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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After an unseasonably warm February we are now back to a more traditional March menu of sunshine and showers and windy days. In between showers it is nice to just wander and browse. Every day now there is something different emerging. Green shoots are visible on many perennials and the peonies that we moved in the autumn to a new home in more sunshine are all looking very promising.
At this time of year it is the little things that matter. There is no full-on show of summer flowers but the small clumps of bulbs and other spring flowers that come back year after year are always very special.
It will be interesting to see whether the warm February will bring on the spring flowers earlier this year. These photographs were all taken on 11th March 2019.
Whilst sitting enjoying a well earned cuppa, it struck me how wonderful the two flowering cherries (Prunus incisa ‘Paean’) that flank the patio steps were looking. They are in full flower and certainly the significant pruning that we gave them last year after flowering to get them back into shape has done them no harm at all.
Even when not in leaf or flower the old twisted wisteria stems add real character to this patio area.
In the more shaded areas and in the top copse the primroses are now beginning to emerge taking over from the snowdrops that seemed to go over quickly this year in the warm weather. One of the jobs for the next week or so will be to lift and divide some of the snowdrop clumps whilst they are in the green. The snowdrop walk in the top copse has developed well but the individual clumps look ready to be divided and spread around to develop the walk even further.
Also in the woodland walk the first of the Anemone blanda are starting to emerge. We planted these some years ago now but although they seem to come back year after year they do not seem to have multiplied up to any great extent. They appear to be very delicate but seem to withstand the wind, rain and cold.
Somewhat unexpectedly we have found that some of the Anemone coronaria corms that we grew when we were growing commercially for Honey Pot Flowers have survived well over the winter and are flowering again. When growing for sale we tended to replant each year to ensure that we had good quality long stemmed flowers. This is less important in a private garden and if they continue to survive and establish more naturally they will be a great addition to the new flowering garden.
Regular readers will know that we are transforming what used to be our flower farm into a more aesthetically pleasing flower garden where we can just enjoy growing flowers for ourselves rather than for sale. The structural work is now all complete and the formal hedge is beginning to establish. We think it has all survived the hot dry summer last year but only time will tell. There is plenty more scope for plants that will give more winter interest in this part of the garden and we are currently planting a new area of colourful Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and the red stemmed Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ on the moist bank at the north end.
One of our favourite spring flowers that seem to thrive here in Warwickshire are the Hellebores. They seed themselves freely around the garden and are pretty trouble free. It is such a pleasure to bend down and lift their heads to see the beautiful markings on the inside of the flowers.
Another plant that is flowering its socks off is the perennial wallflower (Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’). Although we always admire this plant in other people’s gardens, especially when combined with striking orange colours later in the year, it has been some years since we have had one in our garden. It was planted last year in an open position in full sun and has established very well, remaining evergreen with some flower throughout most of the winter. It is now getting into its stride as the weather warms up. Luckily it is very easy to propagate from cuttings and we have a good number of young plants growing well in the greenhouse that will allow us to create an excellent show across the flower garden and create some continuity in different beds.
Not much is happening in the orchard yet although the young apricot is beginning to flower. The buds of the pear blossom are beginning to swell and new green leaves are just emerging on the quince. Whether it is just too early for the apricot fruit to set remains to be seen but we were very successful last year despite the bitterly cold weather. Thankfully all the orchard pruning is now complete and the new tripod ladder that I wrote about in an earlier article has helped enormously (both with pruning the orchard and bringing down an enormous Pyracantha to a manageable height).
Many of the evergreen foliage plants are certainly earning their place in the garden at this time of year. The neatly clipped Lonicera nitada hedges, the evergreen Hebe, Skimmia, Pittisporum and trailing ivy all create structure throughout the garden and have done all winter. Alongside these green shades new leaves are emerging. Very striking is the rich golden foliage of Spirea japonica ‘Goldflame’ which shines out in the spring sunshine.
The stars of the show at this time though are the bulbs. Small clumps of the miniature narcissus are returning like old friends in flower beds throughout the garden.
Hyacinths that we grew in pots in previous years and could not bear to simply throw away are now establishing themselves and creating a lovely spring show amongst the evergreen shrubs.
Even more exciting are the delicate flowers of the Chinodoxa that we are slowly building up around the garden. Their delicate pink and blue flowers seem to be establishing well at the base of the long hawthorn hedgerow and amongst the primroses on a sunny bank in the top copse.
I could go on! This is always an exciting time of year and there will be plenty to talk about over the coming weeks.
Although some days remain cold and grey the garden is on the move. The green shoots of many bulbs are beginning to emerge from under the ground and there is an array of small, exquisite blooms to enjoy throughout the garden.
Without doubt the Snowdrops are in their prime in February. Over the years we have spread them around the garden here at Waverley and every year we have the pleasure of seeing them emerge (even though we have long forgotten where exactly we planted them all).
Over a number of years we have sought to create a snowdrop walk in the copse at the north end of the garden. The bulbs of the common snowdrop Galanthus nivalis that we lifted and divided in the green have established well and bulked up into substantial clumps. Each of these could probably be lifted again this year and spread out further under the trees.
It is always wise to stop and turn over some of these beautiful flowers. I was surprised to come across this double variety in the leaf litter of the woodland. We must have planted it deliberately in this position at some time in the past.
Some of my favourites are the larger, glaucus leaved Galanthus elwesii which tend to stand tall and bloom on much longer individual stems. They also start flowering soon after Christmas. This group contrast well with these dark hellebores that flower at the same time.
Similarly the naturalised snowdrops sit so comfortably with the first of the emerging primroses.
But it is not all about snowdrops at this time of year. The yellow crocus have now pushed their way through the winter lawn and as soon as the sun shines will open into their full glory.
Also complementing the snowdrops are these tiny pink blooms of Cyclamen coum surrounded by a carpet of their mottled green leaves.
The striking blue flowers of the Iris reticulata are also starting to emerge. We have tried to grow these in the flower beds but they do not seem to thrive in our cold damp winter soil. However, growing them in bowls of gritty compost seems to work well and they are a delight to see each year on the patio.
It certainly will not be long until more spring flowers begin to appear but for now it is the snowdrops that take centre stage all over the garden.
In spite of the rather uninspiring grey (but mild) weather after Christmas we have been out and about in the garden cutting back and pruning ready for spring. We have just about finished the winter pruning of the orchard, made much easier this year by the purchase of a new Niwaki tripod ladder. Just the clearing up and shredding of the resulting pile of prunings is left to be completed.
Winter is not devoid of flowers and many of the shrubs in bloom at this time of year give off a strong fragrance to attract the few pollinating insects that are out and about. In January you get the chance to stop and appreciate the few plants that are braving the weather. Many are exquisite and well worth a closer look.
Here are my six for this week.
This small evergreen shrub, a native of western china, is producing a lovely honey scent that hangs in the air around the patio by the kitchen.
Again in full bloom at the moment, this slow growing shrub was originally a rooted sucker that we obtained from a relative in Cornwall. It is now establishing well and flowers profusely every year giving a wonderful fragrance in the winter months. Many of the plants we have collected together over the years remind us of friends and family, holidays and special garden visits. A subject of a blog in its own right perhaps.
We really associate snowdrops with February in our garden but the first few that emerge are a real pleasure and herald the beginning of the new year. They are such charming, perfectly formed flowers. See last year’s more in-depth blog on snowdrops for more background and their associated folk-lore.
Winter flowering cherry
A number of the trees around the garden mark certain events. This particular tree was planted in memory of our very first German Shepherd Dog, Lenka. It is a lovely reminder of her each spring.
Just budding up and starting to emerge throughout the garden are our hellebores. We love them and they seem to love it here in the garden. We are quite happy to see them seeding new plants all over the garden and never quite know what hybrids and colours are likely to result. (See last years blog for more background)
Viburnum x bodnantense
Another highly reliably plant that flowers consistently year after year in the winter months and produces a lovely scent. Yet another hardwood cutting from someone’s garden over 20 years ago (Carol and I can’t recall quite where it came from but thank you anyway if it was you!). This now substantial shrub (nearly 8 feet in height) is situated just near the path and we enjoy its fragrance whenever we walk out into the garden at this time of year.
Each year we plant literally thousands of bulbs around the garden and if you suffer from any kind of wrist or hand problems it can be very difficult and somewhat painful. To date we have got on best using a standard sturdy trowel but it is hard work especially when planting into turf or uncultivated ground. Over the years we have also tried the stand-up bulb planters but found these very tedious. The plug of soil in the planter never comes out again as easily as it should to refill the hole.
When we saw the adverts for Powerplanter we were intrigued. It seemed like a simple and obvious solution. It is basically a large soil drill that fits into a cordless hand drill and digs you a hole for your bulbs, plug plants or larger plants grown in 9cm pots.
At the time of writing there are four types in the range (www.powerplanter.co.uk) in various sizes ranging from one for planting seeds through to a longer one for ‘stand-up’ digging. The one we chose was the mid-range planter, the 307 model (7 inches long x 3 inches wide). It describes itself as being suitable for ‘potted colour and bulbs’ and cost just under £40.
We have used it for planting autumn bulbs over a number of weeks now and in a nutshell it works! Here are some of our observations:
If you are going to use if for any length of time you do need a good quality cordless drill. I found my old drill battery was just not up to the job so treated myself to a new DeWalt DCD776S2T-GB 18V 1.5Ah Li-Ion Cordless Combi Drill. This comes with 2 rechargeable battery packs and is certainly able to keep going longer than I can!
The planter works well in moist soil in the cultivated flower beds. It also made light work of creating planting holes in previously uncultivated turf that we had killed off over the summer and had never been dug over. It did begin to struggle cutting into hard dry soil under a large oak tree but I was having difficulty getting a garden fork into that anyway.
You do need to be quite organised to avoid your drill getting covered in mud or wet. At this time of year the grass can be damp with dew in the morning and you need somewhere to put your drill down as you move around. I just use an old dog towel which keeps everything dry and clean.
When planting the bulbs I have got into the habit of working with one gloved ‘dirty hand’ and one ‘dry clean hand’. The dry clean hand operates the drill whilst the gloved ‘dirty’ hand plants the bulbs and covers over the hole with the loose soil. You can work very fast this way.
I have found that the planter is quite accurate and you can easily plant bulbs between other plants without damaging them. For example we have been planting bulbs amongst wall flowers that were set out about 9 inches apart in September.
If you are using someone else’s drill you might like to get their permission first. You do have to be quite careful not to get mud into the chuck which certainly could be a pain if the drill is normally used for indoor jobs. The 7 inch planter is only just long enough for digging holes for tulip bulbs and in hind site the longer 12 inch planter might have been better.
Finally do read the safety instructions and wear appropriate eye protection. Running on a slow speed it does not throw much soil up towards your face but it could.
Finally for the action movie 😉
For some reason my niece dissolved into fits of laughter seeing me drilling holes in the garden! The youngsters of today have no imagination!
This weekend saw the first forecast frosts of the winter months and so we took the opportunity to pick a selection of the remaining summer flowers to arrange and enjoy in the house.
Included in the top arrangement are a selection of apricot and burgundy dahlias, white Chincherinchee ((Ornithogalum thyrsoides), achillea and the delightfully transparent seed heads of honesty.
In the vase arrangement below are pink, white and apricot dahlias, the deep red rose ‘Ingrid Bergman’ and the fragrant rose ‘Boscabel’, purple Verbena bonariensis, Chincherinchee and blue grey eucalyptus foliage.
The final table centre piece for this evening’s Sunday dinner with family contains rose ‘Ingrid Berman’, white and pink waterlily type dahlias, honesty seed heads, the blue of Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’, pink Schizostylis, blue-grey eucalyptus and Cotoneaster foliage.
The clocks may have changed and the nights are drawing in but we will still be able to enjoy the colour and fragrance of summer for a few days yet!
As we move beyond the autumn equinox the hours of darkness now exceed the day light hours. However, there still seems to be plenty of sunshine on offer and it has been very pleasant this week outside in the fresh air. We still haven’t had our first frost of the winter and there is a remarkable amount of colour around the garden.
Here are my six for this weekend.
One: Saxifraga fortunei
Earlier in the year we wrote about the patio at the back of the house to demonstrate the wide range of foliage and textures that make this area such an attractive shady location. The fleshy leaves of Saxifraga fortunei with their dark green top surface and reddish bronze under surface look good all year. However, it is only in September and October that they start to flower producing a haze of tiny white flowers which shine out as the evenings close in.
This week we were fortunate to be able to attend the RHS lecture by Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers at Pershore College. As always at these events there is a nice selection of things to spend your money on and we could not resist this pink flowered Saxifraga fortunei ‘Sibyll Trelawney JP’. It sits beautifully along side the white ones and I am sure will give us a lot of pleasure for years to come.
A couple of years ago we bought a number of Nerine bulbs which we originally grew on in pots to look after them and then planted out into a hot sunny, well drained border at the front of the house. Although they have produced leaves each year they seem to have taken a very long time to settle in. This year for the first time they have flowered but are not yet the spectacular display I have been hoping for. Perhaps they are now beginning to take off!
Every year without fail the annual and perennial Rudbeckia perform for us. This year is no exception and they will carry on flowering until the first frosts. Because they are such successful garden plants they perhaps do not get celebrated as much as they should and so here they are. This variety is ‘Autumn Forest’.
One of our more unlikely flowering plants for this week is the prostrate Rosemary. Although growing to less than 12 inches in height it is currently in full bloom amongst the gravel herb borders at the side of the house.
Five: Schizostylis (Kaffir Lily)
Performing at their best at this time of year are the various Schizostylis clumps that we have around the garden. Ranging from delicate pink to full on scarlet they provide a welcome shot of new colour at this time of year.
A new purchase of the variety ‘Princess Pink’ (below) has survived its first year and is showing real promise.
Six: Michaelmas daisies
Last but not least this week are the Michaelmas daisies. Ranging from tall 5 feet plants to small neat clumps these plants really do bring the garden to life at this time of year (and the butterflies love them).