End of month view – November 2017

I first contributed to Helen’s end of month view two years ago so I now have the same view of the garden for the last three years. It’s like visiting a town you’ve not been to in years; most of it is unchanged and familiar, a few bits have changed completely. In the garden a large magnolia, clump of bamboo, large hazel and an Osmanthus are gone. Everything else is much the same. It makes more sense to talk in general terms about where things are at the end of November than to contemplate what is late or early this year compared to years before.

The sun is low in the sky, picking out plants with structural qualities. The warmth of the light enriches the colour of everything, though when the sun is hidden and the light more blue, it is the contrasting golds of autumn colouring that stand out. What remains of deciduous foliage looks insubstantial and not set to last much longer.

It is the season of the evergreens. Largely overlooked and serving only as a backdrop to the flamboyant colours of summer flowers, they now show their worth. Sometimes cold weather enhances their colouring, the white variegation of Pittosporum ‘Elizabeth’ turns pink, some conifers assume red or brown tints. The main thing though, it is that they are still green and visibly alive when all around is bare soil and skeletal branches that would look no different if they were actually dead.

The problem with evergreens though is that they get inexorably bigger every year and almost always outcompete the deciduous plants around them. Plant too many and then show any reluctance to ruthlessly cull when the need arises and you will end up with nothing but the evergreens and eventually have a deadly dull evergreen canopy below which nothing will grow.

There are also a great many evergreens with dark green foliage and not so many that are light in colour. Green conifers underplanted with Rhododendrons and Camellias might work with enough space or it could be funereal. I value variegated Pittosporum, Astelia and Bamboos for being both evergreen and bright.

My aim is to keep the balance of light and shade in the garden fairly constant. Looking at old pictures is a great way of monitoring progress.

Steve at Glebe House is hosting links to other end of month posts.

Advertisements

Six on Saturday – 11/11/2017

At this time of year you can be sure that all the better gardening magazines will have an article urging you not to cut down your grasses and herbaceous perennials but to leave them to enjoy their structure and shape when white with rime on those cold frosty but sunny winter mornings that we get so many of. In Cornwall you might be lucky enough to get one or two such mornings in a winter, but the grasses and herbaceous perennials will by then be lying in a soggy and bedraggled mess on the ground. I’ve just spent a couple of hours cutting down and shredding before this weekend’s gales really kick in. Right, enough whingeing, here are my six offerings for this week:

One.
One of the compensations for not being able to enjoy frosty mornings, and to be honest, you can keep them, is being able to grow things that would not survive up country. Like Fuchsia excorticata. There are a few Cornish gardens where this gets to something like the tree proportions it attains in its native New Zealand and when it does, its peeling bark is right up there with Stewartia sinensis and such like. Ours was planted on the bank between us and a neighbour and he has hacked it down in years past. This year he seems to have overlooked it and it is producing a few flowers.
SOS113

Two.
I make no apology for giving my two sasanqua camellias a second outing in a six. This is their second winter in their current quarters but last year they were still recovering from being hungry pot plants for a few years. They are now fully recovered and performing magnificently. They are very happy in poor stony soil and full sun at the front of the house, both flowering and growing really well. ‘Navajo’ and ‘Paradise Little Liane’ are their names.
SOS114

Three.
John’s piece last week reminded me that I did in fact have a garden ornament somewhere. This turtle sat looking out over our pond for years, then we filled in the pond. He stayed put, disappearing under lush vegetation and pretty much forgotten. I have now rescued him, given him a clean up and plonked him down to take his photo.  The location lacks an air of permanence. And he(/she?) needs a name.
SOS115

Four.
Coprosma. We haven’t had a name attached to this plant for years but Coprosma repens ‘Pink Splendour’ comes to mind. One of our local garden centres had five or six varieties of Coprosma in stock last week. A few years ago they were firmly border line hardy, even here, but they are very tolerant of low nutrient levels (aka neglect) which hardens them up effectively. This one has been in the garden for three or four years and is about 4 feet tall. Before that it was in a pot, outdoors, for several years. They look a bit like they might be made of plastic; glossy and oddly coloured. Bit of colour in the winter though.
The green leaved species grows on the western facing edges of the Scillies, completely impervious to what the sea throws at it. Like the Hottentot fig it shares the niche with, it’s an invasive alien, from New Zealand in this case.
SOS116

Five.
Autumn colour, or Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’. 99% of the leaves on this tree were ripped off by Ophelia and Brian while still dark purple. The remaining 1% have turned red and look very nice with the sun shining through. A little imagination and I can imagine myself at Westonbirt.
SOS117

Six.
Miscanthus nepalensis. A couple of years ago I bought the grass Phaenosperma globosa at one of the Plant Heritage sales in Tavistock. It hasn’t been a success, a fact that gave me pause when I saw this on a recent visit. I went ahead and bought it anyway and have not been given cause to regret the decision so far. (My usual cause for regret in these situations is ear-ache)
SOS118

There will no doubt be lots more sixes to enjoy, accessible from ThePropagator’s own weekly set. Hope you enjoyed mine, see you next week.

Two pictures.

I came across a picture of the garden from June 2005 and, struck by the number of plants that we no longer have, tried to take exactly the same picture as it looks now.

 

I worry sometimes that the garden has become too static, that I am too slow to make alterations. Not so, it is clear. Nothing remains the same, with growth and plant replacements sharing the honours for being the greatest driver of change.

The big things are the most obvious casualties. Let me list the plants over 3 feet tall that are no longer there.

Eucalyptus pauciflora niphophila
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Siver Queen’
Viburnum tinus ‘Variegata’
Pinus sylvestris ‘Chantrey Blue’
Corylus avellana
Acer grosseri hersii
Berberis ‘Orange King’
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’
Pinus mugo pumilio
Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’
Fargesia murielae ‘Simba’
Diselma archeri
Vallea stipularis
Rhododendron ‘Ginny Gee’
Picea abies ‘Little Gem’

And what about the similar sized plants that are there now but were not in the earlier shot.

Magnolia Ann
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’
Schefflera taiwaniana
Berberis thunbergii ‘Golden Torch’
Camellia ‘Minato-no-akebono’
Camellia ‘Spring Festival’
Hydrangea macrophylla You & Me Together
Camellia japonica ‘Eximea’
Cistus ‘Sunset’
Leptospermum rupestre
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’
Philadelphus ‘Snowbelle’
Zingiber mioga ‘Crûg Zing’

Then finally the things that are in both but which are now twice the size.

Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Little Spire’
Astelia chathamica
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’
Rhododendron ‘Merganser’
Chionochloa rubra
Fuchsia magellanica gracilis

Of the things that have gone perhaps seven were in poor health, diseased or damaged. The rest were judged to be too big or too dull or both.

It is interesting to try and envisage the garden as it would be now if nothing had been removed. All those evergreen trees and shrubs would be roughly twice the size and there would be a great deal less room, not to mention light, for anything else. As it is, the overall effect is not so very different, albeit with a different palette of plants. The balance of light and shade is about the same, which, though not a very conscious aim, seems right.

Only for the Eucalyptus did I enlist outside help. By the time it was felled it had grown much bigger and was beyond my competence. A very large limb broke off from low down, leaving it unbalanced and unsafe. Tree surgeons dealt with it.

As I get older, it will get harder to remove trees and large shrubs myself, a problem that all older people face. Tree surgeons are expensive, especially when taking down large trees in confined spaces, as is all too often required. It’s not hard to see why so many old people’s gardens are beyond them. Just a couple of hours on hands and knees weeding becomes a trial to be endured.

Just a couple of pictures, snaps from an upstairs window. Look a little closer and you see time, the all too easily overlooked forth dimension of gardening. You see changes in fashion, changes in personal taste. You see decisions taken and decisions ducked. You see the fruits of countless hours of pleasure, some pain too. I say “you see” and mean “I see”. You probably see something completely different.

I’m glad I didn’t delete it.

 

Six on Saturday – 4/11/2017

I have to admit it’s not getting any easier to find six things to include here. Time seems to be slowing down; instead of there being lots of new things flowering or shooting or going over, it’s all much the same as a week ago. A sharp frost would at least draw a line in the sand, lots of things would disappear overnight, but I doubt we will get one.

One.
Fuchsia ‘Loekie’. Or ‘Van Eijk Loekie’, possibly. Huge numbers of new Fuchsia varieties are produced each year, many in Holland and Belgium. Most never make it to the UK and when they do, they are stocked by one nursery for a couple of years then replaced with something else. This one, which we have had for several years, seems to have dropped off the radar completely, which is a shame because it is pretty and a bit different. We are down to one poor plant which I now have to get through the winter and try and get growing properly next year.
SOS105

Two.
The fence between us and our 94yr old neighbour fell victim to Ophelia. On thursday I started on repairs, yesterday I was at it all day and I’m about half way and I might just be regretting ever starting and today it’s not sure whether to rain or not. Gotta be done, I tell myself through gritted teeth. It’ll have a foot high trellis along the top and needs staining, it looks bloody awful like it is. It’s actually his fence by the way, ours is the much longer one on the other side of the garden.
SOS106SOS107

Three
Nerine bowdenii ‘Ostara’. Five weeks ago I included this as a flowering plant. The flowers are over, what looks like seed pods at the base of the flower start to swell and look like they are going to be full of seeds. Then they split open as these pea sized bulbils appear. The ones in the garden do the same, I’ve kept them overwinter and planted them in spring, by which time they have a leaf going up and a root going down. They intrigue me; are they seeds that develop in the pod into bulbils? or bulbils developing directly from the ovaries? Are they vegetative, part of the same clone as the parent plant, or was sex involved in some way?
SOS108

Four
Helleborus foetidus. This manages to seed itself enough to give us one or two plants each year. I reckon it’s about at its best at this stage. The flowers are green, not at all showy, and by the time they arrive the plant is often looking quite shabby.  The sun caught it just right too, by sheer luck.
SOS109

Five
Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata. We’ve grown this for several years as a conservatory plant but I’ve seen a couple of references to using it in the garden, pretty much as an annual. It should be good, it flowers for months and gets to 2-3 feet. We have some nice young plants raised from this years cuttings; just need to get them to spring in good condition. We lost most of them last winter to rotting off.
SOS110

Six.
Polystichum proliferum. I imagine that foliage plants are going to feature more as we move into winter, both in the garden and in ramblings such as this. This somewhat stereotypical fern distinguishes itself by producing a single plantlet just back from the tip of each frond, providing a ready means of propagating it. Just peg the leaf tip down and a new plant quickly becomes established. This one is in the ground but I have others pegged into small pots, like strawberry runners.
SOS112

So there you go. I managed to find six items. I have no doubt that others will have done too and links to them will be found on host ThePropagator’s blog.

End of month view – October 2017

eom-Oct-1

This time last year the Acer on the left was still covered with leaves. Two years ago it was bare. It also had a backdrop of a magnolia which is now gone. Not much else is different. The real bareness of winter hasn’t hit yet and there are still bits and pieces of flower to be found. As the deciduous stuff slowly recedes, so the evergreens become more prominent.
eom-Oct-2
This view was taken with the camera held aloft on a monopod. I do like a different perspective. It’s as near as I can get to seeing it anew, as a first time visitor might. I find
eom-Oct-3
myself pleased and displeased for the same reason. I want a garden full of different things so there is always something going on but I do worry that it’s all a bit too disorganised and busy. I’m going to stick with the first part and be pleased as I know I will never change the way I do things. This seems like the right time of year to be thinking about making changes. So I’ve thought about it and decided against.

I have three autumn flowering camellias in full sun in the front garden. ‘Paradise Little Liane’ has flowered freely this year for the first time. If it seems crazy to have a white flowered camellia against the white front of the house, bear in mind that we mostly see it from inside, looking out. ‘Navajo’, seen from indoors and backlit, is a treat.

Dahlia ‘Cheyenne’ chose not to flower until mid October, too much shade I imagine. Miscanthus ‘Ferne Osten’ is a flopper with us and will soon get cut down. ‘Septemberot’ stands up much better and sometimes colours well in autumn, not this year though. The nerines are all but over for this year. Even so, they still pack a small pink punch. Other than that, it’s all Fuchsias and Salvias.

For more end of month shenanigans head over to Glebe House Garden and follow the various links.

End of month view – September 2017

 

eom-sept-21

Even though there is plenty still happening in the garden, it is the end of the growing season and seems like the right time to take stock of the successes and failures of the past year. Autumn is the ideal time for making changes; getting rid of the under-performers, planting something better, moving things around.

Today I removed a large Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’. It’s a handsome enough fern, but basically just a variant of the wild male fern with the tips of the fronds divided. It’s a curiosity but the overall effect is no different from the normal version. It is at its best in early summer, pretty dull the rest of the time.

I also swapped over two hydrangeas. One is a small double flowered serrata variety which was not enjoying the dry ground beneath the maple where it was. The other is a much bigger double flowered lacecap macrophylla that in moist soil was growing lush and flopping over the path. The serrata now has more moisture, the macrophylla, in poorer conditions, will hopefully put on less growth and flower more. We shall see.

The biggest problem now is to somehow get back under cover all the pot grown Fuchsias,succulents and camellias that are at risk outdoors in the winter. There is never enough space. Last years plants have grown, in size and number, others have been acquired. We’ve managed to kill a few, which helps a little, but never enough.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m pleased with how much colour I still have, though it’s best not to look too closely at many of the plants. Slug and snail munchings and spotty leaves are what you get in wet years. The dahlias have mainly had a poorish year, some starting flowering very late and the blooms spoiling quickly. Some Fuchsias have had problems with rust and other foliar diseases but many are still flowering well. My new this year Fireworks golden rod is in full flower now, following on from Heleniums, all of which have now finished. Japanese anemone ‘Bressingham Glow’ looks to have a long flowering season and is still in good shape. Nerine bowdenii flowers well into October, as do various Hesperantha. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is an extraordinary performer, still going strong, as are several Salvias.

I have two Miscanthus sinensis varieties, ‘Septemberot’ and ‘Ferne Osten’, both now at peak flowering. I don’t have high hopes this year for autumn foliage colour from them. The Hakonechloas will provide straw colour way into the winter but are still fully green at present.

Most of my shade plants are spring flowerers, Impatiens omeiana being a notable exception. It is flowering freely above somewhat ragged foliage.

We planted pots of Begonias at the front of the house and they have been and still are outstanding. The concrete drive runs right up to the white painted front of the house, it’s not a setting for anything subtle. We potted up a few slightly less gaudy bedding type begonias individually and kept them in the conservatory where they have flowered for months too.

I picked over my tomatoes and cut them down yesterday. They’d done quite well but botrytis has been a problem. Next Year’s vegetable seeds have been ordered. Seeds of things in the garden have been collected and more will follow. The dahlias I grew from seeds of ‘Orange Cushion’ are flowering well on my allotment and are good enough to encourage me to grow more.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

End of month view – July 2017

eom-July-17_01

Every month, for a day or two leading up to making this regular posting, I muse on what I am going to say. Mostly I am thinking about the garden overall, rather than about specific plants, but overall is the sum total of what key plants are doing, so there’s overlap.
This month I had formed a strong impression that the earlier stuff was all but over, a little earlier than usual because of the hot weather, but the later stuff was perhaps a little behind because the ground had become so dry.
So I took this picture from our bedroom window and compared it with the same view from a year ago. Virtually identical. Seems like my June gap comes in July, though It’s not too pronounced. A little more effort to get dahlias and fuchsias going strongly earlier and I will have cracked it.

eom-July-17_02

The viewpoint I have used back towards the house has been all but closed off by the Schefflera and Pittosporum at the bottom of the picture. I put the camera on a monopod and held it aloft as high as possible, taking the picture with a cable release.

eom-July-17_03

I used the same technique for this shot. The polytunnel and the camellias and Magnolia immediately behind it are in the far corner of our patch. Last year I had a pink dahlia amongst the oranges and reds behind Herman the Head. This year I put it elsewhere but planted out the pink hydrangea, so there’s the same clash. I thought it would be over by now, at least that’s my excuse.

eom-July-17_04

This is probably my favourite bit at the moment. Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’, with a Shasta daisy behind it, which always flops. The taller Helenium to the right is ‘Chipperfield Orange’. I have Mina lobata growing up the metal obelisk, it can sprawl over the Helenium and keep the flowering going into the autumn.

eom-July-17_05

I don’t often mention the front, but we have just for all out vulgarity with bedding in pots, tempered with several Eucomis and Agaves montana and parryi which stay out all year round. So much crap is talked about bad taste in gardening, a few years bag Dahlias were the epitome of vulgarity, now they’re the height of fashion. I can’t be bothered with it. Bright colours are uplifting, the end.