ice. Poor confused little plant.

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Skimmia
Alright, I know that strictly speaking berries are not blooms but they are colourful and nice to include. I get confused with Skimmia, There is a large shrub in the front garden covered in red berries all year round, and in the summer it also produces tiny white flowers. In the back garden I have one that produces clusters of tiny dark berries in the winter. Both, apparently, are Skimmia Japonica. I read the first one is a female plant and the second one is a male. Can anyone shed any further light?

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Narcissi ‘Paperwhite’
My final photo for this GBBD post is a pot of narcissi bulbs that I forgot I had and despite having no soil and being left outside, I unearthed them today and they are in flower. You can’t get the better of nature can you!

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Please pay a visit to May Dreams Garden and take a look at what is in bloom in bloggers gardens around the world.

Not My Front Garden

I live on the ground floor of a Victorian conversion. I bought it fourteen years ago this month, not only because of its good size and lovely high ceilings, but it came with the delight of a self-contained back garden just the right size for me to maintain. So many conversions have split back gardens with little or no privacy which it certainly not, in my opinion, ideal. The downside to owning the back garden is that the front garden belongs to the flat upstairs and my lounge looks out on to it.

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When I moved in it was just a patch covered in black plastic, topped with bark clippings. The whole area was a public toilet to every cat in the neighbourhood. The only saving grace was the colourful Skimmia and the Lilac tree in the corner. A year later the upstairs people put their flat up for sale and were astute enough to grass the front and make a path around the edge to my back gate.

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The subsequent owners were not gardeners or at all interested in the garden and kindly allowed me to tend to its care. After tidying up the Skimmia I discovered a hydrangea and, much to my delight, I also unearthed snowdrops.

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Several years ago, when the flat was on the market again I overheard, to my horror, the estate agent saying to a prospective buyer, “as you can see a lot of people have turned their front gardens into parking areas”. No way was I going to have someone else’s car, or God forbid, a Transit van parked up against my lounge window. Fortunately, working for a solicitor, I shot downstairs to the conveyancing department and investigated buying the freehold and was lucky enough that the freeholder was happy to sell. At least that guaranteed no one would ever be able to turn the front garden into a parking lot, not while I was the freeholder!

The flat was bought as a Buy to Let, (which has its own issues) and there has been a regular turnover of tenants in the last 9 years. Fortunately none of them have been interested in gardening and I have been able to continue as the ‘resident gardener’. I did try to buy the front garden but the owner was advised against it by his solicitor. That was disappointing and a little annoying but understandable as it would affect his lease.

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Yes, that’s right, you do see a For Let sign. The present tenant, after 2 years, is moving out. As usual the flat is advertised as a rental with a front garden and I have started the minor panic I experience every time I see this horrid board, hoping that the new tenants are not gardeners either. Selfish, I know! It means when I introduce myself I have to find a pleasant way of asking if they like gardening, if not would it be ok for me to continue to look after the garden. So far the tenants have been quite happy to relinquish the care. Although there was one lady who dabbled for a few weeks and pulled up all the Forget me Nots thinking they were weeds. I have to be honest I didn’t handle it too well and although I know she had the right to do whatever she wanted I did point out that they were not weeds, but she didn’t do any more ‘gardening’ after that!

Fully aware it is not my property, I don’t spend very much money, if any, on the front garden, taking cuttings and moving bits and pieces from the back garden. There are however lots of bulbs I have put in over the years. It is always so heartwarming to walk through the front gate and see these in the spring.

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This morning I was out there having a general tidy up before the new tenants move in, and contemplating if I was going to move the beautiful Day Lilies that I planted a few years ago, (one of the few plants it did buy for the front). The jury is still out on that one, mainly because I’m not sure this is the right time of the year to move plants.

I hope the new tenants don’t pick the tulips when they come through or cut down the pretty white rose by the front door. It can only go two ways, either they don’t like gardening and let me get on with it, or they do like to garden, care for it and I have something pretty to look at without the work.

That’s me trying to be positive, and I hope the little Robin who followed me around this morning thinks the same thing.

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