Thursday, 19 May 2011

From April into May

A lot of time has been spent in the garden over the past three weeks and it's beginning to show the benefit.  It's coming into its best and things are developing nicely, though we did lose a few shrubs with the hard winter.  Amongst the more serious casualties were the two pampas grasses that gave a lot of cover and privacy around the edge of the circles garden. On the plus side this has given us an opportunity to try other plants in their place.  We're thinking of putting in a couple of hazels and keeping them shrubby at about 5ft high at the back of the border and putting a couple of specimen evergreen conifers in front to provide some colour through the winter months.

The Handyman has already removed one of the pampas grasses – who needs to go to the gym for a workout! We've planted a self-seeded HG hazel and Cypressus Macrocarpa 'Goldcrest'.  This evergreen cypress should reach a height and spread of 15ft x 8ft in about 10 years but can be clipped, but not into the old wood.  In the interim we've divided a huge clump of yellow rudbekia (aka black-eyed Susan) and planted two groups either side of the cypress.  These will grow in excess of 5ft tall in a season which should provide some privacy on the circles garden through the summer and early autumn as well as masses of flowers the colour of liquid sunshine.

The original rudbekia plant was given to me by my sister's partner, JC, when we were in our previous home. A clump was transplanted with us to Holly Grove and now we have several stands around the garden and along the hedge line – a great value for money plant and one of the latest flowering in our garden – we often have flowers through to the end of October.

The second pampas grass will be tackled when the Handyman feels like another workout…and we're still trying to decide what to grow in the spot; current thoughts are Thuja Occidentalis 'Rheingold' growing to 6ft x 4ft in 10 years or there's a golden yew that I've found in one of my gardening books that looks good – I'll update when we've made our decision.

After a slow start this season, I'm beginning to catch up a bit in the kitchen garden, thank goodness! I was ashamed to show it to my sister, JA, when she visited over the Easter holiday as it was very weedy and looking quite neglected. But after a few days concentrated effort it is now fully weeded and planted.

I've sown broad beans, carrots, onions, lettuce, small white turnips, kohl rabi, sugarsnap peas, radish, spring onions, beetroot and spinach in three of the raised beds and seed potatoes, Charlotte, in the remaining raised bed. I also planted up a potato barrel of Pink Fir Apple, a knobbly, pink, salad potato at the end of March and they are sprouting well, almost time to cover the shoots with some more soil.  If you've never tried potatoes in a tub then you should.  Great fun when you tip out the pot at the end of the growing season and search through for the potatoes and especially lovely to share with children.

I've also planted seeds of runner beans – Butler and Lady Di, French beans – Blue lake, tomatoes – Principe Borghese - and courgette in the greenhouse and also have five varieties of small tomato plants – Gardener's Delight, Shirley, Tomtom - and a couple of cucumber plants that I've just potted.

So all in all, not bad progress for a few days effort.

Flower-wise about three weeks ago I sowed my sweet peas directly into the border where they will grow.  At the same time I sowed a couple of pots in our cool greenhouse as a backup and, surprise, surprise, both sowings have germinated at the same time.  Over the past couple of weeks we have begun to replace the seven or eight shrubs (in addition to the pampas grasses) that succumbed to the winter freeze – more of this in a later post.

The springtime flowers were especially lovely this year and are now being followed by foxgloves, roses, rhododendron and clematis coming into bloom.

The blossom on the fruit trees was glorious and about a whole month earlier than last year, so we're hoping for a bountiful harvest of apples, pears, plums and cherries later in the year.

Continuing on the fruit front we started to pull rhubarb a couple of weeks ago and should continue to harvest this until June. I have two established plants, Timperley Early and Victoria and have just planted a, currently, very small Pink Champagne rhubarb.

The raspberries in the fruit cage are looking good so my pruning and tying in efforts last autumn seems to be bearing fruit (excuse the awful pun). The redcurrants, whitecurrants and blackcurrants are loaded with immature berries, all of which should start to deliver fruit for the table and preserving pan sometime between late June and late July. I also have a small gooseberry bush but as it's only little I don't think it will produce any fruit this year.

So that's the garden round up for late April to mid May – it seems like quite a lot as I read it back! But there's still plenty more to be getting on with including: grass cutting, the Handyman's wild flower garden, weeding, deadheading and planting – always lots to enjoy in Holly Grove's garden, thank goodness!

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