Front garden update

The building work is almost at an end. The front of the house is rendered and the brick has been repainted grey. I’ve been hard at work prepping the ground ready for planting.

The ground was covered in pebbles and under this weed matting. Unfortunately, the pebbles have been covered and don’t really do a proper job of suppressing weeds. So I’ve worked taking this all up to get back to the soil under the matting to start afresh making most of this area into a planting area. The ground under is pretty solid clay so I’m working on breaking it up with the mattock. I’m improving the soil structure mixing in some Dalefoot compost in my bid to go peat free and some calcified seaweed. In theory, this should improve the plants chance of taking and growing in the clay soil as well as adding some nutrients.

The removed pebbles have been put down the passage behind the garden to create a more stable path through winter. This becomes a quagmire in wet weather so hopefully, this will improve access year round.

I’ve hammered out the stones that lined the border with the removed hebes. These have quite a bit of concrete still around them. I’m reckon I can still use them though scattered round the border. I’m planning to plant Ilex crenata along this edge creating dark evergreen domes. I’ve got the plants ready to go in. I’m just waiting on the builders to finish their last few jobs so planting can commence.

The path is getting redone with tiles. This should smarten it up from a cracked concrete path. I’ve got to weed it prior to the tiler coming.

While the builders are doing the pipes we’re having a water butt added. This might save me the odd trip round to the tap at the back.

Then the side border of the paths is going to become a bin hideaway and possibly a log store. Neither particularly interesting gardening features but necessary. We may not get a chance to do this until the Summer holiday though.

I’ve made a hanging basket ready. I’d looked into alternatives to the traditional basket of bedding plants and come up with this. The birdcage came from Amazon. It’s been lined with some spare capillary matting. I cut a circle out of a bin bag to put on top to help keep water in. The soil mix has some vermiculite in to help water retention. The plants are coleus, ophiopogon planiscapus and nepeta. The nepeta trails over the edge of the cage. The coleus and opiopogon I thought would contrast nicely in colour and leaf shape. Time will tell how it holds up through Summer but overall I’m happy with the look of it.

I’ve been building plants up for a while buying things up on the cheap. The main focus of the planting is going to be hydrangea limelight in the middle. This will have plenty of space to grow out. The long season of interest should make this a good focal point. Then I have a mixture of ferns, hostas and heucheras to fill around it. Currently it’s all sitting on the back patio.

Along the house wall, I’m planning to pave the edge so we still have access to the windows. Then I have two window boxes made up ready.

I’m itching to get going on the planting up now, but need to wait on the last few builders jobs. But hopefully won’t be too much longer. It’s going to be a slow process for the plants establishing but I’m optimistic that it will work out well.

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30 Days Wild-sign up time

It’s that time of the year again when I start preparing for a month of wildness. I originally set up this blog in support of the Wildlife Trust’s 30 day days wild initiative. Through June the WIldlife Trusts encourage you to do one wild act each day. This can be as simple as cloud gazing, finding something blue. Or you may actually get out to a reserve or go on a day out in nature. It is a great way to connect with our natural world. Connecting with nature in this way has been shown to improve happiness, reduce stress and make you more mindful of the world around you. But mainly it’s good fun. There isn’t any pressure to do something every day but there are basic enough ideas you should be able to manage something.

I signed up for the school pack. This comes with some lovely ideas on large cards. There is a pack of information, posters, stickers and a colouring wall sheet. Alice wants to steal the wild teacher badge from me so I don’t know how long I’ll manage to hold onto that.

People who have followed the blog for a while will know I’ve taken part for several years now. Earlier in the year, I was asked if one of my previous wild acts could be used in a book the Wildlife Trust was putting out for 30 days. The book is now out. 365 days wild by Lucy McRobert lists lots of ideas, as the name suggests, of things to do through the year to connect with nature. The book has been put together well. Attractively designed, it features many photos and details of the wild acts. It’s a book you can settle down to read or just flick through to get inspiration.

I’m proud to have a small entry within the book from my previous years taking part in 30 days wild. I wrote a haiku as one of my previous wild acts. There is a description of how to write a haiku and then my little effort at the bottom of the page. The family have taken the mick that it was just this small entry, but then they’re not published poets like I now am. Took me at least two minutes work.

30 Days Wild is great fun to take part in. There are great online communities through Twitter and Facebook sharing their efforts. I highly recommend signing up.  Never been a greater need to show appreciation for nature.

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Six on Saturday: 25.5.19 recuparating

After the excitement of Alice’s birthday, I’ve spent much of the week ill so I haven’t had much energy to do any jobs in the garden. Most of the photos of from last week before I came down with this plague.

1 Lilac

The lilac is at peak flower point. The scent is heavenly and the flowers are swarming with visitors.

2. Bishops Children dahlia seedlings

The dahlia seedlings in the really useful box cold frame have been my most successful seedlings. These have been moved in and out during the day. They are shooting up in height now. Some will be ready for pinching out soon to encourage bushier shapes and more flowers. The leaves are showing their characteristic dark foliage now.

3. Alliums

The purple sensation alliums are starting to open up. Alliums are a favourite every year. Easy to grow and provide a long-lasting impact even when they dry out. The bees love them. A winner every year.

4. Cosmos

I’ve started my cosmos seeds off. They have germinated and are growing up well. I have a few varieties on the go. This years are mainly from Sarah Raven with candy stripe and cranberry click looking to be two of the varieties I’m most excited about.

5. Clematis

I planted this last year and it now has a handful of flowers. I can’t remember the name and haven’t managed to look back on the blogs to find out what it is. The flowers are small but pretty with nice dark foliage to the leaves.

6. Aquilegia

The aquilegia are really thriving this year. They seem twice the height they’ve ever been before. Most are self-seeded and grow white or with a hint of purple or pink. They’ve gradually spread down the border and seem to have found places they are happy.

I grew some aquilegia McKana from seed last year and they are now flowering. Not that many seem to have come through but this one is lovely.

Hope you all have good weekends. I’ve got another plant sale tomorrow. This time at the local church. I’m not sure I’ve got the energy to go but I need to start walking and getting upright.

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Six on Saturday: 18.5.19 Plant fair Bargains

Last Sunday we headed out for a family outing to the Floral Hall plant sale. The Floral Hall is a community venture and the yearly plant fair raises money for Marie Curie. Amy, Alice, my mum and I headed out to grab some bargains. The stalls were a mixture of homegrown enterprises and local nurseries. Last year I picked up lots of ophiopogon at 50p a pot. This year there seemed to more of the nurseries and less of the homegrown but still good reductions on many of the garden centres. We got there early and plants were selling fast. I was on the lookout for something to replace the white camellia I intended to take out. This camellia came with the garden and hasn’t proved hardy enough. Too many of the flowers come through frost damaged so I’m cutting my losses and replacing it.

We had a good shop around the stalls and then stopped for a cuppa and a toasted teacake before returning home with our spoils. Alice had a good run around outside the Floral Hall and investigated their rather grand bug hotel.

1. Dahlietta-Suprise Paula

So kicking off the first of my purchases is one bought by Alice and Amy. I gave them some pocket money and this was their choice. Not a bad choice either. This is a short, compact option. I’ve potted it up in a medium pot. It should, in theory, continue to flower through to Autumn. This is my first year taking part in #Dahlialove I had said I would just start with two varieties and see how it went but the fairs purchases takes it up to five. The flowers remind me of raspberry ripple. Better than their choice last year of oxalis.

2. Dahlia table dancer

This second dahlia purchase is a cactus variety. I bought for the colour rather than the name. The flowers will be spikes of purple with white tips. For now, I am moving the dahlias in and out at night for another week or so until I feel safe that they will be alright outside. I’ve read pinching out will help these become bushier. Anyone care to comment? Help appreciated.

3. Acer Palmatum

I bought this Acer to go near where the white camellia was. Towards the back of the garden, I have a whitebeam and a black cherry. Currently, I’ve kept this in check but they could grow to be massive. So I am planning in for some smaller trees in case I need to remove the two existing trees. This is an Acer Palmatum ‘going green’. It can grow to about 2 to 3m. The leaves start bright green and are described as changing to shades of yellow and orange before dropping leaving bright green stems. With the red dogwood further along this should give some nice winter stems. I do have clay soil but I’ve added lots of organic matter the last few years so I’m hopeful it will take alright despite not having its perfect conditions. Not really a reduction on this one but it looks to be a good healthy plant.

I also bought an Acer butterfly. This one is smaller so I am starting this one in a pot. It has nice contrasting  white edges. I’ll let it put on a bit more height before finding a space in the border. I think this one is quite tender so I’m going to try and keep it sheltered for now.

4. Hosta, possibly big daddy

I bought two of these cheap from one of the homegrown stands. They weren’t certain of the variety but thought possibly big daddy. Whatever it is it has nice big green leaves so should give a good bit of foliage for my front garden plans.

5. Alice’s choice

Alice wanted this mouse. I think Amy wanted her to get a hedgehog but this was what she wanted. It’ll go nicely with last weeks fairy house and help in keeping Alice invested in the garden. It’s up out of the way on her mud kitchen for now while the builders finish their work.

6. Heuchera ‘marverlous marble silver brown/green’

I’d talked last week how much I was enjoying my heuchera foliage. These three were cheap as chips and have wonderful veins running through them. It looks like heucheras are gong to spread from fern corner into the opposite border. Gradually I’ve fond myself creating more shade as I actually like a lot of shade foliage plants. The foliage on these is stunning. A definite winner for me.

I’m very happy with my purchases. Sadly, the building work continues so I still can’t sort the garden properly but good to have a few purchases ready for the front once it’s done. Today we are celebrating Alice’s birthday from earlier in the week so will be busy through the day. Three years old and such a joy to both of us. I hope you all enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 11.5.19 Final tulip and Alice’s first

With the bank holiday, last weekend Alice and I managed to get out despite the weather. Alice has created her first floral display (Number 2). We also did a mass sowing of many of the seed packs. Lots of cosmos to come and we cared for the dahlia seedlings. She enjoyed mixing the potting compost and has been going back regularly to check her new creation. So on with the six.
1. Sunflowers

My dad had bought Alice a sunflower seed kit and she wanted to plant it last weekend. We got wrapped up in the waterproofs to prevent the upset when she fell on the wet grass. My dad bought it from one of the supermarkets Lidl or Aldi.

The kit came with a bag of soil and the seeds. She filled the bucket and pushed the seeds in. I’ve a suspicion she pushed a bit deep so we’ll have to see how successful they are. Then she wanted to add some more compost on the top.

She then added a topper for good measure.

2. Fairy house

Around my local area, the school has added fairy doors to a lot of the trees. Alice has been enjoying spotting them around town so I thought I’d give her some say in what we planted. We got this cheap planter from The Original Factory shop. It’s a bit naff but nice to keep Alice involved in the garden while she’s still at an age where she wants to help. Even with hailstones, she wanted to stay out such was her involvement.

I let Alice choose some flowers from the florist. She went for a tray of Mimulus as she liked the red flower. She’s decapitated half the tray putting them in but she is very proud of her work.

3. Bluebells

The bluebells in the passage behind the garden are flowering. The ones in the garden are in deeper shade and take an extra week or so. I think have been hybridised with the Spanish bluebells but they still seem popular with the insects. I’m reluctant to try taking them out to grow purely native as I think we’d be back to self-seeded hybridised within a year or two.

4. Heuchera

The first heuchera I planted a few years ago failed miserably as I think they were in a position with too much sun. These were my second attempt to see if I could grow these successfully. They’ve been in a year or more now and they seem very happy in the shaded fern corner. They are putting on lots of growth and starting to flower.

The veined foliage is my favourite. This has been hugging the ground during winter but is shooting up again and looking good.

5. Geranium phaeum

The first of the geraniums are in flower. This phaeum came from divisions through my mums garden. It provides a large mound of ground cover and flowers well through the year.

The small flowers are not massively showy but are popular with many pollinators and return through the year. It’s a reliable plant and suppresses a good area of weeds.

6. Black parrots tulips

This is the final blast of tulips. These have been in a pot for three seasons and have lost much of their vigour now. These are much smaller than in previous years. After they’ve flowered I’m going to deadhead them and let the energy go back into the bulb. I’ll move them into the border but I don’t expect much from these now. They’ve been delightful shooting out of their pot. Then they open up with their frills. Not as gaudy as the Rocco tulips featured a few weeks back. I could be tempted to get some new ones later in the year.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks Alice heavy six. We have a month of community plant sales ahead starting with the Floral Hall plant sale tomorrow. This community project provided me with some excellent bargains last year and I’m hoping for more tomorrow. If you fancy taking part in six on Saturday check the guide. Enjoy your weekends whatever you’re up to.

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Living Seas Centre Flamborough-Birthday Party

Today we’d been invited to our neighbour’s daughters birthday party. She works for the Wildlife Trust at the Living Seas Centre in Flamborough and the party was held there. This made a nice change from going to pick up a new disease at another soft play party. Pretty much every time we visit soft play Alice returns with a new cold. I hadn’t visited the centre since it was updated. We tend to go to Bempton on the way to Amy’s dads as it is just of the route. So it was good to get out and see the centre. The plan for the day was rock pooling followed by food.

As we walked down the lifeboat was being towed back to the boat Lifehouse. It’s been a bit of a grey day but luckily not too windy as Flamborough can be unforgiving a bad day. Everyone was dressed for the occasion wellies and waterproofs.

The tractor gets a hose down as it comes back to wash the salt off and stop it rusting up.

The group making their way down to the rockpools.

The birthday girl and her dad.

Alice had a good go walking across the seaweed. She needed a bit of carrying to get down to the shore but did pretty well as one of the youngest. Not easy rock pooling when it comes higher up on you than everyone else.

She needed a few snacks on the way to prevent the grumps. She’d had an early morning and we’d tried filling her up before heading out but clearly not enough. Can never keep a two-year-old full for long.

The guides from the Wildlife Trust were very knowledgeable pointing out different finds as we went.

Alice braved giving the crab a stroke though she wasn’t quite ready to hold it.

We’d been supplied clipboards with ID guides of different things we might find. Between the guides and the group, I think we saw everything on the list.

Alice liked the current artwork outside the centre and enjoyed pointing out all the creatures she could name.

Back at the centre Amy and I warmed up with a cuppa while Alice checked out the tray of finds.

In the centre’s education room, Alice enjoyed crafts colouring and making a plate butterfly model.

Alice enjoyed a jammy dodger.

Alice liked the viewing window watching the birds investigating the bug hotel. Lots of dunnocks and blue tits going in and out of a nest box.

We went outside to gather round to sing happy birthday to the birthday girl.

We had a lovely time and Alice was sorry to go with the usual screams as we drove off telling us she didn’t want to go home. The centre has a good set up and worth visiting. There are regular events for both children and adults if you fancy having the expertise of one of the Trusts guides. With 30 days Wild set to begin it’s a good time to be planning a trip to a reserve. I hope the birthday girl enjoyed herself and we were thankful for the invite. A much more civilised way to spend a kiddies birthday party.

Six on Saturday: 4.5.19 Flowering shrubs

This week I’m looking at a handful of flowering shrubs. The vast majority of the shrubs in the garden are Spring flowering with the notable exception of the hydrangeas. The camellias have already featured in previous weeks. So here we have a handful of the remaining shrubs. While not as showy as last weeks tulips they bring a lot to the garden. The vast majority are minimal effort, supress weeds and many good evergreen options for year round interest. Several articles have stated shrubs are going to be trending this year. While I don’t particularly follow trends I am happy to see the RHS predicting ferns as their pick of the trends. If nothing else it may give me easier access to further ferns I want.

1. Korean Dwarf Lilac

This small shrub I believe is a Korean dwarf lilac. It isn’t necessarily a plant that instantly grabs your attention with its small red-edged leaves. But it is coming into flower now and it smells wonderful. It is close to the house giving you that lilac smell so you can be starting at the larger lilac plant and the bottom of the garden and be conned into thinking you are getting the smell from it. A variety of this shrub won an award for scent on Great British Garden revivals where Toby Buckland pushed bringing back scent to our gardens.

Sadly though it is blocking line of sight from the new extension room to the lawn and we want a clear view to see Alice playing. So I am going to try to move it. As a fail-safe, I am also going to try and take cuttings. If I can move this to an area where it doesn’t need pruning too much each year that will also hopefully give it more chance to flower. Some years I’ve had second bursts of flowers in late Summer/Autumn.

2. Choisya ternata

Choisya or Mexican orange sits at the corner of one border on the edge of the patio currently surrounded by builders rubbish. It is an evergreen shrub that is just about hardy enough to come through our winters still looking good. Last year damaged it, but that was a particularly cold year and it did recover. This gives a couple of weeks worth of strongly scented flowers. The smell is supposed to smell like orange blossom. However, as I don’t know what orange blossom smells like I can’t comment. I do know the scent can be a bit divisive. There is a wonderful yellow rose growing in the centre of this. Later in the year, it rises out of this giving large yellow flames before fading to buttery creamy blooms.

3. Rhododendrum

The rhododendron came in a pot with my last house. It has been repotted since and pruned heavily. It gives a couple of weeks of beautiful blooms and then is a bit of an eyesore the rest of the year. My mum wants to take custody of it and once it’s stopped flowering she is welcome to it. I think it probably needs to go into the ground and I haven’t got a space I want to put it in.

The bees are currently enjoying the large open blooms.

As you can see the leaves suffer. I don’t know if it is the hardiness or the sea breezes but it isn’t happy.

4. Evergreen shrub

I’m unsure of what this one is. It fills a space in front of the shed. It gives a dark evergreen backdrop to other plants and partially hides the shed. It has spires of little white flowers in Spring and doesn’t object to being pruned back after flowering each year. It comes back and is rounding out nicely for the pruning. It isn’t flashy but it gives shade to my treasured fern corner, the flowers are loved by a number of insects and it gives year-round greenery. Another workhorse in the garden.

5. Clematis Montana

This isn’t actually mine it is my neighbours but it coming over solidly onto my side now. I’m assuming it is Montana from its rapid growth and flowers. There is an abundance of flowers this year. It is now growing down into my climbing rose Scarlett Paul. Hopefully, they’ll intertwine nicely and then I’ll have a succession of blooms. If it reaches the ground on my side I’ll see about layering it into the ground or I may take cuttings. The cordyline underneath is just there while building work continues then the pot will be moved back to the patio.

6. Saxifrage White pixie

Moving away from the flowering shrubs I bought a couple of new saxifrage plants as I seem to be lacking previously planted ones. They are beloved by the bees and sometimes the butterflies will settle on them too. These white pixie varieties give a pleasant little dome with spires of tiny white flowers adding to the pollinator options as I try for seasonal spread to keep them satisfied.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks six. I’m going to read up on clematis. I’ve got a Wisley charity shop bargain to read on the subject. See if I can get more out of my own clematis or take cuttings from my neighbours. Check the guide if you fancy taking part in the six on Saturday guide. Enjoy your weekends!

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