Category Archives: Wordless Wednesday (not)

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.


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.


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


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’…


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?


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:


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,


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:


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:


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

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…


the evening light,


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


working its magic on colour combinations.


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:


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.


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…

Please last till the weekend!

It’s the garden club spring show at the weekend, and I’ve been neurotically monitoring progress of several things, especially


this, which I was given just after Christmas. It had actually been a gift to a friend, but she claims not have green fingers so much as brown fingers with yellowy bits and added rust spots.

So I got it. And its timing, I thought, could not be better.


I’ve been watching it like a hawk. I wasn’t quite sure what it was going to look like, despite the picture on the box (I’ve been fooled before), and the leaves are pathetic – about 5cm tall.

How can you stop an amaryllis from opening further?


I moved it to a cooler room, but all the buds are now open and it’s got to last another couple of days.

Next year I shall hedge my bets and get several, and not rely on the generosity of my weedy-fingered friends. Because I’ve moved it down again; I missed it too much.


Garden show, schmarden show, that’s what I say.

(I’ll change my tune by Friday night, especially as I’m helping with the stewarding…)

And in the meanwhile, I have a new friend in the garden. So far she’s eaten several daffodils, protected us from the Giant Hedge Monster, chased blackbirds, had a good go at the rhubarb until we shouted at her a lot, nearly strangled herself with her lead by jumping from a wall where she’d been tethered after the Rhubarb Incident, and killed a watering can stone dead after booting it all over the garden. And had a good shout at people who dared to walk past. Not bad for a couple of hours.


Her name is Jess, she’s an 11-month old red collie and she has more energy than anything else on the surface of the planet. She belongs to P, and will doubtless be appearing here regularly from now on. If her predecessor is anything to go by, that is. So far I cannot add using my garden as a toilet to her list of crimes, but I’m sure that time will come. I’d better get the dog treats in again…

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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…


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 –


and do come back soon!

Questions for this gardener…

I have had a good gardeny couple of days, and without doing very much in the garden, which is probably just as well as certain parts have turned to mush. But the snowdrops are coming up (admittedly on very short stems, but they’ll grow), the crocuses are materialising around the base of the big cherry tree and I’ve even got some wallflowers doing their thing. The pruning is complete – er, even the plum, which should not have been pruned at all right now but I lost my temper – and reclaiming the blurry edges of the beds has started too.

I did have to leave the warmth of the house for my good gardening time, though, because I went off to Portmeirion with a couple of friends to attend a recording of Gardener’s Question Time. But before that I spoke to about six million people about what is, to me, a radical decision – not to rejoin the RHS. It was interesting, and revealed a very clear north/south divide.

I joined years and years ago, when I was a baby exhibitor at Chelsea. This was so long ago that The Garden was the tiny size, and very dense, and almost unreadable. When you did read it, it was knowledgeable and often intimidating, but it stretched you. Or it stretched me, I should say. Now it’s bigger, prettier, has lots of bright pictures and sometimes appears to be written for eejits who’ve never been near a garden. It doesn’t work for me, and living here in North Wales very little else RHS-y does. Take a look at the ‘events’ pages, for instance. I picked a Garden at random – I think it was June, when there should be plenty going on – and there were three whole columns of events, excluding pics, for the west and east Midlands (an area also without an RHS garden to bulk up the info). The whole of Wales merited a third of a column. Of the nine gardens very briefly listed there, six were down south – and it’s easier to get to England than it is to reach Cardiff from here.

parpI decided I might have got the Celtic Hump, a well-known disorder, so rang some other friends and this is when the north/south divide became crystal clear. Even my brother, who is within a (long, admittedly) drive of Harlow Carr, has decided to quit. It makes me sad but – so long, RHS. I did ring and explained why I wasn’t renewing, but they’ll probably just assume it was the Celtic Hump Disease and recommend spraying…

Now for something much more enjoyable: GQT.

I learned of an impending visit by the BBC’s Garden Question Time team (try saying that in a hurry) at our garden club, where it was mentioned in the notices. So three of us – well, one other member and A N Gardening Other – decided to get tickets, think of a bright and intelligent question which would transform us into respected gardening gurus overnight, and go along. We also decided to go early, take advantage of the admission to Portmeirion and have a look round; a cold winter monsoon interfered but we’re gardeners, for heavens’ sake, and we went early anyway.

And that is how we ended up in the bar of the Portmeirion Hotel, steaming slightly, drinking wine and discussing our questions.

I had wanted to ask about how you could persuade middle-aged men not to hang out of trees by their teeth while chainsawing, but that was vetoed – vehemently vetoed. In the end I settled for a rather boring one about windbreaks, so it wasn’t surprising mine failed to make the cut, though talking with another audience member gave me some good suggestions. Our other questions, also unsuccessful, were about overwintering pepper plants and whether you really need to disinfect the soil in a polytunnel, one of my companions having taken over the veg garden of a local pub and a vast supply of Jeyes’ Fluid.

The questions which were picked were a combination of interesting – how the heck to stop bamboo spreading (Napalm, IMO), pruning a grandiflora magnolia (don’t) – and wilful battling against the whole concept of ‘right plant, right place’ – trying to move a 5′ x 6′ bottlebrush to an as-yet-undecided location while not killing it and wanting roses and a lawn in a bog (???). Maybe it was the wine – and there was wine for the audience in addition to that possibly unwisely imbibed by some of us in the Portmeirion Hotel – but that was the point at which many of us lost it; the woman behind me was doubled up and wheezing with laughter. The team – Eric Robson in the chair, Matt Biggs, Christine Walkden and Matthew Wilson this time – came up with some great suggestions for the lady with the bog, but I suspect she’ll still try roses.

All in all, by the end of the evening I felt I’d done some gardening. Unfortunately, I don’t think the garden feels the same, but almost all gardens look like the wrath of god at this time of year. But not all gardens have a collapsed rose arch spread across them waiting for someone (ahem) to find the motivation to break it up and take it to the tip along with all the broken pots. Now there’s a question: how do I summon up the energy to load the car with all the non-compostable seasonal rubbish?

One shoot, two shoot

Three shoot, blue shoot:

Iris u

How beautiful is this? What a good way to cheer someone up who is busy doing their tax return. Er, who should be busy doing their tax return.

Just went down to the bottom of the garden (displacement activity, moi?) because I thought I’d seen some litter, and it wasn’t litter at all but a couple of these lovely Iris unguicularis, surely a candidate for the ‘most unpleasant-sounding Latin name for a beautiful flower’ award. They grow in the base of the big hedge at the bottom of the garden, and would do much better if I dug them up and moved them into full sun. However they are inextricably linked with the hedge, so I guess I’ll just have to get some more.

It’s quite possible that I don’t need more daffodils, but I like to fly in the face of common sense and anyway I always need more daffodils, and they’re beginning to stick their heads above the ground. They timed it rather well, so they didn’t get too badly trampled while we dealt with this:

poor trunk

though the rest will have to be chainsawed in situ, and pretty soon; the snowdrops are also beginning to appear and there’s a giant clump slap underneath it. I’ve decided that a new rowan be put in somewhere else completely and that a tamarisk (T. ramosissima rubra, if I can get it) will go roughly near the stump. The stump itself will be covered in netting and have a clematis grown up it, and the tamarisk will be kept under control. I needed something relatively light because the bed is full of scillas. In a few weeks. Really MUST move that trunk.

And I’ve even started clearing the mess left in some of the beds – it’s amazing what you will do when accounts threaten. I’m so glad I didn’t randomly hoick (yup, it’s definitely a word, even if the spellchecker disagrees) everything up without looking, because I found this:


I thought I’d dead-headed quite efficiently. I guess not.

And I also guess that this means there’ll be lots of poppies just popping up, but who cares? Well, me – a bit – as I’ve just ordered more seeds. I have, you see, a rough idea of what colours I want in the mad annual seed bed this year. Don’t know why I bother, really, it’ll do its own thing and hopefully look as fab as it did last year. But everything is beginning to grow on already; we really need a winter. I think the interior had winter yesterday (the hills were beautifully snowy, but not so snowy as to endanger livestock), but it’s ridiculously mild again today. Hmm.

Oh yes, this was supposed to be a Wordless Wednesday post. Hmm x 2. Happy Wednesday, everyone!