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Gardening in lock down – tulip time

We love tulips as they appear magically several months after we planted those beautiful bulbs so full of potential and promises.

 

 

Some of the tulips we planted last autumn have ended up looking striped which reminds me of raspberry ripple ice cream.

 

They provide masses of different colours and varied petal shapes, some even show off their frilly cut edges. We plant more each autumn so our stock is increasing slowly but we also lose a lot each year to winter damp and viruses. Planting new bulbs will carry on every year. Some are extra special such as this one with frilled edges to its petals where they turn from pink to yellow.

Here is a set of photos showing a selection of those we grow for you to enjoy.

      

By early May most of our tulips will have flowered and then dropped their petals. All the early herbaceous perennials are waiting to take over for months.

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Spring bulbs at Avocet

This time of year is made extra special as the bulbs we planted in the autumn start to burst into flower. Daffodils give splashes of every shade of yellow often with orange trumpets. We have a few whites left from the hundreds we inherited. We are not keen on white daffs as they seem so wishy-washy so we dug out hundreds leaving just odd clumps. Crocus are far more delicate and come in a wider range of colours from white to yellow, orange and purple. Anemone blandas are joining these now and appear as delicate blue daisies among the fresh growth of perennial plants. We don’t have many hyacinths but the few we have are most welcome and remind us to order more next autumn. You may spot the interloper – the flowers of a bergenia – walking past I could not resist taking its picture!

The best way to savour the effects that our bulbs have on our March garden is to come with me with my camera and see what we spot. So follow the gallery by clicking on the first photo and then use the arrows to navigate. Enjoy!

 

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My Garden Journal 2020 – February

Okay, it’s February in this leap year so we will gain a day, and it is time for another visit to my garden journal. Weather has been interesting this month just because it has been so extreme and variable, wild and wet, with gales, hail, snow, sleet and rain!

On the first page I wrote,“February’s flowering plant of the month, Iris reticulata.” at the page top above a photograph of Iris reticulata ‘Cantab’ and two of my watercolour sketches of the same iris plus one called ‘George. I used Japanese brush pens.

Over the page I painted two Cyclamen growing in our Arabella Garden, which were planted as a clump of five small plants and have now become a lovely ground-hugging patch in shades of pink with a few whites. The foliage is as interesting as the flowers.

On the page opposite I feature a beautiful brown-bronze foliage evergreen shrub, my “Foliage plant of the month. Coprosma ‘Pacific Night!”

More sketches created using Japanese brush pens appear on the next page where I selected a few branches of some of my favourite Salix shrubs, willows, Salix daphnoides, Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’ and Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachys’. We love these for their unusually coloured catkins.

On the opposite page is my “Stem and bark plant of the month, Euonymus alata ‘Blade Runner’, so called because it sports long thin wings alongside each stem and these become a real feature in the winter months.

 

I finished off my February journal entries with a double page spread of photogrsaphs illustrating our “Gardening tasks for February”.

These tasks included pruning hydrangeas, pollarding our contorted willow, attempting to repair a leak that has appeared in our wildlife pond and beginning the time-consuming task of adding a 2 inch layer of organic compost as a mulch over every border. The most fiddly job was trying to repair our woven willow fence panel that the wild dog from next door decided to break through and create a hole right through.

We also began to create a new water feature for our front garden, a large fibreglass bowl finished in a granite effect ready to become a miniature water feature. We took up a square of turf up and filled the area with a few inches of gravel to sit the bowl in. We now wait until the right time to plant suitable plants.

So that is my February entries for my 2020 Garden Journal. In next month we might be able to report a few early signs of spring.

 

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A canal-side garden in winter – John’s Garden Part 2

I found this unpublished post originally written back in mid-February of 2018. I hope you enjoy it!

Back at John’s Garden for our February visit in the cold we can carry on with our exploration as we wander further along the canal-side borders to the canal bridge. In part two we will move along the canal borders before returning along the opposite side of the patch, while along the way discovering a pool, sculpture and a terrace and lots more exciting plants and plant pairings.

Conifers, grasses and trees and shrubs with coloured stems and bark give a common theme throughout. The first two photos below show the matching gold coloured foliage of a group of conifers and a swathe of grasses.

          

The Rhodendron above has a surprise for you if you turn over its leaves! Who would expect orange on the reverse side of a touch dark green leaf? And it feels like the softest felt.

Skimmia “Kew Green” has unusual green flowers instead of the usual reddish shades, while the Witch Hazels sport many shades of yellow.

 

Snowdrops in drifts light up the ground beneath the tree. Ilex “Ferox” sparkles with variegated leaves curled and heavily spined, probably one of the best hollies available for the small garden.

 

Metal panels with cut-out shapes of fern leaves reflect the planting beneath them in the border. John features many different versions of the low growing evergreen shrub, Leucothe. This one was a real beauty!

 

White can be a powerful colour when the winter sun catches it, as in the bleached stems of Teasels, the trunks of white-bark Birch and the ground covering Carex.

  

Along the way a beautiful pool gave a space to slow down and take a deep breath to take in all we had so far seen.

 

Every garden however small needs seats and they must be chosen to fit the design and atmosphere.

  

Sculpture is scattered around the garden providing us with pleasant surprises among our delight at its plants.

        

Turning at the far end of the garden we had a quick look at the new garden which has just begun being created, Adam’s Garden, designed in memory of John’s gardener who died very young late last year. This will be a great addition to the garden and we look forward to seeing it develop. We then returned on the opposite side of the long garden making interesting discoveries all the way.

The terrace is a place where you need to stop and study the small details, the pots full of original planting ideas, trimmed shrubs, interesting foliage and some floating blossoms.

    

Exploring an interesting little terrace garden finished our visit and we returned to the cafe via John’s lawned area with Betula, Snowdrops, Crocus and sheep.

We have a list of the other few open days the rest of the year so aim to return. All of John’s open days are to raise money for charity including some for the National Garden Scheme, the NGS. We will be back!

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My Garden Journal 2019 – May

It is the last month of spring and the garden is alive, everything is thriving and growing apace. But the weather is still confusing our plants. Towards  the end of the month we had a few daffodils still in flower alongside normal May flowering plants. Here is my journal entries for the month.

I started by referring back to the weather in April, “April disappeared without giving us a day of ‘April showers’, the garden is still confused by the weather but we carry on enjoying being outside whatever the weather. The garden seems weeks ahead of where it should be, with trees and shrubs flowering and leafing out of season. May is a great month for flowering shrubs, using their fresh foliage as a foil.” I followed with photographs of just a few of our flowering shrubs.

Cercis siliquastrum                                             Loropetalum chinensis “Fire Dance”

Azalea luteum                                                               Pittosporum tennuifolium ‘Gold Star’

Pittosporum tennuifolium ‘Silver Queen’                   Buddleja salviflora

Blueberry

Over the page I continued by writing, “In May many of our flowering shrubs have white or off-white coloured flowers such as Viburnums in variety, Aronia and deciduous Euonymus.”

On the opposite page Euphorbias take over, a plant that fills our garden with its bright chartreuse, yellow and green. It is a very exciting plant family.

“Euphorbias -one of our favourite plant families. We grow so many! Brilliant form, texture and architectural beauty comes from foliage, bracts, stems and the tiniest of flowers. Euphorbias deserve looking at closely. Get down and enjoy the details.”

    

Turning over to the next double page we move from Euphorbias to garden jobs and the far more delicate perennial Violas.

“May is a busy month in our Avocet patch, a month when we are still deadheading spring-flowering bulbs and beginning regular mowing and edging of our grass paths and lawns.”

“Ian our garden helper, mows and trims edges while I reorganise my loppers.”

“Jude hangs out the hanging baskets and puts succulent pots outside.”

“We have planted strawberries in the strawberry pot.”

“Our tomatoes and courgette are now snug in their growbags.”

Violas feature on the opposite page where I wrote, “Recently we bought some old varieties of hardy perennial Violas, including V. Elaine Quin, V. Columbine, V. Etaine Cream and V. Belmont Blue.”

   

“We grow dozens of different ferns in the shadier parts of the garden. The star fern for May has to be ‘Matteuccia struthiopteris’ the Ostrich Fern.”

As we move on to the next double page we discover my Acer pruning  and lots of Alliums.

“I enjoy pruning many of our shrubs in a Japanese style called Niwaki, which finds the beauty in each shrub, exposes their lower limbs and lets light in. Our Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ hasn’t been prunes in this way for a couple of years so May was the time I tackled it. The photos show before and after forms. I removed about 50% of the growth.”

  

“May is the month when our first variety of Alliums are at their best. Hundreds sweep through our borders with their beautiful, bee-attracting purple spherical flower heads.”

 

And so the final page for my garden journal in May, where we look at probably our favourite tree and the one asked about and admired most by visitors to our garden, Cercis siliquastrum.

I wrote, Cercis siliquastrum, probably our favourite tree in the garden was in full flower in April and still looks magnificent at the end of May. I treat this to a Niwaki prune too as the first photo shows. As it begins to slowly drop its pink petals it leaves pools of bright pink on the lawn and on the seat beneath it.”

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Seasonal visits to two very different gardens

Instead of a monthly visit to the same garden for a whole 12 months I decided to look at two gardens, one small and one large. We have already visited the large one, Bodnant Gardens in North Wales already. So here is our first visit to our chosen small garden Wildegoose Nursery and Garden here in Shropshire.

We visited on May 5th, the day that Wildegoose opens with Millichope Hall Gardens for the NGS, just as we do. Wildegoose is the restoration project of the hall’s walled garden. Here a young couple, Jack and Laura Willgoss, have set up a nursery and are developing a modern perennial style garden as well as specialising in hardy perennial violas. It is an exciting project which we love to visit often.

Our first visit for this series of posts was on May 5th, a bright day with a chilly wind but a day with great light for taking photos and enhancing the brightness of colours.

We arrived via a tall gate in the the brick walls and were immediately struck by a patch of Forget-me-nots and tulips. We soon realised that Jack and Laura had a great taste in tulip colours. These tulips complimented so effectively the strength of colours of euphorbias and wallflowers.

Throughout the garden, as we wandered and explored, little gems of plants caught our eyes like this unusual Cammassia and the strong stemmed Thalictrum “Black Stocking”.

 

Memories of the walled garden’s Georgian origins and its history until its demise after the two world wars appear occasionally throughout the garden, and exciting artifacts integrate into the plantings.

  

The teashop is wonderfully old-fashioned and is so welcoming with beautiful bone china crockery in which tasty tea is served along with home-made cakes. We found a beautifully coloured table and chairs within the garden. We are tempted to paint some of our metal furniture in that colour as it sits so comfortably in the garden.

 

Next here is a selection of photos taken throughout the walled garden for you to enjoy.

We finished our wanderings at the nursery. Always a good idea! Here we bought a selection of their hardy perennial violas – beautiful!

Laura and Jack’s twins always leave a surprise somewhere in the garden and today this was in the nursery beds. A nice friendly way to finish an inspirational, relaxing afternoon.

We will be back in the summer and report that exploration too.

 

 

 

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My Garden Journal 2019 – April

April is one of our busiest months in our Avocet patch, a month when we are busy, our wildlife colleagues are busy and the plants are growing apace. We have tasks to complete as well as usual garden routines.

As I often do in my journals I began with the weather and wrote, “April burst onto the scene with a crazy few days of weather. The first day, April Fools’ Day, was bright and mild after a frosty start which gave us hope for a few good days for gardening. Sadly this was far from the reality as during the following few days the weather treated us to rain, sleet, snow, hail and freezing winds! Not good for gardening!” I added a few photos of frozen rain after it had settled on the garden.

Frozen rain on the garden was an unexpected event.

 

“Succulents love hot dry areas but look good with hats of snow and ice.”

 

“Pitcher with snow and black lichen.”

“Frozen rain on fresh herbaceous foliage.”

On the page opposite my weather report I considered some of our flowering shrubs that add a fresh dimension to the spring garden.

“April seems to be the month when our collection of flowering shrubs come into their own, many of them will continue to give colour for weeks on end and then delight us with their foliage in summer and autumn and also the addition of berries.” I then shared a set of photos of a few of our spring flowering shrubs.

     

Next I shared a few of our spring tasks around the garden

I wrote, “Our list of “non-plant” jobs continued well into the spring, when we made a new shed, in a bright blue painted sentry-box style, specially to fit in our seaside garden.”

“The flat-packed shed arrived in a box and we soon opened it up and lined up all the pieces in readiness.”

“It took longer to make than expected and the finished shed was a bit flimsier than we would have liked so I will add more structural wooden struts to it.”

On the opposite page I looked at other jobs we undertook in April.

“More jobs to launch a new month ….. Jude created a new insect hotel.”

“We planted potatoes in bags.” “We sowed wildflowers in Arabella’s Garden.”

“Roses on arches needed a trim and some shrubs needed pollarding.”

 

When we turn over the page we see that the next two pages are all about those special flowers of spring, flowering bulbs.

I wrote, “We seem to have more daffodils to enjoy in our garden than ever before, and they soon get the company of tulips joining the Muscari, Leucojum and the little blue flowered bulbs.”

I shared a collection of photos of our tulips on one page and of our daffodils on the opposite page.

“This is just a small selection of our dozens of varieties of tulips spread around our garden.”

   

“Daffodils appear in almost every bed and border, like brightly coloured children’s sweets. The garden becomes a sweet shop of delights.”

Over to the next double page spread we return to the garden tasks we performed during April.

I wrote, “When we host visitors to our garden we sell plants and Jude has established what we call her ‘micro nursery’. We also take plants with us when we give garden talks around counties close to us and in neighbouring Welsh counties. We needed to increase our nursery space as we go out to give talks more and more. I doubled the size of Jude’s herbaceous plant sales shelves. We mostly used re-cycled wood.”

I carried on to the next page saying, “I also created a shrub nursery at the bottom of the garden in the space where our compost was made. We needed space for cuttings in ‘long tom pots’ and the individually potted shrubs.”

“The first job was to get Ian, our garden helper, to bag up our compost ready to be used as a mulch around the many borders.”

“We put up tables to show our shrubs on and put membrane down underfoot.”

“All that is left to do now is to put slate down on the membrane to give a comfortable and attractive surface.” That is a job to be done when we revitalize our central path, replacing slate that has been down for several years so now has a bit too mush soil mixed in, with fresh clean slate mulch. Watch this space!

So once again turning the page the next double page spread features bluebells and Primula auriculas. I wrote of bluebells, “Towards the end of the month the first of our native Bluebells come into flower. They give us a shot of bright blue and enrich the air with their sweet aroma.”

I then shared a couple of i-Pad drawings I attempted to show the vitality of these amazing flowers of spring.

On the page opposite the bluebells I looked at some of our Auriculas, with their unique colour range and combinations. I wrote, The wide range of unique colour combinations, sometimes enriched with a fine ‘meal’, seen in the flowers of Primula auricula are what made these flowers appeal to the enthusiasts and show men in their hayday. Today they are grown more as alpines. Jude bought a tray of mixed seedlings a few years ago and she has selected out some special ones.”

The final page for my journal in April features another popular collectors’ plant, the Hostas, “We love Hostas and grow many with a wide variety of leaf shapes, colours, sizes and variegation patterns in different areas of the garden.”

 “These are some of our miniature and small varieties, surrounded by sharp grit to deter slugs and snails.”

And that is where my April entries into my garden journal came to a conclusion. The next visit to its pages will be in May when the garden should be looking even better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Early Spring in Bodnant Gardens – Part 2 – The Dingle and back to the hall

So here is Part 2 of the post concerning our visit to the National Trust’s Bodnant Hall Gardens. We will explore the Dingle and then make our way back to the nursery via a route taking us by the hall itself. In Part 1 we wandered as far as the end of the Yew Walk ready to drop down into the stream valley and follow the clear, fast-moving waters.

Another important flowering shrub that attracts thousands of visitors to Bodnant at this time of year is the Camellia, with its gaudy pink or white flowers and glossy evergreen foliage. I will admit it is not a favourite of mine but here is a small selection of those we wandered by. Someone likes the flowers enough to create a little piece of artwork with them for others to enjoy.

To continuing sharing our visit to Bodnant with you, I shall share a gallery of photos taken as we wandered around the area on two sides of the hall. Click on the first photo and then navigate using the right arrow.

Just before we left the garden we walked through the hot garden alongside a tall stone wall, a border we love in the late summer when it is at its best, but on this visit we found a few interesting plants. The strongest feature was the selection of Hyacinths in an exciting range of colours from creamy yellow to nearly black. These were joined by Tulips, Anemones, Bergenias and emerging fresh growth of Euphorbia griffithii.

 

We had a great day out exploring these wonderful gardens, full of atmosphere and such a wide variety of different areas developed in different ways. We will return for a follow up visit in the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

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Early Spring at Bodnant Garden – Part 1 – to the Dell

I promised a few reports on our planned visits to Bodnant Garden in North Wales so we are pleased to share our visit in early spring, a day with the most perfect weather possible to make our exploration a good one.

Warm, calm and blue skies! We stayed over nearby to make sure we had time to wander slowly around this large garden at a leisurely pace, the only way to appreciate a garden so full of interesting plants.

After parking up we soon spotted a bank of little blue bulbs which we thought were possibly Scilla. As we entered the garden itself we came across this informative and attractive sign prepared by the head gardener giving us ideas of what was looking good in the garden.

Our visit coincided with the height of the flowering seasons for Magnolias, Rhododendrons and Camellias as well as spring flowering bulbs and the earliest of perennials, so we were in for a colourful day’s exploration. Bodnant is a garden designed to present choices where paths fork and cross.

We made our way to the Winter Garden, one of our favourite parts of the garden, a place so full of ideas for anyone to use to add winter interest to their own patches.

     

We then found a gateway that took us into a field of daffodils, simple old cultivars, creating a peaceful place to wander slowly and take in the atmosphere of this special space.

We strolled through the field slowly and then made our way down to the top of the Dell. The gallery that follows shares this part of our time at Bodnant. In part 2 we shall wander along the dell and then back up the long slope to explore the areas around the hall.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Garden Journal 2019 – March

It is already time for sharing my third month’s entries in my garden journal. So here are the March pages for you to enjoy and for you to see what the garden has been up to and what we have been up to in the garden.

I began by writing, “March came on the scene dull, grey and lifeless looking. After the mild temperatures of the last few weeks with virtually no rain, the last day of February was very wet. Thank goodness for Daffodils, the spring bulbs that can cheer up the dullest of days.”

I then showed 9 photos of our wonderful early daffodils, mostly miniature narcissi.

 

On the next page I looked at our selection of Carex.

“We grow dozens of grasses and sedges in our garden with some in virtually every border and container. In the winter the evergreens dominate and their deciduous cousins add gentle colours – ginger, biscuit, coffee, clotted cream, latte, cappuccino and many more subtle shades. The largest family of evergreens are the Carex family. Here are just a few that we grow!”

Here is a selection of the many Carex we grow.

On the opposite page I consider how well the Carex family of grasses fit in with other plants and plant combinations. I wrote, “They fit in almost anywhere, sun or shade!”

 

“Meanwhile we have cut down deciduous grasses to stimulate new growth.”

Turning over to the next double page spread I have a look at a couple of under-appreciated plants.

I wrote, “An unknown plant and an under appreciated plant, both stalwarts of the March garden, Bergenias and Drimys. I love them both!”

“Drimys lanceolata ‘Winter Spice’.

On the opposite page I looked at two places of warmth, a warm welcome and the warm greenhouse. Firstly I wrote, “A warm welcome to your garden is essential throughout the year. We welcome visitors to our Avocet patch using three fruit boxes planted up with interesting seasonal plants. Here they are in March.”

“When winter weather gets too much we retreat to the greenhouse where Jude has been pricking out seedlings and I have been nurturing my delicate succulents and Fuschia thalia which is in flower in the first week of March.”

  

On the next couple of pages I consider March pruning and some flowers we enjoyed in our March garden.

Of pruning I wrote, “March is a busy month in our garden. As well as cutting deciduous grasses rather drastically almost down to the ground we have to coppice or pollard Salix and Cornus to ensure we will enjoy their coloured stems next winter.”

“Flowers are appearing, some expected but others well out of their season.”

 

Over the page I moved on to consider the fresh growth appearing throughout the garden during March.

I wrote, “Fresh growth in March always seems urgent and gives us confidence for the seasons to come. The excitement and vibrancy of new growth on Clematis, perennials and our cloud-pruned box edging.”

On the opposite page I considered a favourite shrub growing in our “Shrub Border”, Rhamnus aureomarginatus, and looked at the importance of all the greens in our March garden. About Rhamnus I wrote, A true all year round shrub which graces our shrub border, lighting up the dullest winter days with its silver margined variegation. Early in the year the golden-orange flower buds light up the plant and these will open in summer to give yellow flowers followed later in the year by tiny black shining berries.”

 

Opposite I wrote, “Green is the colour. Lots of shades of green.”