October in the garden.

DSCN1522.jpgHere we are in mid October and I’m really quite enjoying the gardening at the moment. There are so many flowers still out, a few vegetables left to harvest and all next year’s planning to look forward to.

I’d like to say that I created these combinations deliberately but really it is down to a bit of luck with the weather and mother nature, although I did plant the dahlia and Anthemis so I had some hand in it. In fact, the Anthemis got chomped by rabbits early on and these are the first flowers.

The roses are still putting on a good show and the dahlias are hanging on in there too.  On a misty autumnal morning they are at their finest encrusted with sparkling dewdrops. With the asters still blooming, there is plenty of colour in the borders.

In the vegetable garden a final harvest of cucumbers and aubergines and the pumpkins and squashes are ripened up to keep over winter, if they survive halloween. I managed to get 6 large pumpkins from one plant so my customer should have enough for carving, soup, pie, cake and anything else really. The kale is beginning to recover from the caterpillar attack of the summer and should continue throug the winter months.

In the orchard, lots of apples and pears but also the first proper harvest of quince from a tree I planted 5 years ago.

Also in the vegetable garden, flowers! But aren’t the artichokes and Chinese alliums looking beautiful.

And just when I thought that maybe it wasn’t going to be a good year for autumn colour, the trees join in in! All in all a great combination in the garden in October. Let the shuffling begin!

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And breathe!

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I started this post at the beginning of September when I had been away for a week and returned to my gardens to find that autumn had arrived. August was hot, cold, cloudy, sunny, rainy and windy and already September is over with a mixture of storms and sunshine as well.

The hoped for Indian summer never came but there were, and still are, all those richly coloured late summer flowers and abundant pumpkins and squashes.

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Dahlias at Houghton Hall

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Harvested pumpkins left to ripen.

The dahlias have been good in my gardens too, I divided up the tubers in spring before planting in pots in the greenhouse so there were a good number but always room for improvement.

 

 

Also looking good for August and September the delicate looking, but actually quite tough, Japanese anenomes and the jolly rudbeckia.

 

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August was a month of trying to keep it all going, like juggling balls in the air. A bit in the vegetable garden, a bit in the borders, doing the lawn edges and looking out for the giant sow thistles which seem to arrive fully grown. I always reach a point where I feel overwhelmed with amount of work still to be done and then it’s autumn and things that are cut back, stay cut back and phew! We can all breathe again.

 

I’m not saying that there is not still loads to do,  the weeds are still growing and deadheading continues, but I am taking time to enjoy the long awaited asters (Symphotrichum) and my head is full of plans for next year. The vegetable garden is slowly being cleared and I have even sown some late summer crops, a first for me. Tulips have been ordered and it will soon be time to cosy up with the seed catalogues.

Meanwhile, the roses carry on flowering.

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Visit to Houghton Hall, Norfolk

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Full Moon Circle by Richard Long

Houghton Hall and Gardens in the heart of rural Norfolk, walled gardens, sculptures and a ha ha. We didn’t go in the house as it cost a bit more and there was a separate music festival in the grounds which provided a constant background of banging music, but here’s what we did see, until the camera battery ran out!

There was a combination of permanent sculptures by different artists and the Earth Sky exhibition by Richard Long.  It gave a focus to our wanderings and I do like a map to follow.  Through the stable block courtyard and a block of pleached limes, the first sculpture we stopped at was in front of the house, A Line in Norfolk, made of Norfolk carrstone. And that’s what it is.

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The Full Moon Circle, which has been here since 2003, was my favourite and the bossy man was right, it does catch the light better looking towards the house although you want to get the long vista in looking the other way.

 

More sculptures were hidden in an area of hedges and trees and included a solid concrete shed but I really liked the building lined with benches their backs sloped to give the perfect view of the sky through the hole in the roof.

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Skyspace Seldom Seen by James Turrell

A round about way back over the vast area of mown grass, along the ha ha, and retracing our steps through the courtyard to get to the walled garden.

The walled garden is divided into four by hedges, with some of these quarters subdivided, and two main flower borders down the middle. High hedges and small feature gardens mean that you never know what is around the next corner.

Following the outside wall, we are first treated to a bit of cold frame and glasshouse envy. What an amazing place to sit! It has a trickling fountain at the back with goldfish and a stunning view to the long borders out the front. To each side there are more greenhouses with proper work going on.

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Cold frames in the walled garden.

Box hedges, so neatly trimmed, are a big feature of the walled garden and next along from here features an intricate pattern of hedges filled with scented bedding and punctuated with clematis.

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Clematis pyramids surrounded by beds of chocolate cosmos, heliotrope and scented leaved pelagoniums.

Round the corner, more delights, a mass of pink Japanese anenomes in between the mellow red brick walls and box hedges.

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After this, tempted by the sound of running water, I forgot the plan to stick to the edge and went in search of fountains.

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In the foreground is Waterflame by Jeppe Hein but I didn’t stay long enough to find out that there is a flame that comes out of the top, it was also here that the battery began to run out on the camera so the next shots required waiting for the battery to charge enough then taking quickly before the camera shut down again. Lesson learnt!

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This is the other pond with fountain in the middle and more fish. An enclosed space with only one entrance and full of spirally box and Verbena bonariensis. A peaceful space with tempting benches to sit awhile.

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Back on track following the outside wall, some inspirational planting and something that I might be able to recreate on a smaller scale. A great combination of heleniums and sunflowers even if I don’t have the wall for a backdrop.

And the view from that pergola is of an ornamental fruit cage surrounded by dahlias in suitably orangey colours and then more fruit bushes.

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There is a border devoted to named dahlias and small but old looking fruit trees. I am afraid by now we were tiring and knowing that we had a long drive home we hurried a bit and I completely missed the vegetable beds. Two herbaceous borders flank the central pathway and a bit late in the day I discovered the rose garden with a pretty sunken fountain and seating area.

The central path in two distinct sections looking towards the glasshouse. Nice mown stripes!

A whiz round the toy soldier collection in the stable block and the shop filled with lovely but very, very expensive artworks and we were done. Well worth the long journey and perhaps a return visit when the roses are out.

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The front/back (where the drive is) Houghton Hall 

July 2017 review.

I am trying to remember back to the beginning of July, it seems so long ago. I think it was still hot and sunny then, I have almost forgotten what that feels like. Well whatever the weather, July brings high summer with the acid green euphorbias of spring going over and the trees too taking on much heavier shades of green.

Good bit of camouflage by the skipper on the euphorbia.

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The random pinks and reds of the opium poppies filled out the borders with their sometimes frilly, sometimes plain heads.

In the vegetable garden, the first flowers appeared on aubergines, peppers and tomatoes in the greenhouse and beans and courgettes outside.

The echinops took centre stage in the border.

Echinops blue

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With kniphofia (I can’t believe that I spelt it wrong, I am usually the first to criticise bad spelling!) in a supporting role. Spelling now corrected!

Yes I like this combination #knifofia #verbenabonariensis #lychniscoronaria #kniphofia

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The courgettes started to grow.

Courgettes @thequeenatb

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Butterflies were out in force, hurrah! And the poppies were all to fleetingly over but leaving lovely structural seedheads.

The roses came back again and the weather got a lot more unsettled.

Catching up with some photos from a couple of weeks ago. #roses

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The echinacea began to flower and it started to feel like late summer. Too soon, too soon!

Echinacea #echinacea #flower #garden #gardening #flowers #julyflowers

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And there we have it for another month!

My mum's garden this evening. I remember the birdbath being at my grandparents house.

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The in between bit.

DSCN0958.JPGI am in the midst of my cutting back (and aching back!) at the moment while the gardens have a pause between early summer fullness and late summer/autumn colour. I just can’t seem to avoid it. In some gardens, I managed an early chop of the ubiquitous pink geranium and it has reflowered, but in the biggest  I am still going.

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Stage 1

It happens in three stages, I find. Stage 1 – faded glory. Still pretty but flopping everywhere and starting to go over. If you chop it now it should come back for another flush.

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This is stage – too much Italian parsley!

Stage 2 – it’s got to look worse before it gets better.  Cutting back as much as possible. For me that includes the aforementioned pink geranium, catmint, Stachys  (bunny ears) and achemilla and in this case pulling out parsley.

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Stage 2

Looking a bit bare but giving the dahlias more light and space to grow and the opium poppies a chance to self seed.

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Parsley removed.

Stage 3  is when it all shoots back up again, less vigorously than the first time but enough to cover the soil again, like a regeneration of the garden, I don’t really like gaps. While we wait for this to happen, there are some things which are looking good now.

 

Echinacea, loved by bees and butterflies, and agapanthus in dazzling blue.

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Crinium  with Cynara behind.

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A close up view of the corner, now cleared with the Agapanthus, Crocosmia and Rudbeckia herbstonne at the back.

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Ok it’s bindweed and it had to go but it was pretty!

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Angelica looking awesome. I am now looking forward to the next wave of colour as the dahlias flourish in the rain and the michaelmas daisies take centre stage. Some more sun would be nice first though!

June in pictures.

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June has been an explosion of flowers, lots of hot dry weather with occasional downpours.  I like it when the garden is so full that you can’t see any weeds. There is something about flowers en masse like these, ox-eye daisies, that just lift the spirits.

Having just discovered how to copy my instagram pictures on to here I can take you on a journey through June! I acknowledge that it is an idea pinched from Andrew O’Brien on his much acclaimed blog Gardens, Weeds & Words and he does it much better than me but here we go.

A rose and a wasp beetle.

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The first flush of roses came out together with the peonies.

Peony

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The wild flowers were doing their bit too with foxgloves in the woodland

Foxgloves in the woodland yesterday.

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The borders really filled up.

The poppies popped!

Lots of self-seeded poppies throughout the border. So many variations in colour and form.

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And the dahlias began their season.

It's dahlia time! Here with the bronze fennel. #dahlia #flower #garden #gardening

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Oh this nigella was pretty good too!

#nigella #inmygarden

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I think that this is still my favourite plant this June if I had to choose.

Many other flowers were available but I was too busy to photograph them!

In the vegetable garden the first produce, always the best!

#cucumber yay!

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It was a squirrel by the way.

Loganberries swipe to see who was in the fruit cage helping himself! #fruitgarden

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Finishing how we started, with more daisies. As I write this in July, these are well over but they lasted about 3 weeks and I really enjoyed them.

Daisy path

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Flower arranging.

It’s been a while! Things have continued to be a busy in the gardens, we have had a heatwave and I have spent my evenings watering and feeling too tired to blog. Today was a bit fresher and I was taken in a new direction when I agreed to do house flowers for a 60th birthday.

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I had a whole garden to choose from so how hard could it be to find flowers for 5 vases? I like to think that I have a good eye for colour combinations but a florist I am not. It turns out that making arrangements that look casually gathered from the garden and placed in a vase is quite time consuming.

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As I said, large garden to choose from but the roses peaked 2 weeks ago and despite vigorous deadheading since, aren’t really up to the job.

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Plan B, a more mixed selection is needed and thank goodness the Alchemilla is is still going.

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I started with the biggest vase as I thought that it would be the hardest. It was also the prickliest as I chose Acanthus and Echinops for height and structure and filled in with airy fairy stuff. Anyway here’s the first attempt.

 

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It looked better than this in real life but it did lack something. I put it aside and came back to it later, always a good plan when trying to do something artistic, and added some dark penstemon which helped a lot.

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I did the next ones altogether, sorting through what I’d picked and whizzing round the garden for inspiration. I particularly liked the poppy heads and I managed to find a few roses in bud. Note the abundant use of Alchemilla which I intend to cut back soon anyway.

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Work in progress and the finished vases. I was really happy to discover the buddleia and the Anthemis were a good find too. Purple Miscanthus looks good with the poppy heads, just hope no-one has hayfever. The day lilies, Hemerocalis,  really finish it well, orange and purple bang on trend!

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All lined up, only took 3 hours! What a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning, the only downside was resisting the urge to pull out weeds and tidy the borders as I went round.  I think that I have found my creative style, informal, which is no surprise. The customer was very happy with the results but I don’t think that I will be changing career just yet.

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Going nuts in May!

 

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I thought that it would never come but now, mid May, it’s that time of year when there really aren’t enough hours in the day. The tulips are over, the alliums and irises are the big players in the garden and I can’t seem to get on top of all the jobs to do.

On top of the usual morning tasks,  lunches, breakfasts, school uniform and letting the chickens out, I now have additional chores. I open up the polytunnel, say good morning to Mr Frog and check the watering. Then to the cold frame and repeat the process, yes there is frog in there too! I also peer very closely at the dahlias for signs of life and despair slightly at the number of plants to be pricked out, potted on and still some seeds to sow. They’ll catch up right?

I planted a load of courgettes right on time but something ate the seeds and left the husks on top so the next lot are in a propagator with the lid on. Oh and something else ate the top off my one and only pumpkin, I may have to buy a plant.

I have had success with my lettuces and these are some of the seedlings waiting to be pricked out. It’s a bit of a faff, I know, but I have a little stall by the road to keep topped up and I have promised to produce something for an upcoming plant sale in the village. With Iceberg, salad bowl and rocket,  I have created a selection of salad leaves in a tray so let’s hope that they are popular. I’ve sold my first lot of runner beans so another lot needs to be done ready for the sale. I have also sold the first lot of cosmos so the next batch need to get a move on.  Always a good seller and helping to cover my seed and compost bill. With last year’s profit I bought a new sign board.

In the gardens, after rain at last, there is staking of delphiniums and floppy herbaceous and tying in aka a face full of wet rose. I’ve decided that it’s safe to plant out the greenhouse grown crops so in the ground now are beans, peas and one courgette.

The next job will be new planting to revitalise an old border. My choice of plants, although being given the brief – whatever you think will look nice is harder than it sounds.

So this weekend I just need to dig the veg garden, sow those last seeds, prick out dozens of seedlings, cut the grass, take part in a charity walk, do the washing etc At least the evenings are light now.

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Spring Visit to Beth Chatto Gardens

DSCN0356.JPGI took the family to visit the Beth Chatto Gardens  a couple of weekends ago now. It was a free entry day so I got to take loads of photos and enthuse about the plants but didn’t feel obliged to spend hours there to get my money’s worth.

DSCN0355.JPGThe garden covers 7 acres comprising of lawns, beds and ponds in the bottom of the valley and woodland and dry areas further up the slopes. There are lots of different paths suitable for a bit of perambulating and exploring and the different age groups visiting were doing what suited them best. With bright spring foliage, the mature trees created a cohesive link throughout the garden.

The dry garden used to be a car park and gets no irrigation so is perfect inspiration in this parched spring. The erysmiums and euphorbias were looking great, spikey yuccas, grasses and alliums to come.

Sometimes seen as a problem area, the woodland is the place to see hundreds of uncurling ferns, comfrey and arums as well as a surprising pink Rubus spectabilis ‘Olympic Double’. Really cool and green with a little stream running through to the reservoir at the bottom.  The yellow flower I have yet to look up!

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Impressive skunk cabbage at the back!

DSCN0333A series of ponds, linked by bridges and streams, are generously planted with damp loving  species. Ferns, irises, Persicaria and bergenia.  Lots of grasses and phormiums on the banks, all beautifully reflected in the water.

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I loved the self seeded forget-me-nots and the odd weed in the beds. A whole new planting scheme was taking place in a large sunny area which will showcase even more plants to illustrate Beth Chatto’s mantra ‘right plant, right place’.

The attached nursery grows and sells a lot of the plants found in the gardens. They are helpfully arranged according to habitat, dry, damp, shady and scree making it easy select what you want. There was a good choice of, mostly herbaceous, varieties and I did buy a few. Given the extensive selection on offer my quote of the day had to be “I think I’ll go for pansies they flower ok”.

And my confession of the day? I didn’t try the cake, sorry but the number of people eating must mean it’s good!

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Late spring frost.

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We had a frost in early April, a couple of weeks ago and my newly emerging dahlias suffered as a result. They were in the polytunnel but it’s only a little one and obviously wasn’t enough protection. So when frost was forecast for this week I decided to take proper precautions. My first plan was to move some of the more tender seedlings, cosmos, tomato and dahlia from my obliging parents’ greenhouse to their conservatory, as well as the dahlia tuber which was affected before.

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With my own plants taken care of, Monday morning saw me get into DSCN0386action at a customer’s garden. It was my own fault for planting the beans too early but I was quite pleased with my use of secondary double glazing panels to improvise a cloche. They survived Monday night but tonight is colder so we’ll see.

 

DSCN0387The potatoes were covered with black plastic which isn’t ideal but is better than nothing.

 

 

 

The dahlias and seedlings in the greenhouse survived perfectly due to it being quite large and the brick walls of the lean to acting like a giant storage heater.

One thing that I can’t do anything about is the apple blossom. In my very inexpert opinion, it looked all right this morning and there were lots of bees so hopefully there will still be a good crop in the autumn.

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The only good thing, is that it might kill off a few aphids which have started appearing on the roses, here’s hoping!

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