A chronicle following the progress of my new garden
Sunday March 16th
Well I doubt there will be much to write about now, having had my garden stripped of most of my established plants, but I am sure that the little plants put in by the landscaper and those that I keep buying will provide some interest as they grow.
Today I took a break from searching for more things to put in my kitchen and went out to clear up the ivy leaves that keep falling from off the Ash trees at the end, but get blown everywhere in the garden. That is going to be a regular weekly job for the next few weeks I think, as the leaves are now dying after having the stems climbing up my trees severed from their parent.
I sat eating my lunch in the strong March sunshine, watching the frogs mating in the nearby little pond. I was pleased to see that there was a little clump of frog spawn in the pond as I was clearing out the leaves. At least a few of my frogs have survived the trauma of losing their lake.
I was surprised to see a peacock butterfly, which kept coming to stretch out in the sun on the rocks surrounding the pond. It’s very early for butterflies, I would have thought. There was also a big bumble bee buzzing about. I wouldn’t have thought that either would be bothered visiting my barren gravel garden, but I suppose they must have spotted the few little patches of colour I have. Three Polyanthus plants, an Aubretia plant and an Everlasting Wallflower that I bought from Podington Garden Centre last week, as well as a tray of purple and white Violas, and a Viburnum shrub in full flower.
Some violets have survived in the crack between the patio and the wall, as has the Pulmonaria in the gravel by the kitchen window.
The Pulmonaria that the landscaper planted is also in full flower. A few crocuses in my planter, and the odd daffodil are about the only other patches of colour, apart from the ornamental grasses and heathers that the landscaper planted. Oh, and a few Ribes flowers have survived the drastic pruning that my “gardener” gave the bush that had perhaps its best year ever last year.
The pear tree is looking like it is about to burst into blossom. I’m really looking forward to seeing that. I couldn’t see the pear tree from the house last year!
Thursday 10th April
Fences are now all painted and matching and the gate has been painted in green Hammerite, which is a great improvement. I bought a trellis to support the Clematis Jackmanii on the back fence as it is now sprouting like mad and will need support, however my handyman will need to come back next week and screw it properly to the fence panel, as I have just stuck it up temporarily with insulation tape.
Everything is sprouting, except for the Vitis, which has only got a couple of little bumps to show that it might be alive. The garden contractor foreman came today to inspect the patio grouting, which is all cracking up and coming out. He said at first that it was because the slabs wobbled, but he had to really rock hard on some of them to even detect any sign of movement, and as I’ve hardly walked on the patio since it has been done, I fail to see that is the reason, especially as lots of grouting has come out from around the edges where no-one walks. He was also very surprised to find that weeds were also growing up through the grouting. He will report back to Stuart, the landscaper.
I busied myself doing my weekly clear up of ivy leaves that have been dumped from the two ash trees down the end. There are still a lot stubbornly clinging to the trees, but they are all well and truly dead now.
About a month ago I bought a set of six herbs from Podington, and I have finally got round to planting them in my herb container:- chives, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano. I also planted the purple and white violas that I had bought at the same time. The other day I bought from B&Q a couple of deep pink Azaleas for my empty pots and a Solanum which I’ve now planted in a big terracotta pot.
What little bit of colour I have in the garden now adds a sense of drama to an otherwise sedate, synthetic looking garden. The Cineraria is sitting in magnificent splendour surrounded by green. The purple Perennial Wallflower adds a splash of colour, together with the Polyanthus, all bought from Podington.
Apart from what I have recently added, there are some delicate white Narcissi still flowering, a few Muscari that got left behind when I had my clear out, Hyacynths in my containers and some little Geraniums are starting to flower. Meanwhile there are a few Ribes flowers after the shrub was hacked back last year, next to next door’s Forsythia. Their greengage tree is in full blossom, as is its little self set offspring in my garden, and on the other side of the garden there is a profusion of pear blossom above the Viburnum that I bought from Podington, which is just finishing flowering.
Less conspicuous is the white blossom on the two Skimmia plants that can now see their way out, and on the Pieris by the fence. A Dicentra flower is just opening and the newly planted Pulmonaria is just finishing while my old patch of Pulmonaria is now in full bloom.
The newly planted Acer is adding a splash of crimson and the Euphobia has now got its lime green flowers. Even one of my Fuchsias has pink buds set amongst its lime green leaves, and one of my Heuchera plants has pink flowers sprouting upwards.
I am glad to say that my two clematis survived the trauma of being disturbed and hacked back. Nellie Moser is sending up shoots, in spite of her being moved and the Markham’s Pink may have taken a setback from its severe pruning, but is sending up sprouts. I have also planted in the back left hand corner of the garden, behind the patio, a self set Clematis Montana that I found in my herb pots, so it will live on in a better position. Incredibly, there are also sprouts coming from the remains of my old Montana which has been hacked back to unsightly wood. I wish they had done what I asked and hacked it back to the ground, but at least my dunnocks still have somewhere to nest.
During my time off work I rediscovered, lurking behind my conifer, my little metal water feature which, after it has been painted in green Hammerite, will occupy pride of place again in the corner on my patio. It should be looking good for my May Bank Holiday party, offset by the Clematis Montana behind it which is budding up and will be in flower by then.
Next week the table and chairs set on the patio down the
end will be getting repainted in green Hammerite, and when my daughter comes to stay I intend getting my little gazebo set up above it ready for the party.
Life in frog land still goes on, although I have only been able to count six frogs at any one time. The frog spawn has gone, but I have seen a few tiny tadpoles. Having bought an oxygenator plant and a Water Hyacynth from Podington last month, I was gratified to find it flowering. I feel a bit sorry for the frogs, as it must be hard for them to find food yet being surrounded by gravel. I will try to move a few more rocks to surround the pond with, where they can hide and search for suitable food. However, the other day I bought some blood worms from Petsmart for them. That was the only thing that they could think of to feed them with. I have to keep them in the freezer though, so it is a daily task to unwrap them and chuck a block into the pond for them. No idea if they eat them or not, but it will be organic material for the bottom of the pond if not.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the 19 year old Magnolia that has been taken from her 19 year old pot and bunged in the ground near the pond, has got some buds just opening. A trifle late compared with other Magnolias in the area, but presumably next year she will catch up. Also the Hydrangea that was chopped to death and trampled during the garden revamp has recovered and is sending up new growth both from the ground and from the few branches that survived. Next to that, the Peony is shooting up well. The climbing Hydrangea on the back wall, and the new Hydrangea behind the conifer are also doing well. I cannot wait to see them in full flower.
The Ceanothus in my front garden is just budding up. I cannot see any buds on the new climbing Ceanothus that I had planted on the LHS fence in the sunshine, rather than in the back RHS corner in the shade where the landscaper put it, is not showing any sign of budding up yet, but give it time.
Sadly, I lost the other deep pink Magnolia last year, and its pot is sitting empty still in front of the dog run trellis, waiting for me to decide what to put in it. I change my mind every day. One day I want a little Eucalyptus, the next I want a red stemmed Bamboo. Then when I see things in season I want one of them, like the flowering cherry that is in the front garden of the house across the road, or another Magnolia. Next month I will want a Wisteria, no doubt.
The terracotta urn sits empty and mucky. I’m not sure what to do with it. Does it look good weathered? I’m not sure whether to clean it up, paint it or leave it alone. What would look good in it is something tall and feathery, like Pampas grasses, but I doubt if it is the right receptacle to grow one in, as there is no hole in the bottom.
Now I’m thinking of putting together my old mini-greenhouse, and growing on some sweet peas and bedding plants. I wonder if it is cheaper to buy a new mini-greenhouse or a new cover? I dare say I will find out when I go shopping next, which won’t be long as I have seen a new patio set I like!
The good thing about this time of year is that every day I see something new, even in my barren gravel garden. Another couple of years and it will be wonderful, but even now I can find enough to interest me watching everything growing!
Sunday 20th April (Easter Sunday)
Having seen the weather forecast, I went out, still in my dressing gown as soon as I was up at 7.15 am, to paint in pink the rusty metal ornamental butterflies and flower that a friend had given me for my birthday a couple of years ago, so that the paint would dry before the rain came. Rain was welcome to me because I had been needing to water the garden this week every day.
Having just regained the use of my garden hose only on Friday, I discovered that, if I used the pressurised setting on its sprinkler head, I could wash off the algae on the trunks of my prunus serrula and my silver birch, the latter which also stared to peel like an onion skin to reveal a brilliant white trunk, as it should be. I wasn’t sure whether this was normal or if I was damaging the tree, but having googled it I found that the gardeners in Anglesey Abbey pressure wash their white wood every year, so I will go and finish the job when I next have a gardening session.
Last night a friend gave me some seedlings he had been growing:- sweet peas, nasturtiums and some spiky rockery plants that he didn’t know the name of. I will keep them near the window in the utility room for the time being, until I get my mini-greenhouse re-erected. I also have to do something with the tray of petunias I bought last week.
I think I have a fair bit of work to do before my garden warming party in a couple of weeks, and I noticed that there is a fair bit to do in the front garden as well. I will get my gardener to take the hedge trimmer to the winter jasmine on Thursday, which is getting untidy again, after he has painted the water feature with Hammerite. He did the table and chairs set last Thursday, which makes them look a bit smarter. I am still toying with buying another set I have seen in B&Q for the patio by the house, although that seems a bit extravagant. Even better though was a companion seat that I saw in Best Buys. To compromise though I put out my garden chairs in the hope that the sunshine will return soon. They will have to do for the party. I need a bottomless bank balance, I think!
Saturday 3rd May
Waiting for my daughter to arrive from Canada after her flight was delayed six hours, I set up the garden ready for my party on Bank Holiday Monday. In spite of the overnight frost, expecting no rain between now and then at least during the day, I put out my new parasol, solar party lights, and the cushions on my new companion seat bought specially because my daughter was coming to visit. I had a spending spree last week on plants as well. A Wisteria, in a large pot in front of the trellis, and a standard Fuchsia, in a smaller matching pot next to that. I had placed a red Cordyline in a pot balanced inside the terracotta urn, and three new Geraniums in pots inside a window box. I had also bought some pink Alyssum, but have yet to decide where to put them, and the purple Petunias still need a home. The rest of the garden is gradually growing, and the tiny pink, purple and white wild geraniums are now blooming in profusion. The remaining Clematis Montana which is on my fence next to the house is still refusing to open up fully – we need a whole lot of sun to get it going, I think. The forecast for the weekend is not brilliant, but looks to be mainly dry with sunny intervals, so maybe more colour will be out by Monday.
Thursday 8th May
Well, the party came and went with great success. Since then I have invested in more plants, pots and paraphernalia for the garden. I bought a substantial sunshade and base to sit permanently behind the companion seats with my son’s birthday money, plus a couple of trellises for the other two fences at the back of the garden. One will have the summer jasmine climbing up it, the other will have a new clematis which I bought from Country Gardens. Two n
ew pots sit on the patio at the back of the garden waiting for me to plant them up with petunias and sweet peas when the rain stops today.
A new Eucalyptus sits in a big old pot in the LHS corner of the patio waiting to be planted, and a lovely pink lilac is sitting in the middle of the bed on the LHS of the gazebo, also needing planting. A pink foxglove is waiting to be put into the shady border by the fence and should compliment the giant alliums and the lone delphinium that have survived. The allysum has been planted, some at the back of the patio below the garden wall, some in the rockery and the rest in pots at the base of bigger plants. Don’s nasturtiums have also been planted in this way.
The mini greenhouse is now housing three tomato plants, moneymaker, gardeners’ delight and beefsteak plus three traffic light capsicums, and Don’s sweet pea seedlings ready now to go into pots. Last but not least, there is a runner bean plant waiting to be planted behind the dog run which can climb up the trellis there.
I also bought a second set of solar powered Chinese lanterns to hang along the top of the dog run trellis, and a cerise solar powered Chinese lantern to hang from the inside of the sunshade(or in my lounge window when the weather is inclement).
The gardener came this morning but could do no work because of the heavy rain so I guess I will have planted everything myself with my daughter’s help before next week. However, there are the two trellises for him to screw up and the garage door still needs painting, plus an extra coat of fence paint on the front of the back gate. I’m not sure I dare trust him to weed the front garden, so I suppose I had better do that myself.
Thursday 8th May (cont.)
The rain finally stopped at about 7pm and I managed to get out and plant my new little Eucalyptus in a pot at the back LHS of the garden, the petunias and sweet peas in the two new pots in the corners of the back patio, the new Clematis Dr Ruppel in a pot against the fence between the two ash trees (temporarily) and the foxglove in the border against the side fence. My plan is to have a climbing rose between the two ash trees when I find it.
I moved the Fatsia japonica into the RHS corner behind the bamboo where it will be shady, as the leaves had yellowed considerably since I had moved it from the corner near the house. I’ll see if the leaves green up there, or else it will have to come back near the house. All that needs to be done tomorrow is to plant the lilac somewhere fitting, and plant the tomatoes and peppers in the mini greenhouse, plus put the runner bean into a suitable pot of compost.
Unless I find a Black Knight Buddleia or a Masquerade climbing rose, I think that will be that now for the time being, as there will be no room for next month’s purchases if I carry on buying more May plants. Of course there will still be the morning tour of the garden picking up 100 fallen leaves and any weeds that dare to poke their heads through the gravel, and the daily sweeping back of earth or gravel that the birds have scattered everywhere whilst looking for worms.
The Clematis Montana Elizabeth by the patio doors has now opened up fully and is looking gorgeous. I hope it will still be in flower for my next party at the end of the month. I had planned to cut it back down to the ground after it had finished flowering because it had been so scruffy looking after the gardener took it off the fence to paint, but as it seems to have recovered a reasonable shape I might just trim it back and get something to support it as it is.
Saturday 17th May
After a traumatic few days where it became more obvious that I was very soon going to have to make a nasty decision about my Myschka, I finally managed to do the deed on Friday 16th May after she collapsed three times on her way down to the end of the garden. Fortunately we had managed to take some good photos of her enjoying the garden with us beforehand. However, today is the first day of the next phase of my life, and I started by getting on with garden jobs, putting in canes to support my runner beans and sweet peas, planting the replacement Black Knight Buddleja that had been dug out of the bed near the kitchen window, and some cerise coloured petunias in the pots down the end of the garden.
Then, with a bit of help from my sunshade, table and chairs, my daughter and I re-erected down the end of the garden the gazebo that had blown down in the gales last week. This time I made sure that it would not blow down again by taping the joints together ready for painting next week. Why three strapping garden landscapers couldn’t have re-erected it properly when it came down during the gales while they were landscaping my garden I’ll never know! It has done me a favour though because I was going to buy another structure for the end of the garden, but now I don’t need to, so I have saved a few bob there. All I need now is another couple of matching pots to position in front of the other two legs and to support my climbers that will hopefully be growing all over it by this time next year.
I tried to take a few night-time photos, but they did not turn out very well.
Thursday 22nd May
After what looked like a good drop of rain overnight, which continued until about 7am, the gardening chap turned up even though the forecast said there would be showers all day. I got him putting up the two trellises and asked him to paint the gazebo with green Hammerite if it didn’t rain, which fortunately it didn’t. So he managed to get on one coat of paint, ready for my garden party next Monday, the Spring Bank Holiday.
Meanwhile I got on with replanting a delicate little clematis in a big pot near the end of the utility area trellis, in the hope that it will be able to clamber around the corner. I also put in some bean poles for my wild honeysuckle to climb up and over both side fences. My runner beans in the pot were looking good, but now that the dog has gone I moved them next to the mini greenhouse, so if and when they grow they will hide a bit of the bin area. I also planted six runner beans in a grow bag the other side of the mini greenhouse, hoping they will hide next door’s scruffy fence a bit.
The tomatoes in the mini greenhouse are looking healthy, with a truss of flowers on Moneymaker already. I moved the three traffic lights pepper plants out of the greenhouse, before the tomato plants got to tall for me to move them. I hope they will be alright outside. I might just bring them into the utility room overnight for the first few days, just in case.
Disappointingly the lilac has finished flowering and the flowers have turned brown. I hope that is not going to be the life expectancy of the plant, as all the established lilacs around are still in full flower. Perhaps I bought it after it had been flowering early. We’ll see what happens next year, if it lives. The Wisteria that I bought three weeks ago still has flowers and the Fuchsia I bought at the same time is flowering prolifically still.
Amazingly I managed to fill the green bucket with leaves, twigs and clippings again. This seems t
o be a daily job as things seem to grow overnight, although there is no sign of the seeds I planted on Saturday poking their heads up yet. Anyone who says that gravel gardens are maintenance free must be mad!
At about lunchtime I went in for a bite to eat, just as it was starting to rain. Not long later, the heavens opened and we had thunder, lightning and a massive hailstorm. My poor peppers must have wondered what on earth had happened to them. Meanwhile I got on with ironing two bedding sets whilst watching the awesome storm’s effect on my garden. I know I wanted some water, but not quite this much.
After the storm abated I decided to make use of my old dog baskets as a vegetable garden, in the utility area, so I went out again to plant one of them up with Lollo Rosso lettuce seeds and radishes, plus a few more runner beans for good measure. It will be interesting to see if it works. If so, I might plant up the second one with more salad and vegetable items. It will be a good tribute to my dogs if it is successful.
Sunday 1st June
Having had quite a lot of rain over the past week, and a whole day of torrential rain yesterday, I expected to find some growth when the sun finally made its appearance today. My candytuft seeds had finally come up, but there was no sign of my foxglove seeds. The runner been seeds stubbornly decided to stay underground, but at least the radishes, carrots and lollo rosso lettuces had peeped up above the compost in the dog basket. The tomatoes didn’t seem to have made much progress, so I fed them in the hope that would improve matters. Everything else was looking okay and seemed to have survived the deluge, except for the pansies and geraniums in pots which were waterlogged.
Saturday 14th June – Pick up Lexy day! 🙂
Who said that my garden would have no colour this year?
Saturday 26th July 2014
Well, a lot of time has passed since my previous posting, and guess what? I have been too occupied with puppy activities to write much about or take photos of my garden. However, I have actually been keeping on top of it, with a little bit of help from Lexy! Amazingly the garden has survived Lexy running amok in it several times, in fact on a daily basis at one point, as she seems to be able to dodge the plants most of the time.
All through the summer there has been plenty of colour from Fuchsias, Geraniums, Everlasting Wallflowers, pink and purple Loosestrife and Valerian. Currently the pink Buddleia has a profusion of large flowers and the Hydrangeas are looking good. The honeysuckle on the obelisk near the house is in flower and smells beautiful, in spite of hacking it back almost to the ground when I moved the gazebo down to the end of the garden. The one on the LHS fence has been and gone and the one on the RHS fence has not really done much. Disappointingly the new one down the end on the gazebo has made loads of growth, but no flowers as yet, likewise the Solanum. Perhaps they are not happy in the shade during the morning, although they are in full sun from about 3pm onwards.
The petunia tubs have flowered throughout the summer, but the sweet peas growing in the middle of the two pots have not grown any taller than the petunias, although they have at least flowered and produced seeds. I have had some massive ornamental poppies both in the wild section on the LHS where they used to flower and in the central bed near the kitchen window.
The foxglove plant I bought flowered for months. I suppose I should have deadheaded it to continue the flowering period, but I was more concerned about it producing seeds for later years, as the foxglove seeds I sowed have not shown any signs of appearing. Likewise the one remaining delphinium that escaped the digger.
The plants that were put in by the landscape company are slowly getting bigger, apart from the three bronze fennel plants and one sage plant that have given up the ghost completely. I am hoping that they will all establish themselves nicely this year and that next year they should be much better specimens. Some of the grasses have been steadily growing and look lovely, but both variegated groups of grasses seem to have done nothing. The one iris that was put in a silly place anyway was chopped off by Lexy eventually, after having been totally abused anyway by my hosepipe. Maybe it will grow again next year.
The plants around the pond have established themselves nicely. The Geums have added a splash of yellow all through the summer, as have the little spiky leaved plants that Don gave me. Hopefully next year that area will look like the wild garden I wanted there, with poppies, geums, elephant’s ears and other wild type flowers I intend to get planted there.
The white Campanula (Canterbury Bells) that the landscaper planted have flowered for months encouraged by my dead heading. The Cystus spent a month producing a daily blaze of pink flowers, which only live for the day, but has been dormant since mid June. Thymes are in flower, and one variegated sage has produced massive flower spikes, which I have left on to produce seeds. The purple sage is looking good, but has not flowered.The three Oregano plants are spreading well and are just coming into flower. The two bamboo plants have produced several new spikes, but the black stemmed ones are still green.
My herb garden has been doing well. I only wish that I would use them in cooking, but I don’t do much of that! The dog basket produced some beautiful Lollo Rosso, but I didn’t eat any of it. I had about 10 radishes, one was as big as a beetroot. The rest were just swollen roots, as I never thinned them out. The carrots have produced some leaves since they got some light after I removed the massive radish leaves and Lollo Rosso plants after they had gone past their sell by date. The runner beans were very slow but there are some flowers on them now. There are a couple of coriander plants, but they don’t look like they will come to anything. The stars of the basket I think will be the courgettes, as there are two extremely healthy looking plants in full flower. The three traffic light pepper plants have produced loads of flowers but have very little fruit, in spite of the hot summer we are having. The pot of runner beans climbing up the trellis at the back have only produced enough beans for one meal so far. However, my tomato plants have got stacks of fruit on them, which Lexy discovered the other day. Having played for at least an hour with one green tomato she sneaked off the plant, she finally decided to taste it, and she found she liked it. Since then they are not safe, so I have placed two chairs in front of the mini-greenhouse so she can’t reach them, but that will shade them from the sun. Ah well!
As expected it is far too hot in the middle of my garden for me to venture out when the sun is out, so any work done has to be late evening or very early morning. The biggest job I have really is keeping the growth down on the clematis by the back door, which sends out monstrous tendrils daily. I am having a perspex roof put over that end of the dog run, to keep the rain off Lexy, so eventually I will be grateful for the clematis creeping over it to shade it, but now it is a total nuisance. Nellie Moser is still alive, but has not grown at all. The Markhams Pink Clematis is climbing nicely all over the trellis and should be spectacular next spring when it flowers. The Wisteria is putting out growth and starting to climb up
the trellis. I have moved the Rhododenron next to it, partly because it no longer deserves pride of place on my patio, and partly because there are now three matching pots in a row together, with the standard fuchsia in the smallest one. Below the Wisteria I had Don’s nasturtium plants which grew and grew then finally produced flowers, but as expected they were soon covered in blackfly, so I chucked them out. The ones down the end of the garden under the honeysuckle were slower to make growth and flower, but the same thing happened and I threw out the blackfly covered plants this morning.
I miss having some shade in the middle of the garden. I am trying to think of a tree to plant to produce dappled shade without screening the view from the house too much. I did plant a very small specimen of Black Knight Buddleia in the exact place that my last one was in the middle of the bed under the kitchen window, bit Lexy trampled it and it has made little growth since. I will cut it back in the autumn, and hopefully it will fare better next year.