March 16th, 2019
To mulch or not to mulch – that is the question at this time of year. Mulching your borders has real benefits especially if, like us at Charnwood, your soil is sticky, cold, heavy clay. It breaks it down, improving the structure so making it crumblier and easier to plant and sow into. The material you use will depend on what is available and what you can sensibly move around. It can be expensive too: the last big load we had delivered was well over £100. It was gorgeous stuff though; half farmyard manure and half mushroom compost. The plants loved it.
February 2nd, 2019
February is a good month for the start of a great season for what can broadly be described as woodland plants: think snowdrops, ferns, hellebores, hardy geraniums, epimediums and dicentra for starters. So many lovely plants will thrive in gentle shade, especially if it is on the damp side. Dry shade is a bit trickier but not impossible.
January 1st, 2019
Logs all ready for the cold weather.
December 1st, 2018
We’ve had a very special garden visitor in recent weeks – a kingfisher. Such beautiful, unmistakeable birds with a real wow factor. Inevitably I went to the internet to find out a bit more about them and found that they are territorial. The size of the territory depends on the amount of food available, and on the local bird population. Kingfisher territories tend to cover at least 1km of river, but may extend much wider. Small fish such as stickleback are their favourite food, but they will also nosh aquatic insects and tadpoles. The visit to us is fairly typical in the winter when they may have to go a bit further afield for a decent meal. Our newly refurbished pond is looking magnificent but will be a big disappointment to our wonderful visitor as we have decided against having fish in it, preferring a more wildlife friendly pond this time.
November 10th, 2018
I’ve been dividing my day lilies. Gosh, I hear you say – why, and why now?
Keeping your herbaceous perennials healthy and looking good sometimes requires some work. This is a really good time of year to lift and divide plants that have got congested. That is when the middle of the plant looks bare and sad, and flowers scarce. Day lilies are especially prone to running out of steam, but if you dig them up now (as long as it’s a reasonably mild spell), add a bucket of decent compost to the soil and then plant some of the new, bright looking clumps you very likely will be rewarded with more flowers next year.
Plants, like humans, vary in how they like to be looked after. A general rule of thumb is that if they flower later on during late summer or in the autumn, they are best left until spring. Michaelmas daisies usually do best when refreshed then.
October 1st, 2018
The hot summer has really sorted the sun lovers from the rest in the garden this year. Our Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa) has been glorious and actually now has beans: they followed on from the masses of elegant, loose racemes of white flowers. We have had sunflowers the size of dinner plates and now in early autumn, Dahlias, Rudbeckias, Verbena bonariensis, tobacco plants, Cleomes and gorgeous red Alstroemeria (pictured) are making a gorgeous show. I’ve not done a scientific study but experience has made me think that the secret to survival is to follow the ‘right plant, right place’ mantra. Where the garden has looked less good is where I have taken a risk and, for example, planted something in a spot on the dry side when it needs a shadier, cooler position.
August 1st, 2018
Garden visiting I find is great for getting new ideas. We had a lovely weekend away last month in the Cotswolds and called by Hidcote Manor Gardens on the way. Lawrence Johnston bought Hidcote in 1907 and turned it into a beautiful garden with the support of his mother. Now it is owned by the National Trust. From the website:
‘Today income generated by approximately 175,000 people who visit Hidcote every year ensures the garden is maintained to a high standard, and that the beauty that Lawrence Johnston created between 1907 and 1948 will be preserved for future generations to enjoy’
July 21st, 2018
We visited the Malvern Spring Festival again last month. I know Chelsea is seen as the best of the best for good reason, but we now much prefer the space, freshness and lack of celebrity of Malvern.
Two of the show gardens appealed – Billy’s Cave with the little goats was really different – a quote from the blurb:
‘The garden is designed to evoke a slow pace smallholding in rural Portugal, where a goat herder spotted an opportunity within the boundaries of his land. A cave, complete with natural spring alongside an old olive tree has become part of the area’s character’.
The other, my favourite, was the Dew Pond. In the words of the designer:
‘… this garden makes a small step change to counter the effects of global warming…. Dew ponds are rooted in our agricultural heritage and provide a rich habitat for wildlife that can be enjoyed relaxing on the deck…’
June 1st, 2018
Summer is here and the garden needs a bit of a tidy. Once the forget me nots, poppies and other spring flowers are over, I try and have a bit of a clear out to make space for some colour later on. Cosmos seems to be the go-to plant at the moment; it is certainly a class plant that fills those gaps beautifully. The main problem I find with them is that slugs and snails love them, especially when young. The best defence is to plant them as fairly well established plants, the younger and tenderer the leaves, the more slugs will happily munch them down to the ground. Cosmos come in a wide range of colours and sizes including pinks, purples, white, orange and red. They have pretty fern like foliage that makes the border look really graceful, and flowering goes on for a long time if you dead head them regularly.
May 20th, 2018
Last month we ventured down south to visit Sissinghurst and Great Dixter, two inspirational but very different gardens. Sissinghurst is beautifully designed and planted, no weeds, very neat. The spring walk, flanked by pleached limes is wonderful at this time of year. Daffodils, grape hyacinths, a few crocus hanging on, early tulips, primroses, all looked so pretty. In the nuttery, woodlanders prevail including those rather curious trilliums that seem to me to have a slightly sinister quality but I know they have their admirers! A lovely splash of colour was provided by a generous group of tulips ‘Orange Emperor’: one to look up in the bulb catalogue this Autumn.