Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Gardener Turned Painter?

We have lots of places to sit at Holly Grove - not that we spend much time using them! But they are an important part of the garden; the metal table and chairs outside the sunroom door make a lovely spot to sit for breakfast and the companion seat at the top of the circle lawns is perfect for an afternoon cuppa, then the swingseat in the evening sun...

To these the Handyman is adding a small gazebo in the shade by Valentine's gate. This was a structure he made for our previous garden and it has been sitting dismantled in the 'builder's yard' since we moved here three years ago, so as you may imagine it is in need of a coat of garden paint/preservative...my job.

Not quite the transition between gardener and painter that Monet evoked in his Giverny garden but then he probably had 'staff' to paint the Chinois bridge. The painting of the gazebo will take me several days to complete as I intend to attack it a bit at a time. At the same time I'm repainting the metal table and chairs, a glutton for punishment you may say, but the reward will be in having one new place to linger and another refreshed.

As an antidote to all this painting I spent a couple of hours in the kitchen garden removing the gone-to-seed rocket and radish (I always sow more than we can eat) to the compost bin and sowing two more rows of carrots and one row of Little Gem lettuce in their place. The cut and come again lettuce sown in the half barrel earlier this year has been a great success and is still flourishing and we had the first thinnings of our carrots last night for tea with the first of the sugar snap peas - delicious! I don't have a photo of these as they went straight from plot to plate in minutes.

In the greenhouse the first courgettes are ready and small green tomatoes are appearing on all the varieties. The first two tiny cucumbers have also materialised -- how exciting! Oh, and I glimpsed the first ripe raspberry as I was sowing the carrots; must go out and harvest it for my breakfast...
Yummee! Hoping for more in the coming days.

Friday, 25 June 2010

In Full Bloom

Wonderful June and the garden is awash with peonies and roses in bloom!

The peonies have been in place since the spring of 2007 and bloomed for the first time last year. And what a welcome sight they were, this year they have put on a better floral show and the scent of them when working through the borders is light and fresh - it almost makes weeding a pleasure! A friend has given us a third peony this year and it is planted in a sunny spot in the grand lawn borders. No doubt we'll have to wait a couple of years for it to settle in with us, but if the flowers are anywhere near as lovely as the two we already have, it will be worth the wait.

Roses seem to be the plant of the moment for us as we have added ten to the garden this year; eight climbers, one rambler and one shrub. The rambler; Felicite et Perpetue; joins Paul's Himalayan Musk at the foot of the long hawthorn hedge dividing Holly Grove from the adjoining field. Two of the climbers; Summertime and Super Excelsa (below bottom right); will hopefully cover the pillars on the party patio and the other six; Creme Anglaise (below top right), Blush Noisette (below bottom left), Ballerina, Iceberg (below middle right), Rambling Rosie and Evening Light; have been planted on the newly constructed pergola.

Other roses planted over the past three years are beginning to settle down and come into their own. Geoff Hamilton (above middle left) was an addition last year and has beautiful clusters of lovely pink blooms with a soft scent, whilst Creme Brulee (above top left) was also purchased last year but was only planted early this spring to climb up a post on the swingseat.

I couldn't end a blog on the roses without mentioning a rose that was here when we arrived, though it was in a pretty sorry state. It climbs up trellis on the front of the house and when we arrived it had been neglected and was lanky with lots of spindly growth. We've pruned it a little at a time, more work is required to ensure that it is rose-covered on all its height. Rosa Masquerade (above centre) is worth growing for its multi-coloured flowers alone but has the added bonus of a delicious scent. It will flower throughout the summer if deadheaded - but how to reach the ones at the top!

I haven't mentioned all of our roses here but hopefully it gives a flavour of the variety and value that roses add to Holly Grove.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Time Flies...

I can't believe that it is almost a week since my last post on this blog. The weather has been variable from hot, sunny days to cloudy and cool with heavy showers. The poor plants don't know whether they are coming or going and neither do I; one day in shorts, t-shirt and sunhat and the next back in my fleecy trousers and waterproof jacket.

On one of the sunny days I lifted the autumn planted onions, a fairly good crop they are drying off on the greenhouse staging and then we'll see how they store. In the space freed up I have planted Brassica Petit Posy plug plants - a free offer from one of the gardening magazines. By all accounts these plants should provide greens through autumn and winter. We're looking forward to tasting this brussel sprout/kale cross vegetable. Cauliflower, Pak Choi and Wa Wa Sui cabbage seeds have also been sown.

The red onions are shortly to be lifted freeing up another half bed. More carrots will be sown here with a second sowing of kohl rabi.

In the (nearly completed) greenhouse the tomatoes, courgettes and peppers are in flower and it's time for me to pot on the cucumbers to their final pots and keep my fingers crossed for baby cucumbers later in the summer.

On the construction front: work continues intermittently on the greenhouse, the glazing panels are a nightmare to fit, however one side of the greenhouse and both ends are now fully glazed, leaving only 2 panels on the other side and half the roof to complete. A new slimline water butt and stand await positioning on the end of the greenhouse to catch precious rain water and whilst it was raining yesterday I put together my recently delivered potting bench (below), a posh addition to my very tidy shed.

The pergola linking the steps is progressing much more quickly than the greenhouse (that's because this is the Handyman's project). My contribution has been to paint the structure and select and plant the plants. The side supports are all in place (below), leaving only the overhead struts to position and a bit more painting to complete.

Planting has already commenced with two climbing roses on the trellis by the top steps. The roses are Creme Anglaise and Evening Light (below). I've yet to decide on what to plant by the remaining four panels but no doubt clematis and more roses will feature.

So an enjoyable week in the garden, lots of different jobs completed and more to look forward to over the coming days, including a trip to the local nurseries looking for inspirational climbers for our new pergola.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Time to Tidy

This morning started well, sunny intervals and very acceptable temperature, so I had plans to weed and tidy a couple of borders and then sit in the sunshine with a good book. Then the Handyman suggested that we go out to buy the materials for a new pergola he's building to link the woodland border to the large lawn, eager to get the structure going as I have two climbing roses in waiting...off we went...

On our return we decided to enjoy the sun and sit on the party patio and have lunch and then begin on our seperate garden projects. By the time we were ready to start the sky was looking very ominous and then the heavens opened and it rained monsoon-like for the rest of the day.

So what to do with the day now? Well, I could start on the ever increasing ironing or I could tidy my shed...guess which task won?

Over the past couple of weeks I've been so eager to get out in the garden that tools etc were hauled out of the shed in the morning and piled back in at night; resulting in chaos. So a good use of a very wet afternoon results in a very organised shed and no impact on the ironing!

Friday, 11 June 2010


Although the weather has been disappointing for June, lots of heavy showers and dull days, the cooler temperatures have made working in the garden easier and the plants have enjoyed the natural waterings. I've put the time to use pottering in the kitchen garden and planting out in the beds and borders all our recent purchases and seedlings from sowings in April.

The giant sunflowers, properly staked this year, have gone into the 'hot' border. Hopefully they'll rise above the recently planted Stipa Gigantea and the large yellow flower heads will compliment the softly flowing grass. Looking at the size of the grass at the moment it may take a couple of years for the effect to be realised, so I'll save the sunflower seed each year and replant.

I've also planted Rosa Smarty by the top steps on the edge of the grand lawn and it's already in flower and looking settled, though this is as a result of the good life and growth made in its pot. It will take some time to settle and gain goodness from its planting position. I have enriched the soil with horse manure as we are on fine, free-draining soil here.

I've grown winter squash and butternut squash from seed and the plants are now a good size with four or more true leaves, so time to plant, but where? Squash like to spread themselves about and require quite a bit of space. The kitchen garden beds are full and the borders where I grew them last year are now filled with shrubs and perennials.

There is an area at the top of the new drive that has only just been developed. As a new area of open ground this is susceptible to weed infestation. I have planted potatoes in about half of it to help to clear the ground. So a good spot for wandering squash as their large leaves covering the soil will hamper weed growth. I weeded the ground and planted the squash, along with a tripod of runner beans and another of a yellow podded bean, Fagiolo Rampicante. The beans should be on their way up the canes before the squash have colonised the ground and the combination of colour from these edible plants should cheer up the entrance to Holly Grove.

The digging of the soil for the cultivation of potatoes, the ground cover to hamper weeds and the nitrogen in the roots of the beans will help to enrich this border soil. So escapees from the kitchen garden help to prepare this border for next spring's planting of shrubs and flowering plants.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Luscious Lupins

Last year we had a beautiful and stately stand of lupins in the swingseat border. Viewed from the terrace in the evening light they looked stunning. They flowered for weeks on end and I thought they might have exhausted themselves, so I didn't hold out much hope of a great display this year. But how wrong I was, thank goodness, for here they are in all their pretty white glory...

They are mirrored in the opposite border flanking the path to the swingseat and their tall spires provide focal points amongst the frothy masses of other cottage garden plants. This year I'm going to save the seed and attempt to grow some more of these delightful and hard working plants for other locations in the garden.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

G&K's Rose Progress

Just a quick update on the blooming progress of Arthur Bell, clambering over the entrance to the kitchen garden. Lots of flowers in full bloom now with a beautiful scent as I deadhead for continued blooms from the precarious position on the ladder. The flowers start as deep yellow streaked with red buds, maturing to softer yellow and then lemon as the flowers open. I love the variation in flower colour and the proliferation of this sunny rose. Lifts the spirits even on the wettest June day...

Monday, 7 June 2010


I've recently bought a new gardening book, Carol Klein's Grow Your Own Garden, and I've found it inspiring! Beautifully photographed, well illustrated, clearly described techniques for propagating all types of plants with many types of propagation methods.

It's been my morning reading for the past week. Carol takes the mystery out of plant production, but not the magic. Written with enthusiam and passion for her subject, it quickly becomes infectious. I find myself wandering the garden looking out for suitable candidates for trying out the various techniques. I'm going to start by capturing seeds for sowing.

Some plants showing signs of developing seeds at HG are pulsatilla, with its fluffy seedheads, geranium Rozanne, aquilegia and a small geum. The aquilegia will happily selfseed all over the border which makes it ideal for an amateur as, hopefully, seeds sown and nurtured will take off easily.

I have taken divisions from geraniums previously with success but I've never tried growing from seed.

The book is full of other techniques that I'd like to try over the coming weeks and months. Updates to follow on what I learn from my attempts.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Garden Companions

As I make my morning walk in the garden I frequently have one, if not two, companions. Our cats, Toots and Bobby Bobbins, often join me on my early morning strolls. Though I'd like to believe that they join me for the company and peace and quiet of a wakening up time, I think their real motivation is to remind me that they need their breakfast!

PS Bobby is the camera-shy one.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Poppy Power

It's a fantastic month for poppies in all their guises. They love the soil here at Holly Grove, light and free-draining and seem happy to settle in any position from full sun to partial shade. Some I have grown from seed, others have been bought as plants, however the majority have blown in on the wind and self-seeded.

The Oriental poppies were for the most part raised from seed, though a couple of plants were bought in and what a show they put on...

Not all success though, one of the purchased plants was Patty's Plum and this has been the least successful to date. Last year only one flower was carried and this year the plant produced a few buds and then promptly dried up and died - it was watered with the rest of the border and still failed. I've cut it back and fed and watered it and now we'll wait and see what happens.

Next up are all the gifted plants, some are large, almost succulent, glaucious leaved plants with bright red flowers whilst others hold tissue paper flowers on wiry stems in pastel shades. The wiry plants are covering a neglected piece of rough gravel and provide a welcome touch of colour. The red petalled poppies are to be found standing erect in any bare soil in the flower border on the edge of the large lawn, they are rather majestic and stand very straight and proud.

A short burst of flower from the poppy but always beautiful and surprising, and all those seeds to gather or allow to self-seed for next year's surprise plants.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Unwelcome Visitors

The sight of pretty, fluttering butterflies caught my eye yesterday, then I realised that the dancing wings were white - the dreaded Cabbage White - well dreaded to all who grow brassicas and especially dreaded to me as I've lost all cabbage type crops over the past two seasons to these pretty pests.

But not this year! I've invested in several types of frame and some butterfly proof netting. I'm going to rate the various support frameworks for ease of construction, ease of access (for weeding and harvesting) and effectiveness.

I've incorporated three types of support: cane net supports from Plant Supports - easy to use website and excellent ordering and delivery process; a metal frame construction; and
plastic hoop supports from our local garden centre.

The easiest to assemble was a tie between the cane net support (above left at front of picture) and the hoops (right). Simply push into the ground and, in the case of the cane supports, add bamboo canes of the length required.

The metal cage support (above left at back of picture) was marginally more awkward to assemble though more rigid/sturdy than the others and more flexible in height. The netting proved difficult to apply in all instances; especially if you are trying to do this on your own; I'd recommend a second pair of hands.

So much for structure, lets's see how they fair on access (for me) and effectiveness (keeping out the Cabbage White) as the season progresses.

Other unwelcome visitors to the garden are the wasps; they have built a nest in the outside eaves of the little blue playhouse where we store our garden games and cushions...time to contact the local pest control man.

Along with all the joys of gardening come the challenges!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Clambering Clematis

A number of clematis planted over the past three years are beginning to put on a bit of a show. Height in the garden was limited in the early days and some clematis were started in the circle borders on tripods of canes. The canes have been removed over the years as the clematis have found more natural supports to clamber through.

Clematis Piilu is making its way through a multi-stemmed silver birch, though it has taken a bit of coaching to begin its journey. Miss Bateman (pictured above) adapted more easily to the natural life and scrambles through a small shrubby tree that was a legacy from a previous owner of HG. Whilst Dr Ruppel (pictured below) is making progress through small and ancient apple tree.

Other clematis coming into flower on the more traditional trellis support include Crystal Fountain (below right), The President (below left) and the lovely pink Hagley Hybrid (below centre).

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Postponing and Potting

My intention to complete the greenhouse was good, however my effort was meagre. I managed two panels before I gave up for the day, my excuse being that I had some fuchsias and pelargoniums that needed potting up in their final position.

To be honest I needed a day without the frustration of construction, the weather was warm and balmy and to ease my conscience I first cut the grass on the circle lawns and front garden. Now it was time to treat myself to some creative fun assembling the soon to be (hopefully) sun-baked pots on the terrace. Every year I create large and small pots of pelargonium for the Handyman's pleasure, he especially loves the brightest red. This year I have the usual bright red, but also a delicate pink, called Appleblossom.

The red geraniums I have teamed with deep blue lobelia in black pots whilst apple blossom is matched with a soft blue lobelia (Cambridge Blue?) in blue glazed pots. I started to pot up the bush fuchsias and some coral pink Busy Lizzies (Impatiens) at the back of the house where they will live mostly in the shade, then I ran out of time and daylight and i still had the baskets to water...watering by moonlight, a sight often seen at HG.

I'm hoping to finish off the pots today and maybe add a panel or two to the greenhouse, but at the moment it's raining steadily, so the Handyman and I are going out to search for some new garden furniture to dress the party patio - now a six or eight seater, teak or metal, round or oval...hmm?