May is a month with all sorts of weather here in Britain – from really nice and warm during the day to night frost if you are in a more rural spot. It is hard to keep up with which plants are allowed to stay out and which are too tender so in my previous garden where I had no greenhouse, shed or even a garage I just had two choices: outside - or not at all. Here in my new garden I also have a third option; a shed, but I am pretty fed up dragging plants in and out of the shed so now I have stopped. Last week a tray of begonia seedlings died during a cold night. Oh well, not a big loss, didn’t cost me anything as the cormlets were free, but it was a bit annoying. But everything else has toughened up and looks fine and I assume this is it for cold nights – surely, this MUST be it?! The weirdest, coldest spring I can ever remember here in London.
And what a difference a week makes – weirder still. The photo to the left was last Sunday in the afternoon, with a lovely temperature in the shade of 28 degrees C (82.4 F), and the photo to the right is today Saturday, fairly the same time with a meagre 15 C (59 F). Ugh!
The garden is so green since my last post! It has kind of transformed the whole, open space again and made it look very different.
Just look what the garden looked like 2 weeks ago, if you flip between the photos you’ll see what I mean. This is exactly 2 weeks difference.
The beds are filling in too, especially the rose bed in the front here and the wall bed behind it. These two beds combined now have 21 of the 26 roses I have managed to squeeze into my garden so far. I will attempt to get in a few more though - 30 sounds like a good, round figure, doesn't it? :-)
Did you notice I have finally taken the plunge and gone with the colour I wanted for my fence? It is hard work for me to paint so I can only do a very small piece at the time so this side is not finished yet - and once I get around to do the other side of the garden I will have to rope in some help to do the top part of the fences as I am no longer any good on a ladder. But I am so glad I went for this dark plum colour in the end! I think it looks good next to just about every colour I try it with, and it looks especially good as a backdrop to my Japanese inspired bed where the graceful Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ has just got its leaves back on.
Common name for this salix is Pink Variegated Willow, or Flamingo Willow Tree, you can see why on the end of each branch with creamy-pink leaves and delicate catkins. The meaning is just as colourful as the tree – simply calling its pink/white/green foliage variegated would have been rather inadequate, so the Japanese named it ‘Hakuro’ - meaning ‘white dew’ or 'glistening dew' and ‘Nishiki’ - meaning ‘a beautiful combination of colours’- in reference to intricate Japanese tapestries or brocade. My Japanese speaking brother has taught me how to pronounce the name for this lovely tree so just in case you wonder: Hakuro is pronounced with pressure on the first vowel and Nishiki is pronounced with the middle i silent – so that should be something like ‘Hakkuro Nishki’.
The Japanese inspired bed is filling in too, even though everything here is in pots and containers still. I have got 2 new dwarf rhododendrons from the 7 dwarf series and visitors might remember that I had to leave my lovely ‘Dopey’ in my previous garden. Not to worry, I have a new baby ‘Dopey’ now! They are just about to flower so next post I hope to show you them both.
I was dithering for a very long time about the colour for my fences – it’s not your usual dark brown that most people have! But the inspiration was actually the lovely pink and purple tones in the brick wall - rather unusual and a welcome change from the red or yellow brick around here. Only exception is the bottom 3 rows which for some peculiar reason have been made in red brick. I have ordered black masonry paint from Amazon and these red bricks will soon blend in much better. Once you change one thing soon there will be another ting to change....
Just a quick peek inside the plumtree - on my last post 2 weeks ago the plumtree was in full flower, now there are perfectly formed plums already. Amazing how quickly that can happen!
One last photo of the plum coloured fence, this time with the sun shining behind it and now it looks a lot darker. Colours change a lot more outside than indoors depending on light and sun level and something that needs to be considered when choosing colours – especially for big areas like a whole fence. I still don’t know how the colour will look on the other side of the garden when flooded in sunlight, only one way to find out!
The rose bed in the middle of the garden has been extended, I have had 6 more paving slabs taken up to give space for more plants. I still think it is too much paving and would like more space for plants, but it is also a question of making it easy to move around and getting a good flow around the garden. In my previous garden the path was too narrow, I am not going to make the same mistake here. Taking up more paving slabs made room for 5 alstroemeria I have had growing in pots over the winter, and since they are quite small still I have put some pots with lavender and some miniature roses in the bed until they fatten up.
On the side is another new rhododendron, ‘Princess Anne’, a lovely, dark leaved dwarf and I am growing it in a container.
The pale lemon flowers are truly stunning.
Did you notice my new solar lights? They are called snowdrops and are even more stunning than my photos can show you. Solar lights have a battery inside the black box down on the stem, the battery soaks up energy from the sun through the little solar panel during the day and releasees it during the night as 6-8 hours light. The more sun during the day the longer it will shine during the night but even a dull day will give energy. My solar lights even work during the winter when the days are shorter, as long as there are sunny days now and then.
Here is one of the 3 solar lights I have had for two years and they still work perfectly. The battery lasts for about 2 years and I have just changed them, ready for the summer season.
This solar light is in the Lilac Bed, where the lilac - Syringa vulgaris is pumping out the loveliest perfume you can wish for. In this bed all the spring bulbs are now dying down and the 8 hemerocallis’ are just a few weeks from flowering. There are also 2 dahlias in the middle which will extend the flowering season from summer into late autumn.
Syringa vulgaris comes in many different colours, this deep purple is my favourite and as I inherited this one with the garden I am so pleased with it.
At the shady end of the Lilac bed the heucheras are starting to flower. I took with me 10 heucheras from my previous garden and planted them all here, but one hasn’t come up so it has possibly not survived. Please hold your thumb over the dandelion between the paving slabs – I just haven’t got enough hours in the day to keep up with them!!
The apple tree looked absolutely gorgeous last week-end in full flower.
Today it is 1 year and 3 days since I moved into this house and garden, but last year I didn’t get to see the apple flowering as it was over long before I moved in. This year everything is much later. I have never had an apple tree before and I am enjoying every stage of it.
This is the apple tree today, the flowers don’t last long and all those fallen off are strewn all over the garden like confetti. Speaking of flower drizzle, the trees behind it are far worse ‘drizzlers’ – the blue flowers from the ceanothus’ are EVERYWHERE in a thick layer of tiny, blue dots. When it rains, all the plants get covered in a sticky, blue, porridge-like substance that doesn’t come off even when hosed.
The flowers of the two ceanothus’ are absolutely gorgeous though so I think it is worth 2 months of mess. But all is not well with my ceanothus, this week we had more than 48 hours of almost continuous well-needed rain....
....and Wednesday this happened! I was outside when the disaster took place - I stood there, watching the beautiful ceanouthus’ gradually break apart in one of its main, big branches with a loud, splintering noise and slowly the huge branch bent down to the ground – and I could do NOTHING to stop it. It was awful watching.
When it rains, the water doesn’t really get through the dense mat of leaves on the ceanothus and that’s been a bit of a headache for the woodland bed I have under the ceanothus’ - when it rains, the water just stays on the top and I assume with the exceptionally amount of rain we had, the weight eventually got too much for this branch. Earlier today I had help from my son to saw off the branch and everything is now bagged up into six big bin liners – ready to go to green waste recycling. I now have to come up with a plan for what to do with the hole – my photos can’t really show what a HUGE hole it is – you could park a bus in here and not touch the sides. If it was anything else than a ceanothus I would just prune each side, lift the crown and make an even line. But as far as I know, ceanothus doesn’t take well to pruning so if I cut off that much they might just go into shock and die....I might have to do it in stages over several years.
Under the two ceanothus I have hundreds of woodland plants, planted here because they like the shade provided by the ceanothus. If I remove too much it will be a full sun bed and a lot of these plants will not be happy in the summer. These Lily of the Valley appreciate some shade during the height of the summer.
And so does these beautiful Disporopsis pernyi, just about to flower.
Along the fence I have a huge Dicentra formosa 'Bacchanal' I took with me from my previous garden – one of the dicentras that hasn’t changed name – it is still called Dicentra!
And next to it is a dicentra that HAS changed name - Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’ – today without a single flower, I could swear there were lots yesterday, is that squirrel feasting food too?? In front of the Alba is a sweet primrose, Primula japonica ‘Miller's Crimson’.
In the sunny end of this part of the garden I have placed the long suffering Zantedeschia aethiopica, now finally re-potted into what I hope will be a big enough container for a while!
All that these flowers require is an abundance of water and sunshine.
And now to the roses – I finally have roses! It was a long wait through a very cold spring but the first ones are here and most of the rest have buds just about to open. This is the rose that won the race this year, ‘Ingrid Bergman’.
And the pretty David Austin rose 'Susan Williams-Ellis' is pumping out her sweet scent so it can be smelled from far away.
Rosa ‘Rob Roy’ doesn’t have any scent, but it is still one of my favourite roses. I have had it for more than 10 years, growing in the same container and it is still a top performer. This year I might finally give the handsome Rob Roy a space in the ground!
But in terms of winning in the flowering department, nothing can beat the cherry tree growing right on the other side of the wall in my garden – leaning over and into my garden. Here is an early morning photo of it in all its splendour.
And here is the absolute looser in the flower department, a bottlebrush - Callistemon rigidus I bought as a small plant in a 2L pot in early 2012. It has had a new container 3 times, last time last summer into this big 15L and it is seemingly happily growing in the mix of 80/20 John Innes No: 3/compost with some added grit. In my previous garden it grew in full sunshine, here in my new garden it was in my front garden in full sunshine until January when I moved it to this wall to give it some winter protection – still in full sunshine. Now that the plumtree has got all its leaves again it is more a dappled sunshine at times so I will move it back to the front garden. I have seen photos of bottle brushes a tenth of this size in flower. Mine has never flowered. Never ever!
Every spring I keep getting these cone-looking things along the branches and each year I am just as excited thinking that this might possibly be flowers. But once they start to open I realise that I have had this every year before – it’s just new leaves. No flowers this year either and no sign of any buds. I have never pruned my bottle brush, apart from the pruning necessary to get it to grow into a single stem when it was much smaller. I feed it with slow release feed every spring and it gets watered when everything else is watered, nothing more or less, being an Australian plant I have thought this should be enough in terms of food and water. Callistemon rigidus is described as a bottlebrush well suited for UK climate and good for containers, mine has been outside ever since I got it - including the container it is about 1.5 m tall (about 5ft) and looks nice and healthy – but doesn’t flower. Anyone got a suggestion how I should get it to flower? I have never heard that you need a cross pollinator for bottle brush, but perhaps this particular species need that?
This post is turning into a rather long one – as usual. Since I have reduced the number of posts to only 2 per month I feel there is so much I should write about every time – so much happens in the garden especially at this time of year, although I must admit I could have done without some of this week’s drama!
My final photo is of one of the squirrels. No matter where I hang the birdfeeders, the squirrels still manage to get to them! But this one is obviously nursing squirrel babies so she is forgiven. For now....
This evening, while I have been writing this post, I have been listening to the Eurovision Song Contest, this time also broadcasted live for the first time to China and US! For anyone outside Europe not familiar with Eurovision, this music contest is the longest-running annual international TV song competition and has been a yearly event since 1956 - it is also one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world. The voting is hilariously political and most of the time in the past you could predict neighbouring countries voting for each other, but this year they have changed the voting system and it was actually less obvious who was going to win - no one knew the winner until last minute. The Ukrainian winning song is highly political though, carefully draped in a personal cloak. But I don’t think Russia was fooled by the individual angle :-)
That’s it for this time, next post will be the end of the month, hopefully with a movie for you too. I am linking today’s post to Carol at May Dreams Gardens, please visit her for many more Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day posts.
Until next time, take care.