Moths and Lilies

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!


Summer at Upper Green

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’.

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 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”.

Summer has arrived!

Rattle and roses

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.

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.

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.

Hail, frost and finger damage

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Parasitisation by yellow rattle (in the foreground)  has weakened the grass of the Ha-Ha. Cowslips have settled in and should self seed.

‘Molly the witch’ and Upper Green open day

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’.

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.

Best of all, ‘Molly the witch’ (Paeonia mlokosewitschii), that most glorious of peonies, is looking her very best.

Paeonia mlokosewitschii





Colour at Upper Green

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.

Hosts of Daffodils

Hurray, the garden is wide awake. Daffodils are dancing a welcome at the entrance (February Gold). In the front garden they adorn the grass under the apple trees beside the drive (Bambi, Lent lily, Tenby daffodil), stand strongly at the back of the bank (trumpet daffodils planted by previous owners), mingle with the pale blue pulmonaria (Bowles blue) in the spring bed (Tete-a-tete) and brighten the ground in front of Viburnum tinus (Rapture and Bridal Crown). Still to emerge are Hawara and Narcissus fernandesii (tiny jewels) in the drive bed as well as Sun Disc. Jetfire in the cottage bed was ravaged by slugs this year.

In the back garden, clumps of daffodils have spread throughout the central bed over the last 30 years (Tete-a-tete, Jenny and Jack Snipe). New plantings in the Yew tree bed include Rijnveld’s Early Sensation (out for some time) and, still to come, Lucifer and Segovia.  Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’ is appearing in the pot of acid compost that holds my red-leaved Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Seiryu’.

Beds in the lower back garden hold groups of pale Thalia, stately Lanarth and Minnow as well as the dwarf narcissi, Bantam and Midget. Thin shoots of Narcissus cordubensis are visible beneath the multi-stemmed Betula utilis var. jacquemontii but I suspect it may not ‘do’. Cornish chuckles, Little Witch, Topolino and Peeping Tom have burst into flower in the small sloping ha-ha bank, where the grass has been weakened by two years of parasitisation by Yellow Rattle- excellent news. New lambs are bleating in the adjacent field- spring is definitely here.


Gales, alpine treasures and crocuses

February came to a dramatic end with gales and rain. The lids on my alpine troughs could not withstand Storm Doris (winds of 60-80mph) and  took off, ending up on the drive. But the troughs look so much better without their covers.

Flowers are opening on some of the tiny saxifrages in the trough I planted up last year- Saxifraga × boydii ‘Sulphurea’ (yellow),  Saxifraga ‘Coolock Gem’  (white) and Saxifraga ‘Rostyly’ (pink). I hope it is not too wet for them. Should I reinstate the covers?

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is covered in pink blossom. The sweet scent permeates the gravel area, lingering in the enclosed space of the garage. I prefer the perfume of the daphne to the fragrance of sarcococca (Sweet Box), which I find rather overpowering.

Jewel-like crocuses light up the garden including Crocus tommasinianus ‘Whitewell Purple’ and Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’. I added Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ last autumn. The bands of colour on this crocus-purple, white and yellow-are evident both when the flowers are closed and when they open in the sun. I hope this gem will gradually spread.


Snowdrops, birdsong and spring.

My spirits lift whenever I venture into the garden. The song thrush is in good voice, the robin is singing loudly to warn off competitors and the great spotted woodpecker is drumming furiously. The snowdrops are superb, carpeting the ground beneath some shrubs and the clumps of winter aconites have really thickened up.

We have just returned from a trip to Norfolk, where we went to Anglesey Abbey- always worth a visit at this time of year. The winter walk was as lovely as ever and of course I could not resist buying a couple of new snowdrops. My special snowdrops are looking particularly fine – the strulch still seems to be deterring the molluscs.

I am delighted by the firepit, which I planted with Iris reticulata a couple of years ago. The clumps have really thickened up and provide a welcome splash of winter colour.

Honeybees are homing in on early crocuses, the newts are active in the pond and shoots of daffodils and tulips are evident all over the garden. Spring is on the way.

Iris unguicularis and other winter treats

I happed up well and discovered a number of treasures, when I went for a chilly garden stroll. Winter sweet (Chimonanthus praecox) is well out, but the flowers are all too high so I must prune the tree to bring them within reach. Sweet box, both Sarcococca confusa by the back patio and Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna by the front door, are also in bloom and on a sunny day the sweet scent carries quite a distance.

I picked some  Iris unguicularis (formerly Iris stylosa) for the house. My mother always had a few of the delicate purple flowers in a small glass vase at this time of year.They do not last long, but they are a special winter treat and bring back happy memories. I also found several bright blue clumps of the dwarf Iris histrioides ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’.