Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Marching on

Even when the nights start drawing out and temperatures begin to rise I always get a feeling of apprehension towards the garden and plants.  I get that exicted feeling as the garden come back to life but there is always this strange feeling as I await the return of some plants that have yet to prove themselves.  Recently the winter aconites were causing me a bit of concern, I pleases me to announce they have all reappeared, some later than others though.  But they are all present and correct.  Even the ones that were under water for the best part of 2 weeks.  Am I the only one that feels that way?  Is it fear of disappointment and my vision ruined or wasted limited funds?  I am just not sure.  The other day I discovered ALL the Pulsatilla I planted last year are showing signs of life.  I love these little plants but had shied away from growing them because I wasn't sure they'd cope with the conditions here.  I had been encouraged to try them when I saw a friend growing them in less than perfect conditions.  My concerns don't end there though, there are one or two others that still cause me to worry a little.  I keep telling myself it's still early and perhaps the soil just isn't warm enough.                            

Eranthis cilicica and Galanthus Spindlestone Surprise
The beginning of the month was cold with frequent frosts, I would not say it came in like a lion but it was certainly not lamb like.  A brief glimpse of summer and warm temperatures mid March just happen to coincide with a week's annual leave from work.  I was grateful I managed not only to find time to garden but also managed a day out at the Royal Botanical Gardens here in Edinburgh.  I've a mass of pictures to sort through before writing a post about it.  Working outdoors on those sunnier days was a real pleasure.  The Hellebores were holding their nodding heads high.

I wasn't the only one active in the garden on those sunny days.  The Hellebores and Crocus were abuzz with bumblebee activity.  It's always a pleasure to see them return to the garden.

The roses have now all been pruned.  I brought the Begonia and Dahlia tubers out from storage and potted them up. Already the Begonias had began sprouting but not the Dahlias.  This is my first attempt at storing Dahlia tubers, they are showing no signs of life yet but they are firm so should be alright.  The Cosmos atrosanguineus I think have failed to make it through winter.  I had a hunch they would be trickier and indeed they have proved just that.

The Narcissus and Chionodoxa have now take over from where the snowdrops, iris and crocus left off.  Various Pulmonaria around the garden too are coming into bloom.  The Fritillaria are also near to blooming.      

Around the garden buds on the trees and shrubs are fattening.  Oddly enough I never fret quite the same about those.  The star Magnolia in the side garden, which was once a tiny specimen, is covered in flower buds.    

Magnolia stellata

The Leucothoe that was rather sickly looking has recovered.  All signs of chlorosis on the foliage is gone.  I originally blamed the wet weather but I suspect it was more likely the cold that was the cause.
Leucothoe fontanesiana Whitewater
The honeysuckles are leafing out very early this year.  I suspect they will flower early too judging at how far on this one on the side fence is.

The lawns have now all had their first cut, edges tidied and I even managed to aerate the front lawn. This is something I've never tried before.  I was chatting to a work colleague who has a troublesome lawn and he was asking me what course of action to take.  Of course, it's best to practice what I preach - I don't have a tool to do this so used my garden fork.  I rid this area of dandelions and daisies couple of years ago but note there are one or two at will need to be dealt with before they take hold again.  Thankfully it's not a large area so it wasn't quite a chore.  As you can see there is plenty of new growth out the front  I have finished tidying all but one of the borders.  I hope to get stuck into that this coming weekend.

Aerated lawn March 2016
The last remaining New Year's Resolution not to be broken is now broke!  Although in my defence, this work is more of a necessity and certainly not through choice.  Despite me moving the shed to a higher position the floor and side wall is still getting saturated when it rains.  It will only be a matter of time before it begins to rot.  I have decided to bite the bullet and replace it but at the same time take the opportunity to  remove a good part of the deck it sits on while I am at it.  Already some of the deck boards are rotting anyway so would need replacing sometime soon.  Two birds with one stone and all that.

The frame underneath though is still very sound and I need to take sections out at a time, this is all very labour intensive.  I'm not as young as I was when I put this in 9 years ago!  Those posts are sunk into concrete that is about 2ft deep!  The whole area is covered with a weed suppressing membrane, which in turn is covered in 3 tonnes of gravel chippings.  Yes, this job was meant to last!  The disposal of the stuff itself is a headache, I only have a small hatchback car.  It means multiple trips to the local dump.  I am now on first name terms with Stan and Tam.  

I don't envisage me getting it finished anytime soon since I no longer have many free afternoons. Now if only Olli was old enough I could enlist his help.  Injuries thus far, a suspected broken thumb.  A trip to A&E determined it was not but just badly bruised.  This work, once completed, will not only mean a nice new shed to play around in but I will also have some new areas to plant up.  So will be worth all the effort in the end.  Can you tell I am trying to keep the vibe positive?

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Because I'm Happy!

When I first started gardening 5 years ago I gave little, nae absolutely no, thought to how my garden looked in spring.  I got the 'evergreen for structure' thing but it was the little things that my garden lacked.  The penny finally dropped a couple of springs later and since then I have been trying to rectify this oversight.  Wandering around taking some pictures for this month's Bloom Day Post, as you do, today (Sunday) it dawned on me that some of my plans are now coming together.  I don't have huge plant budgets and things have been introduced gradually rather than in bulk.  Gardening this way can have it's benefits. It means that failures (and I've had a few, believe me) are not quite so costly as they may otherwise be. Those failures are not exclusive to spring blooming plants but I have found that many bulbs have fallen fowl to the winter wet here.  

Take for example the woodland border.  Since discovering snowdrops and snakehead fritilaria do well in such positions I have been adding more common snowdrops to this area each spring by dividing existing clumps.  A few more have been moved here this last of week.  A single clump of fritilaria have survived 3 winters on the trot so I know I will be safe to add more of these.  If I don't manage to source some pots over the next couple of weeks I will add more in autumn.  I trialed some narcissus here last year, N. Jack Snipe to be precise and they too have reappeared, although not in bloom yet.
Hellebores, Crocus and Snowdrops in the woodland
I have an issue with large in your face frilly narcissus.  Apologies if they are your 'thing' but they are just one of those plants that does not float my boat.  I soon discovered not all daffodils are alike I promptly started adding some dwarf varieties here and there just to add a pop of colour in an otherwise dull spot.  I can live with these.  There are many white daffs to flower later.  Those I do love!

Narcissus Tete a Tete and large dutch crocus.  C. Jeanne D/arc and Pickwick
Primula Drumcliff in the centre

Perfectly framed more N. Tete a Tete, common snowdrops and an unnamed oriental hybrid Hellebore in the shady bed.  I was weeding nearby and this little grouping caught my eye.  The common snowdrops in this bed are the first I brought to the garden.  A handful of bulbs in the green given to me by a friend of my mum.  All the other are descended from these 3 clumps.  There are singles and doubles mingling together.
Also in this bed, edging the entire border, are the last of my specials to bloom this year.  If you look closely you can see the different characteristics of each variety.

Galanthus Augustus, Blonde Inge, Brenda Troyle and Viridipice

I added some deep purple Crocus to turn this Hellebore/Snowdrop partnership into an eye catching trio.  The crocus really stand out against the white blooms.  They came labelled only as Crocus,  I have no idea which variety they are.  They are as large as the other dutch Crocus growing nearby so am wondering if they may be Crocus vernus Remembrance.
Hillier hybrid Hellebore, Galanthus nivalis and Crocus .
Yet more Crocii - in my miniature garden growing amongst the tufa rocks.  Saxifraga burseriana Gloria is also coming into bloom.
Crocus biflorus Blue Pearl and Saxifraga burseriana Gloria
Under the young white stemmed birch (Betula utilis Moonbeam) things are now coming together. Just as I envisaged them.  It will be many years before I get the effect I am after but I am sure you'll agree this is a start.  

Galanthus Spindlestone Surprise, Crocus chrysanthus Romance and Erathis cilicica
G. plicatus Sophie North.  Blooming now.  In remembrance of the sixteen children and their teacher that were murdered in Dunblane on that tragic day 20 years ago.


All the Eranthis in the garden were added in the green, which I believe is the best way to introduce them to your garden, last year.   Thus far more than half of them have reappeared - I hope the remainder are just slow off the mark.

Corydalis are amongst my spring favourites.  They are some of the earliest spring bloomers in my garden.  Top left C. Purple Bird has been blooming since January and still looks great.  It got a head start in the mild weather and has battled through those frosts we've had.  
Corydalis Purple Bird, malkensis, First Kiss and Beth Evans
Nature does it best don't you think?  Some purple crocus have nestled themselves beside an evergreen fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) and a silver leafed Cyclamen hederifolium in the side garden.

Asplenium scolopendrium, Cyclamen hederifolium and Crocus chrysanthus
Out in the front garden, Crocus open fully in the sun when it shines.  Monday was one of those days. It was sunny and warm I managed to catch sight of a red tailed bumblebee.  No camera to hand though.  We rarely see bees and other pollinators early in the year but I cater for them nevertheless.

Crocus sieberi Spring Beauty
Lastly, 2 new additions to my garden this spring.  Both Hellebores, shock!  It's difficult to escape them in the GCs right now.  They have been added to the small bed near the kitchen door which also contains the Amelanchier Obelisk I purchased with my birthday vouchers.

Helleborus orientalis Anna's Red

Helleborues orientalis Cinderella


Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Tree Following 2016 - along the river bank

I have had a change of mind and abandoned the idea of following the wind damaged Birch that grows in my garden for this year's Tree Following meme.  I felt that I may have had a real struggle finding something interesting or new to say over the next 11 or so months.  Pat, apologies for this sudden change of mind.  As yet I haven't a clue as to the ID of the tree I am choosing.  It will become apparent in the next month or so.  I doubt it's anything rare, special or magnificent.

I set out along this path just shortly after I had eaten my lunch.  It's not far at all from the house.  At the end of the street to be exact.  The sun was shining and it had already chased away an earlier chill.  I had absolutely no idea just which tree or group of trees I was going to choose.  However, I have to be mindful of the fact that as of next week I will more than likely have to bring baby Olli along on this walk with me.  His mum is returning to work after her maternity leave and Gramma (as I have affectionately become known) will have him most afternoons. Further along this route the terrain is pretty hilly and I would have problems manoeuvring his buggy up and down the hills.      

For the first half a mile the ground is relatively flat and I should imagine manoeuvring the buggy relatively easy.  Further along the path the tree planting is dense and the ground doesn't dry out much. Another reason not to go traipsing the buggy along there.

River walkway with Broxburn shale bings in the distance

As I stroll along the river it very quickly becomes apparent to me that without leaves I have absolutely no idea just what most of the trees are.  The two above I know are rowans.  They are covered in red berries in autumn, they don't last though.

This tree, on the other side of the river, is gnarled, covered in lichen and in my opinion an interesting shape.  Because of where it is it would be impractical for me to follow.  There would be no opportunty for close ups - I doubt the farmer would take kindly to me wandering through his field.  A lone Jackdaw sits a top.  I have seen the water come up the bank and out over  the field when the river is high at this spot.  

I pass Sycamore, many more Rowans and others I do not recognise. Willows generally line the bank along this first section.   The water is low and quite clear today.

Oops! This next tree is obviously dead.  To the touch the entire trunk is squidgy a bit like a damp sponge.  The damage to the bark? Is this natural decay or has some critter or other had a helping hand I wondered.
Looking back from whence I came
my house is obscured from the trees of in the distance in the centre of this shot

There are groups of Hawthorn planted on the sections between the development site boundary and the path.  Or at least I think they are Hawthorn.  I would suspect this particular grouping were deliberately planted, it looks to uniform not to be. This site is really open and with the prevailing wind from the West they all list in exactly the same way.

Hawthorns between the path and the site boundary

What particularly struck me is the fact that on this side of the river there are very few snowdrops growing.  On the opposite bank - clumps were happily growing.  Observing these snowdrops over the years made me aware that our common snowdrop, G. nivalis, will quite happily thrive in far from perfect conditions.  The water can be high here for many many weeks on end.    

Dead?  I think so or at the very least on the way out.  Many of the trees that line the river bank I note have suckers rising from fallen remains.

There is bracket fungus about the size of a dinner plate nearer the top of the trunk of this particular tree.

There is a man made fork in the path here.  The path veering off to the left is to higher ground and preferred by the local dog walkers.  In the 9 years I've lived here the only folks I've ever noticed using this path are locals.  The fact that this path goes nowhere means we never see any serious walkers. Older folks in the village tell me that at one point you could walk right through to the neighbouring town (Broxburn) but the through path has been blocked further up the route.

As you round the bend the area opens up a bit more.  It does not feel so narrow and enclosed. The river is now a good 50 yds or so away from the foot path at this point.  Right now the river is still accessible but in the coming months once the nettles and brambles take over you need a suit of armour to get down there.

A close up of the viaduct in the background.  This Viaduct forms the boundary between Edinburgh City and West Lothian.  This viaduct, The Almond Valley Viaduct, was built between 1839 and 1842. Part of the main Glasgow to Edinburgh train line it remains the longest structure on any railway in Scotland.  If you are so inclined, I've provided a link with more historical details for you.  I waited, yet no train came!

Almond Valley Viaduct
The land along the river here has a planning designation of Site of  importance for Natural Conservation(SiNC) placed upon it.  It borders a site earmarked for the development of just under 600 homes.  This is not a bad thing.  Our area needs these homes to ensure we maintain a good public transport system and other services.  As part of their outline planning consent, the developers must improve this area and make it more accessible.  Whether or not this ever comes to fruition is anyone's guess.

This tree at the next clearing I thought would make an ideal candidate to follow.  I have absolutely no idea which particular species it is.  Something common obviously as I have passed by many that look very similar.

I thought it had some interesting features.

An elephant's eye?

There are lichens.  I note that a lot of the trees here have this same yellow lichen on them.  This particular lichen, if I have my identification right, is Golden Shield Lichen (Xanthoria parientina) is found in sunny exposed areas.  In the shade it lacks this orange/yellow colouring.  I wonder will it loos it's colouring once the tree leafs out.

There is fresh green growth appearing on the floor beneath.  Again, showing my ignorance, I haven't the foggiest as to what this is.  I've a lot of learning to do.  Native or a non native invasive?  I know for sure there is the invasive Himalayan Balsam growing along the river bank here. It will be interesting to see what else I come across.

I can hear but can't see many birds.  In particular there is a male chaffinch peeping like mad behind me.  I have obviously unsettled him.  Perhaps he knows it's me, the lady that provides the sunflower hearts in her garden.  I shall bring some with me next time I think.

Seed heads around my chosen tree
Lastly, from the opposite angle.  You can't failed to be impress by those beautiful blue skies. Proving that it's not always gloomy skies here in Scotland.

I hope you enjoyed your wee walk today.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

End of Month View February 2016

It's the time of the month when myself and other garden bloggers join Helen - The Patient Gardener for our End of Month View posts.

This year I am choosing a couple of borders to follow for this meme.  Both spots are on the shadier side of my garden and both need a bit of fine tuning in one way or another.  My regular readers will know that I have a habit to cramming in way too many plants.  As you all know I've hidden the shoehorn this year.  As the year progresses I want to observe and get my thoughts down on the record.

The first of which is the bed with the unimaginative name of Shady Bed in gravel area.          

End of January 2016
It had been my intent to tidy and weed this area before I wrote this post but the best laid plans and all that.  Most of my gardening time has been spent on the sunnier side of the garden.  It takes a while for the shadier side to thaw out and by that time I've usually got other things to be getting on with.  There really is not much difference between both shots.  While right now there is plenty of greenery, various shades and textures, I know that eventually as the months progress colours will clash and plants will compete for space.  This is never a good thing is it?  The corner really to watch is the right hand side. There is a beautiful Cotinus here but it takes so long to come into leave I sometimes wonder if it is actually worth keeping.  Just how much value does a shrub that only looks good from July to September bring to the garden?    The bare fencing also gets on my nerves.  But since I don't have a magic wand there is nowt I can do about that.      

End of February 2016
Right now clumps of common snowdrops are getting ready to bloom.  They bloom a few weeks later on this side of the garden than the do on the sunnier side.  The remainder of the special snowdrops are coming into bloom too.  Those blooms choosing to remain tightly shut since there is no warmth to open them.  G. Augustus and Blond Inge (a lovely gift from Anna @ Greentapestry last year) were new last year.  I am pleased they appear to be increasing nicely.  
left to right: G. Augustus, Blonde Inge, Brenda Troyle and Viridipice
The view from the back step.  You can see there are many bulbs coming up.  Pulmonaria and Corydalis for more spring colour.  My newest snowdrops have been planted in the little strip this side of the trellis.

From the back step February 2016 
And from the opposite angle.  Not much more to see I'm afraid.
End of February 2016
Difficult to make out in the wider shots but there are Hellebores blooming or about to come into bloom in this bed right now.  A pair of NOID oriental hybrids with some Narcissus Tete a Tete.

Helleborus x hybrid Yellow Lady is a bit, shall we say worse for wear.  Confirmation, if ever I needed it, Helleborus do not like a windy situation.  This plant needs moving if I am ever to get the best out off it.  

The other bed I am following this year is the Camellia/Enkianthus bed on the other side of the trellis there are few Snowdrop blooms.  The Enkianthus is one of my favourites.  The snowdrops here were added last spring.  They too are increasing.  The Camellia in the back corner, the shorter of the pair, is another plant that has a fight on it's hand.  The cause though is not so obvious.  I planted Actinidia kolomikta to provide fence cover in summer.  I saw it growing in my local nursery in shade and it look spectacular.  I had a vision!  For those that don't know Actinidia kolomikta is a far bigger draw for cats than Nepeta is.  Or at least one local cat in particular - Travis.  He spends a lot of his time in this particular corner and in the process of getting his jollies or whatever it is he gets from Actinidia, he continually snaps the Camellia's stems.   Bloody Cat!  Actually, as I write the idea of swapping the Cotinus for this Camellia in the other bed pops into my head.  Something to think about.    

End of February 2016 
That's about it I'm afraid.  Apologies to Helen for being a day late with my post.  You'd have thought given the fact that we had an extra day I'd have managed to be on time.  Thanks for reading.