Phew it’s all over now

Rose border UK 20 JuneWe opened our garden this weekend as part of Worton and Marston gardens open for Dorothy House Hospice. In all 22 gardens participated. Some visitors split the viewings over two days, for others we were the final sprint at the end of a day’s marathon of viewings. We were the farthest away from the first garden so a bit out on a limb. We saw around 60 people over the weekend and overall more than £1600 was raised for the hospice by the combined gardens visitors. We think most visitors enjoyed something about our garden and it was good to meet and chat with so many keen gardeners. Continue reading

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Cruel, cruel April

Tulip Roccoco

Tulip Rococo

Things are not all well in Kari’s garden. It’s May Day and we seem to be in a tiny still early spring bubble. A tracery of branches is very visible, leaves remain merely pinpricks of green, flecks against the dominant greys and browns.

In Bath half an hour away, all was lush, plumptious and lovely, chestnut candles lit, lilacs in flower, the whole shebang, not one candle on the horse chestnut is lit here today. Stuck in a traffic queue on Thursday caused by a minor shunt near Trowbridge only  few miles away, forced me to consider the woods I normally fly by, fresh leaves on the trees lapped at by primroses and a sprinkling of bluebells. The chestnut flowers were already starting to show colour down by Stony Gutter. Continue reading

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Starfish and coffee

Billbergia nutans Variegata

Billbergia nutans Variegata (Queen’s Tears)

This billbergia in flower now in a pot outside has overwintered in an unheated greenhouse so must have taken over -5C a couple of times this winter. The flowers are rather exquisite up close.

We are in the midst of Blackthorn winter although the clots of flowers seem sparser this year. We could do with some softening rain. It’s trying to but Salisbury Plain has been keeping it at bay and Salisbury is mostly getting wet instead.

First Swallows on Sunday, first Magpie chicken egg attack of the year this week and first Red Kite I’ve seen so close to home at Yarnbrook near Westbury on Wednesday evening. Continue reading

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Who’s the sweetest daffodil of them all?

Narcissus Trevithian

Narcissus Trevithian

Unexpected (for me at least) a frost this morning, quickly disappearing as the sun cranks up its progress across the sky. Sod’s Law the magnolia and camellia flowers will get a browning again.

The concrete base for the new compost bins has been visited overnight, a line of cat paw prints run from north to south.

The time of the daffodils is nearly over, tulips are coming to the fore, today will see a few more opening for the first time to embrace the sun.

Who gets today’s prize for scent?

Sweetness (jonquil Favel UK 1930’s) has just been and gone so not strictly in today’s competition. Has relatively small heavily scented single rich yolk yellow flowers. I first saw these at The Mead Nursery, a few years ago, a potful by the till sending out waves of perfume. Continue reading

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Just an early April day

Arum creticum

Arum creticum

Of the four or 5 clumps I have of this warm blooded arum, this is the only one with ‘flowers’ this year, the bud opened this morning. Faintly and sweetly scented.

Elsewhere birds are singing and squabbling – two wrens were having a tiff earlier. Nest building is in full swing.

Daffodil clumps are beginning to build up and provide a better spring show.  I bought some on sale last year from Sarah Raven so they went in late, I have quite a few of the sweetly scented small flowered daffs to yet open, Trevithian, Peublo, Geranium and Martinette (some of which from the previous year I had left in pots and was one of the first daffodils in flower this year).

Narcissus Thalia often twin headed

Narcissus Thalia often twin headed

I love Elka which is a small pale daff. Thalia has just started to come out but is taking a while to establish. Sailboat and Jack Snipe are also in full flower (Topolino is just going over). The old double daffodil Pencrebar is just about to open. The buds of the long established clumps of N poeticus in the copse at the bottom of the garden are tall but still tightly budded. Continue reading

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The search for the perfect clothes peg

old clothes peg

A sturdy now vintage hand-me-down

In the big scheme of things clothes pegs are one of those mundane items that anyone who likes to give their washing a bit of fresh air takes for granted.

I did,  until we moved to a windy place.  Today is at least a 4 peg day for larger items. The duvet cover harried by the wind is snapping in the strong breeze.

I had a selection of what now appear on Etsy as vintage clothes pegs  (£15 for 12 plus postage thank you very much). I guess I’ve had mine for years, purchased at some long-gone ironmongers. They’re sturdy little terriers of pegs with a good strong snappy spring.

To augment my now inadequate collection, I bought some plastic pegs with flattened ends, they’re OK but don’t quite cut the mustard in a strong wind.

So I went on a trawl of the internet, Amazon purported to have just what I wanted, not dolly pegs but wooden pegs with a metal spring. They came in bulk, the price was cheap, reviews weren’t good – what can I say? Many fell apart on first use, the metal spring the equivalent of an unbent paper clip – useless. Continue reading

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Neither one thing or the other

Iris danfordiae planted late so flowering later

A low pink smudge across the sky to the east is dissipating, although brightening, the sun remains hidden in grey murk (the weather station is optimistically showing sunshine). The wind is from the NE and it’s 2.4C, officially we’re in the last few days of winter. The beginning of March next week heralds spring.

The wash of snowdrops in the copse at the bottom of the garden is starting to look bedraggled on closer inspection. In the woodbed Galanthus Brenda Troyle has long outlasted Magnet. Crocuses have given their best, petals growing translucent with repeated battering by winds, rain, frost, and the effort of opening and closing to embrace spells of sunshine. Blue Pearl and the golden chestnut-backed petals of Herald have been particularly showy in pots left over from last year.

Continue reading

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Bip bam bop frost

Galanthus Brenda Troyle

Galanthus Brenda Troyle

More gardening observations have passed on by as I’ve been too lazy or busy (depending on your perspective), to write anything down over the last few weeks.

January brought flooding in the garden and then two nights of -8C (only -8C I hear some exclaim!) it’s certainly sorted the tenders out.  I figured things’d be OK in the unheated greenhouse which dipped to -5C (laziness again). The Pitcairnia certainly took a big hit (OK so it comes from tropical South America) as did the Aeonium (although there’s one in reserve in the conservatory). Outside the Lobster Claw which survived last winter hasn’t this year.

I thought I was being clever digging and potting up some Galactites tomentosa Alba and putting them in the coldframe. This attractive annual thistle doesn’t reliably survive the winter as seedlings outside, they didn’t survive in the coldframe either. I’ve had to buy some more seed from Plant World seeds.

With the frost the lusty foliage of Zantedeschia Luzon Lovely was felled and Crinums collapsed in slimy heaps, but all should be OK underground unless we have more concerted harsh weather.

Spring is gathering at a proper pace

Currently the wind is whipping across the garden and the sun has come out (crocuses will be beaming). It feels more like it should for February – I know it’s only the 1st today.

I did a 100 mile round roadtrip from Wiltshire to Oxfordshire today. Early plum blossom is dusting the treescape, briefly softening the still stark woods and hedgerows. Snowdrops are emerging and starting to make themselves known although I admit there are many well advanced daffodils for this time of year. In my garden though daffodils seem to be on the ‘normal’ schedule.

Three Greater Spotted Woodpeckers were chasing each other raucously through the garden and drumming. Robins nit pick at each other asserting their territories. Birdsong is building in complexity and volume

Road kill and the plight of small mammals

So far Red Kites haven’t got to us but on a road near Wantage today 5 or 6 had spotted roadkill and were circling, a big bird took off from the road in front of me flashing its rusty feathered rump.

Barn Owl in flight with prey

Barn Owl (sorry Chris Packham not up to your standards!)

We’ve been lucky over the last few weeks to see a Barn Owl. We’ve had them before but only passing through (or across) the parish field. A few weeks ago it spent an hour from around 3:00PM to 4:00PM quartering the field, perching, dropping, quartering again. It caught at least this one small critter. Since then it seems to come through around 4:00PM but moves on.  I’ve seen it in the half-light at 7:00AM and flying in misty rain. Presumably there’s not enough food about?

Last week our wildlife cam showed us two young deer, a squirrel and a fox’s brush disappearing off into the darkness as well as two beaglers (during daylight), there was, I must hasten to say, no link between fox and beaglers.


I can’t help it (well I could but…) I’ve been busy ordering plants which one could also call lazy – my seed sowing is fairly dilatory and plants I do have sit waiting to be potted on in the conservatory. And still I buy more.

Recent purchases include some hardy orchids from Laneside Hardy Orchids; Panicum North Wind and some other plants from Knoll Gardens and potted alliums from Beth Chatto for a vaguely Oudolfian scheme being planned, plus a clutch of unusual plants from Crug (with a little help from Robbie Blackhall-Miles). Last night I discovered a new fuchsia supplier Other Fellow Fuchsias so have dipped my toe back into fuchsia waters this year (which’ll be at the expense of dahlias).

Meanwhile in the conservatory

kalanchoeKalanchoe in Ski yoghurt pots (and spider plants), memories of school fetes from years past. Who’d a thunk they had flowers like these?

No idea which they are. This large orange flowered one has variegated foliage. It’s been in bud for months and has just started flowering now. It was out against a south facing wall all summer.




Kalanchoe in flower


This one arrived free in a pot of cactus courtesy of the North Devon Cactus Society when they had a display at RHS Rosemoor a couple of years ago. It’s one of the one’s which produce mini-me babies all along the leaf edges so it gets everywhere. What elegant flowers and unusual colouring.


I was just thinking to myself that the chickens haven’t escaped their enclosure for a long while – guess what? Gawky is out! Chickens!

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Mild or bitter?

Red Admiral on the wing in Mid December UK

Red Admiral on the wing in mid December

I too am jumping on the “It’s way too mild in the December garden” bandwagon.

Flies are still (annoyingly) about, the occasional bumble bee burbles by. Two Pippistrelle bats were out hunting two nights ago. This Red Admiral butterfly was on the wing last week.

OK, you might expect the odd primrose to be flowering fitfully and possibly daffodil Rijnveld’s Early sensation to be in flower already, plus a sprinkling of early periwinkle flowers and some tentative winter flowering jasmine.

Last year’s Iris reticulata Cantab are flowering early in amongst a scented leaved geranium left outside which should have expired by now. Iris Katharine Hodgkin is also in flower but looking a bit weedy and scruffy – should have stayed underground until February m’dear!

Frost hits tender plants 23/11/15 UK

One hard frost on 23rd November 2015

Tenders like Solanum rantonettii which dropped their foliage overnight after a hard frost in November are now re-sprouting. The hardier Impatiens tinctoria is pushing juicy shoots above ground again. Nasturtium seedlings are germinating in the flowerbeds although the parents were zapped by this frost. The large tree-like plant is the dead top growth of Dahlia imperialis which has now been dug up and the tuber/s put into storage.

The first tentative yellow ribbons of Witch Hazel Westerstede have unrolled from brown fuzzed buds. New growth is appearing on vulnerable plants such as fuchsia and hydrangeas, some bitter weather and – ouch!

To be fair I’ve had a very extended period to get tenders into the greenhouse, I only dug up assorted abutilons yesterday, the leaves of which haven’t so far been touched by the few frosts we’ve had.

… but what happens if we get bad weather Jan-March? And if we don’t and things continue as they are spring will have been fast forwarded, what will there be left to delight us in February? Although the snowdrops are sort of where I’d expect them to be, perhaps just a little more up than usual and most of my daffodils are still underground.

Stormy weather

Much wind and rain over the last few weeks but not as much as Northern Britain this time. It’s winding itself up again tonight as I shut up the chickens, the garden is due for another southerly battering. The wind is soughing through the fine top branches of the nearby oaks accompanied by the brittle rattle of desiccated hornbeam leaves in the hedges.

This morning it’s more full-on there’s a great roar of wind and trees – just waiting for the lashing rain to begin. A day to sit and plan.

Gaining momentum

The gardening mojo is starting to return. There are times when I don’t want to think or plan or garden particularly. I can’t bear to look at garden books or catalogues – now the excitement is returning.

The ragged garden I look out on this morning with its unkempt grass because it’s been too wet to mow but in this mild weather keeps on growing, transforms into the luxuriant abundance of summer in my mind’s eye. But before then there are borders to tidy, weed and mulch, seeds to be considered, purchased, sown and nurtured, soon the new growing year will begin in earnest!

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Not so quiet

Dahlia Karma Choc

Karma Choc

And unseasonably warm. I was going to post in October about the becalmed weather we were having interspersed with cruel north easterlies – it didn’t happen.

Today we’re getting a pummelling from the first ‘proper’ South Westerly winds and splattery rain of the autumn season, this’ll bring leaves down and scatter the pools of dead leaves which have been quietly accruing under the apple and hazel trees.


What fabulous autumn colour this year! Some trees in particular lit the landscape with vibrant rich butter yellows including a large Quaking Aspen up the road. Cherries including the wild cherries of the roadside provided rich emberglowing highlights.

The ‘fall’ hasn’t all happened at once, the Horse Chestnuts went early (the leaves not so moth eaten this year), the ash dropped very quickly, then apples, hazels and birches started, now the oaks are finally letting go too. The Bramley apple trees have been unburdening for weeks it seems, the thud of falling apples startling me on still days, crossing fingers none were too close to the greenhouse.

Love me tender

We had a couple of frosts in October but nothing to dampen the spirits of still rampant nasturtiums, I’ve had to start pulling them up as they’re swamping other plants stem rooting as they go. The Dahlia flowers have started to moulder on the stem but again have not yet been felled. Karma Choc from Sarah Raven has been a favourite.

This warm descent towards the shortest day does mean that I’ve had longer to take cuttings of tender plants and am stilling moving tenders into various winter hideaways. The trumpets of a brugmansia still outside are being blown horizontal by the wind as I write.

Salvia concolor

Salvia concolor

Salvias picked up as autumn advanced and cooler moister conditions prevailed. Salvia concolor looks healthier than it did all summer, the furry purple tails of S leucantha add vibrant colour still but the shrub is slowly falling apart under its own weight section by section. I’ve had to curb Hot Lips which was romping over Iris Gingerbread Man and other lower growers. The orange spiked S confertifolia will probably be downed by this wind.

Dahlia imperialis is at least 10 feet tall now but no flowers again this year, maybe if we’d had a less gloomy August it would have been different. Lovely fluffy grass Pennisetum Red Head is already shutting its leaves down, the flowers are there but not coming out, again maybe because of August?

Winter prep

The first Iris sextylosa flowered last week the violet flushed white flowers pristinely beautiful until bruised by rain. The winter flowering jasmine appears to be early this year? I’ve seen a number in full flower already.

Recently planted Anenome coronaria are putting up fresh leaves and Arum creticum is unfurling leathery leaves. Crocus speciosus is doing its collapsy all over the place thing, but I think I shall add more. Nascent catkins are already showing on the hazels.

I guess I shall have to continue the slow soggy retreat of plants into the greenhouse (which I should have tidied better before starting to put the plants in). I’ve enjoyed Thunbergia gregorii this year with bronzed fluffy flower buds and seed pods and really zesty orange flowers which are still appearing intermittently – I’d like to try and keep it going. Picked two of the last white gladioli Bangladesh to go with the tail end of the dahlias last week.

I had such a lovely show from Digitalis trojana earlier in the year but all the plants are now flowered and dead so have departed to the compost heap which’ll leave space for the lavender to breathe. I must sow seed and start again but where to put them?

Another plant I really enjoy is grass Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea tall growing airy arching fronds weighed at the tips by long lasting flowerheads all summer. It will soon die back now but has put on autumn colours of tawny yellow.

This spring we put a bat box up which as far as we know has no residents, in late summer we finished the new timber clad extension and 2 bats moved into the gaps between boards and cladding within weeks of the roof going on (winter or summer roost? Only time will tell). The moles have found all our newly created flower beds and the lawn is like a water bed to walk on we’re so riddled with tunnelings – hey ho!

And on a final note: hats off to Dobies seeds for their re-think on how to present seeds in their recent catalogue – I may not have bought but enjoyed the read!

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