Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Shear Perfection

T IS FOR?
TOPIARY!
Trimmed to a tee, some tantalising topiary that we were fortunate to be treated to on our travels in September. Firstly above and below in the gardens at Great Dixter, Kent ~


and then this tailored allée in Les Jardins de Séricourt, France ~


where we were also treated to this tableux ~


Not quite tea for two but terribly civilised nevertheless.

Tango over to ABC Wednesday for more on the terrific letter T.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Spring in November


My sister is away travelling in South America where it is spring. She has been taunting me with regular texts to the effect that the temperature is seriously warm, that she is on Copacabana Beach, then that she is in Buenos Aires where there is a haze of purple blossom etc, etc. On a decidedly grim and grey November day earlier this week, came an email with the photo that you can see above of jacaranda trees in Buenos Aires. "Too much information sis :) " was my rather short reply.

Yet here in the north west of England there are definite signs of blossom and spring out there. Perhaps not quite as striking as the jacaranda are the subtle flowers of Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis' or the autumn flowering cherry. Little sprigs of blossom have been breaking throughout this week which made my heart skip a beat. Providing there are no severe frosts this will flower for a good while here before having a kip and then a second flowering come spring. I first saw mention of it in Vita Sackville - West's 'Garden Book' and decided that I would like to plant this tree one day. She used to cut branches to open up in the warmth of the house "where the green buds surprisingly expand into the white, faintly - scented blossom suggestive of spring." There is both a pure white flowering version and a white tinged with pink, which is the one I grow. I have been trying to photograph my tree for the last couple of days but it has been blowing a hooley. You can see it here photographed in December 2009 but for a clearer idea of what the flowers are like Liz, over at Gwirrel's Garden has recently posted about the same tree. Liz has a superb talent for photography and if you have not visited her blog before you are really in for a visual treat.

Other signs of spring are a hellebore in flower, despite me protesting to the contrary when I read Rosie's post over at LeavesnBloom. That was before I did a spot of tidying up and spotted a flash of white from Mrs Betty Ranicar'. Then my sadly reduced collection of named snowdrops (which have been decimated by the last two winters) is showing activity. Galanthus 'Mrs McNamara' who usually appears in January is already showing white whilst the noses of other 'drops are already breaking through!

My sister returns this coming week but I now feel that I cope with those warm weather texts and emails should more land on my phone.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

"Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree"

S IS FOR?
SIESTA!
If you screw up your eyes and squint you will see the silhouettes of several sheep snoozing their way through a sunny September afternoon, under the shade of a spreading sweet chestnut tree. How many Ss in that?

Slip over to ABC Wednesday to be serenaded by the scintillating letter S!

P.S. This sweet chestnut is one of many fine trees in Fredville Park, just outside the village of Nonington in Kent. The most famous specimen there is 'Majesty' one of the largest common oaks in Europe. This tree features in Thomas Pakenham's book 'Meetings With Remarkable Trees'.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Plants That Die Disgracefully

Some plants simply have the knack of bowing out gracefully whilst others it seems seem to attract attention to themselves for all the wrong reasons.  We read in gardening books and magazines about the glowing colours of autumn foliage but are rarely made aware of plants that are grim at this time of year. I have wondered round the garden this morning where my eyes have been assailed by some unpleasant sights which I am going to share a couple with you.

I will start though with a pleasant passing before revealing the unseemly -  that of a hardy geranium (wracking my brain in vain to think which one it is but not succeeding at the moment - maybe sanguineum) which you can see at the top of the page. Almost as pleasing as when it is smothered with flowers. Would that all specimens in my garden follow in its wake.

Gently leading up to the real bleugh - below is the foliage of polygonum or 'Solomon's Seal' ~
Now this seems decidedly dreary to my eyes yet I have read suggestions that you should grow this plant for its autumn foliage. I also read about it producing attractive small black berries in autumn but they remain elsusive.  I am unable to understand why it should be recommended for autumn but perhaps it behaves differently in other peoples garden. Maybe somebody reading this has evidence to the contrary

As for my finale this really should carry a government health warning as I do not prune it until spring. It is clematis x jouiniana 'Praecox'. This is a late to flower scrambler which is covered with flowers from July to October. It is great to pick for small vases and it attracts bees and butterflies. The Royal Horticultural Society has bestowed an Award of Garden Merit upon it but surely not for its grim departure. Please avert your eyes if you are of a sensitive disposition ~
It look even more unpleasant on wet days and as autumn proceeds. Perhaps you have some autumn ugliness that you would like to nominate for a plant that dies disgracefully.

All photos were taken this morning on what could only be a November day.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

'Mother And Child Reunion'

R IS FOR?
REUNION!
In raptures at being reacquainted mother and child roaming in the gardens of Powis Castle, North Wales one afternoon last autumn.

If you are about to pause for refreshment and a relaxing rest, may I suggest that you might really enjoy this rather heartwarming rendition of 'Mother And Child Reunion'. It is sung by an artist held in high regard ~ Mr. Paul Simon.



Now why not race over to ABC Wednesday for more on the rather rumbustious letter R!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

'Double Dipping'


This 'double dip' autumn continues broken only briefly by the first frost last Sunday. Any thoughts of lifting the dahlias had to be put on hold as I was heading south for a few days. I have come back to find frazzled leaves but still need to lift them and find them a des res for the winter. Other than that most other things escaped damage and it has turned mild again. Before I went there was time to sow a few pots of sweet peas. The sowing I made in October was most disappointing as only seven seeds germinated out of fifteen. I am not sure how old the seed was but I picked up a packet of a new introduction 'Prima Ballerina' and hope that they fare better. I have never sown sweet peas so late in the year so yesterday I switched the heated sand bench on in the greenhouse. Maybe some bottom heat will encourage them to get going. I must order some more sweet pea seeds for spring sowing - definitely 'Matucana' but also want to try some different varieties. The catalogues have been arriving in dribs and drabs including the arrival this week of Elizabeth MacGregor's new catalogue which I am really looking forward to browsing through. Somehow online catalogues are never quite as satisfying. I have had a quick flick and am tempted by a few plants.

Himself has been busy this weekend relocating the bird box that we fitted with a camera earlier this year. We were hoping to be able to watch 24/7 live action from the nest but it was not to be. We were initially encouraged to see leaves and twiggy bits arrive and held our breath in vain for some time. Our most exciting moment was when we saw a wood louse scuttle across the floor of the box. So we have decided to try another venue next year and have finally decided on its location. The box will be spring cleaned next spring and a few starter leaves added for encouragement. Maybe there will be fledgelings to report on then.

Meanwhile the leaf sweeping goes on and on. I have been wondering when the leaves in the photo are going to relinquish their hold and where they will land. The tree - a cherry blossom belongs to our next door neighbour - it had lost all its foliage on the same date in 2009. So for all the talk of a premature start autumn is still going strong.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Just Chilling

Q IS FOR?
QUIET! 
There is nothing quite like getting your quota of quality afternoon kip. Spring 2011 ~ a pair of ducks on our lawn and a quirky gnome nodding off in a Shropshire garden ~


Quickly over to ABC Wednesday now for more on that letter Q!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

'A Day In Autumn'


"It will not always be like this,
The air windless, a few last
Leaves adding their decoration
To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs
Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening
In the lawn’s mirror. Having looked up
From the day’s chores, pause a minute.
Let the mind take its photograph
Of the bright scene, something to wear
Against the heart in the long cold."

~ R.S. Thomas , 1913 - 2000

Slightly late in the day but continuing in the tradition established by Carolyn from 'Sweet Home and Garden Chicago' here is my November muse. There is a feel in the air today that the "long cold" is not so off. Yet earlier in the week it was hard to believe that we had entered November. It was sunny and warm enough to put washing out to dry, whilst at the allotment I picked the last courgettes and a bowlful of most delicious autumn fruiting 'Polka' raspberries.

It is dry for Bonfire Night celebrations - I will not be putting my head out of the door as I am an absolute wimp when it comes to loud noises. Luckily though we can catch glimpses of the local public display. I hope that all the children enjoy thmeselves, that both folk and creatures stay safe and that the crew on duty at our local fire station just down the road are not busy tonight.

P.S. It is not yet completely dark here so the photo was taken last year. I was brave enough to stand in the porch for a few minutes.
P.P.S. The 'long cold' may well have arrived - woke up to the first frost of the year the morning after the fireworks.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Le Jardin de Marie Ange

P IS FOR?
POTAGER! ~ we visited this oh so pretty potager in the Pas - de - Calais region of France in September, himself having persuaded me that as we had travelled as far south as Kent for a holiday, that it made perfect sense to go on to France for a few days afterwards. The weather was the pits but we still managed to fit in a couple of garden visits. This potager with its pear tree and pumpkins is just one part of 'Le Jardin de Marie Ange', a member of L'association des Parcs et Jardins du Nord/ Pas - de - Calais. The association promotes and publicises some 37 parks and gardens in the area that open their portals to the public. We bumped into the owner of this garden as we arrived - she was heading out for a painting class. Madame spoke a little English and "Je parle un petite peu de francais" but the language of plants is international. We chatted for ten minutes or so about her garden and other gardens to visit in the region. When we parted I felt that I had made a new pal. I plan to return to show you more of this this picturesque and most pleasing to the eye garden in future posts.

Please promenade over to ABC Wedneday for more on the letter P!