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My Garden Journal 2020 – January

A new year starts here and along with it a new garden journal in a new book. This year I will restructure the format of my journal so that it includes fewer photos and written reports but more paintings. For my title page I wrote, “A year in the life of our garden in drawings, paintings, photos and maybe a few words.”

Each month I will include paintings and sketches, a flowering plant of the month, a foliage plant of the month and a ‘bark and stem’ plant of the month. So enjoy the January pages of my 2020 garden journal.

The first page of my January entries featured two watercolour paintings of our Witch Hazels, Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ and H ‘Diane’.

Page two sees me looking at the amazing winter flowering shrub, Cornus mas. Each month I will feature a “Flowering plant of the month” and this Cornus is my January choice.

“Scented flowers. Deep red berries. Deeply textured bark.”

I then created two more watercolours of flowering winter plants, one shrub and one climber, Daphne bhuloa ‘Jacqueline Postill’ and Jasminum nudiflorum.

I moved onto look at my ‘Foliage plant of the month” and my choice for January is our little collection of Arum italicum.

My final plant of the month is Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’, January’s plant of the month for stems and bark, with its “Orange stems, orange ‘snake-bark’ trunks, small white flowers and primrose-yellow autumn colour.”

My January entries in my garden journal end with our “Garden tasks for the month”, so it was “Heads down to lay seep hose through borders, prune large branches of Mahonia and pruning Hypericums.”

So that is our January in our garden. We will visit my garden journal in February to see what went on in that month.

 

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My Garden Journal 2019 – February

Here we are visiting my garden journal for the second time in 2019 with my February entries. My first double page spread was all about the week that spanned the last few days of January which delivered snowfall and the first few days of February which gave us a heavy frost.

The photos on the left hand page illustrated some of our winter flowering scented shrubs topped off with a layer of deep frost. I wrote, The last few days of January shared a week with the first few days of February. It was a cold week cheered greatly by the appearance of flowers on our winter shrubs, which also delighted with their rich scents.”

“The delights of scented winter shrubs. Food for winter flying moths.”

   

Opposite my photos showed the effects of snow on our sculpture, both man-made and created by Mother Nature, the seedleads of grasses and perennials.

“The snowfall that came and went all within a day.”

       

Over the page my next two pages concerned with a period of strong winds and the earliest of bulbs to flower in our patch.

I wrote, “February 9th delivered gale force winds overnight so firstjob on the 10th was inspecting for damage. Luckily very little was to be found just a few minor happenings.” 

  

“One broken stake of a support trio. Plant labels blown around the garden. 

“Part of an insect home blown down. Plant protection bags blown off delicate shrub Loropetala.”

 “Collapsed Calamagrostis”

On the opposite page I wrote, “February sees the first of our bulbs coming into flower.”

 

“A pale crocus and an deep purple Iris reticulata.”

  

“Snowdrops have bulked up nicely.”

 “Winter Aconite give winter gold”  

“Cyclamen at the base of our Field Maple.”

The next double page spread is all about Hellebores and we have so many.

I wrote, “Hellebore hybrids and self-seeders are blooming throughout our garden.”

    

“Euphorbia foetidus grows to small shrub proportions in the rich soil in our patch. Its acid-yellow bracts sit well against its deep green deeply cut foliage. It has a rather unfortunate common name of “Stinking Hellebore”, but is also called “Barfoot”.

“Even more of our Hellebore hybrids.”

     

Turning over the page one more time I looked at some indoor gardening related jobs and wrote, “Wet days in February afford us the opportunity to catch up on indoor tasks such as chitting potatoes, starting off Dahlias and Cannas as well as sowing seeds of perennials and a few annuals.”

      

I continued, “Meanwhile outside we continue to tidy up border by border. Sorting our gravel garden, the Chatto Border, is a major task so we do that work on days when Ian, our part-time gardener is around to help us. We also dug up and divided Day Lilies.”

   

About Crocus I wrote, “Whatever the weather, sunny or overcast, the gold of Crocus shines through, even the purple coloured varieties have spots of deep yellow, almost orange.”

Turn over and I share the surprise of a wildlife visitor, about which I wrote, “There is a surprising amount of wildlife activity in our February garden. Recent sunny, warmer than average days have encouraged our resident birds to start singing and calling. The Song Thrush calls loudly from first light along with Robins, Dunnock and Wren while overhead Buzzards and Red Kite mewl as they soar. As the light levels drop Tawny Owls called for long periods of time. Sunshine also brings out Bumble Bees and Honey Bees to feed off early flowers of bulbs and the first butterfly of the year makes its appearance. A stunningly beautiful Red Admiral rests on a wall taking in the extra warmth of the sun on the bricks.

 

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A canal-side garden in winter – John’s Garden Part 1

We have visited “John’s Garden” before in the height of summer and really enjoyed it, so much so that we were determined to re-visit at different times of the year. We imagined it would be an effective all-year garden. Mid-February and John opened his garden on a cold and wet winters day, so we went along with garden-loving friends Pete and Sherlie.

We started with a hot mug of coffee in the nursery coffee shop to warm us up, so with added warmth and lots of excitement and anticipation we wandered down the drive from Ashwood Nurseries to his own 3 acre-garden.

The garden has the advantage of boasting a canal, the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, running along its length – not many gardeners could say that about their patch!

An unusual hedge greeted us as we entered the garden, a long cloud pruned hedge, beautifully sculpted. A slate pathway at its end took us into a colourful area full of winter interest. Hamamelis and small deciduous trees were the stars, supported ably by ferns, bergenias, snowdrops and a variety of small-leaved shrubs trained as spheres.

   

We left this little garden behind and crossed an open lawned area dotted with topiary specimens and trees with interesting bark, coloured, textured or peeling. We joined up with the gardens bordering the canal, the sort of background gardeners can only dream of.

 

After a close up look at these trees and touching their bark, we followed the canal-side borders into the main gardens. Here grasses mingled with dogwoods and Willows, both pollarded and coppiced to enhanced their stem colours. Conifers of all sorts of shapes, colours and sizes began to appear here becoming strong features of this garden during the winter months. John is a master at transparency pruning which brings out the trees attributes. Interestingly he prunes both deciduous trees and shrubs and coniferous specimens too, which makes them look so much more interesting and they add so much to borders.

John is also a master of topiarising shrubs to emphasise their beauty and give structural elements throughout the garden. All sorts of conifers and evergreen shrubs have been given this treatment.

    

In part two of my post all about our winter visit to John’s Garden, we will move along the canal borders before returning along the opposite side of the patch, while along the way discovering a pool, sculpture and a terrace and lots more exciting plants and plant pairings.

 

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My Garden Journal 2018 – January

Welcome to another year of my garden journal. This first post is all about a very cold January, but we decided to defy the weather and garden anyway. So let’s see what is going on at Avocet and share with you our jobs successfully achieved.

On my first double page spread I share the new materials I will be using this year and mention that my journal this year will be created in a larger, landscape format a Daler-Rowney art book.

I will keep my notes in a beautiful blue notebook, a gift from a friend and will write my monthly musings with another fine gift, this time from daughter, Jo and son-in-law, Rob, an Art Pen by Rotring. My notes will be written using a bamboo mechanical pencil and pen a gift from Jude’ sister, Pauline and brother-in-law Steve.

  

During 2018 I aim to try out different art media and techniques to help illustrate my written words, tubed watercolours, soft pastels and acrylics. I may also use two of these media together, and perhaps try some collage pieces. Over the page I shall get this 2018 journal started by looking at our many cultivars of Ivies.

“We always consider Ivy to be a stalwart of the Winter Garden, they cheer us up with their silver and gold variegations. They keep our wildlife happy too providing shelter, berries and their late flowers which appear when few plants are providing pollen.”

       

On the right hand page I painted foliage of some of the varieties we grow around our garden, using tubed watercolours.

Over the page I take a look at some of our wildlife and the habitats and shelters we provide for them. I wrote, “We hope that the different shelters we provide for our garden wildlife helps them through the Winter months. We look at each shelter hoping all is well but really we can’t tell at all.”

        

“Enjoying winter chores in January improves our mood, as it feels so good to be outside in touch with Mother Nature in her stripped-down bare glory. Enjoyment is enhanced by the sound, sight and movement of birds feeding on both the food we grow for them, as well as sunflower hearts and “no-mess” bird seed mix we put out in feeders. Birds arrive in flocks, flocks that give some security from predators, that give a chance to share intelligence concerning availability of food and to give extra heat and insulation during bleak winter weather.”

Turning over the page to the next double-page spread, on the left I looked at some fruits we grow and opposite a look at some scented plants.

“Rose hips and Ivy berries are two very different fruits of our Winter garden, the fruit of the rose is flagon shaped changing from green through to red whereas the Ivy transforms from green to black and brown. The rose hips are created from the death of blousy, double or single colourful flowers, the Ivy berries transform from the tiny, insignificant dull yellow flowers.”

 

“Scent becomes a powerful feature of the winter garden season in our garden. Small shrubs can fill the garden with their aroma and early bulbs add gentle scent at ground level. There are few pollinators around at this time of year so the flowers need strong scent to attract them.

The sweetest scent of all belongs to Daphne bhuloa “Jacqueline Postill”, but Sarcococca gives a good performance too. The Witch Hazels are far gentler and need you to put your nose close to appreciate their contribution.”

Hamamelis is the star of my next page and in particular Hamamelia intermedis “Jelena”

“Hamamelis, a winter flowering shrub we would never be without, with its brightly coloured and scented flowers in yellows, oranges and reds. Each flower is a burst of delicate ribbons bursting from a purple centre. We grow the deep orange flowered “Jelena” and the deep red flowered “Diane”, with Jelena  flowering early at the beginning of January and Diane coming into bloom weeks later.”

    

” There are still plenty of jobs to enjoy in the garden here in January. Nothing is more satisfying than wrapping up warm and defying the weather, going outside with a mug of warming coffee in gloved hands. It makes us true gardeners! We are helped by a Robin who accompanies us enjoying any grubs we unearth and his watery winter song is constantly in the background.

We prune climbing and rambling roses this month and tidy up Acers and Betulas. Perennials are left until early March but now we remove any that collapse or go slimy. As we do this we mulch the borders with a few inches of compost to slowly feed the soil and improve its texture. Wood ash from our wood-burning stove is scattered around all of our trees and shrubs. Group 3 clematis are pruned down to a foot just above strong, healthy buds which are already showing green colouring. The rich aromas from the winter-flowering shrubs lift our spirits and put smiles on our faces.”

I will be back soon reporting on my February ramblings from our garden.

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My Garden Journal – October

So here we are with the tenth post in the “My Garden Journal” monthly series highlighting the changes that we see, hear and smell each month in our Shropshire garden at our home “Avocet”. Our garden open days have finished for the year and we have hosted our last visiting group for the year, so we have the garden to ourselves and our wildlife. From April to September we are open on set days and to visiting groups and although we love sharing our garden there is a feeling of letting go a bit once October arrives a sort of end of term feeling.

We will be busy taking hardwood cuttings and potting on those we struck last autumn. Our greenhouse becomes home to our more delicate plants, our Aeoniums, Salvias, and Echeverias. We put up bubble wrap as a cosy duvet for them and put the heating on gently.

My first page in my journal for October refers to the changing light the month brings.

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“Autumn is most definitely with us, its special low light with its own intensity and identity gives the garden its coat of many colours. Sedum give us flowers of pink to purple rising from its succulent leaves. 

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“October began by continuing September’s Indian Summer. We are enjoying blue skies and warm temperatures. Luxuries for the gardeners, who can use these special moments to sit in the sun, drink tea and drink in the colourful richness in every border.”

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My journal moved on to consider the changing colours which is symbolic of this season. The quote I have selected for October from Jenny Joseph also looks at October’s colours.

“The fire that October first brings to me is what has started in September. It is the woods flaming; not terrifying summer fires in some afforested countries, but the fire with no heat, no destruction. The torch that sets fire to our woods, hedges, trees in roads and gardens, blazing through cool damp darkening days is the sap withdrawing. It is a dying that can make us gasp at the intensity and great range of colour.”

In my journal I wrote “All those myriad shades of green that had been acting as foils for the colours of flowers are now coming to the fore. It is their turn to be the stars! As we move into autumn more deeply the green recedes to reveal yellows, oranges and reds. Our Euphorbia griffithii “Fireglow” glows yellow with thin red lines drawn on.”

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“We grow two different varieties of Hamamelis x intermedia, Jelena and Diana, mostly for their bright late winter/early spring flowers but in autumn they give us the same orange and red colours.”

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On the following pages I discuss the birds that visited our garden during October, the Merlin and the Little Owl. I hope you enjoy looking at my coloured pencil crayon drawing as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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“Most of our Summer Migrant birds have left us. Firstly the Swifts and the Cuckoos left us in July and then the Warblers and the sky dancers, Swallows and House Martins.

We have been surprised to spot two birds which until recently would also have flown to warmer climes. Some of our summer visitors now stay with us. Early in October we spotted a male Merlin hunting along the lane from our house, moving and manoevring low to the ground in definite hunting mood.

Recently we heard the call of Little Owls, their piercing sounds were more those of a yapping Terrier than those of an owl.”

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“In our “Secret Garden” we grow a miniature Chestnut, Aesculus mutabilis “Induta”. We forgive it for its ugly name as we love it all year. It gives salmon-pink new foliage in the spring which is followed by upright panicles of pinky-salmon flowers loved by the bees. Flowers are followed by little “conkers”, then in autumn the foliage turns the brightest yellow. When the foliage falls beautiful silvery-grey bark shines through the winter.”

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I featured the seed heads of Phlomis and Acer rufinerve in my journal pages for September. As we move through October more plants produce seed heads worthy of starring roles. Echinops, Eremurus, Eryngium and Crocosmia.”

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November will take us deeper into the autumn which this year is proving to be an exceptionally colourful one.

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My Garden Journal – January

As promised I am creating a garden journal throughout the year to celebrate our garden and this is the first post looking at January. I am writing and painting in my personalised “Moleskine” notebook, a special gift from our daughter and son-in-law, and as the first photo shows it has been embossed with the name of my blog. A beautiful and most luxurious book which feels a pleasure to handle and an honour to write in and a delight to create drawings and paintings in.

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Early on in my journal I have written about the Avocet, the beautiful wader after whom we name our house and made an attempt at a drawing of one.

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I wrote about the scented shrubs that keep us company in the January garden.

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Daphne bhuloa “Jacqueline Postil” and Sarcococca confusa.

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Cornus mas, the Cornelian Cherry and our two Hamamelis “Diane” and “Jelena”.

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I moved on to write about our Winter Flowering Jasmine and once again got out the watercolours.

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We enjoyed a couple of magic moments involving birds of prey in January and I recorded them in my journal.

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What a pleasure to have a Merlin in the garden and a Marsh Harrier flying over – I don’t expect that will happen too often!

Enjoy reading a few pages ……

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Well, that is it for my January journal. February is here already so my journal is gaining new pages, which will feature in my next Garden journal post.