Friday, 26 February 2016

My February Round Up

February has been a real mixed bag in so far as the weather is concerned.  Right now, although cold it is dry.  What a refreshing change that is I tell you.  I know from reading everyone's posts that I was not the only one totally fed up with the wind and rain.   Winter just isn't winter without cold and frosty mornings, or like today, frozen ground all day.  The garden benefits from having frosts such as these, it should in theory finish off any pests that may be lingering.

The first casualty I have noticed this winter and in real terms extremely minor is the damage done to my baby birch tree.  It may have been a mere twig but it was full of potential.  I have decided to make my Birch tree the subject of my Tree Following posts.  You can read the first in this year's series here if missed it.  Two more noticeable casualties are two of the 'special snowdrops' I planted in the green last spring.  2 losses out of 10 isn't too disheartening, is it?  I turned out the aquatic pots they were growing in and it seems the bulbs have totally rotted away.  The only proof left was the sunken plant labels!

Due to family commitments I was unable to attend the early bulb show in Dunblane..  My, what is now an annual pilgrimage, had to be put off.  However, I treated myself to buying a few in the green online. Whilst I probably saved myself a few pounds I was not able to source some from my wish list.  There's always next year, right? One of my new drops. Galanthus Homersfield. Said to be a robust snowdrop and supposed to do well in heavier soils.  All my new bulbs are now potted up and waiting to find homes in the ground when it thaws out a bit.       

The sickly looking Leucothoe (L. fontanesiana Whitewater) has has a good mulch with some ericaceous compost in a bid to give the soil a bit of a boost.   I mentioned last month that I suspect it may be the wet weather causing the chlorosis.  When it has finished flowering I will give it a liquid feed and molly coddle it this year.  I have read since that the cold can also induce chlorisis and in particular to some acid loving plants but since it had been quite mild in the lead up to me spotting it, I have ruled it out as the cause.

Leucothoe fontanesiana Whitewater
Emerging Aconitum foliage
New growth on the group 3 Clematis was quite rampant.  I decided to prune a bit earlier than I normally would.  I fear I may have been a tad too hasty.  I got carried away in a fit of excitement on one of the warmer days we had.  I immediately regretted my decision to do this.  I thought it best to put the secateurs away and leave anything else, particularly the Epimediums, until March. One job I did manage to cross of my February to do list was to get the plant supports in place for those plants that make their appearance early in the year. This is one of those jobs that no matter what the weather I make time to do it.  It saves a whole lot of hassle when the plants get going.  I paid passing attention to the fact that although many of the perennials are showing new growth early due to the mild weather the peonies were not.

I don't know about you but I find that weeding when the soil is moist far easier and I can make great inroads with getting on top of those pesky weeds.  I note too that I seem to have far more nettle
seedlings than I would normally find around the garden.  Good too find them now though before they get out of control.  I made great progress on the ever evolving woodland area.  As well as weeding it has been mulched.  I am hoping to replenish some of the goodness lost from the soil due to the winter flooding.  The snowdrops, clumps of both singles and doubles are bulking up nicely.  I will divide more of the larger clumps growing elsewhere around the garden and add more in this spot over the coming weeks.  The Hellebore blooming in there right now is being obscured by the box ball at the front of the border.  I need to either clip it smaller or remove altogether to make the most of that hellebore I think.                
The evolving woodland

My New Year's Resolution has fallen by the way side.  Just as some of you predicted.  Two months on from resolving not to fiddle around with plants nor buy any more for a while that particular resolution has been broken.  Just please don't say you told me so! This latest project is just a small one and I suppose in some way I am not really fiddling around completely.  Just removing one particular plant at the moment.

The small border by the side of the kitchen extension has gone through many changes in previous years.  Year before last I planted a hardy Fuchsia (F. magellanica Alba) and although it performed well it never really did suit this spot.  Its sprawling growth made it awkward to manoeuvre past it.  I was looking for alternatives.   I needed something with a bit of height to it, narrow and probably something a bit slower growing than the Fuchsia.  Christmas and Birthday vouchers came in handy.
Newly planted Amelanchier alnifolia Obelisk and Helleborus orientalis Anna's Red
Described as a very versatile and unproblematic tree for smaller gardens I am hoping Amelanchier alnifolia Obelisk will be far more suitable than the previous incumbent.  This fastigiate tree/shrub - I am confused as to whether this is actually a tree or a shrub, not that it matters.  It should be a long, long time before it's width becomes a problem.  A new Hellebore, H. orientalis Anna's Red fills the gap between the Sarcococca. There are some bulbs in here but I need to wait until they are up and about before I decide just what to do with them.  Laziness in the past has got the better of me and I can't recall exactly what they are.  There is also a small clump of Colchicum agrippinum that I don't want to risk by moving it too early.  I am also toying with the idea of growing some Scottish bred/discovered snowdrops in this area.  As is usual this notion popped into my head after I had made this year's purchase of new drops.  In true Angie style!

Blooms in the garden right now are pretty much the same as they were when I posted my bloom day post except the Hellebores are just now lifting their heads and beginning to add their own brand of winter cheer.
Helleborus x ericsmithii Winter Moonbeam 
Helleborus x sternii White Beauty with G. Wendy's Gold
Can you spot the Eranthis beginning to emerge at the base of the birch?  Looking to the future I am hoping for a cloth of white and yellow around the base of it's trunk.  I can see this particular spot from the back door and the Hellebore really does stand out.  The hardiness of this particular variety is dubious but given that it has survived here for 3 winters is a positive.

More Crocus too are getting in on the act too.  I like the colour markings on this particular bulb.
Crocus sieberi Spring Beauty
Special Snowdrops.

Iris blooms seem everlasting this year.

I am patiently waiting the reappearance of the Erythroniums I planted last year.  There is as yet no sign of them coming up.  I will be gutted if I have failed in choosing the perfect spot for them.  I thought I had done enough research.  Jobs to be getting on with over the next month primarily will be to carrying on with the spring clean up and weeding.  My lawns desperately need mowing but that chore job is obviously weather dependent.  I will give the roses their prune, already some of them have a fair amount of growth.  Dahlias and Begonia tubers will be potted up and the Cosmos tubers I put away for winter will be brought out.  It will be interesting to see if my attempt at over wintering those is successful.  I hope so.

In the shed last week I realised that I have way too many redundant containers in many different shapes and sizes.  When I say redundant what I really mean is that they were plonked in there and forgotten about.  I am going to make an effort and try to put together some pretty summer displays.  Already I have began collecting some plugs and bulbs.  For the first time I am having a go at Petunias.  The novelty of Petunia Phantom caught my eye.  I have the perfect black pot for them too.  I don't want to overwhelm my windowsills so it will probably be more practical to wait before I decide what else to grow.

My jobs in the garden this weekend will be to tidy up and prepare a spot for the new snowdrops. Check over and tie in the Honeysuckles.  Already they are covered in bursting buds.  Check the tree supports.  Loosen the ties if need be.  I could probably removed the hawthorn and rowan support altogether.  They've been in for 2 years now.  If I get round to it, edge the lawns, that should at least make them look tidier.  Oh, and I almost forgot I need to repair a section of trellising on the front garden fence.  It came down in one of the storms and needs refixing to it's support.

Do you have plans for the garden this weekend?   What ever you are up to I hope it's a good one. Thanks for reading.                  

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day February 2016

I was ready to declare that some of the plants flowering in time for this February's bloom day post are quite early but having looked back at both previous February posts it seems I am very much mistaken. My memory, it seems, is playing tricks on my.

In a bid to photograph and keep better records of my special Snowdrops I have taken to snipping the blooms and bringing them indoors.  This not only makes it easier to photograph but saves me having to squat or lie in some awkward positions.  I never was any good at yoga.  The cold damp ground does nothing for my aging knees either.  Listen to me!  Anyone reading will be thinking I am the wrong side of 92!  Not that there is anything wrong with being on the wrong side of 92 you understand.  I've a long way to go before I reach that ripe old age.

Galanthus Trumps

Galanthus Galatea

Galanthus Jaquenetta

Galanthus Hippolyta
The numerous clumps of the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, are now quite sizable in many spots around the garden.  I have been enjoying those indoors too.    No matter how tight those buds are a few minutes indoors in the heat and they open wide.  I don't often bring flowers from the garden indoors.  We have a bit of family superstition surrounding cut flowers in the house.  Over the years it seems that whenever we have cut flowers in the house bad news seems to follow. And I know by now you may well be laughing at me for admitting to this superstition but since bringing those first snowdrops into the house there was an announcement at work detailing there would be 12 job losses at my place of employ. This may of course be just coincidental but I can tell you it makes me wonder!  I will know more in the coming weeks as to whether or not I will keep my current job or be offered one elsewhere within 'reasonable distance' of where I already work.  Of course, I've also had to listen to my mother telling me 'she told me so'!  
Galanthus nivalis and Flore Pleno
With today's frosty conditions pretty much all the Hellebores are looking pretty sorry for themselves. The best of a bad lot, dirty face and all!  Helleborus x sternii White Beauty.  I am finding conflicting pruning advice for this particular species and it's cultivars.  I pruned a couple of leaves that were flopping over some snowdrops but others than that I have left well alone.    

Pops of colour around the garden right now come by way off more winter/spring beauties.

Iris reticulata George, Harmony and Pauline
Corydalis solida Beth Evans and Purple Bird
Crocus chrysanthus Romance
Primula bracteosa
Lastly, thank you all for your best wishes following my last post.  My cold has now cleared up, til the next one that is.  Enjoy your week ahead whether it's in or out of the garden.        

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Tree Following 2016 - Betula Crimson Frost

I had fully intended getting out and about finding a mature tree to follow for this year's Tree Following posts.  However, I have been laid up with a really bad cold again and could not summon the energy to get myself suited, booted and out there for a walk.  And to be honest the weather is not exactly enticing me to have much of a wander around the locale either.  I have opted to follow yet another tree from my garden.

Technically my tree is not quite a tree yet.  It is still a very small specimen.  A sapling really. You may be wondering then just why I've chose this particular tree especially when there are others to choose from.  I chose it because my wee sapling is a casualty of Storm Gertrude and I am not sure if it is worth saving.  My immediate thought was to remove and replace but decided after sleeping on it that the very least it deserves a bit of a chance.  I shall persevere with it for now. 

Betula Crimson Frost has been in my garden since Autumn 2014.  It found a home in my garden after coming across it at my local nursery.  I wrote about it here.  I had high hopes.  It's narrow upright growth meant it was ideal for my garden.  Eventually it will provide a bit of privacy between us and the neighbours over the back.  I should add that the old nosy neighbours are gone and the new ones, which I have not been introduced to yet, seem to be quite the opposite.  The white peeling bark and purple foliage means there is year round interest too.  It has/had everything it needed to make a wonderful statement in years to come.   

I discovered the damage last weekend.  My sapling had snapped in two places and ultimately it's height has been reduced by around 50%.   I sought some advice and it seems all is not lost but I will more than likely end up with a multi stemmed specimen instead. Apparently multi stemmed specimens are more in vogue anyway.  However, I don't know enough about how these things work and just what eventual shape my once single stemmed, narrow upright tree will take.  I am hoping by watching this tree more closely over the coming months I will have a better idea of what I might want to do with it.  I am a tad apprehensive though.  Will I end up with a massively over wide tree that will at some point need to be removed?  If only I could fast forward 5 or so years.   

I was advised to make a clean cut below the break and remove the support I had offered it. The buds will break in spring and I will have the option of either removing all except the top shoot or growing them all to have a multi stemmed tree.  

Having removed the stake I felt as though it was still very flimsy.  What to do?  I found a spare tree stake in the shed and this time offered it up near the base. My wee tree seems to have developed a bit of a kink in the trunk too.  I wonder if my poor choice of support has caused this. Perhaps it will add character as the tree matures or it will straighten itself out now that it is free to grow just as it wants.

I find it hard to imagine that this wee twig will one day become a thing of beauty.

Betula Crimson Frost February 2016
And just in case you are wondering what the future holds, well read for yourself!

Betula Crimson Frost is a purple-leaved birch whose parents are Betula platyphylla var.szechuanica and Betula pendula ‘Purpurea’. It is a small to medium sized tree.  Upright, narrow-pyramidal shape. It is noted for its burgundy-red to purple foliage and exfoliating white bark with cinnamon hues. Foliage acquires orange, red and yellow shades in autumn. Tiny monoecious flowers appear in early spring in separate catkins on the same tree. Female flowers are followed by drooping cone-like fruits containing numerous small winged seeds that typically mature in late summer. 

Thanks for reading.  See you over at The Squirrelbasket.

Monday, 1 February 2016

End of Month View January 2016

I had already made up my mind near the tail end of last year on which part of the garden to focus on for my End of Month View post.  In case you are unfamiliar with this popular meme let me tell you a bit about it.  Hotsted by Helen at The Patient Gardener on the last day (or thereabouts as is often in my case) of each month. Helen supplies us with the title, the subject is entirely of your choosing.  It can be your entire garden, individual borders or even specimen plants if you so choose.  All she asks is that you link back to her site in your post.  This will the third year I have joined in with this meme and on a personal level have found it very useful.  I am easily distracted, even my primary school teachers noticed this at an early age. Talks too much, easily distracted and needs to pay more attention, these were comments I received on just about every school report I ever brought home.  Do these kind of  comments resonate with anyone else?  Anyway, as I was saying, easily distracted. my gardening at times can be a bit like that.  Joining in with this meme has truly helped focus my attention.  Previously I've used this post to share with you newly planted areas of my garden but for 2016 I am doing something different.  I have chose an area that I know needs some work but the planting is a bit more mature.  Please bear in mind that mature in my garden is far from mature in the true sense of the word.  In my garden what it really means is that some things have been planted and growing for no more than 4 or 5 years.  Things are getting there, albeit slowly.

This bed has gone through many a reinvention over the past 5 years.  I suppose you could say it has had a bit of an identity crisis.  At one point there was a pond in here, it's humble beginning was small rockery - I learned fast that plants suitable for rock gardens really do prefer much more sun than this bed offers.  It doesn't even have a exciting name!  I call it the 'shady bed in the gravel area'.  This area used to be home to a rather large kiddies trampoline in the dim and distant past.   I am hoping over the coming months I can get a bit more creative and give it a more becoming name.
Shady bed in gravel area
As I mull over the positives, there is plenty of evergreen interest for winter.  The soil in this bed is just incredible to work with.  It retains just the right amount of moisture for the plants that now grow here and there are some nice plants mingling in there when it finally gets going.  No plants that grow here now struggles.  I like to think I am winning that right plant/right place battle.

So why am I focusing on this area?  The answer to that is two fold.  Firstly, after paying slightly more than passing attention to this border last year it became apparent that the colour scheme here leaves a lot to be desired.  At certain times throughout the year there are a bit too many pinks clashing with yellows. Secodly, planting too is a bit mish mash.  There are too many single specimens, although they are pretty in their individual rights, they are too small to make much of an impact.  By observing this area over the coming months, I hope that by autumn or at the latest next spring I will know where I want to go with it all.

Sideways back step this is the view you get as you walk immediately out the back door. This border at it's widest is about 3m deep.  At both ends the planting areas jut out far enough to catch plenty of sun.  This corner is an extremely wind spot, the wind batters up the side of the building.  

The shade comes by way of the fence on this side of the garden.  In summer it is sunny for a good few hours in the afternoon.  Evergreens at the fence are a bit run of the mill I suppose you could say. Euonymus japonica Ovatus Aureus and Mahonia Charity. Both said to do well and have done so here in shade.  They don't exactly excite me.  A purple leafed Cotinus, C x coggygria Dusky Maiden will eventually fill out the other corner.  Although shady, the Cotinus does receive enough sun to retain those dark leaves.  In fact they haven't all fallen off yet.  You can see them just behind the large fern.  

More individual plants will be highlighted in future posts but for this month the stars of the show are/will be my special snowdrops.  There are 12 of my specials growing in this bed.  All except 4 of those 12 were new to the garden last year.  I am happy to grow them here so I can keep my eye on them until they all make good sized clumps and I can be confident to try them elsewhere in the garden.  Update:  There are now only 11 specials.  Galanthus Jonathan has failed to show and on rooting around in the soil, I find that there is no sign of a bulb in the planting basket.

Blooming or about to bloom are G. Mrs Macnamara, Trumps, Augustus, Jaquenetta and S. Arnot. Others are only just showing foliage and one or two are only just poking their noses up.  I have inadvertently selected early, mid and late varieties so the snowdrop season should be quite extended here.  Another positive.
Flower bud - Galanthus Trumps
Left over from the rock garden era - Iris reticulata Pauline.  There was once a good size clump of these bulbs but obviously over time they have either rotted or been inadvertently dug out.

Iris reticulata Pauline

Lastly, I'd like to include the section of border on the other side of the trellising.  This was at one time a continuation of the same bed but was divided when I put in the trellising 2 years ago.  This area also needs a bit of attention.  There are way too many plants growing in here.  It is not so obvious at the moment but later in the year it gets rather cramped.  Common snowdrops, G. nivalis line the stone edging and other than that small clump bottom left there is little else of interest other than varying shades of green right now.

Camellia/Enkianthus bed

I hadn't realised I had prattled on so much, I hope I haven't bored you all to tears.  Perhaps the teacher was right - I do talk too much!  Thanks for reading and I hope the coming week is a good one whether you are in the garden or out.  Storm Henry is raging outside right now - not pleasant at all!