Category Archives: Colour

Progress (garden open, 2). And digging.

This post is supposed to be wordless, as it’s Wednesday, but I’ve tried that and I can’t shut up. My word of the day, however, is AGH as I did too much gardening yesterday and my back is protesting. But progress has been made. Less than a week to go to open garden, so that’s just as well.

First, the veg patch. Still needs work, but better. The wind has damaged the squashes, despite the windbreak, but they’re coping.

Veg patch

Next, the meadow. Parts are strimmed, the paths gave been mown, but the bonfire heap still looks like Goosegog Mountain. Tough.

Meadow

Then there’s the horrible wilderness that was the capel bed. This is why my back hurts.

capel bed

I know, I know, all this ought to have been done weeks ago, and so it should. I tried to tell the weather gods, but they weren’t listening. But some lovely things have been happening, even if half the dahlias have been eaten by slugs and snails and earwigs have been snacking on what remains.

Karma Choc dahlia

This is Karma Choc, my favourite. And the Monarda in the background deserves a closer look, too, especially as it’s in its last year. Got a bit weak and scraggly, might try splitting and moving, might just get new.

Monarda

I’ve even uncovered some decent ferns. And now it’s stopped drizzling I must go out and play again. With added paracetamol.

Ferns

I’ll just leave a couple of my outlandish colour combinations, as they cheer me up (even though I’m thinking ‘why would anyone want to come and see this?’ at the moment. First, Salvia ‘Neon’ which my iPad camera wasn’t at all sure about:

Salvia neon

(the silver thyme helps to calm it down a bit), and then my mad euphorbia, rescued from a skip at Chelsea many years ago so, no, I don’t know what it is but it was a new introduction in about 1990, together with Physocarpus ‘little devil’…

Madness

And, yes, the big hedge in the background does need clipping. Another job that isn’t going to happen; freshly mown grass and edged beds will make up for a lot. Right, where’s the Deep Heat?

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Hrrrrrumpf

I am officially sulking.

Amaryllis

This magnificence is not mine. It could have been mine, but this is the one of the two Amaryllis bulbs I bought at a garden centre which I gave away, as a Christmas gift, to my ex-neighbour.

Mine was – well, not like that. it had a flower spike, oh yes, but on a five-inch stem. The only possible explanation I can come up with – apart from black magic, curses and pique – is that my ex-neighbout grows his in an exceptionally warm conservatory (average January temperature, sans heating, of over 80 degrees), whereas mine has to survive in my kitchen (average January temperature, er, not over 80 degrees). But I’m still sulking.

That may stop, though, because mine (like his) is throwing up another flower spike. We shall see. But I do maintain that this is an excellent argument for buying a specialist bulb and potting it up yourself rather than relying on Aldi. Maybe…and next year I shall see if I can get him to nursemaid mine for a bit. At least until the Spring Show. That’s not cheating, is it?

Where’s this year going? Phew…

I know, eek, I know I’ve got to get up the hill and check out my hawthorn before the 14th for the monthly tree following meme; I’ve got to get another book proposal finished pretty soon; I’ve got to do some research for the next book, anyway; I’ve got to get my things ready for the garden club’s summer show on Wednesday, plus I’m sorting out some show admin and stewarding; I’ve got to get stuff done for a craft pop-up I’m inhabiting in about ten days’ time… and the rest.

Every so often, though, I do manage to get into the garden, weather (and what weather) permitting. And when I’m there I sometimes manage to lift my head from the weeding, the cutting back, the ripping out of foxgloves from inappropriate places, the removal of ‘gifts’ of various kinds (pre- and post-eating, ergh, or maybe that should be fresh and, um, processed) left for me by Next Door’s Cat. And it’s not been that bad, you know.

Salvia hot lips

Even if it did take my Salvia ‘hot lips’ ages to remember that it was supposed to be in two colours and respond to what I am going to call summer. Well, vague warmth, anyway.

When I left London after, as my mother would doubtless have put it, ‘coming to my senses’ I thought life might be less frantic. My memory must have been playing tricks on me. This goes some way to explain why I’ve not posted much recently. Either I’m so glued to the screen editing and writing that I can’t face voluntary screen time, or I’m rushing frantically from one place to another in a cloud of dust and a Toyota Auris. Some measure of how bonkers life is at the moment can be judged by the fact that I was in Tesco at 8am because it was the only time available. Start your day the Tesco way. No, thanks, really, that’s fine…

poppy

I think I’d rather be in the garden. Or anywhere, with the possible exception of South London. Or, OK, I admit it, Barmouth on a sunny Saturday. Well, sitting in a queue of cars to get into Barmouth on a sunny Saturday – I counted 614, mostly stationary, as I was travelling in the opposite direction last week. Where they all thought they were going to park, I don’t know.

Er, garden!

My directly sown seed bed has been amazing this year. Great clouds of nigella, interestingly all self-sown and split into two broad patches of colour – white and blue – were most gratifying, and the poppies have been good too. Some verbascums popped up unexpectedly, and I’ve got a huge spontaneous chicory plant as well. The cosmos and antirrhinums I sowed into seed trays and then planted out might possibly flower. Only might, mind. Direct sowing for me, and in the autumn, too.

hiawatha

I planted this lily – Hiawatha – in October 2013, and it has been absolutely lovely this year; it was good last year, but this has been better. I also seem to have acquired a freebie, somewhere where I’d not planted one – surely a year is too soon for it to spread itself about? And the monarda has been lovely too, so it’s not all gloom and doom. It is in the veg patch, but I’ll gloss over that. At least I’m not alone.

And when I drive up the hill, rushing between one thing and the next, I get a cheering reminder that there is indeed a garden by my house:

lucifer

I planted a couple of Crocosmia Lucifer in the bed by the side wall of the chapel house almost two years ago. We’re on a hill, and the lane is cut into what would be the normal lie of the land, so the side of my garden is actually about six feet higher at the bottom end – yes, there’s a wall, and yes, it’s in good nick – than the road. The Lucifers, now vastly increased in number, look spectacular and make you do a double-take if you don’t realise how high the ground is behind the wall. In my case, the double take comes as I remember I haven’t been down there for a few days and there’s a suspicious smell. That would be the NDC, aka FluffyBum, again, no doubt.

Next, I’ll get up the hill to my followed tree, honestly!

(Incidentally, there seems to be something of a red theme happening in my garden this year. Strangely, all of it was planted before we even knew the result of the last election, let alone that Jeremy Corbyn would be standing for Labour leader. The garden clearly knew. I seem to have a socialist garden.)

On shrubs and going a bit mad

Sometimes you suddenly get a bit between your teeth and do something radical. I think whatever it is has actually been brewing away subconsciously, and then something happens to pull it into the foreground and there you are – with an inspiration which seems to have come out of nowhere. You could apply this theory to great works of art and literature. I’m applying it to the big bed in the bottom garden.

grumble

This is the bottom garden, this time last year (I’m about three weeks’ behind). To the left of the red Acer is a green shrub – that’s a clethra (or, according to my spellchecker, a ‘plethora’ – sort-of right there). It’s actually in the bed behind. Just below and to the right of the plethora is a green boringness. This is a Lonicera fragrantissima. Allegedly. Boring as all out – but should be good in spring.

Nah. Lonicera fragrant-isn’t-ima. Out with it!

I’ve always fancied getting a Cotinus coggygria, a red one this time – I had a green one in my last garden. So I set off for the garden centre, necessitating a 16-mile detour due to long-lasting %@1±CCZ&*! roadworks, and there one was. Looked good, decent price. But there was something that gave me second thoughts – would it really show up against the hedge? Would it work with the glorious colour of the big Acer?

I’d already done the detour so I decided to press on – and ended up at Fron Goch, my favourite garden centre and one where you can always get really good, knowledgeable advice. I was briefly distracted by ferns (no surprises there):

Fron Goch ferns

but remembered what I was supposed to be doing (and the fact that I’d recently bought a couple of ferns). So I sought out one of the most knowledgeable staff – I’d suddenly had an idea, and I wanted to run it past someone.

Another Acer. But a different one. Plenty to choose from…

Fron Goch 3

The bed I’m considering is probably the least exposed place in the whole garden, protected by the Great Hedge of the Annual Scaffolding Winge, and the red Acer is a beauty – though it’s approaching the top of the GHASW and heaven only knows what will happen when it reaches the top. Nothing too fatal, I trust. The presence of the hedge is one of the problems – whatever I plant needs to stand out, it needs presence.

Tah dah!

acer leaves

I think this qualifies. It’s Acer shirasawanum ‘Jordan’, and it’s only fair to say that it was not cheap. But, I feel, worth it. It’s already lighting up that corner,

bottom garden

even though it’s only a baby – there it is, between the standing stones – and contrasts nicely with the darkness of its background  while also working with the red Acer (about eight or nine feet tall, to give an idea of scale – and of the need for scaffolding during the annual hedge-cutting exercise).

The leaves flush pink when younger and in sun:

baby leaves

and it is, interestingly, fruiting:

acer

A lovely healthy plant. And now I have to go and rob a bank or something, but I’m happy. Bit like the Acer, hopefully!

Spring is sprung – maybe…

Ok, it’s here. My snowdrops are over, the daffodils are flowering, the equinox is passed, the Garden Club spring show is on Wednesday: it’s spring. Of course, it’s still $3!!**5% cold at night (we’ve had frosts) and there’s a nasty bite to the wind, but I’ve almost run out of chopped logs so it has to be spring.

And anyway, this has happened. Colour has come back to the garden, and not before time:

chionodoxas

I do love my chionodoxas.

The wonderful chionodoxa carpet, which I feared had been disturbed by the taking down of the rowan and consequent rebuilding of the wall above which it spread, is back. The little darlings have shrugged off emergency tree surgery, gales, demolition, trampling, me helping, men with chainsaws, men with boulders and the attentions of the Hell Hound of Harlech. In fact, I think they’re better than ever. They’re spreading, too.

I love my chionodoxas, and I love my primroses as well. They’re coming out in their hundreds – it will soon be thousands – and they are everywhere.

prims and chio

They’re in amongst the chionodoxas, the daffodils, the hedges. They’re in paths, beds, the lawns, walls. They run riot in the meadow where they appreciate the lack of cutting (in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to see clearly where the paths have been mown in the past by the relative absence of primroses). At present they’re mostly the wild, pale yellow variety…

but then this happens:

coloured primrose

There are more and more of the coloured variants of the wild form, in everything from an almost grey yellow and greyish-pink, through salmon and pale pink to a really deep crimson. They’re not uncommon round here, and the primrose class at the Spring Show always includes a rich range of colours. I was bowled over with them when I first saw them, and I still am. Lovely things.

I’ve a newbie this year: hellebores. I’ve never been really into them; my brother adores them, and I let him fill the vacant hellebore niche in our gardening-mad family. But in recent years I’ve been given some lovelies, all singles, all orientalis:

hellebores

I need to have three perfect blooms for the show (I know I won’t win, but I’m determined to enter), all of the same variety, and they have to float in a bowl. As does my camellia, which is astonishigly still flowering though it’s been at it since November – it is beginning to look a bit ratty, mind. Or the double one is ratty, the single – well, we’ll see.

The meadow is really starting it’s thing, what with the daffs and the prims and everything – oh, the anemones, how could I forget the anemones?

anemones

Mostly deep blue, some paler and a few white. Again, they’re spreading, and I’m so glad they are. Go anemones!

Walking up this way I saw a sort of haze, a blur, a vagueness, over the old bonfire site. Last year I planted it up with some foxgloves from other places in the garden, but that wasn’t it. I even thought it was my glasses. But it wasn’t:

moss flowering

It’s been colonised by the prettiest, softest moss – all flowering away like mad. This is the meadow so I don’t care – and anyway if I tried to eliminate moss from this garden I’d be left with lawns that looked like an outbreak of a particularly virulent skin disease and a nervous breakdown. It’s not going to happen. You have to come to terms with some things. Like the sudden loss of rowan trees. Opportunities, not disasters. And I love the textures of moss. I could have been twisted away form the path of righteousness by winning moss garden classes in the village show when I was a child – and I’m pleased to say there’s a class for them in our show on Wednesday. My one regret is that I’m not either 5 and under or 6–11. Rats.

And it’s sunny, right now, so I’m going out to do a bit of tweaking before I go to work.

colour returns

Or I could just dance around the garden singing ‘The sun has got his hat on, hip hip hip hooray, the sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out to play…’

One day of sun (a not-at-all wordless Wednesday)

Yesterday was lovely. It was mild, it was still and – shhhhh – the sun shone. To celebrate I took a quick turn round the garden, and I was surprised by how much is still in flower. Oh, there are the hangers on: the now-tatty cosmos still with a few white flowers, the dahlia still blooming away, the salvia ‘hot lips’ whose flowers are now almost entirely white. But some things have suddenly appeared which are a sign that we are in deep autumn, and heading towards winter.

The Viburnum is always the first, and sometimes it starts flowering really early, almost in late summer. Not this year, though; it’s getting into its stride now:

Viburnum

and the scent is lovely. It’s up at the top of the garden, near where logs are chopped, and its fragrance seems to merge with the sweet resinous smell of the cedar logs. (No clothes moths up there, then… OK, that’s partly the absence of clothes – hang on, no nude log chopping here, rather the absence of stored clothes. Oh, I’m just getting more complicated. Leave it… but cedar is a good moth-repellant.)

The yellow jasmine hedge is gearing up for the seasonal show too,

jasmine

and though I used to regret that this had no scent, I’m now convinced that it’s just as well. If it did, it would be overwhelming.

All the mushrooms in the meadow have gone, and I have a lovely show of autumn crocuses in the meadow proper instead (they were along one edge earlier). I’m becoming used to the fact that they are clearly migratory, as there were none last year – or any year – where I now have a substantial clump:

crocus

They’ve been flowering for a couple of weeks now, quite happily. (I marked their position with a large stake as P would be quite capable of hitting them with the mower when he’s in the zone – he’s mowed crocuses before, and other things like, agh, spotted heath orchids. No further comment necessary.) And then yesterday I spotted another collection,

crocus 2

which I swear I’d not seen before, this year or any year. Mind you, they were making themselves rather obvious in the sun, glorying in the warmth and light. I felt much the same myself!

The bottom garden is in more shadow at this time of year, but I couldn’t miss the cherry. Poor old thing, it really is on its last legs – we took a substantial branch off it recently in case it fell off and smashed through the roof of the chapel house next door – but it soldiers on. I have certainly no intention whatsoever of doing anything about it until it is absolutely necessary, because every winter, generally around Christmas, it does this:

cherry

It’s stunning. Keep your fingers crossed that it lives on for a few more years!

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’.)