Thursday, 28 February 2013

Visiting February

A look back at what's flowering in my garden.....

Despite being the shortest month of the year - February seemed to have taken an age to go from start to
February 2013
It's been a very dry month here - the borders have been incredibly easy to work and there have been slight frosts most mornings, lifting by late mornings in all but the pond bed.  Things are very slow in this bed - the Mahonia is still not budding up, disappointing but what can I do?  Waiting is the only option!  The soil I suspect is not quite warm enough for a few of the perennials to show face.  There is some movement though - the Astrantias are just beginning to poke through the surface, as have the drumstick primulas - the alliums seem to have gone forth and multiplied this year - masses of 3 inch shoots are pointing skyward.
Elsewhere in the garden, especially on the sunny side - the perennials are back in business, the Globe Artichoke has not halted it's growth - it's already reaching about 1ft in height, this is despite being cut right down to the ground in November!
Most of the shrubs are budding up nicely - the Kilmarnock Willow has started to display it's catkins.

Salix caprea
The remainder of the rescued snowdrops on the sunnier side of the garden are now open.

A lonely little snowdrop has appeared under the Leucothoe - a nice wee surprise! I like surprises, don't you?

Most of the hellebores are still tight in bud, I don't mind, I'm happy to wait - only the two in the deepest of shade are flowering.  I'm pleased that they are both different colours, they came from a multi-pack of 'red' hellebores planted early winter 2012.  I was pleaed to these flowering this year - I really thought I would have to wait a couple of years before they flowered.    

My little gravel bed has started to come to life - the first bulbs to flower are a selection of Iris reticulata - unnamed variety - the picture on the packet showed both purple and yellow flowers but I'm glad the majority appear to be purple, I didn't particularly want yellow and I was going to pull them when their colour was apparent and plant them elsewhere!  Miniature daffs, tulips, mossy saxifraga and hebes will add interest as the months progress - this was otherwise redundant gravel, so far so good - my plan is coming together!

In the terracotta container, Ophiopogon makes a beautiful back drop for Iris reticulata 'Harmony'

There might only be a couple blooms on the pink Anemone blanda but still a welcome sight.  The blues I planted last year have failed to materialise!


A collage of the other plants blooming - they made their debut on an earlier blog.

I'm hoping that a monthly blog like this will provide a useful year on year comparison and reference as my garden matures.  I suspect the format will change as I go along.  Do you keep a record of what's in bloom in your garden?  Do you find such a blog useful?

A quick question for all you seasoned garden bloggers out there - I tend to learn/record all my plants with their latin name and know very few 'common names' - would you recommend using latin or common names?

Thanks for visiting February with me!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The weekend was here

Thank goodness!  It's been one of those weeks - without going into detail, which will in turn lead me to set of on a rant, enough said that I had blocked drains for 3 days, punctures in 2 different wheels of the car, whilst carrying a rather large container from one end of the garden to the other I tripped, dropped and shattered it (I now have plenty of crocks and managed to save the plant) and to end the week - the electrics went on one of the car windows in the 'down' position!  The spray nozzle on the garden hose sprung a leak just as I was going wash the car.  Bad luck doesn't always come in 3 apparently!!

How was your week?  Better than mine I hope!

It's the start of a new week on Monday - I'm on annual leave from work for the week - the chores will include giving the decking and the paths a good going over with the pressure hose.  That will obviously be weather permitting.  Giving the arbor seat a good scrub.  Despite having 3 coats of Cuprinol Garden Shades, a product which I am now not enamored with,  last year it looks decidedly shabby and is beginning to peel off!  Last on the list for this coming week will be to give a good tidy up under the hedges - before those trapped weeds get a chance to take hold!  If after all that if I still have time, I will bring out all the containers - many of which have sprouted numerous weeds over the winter, leaving the larger ones in situ until I have my son's undivided attention....for this - I need him to be in the need to borrow some money until pay day!!  That usual gets the jobs done quicker than he normally would!

As a bit of a cheer me up - yesterday afternoon, I took a trip along to my local nursery, Binny Plants based on the Binny Estate in Ecclesmachan, West Lothian.  Well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.  A bit too handy sometimes being less than a 10 minute drive from the house.  I've a plant shopping list identical to that of the length of the Forth Bridge!!  But where to begin......

I have a bit of a 'gap site' around and between the Physocarpus opulifolius 'Lady in Red' (Coppertine in the US) and Hydrangea paniculata'Pinky Winky' there is also a Cotinus 'Dusky  Maiden', which I will keep in check by pruning.  I planted a decent sized clump of hellebores and some fritillaria here last spring, with a view to working on creating a little woodland type planting scheme to enhance the area before the shrubs leaf up but never got round to it - you know how it is, don't you?
Whilst in technical gardening terms - this little area would not be considered a woodland - I hope that the cover provided by the surrounding shrubs will act similar to that of the canopy of the trees.  I can only but give it try!

 # Let's give it a go!

 I'm not joining Twitter - I've just learnt what # is!

Having missed the opportunity to plant Cyclamen and a few others bulbs in autumn, I have put in some more of my rescued snowdrops.  I'll be first in line for bulbs this autumn!  

Enough of my ramblings, lets have a sneak peak at what I've bought

Dicentra cucullaria
Pink Punk

Dicentra cucullaria 'Pink Punk' A pale pink variety of this American native woodlander.  The attractive grey foliage should form a mat of ground cover when not in flower.  It should reach a height of around 10cm and will disappear in summer.
Still sound asleep under that compost - but I can assure you there are some nice fat buds forming down below.

Anemonella thalictroides 

Anemonella thalictroides - dark pink form This little clump former should produce some lovely dainty pink flowers in April - the shoots are just beginning to emerge.  Liking a well drained site in light shade, will grow to around 20cm.

Hepatica forest series 'Purple'
Hepatica forest series - purple.  More of an impulse buy this one - the prety little markings on the leaves caught my eye.   Described as a woodlander or alpine depending on what you read.  I have long admired these little plants, which too me, look far too dainty for my clumsy gardening ways!!
Moist, light shade and does not like disturbance (I'll have to get it right first time!) will grow to a height of around 15cm
Any tips out there from Hepatic growers are gratefully receive!

My next purchase was inspired by Shirley's posting over at Garden Bloggers' Questions last week.  One of here questions was investigating a possible cause for her non flowering Meconopsis and I happened to comment that I was going to buy a few more Meconopsis x cookei - change of plan - I bought Meconopsis betonicifolia Alba.  I have had success in growing the blue Meconopsis but as it was a long time ago and did not know the difference between Monocarpic and Polycarpic.  Follow the link if you would like more information.  Shirley if you are reading, I asked on your behalf - I was told that without knowing specifically which Meconopsis species it was it was difficult to give advice other than what we already know.

Meconopsis betonicifolia
var. Alba

Meconopsis betonicifolia var. alba apparently the secret to keeping this perennial is to regularly dead head.  I will grow it in the side garden where lots of other shade lovers co-habit!  The white flowers taking over when the Magnolia flowers fade.
At reaching a height of 90cm, will add a bit of height into the area at the same time

Corydalis flexuosa
Pere David

Last and certainly not least Corydalis flexuosa Pere David.  A replacement for Corydalis elata - which I suspect was another casualty of the wet last summer.  This is a slightly shorter plant and the blue is, I believe not a vivid as it's predecessor but will be equally appreciated!
Being less than half it's height 25cm will mean I need to find a home nearer the front edge of the border for this one.

Do you ever buy plants to cheer yourself up?  I don't know who I'm trying to fool - I just look for any excuse to buy new plants!!!

In a final note......New growth on Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace' applauding the imminent arrival of spring here in the UK.
Couldn't resist this - those buds really do look like they are clapping!

Once again, thank you all for reading and as always  - if you have any comments, tips or advice on any of my chosen plants, please do share.  It's good to learn!  

Saturday, 16 February 2013

About time!

Since joining the blogging community a little over 4 months ago - I have been patiently waiting the day I can take part in my first Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  

I know it is now the 16th and I truly wish I had a reasonable excuse for not turning up on time.  I would love to say that I spent the last 2 days opening the sacks full of Valentines Cards that made their way to my letterbox but sadly no, I just wasn't organised in time!  
Close ups of flowers

Snowdrops, these are rescued Snowdrops, a neighbour of a friend was having a new concrete path put in their garden, the lady in question was about to have the old path ripped out - seeing that the snowdrops were just breaking the surface - my friend said to the elderly lady that she knew of a good home for them.  When she asked me if I could make room for them, there was no hesitation on my part, just make sure you get plenty of soil around them and get them to me ASAP!!  Were the instructions!  The first of the 5 clumps to open their delicate little flowers - I'm hoping that these will like my garden enough to stick around.  I've grown rather fond of them.

I made a declaration on Valentine's Day - 'My garden loves me' - I exclaimed!
Why? I hear you ask.

Iris reticulata 'Katharine Hodgkin'
Those of you living in the UK will know just how wet summer 2012 was.  For the best part of June and July part of my garden was continually under 6 inches of water - this part of the garden usually the driest and sunniest.  An ideal place to plant some Iris reticulata bulbs in the green winter 2012.  Various shrubs and perennials were removed because they had drowned, a couple of plants were potted up and rescued.  It took me until December 2012 to decide the remainder were dead, yes, for a change I was being an optimist rather than my usual pessimistic self! In a final bid to tidy up before spring - I noticed lying on top of the soil that 3 tiny bulbs had started to sprout.  The must have lay there throughout the 3 weeks of frosts in November.  Knowing that they were Iris bulbs - they were potted up and deposited in the cold frame.  As I opened up the cold frame on the 14th - this beautiful sight greeted me.  There are 2 other bulbs just breaking the surface, I am very pleased.  Out of 12 bulbs originally planted, 3 have survived - AGAINST ALL ODDS!! 

Iris reticulata 'Katharine Hodgkin' is my favourite of the dwarf spring Iris - the powder blue colour of the petals is so delicate.  It can't fail to impress.  I have read that this is one of the fussier spring flowering Iris - drainage it's said to be paramount to it's success - now you can understand why I think my garden loves me - all that rain water and yet, it gives me a gift such as this!
There was also some deep purple Iris planted in this border - I wonder if they will survive - no sign yet, but you never know do you!  It's all so tempting to get rooting around in the soil but for now I'd rather leave things to surprise me.    

Helleborus orientalis
I've lots of oriental Hellebores scattered around the garden - most of which are budding up nicely - this lot in almost total shade is the first to grace my garden with some blooms.  Thus far, I have resisted temptation to allow them to set seed - I would like them to bulk out a bit and try propogation through division first.         


Helleborus x ericsmithii
Hellebore x ericsmithii - I fell for the foliage on this plant.  The grey marbled leathery leaves drew me right in at first sight!

This Hellebore needs a bit of sun - although planted to the rear of a Pieris - the sun shines happily through the fence.  Being so far back in the border, it proved rather difficult to get a decent picture of the flower.  As you can see there are plenty more to come.  

Helleborus lividus
Helleborus lividus, frost tender, so not something I would knowingly buy for my garden.  I picked this up way at the beginning of the season thinking it was a smaller, cheaper specimen of Ericsmithii - yes, I know, check the label!!  Never mind - I've planted it under the Fatsia japonica - where it should be protected from any further frosts over winter - I will lift it later in the year and attempt to store it in the cold frame.

This next plant will not be to everyone's liking - to be honest - I'm not sure I'm that keen on it myself, what do you think?

Primula Francisca
Yes, that green 'blob' in the centre is the flower, as it matures it will have a yellow eye.  An impulse buy a couple of years ago and up until summer of 2012 it sat in the pot it came in from the nursery - in a corner, as if it had done something wrong!

I divided it and managed to get around 8 plants from the 1 pot - all bar a couple have taken.  What on earth am I going to do with 6 plants I'm not sure I like.

Primula Francisca (Francesca) is supposed to flower from March until July, perhaps that will be it's saving grace - watch this space!

The weather here in Edinburgh has been tremendous this last few days and I have managed to be out in the garden without an outer layer on!  It's time to get those fingernails really dirty and if I'm lucky I may even break a few!!

Thank you for reading my first GARDEN BLOGGERS BLOOM DAY post - if you are interest in joining, pop over to MAY GARDEN DREAMS to find out how you can take part.     

Monday, 11 February 2013

Don't you just love a bargain!

I know I do!!

I nipped into our local DIY store for a bag of fat balls for all those hungry little birds visiting my garden.  I just couldn't fail to miss the rather large stand bursting with various plants with huge reduced labels on them.

After a while of humming and hawing, should I or shouldn't I - the lady who was manning the stand said to me if there is anything that takes your fancy let me know, I can reduce them a bit more.  Not one to let a chance like this pass me by, I promptly grabbed this as it was the only one I knew for certain was hardy enough for my garden.  

Carex oshimensis 'Evergold' AGM.
This sedge should clump up just nicely if the others growing in my garden are anything to go by.
The original sticker on the pot is £10.99 and as you can just make out it was reduced by 50% then the final price of £2.99.
The kindly lady then knocked it down to £2.50 and I was more than pleased with my bargain and it does look relatively healthy for this time of the year and I've just the spot for it!

Fatballs and bargain in hand out I trotted out to the car - homeward bound!              

Once home, the groceries were all packed away - the plant was put outside.  Ordinarily I would have got stuck in to finding a home for my new plant but as snow was forecast, I thought it best to leave it tucked up in a sheltered spot for now.

However, something was playing on my mind - a comment made by the afore mentioned kindly lady -
"If they are not all sold today, they will be put in the bin tonight" - it was playing like an echo in my head!  For those of you who are old enough to remember vinyl records, you know when the needle gets stuck and it just keeps on repeating!!  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get those words out my head!

It probably won't come as a surprise to a few of you that less than 10 minutes later I was back at the store - yes, pretty local and a bit too handy sometimes!  

There was numerous Palms, of differing varieties, been there done that, not hardy enough! So those were rather quickly disregarded.  Same goes for the Cordylines, Aloes and rather lonely looking standard growing shrub, which although it had no label, it just had that 'tender' look!  Now, if I had been looking to plan a rose garden complete with patio roses, I could have had a trolley full for little more than a crisp purple £20 pound note! Not today thank-you!
Acers by the dozen - I've already got enough of those.  Stuck right in the middle shelf, hidden from view was 1 shrub, which I wasn't quite sure what it was - down it came for further examination. Cercis chinensis 'Avondale'.   On my wish list for a few years has been it's North American cousin C. canadensis Forest Pansy and I have never been able to source this for less than £60.  Despite being hardy enough etc here in Scotland, I have spoken to a few gardeners who say it doesn't do particularly well therefore I have never been willing to take that gamble.
As you can see already dropped by half to £12.49, then half again, the kindly lady, who by this time had told me her name was Janet reduced it again.  £2.50!!!  A quick google on my smartphone, told me that this should be hardy enough - the label said part shade - spring flowers - moist soil - 3m in height.  Can I make a home for this???  I wonder???

Here it is.  I have used it as a specimen in the lawn - turf was removed and plenty of organic matter added along with some bonemeal for root development. Watered and mulched - bob's your uncle!

Apparently the 2 things these shrubs don't like are chemical fertilisers and root disturbance, so I hope I've just about covered everything and if not -  it will not have broken the bank!

I was in two minds whether or not to underplant with some bulbs but decided against it for now.

There will be the option to increase the size of this border a little to incorporate some bulbs in a few years - I'd like to get an idea of what month this shrub will flower here in Scotland - then I can choose bulbs which will either bloom just before flowering or will compliment it's blooms.  Apparently it is quite a narrow growing shrub so should not be overly wide for this area and I'll still have room for the lawn mower at the rear!

If you grow Cercis, I'd be most interested hear your experiences with this shrub.

Oh and by the way, I bought another 2 Carex, this time Janet marked them both down to £1.50.  £8 for 1 shrub and 3 grasses - at any other time of the year - the £8 would not have bought me just one of these plants - I'm well pleased :)

Have you ever had a bargain you just couldn't ignore?  Did it thrive or was it just a waste of time?  Do you take chances with plant you would otherwise ignore?

Once again, thank you very much for reading and I do hope that my next blog will be with my first blooms of 2013 - they are taking their time but are getting there!





Friday, 1 February 2013

A new visitor to the garden

Despite having pets, 3 cats and 1 dog, my garden is rarely empty of birds in the daylight hours.  Regulars will know that I encourage birds to visit the garden with a variety of feed and feeders.  The bird count for the RSPB was done last Sunday - like most folks, many of the regulars were no where to be seen and with a few minutes to spare the Robins appeared, so they were added to the running total!  Admittedly, at one point I had in excess of 30 sparrows and toiled to record the exact numbers.

All my cats wear bells on their collars - it is an early warning system for the birds and works effectively.  Something I would encourage all cat owners to consider if their cats are to go outdoors.  I find it reduces the amount of 'presents' the cats bring home.  On the occasion when the cats loose their collars (quick release) I tend to find a few dead creatures - it's usually at this point I notice their collars are missing.  I do however always have a few as back ups and they are never without their collars for long.  I just wish I could train them to bring them home with them - I've lost count of how many I've had to replace!  I am pleased to say that the dog does not bother any visitor to the garden unless they bring him a biscuit treat!

Kooki in the bird table
One of my cats, Kooki, is not the greatest of hunters and will very rarely been seen doing much more than observing the numerous birds on the feeders.  Whilst is was tidying up in the kitchen, I noticed he seemed to be frozen to the spot on top of some trellis - I whistled on him (they are trained to come to a specific whistle) but he dared not move.  Walking towards the door to see what was going on - I suddenly spied what had him in a tizzy.......  

Female sparrow hawk
(Accipiter nisus)

I had only ever noticed this bird in the vicinity of my garden once before - watching from up high on a neighbours roof.  She was tucked in amongst the undergrowth.  Off I ran to fetch the camera.  You know how it goes, the camera is never at hand when you need it. Just in time I returned, then out she jumped, prey (starling) obviously dead by this point, ready for take off.  With in a split second - she was gone, those bright yellow claws clasping the prey tight!  I was extremely lucky just to get this shot.

My apologies if you are squeamish - I do not mean to cause upset.  Mother nature is a wonderful thing and whilst we can all enjoy the pretty little birds that visit our gardens, we should also be aware that other birds/wildlife need to survive.  At this time of year, food is particularly scarce.  

Although I live in a city called Edinburgh, Scotland - my home is in a rural area right on the outskirts, we are surrounded by fields, woods and a river.  We have a plenty of prey in the vicinity for hawks, owls and the likes, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before something like this ventures into the garden for easy pickings.  Apparently she has been seen every morning since, perched on my shed roof or thereabouts (I work nights and am never up in the AM!) this week.  I wonder, will the owls we hear at night ever appear?

This sparrow hawk is the first 'first of 2013' - I wonder what else will visit?  Have you had any firsts so far in 2013?

Sparrowhawks are small birds of prey. They're adapted for hunting birds in confined spaces like dense woodland, so gardens are ideal hunting grounds for them. Adult male sparrowhawks have bluish-grey back and wings and orangey-brown bars on their chest and belly. Females and young birds have brown back and wings, and brown bars underneath. Sparrowhawks have bright yellow or orangey eyes, long, yellow legs and long talons. Females are larger than males, as with most birds of prey.

If you would like more information on the Sparrowhawk - please visit the RSPB website.