Earlier this year you may remember that our specimen Cercis siliquastrum got blown over in a series of three gales day after day. We did finally manage to get it back up and tie firmly to its post which we put into a new hole. We then kept our fingers crossed and looked what happened in May! Such a stoic of a tree!
Back with my garden journal I will now share with you my pages for April, a strange month as we are in total lock down because of the coronavirus problems. The many sunny warm days allowed us the luxury of leisurely time in the garden and even time for lots of sitting on our several garden benches enjoying coffee and cakes.
On my first page I featured the Kiwi Vine, the climbing plant which opens with beautiful moss green leaf buds which turn a purer green as the days progress. I wrote, “April sprung onto the scene with frost-free nights and days littered with ‘April Showers’, sunshine and sparkling light rain. Leaves change on shrubs, trees and climbers are opening rapidly, changing colour, shape and texture. Our Kiwi Vine has beautiful foliage and we enjoy observing how each bud opens day by day.”
The first batch of photos was taken during the first week of the month.
For the next set of photos I wrote, “The third week of the month and the foliage is fully open and bright green.”
I then moved on to consider some of the gardening tasks we undertook in April. “Gardening tasks for April included planting Gladioli and Asiatic Lily bulbs in the ‘Hot Garden’ and cutting down our coppiced Cornus shrubs and pollarded Cornus Midwinter Fire.”
“The plants on the nursery shelves have now been potted on and returned refreshed to their shelves.”
“Jude has pricked out the seedlings of early sowings of annuals such as Cosmos and Sweet Peas, and I re-potted my succulents, Salvias and Fuschias” which have had winter protection.”
On the opposite page I revealed my foliage plants of the month, our many Acer palmatums, and I wrote, “Foliage plant of the month is Acer palmatum the wonder of spring and autumn.”
Tulips featured on the next double page spread where I shared photos of “Tulips – open and closed!”
The final double page spread of this month’s journal features the early Imperial Fritillaries, of which we grow two cultivars and on the opposite page my plant of the month for bark and stems, Cercis siliquastrum.
“Flowering plant of the month for April is the very bright extravagant looking Fritillaria imperialis. We grow just two in our Shrub Garden, F.i. ‘Willliam Rex’ which is a rich orange-red colour with each flower topped in purple, and F. i. ‘Lutea’ a beautiful clear yellow one. But they attract the dreaded Lily Beetles!!”
I created i-Pad paintings of each when in full fat bud and then took photos of them when they had opened up.
I wrote, “Plant of the month for ‘stems and bark, for April is Cercis siliquastrum, a tree that I have chosen not so much for its colour or texture but for its attraction to lichen and its unusual trait of displaying its little cerise flowers directly appearing from its bark.”
“A close-up phot of the bark of the Cercis bark shows its texture and the variety of colour coming from lichens.”
I created a painting of the flower and lichen on a twig of the Cercis, using watercolour pencils, fibre tip pens and watercolour colour washes..
And that is my journal for April so soon I will be starting my May entries.
So as spring moves towards its end and we look forward to summertime, it is time to look at my Garden Journal 2017 entries for May.
I began by writing, “May is the month when Spring turns to Summer and Roses are the stars of many gardens. Irises shine out alongside them and many early hardy perennials join in.”
“Rosa rugosa – deliciously scented purple rose flowers throughout the summer, followed by large, glossy, red hips.
“This is the month when all our patient hardening off of non-hardy “delicates” pays off and we can return them to the garden where they add another dimension.
Hayworthia cymbiformis with its rosettes of boat-shaped succulent translucent leaves, hails from South Africa.”
I did a watercolour and fibre-tip pen picture of this unusual little succulent, which proved quite a challenge.
Turning over to look at the next double page spread we see a sea of pinks and purples. I share our Cercis siliquastrum with you and some more May specials, all decked out in pinks.
“Plant of the month for the month of May is a small, flowering tree, Cercis siliquastrum , a favourite.” Our Cercis is also called the Judas Tree and the Mediterranean cercis.
I continued to look at May special plants, more pink ones!
“More May time specials – those little flowers so worthy of us seeking them out. Take a walk around our patch and I will look down to see what is looking special. Sugar pinks……..Shocking pinks….. Lipstick pinks…..”
Turn over once again and we see that the pages consider the very special little plants, the Dodecatheons, with Euphorbias alongside.
“Dodecatheon – secret gems of the shade garden – sit demurely in dappled shade. Their delicacy and the unique form of their flowers ask the gardener to stop, stoop and study them close up. They are members of the Primula family, the Primulaceae, but it is hard to spot any family features.
The flowers nod on slender stems rising from a basal clump of foliage. We grow the cerise D. cusickii and the white-flowered D. media White Shooting Star.
Close up we find yellow, brown and pink on the white flowers and yellow, orange, red and even blue on the pink flowers.
Dodecatheon are true shooting stars of any shaded border.”
On the page opposite I feature “Bracts at their brightest and best” and go on to look at Euphorbias, featuring photographs of a few of our many varieties. “Euphorbias burst into the brightest possible shades of yellow, orange and red in May. A good month to do so as the bracts catch the rain drops from the frequent showers and as the sun follows on the colours of these bracts brighten further. Here is a small selection of our many much-loved Euphorbias, and more will follow later in May.”
My journal entries for May continues with a look at our garden after a shower, “After the rain……. Plants buck up, birds sing louder and bees return to search for flowers to rob of pollen and nectar. Leaves catch the last rain drops to fall and store them for later. Droplets sit on veins and in leaf centres and act as lenses. Even the birdbaths are topped up!”
Water, water everywhere ……………..
Over another page and we look at some of our little garden friends and allies and next to that a painting challenge for me as I try to paint two very delicate heads of flowers.
“May is the month when our wildlife friends live and work alongside us everyday, beneath our feet in the soil, in the plants surrounding us and in the sky above. From first light, if not slightly before, birds begin their chorus growing to a crescendo as more and more join in. Blackbirds, robins and wrens are first to open their hearts to us with loud song and this trio are also the last to go quiet after the light dims. Owls keep calling throughout the dark hours.
Above our heads swallows, house martins and swifts chatter and squeal as they put on balletic flying demonstrations, catching high-flying insects as they do so. Under stones, inside shrubs and in our greenhouse spiders seem so busy, constantly rushing around.”
“Beautiful flower heads, a painting challenge for May.”
My jottings for May next turned to flowering shrubs and roses.
“Roses and other flowering shrubs.”
A selection of our May-flowering roses …………………..
………… and flowering shrubs.
Back to Euphorbias as we turn the page over and I feature more of our collection of the unusual plants with bracts as bright as any flower.
“More crazy Euphorbias! They have a futuristic look to them, each whorl of bracts like a spaceship.”
“So varied! So bright!”
“Despite their acidic colours, Euphorbias partner well with other plants.”
“We often partner one Euphorbia with another.”
So turning over the page we find the final page for May in my 2017 Garden Journal where I share some of our flowering climbers with you.
“Climbing plants begin to place splashes of colour high up in the trees and on obelisks at eye height, adding another dimension to the Avocet patch. Akebia, Clematis, Lonicera and Coronilla.”
So, the first book in my 2017 Garden Journal comes to an end as the month of May does also. My notes, photos and paintings for the month of June will start off the second 2017 book. See you then.
Here we are with part 8 of my monthly series looking at what I have put into my garden journal. August has been a disappointing month weatherwise, with winds, rain and dull skies, and the plants have responded with short flowering periods and even our roses have failed to repeat flower.
I began my August entries, “The month of school holidays when families make their way to the seaside, is not a holiday in the garden. We have to keep dead-heading and tidying to make sure it looks its best.” and continued with my monthly quote from Jenny Joseph, “August is a time of vegetables and smells of leaves and roots as we clear: dusty, musty smell of old growth. What flowers we have in August depends on how diligent you’ve been at dead-heading earlier.”
I continued, “We dead-head our Roses most days in an attempt to keep them in bloom, and cut back dying perennials to encourage both fresh blooms and fresh growth from below.”
I next referred to our fun activity which takes us back to our childhoods, pond dipping, “An early dip in the pond with our net revealed that young Newts are still very much in evidence. We discovered the shell of a Dragonfly larva and a strangely bodied surface dwelling insect, its shape like an elongated diamond.” I wonder what a pond dipping session will reveal in September as autumn will then be creeping in.
Our Cercis siliquastrum tree featured again as we turn the page of my journal just as it has done in my May entries.
“Discovering new points of interest in the garden is always refreshing. We have always loved our Cercis siliquastrum for its mass of pink flowers in May, but this year we have rows of seed pods hanging from branches like celebratory bunting or prayer flags from Tibet.”
I attempted to paint a watercolour of a selection of pods and this proved to be a real challenge with the subtle variations of green and pink from pod to pod.
Further notes about the wildlife in our August garden followed on at the turn of the next page, where I noted, “Gardening in August is done with the sounds of Swallows and House Martins wheeling over our heads. Two very contrasting wildlife sounds add to the soundtrack, the deepest croaking grunt of our Toads and the highest pitched song of all our garden birds, the diminutive Goldcrest.” In my painting I tried to capture the character of the Goldcrest, cheerful, jittery and sparkling with life.
More sounds featured on the facing page, “Gentle, almost inaudible sounds emit from every border, the sounds of Hoverflies. Gentle humming from above flowers, rapid beats make wings almost invisible, the Hoverfly moves in sudden sharp changes of direction. They can be wasp-like, bee-like or fly-like, masters of mimicry and disguise”. I love taking photos of the wildlife that shares our garden and insects and have hundreds in my Photoshop storage space. I have found a few featuring a few of the many different species of Hoverfly to share with you.
It is one of my favourite families of plants that I featured on the next double page spread, the Crocosmias. “Hot colours throughout our garden are provided by many different Crocosmias. Yellows, Oranges and Reds.” I enjoyed the challenge of creating watercolour paintings of three of our cultivars.
From one bulbous rooted plant to another, from Crocosmias to Agapanthus. “Remember those Aganpanthus buds of July? Well, just look at them now!”
I hope you enjoy this little gallery of photos of our Agapanthus. Just click on the first photo and use the arrows to move on through.
My final page for August featured another garden favourite, this time a climber, the Honeysuckle. I wrote “Scent is an important player in our garden and one scented plant that waits until the evening to share its sweet aromas is the Honeysuckle or Lonicera. We have used a particularly beautifully coloured one to climb up the trellis that hides our composters. And our moths love it!” I turned once again to my beautiful wooden box of watercolour paints to create a little series of pictures of the buds, blooms and berries of the Honeysuckle.
The next look at my garden journal will be in September when we may be seeing the early signs of Autumn.
We have a Cercis canadensis in our garden and every year we look forward to its flowering period. The flowers are like small pea flowers and are the deepest brightest pink possible. In some years the flowers come before the leaves make their appearance and in others the leaves and flowers are out together. This May the flowers are at their best just as the leaves are appearing so we can appreciate the pink flowers against the new bronze foliage. Strangely the flowers form straight on the bark of the trunks and branches of this Cercis which attracts attention from our garden visitors.
The common name for this tree is the Judas Tree.
Simply enjoy my photos of this wonderful tree.
We have a close relative in the front garden called Cercis canadensis “Forest Pansy” which is grown for its deep purple foliage and its black branches in winter. Where we live in the UK midlands this tree doesn’t normally flower but this year following a wet winter and warm dry early spring ours is trying hard to bloom. The buds have been half-open for over a month now and seem to be struggling to open. Perhaps a warm and sunny period of weather will spur it on. Fingers crossed!
We can start the second part of our wander by looking again at the front garden. Buds give us hints of blooms to come in midsummer, Phlomis, Oriental Poppies, Erygiums and Echinops. Promises of yellows, reds and steely blues.
Foliage colour and texture can be as striking as the most colourful of flowers.
Our collection of Clematis are beginning to flower and others are covered in robust buds.
Flower colours have been so important during the first few weeks of this month simply as an antidote to dull days and dark skies. It matters not whether it is a gaudy cerise beauty or a subtle green or white.
Blue on blue.
Another view of our Freda Border.
Our mini-meadows in their pots are developing well. We think we may be onto a winner.
The Shed Bed created on the site of an old shed which we demolished when we moved in, is really pleasing as below the shed we found just rubble, gravel, broken pots and sand. We added wheelbarrows of compost to improve it and now every little flower is a true gem.
A vine grows over one end of the greenhouse acting as a natural shading agent as well as feeding the gardeners. The startlingly red flowering currant has hitched a lift along it so the vine drips with red droplets.
We enjoy these irises as cut flowers but bees take advantage of them before we pick them. This clump is growing through our stepover apples. Double harvesting – cut flowers followed by apples.
In the Secret Garden Aquilegias and Alliums look good alongside the purple foliage of Pentstemon Huskers Red.
These aeonium enjoy the hottest part of the garden, the Rill Garden.
To one side of the rill we grow a snake bark maple, with silver and green striped bark, cream and red seed capsules and in autumn it has amazing rich red foliage. A wonderful specimen tree to finish this garden wander underneath.
These two deep pinkish-red seed pods come from very different trees, the first is from our Judas Tree (Cercis) at home. They form after the pink flowers which appear early in the summer, bursting straight out from the bark, which is a unique habit as far as I know. (But I feel sure someone will know of others!)
The second we found under a Magnolia. Where the Judas seedpod was thin and partly see-through almost like a Mange Tout Pea, the Magnolia pod was rounded and almost waxy in texture. When they are ready to expell their seeds they dry up slightly, fissures open like dry lips and the bright orange seed is exposed.
We have now put the magnolia seeds to stratify in damp sand in the fridge for 2 or 3 months and then we shall sow them. And then wait a very long time!