Six on Saturday – May Clematis

The late spring Clematis are beginning to flower beautifully.  Some scramble with enormous vigour whilst others are more moderate in their growth.  All are lovely however and exploit the vertical dimension of the garden to great effect.  Striking combinations of these delicate flowers with complementary foliage and flowers makes them really shine.  Here are my six for this week.


One:  Clematis montana ‘Odorata’

This delightful pink clematis has a a strong vanilla scent that fills the air in the garden behind the house.  Located close to one of our garden seats it is a lovely place to drink our morning coffee in the sun.

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Two:  Clematis montana ‘Tetrarose’

This clematis grows close to the house on a trellis in the patio garden. It produces masses of simple pink flowers in late spring.

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Three:    Clematis montana

This plant is extremely vigorous and needs a lot of maintenance to stop it overwhelming other trees.  It grows amongst a white lilac and a red leaved Prunus and it is this combination with the mass of  pink flowers of the Clematis montana that creates a wonderful show at this time of year.

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Four:  Clematis ‘Daniel Daronda’

One of the first blue clematis of the year.  We have two of these plants and they do not seem to grow with any great vigour.  However, they are very reliable returning without fail each year.

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Five:  Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’

‘Nelly Moser’ seems to be very happy growing on a north facing wall with very little direct sun.  Its large flowers, some 6-8 inches across, brighten up the shaded patio area behind the kitchen.  It also has attractive seed heads in the autumn that have a golden sheen.

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Six:  Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’

This large flowered early clematis grows in part-shade and is really striking against the dark ivy leaves that cover the trellis.  It seems to be very reliable returning without fail each year.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

 

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Native Bluebells – a walk in Hampton Wood in Warwickshire

The English countryside certainly has its spectacular moments and a bluebell wood in full bloom in the spring sunshine is just something to behold. This week we took time out after a busy Easter weekend to have a wander around Hampton Wood. Owned and managed by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust this ancient woodland lies close to the banks of the river Avon (OS Sheet: 151; SP 254 600 Post code: CV35 8AS).

This wood and meadow is quickly becoming one of our favourite places to walk since joining the Trust last year. It is a delight. At around 12.3 hectares the reserve is not enormous but there is plenty to see and hear and try to identify.

Here are some photographs (taken on 23 April 2019) which try to capture some of the impact of these woods at this time of year. At first sight it is the mass of blue that takes you aback. However, as you look more closely the mix of other wild flowers create a series of beautiful cameos of contrasting colours and texture. Here are just some of the flowers and ferns we spotted in a short one hour meander around the reserve.

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The bluebell wood in all its glory
P1020622 Primrose - Primula vulgaris
Primrose – Primula vulgaris
P1020607 Greater Stitchwort - Stellaria holostea
Greater Stitchwort – Stellaria holostea
P1020620 Red Campion - Silene dioica
Red Campion – Silene dioica
P1020647 Green alkanet - Pentaglottis sempervirens
Green alkanet – Pentaglottis sempervirens
P1020636 Crab apple - Malus sylvestris
Crab apple – Malus sylvestris
P1020606 Lesser Celandine - Ficaria verna
Lesser Celandine – Ficaria verna
P1020605 Wood anemone or Windflower - Anemone nemorosa
Wood anemone or Windflower – Anemone nemorosa
P1020623 Ground Ivy - Glechoma hederacea
Ground Ivy – Glechoma hederacea
P1020630 Cuckoo flower - Cardamine pratensis
Cuckoo flower – Cardamine pratensis
P1020638 Fern croziers
Fern croziers
P1020595 Yellow archangel - Lamium galeobdolon
Yellow archangel – Lamium galeobdolon
P1020593 Common Dog Violet - Viola riviniana
Common Dog Violet – Viola riviniana
P1020594 Bluebell - Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Bluebell – Hyacinthoides non-scripta
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A view amongst the trees

We will of course be visiting again over the coming months to see how the flora and fauna change and develop during the year. We would like to be much, much better at identifying birds from their individual songs and calls and to help us improve we have signed up for a spring bird identification workshop next month. No doubt we will come out of the course full of enthusiasm but will it stick. Memorising the sounds birds make seems to be so much more difficult than identifying them from their plumage. Hopefully it will enhance our enjoyment of these beautiful wildlife reserves still further. If nothing else it will gives us hours of fun!

Six on Saturday – New additions

Like many of you we have been tempted by new plants over the winter months.  To be truthful there are many more than just six but these are the new additions to the garden that I have recently been getting into the ground.  As the plants are all very small or under the soil at the moment I have taken the liberty of linking to a few pictures of more mature plants (a taster of what is to come I hope!).


One:  Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’

From time to time we take a break from working in the garden to enjoy one of the excellent weekly lectures at Pershore College.  Many of the speakers bring along live plants to illustrate their talks and of course we cannot resist buying something.

This delightful new Mahonia is a compact evergreen shrub that has spineless leaves and grows eventually to about 1 metre by 1 metre.  We originally thought that we would grow this in a pot but to be honest we are very poor at looking after things in pots and it was beginning to look a little sickly.  It has now been planted out into the garden where I am sure it will fair much better

Photo credit:  Real time link to http://www.gardeningexpress.co.uk


Two:  Aster ericoides ‘Vimmers Delight’

Another Pershore purchase after listening to a wonderful talk on autumn flowering Asters.   We do have one or two (or more) of these already but now is a great time for lifting and dividing existing plants and planting out new ones.

We have planted this in the new flower garden alongside a number of purple varieties that we have lifted and divided from elsewhere in the garden.  It grows to around 75cm so should become a real statement in the new garden with small white flowers backed by grey foliage.  If all goes to plan, in the autumn we will have a wonderful combination of late flowering Asters to keep the new garden going long into September.

Photo credit:  Real-time link to website at Farmyard Nurseries, Dol Llan Road, Llandysul, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA44 4RL


Three:  Martagon lillies

One of the themes for this year has been to develop the small woodland area at the north end of the garden.  Carol has done a lot of clearing over the winter months and it is now time to get down to some planting.  There is already a colourful spring display of snowdrops followed by primroses, cyclamen and more recently planted Chionodoxa.

In developing this area further we have decided to introduce a large number of Martagon lillies to grow and hopefully naturalise under the trees in a sunny area on the edge of the copse.  These were certainly not cheap bulbs to buy but if it works they should create a wonderful show for many years to come

Photo credit:  Real time link to http://www.dutchbulbs.co.uk


Four:  Winter colour – Dogwood Red-stemmed (Cornus alba Sibirica) and Dogwood ‘Midwinter fire’ (Cornus sanguinea)

On the edge of the copse is a slope down to the new flower garden.  The new flower garden was originally an old grass tennis court that has been dug out to make it level.  As a result the water table reaches the surface at this point and this area is very wet indeed over the winter.  We already have some successful yellow stemmed willow in this area and to add contrast we have added a stand of two different Dogwoods to develop the area still further.

This area catches the winter sun and we hope will add colour to a part of the garden that has very little winter interest at present.

Dogwood Red-stemmed (Cornus alba Sibirica)

Photo credit:  Real-time link to Buckingham Nurseries website (www.hedging.co.uk)

Dogwood ‘Midwinter fire’ (Cornus sanguinea)

Photo credit:  Real time link to rhsplants.co.uk


Five:  Heuchera ‘Electra’ and Heuchera  ‘Peach Flambe’

In the depths of last winter we visited friends in the Shropshire countryside and I was very taken by their tubs of Heuchera which were looking wonderful outside in the weak winter sun.

As a result I decided to start developing our own small collection (always one for pinching good ideas from others).  These are the first two varieties that we are bringing on from a number of 9cm pot plants with the aim of developing some good winter colour on our patio for next year.

Heuchera ‘Electra’ Photo credit:  Real time link to http://www.dutchbulbs.co.uk

Heuchera ‘Peach Flambe’ Photo credit:  Real time link to http://www.dutchbulbs.co.uk


Six:  Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum multiflorum)

In addition to the planting of the dogwoods and the martagon lillies in the top copse we are also just about to add a stand of Solomon’s seal.  Rather than planting these out directly into the woodland we decided to start these plants off in pots.  This has worked well and we now have a large number of strong plants that we can plant out as soon as the ground is dug over and cleaned of perennial weeds and brambles.

Photo credit:  Real time link to http://www.dutchbulbs.co.uk

All of the above are about planning for the longer term.  We are unlikely to see many results this year but hopefully over the coming years we should see more colour and interest in the autumn, winter and springtime.


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

 

Sunday Garden Birdwatch – 7 April 2019

The garden is full of bird life at the moment from dawn to dusk.  A particular highlight today has been our ‘crazy’ male chaffinch who has spent the day fighting his own reflection in the kitchen window – exhausting for him and us!  A Chaffinch is usually quite a rare sighting in our garden and this spring we seem to have a pair that are present most of the time.

This post is intended to be a simple record of the birds we have spotted in the garden today (7 April 2019).   The garden is about 1 acre and located in the countryside just outside Warwick (UK).  It has a substantial number of mature trees and shrubs and is surrounded by countryside on all sides.  This is mainly grazed pasture but there are also arable fields close by (this year mainly growing oil-seed rape which is just starting to come into flower).

We have a number of bird feeders in the garden which contain peanuts or a bird seed mix.   Here are today’s sightings.  The photographs are all taken in the garden but not necessarily today.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

Nuthatch

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

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Dunnock (Prunella modularis)

Dunnock P1020370

Blackbird (Turdus merula)

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Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)

Wood Pigeon

Great Tit (Parus major)

Great Tit

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

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Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

Blue Tit

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)

P1020167 Jackdaw

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

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There are of course other birds that visit from time to time but they have not appeared today.  Next week perhaps!

Robin Red Breast singing in the March sunshine (video)

The garden is full of bird song at the moment and it is a pleasure to simply stop and listen and watch.  I never quite seem to have the camera with me at the right time but this little robin was kind enough to sit still long enough whilst I zoomed in and caught its song on video.  The robin’s red breast and plumage is certainly at its best at this time of year as they prepare for the new breeding season.  The red in particular looks great here against the glossy dark green leaves of the holly (Ilex aquifolium)

The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) is resident in the garden throughout the year feeding on insects, invertebrates, worms, seeds and fruit.  Although very territorial, during the winter we do see a number in the bushes waiting their turn under the bird table or to visit the seed feeder.

They may be very common throughout the whole of the UK but our garden would not be the same without them.

 

Six on Saturday in March – White

All the hedgerows are now full of white Blackthorn blossom. I usually think of May as being the ‘white’month and March as rather more towards the ‘yellow’. Although there is no doubt that the narcissus and primroses are beautiful and in full swing, there does seem to be a wide range of white blooms in the garden at the moment. Choosing just six has been rather a challenge but here are my six for this week.


One: Amelanchier lamarckii

Amelanchier is a real star of the spring garden. The white flowers last only a short time but create a wonderful cloud of fine bloom in the shrub garden. But it is not only the blooms that excel at this time of year but also the new copper foliage which looks lovely alongside the white flowers and the fresh green spring foliage of many other shrubs and trees.

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Two: Plum

The first of the orchard trees to flower is the apricot but the plum is not far behind. When we planted the orchard 25 years ago we thought that it would be good to plant something with some local provenance. This variety is ‘Warwickshire Drooper’, a yellow egg plum with a beautiful wine plum flavour. Although now quite an old tree it still produces far more plums than we can cope with. It does make a wonderful jam.

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Three: Thalia narcissus

One of our favourite narcissus is the delicate multi-headed white Thalia. Reliably returning each year they are always a pleasure and create a lovely show.

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Four: Clematis armandii

One of our earliest flowering clematis in the garden, this fragrant armandii was originally planted to climb up a large eucalyptus which has now long since died. However it is a survivor and has now adopted a variegated Pittosporum that has grown up in its place over the last couple of years.

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Five: Spirea thunbergii

We would not be without the long lasting, crisp white flowers of Spirea. They are an important part of the garden each year contrasting here with the yellow and green foliage of Euonymus fortunei Emerald ‘n’ Gold. The first of these is Spirea thunbergii (below) followed later in the year by the dramatic arching flowering stems of Spirea x arguta ‘Bridal wreath’ .

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Six: Magnolia stellata

The magnolias this year have been spectacular. The blooms do not seem to have been damaged at all by frost or rain and have lasted much longer than in previous years. Last on my list of six but certainly not least.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

Six on Saturday – At this time of year it is the little things that matter ..

These early months of the year are not about the loud flamboyant flowers of summer but the small jewels that survive the tough winter weather and lift your spirit when you come across them in the garden.

Along side the snowdrops there are a number of other tiny bulbs, corms and rhyzomes that quietly survive much of the year underground but come into their own in the early spring.  Here are six that have graced the garden in February and March.


One:  Iris reticulata

Flowering in early February this is one of the earliest spring flowers to come into bloom in our garden.  It looks so delicate but is survives the harshest conditions being native to Russia, the Caucasus, and northern Iran.  We do tend to loose them in the garden so we tend to grow them in pots of well drained soil containing plenty of grit.  The markings and colour are just stunning.

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Two:  Cyclamen coum

These are tough little plants which are slowly spreading themselves around the garden.  They have been flowering since at least late January and are still flowering now.  They seem to be particularly successful growing in dry areas under deciduous shrubs and trees in what appear to be quite inhospitable conditions.  Cyclamen hederifolium also grows successfully in the garden producing flowers in the autumn.

Their natural range is around the Black Sea from Bulgaria through northern Turkey to the Caucasus and Crimea, but there is also a second population near the Mediterranean from the Hatay Province in Turkey through Lebanon to northern Israel ¹ .

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Three:  Crocus

The spring crocus certainly deserve a place in this six.  This year they have been spectacular, really enjoying the warm February sunshine along with the bees.  This photograph was taken on 25th February 2019.  Typically for us the yellow crocus come first followed by the whites and purples.  We tend to grow them through the meadow grass where they can be left undisturbed.

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Four:  Chionodoxa

We are along way from having an extensive carpet of Chionodoxa yet but they do appear to be establishing well.  Last autumn we planted a large number of new bulbs to try and speed the process along and they have emerged and flowered in their first year.

Similar to Scilla, but in fact a different genus, they are natives of the eastern Mediterranean specifically Crete, Cyprus and Turkey² .  Their common name, ‘Glory-of-the-Snow’, suits them perfectly.

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Five:  Tulipa kaufmanniana ‘Ice Stick’

One of the first tulips to come into flower each year, the Kaufmanniana tulips have now come into bloom  (11 March 2019).  This variety is Ice Stick.  In general many of the tulips we plant only flower for one year and then have to be replaced.  The Kaufmanniana tulips however seem to be repeating well and returning each year.

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Six:  Anemone blanda

Last, but certainly not least are the windflowers, Anemone blanda, which come in whites and blues.   They are charming, reliable little plants that grow in our deciduous woodland areas.

They are native to southeastern Europe, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria³ and prefer well drained soils that dry out in summer.  Our soil does tend to get waterlogged in the winter months but the native trees they are planted beneath does seem to keep the soil a little drier.

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That is my six for for this week but there are certainly many more special spring blooms just around the corner.  Exciting times.


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.