Saturday, 28 November 2020

What a gloomy morning

Wednesday morning I woke up, opened the curtains and saw this gloomy view down the valley facing west.

Oh No, I thought, not another overcast miserable day – perhaps I should turn on the SAD light.

Then gradually the clouds cleared, the sun came out and by mid morning the view had changed to this.

My spirits started to lift so I took a walk around the garden to see what splashes of colour were still about.

In the orchard there were a few small cooking apples left on one tree, rosy pink skin – I’ll probably leave these for the birds to eat during the winter.


In the hedge some primroses were flowering, sheltered from the elements by the elder bush growing next to them. I love their delicate blooms and scent, they are so pretty.


Surrounded by a low growing box hedge this Catananche Caeulea Major and a neighbouring Salvia Apricot Sprite were enjoying the morning sun.  Both of them are slightly tender up here and it will be a difficult decision to make when to cut down and mulch them.  But right now I think their colours are so bright and cheery I haven’t got the heart.


Down on the sunken terrace a little eryngium was glowing cobalt blue, just like lttle pin cushions.



As I walked towards Julius Caesar I could smell the scent of Coronella glauca Citrina, it seems to have been flowering non-stop since spring – a good purchase from my local branch of B&Q.


I love taking photographs of the round and shiny Sea Buckthorn berries, lovely aren’t they.

On the main lawn, I thought my large cast iron urn made a handsome portrait in the dappled morning sunlight.


On the pink border I found several plants basking in the sunlight - a delosperma

Salvia Hot Lips


And lastly I found a little Tulbaghia violacea


With the warmth of the sun seeping into my joints I made a cup of coffee then sat outside and enjoyed the rest of the morning.


Friday, 20 November 2020

Not another boring "What you can do with autumn leaves" article

The garden is just under an acre in size and in one area there is a small wood,  mainly sycamore with some white beam and holly.   For two or three months every autumn, the wood produces lots and lots and lots of wet floppy leaves.

This is how T and I cope with the large numbers we get.

There must be wind eddies around the garden because in certain places large piles of leaves congregate.  They collect in corners on the drive, against the house, in the courtyard area and in a drainage gully between the house and the courtyard. In fact, they collect in large piles everywhere.

Fortunately, these heaps make the job so much easier and quicker for us.

I find the simplest way to deal the amount we have get is to have a weekly routine of raking/sweeping them up. This means that at least one day out of seven I do approximately 5,000 steps (according to my wrist worn activity counter) just sweeping up and putting them in the leaf mould store.

Here are our two leaf mould bins, T made them from unwanted broken pallets.

As you can see the bin on the left is full up to about 3 foot, the leaf mould has been rotting down since the previous year (in this case 2018 to 2019).  Incidentally, as the contents of this pile are fine and crumbly we have already started to use it around the garden.

On the right is the section for this year (2019 to 2020).  We have so many leaves which fall over such a large area that it  is not always time efficient to shred or mow over them before they go into the bin. 

Every week before adding fresh autumn leaves to the pile, I use the garden hose to drench the contents of the bin, I then sprinkle powdered compost maker on top of the pile. 

Next, I start adding newly collected leaves on top, occasionally we have to trample the leaves down to get them all in.

We do a final sweeping and raking session when we can no longer see leaves on the trees, and at the same time take the opportunity to tidy up the borders.

It generally takes a year to 18 months for the leaves to rot down to material which is friable and ready to use, however, if we use the compost maker the leaf mould is ready to use within a year.

I find leaf mould is incredibly useful stuff to have about and it’s totally free.   I put it to so many uses around the garden, once sieved I mix it with home produced compost to be used as a potting compost, I gently fork it in around plants so it can pep up the soil, or I use it as a mulch around plants.

I hope you found this post interesting and that it made you stop and think about what it’s like to own and maintain a large(ish) garden.  As with all gardening jobs, we have to think big and do things in such a way that saves time and, most importantly, doing them properly.  


Wishing you happy gardening in your own patch of paradise.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Should I rename it the Bedrock Orchard?

I don’t know about you but I find that with gardening sometimes you have to admit that no matter how hard you try or what you do, at some point a plant, tree or shrub has reached the end of its life.  A good example of this happened a few weeks ago in our orchard and I thought you might be interested to hear how we replaced an ailing plum tree and at the same time discovered why it and all the other fruit trees in the orchard have suffered from disease and poor growth over the years.

The orchard the year we moved in

The oldest Victoria plum tree was beyond saving; it had dead and dying branches, suffered from leaf curl aphids and more terminally had a hole in the trunk which was visited by a woodpecker on a regular basis.   We needed a fruit tree to go in its place so visited a local garden centre and on the advice of staff chose Prunus Meteor Korai.  It should produce cherries for eating and cooking.

First things first, the destructive bit was to get rid of the old tree. Using loppers and a pruning saw we removed (husband and me) all the dead and dying branches, these were piled up in another part of the garden and left to be shredded in the usual way (see my blog How I Dispose of Wood Garden Waste). This left only the three main larger branches.

T (husband) then dug out an area radiating 2 foot away from the base of the tree. As he dug he used an axe to cut through all the roots.

Eventually all the roots had been freed and we were able to lift the tree out of the hole.


I then dug out the remaining old soil from the hole the tree had been growing in.  I couldn’t dig very deep down as I hit the bed rock which was about a spade’s depth under the top soil.

As you can see from the picture below the tree had a very shallow root system which was definitely caused by the thin topsoil.  As a result of this, the tree was beset with disease over the years.

Now can the fun part – planting.


 I mixed my own garden compost .........

with good quality compost bought from a garden centre and .......

shovelled it into the hole.

Then I pulled the root ball out of the pot and used my fingers to tease out the roots.  This is to encourage the new roots to grow outwards instead of continuing to grow around the root ball.

Next I made a well in the planting hole which I had just filled with fresh compost.  In the tree went, I then swivelled the tree around until it was facing the right way.  NB.  Plants, shrubs and trees have a front and back so when planting you should work out which side of the plant you want to face front. Basically you swivel the plant around in the hole until it looks right to you – the arrangement of the branches could be better on one side than the other.

Having decided on the right position I filled up the gap between the planting hole and the root ball using more of the new compost.  I then used my heel to firm down the soil just outside the root ball.

  I then gave the tree a jolly good water.


Lastly, I wrote its name on an aluminium label and hung it on one of the branches.  I always use good quality metal plant labels as I find the plastic ones become brittle with age or blow away in strong winds.

Now that I know about the issues with growing fruit trees in this garden, in future I will manage the trees slightly differently from your average orchard.  Each tree stands in its own mound of earth, this is kept free of grass and weeds, it is fed and mulched and watered in dry weather. I will prune the trees to keep them to a height and spread of no more than 12 feet, this is to limit the size of the crop and the number and weight of the branches.  There is only so much jam, chutney and pies I can make before the family gets sick of it.  So far this approach has worked with the other trees, for example, the neighbouring Bramley has a lovely thick trunk and only produces a manageable number of apples of good size and quality .  As with all the trees there is no sign of diseased or deformed, misshapen fruit.  The odd windfall is cut up and left on the bird feeder. Success!

I will post any future developments if and when they occur.



Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Autumn is not my favourite month but .............

Autumn is not my favourite month, it is nearly always dull and overcast, more often than not raining and in our exposed location, very very windy. But when the weather is good, with clear blue skies and no wind or rain, that’s when I think the autumnal scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. 

Even in my garden there are glorious tones of red, yellow and brown, shiny plump berries and tactile barks to marvel at; so I am inviting you to take a tour and see my garden in its autumn plumage.

Edging the drive, the box balls provide structure with minimal effort, their small dark green leaves show off well against the carpet of leaves.

Further up the drive our Amelanchier lamarckii (here when we moved in) provides all year round interest, at this time of year the colours are fantastic – a patchwork of oranges and reds. Even after the leaves have dropped in winter the bare branches provide architectural interest.

The wood has an area preservation order on it, mainly sycamore with a few white beam and large hollies. This is the domain of the birds and insects, it is so peaceful to sit here with a morning cup of coffee and listen to nature.

On the northern side of the house is the courtyard.  Here it is slightly sheltered from the damaging winds which blast other parts of the garden.  Roses still try to flower,

there are asters (probably some Symphyotrichums, I haven't checked), kalimeris,

heurcheras and heurcherellas, this is Heucherella Yellowstone Falls (a trailing hybrid).

In amongst these plants are dotted brightly coloured cyclamen, their green and silver marbled leaves are a constant throughout the year.

Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon' provide more winter colour and interest

I think the colours of the cyclamen and Persicaria complement each other.  This border is automatically mulched with a layer of long needles from the two Scots Pines above, and here and there are scattered pine cones.

On the entrance to the Italian garden the steps are flanked by two quadrant shaped beds, 

here Agastache Apricot Sprite is still flowering its socks off, the orange trumpet shaped flowers seem to glow in the sunlight, it is tender in these parts so later on I’m going to have to heavily mulch it and see if it survives the winter.

Descending the steps you enter the sunken patio; here the raised beds receive a certain amount of the sun’s heat from the stone walls, the watery sun makes the flowers of Hesperantha coccinea shine against a backdrop of Nepeta Neptune,

Geum Tangerine Dream is also is in flower.

On the long green walkway down to Julius Caesar the many shrubs of Sarcococca confusa are starting to flower.

Also in this area is Callicarpa bodinieri, purple is my favourite colour but I do think they look a bit artificial.

Further down on the right you can see the bright orange berries of the Sea Buckthorn - rich in vitamin C – they are a winter favourite of visiting red wings.

Don’t you think that the orange and brown crispy leaves of Polypodium vulgare contrast well with the Sea Buckthorn berries, this common fern is gradually shutting down for the winter.

Heading over to the main lawn you come to the blue border – a selection of plants with either blue flowers or blueish tinged foliage.  The same colour palette is used to provide a sense of uniformity and coolness on a hot south facing bed. Here the plants again benefit from the heat emanating from the stone retaining wall, the blue flowers of the ever favourite Certostigma plumboginades zing against its maroon stems.

Also still flowering still is Salvia Amistad (another one to be heavily mulched in the coming weeks).

A little further along the border Scabious caucasica is being visited by probably one of the last butterflies of the season.


Two recent additions to the border are Festuca glauca Eliijah Blue and Compacta Blue, seen here is Compacta Blue – the morning sunlight doesn’t do it justice.

The whole of this bed as well as the adjoining pink border benefits from a south facing position, a slightly lowered elevation and having either stone walls or a wooden fence.

In the neighbouring pink border, side by side is Salvia Hot Lips (left) and Salvia Hot Lips (right), the one on the right has reverted back to a simple pink - I didn’t have the heart to get rid of it.  Don’t they go well together!

At the end of the themed border is Fuschia microphylla, its shiny cerise pink flowers remind me of little tubes of lipstick.

Finally, we come to the oriental garden, the Acers never fail to disappoint, their colours change from yellow to ruby red and to deep maroon, back lit by a water sun, doesn’t it lift the spirits!

Acers can always be relied upon to give a stunning display at this time of year.  Their tones deepen week by week; their colours mature and improve just like a fine red wine does with age.   In this picture the red bridge, Acers and Japanese lantern make a lovely composition, don’t you think? (The bridge is one of many carpentry contributions from T).  Barely visible on the middle left is a bright pink cyclamen.  Foreground to the left is Juniperus communis (label lost) and to the right Pieris japonica (it’s supposed to be cloud pruned).

What a beautiful photo to end on but there again I am biased as it is my garden and I look the photos.


I could not resist adding this photograph.  I was trying to take a picture of Salvia Amistad but the picture was photo bombed.  Allow me to introduce Pippin; she’s a rescue dog – a Parson’s Jack Russell – aged unknown, history unknown.  She does seem to have a lot of emotional baggage; not being left alone is one of them.  She likes to be with humans at ALL times.  Here she is investigating the plant I was spending a lot of time photographing