Monday, 31 May 2010

Bank Holiday Fun?

Yesterday I continued with the greenhouse construction even though I should have put it off due to the very windy conditions. I really just want to get it finished, rehouse the peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes and get back to some gardening.

Fixing the polycarbonate panels is enough to try the patience of a saint and after spending about 6 hours on the remaining construction and glazing I still have 2-3 panels on the bottom and all of the roof panels to fit - so very slow progress.

I'm determined to get it finished today as quickly as possible and with the wind factor much reduced perhaps I'll have more luck with the panels today.

On the garden front, the wind has blown one of the stands of oriental poppies about, due to lack of plant supports and the number of full blooms balanced on long stems. One day I'll learn that time spent fixing supports in the early spring pays dividends. I did add supports to the poppies in the circle beds and they seem to have done the job. These have yet to produce their lovely blowsy flowers but there are plenty of buds.

And a poppy I had forgotten is blooming under the small and ancient apple tree in the swingseat garden, a lovely pale pink confection, it's name long forgotten, but delicious none the less.

I've quite a few recent purchases awaiting planting, so my incentive to finish the greenhouse is redoubled as the reward of planting awaits...hiho, hiho it's off to work I go...

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Hosta Glory

I have a passion for hostas. The first one was given to me by my sister, JA, following a visit to Southport Show in 1995 where I saw a wonderful display of these foliage plants and was smitten. This plant (Aureomarginata, if my memory serves me well) established so well in a previous garden that I had to leave it behind. Since then I have been virtually unable to resist a 'new' hosta for the garden, though I am not especially taken with the yellow forms.The largest and oldest hosta we have resides in a half barrel against the east-facing wall of the house, Frances Williams is blue-green with soft lime green edges and very resistant to slugs and snails as the foliage is quite tough.
Other favourites in pots on the east of the house include Francee (above left) and Aureomarginata (above right). The morning sun and shade from about 11.30 seem to suit these hostas and sitting in the middle of a gravel path, these pots suffer little pest damage.

On the terrace and party patio are more potted examples including Twightlight (above), Great Expectations (not pictured), Patriot and Guacamole.

And this year I'm even trying young Fire and Ice in hanging baskets, again on the east of the house. At the moment they are looking well with the trailing yellow flowering basket plants, I'll post photos of their progress later in the season.
In the woodland borders under the apple trees lives a selection of hostas - another Aureomarginata, Halcyon, with its blue leaves and hosta undulata (all pictured above) with its swirling leaf form. The colours of these hostas are richer than those by the east of the house, this may be due to them receiving no direct sunlight, but living in softly dappled shade or full shade for the whole day. Also in the woodland borders are Sum and Substance, Sharmon and Pacific Blue - quite a miniature with closely packed leaves, very appealing at the edge of the border.Other hostas are planted in a border in full sun with young grasses - this is a fairly new border and I've yet to see how the hostas fair in this position, at the moment they are suffering more slug and snail damage than those in other positions.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Maytime Showers of Golden Blooms

Wandering around the garden in between rain showers this late afternoon, my attention was drawn to Rosa Arthur Bell climbing over the arbour at the entrance to the kitchen garden. This rose was a present from G&K, arriving at Holly Grove during Easter 2008.

Now, I would not have
chosen a yellow climbing rose for this spot but as it was the only structure in the garden in those early days that would support a rose, there it was planted.

Oh, and what serendipity, it has thrived and looks better and better each year.
I must walk under this rose dozens of times in a weekend and pass it every day on my way to the car and when its in full bloom the sight and scent of it is glorious.

This year it is a
gain covered in flower buds, some of which are just beginning to open and the leaf is so green and healthy; and yet we do nothing with this rose other than an annual feed of blood, fish and bonemeal and deadheading and tidying up any weak or straggly branches. So much pleasure for so little effort.

So here's to fate, chance and a lovely gift: to Arthur Bell, better known at Holly Grove as G&K's rose.

Friday, 28 May 2010

BYO Beginner

PYO and GYO are relatively common terms to the gardener, but I've been learning about BYO - Build Your Own. The Handyman is somewhat incapacitated at the moment whilst recovering from a nasty accident involving broken bones, so the flatpacked greenhouse that I ordered and has been sitting awaiting attention for a number of weeks now.

I decided to replace our existing greenhouse with a green-framed version with polycarbonate glazing, for aesthetic and safety reasons. I don't want to be worrying about potentially nasty accidents with glass when my grandson visits.

The existing greenhouse was sold and removed over a week ago and my precious tomato, cucumber and pepper plants have been sitting outdoors with everything crossed hoping for warm days and nights whilst they await the construction of their new abode.

Now construction is not my forte, so it was with some trepidation that I unpacked the contents of the large box...inside I found a myriad of parts and a chunky instruction manual. So off to the tool box for spanners and screwdrivers and, disconcertingly, a rubber mallet!

Five hours later the basic frame is in place and, so far, I haven't lost a nut or bolt, though I did lose my temper a couple of times. I am hoping to finish the frame tomorrow and glaze it on BH Monday but the forecast is for rain tomorrow, so some delay may be appropriate. More BYO news to follow over the next few days...wish me success, and patience!

PS Just look at how my rocket, lettuce and radish have progressed since their last post appearance just 2 weeks ago. Simple things please the gardener, well this gardener anyway.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Summer Days in Springtime

Hurrah! Lovely summer sunshine and temperature in the closing weeks of May mean lots of weekend days and weekday evenings spent in the garden. After the poor weather in the first half of May this is a wonderful end to the month and hopefully a good start to June.

The garden has moved beyond the fresh flowers of spring, the daffodils are well and truly over, as are the primulas, and the aubretia is due a haircut. In their place come the hostas, aquilegia and hardy geraniums, to name but a few. The summer flowering clematis are covered in large flower buds and are streaking up their various supports and flower buds are forming on the peonias.

In the kitchen garden it's time to manage the various legumes: plant out french and runner bean young plants, sow some more peas and feed the broad beans. The first flowers have formed on the tomato plants in the greenhouse and the courgettes are coming along well.

What a lovely start to a day...sunshine, warm air and the prospect of a whole weekend in the garden...hurrah again!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Good Value

I planted up some violas way back in September/October last year in two wall baskets hanging on either side of Stars gate and through the winter they began to look pretty sorry for themselves. But just look at them now and they've been blooming like this since March!

The only problem is that I'm putting off getting the summer plants into these baskets as I'm loathe to remove these darling violas!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Residents of the Fruit Cage

The soft fruit in the fruit cage is looking very lush. I'll have to think about getting some netting up over the next few weeks if the lushness is a harbinger of fruitfulness.

I think I should probably be thinning out the raspberry canes, though I'll have to refer to the reference books to confirm. The other soft fruits in the cage are currants - red, white and black - gooseberry, thornless blackberry and strawberries.

Also residing in the fruit cage at the moment are a number of specimens for the garden borders awaiting planting; amongst them three more roses, two climbers - Creme Anglaise and Evening Light - and a shrub rose - Smarty. They'll have to wait until the weekend as the weekday evenings after work are taken up with a watering, a bit of weeding and a wander round the garden to end the day.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Busy, Busy...

Spring is a fantastic and frantic time in the garden and particularly our kitchen garden and greenhouse. I haven't sown as many seeds this year as I usually do but the greenhouse still looks pretty full. The hanging baskets take up almost all the roof and floor space so it will be good when these can be put out in their summer positions, but we've had a few nights of very low temperatures here so they won't be going out overnight for a couple of weeks yet.

The raised beds have a selection of vegetables planted in them including onions and garlic planted last October and they have started to really put on some growth as the weather warms.

Amongst the usual potatoes, broad beans, carrots and peas are a couple of new entrants to HG; kohl rabi and fennel (the bulb type). I'll be interested to see how easy these are to grow and whether we like to eat them. It won't be too long until we can start to pick baby salad leaves and the radish 'French Breakfast' look like they can be pulled any time now.

I've had a few problems with getting my beans to germinate in the green house and I'm on my second attempt. I think the warm April and then cool and wet May, plus a bit of over watering from me, contributed to the lack of seedlings. So fingers crossed for better luck (and management) this time!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

A Plethora of Plants

It occurred to me the other day that I have not kept up to date with all the identification of plants in the garden. I foray out to the local plant nurseries and garden centres and purchase plants sometimes planned but mostly on impulse. On returning to the garden I get so enthused by the prospect of planting them that I forget to record the purchase. I do conscientiously label the plants but despite trying various types of label and marker pen, after a season the label is washed clean and the plant nomencliture gone.

Above: Hosta Frances Williams
So to attempt to remedy this problem I have asked the multi-talented Handyman to create a small database onto which I can record the details of the plant purchased and the location in the garden. My intention is to update this as soon as I have planted the said purchase - wish me luck!

In the process of gathering information to log to the database I have gone round the garden with a notebook writing down the names etc of all the clematis and roses in the garden currently. It was a surprise to realise the number of each that we have planted over the past 3 years: 10 climbing roses, 3 ramblers, 11 shrub and 3 ground cover roses. On the clematis front we have 19 plants. Now I need to start on the herbascious geraniums and the hostas!

By the way, if anyone has a recommendation re plant labels and pens that work, please, please let me know.

Friday, 14 May 2010

All Change!

Having renewed my blogging career after a very slow start to 2010, I felt the time had come for a revamp to the appearance of the Holly Grove Garden blog. So I have changed the colours, some of the layout and the photo banner.

The new banner is a close-up of some beautiful and ethereal white foxgloves in bloom last year. These have seeded themselves freely around the woodland borders, so we should get another showing next year as they are biennials, one year to grow and next year to flower.

This cold and wet May has given me pause to think of the garden images from last year and some of the changes that were made to the structure of the's a selection from 2009...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Spring Flowering Climbers

The picket fence at the front of the house at this time of year is home to three spring flowering clematis: two from the Montana group and one Fosteri group member.

From the montana group are the popular clematis montana 'Elizabeth', bought in memory of my Mum, and the slightly later flowering clematis montana var. rubens 'Tetrarose'. Elizabeth is in full bloom as you can see from the photograph, whilst the Tetrarose buds are just beginning to open.

Further along the fence is a supermarket 'bargain buy' planted last summer and, I fear to say, neglected and forgotten, until a couple of weeks ago when the lovely blooms appeared as a delightful surprise.

This clematis 'Early Sensation' has its roots in the dry shade of a large conifer. It seems to have prospered despite, or perhaps because of, my lack of attention.

Don't you just love the way a garden can surprise you!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Blossom Time

I've been neglecting my blogs recently, life has been delivering some challenges over the past few weeks and months but now blossom time is here again at Holly Grove and, in its beauty, demanding some mention, so I'm back on line...

The two old apple trees are abundant with pink and white flower. Unfortunately the weather remains unseasonably chilly and the number of bees in the garden is severely limited, not sure what this may mean for crops of apples in September and October. The younger apple trees planted during our first winter at HG, 2007, are progressing well, especially Sunset which has a gorgeous dark pink blossom followed (hopefully) by deep red apples.

Also in blossom is a lovely little Morello Cherry bought and planted last spring. We had 6 cherries from it last year, or would have had if the birds hadn't beaten us to them. I'm looking forward to the year when we have enough cherries to warrant netting the tree until the fruit is ripe and then making some lovely Morello Cherry jam - might be quite a wait!
The damson and plum trees flowered earlier in the spring, around the middle of April, when the weather was exceptionally fine and warm, so we should get a decent crop of fruit again this year. Last year's bounty was huge and the weather pattern this year has been very similar to 2009: warm and fine April followed by chilly and wet May.

Whatever the weather, a garden in May is a beautiful and peaceful place to spend some time.