For other pages….
Click here for Viewing Kew from the skies.
Click here for ‘the wedding garden’…
Click here for micro weeding and memories of my mother’s award winning patio
Click here for desert spring flowers in Jordon
Click here for Poppies at the Tower of London
Click here for Alara’s Dream Farm at the back of King’s Cross station
Click here for the World Peace Garden!
Click here for the garden in 2013 and before
Click here for our ‘Ice Folly’ daffodil tick!
Click here for ‘Young fox breakfast hour’
Click here for ‘The fat ball raider’ and here for ‘The fat ball raider unmasked!’
Click here for ‘The battle of the bird table’
Click here for ‘The dunnock in the snow’
Click here for ‘Leaping frog heaven’
18th March 2017
It is all about Ice Follies this week. They did manage to survive the earlier storm onslaught and, as you can see, were large upright last week. Although there must have been a lot of rain last night as this morning they are looking somewhat battered.
However, Tawny Pipit thinks there are interesting enough to move over and have a look….
This was last week and you can see that their trumpets are still pale lemon yellow. But as they mature that yellow fades so that they end up almost entirely milk white.
And behind them the forsythia has just come into bloom – although it does look rather leggy…. I thought they were meant to be bushes!
Meanwhile, down in the herbaceous patch, the heron is enjoying his few early months in the sun before the miscanthus grows up around him and hides him from view.
5th March 2017
Ah – the japonica! Always the harbinger of spring. How very nice to see it…
Also a harbinger of spring are Iris Reticulata and this year, instead of trying to plant bulbs in the garden which, with the honourable exception of the daffodil tick, is always a disaster, I thought I would plant some in pots. To ward off the squirrels, I covered them all with chicken wire, intending to remove it when they started to show through. But then we had that sudden blast of hot weather a week ago, and before you could say knife, they had shot through the chicken wire and into bloom!! Not much I could do at that point….
And after the heat – we got Doris and a number of torrential downpours – and just look what happened to the daffs!!!! Looks as though heard of elephants had ploughed through them!
This did happen a few years ago and I spent hours propping them all up around stakes and tying them – which was not a good idea as the next time the wind blow they all just broke. So this year I decided to leave nature to sort it out and amazingly, even though it has continued to rain pretty continuously, about two thirds of them have recovered and are more or less upright again.
As possible compensation for the damage that it had done to the daffs, I must admit that Doris (or was it Ewan who came after her?) did provide a couple of pretty good rainbows. I particularly like this one rising between the two houses in Upper Park Road.
Meanwhile, having read a gardening column last weekend which said that if you had not yet pruned your roses you definitely needed to get on with it, I did take advantage of the relatively pleasant weather to prune all three of my bush roses and to move two. Neither these two had ever done that well in the herbaceous patch (too much competition?) so they are now buried deep in some lovely new compost in deep metal dustbins that I had rescued a few years ago. So they had better respond!! Otherwise I’ll set Arwen on them…
19th February 2017
The abbey churchyard in Shaftesbury certainly had a lot more snowdrops on display than my one sad little clump…. Indeed, they looked extremely pretty even though it was a pretty grey, cold day when I saw them.
Never mind – I do have a fine clump of hellebores to offer….
And I also have this amazing little pink rose which appeared on the balcony about a month ago and hung in there throughout that very nasty cold and windy spell we had – and is still going – just…..
Meanwhile, the Ice Follies are well and truly up and some are even showing signs of buds.
And I am moving roses…. To some dustbins on the patio so that the bougainvilleas (assuming they have made it through the winter) can move off to a sunnier spot!
21st January 2017
When it is this cold you might be quite glad to be made of wire. Tawny Pipit certainly doesn’t seem to mind.
But how well the bougainvilleas are doing under their wrappings, even with their little heater, who knows! Here they and the choisia catch a rare ray of sun.
Meanwhile the poor heuchera look seriously frozen – not at all sure that they will survive – although the amazing bacopa at the back of the garden is not only surviving but flowering. I don’t think I have ever yet managed to kill bacopa, no matter how badly I treated it! Otherwise, geraniums are looking sad, trees are looking very bare, roses are looking thorny – but at least, thanks to the little fountain thing, the pond has not frozen. Although I really must clear those leaves out….
The one person who seems totally happy is Arwen whose Siberian heritage is standing him in good stead. His fur looks so thick and cosy at the moment that all you want to do is to get inside it with him.
But whatever about the chill, the overnight frosts have brought us some stunning sunrises.
12th December 2016
Well, the amazing climbing white rose is still climbing and flowering. This was about ten days ago, when it was really quite cold, but since then it has shot out another half dozen flowering shoots….. What can stop it?…..
Meanwhile, my efforts to create a vibrant red and yellow blaze of cornus at the bottom of the garden in mid winter do not seem to be coming to much. Far from a blaze, they seem to be just some rather weedy shoots – despite moving them up into the sun for the whole of the summer. I am wondering if they just don’t really like living in pots. Oh well, back to the drawing board.
However, if you want a blaze, how about this? Sadly not in our garden but out of the window of the Golders Hill Park café about three weeks ago – the most amazing gingko tree in the early morning sun.
27th November 2016
Oh dear…. what a sad, unkempt mess….
Not just the leaves but those grasses that need cutting down and the hydrangea that needs pruning… I am afraid that the last two weeks have not really allowed much time for serious gardening – as is only too obvious!!
However, before we got super busy I had managed to tuck up the bougainvilleas for the winter. Several layers of fleece, lots of very thin polythene sheeting (so that they still got light) and some bubble wrap. And under it all (you can just see the wire) a tiny heater…. Must remember to give them the occasional drop of water.
I also did manage to plant out some bulbs in some of those hundreds of pots that I had bought for white begonias for the wedding. I am not usually that keen on bulbs, partly because (apart from our massive daffodil tick) they don’t really seem to do that well. But then a gardening page said, why not put bulbs in pots? Easier to move around and change. What a good idea. So, since I had lots of spare pots, I did. Great idea – said the squirrels and descended en masse!! Which is why the pots are currently looking rather like a rubbish dump!
One unexpected burst of colour – the flame coloured azalea which lives on the patio. I don’t ever remember it flaming in the autumn as well as the spring but it certainly is this year….
12th November 2016
Very autumnal….. This was a few days ago and I fear it is very much leafier now. I had meant to try and take a leafier image but it has been such a miserable day….
Amazingly, the climbing white rose which just loves its new home behind the pyracantha on the left of the garden has gone mad and is now into its third or fourth flowering this year….
And if one needs colour, how about the miniature (well, not so miniature any more) acer in the front garden. It only lasts for a couple of days, but it sure wants to be noticed while it does!!
30th October 2016
Kew…… We took ourselves off to the tree walk – click here to see all.
16th October 2016
9am – a pretty miserable, wet autumn day – and I had quite resigned myself to spending the afternoon putting away the summer clothes and getting out the woollies to the accompaniment of Radio 4’s Classic serial. But come midday, there we were drinking coffee in the blazing sun on the patio discussing when we should move the dogwoods (Cornus sanguine ‘Winter Flame’ to those who know about these things) to the back of the garden where, hopefully they will provide a minor blaze of red and yellow stems thoughout the winter.
Further down the garden the remaining pots around the pond were also enjoying the sun…
as was Boris, standing (sitting) guard over his pond – he uses it as a drinking fountain.
However, rather more exciting, if a bit late in the day, the miniature water lily which has lived in the pond for the last three years without showing much signs of activity, has started to produce flowers!! I am afraid that the sun was not quite far enough round to persuade it to come out – but at least you can see a bud!!
The other late comers to the party are the bougainvilleas which have all finally managed to flower, even if not too enthusiastically. To be fair, I think this was partly my fault as I was seriously overwatering them so that they were putting on plenty of green leaf but not a lot of flower. The question now is what to do with them over the winter…. and can I bear the stress of trying to get them flower again next summer – or is it time to move on….
Anyhow, if I need garden stress, the roof of the garden house is currently provide plenty! Here I am last weekend, removing leaves and some weeds and, as you can see, it looks pretty bare and sad. Given the amount of effort that I had put into it earlier in the year and how good it was looking four months ago, this is somewhat gutting. However, I think that all is not lost.
Despite the fact that it is a rock plant, sedum, it did not really seem to cope at all well with the prolonged rainless spell we have had over the last few months – and I don’t think it was helped by the stretchy tent for the wedding which was secured at the back of the house.
But, I was back up there this afternoon and, thanks I think, to lots of recent rain and getting bit more light as the leaves fall, it is looking chirpier. You cannot see the back in this photograph but over all that brown bit, there are young and healthy looking shoots so, fingers crossed.
However, whatever about our very welcome burst of sun this morning, autumn is definitely here and although the no-longer-quite-so-miniature acer in the front garden has not yet changed, the acer in the back garden is definitely on the turn.
30th September 2016
A real sign of autumn – brown leaves and wild cyclamen…. But they are very pretty.
Elsewhere in the garden things are just gradually going to sleep – all except for the big dish of white non-stop begonias which seem to have taken on a new lease of life!
I know they are not very ‘natural’ and not at all bee friendly but they are extraordinarily good value (these have been going since May!!) and have the massive added advantage that the slugs hate them!!
Elsewhere my ‘ground-covering’ efforts have been quite successful. This area beyond the pond was a no-no for grass or indeed anything else so, in my pre-wedding enthusiasm I thought I would try to cover it with Creeping Jenny – and have certainly succeeded! The secret I think was some little spray devices which come as part of the automatic watering system as Creeping Jenny loves to be wet. My other efforts with the Mind You Own Business at the dank, dark end of the garden where the grass did not want to know, have also been quite successful – although not as dense a coverage as the Creeping Jenny.
And finally, the last vestiges of the wedding! The now-dried gypsophila with some of last year’s dried hydrangeas.
16th September 2016
Well, all has sort of settled down into a gentle post wedding, autumnal haze – helped on by a three day heat wave followed by last night’s torrential rain.
To be honest, you would never know that there had been a wedding here at all were it not for the new and exciting lights that we now have all over the garden. So far I fear that I have not got my head around night time photography so all I can offer is a rather blurry Tawny Pipit under the weeping pear tree.
However, with the autumnal mists have come the spiders – and wedding-photographer David made a much better fist of capturing one of them at work at night than I had elsewhere in the garden….
And I know it is rather pathetic but I fear that that is all that I have to offer this week….
The combination of two book manuscripts to get to the publishers, one award closing for entry and the other one opening (Freefrom Eating Out and FreeFrom Food) and two conferences next week has meant that major garden redesign plans for next year have definitely been pushed into the long November evenings. Although I do realise that I cannot push them too far ahead it will be too late…. More anon!
Meanwhile, one that did not get into the wedding pics…. Little rosebuds on the table napkins. And yes, I do still have around 500 of them so if anyone has any bright ideas…..
13th August 2016
Only a very brief entry this week as I am still struggling to keep the flowers flowering as THE wedding is now only a week away… An early morning visit to Covent Garden market will, I hope fill any deficient gaps as will the fairy lights which I will try to catch for the next blog.
Meanwhile, don’t you just love this miniature gypsophila –
which appears again here along with that lovely dark blue lobelia…
And a week ago the herbaceous patch was still showing some colour… Sadly those roses are now gone and the peach rose is just coming back but…. If we have another mini heatwave, will they all be over by next weekend?…. Watch this space!
31st July 2016
Frustratingly, because we have a wedding to host in about three weeks time, the white climbing with rose is having an amazingly second flowering right now so is unlikely to still be going strong in three week’s time. Although, to be honest, it is so keen on climbing that most of its blossom can really only be see from my study or bedroom windows two stories up.
Because of the impending wedding (my son is getting married and the reception is to happen under a stretchy tent roof in the garden) my focus this year has been very much on white and anything that will still have some colour at the end of August. So, a lot of heuchera, a lot of Japanese anemones (not yet out but hopefully soon will be) and enormous quantities of white non-stop begonias, New Guineas and bizzie lizzies. None of them great for the bees but all of them just go on flowering all summer and – even better – slugs do not fancy them at all!!
I must admit that I have tempered the white a bit with pink, so the hanging basket which is normally deep red is white plus a really pretty white begonia with a pale pink edging. I was concerned that the white trailing begonias which do not tend to be quite as vigorous as red ones were never really going to make the grade but they do seem to be bulking out nicely.
Other pinks and whites are the selection of pots which now surround the pond – but again, can I keep them flowering for the next three weeks?….
However we do need another three weeks for the bougainvillea to fulfil their promise!! This is one of last year’s plants which is doing pretty well…
And this is a new one I got this year to encourage the others, which is going gangbusters!
But as for the others….. the white one I bought earlier this year is invisible, the two mini ones for last year are showing a prodigious amount of healthy green leaf but not a flower…. However, I will not despair as I did find this very pretty pink bract tucked round the back this morning so perhaps there is hope!!
Meanwhile, back to the white….
I have been dropping pots of New Guineas and bizzy lizzies into the ‘woodland grove’ at the back of the garden and given another few weeks they should be fully in blossom. More in two weeks’ time…
17th July 2016
It is roses all the way this week – and here is the peach rose I was going on about in the last issue – still looking amazing…..
And here it is again, making my lovely red and white striped rose on the right look very weedy and pathetic. But the weeping pear in the background is doing quite well.
The grass is looking surprisingly green but if you got a bit closer you would realise that the daffodil tick is still struggling. All daffs have now finally gone, I have filled the more gaping holes with more soil and sprinkled a great many grass seeds on top. I am sure I put far too many down…. I have been watering them assiduously – and so far they are doing well. Some very nice fluffy new green grass. Hopefully by this weekend I should be able to mow it.
Down the right hand side of the garden I have three pots of grasses. The right and left ones are striped tiger grasses – goodness knows what the middle one is. But the amazing thing about them is that they have all been there for at least five years and by now there cannot be any soil left in those pots. Moreover, they don’t get that much water although they are attached to the automatic watering system. But how do they grow?…..
Nor can I ever remember what this super vigorous plant is called. Super vigorous as it will happily double or triple its size every year and does not seem to mind having its roots being viciously chopped with a spade every spring. The little yellow sprigs of flowers are great as cut flowers while the texture of the leaves is such that they hold sparkling rain water droplets for hours.
And finally, more roses…. This lush flowering of the rose on the balcony has now become full blown and the blossoms are starting to fall, not helped by several torrential downpours. None the less they still look wonderful, especially when caught in the late afternoon sun with the rain drops still upon them.
2nd July 2016
The rose on the balcony outside the kitchen is truly magnificent this year – far too many blossoms to even count. I am not sure whether it is all the rain or just that it has finally reached full maturity. It is certainly nothing that I have done as I have really done nothing at all!!
There seems to be no logic to roses… This climber seems to go on and on with no help at all (this is another picture of it), as does the extraordinary floribunda peach rose that the Burgesses (they of D&D Chocolates) gave us about five years ago after they had stayed during an Allergy show.
It is massively vigorous with glossy green leaves and positively thousands of blossoms for months on end (image next post). Yet the pink rose next door is fairly pathetic – only a handful of flowers while even my lovely red and white striped rose can only come up with half a dozen flowers. But they are so gorgeous – see the last post – that I forgive it!
Elsewhere in the garden the pond is doing OK and will soon be taken over entirely by the creeping Jenny. However, we do have a little water lily in there looking quite healthy although to date it has not produced a flower. We live in hopes…
Down the bottom of the garden the orange blossom is in full flow – with Tawny Pipit and the little weeping pear tree getting thoroughly drenched in falling blossoms.
Meanwhile, the daffodil leaves have finally almost entirely died down – just one or two still hanging in there. The grass beneath is in pretty poor shape, made worse by a lot of moss which has, of course, been greatly encouraged by all the rain. I have been heaving it out by the handful while trying to fill the very uneven lumpy bits with some sandy lawn soil. I then scatter this very liberally with grass seed and, despite the best efforts of a number of very overfed pigeons, I did notice some new shoots today. So fingers crossed that it may grow over in a month or two.
However, my big success story is the bougainvilleas.
Now, I cannot pretend that the mirror is covered with gloriously blossoming branches but…… Last year’s bougainvilleas are, despite the total lack of sun and general wintery conditions, not only sprouting leaves but the first colourful bracts!!! Admittedly these are the only ones so far, but, they have got start somewhere…..
Finally, the large numbers of white non-stop white begonias with which I have filled the garden this year in preparation for the wedding that we are hosting in August, are doing fine – although they are getting sadly beaten by the rain. But they do look beautiful with all of those raindrops.
17th June 2016
The little acacia tree in its massive pot at the bottom of the garden has survived the winter and is now almost in full leaf – here it is with the early morning sun slanting in from the east.
Further down the garden the sun also caught the one and only poppy which has flowered in the middle of the daffodil tick!! This was my totally daft scheme to have wild flowers blooming in the middle of the daffodil tick just as the daffs ended but – in as much as they bloom at all (not much!) the poppies do so well over a month after the last daffodil flower has withered! Not one of my better ideas so this weekend they are coming out and moving into pot. I need to think of something else to fill the daffodil tick until the leaves have died down and I can mow them out of existence until next spring.
Further down the garden still my very favourite red and white striped rose is in full bloom. It does not last for that long, but it does look so absolutely stunning that I really don’t mind. It never really seem right that all of these wonderful variegated and striped blossoms (rose and tulips especially) are actually the result of sickness, not of health!
While waiting for the rest of the roses to come into bloom I have been splashing out on heucheras. We are hosting a wedding dinner in the garden in late August which is absolutely the worst time for flowers so I am casting around for plants which will still be in full flush in late August – and heucheras certainly fill the bill.
I don’t remember what the name of this one is but it is amazing. Huge soft leaves which positively glow both in the sun and in the shade – and which just go on, and on, and on…
We also have deep red heucheras, lime green heacheras, lambent pink heucheras, terra cotta heucheras and this extraordinary back silk heuchera. It does not look at all black in this image but it is so weird that I really thought I had to include it….
27th May 2016
The wisteria was in full flow by the time we got back from Italy ten days ago – although sadly it is now already over.
A little longer lasting is the ceanothus as the back of the garden, seen here with the rhus continus which was just coming into leaf. I originally planted the cotinus because I was hoping for those wonderful wispy seed heads but, unfortunately, you really need full sun to get those and this poor plant is right at the back of the garden and rarely gets a look at the sun at all, let alone full sun! Still it does look good against the golden acacia which is still growing in its pot at the back. Fingers crossed that my latest attempt to grow it in a hideously inappropriate place is more successful than the two previous ones. An image to come next time when it is properly in leaf.
Meanwhile, the wild garlic which I bought up from my friend’s garden in Dorset a few years ago has successfully colonised the back of the garden and is doing is best to spread out into the grass!
Down at the sunny end, the mauve clematis that used to grow up the mirror in a pot, rather unhappily, got moved to the sunny wall and seems a lot happier – though I note that it has only actually produced single flowers this year, not the double ones that it is meant to produce. But then I don’t think that I did much about feeding it and generally lavishing it with tlc….
However, I have to report that the bougainvilleas, on which I certainly did lavish truck loads of tlc, while still alive and growing, are VERY far from their floriferous best! Indeed, you almost need a magnifying glass to see the little new leaves breaking forth so whether they are ever actually going to actually get the point of flowering again is distinctly in doubt. I have weakened to the point of buying one new one to boost one pot and I think that, if I see another one in Columbia Road market on Sunday, I just might buy another – if only to show mine what they are meant to be looking like!!
Never mind, the flame azalea that also came from the back of the garden a few years ago is doing its very best to show everyone what a properly flowering shrub should do and is really looking rather fine!
14th May 2016
When we headed for Italy last weekend the clematis, May blossom, wisteria and early golden roses were all bursting their buds but had not quite made it into flower so I decided to move round to the front garden which does not very often get a look in on this blog!
So here we go with the cherry tree – magnificent if only for a few days before the winds got at it….
Below the cherry one one side is our lovely white (well, red and white) camellia. He is now at least 30 years old and each year produces more ‘sports’ – some fully red as the ones in this picture, some pale pink and some with just a few pink petals. I doubt that it will be in my time but I wonder if he will finally revert entirely to red….
And finally, also under the cherry, our pieris. I know that in theory no colours can clash in nature but somehow this has never seemed a match made in heaven… Moreover, he has got a big leggy over the last few years. But then he is meant to be a forest tree and possibly he is just feeling rather cramped in a London front garden – especially when he has to share it with a cherry, a camellia, an acer and an extremely rampant jasmine!
30th April 2016
Yes, this week it is definitely all about bluebells! Here they are clustered around the pond which is now looking a lot cleaner and healthier though we do need to do something about it surround…. The old wooden edging has seriously seen better days but this alternative does look very garden-centre-y… Need to work on it.
Meanwhile Tawny Pipit and Arwen are both enjoying the remains of the Ice Follies. Arwen firmly believes that once he gets inside the tick he becomes invisible so does spend a good deal of time dodging in a out!
Back on the patio things are not looking quite so tidy…
I had actually unwrapped the bougainvilleas in the hopes that spring had come and that all would now be well. However, the Siberian winds that have been howling through north London for the last ten days decided me that spring had definitely not arrived so I wrapped them up again, at least partially, and plugged in their heater once more….
However, I have been doing some work on the patio itself, thanks to the most amazing new tool that I discovered from Burgon & Ball – a Block paving knife! In fact, I have become a total Burgon & Ball groupie as their tools are just so beautiful that you want to have them even if you are never going to use them! As a result I am now also the proud owner of a dandelion weeder, a daisy grubber and a mid-handled trowel…. I must admit that I have not yet used either the dandelion weeder or the daisy grubber, but the mid handled trowel is a revelation! You could not believe how much extra purchase that longer handles gives you – makes digging things up just so much easier!
I have also discovered that the curious but lovely cutting device I was given as a gift and few years ago and have been using for trimming lawn edges is actually a sheep shearing tool! (I can’t quite work out whether mine is the Australian and New Zealand pattern or the African pattern….) Apparently Burgon & Ball are the largest manufacturers of sheep shearing tools in the world – and they have been at it since 1730! But this sheep shearer (which is self sharpening – how clever is that?…) is also used for topiary – apart from being really good for edging. So if anyone just happens to want to give me a present…..
But finally, a hint of what we hope will be colourful summer to come. I could not resist these ranunculus. Not quite as pretty as the ones I found last year which were pure white with a tiny rim of pink round the edge of the petals, but pretty good. How do they manage to cram so many petals into one flower? (In case you are wondering – beer pots already installed. Apparently this is going to be a bad summer for slugs and snails….)
15th April 2016
The proof that spring is here – the forsythia has arrived…. And so have the bluebells….
You cannot really see the leaves breaking out on the bigger trees at the back of the garden but you can certainly see them on the little weeping pear…
Meanwhile, last year’s chard is still going strong – if little chewed….
But the Ice Follies are definitely done……….. These are the very last ones, looking a bit sorry for themselves!!
15th March 2016
Early morning sun on the Ice Follies….
Poor things have had pretty rough run year this year. First it was far too warm far too early, so they came rushing up – only to be hit by the February freeze. The freeze abated slightly but was instantly replaced by howling gales and sluicing rain – which firmly flattened a good number of them.
They were just managing to get back on their feet when the young foxes arrived – well, I am assuming it was young foxes although I was not up early enough to see them.
They like to play catch in the garden – and if a swathe of Ice follies is in the way – tough…. So each morning I was greeted with more flattened Follies, broken off at ground level presumably by pounding paws! And then finally….. the squirrels got in on the act! Apparently they like the little pools of dew which accumulate in upturned flowers – so they just bite them off to get at the dew! So far this week, I must have picked up at least ten stalkless blossoms a day!!! Well at least they look pretty in a dish.
Meanwhile, I thought that fox-massacred ones looked very pretty in this vase – rather subtle lighting, it seems to me – but Arwen could not see any reason why I should wish to just photograph boring daffodils when I could have included him in the picture… See below!
I keep feeling that I really ought to be getting out and ‘doing’ something more positive in the garden – even it is only refurbishing the pond (the pump died at the end of last summer). Or making another attempt to transplant the over enthusiastic Mind-your-own-business from the herbaceous patch, which it is rapidly over-running, to the back of the garden where I hope it is going to make a soft green cushion were no grass will grow. (I did try this last year but did not give it enough TLC – and water – so most of it gave up the unequal struggle.)
But somehow, it has not yet been quite warm enough for me to get out those gardening gloves – maybe over the coming weekend….
However, I should note that both that the bougainvilleas, in their cosy, electric-warmed, fleece corner, do at least seem to be still alive – and that my hellebore patch, swelled by a most welcome Christmas gift, is still flowering a treat!!
7th February 2016
As you can see, the Ice Follies are already well up and are threatening to burst their buds any moment. Down Lawn Road I have seen camellias in full flower and next door’s magnolia has positively bursting buds. No sign of anything on our own pink camellia down the bottom of the garden as yet, while the white one in the front is always quite late.
Meanwhile the grass/moss lawn is soggy beyond belief and very long in patches – goodness only knows how I will get it back into any sort of shape….
Never mind, the japonica, always harbinger of spring, is looking very pretty. Just hope we do not get the threatened freeze which frizzles up all its blossoms!
23rd January 2016
Well, no snow – but one little clump of snowdrops….
And really nothing else apart from soggy, mossy grass, the few daffs that had poked their noses up a few weeks ago – and a raid on the bug house!!
Not sure who but someone has ripped out its middle….. I don’t know when it happened so have not idea whether hundreds of bugs were put to flight – but when it gets a bit more attractive and will go and do some repairs.
Meanwhile, with the cold weather the birds are back – especially the parakeets!!
But will all be glad to hear that the heater did arrive for the bougainvilleas before the worst of last week’s ice and snow. So now they are wrapped in several layers of big bubble wrap plus several layers of fleece which wrap over their heads. And in the middle of it all a low wattage heater keeping, we hope, their feet nice and warm….
9th January 2016
Happy New Year to all – although it is still so balmy that it feel more like Happy Easter than Happy New Year!
This is the white viburnum outside the front door which, as you can see, flowers with great vim and vigour at a really flower-poor time the year – and it really doesn’t get the credit it deserves. So here it is – a full page image! I always feel so sorry for it as it obviously wants to be a 40 foot high tree but because of where it is, it gets pruned to death every spring so that we can still get up the steps to the front door. But it is not giving up!
Very little of interest elsewhere except for the lovely hellebores who are nodding gently at the back the herbaceous patch. I was delighted to have their number doubled by a Christmas present so now there is a decent hellebore grove defying the downpours and glowing gently in their corner.
Meanwhile, the Ice Follies who really should not stick their noses above ground until March are already in evidence – as you can see. Goodness knows what will happen to them if the ice and snows do arrive in February….
5th December 2015
Looking down on the flame azalea on the patio. It has wonderful terrace cotta flowers in spring, then looks really boring all summer before having a quick burst of colour in the autumn – then goes back to being boring all winter!!
Meanwhile, down the back of the garden my attempts to achieve winter dogwood flames are not entirely unsuccessful – although when you look at a ‘mature planting’ (see the picture below from Crocus nurseries) my efforts look pretty pathetic….
Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ can create an amazing winter display, but it does need massed plants which spend the summer in the sun and have been around or a few years so as to have developed some fairly dense branches. (The idea is that you cut them down viciously at the end of each winter so that they shoot lots of new slim branches all of which turn gold and red creating a blaze come next winter.)
I wanted to create this down the bottom of the garden to brighten up those dreary November days but, to have any hope of success, the dogwoods need lots of sun in the summer. Something they are never going to get down the bottom of the garden! So this spring I uprooted them all, potted them up and plonked them onto patio near the house where they did get lots of sun – well as much sun as this summer afforded us anyhow. They certainly did grow rather more enthusiastically and when I transferred the pots down the bottom of the garden last week, you did sort of get an idea of what they could look like in another year or two when those spindly little branches have become more numerous and more vigorous. Well, here’s hoping anyhow….
21st November 2015
Amazingly, that apricot rose is not only still flowering but has lots of buds – although whether they will survive this weekend’s sudden chill is another matter….
But elsewhere it is all about wrapping up for the winter – especially for the bougainvilleas…. I did buy some fleece some weeks ago but it has been so warm that I had done very little about it. Fortunately a few days ago I did think I had better at least wrap some around the pots – not very efficiently but better than nothing . Also fortunately, last night’s and this morning’s chill has mainly been a chill and vigorous wind and since they are very well protected in their spot on the patio I am hoping they did no more than gently shiver last night!
The website that I looked at said that it is a good idea to use large bubble bubble wrap around the pots (makes sense – good insulation in those bubbles) and then to wrap the fleece around over that. So I have wrapped, and pinned and tucked the fleece behind the trellis so now all I can do it hope for the best!!
7th November 2015
All about leaves…..
…and hydrangeas… and pyracantha…
…and more leaves…
and yet more leaves….
From the top, the back of the garden with a multiplicity of leaves – most which fall on the roof of the summerhouse and have to be picked off by hand!! Why? Well, because otherwise they bed down into the sedum and smother it.
I very nearly lost the lot a few years ago because I failed to clear the leaves. The sedum could not grow through them. So the sedum retreated and a whole load of different mini weeds moved in! It has taken me two years of hand weeding and leaf clearing down to the tiniest little bits, to get the sedum back to a reasonably healthy coverage. At this time of year I have to do it probably twice a week. But I can’t say that I mind – it is really peaceful up there with my leaf bag, especially on a pleasant sunny afternoon!!
Anyhow, below the hydrangeas is the big acer on the left the garden and below that the miniature acer in the front garden that I inherited from my mother 40 years ago! It is still miniature in that it stand less than three feet tall, but it has seriously spread outwards! It goes the most amazing shades of red in the autumn, as you can see – although this has not been one of it more vibrant years.
And finally, this is what the ground under that golden acer will look like in just about ten days time….
24th October 2015
Really very little to report in the garden this week, beyond some more leaves falling and the gradual turning of the trees. This is our golden ash – Fraxinus excelsior ‘Jaspidea’ for those who want to address it formally!
Last year it had me really worried as, with all the talk of ‘ash die back’, I was concerned that what looked like seed pods was actually dying ash – but no, I am relieved to say that they were just seed pods! Because it is quite tight up against the sunless, north facing right hand wall, it has taken it quite along time to get going – it is now 15 years old – but now that it has got its head above the ivy it is looking lot happier.
The acer on the other side of the garden is also turning nicely but I am hoping that it may become rather more vibrant. Although I notice that some of the leaves are now actually curling so maybe this is going be a great year for apples (but not for us! poor sad little dead apple tree….) but not for colour.
The only area of the garden which does not seem to have noticed that autumn has arrived is the pond and its pots which are still flowering as thought it was mid July! I am assuming that this cannot go on for ever and am proposing to replace them with cyclamen in due course.
He is also doing his best to persuade Boris that he really is still kitten and does want to play! Boris is not at all sure about this, but is sort of getting the hang of it, in a middle aged sort of a way. More of them anon but meanwhile here they are just waiting to go out and chase those leaves…
10th October 2015
The spiders’ webs this year have been wonderful. This one met me as I went down the steps to the garden few days ago – stretched right across the steps. In fact, it was a perfect circle when I first saw it but in the process of removing Arwen off my shoulder, we managed to knock the bottom of it!
I have been trying to ‘even out’ the lawn as, next August, we will be hosting a ‘significant event’ in the garden which will require marquees and dance floors – and a relatively even base for them! We had a had a wonderful man here from the Stretch Tent Company who suggested, tactfully, that although stretching tent material from tree to tree wouldn’t be a problem, we did possibly need to do something to even out the lawn (it never really quite recovered from planting the daffodil tick!). He recommended lawn top soil and sand.
So I have been dutifully filling in holes (and yes, there are rather a lot of them) and sprinkling on some ancient, but obviously still alive and kicking, grass seed that I found in the shed. The result has been seriously active growth!
Another sure sign of autumn are the pretty little wild cyclamen that have reappeared down the dark right hand side of the garden. Bless them, they don’t seem to be in the least bothered that they absolutely never see the sun. But I do have to be careful of them in my keen autumn mowing…
Also down the sunless right had wall is the bug house that I ‘built’ last year and which, as far as I know, is home to colonies of snug and happy bugs! You can’t really tell with looking inside it – which would be mega disruptive for the bugs!
And finally – another late summer flower-er. I hadn’t realised it was even there but one of last year’s nasturtiums hung on in there and is now in full flood!
25th September 2015
Ah yes – a real autumnal sight… The pyracantha berries. Not that they will last very long if previous years are anything to go by. About two weeks and the branches will have been picked bare.
Elsewhere, the grass is amazingly green and growing faster than it did for most of the rest of the summer but there is not much else to report – apart from this late flowering of a new pink rose sitting in front of the hydrangea. (I would have sworn that that hydrangea was white! Do the blossoms change colour?)
The chard is doing fine – and is great to hide behind! We must have had at least half dozen pickings off it over the summer! Very exciting for someone who has managed to kill parsley in her time! Mind you, I was heavily helped in killing the parsley by the slugs….
But I do seem, this summer, to have put a blight on the borage which everyone assured me was totally impossible to kill and would take over the garden. I was expecting a lovely compact, fast growing bush covered in those pretty pale blue flowers – but all I got was a few long and straggly stems with a couple of manky flowers on the end which did not even come out properly…..
Still, I can always console myself with the bougainvilleas….. This was, I must admit, a couple of weeks ago, but although they are now starting to lose their flowers they are still looking pretty healthy. Now to install their electric blanket…..
By the next newsletter I expect that I will be showing you pictures of turning leaves on the acers – but for now they remain green – and great for learning how to climb trees!
11th September 2015
It may be late in the summer but the trailing begonias in the hanging basket are still amazing. They are so long now that they have met with the geraniums in the pot below! I have no idea how much longer they can go on, as they are in a really very small basket – but I suspect that they will suddenly just collapse one morning and that will be it.
To be honest , although they are not the most natural or bee-friendly of flowers (but I do have lots of other bee-friendly flowers so I do not feel too bad…) begonias are amazingly good value in terms of flowers. I bought these white begonias, that Arwen is dong his best to destroy, right at the beginning of the summer and they have just gone on, and on, and on – and are still going on….
Sadly the same cannot be said for our little apple tree… I noticed, about three weeks ago, that its leaves did not look too healthy. When I looked following day they looked even worse and then – literally overnight – it and gone! Dead as a dodo…
I have combed my various books and the internet for ‘apple diseases’ and I think it looks like honey fungus as it died more or less overnight and the lower bark is all crabby and damaged. I shall obviously have to dig it out and get rid of it – and I am assuming that it would be dangerous to plant another one in that site so not quite sure what I shall do…
Another autumnal success has been the coleus that my good gardening friend Anne grew for me. The joy of coleus is that they are really not interested in the sun. So you can tuck them into the darkest corner and they will continue glow vibrantly. I have this little clutch right down at the bottom of the garden which gets virtually no sun and, along with the golden acacia, they really lift that dark end. They are also incredibly easy to grow – even I have managed to root them! Just break off a stem, bung it in a glass of water and leave it and, in a couple of weeks it will have grown very healthy roots and is ready to be planted.
And just to finish, I have to say that….. the bougainvilleas are still doing a treat!! I am now working out whether I could wrap the whole area in fleece over the winter and put in a tiny heater to keep them above that dreaded 3 degrees at which they will keel over and freeze to death….
27th August 2015
Well, this week’s garden blog was meant to feature lovely pictures of guests to the FoodsMatter summer party cavorting around the sunny garden, playing with Arwen and filling their faces with delicious freefrom food but…. As you can see, on Sunday it was tipping down the rain.
Fortunately, however, John Scott who has been turning me green with envy with tales of his pond and his frogs (here it is very soon after he installed it) has just sent me some pictures of his latest residents. This was the email he sent me about a week ago…
It’s still a bit quiet online, but at least I’ve got a gazillion little frogs to amuse me in the garden! They’re all about one inch long now and are literally all over he place. We only have to brush past a plant and they scatter like buckshot. They’re so light that they can hop along leaves without bending the stems, and one was in such a hurry to escape from me today that it fell head over heels as it jumped across a small hosta, its little legs waving frantically in the air as it somersaulted across the leaf. Hilarious!
We also found an adult toad about a week ago, under a dustbin. We didn’t know we had any toads, so this was quite a find. It was a timid little thing, not at all bold like the frogs. Nature is so amazing in its diversity!
And here are his frogs…. A cool dude…
and a sleepy toad…
If you want a run down on the ‘freefrom’ lunch – no recipes but lots of ideas – check into the main blog here.
I was seriously excited when we got back from Italy. The rest of the garden looked distinctly rain beaten (we did get back in the middle one of those torrential downpours) but the bougainvilleas were positively beaming!!
(Btw, if you would like to hear about the delights of the Italian hills – and they were delightful – check in here.)
What I had not reckoned on, however, was the speed at which sweet pea flowers turn themselves into peas – highly poisonous, I am told by Cressida, and NOT to be added to the salad. The lovely rash of flower we had left behind had entirely disappeared to replace by bulging pods!! These have now been firmly removed and I hope we will get a new burst of flower.
Outside bougainvillea land there is not a great deal to report. Not, I am sad to say, a sniff or a sound of a frog – although the creeping Jenny and the little astilbe have been loving the rain. And the pond, after all its traumas earlier in the year, seems to be in fine fettle. There has been no further sign of the waterlily but the water forget-me-nots that I popped in to hide the ravages of the various emptyings, look really pretty.
Elsewhere, my little patch of multicoloured chard is looking very healthy and I think we might even need to eat some of it soon…
While the pot of coleus that my gardening friend Anne gave me a few months ago has gone mad! I already have three vases full of huge leaves with hundreds of roots just waiting to be planted out while the original pot, which I moved down the the bottom of the garden under the trees where it gives a great splash of colour, is postively bulging and badly needs more leaves to be removed and grown on. Even I seem unable to kill a coleus cutting!!!
However, I must admit to less success this year with the nasturciums which I had thought were also unkillable. We had and lots last year so, having moved all the pots of Cornus Sanguinea Midwinter Fire onto the barbecue to soak up the sun ready to set fire to the bottom of the garden over the winter – I thought I would surround them with a wall of nasturciums. Seemed like a great idea and it did work to begin with, as you can see – by now they are looking very sad. Not sure whether they have been over/under watered – too much sun/not enough – or maybe they just do not like sharing the pots with the cornus. Oh well, can’t win ’em all…
14th July 2015
I have just come to write up the garden diary for this weekend and realise that the last entry seems to have totally disappeared….. Or did I never actually upload it?… The images are still in the image library but the blog seems to have gone!!! How weird…
But that means that you may never have heard about the regeneration of the bougainvilleas! Yes, here they are looking decidedly healthier and more promising, even if not yet quite wall covering… (Although they might look better without the photographer in the background…) And indeed, two weeks on they are looking even better with lots of new leaves and flowers, happily mingling with the random sweet pea that snuck in amongst them. So now all we have to do is to keep them alive over the winter…. Might be easier said than done!
Moreover, you might not have heard about our happy collision with a migration of baby frogs on Hampstead Heath. Two children were having a brilliant time trying to catch them so we got an abandoned plastic cup out of a rubbish bin and together got about ten of them into the cup. Clutching it carefully we made record time home and then decanted them into the pond…
As you can see, they are really tiny but they did seem very much alive! They leapt out of the plastic cup onto our carefully positioned leaf and from there into the water – and swam away at Olympic speed – never, of course to be seen again? Well, not so far anyhow but I am assured by those who know about these things, that they could hide in the bottom of and for months and pop out when you least expect them. So we hope on….
So, having brought you up to date with those two essential bits of news….
Thanks to the super dry weather we have had over the last weeks/months, the so-called lawn looks like an outcrop of the Mojave desert – sandy brown with a few outcrops of straggly grass and the odd rather dispirited daisy…. However, the herbaceous patch is still looking pretty lush although not quite as lush now as it was in this photo two weeks ago as the sidalcea (those pink spikes), which had gone totally mad, is now nearly over.
Not only is it a wonderful colour but it is the MOST proliferous rose I have ever seen. Itseems to be fuelled by rocket power as it grows huge multi-stemmed branches each without about twenty blooms and as soon as they are over, off it goes with another mass of branches and blossoms!
And finally, the pond seems to have entirely recovered from its travails and we might even have a mini water lily coming through…. There are certainly is something that looks like waterlily leaves although, as yet, no sign of a flower. Fingers crossed….
20th June 2015
For about one week each year, the left hand side of the garden is a sea of white – emerging elderflowers, pyracantha in full bloom and our white climbing rose. Sadly it does not last as the pyracantha flowers all too soon turn brown, rather spoiling the effect!
The dry weather has left the lawn looking a bit like an outcrop of the Sahara but it has had the benefit of keeping the slugs and snails at bay – helped, I do believe by my mineralised straw mulch! I surrounded the delphiniums with loads of it but, instead of ‘sogging it up’ as recommended I decided to leave it dry, on the basis that slugs and snails hate the dry…. Well, it certainly seems to have worked round the delphiniums, as you can see, although it failed pretty abysmally with my beautiful pink and white double ranunculus – not to mention the alliums which got cut off in mid stalk!!! I replaced the ranunculus with some nicotiana which are flourishing but, whether that is because slugs and snails do not like nicotiana or because of the drought I am not sure…
Meanwhile we have had great dramas with the pond over the last few weeks… You may remember that I had invested in some Viresco Aqua which was meant to clear its murky revoltingness and leave it clear and sparkling? Well we did a bit of general pond maintenance, cleared out and reset the pump and the jar the water spews out of and went off for the weekend. But when we got back, apart from a dirty puddle in the bottom, the pond was empty!!
Eeek! Leak? Couldn’t be. No – the pump – my pond expert friend said. So we took it all apart again, Sugru’d up any possible leaks in the joints, filled up the pond and went off to Barcelona for the FreeFrom Europe show, sure that all would now be well. But no – on our return we found a gasping pump and a dirty puddle in the bottom once again. Inspiration finally struck – and be warned any of you who wish to use a jar to make your pond look beautiful! Last year, the jar lay, as it does now, almost totally horizontal – flat on the ground. But when we did the revamp, we set it much more upright. Result? Half the water was trickling down the side of the jar into the ground instead of back into the pond!
Anyhow, it is all still looking a bit the worse for wear – and I need to do something to conceal all those horrible pipes – but the water is crystal clear and ALL running back into the pond! And I am just keeping my fingers crossed that the water lilies may still recover from their double drying out.
Nearly all the flowers have fallen but, although it looks pretty miserable, I think I have noticed some new green leaves. So maybe they just need so time to accustom themselves to their new home… (Just so you know what they are meant to look like, below are some that we found in Barcelona!)
Meanwhile a random pot of sweet peas, which turned up in one of my Columbia Road buys, is going great guns, so maybe we will end up with sweet peas all over the mirror this year instead! Could be worse!
6th June 2015
Knowing that I was going to be away this week, last weekend I went out take some picture of the garden – in the rain…. But actually, I am not sure that some of those flowers do not look better in the rain than that bleaching sun….
These are the pale pink roses onto terrace outside the kitchen and below are the heuchera in full glow, and some pretty blue scabias, newcomers to the herbaceous patch.
Mind you, they are about the only bit of the herbaceous patch that is not deeply and lusciously green…. Can anyone tell me what that very keen, deeply cut leaved plant is? I obviously planted it last year but I haven’t a clue what it is!! The heron looks as though he would quite like to know too…
Down the garden I am afraid that my scheme for a poppy-filled daffodil tick has not quite gone to plan… The daffs are all dying off as they should and I trimmed all the grass between them – by hand – in the hopes that when I finally cut them down the grass will not look quite as manky as it did last year. So they now look sort of architectural…. Well, that is what I tell myself.
However, the other part of the plan was that the centre should be filled with vibrant poppies which would entirely distract your eye from the dying daffs. The problem is that, whether because we have had such freezing spring, or whether because it was just a bad idea anyhow, the poppies are definitely struggling – as you can see! These are the only two (of about ten) that have managed any flower at all, although a couple of others do have the odd bud. Hey ho….
Meanwhile…. I am slightly nervous about my bougainvillaeas….. I know that the weather has not been exactly tropical as they would like, but I am not sure that they look too happy…. Maybe I am just being a bougainvillea hypochondriac! Hope so…
23rd May 2015
Our lovely deep pink May tree is in full flower right now, although the flowers will start to be overtaken by the leaves very soon – as will the flowers on the ceanothus down the bottom of the garden.
This poor ceanothus has never really been appreciated as I have always resented the fact that it was sold to me as that really dark blue that is so spectacular – not this slightly wishy washy Cambridge blue!! But is does look pretty right now!
I did a lot of moving stuff around earlier in the spring and one of the better moves was to take the Golden Showers rose which had never been that happy in a pot on the patio and move it down into the ground. Just look how well it has responded to getting its feet into some proper earth!!
However, the major excitement of the last two weeks has been getting my hands on some bougainvilleas. I know that bougainvilleas are very definitely tropical plants and will usually only grow in the UK in a conservatory, but our patio at the back of the house is so protected and gets full morning and midday sun that I thought it was worth a try. They will also be grown up against our mirror which should reflect extra sun and heat back on to them – although looking out the window at the rain pouring down as I write, that does seem bit of a joke….
That said, actually getting hold of any colours other than the original purple proved to be a bit of a mission. Having tried Columbia Road and all the local and not so local garden centres, I finally had to go to Ayletts in St Albans and even then could only get pink and dusty pink – not the vibrant organ that I had really been looking for.
However, Boris, having taken a good look around, thinks they make a decent enough perch for watching what is going on…
Although he did get rather fed up with us interrupting his survey by flashing cameras at him – well, that is….
Until he realised how well that mauve aquilegia set off his ginger fur…..
8th May 2015
What is rather bizarre about our now rampant wisteria, climbing here through the pyracantha, is that for 35 years it sat there and did absolutely nothing! It was here in 1978 when we bought the house and in subsequent years, I did everything I could to encourage it, as I love wisteria. But, to no avail. It totally refused to even grow much, let alone flower so I gave up and completely forgot it was even there. And then, about three springs ago, I noticed these mauve flowers poking through the pyracantha… And now you can’t stop it! It is through the pyracantha, the may tree, the elder and the acer and it just keeps on going…. So what happened? Search me….
Meanwhile the new begonia hanging basket is looking promising although it has a long way to go!
The pond, however, is murky mess…. On a friend’s recommendation I have just bought some Viresco Aqua which ‘contains a microbial mixture that will starve algae… while its organic waste digester will eliminate pond detritus – yet it remains completely harmless to wild birds, fish, frogs, newts , plants, insects and humans!!’ Not that, sadly, we as yet have any frogs which it could harm. I am told that by year three they will come, as manna from heaven, and take up residence…… I live in hope. Anyhow, thanks to some more of those very jolly £1 non-stop begonias and ranunculas the eye is distracted from the murky water!
Next job is to fill the remaining gaps in the herbaceous patch. Some of last year’s delphiniums have survived and I have just planted some more along with purple hollyhocks, gypsophila and lots of pale blue and white scabious. And there are a whole lot of exciting things coming up from last year although I actually haven’t a clue what they are…. Treats in store!
Meanwhile I definitely do know what these heuchera are – and they are coming along a treat!
25th April 2015
As the years go by our white camellia develops more and more red and pink ‘sports’. I wonder if, eventually, it will return to a totally red bush….
But it is really only within the last couple of days that the trees have finally started to come into leaf. It seems to me that this is VERY late….. Mind you, it must have been very confusing for nature in general as, in the sun over the last ten days, it has been really hot – but as soon as the sun goes in, the chill east wind dramatically reduces the air temperature backdown to early March levels! As a result everything seems to be very late. Progress has not been helped by the lack of rain – but this has meant that there has been a glorious dearth of slugs and snails and, so far, my young delphiniums have been left to grow un-munched!! I have just surrounded them with thick piles of mineralised straw mulch, but as yet, have left it dry…. Watch this space!!
Meanwhile, I did make a trip to Columbia Road flower market last weekend and bought these wonderful pink ranunculus.
I just love ranunculus – how can they possibly have so many petals?….. And look at those colours….Aren’t they just the prettiest things?
And I have surrounded my pink ranunculus with the most amazing white non-stop begonias. Goodness knows whether they will last as I assume that they must have been dramatically forced as they should not be in flower for another month so! But they were only a pound each so how could one have resisted them!!
28th March 2015
Here are the Ice Follies, just coming into their own last week – and here they are in close up this morning!
Indeed, it is just as well they are in full flower as there is very little movement elsewhere in the garden. My friend Prudence (she of the Ice Follies) blames it all on the eclipse. She maintains that nature does not take kindly to the sun disappearing, even only very briefly, as the sudden chill stops it in its tracks. Certainly, there is a total dearth of leaf, or even bud, on our trees and I am sure that we would normally have them in bud at least by the end of March. Still the forsythia is trying…
As bonus though, we have been visited by a Greater Spotted Woodpecker! Very flashy, although I have not really managed to catch his red bum very well here. I am afraid that he was far too intent on getting his beak into the coconut fat balls to be too worried about posing for the camera!
Just to finish off I had to add the amazing primroses from Sue Cane’s garden in Dorset. They live on a hill in the middle of a mini forest and at this time of year their cottage is entirely surrounded by a carpet of primroses!
14th March 2015
But in the garden things are, at last, starting to happen.
This was our Ice Folly tick a couple of days ago and, this morning, a few of those buds have just burst into bloom – by next week it will be in full flood and, I hope, will last for nearly a month.
This year I have planted a whole load more poppies down the middle of the tick in the hopes that, once the Ice Folly flowers have finished but the leaves are dying off, we will have a blaze of poppy down the centre. Watch this space.
Meanwhile, the pond is looking rather murky and in need of some TLC. I have invested in some mineralised straw mulch which, according to Bunny Guinness on Gardeners’ Question Time, is amazing at deterring slugs and snails. When it arrives I intend to entirely surround the pond in a thick layer in the hope that the lovely little variegated hostas that I planted round it last year will survive for more than week!!
In the same week I saw, on Gardeners’ World…. that someone had used MindYourOwnBusiness to ‘carpet’ a lawn in the dark end of a town garden. So I have also transplanted some of the extremely over enthusiastic MYOB on the patio to the rather gloomy back end of the garden. It looks distinctly patchy right now but, once again – watch this space!!
Finally, a little more colour. Ever faithful, every year since we came here in the late 1970s, the japonica against the wall has been the first to greet the spring from its protected corner down by the house. Once again this year it has even beaten the forsythia into flower!
14th February 2015
Yes, it really is a dreary February morning…. A few daffodils poking their noses up rather gingerly, a lot of leaves, a lot of dead grasses and, this morning – drizzle…..
Only two rays of hope – my pink hellebore which seems to be flourishing…
And, outside the front door, the viburnum – eek, don’t know which one…. It obviously loves it up here but has a hard time as it would really love to grow to about 30 feet high and wide. But, if it goes much above five, we can’t get up the front steps! So it is mercilessly pruned twice a year and each time has to start all over again. Maybe that is why it is flowering so hard!!
Fingers crossed for something more exciting by the beginning of March….
31st January 2015
Very bizarrely, this pink rose appeared on the balcony outside the kitchen about a week ago – in January! Not only is it weird to have it suddenly flowering in January but we did not see it at all over the summer! We did have lots of roses on balcony over the summer, but they were all ivory coloured – not pink one to be seen… Explain that!
Maybe it is the pink rose that has also attracted a paid of green paraqueets who have started making family regular visits to the bird feeders. I am not mad on having them as visitors as I fear that they may scare the small birds away – but they are rather beautiful…
They always seem to come together so I am wondering whether paraqueets, like swans, mate for life. Moreover, it also looks as though one has a pink and black ring around its neck while the other doesn’t, so maybe this is a male and female. Any suggestions?
I must admit that there is not much sign of the small birds being frightened off – especially as we have just added a squirrel proof peanut holder. Not, to be honest, so much for the benefit of the birds but so that we could watch the squirrels trying to get their heads round how to get into it. But sadly, so far, they have paid it no attention at all!
Meanwhile, down in the garden, the cyclamen hanging basket is still going strong although the very pretty pink frilly cyclamens below it (featured below….) seem to have given up the struggle against those squirrels who have shown no interest in my peanuts. I suspect that those cyclamen corms just smelt too good…
There are also a pretty generous sprinkling daffodils pushing up their leaves – you can almost see the shape of out daffodil tick. But if the weather stays this cold I suspect they will stay just the way they are for a while longer yet.
That is certainly what the japonica has decided to do…. I took those photographs couple of weeks ago when the weather was relatively balmy. Since then it has got decidedly chillier and the japonica has obviously regretted its foolhardiness it putting out a bud so early as it has not moved a centimetre. And if it has any sense, nor will it for a good few weeks…
17th January 2015
Oh dear, I thought this morning – poor garden, it looks very wintry, I won’t be able to find a thing in it to photograph…. But how wrong I was!
First of all there was our heron, standing tall amongst the leaves and glad to see and be seen. Once the summer returns he disappears behind the tall variegated miscanthus, the cardoon and the hydrangea.
But nestling in just behind the heron I found a little pink hellebore that I had completely forgotten that I had planted, just showing its first flowers, and, above its head, the delicate red twigs of the new acer branches.
Down at the bottom of the garden my plan for a winter fireball is sort of coming into shape although it will take a few years yet to reach full glory. Cornus sanguinea is a spectacular dogwood whose new wood is golden yellow, turning red at the tips. Planted close together in banks it makes the most wonderful winter show and I thought it would brighten up the bottom of the winter garden a treat.
My problem is that at the moment I have one decent sized bush and four tiny ones so I think I need to boost the population bit. But, harder to deal with, to get the best colour the bushes really need to be in full sunlight. But, where I want them to give winter colour gets the least sunlight of all the garden and, as you can see, my colours leave a bit to be desired in term of brightness! Maybe they just need to mature a bit…..
Looking very much more convincing, colourwise, is the tub of pink cyclamen that is gracing the verandah of the summer house. So far they have totally ignored the winds and the somewhat chilly last few days. Whether they will survive the snows, if we get them, is another matter.
Also looking pretty convincing, colourwise,is my Tower of London poppy which arrived just before Christmas. It is temporarily residing with the olive tree and a miniature white rose which has not yet found home, on the balcony outside the kitchen. My plan had been to ‘plant’ it in the herbaceous patch but given that it can be transplanted so easily, maybe I will keep it with a roving brief…
29th November 2014
A sea of leaves… And very guilty I feel every time I look out of my study window and see them all lying there accusingly. If I do not sweep them up soon our poor ‘lawn’, which is not the greatest anyhow, will never make it through to next summer!
But there are still some out there who will not accept that winter has come. Like this brave little geranium who refuses to be leaf-overwhelmed – or the few remaining nasturciums hiding behind their leaves incase I should see them and whisk them inside to cheer up my ivy flower arrangement. (The only thing I can now find with which to make a ‘fresh’ arrangement in the living room.)
And of course the violas, who only went in a couple months ago, are still in full flower and not in the least interested in the fact that the nights have drawn in and the mists descended!
15th November 2014
This has to be the longest drawn out autumn in history! Here we are, in the middle of November, and the acer in the back garden has scarcely turned golden, let alone actually lost more than a token leaf or two.
Its fellow in the front garden has also finally turned, although not as spectacularly as in previous years. Last year it genuinely did look like Moses’ Burning Bush so this year’s efforts are, we feel, a little bit tame…
And the pond is now looking very wintery. I have a feeling that I am meant to clean it all out over winter, aren’t I? Back to the instruction book!
And finally, on a particularly early morning start I caught this rather fine sunrise over the back garden…
18th October 2014
Well, there is so little happening in the garden right now (apart from our golden ash getting more golden, as you can see) that I took myself off up towards Hampstead Heath to see what I could find in the way of leaves….
Meanwhile, this is a sumac tree in front of the Isokon Lawn Road Flats (of which more anon) and although I suspect that it is slightly past its best now it’s delicate tracery is beautifully set off by the pale pink of the building.
Once I got to the heath there were some more interesting yellow and green combinations but somehow I feel that this will not have been one of our better autumns for colours. Has the summer been to warm? The rain come at the wrong moment? Did we need a really cold snap now? Well, if we have to trade a lovely summer against good autumn colour, I think I know which I would go for… sorry autumn!
Still, this gently turning tree seen in the evening twilight is rather fine…
4th October 2014
So here we are – proper autumn – although it really does not feel like it. We are still managing to wander around in T shirts and have coffee on the patio each morning. But the acer is really starting to turn now – although the rose is in full bloom!
On the left is a new pink rose planted this year beside the hydrangea which has suddenly, belatedly, decided to flower – while on the balcony the trusty pale pink climber which manages to flower all year from June right through to December, is still strutting its stuff! Just such a shame that it is not also scented….
Some others who are also still strutting their stuff are those slugs and snails…. They munched their way round all of the yellow and white violas when I planted them two weeks ago – but then I got out Fosters and, as you can see, they are still falling for that beer!!
A definitely autumnal feel to the garden this morning when I took this picture, but I refuse to be too depressed as ‘stuff’ is still happening!
The nasturciums, for example, refuse to accept that summer is over and have now invaded the parsley’s cloche!
I am also delighted to report that the bug house, constructed this time last year, has weathered nicely – although how popular it has been with the bugs I really don’t know as there is no way of finding out except pulling it apart – which would somewhat ruin the point for the bugs….
23rd August 2014
However the begonias are, as ever real troopers as you can see in the pots on the patio. If you get good ones they just flower and flower way on into the autumn. And the colours are so vivid. I know they are about as far as you can get from ‘natural wild flowers’ but I do think they are one instance of the plant breeder complementing (I dare not say improving on…) nature.
But over the other side of the garden, autumn is already very close. Cyclamen are very pretty but I wish they would arrive just a little bit later….
Meanwhile, a couple of weeks ago we had some young visitors, one of whom confused Boris with Tawny Pipit and climbed aboard. Just shows what a very easy going cat Boris is that he did not turn a hair!
Our new golden acacia tree in its maxi-protection-against-north-London-soggy-clay-pot is growing like topsy – as you can see. This is looking down the garden from my office window in the early morning. (If you spool down to the 3rd May you will see what a tiny spindly little thing it was when it arrived!) My suspicion is that it will continue to grow like mad for the next couple of years until its roots get to the bottom of the pot, at which point, presumably it will just slow down and stop growing – but we hope that, protected from the soggy clay, it will not just turn up this toes as its two predecessors have done…
But although everything looks relatively green in the early morning, the lawn is pretty desert-like by now and we are definitely looking August-ish! In fact I was reduced to going back to Columbia Road market last Sunday to buy something to replace the begonias in the hanging basket who had decided that enough was enough for this year…
Never mind, the cardoon produced a couple of impressive flowers, even if its leaves had been entirely consumed by the slugs (or was it the snails?…) while the lobelia in the pots on the terrace, even though it was a hangover from last year, looked really pretty. Just shows how warm a winter it was.
Meanwhile, maybe this is why I have to keep filling the pond up! And it is not even as though we and any fish to catch…
12th July 2014
I heard a comment on the radio a couple of days ago to the effect that, thanks to the warm winter, recent hot weather and rain, everything is about a month ahead of itself – and that certainly seems to be the case. The garden is looking positively August-ish – a bit generally weary… The first flowering of roses is over, the delphiniums are finished, the cosmos are being eaten by the slugs, the agapanthus have not really made it out yet. Only the trusty non-stop begonias are flowering away as ever.
But I fear that even four half pint pots of Fosters was not enough to tempt those slugs when it was a question of beer or hostas. The hostas lost out big time. You can just see a few chomped remnants round the back of the pond. Never mind, dose two of nematodes goes on tomorrow. The pond, however, is coming along a treat – although I fear there has been no sign of any of those tadpoles maturing into frogs so far. Still hoping!
And finally, although its first flush is now over, I really had to show off the lovely and MULTI-flowering rose whose name I do not know but which was given to us a couple years ago by D&D Chocolates after they had staying during the Allergy Show. I have never seen so many flowers crammed on a single bush – and they come, and come again, and then come again!
28th June 2014 – The World Peace Garden….
14th June 2014
The orange blossom has gone mad again this year. On one side of the garden it is galloping up through the May tree, on the other side it is a huge umbrella drooping down over the back of the garden and all but covering the compost bins!
Meanwhile, at the back of the garden my new golden acacia tree, now planted in its massive, well drained tub in the hope that it may survive the rigours of a soggy north London garden, is currently looking very healthy. Fingers crossed it goes on that way!
Meanwhile, the pond is doing fine. I just ordered some new Frogbits (English surface pond plant of those of you who have never heard of them….) as we have not yet reached the two thirds water cover that is advised. This is especially important as I am planning, tomorrow, to capture a few more tadpoles to join Alexander’s lone offering who, I hope is still in there somewhere. We have not seen him but maybe that is because is just hiding beneath my carefully arranged stones….
Anyhow, I have been offered the tadpoles by our local World Peace Garden…. A really brilliant volunteer initiative on bit of waste ground just behind Hampstead Heath station. Do take a look at their website but I am hoping to go along tomorrow armed with camera (and tadpole catching bag) so will report in much more detail in due course.
A greedy paraqueet snapped by Alex throughout he kitchen window as he was raiding the bird food! They are very beautiful but we really don’t like them as, although they are not aggressive, they are so big that they frighten the little birds away. They are also horrendously noisy!! So once snapped, I am afraid he was sent packing!
And, of course, Boris…. Best use made of that peony this summer! I think it might well be for the chop as this is the third year that it has produced about twelve very promising looking buds only three of which have actually turned into flowers! Not good enough…
31st May 2014
Event though the roses are not really out yet, the herbaceous patch is looking very lush and now quite colourful – especially since my prized delphiniums have come out! The big blue one is last year’s, having survived the slugs, and looks as though it has got really well bedded in. There is a new patch from this year behind which are much smaller but here’s hoping for next year.
Meanwhile the golden rose against the mirror is going gangbusters – which is more than can be said for the clematis… Those two flowers, which are nice but not nearly as spectacular as last year, seem to the only ones that it is going to produce; not another bud to be seen…. I wonder does it need a bigger pot? Or maybe not to be in a pot at all?
Meanwhile, what of the pond? Well, as you can see, it is looking a good deal more settled than a couple of weeks ago. And, hopefully, lurking somewhere in its murky depths, is a single tadpole, donated by Katherine’s son, Alexander! (I am hoping that Alexander may prevail upon his friend who gave him the tadpole from his own pond, to fish around and see if he can find it a mate….) But meanwhile, we have a nice crop of bare rooted hostas (only £5 for five from Columbia Road market!) which, slugs and snails permitting, should ‘clothe’ the back, and a whole crop of new pond plants which I have yet to ‘arrange’ on the right level shelves…
And, so what of the slugs and snails. Well….. At vast expense (about a tenner a week) I have about eight buried pots filled with Fosters which they seem to fancy a treat! Disposing of a pot of dead-snail-filled Fosters is not one of the pleasanter gardening tasks but, to date it has distracted them from any of my tender plants. However, under instruction from my old catering friend Patricia, I have now invested in a course of nematodes from Gardening Naturally. These are little bacteria type creature that you water into the soil and which, in due course, burrow into the slugs and kill ’em underground. Not very nice – but they are slugs… Not sure how well they do with snails, mind you.
And finally…. The poor little poppies that I planted in the middle of the daffodil tick, having got over grown with grass and rained almost out of existence, have manfully struggled on and managed to produce a couple of flowers.
The idea was that the daffodil leaves would remain upright (as they did last year) and that I would have this burst of poppies down the middle. Didn’t quite work out that way as I think the daffs got so overwatered earlier that spring that they were too floppy to stay upright – but maybe next year…
17th May 2014
True to its name, the may tree has been in full flood for the last couple of weeks. Nearly over now but what a wonderful dark pink last weekend when I took this picture.
The pondette started life as a would-be bird bath but I suspect that it was a bit too vulnerable to roaming cats to ever really take off as a bird bath.
Then I discovered that what I needed to eat the slugs, that were eating my geraniums (not to mention my petunias, alliums, tobacco and even parsley….) were frogs. But no self respecting frog was ever going to take up residence in my pondette, even if it hadn’t been full of stones for the birds to sit on. So I decided to go for broke – and a proper pond…
This involved a lengthy journey Crews Hill…. Those who know about ponds and the things that grow in them will know that Crews Hill (just off the A10 to Cambridge just where it hits the M25) is a village which has devoted itself entirely to ponds with upwards of 10 garden centres/nurseries who do also sell plants – but mainly focus on ponds. Round ponds, oblong ponds, trapezoidal-shaped ponds, pond liners, large fish, small fish and ‘aquatics’! Aquatics that grow in the water, under the water, on top of the water and beside the water… A veritable Mecca for pond lovers! In fact, we were relatively restrained and only bought a pond as until that was installed it was hard to know what else we might need or might fit.
Anyhow, pond is now installed and looking horribly new and bare but the first hostas are creeping round the edge – accompanied by two plastic pots filled with beer and, already on day three, with a good crop of beer loving ex-slugs… This weekend I am promising myself a trip, if not back to Crews Hill, at least to the splendid SunShine Garden Centre over by the Ally Pally who assure me that they have a fine collection of aquatics…. Now all I need is some frogs!
Several years ago – like four or five – I planted this flame coloured azalea down the bottom of the garden, the idea being that it would burst into a wonderful flaming glow in the spring , illuminating the darker recesses of the brick walls and the trees. Knowing that azaleas like peaty soil (not north London clay) I planted it in a large pot and buried it in the ground – and, effectively, buried it remained! Not a hint of a flower out of it, despite prodigious quantities of prime azalea fertiliser.
Finally, about eighteen months ago, I gave up on it, dug the pot out and lugged it down to the patio near the house intending to take it out to the road and give it away. But, somehow, it grew roots and didn’t move on – until about a month ago when, filled with spring gardening fervour, I thought, ‘I really must get rid of that wretched azalea’. So went to pick it up and move it – and what did I see but flower buds…..
Now whether it took it 18 months to get over its sulk about being put in the dark and the wet down the bottom of the garden, or whether it realised that unless it did something dramatic it was likely to get trashed, I don’t know – but flower it certainly has – and pretty spectacularly too!
So now I am off to find it a somewhat more glamourous pot and a permanent home next to the house. All goes to prove that, as with animals, if they don’t want to do something there is effectively nothing that you can do to make them do it….
Memo for future gardening!
3rd May 2014
This was early one morning ten days or so ago looking down from my bedroom – with all the trees just bursting into leaf. And, although you cannot actually see it here, the golden ash that I was so worried about seems to be OK. Having summoned Christopher, our lovely man from Woodland Trees in a panic, he said it was just fine – but rather slow at coming into leaf – and indeed it does now look a lot healthier!
Meanwhile our tiny little new golden acacia has been planted in the most enormous pot down the bottom of the garden. (It took three strong men to manhandle it down there!! If ever you need a really massive pot, can I recommend the Woodside Garden Centre, just this side of Southend. They import stunning old stone fired pots from Vietnam.) And, as you can see, the weeping pear in the foreground is doing well – as are the daisies! Now a great more of them in the lawn than there is grass…. And my goodness, do they grow quickly. Literally, within 24 hours of having all their heads mown off, they are up there again, as many if not more than before the mowing!
As you can see, the bluebells are still in full flower at the back of the garden although they are starting to fade further ‘south’ where the sun hits them earlier. None the less we do still have somewhat of a symphony in blue between the bluebells, the iris and the aliums.
At the moment the rose is the only thing flowering on the patio but tomorrow morning I am off to Columbia Road flower market for some summer bedding. Tobacco plants for the herbaceous patch as I am sure that I read recently that they were loved by bees (or was it butterflies?) – and something really spectacular for some patio pots. I have plans to replace our mini-pondette with something a bit more man (or at least frog) sized so the pondette is going to become a rather fine summer bedding pot….
19th April 2014
The Ice Folly tick in the back garden is now over but its place has been taken by the bluebells, just coming into full flower here.
As you can see, Tawny Pipit, our lovely wire foal, has moved over to take full advantage of the new grass around their base….
Meanwhile, the wisteria which had laid dormant since long before we came here in the late 1970s only to leap into life, for no apparent reason, a couple of years ago, has wound its way through the pyracantha, the elder, the may tree and the acer and is also bursting into flower.
Over on the other side of the garden though, things are not so good. The whitebeam, is doing really well, although I think its lower branches need a bit of trimming, and the clematis montana is, amazingly, holding its own against the ivy, but my lovely golden ash tree is not looking at all well.
I was concerned last autumn as it had great sheaves of what looked like seed pods which I did not remember seeing in previous years. I did examine them carefully but they genuinely looked like seed pods rather than signs of the dreaded ‘die back’. But now it only seems to be putting out a few feathery leaves at the top of the branches – and I never remember it doing that before… So, immediately after Easter, I think it is a call to the tree man!
More encouragingly, the little apple tree that I planted two years ago is doing just fine. And, I have just replaced the weeping pear tree that was forced to give way to a football pitch fifteen years ago when my son was in his early teens! It does not look much just yet, but give it a year or two…
I am also making a third attempt on an acacia, the glorious golden robinia frisia. I have lost two to the wet and the north London clay over the last 20 years but inspired by my good friend Barbara Burgess (of D & D Chocolates) I am now going to plant it in a well drained tub in the hopes that its roots will not get waterlogged even if it does not grow to its full height.
However, more on that in a month or two. Along with updates on the roses and clematis growing up the mirror, the irises, delphiniums (assuming the slugs don’t get there first), the hostas in the ‘pondette’ and the pendulous begonias which have given us such a magnificent display in the hanging baskets over the last few years – and more… But, just before I go…
In order to make way for the new weeping pear (although I realise that at its current size this may seem unnecessary…) I took down a very elderly and scraggly laburnum. It had got overtaken by a honeysuckle which, if it flowered at all, did so very inconspicuously at the very top of the tree and certainly did nothing to perfume the garden! One of my less successful plantings. Both definitely in need of recycling… However, I did rescue a few of the smaller branches of the laburnum as it came down and they did, for a week, make for a rather lovely flower arrangement.
6th April 2014
Well, I am afraid that, thanks to our trip down to Dorset two weeks ago, these pages are sadly lagging behind what is actually happening in the garden… However, the Ice Follies, whose heads I have just this morning chopped off, must have their moment in the sun….
I had been worried that they would not perform in year two – quite apart from the two waterlogged months that I feared would have rotted them at base! However, although not quite as thick as last year, they were still pretty spectacular, as you can see – and Prudence assures me that they are now just bedding in and as from next year they will be multiplying like mad!
I have also now planted some poppies, wild iris and wild hyacinths down the middle of the tick. The theory is that they will flower over the next month while the daffodil leaves are still there and then that they will shed their seeds and naturalise so that I will have a sort of wildflower garden in the middle of the tick.
I know they will not really be wild but I had two problems with going properly wild. One was that I have never, ever managed to grow anything from seed and have profound confidence in my ability to kill even wilds seeds. The other was that by the time was right to sow the wild seeds, the tick had gone and I had no idea where its middle was!
Anyhow, this is a London garden so going totally wild would be pretty silly anyhow….
I think that it is actually very slowly reverting to all over pink – it is now about 30 years old. Whereas it used to be blind white all over, many of the white flowers now have pink slashes, as you can see while some are totally pink – and today I noticed a couple of dark red flowers right up at the top of the bush.
And in the last couple of days, because it has been very warm even if not always very sunny, the cherry tree in the front garden has burst into blossom. I am just keeping my fingers crossed that we do not get too much wind (not great today…) as if we get a really sharp east wind, the whole lot can be blown down in a day. Enough to make you weep….
22nd March 2014
Our Ice Folly daffodils are in full flood but I was so bowled over by these photos that Sue Cane sent me of her spring garden in the depths of Dorset that I decided that the Ice Follies had to give way – their turn next week!
8th March 2014
Oh yes, spring is definitely knocking on the door…. This is the camellia in the very protected corner corner at the back of the garden which is always the harbinger of spring – long before even the forsythia.
Meanwhile, the Ice folly tick is coming along nicely – some already in bloom but not quite enough to justify a photo yet! Instead, here are some little Tete-a-tete daffs growing through the tree in the garden next door to us. We do have some of our own too but these looked just so cute…
Meanwhile, the sun is actually shining and I am about to celebrate the first days of spring by risking coffee on the patio!
15th February 2014
Well, not a lot has happened in the last week apart from rain and wind and storm…. The daffodils in my fine Ice Folly tick are manfully struggling up, although whether they will achieve the glories of last year remains to be seen. How any bulb could survive two months of total water0log-itude and still flower beats me, but my good friend Prudence who gave me the bulbs assures me that Ice Follies can withstand anything!
Here they are this morning, sprouting merrily out of the feeding holes. Apart from the fact that it make is harder to get their beaks in, the birds don’t seem to mind. I wonder whether, if we leave them long enough, we will get flowers?
This morning the sun has been shining – although the wind is still blowing extremely hard. Yesterday it rained, literally, all day – although we really should not complain as being up in the heights of Hampstead, flooding is not an issue as far as we are concerned – unlike those Londoners down by the river…
However, this was the vision from the kitchen yesterday. The birds, doing their best to ignore the rain, are still making good inroads on the coconut fat balls. (I do rather wonder what is in that ‘fat’ – I fear something noxious and addictive as they seem very keen on them. Oh lord…. Am I getting our birds into bad habits. Are coconut fat balls the avian equivalent of diet Coke?…..)
Well, at least we do not have to worry about Kevin the Kiwi’s eating habits (seen below with one of our local dunnocks) – although I do suspect that he rather wishes that he had remained in New Zealand… Surely the weather has to be better there!
8th February 2014
So, welcome, rather belatedly, to 2014……. Although, to be honest, there has been very little reason so far in 2014, apart from taking dead veg to the compost heap, to venture into the garden at all…. Being high up in Hampstead we are not, thank goodness, likely to get flooded – but our north London clay does not soak away that easily so we have had some puddles on the lawn. Just hope that the daffodil bulbs will have survived their prolonged soaking….
However, there are certainly signs of life around the edges of the lawn…
… and Tawny Pipit was certainly glad to find this bit of sun last week. Just as well he is a wire horse or he would most definitely have got hoof rot by now!