Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Bleeding Hearts ,Corydalis and Dicentra

At one time or another most gardeners in England will have grown Corydalis.  It is mostly the large red and white Bleeding Heart, and around these parts there is the yellow corydalis that grows wild in stone crevices. So many people recognise it....I love the form and the beauty of both foliage and flower.

In my last garden I had a pretty patch of Dicentra eximia.  The leaves on their own are rather pretty and fern like, and flowers made good cutting.  Unfortunately since it dies back by late summer, when I was starting to collect portions of my perennials to bring, it had slipped my mind.  I am on the look out for this one now.

Last year I had acquired Dicentra cucullaria, aka Dutchman's breeches.  It has yet to emerge.  I potted it into a large pot to add to my display shelf.

The Corydalis Malkensis with its white flowers was the first to flower this year.

...and just a week or so Beth Evans is putting out flower stems.  The picture below was taken last year.

A little blue c. flexuosa 'Kingfisher' was blooming till late autumn, and the tiny new leaves are just breaking through.

Just breaking through now is the white bleeding heart Dicentra/Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Alba', which was from a division from my neighbour Val.  This will be the first season in flower in my garden, and I looking forward to seeing how it looks in the position I've given it.

There is something specific to their form that I find attractive.....and whilst visiting a small nursery on our way back from the coast had my eye taken by a 'weed' growing on the surface of a tub grown tree.  I was told it had been a plant that was sold at the nursery, but it was no longer available.  I was delighted to be given a few 'bits' and of course I left a little donation....

Only a couple of weeks ago, I received my copy of Bleeding Hearts, Corydalis and their relatives by Mark Tebbitt et al.  This was really useful in identifying my newly acquired cuttings:  Corydalis cheilanthifolia 

Paddling in February

With two pair of socks and with wellies, it is possible to go paddling and rock pooling.  With the warmest February days on record, bright sun and blue skies, we went on a little adventure.  The first day trip since we have moved to Somerset to the Jurassic Coast......

No fossils were taken home...only admired in the rock pools.

Wonderful purple colours of the seaweed

And speculation of what type of fossil had created the stone that looked like swiss cheese with holes, I had picked up pebbles with similar holes in Northumberland...

In one of the pools a fossil hunter was digging up a fossil before the tide turned...despite his looking like a mud skipper, I approached him to ask about the holes...he was a friendly man and took a few minutes from his work to explain that they were being made at present by small bivalves and this was a form of bio erosion of the rocks.  I brought a small speciment home to add to my collection.  I have also found a very good explanation on how Piddocks create them.

The fossil shop and Charmouth Visitors' Centre was well worth a visit.

Garden addition

Its never envy:  only admiration.....

When you visit a great garden, and you see one plant performing beautifully.....

Read up about it, study its requirements and cultivation, and find the ideal spot....

Then a few days later on a visit to one of your bestest fruit and vegetable stalls which at present is up at Rocky Mountain nurseries....

And you bump into the friend who took you to see this wonderful garden and its creator....

Then before you choose your fruit and veg, you pop into the nursery, for a quick tour, and see the plant your friend had also admired: the plant you both wanted....

And you rush back, and they are just reversing out of their parking space.....

Its no wonder that you both go and get yourselves one.....

I call this Serendipity

Later my friend tells me that she liked it so much, her husband was going to get her a second one.......


Monday, 25 February 2019

Visiting Ashwood Nursery and John Massey's Garden

After a long drive, we arrived at Ashwood Nurseries.   John and Sally had known each other from their encounters in the plant nursery world and spent time catching up with their current projects.  Sally was bringing some of her Hydrangeas in which she specialises for John, and had also booked us up for the Hellebore talk in the afternoon.  

From his kitchen window as we sat around the table, my eyes were continually taken through the windows to John's gardens beyond to a dell of spring flowers where  Hamamelis,  Intermedia Pallida being John's favourtie, are underplanted with spring bulbs which promise to give weeks of delight.  Beyond and by the drive is a (painfully) cloud pruned hedge of small dense leaved holly. It is joy to see, and I am sure much PPE is required to get the job done!

Later when we started our tour, John first led us through that very area and I began to understand as he explained, the great benefit to be gained from careful pruning of shrubs to give an understory and space between the branches in the canopy.

The last time I had visited Ashwood and John's garden it was a little later in early Summer.  This early on the trees were magnificent and again I was much taken with his wide range of conifers.  and being able to see the shape and form he had made with careful pruning.  His silver birch with their jet washed trunks shone out.  John is amazingly generous in sharing his tips.

Here a Cornus mas was similarly underplanted. 

Everything in the garden is in perfect order showcasing John's years of knowledge, plant hunting and dedication to horticulture. 

With careful positioning and care in choosing just the right plants, there are tableaux which are inspirational to gardeners whether they have large or small spaces to play with.  I inwardly smiled when John said that some people position plants far too close....I know I do!

One of the most recently planted borders, in this wonderful garden,  had needed one of the large topiaries moved a few metres away...and here is the  new  border is coming to life.  A recently acquired collection of hardy Nerine bowdenii has been planted all along the front of the border.  John assured us that they would be fine even though Ashood is situated in a cold frost pocket.  For now the galanthus, grasses and dogwoods catch the eye.  I shall be keeping up on twitter to see how it evolves throughout the year.

As with many gardens the fun element is often in its sculptures.....

Up by the canal this specimen got us talking.  It is Salix gracilistyla 'Mount Aso'....one I noted for the garden.

Just a little further along, my eye was first caught by the shrubs.  Again grown in a little differently to the regular coppiced regime which we often apply to the Cornus family.  Here the dogwoods had  shaped to grow horizontally to provide a screen and also provide a place for snowdrops and ferns.  John crouched down to find a label for the bright green wintergreen ferns which in my mind were the star performers, providing a soft bright green accent in this little area.

At the opposite end of the garden another new spectacular combination of plants to wow us during the winter months.

Around the garden cyclamen were catching my eye....

Of course the Hellebores were superb, and had been nicely placed around the garden in beds, where later, swathes of hardy geraniums yet to emerge would provide interest.  

As we were chatting in the garden, John's two dogs started to bark, in the distance a faint bell had been heard....yes our lunch was ready and waiting, so we all returned to John's kitchen, where we sat round his large round table and heard more about John's life.

It was Howard Drury who led the group through the glass houses and outlined the direction of development for the Ashwood Hellebores.  Showed off  the best of the current cultivar and also how to pollinate and bring on one's own plants.

Howard had an excellent way of leading both expert and mere admirer of Hellebores through the intricacies of culture and care.  His website with cultural notes is excellent and well worth reading.

In a Vase on Monday - To twig

I've twigged it in respect of In a Vase on Monday...on many levels.  You can/may leave your small number of choice spring blooms in the garden.......  This week Cathy who hosts this weekly offering has a lovely vase, so do join in and go and see what she and others are offering up this week.

Here the Amelanchier twigs added to a vase last week are just breaking into leaf, and I am waiting to see whether the flowers will open.  At their feet are some remains of last year's Hydrangea paniculata vanille fraise.

I've twigged it that pruning is good...When we moved in a couple of years ago, the front three Amelanchier trees were pruned, just so as to remove some completely dead branches.  This spring after watching Monty Don in Japan, and then last week having John Massey explain the advantages of thinning out branches to make space in a large shrub or tree, and also my gardening friend Jean's suggestions last autumn, Mr S and I set to.  I have plenty of material to set amongst emerging growth, and act as stakes.

We have had amazing weather this past week....far too warm and sunny, and I wonder what the effect will be later on not only on the garden plants, but the ladybirds, yellow male brimstone butterflies, and peacocks which have been flying around the garden.

Already the daffodils are emerging and showing their bright yellow, as yellow as the yellow brimstones.  I have just about three different types.  The tete a tete little clump again brought as a souvenir from the last garden have been open a couple of weeks, and the Narcissus below which I bought in flower, from last year's Rare plant fair....just as 'chatting' fee to a small grower.  

Narcissus Rip van Winkle


Performing beautifully is the Euphorbia 

Euphorbia x martinii Ascot Rainbow

The opening crocus have been a magnet for the bumble and honey bees.  Crocus tommasianus Ruby Giant is bringing up the rear, being the last of the crocuses in the garden to flower.  I had planted corms as long ago as 2013, in a mixed tub.  Last autumn, I had emptied the contents and planted the different elements around the garden.  I did make a big mistake in pruning the Dwarf Forsythia in a dreadful form, spoiling the effect.  Hopefully it will make some replacement growth this year.  I ought to have left it unpruned, and only removed damaged wood.

Crocus tommasianus Ruby Giant 

Monday, 18 February 2019

Cyclamen Coum and Cyclamen Hederifolium from Ashwood Nurseries

After the talk on Hellebores, I left 'my party' to wander off to search for cyclamens.

All round John Massey's Garden some very special cyclamen such as the Cyclamen Graecum above have been artfully placed with  well planned soil preparation, drainage and positioning next to a large rock.  In some areas of lawn old seed was broadcast  making colourful early spring displays  with cyclamen popping up in other areas where ants had move seed to just the right spots such as this stony area.

After a walk round the public areas, and not finding what I was looking for, I approached the information desk.  Soon they found a very knowledgeable and helpful specialist member of staff who works on the Cyclamen Section:  Hayden Worton.

He has been working at Ashwood for around 10 years, and the area of propagation for the cyclamen is extensive.  We chatted about the Coums and Hederifoliums, and Hayden showed me some of his new developments and the large deep pan full of numerous small cyclamen seedlings which need several more seasons growing.  Wouldn't anyone agree that even without flowers these make just the most eye catching plants, sadly these were stock plants or not available for sale.

Hayden very kindly showed me various strains and cultivars and helped the novice that I am in the specials...choose a few.

I shall start with the Coums:

Cyclamen Coum George Bisson which has pure white flowers

Cyclamen Coum Tilebarn Elizabeth, with its silver leaf I understand it is one of the last Coums to flower in the season.  With its beautiful bicolour flowers, this is definitely one for my 'show shelf'

This coum is probably an anomaly, as the flowers appear larger and on close inspection there is some fasciation with more than the usual number of petals apparently per bloom.....

A Cyclamen Coum Pewter group- mid pink colour blooms, but with a little shading

Cyclamen coum  with pale pink flowers, with silver leaves with a green marking in the centre

Cyclamen coum pewter group with pale pink flowers

Cyclamen coum Maurice Dryden which has a pewter leaf with green edge, and a white to pale pink flower with pink 'lips'  so it is 'Blush'

And now for the Hederifoliums which will flower in the autumn, and all of these are very hardy.  For  a year or two they may be potted up and displayed on my shelf or brought into the conservatory to enjoy.

 Cyclamen Hederifolium with Silver arrow head shaped leaves

 Cyclamen Hed. Silver Shield

 Cyclamen hederifolium, Silver Leafed form

Cyclamen hederifolium arrow or almost sword shaped silver leaves with green margins.

I only grew to be interested and indeed aware of silver leaves on the Cyclamens when a few of my seeds collected from friends gardens germinated.  What is nice about germinating and growing on such special beautities is that I was able to share them with two other friends.  Over the winter the low winter light and sunshine have made the 'darker corner' of the garden rather pretty:

From home germinated seed now lying in a darker corner of the garden, covered with slowly degrading evergreen oak leaves.

Date and Walnut Cake

On Saturday I baked  Date and Walnut Cake, a version of which I devised for the schedule for my first gardening club.  When I moved and joined another gardening club this was added to their schedule under the heading:  'Baked by a Gent'.  Baked several times over a month fefore the competition, and members told me just how much they loved this recipe, and that is was already a firm family favourite.  The chaps really were very keen, and knowing that there would be none of the usual lady members who had years of experience to worry about, threw themselves into the challenge.  My current gardening club is strictly Plants but I think I shall bake this for one of the get togethers that require refreshments...it is so very easy!

I had not baked this Date and Walnut Cake for years.  Other Date and Walnut tray bakes exist on this blog, but I wanted to bake something that was easy enough to carry at the bottom of my bag.  The original with a few tweeks, such as roasting of the walnuts and addition of my signature spice, is really the best of all.

Yesterday I was being treated by gardening friends to a day out: visiting another 'Garden Great'.....more about this to follow on the next post.  Of course, I love to take something as a 'Thank you and  shall we share'.

I like to bake this in a '2lb Loaf Tin'....strange that we have had grams yet baking tins are still measured this way, and always line my tins with baking parchment for cakes.  Preheat the oven  to 160 C, and reduce this to 150 C after ten minutes, for an electric fan oven.

200g Dates chopped, the hard dried ones for baking
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 pinch of salt
280ml boiling water

Put all of these in a bowl, and continue to prepare the rest of the ingredients as this stand cooling

60g walnuts kernels...which are gently roasted, at about 150 c for 5-7 minutes, chop coarsely when cool

250g self raising flower    flour, sifted with
1 tsp ground Mace
110g butter, I use goat's butter, but cow's butter will do fine

Rub the fat into the flour/spice to fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the chopped walnuts

110g light Muscovado sugar...only the best such as Billington's should be sifted over the flour butter mixture, to ensure there are no lumps, and this also helps distribute the sugar evenly when it is folded in now.

To the above, fold in the cooled to around 35 C Dates and Water, and

1 Large Egg

Carefully move to your lined tin, and sprinkle the top liberally with Demerara Sugar

Bake in the oven, watching carefully for around 1 Hr  15 Minutes. It should not catch so cover with baking parchment if necessary.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes, then remove but keep the paper on to continue cooling on a rack.  Remove paper only when completely cold.  Wrap in foil for transporting or freezing.

We all loved the cake, and I was impressed that John asked which spice was in the cake as he could not exactly work it out.  I was also flattered when he asked for the recipe, so here it is....enjoy!

After coffee and cake, John and his lovely two dogs lead us out to look at some of the many beauties in the garden.  I had visited previously in June of 2015, and as I love gardens in Spring really enjoyed seeing John's garden at this time of the year.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Warm and Sunny Weather

Its been warm and sunny, and almost like a Summer's day, except the day is not as long, and the sun is lower in the sky.  Bees and bumblebees have been visiting the crocuses, and other spring flowers.  We have been sitting out in the garden for our morning coffee stop.

Whilst we are enjoying rather unseasonable weather, and we ought really to have a little more cold weather and rain to ensure the ground is well soaked, over in America where a blogging and gardening friend lives, they are battling with snow piled high.

With a new garden and some plants only in their first true season it is wonderful to watch for the first signs of growth brought on by the few recent warm days and glorious sunshine.  There have been jobs too such as pruning and feeding rose bushes, and today a severe cutting back and thinning of the winter flowering jasmine. 

Corydalis Malkensis

 Crocus fuscotinctus

 Crocus sieberi firefly

 Cyclamen coum

 Primula name unknown with strong red flowers

Crocus minimus Spring Beauty

Another 'triumph' has been the planting out and potting up of Tulipa Sprengeri 'Trotter's Form'.  I was given some seed when visiting Hunningham Garden with friends back in 2016, and it was my first gardening task when we moved in, and the seedlings germinated in 2017, so this is their third spring.  I saw the leaves emerging, so gently got them into the garden, and planted up eight pots with five to six bulbs in each pot.  Maybe I shall have a corner like this one below in a couple of years?