Category Archives: Mini woodland

Tuesday View (and an End of Month View for April)

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Rose ‘Canary Bird’ in the Long Border

Cathy’s meme at Words & Herbs is such a good idea (you show the same view of your garden as it changes through the seasons), but I’ve always hesitated to join in with it because I felt my pictures would be too boring! Now I’ve found a reason.

I’m not very happy with what I call the ‘Long Border’ in my garden. It’s ok, but it fails to please me later in the summer when all is baked hot and dreary with the 30 degree C temperatures we usually get at some stage or another.

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Earlier there were some rather nice tulips and Narcissus ‘Actaea’. Now the border’s moving on to the next stage with philadelphus due to flower along the bank.

Until 2013 it was just a slope of rough grass with three hazelnut bushes. I added cuttings of philadelphus and deutzia that I made in the town where we used to live. Then I started growing plants from the Hardy Plant Society seed list every year.

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Looking up the border from the other direction, it’s clearer that there are also iris and hemerocallis living here.

I was less successful than I used to be in the past, but I still had plenty of Thalictrum flavum ssp glaucum and Asphodeline lutea to plant out. I’ve added yellow and white irises and there are quite a few tulips.

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Artemesia ‘Lambrook Silver’ (from cuttings), Asphodeline lutea (from seed) and Thalictrum flavum ssp. glaucum (from seed) were repeated a little along the border for good foliage effect – now some of the excess thalictrum is due for removal down below to allow space.

Now I want to create a much hotter border for later in the summer – because of the clay soil and the heat, I am trying to bump up the grass and helenium population. Both seem to do well, even with little watering. Grey plants (which I love) don’t do very well here and I make the most of those that are thriving.

Currently a rather nice little ‘Canary Bird’ rose is finally getting away below the purple berberis, embellished with a little Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fern Cottage’ at its feet. The rose has died back a little each year since planting – this seems to be what always happens on this clay soil – but finally this year it is getting its toes in.

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Last year the Long Border still didn’t look right. I’m hoping that in joining in with Cathy’s meme I can work out how to really change it so that I’ll enjoy it in the summer months too.

Anyway – here I am now, Cathy, with my boring border pictures!

The photos were taken on the last day of April – I took them originally to link in with Helen, at The Patient Gardener‘s End of Month View. 

So there are a few more pics of two other areas in the top (nearly completed – continually evolving!) part of the garden.

In addition to the Long Border, I’ve taken a few of the Rose Walk (no roses yet!). I lost my four large bronze fennels in the winter … a pity, because they were so lovely when the alliums came along. Now replanted with the seedlings they threw all over the shop.

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The box balls have been rather badly damaged by our late frosts. I’ve kept them shaggy so far as a measure against box blight while they grew, but they are now just about the right size to keep a bit tidier (out of the typical box blight weather). The roses have an edging of chives and an underplanting of Stachys lanata, Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’, dianthus and Achillea ‘Lilac Beauty’ – which still isn’t quite working, but I’m getting there.

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From the other end, there’s a good view of my new greenhouse (still under construction – green umbrella marks the labourer’s shelter).

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There were not as many tulips this year because 2016 saw a lot of tulip fire in this part of the garden, so nothing was added. But these ‘Sorbet’ tulips were still rather jolly.

…. and my tiny little mini-woodland. This last is going to sleep now. I used to adore woodland plants in the past, and this little shaded area at the end of the Long Border is the only place I have (so far) to grow my favourite plants.

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Do go and look at Cathy’s Tuesday View and enjoy what other bloggers are showing us.

Similarly, the great pictures of Helen’s front garden in her End of Month View. She’s renovated it in the last couple of years and I’m in awe!

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End of Month View: May

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Yes – it’s finished! Even the corner pieces are now on the new pergola. And that marvellous shadow effect is not only due to the sun – the Bon Viveur painted the wood in two different shades of blue to accentuate the effect. 

May has been a very mixed month. Much wetter than is usual here and temperatures quite cool. Up to 27 degrees centigrade in the garden occasionally, but often not much more than 15 or 17. A mixed blessing. There has been fantastic growth on the plants and I am particularly pleased that my new herbaceous plants in the Hornbeam Gardens have had time to establish properly, without additional water.

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Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ flowering on the steps up to the Mirror Garden

The down side is that we are (as of Saturday 28th May) heading into another rainy period and all of the juicy rosebuds may be a bit of a wash-out. And just when they finally started getting their toes in … No one can be a real gardener without dabbling in philosophy.

The shot below is of the Rose Walk, Long Border, Knot Garden and blue pergola from the balcony of the house.DSC_0002

I’m still in two minds about the Knot Garden. Half of me says topiary hollies and bedded- out tulips (flamboyant!), followed by some cool bedding colours (white and green nicotiana?). The other half sees low white roses against green hedges.

The Bon Viveur is for both. At the moment I just keep weeding and allowing the young box (cuttings from 2013) to grow …DSC_0007 (1)

Moving down to the Mirror Garden. Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ is just finishing off its annual performance. What a star – the first rose to flower here every year since it was planted in 2012. I’ve noticed that it begins on a particularly warm little spot on the old tower and spreads like wildfire. I had to hang it back up and chop it a little in May, while it was already flowering. (Takes a steely heart to cut buds from a rose like this!)

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The Melianthus major have gone out in their blue pots again this year. DSC_0008The pleated foliage is beautiful, but they are not really working in the pots, and I still haven’t found an alternative. I loved the  Melianthus that used to be in the huge pot at Hidcote (still is?), and that’s where the idea comes from. These pots are too small.

DSC_0013 (1)I was wondering about some yellow bedding (the theme up here is yellow, grey and green). But I’m currently drawing a blank.

The blue pergola on the Vine Terrace is finished, as I’ve said. This is the prettiest thing I’ve ever had in a garden of mine. But thank goodness the BV has gone back to work in Basel – he has been laying waste to the ivy that covered most of our ‘service’ bits – hence the ladder that you can see in the background.

DSC_0014 (1)DSC_0019 (1)Like the wire down to the plug where I attach my electric lawnmower in the Iris Garden – and even the pipe for the fosse septique. I’m mortified! This is where we bring our visitors on a nice summer’s evening.

Still – the irises look grand. I’m enjoying the first flowering of plants I purchased back in 2014. ‘Forest Hills’ you’ve already seen here, in my post about the irises in Basel.

The other little stars are …

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Langport Storm

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Jane Phillips

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Foggy Dew

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Carnaby – the flashiest iris I’ve ever grown. Love it!

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Blue Rhythm

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Wine and Roses – sweetly pretty. I’m already imagining it in combination with other plants in the garden when it is big enough to divide.

The Iris Garden is where my worst fears about the current bad weather reside. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is just getting into her stride.

DSC_0025 (1)My worst fears because this is simply the worst rose I’ve ever come across for ‘balling’. I’m sure I’ve written it before, but here goes again: ‘When she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad she was HORRID!’ If it rains when she’s flowering, that’s it. The buds become ugly grey-brown lumps of lead – and they are heavy, heavy, like little bullets when you cut them off.

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You can just see a browned-off bud in the background. She’s looking like a bit of a Joan of Arc here, gazing up to the skies … and suffering.

Today I did a mercy run and cut some for the table in the kitchen. We do usually get flowers again in late summer – so I’ll pray for better weather then. She was superb last year.

I’m not so worried about ‘Blairii No. 2’, also just coming into flower. It seems much more tolerant of wet weather.DSC_0105

This is the first year I’ve planted clematis out against the walls – so far I’ve been a bit nervous to add them, because I still am doing so much planting and they don’t like being ‘messed with’.  But now ‘Mrs Cholmondeley’ is snuggled up between ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ and ‘Pierre  de Ronsard’. She’s a ‘wilter’ and all I can do is pray for her …

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DSC_0140Down in the Rose Walk things are exactly as I want them (and just the way most other people don’t!). I like to feel I’m in a wild flower meadow and my roses are just growing there accidentally. The picture below is at my shoulder height – buds all the way.

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The tantalising buds of ‘Fantin Latour’. I noticed the first open flowers Saturday evening before rather a scary thunderstorm.

The buds of a pink peony are mixing it with up ‘Fantin Latour’.

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‘Gertrude Jekyll’ has been the first rose to flower this year.

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The alliums are in full flood (oops – not the correct word to use, given current weather conditions).DSC_0032 (1)DSC_0124

Allium christophii is flowering for the first time here.

DSC_0037DSC_0121The nigella are (as usual) out of control … but so pretty I can never murder them.

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Geraniums, disappointingly, don’t do too well in the Rose Walk (I don’t think I give them enough room, really, since they like to spread over the surface of a border). Fortunately the new ones are romping away in the lower part of the garden.

But this little seed-raised G. himalayense has been so pretty this year. DSC_0047

And Anchusa ‘Loddon Royalist’, just along from the geranium, is keeping up the blue/purple theme. I probably shouldn’t have planted this – it will just worry me to death because everyone says it’s short-lived. But I was pretty successful with it on heavy clay in England, so I’m daring to try again.

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And the bronze fennel is acting as a nice backdrop. Although starting to remind me what a fierce weed it is.

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I have to admit, sometimes even I think the Rose Walk is a bit messy … but so romantic and what’s more important? The path is narrow (this is actually dictated by the dimensions of the place, not me) and I feel we should be replacing it with a herringbone brick or something to give more structure.

DSC_0120aWe are due (this sounds better than ‘hoping’) to put a greenhouse down here. It will have to be blue-grey, and specifically for my sixtieth birthday in December. Attached will be a matching pergola created by the BV.

Funnily enough, this whole Rose Walk area (although it was the first place I gardened when I started in 2012) is the most ‘unfinished’ of the cultivated areas in the garden. There’s the awful heap of garden rubbish where the glasshouse will be. And at the far end there’s a matching heap of rubbish (perfect symmetry) where I want my compost bins. Three of them, shaped like beehives, painted cream or pale blue …

I can dream about my greenhouse and the beehive compost bins. That’s what my blog is all about …

Against the Rose Walk wall (the village ramparts), ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ is pretty startling in this, her third spring.

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… and just beyond the short length of hornbeam hedge, by our garden gate, once flowering rose ‘Alchymist’ has finally got more than two buds at a time!

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Behind the Rose Walk is an area I call the ‘mini woodland’. All looks reasonably respectable at the front, with aquilegias and herbaceous plants coming up in the area where I could see coloured stemmed dogwoods two months ago and then the bluebells.

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DSC_0111 (1)A week ago I decided to go round to the (even wilder) back where all the creeping buttercups hang out, smoking and generally behaving badly.

I wanted to weed and found myself bathed in wonderful spring sunshine, in the wild heart of one of my best ‘messes’ – the buzzing of bees was overwhelming and I couldn’t bear to touch a hair on its head. Well, maybe the odd one or two …

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I don’t often say say or write the kind of comment that follows; I’m a perfectionist who not only lacks confidence, but is very critical of herself . However, the Long Border looks lovely at the moment (although poor roses – blasted by the rain since Saturday night).

DSC_0057 (1)DSC_0058 (1)There is a lot of material grown in bulk from cuttings here (filched from the streets of the little town where I used to live). Philadelphus, weigela, and so on clothe the bank down from the Rose Walk. Everything is flowering properly for the first time and I can hardly believe they were about 5 inches high when I brought them here in November 2011.

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Weigela, comfrey and borage with Hesperis matronalis.

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Philadelphus coronarius

And many repeated herbaceous plants grown from seed: different catmint species (N. sessiliflora & N. nervosa), Asphodeline lutea and Thalictrum speciosissimum.

I’m even noticing that my Angelica is self-seeding (in many of the ‘wrong’ places).

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Naughty angelica settled in the crown of Thalictrum speciosissimum

Very interesting. Being ‘economically challenged’ and using, of necessity, the same plant many times can help give a border unity. I’m proud of it. I planted out some tubers of Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’ last Thursday and I’ve a few (too small) cannas to add. The dahlias seem to take the heat really well  (this is almost the hottest part of the garden) and I thought I’d turn this into a real blaze from hell in the summer. Slowly, slowly.

Down in the Hornbeam Gardens, my little dead magnolia, planted over the cat’s grave, has been replaced by a Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ (fingers crossed that doesn’t die as well!).

DSC_0087 (1) I’m really pleased with the geraniums and grasses that are starting to perform after being planted last year just in advance of the hottest summer I’ve known here.

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The young shrub above (planted winter 2014) is Viburnum plicatum ‘Watanabe’ (a smaller version of ‘Mariesii’) and the blue geraniums are ‘Orion’ and good old ‘Johnson’s Blue’. The grasses are seed-raised Deschampsia cespitosa.

On the other side of the path, the plantings of herbaceous in March this year are filling out nicely, although my Echinacea ‘Summer Skies’ never made an appearance. Must make sure I get the nursery to replace it – we don’t often do that, do we? But many mail order nurseries offer some sort of guarantee.

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Lilac ‘Miss Kim’ is very small, but pretty near perfect.DSC_0081 (1)

And the BV has erected the most fabulous support for my sweet peas that they have ever, ever had. At least they will benefit from the rain. Could be a good year!

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Through the hornbeam hedge into the orchard is my next challenge – a slope that’s being crammed full of shrubs and ‘extras’ from the rest of the garden. So hard to maintain by strimming as it was. It’s still pretty rough around the ears, but I find it interesting to record ‘before and after’.

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It’s all looking good – even the grass is cut. But if it carries on raining this week, I’ll be forced to turn to the ironing (also growing well in May) and cleaning the beams in the attic.

Weather, be kind to my roses!

This ridiculously long post is my contribution to Helen’s ‘End of Month View’ at the Patient Gardener. Go on over and see the exciting things that exploded into flower in everyone’s else’s May garden.

 

 

April: End of Month View

For the first time I’m joining in with Helen’s meme at The Patient Gardener. I’m sorry that this is rather long, but it’s been ages since I did a practical update on the entire garden; this is as much for my long-term record as for your interest.

DSC_0196April weather has been mixed. Heavy rains just at the end of March and the beginning of the month brought flooding. Not such a bad thing. For the last three years the months of March and April have been seriously dry and hot here. The water table in Lorraine has officially been declared dangerously low, and so could do with a boost from spring rains.

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Then we had a couple of weeks of glorious sunshine, during which I achieved quite a lot in the garden, although my work cleaning beams and painting in our lovely new attic space came to a complete halt. I even managed to get the vegetable garden tidied before the beginning of May!

We’ve been chomping away like rabbits on the kale, purple-sprouting broccoli and perpetual spinach, while the broad beans are showing promise for June.

But it was also fairly cool (down to between 0 and 2 degrees C at night and often not higher than 8 to 14 during the day. The bonus was that everything slowed down to a ‘proper’ spring pace of flowering.

The hellebores stayed fresh to meet the bluebells in my mini woodland. Brunnera ‘Langtrees’ greeted my variegated hosta. All joined by the foliage of Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’. This might not seem very special to you – but on a really hot slope it has me jumping for joy! Now all in their second or third spring.

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The narcissus ‘Jenny’ and ‘Jack Snipe’ in the Rose Walk lingered for about three weeks from the end of March.

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Jenny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jack Snipe

The tulips hung around for more than a day.

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Queen of the Night

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Sorbet

Aquilegia alpina is taking it easy into flower.

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My pink peonies in the Rose Walk are slowly gaining in height.

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And the middle of the month brought the return of my Bon Viveur for the longest time he’s managed to spend at home since December. So now we have structure in the garden!

The new blue pergola on the Vine Terrace is (almost) finished. There’s always a ‘but’ with the BV … Apparently this is very complicated construction – and I am extremely lucky, because there is now a year’s waiting list. But yes, he really should be proud – and I’m already planning yellow flowers to contrast.

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I finally decided what to do with my new knot garden.

DSC_0035DSC_0044Apart from the largest box ball and two small companions, the plants were all rooted here and finally set out in their positions in April 2015. In June 2015 I took more cuttings to finish up the pattern. Then came the heat of last summer and many of those cuttings were scorched. Took some more in September and am pleased to say that about 60 per cent are growing on. So far none of the Box caterpillar, although I check regularly.

The advent of tulip fire in the Rose Walk caused me to scratch my head. Should I really be continuing to plant tulips and then not lift them afterwards, as I’ve always done in the past? In any case, the positions where I had the fire mean that I should not really plant back there for three years.

I need somewhere else for bulbs and I think the knot garden could be the answer. I’ve decided to go ahead with my plan to plant hollies for topiary and some low, coloured, evergreen foliage. Hopefully it will all look good when we survey it from our balcony in the cold winter months.

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From the balcony

So far I’ve only come up with Stachys lanata for grey, evergreen foliage. I’d like peaceful colours. Any suggestions?

But now I can buy tulips to use as bedding, then lift them and put them down in the cut flower garden to use the following year. Hurrah! I’m already excited about trying out some snazzier tulip colours and shapes for 2016. (And worried about how expensive my garden dreams always seem to be!)

Further down the garden, I finally finished planting in the Hornbeam Gardens and have dug the cut flower borders.

DSC_0076I even supported the delphiniums yesterday before it started raining again – although I was a bit worried to see that some already had buds on them. This is not right for April? Are they on their way out?

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This is only the second year for the delphiniums and the first time I’ve used hazel to support herbaceous plants. In the past, in other gardens, I’ve used birch. Much more pliable, twiggy and easy to weave. I’ve no idea if the hazel will work, but hey … if you don’t fail, you don’t learn.

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Mostly the shrubs I planted in the bottom half of the Hornbeam Gardens in late winter 2014/15 are doing well. Exochorda macrantha ‘The Bride’ is in full flower, although still quite tiny.

DSC_0048The lilacs – ‘Belle de Nancy‘, ‘Primrose’ and ‘Miss Kim’ are full of bud.

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Belle de Nancy in bud

The frosts we had during the good April weather damaged the foliage on Hydrangea aspera var villosa and Hydrangea aspera subsp. sargentiana. But that happened last year as well, so I’m not too worried.

Worse is the damage on the Magnolia soulangiana planted over the body of my cat who died in 2014. It failed to flower this year – I foresaw that one year in three the frost might damage the flowers, but I thought we were past the ‘this is sticky, heavy soil and  I don’t want to grow here at all’ stage! I’ve previous experience of losing magnolias on heavy London clay, so perhaps I ought to know better.

Anyway – spoke to it tenderly yesterday afternoon and removed some soil that may have banked up and contributed to drowning at the base of the stem while I was planting perennials around it.

Hopefully this area of the garden will be a wild shrub and meadow garden in a few years time. It seems horribly regular at the moment. I just want a path down the middle really, to exit into the orchard and then meandering paths through to admire the shrubs when in blossom.

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Many geraniums (planted in 2015), geums, grasses, scabious, nepeta, and so on, are already in the ground and the Narcissus poeticus I planted last autumn are coming into flower. It looks like nothing, but gives me something else to ‘observe’ on my daily garden tour.

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Two plants that went in this March are a no-show … so far. I bought them by mail order from Lepage, recommended to me as a good online nursery by a French acquaintance. All were in tip-top health on arrival. The no-shows are a delicious peachy echinacea called ‘Summer Sky’ and Aruncus dioicus. Further up the garden there is also a ‘no-show’ for a much-loved Agastache ‘Blue Wonder’ that was combining well with Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ and Aster frikartii ‘Monch’. Fortunately I did divide it last spring, and the piece in the Long Border is growing away.

I wonder if they all just want warmer weather to appear? You can only dig a plant up so many times to check.

Next to the Hornbeam Gardens my four little Prunus ‘Tai-haku’, planted in 2013, flowered for their third year. All doing well, although one was ‘pruned’ by a rampaging bullock from across the river last summer. Don’t worry – they won’t be flooded, because we know the maximum flood level on the slope.

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We’ve light rain again today and the temperature looks set to rise next week. Hopefully my AWOL plants will wake up like Sleeping Beauty in the first week of May.

Thanks so much to Helen for hosting this meme – I look forward to reading about everyone else’s gardens in April by following the links on The Patient Gardener.

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