The dry and sunny autumnal weather has been perfect for collecting seeds for next year. I never have the right containers (note to self- keep more old plastic food containers) but end up with an odd assortment on the windowsill. The seedpods or seeds must be completely dry before I store them, in labelled envelopes, in a water-tight container at the bottom of the fridge. Beware- some pods, as they dry, suddenly uncurl dramatically firing seeds out of the labelled container.
I still remember going into my 80-year old Auntie Margery’s dark walk-in cupboard in her sitting room. The cupboard was full to bursting point of “stuff”- old envelopes, newspapers, gardening magazines stacked up on the floor, vases and a large number of carefully labelled plastic margarine pots full of seeds for planting the following year, including beans and peas. I put my hand on the shelf and there was a snap. I emerged with a plastic mouse trap attached to my fore-finger-no mice in my fridge.
When to stop deadheading?
I have to decide when to stop dead-heading. Deadheading encourages plants to continue to flower, but some seedheads may be wonderfully decorative in their own right and I want seeds for next year. Cosmos are still flowering so I am continuing to deadhead. Nicotiana glutinosa was a success with small coppery flowers that complemented the brickwork, but the flowers are over and I have collected seeds. I have also collected seeds from plants such as allium, lunaria (honesty) and scabious. The nasturtiums are looking wonderful tickling the belly of my sheep- but no seeds yet as I planted them rather late.
Eryngium giganteum (Miss Wilmott’s ghost) did look wonderfully structural in the gravel bed, but it is a biennial and now was grey and sad dominating the small space. In a larger bed I might have left it but I have removed it (wearing protective gloves as the spines are so unfriendly), collected seeds and will keep the plant for Christmas decorations. It will look wonderful with a spray of silver paint. The oval seed pods of honesty also make great decorations if one strips off the outer cover leaving a fragile silvery oval pod. I will leave that fun activity for the grandchildren.
I suspect it is snails that cause most damage in my garden – by now the hostas have filigree leaves. In hot dry weather large numbers aestivate (rest in a state of dormancy) in the shelter of walls or under stones. I confess I crush them without compunction. I also destroy the clusters of pearl-like eggs under leaf-litter in the flower beds.
Large slugs provide a useful recycling service by eating decaying plant material. Small slugs do most damage. I protect choice plants with copper rings and the mulch of Strulch that I applied in the spring also seemed to be a useful slug deterrent. I was not impressed by the effect of fleece pellets. Gravel and egg-shells may make some difference. We encourage birds, newts, toads which keep down the population of both slugs and snails. I have not seen a hedgehog in years (eaten by the growing population of badgers?). Even ground beetles eat slugs. Biological control with nematodes would be expensive in a large area. I have slug-collected on damp evenings and cut them in half with scissors or dropped them into a strong salt solution, but in the end, on occasion, I somewhat guiltily do resort to poison starting with the organic pellets containing ferric phosphate before progressing to metaldehyde.
Have your say!
Poison in the garden -how guilty should I feel? Let me know what you do to control the pests in your garden!
The apples are ripening -a huge crop again- and it feels autumnal already. Wasps are homing in on all the windfalls covering the lawn (making more work for the man doing the mowing but they are “his” apples), and we have started to pick the James Grieve. The greengages are pretty much finished but the vegetables hold promise.
Pots and dead-heading
We have had some rain, but I have also had to do quite a bit of watering. Pots and tubs do create more work. Fortunately Mr B increased our capacity to collect rainwater with a substantial new container, which is already full. I have been busy dead-heading in pots and beds, so the hot bed still looks good. Helenium, “Sahins Early Flowerer”, will soon have a second flush of flowers and Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ has just opened but the most dramatic flower has to be the velvety lush Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’ .
Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’
Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’
Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’
I am waiting for the magnificent willow-leaved sunflower Helianthus salicifolius , a Missouri native plant, to produce flowers at the tips of the stems, but it still seems to be growing. How tall is it going to get? It can reach 10 foot and it is already over 6 foot. I should not complain as I am growing it for its delicate foliage, not the golden-yellow flowers, but I suspect it is going to need more space than I have given it….I hope it does not turn out to be a thug. It dwarfs the white cosmos- I am glad I grew a tall variety.
Helianthus salicifolius behind cosmos
Know your onions
Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum in the gravel bed has been lovely, especially the white form, but I must remove the flower-heads which are looking tatty. I have cleared away the flower-heads of Allium christophii as the seedlings can become a nuisance (I am afraid I was too late and some seed has scattered). I am leaving the heads of Allium sphaerocephalon, Allium hollandicum and Allium schubertii in place in the hope that they will gently self-sow and spread around. One more allium is still to come -little Allium senescens does not flower until the end of August.
I was delighted to get a really close view of a Humming-bird hawk-moth, an immigrant from southern Europe and Africa, supping from Lathyrus latifolius ‘Red Pearl’ at the back door. It flew off before I could get a picture of it feeding, but I did take one when it was resting on a leaf.
The garden is open for NGS charities tomorrow (Sunday 23rd July) afternoon, but torrential rain is knocking the remaining lily blossoms onto the ground as well as much else. I know we need rain but I do hope it stops on Sunday as viewing the garden under umbrellas in July was not what I had anticipated.
The gravel bed looks wonderful and is filled with dancing heads of Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum, both the white and lilac forms. They are resilient and should withstand the downpour. Most of the lavender is pretty much finished and I gently trimmed both lavender and santolina (cotton lavender) the other day.
Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum
Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum f. album
Buddlejas are in flower but where are all the butterflies? There are depressingly few this year. White shasta daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum) and Geranium pratense ‘Plenum Violaceum’provide shape and colour in the central bed, where Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ is just starting to open.
Leucanthemum × superbum
Leucanthemum × superbum
Geranium pratense ‘Plenum Violaceum’
I am delighted by the impact of my new Helianthus salicifolius (willow-leaved sunflower). It is a magnificent erect foliage plant, now more than 6 feet tall, and after another few years, should make a substantial clump. I am not sure what I will think of the yellow daisies, when they finally appear, but I hope they will provide a pleasing contrast to the adjacent michaelmas daisies: Aster laevis ‘Arcturus’ with purple flowers over very dark, almost black stems and Aster novae-angliae ‘Marina Wolkonsky’ with very dark purple flowers.
The lilies have been magnificent- my first serious attempt to grow them. The scent from the pots of Lilium regale drifts around the patio and is a real treat when we sit outside. Sadly they will soon be over (the hot weather has not helped) and I have resolved to supplement the collection with some which will flower later next year, but I am only going to plant scented lilies and be more careful about the colours . I like “Yellow County” although it has no scent, but “Forever Susan” (which I really chose because of the name) is a rather garish orange-purple mix and again has no scent, so I will not be upset of she does not reappear in 2018.
The warm weather has been good for moths. I ran my moth trap and amongst the 32 species in the trap the next morning were 4 varieties of hawkmoth – Privet, Lime, Elephant and Poplar- what a treat. I released them with great care, hiding them in the shrubs, in the hope that the birds would not find them. I also trapped a Scarlet Tiger, which often flies during the day, and a Buff Arches, a moth which looks just like a piece of flint. Sadly the numbers of moths have decreased over the years, but I avoid sprays and am happy to supply foodplants for both adults and caterpillars.
The hot bed is soon going to be full of colour. Heleniums (yellow and orange), Knautia macedonica (purple) and Coreopsis verticillata (yellow) are all in flower. I seem to have lost my lovely orange potentilla “William Rollinson”- I must investigate to see what has happened. I also realised that a self-seeded purple fennel had inserted itself on top a previously large clump of the purple egg-headed late-flowering Allium sphaerocephalon. I have removed the fennel with difficulty and found few surviving alliums- just in time!
We have been away for a week and returned to a garden bursting with colour and scents as well as a lawn desperately in need of a hair cut. The oriental poppies were beautiful before we left. I love their colours and crinkly tissue-paper like petals, but they never hang around for long and now the plants are ready to be cut back. The first poppy I fell for 40 years ago was probably ‘Mrs Perry’. She had delicate pale salmon-pink flowers and came from my Auntie B. I grew her successfully until we moved house. Oriental poppies are supposed to be long-lived but I have lost a number, I suspect because the soil is too heavy and I over-mulched. I must plant some more in well-drained sunny spots ……and find another ‘Mrs Perry’.
Papaver orientale ‘Allegro’
Papaver orientale ‘Brilliant’
Roses are in full bloom but in this heat (30 degrees centigrade to-day) I do not think they will last long and nor will I be doing much gardening. The ramblers ‘Francis E Lester’ (pale pink single flowers) and ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ (clusters of pink double flowers) have scrambled to the top of their respective supporting apple trees. ‘Bobbie James’ (clusters of creamy white double flowers) a vigorous rambler is covering the trellis in the front garden and ‘Kiftsgate’ (clusters of white single flowers), the most vigorous of all, is in the back hedge.
The rambler, Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’, srambles through the hedge
Rambler Bobbie James on trellis
Rambler Bobbie James
The best scent comes from the old-fashioned shrub roses and my all time favourite is still the gallica “Charles de Mills” which looks magnificent in combination with another gallica, “Camaieux”.
Despite the drought, the garden looks great, especially when Mr. B. cuts the lawn. My gardening activities have been temporarily curtailed by acute low back pain (I could barely stand up after bending to pick a flower), but I am now into week 3 and on the mend. Alpines such as Ramonda myconi and many saxifrages are flowering in the alpine troughs and the gravel bed is full of colour.
Saxifrages in flower
The recent rain is very welcome, but the weeds are making a come back. I planted out my white cosmos seedlings (one can do a lot while crawling) just before it rained and I hope they get away before the slugs find them.The Chiltern Seeds catalogue tempted me to purchase a number of nicotianas (alata ‘Lime Green’, langsdorfii ‘Lemon Tree’, glutinosa and sylvestris ‘Only the Lady’). Now the seedlings need to be potted up and then I will put some plants in the pots that had tulips and tall varieties in the borders. Our yellow rattle (also know as hay rattle) has been a real success in the ha-ha and is flowering. I am hopeful that my mini-meadow will take off now the grass has been weakened by the rattle. I will plant the Chiltern Seeds ‘Cornfield mixture’ in the autumn.
Ha-ha bank planted with yellow rsttle
Yellow rattle has weakened the grass
Yellow rattle in flower
Roses are beginning to open. Rosa Nevada (a modern shrub rose) is covered in frothy creamy-white scented blossom. Agnes, a yellow rugosa rose, is also in full bloom. The china rose, Rosa mutabilis, (not scented) is also in flower. Ramblers up the apple trees are covered in buds and should be magnificent in June.
So far the slugs have not attacked the hostas, probably because it has been so dry, so the foliage of the plants in the damp bed provides a wonderful mix of shape and colour set off by plants such as white bachelor’s buttons, Ranunculus aconitifolius ‘Flore Pleno’ and masterwort, Astrantia major subsp. involucrata ‘Shaggy’ both of which look lovely at this time of year.
Our NGS open day on Sunday 23rd was a success. The garden looked immaculate – Mr B’s mowing and edging set off the flower beds perfectly. It is always great to share Upper Green with like-minded gardeners and the weather was kind to us . The weather has not been so kind this week. The unprotected Rodgersia podophylla, which had looked so good, has been hit badly by the frost as have the tips of Mr. B’s potatoes under their cosy cloches. The potatoes will be fine but sadly the damage to the beautiful chestnut-brown fingered leaves of the rodgersia will persist.
Pond with marsh marigolds
Rodgersia podophylla prior to frost
The pink flowers of the tiny Daphne cneorum var. pygmaea in the trough have a tremendous scent. It is the first year it has flowered. When the daphne is a little bigger, the area around the front door should be redolent with sweet perfume.
Small trough by front door
Daphne cneorum var. pygmaea
I prepared a small leaflet about the garden for the visitors, highlighting some of my favourite plants including balm-leaved red dead nettle (Lamium orvala). The large dark pink flowers hide amongst soft heart-shaped leaves. I also have the white flowered variety. Another beauty is the alpine candytuft, Iberis sempervirens ‘Fischbeck’, which has masses of white flowers lighting up the gravel bed.
Lamium orvala ‘Album’
Iberis sempervirens ‘Fischbeck’
Delights in the rock bed include soft strokable seedheads of Pulsatilla vulgaris (pasque flower), and alpine aquilegias, both blue Aquilegia flabellata var. Pumila and red Aquilegia grahamii. Aquilegias and pasque flowers are seeding around- good news.
Aquilegia flabellata var. Pumila
Seedheads of Pulsatilla vulgaris
Root parasitisation by yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) has had a tremendous impact on the vigour of the grass on the Ha-Ha and the cowslips (Primula veris) are flowering. I have great hopes for a mini-meadow and will plant wildflower seed in the autumn.
The open day (Sunday 23rd April) is drawing near and I am in full-on gardening mode. It is remarkable how many weeds spring up when my back is turned. I managed to spend the virtually the whole day in the front garden clearing beds and cutting back various shrubs that have got out of control. The Viburnum tinus has a worrying tendency to dieback. I am not sure if this is caused by fungus or the viburnum beetle but an annual prune seems to help and so far the shrub has survived. I found a small nest while clipping so I stopped, but I suspect it is one made last year.
Yellows and blues dominate the spring bed. My Mum’s creeping veronica, which I think is Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’, looks particularly fine contrasting with the golden foliage of golden lemon balm (Melissa officinalis ‘Aurea’) and golden spikenard ‘Aurea’ (Valeriana phu ‘Aurea’) as well as the flowers of Geum ‘Lemon Drops’.
Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’
Valeriana phu ‘Aurea’
Mahonia × media ‘Winter Sun’ is sickly. We may have disturbed the roots when removing a large Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteovariegata’ disfigured by sooty mold. I don’t think this dry weather is helping, but I have done some radical pruning (with the help of Mr B) and fed and watered it. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
There should be plenty of colour on the 23rd including tulips, clematises (what is the plural of clematis?), epimediums, euphorbias and fruit tree blossom.
Euphorbia characias ssp.wulfenii
Tulipa ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Paul Scherer’
Clematis alpina ‘Willy’
Lunaria annua ‘Alba Variegata’
Best of all, ‘Molly the witch’ (Paeonia mlokosewitschii), that most glorious of peonies, is looking her very best.
The garden has taken off- so much colour, scent and shape. Spring is a wonderful season for gardeners, but going away for most of March makes no sense and I have missed too much. I have resolved not to do it again- especially when we are opening for the NGS in April. Camellias, anemone blanda and ipheion add to the colour at the front of the house.
The spring bed looks wonderful and plants are virtually confluent.
Snake’s head fritillaries are putting on a fantastic display.
Tulips provide blocks of colour (not always quite as perfectly co-ordinated as planned), the lovely pasqueflowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris) are in bloom for Easter and the herbaceous perennials are springing into life. Many of these plants will be over by 23rd April when we are open, but plenty more are on the way.
To my great delight, green shoots (hypocotyls) are peeping out from 4 of the mistletoe seeds that I stuck so carefully onto the branch of the old Bramley apple tree in February. Clearly the beak wiping technique I used to remove most of the sticky jelly around the seed in each fresh berry was perfect!
But it is very dry- so will these tiny plants survive? Some may be eaten by insects or birds- the chicken wire may deter the birds. Once the holdfast is established by the fragile looking hypoctyls, will the seedlings manage to penetrate the bark to commence the parasitic phase? It takes 3 years for the first leaves to appear so I will have to be patient …..and I will need both male and female plants to get berries.