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Taking a closer look

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We have an interesting relationship with our garden and the plants in it.

Sometimes we introduce a plant – it may be a gift from a friend, seeds collected on holiday, or an impulse buy – and it loves our garden, thrives and reproduces itself and feels thoroughly at home.  Examples are Lysimachia ‘Firecracker’ (can’t remember where I got this from originally – but it out-competes ground elder so is a real winner), Acaena microphylla (thank you Sarah), wild chicory (thanks for the seeds Mick)

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wild chicory

and Monardas (at least, some of them). The red Monarda, pictured below is really happy here and spreads itself about like mad, whereas others I have planted have simply disappeared.

Monarda

Monarda

Those then come into the category of ‘plants that are introduced and then sulk and die and/or get eaten by slugs’ – but let’s not dwell on these.

And then there are others that just arrive and make themselves at home. This category includes fabulous plants like Wild angelica (positively identified by a botanist friend – I’m very nervous about white-flowered umbellifers), Golden saxifrage – swathes of it lighting up the garden in Spring, and Sambucus racemosa – the Alpine elder – where did that come from?  And teasels.

teasel in the potager

teasel in the potager

And hogweed (yes, really)…

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hogweed with verbascum, lupin and cornflowers in the potager

Here are some  close-up shots of other things which are happy here at the moment.  Some, of course, like Cosmos, Larkspur, Sweet peas and Sweet Williams need some cosseting (i.e. slug protection) but are so lovely that it’s worth it and my Summer garden wouldn’t be complete without them.

Cosmos 'the Dazzler'

Cosmos ‘the Dazzler’

Larkspur

Larkspur

Sweet William Cherry Red

Sweet William Cherry Red

Sweet pea - one of the many smelly ones I grow

Sweet pea – one of the many smelly ones I grow

And then there are the alliums which require no cosseting and en masse look fantastic but close-up look pretty good too.

Allium sphaerocephalon in the cottage garden

Allium sphaerocephalon in the cottage garden

 

With thanks to Jonathan Need for the use of these lovely photos he took when he visited Nant-y-bedd a few weeks ago.

A professional’s eye

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We all know how it is when we’re so close to something that we don’t really see it as others do.  So it was a great pleasure last week to welcome professional photographer Jonathan Need to our garden.

Jonathan seemed instantly to understand the philosophy behind the garden and the planting and has very kindly sent us a wonderful selection of his morning’s shoot.  We’ll split the shots into two blogs; this first one featuring the garden as a garden; the second some fantastic close-ups of individual flowers.

Here’s just a few of the pictures which I’ll let speak for themselves.

Looking across the "Cottage garden"

Looking across the “Cottage garden”

Winding through the borders

Winding through the borders

Colour and form on the patio

Colour and form on the patio

An alternative view of the patio

An alternative view of the patio

Outside the "Operations Room" aka the Potting Shed

Outside the “Operations Room” aka the Potting Shed

In the "Potager" - 1

In the “Potager” – 1

Looking down the runner bean arch

Looking down the runner bean arch

In the "Potager" - 2

In the “Potager” – 2

Looking back up the "Potager"

Looking back up the “Potager”

Espalier apples and old tin cans!

Espalier apples and old tin cans!

Sailing on the pond

Sailing on the pond

Through the wild flower meadow to the Shepherd's Hut

Through the wild flower meadow to the Shepherd’s Hut

Cedric, the Seed King

Cedric, the Seed King

Rose bedecked shed

Rose bedecked shed

...and yes we do, occasionally, get to sit and enjoy a cuppa!

…and yes we do, occasionally, get to sit and enjoy a cuppa!

You can see more of Jonathan’s stunning photos on his website and hopefully in print somewhere in the future.

 

Is it Spring yet?

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Yesterday I was contacted by a garden writer and photographer to arrange a good time to come and take some photos of our garden.

‘Hope things are well with you and Spring is coming on nicely’ she wrote…

I whizzed around the garden with my camera to snap a few photos to illustrate where we are with ‘Spring coming along nicely’. It tends to arrive quite late here tucked away in the Grwyne Fawr valley at 1200′ in the Black Mountains.  We’ve had mostly a very mild winter this year – just about up until the time when Spring should be arriving and then it turned cold.  We’ve had some bright, sunny days, so I’m not complaining but mostly cold easterly or northerly winds and cold nights with some frost over the last few weeks,… and some snow.

So here are some photos I took yesterday.  So judge for yourself whether ‘Spring is coming along nicely’.

bare branches in the forest fruit garden

bare branches in the forest fruit garden

the permaculture wheel

the permaculture wheel

Honesty and rhubarb

Honesty and rhubarb

Hellebores

Hellebores

First tulips

First tulips

Broad beans planted out in the potager

Broad beans planted out in the potager

Orange favourite tulips not showing colour yet

Orange favourite tulips not showing colour yet

Blue hyacinths in the woodyard

Blue hyacinths in the woodyard

Hyacinth 'Woodstock'

Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’

primroses

primroses

still cutting winter firewood

still cutting winter firewood

copper rings ready for the courgette plants

copper rings ready for the courgette plants

runner bean tranches prepared - hazel tunnel to support them next task

runner bean tranches prepared – hazel tunnel to support them next task

pussy willows and golden saifrage

pussy willows and golden saxifrage

hawthorn hedge next to pond greening up

hawthorn hedge next to pond greening up

marsh marigolds starting to flower

marsh marigolds starting to flower

cowslips

cowslips

fritilliaries

fritillaries

lots of salad in the greenhouse

lots of salad in the greenhouse

Marianne. First trough of tulips in full flower

Marianne. First trough of tulips in full flower

Is it Spring yet?  Our first house martins have arrived, the ponds are full of tadpoles, birds are investigating our nest boxes and we are feeding a hedgehog with our cats which has obviously just woken up from its winter hibernation – so I guess it is.

And I planted our early potatoes today – having chitted them in a cool shed and warmed up the soil first with a covering of black plastic. This week I have dug up lots of ‘volunteer’ potatoes – the ones you always manage to leave behind no matter how hard you try to harvest them all – when preparing the runner bean tranches. These were showing signs of sprouting so that’s the sign that it’s time to plant this year’s crop.  (The ones I dug up were perfectly good to eat).

Spring is coming along nicely.

Childhood memories of Good Friday

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Good Friday to me means wild daffodils and bunches of primroses.

As children in the village where I grew up, every year, on Good Friday, we were taken into the surrounding fields and woods by a lady, Mrs Goode (bizarrely). None of us knew her, apart from this annual ritual. She lived in a wooden shack in the woods, and the Good Friday outing was to pick flowers to decorate the village church for Easter Sunday.

The memories are always sunny and fun, involve splashing in streams and having picnics in the woods and returning with baskets of flowers. In those days (late 50’s/early 60’s), picking bunches of wild flowers was what country children did, without any anxieties about conservation or biodiversity. I even used to pick primroses in my grandmother’s woods to sell at market, and she used to make gallons of cowslip wine.

The wild daffs grew in the woods and field margins, often lying on the surface of the soil after the farmer had ploughed the field in preparation for growing crops. Some of these discarded bulbs now grow here in my garden at Nant-y-Bedd.

Wild daffs and bench by the river

Wild daffs and bench by the river

The best place to pick primroses was in the orchard on the bank below the reservoir. My sister now grazes these orchards with her flock of sheep. The primroses still grow there in profusion so I don’t think that the village children picking them once a year did any longterm harm.

Both wild daffs and native primroses feature largely in our garden here. We have planted hundreds over the years, and we’ll shortly be planting out a hundred or so cowslip plants, grown from seed given to me by a local gardening friend (thank you John). So perhaps, subconsciously, I am paying back and giving thanks for my childhood memories.

Primroses in the wood

Primroses in the wood

Happy Valentine’s Day

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‘Made for each other’, the card says.  So here’s the photographic evidence.

Made for her by him - a hand-forged heart

Made for her by him – a hand-forged heart

Ok – it was last year.

Made by her for him

Made by her for him

Ok – it was repaired/refurbished with our own willow rather than ‘made’ by her and actually for the birds, but why let the detail get in the way of a good story?

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Gardening to all our followers.

ps.  My present this year from him is an encyclopaedic book on vegetables, herbs and spices – lovely but not so photogenic…  Hers to him?  Publishing this blog without having to ask for assistance!

Soup, snow and busy sunny days

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My daughter said to me yesterday ‘You’ve obviously been too busy gardening recently to write a blog’.  She’s right but it’s snowing today so I spent the morning sorting out my ‘to do’ gardening lists and veg rotation plan for 2016 and made soup with the intention of sitting at the computer this afternoon to write a blog.

Thank you , Vicky, for the recipe for Armenian lentil soup with apricots from your lovely bean-cooking book, ‘Out of the pod’.  Frustratingly, as we grow so much veg here in the garden, for this particular recipe it was only the parsley garnish (from the greenhouse) and the veg stock which was our own produce; we’ve just finished up the last of the stored onions and potatoes, given up trying to grow peppers, and as for apricots – well dream on, here at 1200′ in the Black Mountains…although, perhaps in the greenhouse?

delicious soup

delicious soup

So, fortified by Vicky’s soup and looking out at the Christmas card landscape (this is when the conifers we are largely surrounded by are forgiven and even loved), here are some photos I took a couple of days ago when the sun was shining and it all looked very different, spring-like…almost.

The reason for my foray out into the garden early one sunny morning was that the infra-red camera had captured some photos the night before of our nocturnal visitor adding chionoxidas to it’s burgeoning menu of my spring flowering bulbs.  My intention was to walk the fenceline between garden and forest to try to find out how it was getting in to the garden.

 

badger munching on chionoxidas

badger munching on chionoxidas

Failed to find the badger’s point of entry but enjoyed the walk.  Emily joined me.

Emily on gate post

Emily on gate post

Emily on the path into the forest

Emily on the path into the forest

Emily again

Emily again

And we saw some lovely moss ‘gardens’.

Moss 'garden'

Moss ‘garden’

Lovely moss

Lovely moss

the 'bear's cave'

the ‘bear’s cave’

more moss

more moss

moss sculpture in the garden

And on some of the sticks on the forest floor white, cotton wool stuff which only seems to appear when the temperature drops to below freezing.  Mental note to self to find out what it is.

what's this?

what’s this?

Back in the garden, to cheer me up some photos of early flowering bulbs which obviously don’t appeal to the discerning palate of our nightly badger.

crocuses

crocuses

snowprops

snowdrops

our earliest daffodils...awaiting the rest

our earliest daffodils…awaiting the rest

And Emily, sleeping in the sun, exhausted from her long walk.

exhausted...

exhausted…

Oh, and back to the ‘too busy gardening’ accusation, here’s a list of some of the things which have kept me from the computer in the last few weeks.

  • coppicing hazel for pea sticks and bean poles
  • tidying up the greenhouse and washing the glass (least favourite job of the gardening year)
  • sowing broad beans and peas (in guttering), leeks and celeriac and salad (also in guttering)
  • sowing a whole host of annuals including half-hardies like cosmos (this is where a heated propagator comes in handy)
  • emptying one of the compost bins and using to mulch beds which will have brassicas and potatoes later on
  • tidying up whenever the weather has allowed – e.g. removing old leaves from the hellebores. removing  last year’s pea sticks to the bonfire
  • pruning fruit bushes, vines and roses
  • potting up 70 (10 each of 7 varieties) Christmas trees
  • bringing in the pots of Amaryllis from the cold greenhouse into the house to stimulate flowering

Some people (non-gardeners) think that we gardeners put our feet up in front of the fire, reading gardening magazines and seed catalogues during January and February.  Perhaps we do some days when it’s snowing.

Finishing with a couple of pics of Amaryllis in flower on the sitting room windowsill last February.

Amaryllis on window sill

Amaryllis on window sill

Amaryllis 'Apple blossom', I think

Amaryllis ‘Apple blossom’, I think

Garden diary weather entry 21 November 2015

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And the following day the weather entry in the garden diary reads:

“Much brighter today.  Woke to a garden sprinkled in snow’

snow-tipped monarda seed-heads

snow-sprinkled monarda seed-heads

snow-sprinkled echinops

snow-sprinkled echinops

snow-sprinkled teasels

snow-sprinkled teasels

snow-sprinkled cotoneaster hedge

snow-sprinkled cotoneaster hedge

snow-sprinkled fruit cages

snow-sprinkled fruit cages

horse chestnut autumn foliage ...and snow

horse chestnut autumn foliage …and snow

snow-sprinkled wood shed

snow-sprinkled wood shed

We’ll certainly be glad that the woodsheds are full of lovely seasoned winter fuel.

 

Weather, waterfalls and a kingfisher

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Spring seems light year away.  November can be ‘dreek’.

This roughly translates here in our garden, at an altitude of twelve hundred feet sheltered in a valley in the Black Mountains, as dreary, dark and wet.  Relentlessly wet.  The garden is surrounded by mainly commercial coniferous forest with majestic huge trees on bright sunny breezy days but November days can be very gloomy when it seems never to get properly light.

I have kept a weekly garden diary for the past 14 years where I record the plants that are flowering, the vegetables and fruit we are harvesting, the tasks we are doing and the weather.  The word ‘dreek’ appears with leaden-sky frequency in November diary entries.

Over the past couple of weeks the ‘dreek’ has, I have to acknowledge, been interspersed with huge damaging winds and solid, driving rain.  Just to relieve the monotony and cheer us up.  This variety of November weather of course, for a garden, means that any hopes of tasteful ‘architectural seed-heads and gasses’ effects are left either at drunken 45 degree angles or smashed to the ground in sodden messy heaps of mouldy vegetation. Such has been the fate of some areas in the garden.

Not all Novembers are as miserable as the last two weeks.  A sample of other entries in previous years reveals other themes:

  • snow on hills
  • wet, cold and horrible
  • first frost and then snow mid-week
  • very wet and very windy (we’re back to our first theme, here)

We can’t really complain because earlier this month I wrote ‘Glorious sunshine on 1st November.  Such a beautiful day.  Autumn colours glorious.’  It’s all gone downhill from there.

glorious autumn colours

glorious autumn colours

autumn colours

more autumn colours

autumn berries and stems

autumn berries and stems

lysimachia punctata in its winter garb

teasels more or less upright

lysimachia punctata in autumnal hues

lysimachia punctata in autumnal hues

On a lighter note to brighten a dreak November day here’s the list of things we’ve been doing in the last couple of weeks with some pics.

Cleaning and oiling tools in the potting shed and re-arranging where they are stored – very satisfying to be doing a task such as this in the (relative) warmth of the shed with the smell of linseed oil on a cheerless grey day.

 

tidy tools

tidy tools

Sowing seeds for next year in the propagator and moving to the new greenhouse when germinated – sweet peas, sweet Williams, cornflowers.

sweet peas

sweet peas

Re-fashioning a damaged bird feeder with prunings from the willow fedge.

willow bird feeder repaired

willow bird feeder repaired

Stringing up the onions which have been drying on the kitchen windowsills.

the largest onion

the largest onion

 

onions drying, a fresh batch of soda bread and tulip catalogues

some of the onions drying, a fresh batch of soda bread and tulip catalogues

Raking up leaves, filling the leaf mould bins, choosing our favourite leaves, making a leaf trail and planting out Fin’s, Maisie’s and Granny’s nut trees (grown from cobnuts we planted 2 years ago) with the grandchildren.

we're going on a leaf hunt...

we’re going on a leaf hunt…

this is my favourite leaf

this is my favourite leaf

I can't choose...

I can’t choose…

making a leaf trail

making a leaf trail

planting Maisie's nut tree

planting Maisie’s nut tree

willow hoop and more leaves

willow hoop and more leaves

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the wind in the trees, and the river, streams and waterfalls crashing and splashing.

crashing, splashing river

crashing, splashing river

crashing, splashing waterfall

crashing, splashing waterfall

Seeing a kingfisher flying up the river.  Magical.

This is where I saw the kingfisher. Honest.

This is where I saw the kingfisher. Honest.

Perhaps November isn’t so dreary and depressing after all.

And, looking forward to the Spring, I have just ordered some more tulips, to replace the ones that the ‘nocturnal digging thing’ has been systematically digging up each night, at discounted prices (Sarah Raven).  These will be lightly tossed in paprika, planted deep, covered in chicken wire which will be securely pegged down, mulched with the deepest mulch of anything I can lay my hands on including anything particularly smelly with a battery-operated ‘rodent repeller’ placed next to them.  I have feelers out for the loan of squirrel traps and Ian is ordering an infra-red camera.  The battle is not yet lost.

tulips covered in chicken wire

tulip bulbs covered in chicken wire

We will have tulips for our NGS visitors to admire next year and the sun will shine again.

 

Borders?

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“My favourite gardens have no borders”, says Sarah Price, starting off her recent article on ‘Wildflowers in gardens’ in Gardens Illustrated.  Sarah has visited our garden a couple of times and used a photo of our garden to illustrate this article.

Yes, I thought on reading her opening words, I agree.  But then why do I have borders in my garden?  Or do I?

I have areas where wildflowers (aka native plants) are allowed to colonise and intermingle and do their own thing. Sometimes I will add to the mix.  I might pop in a few plants of fox and cubs, aquilegia vulgaris and Lady’s bedstraw and off they go.

I have other areas which are meant to be ‘borders’, where wildflowers and other natives have infiltrated and have been allowed to become established.  This may be because I have decided that I have to live with them because I can’t get rid of them (rosebay willow herb and ground elder) or I choose to keep them because they look good (greater stitchwort and golden saxifrage).

One of my current projects is re-designing (if that’ not too grand a term) a ‘border’ which has always been dominated by Lysimachia punctata (yellow loosestrife).  It was here when I arrived 35 years ago and over that time has just very gradually spread out a bit providing a big splash of yellow (which I find very cheery, but I know posher gardeners are a bit snooty about) in the summer and a lovely drift of bolt-upright rusty, rustling foliage in the depths of winter. The patch (border) gets mown around all summer, which I suppose stops it taking over the whole garden.

Picking up the ‘is it a border and does it actually matter?’ theme I’ve approached this ‘re-design’ in the spirit of a bit of an experiment . The ‘experiment’ involves slicing off (Lysimachia is shallow-rooted) spadefuls of the stuff and plonking them elsewhere to do or die; let’s see whether the stuff can out-compete what was there before.  Lysimachia is, after all, about as tough as it gets in the way of competing with it’s neighbours.  The space this has created in the ‘border’ has been planted up with various grasses and other perennials which have been patiently sitting around in pots awaiting a permanent home.  The ‘border’ has been extended by placing some of the afore-mentioned spadefuls amongst the adjacent un-mown grass where knapweed and fox and cubs have colonised.

So, the whole thing will look of a piece with wildflowers and ‘tame’ flowers both happily growing with the grasses (both tame and wild) amongst ribbons of Lysimachia.  That’s the theory anyway.  We’ll see what it looks like next year.

In the meantime some pics of ‘wild’ and ‘tame’ cohabiting both in borders and not…

lilies and meadowsweet

lilies and meadowsweet

foxgloves amongst herbs

foxgloves amongst herbs

wild angelica along the river

wild angelica along the river

sweet rocket, foxgloves et al in the veg beds

sweet rocket, foxgloves et al in the veg beds

all natives in the pond apart from this un-named iris we call 'Jonathon'

all natives in the pond apart from this un-named iris we call ‘Jonathon’

wood sorrel in our forest

wood sorrel in our forest

ground elder flowering

ground elder flowering – lovely

Wildlife friendly grass

Wildlife friendly grass

And finishing off with what I should be doing this afternoon if it wasn’t raining – planting tulips (both in borders and not) and the war on squirrels which seem to be digging them up as quickly as I am planting them. Round 2 involves rodent repellers and buried chicken wire.  Smudge is doing his bit to help…

Smudge on pest control

Smudge on pest control -not so wildlife-friendly

is the answer tulips in pots?

is the answer tulips in pots?

Gorgeous glads in the potager

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We opened our garden to visitors last week-end.

On Saturday it was Monmouthshire Eco Open Doors.  We were one of a number of properties throughout Monmouthshire (although we are strictly speaking just in Powys) whose owners invited visitors to come and see and discuss our ‘eco features’ as one visitor described them.  In our case our eco features include a micro hydro on our stream, natural swimming pond, solar thermal domestic water heating, wood fuel heating and cooking, air to air heat source pump and our organic garden.

On Sunday it was our final opening of 2015 for the National Garden Scheme.  I don’t need to describe how that works I’m sure.

We had lovely people on both days and many interesting conversations.  One visit or was telling me how much she liked the garden and particularly the ‘potager’.  I asked her to describe to me which area she meant as it’s not a label/description that we use.  Having checked the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary ‘from the 17th century French ‘a garden providing vegetables for the pot’ I couldn’t disagree with her.  However, we grow ‘vegetables for the pot’ pretty much throughout the garden but you wouldn’t describe it all as a ‘potager’.

Elsewhere I came across another definition ‘a traditional kitchen garden’.  I grow lots of flowers in this area of the garden which many gardeners would argue isn’t traditional.  So I don’t know.  Just now it looks nice anyway particularly as my favourite Plum Tart gladiolas are just starting to flower.

Here are some recent photos.  Decide for yourself if you think it’s a ‘potager’.

Plum tart in the 'potager'

Plum tart in the ‘potager’

another view of Plum Tart with cosmos, monarda, marjoram,etc

another view of Plum Tart with cosmos, monarda, marjoram,etc

cutting bed in the 'potager'

cutting bed in the ‘potager’

kale and runner beans

kale and runner beans

onion Centurion

onion Centurion

nasturtiums and pea shoots

nasturtiums and pea shoots

crimson flowered broad beans (saving the seed)

crimson flowered broad beans (saving the seed)

rudbeckia Herbstsonne

rudbeckia Herbstsonne

dahlia Happy Haloween

dahlia Happy Halloween

calendula, cosmos and courgettes

calendula, cosmos and courgettes

Emily on guard

Emily on guard

And the gorgeous glad…

Plum tart

Plum tart

Fine views and red grass

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Yesterday we took a couple of hours off from gardening to go to the top of the hill behind our house to have a look and walk along the footpath repair work which the Brecon Beacons National Park has been doing over the last 9 months or so.  We’ve been meaning to do it for ages.  The contractors parked their vehicles and heavy machinery in our yard whilst they were doing the work and we had many conversations in all weathers as to how the project was progressing.

So here are some photos we took yesterday of the work and views from the hill behind our house…and some reflections on how this relates to the garden…

Damage to the bog

Damage to the bog

‘The bog’ is Waun Fach and a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) very wet and peaty with boggy plants growing in it.  However, over the years it has become badly eroded due in part to motorbikes riding the ridge path illegally and the pressure from walkers (legally) trying to find a reasonably dry route through the very wet bits.  The path has got wider and wider with subsequent loss of habitat and all the important species that contains.  Moreover, the peaty run-off, I understand, has caused such discolouration to the water in the Grwyne Fawr reservoir that the water supply from this reservoir can no longer be used as potable water and is now off-line.

I won’t go into details here of project funding and the partners involved.  The photos, I hope, show what a lovely job has been (and is being) done to protect important habitats by improving the footpaths so that people can enjoy the spectacular landscape.

the new path winding into the distance

the new path winding into the distance

another view of the path

another view of the path

I wondered why this grey-coloured stone had been chosen for the surface – it’s not the colour of our local stone.  Apparently, (I will avoid getting into technical detail here because I am not an expert) it has something to do with the acidity of the bog.  Our local stone is old red sandstone which is what we have used for the paths and walls and other stone features in our garden – because it looks right but also because we are not short of stone in our garden – as anyone who has visited can testify.

The path in the photos above has been created by laying geo-textile of the surface of the bog and then covering this with crushed-up (not the technical term) stone for the surface.  A finer layer of finely crushed stone is then put on top.  This works for the flattish areas but doesn’t work on slopes.  A different technique is used here – stone pitching.  We have used this same technique in our garden.

stone pitching on slopes

stone pitching on slopes

Here you can see the difference in colour between the imported stone (grey slabs) and the local stone – much pinker.

And here is the view…

the view across to the Brecon Beacons

the view across to the Brecon Beacons

Breathtaking.

It’s also interesting and informative to take note of what is growing up there on this exposed windswept site.  I was particularly struck by the eye-catching swathes of red grass.

'red grass'

‘red grass’

This was growing in very wet areas and I thought how good it would look in the regeneration zone of our natural swimming pond.  On closer inspection I think I identified it as cotton grass which we already have.  Bought from a reputable nursery I must add, not dug up from our SSSI.  I presume that ours in the pond will turn red during the Autumn as the weather gets colder.

Heather is also much in evidence in the drier areas which reminds me that there are areas in our garden into which we could introduce the native heather to good effect.

Alongside the eroded areas of path on the slopes heather has been strewn so that the seeds will fall and heather will be re-established.  It will be interesting to take this walk again in a years time to see how successful this has been.  This technique should work in the garden if the conditions are right.

repairing the damaged slope with heather trimmings

repairing the damaged slope with heather trimmings

The scar on the left of the photo above is the old path strewn with heather.  The new stone-pitched path meanders up the slope on the right.

heather 'strewings'

heather ‘strewings’

Work is also being done to prevent the water running off and washing the peat away.  This involves a simple technique of blocking the ditches – see photo below

preventing run-off

preventing run-off

All in all a brilliant example of what can be done if agencies and organisations work together to achieve mutually beneficial objectives.  And we can enjoy the views without getting our feet wet…

Now back to the garden and harvesting the rest of the potatoes whilst the weather remains dry.

our visitors liked…

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After a couple of days washing and drying tablecloths, counting the money and tickets and reconciling one with the other (always a challenge we find), getting around to planting out the leeks and too-long-in-the-pots Cosmos which I had planned to do before our NGS Open Day on Sunday and thanking all our helpers…time to reflect on what it was about our garden that our visitors liked.

Some pics of things of particular interest or curiosity..

 

Ladybird poppy in cutting bed

Ladybird poppy in cutting bed

…with self-sown (a bit of a theme in our garden) candytuft and marjoram (the best pollinator-friendly plant you can have in your garden, in my opinion).

Cornflower and 'shaggy' daisy again in the cutting bed

Cornflower and ‘shaggy’ daisy again in the cutting bed

 

They liked the ground elder too – yes really.

ground elder flowering

ground elder flowering

And our wood stacks with a smattering of self-sown toadflax (the purple one) and hogweed (the white umbellifer) to make it all look tasteful.  (Pay attention, there’s a quiz coming…)

wood stack. toadflax and hogweed

wood stack. toadflax and hogweed

 

They were curious about the lovely blue flowers amongst the garlic…or were the garlic in flower?

allium azureum planted between the rows of garlic

allium azureum planted between the rows of garlic

They liked the spiky, mauvey thing flopping all over the place and wanted to know what it was.

Veronicastrum flopping everywhere

Veronicastrum flopping everywhere

But that’s how I like it.

Veronicastrum and visiting bee

Veronicastrum and visiting bee

Bees and other pollinators also like it.

Visitors liked all the gorgeously smelly rambling roses we have everywhere and wanted to know what their names were.  Unfortunately I don’t know all of them.  Positive identification much appreciated -subject of a future blog with better photos.

Un-named prolific and wonderfully smelly climbing rose

Un-named prolific and wonderfully smelly climbing rose

They liked the primulas and bought lots of them to take home.

primulas amongst the plants for sale

primulas amongst the plants for sale

 

They liked the view of the garden from the bench at the top of the hill.

Trekking up the hill for an overview

Trekking up the hill for an overview

And they liked the flowers in the tearoom.  They also liked the cakes (thank you Wateraid volunteers for providing) but they were so popular I didn’t get a pic.

tea room flowers

tea room flowers

Here pictured on our kitchen table after the event.  Ground elder makes a surprisingly good cut flower.

And they were puzzled by the the two sets of distinctly different leaves on this tree…

Oak and horse chestnut tree

Oak and horse chestnut tree

…a pocket of acorns and conkers planted by daughter number two about 20 years ago.

 

They also puzzled over (this is the quiz) the bee-friendly flowers set out to test their knowledge of such things.  Only one visitor got them all right.

5 bee-friendly plants in flower in our garden

5 bee-friendly plants in flower in our garden

 

Answers:

1. toadflax (were you paying attention?)

2. parsnip

3. ground elder (yes really, and the bees and hoverflies love it)

4.  honeysuckle (we have several varieties – this is the wild one you find in hedgerows)

5.  hogweed (again, a brilliant pollinator-friendly plant – just don’t let it set seed in your borders)

Other visitors

For the record, a few other visitors to our garden in the last few days…

Brown long-eared bat

Brown long-eared bat

Sadly found dead in the garden tool shed amongst the link-stakes.  But hopefully suggests that there are others around.  We know that we have a summer male roost of Pipestrelles in the roof.

Scarlet tiger moth

Scarlet tiger moth

Apparently there are a lot of them around at the moment – we were still thrilled to find them here.

frog

frog

Hopping about amongst the raspberry canes so hopefully eating all the slugs.

gold-banded dragonfly amongst the Ezethas Krombek Blau peas

gold-banded dragonfly amongst the Ezethas Krombek Blau peas

The peas were also admired.

Then just as I was finishing this blog I found …….

Elephant Hawk Moth

Elephant Hawk Moth

…on the honeysuckle over the gate.

All our visitors seemed happy.  We must be doing something right….

Ok, the lovely weather helps!

What a lovely morning!

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I was up early this morning – light streaming through the curtains and the cockerel crowing fit to burst – so I took a load of photos at about 8.30, some of which are below.

an arty one to start!

an arty one to start!

the Poached Eggs - covered in bees yesterday

the Poached Eggs – covered in bees yesterday

More poppies

More poppies

Sweet Rocket - otherwise known as pinky things!

Sweet Rocket – otherwise known as pinky things!

the famous rope bridge

the famous rope bridge – with photographer’s shadow!

Still life on the pond

Still life on the pond

Gunnera dominates the view

Gunnera dominates the view

Looking across David's meadow

Looking across David’s meadow

Looking back to the house

Looking back to the house

Flag Iris

“Jonathan’s”  Iris

It's that pinky thing again!

It’s that pinky thing again!

The veg garden - spot the vegetables!

The veg garden – spot the vegetables!

Reflecting on a beautiful morning - in for a dip later

Reflecting on a beautiful morning – in for a dip later

 

Staking aquilegias? Or not.

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Big brassy yellow jobs have their place but my favourites are the ‘granny bonnets’ and all the variations of that theme from mother-of-pearl creamy pink through to ruby wine and violet blue.  This, of course, all comes about by magic (or actually cross-pollination brought about by bees and hover flies and other busy insects without any intervention from me.)

Sometimes striking combinations with neighbours happen accidentally – Lysimachia firecracker with the bog-standard blue one, for example.

RIMG1541

It’s the randomness of it all which appeals. I couldn’t be happier if I had spent hours pouring over influential garden magazines and  books and attended endless jolly courses on ‘planting partners’ and devised and followed a strict planting plan.

The lucky accident always gives me the most pleasure.

RIMG1552

RIMG1549

…and then there’s the gusting wind and the rain reminding me about the importance of supporting some things in time.

RIMG1546

Some things have to take their chance though.  Bistort was a casualty last week. Not sure if it’s retrievable. I’ve had a go at propping some of the flowers up with hazel sticks but it will never look the same.  Can’t imagine how you could stake it in advance.

And I know that the aquilegias under the copper beech nearly always get flattened by heavy rain dripping off the tree.  So I’ve also propped them up with hazel sticks. The flowers seem to have a very efficient mechanism for ravelling themselves together so it takes a bit of time and patience to untangle them so that they look as if you haven’t just propped them up.

Welsh poppies

…and the bonus from the operation is that there are always some which don’t look quite right so you have to pick a bunch for the kitchen table.

RIMG1539

A perfect opportunity to look at the detail of the flowers.  When they have been happily cross-pollinating for years, as mine have, it would appear that flowers from no two plants are the same, producing an infinite variety of permutations of colour and form.

Lovely.

So will I get around to staking them before the early summer gusty gales next year?  Probably not.

And this week the wind has dropped a bit and it’s all looking lovely…

self sown teasels

self sown teasels

Sweet rocket

Sweet rocket

A good day

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Well actually today isn’t that good which is why I’m sitting at the computer instead of doing useful things in the garden. Today’s weather is an easterly wind and spiteful heavy showers – tough on the tenderish things I’ve being acclimatising to life at 1200 feet in the Black Mountains over the past few weeks, lulled by the warm sunshine in April into thinking that Spring had arrived.

Our house martins know better. They arrived last week from their winter hols – weeks later than usual.

Anyway, Sunday 10th May was a very good day – our first public opening for the National Garden Scheme this year.  We have already had one gardening group last week in a bitterly cold, howling gale.  They enjoyed the visit none-the-less.  Hardy souls, gardeners.

On Sunday the weather was kind to us – cool to start but warming up as the day went on.  And fortunately no rain. One hundred and twenty five people came to see the garden.  And lovely people they were too.  We had some most interesting conversations about gardening matters and they were appreciative of the tea and cake (and also the garden).

I’m always too busy on open days to remember to take photos actually on the day, but here are some I have taken over the last couple of days to illustrate what visitors commented on and asked questions about.

They liked the tulips.

 

China Pink tulips with forget-me-nots

China Pink tulips with forget-me-nots

Natalie's favourite combination - tulip Doll's minuet with Lysimachia 'firecracker'

Natalie’s favourite combination – tulip Doll’s minuet with Lysimachia ‘firecracker’

White triumphator

White triumphator

Appledoorn

Appeldoorn

tulip Brown sugar

tulip Brown sugar

the front cover of the Gwent NGS leaflet

the front cover of the Gwent NGS leaflet

Well this photo is what this corner of the garden looks like this year.  The photo on the leaflet is 2014 planting which I had decided hadn’t worked as well as I had hoped. Visitors liked it this year – in fact one was taking a photo so that he could paint the big blousy orange tulips. More of butler sinks – featured in this pic- later.

And they liked my potting shed.  So do I.

work in progress in the potting shed

work in progress in the potting shed

They liked the Welsh poppies- those I had in pots were the first plants to be sold out. Note to self for next year – make sure I have more in pots.

Welsh poppies pop up everywhere in our garden

Welsh poppies pop up everywhere in our garden

Apparently some people like only the yellow ones and others crave the orange ones.   I have both and love them both.  So exciting waiting to see what colour it’s going to be when one pops up somewhere interesting…

They liked the forget-me-nots growing with the Crimson-flowered broad beans.  “Did I plan it like that or did it just happen?’ I took the credit for inspired design…

Forget-me-not and Crimson-flowered broad bean combo

Forget-me-not and Crimson-flowered broad bean combo

They liked the runner bean tunnel.  Runner beans shivering in cold frame until the end of the month.

runner bean tunnel made with our hazel sticks

runner bean tunnel made with our hazel sticks

They asked questions about …the hops.  ‘Are they grown for decoration?’  Fair enough question but no, they are grown to make beer.

Hops just starting to climb their strings (in background)

Hops just starting to climb their strings (in background)

“Excuse our ignorance, but what is the mass of lovely flowers which looks like dandelions?’

actually, they are dandelions

actually, they are dandelions

And they are lovely.  And a bonus point is that the seed heads are a food for goldfinches.  My excuse for allowing them to flourish.

‘What is that plant and can I have some?’

Comfrey with a 'health warning'

Comfrey with a ‘health warning’

This very efficient creeping comfrey (which I can never remember the name of) does a brilliant job of scrambling around and quickly covering a dry bank – or anywhere really.  Which is why I was very happy to dig some up and give it away but with a warning that it is a thug and will swamp your precious things if you don’t keep it under control.  And the bees and hover-flies love it.

‘Does using copper around your veg beds really work?’

copper pipe around beds and copper rings awaiting courgette plants

copper pipe around beds and copper rings awaiting courgette plants

Answer, most emphatically ‘yes’.  We use it in a combination with nematodes to tackle the slugs in the soil.  Copper stops them marching in from elsewhere.

‘What’s that plant growing alongside the peas?’

Crimson clover alongside the peas

Crimson clover alongside the peas

Answer ‘crimson clover’.  It’s a green manure (nitrogen-fixing) and I sowed it in this bed as a bit of an experiment to cover the soil over the winter, but with such pretty flowers who could bear to dig it all in?  Will definitely be growing it again just for the flowers.

It’s always touch and go before an Open Day if things will actually be in flower/looking there best.  Here’s a few photos of things which made it and some which didn’t quite.

bluebells just made it

bluebells just made it

Lovely on the river bank apparently but I haven’t found the time to take a walk down there to see for myself.

clematis just coming into flower

clematis just coming into flower

Others are still to come.

carrots just showing.  Honest.

carrots just showing. Honest.

 

Parsley not germinated yet

Parsley not germinated yet

As you can see from this photo and others ‘re-use and re-cycle’ is very much the basis of our philosophy on life here especially in the garden.  A friend said to me recently that if it was in the house it would be called ‘shabby chic’ and Country Living feature writers would be queuing up at my door..

A few more photos of the kind of re-cycled things we use in the garden.

Old tin baths ad barrel water butts

Old tin baths ad barrel water butts

Yet another galvanised watering can - you can't have too many

Yet another galvanised watering can – you can’t have too many

re-cycled pots

re-cycled pots

Just off to collect another butler’s sink from a neighbour who was going to take it to the tip.  More than happy to take it off his hands.  Thinking of planting it up with nasturtiums for the summer.  Should look good for our next Open Day in July.

And yesterday was a good day too.  For drying the tablecloths from our Sunday tearooms…

tablecloths on the washing line

tablecloths on the washing line

p.s. A very big thank you to friends and family who helped on Sunday, Caroline for providing lovely plants for sale and the good ladies (and one gent) from the Llanthony & District Garden Club for providing once again excellent teas and cakes.  We couldn’t do it without them.

Frogs, logs and unseasonal swimming madness

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Mid-February means that the frogs are back in our ponds doing what frogs do at this time of year.  This usually lasts just a couple of days and then throughout the year we come across them in damp bits across the garden helping us with our battle against slugs.

 

Frogs doing what frogs do...

Frogs doing what frogs do…

Some years the frogs get their timing wrong and if we get a cold spell after they have spawned the frogspawn gets frosted and we sometimes get a second flush.  This year the weather has turned very cold again with frost and snow so we shall see.

Whilst cold temperatures and a dusting of snow is tough on the frogs it does, however, look very pretty.

a dusting of snow

a dusting of snow

veg beds

veg beds

decking and garden room

decking and garden room

more veg beds

more veg beds

spring bulbs in pots in the yard

spring bulbs in pots in the yard

And we have some snowdrops doing what they do in the snow.

snowdrops braving the icy weather

snowdrops braving the icy weather

We have been busy getting on with some of our seasonal tasks – mainly woodland and coppice management and dealing with the products thereof and tidying up the veg and flower beds when the weather allows.

Coppice management produces the pea sticks and rods for making rose and sweet pea supports.

hazel pea sticks

hazel pea sticks

These bundles of pea sticks will be used over the next few weeks to provide support for the peas and mange tout which I am sowing in guttering at the moment.  The longer ones are selected to provide material for making domes for sweet peas to climb up and to support roses and clematis.  The photo below shows a support made from hazel for one of the old-fashioned roses – the name of which I have long since forgotten.  (Note to self – must improve permanent labelling.)

 

Caroline created this hazel rose dome

Caroline created this hazel rose dome

(Caroline is my new one-day-a-week gardener and will feature in future postings.)

In future weeks there will also be a new runner bean tunnel but as the beans don’t get planted out here until the end of May there’s no rush to do that.  Photo below is one from a previous year.

 

hazel runner bean tunnel

Caroline and I have also been pruning – some results below:

Holly

Holly

Beech

Beech

field maple (foreground)

field maple (foreground)

Willow arch

Willow arch

All these add structure to the winter garden.

But back to ‘logs and unseasonal swimming’.

Ian had help moving logs from Caroline’s 2 sons.

Many hands make light work

Many hands make light work

Harry and Thomas admire Ian's beard

Harry and Thomas admire Ian’s beard

But there were lighter moments in the hard day’s work

Riding back to work

Riding back to work

And then they asked if they could take a dip in the natural swimming pond – in FEBRUARY at 4 degrees!

 

4 degrees C!

4 degrees C!

snowy landing

snowy landing

 Madness.

Finishing with some unseasonal (i.e. trying to pretend it’s spring when actually it’s still very much winter) stuff going on in the greenhouse to cheer us up…

 

tete-a-tete daffs

tete-a-tete daffs

broad beans

broad beans

iris reticulata 'harmony'

iris reticulata ‘harmony’

Looking at the weather outside I think I might be finding more tasks in the greenhouse this coming week. And I think I’ll leave the ‘unseasonal swimming’ to the ducks…

our ducks in the stream today

our ducks in the stream today

My kind of gardening

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A group of lovely ladies from Crickhowell U3A Gardening Group visited our garden last September, enjoyed their visit and wanted to know more.  They invited me to visit them to talk about ‘my kind of gardening’ earlier this week.  As I spent  a couple of happy wet, miserable and cold January days going through my back catalogue of photos and organising my thoughts  I thought I would share the fruits of my labours, as it were, with a wider audience.  So here goes with the very (I used 171 photos to illustrate the talk) abridged version.

I have no claim to any formal horticultural or design expertise but come from a farming background where both sets of grandparents and my parents were efficient cottage gardeners.  The farming on Dad’s side of the family included market gardening, so my Fridays after school would be helping to pick peas and blackcurrants and Saturdays were helping with the sale of cauliflowers (the best and freshest and most organic – without the ‘organic’ label), turnip tops and the rest in Newport market.

This is me.

Me posing in the greenhouse

Me posing in the greenhouse

I have been gardening at Nant-y-Bedd for 34 years.  We are at 1200 ft in the Black Mountains, sheltered in the valley, surrounded by mature mostly coniferous forest.  Now six and a half acres of garden, meadow forest and river frontage.  We have short growing seasons, temperatures generally 5 degrees below Abergavenny all year round, midges, slugs and moles.  And no television.  Sounds idyllic?

Birds eye view

Birds eye view

What ‘my kind of gardening’ is not is designed by others, manicured or low maintenance. What it is gives a lovely, fulfilling way of life which brings joy – and physical exercise.  It’s self sufficient in lots of ways including use of local resources – for example wood chip, hazel and willow for weaving and pea sticks – and energy generation – micro hydro on the stream, woodland management for fuel for heating and cooking – and majors on recycling – for example re-use of copper for slug control.

my potting shed

my potting shed

Natural hazel arch

Natural hazel arch

 

Winter willow colour

Winter willow colour

copper to deter slugs

copper to deter slugs

It goes without saying that ‘my kind of gardening’ is organic, wildlife friendly and probably verging on the edge of permaculture (if I properly understood what that means) in places .  It embraces favouring heritage varieties in the vegetable garden, the welcoming of exuberant self-seeders (yes, even in the veg garden – have you ever let your parsnips flower and go to seed?) and all under-pinned with a desire to ensure that the garden sits comfortably in its setting and has a strong ‘sense of place’.  No gnomes, straight lines  or bedding plants here.

Yes, it really is a parsnip!

Yes, it really is a parsnip!

Crimson flowered Heritage broad bean

Crimson flowered Heritage broad bean

home-made compost is essential

home-made compost is essential

Leafmould - a key ingredient of potting mixture

Leafmould – a key ingredient of potting mixture

Wildlife friendly

Wildlife friendly

Slug catching slowworm

Slug catching slowworm

But most of all my gardening has to take place somewhere which is a wonderful place to be in all seasons.

Behind the house

Behind the house

Spring snowdrops

Spring snowdrops

Bountiful summer growth

Bountiful summer growth

Autumn colours

Autumn colours

I’m trying to find a term which can describe ‘my kind of gardening’ – the best I can come up with is ‘tread lightly’ – but I happen to know that ‘tread lightly’ is the name of an organisation which promotes off-road motorcycling so that doesn’t seem quite right!

The approach is about minimal interference including welcoming ‘weeds’ is many instances – ground elder for example, which if you can’t get rid of it actually looks ok with Lysimachia ‘firecracker’, or Rose bay willowherb, which when flowering is fantastic – you just need to remember to find the time to hack it down before it goes to seed when it looks really unsightly.  And is a foxglove a weed? Some would say it is when it’s in the veg patch.  The most colourful bit of our garden when we opened for the NGS in July last year was one of the main vegetable growing areas where I couldn’t bear to rip out the self-sown toadflax, mimulus., ox-eye daisies, feverfew and teasels.

Vegetables + flowers + "weeds"!

Vegetables + flowers + “weeds”!

toadflax self-sown in the path in the veg patch

toadflax self-sown in the path in the veg patch

self sown aquilegia and sweet rocket in the path

self sown aquilegia and sweet rocket in the path

 

welsh poppies happily seed themselves everywhere

welsh poppies happily seed themselves everywhere

ground elder flowering

ground elder flowering

Of  course every garden needs good infrastructure and this is where the ‘boys with their toys’ come in.

Brian the Diggerman

Brian the Diggerman

Ian & Martin carting timber for the pond

Ian & Martin carting timber for the pond

Old fashioned "boys toy"

Old fashioned “boys toy”

And ‘my kind of gardening’ involves creativity and curiosity and trying something new.  Working with what”s there but perhaps taking a fresh look at it.

artistic ash

artistic ash

leaf decoration

leaf decoration

Mossy bench

Mossy bench

 

one of our cairns (no shortage of stone)

one of our cairns (no shortage of stone)

Our NGS Open days in 2015 are 10th May, 19th July and 13th September.  Come and see for yourself.

Photos of Sue and potting shed Copyright Rebecca Bernstein

My favourite place

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I love everything about my garden (well, apart from the midges, slugs and moles!), but the wildlife / natural swimming pond is probably the best thing we have created in the 34 years I’ve been here.

Crystal clear reflections

Crystal clear reflections

Today I took 20 minutes out from preparing for the NGS Open Garden days to have a swim – swimming with newts, water boatmen, pondskaters, large red damselflies, dragonfly larvae, whirlygig beetles (are they really called that?) the first blossoms on the native white water lilies and the tadpoles rapidly turning into little frogs.  There’s some ferocious looking great diving beetles in there somewhere as well!

Iris Bastardii -yes really!

Iris Bastardii -yes really!

On the weekend the grandchildren had great fun “fishing” for newts – not the great crested variety in case any of my former conservationist colleagues are reading this!

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The planting round the edges is starting to look natural and seems to be doing the job that is intended for it – keeping the nutrients in the water to a level that stops the growth of algae and other nasties.  Despite quite a lot of leaves falling into the pond over the winter (something we need to sort out this year) the water is crystal clear and obviously very interesting to all the beasties mentioned above.

"Jonathan's" irises

“Jonathan’s” irises

PS from Ian:   On the weekend I changed the type of filter foam in the ‘pump house’  and now the whole thing seems to be working more efficiently and we have both of the “feature” outflows working fully as well as the main “heating” outflow down in the depths of the pond.  Money well spent, I think.

Plant a gift or gift a plant?

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I have two sisters.  One (if I were to try to describe them) is a farmer, the other is a gardener.  The gardening one, over the years, has been

– someone to enjoy taking around my garden

– someone to visit gardens with

– someone who has given me lots of ideas, inspiration and plants.

 

Here are just a few of the plants my sister has given me:

 

Lewisias

Lewisias

 

I wasn’t sure that Lewisias would work in my garden (1200 ft in the Black Mountains), but I was advised that if I planted them in a dry stone wall they’d be fine.  And they are.

 

Bay trees

Bay trees

 

Just re-potted the six bay tree cuttings into these bargain pots from Homebase (half price).  Hopefully they’ll weather with time (the pots that is).

 

Thrift

Thrift

 

Thrift reminds me of holidays walking along the Pembrokeshire coast path.  We might not have a seaside location here but the thrift seem really happy in a pot next to the wood shed in the yard, probably the hottest spot in the garden.

 

 

Lilacs

Lilacs

 

Newly potted up lovely old fashioned single smelly ‘lilac’ lilacs from my sister’s garden.

 

Shuttle cock ferns

Shuttle cock ferns

 

Shuttle cock ferns are doing really well next to the wildlife pond.

 

 

Pampas grass

Pampas grass

 

Not sure if pampas grass will survive here, but we’ll give it a go!

 

Hostas

Hostas

 

My sister has lots of hostas.  These are just some of the many she has given me, all accurately labelled.  My only job is protecting them from the slugs.

 

If I put my mind to it, I could probably list 50 different plants my sister has given me over the years.  So, thank you, and HAPPY XXth BIRTHDAY!

 

P.S. And, she’s probably right about the Bistort which has flopped all over the path after all this rain.

 

Bistort on path

Bistort on path

 

 

today in the garden

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Well actually it was last Friday but full of good intentions…

No time for constructing erudite essays but just some photos of what’s going on now in the garden

 

view from the crab apple trees

view from the crab apple trees

Sweet Cicely looking at it’s best on the far bank of the stream- I will soon want to ‘Chelsea chop’ it and certainly before it sets seed – made that mistake too many times in the past.

 

new planting by the pond

new planting by the pond

Finally got around to ripping out the variegated sedge which was romping away swamping everything and several (too many) pendulous sedge.  I need to be vigilant now to ensure hostas a) don’t  get eaten by slugs and b) don’t get swamped too, in due course.  The trick of course is to find plants that are equally vigorous and can fight it out – Lysimachia Firecracker and ground elder seem to be an ok combination elsewhere in the garden  i.e. equally thuggish.

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More (established) pond planting.

Rodgersia seems particularly happy in this spot.

ferns un-furling

ferns un-furling

This is the best time of year to enjoy the many ferns we have in the garden – most of which arrived without invitation.  Serendipity.

 

hosta and bistort

hosta and bistort

 

Bistort is really happy on this dry bank next to the pond.

 

hostas in pots

hostas in pots

Hostas in pots too – with a couple of late tulips and euphorbia oblongata in the foreground which this winter over-wintered outside.

 

euphorbia

euphorbia

…and another euphorbia next to the stream – forgotten the name of this one.

 

white daisy things

white daisy things

Another ‘had so long here I’ve forgotten the name of it’ plant looking lovely on the dry stone wall with greater stitchwort – another ‘arrived uninvited’ welcome visitor.

apple blossom

apple blossom

Our Tom Putts are smothered in blossom but the Howgate Wonder ( a wonderful all-purpose huge apple planted as pollinators for the Tom Putts) didn’t enjoy the wet, wet winter and are suffering with canker as a consequence.  Shame because it’s a lovely apple.  However, the red crab apple further up the hill is also flowering well so will probably do the job of ‘pollinator’.  Note to gardeners who know about apple-growing – we are 1200 feet above sea level here and are limited in the varieties that will cope with the altitude and the rain.

butterflies on alkanet

butterflies on alkanet

Obviously the butterflies moved faster than me – but there were lots of small whites – maybe having alkanet growing in the flower beds distracts them away from the cabbages in the veg garden?

small copper on honesty

orange tip butterfly on honesty

Worth having honesty dotted about just for the butterflies.  This bed was buzzing with butterfly activity.

 

smudge

smudge

Not much activity here…too hot to do anything.  That was last Friday.  This afternoon it’s chucking it down which is why I’m in here and not out there.

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