Friday, 31 January 2014

End of Month View January 2014

I've been eager to take part in the End of Month View meme hosted by Helen over at The Patient Gardener's Weblog for sometime but could never quite make up my mind on a suitable subject. 

Now that I'm carrying out a wee bit of a rejig at the top of the garden - I think I'd find it useful to record the progress I make and of course I hope you'll enjoy reading about it too!
The area in question, as you can see in the picture below, previously housed the garden shed.  It faces south west and should get sun for most of the day.  I say 'should' because as yet, I'm not quite sure how much shade will be cast by moving the shed to the other side of the garden.  Judging by the amount of sun it's getting at the moment, I suspect there will be little shade come late spring.            

Before the move December 2013
The shed was moved mid December and here's a shot of the area, warts and all!  As you can see a bit of clearing up was needed, as well as new trellising.  It was at this point I decided that the trellising that runs the entire length of the garden would be better off raised.  The trellis was an after thought when the fence was replaced and it was easily enough done over a couple of afternoons.  It now gives a good height but at the same time doesn't block the sun from the neighbour's greenhouse - something they were keen not to have happen when I started replacing the fencing a couple of years back.
Shed gone!

Mid January 2014
There is a distinct drop in height between the 2 areas.  I've used log edging as a retainer for the top section.  Best to work with what I've got - rather than to try level out the difference between them.

Part one of this makeover will be to choose shrubs that will eventually hide the fencing.  There are other areas in the garden that are currently a tad over subscribed in terms of planting.  I find I'm never able to judge just how much room a plant needs and therefore end up having to move them way too soon.  I know that I'm not alone in that respect.  I've currently a Buddleia, a Physocarpus and a Hydrangea paniculata that could do with a new home.  I do though want to fill that corner (where the Aucuba currently resides) with the Sambucus nigra Black Lace and Cotinus Golden Spirit struggling away in a pot that really would benefit with it's feet in the ground.

This next shot - taken from a slightly wider angle, gives an idea on where the border will continue from.  I've humphed all those slabs round to the side of the house this afternoon, hence the divits you can just make out in the lawn.  Next job will be too mark out a better shape for the border, move the edging stones and try to figure out how to soften the corner of the deck/steps.    

End of Month View January 2014
It's a long way off being the finished product but I'm excited to just be this far on so early in the year - I really didn't expect to get started on this until March but as the weather has been kind, I'm well ahead of schedule. 

I know many of you have far better vision than I have - Can any of you suggest how I might be able to work a tree into my plans.  I've a Coral Bark Maple - Acer palmatum Eddisbury to be exact that copes with full sun, the area I think/hope should be sheltered enough from the winds by the shed.  It has a mature height of 4m (according to label) so should be short enough not to interfere with the telephone lines.  Of course, if you have suggestions for an alternative tree, I'd love to hear them.  Providing you don't think I'm imposing that is!

Thanks for reading and I hope that by this time next month - I will have made a bit more progress.  Have a good weekend!  Oops, I almost forgot to thank Helen for hosting - so thank you Helen.

p.s. The first snowdrops are just about out.  Well over a month earlier than last year.  It's all good thus far this winter!


Friday, 24 January 2014

Firethorn and Fingernails

The weather here is still very mild and temperatures forecast are well above what we would normally be experiencing here in Scotland.  I took the opportunity to get out mid week and move the Firethorn.  It's a job I've been dreading to do for sometime.  I never really liked the spot I chose for it.  I had hoped to be able to train it along wires attached to the fence on the shadier side of the garden.  Although it wasn't unhappy, it generally was healthy enough and was putting on growth but keeping it in check with pruning meant I was loosing flowers and ultimately the berries or pomes as they are correctly called.
June 2013
In this image you can see my attempts at trying to keep it contained and tied up to wires evenly spaced at around 1ft apart.  My attempt at Espaliering (is that a word - it doesn't look right) was never going to work not with having to contend with all the surrounding plants either.  Still, it has shown me how easily it can be done given the right amount of space to work and better knowledge of the pruning requirements.  

I was really quite surprised at how
easy it lifted from the ground.  I managed a decent sized root ball considering it's surrounded by other plants.  The snowdrops that grow around it's base were carefully lifted with as much soil as I could get - they were barely above the soil, time will tell if I've ruined their chance of flowering.

The receiving hole had been dug and it was given a good watering earlier in the day.  The soil in this part of the garden is good.  Over the years I kept the weeds down with a bark mulch - this in turn has rotted down into the soil.   Bonemeal was forked into the base of the hole and the back fill to provide some slow release fertiliser.

January 2014
A good mulch to protect the roots if the weather takes a sudden turn.  A redundant broken length of trellis was mended and added to the fence to provide a support for the framework of branches.  The branches were surprisingly quite pliable and didn't take much persuading, much to my relief.  On this back fence the Pyracantha will get sun for most of the day, it will prefer this spot.  It's been liberated!  The bees of course will benefit as it will be more prolific in it's flowering and berry production for the birds.  You can just make out a tiny cluster of the only berries it has produced this year.  The Aucuba still needs moving - it was happy enough in the shade that was once provided by the shed but I fear it will suffer in the sun.  The Griselinia littoralis is still doing nothing for me but I am loathe to discard it as it's made some good height this last couple of years.  All I know is that it can't stay there!  

Messing around with Firethorn in the garden can be quite hazardous.  Those huge thorns are lethal - I speak from experience but this time not a a single drop of blood was shed, I kid you not. 

When I was finished - I stood back, took stock and congratulated myself for getting this done.  My hands caked in mud and very, very dirty fingernails.  It's all good!     

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day January 2014

It's mid January and thus far it's been far from a normal winter.  I can count on my one hand how many frosts we've had.  It's difficult not to be lead into a false sense of security but I do try to keep a level head and know they can't be far off.  We've had snow forecast a few times but none has appeared.

I've had time off from Project Privacy in the Garden this week - the new suite for the sitting room is being delivered on Monday and I'm busying myself giving the room a freshen up.  A suite was not planned, neither was the change in colour scheme.  I only painted this room back in August.  What has my new suite got to do with Bloom Day, absolutely nothing!  You are right - I digressed, so apologies.

We are experiencing more daylight now - it always amazes me just how quickly it comes around and the lighter afternoons are far more obvious as the days pass.  It was still light at 4.30 this afternoon.  With the increasing amount of light and the milder weather many of the slumbering perennials are now pushing shoots above the soil.  I've no doubt they'll take a bit of knock in due course!  Spring bulbs are pushing their way skyward, they'll shrug off whatever the weather throws at them.  The first to flower might not be a Snowdrop - this Crocus is way ahead of it's rivals!

Elsewhere in the garden, there is very little in flower and only one Hellebore has fully opened blooms.  Many of the others are full of buds but they remain tightly closed for the time being.

Helleborus orientalis
Jelena - a treat to myself back in December, a reward for being ahead with Christmas preparations!  Still flowering.  It doesn't have a home in the garden yet.  I've whittled possible planting positions down to 2! 
Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena 
As a rule - I tend not to do annuals and especially not pansies or violas.  In my garden they are generally nothing more than slug fodder!   Slug and snail activity has been negligible in the garden this last year I thought I'd given them a go.  A couple of trays of plugs purchased back in October are enjoying the mild weather.

The Mahonia has been in flower for over 3 months now.  It was just beginning to flower back in October.  This is the first year it has flowered for me - proving that plants can and do take 3 years to settle into a garden.  It's been worth the wait - I hope the Camellias are sitting up and taking notice!
Mahonia x media Charity

Primula Francesca just isn't giving up - she has been flowering since last February, admittedly the flowers are a bit limp and may have seen better days but at this time of the year any flower is welcome, right?

Primula Francesca

A pretty little mauve Primula vulgaris has been throwing up the odd flower all year long.  This plant came as a clump lifted from my brother's garden last year. 

Lupin, Geum, Ajuga and Heuchera all throw up a few unseasonal flowers, it's just a pity there are no pollinators around to take advantage.    

left to right: Lupin gallery Blue, Geum Bell Bank, Geum Dingle Apricot, Heuchera Binoche and Ajuga Burgundy Glow

Blooms might not be abundant but taking into consideration it's January I'm pleased to be able to join in this month's Bloom Day Posts.  Carol Over at May Dream Gardens has been hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day for 7 years now - this is a great way to record and reference your garden throughout the year.  This is my first ever January post but there are many seasoned, excuse the pun, garden bloggers giving us an insight to what's happening in their particular corner of the world.  Pop over, just as I'm about to and have a nosey around.  All that's left now is to thank Carol for hosting - so Thank you Carol, from a novice Bloom Day participant. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

I just want to vent!

The wind and rain continues here!  Work on my new project has began but hampered due to the fact that the ground is sodden and I fear that if I continue I will be doing more bad than good. 

I had to make the most of my son's last day off work today - I really need his help to assemble the pergola arch.  I took the notion of making a start and building it in the kitchen.  There is enough room providing nobody wants to eat, that is.   The crate was opened and all pieces accounted for - check!  Hardware - check!  Tools required for assembly - check!  Dustsheets down - check! 

I'm a bit of a stickler when it comes to checking and double checking - much to the annoyance of anyone who gets roped into giving me a helping hand.  I was double checking the hardware that came supplied.  I was not impressed - the sheer weight of timber and those smallish screws just didn't seem quite adequate enough.  I've built enough flat pack furniture and the likes in my time to immediately doubt the screws were up for the job.  A debate was had - not really a debate, just Lee listening to me ranting if they were up for it or not.  Against my better judgement - we got started.  Following manufacturers instructions measurements were taken, checked and double checked!  The old adage of 'Measure twice, cut once' is probably the best tip I've ever been given.  Admittedly no cutting involved but the drilling of pilot holes was recommended and as the holes were going through two separate pieces of timber that then needed lined up, the thinner/narrower pieces could prove to be quite unforgiving if mistakes were made.  Therefore, care was taken to get it right first time.

All systems were a go - four pilot holes drilled and lined up perfectly.  So far so good!  My attentions then turned to the skimpy 50mm screws I was being advised to use - those doubts kicked in again!  Another debate - think logically Lee kept telling me!  Maybe once they were all in place they would be up for the job.  The were offered up and as soon as we began - the poor quality of the screws were soon apparent - despite using the recommended type and size of screwdriver, the heads were ruined before they were driven completely in.  It wasn't just me, Lee was having the same problems at his end.  I sourced alternative screws, once which I knew were better quality from the shed and decided to use more than the 4 recommended.  I would space them evenly along the entire length.  Once this task was complete it was time to put the top section on.  As we were hoisting up the side sections - I was still unconvinced that the recommended length of screws would be suffice.  The trellis that was by now attached to the 4 inch posts was still quite flimsy.  I was not happy with it at all.  I could see how the top section would hold it square enough but not how it would aid the trellis to stay secure.

I stood scratching my head, as you do, for a few minutes.  Bolts would have been a better choice of fixings - why didn't they supply bolts?   Knowing that I did not have bolts that would have been large enough to do the job - off I went to the nearest DIY store to source what I needed.  I also decided to buy substitutes for the other screws I had yet to use.  On leaving the store, I was sure I had covered all the bases.

I don't live far from the DIY store, a quick run onto the motorway and 1 junction down - less than 10 minutes from home.  Just as I drove back onto the motorway slip road for my return journey, I was met with a massive tail back!  The 2 mile journey to my exit Junction took me almost an hour and a half!  By the time I got home, it was almost dinner time and the component parts for the arch were still strewn about the kitchen floor!  Of course it would have been far too much to have expected Lee to have thought about clearing up!  He was however, sent up for a takeaway - I was angry, frustrated and rather miffed!

After dinner, we dismantled all we had done and after much consideration - decided to start afresh tomorrow morning when my head was much clearer and I was in a better place!

Don't you just hate it when a plan doesn't come together?