Tag Archives: plants

How to wreck yourself in a single day

I know I shouldn’t have. But I’ve had so much work on, and the weather’s been a bit iffy / cold / wet / abominable / windy, and what with one thing and another… ow. Ow. Ouch.

Enough, already. I’ve been a bad gardener (I’ve been a bad blogger too, but that’s because I can’t face spending any more time in front of a screen when there’s gardening complaining about the weather to be done). But now things are different. Things are changing. Things are – shhhhh – flowering.


It’s warming up nicely; the seedlings have decided they’ll grow anyway; the rain has stopped and I didn’t get a manuscript when I was expecting it, so I had a day to garden. A whole day! A day with no rain / snow / high wind / sleet. OK, it was possibly too sunny, but I am most emphatically not complaining about that. Though I did end up slathered in sunscreen and wearing a ridiculous hat.

So what have I got to show for it? Er, apart from strange lopsided sunburn and a curious hunched posture, due to bending so much in one day and not exercising enough the rest of the time, you know, the times when it’s rainy / windy / sleeting / generally vile. Perhaps that should be ‘what did I do’, instead. I:

  • Tied in all the broad beans (Leidse Hangdown), hoed between the rows, removed any volunteer spuds on the way and pinched out the tops of those plants where the beans were already setting.

broad beans

  • Planted 32 climbing beans (Cosse Violette) up the teepees P had put up the day before.
  • Dug out the rest of the veg bed and planted 12 squashes (Uchi Kuri and Sibley), four of which are in huge pots instead, pending repositioning after pulling out broad beans / shallots.

veg bed - full

  • Finished digging out another bed and planted 4 anonymous celeriac plants.
  • Moved courgettes into the cold frame (they’ve been a bit slow, bit like me in cold weather).
  • Excavated the greenhouse, planted up the last of the tomatoes (Irish Gardener’s Delight), potted up the sweet basil and sowed some more radishes (Cherry Belle) in a trough.

tidy greenhouse

  • Sorted the geraniums from the greenhouse ready for repotting and/or consolidation.
  • Sorted out the pot store – an old dustbin – and evicted a whole nest of woodlice.
  • Attacked the middle bed of the bottom garden.

bottom garden

Went a bit mad. Dug out and chucked a huge pulmonaria which has kindly donated many, many, many, many children to the entire garden. Removed many of said children. Removed huge Echinops ritro which has overgrown its spot but also infested the bed with couch grass (which was lurking in the Echinops when I moved it last time); split some off, cleaned it up and replanted it elsewhere because the bees love it. Weeded part of bed but so much more to be done. Planted wonderful Thalictrum (Elin). Transplanted not so wonderful score of Verbena bonarensis seedlings, plus several verbascums. Planted up a beautiful Dierama (Blackbird) and accidentally evicted a whole ant’s nest which had been constructed in the pot. Spent some time watching the ants sorting themselves out (not at all because I couldn’t stand up due to my foot going to sleep, but actually because I am such a keen naturalist).

  • Trimmed the old man’s beard off the boundary wall and threw it back into the wildy bit whence it came, ditto bloody bracken.
  • Found gin.
  • Drank gin while admiring effect of sun on acquilegias.


Annoyed? Think I’m being rather smug? Well, I may be, but remember I am a smug person with one side of their face bright red and so achy that every move has to be preceded by what we used to call a ‘Grandpa grunt’ (until Grandpa caught us saying that, of course; then it became the ‘Dad grunt’ – not so alliterative, and not true either, but more entertaining in its effects).

And now, natch, we are back to normal: socks, boots and thick cardigans.



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

Oh, what a garden – Plas Cadnant

I know, I should be tree following, but I forgot. Zooooomed up there for a quick look, not much change except fewer leaves. But I have visited the most lovely garden, and it has lots of trees in it, even if I’m not following them specifically…

Excuses, excuses. Understandable? Look at this:

Plas Cadnant 1

This is Plas Cadnant on Anglesey, just over the Menai Straits from Bangor. I had a business meeting, but since the web designer concerned also happens to be a keen gardener (hello, Janet aka Plantalicious, whose post on the day was considerably more prompt and rather more professional), guess where we decided to meet up? Guess how long we spent on business? Yup, about five minutes. Possibly less than we spent on cake. Certainly much, much, much less than we spent on the garden.

It’s stunning, and it’s right up my street, and I couldn’t (as is obvious) stop taking photographs. The planting, particularly in the less-wild parts of the woodland areas, is so intelligently unobtrusive and so much in harmony with the extraordinary setting that it blew me away. I also love ferns, which helps.


and rocks, and mosses, and silent pools reflecting the planting, and lichens…


Did I mention tree ferns?

tree ferns

Huge tree ferns. Tree ferns you can walk under easily.

Then there’s colour. Colour, bright in contrast with the formal planting:


autumn colours in the shade of the woodland,

baby leaves

and which are even more startlingly bright when backlit:

acer colour

I don’t know, I give up. Plas Cadnant almost left me speechless – suffice it to say that I upgraded my entry into a season ticket, and that we’ve already made arrangements to meet here at the end of October.

In the meanwhile – and do visit Plas Cadnant’s website as well as Plantalicious for more actual, real, hard information as opposed to the blogging equivalent of someone going ‘WOWZER!’ – here is a gallery of some of the things that had such an impact on me. Wonderful place.

PS: The cakes are pretty good too!

Summer’s back, in white and blue…

Oh, this has been a silly year. And, just to top off the most peculiar growing season, summer appears to be back. Except at night, mind. But that does mean that the garden is having a final flash of colour, though intriguingly there’s been a bit of a colour shift.

I normally associate this time of year with oranges and reds (heleniums – over) and yellows (rudbeckia – thinking about flowering but still not sure). Oh, I’ve got some, yes: marigolds and (I suppose they count) grasses, and for the reds a surprisingly late Bishop of Llandaff dahlia. But I’ve gone white:


with a good big clump of echinacea which is quite unusual for me. (Yes, I know they’ve been chewed. Everything’s been chewed.)

I’m putting their success down to the fact that I went berserk in one of my post-work evening forays into the garden this summer and ripped out all the sidalacea which has been running riot. I didn’t know this would improve life for the echinacea; it was a happy accident, but a fortuitous one. I learned at our village garden club that echinaceas like air and light at the base (thanks to Christine ffoulkes Jones of Hall Farm Nursery for that info). They’ve certainly got that now that the ******* sidalacea is dust.

The cosmos have finally decided to flower,

cosmos and bee

and are attracting a lot of attention from the bees, even if this one didn’t hang around to be photographed in situ. The sheer number of cosmos partly accounts for the whitening of the garden, but I really wouldn’t have minded in the slightest if some of them had decided to flower earlier, honestly I wouldn’t.

The garlic chives are also late, but they’re providing a nice allium note in what is really autumn, so I don’t object in the slightest…


and nor do I object to another late performer, the agapanthus. We split a huge clump last year, brutally hacking it into four and leaving one quarter where it was. Three of the quarters flowered at roughly – very roughly – the normal time; one didn’t. It’s only just gone over.


It’s the transplanted quarter which is probably in the most sheltered position, or so I thought. But in actual fact we had some vile east winds earlier in the season, and this is in the direct line of fire (look at the pittosporum on the left; that’s suffered a bit too). That is the only possible reason I can come up with, but it’s probably rubbish.

And then there’s a random blue which I love:


Chicory – just came up spontaneously. And I’d love it a lot more if it wasn’t so huge and didn’t sprawl everywhere, but it is a most beautiful colour so I daresay I can forgive it.

But the most notable plants in the garden at the moment are the actaeas, aka cimicifugas. It’s not just the sheer height (this one is almost as tall as the giant hedge which makes it about 2.5 metres),


it’s also the scent and the sheer presence. Even if mine are not as completely covered in butterflies as one in Karen’s (The Artist’s Garden) was last night:

karen's butterflies

Or at least if it has been, I’ve not noticed it. Direct sunlight would seem to be the key to butterfly madness (I’ve got bees, and so has Karen), so I shall go and watch mine closely in the middle of the day. Fingers crossed!

Summer summary

What a summer – not that the weather’s been spectacular, because it hasn’t, but because I’ve been very busy indeed. When you freelance, you’re used to being busy in the summer because in-house publishers and journalists go on holiday like anyone else, and work doesn’t stop. Now I’m much better (thanks to intensive physio), I’m back working like a loony during summer. It pays for the Maxicrop, that’s what I say.

But all this means the garden has been somewhat neglected. I’ve tried to make sure I got out there for an hour a day, just to try and stay on top of the weeding as well as keeping sane, but It’s not always possible. So It’s great to have whole areas which look after themselves, like the meadow:

meadow July

which has been very good indeed this year. It will soon be time to mow it – mow it, what am I saying? Strim it. Using a big strimmer and a big strong man (flattery will get you everywhere). But the tendency to be about three weeks later than normal this year is still the case – usually by now everything has set seed, but I still have some meadow flowers in bloom.

One of my highlights this year has been the ‘random seed’ bed. Last year it was a little disappointing, and this year I thought I was in for the same – and then I realised that even disappointing plants self-seed:


and it’s been lovely.

The nigellas have come up in two marked clumps, white and pale blue, and I have tried to perpetuate this when scattering seed as the heads ripen – but I’m sure I won’t have managed it. One thing this has taught me, big time, is the value of autumn sowing – so give it a couple more weeks, and I’ll be out there with my seed packets. The things which I sowed in seed trays in the spring have just not cut the mustard. Some of them – cosmos, are you listening? – have still to flower.

I’ve added some new plants, though I have been quite restrained… this is my Salvia Amistad (I do like to keep up with trends, even if I’m a couple of years late):

Salvia amistad

and my penstemons have been consistently good:


This one is a mystery, and if anyone knows what it is, I wouldn’t mind knowing too. At least I wrote it down this time; the only problem is that I’ve written ‘mystery penstemon’. That, Kate, is not the point of keeping records. Must remember this.

On the veg front – meh. Some things have been good – I’m regularly picking a kilo of beans at a time, and I actually reduced the number of plants this year – and some things have been terrible. (Courgettes. Again. Thought I’d cracked it. Wrong.) The spuds have not been good but I do seem to be setting a good number of squashes. My artichokes have also finally been in full production, and one of them won the ‘any other veg’ class at the village show:


And, and, and I have finally managed to grow aubergines – or perhaps that should be ‘I have finally managed to grow aubergines without having the whole greenhouse infested with white fly’. That’s thanks to Green Gardener and their Encarsia, which I strongly recommend (and which I bought and have not been paid to push – used it before; this time it really, really worked). Evidently, because I have this

aubergine vincent

instead of a load of plants in the compost bin.

On the fruit front, a lot of apples are dropping but my new pear tree looks promising. Unlike the plum, which is coming out. Not in the sense of revealing to all that it’s a gay plum, but in the sense of being dug up and put on the bonfire. Terrible infestation of plum mites and though it’s laden with fruit now, they are manky and nasty inside. Plus, it’s wasp central. Who cares when you can have Japanese wineberries instead?

Japanese wineberries

Ok, there aren’t enough for a crumble, but who’d want to eat them any other way than off the bush, warmed by the sun? Not moi…

The wildlife has been much in evidence, and that includes Next Door’s Cat who has been a fairly constant companion, at least until feeding time when he vanishes completely, or until I trip over him for the sixth time. It’s also been a great year for the spider population:

spider web

though I realise not everyone will consider this a good thing, and I’ve even heard plenty of crickets which is amazing given the weather.


But personally I could live without the dead rat that NDC gave me last week. Nice. That’s what your real owners are for, Fluffybum.

Hopefully the arrival of autumn heralds a rather more organised and less frantic pace, and I’ll be able to blog more regularly. I haven’t even been taking lots of photographs – a real indicator of just how busy I’ve been. Right, let’s break out the camera!

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.


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:


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!

Epimedium enchanting!

I have a bit of an epimedium weakness (I like erythroniums too, and many other things beginning with e but not… well, let’s not get distracted). However, my garden eats epimediums, so this year I got a bit radical.


My one remaining epimedium – and I’ve been given epimediums which are an invasive menace elsewhere but which disappear chez moi – is this precious pearl, Epimedium grandliflorum ‘Lilatee’.  I love it, but I didn’t want to see it go the way of all flesh – um, the way of all epimediums – and so I marked its position carefully and let the leaves die back.

And when they did, I potted it up.


One of my friends said ‘I didn’t know you could grow epimediums in pots’, and neither did I. But it’s a tiny one, despite the name, and I thought it might be OK. It came through the winter fine, nice and dormant, snuggled below the soil. Then this spring I began to notice signs of life. I moved the pot to near the back door where I could enjoy it, and sure enough – pow. A really healthy plant. Flourishing, in fact.

Then we had a really chilly night – I had to scrape the windscreen of frost – and I thought it looked a little pinched and surprised, so I moved it into my unheated greenhouse.

I think it likes it.


It’s supposed to be warming up a little, so I might try reintroducing it to the outside world. But while it’s sitting on the potting bench (oh, I’ll come clean – the old picnic table I use as a potting benchette), it’s at just the right height for some epimedium worship.


Those flowers, by the way, are a max of 2.5 cm from spur tip to spur tip. I’ve got another flowering stem to come out, and I’ve never seen it look so good.

Maybe I might invest in a couple more…