greentapestry : 2014

Monday 29 December 2014

Snowdrops and Roses

Well here it seems that Christmas disappeared almost faster than you could say it. We have had a stay at home quiet but thoroughly relaxing few days. All in all the batteries which were running down are now thoroughly restored. There has been good food and wine and pursuit of gentle pleasures including reading, jigsaw puzzling, crossword solving, scrabbling as well as watching the odd film. There were some gardening related presents including a couple of books (more of them a later date), pruners, secateurs, gardening gloves, a packet of peas and some muscari bulbs to plant in a most pretty jug. Best of was a trowel which made me positively purr.

The first jigsaw entitled 'Garden Party' pictured above was a challenge to the old grey matter - only 250 pieces but the pieces were not conventional. It did not follow that a straight side necessarily equated with an edge piece - they could be in the middle of the jigsaw. If the kind donor of this gift
(a birthday present from earlier in the year) reads this you chose well my friend. We have now moved on to a thousand piecer which should keep occupied for some considerable time.

Although it was not a white Christmas we had snow on the Feast of Stephen. It arrived in darkness and was quite magical. My nose had detected that snowfall was imminent earlier in the day so I was on the look out for it. I've had discussions about being able to smell snowfall with several family members and friends and there seems to be a divided camp on the topic. What about you - can you smell snow before it arrives?

The bitterly cold temperatures since have prevented it from melting completely so scattered but substantial white patches remain. No chance to use the new trowel yet as the earth is indeed still hard as iron but I've made it to the greenhouse each day to study the state of snowdrop play. There have been one or two casualties, some will not flower this year whilst some have multiplied most considerately. In flower for Christmas Day were 'Mrs Macnamara', 'Faringdon Double',' Peter Gatehouse', 'Fieldgate Prelude', and an unlabelled bulb which did not flower at this time last year or during the remainder of the winter. I obtained 'Peter Gatehouse' in the green earlier this year so this was its first flowering. It was also a debut for 'Fieldgate Prelude' bought in 2013 and which has multiplied well. You can see a photo above. The seasonally named 'Three Ships' and 'Ding Dong' did not live up their reputation with the former going over well before Christmas whilst the latter is only just showing white. Now I know that I do not really need any more snowdrops but I'm already debating which I might add to my little collection over the next few weeks. Elsewhere in the garden I had two varieties of rose still in flower for Christmas Day - snowdrops and roses, now that's a first!

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Be Merry and Bright!

The above angel floats on high overlooking the Angel Field Garden at Liverpool Hope University. I visited the garden back at the beginning of April this year and must return there in the future.
Wishing all my dear blogging friends peace and joy at Christmas. May your days be merry and bright!

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday ~ A Red Letter Day!

Congratulations to a most special lady, my Mum, who is ninety years young today and still buying plants for her garden!

Monday 15 December 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ~ December 2014

"We are into December, Mid-winter-monath in old Saxon, and what a difficult time it is to produce flowers to fill even a few vases in the house. The winter flowering - cherry, Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis' is a great stand-by. I have been cutting small branches of it for two weeks past, standing them in water in a warm room, when the green buds surprisingly expand into the white, faintly-scented blossom suggestive of spring. This is a little tree which should be planted in every garden. It doesn't take up much space, and pays a rich dividend for picking from November until March. Even if frost catches some of the buds, it seems able, valiant little thing that it is, to create a fresh supply. This year, the winter cherry was in full flower in the open during the first fortnight of November ; I picked bucketfuls of the long white sprays; then came two nights of frost on November 15th and 16th; the remaining blossom was very literally browned - off, I despaired of getting any more for weeks to come. But ten days later, when the weather had more of less recovered itself, a whole new batch of buds was ready to come out, and I got another bucketful as fresh and white and as virgin as anything in May. 

There is a variety of this cherry called 'Autumnalis Rosea', slightly tinged with pink; I prefer the white myself, but that is a matter of taste'. 

~ Vita Sackville West, 1892 -1962.

Sadly my beloved Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis Rosea' is now a pale ghost of its former self. It has probably reached the quarter of a century mark and although still producing flowers, they seem to be increasingly sparse and now mainly decorate the higher branches of the tree. Picking any branches for vases would now be a ladder job even for himself who is a good six footer. Taking photos of the clusters of blossoms is a challenge too which was beyond me today so the above photo is of a solitary lower down open flower. This year the tree was showing some blossom in October, which must be the earliest I've seen it in flower. I think though that the time has come for a replacement reluctant that I am to cull it. This time round I will be looking for the white flowering version which I could not track down all those years ago.

Thanks as always to Carol over at 'May Dreams Gardens' for hosting this inspirational meme, which I always visit equipped with notepad and pen.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday ~ Window Dressing in Ghent.

To celebrate thirty years of wedded bliss, himself whisked me off to Ghent last week, where despite the chill these window containers were still going strong. 

Friday 5 December 2014

Musing in December

"This is the darkest month ; it is plunged into despair yet elevated by hope. December is a meaningful but mysterious month. During its passage much will die ; but before its end rebirth will start with an all powerful upsurge. It is the time of the lowest ebb, the nadir. As the year moves towards the winter solstice and light decreases day by day, it's easy to feel cheated. The garden shuts down, creating a feeling of hopefulness ; its demise is inevitable and there is no point in fighting - perhaps it is better to give in? It's tempting to scrape the mud from your boots and put them in the cupboard , but no, there is so much to do and December gardening has its own special pleasures.

Now comes the start of the big clean up. This may be the era of the dying down, dying back, withdrawing, but underneath the surface of the soil so much is happening.

Sometimes the soul is crunch - cold, the wind is biting and the chances of having any meaningful interaction with the garden is below zero - so is the temperature. But there are still many jobs to do. Many of these anticipate the coming year, turning this month into a time of preparation ; to retire to my shed and scan the boxes and baskets of paper bags full of seeds I've collected in the last few months as a treat to look forward to ; then indulge in. Reading the names hastily scribbled, occasionally almost undecipherable, the image of those plants in their glory is conjured up. And as I winnow the seed , carefully separating it from the chaff and packing it into brown envelopes , the anticipation of all the plants these seeds will become is enough to carry me , smiling, through even the shortest wettest day".

~ words from 'Life In A Cottage Garden' by Carol Klein.
~ illustration by Jill Barklem.

Monday 24 November 2014

Now We Are Six!

"When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new

When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more

When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever;

So I think that I'll be six now for ever and ever."

~ A. A. Milne, 1882 - 1956

Sometime yesterday greentapestry officially celebrated six years of blogging. I say officially because although my very first post was back in 2005 I did not go public until 2008. This was the year when work ceased to be a factor in my life. With a job that had changed beyond recognition I decided to take an offer of voluntary redundancy. Suddenly there was so much more time on my hands. After a heady summer of freedom, I decided that as well as already visiting a number of gardening blogs I would open the doors to mine. My very first comment came from the lovely Michelle over at Veg Plotting. I can still remember how excited I was.

In those days finding your way round the gardening blog community was greatly enhanced by the existence of Blotanical, which sadly seems to have disappeared without a trace. Through Blotanical I met many other like minded souls some of whom who are still blogging. I'm fairly sure that Grace who blogs over at Gardening With Grace arrived at Blotanical in the very same week. Grace has now written a book about her gardening experiences entitled 'Grace in The Garden : Thirty Years of Blunders and Bliss', which I recently read on my Kindle. This is a book which found me nodding my head and chuckling throughout.

It's perhaps more difficult now for those arriving on the garden blogging scene. There are so many more gardening blogs out there and there does not seem an ready-made mechanism like Blotanical to effect introductions to the blogging community. I would like to take this chance to point visitors in the direction of a new blog that I have recently had the pleasure of visiting. This is 'Our Garden@19'. Do pop in and say hello to Brian who has has just started on the blogging journey and who will be opening his garden in Worcestershire, for the very first time next year under the auspices of The National Garden Scheme.

As I start my seventh year of blogging (no I'm not staying at six for ever and ever) I'm hoping to get to grips with the spring cleaning and updates that I mentioned a year ago and have still to start - hangs head in shame! Thanks so much to all of you who have stopped by to visit over the years and who have taken the time to leave a comment. Your words of encouragement, observations, suggestions, gifts and humour are really appreciated. I only wish that I could send you all a bunch of flowers to say a BIG thank you!

Saturday 22 November 2014

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day ~ November 2014

Still sitting in a pot on a rather soggy Saturday is one of my latest foliage purchases heuchera 'Georgia Plum'. I bought this earlier this year from Plantagogo at the Southport Flower Show. Plantagogo is a fairly local concern being a Cheshire based nursery specialising in heucheras, heucherellas and tiarellas. The nursery holds national collections of both heuchera and heucherellas and away from home have been gold medal award winners at all the major flower shows. Owner Vicky Fox also gives talks to gardening societies and other organisations. She has visited our local gardening club a couple of times and is one of those speakers who is so enthusiastic about their subject that you feel you could listen to them time and time again.

I mentioned earlier this year that one of my projects this year was to bring back some permanent mainly foliage container planting to the north facing courtyard outside the front door. I've failed abysmally so far so baby steps from now on so that hopefully I can achieve this goal during 2015. 'Georgia Plum' should fare nicely in this spot. I have a couple of companions in mind for her so far which are lurking ready made in the cold frame. They are an ophiopogon nigrescens and some early flowering galanthus 'Faringdon Double'. I'm intending to add a couple of other ingredients to the mix but am not sure what yet. I also need a new pot so sometime this week hope to locate both a pot and some more plant material that would be happy in shade. Any suggestions would be welcome. In the meantime I'm off to have a look at Christina's monthly foliage day meme over at 'Creating my own garden of the Heserides' for some inspiration.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

November Musing - 2014

"My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree
She walked the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise".

- 'My November Guest' by Robert Frost1874 -1963.

Illustration - 'Dancing Fairies' by Arthur Rackham, 1867-1939.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ~ November 2014

Deserving of a long service award is erigeron karvinskianus formerly known as erigeron mucronatus, which flowers from as early in March right up to the first frosts. It is dotted about our shady north facing courtyard and would probably be more floriferous, even at this time of year if it was able to sunbathe. Still those dainty little daisies bring cheer on gloomy autumn days as they greet me on leaving and coming home.

Below glimpses of this plant in full summer mode taken earlier this year at  Sizergh Castle in Cumbria, gives some idea of their inclination to self seed with gay abandon and their ability to grow in seemingly somewhat inhospitable territory.

Apart from its long flowering period another attraction of this little daisy is the way the flowers change from white to pink as they age. It can be grown easily from seed or bought as a plant although I think that the latter option is usually relatively expensive.

This plant has been growing in our garden for many years surviving both what winters have thrown at it and himself's attempts to kill it off. He regards it as a weed! 

Thanks go as always to Gail over at May Dreams Gardens, who kindly provides us with the opportunity to wonder at other bloggers seasonal blooms every month.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Tree Following With Lucy ~ November 2014

My willow has stood on tippy toes during the last month and has shed all bar a few leaves which are still clinging tenaciously atop of the branches. It's rather windy today and I'm not sure whether there will still be any hangers on tomorrow. There was no dramatic autumnal colouring up with my tree but a subtle thinning away. As Chloris from 'The Blooming Garden' commented in October "You will probably see the real difference next month when all the leaves will have faded away like silver ghosts" and that indeed is what has happened.

The foliage around the base has died down considerably now enabling a glimpse of the stream which runs close by. You will often find willows growing near to water and the word 'salix' which is the genus they belong to derives from the Celtic word, sal (near) + lis (water).

Our willow is on the opposite bank of a small surface water stream which runs alongside one boundary of the garden. Some time ago by sheer serendipity I stumbled across a photograph which shows the lie of the land just over a hundred years ago in 1913, when it was decidedly more watery than it is now.

Both the pond, cottages and greenhouses have gone but we do still get ducks swimming along the stream. I can't make out any definite willow form in the photo or work out exactly where our house is now, which is rather frustrating as it would be brilliant to pin an age to the willow, but I can see why the willow whenever it arrived chose to make its home in such a spot.

To see what other trees are up to this month do visit Lucy over at 'Loose and Leafy' who came up with the great idea of tree following over the course of a year.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

In A Vase On Monday ~ Birthday Party

Albeit a day late joining in the birthday party as I was absent from home yesterday. So here is a little vase picked this morning. Time and the weather were not on my side so it was a matter of snip, photograph and plonk. The occupants of the vase are :

  • hardy fuchsia - name unknown as grown from a cutting from a roadside planting which was taken many years ago. The fuchsia concerned retained foliage during last year's warm winter and flowered prolifically earlier in the year. However it's still sending flowers out now but not as many as it does most autumns.
  • hardy geranium - name long forgotten and a bit of a rampant self seeder.
  • rose 'Blush Noisette' which has still not given up the ghost.
  • leycesteria formosa also known as the Himalayan honeysuckle.
  • lonicera nitida' Baggesen's Gold' which is in desperate need of a severe prune.
I've fiddled about since the photo was taken and removed some of the leaves from the leycesteria and am happier with these pickings.

The vase has featured on the blog before but not for a long time. It's a small bone china milk jug that hails from Staffordshire, which I think was passed on to me by my mum some time ago.

Although I have not been a regular contributor to the 'In A Vase On Monday' meme, I've so enjoyed visiting those of you who have posted your vases throughout the year. I've picked up many useful hints and tips on flower arranging and conditioning. I've also learnt to think more outside the box about the material that can be used, picked up some useful photography tips and my wish list has grown and grown. A HUGE thanks and a virtual bouquet to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden', who came up with the inspiration for this meme and who has throughout the course of a year kept it running like clockwork. It takes some organisation and dedication to stay with such a concept. Cathy is full of enthusiasm and encouragement too so if you do join in if you have not done so already. Don't be shy! Many congratulations Cathy on the first anniversary of this meme and long may it continue!

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Seedy Business

Some plants stop you in your tracks and this is one of them. In the depths of winter last year himself and I went on an outing to London to visit the RHS show. Now whilst there were plenty of snowdrops that dazzled me with their markings, the one plant that held me spellbound was not a snowdrop. It was a plant that had been planted amongst a display of snowdrops on the Avon Bulbs display stand, where its contrasting foliage was so effective. The plant in question was lunaria annua'Chedglow' and it was one of those cases where I wanted to get my paws on the plant immediately. There were none for sale that day so on arrival home I did some online research but met with a brick wall the search went on hold. However when my Avon Bulbs catalogue arrived at the end of the year I noticed with great joy that there were seeds for sale! Loud whoops of joy greeted this discovery, seeds were ordered and duly sown this summer.

Germination was successful, a friend kindly cared the teeniest baby seedlings when we were on holiday, they returned home where they grew bigger. Yet my plants are looking decidedly ugly at the moment - they seem to have the plant equivalent of measles. I'm hoping that this is a temporary feature and that as the weather gets colder that the foliage will develop an even purple/chocolate hue. If this doesn't happen they will not be the perfect companions for snowdrops or any other winter flowers and could well end up on the compost heap. Never mind the lilac flowers that will follow and subsequent shimmering translucent seed cases. Has anybody else grown this plant from seed and if so have you had the same experience with your seedlings? If my memory serves me well Caro from The Urban Veg Patch was also bewitched by 'Chedglow' and there may also be other bloggers too who have obtained seed.

In other seedy news I've noticed on the RHS website that members can now now order from their seed scheme. I've not made use of this membership perk before but thought that I would try it out this year.  Pen and paper will be the order of the day later when darkness falls. I'm one of those wimps who does not put their nose out of the door on Guy Fawkes Night. What about you when it comes to fireworks -  frit or fan?

Friday 31 October 2014

End Of Month View ~ October 2014

As October evaporates in a heat haze a bit of outside has come inside today to acknowledge Halloween. Meet three of my little 'Wee-B-Little' pumpkins with some being more little than others.
The taste jury is out as yet but soup will be on the menu soon along with a verdict. We have quite a few of these to get through but only one of the much larger 'Black Futsu' the surface of which reminds me of a lunar landscape.

I am still struggling with getting to grips with the new camera so again this will be a photo light post. Now that the dark nights are upon us time to do some serious reading of the manual before the snowdrop season is upon us.

So a quick run through October starting with the garden where there seems to have been little in the way of action as the season has shifted discernibly to autumn. There have been various affairs going on in the background which have distracted me. One that I will share here is that after much earnest discussion we have purchased a static caravan in the southern Lake District. The discussion has been going on for a couple of years and with himself's possible retirement on the horizon it was time to make a decision about our options. One of the few advantages of not having the child or children we hoped for, is that our savings can be spent on ourselves. We both love France and spent time looking at some properties over there this summer but we did not want to uproot ourselves completely. If we lived near the south coast we would have been seriously tempted but instead we have looked nearer to home.

We can be in the Lake District in less than an hour and a half and both love the area despite all the wet stuff. Himself is a keen rambler and sees himself walking up fell and down dell, whilst as well as taking me for some gentle low level walks in the beautiful surrounding countryside. So October has seen us rather preoccupied fitting up our new second home with some necessities, before the site closes for winter to reopen in March. Himself is already chomping at the bit to be there as much as we can in the spring, so I am in a quandry about how I will manage seed sowing next year let alone the allotment. I have much thinking and planning to do over the winter and there will have to be some compromises!

One fiddly job  that I have done much later than planned is to top dress all my pots of special snowdrops with fresh horticultural grit. They are all looking pristine and fresh at the moment in readiness for flowering. At the moment the pots are all outside but if the weather turns really cold I will bring them under cover into the greenhouse which needs clearing in readiness. I'm also planning to relabel some snowdrops as names are disappearing. Talking of labels I will be posting the results of my label experiment soon - a year on from the date it began.

Meanwhile at the allotment clearing and dismantling is the order of the day. Beans and sweet pea wigwams are coming down and old foliage is heading to the compost heap. There are still some harvests here and there. The 'Polka' raspberries continue to flourish and produce. I picked what I think must be the last courgette of the year earlier this week. After four months of eating courgettes I'm happy to wait another few months before eating another. The strawberry plants are sending out flowers and occasionally there is the odd strawberry to nibble - especially sweet at this time of year.
Tomorrow we are having an autumnal celebration on site which I'm looking forward to with soup and parkin being on the menu.

Plantwise I've resisted the temptation to make purchases apart from bulbs. A shipping order from Peter Nyssen arrived a couple of weeks ago which is looking at me and shrieking "Plant Me Now!" every time I go past. I've also added another snowdrop to the collection or was that last month? Whatever the date of arrival it's galanthus 'Ding Dong' which is an early riser. Maybe there will be photos in November. Yes I must make a start on that manual.

Thanks as always to the lovely Helen over at 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' who provides us with the opportunity to reflect and contemplate about our gardens each month as well as look forward to the future.

Monday 27 October 2014

In A Vase On Monday ~ Still Blushing

I picked a spray of this rose in the third week of June, along with some sweet peas for a vase which you can see here. The sweet peas are done and dusted but the rose is covered with sprays which have started to open during the last few days. The flowers are not as pristine as they were in the summer - some of the petals are peppered with small holes, but from a distance with my eyes squinting they look as every bit as fresh. What seems to have faded with time though is the scent. I'm not sure whether it's my imagination but do roses loose scent as the months progress? Maybe it's temperature related. I'm not sure whether all the buds will have the chance to open before the onset of colder weather but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for some roses in November.

The rose in question is 'Blush Noisette' which I fell for when we visited the 'Queens Garden' at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire a few years ago. It arrived here the following January as a bare rooted rose which severely tested my powers of imagination. However to my delight out from a twiggy mass leaves and flowers duly emerged and opened that summer.'Blush Noisette' dates back to about 1814 and can be grown either as a shrub or as a small climber.

The little vase is a relatively new inexpensive one, which I think I picked up from that well known Swedish furniture store renowned for its meatballs. I've still to try them.

With thanks to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' who came up with the idea of sharing a vase of flowers to celebrate the start of a new week.

Monday 20 October 2014

Musing ~ October 2014

"One says October, one says Nature lies down to sleep ; the gardener knows better, and will tell you that October is as good as month as April. You ought to know that October is the first spring month, the month of underground germination and sprouting, of hidden growth , of swelling buds ; scratch a little into the ground and you will find buds ready made, thick as your thumb, fragile shoots and straggling roots - I can't help you, Spring is here ; go out, gardener, and plant (but be careful that you don't cut with the spade a sprouting narcissus bulb)"

~ an extract from 'The Gardener's Year' - by Karel ńĆapek, 1890 - 1938.

I'm not sure whether October is really the new April but oh what a positive attitude towards the first month of autumn. Now working to get myself into that mindset.

Monday 13 October 2014

'The Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops' ~ A Review

Well rules are made for breaking aren't they? So with the publication of a new book on snowdrops my self imposed embargo on book buying just had to go by the wayside. 'The Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops' by Naomi Slade has recently taken up residence amidst the groaning bookshelves. Long term readers of this blog will know of my addiction to these early flowering beauties. My initial impressions of the book are favourable although I still have to do it full justice i.e. read it from cover to cover. I'm sure I will do this whilst waiting for my 'drops to appear.

The book starts off with an explanation from the author, who describes herself as not a 'fully fledged galanthophile', as to why she loves snowdrops. Her love affair began as a child when she picked Valentine posies of snowdrops to give to her mother. As she says "snowdrops have no competition for the enjoyment of their charms. They may be small, but they arrive on to an empty dark stage, lighting it up in the very depths of winter. And the hungry audience applauds". Naomi points out that they are a plant that can be enjoyed and grown by anyone no matter the size of your garden. As well as being bewitched by the plants the author explains that she was also fascinated by the people she encountered growing snowdrops and by the stories behind many of these bulbs.

The next chapter of the book looks at designing with snowdrops. Advice is given on finding the the optimum growing conditions for your snowdrops. There are suggestions of good planting companions as well as a useful list of bad companions. The author covers growing snowdrops in containers with other flowers and shrubs of late winter/early spring interest as well as discussing the merits of snowdrops as a cut flower.

This is followed by a section entitled 'Understanding Snowdrops' takes "a brief tour around their history, morphology, tradition, medicine, convention and metaphor - among other things". I appreciated the fact that the make up of the bulb was explained in terms that I understood. I have no knowledge of botany and struggle with dry technical explanations.

A 'Spotter's Guide' offers a 'taster selection of snowdrops' - the choice being based on "availability, charm, interest" as well as the author's personal taste. All the snowdrops included are available in the United Kingdom and most can be tracked down in the USA too. There is sound advice for anybody who has been bitten by the snowdrop bug to walk before you can run by starting with a "few solid bulbs that are distinctive, reasonably priced, and not too fussy". Earlier in the book there are some suggestions of "easy -care" snowdrops which are suitable for the beginner. As the author points out you can always "slake your thirst for fancy-pants flowers with outings to shows and gardens" until you have enough experience and successes behind you so that can then develop your collection. Some 60 odd snowdrops are illustrated and featured here albeit some in more detail than others. Not all of my favourites were included but I was pleased to come across mention of some of them elsewhere in the book.

I giggled at some of Naomi's descriptions of the snowdrops on her list. 'Lady Elphinstone' is described as a "frothy creamy creature, reminiscent of of a good dollop of lemon-meringue pie", 'Blewberry Tart' as "cheeky, charming and decidedly immodest" whilst 'Ketton' is likened to the classic little black dress which can be be dressed up or down to suit the occasion.

This guide is followed by a comprehensive section on growing and propagating. The reader finds how to choose and prepare a site for planting. Planting in the green and as dormant bulbs are both covered along with the pros and cons of both methods. Propagation and pests are also included in this section.

'Where to See Snowdrops : Out And About' suggests gardens and snowdrops events to visit not only in the UK, but also in the USA, in Southern Ireland and the Netherlands. A list of where to buy provides contact details of specialist nurseries selling these little white gems. At the back the 'For More Information' section lists various sources which I'm sure I will delve into over the next few months. A minor nitpick here - many of the sources listed under the heading of books are in fact references to newspaper articles or magazines horticultural and otherwise, some to articles in specialist journals and some refer to online articles. The 'book list' is followed by details of relevant organisations and websites.

Throughout the book are mini - interviews with snowdrop experts who were asked a standard set of questions namely:
How did you fall in love with snowdrops?
What do you particularly like about them?
What is your favourite snowdrop?
If you could go back to any point in snowdrop history, where would it be?
Who is your galanthus idol?
Planting in the green or as dormant bulbs?
What is your expert tip?

I found these interviews fascinating although I would have preferred that they had been grouped together for the sake of easier comparison of replies.

In conclusion from what I've read/seen of the book I wish that it had been available when my fascination for snowdrops started. It is well written, the author has great enthusiasm for her subject and the book has a wealth of clear and good quality illustrations. I'm sure that some of my blogging friends who share my enthusiasm for snowdrops would enjoy this book as well as any other plant lovers.

'The Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops' by Naomi Slade is published by Timber Press. It's available from good bookshops, from the usual online sources or you may be able to obtain it from your local library.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Tree Following With Lucy ~ October 2014

Some real wildlife action this month - if you look very closely you might be able to spot the pigeon lurking in the branches. It was conveniently waiting for me when I ventured out to take a photo between yesterday's dramatic cloudbursts. I only wish that it could have been less camera shy as it had its back turned to the camera.

There's really not much in the way discernible difference in my willow's appearance from September's post. The weather has been so kind so I think that it has just been basking in the sunshine and stretching out its branches in content. Something has changed though and for a few minutes I was hard pressed to pinpoint what it is. The penny eventually dropped as I decided that the foliage is gently fading as well as thinning out. Nothing dramatic but a slow slip-sliding into its quieter time of the year. I'm wondering what changes the next month will bring.

For more monthly tree updates do have a peek at Loose and Leafy. With special thanks as always to Lucy for hosting this excellent opportunity to share both information and some fabulous photos on the subjects of trees.

Saturday 4 October 2014

End Of Month View ~ September 2014

The illustration is 'The Vine Diptych' by the Swedish painter Carl Larsson.

Sometime in early September I realised I had not put together an End Of Month View for August but could not work up any enthusiasm to write about the month.  I think that it was because this August was best not mulled over too long - here it was cool, often wet and windy too. All in all a huge disappointment. On the hand September has been amazing. The days have been positively singing with many hours of soft sunshine. It has been hard to resist the call of the garden and the allotment during the noticeably shortening daylight hours.

Before I continue I should mention that this post will be photo free as I've had a camera crisis. The camera I usually use no longer directly downloads photos on to my computer. I had been relying on taking the camera card out and sticking into a USB multi -card reader as an alternative for some time but this method has suddenly refused to work. I think that the photos are hopefully trapped somewhere on my camera. In the meantime I'm still getting to grips with my new camera which was a present from himself when I celebrated a significant birthday earlier this year. I've been practising with it but do not feel confident yet. Hence a month with only a handful of photos which readers may well have already seen. So a quick summary of September ~

Allotment - clearing up has started but still much more work to do to prepare for winter. We've been enjoying the odd strawberries and endless bowlfuls of autumn fruiting raspberries. The apples except for some 'Sunset' have been picked. 'James Grieve' and 'Katy' have not done particularly well this year but 'Sunset' has a good crop although the fruits are on the small side. I'm hoping that the fruits that I had left on have stood up to last night's rain and wind.

In the greenhouse the vine has produced a bumper crop of grapes probably more than ever since I've been tending the vine. I inherited the vine so do not know what the variety is. It is purple fruited, tasty but annoyingly pippy. I'm happy to eat a few but there's no way we could keep on top of this year's supply. With a damp week ahead predicted I'm hoping to pick the remainder tomorrow. Then it's either wine or grape jelly on the cards.

The French beans petered out as September went on but 'Cobra' has started to re-flower. I doubt if there will be enough time for more beans to mature but you never know. I am still picking courgettes. We ate the first at the end of June and have been eating them since. I have to confess that I've not fed them since planting and am wondering what would happen if I had done so.  Next year I will repeat what I did when I initially planted them which was to add some worm compost and some shredded comfrey leaves in each planting hole. It seems to have done the trick together with the weather.

A 'Black Futsu' pumpkin is in evidence and its extensive foliage may be hiding others. I also planted some small pumpkins this year. 'Wee Be Little'  produces small bright orange globes and is still in production. Will definitely sow them again next year or something similar.

All has nor been rosy though. My later crop of dwarf French beans were all munched by the molluscs which was rather a blow. The big disappointment though has been tomatoes which should have been plentiful in September. The failing lies completely with me. I need to give some serious thought as to where I situate the plants - greenhouse, garden or allotment. Food for thought over the winter.

Garden - not so much to say about the garden which still needs an injection of late summer colour. I'm working on it though and will report back in due course. I'm also finding it harder and harder to work out a satisfactory balancing act between allotment and garden and do both justice. At the moment the garden is suffering. This is something that has been concerning me for some time and an issue that I need to consider carefully. The time may come in the future to say goodbye to the allotment although I don't feel ready to do that just yet.

Plant purchases - over the last couple of months these have included : kalimeris 'Charlotte', hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' (unfortunately my slugs have not read the blurb which says slug resistant), heuchera 'Georgia Plum' and agapanthus 'Midnight Dream' wended their way home with me from the Southport Flower Show'. Hemerocallis 'Light The Way' which I fell in love with in France this summer was duly tracked down to the Beth Chatto Gardens and a couple of plants were ordered. In September a trip to Abi and Tom's Garden Plants at Halecat in Cumbria resulted in the purchase of pulmonaria 'Blake's Silver', crocosmia 'Honeybells', aster 'King George' and clematis 'Heather Herschell'. Then there was the fabulous salvia 'Amistad' from the nearest garden section of our local improvement store.

With thanks as always to the lovely Helen over at 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' for so kindly hosting this monthly meme.

Monday 29 September 2014

In A Vase On Monday ~ Allotment Meets Garden

Allotment and garden came together to create this week's little vase. From the allotment the violet blue daisy flowers of aster 'Little Carlow'. I know that asters have had a recent name change but I haven't got a hang of it yet and it will probably take me some to do so. 'Little Carlow' produces clouds of tiny flowers which are a bee and butterfly magnet. It's quite a tall plant reaching about three feet. I have some divisions from this waiting to work their magic in the garden.

From the garden the bright yellow daisies of 'The Yellow Peril' which I've posted about before. It has defied my attempts to kill it off. There's an uneasy truce between us but for now it sits in a corner where it's thuggish habits are carefully monitored. Any spreading growth is yanked out as soon as I see it. I must admit that I've become fonder of it over the years and now welcome the late colour it provides. It came as a nameless division from a gardening club friend. I think that it's a helianthus but I'm clueless as to which one.

Finally tucked in to the vase a couple of sprigs from my new salvia 'Amistad'. Pottering in the greenhouse yesterday I gently tugged at the cuttings that I took earlier this month. I was so excited by being met with resistance.

The vase is the reverse side of my stoneware cider jug.

You can enjoy a host of other vases over at 'Rambling In The Garden' - thanks as always to Cathy for providing a virtual mantlepiece each week for us to showcase our vases.

Friday 26 September 2014

A Mere Snip

A quick post to alert any fellow Kindle owners of a bargain buy. 'The Well Tended Perennial Garden - Planting and Pruning Techniques' by Tracy DiSabato-Aust is currently available for a mere snip at £2.32 in the U.K and at $3.78 on the other side of the pond. I would have downloaded it but already have a hardback copy of the first edition which is a most practical and hands on how to tome. Described by the publishers Timber Press as "the first, and still the most thorough, book to detail the essential practises of perennial care such as deadheading, pinching, cutting back, thinning, disbudding and deadleafing, all of which are thoroughly explained and illustrated. More than 200 new color photos have been added to this revised edition, showing perennials in various border situations and providing images for each of the entries in the A- Z encyclopedia of important perennial species."

Useful appendixes include a yearly planting and maintenance schedule which although a guide for U.S. Mid-west gardens can be adapted to British gardens. There are also some fascinating lists of the specific pruning and maintenance requirements of perennials. These include a list of perennials which reseed which could either save you much weeding or produce more pass on plants depending which way you look at it. Other lists give guidelines as to the intervals at which perennials are likely to need dividing. I'm reassured to read that my aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard) only requires division every ten years or more - the last time nearly polished himself off. The author warns that the plant has tough roots and resents disturbance and that's an understatement!

Although this could be a very dry book the author's detailed observations and her gentle sense of humour make sure that it's not. It's certainly worth adding to your Kindle's virtual bookshelves at that price.

Monday 22 September 2014

In A Vase On Monday ~ Showtime

I'm cheating this week as the vase of late summer/early autumn colour is definitely not of my own making. I came across it about a month ago at the Southport Flower Show and thought it much too attractive not to share. As you can see it won first prize in its class deservedly so my friend and I thought.

The entrant had thoughtfully written the names of all the plant material that was included and most of them are still available for picking now. The vase is the standard green vase that entries in flower arrangements at horticultural shows are always displayed in as determined by The Royal Horticultural Society. Using identical vases ensures that all contestants start at the same point and I imagine makes the judge's job much easier.

Thanks to Cathy from 'Rambling In The Garden' who came up with the excellent idea of kicking off the week with a vase of flowers. Please forgive me for bending the rules Cathy.

Monday 15 September 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ~ September 2014

A new arrival here is salvia 'Amistad' (which is the Spanish word for friendship), part of my plans to introduce more late summer/ early autumn colour in to the garden. More on the very same subject soon. This plant went straight to the top of my wish list after I saw photos of it in gardening magazines and on a few blogs last year. I'm sure that a few other bloggers will have fallen for its charms too. I bought a small plant earlier in the year which has not flourished so when I saw a much larger specimen I could not resist. 'Amistad' is a relatively new introduction which apparently flowers from May - October and is attractive to bees. It is a tender perennial which may need protection in a cold winter. I've taken a few cuttings as an insurance policy.  Previous experience with salvias tells me to err on the side of caution. Will be keeping my fingers crossed and will report back next year.

With thanks as always to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for kindly hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. As soon as I've ticked off one plant off the wish list I'm sure that I will be adding more when I see what is blooming in other gardens this month. What have you added to your wish list recently?

Friday 12 September 2014

Tree Following With Lucy ~ September 2014.

 Subtle changes are afoot on the willow front. Gazing up at my tree in the glorious sunshine yesterday I noticed that there are hints of yellow creeping into the leaves. As I watched there were soft rustling sounds as leaves slowly drifted down to the ground. Not enough to merit the word "flurry" but a definite coming adrift for some of the leaves that have clothed the tree since April. I wondered if the first leaves to appear are the first to fall but I suppose there's no way of establishing that theory.
I also noticed how smooth the surface of the branches are especially compared to the bark which graces the trunk. Lucy bought the smoothness to my attention when she commented on my tree following post last month.

A blue tit was sitting in the tree but flew off on hearing my approaching footsteps. Other than that no sign of wildlife although I'm sure it receives numerous visitors. Unfortunately I can't get close enough to the tree to look for smaller creatures. I had not considered this factor when I made my decision about which tree to follow!

In other willow news I've broken my self imposed embargo of trying not to buy any news books this year. After all this purchase has been made in the interest of serious scientific research. The book concerned is Willow by Alison Syme. It looks a most fascinating book. I have only dipped into it so far, but am looking forward to reading it thoroughly and to sharing some willow snippets with other tree followers over the next few months. The book is one of Reaktion's Botanical series. The publisher describes the series as the "first of its kind, integrating horticultural and botanical writing with a broader account of the cultural and social impact of trees, plants and flowers". Other tree titles include yew, oak, pine with a new book on the subject of the apple tree coming out next month.

Thanks as always to Lucy over at 'Loose And Leafy', who came up with the excellent idea of a monthly post in which bloggers follow the progress of a specific tree over a year. I must check whether there are any other willow watchers out there.

Monday 8 September 2014

In A Vase On Monday - Allotment Pickings

Not an accidental happening this time round but a conscious decision to bring some allotment colour back home where I can really appreciate it a close hand. Earlier in the year I treated myself to three named dahlia tubers one of them being 'Thomas A. Edison' named after the American inventor I imagine. This variety is described as having 'dinner plate' sized flowers. Whilst they are perhaps not that large (unless you have a minute appetite) the flowers are a good five inches across and they are real show stoppers. They also have long dark stems which enhance the flowers. 

I started the tuber into growth sometime in mid to late April in a pot in the greenhouse. After reaching a certain size and a period of adjusting to the outer world, Thomas was somewhat unceremoniously plonked in to one of the allotment beds at the end of June. Here are a couple of flowers outside the back door enjoying a few last minutes sunshine before coming in on to the kitchen window sill. I would have ideally liked to pick three stems but Thomas did not oblige. Another time I hope.

The vase is a stoneware cider flagon. I did not imbibe the contents but bought the empty flagon from a charity shop many moons ago.

Thanks as always to Cathy who came up with an excellent idea to kick off the week, of not only picking flowers for a vase but of sharing them with fellow bloggers too. You can enjoy more rich weekly pickings over at 'Rambling In The Garden'.

Saturday 6 September 2014

September Musing - 'Moonlit Apples'

"At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows,
And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those
Apples are deep-sea apples of green. There goes
    A cloud on the moon in the autumn night.

A mouse in the wainscot scratches, and scratches, and then
There is no sound at the top of the house of men
Or mice; and the cloud is blown, and the moon again
    Dapples the apples with deep-sea light.

They are lying in rows there, under the gloomy beams;
On the sagging floor; they gather the silver streams
Out of the moon, those moonlit apples of dreams,
    And quiet is the steep stair under.

In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep.
And stiller than ever on orchard boughs they keep
Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep
    On moon-washed apples of wonder."

The poem is 'Moonlit Apples' by John Drinkwater,1882 -1937.
The illustration is 'Apple Harvest' by Carl Larsson, 1853 - 1919.

Sunday 31 August 2014

Garden Hopping In The Rain

Garden visiting in the rain can be quite challenging as the art of keeping relatively dry is a prerogative let alone managing to take photos. The photos in this post were all taken from under the shelter of himself's enormous golf umbrella but still I ended up with only a few to choose from. We went garden visiting in the Lake District earlier this month when our camper van took us to the town of Grange-Over-Sands for a couple of days. This is a small Edwardian resort which is a pleasure to visit. The weather though was absolutely foul - extremely wet and windy and this was the weekend before the tail end of hurricane 'Bertha' hit the U.K. For some unexplained reason it seemed to arrive a week earlier in Cumbria. Still not to be defeated we set off on the Sunday to visit two gardens that were opening under the National Gardens Scheme

The first garden was opening for the very first time so the weather must have been must have been really disappointing for the owners, who had no doubt been preparing for this event for some considerable time. The Old Vicarage and Fell Cottage was most colourful even in the downpour that greeted us. Whenever I go garden visiting there's inevitably at least one feature and usually several plants that I would like to take home with me. My favourite part of this garden was the small vegetable area that was tucked in one corner of the garden. I could not believe the already red tomatoes, admired the hessian bag planted with potatoes and more than anything envied the dry stone wall. On leaving the garden we took shelter in the adjacent Parish Rooms where there was a bric a bric sale. This was on a much bigger scale than we anticipated and from which I emerged with what I think will be my bargain of the year. More of that in another post. 

From there we made our way to Cartmel of sticky toffee pudding fame where we eat our sandwiches and fruit lunch under cover, whilst watching a small group of intrepid people learning the skills of segway riding.

Back to Grange-Over-Sands in the afternoon to visit the much larger garden at Yewbarrow House, which has a stunning view overlooking Morecambe Bay. The garden here spreads over four and half acres and has been developed since 1999 by the current owners. It has featured in various gardening publications since then. Here are one or two of the features that I would have been happy to have popped into my wheelbarrow to bring home with me. I will have to leave it to your imagination for now but the other side of this infinity pool in the Japanese Garden has the bay as its backdrop. 

Some sturdy frames protecting the strawberry plants ~ 

Already glimpsed in my latest Wordless Wednesday post this is another photo of what I thought was a beautiful statue. It is one of two bronzes of the owner's daughters ~

Dahlias still singing in the rain ~

Finally this fine fellow was gazing out from one of the many attractive walls ~

As the afternoon progressed we were getting damper and damper. There were still areas of the garden to see but we reluctantly decided to call it a day. Stopping off though before we left to browse at the plant sale area from which an aeonium aboreum 'Schwarzkop' was selected. Hopefully a return visit to Yewbarrow on a dry day will be on the cards before too long.