Monday, 30 August 2021

In a Vase on Monday - End of August 21

I was gardening yesterday for most of my free time, and will probably be doing the same again today.  We are on heavy clay and I remember from previous years now given a few rainfalls in September, by the time one gets round to doing my editing tasks, the soil is dreadful to work on and not that hospitable for plants to get established before the Winter.  I was going to cut back the Teucrium hircanicum and noticed how attractive the long flowering stems were even though they are mostly at the seed head stage.  They formed the basis for my arrangement today.

Centre is a large head of a mophead Hydrangea with a few stems of  Origanum laevigatum  Herrenhausen at the back, and some pale pink frilly Dianthus superbus. 

It is some time since I posted about the books I am reading.  I've just finished a sensational thriller set in Cambridge and Antarctica.  Some good twists, and great atmosphere. This was our recent WI reading group books.  It has been renewed so that Mr S can read it, and a few pages in, last night he commented on how well it is written.  I've not read any of Sharon Bolton's novel before, and I shall be looking out for more books by this author.

For us in England it is late August Bank Holiday.  Usually we see our family about this time of the year, sadly this is not possible but I had a nice call with my son yesterday.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Dicentra cucularia scaly rootstock

 They may look like a bowl of grey lace as the leaves emerge in March,

and shortly afterwards the lovely white flowers amaze me each time

they soon die down.  I had two bowls but decided to reduce it to just one for the coming season, and repot into fresh compost.  Here are the scaly rootstock...

There were sufficient for me to try some in the open garden.  I've placed them in the shady border just behind the grouping of dark leaved Ophiopogon planiscapas Nigrescens the Black Mondo grass and am very much looking forward to seeing how well that combination works. I like the challenge of placing existing plants in different ways.  Isn't it strange that gardeners have the hope and vision to care for plants that will only appear more than half a year hence, and then are only above ground for a few weeks?

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Six on Saturday - 28 August 2021

A few days of sunshine has revived this gardener and her garden.  The bees are buzzing and birds have returned.  I've found slugs and snails of course and a whole pot of coriander seedlings were munched overnight.  Some of the perennials such as geraniums which were prunned back hard a few weeks ago are giving out a second flush of fresh leaves and flowers, and the roses too are getting ready for another flush.

Can't believe the Prop who is our 'trainer' is running 45Km round Bristol this morning, the least we can do it join in with the pack of other gardeners and follow his example of talking about six things in our garden. I am definitely more plant like and would not be wanted to be weeded away from my Saturday morning slow breakfast prepared by my dearly beloved.

1.  This year the Teucrium hircanium has reached the stage that is probably too large for the space allocated.  I'll be searching out seedlings to plant elsewhere but this one may well be removed. 

 Already that area needs refreshing and this past week I have been doing some editing. Plants have been divided, or cuttings taken.  I sent a list of the plants I had to spare and a friend took them all to grow on for a sale next year.  

2.  The lollipop Bay Tree needed a trim: again my long pruners came out, and I managed not to snip any of the stems of the Clematis Clematis 'Purpurea Plena Elegans'.  This picture is before the trim, and I didn't need to stand on a ladder!

I had noticed the new growth on the top of the bay was a little raggedy, and when the prunnings were dexterously brought down thanks to the grabbers, the culprits were found.

3.  I realised that I ought to have two compost bins, but I only have room for one.  Last year it swallowed nearly all the garden waste, and I stopped adding to it some time ago.  I was on the verge of getting rid of it altogether, when due to the lack of HGV drivers our green bin collection has been suspended.  Therefore this week I 'drew down' the pile, sifting the material.  The coarser stuff was spread under the shrubs and the rest looks and smells so wonderful.  Some inevitably went back to the bottom of the pile, and the fine sifted compost is in covered pots to mix in and around choice plants.  What makes it smell so nice?  A job is not finished till the tools are washed, dried and ready to put away:

It was a very hard job and took me several hours.  I hope the slowworms which were in the heap will return to enjoy a warm and protected space.

4. The runner beans sown a little late, have now been 'overtaken' by the same variety that is on its third summer, growing from the tubers left in the ground and completely unprotected: the variety Moonlight. Each tuber sent up three or four shoots, where as the seedlings only one.

5. Cyclamen time again: 

The special hederifoliums  in pots are starting to flower as is the Cyclamen cilicium in the gravel. I even spied the tiny leaves of Cyclamen graecum which are in their second season grown from seed.  In the conservatory bed a few of the Cyclamen coums too are putting forth a tentative leaf or two

6. Plum Mirabelle de Nancy first harvest might not have had a given much this year, but it may just be spared for another year to see if matters improve. I've given it a bit of a prune removing crossing branches etc, and reducing long growths so it is also looking quite smart.


I shall make a mini bottled Mirabelle preserve to celebrate this harvest.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Visit to Gasper Cottage - Mid August

 Our first visit to Gasper Cottage a couple of weeks ago was a great success.  What beauties in the way of situation and planting, in this very tranquil location.  On a warm day what could be greater than sitting besides the pond watching dragon flies, or watching the grasses way in the breeze from the seat at the top end of the Orchard.  

The family were in the garden, as was their gardener, and being a keen garden designer owner Bella Hoare was very happy to answer questions about a couple of plants I had seen.  Also her art studio was open with some of her current works.  Partner Johnnie Gallop was around and his book A Memory of Lies was available to buy, so a copy was purchased, and will have good reading I hope over the next few weeks.

Salvia Purple rain in a mass planting

I seem drawn to various systems of plant support, and found this series of linked circles of stems particularly pleasing, forming an interesting sculptural element through which trailing plants could wind their way through.  

If there is to be a specially commissioned  sculpture surely a gateway through which one has to walk, is one of the best forms as it can be so closely appreciated each time one moves from one part of the garden to another, and as this is on the way to the studio a great way to inspire and bring on creative instincts.

Just outside the studio is a sky reflecting circular pond, with shaded seating.

There were throughout the garden great combinations of colour.

The Orchard with its cleverly planted meadow was in my opinion best viewed from the bench at the top corner looking down across and towards the central statue of two bird like forms,.  Walking around the perimeter one could be persuaded that they were forming a moving ballet and froze the moment you looked at them.  

The gardener pointed out this interesting plant which they had grown from seed this year: Cuphea viscosisima, and offered me some of the spent seed heads.

The views from the garden of the surrounding countryside were quite charming.

Close to the house, a mature woven willow hedge had cross growths that had fused together. When pruned hard of the lush growth or in winter with the sun shining through it must form an interesting feature and help to diffuse any winds crossing the valley.

To one side of the lawn a long mixed border had a good collection of interesting plants.

To the very front of the border, by the steps, my eye was drawn to this little Persicaria.  This is one of the plants which Bella Hoare was happy to expand on.  It is Persicaria capitatum Afghan. 

Another attractive front of the border Persicaria a little further along P. Donald Lowndes, with its pale and darker flowering stems and neat glossy foliage, was used to set off taller plants behind.

Dotted around the tables and also grouped together were some fine bonsai.  With some newly trained plants one could see the effort taken to ease the branches into the classic forms.  However with planters this size, Hoare Junior emphasized that sometimes watering is required twice daily.  This was his particular interest and he was pleased that Bella was now taking to it too.

Again I am noticing interesting placements for bright marigolds.  This one looked a little like Cinnabar.

A garden well worth visiting, and one which is kept vibrant with regular trials of plant groupings.  Already in the small glasshouse were several pans of newly emerging seedlings. I really ought to have noted some of the names!

Monday, 23 August 2021

In a Vase on Monday

 In the face of plenty a completely pared down offering can be satisfying.  That goes for many situations: out with a whole group of people it can be the few minutes of quiet contemplation on one's own, or when one has had the luxury of wonderful meals,  a simple dish of a boiled egg and slice of toast, so it is this week with my small vase for the breakfast table.

Whilst weeding yesterday I came eye to eye with the fresh growth on a geranium recently cut back.


With its centre dark eye and bright but delicate strong fuchsia pink or magenta petals, a small spring of Hardy Geranium 'Ann Folkard' is bright and fresh.  

A few stems from a tiny Love in the Mist and a stem of Teucrium scorodonia 'Crispum Marginatum'. 

"Green suede-textured leaves whose ruffled edges and rimmed with white. The spikes of tiny cream-lipped flowers are a"nother charm in midsummer. Self sown seedlings can revert to the type" Words from Beth Chatto's Plants and Gardens.

I'm joining Cathy's weekly get together where we show A Vase on Monday.

Saturday, 21 August 2021

Six on Saturday - 21 August 2021

Poor light conditions and lack of sunshine generally with rain on and off this week is so unlike Augusts we have had in the past.  Mustn't carp on, and I shall just get one with a hasty Six this week:

1. Cuttings: here are a couple of varieties of geranium.  This time of the year they root easily and continuing with plants in smaller pots is an easy way of keeping them until next March when they can be potted on.

2.  I cycled past a nice display of potted up plants earlier this week and a young budding gardener was delighted when I bought this marigold which she had grown on her mother's allotment, then placed in a pot.  You have to encourage them.  Just 60p a bargain! And I asked if they needed any pots for next year: now I know where to take all my pots, and she even asked what I would charge her for them.  A budding business woman too!  I said 'free'! Good job I have some decent panniers on my bicycle. I've noticed more marigolds being planted even in 'posh' places like the Newt.  Do you think they are coming back into favour?

3. Yes this is a pink!  more like shredded silk than cut with 'pinking shears'.  This is Dianthus superbus which when it has rained just looked like a curly headed beauty freshly out of the shower, but as the petals dry they fluff out nicely. When the sun returns the garden will be effused with its perfume.

5. Tall and pretty purple flowered Thalictrum delavayi. A little sparse this year in the size of its flowers spikes.  

6. Pink firework display courtesy of  Allium carinatum  subs pulchellum . I made a bouquet including these to take to a gathering of our WI gardening club, and one person said they really wanted this one. I teased them with seed and a promise of flowers in three to four years.  Now that is mean: I shall divide a clump and should Maggie choose to increase her own stock she will be able to save her own seed next year.

and smaller blue ones too by Allium Sikkimense added this year to the gravel garden.  I showed this to the Alpine Garden Society Facebook page, and found out that" flowering now it's beesianum, May/June sikkimense.   this clone produces plantlets rather than seed, so very easy to propagate."

I has split it when I first got it as just one clump, and hope that each little piece expands.  We shall see!

Friday, 20 August 2021

Jacket or Baked Apples

 When I was little my Grandma called this pudding Jacket Apples, or maybe I have got it completely wrong and it was jacket potatoes.  Of course she may have used that title of Jacket Apples as an Old Lincolnshire name for a delicious, easy to make even in large quantities dessert. I've just checked with hubby and his Mum also made this pudding and they also called it  Jacket Apples,

Cooking apples make for a soft fluffy Jacket baked apple, a nice ripe eating apple for a smaller sweeter firmer jacket baked apple.  The principle is in effect similar.  Times for baking may vary depending on how large your apples are, how mature, how sweet etc.

Wash and core your apples. Take the point of a sharp knife and just run it through the skin along its equator.  This stops the apple from 'exploding' in the open, though it may well fluff up with a white middle peeping through! The hollow centres are going to be stuffed with something sweet and delicious.  There are so many choices dates and nuts and honey, or dried apricots soaked in marsala wine chopped, mixed with a little brown sugar and chopped hazelnuts, but if you have some good mincemeat, then that is absolutely delicious too.

Just pour a little liquid again the choice is yours: a little cider, fruit juice or just water to about 1/2cm depth.  Pop them in the oven, preferably when it is on for general baking, and bake for around half an hour at 160 C fan oven.

 I like a little drizzle of honey or Golden Syrup depending on the stuffing.  To be quick a nice dollop of my ewe's milk yogurt from Wootton Dairy Otherwise some custard, creme fresh or whatever!

Today a group of our WI Blooming Fun was visiting Janette for a first garden party and picnic.  We got to pick some of her fruit, and this was made with a new season apple.  First of the Apple Nouveau puddings!

Saturday, 14 August 2021

Six on Saturday - 14 August 21

 Again another week of rain: not constant but wet enough not to have to think about doing any watering, except of course it doesn't rain in pots where the  rain drips off the foliage beyond the perimeter of the soil in the pot.  For smaller pots I check the weight to guage the dampness, but having seen some of the evergreens flag, I knew I had been a little remiss in the watering.  The waterbutt is full, so the hose has remained wound up which seems so unusual for this time of the year.

1. I pricked out a couple of varieties of lettuces, in the hope there is some growing time before the winter sets in.  In any case I am quite happy to cut them young and eat the whole head.  I had to buy a lettuce today.  It was huge and beautifully grown, but still I would rather walk out pick a few leaves, and not have to find room in the fridge, nor have to throw away yet another plastic bag.

After growing the seeds in the small pots having sown just a few well spaced, each was carefully separated and put one to a module in some fresh compost.

Using the movable potting trough, the tray is placed on about 4cm of water, and is allowed to draw up the moisture from below, before it is taken out and allowed to drain.  Afterwards I put the tray higher up, out of the reach of the slugs, overnight and then on the ground in good light but not in harsh sunshine.  Should the forecast be for heavy rain, then I put on the clear cover to protect the tender leaves from the rain.  I like to grow small seedlings on in the modules for a week or two, until they are a little stronger and stand a chance of not all being eaten by slugs.  Also the ground where they are to go is currently being used and the lettuce will be planted out when that crop is over. 

I can just hear you all wonder why am I showing you all this beginner stages?

A friend's son had asked if he could come round to learn a few gardening skills, but he has just passed his driving test, so I guess it might be through the medium of emails and links to posts such as this one, that he might continue his interest in gardening! Most gardening tasks cannot be carried forward for too long, the stage that the seedlings are at dictate the optimum pricking out time.

2. As regular reader may have reaslised, I have a bit of a thing about alliums. Another new allium this time the yellow flowering Allium Flavum.  Its form is similar to the pink Allium carinatum  subs pulchellum Just as with the later, I shall keep some seed and grow on for more clumps in the front 'Mediterranean' planting scheme.

Allium Flavum

3. Another yellow close to the bird bath is a Potentilla fruticosa which was alredy herein the garden, when we moved in, but since moved to that spot.  I haven't any idea what the cultivar is but it takes to being chopped back, and just keeps on flowering.

4. Also close to that area is a shrub that arrived as a tiny cutting last winter from 'Over the Edge'. Carefully nurtured I like this Salvia Leucantha's leaves and pale semi arching stems.  It flowered once but all the flowers were soon hidden with strong side growths taking over, so on the next flush, I removed the side shoots, but the plant just did not like this and the flower spikes morphed into stems with remnants of the flowers along the stems.  What a shame as I wanted to get the flowers to be at the very end of the growth.  Is it just this season, or the soil conditions at that location, or the natural habit?  Maybe it has just not liked the weather.  I'll take some cuttings soon and try it on the south wall outer border next year.  That area is drier, sunnier, and not as fertile.

5. The various Origanums have on the whole suffered with the rain, and some have been cut back to removed the 'manky' flowering stems allowing what sun we get to reach newly emerging shoots.  

Origanum Bristol Cross is holding relatively well and is a magnet for bees when it stops raining.

6.  One plant that is doing far better now that it has been moved to a shady spot is the purple leaved Chinese Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Fire Dance.  That won't need to be moved again!

Taking over a new garden, even a small garden, one can see growing conditions are not even,  with not all areas suiting all the plants.  Then one has to get to understand what conditions best suit the plants, and that is without even working out which plants look best growing together.   All in in the eye of the beholder and of course at the mercy of unpredictable and very varying weather!  Who would garden?  

This week I have been arranging the details to go on our gardening club webpage for our next speaker Mary Payne. Whilst chatting to her over the phone we compared notes on our small gardens.  We chatted about the advantage of having small gardens and being able to look over everything most days and spot things.  I liked her expression that good gardeners have "Green eyes", it got me thinking that it is observation which is paramount.