Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Summer Bling


Well the early flowers are over, now come the in your face summer colour, Dahlias. Dahlias are coming back into fashion, for a while they they were regarded as very old fashioned but common sense has won through and they are back.


Well to be honest they have never been out in our garden, I love them.


I think some people think they are a lot of work but they aren't. I just plant the rhizomes out each year after the last frosts and then leave them in the ground until the first frosts kill off the foliage. I then dig them up and store them in the Alpine house overwinter.



I have no idea of the varieties ( I am sure I did at some time!) but that doesn't matter the just look glorious.


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Bee friendly


With my wildflower area in full bloom I have been monitoring the insects that have been visiting and feeding on the nectar. The aim of the wildflower area was to attract more wildlife into the garden by providing native insect friendly plants. One of the problems with modern gardens is the use of non native and hybrid plants. Many of the F1 hybrid bedding plants that we use actually produce no nectar to attract and feed insects, this combined with modern farming techniques of vast areas of monoculture has seriously damaged our insect population.

One of the most important groups are the Bumblebees which actually pollinate far more species of plants than the honeybee. Different species specialise in certain types of plants, the Bee in the photograph above has a long tongue in order to reach to the nectaries at the base of the long corolla of this Foxglove. The Garden Bumblebee below specalises in open flowers like the thistle.


Garden or Ruderal Bumblebee (I think?)




Small Tortiseshell




Bees are not the only pollinators of course, Butterflies, Moths,Flys, Hoverflies, and beetles as in the photo below all play their parts. In fact anything that visits flowerheads will transfer pollen between plants.



I would urge anyone who can to plant insect friendly plants in their gardens. Wildflower seeds are available through the RSPB or the Bumblebee conservation Trust as well as garden centres.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Seedheads


The Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf said that "A plant is only worth growing if it looks good when it is dead" and I agree with him. Many of the plants that I grow have this characteristic as their seedheads are as beautiful as, or in some cases more than the  flowers that formed them.




Leaving the seedheads on the flowers has other benefits beside the aesthetic. Many seedheads attract wildlife, in the autumn my teasels are visited by flocks of Goldfinches.




The other advantages are plants such as poppies and foxgloves will self sow producing plants for next year. Although I do collect and keep seed I am a firm believer that nature knows best, if a plant sets seed and then releases it that to me is when that seed should be sown not the following spring. A lot of seed germinates better if allowed to stratify in the cold soil over winter.



The final benefit is you don't need to spend  hours deadheading, just one big clear up in the spring.


Monday, 6 July 2015

Up front gardening



Over the time I have been writing this blog I have barely ever mentioned the front garden. There are several reasons for this, it's small, it's North facing, it has an ugly wall and someone at some point filled it up with pebbles. This weekend I decided to have a go at improving things.

I do have the rose I bought at Hampton court about 5 years ago, a jasmine and a honeysuckle working their way up the house but I need to improve things at ground level.

The first thing I wanted to do was hide the wall. I decided that a row of lavender bushes along the outside would do the trick so of I went to the garden centre knowing this wasn't going to be cheap, wrong, I found that they had reduced a load of plants from £10 each to £3 each so I bought 12.

I planted them along the front of the wall the soil there is quite dry and sandy perfect for lavender and at this time of year it gets the sun in the late afternoon.
I also planted up some hanging baskets with this lovely Fuchsia Carmel blue.
Finally I would like to introduce a new member to the family, Mia (nearest the camera), she is a 9yr old Dogue De Bordeaux that we have rescued. So we now have 3 dogs which means what lawn we do have will probably disappear completely this winter (but I don't care!).

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Roses


 In his wonderful book 'The Ivington Diaries' Monty Don describes how he feels that growing roses is a man thing as it appeals to the 'measuring thing that men slip into' and it also brings out mens feminine side.
 I agree with him, I am coming to the conclusion that you can never have too many roses, and this year they have been magnificent.
 I actually avoided them for a while, too many painful memories of weeding amongst the standards and shrub roses in my parents garden.

 Anyway I thought I would post a few pictures of this years blooms





Thursday, 25 June 2015

Night Scents

 Last night at about 10:30pm I took the dogs out to the garden before locking up. It was a still, warm evening and I was hit by a series of scents as I walked down to the lawn with them
 The first strong scent was from this curry plant, very distinct and spicey
 The strongest scent was from the honeysuckle, not surprising as it flowers at night to attract moths to pollinate it. I love honeysuckle so encourage it in the garden, however in the past it has given me quite bad hayfever but I seem more tolerant of it these days.
Close to the seating area the sweetpeas I have growing up the legs of the gazebo fill the air with their overpowering sweet smell. They are a fantastic plant for scent and one of the few that I cut to bring indoors, the more flowers yo cut the more blooms they produce

All these scents are floating on a background musk from the roses which are all around the garden.

I recently tried night walking which is basically walking in the countryside without light. I got the idea after reading a book by Robert Macfarlane. I walked a circular route around our village which I know really well and it was an amazing experience. Your eyes adjust to the darkness quite quickly, but your senses of hearing and smell really come into their own. You hear every rustle and movement and detect lots of smells that you would push to the back of your consciousness if you were using your eyes. It was a really thought provoking experience which I will do again soon.