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My Garden Journal 2019 – December

My Garden Journal 2019 comes to an end this month, so here are the entries for December.

On the first page I wrote, “December sees most of the berries stripped from our shrubs and trees by dozens of  thrushes including migrants who like our winter weather. A few berries remain to enhance he odd flowers, the grasses, seed-heads and evergreen shrubs.”

Over onto the next page I feature some of the more unusual and very subtle coloured foliage in our December patch.

I wrote, “Unusual coloured foliage of our evergreen shrubs come to the fore even on the dullest of days. Bronzes, browns, blushes, purples, blues, greys and greens with flecks of yellow.”

 

Over onto the third page for December and I talk of how much there is to see in our garden if you look down at your feet! “In our garden in winter it pays to look down. Silver glows and glistens at our feet. Silver leaf markings take on so many shapes and patterns.”

     

So just one final page for my December entries for 2019! Maybe my next year’s garden journal will be completely different?

 

For the last page of my 2019 Garden Journal I wrote, “I love sunny winter days when the low sun catches the colour and texture of twig and bark.” Then I featured a collection of ten photos of the light doing just that to a few of our trees and shrubs.

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My Garden Journal 2018 – April

I began my April entries in my Garden Journal 2018 with the words, “April this year is a month to play “catch up” as the poor weather in the first quarter of the year has held us up so!” But as will be revealed during my entries this month things didn’t play into our hands as far as the weather was concerns. It rather dashed our hopes!

I continued, We had two weeks at home to garden before we went away for a Spring holiday. There was very little sign of the new season, a few daffodils and other Spring bulbs flowered but little fresh growth on perennials. Strangely, our Witch Hazels had a quick second flush of flowers.

 

Coppicing and pollarding feature strongly when we turn over to the next page, two of my favourite garden activities.

We usually aim to coppice and pollard our shrubs grown for their colourful stems, Cornus and Salix, before the end of March. The weather prevented us doing so this year so we tackled the job in early April. It is a job I love because I like to picture the results of my actions.

Some pruned stems are selected as cuttings to produce new plants to sell or as replacements.

 

Hazel rods become bean poles and the brash become pea sticks to be used on our allotment. We tidied up around the hazel stools and gave the footpath a mow over.

    

On the page opposite to the notes about coppicing and pollarding, I moved on to look at re-instating some of our grass paths, writing, A major job for this April was to repair and re-seed our grass paths. This is a result of having so many visitors when we open our garden for the National Garden Scheme.

 

We used my big vintage Bulldog fork to spike deeply into the lawn surface and top dressed the lawn with compost. We brushed this in and added fresh grass seed into bare patches. To stop our garden birds eating too many seeds we spread prunings over the surface. 

     

Over onto the next page we can see that I shared a quote from Dan Pearson’s Natural Selection, then looked at more of this month’s jobs.

Dan Pearson in his book Natural Selection wrote early in April, April is spring at its best, with the intensity of green being notched up daily until it is as vibrant as it ever will be. It is the time of some of my favourite plants and an opportunity to get to know better those that flourish in this brief window.

He moves on to speak of three of his favourite spring flowers namely Magnolias, Snakeshead Fritillaries and Tulips. We do not grow Magnolias here at our Avocet garden as we feel it difficult to justify growing a plant that performs for such a small period and sits static and dull for the rest of the year. We enjoy those growing in our neighbours’ gardens instead. Snakeshead Fritillaries and Tulips however we grow in profusion.

For the first few weeks of April this year there was no sign of the “intensity of green” mentioned above. We left to go away for the third of April, leaving our patch still firmly in the grip of Winter.

Before we left however we had jobs to do such as featured in the previous pages and several others which I feature next.

Our key job of this month was to add a single step to the slope into our Japanese Garden. The gravel tended to move beneath our feet as we stepped down the slope. A half-sized “railway sleeper” did the job nicely.

   

We topped up the log edging to the wildlife pool, topped up the bark paths and spent a day cleaning and sharpening all our secateurs and loppers.

    

Turning over to the next double page spread I wrote about the birds in our garden and then mentioned a sudden sign of spring.

I wrote, When we work in the garden we do so to a soundtrack of bird song as birds mark their new season’s territories. The loudest songbirds of all are members of the Thrush family, the Blackbirds and Song Thrushes and the more diminutive Robins. All the Titmice and Finches join in calling busily from songposts.

We enjoy watching all of our garden birds collecting nest materials and taking it off to well-hidden places. Throughout the UK people have nicknames for our most common birds. I did some research and came up with these.

Robin  –  Redbreast, Bob Robin

Song Thrush  –  Mavis, Throstle

Blackbird  –  Merle, Woofell, Colley, or Black Uzzle

House Sparrow  –  Spadger, Spuggie, Spaggie

Wren  –  Stumpy, Toddy, Sumpit, Old Lady’s Hen

Dunnock  –  Creepie, Shufflewing, Scrubber

Greenfinch  –  Green Olf, Greeney, Green Lennart

Great Tit  –  Black Capped Lolly, Black Headed Bob

Blue Tit  –  Tom Tit, Blue Cap, Pickcheese, Blue Bonnett

The most exciting bird spotted this month was an early Cuckoo who sat on top of a bush. This is a bird often heard but rarely seen, so it was a memorable sighting. 

 

The third week of the month saw Spring arrive very late and very quickly and dramatically after a few days of record setting high temperatures. Suddenly our spring flowering bulbs burst into life and leaf buds opened to reveal the brightest of greens, bronzes and pinks.

     

Tulips take over every part of our garden splashing their brightness among fresh greens of perennials growth.

          

A cold easterly wind blew back into our patch as the month came to an end. It has been a destructive force in our garden this Spring, burning leaves of even the toughest of shrubs. Every variety of Mahonia has been hit hard but do seem to be fighting back, dropping the dead browned leaves as new buds thrust from the branches.

So here I finish my report on my April pages in my garden journal. I will return in May when the weather may be more kind to us.

 

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The Winter Garden at Bodnant Hall

We left home for a journey up towards Chester and then West along the North Wales coast after listening to the local weather forecast for our destination. It predicted a heavy snow storm passing through early morning and warnings were announced for closed roads and dangerous conditions. The weather was set to travel eastward and weaken, so we hoped we would meet it as it had weakened and arrive at our destination as it cleared.

We got it spot on as a couple of hours later we arrived at the northern tip of Snowdownia, at Bodnant Hall where we wanted the see the Winter Garden. We had explored it before in the summer and it looked good then. We vowed to return in its prime season to see if it lived up to its summer promises.

We were not to be disappointed in the slightest as it surpassed all expectations. It was simply breathtaking. Come with us as we explore along its winding paths.

We entered the garden by following a path cut into the hillside and then down a ramp where we discovered a raised wall with the sort of planting we expected to see in the Winter Garden itself. We also passed two plants with not so friendly foliage, a Colletia paradoxa and a Yucca, both well endowed with points and sharp edges.

    

The world-famous laburnum arch looked so different at this time of year, exposing its strong structure and the shapes of each trained Laburnum tree.

  

As we began to follow the meandering paths which implored us to explore every part of the garden, we spotted some beautifully shaped trees and shrubs pruned to expose their lower trunks and branches, sharing their special shapes with us. Conifers sometimes create amazing shapes without the need for the gardeners’ secateurs and loppers.

     

The paths at Bodnant have been designed and set out to let the visitor appreciate every bit of planting from close up and from a distance to get a variety of views to appreciate. They are beautifully positioned.

           

Snow isolates flowers in such a strange way. It means we see them without foliage just their colours emerging from whiteness. We are so used to viewing flowers against a predominantly green background.

   

The beauty of the Winter Garden at Bodnant that is unique where such gardens are concerned is the way it is designed to have overall strength as a whole design but each pairing of plants and each grouping is applicable to most home gardens. Around each corner the visitor can discover an idea easily transferable to their own patch. The design is best described as accessible. Pathways ensure visitors see as much as possible and each feature planting from at least two different viewpoints. Here is a selection of pics showing these paths.

    

 

Next time we visit Bodnant Gardens will probably be in the spring when it looks very different again.

 

 

 

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The Dingle Garden in Welshpool – March

We returned to the Dingle Garden and Nurseries for the third time this year, hoping for signs of spring but having experienced such bad weather recently we were expecting few changes at all. We always enjoy a wander around the nursery anyway so that would make up for any disappointments. In particular we enjoy their collections of trees and shrubs.

We soon spotted shrubs we had looked at in detail on our last visit when buds were fattening but not displaying signs of opening. On this our March visit things had not developed at all. However some shrubs further down the slope towards the lake where there was more shelter were in fact in the first stages of bursting into leaf.

The light on this visit allowed the colour and texture of the bark on trees show up far better than in February.

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Deciduous Euonymus such as our native Euonymus europaeus, display their heavily textured bark when they are bare of foliage, and Euonymus alatus is a particular star with its winged stems.

 

A few shrubs had open flowers and looked very special, like gems, among so much deep green of the many evergreens growing on the slopes. Hellebores and flowering bulbs added splashes of colour amongst the undergrowth. The tiny insignificant flowers of Euphorbias sat snuggled into the bright green bracts.

  

The common native Hazel, Corylus avellena, is far from ordinary. It is an exceptional plant as it gives so much to our gardens. If you plant a contorted variety then you get the strangest of winter skeletons, but with others you get sturdy upright growth and this growth provides us with our bean poles for the allotment. In the first months of each year they delight us with their catkins which look like little lime-green lambs’ tales. These are the male flowers producing mists of pollen on breezy warm days but if you look very closely you may be lucky enough to find a female flower which is a minute deep red flower like a miniature sea anemone.

 

Buds were just beginning to show the early signs of fattening up when we made our visit in February so we were so pleased to find some fresh brightly coloured leaves beginning to burst forth from them this month.

        

Fresh growth had appeared from clumps of perennials, with Hemerocallis way ahead of others with the brightest and most advanced growth of all.

 

Evergreen shrubs have produced new foliage which looks so young with glossy surfaces and extra bright colours.

 

As we wandered the pathways enjoying the freshness of new growth and bursting buds, we were distracted by surprises and unexpected features, such as this old tumbled-down summer house and a deep fissure in the path where rushing floodwater had flowed beneath the path removing materials.

 

The stream which we enjoyed watching last month tumbling beneath the wooden footbridge had turned into an angry torrent of water, so noisy that we could hear it from far off. Wherever we were inside the woodland garden we could hear running water rushing down slopes, along tiny streams and over pathways.

Let us hope that by the time of our next visit the garden will be much dryer and the water passing down the site will be back within its banks.

 

 

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Anglesey Abbey in mid-Summer

Anglesey Abbey gardens are best known for their brilliant Winter Gardens, which were the first well-known gardens designed to be at their best and visited at this season. But there is far more to these premises than this seasonal garden, such as beautiful gentle herbaceous borders and lots of plants that attract wildlife.

 

The famous Winter Garden is still worth wandering through though!

 

We set off beyond the Winter Garden to see what we could discover of interest in the rest of the garden. We felt sure we were in for a few surprises! Turning a corner and rounding  a hedge of glossy leaved Laurel we found a mystery. A piece of sculpture? A clock? We explored it for a while before we realised its true identity.

The oak structures are designed to support visitors as they lean back to enjoy the wide Fenland skyscapes.

To return to the entrance we followed a tow path alongside a very overgrown canal, its surface carpeted with our native yellow waterlily.

Looking upwards we noticed an open structured sculptural piece hanging from a bough of a mature tree. It presented a strong contrast to the stone griffin close by.

  

In the end though what makes a good garden great is the quality of its plants and how they are put together. The photos below prove just how great the gardens at Anglesey Abbey truly are whatever time of year you visit.

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The Avocet Collection

It feels so magical when you discover a chance seedling that is a natural hybrid that has happened under your nose with no help from the gardener. It is equally special when a surprise seedling is so special and different that you want to give it its own name. We have a few of our own Avocet plants that occurred in this way, two Hellebores, two Hollies, a Cotoneaster, a Willow and a Cornus.

I thought it would be interesting to share them with you and let you see some photos of them to see what you think.

Firstly I will share our two Hellebores, the first pictured below we called Hellebore “Jo’s Jewel”after our daughter Jo who creates beautiful jewelry. It has flowers of a delicate pink with tiny purple dots inside and faint hints of green at the base of each petal turning deep green at the base. The reverse of the petals are of a deeper pink colour. The petals are rounded in shape.

   

Our second selected Hellebore has purple-pink outer petals with fine lines of a deeper purple and spots adorn the inner petals. Each petal, although rounded comes to a point. We have named this seedling after our daughter-in-law, Sam so we call it Hellebore “Sammi’s Smile”. So these sister seedlings are named after two sisters!

    

Our Ilex was selected from dozens of seedlings grown from berries from our garden at our last garden prior to our Avocet patch. We grew them on our allotment nearby and watched and waited to see if anything special developed. After a few years they began to show their potential and naturally most were pretty ordinary apart from half a dozen with very dark stems and foliage. We kept these and composted the rest. We carefully watched these finalists develop until we could identify their growth habit, leaf and stem colour and their flowering and berrying. Eventually we ended up with a select three with very dark and shiny stems and leaves, two we thought would make good standards that we could topiarise, and a third which seemed more delicate.

  

Our third selection we have called Ilex “Avocet Flat Black” and after ten years it has grown to just 3ft tall and 5ft across. It has delicate dark shiny foliage and black stems, it flowers well and its flowers attract bees and hoverflies. The deep red berries are enjoyed by our resident Blackbirds and the shrub is enjoyed by our garden visitors.

Here is our Ilex “Avocet Flat black” in flower and attracting bees.

Salix alba britzensis “Wendy’s Orange” is a plant we grew by taking cuttings of a few branches of a friend’s Salix alba britzensis which showed very rich orange coloured stems. These stems glowed so brightly when caught by the sun. The friend was called Wendy hence the name we christened our plants, Salix alba britzensis “Wendy’s Orange”. We grew our cuttings on until large enough to take cuttings from them and so on. We grew a few on as standards that we could pollard and three of these now grace our Rill Garden. They look wonderful and so brightly coloured! See how the sun brings out the orange and makes the branches glow brightly. The first photo is taken under cloud, the second and third in sunlight.

We pollard these willow trees to thicken their trunks and force them to grow fresh, colourful stem growth each spring.

Our selected seedling Cotoneaster was again planted out on our old allotment near our previous home and garden. We selected out one very strong growing plant which looked far superior to the rest, its stems darker than usual, its leaves also darker coloured and heavily textured. When it matured enough to flower it did so profusely, attracting bees and hoverflies. These were followed by deep red berries, ruby red in fact, and highly glossy. Each berry is like a red gem, a ruby, and so we named it Cotoneaster “Jude’s Ruby”. It is much admired by visitors on our garden open days and group visits, who often ask if we have cuttings for sale. We are now trying to build up stock. Cuttings seem slow and not very reliable so we will also try growing from collected seeds.

Our other shrub seedling also features the colour ruby red but not berries, coloured stems instead are its main feature. We named it Cornus “Avocet Ruby”. We selected it from seedlings which appeared on the bank bordering the wildlife pond, and were hybrids between Cornus Midwinter Fire” and other dogwoods grown for their coloured stems. We are now taking cuttings to help build up some stock from which we will be able to sell specimens to our garden visitors. The picture below shows its autumn colouring. Once these yellow leaves fall the brightly coloured stems of yellow, orange and ruby red are revealed in readiness for glowing so brightly in late winter sun.

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My Garden Journal 2017 – April

We are well into Spring now as I share my April journal with you and there has been lots going on. This April has been the most colourful ever in our Avocet Patch.

The last week in March or the first in April is the best time to cut down willows (Salix)  and dogwoods (Cornus). It is a careful balance between enjoying these shrubs’ beautifully coloured stems for as long as possible and cutting them down in time for fresh coloured stems to grow in time to enjoy next winter. I wrote, “Before taking the Dogwood and Willow stems to be made into community compost, I decided to attempt to draw them in fibre tip pens.” Collecting them together and then selecting a bunch to draw emphasises the wide variety in colours these shrubs produce.

In complete contrast we look at brightly coloured flowering bulbs over the next two pages.

I wrote, “Bulbs continue to give brightness and colour at ground level in the garden this month but above them trees and shrubs perform equally well.”

Below I shared photographs of small flowering bulbs all coloured blue, what I labelled “The “lbj’s” of the bulb world – the little blue jobs.”

    

“One of the most beautiful and brightest of all Spring bulbs is a native in the UK after becoming naturalised. It grows in the South, Central and Eastern parts of England and scattered thinly around Scotland. It must give flowers that are as bright as yellow can become and it is scented too. Tulipa sylvestris.”

   

Returning to the shrubs and trees I wrote on the next double page spread, So, what sort of performances are our trees and shrubs putting on above the bright flowering bulb?”

“Amelanchier lamarckii”

 

“Spiraea arguta”

 

“Viburnum in variety”

 

“Ribes odoratum”

 

“Mahonia aquifolium”

 

“Ribes sanguineum King Edward VII”

“Fruit blossom”

  

On the next turn of the page we notice two pages about my favourite tree, Betulas (Birches)

I began by writing, “As our Birch trees grow we have to occasionally prune off some lower branches to create a specimen clean-trunked tree. When I recently took off two branches of our Betula albosinensis septentronalis, I kept a few lengths for me to paint or draw.” I created a picture using fibre pens and watercolours.

I continued, “By mid-April our Betula are all at different stages of realisation that spring has arrived. Some are almost in full leaf while others still have tight buds, some have long catkins, others none at all.”

    

I then moved on to reveal my plant of the month for April and on the opposite page looked at some of our April flowering Clematis.

“Plant of the month, April, is Corylopsis spicata, a flowering shrub with a beautiful habit of growth and beautiful pale yellow flowers, almost lemon shades, which hang in racemes as light as a feather so shimmer and dance in the gentlest of Spring breezes. The flowers are gently, sweetly scented. Our shrub at 2 metres tall is probably fully grown. It grows with an open “airy” habit.”

  

“April sees our early flowering Clematis putting on their show, with delicate hanging bells of calmness.”

   

Tulips feature on the next double page spread, with photographs of a small selection of the many tulips we grow.

“Tulips are the powerhouse of the April borders here at our Avocet patch, giving bright, shining patches of colour from white, to pink and purple and from yellow through orange to the deepest reds. Some are plain, others striped, splashed or streaked for added interest. In Spring clashing colours seem not to matter. Tulips add colour to every border! Enjoy the show!”

         

The final two pages of my April entries in my journal feature Acers and a few very special plants.

“Acers spring to life during this month giving wild splashes of colour from their freshly opened buds. Every shade of green with the colours of fire!”

    

I shall finish my April entries with a look at a selection of a few of our special plants, those plants that are not often seen and in our garden demand a closer look.

“Akebia quinata”

“Muckdenia Crimson Fans”

“Erythronium Pagoda”

“Jeffersonia Dubia”

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My Garden Journal 2017 – March

The weathermen tell us that March is the first month of Spring so in this our third look at my 2017 Garden Journal we shall see if our garden illustrates this idea at all.

As an introduction to the month I wrote,”March is the month that should come in like a lion and go out like a lamb”. This year it came in like a wet fish! Rain and wind dominated, interspersed with occasional bright cheerful days. In the first week we managed very few gardening moments. But the Avocet patch will not be beaten, with leaf and flower buds bursting on trees and shrubs, signs of colour waiting in the wings.”

“Bursting blooms”! I continued by sharing photos of flowers bursting from buds.

     

 “Unfurling foliage!” And more of foliage escaping their bursting buds.

       

Turing over the page reveals a look at our Fritillaries, Fritillaria meleagris and Fritillaria uva vulpis which grow in our Spring Garden and in Arabella’s Garden.

I write among my  photos of Fritillaries,  “Fantastic Fritillaries – a March marvel! 

I looked for all the common local names for this Fritillary. “Our native Fritillary also known as Fritillaria meleagris is a plant of many names.”

 

“Snake’s Head Fritillary – Chequered Lily.”

 

“Chess Flower – Leper Lily” – Lazurus Bell”

 

“Guinea-Hen Flower” –  “Frog Cup”

 

“Drooping Tulip” – “Chequered Daffodil”

We grow our native Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris in our “Spring Garden”, but we also grow Fritillaria uva vulpis with flowers that are so different inside and out.

 

“Purple and yellow on the outside.”

“Yellow, orange and red on the inside.”

 

Over onto the next double page spread and I take a look at a special rather subtle plant combination and some early tulips.

I wrote that “Good plant companions and communities are what lifts a garden above a collection of plants put on display. Sometimes two beautiful special plants with strong attributes of their own shine out even more when joined  together to produce a harmonious pairing, each enhancing the other. Here, I feature the combination of a Hebe “Red Edge” and a Prunus, P. “Kojo No Mai”. The blushing of the Hebe foliage is a perfect foil for the “washing powder white” of the Prunus’ petals.”

   

Moving on to look at some of our species tulips, I wrote, “The tiny flowers of our many species Tulips are now putting in an appearance, impressing with their delicacy and subtlety. The blooms open with the sun and close with its disappearance.”

   

Next we move on to my plant of the month for March. I wrote.

My plant of the month for March is a Celandine called “Brazen Hussey”, a chance find by Christopher Lloyd discovered in a clump of our native Celandine in a lane near his home. Our native Celandine, Ranunculus ficaria brightens up our hedgerows with its deeply glossy foliage and yellow “Buttercup” flowers, while “Brazen Hussey” sports glossy purple-black foliage. 

 

“We grow a small patch of our native Celandine but as it can become very invasive it has to be strictly controlled.”

“We grow several other Celandines too because they are such cheerful addictions to the Spring Garden, a white cultivar, Ranunculus fiscaria “Randall’s White …………….”

“….. a pale yellow flower against bronzed foliage ……”

 

“……. a Giant Celandine and a Green Celandine.”

On the next double page spread we look at our new summerhouse and a selection of special small flowers.

Concerning the summerhouse I wrote, “As we put the finishing touches to our new summerhouse birds are busy gathering nest materials, with many setting up home in the nestboxes we provide for them. The first of our summer migrants are back, the little warbler, the Chiffchaff with its distinctive and repetitive call and the Little Owl calling out in the evening like a yapping Jack Russell Terrier. As we work in the garden the larger of our birds of prey, Buzzards and Red Kites enjoy the thermals overhead, often stooping low over our heads. In contrast our smallest bird of prey, the diminutive Merlin rushes through the garden at head height or lower disturbing the resident Blackbirds.

On the opposite page I looked at those special little flowering plants that catch the gardener’s eye at this time of the gardening year. In other seasons when the garden is rich in flowers these special little gems may get overlooked in favour of the bigger, bolder and brighter cousins. I wrote, “At this time of year every small flower is extra special and deserving of our closest attention.”

 

Hacquetia epipactus and Iris reticulata “George”

“Daphne mezerium.”

 

Erysimum Red Jep”

Assorted Pulmonaria.”

The next turn of the page reveals a page about Primulas and the next about pollarding willows and dogwoods.

I wrote,”In February I wrote about the first of our native Primroses coming into flower, but in March they flourish along with their relatives.The pictures below show the diversity that we grow and enjoy.”

    

   

 

When I looked at pollarding and coppicing I wrote that, “The last week of March were mild and sometimes sunny so we took the opportunity to prune down our shrubs that we grow for their coloured stems, Cornus and Salix. We coppice some, pollard others.”

    

I continued to look at Salix and Cornus coloured stems on the last page of my entries for March, where I featured photographs of the bundles of cut stems.

      

So that was my garden journal for March. For the next month, April, we will see big changes as Spring becomes established.

 

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My Garden Journal 2016 – February

Back with the second post sharing my 2016 Garden Journal, we will look at what it holds for February.

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On the first page for the month I mention the changing light values that occurs during February.

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“This is the month when light values really start to improve. We also get longer days when the weather allows. This change in light coupled with slowly rising temperatures encourages birds to change their songs and calls. The Great Tit is the master of calls with its huge repertoire. Luckily they are very frequent visitors to our garden. They are great entertainers! Their song in February is a “see-sawing ditty with mechanical overtones.” (Collins Bird Guide)

I added my gouache painting of a pair of Great Tits.

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On the opposite page I carried on talking about our continued development of our greenhouse.

Having completed the construction of our new heated propagation bench last month we then sorted out our pots, trays, pans and cells ready for the new sowing and growing season. We ensured we have plenty of labels as well as sowing compost and horticultural grit. Jude finished putting up insulation bubble wrap.”

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From greenhouse gardening to pond gardening, my next page features two photos of Jude the Undergardener in her waders playing in our wildlife pond.

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“Mid to late February is the time each year when our Common Frogs come to sing, mate and then leave balls of spawn in our wildlife pond. Thus early this month Jude donned her chest waders and cleaned up the pond. She removed Duckweed, Blanket Weed and fallen leaves, then thinned out the water plants.

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We tidied up the narrow border that edges the pond, pulling a few hardy weeds and taking up seedlings of our Cornus “Midwinter Fire”. It was heartening to discover how workable our soil was, this being the result of a decade of improving it with the addition of our own garden compost and the regular mulching deeply with organic matter.”

I continued onto the next page discussing the welcome appearance of sunshine in the February.

“Sunshine is not often in evidence this February but when it does make an appearance its effects are magical. It highlights the peeling bark of our trees and directs a spotlight on blossom and glossy foliage.”

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As I turn the page I see that I have written about cold temperatures and on the opposite page and on the following double page spread I share the amazing number of plants in flower on one day in February.

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“A sudden overnight plunge in temperature can have drastic looking effects on our early flowering plants. The flowering stem of this Bergenia can be standing to attention during the day but cold at night can make it droop, with the flowers almost touching the cold soil”.

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“The following day when the sun has driven away any frost and added a degree or two to the temperature, the Bergenia flower slowly rises again and returns to its former pink glory.”

February flowers are celebrated over the next three pages. I hope you enjoy sharing this selection of plants that keep us cheerful and the garden colourful.

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These pictures certainly illustrate how colourful and interesting the garden can still be in the depths of winter. From flowers I moved on to foliage, as on my next double page spread I celebrate Phormiums and how important they are to the winter garden.

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“Form, texture and foliage colours are so important in the garden in winter, so we are lucky to have discovered and planted Phormiums as they give us all three. They move beautifully too, swaying in the slightest breeze.”

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For some of our Phormium I took a shot of the whole plant and then one of the top surface of their leaves and finally the final surface. Their two surfaces are usually very different.

“I love plants that hide some facet of their beauty from us”.

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In the final pages of my February entries in my Garden Journal I wrote about coloured stems and look back at my first garden journal to see what I had put for my February entry.  I discovered that I was writing about grass and grasses.

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“It is in the dull times of February that we appreciate the brightly coloured stems of our Cornus, Salix and Acers. Once their leaves drop the colours, yellows, oranges and reds begin to intensify. I then shared a watercolour painting of a selection of these stems from our garden alongside a trio of photos.”

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Looking back at my original Garden Journal, I notice that I had commented “14th February and the grass gets its first cut. As the North wind died out the strength of the winter sun meant a good day could be had doing general maintenance work.” This year our grassed areas are wet and slimy and definitely too slippery to get a mower on. But the grass has continued to grow slowly so it is in need of its first cut. Meanwhile our ornamental grasses continue to delight.”

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So that is it for another month. Next time we make a visit to my Garden Journal we will be in March and maybe we shall be seeing signs of spring.

 

Categories
colours flowering bulbs garden photography gardening gardens gardens open to the public grasses hardy perennials ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs Shropshire Staffordshire trees Winter Gardening winter gardens

The Dorothy Clive Garden Month by Month – January

This is the report of our first visit to this year’s featured garden, the Dorothy Clive Garden. We have been making occasional visits to this beautiful garden for about forty years now and have enjoyed many new developments for this is not a garden to rest on its laurels. It is affiliated to the Royal Horticultural Society and is run by the Friends of Willoughbridge Garden Trust.

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The garden was born way back in 1940 when Harry and Dorothy Clive lived in the large white house, Elds Gorse. The first area to be tackled was the old quarry which is now a richly planted Dingle Garden. Harry Clive created this first part of the garden so that his wife, who was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease could take daily exercise in a beautoful garden. Sadly she died in 1942 and Harry continued to develop the garden as a tribute to his wife. In 1958 the Willoughbridge Trust was founded to ensure that the garden continued for ever as a place of “rest and recreation” for the public.

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We made the one hour journey to the Dorothy Clive Garden on a very cold morning in mid-January. We were surprised to drive through areas of snow and arrived at the garden to find snow covering the garden in a shallow layer. We left our tracks in the snow as did a Grey Heron before us.

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Snow decorated the foliage of trees and shrubs where later in the year we will discover the colours and scents of their flowers. The weight of wet melting snow bent grasses down towards the ground and gave the plants a graceful shape.

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The first view of the garden opened up before us as we climbed a gently sloping path towards the tea shop which in winter doubles up as the ticket office. Naturally we were tempted by the aroma of warm coffee and the sight of home made cakes. The little flower arrangements in the centre of each table added to the warm welcome we received from the staff.

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Just outside the tearoom the little nursery area held plants hidden under snow and sculptures of rabbits and hares wearing hats of snow. The gardeners had been painting acorn fence-post tops a gentle shade of green.

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We left the tea shop and mini-nursery to walk towards the Dingle Garden an area of woodland garden created in an old quarry. Snow topped off the buds and leaves of Azaleas and Rhododendrons and the seed heads of the occasional herbaceous perennials.

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But we were particularly delighted to find flowers out, the simplest of Snowdrops with droplets of melted snow hanging from their stems, the occasional Rhododendrons and Camellias and Witch Hazels in sunshine colours.

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The overnight snow and ice had turned this pink Rhododendron translucent and delicate, while the flowers in the Camellia Walk were just managing to hang on. The pink scented flowers of this Daphne however shrugged off the cold and looked fresh and cheerful.

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Hydrangeas looked as good covered in seed heads as they do in flower with gentle biscuit and ginger hues.

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During the winter when undergrowth has died away and low growing deciduous shrubs have dropped their leaves the trunks of Rhododendrons and Azaleas are exposed. We can then appreciate their amazing scrolls and curlicues.

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The new winter garden at the Dorothy Clive Garden was a surprise to us as it is totally new so we didn’t know it existed. A great surprise! The Laburnum Arch through which we left the Winter Garden has been a popular feature of the garden for many years.

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The colours and textures of trees can add so much to any garden and the gardeners at Dorothy Clive certainly know how to choose them and place them to best advantage.

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You only need the tiniest touch of light on berries to make them sparkle. The last drops of melting snow hung on many.

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Mahonias are always a good plant in any garden with their glossy evergreen leaves which show rich autumn colours and in the winter yellow scented flowers appear to be followed by black berries with a white floury dusting.

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We shall return for part two of this January visit to our feature garden of 2016 to see what other treats the Dorothy Clive Garden has in store for us.