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Gardening in lock down – tulip time

We love tulips as they appear magically several months after we planted those beautiful bulbs so full of potential and promises.

 

 

Some of the tulips we planted last autumn have ended up looking striped which reminds me of raspberry ripple ice cream.

 

They provide masses of different colours and varied petal shapes, some even show off their frilly cut edges. We plant more each autumn so our stock is increasing slowly but we also lose a lot each year to winter damp and viruses. Planting new bulbs will carry on every year. Some are extra special such as this one with frilled edges to its petals where they turn from pink to yellow.

Here is a set of photos showing a selection of those we grow for you to enjoy.

      

By early May most of our tulips will have flowered and then dropped their petals. All the early herbaceous perennials are waiting to take over for months.

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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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The Citadel – a May garden full of colour.

We started our monthly garden visits with our friends from the Hardy Plant Society Shropshire Group with a visit to a garden called The Citadel, which although it is close, within 20 miles of where we live, we had never visited before.

We enjoyed our morning greatly as we found a garden of colour and surprises set around a beautiful red sandstone building. The colour was mostly from Rhododendrons and Azaleas, many of which were also richly scented. The entrance to the garden took us past a wonderful perfectly shaped Copper Beech in its reddish copper colouring. It made a wonderful picture with its neighbouring trees and shrubs.

Around the corner of the house we met the owner who did most of the gardening and his rather grumpy dog, Freddie. We immediately noticed a circle of colourful tulips and nearby a lovely seating area and a wisteria draped pergola.

After an introduction we took off along a series of pathways up a raised section covered in Rhododendrons. We found surprises along the way which adds an extra dimension to any good garden.

As we left the rhododendrons behind with their bright colours and large blooms, the views opened up in front of us. We discovered an old rustic and very highly decorated summerhouse, an open view over the countryside and much softer plantings.

 

 

We were surprised to find a beautifully maintained and productive looking productive garden. From here we made our way to the castle for refreshments and a chat with the owner, and that is how our lovely morning ended.

 

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Another NGS Garden : Gorsty Bank – a wildlife friendly garden

This a wonderful wildlife friendly garden which opens for the NGS and is owned and gardened by fellow Hardy Plant Society Shropshire Group members Annie and Gary Frost. The garden is a short distance from home so we soon arrived after a short journey and enjoyed the walk through the village of Hyssington and up the drive to the garden. We found some lovely primulas along the lane and the driveway itself was atmospheric with old stone walls on one side and native hedging alongside.

We were warmly greeted by Gary and as usual made our way to the refreshments and enjoyed talking with Annie as we enjoyed tea and tasty homemade cakes. The views from our seats afforded an idea of the richness of the experience we could look forward to.

We then enjoyed a slow wander around this gentle garden with its paths and gateways to guide our way. We loved the two meadows and the mini-arboretum.

 

Another enjoyable return visit to a favourite NGS garden afforded us a great day out. We will be back!

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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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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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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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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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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.