The Carex family of grasses are evergreen, neat and so useful in any garden. Recently introduced (over the last 5 years or so) varieties add slightly different foliage colours, variegations and patterns. We use them on the edges of borders especially in raised beds where their graceful characters can be best seen.
Today we bought a few more Carex oshimensis cultivars to use as edging along the paths beneath our stepover apples. We chose C. o. Eversheen, C.o. Everest, C.o. Everlime, C.o. Evercream and C.o. Evergold. Their graceful habit and small size will be perfect for the purpose.
I placed the new plants on our Victorian railway bench to photograph them all together, then individually.
I then decided it would be good to wander around the garden and take photos of some of our Carex planted over the years showing where they are growing and what plants are their companions.
So there we are – we love our Carex varietes and feel sure we will find more!
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.”
So that is it for my March gardening report so in a few days it will be time to start on April’s entries.
This will be our third visit to the relatively new winter garden at Dunham Massey, a National Trust property in Cheshire, our neighbouring county to the north of our home county, Shropshire. The leaflets concerning the garden refer to it as a “Curiosity Garden”, while inside is written, “Forget hibernating until spring, Dunham Massey’s Winter Garden is wide awake with colour.”
The leaflet then invites us to “Take a refreshing walk in the Winter Garden along meandering paths with shocking red cornus and brilliant white birch trees trees glittering in the winter sun. Discover bright winter berries, late flowering scented shrubs and thousands of snowdrops and iris in the new year.”
We approached the winter garden by meandering along gravel paths across a shallow valley, when upon passing through the first red-bricked outbuildings we discovered some of the best pleaching we had ever seen. It stops us in our tracks on every visit.
The pleached limes look a few decades old and possess the ubiquitous knobbles from where the new wands of growth spurt in the spring after their annual pollarding.
Shrubs come into their own in the winter season with their coloured stems, their scent and beautiful hanging flower clusters.
Early flowering bulbs add much of the colour in the garden in February. Sunlight catches them and highlights their bright colours.
All winter gardens open to the public make strong features of trees with coloured, textured bark, Betulas, Acers and Prunus.
Shrubs with coloured stems provide effective partner planting for these trees, especially Cornus and Salix varieties. The gardeners at Dunham Massey are adept at transparency pruning, effectively lifting the akirts of shrubs and small trees to expose their trunks and lower branches.
The one plantingcategory that sorts out the best winter gardens from the average is the good creative use of ground cover. It is all too easy to use bark mulch but there are good interesting plants that can cover the ground and add new dimensions to planting schemes. Dunham Massey is on the way to sorting this well, using Carex, Bergenia, Ophiopogon, ferns and Pachysandra.
So there we have it, a thoroughly inspiring visit to one of our favourite winter gardens.
Here we are moving into the second half of our gardening year, with my journal entries for July. By the time I had recorded all the entries for July My Garden Journal 2016 was full, so Volume 2 will begin with my August entries.
“July, being well into summer, should be great month for the garden, the gardener and gardening. We should be able to look forward to long, warm and bright days to give us time to work in the garden and relax in it too. Relaxing in their own gardens is a skill many gardeners find hard to acquire. The weather put paid to any idea of sitting comfortably on any of our garden seats dotted around our garden rooms.
Looking back at my Garden Journal 2014 for the first week of July I wrote, “Wet and windy start to July” so things were exactly the same in 2014 and 2016.
Luckily after the first week this year the weather warmed up and the rain retreated.”
Turning the page in my journal I moved on to look at hardy Geraniums.
“The hardy Geraniums in our patch seem happy enough with our July weather. Our favourite is probably Geranium palmatum.
“We have been planting hardy Geraniums in our garden since we moved here. I decided to take my camera out to see how many different ones were flowering in early July. We were in for a big surprise!” Below are 4 examples, but there are so many more!”
Turning over we find a double page spread of Geranium photographs and among them the phrase, “Pink is the colour!”
Over another page and a third page of photos of Geraniums appears but this time featuring blue flowered cultivars, with the phrase, “….. and a few shades of blue.”
“I found over 20 different Geraniums in flower at that moment but we have others flowering earlier and later. We never dreamed we had so many.They are a good reliable and colourful family of hardy perennials.”
There are so many hardy Geraniums flowering in our July garden I thought it would be interesting to present a gallery for you to enjoy. Click on the first photo and then use the arrow to follow your way through the gallery.
On the opposite page to the blue Geraniums I move on to consider one of the brightest flowers in the July garden, Lychnis coronaria.
“In July one of the brightest flowers in our garden borders are the cerise gems, Lychnis coronaria. They work well in many combinations with other plants despite their extreme brightness of colour. They make white look extra pure and clear, they sparkle with orange and sit comfortably with every shade of green foliage. Their own foliage is a soft, furry grey.”
Over the next page I continue looking at Lychnis coronaria with the emphasis on the flower colour and the subtle variations among them. Among my selection of photographs to show the colour of the foliage and the variations in cerise itself I include the phrases,
“Silver-grey foliage” and “Variations of the theme of cerise!”
Opposite this page of cerise beauties I feature a more subtle variation on the pink theme, as I found another Lychnis we grow, this one being Lychnis chalcedonica “Salmonea” and just like the coronarias their colours vary.
“We grow another perennial Lychnis which also displays pink flowers. These blooms though are not of the brightest cerise but a much more subdued dusky salmon. This plant is Lychnis chalcedonica “Salmonea” and just like the coronarias the flower colours vary but more gently so.”
The final four pages in my journal entries for July are all about one of the grasses families, the Carexes. I set myself the difficult challenge of painting 6 different varieties, concentrating on the flower and seed heads. A very big challenge indeed as it turned out!
“We love grasses and use them in almost every border where they enhance flowering perennials as well as adding their own particular charm, their movement, sound and structure. We particularly love two families, Miscanthus and Carex. In July our many Carex are in full flower and they have distinctive characteristics.”
Volume One of my Garden Journal 2016 finishes with the words, “It is good to finish Volume One of my Garden Journal 2016 with such a challenge, drawing and painting six different Carex flowers and seeds. In Volume Two I will begin with my report and photographs for August and maybe a little painting or two. I might even be tempted to draw and paint some of our other grasses.”
No, this isn’t a New Year post! It is about fruit trees. We have had a row of cordon grown plums along our central path since we first created our garden about ten years ago. They fruited well to start with but in the last few years they have struggled to produce just a handful of plums each or at worst none at all. Hence it was time for out with the old and in with the new.
The new trees arrived by courier all the way from Devon bare rooted and packed beautifully in the same way my Father used to receive his plants back in the 1950s. It is amazing how small a package of 4 trees looks. We ordered them from Adam’s Apples also known as Talaton Plants, a firm we have used to purchase all our fruit trees from for home and the allotments for many years now. We have never had a tree fail! As the photo below shows they arrived with top quality root balls. Without a good root ball a tree will not thrive so we were delighted with these.
First job was the hardest, getting up the old trees. Luckily the soil was soft and easy to dig. We chopped the trunks down leaving just the right amount to act as a lever.
Luckily the task of digging out the roots was not as difficult as anticipated.
We then improved the soil structure by adding in the compost from the old “growbags” in which our tomatoes had spent the summer. Then we added some wood ash from our woodburning stove and open fire to encourage blossom and fruit next season.
We placed the new trees to check they would look okay and then planted them, adding daffodil bulbs to the planting holes for colour in the spring.
We then tied the new trees to their canes training them into fans. We used soft plastic covered wire to tie them in as this allows us to keep the branches away from the canes and supports.
The final touch was to plant small ornamental grasses between the trees to add interest and some ground cover. We chose different varieties of Carex for their different leaf colours and textures, because they stay small and because they are evergreen.
And that was it – job done! If you are wondering which cultivars we chose here are their labels.