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My Garden Journal 2020 – April

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.

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My Garden Journal 2020 – March

This is already the third visit to my Garden Journal 2020 and this month is officially the start of spring. On the first day for March I wrote, “March, the month when we are informed by the Met Office, marks the start of spring, from the first day in fact. This seems so inappropriate as the only true signs of new seasons are the changes in the weather and in plants. We are having a few bright days early in March but we still wake to hard frosts sometimes. In the garden we are beginning to see signs of spring, opening leaf buds that give brightest greens or deep reds and purples.”

 

On the next page I wrote, “They say of March, ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb’, an old-wives’ tale. The end of February was all ‘lion-like’ and so we spent the first week of March helping our house and garden recover from the damage wreaked by  three violent storms.”

“Two specimen trees were flattened as were climber-covered trellises. Fence panels were destroyed and our back gate escaped from its hinges”

“Hard work every day for a week soon had us looking reasonably ‘ship-shape’. The fences and trellis were replaced with stronger versions and some trees were upright once again.”

Over the page we get colourful as we feature spring bedding primulas. “March gives us plenty of colour from short-growing flowering primulas and shrubs. Our native Primroses are our true favourite but this year we have added a few bedding primulas for extra colour. The other single flowers are self-seeded crosses relating to our original primroses plus other herbaceous hardy primulas.”

Next I looked at garden tasks we had to get done in March. “Tasks in the garden in March included planting a new long thin border at the bottom of our drive. The border is part in our garden and part in our neighbours. We planted a variety of thymes, low-growing sedum, plus small carex grasses and other succulents.

“Our Cercis siliquastrum is back upright once again! Ian our garden helper giave the lawn its first cut, while Jude treated our trellises with organic algae remover.”

 

“A new pot of foliage plants is planted up with small foliage shrubs with a carex for added texture.”

Over onto the next double page spread I looked at coloured stems and bark. I wrote, “Probably the star of our garden in winter and early spring is Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire” which we grow as pollards. So we get the brightest of stems possible in shades of yellow, coral, oranges and reds. At the end of the month we will cut it back to its knobbly heads.”

I included a print of an i-Pad sketch of Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ and a photo taken last April showing the same shrub after pollarding.

On the opposite page I continued, “Stem and bark plants of the month for March are acers. We grow a few dozen different acers in our garden, both shrubs and trees. When we buy a new one we look jointly at leaf colour and shape as well as bark interest be it colour pattern or texture.”

The four photos of the acers are from left to right in top row, we have

Acer ‘George Forrest’, Acer palmatum.

The bottom row from left to right shows another Acer palmatum and Acer pectinatum.

The page included my set of 3 crayon sketches of Acer sango kaku.

The final double page spread for March looks at our “Foliage plant of the month” and the “Flowering plant of the month”.

The final page for March features my ‘flowering plant of the month, which is pulmonaria. I wrote, “These little gems of late winter into early spring give us flowers of pink, white and blue, with some flowers showing off by displaying pinks and blues on the same flower heads. There are many more still to flower and develop their distinctive foliage too.”

I then shared nine photos illustrating just a few of our pulmonarias.

 

The final page for this month features a few more garden tasks we have completed, “The last week or so of March gave us a real treat, bright blue skies and warmth, so we took the opportunity to get a few more tasks completed.”

“We planted up our water garden in a bowl, which Ian our helper, prepared back in February. We had to get it level first though – quite a challenge! We planted it up with 5 plants – Iris ‘Black Gamecock’, Isolepsis cernua, Nymphaea ‘Snow Princess’, the oxygenator Ceratophyllum demersum and a tiny bullrush Typha minima.”

“We cleared areas of grass so that we could sow a wildflower seed mix to create little areas of meadow and we potted on the perennials on our nursery shelves.”

 

So that is my garden journal entries for March – we shall open its pages again for April.

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My Garden Journal 2019 – August

Here we are with my journal entries looking at the last month of summer according to the the MetOffice. August has been a bright month with confused weather as has been this year’s norm. plants have continued to grow oversized and then flopped.

I began by writing, “August saw the arrival of some unusual pieces of garden sculpture to our garden, 3 corten steel panels and a bespoke bench made for us by sculptor Nik Burns.”

On the opposite page I continued, We both love Achilleas but sadly they are short-lived here, lasting 3 or 4 years only except for the tallest yellow cultivars ‘Goldplate’ and ‘Cloth of Gold’. All Achilleas partner beautifully with grasses and we love planting them together.”

 

I continued then by presenting a gallery of photos, where I wrote “An August Gallery”.

Garden wildlife features next, “August has been a great time for insects of all sorts. Butterflies are having their best time for years, seeing prolific numbers of all our garden favourites. Now we don’t grow veg we love the ‘Whites’ “

Over the page from my wildlife paintings, I continued “As usual during August we have plenty to do in the garden. I have now finished cutting the Buxus features. We spent hours tidying up in and around the pond and Jude weeded the two green roofs. We also added trellis to the Blackberry archway.”

Collecting seeds.                                                Taking cuttings.

Weeding the woodstore green roof and thinning the pond reeds.

Freshly trimmed cloud pruned box edging.

So that is my garden journal for August and now I am enjoying our patch in September and we will share that month in our garden in my next post in this series.

 

Over to the next double page spread and I

 

 

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My Garden Journal 2019 – May

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

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

Cercis siliquastrum                                             Loropetalum chinensis “Fire Dance”

Azalea luteum                                                               Pittosporum tennuifolium ‘Gold Star’

Pittosporum tennuifolium ‘Silver Queen’                   Buddleja salviflora

Blueberry

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

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

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

    

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

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

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

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

“We have planted strawberries in the strawberry pot.”

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

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

   

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

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

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

  

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

 

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

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

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My Garden Journal 2018 – December

Here we are with the final visit to my Garden Journal 2018, as we discover what has been going on at out Avocet patch in December. It has been a year of difficult weather for us gardeners with freezing winds, a wet spring followed by a drought in the summer. It has been a bit of a trial really encouraging things to grow and struggling to get new plants established. But of course none of this spoilt our enjoyment of our garden and gardening itself.

I began my entries for December by writing, “December arrived on the scene feeling milder but certainly not brighter than November. Thankfully the winds were gentle and had turned from the cold air carrying Easterlies to the warmer, wetter Westerlies. The winter sun sends low rays of light that capture the colours and textures of our trees especially Betulas and Prunus serrula.” I then featured photographs of our Prunus serrula and some of our Betulas.

Over the page I moved on to look at our ferns and then small shrubs with many coloured foliage.

I wrote, “Ferns are so useful in the garden mostly in places of shade or partial shade. In December they still look fresh and vibrant. A few though show browning of leaf edges and some die right down turning a rich gingery-brown.” Then I shared a selection of photos of some of our ferns.

On the opposite page it was our small shrubs that sport interesting foliage that featured. We have only recently started using low growing shrubs for their foliage as we are discovering how much interest they can add to a border when flowers are lacking. I wrote, “Winter is the season when evergreen broadleaved shrubs come to the fore, leaf surfaces get glossier, colours darken and extra colour appears especially pinks, creams and rubies. Here is a selection of shrubs we have just bought especially for their foliage, although some will also flower and fruit.”

 

Turning over the page we can see glaucous foliage being featured. I wrote, “As the last leaves fall from our deciduous trees and shrubs, we can appreciate their skeletal shapes. At the same time evergreens come to the centre stage. But I am going to show our evergreys in my December journal entries.”

Here is a selection of photos of some of our many glaucous foliaged plants, a climber, some shrubs and some herbaceous perennials.

One of our recent plant discoveries that we have been absolutely deilghted with is Coronilla glauca Citrina, a wonderful shrub that we grow as a climber on the trellis around our oil tank. In my journal I wrote, “Coronilla glauca Citrina is an underated winter flowering shrub with glaucous foliage and citrous coloured pea-like scented flowers. Grey and lemon together is a beautiful partnership. Equally underated are all the members of the Cotoneaster family.”

 

And here are a few of our many Cotoneasters, a family of shrubs we have grown in every garden we have ever had.

    

Turning over once more we discover two pages concerning our ongoing garden projects whch we started in the autumn.

We were forced by circumstances to rebuild our Seaside Garden when gale force winter winds broke the fence behind it. With our next door neighbours we soon got new ones back up. Seeing every negative happening as an opportunity we saw this new longer fence as a great place for interesting climbers and we decided to start the Seaside Border all over again. So at the end of the month we got started, but there is lots more to keep us occupied through part of January. I wrote, “Strong December winds destroyed a section of fence, the one backing the Seaside Garden. To repair it we had to strip out the area, plants and artefacts, but this did afford us the opportunity of refurbishing it.”

 

Here are some of the new plants waiting to go into the “new” Seaside Garden to join those we saved.

On the opposite page I talk about carrying on with our other editing jobs that we started in the autumn. I wrote, “As December draws to a close and the holiday times approach we take advantage of any dry days to catch up with our projects, new steps for the Chicken Garden, planting hundreds of bulbs and replanting the Hot Garden in its new position.”

      

And so to the last page of my 2018 Garden Journal, when I wrote, “December ended frost free. Sunshine caught special features of plants while raindrops hung on leaves, twigs and sculptures.”

Here is the final selection of photos for 2018, showing winter sunshine working its magic on foliage and droplets of rain caught after a shower.

  

“The end of my 2018 Garden Journal.”

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My Garden Journal 2018 – May

Here we are with the fifth visit to my garden journal for 2018, where I report on what is happening in our Avocet garden in Shropshire. Does it show that spring may eventually have arrived?

On my first page for May I wrote, “May began wet with continued patches of cold winds from the East. We continued to garden whenever the rain was not torrential but through it all the garden burgeoned. Fresh greens of every shade brightened our patch and contrasted beautifully with the colours of flowers.”

“The brightest leaves of all are those of ferns, hostas, Jacob’s Ladder and Euphorbia.”

  

Turning over the page I looked at a job that Ian our gardener completed in May, plus a look at our wildlife in the garden.

“We decided as the first week ended, to clear the greenhouse out and change two soil borders for gravel. Ian, our gardener did the hard work and enjoyed working under cover. The day he did there were intermittent heavy showers and periods of humid sunshine. His waterproof coat was constantly on and off, one minute hanging on his back, the next hanging on a hook in the greenhouse. The soil from the borders became a useful mulch material for nearby borders.”

 

“Ian cleared the soil away and put membrane down. We covered this in grit.”

“By the end of the first week of May temperatures soared and the rain faded away. Daytime temperatures doubled. The garden has filled with life and as flowers abound, bees, hoverflies and our first butterflies, Orange Tips and Brimstones take to the wing. We garden every day with the constant knocking sound as a Great Spotted Woodpecker bangs away at the finial on top of the wooden telegraph pole opposite our front garden. He hits his own notes!

A woodpecker family nests every year in the old Oak tree in the paddock behind our garden. During the winter several of them visit the feeding stations but once the female is laying and incubating the male makes more frequent visits to our garden feeding himself as well as his partner and the youngsters. 

There seem so few Swallows and House Martins wheeling around overhead this year, further signs of a terrible downward trend in population figures. Our Swifts have only just arrived back from their migration so we can look forward to a few months of their squeals overhead.”

Over the page I moved on to look at Dan Pearson’s thoughts on the sudden growth seen in May.

 

I wrote, “Reading Dan Pearson’s “Natural Selections”, I enjoyed his reference to the noticeably rapid growth in gardens in May.

“The growth is a remarkable thing during these weeks between spring and summer. If you could hear it there would be a tangible hum, made from a million buds breaking and stems flexing. The tide of green sweeps up and over bare earth, cloaking it as fast as the leaves fill out above us.”

For us May is also the month when the first of our visiting garden groups come to share our patch with us. They enjoy wandering around our many paths, taking photographs, asking questions and finishing with tea, coffee and Jude’s home baked cakes.”

I then move on to look at some of our flowering trees and shrubs that are features of our May garden, about which I wrote, “Flowering trees and shrubs add colour and often scent at a higher level than the spring bulbs and early perennials.”

Viburnum farreri

Weigela middendorfiana

  Cercis siliquastrum 

Eriostemon Flower Girl White

  Calycanthus floridus        Buddleia salvifolia

Over the page we look at our Japanese Garden and alpine plants. “We spent more time in mid-May working in the Japanese Garden, where a month ago we added a new step into the lower slope. We planted a miniature Rhododendron at each end of the step. These are now in full flower. Beneath our Prunus subhirtella autumnalis which we have pruned in a Japanese style, we have planted a group of “moss plants”. 

 

On the page opposite are photos of some of our alpines and I wrote, “May is the month when alpine Saxifrages peak.”

   

“Miniature alpine shrubs, Pinus mugo “Mumpitz” and an alpine Daphne.”

 “Alpine Silene”

Turning over the page we find the final double page spread, which featured the first Hemerocallis and the first of our roses to flower. On the opposite page blossom was the star.

“The end of May sees the first Hemerocallis coming into flower, and the first of our roses which is a very late start.”

  

On the final page of my journal for May I featured photos of the fruit blossom which was looking so good and promising a healthy harvest later in the year.

“Fruit blossom this May was the best we can ever remember with apples, pears and quince flowering heavily. We await a great fruit crop!

“Bunches of apples will need thinning out more than ever before!”

So that is the end of my May journal, finishing off on a positive note as the garden feels so full of life.

 

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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 2017 Garden Journal – February

Here is the second time in 2017 when I share with you my Garden Journal, so please enjoy my February pages.

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On the first double page spread I look at Snowdrops and some early plants of interest. I wrote, “February, the month when gardeners’ working hours increase and the light values improve strongly. The snow white of the humble Snowdrop intensifies in the special brightness.”

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On the opposite page I wrote, “Our native Primroses, Primula vulgaris, begin to flower in February ready to be at their peak in early Spring. Pink “rogue” Primroses appear as self-seeders. Foliage of Primula vulgaris is beautifully textured and patterned.”

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Other early flowering plants giving bright spots in our borders include Crocus and Pulmonaria. This golden Crocus has a bright green Pittosporum as its partner. The pink Pulmonaria is partnering a fern and an Arum, A. italicum “Marmoratum”.

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A February flowering shrub features on the next double-page spread along with Hellebores.

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The flowering shrub is Cornus mas, which reliably flowers profusely early every year. I  have selected it as my “Plant of the Month” for February. I wrote, “The star of our garden this month has to be Cornus mas, the Cornelian Cherry, with its bright yellow flowers with just a hint of green. We prune off the lower branches and select main boughs to improve the structure of our’s and this also exposes the texture of the bark on the lowest boughs.”

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I moved on to show a few of our many Hellebore hybrids and wrote, “Hellebore hybrids start to put on a colourful show from green to yellow and from red to purple. Lots more will come into flower throughout the coming weeks.”

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The last photo is not a hybrid Hellebore like the others but our native Helleborus foetidus with its pale green flowers, a subtle beauty with an upright habit.

On the turning of the page we discover my account of re-developing an old border, the Shade Garden”.

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I wrote that “By mid-February we had finished re-vamping our “Shade Garden”, an opportunity that arose when we moved a shed that was situated part way along it. The shed was just 6ft by 3ft but the space released by its removal seemed far more significant that that. Its removal opened up the border. We decided to add a couple of Maples, Acer palmatum “Koto-no-ito” and Acer palmatum “Eddisbury”, and increase the variety and number of ferns and grasses, We liked the idea of mixing ferns and grasses, a new plant combination for us.”

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“Mr and Mrs Green Man”

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Rotting wood pile, Acer and Ivy, Ivy and Fern.”

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New growth appearing in the Shade Garden”

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Ivy is the feature plant over the next pair of pages.

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I wrote of the ivy, “The humble English Ivy, Hedera helix is a stalwart of any wildlife garden and we grow dozens throughout our Avocet patch. They clamber over fences, climb inside our covered seat and act as ground-cover. They attract wildlife who welcome their pollen and nectar late in the year, their berries in winter and shelter and nest sites.”

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We grow this unusual shrubby variety, Hedera helix “Erecta”, a bit of a novelty!”

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Another shrubby variety which flowers and berries profusely, Hedera helix “Arborescens.”

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Variety in variegation.”

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Finally two climbing ivies growing in our Shade Garden.

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“Hedera helix “Emerald Gem”                         “Hedera canariensis “Gloire de Marengo.”

Next I featured the birds that share our garden with us, particularly the ones who take advantage of our feeding stations.

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“The birds have been busy in the garden during the month, feeding heavily to compensate for the cold nights. Their new year songs fill the garden from dawn until dusk. The Tawny Owls keep going, calling loudly from dusk through the hours of darkness.”

“Birds are singing now to attract mates and make declarations of territory. In January birds just called but now they sing so powerfully and tunefully. Recently a Reed Bunting (photo bottom right) has become a regular visitor as have the pair of Collared Doves.”

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“Goldfinches are now the most common bird in our Avocet garden. The population of most UK birds is dropping and this is especially marked in our song-birds. The wonderful Goldfinch is an exception, with its population on the increase. It is the entertainer of the bird feeders, being agile and fast-moving.

We think of it as our garden’s clown with its bright red face, black and white striped head and bright yellow wing flashes. We managed to increase the numbers visiting our garden by filling some feeders with sunflower hearts. Goldfinches love them as do other finches who visit.”

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We next turn over to a double page spread all about early flowers and a plant that displays amazing unusual foliage.

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I wrote, “The variety of bulbs that flower in the period when Winter becomes Spring, increases greatly in February. Snowdrops dominated the January borders in our Avocet garden but in February they get new flowering partners, Crocuses, Cyclamen, Muscari and the golden-petaled Winter Aconites.

Sunny days see these flowers open wide to greedily absorb the new light quality that February brings.”

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Concerning the unusual Arums we grow I continued, “Arum italicum ssp. italicum “Marmoratum” formerly known simply as Arum italicum “Marmoratum”. This is a tuberous perennial which we grow in our Shade Garden and beneath the shade of small trees. We like them for their foliage, arrow-shaped, extremely glossy and varied in its leaf patterns. Leaves are best described as being “marbled” with white, silver, ivory or cream markings. It flowers in Spring, producing cream spathes and in Autumn vertical columns of bright red berries shoot up to a foot tall. In addition to those attributes, wildlife loves the Arum Lily, bees, butterflies, moths and lots of beneficial predatory insects.” 

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We are so pleased to have established a clump of the rare Arum Lily called “Arum italicum Chameleon”, seen in photo below.

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More foliage features over on the following pages, the newly emerging foliage of perennials.

 

I wrote, “In the second half of the month we had a special treat in store, a few days of heatwave with daytime temperatures reaching 15 C in Plealey. This resulted in rush of new growth from the perennials that had died down after their display last year. The photos show perennial growth with new leaf growth penetrating the soil like the blades of swords.

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