February 21st, 2016
You don’t need me to tell you the weather has been bonkers this winter. I can remember some odd flowering companions in the past, but I have never had snowdrops, daffodils, tender salvias from Mexico and delphiniums all out at the same time. See the photo taken on 9 January. It’s not a magnificent specimen I grant you, but it is a delphinium flower spike nevertheless.
The weird weather has caused me a dilemma. Peter bought me 40 bags of beautiful, well rotted manure for Christmas*. I know not every wife would welcome bags of horse s**t for Christma from her husband, but it made me very happy. But – and here lies the problem – if I put it on now and it suddenly turns very cold later on, will it cause leggy growth that gets struck by frostbite? For all I know, when you read this in this great newsletter, we may be a foot deep in snow.
January 17th, 2016
After really unseasonal weather, snow! Have you ever seen snow on a delphinium before?
December 19th, 2015
In October we visited a National Trust property newly opened in Markfield, just outside Loughborough called Stoneywell. It is really unusual, partly because of the viewing arrangements. Parking is in a field about half a mile away, and you get ferried to it by minibus. You then have a guided tour of this small but fascinating place. It was owned by the Gimson family, one of whom lived it until very recently. It is described as Arts and Crafts, all the furniture and decorations are very much in that style, so it has a light and airy, rather peaceful atmosphere. The house itself is a short walk from the road and is built into the side of a stony hill, so on one side it looks like a single storey building. The guides are very knowledgeable about the house and the family’s history and you will need to allow about 45 minutes for the tour alone.
November 29th, 2015
This is the time of year I wish I’d planted more for autumn and winter interest. A bit of forward planning goes a long way in the garden (and elsewhere I guess!) but it’s hard when the season is 12 months long and varies hugely depending on the weather, rampaging wildlife and our lack of spare time and energy. Hey ho.
October 1st, 2015
Now is a good time to take stock in the garden – what worked well, what didn’t, were there any gaps in the borders that need planning for more carefully? I’m heavily into succession planning so there is colour in as many places as possible all year. But it is hard to get it right all, or even most of the time, so here are some of my tips to keep your garden in good order with some colour all season next year:
• Order a good number of spring bulbs: a decent show is much better that a few dotted around. I get mine from de Jager, but there are plenty of options on line and in the shops. If you have a new garden, or are not sure where to plant them, put them in pots. Next year when they have flowered you will be able to see more clearly where to put them;
September 1st, 2015
In June we had a week’s holiday in the Ashdown Forest. I made my usual pilgrimage to Great Dixter, which was looking fantastic, full of vibrant colour that makes you feel immersed rather than a mere spectator. The meadow was past its colourful best but still very beautiful with soft pink and beige grasses taking over from the early summer wildflowers. Just a few orchids were still evident, and wild blue geranium dotted about .
August 27th, 2015
From left to right: Celias pink buddleia, Inula magnifica, pink clematis scrambling through a myrtle, stachys with red sedum.
July 27th, 2015
It’s easy at this time of year to appreciate the gorgeous flowers in our gardens. Roses, clematis, annuals such as Cosmos and Nicotiana to name a few are looking lovely right now and give our eyes and noses a visual and fragrant treat.
June 14th, 2015
At the time of writing this – mid May – the oriental poppies are coming into bud. They are so quickly over I vow every year to look them out every day to make sure I enjoy every minute of their short lives. My best laid plans to stake them properly and effectively early in May have been forgotten as usual ; the best way when I have got round to it is to use brushwood stuck into the ground around and between them. It disappears as the poppies grow up and looks more natural than those green wirey jobs.
May 1st, 2015
A new friend walked round ‘Charnwood’ with me in March and kindly commented on how she appreciated the naturalistic style of planting; ‘a woodland garden’ was her description. Those of you who read this column regularly will know that this is a big compliment – I am not in the ‘neat’ or ‘formal’ garden fan club. That’s not to say that, if you like it neat, I am right and you are wrong; one of the fun things about gardening is that we all do it in different ways. Not all of us are verging on being obsessive about plants like me; most of you are much better balanced human beings. The trick is to combine your favourite plants in an overall scheme that works for you, your family and your pets. Dogs and cats in my experience aren’t fab gardeners.