Friday, 30 January 2009

They Missed the Boat



It really has been the sort of January day when hibernation seems an attractive option. We woke up to wet and windy and although both slowly eased off it has been a day for keeping snug indoors. I have been playing about with Picasa. this afternoon. I had great fun choosing my plants for the desert island challenge at Shirls Gardenwatch blog last week, but it was almost asking the impossible to narrow it down to three ! Well today I have made a collage of the almost but not quites. These are all plants that I grow in our garden. Some have been there for years whilst others are comparatively new residents. I really wanted to include a hardy geranium in my three choices, as they are the first perennials that I got into in a big way, but I could not narrow it down to one. Moreover scent was a must have when I made my desert island choices. Sadly hardy geraniums beautiful, often long flowering, and resilient as they are, are simply not scented, with the occasional exception of the foliage. Nothing to make you swoon though. All these were photographed in our garden, except the geranium pratense which was photographed at Catforth Gardens in Lancashire,and clematis 'Alionushka', which was photographed at Buckland Abbey in Devon. I have a feeling that Catforth Gardens no longer opens to the public but must check. The gardens there were beautiful and held a national collection of hardy geraniums. There was also a most tempting nursery attached, where I just had to set a geranium or two free each time we visited.

So here are the candidates that missed the boat to that desert island:

Top left - Geranium pratense 'Plenum Caeruleum' or 'Plenum Violaceum' - I am not sure which. Need a flower to check.
Bottom left- Geranium seedling (not sure of its parents) but the bees like it.
Top centre - Clematis 'Alionushka'
Centre - hellebore
In little jug - Clematis 'Arabella', clematis jouiniana 'Praecox', thalictrum delavayi 'Hewitt's Double' and rosa 'The Fairy'.
Top Right - Aquilegia
Geranium clarkei 'Kashmir White'
Primrose
Bottom right - Clematis 'Petit Faucon'

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

ABC Wednesday - Round 4

B IS FOR:



BUTTERFLIES !

Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower." ~ Hans Christian Anderson


Like all gardeners I welcome all the butterflies that pass through my garden. Usually by the time I have found my camera and sprinted back out they have fluttered off, but here are a couple that I managed to snap one sunny September afternoon. The first is perched on a sedum, a well known plant for attracting butterflies. The others are basking on a clematis jouiniana 'Praecox' which unbeknown to me, when I planted it, is a butterfly magnet.


This is my first post on ABC Wednesday - sadly I missed out on A. Links to posts from other participants are here :

Monday, 26 January 2009

Feeling Rosy




Oh look at what arrived in the post today ! Well truth be told it did not look quite like the above specimen, but more like this :



A muddy polythene bag containing some rather forlorn looking thorny twigs. I always feel that I have taken a gamble buying a a bare root rose. Maybe it is the terminology. I Will this squidgy morass really grow into the stunning rose I saw on a perfect summer day last July? In an earlier post this month I described the unexpected visit we made to Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. Here I would have been perfectly happy to take root in the Queens Garden until the gardens closed for the day. Himself could have kept me fed and watered, and I would have been in seventh heaven gazing at a stunning collection of roses, many of them deliciously fragrant. Himself had other ideas and dragged me off to see other areas of the gardens and castle. However it was to the Queens Garden I returned before we left with camera and notebook in hand.




I must have fallen in love with fifty or so roses that day but this was the one that I kept returning to. She is Rosa 'Felicite Parmentier', described with obvious affection and in more detail here.

I believe that it will probably take four years or so for this rose to get established, but I think that she will be worth the wait. In the same parcel was another rose destined for the allotment but more of her soon. I wonder who else will be planting roses this year ?

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Sunday Post


When I started my blog back in April 2005, I intended to keep a regular record of what was going on in my garden and at the allotment. My blog was going to be somewhere to record sowing times, flowering times, garden visits, plants bought as well as successes and failures etc. Well my good intentions soon fell abysmally by the wayside, just the same way as writing a diary went several years before. However now that I have started to post more regularly I am going to attempt a weekly summary of matters related to garden and the lottie.

Well here we are already with only one more week in January ahead of us. The evenings are starting to draw out slowly but noticeably.

The allotment has remained a no go area so far this year. There are tasks awaiting, but they can wait until until it warms up slightly. To accomplish them I would need to stay for some time and would inevitably have to answer a call of nature. Of course the colder it is the more I want to go. The thought of having to wee into a bucket on a cool January day simply does not appeal. However I am busy with the planning for the season ahead. Books are out and a rough plan of action is being drawn up. During the next week I must get my seed box out to see what if anything needs ordering. That still does not prevent me browsing through the catalogues just in case.

On the garden front not much done but I have made use of any dry spells to continue with tidying up. The snowdrops are almost on the point of opening, whilst the hellebores are plumping out nicely.

I had my first garden centre trip of the year which was greatly enjoyed. A good mooch around followed by lunch. Himself bought me a few birthday presents including H. x intermedia 'Jelena' as photgraphed here so beautifully by Zoe at Garden Hopping. I have hankered after a witch hazel for quite some time so I left the garden centre with a big smile on my face. Himself reassured me that it did not need a seat belt for the journey and that no damage would be sustained. I am glad to say that it arrived intact at its destination.

In the virtual garden I really enjoyed participating in the Desert Island Challenge set by Shirl at Shirls Gardenwatch blog. I visited blogs that I had not visited before. It was fascinating reading about some beautiful plants, why they were chosen and finding out about some new to me plants on the way. The wish list has expanded yet again !

Lastly a word of praise for 'The English Garden'. Since leaving work I have curtailed my expenditure on several items including magazines, but there are still one or two that I can't resist. I can normally pick up 'The English Garden' locally but had not come across the February edition anywhere. So earlier in the week I phoned to see if there were any issues with publication or distribution. I was told that the magazine was out, and should have been available from newsagents for some time. 'Not here I said' - 'No problem. We will put a copy in the post to you' said the voice at the other end of the phone to and true to her word a complimentary copy arrived in the post the next day. Top marks for customer service.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Desert Island Plant Challenge

When I first read about this challenge on Shirls Gardenwatch blog I knew that I would face a pleasurable dilemma in making a decision. I have presumed that as well as edible crops, that my island is going to provide me with materials for building a shelter and for clothing. So in choosing my three plants my main criteria has been to select the plants from my own garden that bring me the greatest pleasure each year. I would want to have some familiar and cherished plants in my new environment.

The first is the snowdrop, such stalwart early visitors and scented too. The first sighting of these flowers never fails to make my heart miss a beat each year. Spring is coming - yaaaaaaaay !



My second choice is the sweet pea which for me the very essence of summer. Not only would I have that breathtaking scent and beautiful colours, but I would also be able to to pick bunches to decorate my island dwelling. Sweet peas would also need regular attention, which would provide me with a welcome diversion. Although they are only an annual I would make sure to save my own seed each year. Here is a sumptuous bunch, not my own but an exhibit at the Wem Sweet Pea Show in July 2003.




My third choice is rosa rubiginosa (formerly rosa eglanteria). This is the sweet briar rose which bears masses of dainty little pink flowers, followed by a proliferation of shiny red hips come the autumn. It arrived in my garden by accident - a gift from the birds. It has a most sweet smelling foliage and on a damp summer's night its scent pervades the air with the scent of apples. I now have this plant in both my garden and allotment. This is easily grown from seed.



Thanks for the challenge Shirl - it was great fun ! More on desert island choices at Shirls Gardenwatch.

Plant Sale - Never Again !



The above photo is of our camper van packed up for its trip to my garden club plant sale back in May 1999. Camper vans are great for plant addicts as himself has found out to his cost. Whether it is a trip to a plant sale, nursery, garden centre or an open garden almost every size and shape of plant can be accommodated with ease. There's never too little space :) Anyway the subject of the garden club plant sale has been in my thoughts for the last few days. This years sale will be held as usual on a Saturday in May. The date is still to be decided so I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will not fall on the same weekend as the Malvern Spring Gardening Show. Himself is hoping that it is not the same day as the FA Cup Final.

Once having committed yourself to participating it is a matter of providing plants and the wherewithal to run your own stall. Although at the end of each sale I utter the heartfelt words "Never again" ! I return almost every year. The day itself is quite long and usually exhausting. An early rise, van to be loaded with plants etc, van to be unloaded at venue, tables to be sorted out and filled with plants then organised in some logical manner etc, etc. There may just be time for a quick slurp of something wet before the official start and our customers pour in. By now I should know better but each year I conveniently manage to forget that sod's law dictates that :

The weather in the days leading up to the plant sale and on the day itself will be cool, wet and windy. You will usually arrive looking like the proverbial drowned rat. You will have dropped plants on the way in and will break a nail or two carrying your plants in. Forget fashion and wear your most comfortable gardening or allotment clothes for the occasion.

You can never have too much change. Amongst your first half a dozen customers, there will invariably be somebody usually making a small purchase, who utters the words 'I am sorry but I have not got any change', and then merrily waves a twenty pound note at you.

Folk will always buy whatever is in flower. You may have far sturdier and superior specimens of the same plant but if ain't got flowers it gets left on the shelf.

Folk always want to buy what you grew last year and did not sell. One year there was an overwhelming demand for hollyhocks and herbs. I grew some the next year so of course nobody wanted them and they all came home with me.

The plant that you have been willing to open its flowers in time for the plant sale always opens the following day.

You bring flowers from your garden to help illustrate what you grow. This vase containing aforesaid flowers always gets knocked over wherever you carefully place it on the table and you get a soaking. You have probably only just dried out.

If labels are taken out of plant plots for a closer scrutiny they do not get returned to the same pot.

You may have nourished seeds and cuttings for weeks, sometimes months but your babies will quite often be handled most roughly and without due respect. Grit your teeth !

Sometimes you may actually be sad to see a plant go depending on who has bought it.


Having said all that I have almost all but said yes to this year's sale. Calling at a local garden centre in the autumn, I came across some sturdy plastic crates at a bargain price. ' Just right for the plant sale ! ' I shouted gleefully. Himself shot me a scathing glance. I am now thinking of what plants I can gather together to travel in these crates come May. To be continued.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Food for Thought



Perfect contemplation for a cold and sleety January day has been this challenge being posed by Shirl at Shirls Gardenwatch blog. I only have one definite up to now, so much more ruminating ahead !

Sunday, 18 January 2009

'Mellow Yellow'



Giving me a reason to sniff and smile - a bunch of beautifully narcissi from a dear friend.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Weekend Starts Here !


It looks as if we are in for a wet and windy weekend in this neck of the woods so there goes the garden and allotment methinks. A hardy perennial I am not. There are chores to do,some shopping on the cards and a sixtieth birthday party to attend but come Sunday I think that I am going to spend some time curled up on the settee reading. Himself at work, the house to myself, so an ideal opportunity. For some years I have treated myself to a book to be savoured in that special lingering twilight zone between Christmas and New Year. This year the Christmas book did not get a look in, as I was laid low with the dreaded lurgy. Christmas and New Year came and went and I lost my appetite both for eating and for reading but am now fully revitalised.

My chosen book for Christmas 2008 was 'The Wonderful Weekend Book - Reclaim Life's Simple Pleasures' by
Elspeth Thompson. The introduction promises a an 'original and inspiring' book that 'shows how we can reclaim the weekend by recharging our batteries and enjoying the simple pleasures in life'. It is 'packed with ideas that will help restore the balance in our lives, reconnect us to the seasons and each other and, quite literally, not cost the earth'.

I usually choose a gardening book for but broke with tradition. Weekends have changed for me during the last few months as I took voluntary redundancy from my job at the end of last July. No more dreading Sunday afternoons/evenings when I had to iron work clothes, empty briefcase of its contents, extract forgotten dessicated bananas and other undesirable items, logically rearrange contents, bathe, wash hair, sometimes cook etc as well as think about and plan my week ahead. Matters further deteriorated when we could get onto our work computer systems via remote access from home. A quick look at my diary for the next week would soon lead to other work activities, and before I knew it I was still on the computer doing work related stuff well into Sunday evening. Now every day stretches ahead like a weekend day, but I can take it at much gentler pace and smile in the knowledge that Sundays are not going to come to such a premature end. So I thought that this book might give me some ideas of new activities to dip my toes into 2009.

I have had a sneaky peek to see what is inside. As well as 'Things to do : Year Round' there are sections on 'Seasonal Pleasures' covering each season, 'Having Guests and Going Away', 'A New Approach to Chores' and 'Bring Back Sunday'. I am pleased to say that the book is not without some gardening related snippets, as the author writes a regular gardening column for one of the British Sunday newspapers and has also written gardening books. I have previously read and thoroughly enjoyed her 'Urban Gardener' and 'A Tale of two gardens'. So come Sunday I will make myself cosy and comfy and hope to be inspired. I will report back here at some stage if I try and enjoy any of the suggested activities. I wonder what fellow gardeners and allotmenteers will be reading this weekend ?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Sunbathing



'I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun,
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:
Sing robin,sing;
I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring'

- Christina Rossetti 1830 -1994

I spotted this little clump of snowdrops just across the road from where I live today and my heart skipped a beat ! No doubts concerning spring as far as I am concerned - it's not far behind.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

'The Leaving of Liverpool'

 
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This evening sees Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture coming to an end with a singsong and fireworks by the waterfront. Liverpool will officially hand over the mantle to Linz, Austria, during the event. Elsewhere in the city, a number of cultural venues are keeping their doors open until late at night to allow people free access to museums, galleries and music events. Despite the heated debates and apprehension that preceded, the year has been hailed as a success both commercially and for the city's image. The BBC News website has a brief summary of the year here. Above are a few of my photos taken in Liverpool,including one of the much acclaimed 'La Princesse' who lurched through the streets of Liverpool under rainy August skies. The fact that thousands of people turned up to see this giant mechanical spider was testimony to how the people of Liverpool took the year's events to their hearts. Funnily enough my phobia of spiders big and small disappeared for the day.

'The Leaving of Liverpool' is a traditional folk song, which tells of a young man leaving his home town and loved ones, on board a ship heading to California. It can be heard here performed by the group 'The Dubliners'

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Itchy Fingers



Well, I know it's much too early and way too cold to start seed sowing but how could I resist ? Today I had an appointment with the Slimming World scales. Having been conspicuously absent during the festive season, I was feeling rather apprehensive about stepping on to the scales of reckoning. I had a bit of time to kill before the session started, so decided to have a browse round Wilkinsons or Wilkos as it is usually known in these parts. I have a feeling that this chain of stores may be more prevalent in the north of England rather than the south, but with the sad demise of Woolworths there are rumours that Wilkos may expand. Oh joy of joys - gone was a lot of the post Christmas stuff and its place the gardening section had remorphed. Much to my delight there were three seed ranges to chose from - an increase on last year. I wonder if this a reflection of the fact that more people are growing from seed especially vegetables. As well as their own brand of seeds which are fine but a bit limited variety wise both Johnsons Seeds and Mr. Fothergills were available.

After some dithering I came away with the above packets. The red leaved lettuce 'Delicato' will be heading for the allotment. I grew 'Bijou' last year which I will grow again but I fancy trying another red leaved lettuce. I do not know whether it's is my imagination but I am sure that the molluscs do not find these as appetising. Also for the allotment I am going to try an early purple sprouting broccoli by the name of 'Rudoph' as seen looking most appetising here

My final choice presented me with the biggest dilemma. I chose
echinacea pallida
but was also tempted by echinacea 'Dreamcoat'. The latter is a new variety this year and promises a range of colours. I am a bit dubious and think that there will be a predominant colour. I like the shape and the soft pink shade of pallida so it won the day. I have not previously had any success with echinaceas. I think that the garden is too damp so instead when big enough, I will plant some of these down at my much sunnier allotment to see how they fare.

Seed browsing was a real tonic on a grey and cold January day and I am sure that I will be nipping into Wilkos regularly as the season progresses. The feel good factor continued when I leapt on the scales, to be told that I have only put on a pound over Christmas !

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Every Picture Tells A Story



This post has been prompted by Monica at Garden Faerie's Musings who recently asked about the origins of the sculpture in my Blogger profile photo. The photo was taken on one of those rare glorious summer days that we experienced in that long wet summer of 2008. We were on our way home in our camper van, travelling back north from a holiday in Pembrokeshire. Breaking the journey up we had stopped here at a site nearGreat Malvern, which over the years has become a favourite bolt hole.

The day dawned and with the prospect of wall to wall sunshine a garden visit was suggested by himself. Needless to say it would have been churlish to refuse. After consulting local tourist brochures we decided to head for Snowshill Manor. We had attempted to visit there once before some time ago but it was closed. Well, lightening does strike twice ! There seems to be a mysterious law in force that National Trust properties shut up shop whenever we decide to head in their direction. I was rather disappointed but after some cursing and muttering the brochures came out again. The decision was made to head for Sudeley Castle as I had vague recollections of Tudor queens strolling in rose gardens there. I have always been fascinated by the Tudors so this seemed to be as good as reason as any to visit.

Well what a glorious place this turned out to be and with apologies to Snowshill Manor it could not have been surpassed. We timed our visit to perfection as the 'Queen's Garden' was at its peak. Left to myself I could have spent the day there just gazing at this most beautiful garden of old roses but himself had to drag me away to explore further. Whilst wandering around the rest of the grounds some weird and wonderful sculptures leapt out at us including the one above which is now my profile photo. Below are one or two others :







We discovered later that there has been a sculpture exhibition in the grounds of Sudeley for the last four years. A slide show can be seen here. Although a few of the other exhibits looked incongruous in such a romantic setting, I thought that the majority only enhanced their setting and added a welcome note of fun . Our visit ended with me escaping back to the rose garden where my notepad and pen just had to come out. The most beautiful rose should be winging its way to me soon but more of that another day. Thanks for asking the question Monica.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Garden Bloggers Muse Day - January

Fir Wood

'The fir trees taper into twigs and wear
The rich blue green of summer all the year,
Softening the roughest tempest almost calm
And offering shelter ever still and warm
To the small path that towels underneath,
Where loudest winds--almost as summer's breath--
Scarce fan the weed that lingers green below
When others out of doors are lost in frost and snow.
And sweet the music trembles on the ear
As the wind suthers through each tiny spear,
Makeshifts for leaves; and yet, so rich they show,
Winter is almost summer where they grow.'

- John Clare,1793 - 1864

A bit late in the day but here is my first effort for Garden Bloggers Muse Day - other muses can be found at Sweet Home and Garden Chigaco.