We grow dozens of succulents especially aeoniums and echeverias. We love them because they give us wonderful variations in foliage, texture, colour, pattern and shape, but they all will throw up a flower spike on occasion. This week we suddenly had a few flowering all at once, so enjoy my photos!
Once it is warm enough day and especially night time for plants to be hardened off out of the greenhouse I always enjoy smartening up my succulent containers and perhaps create a few new ones.
Even within lock down I still enjoyed this activity, especially as I had a few new aeonium and echeveria cuttings to include.
What is special about succulents is the way we can appreciate foliage close up, its textures, colours, patterns ans variations with temperature, season and dryness.
We do also get wonderful surprises from our succulents in the form of flowers.
We sell lots of plants mostly perennials and shrubs when we open our garden and when we give talks to clubs and societies. I take the shrub cuttings and Jude deals with seed sowing and looking after plant divisions and self seeded perennials.
The greenhouse is almost exclusively used to sow and then grow on Jude’s perennial seeds.
As they reach a suitable size they are potted on and then hardened off in trays outside. This also allows us to water them from below.
Cuttings taken from succulents are also kept in the greenhouse until they are large enough to pot on and move outside. Perennials end up on the shelves in Jude’s little nursery which has a label saying “Jude’s Micro-nursery”.
At about the same time dahlias are potted on when they show good new growth after their winter rest. Begonias are hardened off too.
The penultimate visit to my garden journal for 2017 is here – hope you enjoy it. I began by referring back to a development we started in the garden back in September which we finished off in November. We are very pleased with how it has turned out and look forward to seeing the new plants flourish.
“October continued with damaging winds and days with brown skies and orange sun as we received the effects f Hurricane Ophelia, downgraded to Storm Ophelia as it hit our shores. The last few weeks of October and the early days of November, saw us busy continuing develop our “Oil Tank Garden”.
“We screened the ugly tank with panels of beautiful diamond latticed panels and soon got on with the planting. Always the exciting bit!”
Over the page I continue to describe our development of this border and wrote “Behind the tank we have planted two trees, the Heptacodium mentioned in September and a stunning Sorbus called Joseph Rock with yellow berries in stark contrast to its deepest red autumn foliage.
“Hundreds of miniature daffodils were planted with crocus, Anemone blanda and other small bulbs.”
“A new solitary bee home was sited in the new garden. We gave it a miniature green roof!”
“We soon had a selection of climbers planted to clothe the trellis panels, Roses, Clematis, Honeysuckle and a Coronilla”.
“Behind the tank we planted for wildlife and hedgehogs in particular. We placed a nestbox for hedgehogs among dense planting of ferns and Euphorbias. We added stone piles, leaf piles and log piles.”
Turning over another page I featured some words by Dan Pearson and looked at some autumn flowering plants.
“Taking a look at Dan Pearson’s writings about Autumn in his “Natural Selections” book he wrote,
I want to invite the seasons into the garden, vividly and in layers. I use asters, autumn crocus and gentians at ground level, and shrubs that perform for this season to take the eye up and away, to straighten the back. I weave berrying trees and shrubs into the garden as much for their jewel-like fruit as for the birds which flock down to gorge when the fruit is ready for feasting upon.”
We aim to do exactly the same in our Avocet patch. Below are a few of our Asters which feature in our “Shrub Border”, a border that brings Autumn in.”
“Another herbaceous perennial that features strongly in our November garden are the Salvias. We leave a few to over-winter in the garden but most will be brought into the cool greenhouse.”
Turning over again I take a look at succulents, plants rarely mentioned in the context of the autumn garden.
“When considering Autumn colour, succulents are rarely mentioned, but just check out the photos below of some of our succulents taken in November“
Below are my paintings/drawings of two multi-coloured succulent stems which I created with water soluble pencil crayons.
“Taking succulent cuttings.”
“Final pots of succulents waiting to go into their winter home.”
The final page of my November entries in the Garden Journal celebrates my “Plant of the Month”, which is one of only two Irises native to the UK, Iris foetidissima.
The next visit to look at my Garden Journal in 2017 will be the last one for the year, December.
Imagine my surprise when checking back through my list of posts to find my Garden Journal for November still waiting to be posted. It nearly got away but here it is. Better late than never! Imagine we are back in the autumn!
This will be the penultimate visit to my 2016 Garden Journal as we look at what November has in store for our Avocet patch.
Colour launches my November pages with a double page spread of rich colours with the words, “Autumn has crept in further as November arrives and the garden is starting a new chapter where foliage colours dominate and individual plants become the focus of our attention rather than whole borders of blooms.”
I move on to share our purchase of three new trees for our patch, an oak and two birches, all trees that we have been seeking out for several years. The oak is good for a small garden like ours because it has a columnar habit of growth growing tall but very slim. It is Quercus palustris “Green Pillar” which hides the fact that its main reason for growing it is for its bright red autumn leaves. I wrote, “Three new trees have been planted at Avocet. Tree planting is such a satisfying experience as is choosing and collecting your selection. So a journey down to the best tree nursery near us, The Dingle at Welshpool, saw us returning home with 3 specimen trees neatly tied up and fitted, threaded in fact, into our car. We sat with three of our favourite trees surrounding us, embracing us with the scents of Autumn. We chatted excitedly of the emotions of tree planting, the positive messages and the future joy these trees will give us.
Quercus palustris “Green Pillar”is an upright growing, narrow oak and is a relatively new introduction. The deepest red leaves imaginable hold on through the Autumn and odd batches of foliage remain on the columnar tree into the Winter. To add further magic, the foliage is highly glossed almost like Japanese lacquer.”
I chose three leaves to paint in watercolours and fibre tipped pens trying to capture the texture and colour variations.
My next double page spread featured our other 2 new trees and I started by writing, “Anyone who knows us as gardeners will have guessed that the other two new trees are our favourite Betulas, B. nigra “Heritage” and B. “Hergest”. Both of these Birches should be the same dimensions reaching 16 feet tall by 6 feet wide after 10 years. We have planted them either side of a covered bench in the front garden. “Hergest” is a Birch we have been longing to plant in our patch because of its wonderful bark texture and colour. It is in the “albosinensis” family of Betulas described by tree
specialist Frank Matthews a rare and beautiful tree possibly a cross between B. albosinensis and B.ermanii. We look forward to the bark turning light copper-brown and glossy. Another reason we love it is because it orginates from a local, favourite garden, Hergest Croft. We chose B. nigra “Heritage”, a variety of River Birch, because of its peeling bark of cinnamon, pink, purple and gold. These Betulas will add so much to our garden.”
“Betula albosinensis “Septentronalis” (first 3 pics top row) and Betula utilis jacquemontii “Snow Queen” (bottom row) with the odd photo of our immature B. albosinsensis “Chinese Ruby” awaiting a colourful future.”
Moments of delight come next in my journal for November, “Autumn in the garden is he time and place for special moments, seen once and never repeated. Cobwebs, droplets of dew and a beam of sunlight catching colours. November moments!” I would like to share seven photos of some of our special moments in our garden.
“Often our moments of delight are light shows starring grasses, their movement, their filigree seed heads and their biscuit and ginger hues.”
Turning over the page we encounter a page looking back at early tree planting and I checked out how one favourite is doing now 13 years on.
I reported, “Looking back into the early November pages of my first Avocet Garden Journal, I notice that back then we were celebrating Autumn by planting trees. “Tree hunting at Harley Nursery, saw us ordering 16 trees. Should give us structure, a top plant storey and the colours of leaves, flowers and berries.” Later in the month I continued, “Three Betula utilis jacquemontii “Snow Queen” and a single Liquidamber styracifolia “Worplesdon” were planted along the road side border to begin the required woodland feel. In the Winter Garden we planted a snake barked maple, Acer rupestris.” We had intended to choose between the more usual snakebark maples, Acer greggii and A. davidii, but our friend Duncan who owned the nursery promised to find us a much better one, A. rupestris. This he did and it has proved to be the right choice. It is a true 12 month tree and a visitors’ favourite.”
My photos show some of its attributes including the bark which varies in colour and texture up the trunk.
In my October journal I featured the tiny flowered Fuchsia minimiflora and promised to look at two other Fuchsias this month, so I began by stating, “Unlike F.minimiflora these two have long thin flowers and colourful foliage. They are so similar that we are not sure if they are identical but sold under different names. One we bought as F. thalia, the other was a thank you gift from friends and its label gives its name as Fuschia x hybrida “Koralle”.
A strange creation makes an appearance next, a phenomena we have never seen before anywhere. A sculpture created in grass by the wind! “We grow the delicate grass, Stipa tenuissima , or Pony Tail Grass, on our green roof. The flowering stems grow to 15 to 18 inches long and move in the slightest breeze. Passing the roof and looking up I noticed this strange knot which the wind had created by spinning a few flowering stems together. It hung still attached to the plant presenting an amazing silhouette against the blue sky.” I captioned my photos of it “garden magic”.
The colour red is the theme of the next section in my November journal. I noticed how powerful this colour looked in the garden at this time of year so took my trusty Nikon out for a walk.
“Red is such an important colour in the November garden. In life red relates to many different emotions from love and passion at the one pole to danger and anger at the other. Red in the garden simply draws me to it and makes me smile. David Bowie wrote, “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues”. The garden puts on its red shoes and chases away the winter blues. Red appears in flowers, berries, leaves, stems and bark, but also on the handles of Felco secateurs and the wattles of garden hens.”
And there we have, the garden in November. My next look at my garden journal will be the final one of 2016. Where did the time go, simply flying as we enjoyed being in our special patch.
My August entries in my Garden Journal 2016 see me beginning Volume Two. On the first page I look back to my original garden journal’s August entries.
“I made my first ever entries for our new garden in August 2003. We moved to “Avocet” our Plealey home on 8th August. I wrote, “The garden needs our love and attention after 6 years of neglect. It is a garden of straight lines and loneliness, lacking in wildlife and its inherent vitality. It lacks colour.” Things are very different now 13 years later. The garden is now full of wildlife, full of calming atmosphere and peace. It is a garden that attracts many visitors each year and people enjoy hearing our talks about it.”
Over the page I considered the way light in August changes the look of the garden.
“On bright days in August the garden looks very different depending on the time of day. When the sun is at its highest point in the sky the hot colours really burn and shadows deepen to jet black.
I then looked at Salvias and share photographs of some of those we are growing in our patch.
“Every few years I like to set myself a challenge in our Plealey garden. For the last few years I have been trying to master growing and keeping Aeoniums. This is coming along well now so for this summer my new challenge is to discover lots of beautiful varieties of Salvias and learn how to grow them well. We already have a large collection so the next part of this challenge will be over-wintering them. These three (in the photos below) show the vast range of colours available from the deepest blue, the brightest pink to the gentlest of yellows.”
On the opposite page I featured a selection of eight of the Salvias in flower in our patch in August. I have included a couple more here too for you to enjoy and to help us appreciate the variety we have.
I move on in my journal then to look at very special and very unusual perennial plant, a Diascia. On the page opposite I share a few of our new sculptural pieces in the garden.
“One plant that always attracts admiring glances is this pink gentle giant, an evergreen Diascia, which is called D. personata “Hopleys”. It is an exceptionally good garden performer, growing to a tall six feet and flowering from May to December in a good year.”
“We love sculpture in the garden and in our patch”Avocet” in Plealey we mostly choose metal or stoneware pieces as these enhance the planting rather that dominate. Recently we have added four new new iron work pieces, two based on seed heads – Clematis and Allium – plus a new bird bath.”
Here are three of them, the fourth appears later.
I then move on to one of the brightest of garden perennials to grace borders in the UK, the Crocosmias.
“Various Crocosmias feature throughout the patch and in August many come into their own, showing off their yellows, oranges and reds. We have dozens of different varieties. Here are a few ……….. “
Firstly the yellows ………….
…………………….. and then the oranges and reds.
Returning to the sculptural pieces we have recently added to our garden collection, I introduced another 5 pieces.
“Two new bird sculptures joined us too, one metal, a Wren, and one ceramic, a Blue Tit. The Blue Tit piece doubles up as a planter for some of our many Sempervivum, as does our chestnut shell sculpture.”
“A Begonia Rex adds colour, shape and texture to our stoneware Green Man planter, one of a pair.”
“The moon-gazing Hare.”
“We grow many different Echeveria in terra-cotta pots and pans in the Rill Garden and on our drive edge. These mostly have glaucous leaves and produce flowers of subtle blends of pink, salmon and orange. Recently we acquired a new variety with almost black succulent foliage, Echeveria “Black Prince”. Imagine our delight when it gave us these beautiful red flowers.”
“For this month I have decided to paint two delicately coloured flowers, a yellow Linaria dalmatica and the china blue climber and scrambler Clematis jouianiana.
On the opposite page I finish off my entries for August by looking at some of our newly acquired plants.
“We are always adding new plants to the garden at Avocet and indeed a few found their way in during August. Here is a selection ………. “
“New Honeysuckles to clamber up our new willow hurdles.”
“A white Physostegia to accompany our pink one.”
“Crocosmia “Okavango” and “Salvia leucantha “Eder”.
And there ends my journal entries for the month of August. Our next visit to look at it will be in September a month that the meteorological office places in autumn but us gardeners tag it onto summer – a much better and more accurate idea. We move into a much quieter period now as we have completed our NGS open days for this year and have received the last of our visiting groups.
Just as I completed my journal for June I realised that I had not yet posted “My Garden Journal for May”, so here it is now for you to enjoy! The June journal report won’t be far behind!
Summer creeping in can only mean that our May garden is changing by the day. Exuberance in every border with things growing before your eyes. A month of excitement! I began my May entry in my garden journal by writing,
“May means exuberance! It is the month when our garden shows us the ability it has to surprise. It shows off its strength and its artistic talents. Growth is so rapid and colour so exciting, that we are aware of what our garden means to us and also aware of its power that Mother Nature possesses and uses with pride and to excess!”
I then turn to looking back at my original garden journey recording the first few years that we have lived and gardened at Avocet.
“Looking back in my garden journal that recorded the early years at Avocet, I read a paragraph that shows just how similar May is now.
“The garden is bursting with life – butterflies including Holly Blues, bees and so many birds. Suddenly the garden is alive with birds giving extra colour, sound and movement. There seems to be so many finches – Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Greenfinches. Swifts, Swallows and House Martins swoop overhead especially in the evening.”
Sadly though there are far fewer Swifts, Swallows and House Martins overhead. So many have not survived their long migrations. What does the future hold for these beautiful acrobats?”
Turning over the page of my journal and we see the next two pages feature Acers and Roses.
“Acers are one of the many stars of the May garden, a month when their foliage and stems are delicate and colourful.”
“May means Roses and by the middle of the month we have many buds and pioneer blooms. Reds and pinks dominate at the moment. Yellows and oranges are still to come.”
I moved on to look at one of the climbers we enjoy in our garden and at the grasses that have now started to grow rapidly.
“Think of climbers early in the summer garden and Clematis is the first plant to spring to mind.”
“Grasses are growing quickly now and the myriad shades of green move skyward in our borders.”
Turning over again and succulents are discussed. These are a recent interest and I have only been growing them and propagating them for a few years.
Succulent plants are an interest that has grown over the last few years. Beginning with Aeoniums and Echeverias I soon branched out.”
“Troughs of succulents grace the Rill Garden in May and on into October when the risk of frost mean that they retreat to the warmth of our greenhouse.”
When we turn over next we see that I talk of Hostas and in particular those growing in our Bog Garden. The bog garden is so full of life at the moment with plants growing appreciably by the day.
“Hostas are one of the more subtle of our garden favourites both their foliage and later in the year their flowers. The Bog Garden next to our Wildlife Pond and snuggled up to it is a place of rapid growth in May.”
White is not a colour I particularly appreciate in the garden and as a result I do not use it much.
“White is not my favourite colour in the garden. I particularly do not like white painted garden furniture or white painted fences, trellises or walls. We tend to paint our seats in ivory or cream which are much softer colours particularly on bright sunny days. Our fences we paint in browns and trellis work in gentle shades of green which acts as a great foil for our plants. I think this dislike of white is to do with our weather as it can work so well in other countries. Where flowers are concerned I appreciate them most in May when white can look good with the brightness of fresh foliage. Below are photos of a few particularly good white flowers, Viburnums, Cornus, white Bluebells, Iberis and Camassias. Some of these are the purest of white where others have gentle hints of colour. The Camassia has a green tint to it and the Iberis the gentlest hint of pink.”
As we leave May behind we can look forward to the longest day, the time when day and night share equal number of hours.
I have a special interest in succulents and have grown a good selection over the last few years. My interest in them has been a recent one and began with the purchase of an Aeonium arboreum Schwarzkopf which we nurtured for a year and it began to become tree-like. A couple of Echeveria joined in and I haven’t looked back. In this post I shall include some cacti as well for fans of those spiky cousins.
At a recent visit to Winterbourne House Botanical Gardens in Birmingham we discovered a greenhouse full of succulents. After a look at what the displays outside had to offer, things began to look promising.
I decided to concentrate on the textures, patterns and colours of their fleshy leaves. Enjoy my gallery of succulent pics.
When we paid a visit to Ashwood Nurseries recently I was taken with the raised bed displays either side of the entrance as they were mostly planted up with succulents, including several Aeoniums and Echeverias. So here is a gallery of shots all taken in the raised beds.
We enjoyed a visit to another garden which appears in the National Garden Scheme’s Yellow Book, the scheme which our own Avocet garden is a part of. We spend many an afternoon visiting our fellow gardeners who open their gardens for charity.
In mid-May we set off through the Hope Valley near our home and on through South Shropshire through the village of Clun up a narrow lane that got more and more narrow and rougher and rougher until we reached a field designated as a car park for the day. The garden of Guilden Down Cottage awaited a short walk away. We soon realised that we knew of this garden already in its other guise as “Tea on the Way”. The cottage owners serve refreshments to walkers passing by. But on the day of our visit they were open to raise funds for the charities of the National Garden Scheme.
At the entrance to the garden we spotted produce for sale in a lane side stall.
We waited to pay our entry fee and order our usual tea and cakes to prime us for our garden exploration! I noticed a beautiful woodstore and beside it a sleepy old sheep dog.
We soon began to realise that this was gong to be an interesting visit, perhaps not so much for the plants but more for its quirkiness and cheerful atmosphere. As we wandered towards a seat on which to enjoy our refreshments we spotted the first quirky artifacts. Even the seat we sat upon was home made and full of character.
Once refreshed we took off on our exploration and first off found this well planted container. The planting around the front lawn looked lush and was set off by the bird bath.
A flight of stone steps with rustic trellis either side welcomed us into the main garden. Being an organic garden we were on the look out for unusual ideas and gardening methods. As always though we were searching out the plants!
Some plants were planted in interesting containers or within collections of artifacts.
The kitchen garden was beautiful with a network of paths made from woodchip entered via handmade gates created using wood harvested from the garden.
Close to the kitchen garden we found a polytunnel and a fruit cage and some signs of organic principles in action, an insect home, comfrey liquid fertiliser and worm pee fertiliser.
A few more artifacts and craft pieces spotted at Guilden Down Cottage will end this post nicely.
To celebrate the moving from 2015 into 2016 I thought an appropriate post to publish would be my final monthly garden journal entries for 2015.
This is the final month of reporting on my garden journal where I have been keeping track of what has been happening in our Avocet garden. December should be a month of cold nights, frosts and wintry showers but this year it has been a month of strong winds and rain accompanying mild temperatures. We have still only had one frost in this last bit of the year. Our Dahlias remain outside as we move into the first week of December as we are waiting for frosts to blacken their foliage which would allow us to prepare them for their winter rest.
Opening up my garden journal onto the first pages for December reveals photos of berries which are such a strong feature of our winter garden.
My first entry for December reads, “The berries of our trees and shrubs give bright splashes of colour in the Winter Garden.”
My photos show berries of Hypericum, Sarcoccoca, various Hollies and one of our Sorbus.
“We have many different Cotoneasters throughout the garden giving shiny berries in many red shades – ruby, scarlet, crimson – and one even has yellow berries. They are so easy to grow but add so much to the garden. Each variety has a different habit and foliage in different shades of green, different sizes, shapes and textures. But what is common to them all is that they are true favourites of our berry eating thrushes.”
The greenhouse features next in my December Journal as it is during this month that it fills up with tender plants which we want to overwinter.
“The greenhouse is very full and busy in December. Our Fuschia thalia after flowering outdoors for months is still full of bloom now but in the sheltered environment of the greenhouse. Accompanying this special Fuschia, our succulents are also sitting out winter under shelter, after spending the summer and autumn in the Rill Garden.”
I tried to show the uniqueness of the Fuschia and its incredibly bright colour with watercolours.
My final quote for 2015 from the little book by Jenny Joseph, “Led by the Nose” appears as we turn the next page.
“Fragrance outdoors in this season is not so much a twinkle in the eye as a sniff in the nosmic imagination. You will see the tips of bulbs and look forward to being overcome by spring.”
Below these words I share photos of a few of the flowers that are sharing their scent with us this month, roses and perennial wallflowers.
“Roses and Perennial Wallflowers invite us to get our noses close to their blooms so that we can enjoy the sweetest of scents. Other plants need us to rub their leaves before they share the secrets of the scent with us.”
The accompanying pictures show two such plants, salvias and mints.
The colour yellow can cheer up the garden in the deep dark days of December, so I moved on to see what plants were giving us these golden tints.
“On gloomy days in December when there is no sign or chance of sunshine, we really are grateful to plants that give us cheerful yellow flower and foliage.”
Opposite my tour of our garden yellows I make mention of the members of the ?thrush family that share our garden with us in the winter.
“Let me introduce you to our Winter Thrushes, drawn in a stylised fashion.” I hope you enjoy them.
We next turn from the colour yellow to bright pinks, Nerines.
“Nerine bowdenii is the shocking pink of winter. It is difficult looking at these dry bulbs to think that such bright and wonderfully shaped flowers can burst from them.”
Seed heads are the theme of the page opposite the Nerines.
“Seedheads on perennials and grasses play such an important part in our Winter garden. We have even bought ourselves a trio of seedhead sculptures made from stoneware.”
So now we turn the page to the very last entry in my 2015 Garden Journal.
“As December slowly comes to an end for 2015, we are already looking ahead. Jude’s little nursery is well-stocked with young plants which we will sell on our open days and to garden clubs who visit Avocet. The greenhouse keeps our tender plants warm and snug. They are patiently awaiting Spring 2016.”
Young plants that we are growing on for sale at next year’s open days are sheltering in a plastic mini-greenhouse to encourage them to grow strong and healthy ready for next year. They look pretty sad through the winter though as most are herbaceous perennials.