wild flowers

Last year I was thrilled to have a number of orchids appear in my ‘wild’ garden.  I wasn’t sure how the orchids spread, so last year gave a little helping hand and scattered the dried seed towards the end of the summer.  Amazingly I have about 30 this year – of two separate varieties – which I believe are Northern Marsh-orchid and Heath Spotted-orchid. I have the stunning and very helpful “Wild Flowers” book by Sarah Raven which has helped with identification – the Northern Marsh-orchid grows prolifically through seed dispersion, so perhaps next year I could have a field of purple?

The plan in this space had been to hire a turf remover, take out the entire top layer of soil to reduce the nutrient level and then to scatter a native seed mix.  However, the orchids are so happy that I have changed the plan slightly – now I plan to remove foot-square patches into which I will sow Yellow Rattle and a native seed mix.  The Coronation Meadows site for Derbyshire is the starting point for wildflower varieties in my area.

This area of the garden will eventually extend to housing the bee hive – planned for 2018 – but I have always considered it a bit of a wasteland.  However, having paged through the “Wild Flowers” book, it is no longer a wasteland, rather a very small wildflower meadow.  So far, I have identified 16 varieties.  Some, the Common Thistle, Lady’s Mantle, Common Bistort and Ground Elder, need to be carefully managed;  but others – such as the Foxgloves, Lesser Stitchwort and Meadow Saxifrage – will hopefully respond well to the decrease in tough grasses through the introduction of Yellow Rattle.  I’m also considering adding some historic wild roses to the mix.  If only there were more hours in the week!

 

the ‘old’ border

My home was built by the Duke of Devonshire in 1923 for a member of his Estate team…  perhaps the head gardener?!  My husband has owned the house for about 20 years and having tracked back through the records we believe we are the 4th family to live here.

The previous owner, a Mrs Williams, loved her garden.  We know that she had one full-time and one part-time gardener when the garden was at its peak, and we believe that she requested the planting of the superb rhododendrons which create such a strong visual impact at the front of the house.  The wilderness garden – soon to be my mini-orchard with bee hives – was her vegetable plot.  The original greenhouse and cold frames still exist in that space – at the moment both are overgrown and not used – hopefully that will change one day when I have some more time (or the funds to hire a gardener…) 🙂

The garden was lovingly maintained by my in-laws for approximately 15 years before I started to work on it.  It’s been so wonderful to bring new life and perspective to a space that has been loved by so many people for so many years!

The pictures included here are of the only border to have survived from Mrs Williams’ time – we believe it is 30+ years old.  The pink / orange combination of Persicaria bistorta ‘Superba’ and Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ perhaps shouldn’t work – but is superb…  as the season progresses Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and Filipendula purpurea and albiflora carry the space through to winter.

I hope Mrs Williams and her gardeners of past would appreciate how much time and love go into her garden today.

 

a riot of colour

I have really enjoyed reading so many beautiful posts on tulips – particularly as my own display this year hasn’t been brilliant.  I planted 100 in the front garden and very few have actually flowered – totally my own fault as they were planted in February.  The tulips in the photograph are the free Darwin Hybrids that I (again very last minute) shoved into a few pots. They have been sensational – strong statement colours that lasted for about two weeks.  These shall now be planted deeply into the side border – hopefully to return for many years to come!

The remaining flower photographs are all from the pond garden.  The Primula denticulata have been amazing planted en mass with some orange tulips and daffodils.  The daffodils have carried through the brilliant yellow of the marsh marigolds.  Floating over the bed are the stunning pink flowers of the ornamental cherry.  I know that purple, orange, yellow and pink should perhaps not work…  but it has been amazing!  As the primula flowers fade I have 80 P. vialii ready to fill the gap.

In the potager I have planted out the sweet peas, peas, mangetout, radish, beetroot, sugar snaps, greens and some edible flowers.  The greenhouse is full to bursting with seedlings.  I’m starting to plan the removal of turf in the bee garden / orchard and the expansion of the back garden border.  Plus there’s all the weeding, additional planting and moving – so much to do, so little time!

 

the year begins

Cherry Garden

I love Spring.  The flowers, the bird call, the vibrant lime green leaves that are just starting to show.  The pond is coming alive and oh so suddenly there is a garden again!

Most of my seed sowing has happened over the last few weeks.  Except for the tomatoes (which I’m really questioning this year – the time -v- output – can I justify it?), everything else has had the first crop sown.  Lovely to see the greenhouse full of seed trays and new shoots.  A little frightening as well given the snow we had up here last night and during the day.  Last year I started everything off too late and felt the consequences during my summer harvest – hopefully I haven’t jumped too soon this year!  Impossible weather.

The rhubarb has been as wonderful as ever, although it has already started to flower.  Does this mean it needs to be split?  Stewed with ginger and orange juice – superb!  I still have kale, purple sprouting broccoli and leeks coming from last year – have well and truly filled the hungry gap for 2017.

The front spring border has been beautiful – the weeks I spent clearing rhododendron, rotivating, weeding and planting bulbs was certainly worthwhile.  Now it needs to be refined.  I’ve had lots of fritillary spring up – however, I understand why they are naturalised rather than planted into the border – the flowers are beautiful but they look a little lost without some grass.  My strength is certainly not grasses – but I expect there is something that I could plant both to support them and to show off the blooms to their full potential – perhaps that’s a job for tomorrow’s snowy day.

 

the birds

 

I was recently asked to bring to mind a safe place.  Somewhere that made me feel calm, alive and soothed.  Whenever asked a question like this previously, my mind automatically pictured a tropical beach scene.  This time, however, I paused and considered what was relevant for me now – I pictured myself in my back garden, sitting in the sun on the pontoon that floats over the pond, watching the birds bathe and feed. The daffodils are flowering and the cherry is coming into blossom.  Not only can I see the birds, but their song fills the air.  This scene uses four of my senses which I believe makes it more liveable.

I have spent many hours over the past two weeks enjoying this scene from my kitchen window – not because I needed a mental ‘safe place’ but because the birds are just so beautiful.  A pair of bullfinches, song thrush, goldfinches, nuthatches, robins, blue tits, wrens, chaffinches – there are just so many beautiful birds visiting the ornamental cherry tree – feeding off the tree but also on the black sunflower seeds and the niger seeds that I provide.

I had planned to spend time this week hard pruning the dogwood that sits behind the pond.  It was planted by the previous owners and, while I have attacked it every year, it’s still relatively out of control and towers almost 3 metres high.  The plan was to cut a third of the stems to ground level to provide stunning new red growth for the years ahead.  However – the birds love it how it is and are often perched on the high stems drying their feathers after a bath.  So, for their sake, I’ve decided to continue as I have in the past – controlling very lightly.  It is their garden more than it is mine.

When I last visited my parents I loved watching the birds that visited their feeders, but was struck by the stark difference between their Australian experience and mine – out there the birds were huge – king parrots, rainbow lorikeets, galahs and cockatoos – birds that are totally in-your-face with their colours and their calls.  In comparison our English birds are charming and dainty, infinitely more subtle but every bit as beautiful.

 

winter flowers

 

I think flowers at the end of winter are absolutely delightful.  My hellebore”Penny’s Pink” is just stunning;  I also have a white hellebore that is a lot simpler but also very beautiful – I’m rather wowed by its change from white to green.  I’ve discovered recently that I love green flowers, they balance other colours so beautifully.

Elsewhere in the garden I have a mahonia, sarcococca and winter heathers all in flower, as well as crocus and a few snowdrops.  My snowdrops have been really disappointing – after transplanting a couple of hundred last year, very few have come up.  I planted them in the green into a rose bed…. and think now that perhaps the soil is just too rich for them to manage.  I’ll now dig up the few that have survived and move them to a more hospitable location.

I also have a shrub that has flowered for the first time this winter – it’s been in the garden for about 3 years and had made the ‘do something or die’ list.  I vaguely recall buying a scented shrub for near the front door, so to see it flower is lovely.  I think it’s a Lonicera purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ – however, I’m not inundated with the many flowers shown on on-line images… perhaps I’ve not nurtured it enough, or it may still be too immature.  Anyway, while the plant is not the most beautiful specimen, the depth and sweetness of the scent is a joy.

This week I have finally managed to sow my sweet peas – I’ve never sown this late so fingers crossed I have some blooms later in the season.  We’ve had so much rain in Buxton – as we move into March I’m really ready to stop planning and to start moving!

 

 

 

winter warming

Having turned my back on the garden for the past month, it’s lovely to connect again and to feel the love for my little space.  The garden is full of birds, the bulbs are on the move and, surprisingly, I’m still enjoying quite a few vegetables from the plot.  Three varieties of kale – used as a key ingredient in a warming winter soup!

Downing tools has given me the chance to sew a special birthday quilt for a surf-loving brother.  It has also given me time to reflect on the year that has been, and of course, to consider what I’d like to achieve for the year ahead.  Opening for the NGS last year was physically really tiring – so I’m very happy this year to garden for myself – to make improvements and finish a few projects, but most of all to enjoy the garden, to sit and read, to pick more flowers and take more photographs.

There are some aspects that I don’t think worked for me last year.  The cutting garden has gone, primarily because it was at its peak in July / August when I head away for the summer – all that work and no-one to harvest and enjoy it seemed a bit sad.  Edible flowers will remain, and I will certainly do the sweet peas and cornflowers – but I’ll go back to picking (sparingly) from the borders!

My other real ‘failure’ was my Sissinghurst-esque tie down of the roses.  I believe the mistake I made was pulling them too strongly – so many of the branches that were tied didn’t flower at all, and some died.  Big error.  I will attempt it again, but will be kinder on the poor rose!  I loved a post by The Dahlia Papers on Sissinghurst – and can picture the rose lace adorning my stone walls…  I have a trip planned to Sissinghurst in June so can check if mine looks like theirs…  I can but try.