Thank you Cothi Gardeners

Rosa Variegata di Bologna

On what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year so far (and the longest day), I was invited to give a talk, Scents and scentsability – gardening led by the nose to the Cothi Gardeners.

After a fab pie dinner at the Dolaucothi Arms opposite we assembled in the corrugated Coronation Hall in Pumsaint, Carmarthenshire for 7:30pm prompt.

This group of enthusiastic gardeners meets once a month drawing people down from their remote hillsides and adjoining villages to talk gardening and swap plants.

Thank you to everyone for their warm welcome and enthusiastic response.

Also thank you to Brenda Timms and Martin and Angela Farquharson-Duffy for letting me have a nose around their gardens the following morning. Especially as they were in the final stages of preparation for a joint Sunday opening for the NGS. Bwlchau Duon | Sculptors Garden

Chairman Julian and Fiona Wormald’s garden was also recently featured in Gardens Illustrated. Gelli Uchaf.

Long may the Cothi Gardeners grow and prosper!

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Whatever the weather

Penstemon Firebird

Penstemon Firebird with Stipa tenuissima and Eryngium zabelii (from seed)

It’s been a funny old year so far weatherwise. Most of the plants that were hit by that hard frost in late April have come through, albeit with less vigour having had to put out new growth a second time.

The hostas don’t have quite the same stature as normal, some still show the damage in limp and twisted leaves. I lost a lot of flower buds as well which may have been due to the lack of water this spring. One week buds on I sibirica’s and I germanica’s coming on fine, then on some plants in a few days they were just dried husks.

I’m late getting in bedding and changing out spring pots this year, and where I have added bedding and water, the moles follow. I can understand that with the dry ground worms are finding it hard which makes the moles more desperate, and if we have breeding females all the more desperate and destructive. Plants wilt and can’t put out roots to more firmly anchor them in the soil and draw up what moisture there is if moles continue to create air spaces by running rings around them.

Plus we’ve had some really battering winds toppling plants and swirling and flattening clumps of others.

My (over optimistic anyway) raised woodland border. ‘The Himalayas’, which faces south but is behind one of our workshops, so sort of shaded, took a hammering from the 31C temperatures this week.

Roses at least came out (rather than balling as they do in wet weather) but too quickly. Deep red Souvenir du Docteur Jamain scorched even in a north-facing border. Note to self Blanchefleur’s flowers all go crispy brown – not a pretty sight.


This year too we seem to have more thieving birds again. Last year the currants despite being uncovered were left alone – this year they have all been taken not yet ripe. I covered the strawberries to keep out the birds but presumably rodents have taken them – not one left for us. And yesterday a blackbird started taking half-ripe blackberries from Waldo, it too will soon be stripped.

So what’s good?

Rosa mutabilis

Rosa mutabilis

The scent of our much maligned Lonicera japonica Halliana fills the garden especially towards the evening.

Rosa mutabilis lost its first flush of flowers (as did climbing deep red rose Guinée earlier on) frost/dry?, now she’s in full pink and pale orange bloom.

The grass bed is coming into its own and the grasses starting to flower, Penstemon Firebird is again really good value, it withstood the winter with its roots in pretty much pure clay, I have less luck with Andenken en Friedrich Hahn (Garnet).

Papaver spicatum

Papaver spicatum with its furry leaves and buds and soft orange petals is holding its own this year against a clump of Pennisetum Fairy Tales which was frosted so is not so far on as last year. I’ve been enjoying the more subtle yellow with a hint of burnt orange colouring of our native Glaucium flavum this year which are just finishing, the long horned seedpods which give it its name of Horned Poppy are taking over.

The majority of last year’s dahlias overwintered in the ground so have a bit of a head-start. Luckily most emerging growth missed the frost unlike the fuchsias overwintered in the ground which are struggling.

The first in flower is single dark red, dark leaved dwarf dahlia – Sarah (National Dahlia Collection). Although as the flower ages it goes biscuity not retaining the depth of red.

Galtonia viridiflora

I’ve never grown Galtonia viridiflora before – an interesting curiosity and earlier than the white G candicans.

The smell of rain-wet earth

I thought I could smell rain – I’ve just looked up and a light misting is moving across the field. According to a piece on the Metoffice website what we smell when it rains after a period of dry weather is called petrichor, a combination of plant oils secreted in the soil and soil bacteria which are released when water drops hit the ground.

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Cruel April Frost

Sum and Substance hit by spring frost

Come on my pretties said the early April sun, so up they came and on came the buds, leaves and blossom.

Light frost on Tuesday morning – yes we can cope said most of the plants, a few with a bit of scorch – Impatiens tinctoria was the first major casualty. Dahlia White Honka displayed blackened tips on newly emerging foliage.

Wednesday morning

-2C at 6:00AM – but hey said the plants we’re getting by, except the emerging fig foliage got topped and the potatoes started to look depressed. Hydrangeas were showing signs of bruising and H aspera lost top growth.

Thursday morning

-4C at 6:00AM. Got home in the evening – gutted! All Wisteria growth scorched, hostas collapsed, lilies bowed, buddlejas toppled, ferns will have to start over again as will most hydrangeas. Continue reading

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Racing into May

The woodbed this morning – Anenome nemorosa Vestal, Hostas and Molly the Witch

We’re positively zipping through spring, the candles on the Horse Chestnut trees are well lit and the Hawthorn blossom is coming out. The first rose is out, David Austin’s Mary Rose. The irises are all putting on pregnant bulges, I florentina is already out along with the dwarf irises Jewellers Art and Gingerbread Man. Continue reading

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Another very blustery day in February

Ypsilandra thibetica

Ypsilandra thibetica

I’m already behind on weeding and tidying the beds, last weekend I had had enough of turning earth, and weeding and last minute plant upheavals. All 3 Cornus Midwinter Fire have gone on the move recently having outgrown an allotted space. That space now needs further fettling but the ground is too wet. Continue reading

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Going to be busy seed sowing soon

Hardy Plant Society and Baker Creek Seeds

Hardy Plant Society seeds arrived today, I’m most grateful to the people who take the time to gather the seed and those who then facilitate the distribution.

It seems that many plant societies and gardening clubs are experiencing dwindling memberships. Our local village garden club appears to have folded as no-one has stepped forward as chairman, (Hey I’m not a joiner – OK?) which is one of the reasons for the decline I guess, nor are others – and perhaps I should? Continue reading

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frost world

Digitalis parviflora seedhead

Today at 10:43AM the temperature is -2C but rising. The sun is beginning to clear corners of fields, green re-emerging from the glaze of white, drips patter down lightly as the frost melts. The Snow Queen is banished where the sun touches.

Currently two squirrels (grey), chaffinch, greenfinch, bullfinch and blackbirds are under the bird feeder, there is incessant to-ing and fro-ing from the feeder filled with sunflower seeds, primarily by Great Tits and some Blue Tits with an occasional intervention from robins. One squirrel is a great burier so I have a feeling there will be sunflowers emerging in random places when the time comes. Continue reading

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The shortest day 2016

Cyclamen coum flowering in December

Cyclamen coum album

Typical run-up to Christmas weather, relatively warm, damp, often grey. Our village is living up to its squelchy name, particularly the green and the parish field.

Today shafts of midday sun cut through elder and hawthorn trunks along the by-way. The low light shimmered off gently clattering mature ivy leaves fanned by the light breeze; glanced along the sturdy mid green blades of Hart’s Tongue Ferns and highlighted the broken and yellowed fronds of the now sleeping Male Ferns. To me, some evergreens look stronger and healthier now than in high summer. Continue reading

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Molde warp


The earthmover has been working under the carpet of apple tree leaves and fallen apples. Around this apple tree the turf is totally rucked and rumpled by the handprint-like pink paddles of the mole. I presume flooding (the first of the 2016/2017 winter season) in the lower part of the garden earlier in the week has also concentrated activity. Continue reading

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Frost stops play

Frost got the dahlias

So typical of English weather, I could feel the frost nipping at my wellies as I tried to extract a sheep with its head stuck in the field fence in the dark on Wednesday night. Then 2 days later rain, everything soggy and miserable.

So that’s farewell to the dahlias for this year, Salvia Guanajuato which had so much going for it on Monday, and some fuchsias. Farewell forever to this year’s heliotropes, Solanum rantonetti and nasturtiums. Colquhounia frazzed, survival will depend on the severity of this winter. Banana nipped and will need digging up, chopping back and overwintering just frost free. Ricinus still standing but I’ve felled it today anyway to let more light in.

Bit sad to hack down the huge water-filled stems of Dahlia imperialis, not looking forward to digging that up, each summer it puts on more nuggets of tubers and the whole lump gets heavier every year.

Like others on Twitter today, I’m glad I anticipated the frost and picked the last of the dahlia flowers on Monday including Rip City, Chee, Karma Choc and Sam Hopkins.

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