Archive for the ‘My Garden’ Category

January – not so blue

January. I think I love it; correction, I know I love it. This hasn’t always been the case; for many years, office bound and staring out of the window at walls, windows, a leaden sky, January seemed anything but lovable, it was a chore to be worked through from the dark morning start to the dark evening finish.  But then life changed, the office was left behind, the shirts and ties left to gather dust in the wardrobe and I stepped in to a new existence, one in which January becomes a month full of possibility, beginnings, tantalizing glimpses of the seasons yet to come, beautiful mornings of frost and mist and the chill air invigorating one’s entire body, though don’t stand still for too long lest you freeze on the spot.

I see the snow drops quietly shouting their gentle existence; hellebores, sometimes shyly downcast, sometimes proudly upright (I do love the modern hybrids); catkins dangling idly from the graceful hazel; and buds fat with possibility.  January is a time to observe, to scrutinise, to get as close to nature as one can and spot the first stirrings of the new year. Yes it can be dreary, wet, dank, windy in a way that chills one to the core; but through all of this the days are drawing out, the light emerging a little earlier each morning and lingering a little longer each night.  And there are good days, there always are, and these are days to be treasured, to point one’s face to the winter sun and draw it down and into one’s soul.  They are days for work too: for planting, for clearing, for cleaning and sharpening tools; for flicking thought the pages of innumerable seed catalogues and planning the year head; for thinking about the garden and how it is, how it could be.  But don’t rush it, don’t wish January away before you have had the chance to embrace it, to discover its myriad, often minute wonders; January may just surprise you if you allow it and you may just love it too.

 

 

When the weather brings both wonder and despair

As someone who gardens for a living the past few weeks have been particularly trying; the unseasonably warm weather in March resulted in a rush to start getting on with jobs in clients’ gardens and a nice early tan but since then, due to rain of Biblical proportions, it has been difficult to get on with a number of jobs where clearing beds of weeds has been the main task.

In one instance the constant rains of April and early May turned turned the heavy clay into a claggy, gloopy mess from which it was near impossible to extricate anything successfully; stepping on the beds was possible though highly unadvisable as it resulted in rusty water oozing out from within the clay and severe compaction.  Where there has been the odd sunny interlude or dry day I have pressed on, juggling clients according to need and always hoping that tomorrow the weather will hold.

In my own garden the ground is largely saturated and in some places the water is thigh deep and requires wellys to wade through.  A clump of three large Delphinium that were looking stately and vigorous have been ravaged by a combined onslaught of slugs and snails (mainly the latter, of which there are so many this year, a consequence perhaps of not having any sustained period of cold over the winter); two have been almost entirely taken down to within a couple of inches from the ground, my only consolation being that they have had in effect an early ‘Chelsea Chop'; the remaining plant is still standing and I wake every morning hoping that it has made it through another night without suffering the same fate as its brethren.

Mutilated Delphinium

But all is not as ghastly as it sounds and indeed there is much to be enjoyed: the water that sits and glistens on the leaves of Alchemilla and Euphorbia is enchanting,

Euphorbia characias subsp. 'Wulfenii'

the vibrant and invigorating colour of the first Alliums never fails but to leave one slightly overawed and enraptured,

Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'

the gentle flowers of Polemonium ‘Bressingham Purple’ are by contrast shy and timorous but none-the-less beguiling

Polemonium 'Bressingham Purple'

and the sun piercing a stormy sky fills the body and soul with an elemental energy that is drawn from myth and swirling history.

Sun following a storm

Weather infects our moods, both caresses and lashes at our senses and dictates the labour that we may or may not undertake.  It reminds us, or atleast it should do, of our fragility, mortality, and our position as caretakers rather than as masters of this world that we share with so much other life.

Compost, lovely compost

Oh yes, compost is a divine thing, crumbly, dark, woodland scented, truly a wondrous thing.  I have been using it to mulch the beds, particularly on new planting and it is certainly doing a good job at keeping down the weeds and keeping in the moisture.  It will also be slowly pulled down into the earth over the coming year improving the structure.

Not content with 3 compost bays I decided it was time for a few additions to the composting area of the garden; I’ve therefore added an extra bay so that there are now 4 for composting garden and kitchen waste.  I’ve also added a proper structure for the leaf mould as it has just been a pile in the corner whereas now it is all neatly packed into a large chicken wire cylinder where it can happily do its thing.  I intend to add another two of these and have the leaf mould on a three year cycle; I am even tempted to pop into the woods with a wheelbarrow and bring back some additional oak leaves from last autumn’s fall … but perhaps this is getting a little obsessive?!?!

Having spent a number of hours turning the 3 exisitng heaps with an orinary garden fork I decided that a new tool was required to make the job a bit easier and so I’m eagerly awaiting a new compost fork with larger tines than the average fork for effective turning.  Should be delivered by the weekend so more turning will be done and I will doubtless be left exhausted but satisfied!

A hedgehog living in my garden!!!

After many a post bemoaning the fact that I haven’t seen a live hedgehog in more than a decade I can finally and excitedly announce that last night, at about 10.30, I spotted a rather chubby little hedgehog making its way along the drive towards a combination of shrubs, weeds and fallen bird seed.

To begin with I thought that perhaps tiredness had overcome me to such a point that I was hallucinating, but as my wife saw the little critter first I quickly realised that this was in fact a living, breathing, occasionally scampering hedgehog. I was overjoyed and remain so knowing that there is atleast one out there around the garden (please don’t go near the road!).

And here he/she is:

Hedgehog on the move

Mesmerising Magnolias

On Tuesdays I spend the day gardening in a wonderful garden that sits at the top of gently inclining hill and is surrounded by farm land. The garden is around one and half acres and has numerous and very large beds in which grow a tremendous variety of plants, including many very large shrubs which are impressive in their scale.  I am particularly looking forward to the Autumn when Euonymous alatus will be a mass of fiery red foliage, though there is of course plenty of interest now and to come in the months ahead.

Today I noticed that since last Tuesday the Magnolias have suddenly burst into life; there are four in different parts of the garden, once of which is particularly large and impressive.  I am not enirely sure of the species or varieties but have given my best guess:

The first two shots (not great as taken in the middle of the day!) of the grand old tree show what I think is Magnolia x soulangeana.

The following two pictures show what I believe to be two varieties of Magnolia stellata.  The first is possibly ‘Waterlily’ [Update 24th April 2012: I have since discovered that the first of these is infact Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel] and the second ‘Centennial’, though this is just a guess and may be entirely wrong!

In the garden at home I noticed that the Osmanthus delavayi was a mass of frothy, delicate, scented white flowers. I do like this plant, its arching branches and evergreen glossy foliage are graceful and delicate.

And to finish, A shot looking across some of the many roses at Perryhill Nursery (where I also work a couple of days a week (there are not enough days in the week for all this working!!) as the day draws to an end.

March, the month of so much

The garden is alive with activity: on the warmer days bees are out in force looking for early nectar, bumping into me as they go; seeds are being sown at a frenetic pace ; a new border has been made on the edge of the drive using topsoil, garden compost and mushroom compost (that has been sitting around since last autumn), planted up and mulched with bark chippings; the first autumn sown sweet peas have been planted out as they were outgrowing the root trainers and starting to get rather unruly; pruning of Cornus, Buddjela, Hydrangea, grasses etc. has all finally been completed … the list of jobs that need to be done seems to grow far more quickly than I actually get things done!

On top of all of this life is taking a new and exciting turn; I am now working a couple of days week at Perryhill Nurseries in Hartfield, East Sussex.  Despite having only done this for a few weeks so far I am learning a great deal about plants that I think it would be difficult to pick up just from reading books and pottering about in my own garden and the garden of clients …. yes indeed, clients! I am now fully set up as a gardener (a.k.a Crafting Your Garden) and enjoying the challenges that this raises.  Today I spent 4 hours pruning a mass of Cornus and the list of things to be getting on with week-by-week grows with each visit.

Gardening for others is quite different to gardening for oneself; all those little shortcuts that you might take in your own garden you certainly don’t do in a client’s garden, everything must be completed to the highest standard.  I also think that it takes time to become completely comfortable both with the client and with their garden; it is necessary to watch and to learn how the client interacts with their garden, which parts and plants they most value, and to try and understand what their garden means to them.

So there we have it, short and sweet as I think most posts will have to be from now on as the season gets into full swing. Happy gardening to all!

Natural Splendour #7

One of my favourite images from the past year:

 

hanging around

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