Monday, 25 January 2016

January in Angie's Garden

What a real mixed bag it has been weather wise this January.  The relentless rains continued past New Year with a few sunnier days in between, a light dusting of snow and plummeting temperatures down to minus 5°C last weekend and as we approach the end of the month we are experiencing, what for Scotland, can only be described as a heatwave for this time of the year.  Help ma boab!  A high of 14°C this weekend.

The bird feeder I got from my nieces and nephew at Christmas holds a massive 5kg of seed.  Much to the delight of the goldfinches.  The only place strong enough to support it's weight is the archway.  However, it does make manouvering around the garden a bit awkward.  If I've walloped my head on it once, I've walloped it a hundred times!  You never know it just might knock some sense into to me!

I have been able to get outdoors and do a bit here and there.  Firstly there was the tidying up of the Hellebores.  All bar 4 of my many hellebores are oriental hybrids (Helleborus x hybridus).  Some named varieties and others not.  All are treated the same here in my garden.  Old, often tatty looking, foliage is removed at ground level to expose the new blooms for not only my enjoyment but to help any pollinator that just might be passing. Care needs to be taken not to damage emerging new growth. I would not normally consider doing this job until well into February or even March if it is particularly cold but not this year.  Removing the old foliage is also a good way to help prevent hellebore leaf spot.  I probably should have mulched at this time too but as I had used up all the mulch in autumn I had none to hand. A job for another day in the coming weeks.  Some hellebores are left alone at this time of the year.  The leathery foliage of the H. x ericsmithii are worth growing for their interesting foliage too.  Granted they do look better when not dirty and rain splashed!  You can see in this shot just how sodden the ground was at the beginning of the month.  I have 3 different varieties - this one, H. x ericsmithii Pirouette is the first to flower this year.  I used some old planks to manoeurvre through the borders.  Trying my best not to compact the soil or damage emerging bulbs and plants.  
Helleborus x ericsmithii Pirouette

You may remember me mentioning last post that the climbing roses over the trellis and arch had not stopped growing and I needed to make an effort to tie in those wayward stems.  It was a real chore. Trying to reach in without sinking or toppling over.  It was not practical to get a plank in there.  Thank goodness the posts are solid, they gave me a bit of support as I used them to support my weight as I leant over. I can't help but wonder if the effort may have been in vain.  At times the area around here just got wetter and wetter.  The rain had now where to go, it was so saturated further up the garden that it just spread outwards and into spots that hadn't been waterlogged before.  The water had not cleared away by the time the temperatures dropped and it all froze over.   Another issue I have found is when it rains heavily or constantly the bottoms of the trellis panels fill with water.  I think I need to drill some sort of drainage holes otherwise, although the timber is treated, I suspect they will rot prematurely if I don't remedy it.  

Squelch squelch!
 On the other side of the garden, Buddha covered his eyes, pretending not to notice the quagmire!

I was intent on weeding the side garden, ridding the space of the chickweed that is sprouting up everywhere.  I came across this wee ladybird.  Goodness that was a surprise, I don't often see them in summer never mind winter.  I decided to leave the weeds well alone just in case it had some friends hiding nearby. The seven spot ladybird is our most common species here in the UK.  Did you know we have 46 species of ladybirds here in the UK?  No?  Me neither!   I just hope it managed to get tucked up somewhere before the frosts came.  The weeding remains on my to do list.

My planned embargo on new plants for the garden, you may remember, does not include snowdrops. For the first time ever I ventured online to buy a particular snowdrop.  I had Galanthus reginae olgae, an autumn flowering snowdrop, growing previously but have not seen it since 2013.  I suspect it may have succumb to wet.  Although it is described as hardy, it can apparently struggle in wetter climates, such as mine.  I ordered replacements.  Healthy plants arrived. I purchased 2 bulbs. One for the garden, the other for luck!  I will keep them in a pot until they clump up and I can trial a bulb or two in a drier site than I chose previously.  No blooms, obviously, but healthy foliage nonetheless.  It has a distinctive glaucus strip running through the centre.  

Foliage - Galanthus reginae olgae

Popping to the GC to replenish stocks of soil conditioner, which I use as mulch, I came across a variety of pots full of spring bulbs, although not in the market I could not resist the small pots of species snowdrops, G. ikariae.  At a few pound per pot, how on earth was a girl supposed to resist?  I didn't go overboard. 3 wee pots came home with me.  I could use them as part of a spring display on the back step.  Potted up, they looked kind of bare.  I topped of the bare compost with some moss I gathered from around the garden.  No difficulty in finding moss growing here.  I have never tried this before and I think it looks quite effective.  Having now read up on this particular species of snowdrop, it seems this may be another species that will not appreciate the wetter conditions here so they too will be kept in a pot.

I am attempting to make my own leaf mould this year.  I usually send them off the the council tip.     A large bag was collected in autumn but there was still plenty of leaf litter around the garden.  I raked up what I could and filled yet another bag.  They will be stored round the back of the shed until they can be used.  The RHS recommends storing them for up to 2 years.   Some leaves make better leaf mould than other but since mine's is a mixture of many different species I have no idea how it will work out.  The leaves were dampened down, not that they needed much dampening and holes punctured in the base of the bag with the garden fork.  

A job I had failed to do in Autumn was moving the Buddleja.  It was initially bought to hide the gap in the hedge while the new plants grew and although it was doing a fine job it was in a totally inappropriate spot to do well.  I removed some of the perennial sunflowers, the soil was just perfect to dig.  It made what could have been a difficult job more easy.   Thankfully the Buddleja was quite shallow rooted, it too came out with little effort on my part.  It's now in a more Buddleja friendly site. Full sun, well drained and with plenty of room.  I may be taking a bit of a risk doing it now but providing I keep an eye on watering I am confident it will be ok.

In the cold frame the Euphorbia cuttings sent down to me from Frances @ Island Threads are doing well.  My own attempts at taking Euphorbia cuttings have always resulted in failure.  I thought Frances would like to see how well they are doing in my care.  Thank you Frances.

Euphorbia cuttings January 2016
I could hardly do a post about my January Garden without including what's been blooming this month. Enjoying the moisture, these Primula in the side garden have started to bloom.  The silver, almost white, leaf of this particular Cyclamen hederifolium adds some foliar interest too.

The witchhazel, Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena shimmers in the sun.  It started blooming back in November and I worried that it may have peaked too soon.  Apparently not!  It continues to show of in the winter garden.

In the sunny front garden, Iris reticulata Pauline are blooming nice and early this year.  They showed no signs of slowing up when the weather turned cold.  It seems there was no holding Pauline back.

By no means perfect but a lovely little glimpse of summer in wintertime.  The climbing Wedgewood Rose on the trellis.

With it's glossy evergreen leaves, shiny black berries and blooms just about to open Sarcacocca confusa ticks all the boxes when it comes to winter interest.

Another evergreen, the tight buds on this dwarf Skimmia are just as pretty as the open flowers I think. Full to bursting with springtime promise.

 Galanthus elwesii Mrs MacNamara fully opened her buds in the warmth this weekend.

Galanthus Galatea is clumping up nicely here in my garden.  A single bulb planted back in 2012 has produced quite a few off spring.  Another few warm days should see these buds open.


Galanthus Jaquenetta, a full double flowering snowdrop, is almost open.

In the front garden a few blooms remain on the winter flowering Jasmine growing against the fence.   I think that by the end of this year it will be tall enough to tie into the trellis that tops the fence.  It's such a pity to have so many blooms and yet no pollinators to enjoy them.  Maybe they are about somewhere and I've just not seen them.

Emerging beneath one of the roses, I misidentified this plant in my previous post.  I thought it was Corydalis solida Beth Evans but now I can see the colour of the blooms and on checking my records it is C. solida Purple Bird.  A nice wee surprise this early in the year.

The Liriope in the front garden was halted by an early frost back in October.  Whilst the blooms failed to open fully, they have remained on the plant to give the appearance that it is blooming.

This coming weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch I will free up an hour on either of the days to take part.  Have you register yet?

One must not and should not forget that it is still very early in the year.  The warmer temperatures could very easily fool us into thinking it is far later in the year than it actually is.  The weather could and will more than likely take a turn for the worse at some point.  Although I pay some attention to the forecasts I do tend to think that they can, at times, over exaggerate.  How many times since the bad winters of 2009/10 have they predicted the worse winter ever!?  I do though tend to err on the side of caution and try not to get too carried away.  There are still some jobs I can be getting on with in February.  I will at some point in February be on top of mulching the Hellebores and Snowdrops.  I have a couple of bags of ericaceous compost so I can get on with mulching the acid loving shrubs. The climbing Leucothoe, although smothered with flower buds, is looking slightly chloritic.  It is usually healthy enough without my interference.  I wonder if that is a side effect of the terribly wet weather.  I will pamper it a bit this year I think.  The group 2 and 3 Clematis will be pruned too. Untangling all that dead growth is one of those jobs I don't particularly like but it needs to get done. Before things get going proper I need to get in early with the supports for the Peonies, Aconitums and the oriental Poppies. Lastly, tidying up the remainder of the perennials weather permitting, that is.

How are things in your garden this January? Are you ahead of the game?  Perhaps things are ticking along just nicely.  I wonder if other UK gardeners finding their gardens are leaps and bounds ahead of previous years.  Have you much planned gardening wise in the coming few weeks?  If you are getting outdoors this week do enjoy it and make the most of it.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Tree Following January 2016 - Sorbus Autumn Spire

We've come full circle following my rowan tree, Sorbus Autumn Spire.  I took part in this meme for the first time in 2015.  I chose to follow a recently planted specimen.  My intentions had been to watch it settle in, hopefully thrive and learn  about it's habit.

Looking almost identical to how it looked in my first post at this time last year, the only difference being the 6 to 8 inches of height it has put on in it's first year in my garden.

It hadn't dawned on me at the outset that choosing a deciduous tree would mean that there would be little to observe in winter.  There is only so much one can say about bare stems.    

In January, I adorned my wee tree with a small coconut bird feeder.  It is still there and is regularly used by the small birds that visit my garden.  It was just light enough not to cause damage to the young stems.      

Along came February and some snowdrops and aconites moved in.  I am hoping they spread and make a nice spring display in future years.

Sap rose and those tight red buds fattened through March. The birds continued to make use of the feeder.  This solitary green finch was a regular last year.  

Come April there was signs of life.  Those red buds began slowly revealing fresh new foliage.

The trunk and stems remained a shade of bronze throughout winter but by the end of April they took on a more olive green appearance.  Those white bumps add interest.  I have since found out that these markings are called lenticels. They are the tree's pores.  Every day is a school day! 

It continued to flourish throughout May, inflorescence appear although not in abundance.  It is only a young tree after all.   

Those buds begin to open in June.  

The perennials in this border are now filling out as July comes around.  

Berries (Pomes) are now ripening too.

The border fills out completely in summer.

As summer runs it's course, berries ripen.

Autumn begins to creep in.

The gradual changes through October

You can see now why this gorgeous wee tree was given the name Autumn Spire.  It does not lack autumn colour that's for sure.

Leaves and Berries soon disappeared through November and along came the December rains.

December rains
Moving on to 2016 and I haven't quite made up my mind just which tree I want to follow.  I want to encourage myself to get out and about a bit more but also want too choose wisely.  I want to choose a tree that is easily accessible - not too far away just in case I am pushed for time.  Decisions, decisions, decisions!  The weather is not conducive to me getting off my butt and getting out there.  I've a few weeks left to make up my mind. When my choice is made I, like many others, will be linking up with The Squirrelbasket on the 7th of each month.  

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Bringing in the New Year

First of all, let me wish you all a Happy New Year.  I hope you all had a wonderful time.  It has been just over one month since I blogged about any sort of goings on from my garden.  Work commitments, the festivities and a lousy cold are too blame, it's as simple as that.  I will do my best to catch up with the many posts from you all that I have missed.

It goes without saying that we have seen some unprecedented weather here in the UK and the devastation it has caused can, I imagine, only be heartbreaking.  Yet more rain is forecast here in the east of Scotland over the next few days and then we are to see a return to more average winter weather.

I missed posting in time for all the memes I take part during December.  If you bear with me, I'll do a quick summary in this post today.

Starting with the Tree Following meme on the 7th of the month, storm Desmond left the part of the garden where my wee Rowan tree grows in under a couple of inches of water, this was repeated in the wake of Eva and Frank too.  In case you are interested Gertrude and Henry are next!  I've never really bothered much about whether a storm has a name or not but surely if we are to name them at all then the names should sound a bit more reflective of their fierce nature.  All the plants here have coped with flooding before so I am confident losses will be minimal.      

Tree following December 2015

The front garden, subject of my End of Month View posts, is reasonably tidy right now.  The roses still have most of their foliage.  Looking around, I can see the Crocus and Iris reticulata are poking their noses from beneath the surface, like elsewhere in the garden.  The Dayliles, although cut back hard, are putting out fresh new growth already.  The privet has dropped a fair bit of foliage, as is the norm, yet the Tropaeolum speciosum scrambling through it has not yet gone dormant, it keeps the hedge looking quite green for now.  Rudbeckia summerina Orange continues blooming, as does the winter flowering Jasmine against the fence.
End of Month View December 2015
Since I took up gardening 5 years ago this is the first winter I've had no major projects on the go.  In years past, my gardening New Year's Resolution has generally revolved around getting those completed and putting a bit more thought into plant choices and planting schemes.  This year I thought I'd do something just a bit different, different for me that is!  Regular readers will know I can at time have a bit of an obsession with moving plants around, I have the annoying habit of second guessing the choices I make when it comes to plants and planting positions.  Then of course comes patience, a virtue I seem to lack when it comes to gardening.  Therefore I intend 2016 to be the year I make very few changes around the garden.  I want plants to mature, fill out their spaces and do just what they want to do instead of me constantly interfering with them.  I think my gardening insecurities lie in the fact that I am very conscience of the fact that my garden in still very immature. It has finally dawned on me, yes I admit it has taken me quite a while, that no matter how many plants I move around or how many new plants I buy I just can't compete with nature.  So there you have it, you heard it hear first, Angie is leaving the plants to do what they are supposed to do.......grow!

I started this blog as a way of recording what I was up to in the garden.  How and when I do things, growing notes, you know the kind every day gardening things.  Lessons I learn.  Tips and advice I pick up along the way.  I should add at this point I am particularly grateful for all the advice and tips you've all given me along the way.  I now want to put some of this into practice, I hope to include more posts that fall into these categories and feel the only way I can do this is to concentrate on learning about what I have growing already.  I need to stop adding to the confusion.  Right now there is an embargo on buying any new plants.  Especially the many impulsive buys that make their way home with me.  One exception will be my annual visit to the Early Bulb Show in Dunblane next month where I intend to add a few more special snowdrops to my collection.

Take, for example, my Hellebores - I am almost certain that they have never looked quite like this in December/January before.  I usually remove last year's foliage before they reach this stage but that is usually some time nearer the beginning of March certainly not right now.    

In the past I've never noticed that as the new foliage and with it the new blooms grow taller, the old foliage appears to naturally collapses away from the centre.  I am assuming this is nature's way of letting in the light.  I've always been under the assumption that the old foliage protects from the frost but perhaps not.  These are the kind of basics I need to pay attention too.  

Corydalis solida Beth Evans beneath one of the roses in the back garden took me by surprise for two reasons. The first being that I forgot I moved some here last year, yet despite being under a couple of inches of mulch it has surfaced early.  Secondly I would not expect to see any growth until early February with the view to blooming in the second half of the month.

Even Camassia seem early to me.  These bulbs were new last year so I am not quite so sure just when to expect them but this early in the year, surely not?

Not everything is taking me by surprise.  The early blooming snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii Mrs MacNamara, is flowering exactly at the same time as it has done in the previous two years since coming to my garden.
Galanthus elwesii Mrs MacNamara
Blooming sporadically since November but now in full bloom Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena in the small woodland border provides a nice bit of winter bling.  The flooding extended into this part of the garden for a few days, something that hasn't happened before.  Obviously I won't know which, if any, plants have suffered yet.  The bulbs in the woodland consisting mainly of Snowdrops and Fritillaria cope with flooding elsewhere therefore I don't expect the ones planted here to be any different.  Time will tell with the other plants.  Winter wet being detrimental to the health of many a fine plant!

Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena
There are one or two jobs in the garden I could be getting on with right now.  There are still many fallen leaves and mushy mounds of decaying perennials that need dealing with but in some parts the ground is so sodden it is just not practical to it.  I am usually on top of the winter clear up but I seem to be playing catch up this year.  The climbing rose (R. The Wedgewood Rose) on the pergola and trellis divider has continued growing at a rapid rate of knots.  The stems I meticulously tied in have just not stopped growing and really do need to be tied to their support before they entangle everything else growing round about.  There there are the weeds!  They certainly are benefiting from the warmer temperatures.

Wayward stems on R. The Wedgewood Rose
Are you getting much done in your garden?  Is weather hampering your plans?  Perhaps you are busying yourself with some forward planning.  I've a new camera that needs some playing around with.  So far I know the zoom works well, a far longer zoom than my previous camera.  Now all I need do is get to grips with all the other functions.  So watch this space.  Although to be honest, will a better camera improve much on the photography skills.  I doubt it!  Enjoy your week what ever you have planned.  I look forward to catching up with what's been happening with you all.