Are You Sitting Comfortably

I have decided to start off with a look at the seats in our own garden as we have moved some and bought some new ones.

From our own garden we move on to the seats in a garden of one of our gardening friends patches.

See you sometime with a fresh collection of garden furniture photos.


My Garden Journal 2023 April

Back visiting my garden journal for 2023 and we should be well and truly in spring, feeling the changes in both light and temperature.

To begin with I wrote, “April arrived but bring its expected ‘April Showers’ with it. Instead we had alternating sunshine and storms. Luckily we had jobs to do both out and inside the glasshouse. One job was to sort out my aeonium collection which overwinters inside the glasshouse. In spite of this protection we lost quite a large percentage of them. We potted on cuttings and bought on others purchased from specialist nurseries.”

From aeoniums we moved on to look at alpines. I noted that, “We grow alpines in various places around the garden, in a scree garden behind the glasshouse, in pots and stone containers and along the edge of the drive on the Chatto Garden. Our et and cold autumns and winters are not appreciated by alpine plants which often don’t last long.”

On the opposite page we look at more small scale plantings, a spring bulb called muscari. Here I wrote how “Every gardener loves spring bulbs, which manage to brighten our gardens with daffodils and tulips probably the favourite. But I have a soft spot for muscari. Over the last few years I have been searching for less well known varieties, so now have a small but interesting collection.”

Below are photos of just ten of the collection.

From muscari growing and flowering closely to the ground I moved on to look at clematis, a climber which flowers much higher up. Here I noted that, “We have been busy buying clematis since we moved so now we have so many. We must list them one day to see what we have. At this time of year we enjoy many ‘alpina’ types which tend to have white, blue or pink flowers whose long slender petals hand down gracefully. Below we show a few we have in our garden.”

On the opposite page I looked at a few of the gardening tasks we performed in April.

Next the journal displays a double page spread featuring tulips, that most colourful bulb flower of all. To introduce them I wrote,“Most of the strong April colours are gifted to us by tulips. Te tiny ones below tend to be species tulips, with the larger more developed flowers are cultivarsbred for size, shape and colour.”

On the final page of entries for April I returned to show some more gardening jobs tackled during the month. I noted that,“April is no different to any other month as there is a list of jobs to tackle.”

The next visit to my Garden Journal might show that we are getting much closer to summer.


Are You Sitting Comfortably – Post Covid-19 No 5

Back with the fifth post in this post Covid-19 occasional series of posts celebrating garden seats. Here are three spotted while enjoying a wander around Wildgoose Walled Garden and Nursery the colours of which caught my eye. The third shot is of seats created by the volunteer gardeners to use when weeding the borders. The gardener we spoke to reckoned they were really comfy.

The next photo is of a very comfy and inviting seating area from another NGS Yellow Book garden.

Finally seats we found while wandering around the wonderful Bodnant Gardens in North Wales. These wooden benches were situated in the highly scented rose garden.

See you next time with number 6 in this occasional series.


My Garden Journal 2023 March

Already I am creating the third monthly entries for this year, March, the month when the weather should be looking better and more conducive to gardening.

On the opening page I wrote, “March, according to the meteorologists we are now in spring, but as gardeners we know it is still well and truly winter. So far the weather has been cold and very dry. This type of weather however doesn’t stop us getting out into our garden.”

I show this with a set of photos of us at work.

Hebes feature on the opposite page where I wrote, “Hebes enhance our garden every day of the year, both interesting foliage and delicate looking flowers. Foliage comes in different sizes, shapes and colour from glaucous to almost black, but they are always glossy. Plants themselves vary in size and shape too, and flowers come in white plus shades of pink, purple and blue.”

The following photos show just a few of our collection.

On the next two pages are featured how we continued to develop the new outdoor dining area. and then the snow came! The large glaucous leaved bush bottom left is about 4 feet in diameter. A big, old healthy shrub!

The next double page spread features one of my sketches on the left hand page plus early flowering bulbs opposite.

Writing about working to finish our new outdoor dining area, I noted “We have just finished changing our ‘Secret Garden’ into an outdoor dining area.’

I repurposed this unwanted futon stool, making it into a planter. Jude planted a selection of herbs, giving us an herb garden right next to the table.

On the opposite page I celebrate the arrival of our first snow of the winter, and share a selection of photos taken in the cold.

Over the page we find that I wrote, “Emerging from beneath the snow this small piece of fennel dried and delicate. Drawn to actual size.”

I then looked at bulbs that were in flower, about which I wrote, “Early flowering bulbs and perennials provide food for early emerging bees of all sorts. Crocus are very important to wildlife.

On the final page of my entries for March I considered signs of wildlife in our garden. I noted that, “I am amazed at how many signs and sights of our garden wildlife we experience in cold weather. Our hedgehogs have come out from the houses we have provide for them and those they build for themselves. Poos are the most obvious sign! Birds remain busy on the feeders, and some are already nesting.

Early flowers on shrubs, bulbs and perennials are a delight for early bees.”

“The snail on the terracotta flower pot stops bees getting a chance to nest which is why it is there.”

“This sparrow terrace had a nest starting in the bottom compartment but then a swarm of Tree Bees took it over. I opened it up recently and found both nests tightly crammed in.”

So that is all of the entries for my garden journal for March 2023.


Crocus in our Avocet Garden

The crocus we have were mostly bought ‘in the green’ several years ago so we have not got as many as we have had. We need to order more ‘in the green’ collections. However this year we have discovered that some have started moving into grassed areas.


First Snow of the Winter

The first snowfall of the winter arrived well into March which the meteorologists think is Spring. Several forecasts have been threatening us with snow recently almost every day.

It was very light when it came – you could almost wander between the flakes. As you can imagine I was soon wrapped up and out in the garden with camera in hand. Here is a gallery of those photos.

And finally, a photo I have wanted to take for a while now – a snowdrop in snow!


A Winter Wander around Bodenham Arboretum

On the last day of February, we met up with my sisters, Penny and Alison and Penny’s husband Tony for a wander around the arboretum at Bodenham near Kidderminster. We have visited several times before at different times of year, but never in February, so we did not know what to expect.

As we arrived the rain started and the drops of rain added a new texture to the surface of the lake that we could enjoy from the windows of the restaurant. This period of rain meant that we sat in the cafe for longer, long enough to enjoy two coffees each. But as soon as the rain eased off we donned coats and hats and set off towards the entry gate.

We soon spotted signs of just how damp the area is as any stump or fallen tree were carpeted in rich green mosses and lichens decorated standing trees and any wooden gate or fence.

Any shrubs or trees that flower in the winter months are extra special simply because they show up so well or are scented to attract predators and pollinators. There are fewer insects around at this time of the year than at any other, so plants need to be special to attract them.

Below are photos of a flowering quince, Cydonia, on the left and an evergreen member of the prunus family alongside.

The next four photos show a clump of birch catkins and Cornus mas flowers on the top row and below that two photos of a shrub completely unknown to us. It had the overall look of a will but it had white flowers. None of us had a clue to its identity.

The next pair of pictures show two different daphnes, on the left is the wonderful Daphne bhuloa ‘Jacqueline Postill’ and on the right Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, both beautifully scented.

Variegated foliage comes into its own in the winter months, with hollies probably being the most prominent.

Coloured stems of shrubs and coloured and patterned bark of trees become more obvious once the leaves have fallen and exposed them.

At this time of year there only a few perennial plants that flower but everyone that does so is very special and noticed by almost everyone.

Wherever you visit in a garden or an arboretum you often find a surprise or two. At Bodenham it was ‘The fernery’ which seems to be taking advantage of an existing sloped pathway leading to a filled up feature. Ferns dominated the slopes and ivies covered the feature. One fern had beautifully shaped foliage and it is one we have been looking out for for years!

We shall be back later in the year in a different season.


Almost there – flower buds waiting to burst.

Even as early as January and February there are several plants showing flower buds, that will be producing flowers in the first few months of the year. Buds are fattening up and splitting open to reveal clues concerning their colour and flower shapes.

Flowers that open this early on often give out rich scent to attract the few pollinators around in the winter weather. The two really early bloomers in our garden, both with rich scent flower early in January, are pink flowered Daphne bhuloa ‘Jacqueline Postill’ and white blossomed Sarcococca confusa. They both manage to send their sweet aromas far and wide.

Below – Clematis napaulensis and Hamamelis ‘Harry’.

Below – Clematis ‘Wisley Cream’ and a yellow flowered magnolia.

Below – Hamamelis ‘Diane’ and another clematis.

Two photos of a hebe early flowers and buds.

Below now we have two highly scented shrubs, Cornus mas and Viburnum tinus.

Another Viburnum again scented is V. bodnantense and another hebe trying to open its flowers.

A mediterranean herb seems the most unlikely of plants to flower during the winter months but Salvia rosemarifolia previously known as Rosemary, has china blue buds soon to open up into tiny pale blue flowers.

So, you certainly don’t have to wait until spring or summer to enjoy the wonders of flowers. Get out in the garden whatever the weather during the winter to see and appreciate what there is to offer.


Peeling Bark on Ornamental Trees

One of the delights of growing several species and cultivars of trees in our garden is being able to look at, observe and touch peeling bark that appears on several. Each different birch has different coloured peeled bark and some peel off more than others. Birches are the best bark peelers of all, but other trees do join in. Prunus serrula shows rich coloured ribbons of bark in a beautiful deep ginger colour.

First let’s look at some of our birches. The first batch of photos are of Betula albosinensis ‘Kanzu’. As the years go on the bark gets more and more musty purple. This birch has so many colours on the main trunk.

I then move on to another albosensis variety of birch called Betula albosinensis ‘Septentronalis’, which has much more orange-ginger peeling bark. It peels back from the main trunk and main branches and falls to the ground in sheets.

The deep ginger coloured bark of Prunus serrula is in complete contrast to the paler trunks of the betulas.

A small tree which we grow for its winter-flowering is Cornus mas, which produces bright yellow spidery flowers in winter. The flowers burst from the main trunk and branches and share with us its gentle scent. After a few years of pruning to do formative pruning we can now appreciate the grey rough peeling bark, a great place for insects to shelter and over-winter.

One of the youngest betulas in our garden is ‘Hergest’ which displays gingery coloured peeling bark and very obvious lenticels, marking the trunk. It will change colour as it grows.

White stemmed birches mostly Betula utilis jacqemontiii, are probably the most widely grown of all birches. We grow ours in a typical trio formation. These specimens are Betula utilis ‘Snow Queen’ with bright white bark which shows gentle salmon colouration beneath peeled bark.

Finally I will share with you the tree whose bark peels off in thin strips. In a few months it will give us the pleasure of seeing its white clumps of flowers. It is quite an unusual garden tree and is known as Heptocodium miconiodes.


Winter Foliage in our Avocet Garden

Foliage has important roles to play all year round and in winter it really comes to the fore. There are a reduced number of flowers to distract us. It is the third week of January and I shall take a wander around the garden with camera in hand, looking for variegated foliage and glaucous/grey/silver coloured leaves.

Alongside the front door we have two large terracotta pots featuring foliage plants and they look really good just now.

First off I wandered around the front garden looking for variegated foliage. The first trio of photos shows from left, a euphorbia, a rhamnus and a euonymus.

Moving around the shaded side of the house we wander along the ‘Shade Border’ sometimes called the Fern Garden which leads through the ‘Seaside Garden’ where silver foliage dominates. These two small shrubs are Convolvulus cneorum and Brachyglottis ‘Silver Dormouse’, the first has glossy foliage which catches the light beautifully whereas the dormouse is soft to the touch almost like suede.

While on the fence behind these two, a brightly leaved ivy, Hedera colchica ‘Sulphur Heart’, grows with large green and yellow foliage giving sunshine whatever the weather.

The pathway pathway through the ‘Seaside Garden’ leads us on to the ‘Rill Garden’ and then the ‘Winter Border’. There are so many interesting foliage plants to enjoy here.

Pittosporum, buddleia, cyclamen and drimys.

Below – euphorbia, Buddleia salvifolia and hebe.

Below – coprosma, lamium, santolina, a Buddleia davidii and lavender.

From the Winter Garden we follow the central path and take a left turn beneath a wooden arch into the the ‘Sensuous Garden’. Here lives the amazingly coloured and variegated Osmanthus heterophylus ‘Goshiki’, which is cloud pruned to make it even more of a feature.

For the next part of my wander I walked alongside the heritage apple trees grown as cordons and the along the Spring Garden to see what variegated or glaucous foliage we could find there.

On the left is Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’, above right is another hebe and finally one of our native euophorbias.

Below – stachys, centauria, and an arum.

The final pair of foliage photos taken in our back garden are another different euphorbia and a very glaucous leaved hebe.