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.


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.


“to forget how….

As the winter chills and the grey skies descend, sending me into a whirl of homesickness for warm days and a family gathering, I’ve looked to my garden to help snap me out of it. Sure it was a blustery, cold day – but getting out into the elements and planting some of the few bulbs I hadn’t yet got to was good therapy!  And I watched a kingfisher diving into my pond – absolutely amazing – and suddenly my world righted itself just a little.

Mum gave me a beautiful ceramic pendant a few years ago that now hangs on the rustic fence at the back of my garden.  It reads….  “to forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves” (Ghandi).  I certainly find my horticultural exploits very grounding and life affirming – and have met so many people, both personally and in the virtual world, who feel the same.  We are so lucky to have discovered such a beautiful gift.

I have promised myself that in 2017 I’m not going to start another large garden project. Rather, I want to really look at what I have and make the very best of all of it.  Enhanced colour combinations, extended seasonal interest, growing food that takes me through all the seasons, installing the polytunnel, sorting out the shed!  It will be a year of maintenance and completion. And when possible, to encourage and include my little girl in the garden – to try and get some of this goodness into her life as well.

But for now, as the forecast is set to dip again, I’m enjoying planning the vegetable garden planting for 2017.  The thousand bulbs that went into the front garden are starting to shoot – so, while trying to live as mindfully as possible, I’m also looking forward to the show of colour after all the planting work of 2016.

in the pink

As the weather starts to cool down I am thoroughly enjoying some late season colour in the garden.  I love all shades of pink and, perhaps unsurprisingly, that’s what I have! Dahlias, roses, astilbe, persicaria, sedum…. there is a little orange and yellow out there, but pink is queen.

There’s not, however, the range of blooms or berries that I hope for in my late summer garden. I’ve had the same thoughts for the last couple of years – the problem is that I’ve run out of energy by now and while I wish for it to look slightly different, it’s always gone onto the ‘must get round to that that’ list.  And that list is already quite long.  I guess every gardener’s must do list is quite long…..

So while the ‘back garden colour’ project is shelved for a few more weeks, the front garden has started to take shape.  Two weeks of hand-weeding has seen the 100m² space almost cleared.  I’ve stacked the bags of spring bulbs where I can see them which is a great motivator as I’ve felt extremely guilty if I even think of not getting them planted in time. Must not make any more bulb purchases next year while on holidays!

Happily the productive garden is amazing.  Beetroot, raspberries, beans, cucumbers, courgettes, herbs, garlic, spring onions, rhubarb, blackberries.  And I could go on – yes, there’s not masses of anything (there is no bottling or freezing happening so far) but there is plenty for us for every day – now and in the months to come. A good result I feel for this cold, cold part of the world!

so the garden grows

It has taken me a good number of days to settle back to life in Buxton.  After the glorious clear skies of Cornwall, the low-hanging fog that lingers over the Pennines makes the whole place seem a little cold and uninspiring.  I needed some sunny skies to get outside and rekindle my love for my garden!

While I have faltered, the garden has flourished.

There are plenty of flowers to ponder and to pick.  The sweetpeas and cornflowers have had a fabulous year – though both are now nearing ‘the end’.  I’ll pick a couple more bouquets and both will sadly be done.  The dahlias have been fed well and continue to send up buds, here’s hoping they flourish for a couple more months until the first frosts (please).  Best of all, my hollyhocks have flowered.  I’m a huge fan of deep red / black flowers – and they have not disappointed.

Wonderfully, there is produce left for me.  I have a few standouts – yellow beetroot are superb – sweeter than the red and much more productive.  Roasted with some fresh thyme they are sensational.  Runner beans are a gift that keep on giving.  The pink fir apple potatoes have also done really well, despite some slug damage due to their time in the ground (totally my fault for leaving them for so long…).  Still, there are plenty of edible potatoes, simply steamed with butter and mint.  Yum.

We have had some unusual wildlife visitors.  The six Great Wood Wasps (Urocerus gigas) heard buzzing in the lounge one evening as we watched Bake Off were interesting!  While it looks terrifying and similar to a giant hornet, it is thankfully quite harmless.

Best of all the little girl had a fantastic first day at secondary school.  So much greatness.  I am happy.