December 29th, 2016
I’ve said this before on these pages, but will say it again - holly, or Ilex to give it its grown up name, is a much, underrated shrub. It can brighten up a dull corner under trees on or the dark side of the house, you can prune it (carefully, with gloves!), cut lovely branches now to decorate the house and let it get on with growing with little or no work from you. Birds like the berries too and we get little seedlings dotted around the garden here that presumably come from beak or feathery bum. If I spot them before Peter gets out with the strimmer, I pot them up, grow them on a bit so they can stand the wear and tear of living in our garden with rabbits and large dog, and then plant them along the back of the garden, they are not very fussy about soil. A couple have now made decent sized plants, admittedly after several years.
November 1st, 2016
November can be a pretty dull and depressing month can’t it? Darker nights, colder, often wetter weather and all winter in front of us. So here are a few suggestions to make you and your garden more cheery when the sun isn’t shining:
• Plant up a pot of scented plants right by your door. Pansies and violas have a lovely perfume – I much prefer the little violas best but each to their own. Other scented plants in winter include the winter flowering Virburnums – V. x bonantense Charles Lamont has an AGM and has pretty pink, scented flowers from October through to March. If you prefer an evergreen shrub, Saraccoca confusa, sometimes called winter box, has fluffy white flowers and an amazing, all pervading scent. Finally Lonicera × purpusii 'Winter Beauty' is a lovely member of the honeysuckle family;
October 1st, 2016
Not to boast (well, perhaps a bit) but we have a luxuriant, productive fig tree by our front door. The harvest this year was bountiful and is still going on. A fresh, ripe fig with some creamy yoghurt and honey is The Best Breakfast Ever. Not to be at all competitive, but I have several pals in the village who, quite frankly, don’t step up to the mark when it comes to the Good Fig Grower badge. So I thought I’d try and find out why mine is so good and theirs isn’t. I’d like to say it is down to expertise and horticultural exellence but I can’t honestly say I’ve done much to deserve such a proud specimen of a fig tree. Apart from planting it next to a sheltered, sunny wall. And talking to it in an encouraging kind of way.
August 19th, 2016
One really good plant for late summer colour is Salvia. This is the same family as the sage we use in cooking, but it is a vast genus. I’m not so keen on the dumpy little bedding ones that you see in bright colours, often set out in more formal planting schemes. I’m talking about the perennial salvias. Many are tender, originating in Mexico, so need to be given frost free shelter over the winter. I have a gorgeous red flowered one, its flowers look like they are made out of velvet. I keep it in a pot so I can pop it in the greenhouse, it has survived and thrived like that for a couple of years but I think I may have to pot it on this year.
July 24th, 2016
Many years ago I bought a small pot of a pretty little blue plant called Pratia pedunculata. A member of the campanula family, it has that gorgeous soft sky blue you seldom find in flowers. This one is very low growing, only around one or two centimetres (less than an inch in old money). I I bought it to soften the edge of a pond.
The aforementioned pond is now well gone, but while I wasn’t paying attention the little monkey of a plant crept slowly but determinedly towards the grass. Incidentally I now longer use the term ‘lawn’ to describe the bits Peter does on the ride on mower. It is full of weeds and moss but it is green and it mows so does the same job without throwing endless chemicals at it. But I digress….
June 3rd, 2016
It’s our 40th wedding anniversary this month. Can’t believe it really. I now know my lovely old Dad was spot on when he told me many years ago that the older you get the quicker the time flies by. Peter has just been playing some 70s music including Barclay James Harvest on a proper long playing record, just two tracks per side of 20 minutes, fab. We had Cat Stevens (as he was called then) ‘Morning has Broken’ as part of our wedding service as did many of our mates who got married in the mid seventies. Takes you back.
May 1st, 2016
Last month I spent a lovely couple of days with a mate visiting gardens down south. We planned to see two gardens specifically, Sissinghurst and Great Dixter. They are quite different in style – Sissinghurst is much more manicured, each ‘garden room’ clearly delineated with a theme and a complementary colour theme – the White Garden, the Lime Walk, The Purple border. Dixters’ design is a bit more fluid, planted more densely and with colours that sing out in contrast to shock as well as impress.
But both had a thing or two to teach us about how to plant and display plants. Some lessons learned or remembered:
• Plant spring bulbs in generous drifts. In my humble opinion the smaller headed, paler varieties of daffodils look best in meadow type settings, bold giants such as ‘King Alfred’ have their place but not in naturalistic drifts in grass;
April 1st, 2016
I love the garden in April. So much promise, masses of green shoots and buds, all fresh and new, not too many weeds, the clocks have moved on so the light evenings are longer, wonderful.
Gardening books are a passion of mine, I’ve often got my nose in one, sometimes when I’m supposed to be doing other things, especially cleaning. So this month, I’m taking you through a journey through some of my bookshelves to see what other, more eloquent and knowledgeable gardeners (surely not I hear you cry?) have said at this time of year:
‘I have just seen the most beautiful flowering tree in my life. It was a cherry, Prunus ‘Tahaku’ with a short trunk from which spread half a dozen strong branches… to span an area of perhaps thirty feet across. .. on the end of each one was a bundle of huge white blossom, hanging like delicate explosions caught and frozen in mid air’
March 1st, 2016
March is the best month to get out into the garden. Time spent now will pay huge dividends later in the year. Halt your gym membership, don your wellies and pick up your border fork! Here are a few suggestions:
• Weed your borders. Perennial weeds such as dandelions and bindweed need to be dug up carefully and put in your green bin or burned. If you leave a tiny bit of root, they will come back. Annual weeds such as chickweed are a pain, but are easy to pull up or hoe. Once clear, give the area a good mulch with bark chippings, gravel or better still compost to prevent seedlings from germinating and you should be reasonably weed free for several weeks at least;
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.