Sunday, 27 January 2013

Little Bumble Bee

Whilst the rest of the UK is having yet more snow, it just seems to be passing us by here in Edinburgh!  Now, believe you me, I'm not greedy and it's not as if I want knee deep snow, just a few inches would have been nice.  The bags of salt I stock piled remain unopened at the rear of the shed and the heavy duty snow shovel I bought after the bad winters of 2009 and 2010 could well be described as nearly new, having been used only once!

Friday afternoons are my nieces and nephew sitting day, being that here in Edinburgh, the kids have a half day from school.  Today the house was turned into a hairdressing salon for the afternoon - my son's girlfriend  was on her day off, therefore she was able to give the kids and my son their monthly haircut - yes, he too finishes his work early on a Friday too!  Fridays are usually a busy afternoon for me - whilst it's nice to see them all together, it can get rather hectic!  My afternoons are usually 'me time' - I work nights and am in general, not a morning person or should that read an early afternoon person?  Either way, it was rather nice that when I got up, son's GF had sorted out the laundry, done the downstairs floors for me, organised kids lunches and even emptied the dishwasher for me.  I was redundant for the next few hours!!  With nothing to do, well that's maybe stretching the truth a bit because had I looked hard enough I'm sure I could have found something - on went the lap top as I decided it was about time I sorted through all last year's garden pictures and free up some space on the hard drive.  It's well saying we don't need to pay for photo developing nowadays - I would never have taken a fraction of the pictures I had if I needed to pay to view them!
There was quite literally thousands of images which had me looking back with fond memories and fast forwarding me to warmer, brighter days of spring and summer, many of which I recalled in my Review of 2012 blog.

I came across this little selection of images which I had forgot I'd taken.  I had just taken delivery of my new smartphone (Samsung Galaxy SIII), which had been chosen because the camera was an improvement on that on my old Iphone.  I thought that maybe some of you may enjoy them and get you into thinking of warmer sunny weather ahead.

 She is a common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum), although in my garden they are affectionately called the 'wee ginger bumble bees' - I say 'she' because taking size and the fact pollen sacks are present, my guess is that she is a worker.
Queens are 16-18mm in length and workers slightly smaller at 10-14mm.  Males, are easily identified by the fact that they have no pollen pockets are 13-14mm.  Here in Scotland, these bees will nest late in the year (July).  It is thought that many of their nests are destroyed when the farmer harvests his fields.  It would be nice to think this little lady survived such a fate!
There are several species of Ginger Bumble Bees in the UK - this (if I have my ID correct) is the most common and can be found throughout the British Isles. Nests will be found just below the surface of the ground in old mammal nests or on the surface in grass tussocks.  I have not found traces of this species of  bee nesting in my garden but if they are I hope their nest did not meet the same fate as the nest of the red tailed bumble bees that flooded  a week or so before these pictures were taken.   

As is evident by the pictures, she had a good forage.  Her pollen baskets are full and she was quite oblivious to me sitting down watching her as she went from flower to flower.

For more information on British Bumble Bees there are a good few websites/forums out there - here are the ones I use:

Wild About Britain

Bumblebee Conservation

UK Safari

Wet June 2012
The plant on which she is spending so much time, is one of my favourite plants in the garden - a lovely little Dicentra eximia 'King of Hearts' a lovely little fern leaved Dicentra.  Unlike Dicentra spectabalis (Lamprocapnos as they are now know) they don't disappear during summer.

In my garden it grows in part shade, in a moist but well drained soil.  It is said they prefer neutral to alkaline conditions.  Planted in amongst ferns, hostas and heucheras this little beauty really does stand out in a crowd!  I'm hoping too that I can propogate more plants from it this year, for that I need to do my homework!

I hope you enjoyed a wee look at these picutres as much as I did reminiscing about them.  If you have any tips and advice about propogating this species of Dicentra, I'd like to hear about them.

Thanks for stopping by!           

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Big Garden Birdwatch - Are you taking part?

Always ensure fresh water is available
The birds will appreciate it.
Frozen water like this is easily melted or by placing a
saucer of fresh water on top - it's easy to provide for
I've recently became a member of the RSPB and for the first time next weekend I will take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch.                        

The Big Garden Birdwatch, first took place in 1979 for younger members of the RSPB.  It wasn't until 2001 that adults were asked to take part - yes, I know, I'm a bit late at coming to the party - but better late than never, eh!!

The purpose of this event is to count the garden birds visiting our gardens during a specific weekend - the weekend of 26/27 January, this year and for 1 hour only.  So pretty easy to fit in for most lifestyles.
Once data is collected and logged - they can work out our most common garden birds here in the UK.  If you don't have a garden, you can do it in your local park.

So, how do you do it?  You count each separate species of birds in your garden at one time - that way you don't record the same bird more than once!  It's important that you only record the birds 'in' your garden - not those flying over.  Mind you, what about the ones sitting on the fence!! 

Once your hour is up you have until the 15th of February to log your information - check out the   RSPB WEBSITE for more information.  There are forms to download to help you record your data and just for registering you can claim £5 off when you shop at their online store!  

I've been making sure that I can id all the birds that regularly visit my garden and yesterday, after clearing the footpaths of snow and ice - I had a little practice run!  Although snow was on the ground - it was a fresh sunny afternoon.  It's not often I get a chance to sit down and do nothing for an hour!  In my garden, the birds just generally go about their business whilst we are in the garden, and that includes the cats and the dog!  I do make sure that the cats (3 young boys) wear bells on their collars and we have very few casualties! 

If you would like more information on the birds - please follow the links!

These are the 3 most common birds that visit my garden. 


House Sparrow (passer domesticus)

By far the most prolific birds that visits my garden.  These rather noisy social creatures will eat pretty much anything you put down to them.  They will feed from tables, feeders, ground feeders and forage about in the undergrowth for food. Always the first in  the queue when the feeders are filled up!  Generally they will feed in the garden when we are about but disappear in their droves to the hedgerow when danger is about.  Whilst they do eat seeds and grains - insects are an important part of their diet.  Planting insect friendly plants will provide a vital source of nourishment for them and in particular their young when they most need it.  

Starling (sturnus vulgaris)

What a quieter place my garden would be without these birds and their bully bird tactics! 

They will rather greedily hog the feeders - like the sparrows they too will eat anything you put out.  Their fighting is just not confined to other species but their in house squabbling can get rather noisy!

There is something rather comical about the way the smash their beaks into the fat balls in the hanging feeders - only for the little birds patiently awaiting the spoils that drop to the ground!    

Another year round visitor but in springtime their numbers multiply rapidly.  
You can't fail to notice their glossy multi-coloured feathers - iridescent is a better word to describe it, I think!  

Blue tits are another of our common garden birds.  It is said that if you have 5 blue tits at one feeder at any time - your garden is probably feeding 20 birds.  I've often more than 20 birds in the garden at one time - so just how many am I feeding?
Blue Tit
Easily recognisable by it's blue eye mask 
Unmistakable in flight, as they make for the garden - these little beauties are always first to investigate anything new!  In fact - I was given a couple of nesting boxes as a Christmas present and as I have no practical places in which to hang them - I hung one near the roof of the shed - within seconds 2 or 3 blue tits had been in for a nosy!
They too will visit a variety of feeders but not often on the ground - being very agile they can get into some awkward positions.  Sunflower hearts will always take preference over other foods followed closely by peanuts.  They also eat insects and fruit and can be seen pecking away at the branches looking for insects.
Getting ready to go!
Hanging from a peanut feeder
hooked inside a Weeping Willow 

Being as I want my garden to be wildlife friendly as I can possibly make it - it is important that I encourage as my different bird species as I possibly can.  There are lots of birds, either resident or visitors here in Scotland that do not visit my garden or they have only been a fleeting visitor - I'm hoping that in time I can encourage some of them in and make them more of a regular.  I wonder that as the shrubs/trees mature (2 years ago my garden was just lawn and paths),  the borders become fuller, the pond entices yet more wildlife and the log piles rot - will the difference be obvious or just slight? 

Do you provide food for the birds in winter or all year round or not at all? 
Will you be taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch?
What birds are a common sight in your garden?

I wonder if other countries do a similar event?  If you live anywhere other than the UK - I'm sure I won't be the only one interested in hearing about it - please feel free to tell us all about it!

I will be doing a follow up blog on the less abundant bird species visiting my garden - so please come back soon!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Heuchera......It's a love hate thing!

The 1st Heuchera bought
for this garden in 2010.
I'm sure I'm not alone in having a love-hate relationship with a specific genre of plants.  It's an on-going itch that just never stops!!

My specific itch or should that be itches are Heuchera - sitting in their droves in the GCs - their impressive, perfect, multi-coloured foliage rarely fails to turn heads.  Whether they are bought to do a specific job or just another impulse buy, I will always be a sucker for them!  They will brighten up a dull corner, provide lush colourful foliage, contrast beautifully with their neighbours, their height a spread make them an ideal front of border choice or just fill a gap when nothing else seems to fit - I can always find another space to plant one!  

So you see that sales pitch technique works every time!  Obviously, I'm a victim of the marketing ploy! I'm visually drawn in every time!!...need I say more!

Where does the 'hate' come into it? - I hear you ask!

My opinion is that these plants always look like they are giving 100% or they are a total disappointment and looking like they've seen better days, there is NEVER a happy medium, it seems, in my garden.  Between you and I, I've actually lost count of just how many have bitten the dust or gone to that great big compost bin in the sky.

Until recently, when not looking their best, I just dug them out, without giving very much consideration to what the actual problem was.  Yes, the phrase 'More Money than Sense' has been said to me on many an occasion.

A specific pest for these plants are Vine Weevil Beetles (VWB) and their larvae are one of the most common problems for these plants, so when ever one turned up it's toes or like tumble weed, took off across the garden at first breeze - they were 'out of here' tout suite!!

Since taking to the world wide web to search for solutions, it seems that apart from the dreaded beetle there are more common problems than I originally thought.....  
  • Planting to deep - causes crown rot
  • Planting to shallow - causes the plant to heave (particularly in winter when freezing occurs)
  • Mulch to thickly - a winter tip to help protect against heaving - causes crown rot
  • Caterpillars - I have found  that caterpillars hide on the underside and munch the foliage
  • Slugs - although not generally said to be a pest - those tiny little beige coloured slugs get right down inside the crown and devour the newest and softest of foliage
  • Vine Weevil Beetle/Larvae - the adult eats the leaves and the female lays her eggs where the larvae mature by munching on the roots below
  • Poorly drained/waterlogged soil - after far too much rain 2012 - I found  that those where the soil remained wet for weeks on end - began suffering
  • Rabbits/Mice - will nibble on stems and leaves
Strangely enough, I have found in the past the the zingy lime green heuchera DO NOT like my garden, 3 or so attempts have been utter failure - they were gone within weeks, if not days of planting!  The jury is out as to why - but it was definately not the dreaded VWB - the plant roots were given a through post mortem and for plants to disappear so quickly there surely would have been sign of grubs but none were found.  Mice/Rabbits are the primary suspect in so far as I'm concerned!
Some plants just go! - it's as simple as that - 2 specimens planted adjacent to each other - 1 has thrived and 1 just gave up the ghost!  Investigation again, showed no sign of the VWB!
Even growing them in containers, with strict chemical control aimed at the larvae of the VWB - brought no success with one or two. Again, I ruled out VWB!
There are possibly numerous other reasons - I have yet to discover - but the ones above are I'm convinced are the top causes in my garden.  Advice I would give would be ensure you plant at the correct level when taking out of the pot, be vigilant for caterpillars, slugs and VWB, first signs will be apparent on the leaves and ensure adequate drainage.  If you are going to mulch - make sure the crown is not covered.
Heuchera Marmalade Summer 2012
If you discover one of your prized plants isn't doing quite as it should, all is not lost!  These are very forgiving plants and as I've discovered can easily be rescued.  How?  It's simple - remove the plant from the ground (or container) remove as much of the soil or compost around the roots as is possible.  Checking for grubs as you go.  If in doubt do not reuse spent compost (if container grown) unless you can be 100% sure there are no grubs. If growing in the ground root around in the soil for grubs or signs of grubs.
Under a running tap - wash off all remaining soil/compost.  It's at this stage you will see how the plant can be divided - divide sections with as much root as possible and double check each section for grubs.  They can get right inside the stalky part of the plant.  I would recommend the same practice even if your plant has suffered any of the other problems I mention above.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Once you have your divisions ready for planting - I use a mix of Multi-purpose compost/JI (what ever I have to hand) and some grit for drainage.  Pot them up into individual pots or 3 or 4 into a larger container ensuring an even spacing to allow for growth.  Water in and place in a sheltered position, your plant will soon begin to recover.  Other advice I have read or been given is to use peat free compost - tried this and to be honest I can't say I noticed the difference, plants in both mediums recovered - so the jury is out on that one!  Mulching with grit or gravel is said to make it more difficult for adult VWB to lay her eggs - this I haven't tried, therefore can't comment as to whether is works or not.

Not all is doom and gloom in the Heuchera department - please feel free to check out my pictures from 2012 and just how good these plants look when they are happy

Of course, if you know of other problems please do share it with us - the more the merrier!

Do you have a love-hate relationship with any of your plants?  Have you tried and failed miserably to grow a specific plant in your garden?  Had an obsession! - how did you beat it?                    


Sunday, 6 January 2013

A look at Leucothoe

Leucothoe - pronounced Lew-kowth-ay 

Or at least that's the pronounciation I know!!

Leucothoe keiskei 'Royal Ruby'
flowering May 2012
Leucothoe are part of the Ericaceae, the group this plant belongs are an acid lovers - just like Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Pieris.  They can be deciduous or evergreen.  Their growth habit is best described as broad and arching.  It's leaves are long, leathery and shiny.  Unlike it's relative the Pieris which stand out in the garden as it puts on new foliage -  the Leucothoe don't unlock their beauty until Autumn and Winter.  They take on dark red, crimson, purple and bronze shades, which remain until spring.
Producing small white flowers on the underisde of new shoots in May, a shade lover and can also be used as groundcover.  I have read that providing the soil is moist enough it is tolerant full sun.  I did not find this the case, it suffered badly before it went to the giant compost bin in the sky! Now I would not exactly describe the sun here in Scotalnd exceptionally strong!  If you have found different I would like to hear about it as it could also be that my soil was perhaps too moist!

You will generally find a good selection of these plants for sale in nurseries or GCs in Autumn and Springtime - when the shelves are bursting with 'winter interest' plants.  More often than not - overlooked it seems - I found that my local GC (national chain) had an excess of these plants on special offer last summer.  That could be the best time to bag a bargain if you fancy giving these a try.  Leucothoes have a few common names: Dog Hobble, Fetterbush, Switch Ivy and Drooping Laurel.

Here's a look at the Leucothoe that grow quite happily in my garden......

Leucothoe keiskei 'Royal Ruby'

Leucothoe keiskei 'Royal Ruby'
Colour at the beginning of Autumn
Leucothoe keiskei 'Royal Ruby' is a low or ground covering Leucothoe.  It is said to be hardy down to -29 (zone 5).  Evergreen with  broader leaves than some of the other Leucothoe available and a medium/fast grower.  Both specimens in my garden grow in part shade (receiving about 4 or 5) hours sun in the afternoon.  This shrub will reach a height of around 60cm.  As autumn progresses to winter 'Royal Ruby' will turn from pink/red to a deep purple colour. 
March 2012
In springtime as temperatures rise - the foliage reverts to green as is visible in the picture to the right.  Masses of tiny white (pieris like) flowers are produced in May.  They are said to be fragrant but I can't say that I remember it!  I will need to pay closer attention this year and report back with my findings!       

Leucothoe axillaris 'Red Lips'

Leucothoe axillaris 'Red Lips'
Rhododendron Goldfimmer and
Euonymus fortunei Harlequin
Leucothoe axillaris 'Red Lips' is a more compact bushier specimen and not to be confussed with it's cousin 'Curly Lips'! (Curly did grow in the garden but I stood on it and snapped it!)  The Evergreen foliage on Red Lips is red for most of the year - both new growth and autumn winter colour is an almost scarlet colour.
As temperatures were very low this year it has kept it's red colouring all year!  Seen here in the border grouped together with Rhododendron and Euonymous this little shrub is ideal for the front of a shrub border.  Growing to a maximum height of 30cm with a spread of not much more.  It is also extremely hardy.  Disappointingly this shrub has failed to flower in my garden, it's going into it's 3rd year in my garden, so maybe it was just settling in!!  This dense form will also keep weeds at bay, which is a bonus!  If your soil is alkaline - then this one would make an ideal candidate to keep in a container on the patio - but you will need to make sure it gets the conditions is needs.

Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Whitewater'

Leucothoe fontanesian 'Whitewater' is the newest addition to my collection.  I just could not resist this standing proudly on a shelf in the nursery.  Seen here before it has found a home in the garden.  Just where on earth I'm going to put it, goodness only knows!!  I'm sure you all know that feeling!!  Described as Hillier nurseries and 'Handsome' and apparently will grow quite happily in a pot.  I might find it easier to find a home in a container rather than in a border at this moment in time.  Another consideration would be to try train this against a trellis - it kind of has that sprawling growth that may lend itself to being grown against a structure.
I will not make a quick decission on where to put it - but will update here as soon as I do!
Reaching a height of around 90cm and a spread of 120cm it will be the largest of my Leucothoe.  Just like it's companions above it's described as hardy to -29 or Zone 5.
As close up of the leaves shows of it's creamy margins.  I think I'm going to like this one!!

Propogation of Leucothoe is in the form of semi-hard wood cuttings.  Something I have yet to make an attempt to do and just what would I do with them!  Very few of my family and friends are keen gardeners.
Leucothoes are said not to enjoy a mulch but more of a 'top dress' which is what I do in springtime and give them a liquid feed of Seaweed with sequestered iron mid summer.

As my shrub border is due to be widened this year - I'm on the lookout and open to suggestions for some perennial planting companions.

The fact that these shrubs like an acid soil, can cope with shade and prefer moist soil makes them an ideal plant for my garden.   These low maintenance shrubs come highly recommended by me if you can give them their ideal growing conditions.

I hope you found this interesting and inspiring!  Do let me know :)


Thursday, 3 January 2013

2012 a review

I worry that before I begin, this blog may become rather long, so apologies in advance :)
Being new to blogging I wanted some sort of reference to my garden that I can use as a reference in future years and perhaps refer readers to in future posts.
I hope you are not put of by the amount of content but enjoy reading about a year in my garden.  This year has certainly been a learning curve and whilst I expect that throughout this blog I will bemoan the rotten weather we had here in Scotland during 2012 I do hope that doesn't put you off reading.

So, get yourself and cuppa and enjoy :)  

The New Year certainly came in with a bang - a clatter bang would be more like it!!  The gale force winds on Hogmanay (New Years' Eve to those of you outside Scotland) brought down the last remaining inherited fences in the garden.  I woke up on New Years Day to find my small tool shed upside down in the neighbours garden, taking the fence panels with it!!
Here's the garden as a building site at the beginning of January - new posts and cross rails were fitted asap - luckily the cementing was done before the temperatures dropped, otherwise that would have meant more delays! 

If you look closely, you can see sections of the the fallen fencing in the neighbours back garden.  As none of the fencing boards were rotten it made sense to reuse where we could.  For those of you yet to get to know me, I should point out that all the works were carried out by myself, 1 neighbour had 'man flu' and the other is just no good at this kind of thing.  Personally, I just love getting stuck in to these kind of DIY projects.  It's much more satisfying to stand back and say 'I DID THAT'!  Once all the hard work was done I was able to sit down, relax and choose some evergreens which would be planted down the entire length of the garden.  Around 22 metres in total.  The plants I chose were Caenothus, Escallonia, Euonymus, Prunus, Photinia and a blue holly.  These are slowly but surely growing upward and outward to create a lovely evergreen hedge.  Sad to say though, that during the floods this summers, the Holly has not survived and I think the Caenothus may also have to be removed.  These evergreens had deciduous shrubs offset in front of them - I intend to remove these as the evergreens fill out and fill the spaces.  For this I chose Physocarpus (2), Deutzia, Philadelphus and Buddleja.  During the year - I have since added a trellis to the top of the small fence running down the garden.  This gives the fence a bit more height and gives the idea of a bit more privacy.  As you can see from this picture (taken in August) I think it adds something that a taller fence would not have.

Having spent the rest of the month of January and pretty much the rest of February digging out the new border, enriching the soil with as much humus by the way of rotted manure and soil conditioner as I could afford, adding a stone edge the entire length.  Luckily, I have a very friendly farmer who lives nearby and he allowed me to take quite a few large stones from the 'dump' ground in one of his fields.  This of course means labour and lots of it!!  Oh Boy - the days spent getting those rocks from A-B were back breaking and the time spent soaking in a hot bath recovering was much appreciated.  There was on the odd occasion that I fell sound asleep whilst resting my eyes in the bath and did not awaken until the water was freezing or someone else needed in!!
In between digging out the now named 'long border', I managed to plant up a little redundant gravelled area next to the back steps.  Being gravelled I wanted something which will be 'low maintenance' - I chose Hydrangea Petiolaris to cover the wall, Cotoneaster dammerii for ground cover and Ophipogon for the contrast in colour.  The little Heuchera - lime something or other, did not settle in and promptly went to the big compost bin in the sky!

February, as always, brings around the first of the years blooms and some of the plants/bulbs blooming were not a disappointment.

Here's a montage of some of what was in bloom in February.




Possibly, like most gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere, I find March is the most exciting month.  All those dormant plants begin to show us that the soil is warming up and with sight of those new shoots bring with them a promise of what is to come!  Virtually the whole of March was glorious, coupled with April - summer had came early!  The lengthening of the days are so welcome as it reveals the slumbering plants from below the surface of the soil.  As the clocks change on the last Sunday of the month, British Summer Time had began, Yippee!!!!!

March was the one and only time this year I 

caught a glimpse of a solitary ladybird (ladybug) in the garden.  To put a positive spin on the abscence of these much adored creatures is the fact that I do not have an abundance of aphids on which they can feast.  Most of the spring bulbs are by now gracing us with their fine blooms. One of my least favourite plants are I'm afraid to say are Yellow Daffodils - I can't explain my dislike for them but it is what it is!  I do however have a beautiful scented white daffodil, Narcissus Thalia, growing in containers, if you are looking for an extremely graceful Daffodil, you could do worse than choose these beauties and what's more, they are multi-headed with 3 or 4 blooms per stalk.  They lasted well into the beginning of May so another plus in so far as I'm concerned.  With a common name of 'Glory of the Snow' this Chionodoxa forbesii 'Pink Giant' were neither Giant or glorying their way above the snow - nevertheless, very pretty little flowers.
Also in flower were the remainder of the Camellias, The Pieris and I'm sad to say that the Rhododendrons were a complete disappointment, my only explaination can be that the winter was so warm and dry that they perhaps were sulking due to lack of rain!  


Like March, an utter delight weather wise - usually I only manage to get the lawn mowed once during the month of April, it was every week by the time April came, the lawn mower was in over drive.  Do lawn mowers go into over drive?????  Admittedly, I'm about to contradict myself here, I have said that the Rhododendrons were a disappointment this year, however, there's always an exception!  The exception was Rhododendron 'Shamrock' - rather surprisingly she started taking on a rather dark shade of red  on the foliage late in 2011. It did have me scratching my head, as I could think of no explaination.  It was suggested to me that perhaps one of it's parents has dark foliage an it is reverting???  I think the dark foliage really shows up the flower and do hope it stays this colour!

I managed to pick up a bargain in the end of Season sales in January but as yet not got round to doing anything with it.  What was this bargain I hear you asking?  I've always fancied an seated arbour in the garden and when I saw it was reduced by 20% I could not resist.  I won't describe to you the palaver I had trying to get it into the car but enough said that there was a small domestic in the car park of our local DIY store ;)  I'm sure some of you have been there before!!
Given a coat of garden shades 'Holly' and in pride of place.  This is a section of the garden that can get a bit 'damp' in April time, therefore, I used roofing joists to create a raised gravel area on which to place it.  Year round colour will be added in the way of pots (daffs and tulips seen here) - since this picture was taken, I have planted 2 climbing roses (The Wedgewood Rose) either side - the dark green should really show of the pink of the flowers.  Behind it I've planted some Prunus - which will in time make it seem more enclosed and give some privacy.  I would like to add here, that it remained unused for the rest of the year, due to the very poor weather we had :(

The garden had really started to waken up from it's winter slumber - the hot sunny spell brought most of the plants on leaps and bounds and the garden was buzzing with life in forms of all the early bees and insects.  As the month end approached the rain was by then making the garden look positively lush, how were we to know it was a sign of things to come!!

Some rainy pictures to round of the month of April and begin the summer of rain.  The Roses and Heuchera were soon perked up by the extra moisture and all the recently planted shrubs were thoroughly enjoying it, for the time being, that was. The Azeleas, the Paeonies and the Aconitums were gearing up to release their colour - in fact, the buds on lots of the flowers were fattening nicely and showed plenty of promise!

The April showers ceased just enough to fill the garden with early summer colour - there was plenty in bloom - the garish blooms of the Azeleas, the Aconitums were reaching skyward and the tighly curled fern fronds were imitating fiddle heads.

My favourite flower of the month was one of my little Primulas - Elizabeth Killelay (second from the top left above), I grow this in a container and much to my disappointment and frustration, I have failed to propogate this little gem.  Something I've never had trouble with before is dividing primulas - but Elizabeth is proving to be difficult.  I'll give her a rest of a couple of years and wait until the pot is crammed full before my next attempt!  Semi-aqualegia Sugar Plum Fairy was a new one this year.  Listed as a short lived perennial - we shall see how it goes!  Geranium sylvaticum Album, has a common name of 'Mayflower' certainly living up to it's name.  May was a very disappointing time for the Iris - so many didn't flower.  The Weigelas, of which I have 4, graced the garden with their bloom.  Such a good all rounder in the garden I think, their variegated or purple foliage are useful back drops to many plants. 

 No May garden would be complete without the Alliums towering above other blooms.  With so many plants flowering - the garden was a sheer delight and filled with buzzing in every corner.  Aother new addition this month was Hosta 'Blue Cadet' - these so called blue hostas are useful in the garden, I find that their rather thick glaucous foliage is not so attractive to the many slugs that inhabit my garden.  They contrast beautifully with purple foliage.  I chose to partner this hosta with a rather elegant looking Japanese Painted fern, a bit of a slow starter, therefore, no decent picture YET!  Both should enjoy their home in part shade with relatively moist soil.    

As usual, June, begins with a week of annual leave from work.  I have in the last 10 years or so found that this is a reasonably sunny week and yet cool enough to get stuck into giving the garden a good tidy up.  So many of the early flowering plants have gone over and do benefit from a chop back, this encourages fresh new foliage and in a few cases produces a 2nd flush of flowers later in the year.  
My optimism was soon knocked back - the rain came and did not halt for weeks on end - there was the odd sunny day in between but lack of sun stopped many of the other plants in their tracks!!
The garden suffered very badly from flooding,  the water was just refusing to drain away.  It was quite obvious after a week or so that some plants had just given up trying to survive, a few others, I managed to save by lifting them from the ground and potting them on into containers.  The early flowerers and the bulbs which had all died back can only be presumed GONE!!  

I took the bull by the horns and decided that it was time the garden had a pond.  I didn't want anything large, just something I could call a 'wildlife pond'.  I chose a corner in the shadier side of the garden and got out my spade - here is the finished result. Planted out with shade lovers namely Hostas, ferns and Polygonatum with Aucuba japonica 'Rozannie' providing a back drop.  With all the rain, everything soon settled in and I look foward to seeing how this looks next year.  Reading back, I've made June sound so full of doom and gloom - all was not too bad, lots of plants did enjoy the damp condition and were having a having a go and sharing their bejewelled flowers and their lush growth.  I've never come across a similar colour lupin since buying these a few years ago - they are a beautiful deep blue and are a perfect contrast to the deep yellow of the Primula Bulleesiana (candlabra primula), with the chartreuse flowers of Alchemilla mollis softening the planting scheme.  Hosta Francis Williams, I think I mentioned previously that this is my favourite 

hosta, despite being lifted and divided days earlier (probably not recommened in plant terms) did not bat an eyelid and settled right back in.  Seen here with Dicentra 'King of Hearts', is a must for any shady area.  I could not possibly forget to mention this little Dicentra - flowers from April - October in my garden has been a useful addition to the garden.  It was at £7 for a little 9cm pot considered expensive at the time but if you think that flowering for 7 months at a time for the previous 2 years - that doesn't work out so bad, does it?  I could not even consider ending my June entry without mentioning 

 Zantedeschia Aethiopica, the Arum lillies not only flowered at Easter time but blossomed their little hearts out right through to the end of October.  They love moist shade and given a good mulch in their first year should have no problem surviving here in Scotland.  These do come with a slug warning but in my garden it was the snails that had a penchant for them.  Watching the weather forecasts as the month was drawing to a close did not bring with it good news.  I have wondered many a time over the summer that had the South of England not declared a drought and promptly announced a hosepipe ban - did they in fact jinx their neighbours?


No year review would be complete without giving a mention to my all time favourite blooms.  The herbaceous paeonies opened their big blousy blooms at the tail end of June and manage to look reasonable for the first week in July.  A cottage garden stalwart, considered by many as 'Old Fashioned' - I don't think I could ever consider a garden without a paeony flower!
The sight of these blooms take me right back to my childhood when I would often see my grandfather stand so proudly over his magnificent blooms.  The anticipation from the first time those red shoots pop above the soil very early in the year, watching the fattening of those buds as the weeks go by until they burst open seems to take forever to happen, but worth every minute of it!!   This single flowering magenta pink is the   

newest addition to my garden.  A gift from an elderly lady who is no longer wih us, will be treasured for many years to come, I guarentee it!!
We hear so much about the decline of the Bumble bee in today's climate for various reasons.  Here is an image of one lonesome Queen bee who would not be defeated.

Bombus lapidarius (common red tailed bee) is a bumble bee which nest just under the surface of the ground - they are fairly common sight in my garden here in Scotland.  She slowly made her way up from the sodden soil to rest on the flowerhead of this Scabious.  As you can see from the picture she was soaked right through and sat on this bud for almost 4 hours while the heat of the sun dried her out (a rather rare sunny afternoon).  I suspect that her nest was in amongst some of the plants in this part of the garden, which was now completely up to their elbows in water!  I kept my fingers crossed that she survived and managed to make herself an nest elsewhere.

did brighten up and the constant rain ceased for a while bringing with it some reasonably sunny days, some of the plants did their best to recover from the set backs and were most welcome!
Clematis The Vagabond and Buddleja providing a nice back drop to Phlox paniculata 'Violet Flame.  Luckily, you can't make out all the gaps in the border.  Although the rain ceased and the temperatures rose - it brought with it stong winds - we can never win us gardeners can we? - a few of the plants were 'over' before they began :(  

Achillea Terracotta flowering for the second
time this year, this is one plant which benefitted from being given a good chop back earlier.

Deutzia x hybrida 'Strawberry Fields' is a shrub which earns its AGM award.  Set back by lack of sun and flowering a good 2 months later than                 than would normally be expected.  To be considered the best month of summer 2012 August did not let me down.  The late visiting Hoverflies and Bees were a delight to behold and I spotted the first butterfly to visit the garden this year - a small tortiose shell.  My garden is not usually abundant with Butterflies, so any are welcome!  There is plenty on offer for them but I suspect that because I live in a rural area on the city boundary there is probably plenty elsewhere in the surrounding woods and fields.  There are always plenty to be seen when I take a walk along the river.

Seen here on the right with the blue sky in the background Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty' looking positively radiant in the afternoon sun.  These plants were a good bit taller than they have been in previous seasons - I wonder - were they just reaching out trying to touch any of the sun's rays which were trying so hard to escape regularly cloud filled skies?          


As autumn is knocking on the door, temperatures are dropping but I am most pleased there is still plenty going on.  Don't you just love it when the trees and shrubs begin to take on their autumn colour - they give a new dimension to the garden.  However you want to describe September, early autumn or late summer - it would not be complete without the obligatory Sedums.  Now given that I find my soil a wee bit too moist for Sedums, I have found that growing most of them in containers is the best way I can enjoy them in my garden.  Here's a selection of what I grow.  In a close up of the blooms of Sedum 'Purple Emperor' you can see the hoverfly enjoying these

late summer blooms.  A great little plant for sprawling over a wall or on the edge of a path is Sedum cauticola 'Coca Cola'.  This is one that doesn't seem to mind a bit of shade and grows quite happily in the border which is home to the pond.  Sedum telephium 'Autumn Charm' is variaged green and cream with deep pink flowers.  Seen here just before the flowers open.  Sedums are one of those plants which propogate very easy - any stems you snip off, just stick them in the ground and before long they will have rooted.  Extremely important food source for late flying insects, no garden should be without a sedum or two!  There is talk that giving the larger border specimens the 'Chelsea Chop' can benefit them, I found that more often or not they do not bloom until much later and are often spoilt by the first frosts before they can be enjoyed.  This year I experimented by doing half a plant (Sedum spectable) - snipping of random shoots over the whole plant - whilst in theory I think this would have worked had it been sunnier, the weather played against me and brought the whole plant to it's knees before my experiment was concluded.

One shrub which has not disappointed this year has been Physocarpus opulifolius 'Lady in Red' common name Ninebarks.  This variety is also known as Coppertine in the states.  If you are looking for a purple leaved shrub than I can highly recommend this one.  It didn't seem affected by the rain or lack of sunshine.  It new foliage in the spring is almost copper coloured so I'm guessing that's where it get's it name from.  As the year progresses they turn a deeper shade before falling of in autumn.  It does produce flowers but this year it did not flower in my garden due to the fact it was moved at the wrong time of year.  As the plant matures it has peeling bark, which will add a bit of winter interest.  I found this shrub very easy to propagate by way of softwood cuttings, although I'm not sure what the recommended way is, but it's what worked for me.  This very hardy shrub can be kept in check with pruning, although pruning at the wrong time will sacrifice flowers!

October is the month that signifies the end of British Summer Time - we change our clocks back on the last Sunday of the month.  The reduced amount of daylight means it is dark here around 4pm.
There  truly was very little going on in my garden come October and by the end of the month the frosts had arrived!  Pretty much most of the time spent out in the garden was preparing for winter.  Wrapping pots with bubble wrap and fleece, mulching some of the plants and providing winter protection in the way of straw for a few of the 'borderline' perennials.  Although I don't have a greenhouse in the garden, I have access to the use of a neighbour's, so that's quite handy!
Let's take a look at what's still looking good......

From left to right with their Autumn colours we have Enkianthus, Acer and Cotinus - all in the process of turning various shades of pinks, reds and purples before they go dormant until spring-time.

Zantedeschia, the last of the flowers before the frost got to them.  This was chopped right back the day after this picture was taken.  A deep mulch provided for winter.  The Dwarf Scabious 'Nana' was one of the plants rescued from the flooding - it took a while to recover but got their in the end!  Anemone hupenensis 'September Charm' - should have been renamed 'October Charm' - I think that she is just enticing us in this shot!  Rather burlesque like don't you think?       

I need to admit here that I had very little time to spend in or around the garden in November, it was all hands on deck to get the decorating in the house done.  Besides, for much of November the garden was crisp with frost.  It was the first time since last year the Woodpecker dared to show face.  Probably a sign that food is sparse elsewhere.  Christened Woodrow by the family he has been making a regular appearance over the winter.
The frosted heart shaped leaves of Epimedium x perralchicum 'Frohnleiten' quite happily situated beneath the Mahonia - another shade lover.  This plant is classed as evergreen but should have it's foliage cut right back in late winter.  It's yellow flowers will appear before it's coppery red new foliage emerges.  Another plant looking good in close-up being kissed by the frost is Ophiopogon also known as Black Mondo Grass looking like it's been dusted with sherbet - hands up if you remember 'Sherbet Dib Dads' as popular sweetie when I was younger. There are very few plants that say 'winter' like the berries on a holly bush does.  An extremely useful food source of many of the garden birds.
 Ilex 'J C Van Tol' gives sanctuary to the birds when the cats are out and about.  We used to have nesting Robins in here too but sadly since getting my cats they no longer roost in here.  Can't say I blame them - bringing up youngsters with cats on the prowl would be one danger to many, I think!!

Last but not least

As the frost lifted in December, I took the time to do a bit more tidying up.  The borders that I didn't quite get round to doing before I got distracted elsewhere.  I was amazed to find 3 hand tools I lost during the year.  That got me thinking......Am I the only gardener who puts things down and never finds them again until everything has died back.  I speak from experience, this isn't the first time this has happened.  It can be anything from a hand trowel to a roll of garden wire to a pair of gloves - what do you loose in the garden?  
I successfully had a go at making a log feeder for the birds - this has been a worth while effort.  It's extremely popular with the Robins who are unable to feed on the feeders and often get chased from the bird table by the starlings.
Of course, what December entry would be complete without mentioning the Christmas word!  Like most gardeners, I know, I've read the blogs, talked the talk, and visited garden centres at this time of year, we all like to give ourselves a little treat.  As a Christmas Present to myself I bought something a wee bit different than I normally would.  It would have been so easy to walk into any GC and buy any of the gorgeous looking shrubs that are on offer at the moment.  I find that the prices on some of these items tends to be a bit exaggerated at this time of the year and just what are you spending your money on?  An, albeit, reasonable sized Camellia - there are quite literally hundreds to choose from, these are also forced into bloom before they reach the shop and unless you have somewhere to keep them in conditions they have been accustomed, they promptly drop their buds suffering from shock!! - been there done that!!  The shelves are filled to bursting with winter flowering pansies, garish polyanthus and the likes.  These are not to my taste.
What did I choose - I went down the less is more route this year and chose a few select alpines.  These are to be grown in troughs, which I have made out of more polystyrene boxes.  Saxifraga and Sempervivums have been on my wish list for a long time but up until now had nowhere to grow them.  As a bit of a preview - here's a look at the Saxifraga I selected.....

On the left is Saxifraga cotyledon Southside Seedling, on the right is Saxifraga Monarch and below left is Saxifraga aizoon minor.  All are rosette forming evergreens. Both S. Southside seedling and S. Monarch have been awarded the AGM by the RHS.  All 3 belong to the group of 'silver' Saxifraga.  
They will flower spring and summer.


On the bottom right is Saxifraga stolonifera 'Hime' This little beauty was sold to me as hardy but I am having difficulty on finding further information on it.  RHS list it as H2/H3 so I'm a bit confussed.  The nursery where I bought it is usually reliable with their plant information.  So time will tell!  It's dark green viened leaves have a pink shade on the reverse, it should make a rather nice specime.  It will flower later in the year than the other too.

Well, there you have it, my year in not so brief!!  I hope you enjoyed my look back at 2012.  It has certainly jogged my memory and reminded me of some of the thinks I need to resolve in 2013.

Thank you for stopping by.

Angie x