Tag Archives: colour

Hot Hot Hot Hot

Actually, today isn’t that hot, but it has been. And the good weather is coming back – oh yes it is – and may even get better: Derek, Wales’s Weather God, has been tweeting about a potential heatwave. But for now I am consoling myself with the thought that at least the water butts are full again.

The plants, on the other hand, are hot. Hot hot hot:

Dahlia Procyon

so hot you can almost warm your hands on them, or at least this Dahlia is. It’s Procyon, and isn’t at all bad considering that it cost me 75p in Wilkinsons. When I spend, I spend.

The bottom bed, which I intend to be a hot bed – well, warm shading to hot – is beginning to work it.

beauty

There’s still a lot of bare ground, but it is only the second year, and we did shift a lot of things round last autumn and again in the spring, so they’re sulking. But the Crocosmia Lucifer isn’t, and neither are the Heleniums. Those are bunching up beautifully, and I have the makings of a good clump of Moerheim Beauty (in the foreground). I’d intended to move the Agapanthus (Agapanthi?), but they’re staying put. All this heat needs some cool blue.

I aimed to fill up the edge with some marigolds. Last year I had some big African marigolds which went on for ages and were quite tall; this year I got some French ones for the front. I’m thrilled by how variable they are, and how delicious:

marigold

I love the way that the paler orange underside to the petals almost seems to outline the darker fronts on this one, and on this:

zap

and then there’s the girly frilliness of this one,

marigold 2

and the form of this one:

marigold 3

I’ve always been a bit sneery about French marigolds before, but never again. And I’ll be growing them next year, maybe in a more prominent place and in greater numbers. I’d better get some seed in. They are, for interest, simply described as ‘Durango Mixed’, and I’ll say they are mixed. Wilkinson’s, again, possibly at the same time that I splashed out my 75p on the Dahlia.

From an all together higher class of supplier (*adopts lofty tone and sticks nose in air*), come these lilies:

Hiawatha lilies

They are Hiawatha from Peter Nyssen last year, and though they’re only short this year, they will get bigger. They’re not in the hot bed, but are giving extra warmth to my middle bed, where they go brilliantly with the Monarda (a sulkee – but a survivor – of the Spring Move).

I have a love affair of long standing, but it’s with a bit of rough. Oh, all right – it’s red geraniums.

geranium

I’ve got to have them, and this year I put pots and pots of them along the kitchen path, the path from the road to the door that everyone uses (front doors are largely ornamental, of course; for a long time mine wouldn’t even open). The path is in shade for much of the day; not only is it cut down into the slope of the ground, it also has the house on one side and a retaining wall topped with a rose hedge on the other. I thought the red geraniums would warm it up a little, which they do. They’re also quite protected here (by the standards of my garden, that is), and don’t suffer too much damage in the rain. But boy, do I need my water butts to be full. Every year I swear there won’t be so many pots, and every year there are… and they even increase. Sigh.

Finally, there’s the other interpretation of ‘hot’, of course:

ta dah

This is another of the 75p dahlias. It’s Tsuki Nori No Shisha and on reflection it might have been £1.00. Not bad, especially considering that the flower is bigger than a saucer, and that it gives the middle bed a real zap.

(It also hides earwigs, but to quote Some Like It Hot - and I evidently do - ‘nobody’s perfect’.)

Morning sun in the garden

After my last post – on enjoying the evening sun and appreciating the garden rather than working in it like a maniac – Pauline from Lead up the Garden Path (hi Pauline) said that she did most of her photography in the mornings. Her shots are lovely, and even though I don’t have her motivation – midge avoidance – I thought I’d give it a go. So out I went, before even having a cup of tea.

The house faces west, and the garden runs round it on the east, south and west sides; the north side (phew) is on the lane running up the hill. Because the hills/mountains/whatever – the Rhinogs, anyway, and the other hills running between the interior and the coast – are to the east of me it takes time for the sun to get high enough to shine into the garden. The first areas in direct sunlight (7.30 today, seven thirty, and that’s at midsummer) are parts of the meadow and the veg patch. Of late I’ve been rather ignoring the veg here, but let me celebrate the golden mangetout,

mangetout

beautifully lit by the morning sun, which has flowers as pretty as any (almost any) sweet pea. Plus the mangetout – which are pale yellow rather than golden – are delicious; none have made it into the kitchen so far because they make an ideal wandering-around-the-garden snackette.

In the meadow the early sun picks out things which merge into the background later on. Some of the self-heal is enormous, for instance, and until this morning I’d not really noticed that. The ox-eye daisies I can’t miss but they seem to welcome the morning sun, unfolding as they do so:

daisies

One effect of the very focused angle of light at this hour is that backgrounds can be very dark. This really makes some things stand out, like the Verbascum chiaxii album, which is much better this year than last:

Vca

What a great plant that is. Must get more, different varieties…

By this point I was in desperate need of tea and toast, so I retreated inside and let the sun rise higher up. Another hour, and it had cleared the tree tops as well as the hills and the houses above me, and started lighting up the middle garden. And my unfortunately deep pink bench (‘damson’, my arrrse), which I still haven’t got round to repainting. Ho hum. Turn away from the bench, and there’s this:

cineraria

Some overgrown cineraria plants which I meant to pull out and didn’t quite get round to removing. OK, they are over a metre tall; OK, I didn’t plan for this colour – but I like it.

In the bottom garden more plants spring into prominence, and another which shouldn’t be flowering where it is currently flowering is this sidalacea. I dug it up and moved it. Oh yes I did. It’s flourishing in its new home. But I think I missed a bit, as the morning sun clearly highlighted:

sidling sidalacea

It’s hiding behind the ginkgo. Hello, plant…

and hello other things I’d missed. I am, for instance, going to be harvesting my first artichoke,

hee hee

…um, providing nothing else harvests it before I do, that is. This is the one veg which has found its way into a flower bed, for the simple reason that it’s a perennial and looks good there. But I love artichokes and they’re not that easy to get hold of round here. By my rules – grow things which are either expensive to buy, difficult to find or which taste much better straight from the soil – I ought to have more of these. But where could I put them? Hmm.

The grasses are doing well, and the Pennisetum rubra is flowering away – I’d forgotten how cute it is, like furry red rabbit tails. Hm, not very much like rabbit tails, but hey.

P. rubra

If I hadn’t gone prospecting into the garden at this hour, I’d never have managed to get the sun behind one of my red rabbit tails. (I keep almost mis-spelling that as ‘tales’ – Red Rabbit Tales, perhaps a Soviet translation of Little Grey Rabbit?)

Clearly time for more tea, but before anything else I had to get the tape measure out.

I grow good foxgloves. That’s not boasting; it’s a statement of fact – they like it round here and flourish all over the place with no encouragement at all from me, nor any exercise of skill (controlling the ******s is where the skill comes in). So I thought I’d add a bit of alternative colour and grew some white ones from seed. Wasn’t sure they’d flower this year, but they have.

AGH!

Yerrsss, as Jeremy Paxman would say. That’s a roof. Well, it’s a bargeboard. It’s the side of the chapel store at the bottom of my garden, and it’s quite a bit taller than I am, even at this point in the slope. The foxglove is over 2 metres tall, plus it has a kink in it where it got stuck under the bargeboard and decided to grow sideways.

I think it’s something to do with midsummer – well, it is Midsummer Eve and foxgloves are a ‘fairy plant’ in the folk tradition. Maybe druids are involved. I’m surrounded by neolithic monuments, too - perhaps the foxglove is trying to see Ynys Enlli on the horizon, over the roofline (quite a few local megalithic monuments are lined up on that).

So happy solstice from the servant of the Mighty Foxglove – best to keep the Fair Folk happy, especially as the foxglove of fate is still growing - and a happy summer to us all!

Evening sun in the garden

We’ve had a lovely few days, doubtless caused by me having a friend to stay – well, she assured me that it was down to her, and I’m going with that. It’s been gorgeous; my water butts are empty but nothing’s fallen over yet: that perfect point, when a spot of rain would do the trick and I’m not worrying about the cost of using metered mains water – yet. Plus I’ve washed everything in sight, up to and including half a ton of wool, and almost everything that has to be planted has been planted. The broad beans are ready for harvesting, but it’s not reached the insane stage there either. Perfection, really.

I turned round after I’d put the tools away last night (left them scattered all over when work and a garden club committee meeting interrupted) and realised that I can just enjoy the garden…

path

the evening light,

fern

which always seems to emphasise certain colours, making deep ones even more saturated,

light

working its magic on colour combinations.

wowser

I’m almost used to this valerian/geranium combo, as it’s just outside the front door, but I’d not spotted the euphorbia being quite so striking against the Acer, even though it was no longer in the direct sun – down to light direction and intensity, I guess:

contrast

Yes, I know the fennel is a bit feeble. I abuse it on a regular basis but it doesn’t seem to make much difference.

And the osteospermums – which will need thinning this year if they’re not going to take over – were still open at 9pm. OK, the sun leaves that bed last, but still. Amazing. Midsummer. Almost.

osteo

Sometimes I need reminding that I need to enjoy the garden as well as weed it, coddle it, shout at it, dig holes in it and chase Next Door’s Cat around it. And now I must dig some spuds. Oh well…

Wonderful wallflowers!

I’ve finally done it. Every year I forget to buy wallflowers in autumn, or I buy them and they’re disappointing - I am on acid soil, after all - or I buy them, forget what they are, and weed them out (ahem). A few years ago I bought some seeds and planted them carefully, snug in sectioned seed trays. They sat about not doing a lot and I kept forgetting they were there. But they thrived. So the autumn before last I planted them out, thinking I would have a lovely display come the spring.

Nah.

I nearly, nearly rooted them up. But something stopped me, and I’m so glad it did. I walked round the corner in February, and this is what I saw:

wallflower1

They’d suddenly decided to flower. And what is more, they’d suddenly decided to smell. No, that word’s evocative of pigsties and adolescent boys’ trainers. They scented the air for metres around. And they’ve gone on, and on, and on.

wallflowers 2

They shouldn’t be doing this – acid soil, remember? I can only assume that the bed in which I planted them – below the gable end of the house – isn’t as acid as the rest of the garden, possibly as a consequence of repointing the gable end ten years ago. I’d not tested it, but I will do so now, because if it is a bit more alkaline there are other plants which might flourish. Apart from the ******* Geranium macrorrhizum album and the lemon balm, that is. And always supposing I can shoehorn something else in beside those thugs (yes, I could move them, and yes, I have tried). It would have to be yellows, pinks, oranges – the wallflowers are bang on for the later colours of this bed. Er, apart from the hollyhocks which are supposed to be black. The first one flowered pink, so maybe the others will fit in too.

But for the moment, I’m enjoying the wallflowers.

wallflowers 3

They are proving surprisingly tough little bs, as well. They were blasted by the storms – they are slap bang in the line of fire, on a direct route between the sea and the hills, sitting just where the wind is funnelled down the side of the house. Many of the leaves shrivelled or went brown at the tips and edges, but they shrugged that off: fine now, thanks.

My one regret is that I didn’t plant more, but I’m rectifying that for next year – and, of course, I’m hoping that these will self-seed. Of course there’s a risk that they’ll revert to yellow, but I don’t mind that: it’s such a rich, generous yellow. Really lifts the heart and brightens up a gloomy day.

wallflowers 5

And then there’s the scent. It’s extraordinarily strong – I could smell it in the greenhouse the other day even though the wind was in the opposite direction, and that’s well away from the wallflowers. But I think the real reason why I love them is the memories they evoke. I remember them growing out of the top of a farmyard wall in France, where they fascinated me; my pockets were always full of popping seedheads and my mother used to complain endlessly about them getting everywhere when she took my coat off. And they grew under my window at college – not such a positive memory, that one, as it always meant the run towards exams and the scary realisation that I’d spent too much time in the bar and far too little in the library.

And, of course, they are such a fabulous splash of colour early in the season.

wallflower strip

Looking at this shot I think I may have another key to why they’ve done well: unconsciously, I seem to have recreated some of the conditions present in those farm walls. Very dry. I know the languages are similar – Breton and Welsh are the same branch of Celtic, along with Cornish – and perhaps the underlying geology is too. I must look it up (anything to stop me from continuing to muck out the garden stores – pigsty next, home of the biggest ant nest in Christendom).

Wonder if I can remember what this blend was called? Wonder if I kept a record? Hm – think I know the answer to that one, but perhaps searching would delay the cleaning up even more…

Arrival of the Big Yellow Thing

It could be daffodils, but it isn’t. SUN!

Yup, we’ve had sun. It’s even been quite warm. Ish. As long as you kept out of the wind. And the garden has basked in it. So, almost (ho, ho, it’s impossible) Wordlessly for Wednesday, here are some sunbathers:

chionodoxa

1. The chionodoxas, which I adore. They’re not all out yet – every day I see more small blue spikes sticking up out of the grass – but the ones that are blooming are loving the weather. And, incidentally, the absence of the rowan tree which used to be above them. Hm.

pulmonaria

2. The pulmonarias would look a lot better if they weren’t flowering n top of a great mound of salt- and wind-blasted leaves. But hey.

snowdrops

3. It’s not been a great year for the snowdrops; they were just reaching their best when the storms hit and blasted them to ******. But some have recovered, and some are late anyway. The rest will have another stab at it next year.

prims

4. And it’s definitely spring because the primroses are coming out. Again, some got blasted (what didn’t?) but happily most were still below ground. Lots more to come, but it’s looking promising.

wallflowers

5. The wallflowers (brown and shrivelled leaves on one side only) are amazingly scented, as well as being beautiful. I nearly ripped these out last year as they had failed to flower for three years running. So glad I lost the impulse to tidy up before I committed wallflowericide.

of course

6. Crocuses. My river of crocuses below the cherry in the bottom garden is migrating northwards into the newest bed behind the Capel, and the ones I planted about three, maybe four, years ago under the apple trees have decided to reappear in bulk. Crocuses just love this garden. They even cope with the winds. Good!

I weeded this

7. Weeds. Yup, they’re back in force – but when they’re as cute as daisies, I have to forgive them a bit. And I do tend to take daisies for granted; they’re lovely things really. OK, not in the iris bed – but I don’t mind them on the paths. And if I minded them in the lawns I’d be mad as a mad thing by now. There’s a weak point in that argument somewhere…

saxifrage

8. Looking forwards – there are buds on all sorts of things, from this little saxifrage to the magnolia, and lots of tender new leaves. No more storms, please…

Goodbye sun -

sunset

and do come back soon!

I garden, I get better

I get a terrible crick in the back, too, but that’s not the point. I get results, and I get all sorts of other benefits.

beautiful

It’s not simply the satisfaction of growing things which are beautiful, though there are plenty of those. It’s not just the satisfaction I get out of growing (largely) organically, which encourages all sorts of wildlife, from wrens and slow worms to crickets, moths and butterflies.

still eating

I started this year not at all well. As it turned out (eventually), an old neck injury had been exacerbated by a more recent fall and that had led to vertigo and all sorts of trouble with my back, one leg, one arm – you name it. Not being well meant I’d spent a lot of time inside feeling sorry for myself, and unsurprisingly I got quite down even though I recognised that the situation could have been a lot worse. Then my doctor suggested using a SAD lamp, on the grounds that last summer hadn’t been a summer. I tried it, and it worked. But even more effective was the real thing, and I couldn’t just laze about when I was out getting my dose of therapeutic light. So I weeded. And I planted.

wowser

And when I was tired from weeding and planting, I did my extremely boring physio outside and then sat and admired the view.

view

But only for a bit, because there was more to do. Pretty soon I noticed that I could look down to weed without getting dizzy, and that I could manage more and more digging and lifting. And the garden really benefitted from the attention,

cool blues

but I didn’t realise that I was also benefitting, and every bit as much. It took one of my friends to say it. She actually said – a little melodramatically, perhaps, but doesn’t translate very subtly – that it had ‘saved’ me. It certainly gave me back loads of pleasure. And some slight hysteria (the dragon, now possibly revealed as Next Door’s Cat, has been back), but there you go.

I shouldn’t be surprised, really. The charity Mind have been running a programme they call ‘ecotherapy’ – using gardening, growing food and doing conservation work to help people with mental health problems. Over 12,000 people have taken part in their Ecominds projects over several years, and – to sum up – the results have shown ‘significant increases in wellbeing’. Participants have reported that their self-esteem has improved, they are more likely to see their families and friends, and that they feel much more part of the community. For myself, I get a huge amount of uplift from colour, and I don’t think that’s unique to spinners, dyers, textile people, artists, whatever. I’m not saying I believe in structured ‘colour therapy’, because I don’t think I do, but I do believe in the sheer joy of colour.

helenium Wyndley

Back to Ecotherapy. The University of Essex analysed Mind’s results - it’s not a fluffy, woolly, PR-based piece of ‘research’ designed to generate feature articles (as an ex-hack, I’ve had my bellyful of those; I’ve written a few, as well). No, ‘ecotherapy’ has been shown to help people struggling with all sorts of issues, particularly anxiety and depression (and I’m not going to make any cracks about gardening actually increasing my anxiety when I discovered the dragon holes, oh, whoops, mentioned it).

Of course many other charities know all about the benefits of gardening and use them. One of my favourites is Thrive, with what they call ‘STH’ – social and therapeutic horticulture: check out some of their feedback to see how effective it can be. Another is Freedom From Torture – previously the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which may not be as snappy as FFT but tells you more about what it does, and which our family have supported since its foundation. FFT has a ‘therapy garden’ (with gardening and psychotherapy combined, the latter often taking place in the garden), which is part of the natural growth project. There are a couple of FFT allotments in London, too, where their less vulnerable clients can work and find some sort of equilibrium. As one, Suleyman, said, ‘if the garden looks good, I feel good. When the soil sleeps, I sleep. Apart from these things you have, these snails and slugs which were new to me, there is no evil in the garden’.

Makes my recent problems pale into insignificance, and puts them back in their tiny little box where they are emphatically going to stay. And Suleyman is bang on. Go, garden!

meadow

Er, not literally – though if the weather forecasters are right, my entire garden might pitch up in Manchester overnight… fingers crossed that it stays put…

Evening in the garden (a not-at-all wordless Wednesday)

We had a surprisingly good day yesterday weatherwise, so I made the most of it given that I’ve no deadline to ignore and panic about later work towards. I had an appointment for a row discussion in the bank necessitating a tedious trip through Holiday Central, came home and washed everything in sight, even scoured part of a fleece from the biggest sheep in the world (I’m not mad, just a spinner), and decided the iris bed needed re-weeding… and then it was evening, and I was wrecked. So I collapsed in the garden with a cuppa, and I noticed – I evidently needed reminding – the beautiful effects of the evening light (the house faces west).

evening pots

I also realised how the year has suddenly moved into downshift. Yes, I’m cropping beans and tomatoes and spuds and courgettes and blueberries and wineberries and using the shallots and garlic, but there’s an unmistakeable whiff of autumn on the way. And the Welsh for July, Gorffennaf, is apt, after all: it’s derived from gorffen, finish, and haf, summer. The end of summer. Hopefully not entirely.

It’s partly also down to the colours,

pot mum

such as those of the two pot chrsyanths I bought from the man on the market (don’t laugh, it’s a good plant stall).  One autumn years ago I spent some time in Leiden and the ‘ball’ chrysanthemums always remind me of that, as do pyracathas in full berry. Haven’t got one of those (haven’t got a white-painted house on a canal near the botanic garden either but hey ho), but I do love the chrysanths.

There’s also the fact that the lilies have gone into overdrive.

lily1

Until I started deliberately trying to address the problem, I had virtually no flowers in the garden from mid-June onwards – apart, that is, for enough lilies to kit out a 1930s movie star’s dressing room and leave some over. The numbers have declined, but the splendour of some of them most certainly has not, especially the Big White by the back door. In the evening shade it’s even more emphatic,

lily2

filling the path with its scent and impressive height (over 1.5m, aka 5 feet) and bulk. One day I’m going to have to move it out of the pot it’s been in for the last five years, but maybe not quite yet. A couple of years ago I planted some other lilies in a bed (the tulip bed in spring) when their pots succumbed to winter weather, and expected they would disappear. They haven’t.

lily3

Or at any rate, haven’t yet. I love the low angle of the evening light, too, and the way it emphasises the texture of the petals, and gives those exaggerated shadows.

Better late than never, most of the cosmos are coming into flower too. At last.

cosmos

This cosmos, from Karen at the Artist’s Garden, is Psyche White, not Purity – grew that last year – and I think I prefer this. Especially against shadow!

The light also attracted me to the stump of the Western Red Cedar which came down about this time last year – it was either the tree or the house, alas. For some time the roots continued to grow but it has finally decided that it is, indeed, dead and has given up its world domination quest (leaving the other WRC in the top garden to continue the good work).

stump

For some time I ummed and erred over the stump but in the end just decided to leave it – it’s had a few large beach pebbles on it for a while now, in a sub-Andy Goldsworthy kind of way, but an interesting ceramic would be good. I’ve said this to my brother, several times and actually quite loudly, but he appears to have suddenly developed deafness. What’s the use of having a brother who’s a potter if he can’t suddenly produce perfect garden embellishments, eh?

Of course, when it comes to autumnal, you can’t beat crocosmia. And I’ve always had those to remind me of the changing seasons; you can’t get rid of them round here. Crocosmia and fuchsias, the plants of the west. Every year I tear up great clumps of the orange bastards; every year it’s as though I hadn’t bothered. I dread to think what it would be like if I didn’t rip gallons of them up – first house ever to be buried in crocosmia, perhaps? As a plant per se, I like it, especially the rather neat flower spikes prior to opening; it’s just the sheer quantity which can be rather overwhelming. I’ve been trying to remember the alternative word to ‘invasive’ which a friend uses when doing plant sales: ah, yes – vigorous. Very, very vigorous.

And then I realised that some of the garden colours were being echoed in the sky,

sunset 1

more and more intensely as the sun went down, and photography became impossible. I hesitate to say this, but it even got a little – shhh – chilly…

Red confessions

It is strange, the way our gardens change almost without us realising it. Or maybe it’s just me? I know I’ve put in the work, and yet I’m still surprised by the results – and sometimes they can be really astonishing. My garden used to be largely green at this time of year, and I set out to deliberately change that. I filled a large new bed with early plants, often in burgundy, which were succeeded by others in pinks, purples, whites. I then revived another bed and filled it with ‘hot’ colours. Quite deliberate. A lot of thought has gone into it; I know it’s there, I know what I wanted to acheive and I’ve got roughly what I wanted. And I’m still surprised by it.

Oh, and along the way I fell in love with heleniums.

helenium2

It’s the sheer amount of red I’ve got.

Don’t get me wrong: I love it; but there is a lot of it, and in an extraordinary range of shades. What has surprised me most – apart from the wild madness of Monarda Cambridge Scarlet which I nominate for the punkiest plant of 2013,

zowie

and possibly ever – is how well they all work together, and how well they work in combination with other plants.

It’s probably a bit facile to say that there are no clashes in nature, as I heard one garden commentator assert; I think there are some, and some combinations just don’t work. But all the colour theory in the world didn’t quite prepare me for Dahlia Arabian Nights in front of my euphorbia:

yikes

I love it!

Traditionally pink and red don’t go together. So much for tradition:

poppiness

I think the mystery packet of poppy seeds I scattered must have had a colour theme, because I haven’t had one that wasn’t a variation on red or saturated pink. It’s such I shame I didn’t save the packet so I could deliberately buy another, though I’m hoping they’ll seed themselves like mad. Knowing my luck, though, this may be the one year they decide not to behave in their usual undisciplined way.

Dahlias are new to my garden – well, to this garden under my tenure, I bet they’ve been grown in the past – and I’ve been very, very pleased with them. Apart from the two Arabian Nights (the third seems to have decided it’s not dead, just very very late), I have a glorious Karma Lagoon in my purple bed, and – but of course – a Bishop of Llandaff with the ‘hot’ colours. Someone I was talking to had actually had to shift the Bishop because he was so assertive, but he’s just fine where I’ve dug him in (though there is almost a clash with the Monarda).

bishop

(I must stop giving this dahlia a gender and calling it ‘The Bishop’ in tones of doom, as all that does is remind me of Blackadder and the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells, which this lovely bronze-leaved beauty does not deserve.)

Oh dear, I suppose it’s time for Helenium Confessions. It started at Crug. Well, to be honest, it probably started a couple of years ago when I visited The Artist’s Garden for the first time; Karen has heavenly heleniums. Or maybe it started when I was a child, as I’m sure I remember them growing in my parents’ garden. Whatever, I’ve now got enough. Really.

helenium1

I have two Moerheim Beauties, a Mahogany (just coming into flower after I gave it a Chelsea chop to delay it a little), a Windley – yellow, but I don’t care – and my new addition, a Red Jewel.

helenium3

I mean, how could I possibly have resisted this? For some reason there were quite a few at Fron Goch garden centre, all tucked away behind some Sahin’s Early Flowerer which were doing just that – flowering their socks off and attracting a lot of attention. It’s worth ferretting about sometimes, it really is. Now what I need is something to tie this gem in with the Windley. I know – Helenium Potter’s Wheel, red with a yellow edge… help!

And, as a final note, and to distract me from searching online for Hel anything, ahem, I went a bit mad and bought a tray of mesembryanthemums. A real plant of my childhood, and one with a lot of acid tones, some of which – I have to say – don’t quite work where I’ve put them: at the foot of the cedar trunk, in an area which until last year was in deep shade until the cedar was cut down. Its removal has brought massive changes, not least to the house which is no longer in danger of becoming part of the tree. The sheer increase in light is wonderful, and the destruction of the wind tunnel created by the huge tree and the gable end of the house was almost completely unexpected. But the light is the most obvious benefit, and boy are the plants loving it. Not least my mesembryanthemums. Gorgeous.

mesembryanthemum

Wonder if there’s a helenium in this colour?

(No end of the month view post this time. Yesterday was considering finding timber to build ark. All plants closed up tight, and I can’t blame them. Now basking once again. This is summer, yipee….)

The story of a tulip bed

My tulip bed is just starting to go over, and I will really miss it. Actually, tulip ‘bed’ is a bit of a misnomer; it was really a sort of tulip dump, or so it was intended. There were tulips scattered around the garden following their usual springtime role in pots, some doing better than others, and I decided to put them in one place. I thought they might work together or they might not; but I didn’t really care. I just wanted some colour.

In the middle garden, the working garden where the picnic bench sits and the washing gets hung out, there’s a sundial. Around the sundial was a small bed, insignificant and far too tiny, but with a lot of Anemone blanda in it for early spring. So we enlarged it, and started sticking tulips in it last year. By the end of March they were starting to come up:

tulips 1

Now tulips aren’t supposed to come back year after year, but I’ve had reasonable success replanting, so I kept my fingers crossed. What I hadn’t anticipated was that there would be a balanced succession, or that we had spaced them out properly – they were planted as dry, anonymous bulbs and it got a bit chaotic cramming them in. We did start out quite organised, but that wasn’t quite how it ended. Ahem.

Much to my surprise, I got a wild burst of colour from all the orange tulips I had in pots last year, well before everything else, and they were even fairly equally spaced (some did appear at the back eventually, honest). Almost deliberate!

tulip gloom

It’s a rather gloomy photo because the weather in mid April was rather gloomy, but once the sun came out they opened up and glowed. Get the light behind them, and they were incandescent.

Then, as is the way with such things, they faded and the next lot opened, and at least I got a chance to capture the effect of the sun:

tulips 3

I have absolutely no idea at all what these are, due to my terrible end-of-season bulb-rescue habit in places like Wilkinson and B&Q; I then lose the packaging, which is usually pretty grotty by that stage anyway. But they are lovely. These were also in pots by the front door, but in 2010. They’ve gone on and on, and been replanted twice. I’m quite happy with where they are now…

Then some of the more miscellaneous ones started to open too, happily in colours (bright scarlet to deep red, with some unintentional striping, ahem) which worked with the others, though I am glad that the orange ones were earlier, I must admit.:

tulips 4

Some have been verging on the mad:

tulip5

and I was quite astonished to see these. They had been in pots years ago, then popped in a corner of the garden where they did precisely nothing. Replanting them here was a wild shot – I wanted shot of them and wildly decided to see if they did anything. I’ll say. Very glad I didn’t throw them out, and there are a couple more to move over.

By mid May the bed was still going strong,

wowser

with the almost-crimson white-edged tulips coming on a treat as well. There are no yellows – except for the unintentional stripes – or pure whites, but I’m not sure I ever had many of either, and some have failed to come up, though these blind ones are few. Overall, I am very, very pleased with this experiment, and it even sits well in context:

bed

Admittedly it’s been a weird spring, with all sorts of timings thrown out – my lilac, for instance, is just blooming; usually it’s brown by now. So next year this will probably look different, perhaps without so many primroses and certainly without the giant rosemary at top left which is shuffling off this mortal coil and is held together with baler twine (eat your heart out, Chelsea gardeners – you should always use baler twine for the authentic country cottage effect). I’m planning a small rhododendron or azalea for that spot, but it will have to work with the tulips. I’m thinking about an azalea arborescens – ‘Latest White‘ – at the moment, but that will probably change.

There’s one thing that won’t, though. The bed’s not big enough:

bed 2

See? Tom Tit on a round of beef, as I believe the saying is. And I’ve got more tulips to go in it – some we missed – plus some Queen of the Night are just opening, and I clearly need to buy more. And the rest, though this year’s pots were a real disappointment so they’re going out. I’m so glad I’ve discovered Peter Nyssen. They’re not doing autumn orders until 1 June, but you can build up a wish list. So far, mine has about 60 items on it. Sigh.

I also have another reason to be chuffed with my tulips. The previous owner’s husband, a great gardener and ex-WW2 pilot, died in about 1995/6. The Wing Commander had been a wild tulip fan, ordering something exotic every year which he would put in planters and then pop in the garden, as I now do. A few still come up – there are a clutch of pink and green parrot tulips that materialise up by the log pile which I must shift before they vanish again, for instance. So I’m channelling the past, evidently, and why not, when it works so well?

And incidentally, I did go back to the lovely NGS garden I visited at the start of the month. It was even more wonderful, and completely changed with leaves on the trees providing much more shade, lots of bluebells, lots of azaleas and rhododendrons. Can’t think where I got the idea of adding an azalea from, really. I still want a tree heather, though…

Spring hits the meadow – at last!

It’s finally happened. I know it’s going to get colder at the weekend – yipee – but the meadow couldn’t wait any longer. There have been daffodils blooming away for a few weeks now (I’ve already picked or deadheaded 510), but the rest? Nah. Too cold. But then things warmed up a little…

It began with the palest yellow primroses taking off about ten days ago,

primrose patch

starting to form a carpet and filling in the unmown areas. I snatched this photo from the box room to show clearly what happens when you mow paths, and when you just leave a ‘meadow’ like mine to do its thing and allow the primroses to set seed. And it’s a lot less effort, too. Not – perish the thought – that this entered my mind for a single second when I came up with the meadow idea. Certainly not.

The next thing I noticed was that one of the new damsons had covered itself in blossom overnight,

damson

and that is a real treat. The other is catching up now and, as if in competition, the Victoria plum suddenly has ten flowers on it. I have explained that unless it produces more fruit than last year (four plums, two of which fell off) it will be firewood. The threat does not appear to be working.

But the rest of the meadow is certainly performing:

meadow pear

and, much to my optimistic delight, the Comice pear in the foreground is covered in tight buds. Yes, please, please let’s have some pears this year. I know I rescued you from a bin in Lidl, I know you’ve been ill done by, but no longer. Go for it. (No firewood threats here. Yet.)

The primulas really have suddenly gone bonkers, and there are a lot more to come. You have to be really careful where you tread,

prim frit

and not just because of the primulas, as you can see. I reckon I’ve lost about a fifth to a quarter of my fritillaries this year; they were just beginning to lift their heads and form substantial buds when the Arctic blast hit. Some were shrivelled, some were merely damaged, but more than I expected have survived.

frit

and I keep coming across them. Many are stunted and have taken to hiding, and I cannot blame them in the slightest, poor little things!

The yellow daffs are now going almost over though there are still plenty to lift the heart (and if I miss bright yellow, I’ve always got dandelions),

daff prim

but the whites and pure narcissi are coming into their own, and this year they are stunning (they’ll be getting a post to themselves soon). The creamy-white pet–– no, let’s wait; there are plenty of other meadow delights to distract me, and I am ceaselessly amused by the clear path tracks -

mown path

like the one curving above – which criss-cross the meadow. They’ll probably get their first cut next week, I think; the rest, of course, waits till September / October and the Great Strim of Fate. We hang on to give everything a chance to set seed as lavishly as possible, and I am presently scouring the developing meadow for hints of the Salvia pratense having spread. Not a hint. Yet. Hopefully.

And another plus is that, finally, eureka, the birches are just beginning to put on some leaves. Phew. I know the bark is lovely but I’ve been admiring it for ages. Now I want fresh green leaves.

meadow and birches

The same cannot be said for most of the other trees, but doubtless they’ll catch up.

Maybe after this coming weekend…