Saturday 28 February 2009

The start of the gardening year

Mike has been busy for some time doing various pruning jobs. I also leave the vegetable growing to him mainly these days. We start many things in individual pots or trays on a windowsill in the spare bedrooms above radiators. As soon as they germinate they are moved to the lean to and then the greenhouse or garden. Broad beans were started this way and now having been planted out for over a week they are looking very sturdy and well. I expect he will give them some protection at night from frost due this next week. Mike has also planted onions, shallots, parsnips and beetroot in the ground (a bit early for beetroot but better not say anything, time will tell). We have a big problem with cats coming into our garden to use these beds. Living with a housing estate backing onto us means there are many cats around. This is where the Box edgeing is great because we lay hazel sticks across to keep off any unwanted birds or animals.

The 14th of February according to Margery Fish is the day to prune hard, late flowering clematis. So I had a busy time last week pruning and also had a few rambling roses that needed doing too. This is the first time in nearly four years I have been able to put one let alone both hands above my head for any prolonged time to do such jobs due to my Lyme Disease. I'm really going to enjoy this years gardening.

This week I started weeding the beds either end of the vegetables and am surprised how many of the plants in these beds have disappeared but that gives me an opportunity to do something different. Have to ponder a bit with that one. Do I return to Cosmos to fill in, it looked lovely some years ago but then it didn't do so well. Weeding is still difficult, I can't kneel because my knees are still swollen and my Lyme legs are stiff and throb, bending to collect weeds is difficult. Meanwhile I have been busy sewing seeds lupin, delphinium, sweet pea to start with. I have also started tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergine, cucumber and lettuce all in Sainsbury's economy mushroom boxes which make excellent seed trays. Two fit on filing trays brought back from work years ago when Mike had a clear out. To keep moisture in I use another box as a lid. This provides me with an endless supply of propagators and the depth is good as the roots don't get so entangled with each other nor do trays dry out too quickly, which is a problem I find later in the year in the greenhouse.

Well back to clematis of which I have about 50 one or two grown from cuttings, something I must try again this year.

The first is Prince Charles which makes a magnificent display. A cloud of blue. I had to persuade Mike to build an arch for it to climb up. Built from Hazel? rods cleared out from work they look much better than a bought arch although need replacing this year.

Comptesse de Bouchaud climbs a cherry tree and flowers profusely probably two of the best for a small garden. I thought the colour pink would be good to follow the pink blossom but actually they would probably look good in any tree.

Below is Perl d'Azur growing through Rose Vilchenblau both a real asset. Vilchenblau would benefit from more space. It was another sent by default but although I forget now what I ordered it is a much better flower. It has a speck of white on the magenta flowers and many people admire it for its unusual flowers.

Thursday 26 February 2009


Early Febuary surprised us with a foot of snow, more than I have seen in the last 30 years of living in Surrey. I ventured out to shake the snow off a few shrubs and my standard Bay trees that I have grown from cuttings. I couldn't resist a few photographs especially as I used snow photos to make my Christmas cards last year, so wanted some more for next years.

Snow or not Beth needs a walk and although she is not keen on the snowballs that collect on her feathers by the time it was my turn to take her the road had been flattened a little by people out enjoying the walk.

This is a view down the road from a few paces from our house. Like fairyland.

The track left after the litter bin is a nice short walk through the woods into an open field surrounded by a housing estate.

Down the track is a bungalow but off to the left again is a path through the woods. Which comes out by a lovely old Oak tree.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

January 09

Sorting through my seed drawer is about as much as I do in January. It will soon become apparent what a fine weather gardener I am, unlike Mike who will go out early in most weather's and do something.
Sorting through seeds is a bit like looking at Christmas decorations, you forget about many of your treasures. In my usual way I am not so good at throwing things away, seeds being no exception and especially ones collected from the garden or friends, but it is surprising what germinates even if left for a few year
Dad has some Hostas which have enormous leaves about the size of circling your arms to meet at finger tips. Some years I grew some from seed but put them out when they were too small to fend for themselves against the slugs, snails and drought. I tried again a few years ago but nursed them on longer and then potted them up.

The pots on the drive have a couple of baby Hostas at the front. Mike does not believe in using the car unnecessarily, so a few pots on the drive make the garden more interesting

The all green leaved Hostas on the terrace are after they have grown a little more.

Other seeds that have been successful are my Delphiniums. I have found them easier to care for when grown in a bed together any planted in the borders have soon disappeared. When Rachel and Rebecca were small I had an allotment for many years, there
was a man who had an allotment next to mine who grew Delphiniums for show. It was such a sight when they were in flower together always made me think Dreaming Spires. I am sewing a new packet of seeds this year as my plants are not so robust and need adding to.
Cuttings are something I also enjoy taking and below are a couple of photos of my Box more established here.

At either end of the vegetable beds are boxes with roses and other herbaceous plants .

Here in the midst of the Box is the most important member of the household Beth.

A stroll in the back garden some years ago.

The first picture is of the terrace at the back of the house looking towards the kitchen door. How things change in a garden, when we first arrived it was plant free paving and within a short time Rachel then a toddler fell off the edge on her bicycle. That spurred Mike into building an attractive and useful fence around it, great for giving another planting opportunity. Mike refers to this area as the GAID. Garden for the Aged, Infirm and Disabled, probably referring to the fact that I have suffered with chronic arthritis from Lyme Disease. The garden in pots was brought to me and it is lovely to sit there surrounded by plants. Still nice but no longer necessary now as after long term antibiotics I am pain free and arthritis free.

Along the house wall are a variety of climbing plants not easy to see in this photograph but include a grape vine whose tiny red grapes are delicious. The birds think so too and in the late summer it is amusing to watch their acrobatics as they feast on them. There is also a Banksiae banksiae rose a double white perfumed rose that keeps some leaves during winter so is quite an asset although grows rampantly 30' according to David Austin's catalogue, so Mike has to prune several times during the summer. Other climbers I will introduce later. The rose on the left one of 2 was in the garden when we arrived and I never knew it's name. It is probably the only one of my many roses that has no perfume, but it is forgiven because of the long and abundant display of flowers.
This brings us to the gate which invites you down to the next part of the garden.

The rose on the fence is sadly demised. It was so wonderful, Saunder's White sent by default but loved by everyone who set eyes on it. I'd asked for Adeleaide d'Orleans but what a substitute. The perfume filled the air. Cuttings from this plant have been given to many friends and one in my neighbours garden climbs an old apple tree and looks spectacular. The rose became so large we pruned it rather severely and it never quite coped after that. Gardening for me as an amateur is so much trial and error gardening programs are great and so are books and yes I do seem to cope better these days pruning rambling roses of which I have about 15, but nevertheless I make many mistakes. However I have managed to keep a cutting which is doing well but all I have to do now is persuade Mike to build me another trellis for it to grow on, fingers crossed.

Through the next gate and down more steps brings us into the vegetable part of the garden.

Once again a backdrop of Saunder's white and looking back to the cottages. Either side of the path are edged with a variety of flowering plants but lavender probably the most striking. Bricks left around in the garden were used to make the paths and as many were house bricks they have deteriorated with age, yet another mistake which will probably remain with us.

The vegetables are looking very tidy for us, but this shows it's age because of the tiny box plants which are now substantial edges to the 10 vegetable blocks 5 either side of the path. The first year I bought 2 box plants and took about 250 cuttings. I then read up about box and realised I needed not Sempervirens but Suffruticosa the dwarf edging plants. I just tried finding out the spelling and in the 4 good gardening books I have it wasn't mentioned. Googled and still took some finding so not surprising I got it wrong. Well fortunately RHS Wisley which is 15 mins drive away had some so I bought two more plants and took another 250 cuttings. Out of 500 cuttings that year only about 3 died. Not bad for an amateur. So you will see not one for throwing things away I have the common box on the right of the garden and the dwarf on the left after many more cuttings in following years. Some in fact struck in the ground but with more than 50% failure rate. Needless to say this keeps Mike very busy trimming the Sempervirens but it looks nice and has many uses not least keeps carrot fly away.

The picture on the right was before our second greenhouse arrived, which fits on the back of this one. A gift from a neighbour but the cost of replacing the broken glass was probably nearly as much as a new greenhouse would have been. Still not ones to say no to anything garden related. The trees in the background are both from the neighbouring gardens and the edge of the woods. Situated near the woods has blessed us with a huge variety of birds, butterflies and other wildlife.
Down the steps and to the right behind the greenhouse is the tiniest overgrown pond barely visible in this not particularly good photograph.

Monday 23 February 2009


The cottage was built in 1900 one of a pair and was originally a farm labourers cottage. The garden is small but big enough for our needs. There is a small garden at the front to the side of the drive and bordered by a lovely low flint wall with semi circular bricks topping the wall. A similar wall is found on the boundary siding the driveway. Between our garden and our neighbouring half is a low picket fence.
The kitchen door leads through an ugly but invaluable lean to onto a narrow terrace bordered by picket fencing and gate down three steps onto a small area of lawn to the right and flower bed to the left. This rear garden has single storey brick walls on either side topped by trellis. Along the small winding brick path takes you to another gate in more picket fencing and two steps down to the main part of the garden. Further winding brick path arrives at the last 2 steps down to a paved working area with two green houses to the right behind which is found a tiny pond and garden, two coal frames and a potting bench. To the left of the steps is a huge composting area and shed. The rear garden is an odd wedge shaped area widening towards the bottom which has a Leyland cypruss hedge maintained about 3 meters high on mutual agreement with the neighbour beyond.
At one time the rear garden was used as a coal merchants yard and his lorry was driven down the side of the house, not possible any more, the cottage was extended leaving a very narrow pedestrian access to the rear. Fortunately very little coal deposit has been found in the garden, which with years of gardening probably helped by the pig that used to be kept at the bottom plus night soil has now resulted in a deep rich loam. Although there are still some areas of the clay subsoil a little more apparent particularly in long dry summers.