The first day of the month was beautiful and sunny after a frosty start. We’ve had so few frosts this winter and -5 degrees c has been the lowest. My daughter and her man came down for the day so not a lot of work got done but it was an enjoyable day sitting in the sunshine, (light winds too). They left at about 3.30 and I did a bit of hand watering in one of the tunnels. I became aware of an unusual noise above my head, when I looked up I saw a major tear along one of the hoops. Its definitely not repairable and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time due to Philip starting his treatment on Monday. The cover has done amazingly well and we think it was put on 12 years ago. I presume that all the strong winds we’ve had this year has finished it off. Once we got home we started to look up who could do the recladding job asap. We emailed a number of people including Martin from Lineside Nursery not to ask him to do it but to see if he knew anyone who could. He has plenty of his own work to keep him busy. Imagine my delight when I found an email from him this morning offering to do the work for us.
All I have to do now is order the polythene sheet, the batons, the nails and some extra help. Then, with help from the young George, we need to remove the old sheet, the old batons and the guttering and generally get everything prepared in between taking P to and from the hospital for 4 days. Its going to be a difficult week.
This mildness is most welcome and is bringing many plants into flower rather early compared to the last couple of years. But I don’t trust it. I bet we have some more frosts which will damage the new fresh growth and spoil precocious flowers. It is a pleasure to be able to work outside without a jacket on and to get some of the jobs done without freezing to death.
I’m mainly busy getting lots of potting done but also working in the garden. The ornamental grasses are getting their annual chop, the verbena is also being cut down and I’m weeding as I go. I’ve pruned back the clematis and Philip has done the dogwoods. Its looking rather bare but a lot tidier. Some of the trees have become rocky after all the strong winds so, today, Philip has staked them in the hope of keeping them alive.
Its interesting how quickly the ground is drying out. The general squelchiness has diminished although the front ditch is still flowing quite well. There is more rain forecast for tomorrow so it will soon be a soggy site again which means it will be a while before we can work on it. Nearly March!
There is a woman who lives somewhere in Northamptonshire who collects snowdrops. I believe she has many different varieties in her garden. Each year she arrives at the nursery with a selection of snowdrops ‘in the green’ for me. At this time of year I am keen to see all the clumps coming through but some of the characteristics of the named varieties are lost on me. The details of the markings is subtle. Some are clearly different from others but, I’m ashamed to say that my labelling has been a bit unreliable. Some labels faded, (this lady used a felt marker pen, I think a pencil is better) and others simply got lost. Sometimes there is a good label but no snowdrops anywhere near it. Last year, when another 8 or 9 pots full of bulbs were delivered to me, I was also given a photo of each one for help with identification. I carefully noted where the bulbs were planted on the photocopied sheet and felt pleased with myself for being so organised. When the bulbs began to emerge earlier this year I went to find the photos and notes so I could say that that clump was G. Augustus and that one over there was G. Warwickshire Gem. The photos were not where I thought they should be which resulted in a frantic search over the next few days in filing cabinets and piles of paper. When something is ‘lost’ it plays on your mind so I kept shuffling through piles of papers that I had already looked through. A few days later I was looking at a ring-binder and surprise, surprise, they were in it. I had no memory of being so organised. Now, if a knowledgeable galanthophile visits the nursery, I can confidently point to different clumps and say their names.
In general though, I just can’t wait for these to spread around to give a carpet of white all round the garden. I would never pay vast sums of money to have a rare variety but good luck to those who are collectors. And if my local collector has too many each year it would be churlish to refuse them, wouldn’t it?
I’ve just come back from trying to do a bit of work at the very wet nursery. When the ground is so sodden its not possible to do any gardening which is very irritating because now is the time to cut down most of the grasses and dogwoods. I would make too much mess if I tried to go onto the borders now. So I have to content myself by either doing some potting or working in the ‘wilder’ parts of the site where it doesn’t matter if I leave soggy footprints everywhere.
Today I cut back some of the older willow stems and tried to have a bonfire. The bonfire was a bit tricky because everything was so wet but I managed to burn some of it. I might tackle some of the brambles which are creeping determinedly in from the east hedge. I can just about keep up with them but I’m losing the battle with the blackthorn which has now crept about 15ft in from the original hedge line. I’m really not sure how to prevent it from taking over completely.
There are plenty of signs of life in the garden including snowdrops coming up. the Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ in full flower as is the winter Honeysuckle. The everlasting wallflower has been flowering for months and there are even a few flowers on Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’. There are a few primroses in flower and some cowslips too! The hellebores are budding up nicely so it won’t be long before they open up. We all need some sun instead of these endless grey rainy days, maybe my spirits would be lifted rather than deflated as they are now.
Back in September I took some cuttings of Rosa ‘Seagull’. I did this earlier than usual based on something a friend said and she always has good results. A few weeks after that himself accidentally knocked over one of the pots of cuttings. Initially I was rather irritated by his clumsiness but then I was pleased to see that they were showing signs of rooting. I’ve left them alone since then but today my curiosity got the better of me and I found that they all had a strong root system. So I gently divided them up and potted them up in separate pots. This all seems remarkably quick but maybe its due to the mild winter we’re having. There are other rose cuttings which I took a few weeks after the Seagull so I must resist investigating them for a while. They do all look fine and healthy so I hope there will be some success there too.
After too many days being inside over the Christmas holiday period, I was feeling a bit desperate to get outside and do something physical. We’ve had too much rain and wind to be able to do any gardening without making a mess so I decided to cut down some of the thicker stems of Salix viminalis. We need to do this each winter to encourage the new growth which is much more suitable for using for making willow structures. When its less windy (if ever?) I shall have a bonfire and burn all the wood. Its a warm job to do but I can only do it in small bursts because it wrecks my wrists.
Later, for a change of job, I cut back some of the brambles which are creeping purposefully from the south hedge and threatening to swamp some of the other plants growing there. It is part of our ‘wild’ garden but even that area needs a certain amount of control. I feel sure that if we ever left the place to its own devices that it would soon become totally over grown with brambles.
I also sploshed round the garden and took a few photos.
Well, today I haven’t been outside once and am now feeling sluggish and tired. Silly really because it was a sunny and not too windy day and I was mildly tempted to go to the nursery but after I’d had a glass of wine at lunchtime it was not possible to drive there. And if you think I’m going to walk there you have another think coming!!
Yesterday we were in sunny Eaton Socon in Cambridgeshire at my parents, where we were caught up in all the usual Christmassy things. But I did notice that there were two everlasting wallflowers flowering in profusion (although one was a bit lop-sided due to the strong winds on Monday). One was E. Bowles Mauve and the other a deep crimson flowered shrub which is nameless. Also flowering was a recently planted Hebe ‘Purple Queen’ which is looking good in the front border. And for one-upmanship its a plant that no-one else has in the street.
There are/have been lots of berries this year. The cotoneasters have been especially fruitful but now the fieldfares have stripped the branches and there are very few left.
I started off the day having a bonfire, we needed to burn many cardboard boxes which had been stored in our barn for rather a long time and mice had had a happy time nesting in them.
The weather was glorious for the time of year so much so that I had to keep stopping and saying ‘what a lovely day’ to my other half or the cat or just the empty garden. (Mad woman muttering to herself again.) It was the most perfect day to be in the garden and it wasn’t too long before I found a smallish patch which needed overhauling. There were some Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ which had some Polemonium ‘Hannah Bilcliffe’ in front and a few clumps of Erigeron ‘Quakeress’ nearby. The grass had become a bit straggly with violas and other plants creeping inside the clumps so I removed two of them. The I dug out the daisy because I have too much of it and anyway its not very special. Next I dug up two of the larger clumps of polemonium and split them up to make several new plants. I dug the area over and incorporated some compost. Then had to replant the Jacob’s ladder and also added a few hostas ( I’m not sure which variety, it came from my parents garden). It looks more cohesive and will hopefully look splendid next year. The miscanthus didn’t get thrown away…….today I divided the clumps and potted them up ready for sale next year. A satisfying and productive day.
I may not have written for a couple of weeks but during that time have managed to get quite a lot of planting and transplanting done. The ground is getting stickier though so I may not be able to do much more unless it stays reasonably dry. The trouble is that I’ve done a bit here and a bit there but at least I’m getting some gaps filled. I’ve moved several libertia which had self-seeded into the wrong place so they got lifted and moved back a bit with some primroses now planted in front of them. Another plant which does well is sisyrichium striatum (I’m always amazed that it doesn’t rot away) and since they seed around with gay abandon there are plenty to spare so some were moved to fill in another gap. We have a dwarf alchemilla which is well-behaved compared to its grown-up relative and is very welcome wherever it chooses to be. But there were just a few too many as isolated plants so I dug them up and grouped them together.
I’ve planted cistus, peonies, hellebores, and hostas in the space I made after pulling out vast quantities of verbena. Also a few penstemmons have gone into one of the borders, I just hope they get through the winter and can give a good show next year.
I took some rose cuttings before we removed the fading climbing roses on the trellis house. The root systems were practically non-existant, probably due to being water-logged most of last year. There aren’t any climbers I can think of which would like sitting in permanently soggy soil so we will make raised border to lift the new plants (not decided which to have yet) out of the sog.