Category Archives: Gardening

Season of mellow whatsits

Fruitfulness, I think. Fruitfulness at flipping last – or fruitfulness which has been either overwhelming (rare: artichokes – so theatrical, and the abundance is why they are now feeding bees instead of me),

theatrical

or surprising (pears). And fruitfulness on the work front too, which is why I’ve been a bad blogger. Anyway, back to the garden.

I have an ancient pear tree; gnarled and twisted, it generally doesn’t produce much in the way of fruit but it is a gorgeous shape and has such presence in the bottom garden that removing it would leave a huge gap. It also likes to hide what pears it does produce, generally about four, sometimes as many as seven, until they either rot and fall off or are pecked off by birds. Each year we have a pear hunt (though I have finally been dissuaded from dancing down the garden singing ‘we’re going on a pear hunt’ after a certain children’s book). This year I was altered to the fact that there were pears ready by one which bounced lightly off my head as I hoed the bed beneath part of the tree.

And this year we didn’t need to hunt that much…

wowzer

One year the tree went mad and produced 44. This year we have reached the giddy heights of 57, only a few of which were damaged. They’re cookers, and I’ve already made my first batch of compote.

And I have squashes. They’re not enormous (yet),

uchi kuri squash

but they’re getting there, and there is some way to go in terms of time. I was recommended this variety – uchi kuri – by a fellow addict as one which does well round here, and I shall certainly be growing it again. Though the mildew on the plants is now something else.

The obsession with food today even got itself transferred to the flowers. As he was going out P stopped to smell one of the huge pots of lilies (mind you, you don’t really need to stop; you can probably smell them in the village when the wind is in the right direction). Oh look, he says, it’s like the chocolate on a cappuccino…

lily choc

And it is.

It’s feeling quite autumnal now. It’s chilly in the mornings and some of the local chestnuts have started to turn. My Rosa rugosa hedges are full of big fat juicy hips,

rugosa hips

though the same cannot be said for my allegedly autumn-fruiting raspberry canes. Am going out to speak to them roughly.

(And for anyone wondering how the open garden went, it went brilliantly. The weather started iffy but by the time I opened it was so sunny that everyone congregated in the shadowed part of the garden once they’d had a good nose look round. Needless to say I was so busy that I forgot to take any pics. The plant which garnered the most enquiries was this penstemon, Raven.

raven

It was looking good. Now, of course, it’s reduced to a couple of sticks, but hey ho. And I was glad it wasn’t a month later as the heleniums looked decent; now they look terrible. And slugs and snails have eaten all the dahlias bar one in the bottom garden. They are four-star bastards this year. We even found one way up in the pear tree. But for the vital day, everything looked perfect.)

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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?

AGH! (Or why did I agree to this?)

All right, I know it’s been ages and ages since my last post. A) I’ve been working like a nutcase, and B) every other moment – almost – has been spent gardening. That’s because I have rather rashly agreed to open my garden. To the extremely professional garden club here, so to people who know what they’re doing. In a fortnight or so.

This gem is the one of the veg beds:

FFS

Garlic harvested, broad beans eaten. Need to weed, dig over and place squashes – in huge pots – on top. Rain keeps stopping ‘play’. Play! Ha!

How about this, then?

FMS

Whaddya mean, what is it? It’s the bonfire heap, of course, up at the top of the meadow. Oh shiiiiiiiiiittttt. But P reckons a quick strim and this will look acceptable, if not enormously better. though we might need to dispose of an entire Matto Grosso’s worth of cleavers.

Then there are other terrible areas such as behind the greenhouse, notably, and under the camellias. But my main focus, when it isn’t raining and sometimes when it is, is this:

WTF

It’s a flower bed. Oh yes it is.

HELP!

(PS: When P asked ‘are you opening the garden this year?’ and added ‘it’s quite good because it means everything gets done’ I should have hit him with the spade.)
(PPS: and yes, the letters on the image titles are indeed significant.)
(PPPS: Back in a fortnight. Assuming I live that long.)

 

 

Couch grass wars

Yesterday – Monday – the forecast was vile, but it also proved to be completely wrong.

primrose and ginkgo

So though both P and I started off gardening in 85 layers of clothing, they were gradually removed – until something more sensible was reached, cough, not until we were gardening naked. That would not have gone down well with anyone, even the Hell Hound of Harlech (who was being particularly hellish and had to be muzzled to stop her barking at the builders next door). But, boy, did we achieve lots!

Just as well, because the garden is open for the Garden Club in July. Not sure why I agreed to that, but hey. It’s good to focus the mind. There’s lots to do.

We got the windbreak up around the veg patch – a much more reliable sign of spring than the first fritillaries,

frit

and then we launched ourselves at something that’s been an issue for several years and consciously avoided for the last three.

Couch grass.

I know, I know, everyone has couchbloodygrass. But I have one bed that it particularly infests, and it’s slap in front of the house. I’ve been trying to find some ‘before’ pics in the archive, but there aren’t any because the bed was such a disgrace. Time for radical action. And for the remaining gravel… (and for temporarily abandoning organic principles, but cough, cough).

I dug out the plants I wanted to keep and potted them up in autumn. Then I threw them away because cough grass came up in the pots. I took cuttings, most of which died because by then it was a bit too late. Then I lost my temper, and bought chemicals. So yesterday we treated what remained, carefully trimming back the wall-growing potentilla and pulling the clematis montana out of the way beforehand, covered the whole bed in ten metres of black plastic, and spread tons – well, half a ton – of gravel on top. The clematis, which is just about to flower,  was carefully brought back up and tethered down with tent pegs; that should keep it in position. Come autumn we’ll remove everything and treat the f%2!!88er again, then put everything back for another year. So, for the next couple of years or so, there’ll be pots on here.

Now all I need to do is try and recover the ability I once had to plant up and maintain a stunning container. Er, in the teeth of the winds off the Irish Sea. That should be interesting, as should the fact that the couch grass is in the wall. Oh well, hopefully successive doses of Roundup should help. Hopefully…

 

‘Tips for the winter garden’

Reality and journalism – or what sometimes passes for journalism – often collide. And so, in celebration of this fact, I would like to offer some of my very own tips for the winter* garden (watching where you tread should be first, after what I stood in just now, and thank you, Next Door’s Cat).

‘A well-placed container close to a doorway, window or path really makes an impact.

pots

Several containers make even more of an impact, especially when you slip on wet slate, slide into them and scatter your shopping all over the path. They might make more of a metaphorical impact if I’d just had five seconds in which to do something about their contents. Or space in the greenhouse for the geranium.

Leave cover on perennials that fade elegantly.

perennial

Which ones would they be, then?
(And, incidentally, I suppose this also deals with the reality of the ‘not forgetting the weeding’ tip. Believe you me, I haven’t. I haven’t forgotten the tip, that is. I’m quite happy to forget the weeding.)

Leave flowerheads on grasses; they look lovely in winter.’

grass

Or then again…

Don’t forget to clean out the greenhouse.’

greenhouse

I didn’t. I just filled it with stuff first. And it’s staying there. I’ll do it in the spring.

The italicised tips – or fantasies, as I prefer to think of them – are all from recent articles in the media. The reality is, alas, all from the garden. I know it’s not just me who has things like this

WTF?

(Cirsium rivulare Atropurpureum, in case you don’t recognise it) filling their borders and flowerbeds at this time of year.

It isn’t, is it?

*Let’s just examine the concept of ‘winter’, too. Can we have one, please? I realise this might come into the ‘be careful what you wish for’ category but I DO NOT CARE. I just want it a bit colder.

(Oh, and by the way and a propos the last post, there was indeed an agapanthus in the photo quiz. And I did fail to recognise it, despite having, at the last count, seven clumps of agapanthus in the garden.)

Oh wow – updating the Garden Tour

It’s been needing doing for some time, but it’s rather like hoovering the loft – you can put it off for ages. A while ago I created a ‘garden tour’ page, and I’ve not looked at it for ages. The other day I decided that there’d been too many changes. It had to happen. Spring cleaning. In late October.

I mean, it’s not as though the changes have been minor:

tree surgeons

They’ve made quite a difference, really…

It has been interesting, too. There are now so many more beds than there were, and much less lawn. There’s a heck of a lot more colour throughout the season, not just in the spring. The vegetables have ceased to spread around the garden and are confined to the veg plot and a small bed by the greenhouse. There are all sorts of plants that were just not here before, from heleniums and verbena bonarensis to grasses, dahlias, echinaceas and actaeas. The meadow has gone from strength to strength, despite the fact that the birches which were small trees then are now all big (and, in the case of one, huge).

So I feel I can say ‘do please come and walk around the garden’ – here. And, of course, it will all need updating again soon…

dill and broom

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.)