Home

Is it Spring yet?

Comments Off on Is it Spring yet?

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

Comments Off on Childhood memories of Good Friday

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

Comments Off on Happy Valentine’s Day

‘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

Comments Off on Soup, snow and busy sunny days

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

Comments Off on Garden diary weather entry 21 November 2015

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

Comments Off on Weather, waterfalls and a kingfisher

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?

Comments Off on Borders?

“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?

Older Entries Newer Entries