Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Bloom and Grow (April 2015)

At the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal.  The goal?  Visit a nursery or GC once a month with the aim to purchase a plant that would be in bloom for that particular month.  Easy, right?  Add to that the proviso that ideally it should be a species I had not grown or tried to grow before.  It still doesn't sound too difficult, does it?

The spot I had identified as needing filled with blooms this month was one that had previously been filled by Tiarella Spring Symphony.  I thrived there for 3 years until it finally succumb to the vine weevil larvae earlier in the year.  I mentioned previously that I no longer had the appetite to rescue plants that succumb.

I needed a low growing/ground cover, shade loving perennial, preferably with interesting foliage. Blooms in this specific area are provided later in the year by Hostas, Candelabra and Vials Primula. Soil conditions are moist but well drained.  Nothing too difficult there then.  Off I trotted around the shade section.  Up and down, back and forth - was there anything I didn't have already?  Yes, but Ranunculus Brazen Hussy was not for me, I worry that it might be invasive.  Lamium, Pulmonaria, Dicentra and Bergenia blooming by the shed load but none who's bloom colour took my fancy today. I was on the verge of looking elsewhere when I passed by the selection of Epimedium that were on offer for around the third time.  All of them beauties in their own right, I think.  Tucked in the corner was a pretty white flowered variety.  I know that I already have a few Epimedium in the garden, they are not new to me, was it worth breaking one of my rules?  Of course it was!  Rules are made to be broken, right?

By comparison, the foliage on this plant is less mottled than any other I grow.  the label states bright green foliage on red tinted stems.  You can see how those red tinted stems hold those crisp white blooms above the heart shaped foliage.  The buds look almost metalic.  You can see from the shape of the flower as to why it is commonly referred to as Bishop's Hat.  It's other common names are Barrenwort, Fairy Wings and would you believe Randy Beef Grass or Horny Goat Weed, according to Wikipedia.  I'm not even going to google that for an explanation!  

Seen here in the spot that it will call home.  It's new companions are proving very slow this year and are only just millimetres above the surface.  If truth be told, this whole area needs a bit of a reshuffle. All the plants I grow here seem enjoy this spot so it will just be a case of moving everything forward a wee bit and possibly taking out one of those Aspleniums.

As well as my own series of Bloom and Grow posts this year, I am linking with Jane over at Hoe Hoe Grow.  She too is on a similar quest.  I will be interested to see what newbie Jane has picked for her garden this month.  I can only apologise for not quite sticking to the rules.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Is life too short.... dead head a Camellia?  Of course, this is a somewhat rhetorical question.

In an ordinary year I would not even contemplate wasting time dead heading a Camellia. There is of course no benefit to the plant and in a usual year, those heads fall, create a carpet of petals on the ground below, rake them up and dispose of them.  Job's a good 'un!

Before the extreme temperature fluctuations 

This year Camellia x williamsii Jury's Yellow is flowering a good 4 weeks later than usual and although I have endeavoured to plant them out of early sun, this particular Camellia gets perhaps a bit more sun than any of the others.  I can't say I noticed this being an issue before.  I'm sure I would have as it is seriously hampering my enjoyment of this beautiful shrub.      

This has lead me to ask myself two questions:

  • Is this an ideal spot to grow my favourite Camellia?
  • Is the weather the cause? 

The Ideal Spot?

It seems that there is a school of thought that states growing these plants out of early morning sun is an old wives tale and regardless of where they are planted, if the buds or blooms are hit by a frost, then hit by frost they are!  They will remain damaged.  Planting positions doesn't matter one iota.  It's as simple as that. Confirming this is a Camellia that grows in a garden nearby, facing east/south east and is a remarkable specimen and each year it has me scratching my head as to why it looks so good.  I've always had the understanding that Camellias will grow well in any aspect providing it does not face east. 

Since nursing this Camellia back from the brink, see my previous post here for an explanation.  It has been very happy and has thrived as you can clearly see.  It's a healthy specimen, compact and should eventually make a wonderful statement in the spot I chose for it, or so I thought.   I planted it so I can enjoy it in all it's glory and I'd hate to bother it by moving it again and cause it yet more grief.  There is of course the possibility that had I bothered to throw some fleece or other protection over it, it might not have suffered but whilst right now that's practical but when it reaches maturity that would not be so easy.  Do I really need another plant that I need to worry about giving frost protection too?  The answer is simple....NO!

Frost, sun or just faded?
Weather and conditions?

I am conscious of the fact that I have little comparison when it comes to this shrub.  I have to bear in mind that from 2007 until 2010 this plant was recovering in a pot in deep shade, where it was fed and watered well.  I did not allow it to bloom (I removed any flower buds that appeared) in the hope that it concentrated on creating a good root system.  In the ground, in a similarly shaded spot for 2 years, until I found it a permanent home in 2012, it continued to thrive.  Since spring 2012 we have had no notable late frosts and the extended cold this winter has meant that C. x williamsii Jury's Yellow is blooming far later that it has done previously.   It has also been very dry but this should not adversely effect this year's blooms.  As I look around the plant as a whole, it appears that those blooms to the rear are untouched by what ever is causing the issue to the rest of it.

Blooms to the rear

Close up
I am not sure whether or not it would be right to compare other shrubs blooming right now but planted on a similar aspect further down the garden but set back around 1.5m more and not in receipt of so much direct sun until a bit later in the day.  Magnolia stellata and Camellia japonica Lady Vansittart seem untouched by those mild frosts.

Just today I read an old article in the mail on line where Monty Don states that growers in more northern parts of the UK can expect Camellias to drop their spent blooms rather than hold onto them due to light intensity.  This could well explain why I haven't noticed those manky blooms before.  There has been no carpet of petals thus far.

Magnolia stellata just coming into bloom this last week

Camellia japonica Lady Vansittart


The Jury is still out!  Excuse the pun.  Frost, Sun or Light conditions?  At the moment it's all conjecture and until I have more notes to refer to I can't really say for certain. 

I am as certain as I can be that I have not noticed how hideous these blooms look as they age before. It's the kind of thing I would have noticed as I am particularly fixated on this plant since I put so much effort into in the past.  Therefore I have reached two conclusion.  Either one or a combination of both could be the cause.  Blooming later means that the sun in the sky is far higher than it would have been a month or so ago.  Might the sun be just high enough in the sky to prematurely age these blooms? The daytime temperatures have been extremely high.  We have been experiencing temps of 20°C in the afternoon and dropping right down to -1°C at night on a couple of occasions this last week.  Those are quite extremes for here.  Considering our average April temperatures are a meagre 11°C.

Do you grow Camellias?  Have you noticed any distinctive behaviour this year or are things just as you'd expect them to be? 

Back to my original question......Is life too short to dead head a Camellia?

Not this year, it took me all of 10 minutes and most of that time was spent on me making sure I didn't trample surrounding bulbs and plants.  They twisted of quite easily.  There was still plenty of flowers remaining and many many more buds to come.

Discarded flower heads
Within minutes the plant looked so much better, sadly, as the afternoon heat intensified, yet more blooms began to suffer again.  Perhaps it is sun scorch after all!
After dead heading

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day April 2015

I began my gardening journey 4 years ago this month and it really pleases me that some of those first shrubs I ever planted in the garden are now making a reasonable size and make the garden feel a bit more mature.  I've always been very conscience of showing entire areas of my garden mainly because many of the shrubs were dwarfed by the perennials.

One such area is just to the front of the trellising I added to the garden at the beginning of 2014. Just about to come into it's own Camellia x williamsii Jury's Yellow is full to bursting with buds. There is a tale attached to the shrub.  I purchased it back in 2008 as a moving in gift for the garden.  I found it a temporary home in the ground until the builders were gone.  Sadly, run off from the cement mixer managed to find it's way into the spot where it was planted and the plant really began to suffer. At one point I thought it was dead!  I nurtured it for the next 4 year until I was sure it had fully recovered.  It's been in this spot now since 2013 and you can see for yourself that it's now none the worse for wear.   Hellebores, Narcissus Tete a Tete and a few self seeded Fritillaria meleagris (no pheasants here!) bloom together.  The gold leafed Cordyalis (C. Berry Exciting) is also just coming into bloom but they are very sparse at the moment.  More of this pretty thing in a later post I suspect.  You can also just make out a wee cluster of Leucojum aestivum  popping out to the left of the Camellia.  I haven't the foggiest what the bulbs are to the rear apart from the fact that they appear to be daffs. Looking back on my records contenders are N. Thalia or N. Tresambles - we shall see.
Camellia x williamsii Jury's Yellow
Nearby, off to the left, this small clump of Narcissus Mount Hood bloom happily in the edge of the border that catches the sun.  I was given 6 bulbs by my local nursery owner back in autumn, well who can refuse plants for free? - not me that's for sure!  I was rather skeptical about it's ID after seeing them on Chloris's recent post over at The Blooming Garden.  A bit more research, it appears that they do in fact open yellow and fade to white.  Phew!  These are generally much larger that any other daffodil I grow and I am not a fan of those huge in your face yellow blooms.  I was actually considering lifting them and giving them away but now that they are fading, they are much more pleasing to me.   They were supposed to be paired with some white Muscari but they appear to have come up blind.
The varying shades of Narcissus Mount Hood

Further round the same bed, Hostas are only just poking their noses from beneath the soil - no sign yet of the Kirengeshoma and Polygonatum.  Blooms are provided by way of a Bergenia and the purple leafed Corydalis.  To the back of the Bergenia, the Heuchera Binoche has been rather late in getting a tidy this year due to the cold weather.  They are intended to show each other off but just not this year!
Bergenia Overture
Corydalis flexuosa Purple Leaf (aka Blue Dragon)

Across the way on the sunnier side, both Muscari armeniacum Peppermint and Lady Blue mingle with the ever gorgeous Corydalis solida First Kiss.

Muscaria armeniacum Peppermint

Muscari armeniacum Lady Blue
Before we pop through the arch to the back garden proper, Dicentra cucullaria Pink Punk is just beginning to bloom in a terracotta pot that has been it's home for the past 3 years.  I think it's time to find it a home in one of the borders.

Just to the otherside of the trellising, I am pleased with how this corner looks right now, tucked in between the Heptacodium and Cornus: Primula, Fritillaria, Narcissus and Chionodoxa are blooming amongst fresh Aconitum and Aquilegia foliage.   A pot of Narcissus Jack Snipe had been looking for a home, I think they have made a lovely addition to this spot.

Primula vulgaris, Fritillaria meleagris, Narcissus cyclamineus Jack Sprite and Chionodoxa forbesii
When I filled this area out last year, I tried to pay particular attention to how and when the plants would bloom and at this point last year, the Dicentra spectabalis and Aquilegia were a mere 6 inches above the ground and had not hindered the view to all these spring pretties but this year, it's quite a different matter and you don't see them unless you get right up close and personal.  Zooming out, you can see exactly what I mean.  I won't start fidgeting around with the planting this year but will keep a close eye on behaviour next year.
Heptacodium corner

Getting the remainder of the Hellebores down on record this post.  They may have been late in getting started but they've more than made up for it now.   Checking back on last year confirms that they had all gone over by April.
Helleborus x orientalis Hybrids

April is always drumstick Primula time, they are, it seems unaffected by conditions and flower in April regardless.  Flanked by P. dentinculata Cashmeriana and Alba, is a plant that was sent to me last year by a follow blogger.  An unnamed purple variety, very nice and a big thank you Annette. I look forward to increasing what I have and spreading it around the garden.

Yet more of the same Primula on the top tier at the very back of the garden, I like these colours together, they need a bit of tweaking to get the grouping just right.  The Narcissus are N. Pueblo, scented and another new one to the garden this year.  The gargantuan Cardoon on the lower level is going great guns.  It will pretty soon do a good job of hiding all the foliage of all the early bloomers up there.

Primula denticulata, Narcissus Pueble and Helleborus orientalis hybrid
There are many more Primula dotted around the garden in bloom right now.  The Autumn shades Primula veris was a novely buy last year and I wasn't sure if they'd reappear.  The yellow Primula veris doesn't do well here and rarely returns for a second year.
Primula: Wanda, veris (autumn shades), Drumcliff, Don Keefe, bracteossa, unnamed single and unnamed double white
The Erythroniums I planted back in February are now flowering their wee socks of, it makes me wonder why it's taken me so long to grow these beauties.  I am still researching what to grow when they grow over and have marked the centre of the planting spot with a cane so I don't disturb the bulbs when I go digging.  What do others grow with their Erythronium to bloom later in the year? Right now I am thinking Hosta or another type of Lily.  I think I am too late to buy bulbs for planting and will probably need to wait to see what I can buy later in the year.

Erythronium Pagoda
Nearby, a new Epimedium this year is Epimedium Pink Elf, is just settling in and has thrown up it's first blooms.  This Epimedium is reported to be a variety that will flower again later in the year - August/September time apparently.
Epimedium Pink Elf
The obligatory shade loving blooms at this time of the year.  If you don't already grow Pulmonaria, give it a go, the bees love it at this time of the year.   Many gardeners report that Pulmonarias self seed around their garden yet I find them very well behaved and have never found a seedling.  Having therefore to rely upon dividing them to spread them around the garden and give them away to friends.

Pulmonaria unnamed varieties and Brunnera Jack Frost
Before we pop back through the arch, Camellia japonica Elegans is acting rather coy but you can get the gist of the colourful blooms.  Two clumps of Narcissus Thalia, my favourite are also blooming.
Camellia japonica Elegans and Narcissus Thalia

Narcissus Thalia
Popping down to the side garden things again are very slow.  No leaves on the Acers yet. Narcissus Jet Fire and Brunnera Hadspen's Cream are providing floral interest.  A self seeded Aquilegia seems to have made itself at home too.  If you are looking for a daffodil that does well in a fair amount of shade, then N. Jet Fire is one I can recommend.

Narcissus Jet Fire and Brunnera Hadspen Cream

I'll totter past the Magnolia, it is just about to come into bloom but the sun is glaring and it's difficult to get a good shot right now.  The espaliered Camellia has produced the most amount of blooms it ever has in the 4 years it's been in the garden.  Proof I think that it now has it's roots firmly down.

Camellia japonica Desire
Rounding up this month's post should be a few images of what's blooming in the front garden but the sun again is hampering getting some decent shots.  Not that there is a lot mind you.  Narcissus minnow and Fritillaria uva-vulpis are resembling head bangers at a Metallica gig in the wind. 

If you don't already do so, I know most of us do, why don't you join me and other garden bloggers who link their Bloom Day Posts on the 15th of each month over at May Dream Gardens.  Everyone's welcome.  See you there!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Tree Following April 2015 - Sorbus Autumn Spire

I'm a tad behind in posting my Tree Following post this month.  My body clock is all to pot - I've been on a training course at work, relegated to mid shift and a classroom!  Being stuck indoors, wasting precious gardening time does not sit well with me, especially as the weather has been sublime.

We are now into April and my wee tree doesn't look much different than it has done in previous posts. Talk about a watched pot!  It seems just as equally true for a tree - does a watched tree ever leaf?
Sorbus Autumn Spire
Round about everything else is coming on leaps and bounds.  To the left, Viburnum sargentii Onondanga and the gorgeously scented Philadelphus Belle Etoile to the right are well out of dormancy.  At the base, the Snowdrops and Eranthis I planted at the tail end of February are still green but will be pretty soon hidden by the surrounding perennials that are now on their way.
Primula denticulata Alba will be the first to flower.  Followed later by Trollius cultorum Cheddar, Ligularia The Rocket and Astilbe Deutschland.  There should also be Darmera pelatata off to the left but it doesn't appear to have returned this year.   Bittercress seedlings were sprouting up everywhere, the whole area has had a good hoe and hopefully I will be able to keep on top of them.  

Buds at the very top of the tree are just breaking.  All those at eye level are still quite tight.

Sorbus Autumn Spire buds bursting

By comparing it to other trees in the garden, there's not much in it.  The Hawthorn and another Rowan are a bit further on.  Even the Acers, which generally leaf out reasonably early here are still in bud.  Both the Birches (which are new) are tight in bud.  The twig that is Betula Crimson Frost worries me a bit, it hasn't even broken a bud yet.  It is so thin and fragile, I am apprehensive about carrying out a scrape of the bark to see what is happening beneath.

The tree I am choosing to follow this year, was new to my garden almost 1 year ago.  Just a week or so short of it's first anniversary.  It had very few flowers last year, in fact, just a couple of clusters.  It will be interesting to see just how much blossom it produces this year.
Sparrow and Greenfinch at feeder

The blossom will in turn, lead to lovely yellow berries for the birds later in the year but meantime they are still making full use of the feeder.  Just as I popped back out with the camera, I managed to get a snap of the greenfinch taking his fill.  The sparrow patiently waiting his turn.  This tiny feeder is well used, even the robin is now managing to take from it.  Only when he breaks from his mating ritual though, he's going all out this year.  Such a fascinating dancing act he puts on to impress his lady friends.  It's just a pity I can't manage to catch him on camera.


Saturday, 4 April 2015

What a difference a rain makes!

After a dry winter, the wind and cold temperatures of late, the rains have been really welcome. It's not often we can say we had a dry winter here in Scotland.  The garden this last couple of days really seems to be coming through the other end of what seems like an eternity!

I commented the other day that whilst the temperatures are rising and the rain falls - it really does seem as if you can hear the garden grow.  Around the garden, the usual suspects are gearing up.  The Camellias buds are almost burst, the Magnolia stellata has the teensiest glimmer of white showing beneath those furry grey buds.  Most of the trees and shrubs have only just started breaking bud, with the usual slow coaches waiting their turn.

The soil now is reasonably moist and as most of the plants that thrive here are reliant on such conditions, they have began romping away over the last few day.

Buds, berries and a bit of colour by way of the new foliage on Berberis thunbergii Pink Glow.
Berberis thunbergii Pink Glow

It was a bit of a hit or miss as I popped out between showers to capture a few shots and almost missed this.  Leucothoe fontanesiana Whitewater, more commonly grown as a low spreading shrub.  Growing on the fence round the back of the kitchen extention as a climber - bursting with buds all over.

Leucothoe fontanesiana Whitewater

Look what else I spotted, this honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum Scentsation, is a beauty and generally blooms early in the year but given the recent conditions I'm surprised to see it budding up quite so soon.

I finally finished edging the last border with stone this winter - I opted to grow G. nivalis around the entire edge, the border having been widened in some spots, leaves me room for one or two newbies at some point.  Hostas, which have not been marked, will determine how much room I have once they are up and about but I need to wait for them to appear first.  I also need to find a replacement for Tiarella Spring Symphony - devoured by vine weevil larvae, it's gone!  I no longer have the appetite to save plants that are attacked.  Most of the Heuchera have gone over the last couple of weeks.  Only a few remain.

Primula denticulata Alba

The fresh green foliage of Aconitum Gletscheris is paired with a good sized clump of Primula denticulata Alba and will be joined with white narcissus - I can't remember if these are Thalia or Tresambles.  Either way, this area will be very pretty just as soon as those daffs are out.  Leafing out on the trellising are Actinidia kolomikta and Lonicera periclymenum Sweet Sue - the Enkianthus to the right is also just coming into leaf.  The Ligularia will come away and hide the gargantuan Primula foliage for the remainder of the year.  It's the only thing I dislike about these plants.

In the opposite corner, the red stemmed Cornus is only just beginning to break it's buds, I will cut this back at some point during the week.  Meanwhile another Aconitum, A Stainless Steel and the bronzed tinged foliage of Aquilegia vulgaris Purple Emperor are looking great.  Some Fritillaria meleagris will bloom first and Primula vulgaris to the left are also just about to bloom.

Foliage - Aconitum and Aquilegia

Nearby, fresh sumptuous foliage of Dicentra spectabalis - yes I know it's new name but other than remembering it is Lamp, something or other, Dicentra will do for now.  The swords from Iris pseudacorus variegata, new last year and never flowered are just beginning to take off.  I'm not entirely sure if the Iris like this spot or not, they seem to spread outwards rather than upwards, leaving bare spots in the centre.  I'll give them this year to redeem themselves.
Dicentra Spectablis

Another pretty little corner right now, planted up last autumn when I extended the Mahonia bed.  I saw the combination of Blue pulmonaria and yellow daffs on someone's blog but can't remember who's.  If it was yours please let me know, I'd love to give you credit and a thank you for the inspiration.  The Tete a Tete were added a few weeks back.  It's quite a windy spot and Hellebore, Lady something or other (I have lost the label) has not been happy.  It seems to be picking up now and a few blooms have appeared.  My ceramic toadstools have been brought out from storage too.
Pulmonaria Blue Ensign and Narcissus Tete a Tete

Both Heuchera to the left, Marmalade and Binoche have not yet been checked to see if they have suffered the same fate as the others, they certainly don't look like they far!  

Under the Acer, Narcissus Jet Fire, cope remarkably well receiving very little light.  The Acers are really quite late into leaf this year.   I hadn't intended including any blooms this post, but those I have included are more than likely to be gone by the time bloom day comes along on the 15th.

Narcissus Jet Fire
Rosettes of foliage from the Candelabra Primula in crisp, health and getting bigger by the day.  These are last years seedlings filling one of the voids created by the widening of the bed.

Appearing only in the last day or two, the bronzed new foliage of Viburnum sargentii Onondaga is a welcome sight.  I moved this shrub when it was dormant and glad to see it paid no heed.

Virburnum sargentii Onondaga
The grey, almost purple hints in the foliage of Polemonium yezoense Purple Rain has just reminded me that I must remember to look out for the Japanese painted ferns, I want to move them, once I can find them that is!  I have a rough idea of where they are but don't want to go digging around for them.
Polemonium yezoense Purple Rain and Narcissus Tete a Tete
How's this for paeony foliage?  Comparing to all the others, this one is well on and is already growing up through it's supports.  Paeonies are one of my all time favourite blooms and I could not imagine having a garden without them.  

It's not often I get the pleasure of such perfect Lupin foliage at this time of the year.  Where are the slugs and snails?  A sign of the prolonged cold weather?  Touch wood, as I tap on the side of my head, I haven't spoke too soon.
Fresh Lupin foliage
The golden foliage of Corydalis Berry Exciting is just amazing right now.  If only I had bought more than one pot of it.  This would have been useful in other spots around the garden.  On checking with the GC where I purchased it, they are not sure if it will be back in stock anytime soon. 
Corydalis Berry Exciting
I moved the Pagoda dogwood, Cornus alternifolia Argentea, in Autumn and I had hoped that I managed to bring some of the Corydalis along with it.  Mission accomplished!  I can also see in the picture, what looks like a Primula seedling.  This Cornus is always the last shrub to come into leaf, therefore important to have some interest round about to draw the eye from those bare stems.  The extended cold snap, I think has allowed them to hang around just a bit longer than they normally would. 
Corydalis malkensis and C. solida Beth Evans 

New last spring. a pretty looking Corydalis I feared had disappeared.  I planted them in the ground and they promptly died back almost immediately, they hadn't even bothered to bloom.  It's been a long wait to see if they survived.  

Corydalis solida First Kiss

The rather alien looking Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow, bought new for the front garden last autumn.  I look forward to seeing this grow after seeing it in so many of your gardens.

Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow
As I toddle around the garden this afternoon, prioritizing jobs for the remainder of the holiday weekend and note that the only two areas left to weed and tidy are the most awkward in the garden. Why oh why did I leave them til last? 

Finally, a great big thank you to Helene (Graphicality-UK) down there in London, who very kindly sent me up some of her beloved Trillium babies last year.  Amongst other things, these beauties were the ones I longed to see come up this spring.  Having previously failed with a rather expensive Trillium before, I was truly apprehensive about how they would do.  I followed her instructions to the letter.  Sadly though the Arisaema doesn't appear to have faired so well!

Trillium cuneatum babies
 Thanks for reading and wishing you all a Happy Easter whether it's out in the garden or not.