Sunday, 31 January 2016

Hints of spring, EOMV January -16

It’s still stormy season on the British Isles and storm Gertrude has just passed whilst storm Henry is waiting in the wings and will land on us on Monday. Here in the relatively quiet corner of the South-East we are not so affected by bad weather in general and storms in particular and although it is windy every time we have a new storm, nothing has been damaged in my garden and I have had no flooding issues to worry about. But parts of my garden seem to have rather bad drainage and are now so soggy after all the rain that I try not to walk in those beds for now. Other parts of my garden, especially under the two tall ceanothus’ trees are still bone dry and will need to be watered as soon as I get some plants in the ground. When that will be is an open question....work has been slow the last month. It has been cold and wet and the number of days possible to work outside rather few and far between. Hopefully February will bring more good days – I don’t mind it being cold, that’s just a question of putting on the right type of clothes – it’s the rain I can’t cope with, getting wet makes me too cold. When it rains I am stuck inside watching my garden through my windows, just aching to get outside again.

The sunshine Saturday was very welcome, it was like a nice spring day and I can already feel the sun taking a bit better than a month ago.

I have started cutting down my roses, not got round to all of them yet, but they are shooting like mad so it’s not a day too early. Hopefully I will get the rest of them done this week, but I always feel sad about the buds going in the compost bin. There is no point where I could prune my roses without sacrificing flower buds so it’s best to just get on with it – must be done!

I am still pondering about what to do with this area in front of the two raised beds, it is in prime, sunny position, but very close to the apple tree so I don’t want to plant anything with very invasive root system. It is also right next to the seating area so should be pretty and full of flowers all year round. Still pondering what to put here.... :-)

And next to that area, actually right under the apple tree is a group of Helleborus niger and some cyclamens I have raised from seed.

The hellebores are basking in the sunshine and have been flowering for weeks now.

Someone else basking in the sunshine is the neighbour’s cat. He has become a frequent guest here since my own cat died 7 weeks ago. I know cats can detect a lot of information about other cats from the smell they leave – like how old the cat is, their gender and how long ago it is since the cat was there. I guess my neighbour’s cat now feels free to come into the garden again since my cat is no longer here – and I don’t mind as long as he stays outside, I am not adopting an adult cat, even though he is quite friendly :-)

My strawberries are growing well, those that hasn’t been damaged, destroyed or simply nicked by the squirrels! Here the other day I was outside and I suddenly saw a squirrel with its head buried in one of my pots of strawberry cuttings. I went towards it to shoo it away, and the squirrel stopped for a moment and looked at me as to think ‘what do I do know?’ And instead of just running away, it took the whole little strawberry plant OUT OF THE POT and took it away. I stamped my foot and charged towards the squirrel to get it to drop my little strawberry cutting, but the squirrel took the cutting in one hand, ran up the big cherry tree and sat there on a branch, looking at me while munching on the new shoot of the strawberry cutting. Little ba****d!

I have finished ONE bed in my garden since last EOMV post, this little bed has been a work in progress since last summer – but now it’s finally finished. I inherited the lilac in this bed, it was a tall, straggly lilac in the middle of the lawn that was here originally. Last autumn I pruned the lilac down to half and I intend to keep it at this height. The solar powered blossom tree will probably be moved when the bed against the wall is ready, but it can stay here for now.

Towards the back I have planted 10 heucheras, I have picked off all dead leaves and some of them have no leaves left so you can’t really see them all on this distance – but there are 10 here.

At the front I planted 8 daylilies last autumn and they are either evergreen and have been here all winter, or on their way up now. In between there are many hundred crocuses in blue, white and blue/white stripe – there are also 12 hyacinths and many hundred snowdrops too, both single and double.

I have planted all the spring bulbs rather deep in the hope that they will be left mainly in peace by the squirrels, the bulbs are therefore rather slow to come up compared to those in pots – which the squirrels have decimated to extinction in terms of the crocuses. In this bed are also two large dahlias to emerge later in the spring and they will flower all summer and autumn until first frost. This is a bed for 52 weeks flowering and will never be empty, just like I used to plant in my previous garden.

The first crocuses are here, nothing sets me in the right mood for spring like cheery crocuses!

Not much has happened in this area since last time, but all the plants to the left are destined for the bed to the right.

There is just a small matter of some plants that were here before – and their huge roots that need digging out. In this bed there are 5 plants from before, most of them have probably been here more than 10 years, most of them tall shrubs, taller than me - so the roots are probably quite big. A huge task for my achy joints and I need to do just a little bit now and then to cope with the work. I usually pour a bucket or two of water into the hole when I go outside and then I do something else for an hour or two, when I come back to the hole it’s easier to sit on my garden stool and dig a bit further as the ground has softened up. On this photo is what I have been digging out on 2 different days, at this rate you can see why I have still only got 3 roots out of the ground in my garden. But I will get there eventually!

Here in this shade bed under the ceanothus’ I have planned for all the hellebores to go, along with the rest of the woodland plants. Helleborus hybridus 'Picotee' is already planted here.

A cyclamen is enjoying the sunshine, I do too!

It is the big birdwatch weekend in UK right now, it’s amazing to see the difference between birds in my garden here and in my previous garden – only 2.3 miles away. I have lots of birds here in my new garden, birds in all sizes, blue tit,  great tit, robins, sparrows, dunnock, blackbird and magpie. In my previous house I had 6-7 collared doves on my roof all the time, all year round. I do wonder if they scared the smaller birds from landing in my garden. Mind you, the doves are here too, sitting in the big cherry tree next to my garden.

They remind me a bit of vultures, perching like this, permanently looking down and watching everything going on in the garden. They are frequent guests at the birdfeeder on the ground and I hope that when I remove it later in the spring, the doves and pigeons will go somewhere else. The larger birds do some damage now and then, but not as much as the squirrels though.

I do wonder who’s taking a liking to my plant labels though?! I never had this problem in my previous garden but here they are disappearing at an astonishing rate! I end up with pots I have no idea what is and now I have resorted to put labels like this into those I can’t even guess what is, just so I won’t plant them until I am completely sure – I just have to wait for flowers, or possibly just some leaves and I will know, but at the moment I haven’t got a clue.

I had another count of pots here the other day, just wanted to know the final count after getting rid of all my fuchsias and planting up all the strawberry plants in December, and losing plants to vine weevils over the summer and autumn – mind you, I am STILL finding pots with vine weevil grubs, those nematodes are not exactly a wonder cure – well, since moving house and arriving with almost 700 pots there has been a lot of loss but some gain too. Counting all the pots and planters, from the largest with my magnolia tree to the smallest seedling pots I have now got 572 pots. And I have planted lots already of the original amount I took with me, lots of plants and lots and lots of pots with spring bulbs. I definitely need to speed up planting, I am NOT watering 572 pots another summer. But the plants still left to go in the ground are mostly doing well, I will do another run of vine weevil nematodes in March when the soil is warm enough, and this time I think I will do it twice with 3 weeks apart, never done that before, but that will get rid of any unhatched eggs that didn’t die the first time. Might be well spent money, nematodes are expensive, but I can’t keep losing plants like this ever again.

Mind you, when I said most plants are doing well....I turned my back to these 20 pots of primroses for a moment, and look what happened. They were all fine 6 weeks ago. The tiny slugs are terrible at this time of year so I might have to pop in some slug pellets in these pots to keep them from being decimated. And they all need to be picked down to bare minimum, off with all the old, the brown and the dead bits and they will soon be flowering and look nice. After I have finished with the roses this will be my next task.

And finally, an update since my last post – my apple tree looks exactly the same. I will try to find someone to help me with this, but I realise I will have to do this soon if I am to do any pruning at all this year.

The top branch in this photo is from the apple tree, the bottom branch is from the plum tree, these two trees are at opposite ends of the garden, but I have merged the two photos in Photoshop. As you can see it won’t be long before they are getting their leaves out – what better sign of spring! I can’t wait to have apple blossoms in my garden for the very first time.

As this is my End of Month View there is a movie from my garden today too, I filmed it Saturday the 30th January, in glorious sunshine and I could just smell spring all around me. Today, Sunday as I am writing this, it is exactly 4 weeks and 2 days until we officially have spring according to the meteorological calendar, and that date is what fits best for London where I live. The movie is showing the emerging growth and buds in my garden and the plants in flower right now, note for example the lilies emerging 3 months too early, and all the herbaceous daylilies well on their way up. - absolutely best viewed in HD and full screen.





I hope you enjoyed the beautiful music, it was Salve Regina by Hermann of Reichenau, sung by a choir called Lyric Singers. I am linking today’s post to Helen at The Patient Gardener’s Weblog.
Until next time, take care.

38 comments:

  1. I am still haunted by MANY pots of bulbs, the rest are in.

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    1. Moving house and garden takes time – I don’t have a deadline for getting it all planted, but I hope not to have to water just as many pots this summer as I did last summer, it was too much work.

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  2. Dear Helene, your garden looks beautiful in the winter sun on the photos and in the video. Congratulations to finishing planting your first flower bed! It is amazing how many plants you have been able to fit into it and it looks great already. I am getting very interested myself in daylilies and I can't wait to see yours blooming. I remember that you had some outstanding varieties in your old garden.
    I love, love, love your Hellebores! Helleborres niger and Helleborus'Picotee' are especially pretty.
    The slugs have really wrecked havoc with your primroses! In my garden they are after the emerging daylilies and the Martha Washington geraniums like crazy. I put out Sluggo, an environmentally friendly slug bait and that seems to help somewhat, but I have be on my toes and replace it constantly.
    After a three hour garden session yesterday I am done pruning all my roses planted in the ground and I am so happy about that. I know how hard it is to shop buds, but it is necessary, so they have to go.
    Happy February gardening to you, hope the weather will be nice!
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Congratulations for finishing pruning your roses in the ground! You have many more roses than me, a much bigger job - I need to get on with it, but the weather hasn’t really been that good lately. I love daylilies too, and would love to have many, many more. There are so many beautiful ones out there! But they do get quite big after some years so they need space enough. I hope all the new ones I have will flower this year, I will show photos of them as and when they do, maybe you like some enough to get them yourself :-)
      Good luck with the rest of your roses, I know you have quite a few in containers too!

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  3. Hei Helene! Så nydelig å se alle vårtegnene hos deg! Dine helleborus er så fine. Jeg lengter så etter våren, men det er lenge til det blir det her dessverre. Får nyte dine vårtegn i mens :)

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    1. Hei Marit, du må gjerne komme hit på bloggen min og ‘lukte på våren’ så ofte du vil :-)

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  4. Your Crocus/Daylily area is going to be so beautiful! I look forward to seeing future photos of it. I giggled while reading about the squirrel--I'm sure it wasn't funny to you at the time, but your description was quite entertaining. :) It sounds like the kitty is adopting you. Even it it's an outdoor visitor, it's sweet that it wants to say "hi." I like late January in London better than late January in the Midwest U.S. Your garden now reminds me of what mine is like in March.

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    1. I know my garden is several months ahead of you at this time of year, and yet, by the time we get to late April, we are usually fairly the same. The spring is just a much longer affair over here, in a way I miss that explosive ‘5 days of spring’ before summer arrived which was so typical in Norway – I guess that’s pretty much what you have too :-) But I am very happy with all the spring bulbs arriving in January, and being able to garden all year round – would have it any other way :-)

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  5. Your squirrels are kind of brave, aren't they? You're making a lot of progress with all your plantings. I can't wait to see what it all looks like this summer.

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    1. Thanks, it is a slow progress, but I hope it will look good this summer. The garden will probably look much better in 2-3 years’ time though, when everything has settled and grown. A garden is never finished :-)

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  6. Loved seeing all the sunshine in the pictures and video and those wonderful hellebores and cyclamen made a nice combo. You have done so much work. Love the plant choices in that small bed. Even one small bed like that is so much work. Here snow keeps me out of the garden, and like you I garden in cold but rain just makes it too soggy. It will be months I fear before I get any time for chores. Squirrels can be a menace so I have netted my fruit and veg garden beds and pots to keep them out. Good luck with yours.

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    1. I have a plan for the raised beds where the strawberry plants are now, I intend to make a canopy of netting over them to prevent anyone or anything unauthorised eating my berries. I just didn’t think the plants themselves where in any danger! Maybe I need to get on with creating the framework for the netting sooner than I thought.

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  7. I'm so sorry but I could not help laughing when you were after the squirrel with the strawberry cutting. May be the disappeared labels have gone to a squirrelnest too. Your garden is so promising and with some sunshine it looks already very nice on Febr. 1st.

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    1. Thanks Janneke, I am already in spring mode and today I have pruned the last of the roses, finally all done. The squirrels do a lot of damage in my garden and it is so sad to come out and see what they have done in the early hours of the morning every day – but I am not prepared to fence in everything either, not yet at least. I have wondered if the squirrels are taking the labels yes!

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  8. It could well be the squirrels pinching the labels.. it does sound like yours have the attitude for it!
    All the work you did last year will pay off now and you can concentrate on the planting, weather permitting!

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    1. I have wondered if the squirrels have collected them the labels yes, if so they have more than 30!! I also know magpies are awful at nicking stuff, but I am not sure they would find plant labels interesting enough. We had a lovely day today here in London, I found the first ladybug on my roses and a bumblebee flew around in the garden.
      Mmmm, definitely spring here!

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  9. I loved your cyclamens and hellebore, Helene. It's nice to see blooms in your garden meanwhile my garden is lying under snow. Sure it was lovely vernal day in January. I liked your video and music- women's voices sound perfectly!

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    1. Thanks Nadezda, I am glad you liked the video and the music is one of my favourite pieces. Spring has definitely arrived in my garden :-)

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  10. Doesn't a little sunshine make a world of difference? With so many pots to water, I'm amazed you're not wishing for the rainiest summer on record!

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    1. I must admit it would be great with lots of rain, at least every night, but for a lot of the pots it doesn’t’ really help with the way it rains here in Britain – it’s too gentle! During the summer most of the pots will have lots of leaves and the rain water will just run off to the ground and not into the pot. I really have to go around with the hose and point the water into each pot at the soil level – which is hard work and takes a long time. I must get as many as I can into the ground before it gets too hot :-)

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  11. Your garden is coming round nicely Helene. You have a cheeky but pain in the butt squirrel there. Lovely video on a beautiful sunny day :o)

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    1. Thanks Julie, it’s actually two of squirrels but I haven’t managed to film them together yet. It was another lovely day today, a bit windy but mild enough to be outside the whole day.

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  12. Maybe some lovely perfume by your seating area.

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    1. I usually look for scented plants as a priority so yes, I will definitely have some with scent in that bed too.

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  13. Even though your progress is slower than you'd hoped, Helene, it's clear that you're moving in the right direction. I can sympathize on the strain of hand-watering. El Nino has thus far failed to deliver the rain to coastal southern California that it's lavished on areas to the north and so I spend a huge portion of my time filling watering cans from my rainwater tanks to deliver it to the plants that need it most. While I'm happy to have the water available to me, a little more help from Mother Nature would be appreciated. Your comments on slugs have me realizing that I need to get out and lay bait for them to prevent them from chewing up my recent transplants too.

    I hope February brings you many warmer, sun-filled days of happy gardening!

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    1. Thanks Kris, it was a lovely day in the garden today too - and never mind what the calendar says, it’s spring in my garden. I found the first ladybird on my roses today and a bumblebee flew around me when I was working. Nothing more spring-like! I wish the rain was portioned out a bit more evenly between us all, I guess it will be a rather difficult summer for you to face having had yet another dry winter. I hope you get some decent rain soon, definitely overdue :-)

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  14. Helene, interesting what you say about collared doves and the lack of other birds in your last garden. I once read an article about the collared dove which said they were very hawk like in flight, so perhaps there is something in what you say. Loads of dreaded wood pigeon's here. Your garden does indeed look very beautiful in the Winter sun.
    ps just came across your last comment on my anemone post, for the strangest of reasons it had ended up in the spam folder.

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    1. I must admit I know VERY LITTLE about birds so my theory is based on nothing more than my observations and practical thinking – I could be completely wrong :-) But I am finding it interesting to see the birds here in my new garden and will continue to feed them, perhaps even get some of the more specialist feed to attract other birds like goldfinches. Look who’s been reading online!
      It is a mystery to me how these spam folder scripts work, the only thing I know is they don’t work very well!! I have also got other people’s private emails in my spam folder, but I don’t think I have had comments on my blog diverted to the spam folder there, I do check it, although not very often, perhaps I need to check regularly for a while :-)

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  15. Hi Helene, excellent video as always, I have a problem with vine weevils particularly as I grow a number of primulas in pots which are particularly vulnerable. I now use a chemical control, which I know you are not keen on, which does seem to work. One thing you need to be a little wary of is that the only plant I have had attacked and killed actually in the ground was a heuchera.

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    1. Hi Rick, yes I know heucheras can be vulnerable in the ground too, when I buy nematodes I buy for a 100 m2 garden as the smaller size is far too little for all my pots. That means I have plenty left for the flower beds too so I usually give all the beds a soaking, even though it says on the instructions that nematodes for vine weevils don’t work very well in the ground. But rather than throw them out I have used up everything. Now that I have planted the heucheras perhaps I need to be more vigilant, ideally I need to get rid of them completely. I do use pesticides when I don’t have a choice, but only if other things fail and as sparingly as I can.
      What do you use against vine weevils? There are so many different products and I am sure some will be more effective than others. I have a soil drench that is organic and said to work, but as I have never had vine weevils in the ground as far as I know, I have not been able to test it out.

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  16. Your garden is lovely and so is your feline visitor.

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  17. Hej Helene! Alldeles underbart med allt som redan blommar hos dig. Vi har sol och fint, snön har kommit och gått, men det är inte vår ännu. Härligt att se din vårträdgård.
    Ha det gott!
    Marika

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    1. Hei og takk for hilsen, har vært travelt her i det siste så jeg er veldig sen med å svare! Våren er godt i gang men akkurat nå har vi en kald periode igjen noen dager.

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  18. That is too bad about your cat! And what mischievous squirrels you have too! I am always so amazed at your mild weather that you can have things flowering all through the year. I love your constantly blooming garden!

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    1. I am so grateful for my all-year-garden! And having lived in Norway the first 35 years of my life I probably appreciate the climate here in London even more :-)

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  19. I'm so sorry about your cat. They are such integral members of our families. I love the things we have in common yet an ocean apart...I too am pruning my roses, our Hellebores are wonderful and we both have the same patio table and chairs set! Too fun!

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    1. I had my cat for 14 years, since he was 8 weeks old so I still can’t really believe he is gone, a big loss.
      I guess we are not the only ones in the world who has been to Ikea and bought garden furniture – good choice :-)

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