Bank Holiday Monday

Bank Holidays in the UK are badly distributed, in my view. We get two in March or April, depending when Easter falls, two in May – three this year, because of the coronation – then nothing until late August by which time we’ll all be exhausted. Then nothing else till Christmas and New Year.

Anyway, here we are on the last Monday in May, aka the Spring Bank Holiday. It was gloriously sunny on Saturday and Sunday which means of course that the sun has disappeared today – though it is starting to brighten up a bit now. On the plus side that makes it a bit more comfortable for gardening and easier for taking photos. On Saturday I did some bits and bobs in the back garden – mainly sowing veg and herb seeds (two types of lettuce, two types of kale and some Greek oregano) in containers. This morning I have planted up the troughs under the front window with the now-traditional pelargoniums, and also planted out some little osteospermums that Mum and I bought the last time we were at the garden centre. They won’t be hardy but they’ll be a splash of colour in the front garden for the summer. I also transfered the heuchera Sugar Frosting and Georgia Peach, which were in pots in the front garden, into the ground. At the back I have planted out a catanache which Mum gave me yesterday – I had one a few years ago but it succumbed in a cold winter.

So at the front we have these under the window:

They look a bit teeny at the moment but they’ll soon fill out. My current favourite is Fire Works:

This is one of the little osteospermum:

At the back there’s a lot going on – the clematis montana is still flowering well

but the clematis florida will be getting in on the act soon – the petals are just starting to unfurl.

We have one very tall foxglove in the lower woodland, and there will be lots more.

Hardy geraniums are doing well – both the big blue Himalayan and the little pink one.

Just next to the pink geranium you can see an allium – this is one of the other varieties which I mentioned last Sunday and which I thought had vanished. It turns out they were just a bit later getting going and there are now two of them partly open.

There’s plenty of more dramatic colour at the back too – from the cistus

via red dianthus

Salvia (possibly Cherry Lips?)


and callibrachoe (I can’t believe I have never had any of these before)

to heuchera Cherry Cola, whose flowers have started to open since yesterday

and this little diascia, which Mum gave us yesterday.

I’m also delighted to find that we have a couple of self-seeded poppies – only one open so far but it’s a little dot of yellow at the far end of the woodland walk.

And the ever reliable snow-in-summer is just getting on with it, as it does every year.

Happy gardening!

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Plant of the week – week 22

This is going to be a photo-heavy one for which I make no apologies. The chosen plant this week is one of my absolute favourites, a plant which has a place in every garden in my view. For the apparently endless variety of colours and leaf textures, its usefulness in all conditions, the evergreen ones that keep providing interest all year round – for so many reasons, I love heuchera (aka coral bells), and I’m not alone.

Heuchera are part of the saxifrage family and are largely native to North America where they can be found in lots of different habitats, so there are numerous species which have evolved to deal with different conditions. Add to that the huge number of cultivars and there’s clearly got to be a heuchera for every taste. I like to have as many different ones as possible. We’ve grown many in pots but the risk there is the dreaded vine weevil, so I’m starting to put more in the ground instead. Those already in the ground in our garden seem to do well in most situations. Generally they like dappled shade, but the darker colours do well in full sun, which can bleach paler ones. As well as the varied leaves they bear sprays of tiny flowers on long stems, often in a sharply contrasting colour to the leaves.

Time for the photos – I did warn you. I’m going to start with darker leaved varieties, thought in all cases there are some without tags so variety might be a best guess. Some, especially lighter leaved varieties, are in flower already, and some will flower in high summer.

Midnight Rose – I love the random splashes of pink.

Chocolate Ruffles – a bit of a monster, which will need splitting in the autumn. Our very first heuchera was a Chocolate Ruffles, which got left behind in a house move, so when I found another one I had to have it.

This next one has no tag, but I’d put money on it being Sugar Frosting. Its creamy white flowers are just starting to open.

Blackberry Jam – beautiful leaves.

Obsidian – very well-named.

Plum Pudding – we have a few of these dotted about as I split the original a couple of years ago.

Moving on to some of the pink/red/orange leaves, we have Georgia Peach – this seems to be one which I split at some point as we have two. One in a pot in the front garden isn’t in flower yet but one in the ground in the back garden is.

Marmalade, currently in a pot but a candidate for planting out as soon as I find a good spot for it.

Peach Flambe has a few flowers

while its neighbour Cherry Cola has lots of buds but no open flowers yet.

Coralberry is part of a group known as the Indian Summer series:

And another mystery one, and I’m drawing a blank here. For a moment I thought it might be Caramel but Caramel doesn’t have the marked veining on the leaves. If anyone’s got any ideas I’d love to hear them!

Green varieties now – starting with the fabulous Green Spice. Its flowers are underwhelming but the beauty here is in the colours of the leaves.

Paris is another one that I’ve split, and we have a couple dotted about (please excuse the slightly nibbled leaves and the invading wild geum). The flowers are strikingly pink.

Another mystery one, it might be Firefly – it’s similar to Paris but the flowers are a bit darker and more red than pink, though the photos don’t really show the difference well.

No mystery here, this is Apple Crisp – lovely bright green leaves with frilly edges, and clouds of white flowers:

In a shady spot at the bottom end of the woodland walk we have the acid green of Lime Marmalade – struggled a bit when I first planted it here but it’s settled in now and has a few buds appearing.

Finally, a bit of a green/orange crossover – the gorgeous Ginger Ale.

So there we are. You could choose heuchera as plant of the week at pretty much any time of year and there has to be at least one for everyone. My obsession isn’t going to diminish any time soon – every time I go plant shopping I find more that I just have to have!

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Getting ready for summer

Today we spent a lot of time getting things sorted in the garden and there’ll be more work next weekend. I still seem to have so many things I intended to do that just haven’t happened – there’s a packet of lettuce seed sitting around waiting for me to actually sow them for a start! We haven’t got our tomato plants yet, or any growbags to put them in.

Still, we made a lot of progress today. J got stuck into the front garden, doing a lot of weeding and some cutting back of bigger things. The photinias will need a really hard cut back when they’ve finished flowering but they look too good at the moment!

There’s a lot of centaurea flowering, and it won’t be long before we’ve got flowers on the lavender, foxgloves and santolina too. Yesterday Mum and I went to the pelargonium nursery and I bought ten plug plants (two each of five varieties) for the troughs, but I want to let them grow a bit more before planting them.

In the bed closest to the road, the mahonia “Soft Caress” had been getting swamped by the photinia so J moved it out into the middle of the bed:

Here’s hoping it settles well there.

By the front door the two pots of evergreens have been swapped out for two lovely heuchera – Midnight Rose:

and Green Spice:

Meanwhile I was busy at the back.

A lot of pulmonaria has been either deadheaded or pulled up – it’ll come back in the winter anyway but for now I wanted to make space for other things. In the bed by the fence, once I’d created space, I found that the geum and the astrantia that I thought had died last year were both hanging on which is good. Around them I planted the pittosporum Silver Queen that’s been getting stressed in its pot, and a few heuchera – Blackberry Jam, Obsidian and a pinkish red one whose label has gone missing.

In the middle of the garden I mainly concentrated on removal of pulmonaria and wild geum – there are heuchera in pots standing on some of the beds which I may plant out in the next couple of weeks. But I did discover that a penstemon I’d given up for dead is bouncing back, as is a potentilla and quite possibly the alstromeria from two years ago which have never done anything. Sadly though we have lost the penstemon Bodnant which we’d had for several years. Despite that loss, the middle part of the garden is looking full and lush at the moment so barring a few tweaks I’m pretty happy with it.

By the green house there’s a little heuchera in the ground (I think it’s a Paris) which has lovely bright pink flowers.

Just the other side of the greenhouse is one in a pot, Apple Crisp, which is just coming into flower. This is a possible candidate for going in the ground, more or less where it’s currently standing, once I get rid of the pulmonaria.

In the lower woodland I found a hosta I’d forgotten about but which seems to be doing well anyway. This one is a “Twilight” – there are three others, either Twilight or Guacamole, hanging on in other areas which I’m trying to protect from slugs and snails by surrounding them with a thick mat of wool pellets, but this one doesn’t seem to need my help!

Also in the lower woodland a lovely bronze fern caught my eye.

And in the woodland walk I planted out my holiday acquisition – epimedium “Sulphureum”:

As well as pelargoniums, yesterday I bought plants for the hanging pots on the fence. So I planted those up today for an instant splash of colour. Two have been planted with bidens – Blazing Glory and Sun Drop:

For the other two I went for callibrachoe – Bolero and Early Sunset:

As they’re all nice established plants they already look fantastic.

One last bit of fun – our friend N sent us a pretty butterfly wind chime, so we have hung it in the sambucus:

More to do next week, and it’s a three-day weekend so plenty of time to do it in! I hope you’re enjoying good weather and happy gardening.

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Plant of the week – week 21

Today has been a gardening day for us (more in a later post) so there were lots of photos to choose from, and at least a couple of really good candidates for plant of the week. However I’ve decided to go with this one for its striking appearance and the fact that all of the flowers now seem to be fully open, but after this week I expect them to start going over. We’ve only had alliums in the garden for about three or four years and last year I was quite disappointed with them – we only seemed to get one or two flowers. This year they’re looking lovely and are visible from the house as big purple punctuation marks halfway down the garden.

They have formed a lovely group here, just beyond the apple tree, with centaurea and aquilegia. All fairly accidental but sometimes that gives the best results.

Allium is the general name for a very large family including chives, garlic and onions, but is usually understood to refer to the ornamental onions which are extremely popular as late spring bulbs and are very easy to grow. There are numerous varieties of flower but all ours are the same – we had a few that were different but they don’t seem to have survived. Perhaps I’ll get some more…

The bees are enjoying them at the moment too!

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Plant of the week – week 20

This week I was spoilt for choice! Some of the options can be seen in the previous post, but in the end I went for one that now grows happily in several self-seeded clumps in both front and back gardens, and which was not quite flowering when we went away last weekend but is now covered and looking glorious. One of my favourite flowers and I really should try to get some in different colours! Centaurea montana, also known as the perennial cornflower, mountain cornflower, bachelor’s button, montane knapweed or mountain bluet, is a popular cottage garden plant and great for pollinating insects; the seedheads are also good for finches, especially goldfinches. So I don’t deadhead them as carefully as I probably should.

The original plant is long gone, but was a cheap and cheerful purchase from the supermarket ten years ago, since when new plants have seeded themselves around. The plant is native to southern Europe, especially mountainous regions (hence the name) but as a garden plant in northern Europe it has also spread and naturalised. This autumn I should really make the effort to split some of the clumps as they’re getting very large.

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It’s that time of year again

We’ve been away on holiday for a week, and got back yesterday to find everything had quadrupled in size in our absence. There are lots more things flowering – including some complete surprises – and now I want another week off so I can do all the weeding, deadheading and general tidying that are suddenly very necessary. It’s always pleasing to reach the point where there’s hardly any bare earth visible because everything’s filled out so much.

In the back garden, it all looks lush and green with colour starting to appear.

The clematis are looking lovely

The azalea is flowering- it had only just started to flower when we went away.

In surprise flower territory, the pittosporum “Silver Queen” is covered in little dark purplish red flowers. I have very vague memories of it flowering before but had completely forgotten that it did (its label says nothing about flowers!).

The Himalayan geranium is just starting to flower, as are the various heuchera.

Alliums were just buds when we went away, and now we have a lovely clump, not quite fully open, in a group with aquilegia and centaurea.

Meanwhile at the front, the photinias are both glorious (but will both need a good cut back when the flowers go over) and most other things are filling out and looking healthy.

There’s a slightly overshadowed mahonia under there which we’re thinking of moving to the bed in front of the house.

The santolina has lots of buds, which is a pleasant surprise – it seems like years since it last flowered.

And in complete surprise territory, the viburnum which I thought we’d lost in last year’s heatwave is looking fine and flowering well.

We didn’t do very much on holiday – there was a lot of drinking tea and reading books going on – but on one of our more active days we visited Eggleston Hall Gardens, which I can thoroughly recommend – and not just for the cafe! The gardens themselves are very pretty but the real joy for me was the nursery. If I lived in the area I would go there for all my plants. While looking round the garden I spotted a plant that I was very taken with but didn’t recognise – I just knew I wanted one! So I took a photo, and after looking around the nursery for a while but not seeing it I asked one of the staff and showed her my photo, and she was able to point me in the right direction. It’s so refreshing to visit a garden and actually find the plants they grow there for sale; so many times we see something and when we get to the plant sales it’s lavender, hollyhocks and euonymus but not the thing we wanted. The difference is visiting a garden attached to a nursery and staffed by good plantsmen and women who know what they’re doing and can propagate plants well.

Just in case anyone’s curious, the plant in question was epimedium “Sulphureum” and I was especially pleased to find that it thrives in dry shade. I have hopes for it colonising the Woodland Walk. There were many more plants I would have loved to buy, but we wouldn’t have been able to fit them in the car so I had to restrain myself.

Back to work tomorrow, so it’ll be a while before I can get out there and do all the jobs that need doing. Hoping you’re all enjoying good weather and your gardens are growing!

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Slightly belated plant of the week – week 19

Normally I post these on Sundays but the weekend was a bit busy (we’re on holiday!). I didn’t want to miss a week and as I’m away from home it’s a case of managing with the photos I already had access to. I have been keeping an eye on both our clematis montana as they’ve been covered in buds and I’m sure while I’m away they will be looking amazing. We have two, one on the fence and one partly on an old wrought iron bench end and partly on the now deceased callistemon. One of them is meant to be an autumn flowerer but has turned out to be spring flowering.

Clematis montana is a member of the buttercup family and is sometimes known as Himalayan clematis; it’s native to mountain areas of Asia from Afghanistan to Taiwan and is popular as a garden plant in temperate regions. It’s always said that they like their heads in the sun and their feet in the shade.

Keeping the post short today as we’re going out – the sun is shining so we want to enjoy the day!

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May Day

No work today, as it’s the May Day bank holiday. We hadn’t planned to do any gardening but did end up doing a few bits and pieces – I planted out the new strawberry runners and earthed up the potatoes, and Jeremy emptied the compost bins (some good usable stuff, some still breaking down and some stubborn bits which have gone in the brown bin). He wanted to move the compost bins to install some more sturdy blocking material under the hedge. Lola has a sworn enemy, the little dog whose garden backs on to ours, and they shout at each other through the hedge, so we are hoping that if they can’t see each other and if she can’t get as close to the bottom of the hedge any more, it will help to reduce the antagonism.

Anyway, having done all that it was a good excuse to take some photos!

The apple tree is covered in blossom and full of bees, so we should get a good harvest again this year.

This is my one surviving snowdrop anemone (anemone sylvestris) – the other one succumbed to the heatwave last summer, though I may buy some more and have another go. Anyway, this one is flowering happily.

The centaurea and the clematis montana are starting to open

Daffodils are still doing well, this is one of my current favourites

Tulips have been doing well too – this is Blueberry Ripple

And we can’t have an early May photo shoot without some perfect forget-me-nots.

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Plant of the week – week 18

This week the garden seems to be full of things I’ve already featured, things that have yet to reach their best, and things that have already gone over and I’ve missed the opportunity. My chosen plant falls into both of the latter two for different reasons. Last week its frothy cream flowers were perfect but my photos fell short of the mark. This week the flowers have started to go over, but the foliage is still coming in and the whole thing is a lot less well “clothed” than it will be in a few weeks. Still, it deserves its place in the list, especially as I look out at it every morning and think how lovely it is.

Sambucus racemosa “Sutherland’s Gold” was one of those reduced shelf bargains I was talking about last week. When we first bought it we planted it closer to the hedge, then in one of our periodic reorganisations it was moved (while still quite small) to its current position. With a bit more sunlight to encourage it, and better soil than the hedge allowed it, it has done very well indeed.

It’s also known as the European red elder. Sambucus is a large genus, some members of which produce edible berries (though they must be cooked first) which are popular with foragers. The flowers and berries of the common British species can be used to make wine and non-alcoholic drinks, and the flowers and fruit of Sutherland’s Gold are apparently similarly edible – not that we’ve tried it. Last year was the first time we had any berries – unlike the usual dark purple, Sutherland’s Gold berries are bright red. I’m hoping for a few more this year.

Last week the flowers were perfect and I did manage this photo:

This week they are a bit less frothy-looking. New foliage is still emerging, giving a pleasing contrast between the dark red of the new and the pale green of the older.

Some of the flowers don’t look too bad, though.

And the flowers and new foliage together look lovely.

Tomorrow is a public holiday in the UK, and so is next Monday – so extra time to get out there and do things.. This is easily my favourite time of year, when everything is bursting into life and the garden looks different every time you go outside. I hope you’re all having lovely weather and enjoying your gardens too.

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Plant of the week – week 17

This week’s plant has changed its name but I can’t get used to the new one. Formerly Dicentra spectabilis, it’s now properly called Lamprocapnos spectabilis; true dicentra are similar but there is more variation in the flower colours and shapes. Common names include bleeding heart, as the flowers resemble a heart shape with a drop below it, and variations on lady in a bath or lady in a boat, for the appearance when turned upside down. They are native to north eastern Asia and have been an ornamental garden plant there for centuries. First brought to Britain in 1810, they were then lost and reintroduced in 1846 by a Scottish botanist, Robert Fortune.

We have had a few over the years. Our first, when we lived in Bristol, was an out-of-season heavily reduced plant which looked very sorry for itself but which flourished for the next couple of summers; sadly we had to leave it behind when we moved house. For several years we had a white one in a pot which travelled around with us, but which didn’t survive for very long once we planted it out. And for a year or so there was a very dark red variety in the front garden here, but it struggled and was eventually overwhelmed by more vigorous neighbours.

This one, however, continues to do well year after year. It lives on the edge of the Lower Woodland, in a reasonably sunny spot, which seems to suit it well. Its neighbours, the ferns, hellebores, daffodils and Japanese anemones, don’t seem to be too much of a threat, and having it in this little group means there are flowers here on rotation throughout the spring. There are foxgloves lurking behind it too so the flowering season here will extend into the summer.

The flowers appear on long delicate stems in April and May, making it one of the earliest perennials in many parts of Britain, but the foliage dies back quite quickly after flowering so it works best in a mixed border where other things will take over once it’s finished.

This photo shows well why it’s known as bleeding heart:

And this one shows the lady-in-a-bath/lady-in-a-boat angle:

If you find they’re a bit expensive at this time of year it’s worth waiting another month then checking the reduced shelves for a bargain.

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