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Historic Diary Entries

Camassia - May 2018

Each week in my blog I highlight just one or two aspects of the garden of particular interest, although at this time of year there are many different parts of the garden, and plants in particular, that are of special interest.

Our wildflower meadow is one such: an area of outstanding natural beauty containing a number of stunning individuals.  None more so than Camassia.  Following on from other, more illustrious, gardens (big thanks to HRH), I introduced Camassia three or four years ago.  And while they have always looked good, this year they are the best yet.  Perhaps the wet spring helped or it is just that they have settled in, but the effect of blue and purple subtly displayed amongst the grasses and accompanied by vibrant meadow buttercups is so good.  There are two varieties, the taller and showier C. leichtlinii caerulea and the shorter C. esculenta, ‘Quamash’.  This emerges looking to all the world like a bluebell before the flower bud opens to reveal the most lovely purple petals.







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Roses - June 2018

June means roses.  Lots of them, and this year is looking like the best for a while.  Perhaps it was the wet start to the year or because I pruned them differently (not cut as hard back, just a light prune in March), but the recent mini-heatwave has brought them on a treat and they look great.  Weighed down with buds they are now starting to flower in abundance.  They are a must see.


Update on the wildflower meadow.  Each year I wait with baited breath to see how many orchids, Common Spotted, are going to show up.  I have done what I can to encourage them and it might be paying off.  At the weekend I spotted the first one and yesterday I spotted five.  So obviously the soil conditions support their growth.  I will keep you posted.  Either way the meadow is looking great.








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January 2019

I think to many people, including gardeners, winter is a time when the garden can be forgotten about. Once the leaves have all fallen by the end of November and been tidied up then the garden can be left until the spring.  Hence the questions I am asked most often at this time: “I don’t suppose there is much to do at this time of year?” or “what do you do in winter?”.

Funnily enough it is just as busy as any other time.  The only restrictions are that there is less daylight and working-days outside may be shorter, and the weather may limit what you can or cannot do, but apart from that…

The thing about winter is it is the only time when certain things can be done because the rest of the year is taken up with growth: which means mowing, pruning, weeding, watering and the hundred and one things a vigorous garden involves.  Winter is behind-the-scenes gardening, when you can change and do things: re-lay paths, repair land drains, mend fences, dig new borders, move plants. Not to mention all the jobs that can be taken indoors: re-paint or oil benches, tool and machine maintenance, cleaning and decorating. But winter is also a great time for planning.  There is something about the new year, especially a bright and sunny day in January when the snowdrops have pushed through and herald a new beginning, that gets the gardening juices flowing.  There is everything to look forward to. The return of all the old favourites in spring: snowdrops, crocus, primroses and hellebores.  New planting schemes to plan and prepare and seed catalogues to peruse.  All the best is yet to come.









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February 2019

As I said last time, winter is behind-the -scenes gardening, the only time when certain things can be done because the rest of the year is so busy.  Already this winter we have re-defined several beds and borders, added extra planting and opened up one “small” corner of the garden.  The weather has been fairly kind: a decent amount of rain but no snow and no time lost to winter conditions.

Last week we finished planting 8000 snowdrops.  Only the most common Galanthus nivalis, but planted in large swathes under the Magnolia soulangeana and elsewhere, so that from next year there will be a dramatic display in February.  For me snowdrops work equally well as a carpet viewed from a distance, just as much as they delight galanthophiles when appreciated close-up.

Along the sides of the steps that run down from the first lake towards the Gunnera, we have built up the borders by adding old logs and tree stumps and planted among them ferns and bulbs, as well as shrubs. Although it all looks a bit new at the moment, as soon as the plants start growing away it should be a lovely display of evergreen fernery and spring colour.  On the more mundane side, on-going projects include the repair of, and installation of, a new land drain and the partial re-sealing of the small round pond.  

With a very mild spell forecast for the week ahead we will make a start on pruning Viburnum bodnantense and Mahonia lamarifolia and getting the cutting garden shipshape for the coming season.  










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-### -

 #%#


February 2019

In 2017 the Magnolia soulangeana broke bud and started flowering before the end of February whereas last year they waited until early April, fully six weeks later. This year they seem to be reverting to 2017.  April seems very late while February seems very early.  The difference? Undoubtedly the weather.  Last year a proper winter including a very cold March put paid to a premature spring.  This year a mild and dryish winter and an exceptionally mild February means just the opposite.  Of course, the fear is frosts in March will damage the blooms, although this did not happen in 2017.  Luckily the garden is on a slope and the prevailing air current flowing across the garden from the direction of British Camp towards the Severn valley means we have no frost pockets. We usually get away with it.


The garden opens for our first National Garden Scheme afternoon on 15th March. Not long to go. By then all signs of winter work should be gone, even though I have come up with an additional project for the bank of the first pond.  This involves landscaping and planting, so no pressure!  With this weather I would expect not only the magnolias to be going full tilt, but the early daffodils joining in. The hellebores are still looking great, loving this fine weather.  I have added a few more I could not resist buying from a table-top sale in Ludlow last weekend, including a stunning double yellow. I was on my way to The Dingle nursery to buy Cotoneasters, of which more at a later date. There is nothing quite like buying a beautiful plant for the garden to lift the spirits.










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 #%#


28th February 2019

One of the best parts of gardening is buying new plants.  On Tuesday I went shopping for shrubs to put in the newly extended bed just below the top of the first lake.  Although bang in the centre of the garden which you might not expect to be permanently damp, it is, due to water seeping from the lake.  Rather than fight this problem I am going with it.  The ground has been rotavated and had a generous top-dressing of our own garden compost and is now ready for planting.

I was something of a late convert to shrubs. They definitely seem to be, unfairly, less fashionable than herbaceous plants, but there are so many useful and beautiful varieties.  When combined with trees they are the plants which all too often provide the structure of our gardens.  For my new border I have gone for plants that will thrive on damp soil.  For shrubs this means Hydrangeas (quercifolium, macrophylla and paniculate), Amelanchier and Cornus.  For trees I have got Liquidamber, Sorbus and Nyssa.  What I aim to achieve is both spring and autumn colour from plants with good structure that will provide year-round interest.  

It looks like the exceptional weather is about to break. Not surprisingly February will be declared the warmest on record.  And although it has been lovely, I am worried about the lack of rainfall.  Last year was very dry and we need wet winters to make up the deficit.  So along with many gardeners I will be delighted if sooner rather than later we have a decent spell of wet weather.


  










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()$

  *#Magnolia

soulangeana+ # ,-) #%.

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-### -

 #%#


8th March 2019

March winds and April showers arrived together at the weekend and not before time.  Its amazing how the rain refreshes the garden and brings a sparkle to all the plants and emphasises the new growth.  Many trees and shrubs are breaking bud and the blossom is now showing on most of the Magnolias.  They will flower for many weeks and make a great show.


One of the reasons I would normally say February is my least favourite time of year is that most often it is the drabbest month. Coming out of winter the grass looks washed-out and yellow, especially if it has been under snow.  But this year the grass is bright green already: all that February sun and a bit of rain has worked wonders.


Work has continued on my landscaping projects.  A new edge has been put in along the first lake and construction of a new and safer path through the Stream Garden is half complete.  However, with just over a week to go until our first NGS afternoon, Friday 15th, time is of the essence and there is still plenty to do.



  










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