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.
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.