Category Archives: Act now



Where would we be without it?



We are still eating our lovely leeks from last year. Chopped and sautéed in butter. So sweet, so tender, so delicious … and today we sowed some more. Directly into the soil outside.


Leeks from last year

Leeks from last year

The rest of our day was spent weeding and preparing beds for our cutting garden this year.

I think we, as gardeners, as much as the plants, are looking for the sun to give us energy and invigorate us from the winter doldrums.

Today we were rewarded.


Here we go..

If I find you sitting around thinking there is nothing to do…???

…then I need to correct you right now!!!

Certainly buy some seed. Tomatoes are so easy to grow on a window sill right now.  No excuses!!

Prepare some beds

Get rid of unwanted, un productive plants..

Think about what you really want. You can really grow it.  If you don’t believe me, just prove me wrong.  Now is the the time to try..

A rolling stone gathers no moss

After an industrious weekend indoors with my leather work, I was delighted to be outside again – come rain or shine.  In fact we had both,  plus a massive, if short lived, hail storm.

My photos of today tell a different story – one of pure blue skies and sunshine, I wonder why?

A small but nevertheless important job to do right now is cutting back the foliage of the ferns that are now beginning to look tatty.




They were doing a grand job of retaining some greenery through the monochrome months but they need to make way for the new fronds unfurling themselves next month…IMG_3245


Next on the list today, cutting down the Miscanthus:



To about 30cm from soil level.

I also coppiced the Pawlonia tormentosa tree and pruned the Cotinus coggygria shrub. This keeps them to the right size for the border and promotes much bigger leaves for both plants this coming season





I just found myself drifting off looking at those pictures of the late summer and the fullness of that border…

At lunchtime I went for a walk in the woods with Martin.  He has been clearing the fallen trees.  In some places he has made log piles and in others he has just made sure the broken and dead trees are fully lying on the ground so they are safe from falling on people.  Here, they will gradually be reclaimed returning their carbon and nutrients back into the soil.


I gathered some of the woodland moss for a small hanging basket of flowers



No time like the present…

Alys Fowler suggested this week that February is a month to sit back and do nothing in the garden… much as I like the idea of that suggestion, I would rather do it in the summer when it is lovely and warm and when I’ve got something beautiful to look at.  Now is really an opportunity to dive-in and re-jig difficult areas in conditions where plants can be dug up and left unattended for a while in their semi-dormant state while you attend to their beds.

In one particular garden the soil is heavy clay.  Couch grass and bind weed has got a hold and is absolutely impossible to get out.  The Miscanthus grasses have got so big, the centre has died, the Stipa tenuissima have self seeded and the old ones have died so are all over the place equally the Agapanthus has randomly spread itself around.  Now is the perfect time to just dig it all up.

Plants have been divided and left on the side


It will be impossible to get the weed roots out of these plants unless you have hours to spare to wash the soil out of the plant roots and then disentangle the weeds. That is one reason for not offering these plants to anyone else.

However one can make life a little easier in the future by spraying the weed infested area as the weeds begin to grow in the coming weeks.  We will then try and improve the soil by adding some grit and garden compost to a decent thickness and then we will replant our Grasses, Agapanthus and Day- lilies.

It will then be much easier both physically and mentally to return to this border in the summer knowing we won’t be fighting a losing battle with the weeds.

The Stipa tenuissima won’t last for long out of the soil so we have divided it into small pony tails, removed the weed roots and replanted along the length of the new annual flower border:




Motto of the week “Don’t just sit there, do something…

and life will be much easier in future….”


Highs and lows


This is a rare photo of me gardening! Actually I’m not even gardening,  I’m demonstrating to the girls that I will never lose my hand fork again as I have a handy pouch to put it in 🙂 – let’s see if it works.

However the real reason I am including this photo is the bed behind me and well might I turn my back on it.  I have had a couple of years of disaster trying to grow a wonderful mixed annual, meadow-like border to the tennis court.  It really shouldn’t be that difficult but I seemed to make it so.

Year one, I dug up the existing geraniums and sprinkled some generic wild flower seed mix along the length.  Unfortunately the weeds and grass had the upper hand and there were not enough hours in the day to weed it.

Year 2, I thought, scrape off the top soil and grass and weeds and sow more wild flower seed, mistakenly in the belief that wild flowers don’t require nutritious ground to grow on. That may be a fact but actually many of these wild  flower meadow seed mixes are really just annual flowers that do require some nutrition to get going.

Also a fundamental mistake, I had taken the level down to solid clay and the poor little roots had nothing to cling to.  I had forgotten Rule number one of gardening ‘Prepare the seed bed to provide a fine tilth’ …..Darn.

Year 3, we have spread a layer of planting medium ( a mix of sand and organic compost available from the council relatively inexpensively) along the bed and I am now about to order a seed mix.  I rather fancy one of those lovely ones used in the Olympic park in London 2012!

Phenomenal Moles

All my gardens seem to be deluged by moles right now

1) because the soil is very damp

2) because the boys are looking for the girls – love is in the air..

Unfortunately this makes for an unhappy garden owner…. but a happy/ frustrated Molecatcher, as they are not easy to catch but the catcher gets paid by the number caught!

Winter gardening..

I had to take a photo of the naked tree that looks so perfect, on the way to work:




I always thought, when I drove passed, that this was the most perfectly symmetrical tree. Today I stopped and took a couple of pics from different angles.  Alas no. Apparently nearly all trees grow more strongly on one side than the other, mainly due to the light conditions.

So not perfect at all, but great for helping one navigate? (I think they grow more strongly on the southern side)

First thing to do at the garden today was cutting back some ivy on the wall that definitely looked neglected (aha me thinks, great for christmas wreaths!) I then got stuck into cutting back the Hellebore leaves to reveal the beautiful flower buds emerging from the ground.

Hello! my pet robin brings me a worm


then eats it and is gone..


Not for long.  it sits on my bucket for a photo call


Wow, I really love this robin.

In the background are beautiful blue flowers in the shade. They really sing out in a dark corner.

The Vinca major (periwinkle) is flowering



Next stop, raising the canopy of the date palm (taking off the lower branches)





That fibrous trunk is fascinating.

It is now easier to weed beneath and dig out the bramble roots.

Digging up brambles is another great Winter job.  Satisfying to get the roots out and keeps you warm and that was it for the next 4 hours…

Where did the day go?



Hops, fuchsias, cake!



More hops

More hops

These hops are sadly beyond their best now… Oh well, just cut them right down to the ground and either compost, weave or decorate the house with the dead stems and the actual plant will start all over again with prodigious growth next Spring.  Fabulous.


Let’s take a moment to enjoy the zingy colour of the Fuchsia on a dull grey day…


Tea break entails me tucking into a rather alcoholic fruit cake which was so scrummy and because Sophie was not keen on fruit cake, she was offered fresh hot scones straight from the oven with Carols’ delicious home made raspberry jam.  Oh wow, we thought we had died and gone to heaven.  Thank you Carol (our lovely client)!

Herbaceous border versus Mixed border

Firstly, the feature photo was taken on my way to work this week… just saying 😉


and Euonymus alatus spends the whole year in the background until NOW!  Woohoo, now we can see you. It is situated in my mixed shrub and herbaceous border for Autumn colour and this following photo is the rest of that border:


There is Sedum spectabile, Hebe, Miscanthus, a Rose, Salvia, Willow, Hydrangea, Dahlias (Thomas A Edison, Karma chocolate and Hillcrest royal) and a Phormium. Still Looking good and packing a punch.

Alternatively in another garden, a mainly herbaceous area of the garden:


Well it still looks ok but most of the leaves are raggedy, some plants have toppled over and I decided not to delay the inevitable…


Yes,  it is now on the compost. This is what we cut down:


Aquilegia (I think we have cut this back at least 3 times already this year)


Polyganatum biflorum or Soloman’s seal


Macleaya microcarpa


Iris, yellow flag


Hemerocallis (Day Lilies)


Asters – Still flowering but blown over in the wind so some are now in a vase with white Dahlias

All have been cut back to ground level. What we have left:


The adorable Arum italicum


and lots of tiny Digitalis pururea (foxglove seedlings)

which we will leave until they are big enough to transplant around the area.

In another part of the garden we also cut back the Hosta leaves:



All very therapeutic if you ask me.

Back to the deep brown beautiful earth again.

My heart is singing.





Pruning Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’

Gallica Roses are old roses, compact shrubs with wonderfully scented blooms. They usually only have one flush of flowers during the summer that lasts about 3-6 weeks. They can then be pruned after flowering.  The flowers next year will grow from this years new growth.

Here is a short demonstration: