My gardening colleague Sham had been unable to come to work since the lockdown, so I was delighted she found some transport and made it back to the fold last week.
We made a start on clearing this beautiful border this week:
A few special plants will be found new locations around the garden, after carefully washing the roots so we know they are clean, however the majority will be destroyed or composted. Nearly all of them have either ground elder roots, bind weed or horsetail in their rootball. These pernicious perennial weeds can regenerate from the smallest of fragments and spread very quickly in any habitat. If we compost them, we would leave the compost for at least 2 years to be sure the weeds have been broken down sufficiently.
First section empty except for the Crinum… a huge bulb that works itself deep into the ground. Very difficult to dig out whole so hopefully we can leave it to naturalise. It has the most wonderful white or pink ‘lily’ type flowers…
Just when the buds are swelling on the cascading branches of this tree, is the perfect time to cut away all the dead wood.
It feels symbolic in my gardening year to end the winter with this job and get up close to this beautiful old specimen with its crazy interwoven limbs.
There’s a discarded nest cradled in the crook of a branch. The lime green moss and lichen cling to the splitting bark. It’s an honour to clean up the silhouette and leave it ready to blossom with abundance heralding the arrival of Spring.
Setting off … very excited, the sun is shining and it’s a glorious day…
Meet up with Chris for lunch first and a spot of research in a Chelsea Nursery
We have tickets for the 3.30 – 8pm slot but are allowed in at 2pm. Thats loads of time. As we enter everyone is shuffling around at zombie pace already- I don’t blame them, it is hot. I know we’ll be the same in 5 hours time. We have energy, swerve the show gardens and head straight for the Great Pavilion. We gather up Alix en route and then all hell is let loose as we get excited and cameras are out for our favourites. From past experience I take photos of the flowers that I love – and labels (I think the exhibitors are missing a trick not plastering their name all over the labels?) . Alix is a little more old fashioned and it’s all pen and paper for her. I query this but she reassures me that that is the way she works.
OK I’ve already ordered 200 Narcissi for a client, having discussed with the gang which ones really are the most beautiful – but forgotten to take photos and we’re straight onto the Tulips…
So those flowers featured in the ‘Old Masters’ are/were in? – Here is one. Tulipa Grand Perfection
Next fave is Tulipa Blue Parrot
Apparently it can last 3 weeks – that is one whole week longer than many and a great additional attribute.
I hasten to add that these tulips will not look great together in my mind! Next one I love is Tulipa sprengeri… it’s been available for a long time now but oh how lovely:
and so the next stand is Bonsai???!! well, so the mind then has to disassociate from Spring bulbs and move onto miniature trees. I can do that.
I home in straight away to this gorgeous coloured tree. After a brief discussion with a Bonsai practitioner standing next to me, we agree this is a show-stopper; Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’. I then spot
Pyracantha? Surely not? This hum-drum filler of a climber for a north facing wall has been transformed into this? I have now just bought one from Morrisons for less than 3 quid – hopefully in five years time I will have recreated this!
I’ve just got into Acers – way after everyone else, in fact practically every stall had Acers as a foil/back drop. Why? Anyway it seems that in America this whitish acer is called Ghost1 or 2, whilst here it is called Acer palmatum wigume or ukigume. I liked it.
Next in this list of completely unrelated plants, I was looking for a Bourganvillea for home and while I love that ridiculously garish pink one in the south of France, I don’t think I can resist this one called Bridal bouquet.
Hours later we emerge from the Pavilion blinking in the sun light – briefly hit and miss the show gardens, partake of a splendidly prepared picnic and have no time left to peruse any more…
This sad old broken terracotta pot still offers life to two plants that make their mark at opposite seasons of the year. Leucojum gravetye – a bulb that produces a snowdrop lookalike that is longer lasting than a snowdrop, taller, with strap like green foliage which really comes into its own now. It looks great naturalised in a woodland setting but at the same time looks fab in a pot. So I have just cut down the pot sharer, Miscanthus. This has produced loveley fresh leaves summer to Autumn with flowers that have lasted all winter. It is quite happy in a pot and generously shares the space.
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.
I know it’s very grey outside and also very damp but don’t let that put you off. There are still about 7 hours of decent daylight each day so get out there and do your thing.Finish cutting back those herbaceous perennials. Some, such as Sedums, you may have kept for winter structure but find they have collapsed already. Give them up to the compost bin and think of the money you are saving next year when you can mulch your own beds with what you have made.Give those paths a weed, scrape and hose down. Enjoy the comfort that a tidy path can bring. Many weeds are quite weak at the moment so it’s an easier time to do this job.
Cover up tender plants that are too big (or too planted!) to move to shelter. You can either try pegging on a protective membrane, or buy them pre-made into bags with a drawstring. I prefer the coloured green bags that don’t look so obtrusive:
These Echium pininana, will stand a much greater chance of survival this way.Keep sweeping leaves off the lawn – Hooray for leaf mould. We must count ourselves lucky that we get it for free. Either add to the compost, or pile in special area just for decomposing leaves or bag it up into black bin liners, tie the tops and stab the bags with holes. Hide under a tree or behind the shed and leave to decompose.Prune rambling roses:
These ones grow along wires at the moat edge. We cut out the dead, diseased or damaged wood first. Then we take out some of the older stems right back to the base.Of the remaining stems we cut back all the side shoots to 3 or 4 buds and when all that is done we tie them back to the wires keeping them close to the horizontal (to increase the number of flowering stems) but in a decorative and wavy pattern. We always use garden twine that will gradually rot away and not damage the plant.
So…. we are still out there looking after gardens and plants.
Todays garden stars are the gorgeous rose-hips and colourful Salvias, which are still clinging to their vibrant flowers despite what the weatherman keeps throwing at them.
Top Tips for a Wintery Rainy Day
Start the day with a warm up job – like raking
At least 3 x pairs of gloves and 2 x hats, to be exchanged during the day.
A good pair of waterproofs and equally a change of clothes half way through a session.
Thick socks and thick soled waterproof boots (I love my muck boots)
Some good music on the radio or a enjoyable play or a great friend to chat to.
A friendly robin to keep you entertained, to feed and keep your spirits high
Hot drinks all day and soup for lunch.
A warm house and hot bath to warm up those bones at the end of the day
Honesty is a gorgeous biennial plant that once you have it, makes itself at home in swathes. It comes in lovely purple or white flowers in late Spring, preferring dampish chalky soils.
The flowers look great in a woodland setting or a main border providing a splash of colour in an otherwise rather monochrome moment. the greeny/purple disc -like seed heads look great with alliums as
can be seen in this pic:
After going to seed, I pulled up some of the plants and let them dry out.
This evening whilst tucked up inside on a Sunday evening I pulled away the outer discs and collected the seeds.
And was left with the translucent skeletons which I popped in a vase. Somewhat reminiscent of my mothers home back in the seventies when they featured next to the Bullrushes and the Cheese plant… I think I shall keep them for a couple of weeks and then relegate them to the compost.
The seeds I shall pop in an envelope and keep in a cool dark place to sow next year (although there will be no flowers from these until 2016.)
That is the way with gardening. We are in it for the long haul.