I remember an autumnal morning a couple of years ago when my client handed me 1000 crocus bulbs to plant. Really small bulbs – we thought it wouldn’t take long. However the bed was right next to a Yew hedge and Horse chestnut tree, the ground was dry, hard and full of roots. A couple of hours work and a very sore hand later they were in and I was relieved.
Joy of joys though, every February we and the bees and the neighbours are completely rewarded… especially on a sunny day.
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…
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
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…
I always remember to order and plant Tulips and Narcissi bulbs in Autumn. Probably because, as we head into winter, I need something to keep me optimistic and hopeful of better things to come…. I then go through a bit of a lull at this time of year and really have to try and pick myself up. Bulb catalogues usually land on the mat below the letter box and immediately get stacked into the ‘must-do’ pile that never gets done and goes straight to the recycling some months later.
Not this year. The selection of summer flowering bulbs are fabulous and broad. All the hard work has been done- last years sunshine has been captured and contained in that little dry ball of goodness. All you have to do is choose what you like, plant it and add water and the magic really does happen.
Yesterday, I sat down and chose a few of my favourites … some Dahlias I spotted last year that I wanted to try, like this one,
some Lilies I grew last year and loved,
and some Cannas which I haven’t grown before but wanted to try out.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money either. I went to Poundland yesterday and bought some bulbs, some seed packets and some fruit bushes and had change from a tenner! Brilliant.
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!
A computer malfunction has blighted my working and blogging life for 2 weeks now. All I can say is Thank you Apple for bringing me back on line and reuniting me with my fave old (well over 5 years now really is old) iMac. Not sure how I managed without you but all is forgiven.
In the mini break I managed to have my business card printed and a banner made for my Gardeners Accessory Belt, beautifully modelled here by my good friend Maddie (and all care of a special free offer from Vistaprint
Now I must get back to the most important stuff – what is going on in the garden?
Yes we are still pruning roses and yes we are still weeding and mulching with garden compost.
I thought these snowdrops looked fab at the bottom of the hedge growing in amongst the Lychnis and Lavender as they all share that lovely bluey green hue to their foliage, which makes a fab backdrop to the white bells of snowdrop flowers..
as does the glossy dark green leaves of the Spotted Laurel ..
One of the jobs we worked on today was an attempt at digging up and dividing the Arum italicum. When we first dug it up from the wilds of the woods a few years back, it was really difficult to dig deep enough to pull it up with roots on, as they were so entangled with the grass and roots of the wood. We only managed to get enough for 3 small clumps.
Now they are 3 bigger clumps. I hoped they may now be easier to dig up given the sandy loam nature of the soil in these beds. What I like about these plants is that they are a low growing evergreen that loves the shade and the leaves look lush at this time of year.
They were still pretty deep as can be seen by the length of the white stem as seen here.
But Emma made light work of it and before I knew it they were up, out, divided, back into smaller bunches, dotted around the area, planted and watered. Thank you Em, great job.
This is how they looked on August 26th last year. Otherwise known as Italian Lords and Ladies