Early June

This was the ‘wildflower meadow’ in our front garden just over a week ago. For a long time in the early season it was looking quite sparse, but now it’s burst into growth. The grasses have shot up, with feathery flower spikes, and there’s a diverse range of wild flowers, including campion; both pink and fringed (Silene fimbriata), ox-eye daisies, yarrow, and birds foot trefoil. The alliums add interest, even though they’re not wild flowers (well, not this particular variety, in this country!)

This is one of the same alliums (Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’) in the back garden…

The wallflowers were starting to look good – here against the contrasting foliage of a rose (Rosa ‘Judy Dench’)…

A week later, and most of them are well past their best. Time to rip them out and make space for other plants. I think. Taken from the right angle, the beds are looking quite full. The alliums and wallflowers work well together. The impressive fern behind them precedes our arrival. The yellow evergreen on the left is a euonymus, probably E. fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’…

You can see the structure of the grass path that runs along the left hand side of the garden…

Eventually, the beds will be edged with box hedging (box blight and caterpillars not withstanding) and the shrubs and taller perennials will mean you can’t see the whole thing in one go, encouraging you to want to move on to see what’s around each corner.

This next plant is a beech – Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Purple’. In time it will grow to be a tall, columnar tree. Now, it’s only around four feet high, but the leaves are beautiful…

This tree peony isn’t the one I bought! I think this has grown out of the rootstock (and the grafted plant died). Still, it doesn’t look bad. Peonies don’t last long; only about a week…

The Irises (Iris sibirica) in front of the pond are still looking good…

And these self-sown Californian poppies (Eschscholzia – not an easy one to spell!) are in full flower…

The rhododendrons are coming to a close. They’ve put on a good show, considering they have all been moved in the last year…

And at last, the roses are beginning to flower. A bit late, but it was a cold start to the season, and most of the plants were only planted last autumn. I’ll share them with you next time…

text & images © Graham Wright 2021

Spring moves on…

The weather hasn’t been conducive to growing this spring – a prolonged drought, late frosts, followed by heavy rain, with temperatures continuing to be disappointingly low for the time of year. But in my garden as much as elsewhere, the plants are getting on with it regardless. One of two new apple trees, this blossom is on Worcester Pearmain. Blossom on the other (James Grieve) is all but over…

I planted two purple hazels (Corylus maximus ‘Purpurea’) as focal points in the main bed. The dark leaves make a great contrast with the various shades of green, and particularly with the variegated plants, such as the grass Phalaris arundinacea ‘Feesey’ (known as ‘Gardeners’ garters’).My hazels are still only just over 2 feet tall, but they are going into their second season now, so should hopefully start to put on some growth. Both are fully in leaf now…

I put in lots more bulbs last year. Various tulip varieties have done their thing and are ‘going over’ now, but the alliums (Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’, and Allium christophii) are just coming out…

I put some of these into the miniature wildflower meadow in the front garden too. A bit cheeky, as they aren’t wild flowers (not in the UK at least), but I thought they would add some sparkle. A few have expired – some of the soil there is more builders sand than soil – but most have survived. I’ll post pictures next time (the meadow is beginning to look good).

Another plant used to add early colour is wallflower (Erisymum). They’re biennials,as opposed to annuals, which means they grow foliage one year, sit out the winter, and then flower early the next year…

I think of them as slow annuals – they don’t have time to grow into a mature plant and produce flowers in one year, so they have to struggle across two. And boy do they struggle. The plants come ‘bare-rooted’, and in my experience are never in great shape, which doesn’t help them to establish. You can grow them from seed, and while I’ve never found the time or been sufficiently organised to do this, I suspect it would give a much better result. Pretty and colourful as they undoubtedly are, they create problems. In theory, they do their thing, then you rip them out in time for the perennials (as well as any annuals you want to put in) to take over. In reality, the wallflowers go on for long enough to get in the way. Plus, some of the plants don’t stop at all, and even survive into the following year. Great, but they tend to look a bit scruffy, a bit ‘leggy’. You need to be ruthless, and pull them out as soon as you need the space, even if they’re still looking good. But for a plant lover (and an environmentalist) it can be difficult to do.

What you’re looking at above is a beech tree, even if it is small as yet. It’s Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Purple’. Closer to the house, and in the same bed, is the green version (Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck’!) These will eventually make very tall trees, but with a narrow profile. A mature beech would eventually take up most of the garden. With the Dawyck varieties (there’s a ‘gold’ variety too) you can have more than one and yet still have a garden. I do love a beech tree.

This magnolia was here when we arrived. I’m not sure of the variety. I thinned it out last year, because it was very congested. Sadly the flowers get hit by late frosts every year. This is a cold, exposed area, but I’m hoping that in years to come it may be more protected by the plants around it, as they increase in size…

The broom next to it is spectacular, but to me, the colours clash. It’s also in the way of what on my garden design is a grass path, so it will have to go. The roots on broom appear to go straight down, so getting enough out to transplant it isn’t feasible. Fortunately there is another large specimen by the pergola. That one is a lighter, more subtle yellow, and is much more fragrant.

The ‘landscaping’ is continuing slowly due to other commitments (like work!), so you may notice random piles of brick or rubble, or covered heaps of lifted turves. Forget-me-nots have settled in to this little semi-wild area. I’ll let them set seed and then sprinkle them around the garden to add to next year’s supply of plants-for-free

With all the rain we’ve been having, the wildlife pond has finally filled up. I had to make some minor adjustments to the edge levels so that it over-flows into the bog garden at the front. The water is still beautifully clear, and I have to put my hands up and admit to not knowing why. It cleared after I put some bunches of rosemary into the water, but I tried the same trick with the holding pond for the fish, and it didn’t work. I’m not complaining though…

The garden is slowly coming together, and many of the plants that have been languishing in pots for too long are now in the borders. But some are still waiting. The new shady border at the back of the house is yet to be dug. That will have to wait until the builders have finally finished and gone (which is way overdue!) Among the plants that will go in that border are these ferns, Polystichum polyblepharum. I potted them on so they could bulk up prior to planting. They too have suffered with the weather, but they’re coming on now…

The weather shows no sign of warming up just yet. But from the forecast, it looks as though we could just have seen the last of the frosts. The garden is really beginning to grow. I’ve got seedlings of annuals, perennials and veg coming on, including more tomato and chilli plants than you can shake a stick at. And I’ve booked a trip, in mid-June, to visit the new RHS Bridgewater garden in Salford, the prospect of which fills me with excitement. Expect a review on this blog in due course…

text & images © graham wright 2021

The Joy of a Plant Delivery

Eager to get the main structural plants for the garden in the ground and growing, we decided not to wait until the ground was prepared, but to order the plants straight away. Impetuous? Certainly. Foolhardy? Perhaps. We hope to be living in this house for the foreseeable future, so what’s the rush? We’ve already bought and planted the bare-rooted specimens – beech hedging, and six fruit trees for our mini orchard. A few days ago we received a delivery from Burncoose nursery

Actually, looking at the picture, it doesn’t look like that much! In fact, there’s the potential for a lot of plant material there. The plants were well packaged, arrived intact, and look like good, strong, healthy specimens. Two fastigiate (tall and thin!) beech trees (Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck’, and ‘Dawyck Purple’) will be tall focal points, giving the garden height, lush foliage, and great autumn colour. Two purple-leaved hazels (Corylus maxima ‘Purpurea’) will have large, dark leaves and can be coppiced every few years to provide hazel sticks for supporting beans, etc., or for fire wood. And, if we’re lucky, we might get some hazel nuts from them too.

A viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’) will become a large shrub with fresh green foliage, horizontally tiered branches (a bit like a wedding cake tree) and will be smothered in masses of white flowers each spring.

Cornus kousa var. chinensis will grow into a small, spreading tree, covered in large white flowers (in fact, they’re bracts – the flowers are tiny and at the centre of the circle of bracts). It also has good autumn colour, and will make a great focal point, viewed through the metal pergola we’ve just finished putting up…

Of course the pergola will need plants to climb over it. So we got ourselves started with a chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) which has dark flowers that smell of chocolate (hence the name).

Akebia quinata (photo courtesy of Crocus on-line nursery)

Clearing spaces in the borders where these plants will go is going to keep us busy for a while. Here’s a large patch we did earlier. There’s plenty more to do.

And to end on a prettier note; the Viburnum x burkwoodii we brought with us in a pot is full of flower at the moment. The fragrance is delicious…

text & photos (except akebia) © Graham Wright 2020

Progress!

Last time, I posted a photo of our front ‘garden’, showing how we’d just begun to clear the thick covering of gravel to reveal the earth that once supported a garden. I’m happy to be able to report that the gravel is gone (well, almost, and only in the front garden – the bad news is there’s more in the back!) This is how it looks now…

And this is how it looked at the time of my last post…

We’ve put in two trees. The first is a Sorbus aucuparia ‘Eastern Promise’ (Rowan), which comes with a bit of a story. It looked very healthy, and came in a very large pot. It wasn’t until we took it out of the pot that we discovered it had next to no roots! It was obviously field grown. They’d lifted it (very badly; hence the lack of root) and put it in a large pot, and sold it as if it was pot grown. The tree is about 10 feet tall, with lots of juicy buds ready to break in the spring. I don’t hold out that much hope of it growing some roots in time to support that top growth.

Still, I don’t like to throw plants away, so I put it in and staked it well, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed. I complained to the garden centre we bought it from, and the good news is, they gave us a full refund. Who knows, the tree may even pull through, in which case we’ll have got it for nothing. Talking about getting plants for free; the other tree is a sapling of a field maple (Acer campestre) which set seed in our last garden. We potted it up and took it with us. Field maple is a small native tree, typically found in hedgerows, but attractive, and with good autumn colour.

The Field Maple – hopefully the chicken wire should deter any rabbits or deer that might think about having a nibble.

And we’ve planted a beech hedge along the front and side boundary. It doesn’t look much at the moment, but give it time. One hundred bare-rooted beech plants, mostly for the front garden, with some for a short stretch of boundary at the back. It’s the best way to buy deciduous plants. They’re field grown, and lifted during the dormant season, bagged up in bunches and sent off to the customer (in this case, us). There’s generally no soil around the roots when you get them, but they’re wrapped up in a big plastic bag, which conserves enough moisture to stop the roots drying out too much. Current thinking is that buying plants bare-rooted is more sustainable, because there are no plastic pots involved. It’s a shame about the plastic sacks they came in, but that’s probably a lot better than 100 plastic pots. It’s a cheap way of creating a hedge too – these worked out at 95p a plant.

In the spring, we’ll sow some grass – possibly wildflower meadow – to green up the rest of the space. So that’s the front garden dealt with for now. Next comes the back…

text and images © Graham Wright 2020