Saturday, 30 November 2013

My garden at the end of November

There's little going on around the garden at the moment.  Birds that have been absent all summer have now returned - all except the Gold Finches and Linnets that is.  There is food on offer for them but perhaps not quite cold enough for them to come looking yet.  We've experienced regular frosts over the last few weeks.  Some of the shrubs are yet to loose their leaves and the only bulbs surfacing at this time are the snowdrops.  The garden has been winterified (is that a word, I very much doubt it!) and looking very bare.  I've constructed a makeshift polytunnel for alpine and sempervivum troughs - I'll report on it in springtime if it's a success.  I certainly hope so as humphing those pots around the garden is not easy!

Due to the nature of my work, I see very little daylight hours at this time of the year and in particular the lead up to Christmas as I work 12 hour shifts (nights).  However, I'm not being idle......

The garden shed was always my domain.  Everything had it's place!  I don't quite verge on the obsessive but it was always the family joke that nothing was out of place and please don't laugh - I have even been known to vacuum the floor.  As a child my son was always taught to put his things away neat and tidily - it's always easier to find things next time if they are put away, I would tell him.  As he grew up, the collection of bikes and other outdoor play equipment  have gradually been replaced by work related paraphenalia, boxes of obsolete game console 'stuff' and heaps of car parts for a car he no longer owns!  His junk has been a bone of contention for some time now.  I think he had a bit of a rebellion thing going on!      

Things came to a head a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for a sealant gun.  Who knew something as small and simple as a sealant gun would cause such a furore!  As I reached up to where the said sealant gun was stored - a rather precariously placed set of brake discs fell on my foot!  Ouch!  A few choice expletives later - I hobbled back indoors.  That was it!  The final straw! I'd had enough of manoeuvring myself around the Alloys, the tool boxes, a ginormous sub woofer, to name but a few!  An ultimatum was issued - 2 weeks or I'll get rid of if all myself. Knowing that I'm as good as my word he got things sorted and most of the 'junk' is now gone.  Thank goodness for Friends, Gumtree and Ebay!

My foot? - bruised but nothing broken, thankfully.  Considering I had my slippers on I got off lightly!

My shed has been liberated!  That was the good news.  The bad was that I found part of the floor had some water damage.  I can see no obvious point where the water is seeping in, it was probably caused by the flooding last year.  These blasted floods continue to haunt me despite the fact that I was putting all that behind me.  It's nothing major but it needs looked at.   After much deliberation I thought it best that I raise the shed.  I'm going to give up part of the deck - it makes sense and the cost involved in raising the shed on blocks will go towards a small patio nearer the house.  I am generally the only one who suns them self up there and along with my nieces who use it as a dance stage - It's  very under used now.  Rome wasn't built in a day - these things take time and will get my full attention when I can afford more time.  Regular readers might recall that I complained about not having a tree in the garden- the moving of the shed might allow room for one so long as I can source a reasonably narrow growing specimen.  I'll have a better idea once the shed is away.  

Before I can move the shed I need to empty it first.  It's not a large shed but nor is it small.  At 10ft x 10ft it's capable of storing quite a lot of 'stuff'.  I've gradually been doing that as and when I find a little time.  A neighbour has kindly offered to store some of the bigger things in their shed and the rest will find a temporary berth in the house.  I've had to promised (with my fingers crossed behind my back, that is) that no spiders will come along with it all.  Odd though that no one seemed afraid of those spiders when they were depositing all their junk!

It's not only the insides that need clearing.  There is a little area round the back that has become a bit of a dumping ground over the years.  Judging by mess, I really could be considered a bit of a hypocrite. 

As well as piles of black plastic plant pots, there was a few forgotten half empty bags of compost which have now been spread on the borders.
A stack of old plastic patio chairs probably last used around the turn of the millennium in my old garden.  A selection of decorative wooden planters, also from the old garden.  Those were a set of 4 but the bottom 2 had all but rotted away - a few hundred wood lice are enjoy what is left!  The chairs will more than likely go to the dump as they are past cleaning up but the planters will come in handy.  I can also see a large zinc planter but can't quite reach that yet!  That will go to my friend who gladly rehomed the others a couple of years ago. 
Some wooden edging, in need of a little repair but might be recycled elsewhere in the garden.  I bought that edging on a whim and to be honest never really liked it.  I was glad to see the back of it when the front driveway got a makeover.   Speaking of the front drive - the left over blocks from that job were also dumped round the back of the shed.  A clutch of garden canes in varying sizes lay scattered around the ground.  They were once stored neatly in an old section of drain pipe but it had cracked in half.  They now form a temporary piece of garden art!  Handy perches for the birds too. I do need to move them though - I've almost lost an eye once or twice as I've walked by.  Sandbags that were issued to us back in 2009 - the sacks have almost rotted at the base.  I'm presuming that I can just mix the contents into the soil.  If you know or think differently, please let me know. 
Sections of willow trellis and countless off cuts of timber that are really too small to do much with but were kept just in case.  What was I ever going to do with a  12 inch length of 4x4 fence post?   Everything bar the proverbial Kitchen Sink!  How on earth did I manage to cram so much into such a small space?
Everyone has a little space like that, right?  I'm guessing most of us have, I can't be all that unique, can I?  What do you do with your 'stuff'?  Are you a hoarder or a recycler?  The time has come for me to impose the same restraint as I do inside the shed.  I know it's a bit early for New Year Resolutions but that will be mine and hopefully not too difficult to keep!   
I wish you all a Happy St. Andrews Day and a good weekend!      

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Foliage Follow Up November 2013

It's at this time of the year Evergreens really start earning their keep in the garden.  I've no doubt that in the winter months these will feature heavily in posts.  Meanwhile, if we draw our eyes downwards - there's still lots too see.

Let's take a look at some of the evergreen ferns that are growing around the garden.

This polypody grows comfortable beneath the Magnolia in the grotto garden.  It's proper names is a bit of a mouthful however! 

Polypodium mantoniae Bifedograndiceps

Beneath a variegated Pieris lies a fern with no name - it was a tiny little plant I bought at a local supermarket.  It gets no light whatsoever under there.

Unidentified fern

Of all the Aspleniums (Hart's tongue or Spleenwort) I grow - this one is my favourite.  I love the crinkled leaves - it will be surrounded by snowdrops in springtime. 

Asplenium scolopedrium Muricatum
I don't grow many grasses - it's not because I don't like them, the reason is that I'm never happy with where I choose to plant them and sooner rather than later out they come!  This grass I do like.  I have no idea what it is - I was given a tiny little clump a few years ago and the fact that it survived the flooding prompted me to keep it.  I love it's growing habit - it does however have a habit of moulting, I find it's strands everywhere.

Unknown grass and red stemmed Cornus
The bargain of 2012.  I picked up this Carex Evergold last winter for the bargain basement cost of 50 pence! 

Carex oshimensis Evergold and Heuchera Obsidian
The next two are new additions to the garden this year - both I've tried before but failed.  I planted them too late in the year last time and they didn't cope with the cold.  Not one to give up easily, I'm giving them another chance.

Carex comans Bronze
Carex comans Bronze has a hardiness rating split between H3 and H4 - winter wet shouldn't be an issue in the very gritty front garden, we shall see how it copes with the cold.

Catching the dappled sunlight through coming through the fence Hakonechloa marcra is quite eyecatching!

Hakeonechloa macra
Moving swiftly along from grasses - this Phormium is only frost hardy.  It needs winter protection here in Scotland.  Due to the late start of summer it hasn't done so well this year.
Phormium Evening Glow

Most of the Heuchera are looking a bit tired, especially following last weekend's frost.  One or two are still quite presentable!
Heuchera Beauty Colour
Heuchera Crimson Curls
Heuchera Black Beauty

Heuchera Binoche

Tiarella Spring Symphony

This post is linked to Pam @ Digging.  If you are looking for a foliage fix - then pop over, all welcome!  Pam kindly hosts the Foliage Follow Up meme every month.

....and finally

The old making way for the new!

Friday, 15 November 2013

November 2013 Bloom Day

It wasn't until yesterday that it dawned on my that bloom day was approaching - luckily I had been taking pictures all week, I don't have to trawl through lots of images - I had already sorted out the better ones.  It's difficult to get decent pictures at this time of the year - the lack of light really affects how they look and they never look quite the same using the flash.  

I am running the risk of sounding like a broken record by saying how great our weather has been but there you have it, I've said it again!  I does seem wrong somehow to be expressing how pleased I am with it following recent events in a country that is so dear to my heart.

Come October/November time we have usually had our first flurries of snow and more than our fair share of frosts but not this year.  There has been no snow and only a couple of mornings that temperatures have dropped.  Up until Saturday, last, a minor frost was all we had experience. The frost on Saturday however lasted the whole day and brought many things to their knees.  Sunday was  spent clearing heaps of mush - it was garden bin day yesterday so I wanted to clear out as much as I could.  Very few deciduous shrubs have dropped their leaves yet, I hope they hang around a little longer - it would be nice if they could join in Foliage Follow Up.

For the first time in my garden I have Mahonia flowers - planted in the Autumn of 2011, it's taken a while but finally got there.  The promised scent?????  I can't smell a thing!
Mahonia x media Charity
The frost has barely touched this Astrantia - it has now been flowering since the end of May.  Apart from the 2 weeks it took to recover from being cut right back - I reckon that's not too bad in terms of flowering value.  It's name, rather apt for the time of the year - Astrantia 'Snow Star'.
Astrantia Snow Star
I've tried out Sedum in a shadier part of the garden - I do like the look of Sedum and Heuchera growing together, it has flowered later than the others that grow elsewhere in the garden.  We shall see how it copes with winter in that spot! 

I bought a tray of plug Chrysanthemum late summer 2012 - I know not what possessed me to buy them in this colour!  I must of had a plan but it was so long ago I can't remember what my intentions were.   They add a bit of cheer so for now they have a reprieve.     

A single plug

3 plugs
They had no winter protection last year, I'm not sure if they need it or not but do I need to cut them back at some point? - there is new growth at the base.  The reason I ask is that the larger of the pots is filled with dwarf daffs and left like this I'll never see them! 

The Wedgewood Rose - I'm sure the frost will have done for those buds!  This rose has featured in every bloom day post since June. 

A lingering flower remains on Astilbe Red Sentinel

There are of course some plants that just don't read the gardening books and irrespective of the time of year will want to throw up an odd flower or two.

Cirsium rivulare - 3rd time flowering this year.  This year I've learned a lot about the way some of my perennials grow and flower.  It just goes to show if you can live with the scruffy look or a gap in the border for a week or two then it's worthwhile chopping them back so the garden benefits from a second flush of flowers.  I doubt these flowers will ever open but they look equally nice in bud.
Cirsium rivulare

A drop in temperatures and a bit more moisture in the air revived Primula Francisca. 

I couldn't resist this cheeky little shot - had it not been for the wind the other night, there would have been Gladioli in bloom for this November post.  Sadly that was not to be! 

Now Pansies are usually not my thing - I was out shopping for a specific sized container in which to grow some species Narcissus - I was gifted a rather nice pot but as it has no drainage holes I needed on that would slot in.  The only suitable one I could find was sold complete with Pansies already in flower.  Rather than dispose of them I've decided to give them a go in the front garden.

I've also found a little self seeded one growing up through the Cotoneaster.  The flowers really are tiny, the Cotoneaster berries are bigger!  I haven't the heart to pull it out.  Some slug will be grateful for the feed!

Lastly for this bloom day is a pretty little Saxifraga I bought last week.  I say with all good intentions that last weekend's trip to the GC will likely be the last of the year but please don't quote me.

Saxifraga Blackberry Apple Pie

It's a dark miserable day here in Edinburgh - I hope the weather is a bit better where you are.  The fire is on and I'm off now to read what others have posted on this Bloom Day.  You can join me over at May Dream Gardens if you like.  Have a nice weekend everyone. 

Saturday, 9 November 2013

For the want of a tree

This is a blog to two halves, not strictly about gardening in it's entirety.  Yet there is a connection and one kind of rambles on into the other.

I made a comment recently regarding the lack of a tree in my back garden. 

A tree would make a wonderful addition to my garden - not only would it provide a sense of privacy - a tree, particularly a native one would provide a beneficial environment for wildlife.  My garden (to the back) is surrounded by other properties and often it feels like I garden in a goldfish bowl.  I feel my garden big enough to afford the space for at least one small tree.  I don't hanker or yearn for A specific tree - any tree would do really!

The reason there is no tree......Telephone wires!  My garden is dissected at various points by those blasted things!  Trees and Telephone wires don't mix! I speak from experience, in my old garden, a neighbours tree would continually hamper with the telephone wires.  Those neighbours never bothered and eventually the telephone company took matters into their own hands - what a hefty bill they received!  We were not popular neighbours!
There used to be a tree, Birch I think, over the back.  It also began interfering with the lines and needed to be removed, this was about 4 years ago.

Trunk and wedges
4 years later
This job was not done by professionals and indeed the gentleman responsible for the tree, who has since moved away - left us a little keepsake, just to remind us!  Let me tell you those were a scary few days, I waited with bated breath for a disaster to unfold.  He, his friend and his young teenage son scaled the tree with ropes, numerous hand saws and goodness knows what other tools!  Branches were falling left right and centre, the huge limbs were at times swinging at some odd angles.  How on earth nobody was hurt, goodness only knows.  There was little damage to my garden but Jim next door was not so lucky - a limb fell and crashed right through his greenhouse.  Luckily Jim as at work that day - when he did get home, he was not a happy chappy and WORDS were exchanged (need I say more).  The drama may be long gone and we often have a laugh about the tree felling incident but we have a constant reminder.  These jobs should always be left to the professionals and should not be something the inexperienced tackle.           
To the front of the house (also no room for a tree) but we don't do without!    I live around 50m from a site that has been designated a Site of Natural Conservation - various spots along the River Almond in the West of Edinburgh have been granted such status.  There is a surrounding area which has permission for development (housing) and for local residents this is a welcome addition as we often feel that we are the 'forgotten' and 'neglected' by the local authority.  We are in much need of improved amenities to our area.  I thought you might like a wee peek at the views from the front windows.

Zoom into the view through the cherry tree and it's seedlings directly opposite the house.  The expanse of land in between is the north end of the development site.  I should add at this point that there is a height limit to any development and they will not be over 1 storey high, another bonus as the views should not be hampered.
Zooming out, a little more to the west - still a bit of autumn colour left in those trees.  The solid structure in the background is the River Almond Railway Viaduct.  Which was first opened in 1842 and forms part of the Edinburgh to Glasgow railway line.  This viaduct is in fact the boundary line between City of Edinburgh and West Lothian Councils.  We get much better views of it's structure when the trees are completely bare.  There are public footpaths along the site and in years gone by access to Broxburn and beyond was possible.  Nowadays, access about 1 mile along the path has been blocked which is sad.  Maybe one day someone will have the wisdom to re open them.  
A few close ups of the trees along the banks of the River Almond

Pan a little to the right and we have views over the fields (yet more telegraph poles).  This land is owned and managed by a local estate - The Newliston Estate.     
Field belonging to Haugh Farm
Beyond those trees there is an impressive country house designed by the famour architect Robert Adam in 1789, in fact it was the last country house he designed before his death.  Here's one I took earlier (a few years ago) of the front of the house.  Now privately owned (family trust) it used to be the seat of  Earl of Stair, the Dalrymple Family.      
Newliston House
You would be forgiven for thinking that to the left of the trees is an extremely odd and unnatural looking flat topped hill.  That man made structure is in fact the remnants of industry from a bygone era.  This is what is known locally as the Broxburn (Greendykes) Shale Bing.  West Lothian is steeped in history connected to Shale and Oil mining.     
If you want to look at some really impressive pictures and close ups of the Broxburn Bing follow the link.  They are the best images I could find of this sparse and bare but fascinating landscape.  I have vague memories of visits as a child but my mother has vivid unpleasant memories of walking this 'short cut' from her Aunt's house in Broxburn to her grandmother's home in Winchburgh on many occasions.     
I hope you have enjoyed a brief view of my surrounding.   I may not have trees in the garden but I don't have far too look or walk to reap the benefits.  I consider myself quiet lucky to live in an area that has a conservation designation and in steeped in Scottish history.

Friday, 8 November 2013

We all love a trier.....

....don't we?

A few months before I began blogging - I was in a sad place.  Whilst Summer 2013 will be forever remembered as the perfect summer (here in Scotland at least), the previous summer will be forever remembered as one of the wettest on record.  Gardeners in Scotland are a real hardy bunch, taking on the chin, whatever the weather throws at us.  Summer 2012 was, fingers crossed, an exception.  I've a small area in the garden that does get overly wet during the April rains and a few plants do take it in their stride.  With no long term break in the weather the ground was so saturated it had nowhere else to go and the complete top end of my garden and shed was under water for a heck of a long time. 

It may not surprise you that I've no pictures of the demise of my sunny border - I've gone through all my photos and the only one I can come up with is of Mrs Blackbird enjoying a welcome bath.

I watched on an almost daily basis as plants began drowning - frantic efforts were made to rescue what I could.  A few of the shrubs were too large for any containers I had to hand.  Besides, there would be little point in going out to purchase more pots - money would have been better spent replacing the plants.  Which I did do and am more than pleased with how the border looks this year, despite the fact that they are all moisture lovers, they have coped well with this dry summer.

A few of the plants I managed to save have flowered well this year and thrive in their new homes but there was one or two that I had almost given up on and had it not been for my sheer neglect might otherwise have ended up in the compost bin.

One such example is Cotinus coggygria Golden Spirit - it was not a mature plant and easily removed from the ground.  The spade went in - accompanied by a squelching sound - out popped a sodden mass of roots.  The tops of the stems were droopy and very soft.  The leaves were all but gone!  I took a chance - I removed all the compacted wet soil from around the roots and cut the stems right back, leaving only a few inches of old wood.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained right?  Potted up and popped into a sheltered spot - I would see what transpires.  It was left and come spring - there was still no sign of life.  I did the scrape test on the stems and they were indeed green.  A sure sign of life.  It took well into June until it produced new leaves.   It has made steady progress all summer and whilst it may not be the most splendid looking plant it once was - it's alive! 

Cotinus coggygria Golden Spirit
It's partner in crime - Cotinus coggygria Grace, however was not so lucky.  She was a much bigger specimen was left in situ but sadly didn't make it.  She has been replaced but certainly not in the same position.  Seen here in all her glory with a beautiful West Country Lupin - Red Rum.  Coincidently, they never made it either.

Stokes' Aster (Stokesia laevis) is a hardy evergreen perennial which can and will flower from mid summer until the first severe frosts here in Scotland.  Preferring acidic conditions it thrives or should that read thrived! in my garden.  However, it does not like waterlogged conditions and will succumb to root rot if conditions are not adequately drained.  It disappeared completely and was given no more thought, as you do.  That was until mid summer and few tiny green shoots appeared.  Dare I hope that against all odds it had survived.  As it became apparent that it had survived and not wanting to risk loosing it again, I lifted the tiny remains.  It didn't come away very well and indeed the small root ball crumbled in my hands.  There really was little to work with and I planted what was left in an area I knew it would be left well alone.  I watched as it died back yet again - gone!  Hey ho!, that's gardening, right?  As I was clearing up some fallen leaves and other debris yesterday - look what I found, the distinct flower stem a dead giveaway. 

Stokesia laevis
In late spring 2011, I planted a pretty little Saxifrage - Saxifraga fortunei Black Ruby.  It wasn't until I got it home that I read it was fussy, like the Stokes' Aster - moist but well drained situation, the winter wet will do for it!  It never thrived and disappeared.  I allowed a nearby Ajuga to take over it's spot - after all it was doing remarkably well (as they do) and was far more reliable.  I did a double take the other day - as I spotted those distinctive deep purple leaves reaching from under the Ajuga.  I will leave it there for winter - perhaps the Ajuga will provide shelter from the rain and wet this winter - time will tell.

Saxifraga fortunei Black Ruby and Ajuga Burgundy Glow
Many moons ago, when the builders were finished my kitchen extension I planted a couple of clematis either side of the back kitchen door.  Their first year they were gorgeous (no pictures).  They never did return.  Autumn 2012, I revamped one of the little plots - mainly with spring flowering Primula and bulbs all under planted beneath a golden Physocarpus.  By now the Physocarpus is dropping it's leaves but I took notice that something had began twining it's way up through the branches.  My first thought was bindweed as the Clematis had long gone from my memory.  Closer inspection - yes, Clematis, I'm sure it is.  Which one it actually is will have to wait until next year, providing it comes back again, that is!  I've raked out a box of old plant labels and have determined it's either C. Scartho Gem or The Duchess of Edinburgh.  I can't for the life of me remember which was planted where!

recovering Clematis

The last trier on my list today is a pretty little Skimmia, S. japonica Snow White - to be precise.  It really never thrived in the garden.  Soil ph wasn't the issue, I suspected that it too had suffered in soil that was a bit too waterlogged.  It began dropping it's leaves at an alarming rate and the stems too were soft and very droopy.  When I dug it out the ground, my suspicions were confirmed, it was drowning. It spent the remainder of 2012 and 2013 in a pot of ericaceous compost and has slowly turned itself around.  The leaves are not the darkest of green they once were, I've recently read that a magnesium deficiency might be the problem.  I gave it a dose of Epsom salts a few weeks back and I'm not entirely convinced it's making much of a difference.  Perhaps I was a bit late in coming to the party with that remedy, of course, if you have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Skimmia japonica Snow White
Writing this post has made me wonder, especially as I was going through the box of old labels, just how many of the plants I promptly removed from the garden suspecting them to be dead or dying could have been saved with a little TLC or even neglect as has been the case in a few instances. 

Of course, to many of you, I'm probably stating the obvious.  The term, teaching my grandmother how to suck eggs comes to mind.  It does go to show that plants are much more resilient and determined than we (I in particular) give them credit for.