Garden blogging

In a Vase on Monday – Perfect Peonies

Ok, I’m going to be very honest these are Waitrose bought peonies. They are so beautiful I couldn’t resist. Although peonies in a vase may not last long it is wonderful to be able to have a week or two enjoying them.

I found a vase I don’t often use because of the narrow neck and wide top – not all flowers lend themselves to this design because they need more support or maybe it’s my poor floral design technique! However the peonies seem to suit this shape.

What I found of interest was that although all the buds were the same size at point of sale, they have all developed at different times. This was of benefit which has been great for this short post because I managed to take a number of photos of peonies at various stages of development.

Please pay a visit to Rambling in the Garden where you will see some inspirational posts for In a Vase on Monday.

Garden blogging

Restoring a Hampshire Garden – Chapter 3

I’ve just realised it’s been 5 weeks since I last wrote an update on my daughter and Son in Law’s Hampshire Garden. The last blog post, Chapter Two, was all about sorting out the heavy duty, overgrown trellis along the side of the garage. It is now festooned with lights and hanging pots, much nicer than overgrown ivy and unkempt honeysuckle.

The Heuchera really picked up after freeing it from the stranglehold of weeds and is looking rather splendid. The spikey plant is a donated impressive lime green Heuchera but had been left in a pot and dried out in the recent hot weather. To revive it I gave it a drastic haircut and it is slowly throwing out new shoots – phew!

The roses have responded well to their untangling and pruning last month. There are a few plants on the shopping list for the trellis to provide an evening floral fragrance, such as Jasmine Officinale.

The ivy covered hedge that divided the garden across the middle has been removed, opening up the garden considerably. Behind the hedge was a very neglected and overgrown area that had a few raised beds and once clearly was a productive fruit and vegetable part of the garden. This has now been cleared and will be laid to lawn with a variety of borders adding shape and interest to the garden, including a hot border with grasses, Rudbekia and Echinacea in the sunniest border.

I have been given the border on the left hand side of the garden as my own, which is really exciting. It is 10 metres long and full of roots from ivy and other shrubs that have been removed. The ivy is still a battle but having a 17 year fight in my Worthing garden I am used to dealing with it!

It is a challenge finding suitable plants for a North-West facing border, with a North facing corner and a large apple tree. Ferns and Hostas will be the order of the day for this far corner under the tree. It is a dry shade, and some careful planting is required – according to the RHS website Pieris Japonica, Skimmia, Viburnum and Sambucus Nigra are ideal shrubs.

The soil is fabulous loam which is not surprising since it was used for growing vegetables and fruit. It was an absolute treat to work after years of heavy clay. Some, and perhaps most, gardeners would dig over the whole border before planting anything but I am digging over one section at a time and getting some plants established as I go.

Today I dug in a couple of large bags of compost to enrich the soil which was dry and then I selected a few plants from the garden centre which all say will tolerate light shade but worryingly according to the RHS website most need full sun. The border does get full sun from mid afternoon so fingers crossed they will be ok:-

CaryopterisHeavenlyBlue‘; Veronica ‘Atomic Red’; Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’; Lobelia ‘Queen Victoria’; Salvia ‘Blue Mandalay’ x2; Geum ‘Sunrise’ x2; plus Dianthus x6, Achemilla Mollis and Campanula to fill in the gaps.

I am not an expert, only an amateur gardener but many years of having my own garden and experienced mistakes with just as many successes, I know that plants are adaptable and provide many surprises. I think I will repeat this planting along the border incorporating shade loving plants as I approach the fern/hosta corner.

Finally, have fallen in love with the very old cedar wood shed. There was electricity in there at one time and the roof is corrugated iron, but it is going to be very useful for pottering in and storing stuff.

Garden blogging, Garden Meme

Six on Saturday – 7th April 2018

I really should think carefully and plan when I’m going to blog to make sure that when I publish a post it doesn’t coincide with specific meme’s, such as ‘Six on Saturday’ hosted by The Propagator Blog. That is just what I have done – two posts in one day!

Nature has taken a bit of a battering this winter and is slow off the blocks. Not only is my heavy clay soil laying in water slow to drain, the snails are out in force and eating almost every young shoot in sight. There is life in the garden, apart from slimy critters and these are my Six on Saturday.

1. Ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’ Planted last year as a very small plant, it has spread into a considerable sized clump and is going to look very pretty. Excellent ground cover!

2. Ribes – variety unknown I cut back what had become a large shrub dramatically last year to the point I thought I wasn’t going to see any flowers this year, but although it’s looking somewhat thin, there are some very pretty flowers – phew! I’m sure it is a darker pink than years before so maybe it has done the plant some good.

3. Peony I am so in love with the peony as it throws out spring shoots, almost to the point I prefer the dark burgundy to the actual flowers. Despite its age, about 7/8 years old, it only ever has a couple of blooms and for the rest of the year is always a disappointment.

4. Sambucus Nigra(Elderflower) Like the peony shoots, the elderflower at this time of the year fascinates me. From the gnarled old bare winter branches appear very dark maroon tiny leaves that in no time become long ranging branches. A magnificent tree to have in a garden.

5. Primroses I spied these right at the back of one of my borders, hidden in amongst the wood pile and ivy where they are at their happiest. So very pretty and along with daffodils and tulips are an iconic spring flower.

6. Chinodoxia (Glory of the Snow) Not sure why they have this name, mine are only just flowering and kept their heads well down during the snow. They are another delicate, delightful, spring flower. I’ve seen spectacular carpets of them at West Dean Gardens but mine are in containers nestled amongst the tulips and late narcissus all of which are about to flower and may well be ready for next week’s Six on Saturday.

Please take a look at the other contributions on The Propagator Blog it’s a great time of the year and a good yardstick as to how nature is behaving in other people’s gardens.

Garden blogging, Restoring a garden

Restoring a Hampshire Garden – Chapter 2

KEEPING IVY AND HER FRIEND HONEYSUCKLE IN THEIR PLACE

This latest task wasn’t so much a restoration job, but a ‘let’s see what we have here’ job. There are times when this is necessary to help see the bigger picture.

The garage, strangely built at the back of the house taking up some of the garden, is an ugly building. It is no surprise a trellis was built along the wall with climbers to camouflage it.

The planting here consisted of 3 climbing roses, believed to be ‘Albertine’, several ivies, a honeysuckle and a wisteria. The wisteria was well and truly dead so removing it was an easy task. Not surprising it had died, the raised bed was on top of the paving, so only about 6″ deep. I’m amazed anything grew, but ivy doesn’t care where she puts her roots as long as she is allowed to grow.

Everything had been allowed to run wild for a good few years and trying to untangle and remove twisted stems through the solid trellis proved impossible. We had to resort to taking it down, it had been built in situ nailed to batons and solidly made. It took three of us to remove it from the wall and it was extremely heavy, I can assure you! My Son in Law climbed on to the roof with trepidation to attack from above. The ivy and the honeysuckle had made its way across the garage roof and into and around the guttering, which made it a hard job to clear, a bit like untangling knitting wool. My daughter and I tackled the rampant plants from below, ducking at each shower of debris and dust that fell on us as we pulled stuff away from the wall – headscarves or hats should have been the order of the day. My head itched for hours afterwards.

As with all jobs, putting something back together again always proves much harder than dismantling. I mentioned earlier, this framework was very heavy and lining it up again to the correct batons was a feat. In view of its weight my back was beginning to complain so I was given the job of using the electric drill to screw it back into place. A much easier job and quite satisfying in a strange way.

With all the foot traffic and removal of roots, the weakened and somewhat rotting boards eventually collapsed, which is another job to sort out. This will be at a later date, there are other jobs taking priority on the garden to-do list.

We uncovered windows in the garage and the ivy had even crept its way through the window frames. However, at the end of what transpired to be a longer job than anticipated, there is now an area, a bit like a bare wall, asking to be filled up. The roses have been saved, despite not having a good dept of soil for their roots. They’ve been pruned and will be carefully trained to grow to splendid glory.

There are lots of planting ideas, but if any of you gardeners reading this have some suggestions, all ideas will be looked at. I have to remember I can only advise and help, it’s not my garden. Honeysuckle is always pretty as long as it is kept under control, a perfumed variety such as ‘Graham Thomas’ might be a possibility, you can never go wrong with clematis such as Montana ‘Elizabeth’ with its fabulous fragrance. I think ivy had her day, but we will have to keep an eye on any tiny roots left behind – we all know she is difficult to eradicate.

Garden blogging, Garden Visits

West Dean Gardens Victorian Glasshouses

It is a pretty good bet that anyone visiting West Dean Gardens, near Chichester, will make for the Victorian Glasshouses no matter whether this is their first or one of many visits. On our recent visit we headed to the newly restored nectarine house.

The beautiful Glasshouses in West Dean were built in 1890 and 1900 and after sadly being allowed to fall into disrepair were restored in 1990. There are 26 glasshouses and the one above is number 25 – the nectarine house.

The most exciting thing I found on this early Spring visit was that all the nuts and bolts of the workings of a glasshouses were visible. The repairs to glasshouse 25 were completed mid 2017 and closed over the winter months, so we must have been amongst the first visitors now it is open. The gleaming white paintwork and the contrast of the delicate pink nectarine blossom against the stark white walls was awesome.

A glasshouse in West Dean costs on average £31,000 to £34,000 to repair taking two gardeners, two months to complete. The nectarine glasshouse used £900 of specialist durable paint and 264 panels of glass, all hand fitted. To help fund the restoration project West Dean launched a Save our Glasshouses Appeal in 2014. The glasshouses are repaired on a 4 year cycle and the next on the list are the tomato and peach houses.

You will see from the above notice that West Dean gardeners move things about to facilitate repairs. Instead of melons, we found a splendid display of pelargoniums, ferns and fuchsias. Again you could clearly see the amazing piece of machinery that open and close the windows.

In another glasshouse, we found a magnificent showcase of vegetables and herbs.

I have just upgraded my iPhone and am so impressed with the image quality. The photo below is one I took of purple pak choi. I apologise to my Nikon DSLR who will no longer come out with me on very many visits.

Just as we were leaving, I couldn’t resist taking one more photo of the mechanics of a glasshouse. The glasshouses were built by Foster & Pearson a Sussex firm established in 1841 and still in business.

Other glasshouses were filling up with with trays of seedling getting ready to be planted out in the next few months for summer delights in the borders. These particular houses are heated and sunk slightly into the ground, entered by steps down.

Just to give you a taster of what else there is to see at West Dean, below is the Kitchen Garden, complete with boot scrappers on the eastern of each bed – something else you don’t notice when everything is in full summer regalia.

There is also an excellent restaurant where we had delicious homemade soup served in small cast iron bowls with lids. The restaurant is always a great place for lunch before walking around the estate, and tea and cake afterwards.

Acknowledgement to the West Dean Gardens website, where I found lots of background information about the resplendent glasshouses, please take a look and you can find out more about them and a link to the glasshouse appeal. If you have never been I really do recommend a visit West Dean if you are near, it is a delightful place with lots to see, as well as the glasshouses.