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Gardening in lock down – acers

Slowly but surely over the years we have built up a good collection of Acers, mainly Acer palmatum but we do have a few others too. At this time of year they are coming out of their fresh new spring green foliage so it is a good time to share photos of them with you as we come towards half way through our lock down period.

So the photos below were taken in the final week of April and show a selection of our different cultivars. We do hope you enjoy them as we do!

      

 

 

 

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My Garden Journal 2019 – April

April is one of our busiest months in our Avocet patch, a month when we are busy, our wildlife colleagues are busy and the plants are growing apace. We have tasks to complete as well as usual garden routines.

As I often do in my journals I began with the weather and wrote, “April burst onto the scene with a crazy few days of weather. The first day, April Fools’ Day, was bright and mild after a frosty start which gave us hope for a few good days for gardening. Sadly this was far from the reality as during the following few days the weather treated us to rain, sleet, snow, hail and freezing winds! Not good for gardening!” I added a few photos of frozen rain after it had settled on the garden.

Frozen rain on the garden was an unexpected event.

 

“Succulents love hot dry areas but look good with hats of snow and ice.”

 

“Pitcher with snow and black lichen.”

“Frozen rain on fresh herbaceous foliage.”

On the page opposite my weather report I considered some of our flowering shrubs that add a fresh dimension to the spring garden.

“April seems to be the month when our collection of flowering shrubs come into their own, many of them will continue to give colour for weeks on end and then delight us with their foliage in summer and autumn and also the addition of berries.” I then shared a set of photos of a few of our spring flowering shrubs.

     

Next I shared a few of our spring tasks around the garden

I wrote, “Our list of “non-plant” jobs continued well into the spring, when we made a new shed, in a bright blue painted sentry-box style, specially to fit in our seaside garden.”

“The flat-packed shed arrived in a box and we soon opened it up and lined up all the pieces in readiness.”

“It took longer to make than expected and the finished shed was a bit flimsier than we would have liked so I will add more structural wooden struts to it.”

On the opposite page I looked at other jobs we undertook in April.

“More jobs to launch a new month ….. Jude created a new insect hotel.”

“We planted potatoes in bags.” “We sowed wildflowers in Arabella’s Garden.”

“Roses on arches needed a trim and some shrubs needed pollarding.”

 

When we turn over the page we see that the next two pages are all about those special flowers of spring, flowering bulbs.

I wrote, “We seem to have more daffodils to enjoy in our garden than ever before, and they soon get the company of tulips joining the Muscari, Leucojum and the little blue flowered bulbs.”

I shared a collection of photos of our tulips on one page and of our daffodils on the opposite page.

“This is just a small selection of our dozens of varieties of tulips spread around our garden.”

   

“Daffodils appear in almost every bed and border, like brightly coloured children’s sweets. The garden becomes a sweet shop of delights.”

Over to the next double page spread we return to the garden tasks we performed during April.

I wrote, “When we host visitors to our garden we sell plants and Jude has established what we call her ‘micro nursery’. We also take plants with us when we give garden talks around counties close to us and in neighbouring Welsh counties. We needed to increase our nursery space as we go out to give talks more and more. I doubled the size of Jude’s herbaceous plant sales shelves. We mostly used re-cycled wood.”

I carried on to the next page saying, “I also created a shrub nursery at the bottom of the garden in the space where our compost was made. We needed space for cuttings in ‘long tom pots’ and the individually potted shrubs.”

“The first job was to get Ian, our garden helper, to bag up our compost ready to be used as a mulch around the many borders.”

“We put up tables to show our shrubs on and put membrane down underfoot.”

“All that is left to do now is to put slate down on the membrane to give a comfortable and attractive surface.” That is a job to be done when we revitalize our central path, replacing slate that has been down for several years so now has a bit too mush soil mixed in, with fresh clean slate mulch. Watch this space!

So once again turning the page the next double page spread features bluebells and Primula auriculas. I wrote of bluebells, “Towards the end of the month the first of our native Bluebells come into flower. They give us a shot of bright blue and enrich the air with their sweet aroma.”

I then shared a couple of i-Pad drawings I attempted to show the vitality of these amazing flowers of spring.

On the page opposite the bluebells I looked at some of our Auriculas, with their unique colour range and combinations. I wrote, The wide range of unique colour combinations, sometimes enriched with a fine ‘meal’, seen in the flowers of Primula auricula are what made these flowers appeal to the enthusiasts and show men in their hayday. Today they are grown more as alpines. Jude bought a tray of mixed seedlings a few years ago and she has selected out some special ones.”

The final page for my journal in April features another popular collectors’ plant, the Hostas, “We love Hostas and grow many with a wide variety of leaf shapes, colours, sizes and variegation patterns in different areas of the garden.”

 “These are some of our miniature and small varieties, surrounded by sharp grit to deter slugs and snails.”

And that is where my April entries into my garden journal came to a conclusion. The next visit to its pages will be in May when the garden should be looking even better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Early Spring at Bodnant Garden – Part 1 – to the Dell

I promised a few reports on our planned visits to Bodnant Garden in North Wales so we are pleased to share our visit in early spring, a day with the most perfect weather possible to make our exploration a good one.

Warm, calm and blue skies! We stayed over nearby to make sure we had time to wander slowly around this large garden at a leisurely pace, the only way to appreciate a garden so full of interesting plants.

After parking up we soon spotted a bank of little blue bulbs which we thought were possibly Scilla. As we entered the garden itself we came across this informative and attractive sign prepared by the head gardener giving us ideas of what was looking good in the garden.

Our visit coincided with the height of the flowering seasons for Magnolias, Rhododendrons and Camellias as well as spring flowering bulbs and the earliest of perennials, so we were in for a colourful day’s exploration. Bodnant is a garden designed to present choices where paths fork and cross.

We made our way to the Winter Garden, one of our favourite parts of the garden, a place so full of ideas for anyone to use to add winter interest to their own patches.

     

We then found a gateway that took us into a field of daffodils, simple old cultivars, creating a peaceful place to wander slowly and take in the atmosphere of this special space.

We strolled through the field slowly and then made our way down to the top of the Dell. The gallery that follows shares this part of our time at Bodnant. In part 2 we shall wander along the dell and then back up the long slope to explore the areas around the hall.

 

 

 

 

 

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The NGS get together at Hodnet

Every year in late March we attend a get together with the NGS county organiser and the garden openers. This year was our friend Allison’s first year as county organiser and as her garden is small she had to arrange an alternative venue. To everyone’s delight the owner of Hodnet Hall and Gardens offered the use of his restaurant and also allowed us free range of the gardens. We were in for a treat!

To start off with we were warmly greeted by the car park attendants, Martin and George, then after parking up as we reached the courtyard fronting the restaurant building, we received more warm welcomes from Allison, our County Organiser, and Sir Algernon Heber-Percy the owner of the hall and its garden. He formally welcomed us all with a humorous speech. After informative talks by representatives of MacMillan Nurses and Horatio’s Gardens we indulged in a sumptuous meal.

Then we were left to explore the gardens, all 60 acres of it! We began our exploration by following a small flight of stone steps into an area of tall mature trees and then moved on to take a slow wander around the string of lakes and back to the borders below the hall itself.

I will continue the tour by sharing a gallery of photographs with you. As usual click on the first pic and navigate using the arrows.

So that was our day out at Hodnet Hall – a great time was had by all! I wonder what next year’s NGS get together will entail!

For information Hodnet Hall is open for the NGS but does have other opening dates throughout the year so do check them out.

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My Garden Journal 2018 – March

Into the third month of the year and we should now be seeing the cheerful signs of early spring. Spring should start the birds singing afresh. We should expect to see green returning to the garden as freshly-burst buds bring life to our patch. Let us see what my Garden Journal for March actually shows.

I began by recording, “March begins as February leaves off, freezing temperatures day and night often dipping into minus figures. The soil is solid, frozen and unworkable. Snow, sleet and frozen rain showers are frequent visitors. The Met Office count March as the first month of Spring but us gardeners know that it is the last of Winter. Dan Pearson in “Natural Selection” writes, “A cold start t the month always feels more appropriate to me, because it is better to go slow when there is so much to do and so much to take in. I prefer the feeling of caution that is generated when there is a beast waiting in the wings – it takes away the assumption that this might be the start of Spring.”

Nevertheless we carry on doing garden wildlife jobs, repairing and repainting nest boxes.”

 

Opposite I looked at one of my favourite spring bulbs, Iris reticulata and shared my Japanese brush paintings I enjoyed doing so much. I noted, “Iris reticulata bulbs are one of our first to come into flower following on from Snowdrops and Winter Aconites. Their rich blues and purples look good with Carex.

These Irises are native to Russia, the Caucasus and Northern Iran, but we grow them in our temperate gardens where they thrive if planted deeply. Our favourites are Iris r. George and “Harmony” but neither of us are keen on the “washed out” look of “Katherine Hodgkin”.

 

After looking at my Iris paintings we can turn over to a double page spread concerning firstly snow and then the wildlife in our Avocet garden.

“As we pass the mid-point of March we awake to the third appreciable snow fall of the winter. Luckily this fall has not been sculpted into drifts so we hope that when it melts we are left unscathed. It will however prevent us from getting out there and enjoying our early year jobs.”

  

“Wildlife is busy in March with frogs cavorting in our wildlife pond and leaving large clumps of spawn among the plants that sit in the water close to the edge. Birds are pairing up, displaying, singing and carrying nesting materials to their nests under construction. We have a pair of  Robins nesting in our woodstore and House Sparrows have taken up residence in the nest boxes we recently re-furbished for them. We watched them pulling grass stems out of the snow and taking them into the boxes. We have created lots more bee homes and repaired any damaged older ones.”

We discovered our brightest coloured frog we have ever seen – a lime green bellied frog.”

Over the next page we look at some of the important jobs we have been busy carrying out during the month of March.

 

“March is a busy month for us gardeners and because of this it is a month we really look forward to. Each week we create a “to do” job list and get busy preparing for the year to come and of course ensuring our patch is up to scratch for our visitors this year.”

“We cut comfrey leaves for liquid feed, pruned leaves off the Epimedium to help us see their fresh flowers and topped up the log edging around our wildlife pond.”

  

“We fed our trees with wood ash from our woodburner and checked tree stakes and tree ties.”

  

“A big project is developing our new fern garden, a raised bed to fill the gap left by the removal of our oil tank. We came up with this crazy idea and hope it works! Planks of wood became a raised fern garden.”

     

Turning over to the next double page spread I wrote about buying new plants and I shared my paintings of a surprise find below the snow. I wrote, “We have been in plant buying mode often this March, some Hebes to replace some that have gone too woody and untidy, Ferns to add to our collection and stock our new “raised fernery” and more Ivies to cover concrete fence posts.”

“Hebes “Purple Shamrock”, Bronze Glow” and “Mrs Winder” and Ferns, “Polystichum setiferum “Plumosum Densum”, Dryopteris affinis “Polydactyla Dadds”, “Dryopteris austriaca “Crispa Whiteside” and Cyrtomium falcatum.”

“We have also been busy dividing perennials such as Sedums.”

“Secret beneath the snow! When the snow drifts melted and once again our golden flint gravel could shine in our Beth Chatto Garden, we found a sad looking perennial stem and its seedheads. It usually stands firmly upright as a statuesque reminder of its summer and autumn beauty. Eryngium pandanifolium can grow to 7ft tall, its spiny flower stem rising from a grass-like batch of equally spiky foliage. The flowers are coloured a strange dusky maroon colour.”

I painted this secret with water-colour pencils and artist pens in greys and blacks.

My final page in my entries for March features a quotation from a nature writer, John Lewis-Stempel and considered how it relates to our own patch.

“The nature writer, John Lewis-Sempel, in his new book titled “The Wood” wrote of March, “Robin sings with gusto, trying different refrains, experimenting. He is the philosophical songbird. 

Hedgehogs now out of hibernation from their watertight nests of grass and moss. As I’m sitting in my chair one shuffles absentmindedly over my wellingtoned feet.

The wood is “filling out”. There are no longer clear views through the trees. Gone is the sense of space, and light. The trees are crowding in.

The blackbird has finished her nest in the Elm. The nest is a perfect bowl, of grass, straw and twigs and plastered inside with mud. Years will pass, but the mud cup will last.”

                                                                                                                                   (March 2017)

Here at our Avocet garden we have virtually no fresh leaves open yet just bursting buds on just a few shrubs and trees. House Sparrows are nesting vigorously now collecting nest materials and at the end of the month we observed a Robin busy building a nest in a Robin nesting box we had made and put up in the Shade Garden.

In every other way Spring is slow to show any enthusiasm.

Our next visit to my garden journal will be in April when we hope Spring may have made some effort to get underway.

 

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Celebrating the Glory of Spring – the garden at a cottage called Cartref

I thought I would look back at a visit we made with friends, Pete and Sherlie in the spring to a garden called Cartref. It was a “pop up” NGS garden which is a garden that opens unplanned but that looks good so the owner wants to share it with other NGS, National Garden Scheme, visitors. It is a way of seeing gardens at their best. It is a new idea so we look forward to seeing if it continues to happen. We certainly hope so as we visited two this spring and loved them both.

We decided to celebrate the glory of spring by visiting this NGS garden, a one acre modern cottage garden with borders, woodland and ponds. The main features of the garden were the lovely colourful collection of tulips which were at their best when we visited.

Throughout the rest of the garden we found relaxed styles of gardening and in places emphasis on enhancing habitats for wildlife and attracting wildlife into the garden. The wildlife pond had an island reached by a narrow wooden bridge.

                 

After this visit to the cottage garden at Cartref we decided that “pop up” open gardens were definitely a good idea because we felt we had seen Cartref at its best.

 

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Return to The Picton Garden

The Picton Garden situated close to the Malvern Hils in Worcestershire, is well known as a garden to visit in late summer through to early autumn, mainly because it holds a national collection of Asters. The vast number of asters grown there are featured among herbaceous plantings with some pretty special shrubs and trees too. We love it at that time of the year but knew after listening to Helen Picton talking that it should be a garden worth visiting throughout its open period.

We decided to make a visit at the beginning of April to see what the garden had to offer at that time of year. We found so much of interest and enjoyed our visit immensely. To the one side of the carpark a small rock garden was in the middle of being developed and already showing plants of interest especially these unusual irises and species tulips.

 

We loved the bright blue gate welcoming us into the garden – very inviting indeed, made even more so by this succulent planter on top of a brick pillar close by.

 

A large pot of very bright tulips set the scene for what was waiting to be discovered on our wanders around the meandering pathways. Here in the gallery below are some of the colourful tulips we found as we walked around. As usual click on first photo and navigate using the arrows.

The beauty of looking around a garden in the spring months is being constantly on the look out for special specimens which can sometimes make us stop, bend over and get a close up look. Here at The Picton Garden there were special tiny plants to get close to as well as many perennials, shrubs and trees, making it a very special spring garden. The younger members of the Picton family are making their mark on these already special gardens and extending the seasons of interest. Take a wander with us along the winding gravel paths as we discover the Picton Garden in April.

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park April – Part 2

In this, the second part of April’s  report of our wanderings around Attingham Park, I want to feature the flowers of the park , the wildflowers living in the woodland and the cultivated flowers in the borders and walled garden. I will also share pics of the fresh growth of the bursting buds on the trees and shrubs.

Most new leaves that had burst from buds on trees were the brightest of green imaginable.

   

Some buds had opened to reveal more colours than simply green, they glowed with hints of bronze, browns and purples.

   

Fresh growth on evergreen trees and shrubs were also bright green, on both conifers and broadleaves.

Beneath the trees and shrubs ferns revealed their leaves in such a beautiful way, unfurling from a tight spiral like slowly unwinding springs. As their shapes change so do the textures.

   

We found so many plants flowering on our April wanders that the best way to share them with you and illustrate the huge variety so early in the year is by presenting my photographs as a gallery. Please enjoy by clicking on the first photo then navigate by clicking the right arrow.

We will return in May when summer will be in full swing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park April – Part 1

We managed to find a day close to the end of April to make our monthly visit to Attingham Park. It was a bright warm day so we knew we would have much to look forward to. As we made our way beneath tall mature trees full of noisy nesting Jackdaws and Rooks we were joined by grandparents carrying out their grandchildren caring duties so the sounds at our level were of laughing youngsters enjoying being outdoors.

There was so much to enjoy, wildflowers in full vibrant colour, fresh green leaf burst in the trees and busy productive growing in the walled garden.

The old Head Gardener’s cottage garden provided a colourful welcome to the park’s visitors.

 

Enjoy a wander through the walled garden by exploring the gallery below. (Click on the first pic and navigate through clicking on the right arrow.)

We left the walled garden to follow the One Mile Walk, which would take us close to the river and afford us views of the woodland and pastureland beyond. It is a quiet but popular walk. Most visitors here enjoy the peace and the chance to be part of nature.

 

Bluebells gave clouds of deep blue, a haze of calm and beauty.

    

The pale colours of fresh willow foliage gave a ghostly feeling to this section of the walk.

 

Rhododendrons provided surprise splashes of colour in the shadows of the tallest of trees.

 

Towards the end of our wanderings for our April visit to Attingham Park, the deciduous trees with their bright fresh new foliage and bursting buds gave way to dark needled coniferous evergreens. Their large cones looked like a family of young Little Owls.

 

In part two of our report on our April visit to Attingham Park I will share with the the pleasure of finding flowers, wild and cultivated, on our wanderings and some pics of fresh foliage growth.

 

 

 

 

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The Weir – a riverside spring garden.

We took friends and fellow garden lovers, Pete and Sherlie, to visit a garden just a few miles south of Hereford which we have previously visited in spring, the time when it peaks. We knew our friends would love it too! It is a National Trust garden and is a long and narrow garden because of its riverside position.

As we got out of the car the spring bulbs greeted us and set the scene for the discoveries to come.

 

We followed a path half way up the valley side overlooking the river, and here early flowering bulbs covered the slopes.

    

All visitors including us were amazed by the delicate pale blue flowers of Scilla italica.

A variety of trees and shrubs cast gentle shade over the valley side.

  

Please enjoy the rest of our wanderings along the pathways of this valleyside garden, by looking at my gallery. Just click on the first photo and navigate by using the arrows.

 

It is always a bonus when visiting a garden to find rare and unusual plants. Here at the Weir we enjoyed discovering  Lathraea squamaria, Tooth Wort, (photo on left), a parasite livi