Six on Saturday: 14.12.19

The weather continues to get colder. The car is needing time to warm up in the morning. The garden is looking a bit bare after shuffling plants. The bulb planting is slowly going down. Alice helped plant two pots of tulips last weekend making that the last of the tulips. We planted some iris harmony in the top layer. The idea being we get a nice layer of blue irises, the tulips are planted deep so will flower later. I’m now down to a mass amount of alliums and the crocus for the front garden. The forecast this weekend is for a bit of rain this morning and then moderate breeze tomorrow. I’m still not feeling that well so I’m not sure I want to brave moderate breezes to plant the last bulbs. Moderate breeze round me means facing Northern sea winds. Not nice.

1. Cleaning the feeders

Currently, the birds have become particular about which food they want. The seed is going down fast and the fat balls are disappearing but the suet is getting left and going mouldy. The feeders are needing regular cleaning to stop the build-up of gunk to help prevent the spread of disease.

It is a grotty job but it brings plenty of rewards. Lots of visitors have come.

2. Primula

The existing primulas in the border are flowering but have been well chomped, though I don’t particularly mind. They were a gift that has spread out a little bit. They grow under the dogwood where I couldn’t put much else as it is too thick with leaves in other seasons.

I picked up a few more from the florist a few weeks back to bulk out the existing patch. I’ve stuck to the basic white as I quite like that basic colour set up in winter.

3. Hellebores

The hellebores are doing a good job showing the key major issues with hellebores. The flowers consistently look tatty and get eaten. Even when they do flower well the flowers aim down somewhat taking the joy out of them and making it awkward for a photo. But still, I persist in trying to get them to perform in the way I picture in my mind with stunning white flowers shining out in winter.

4. Patio

As well as reworking the border at the back on the left side I’ve also been shuffling the patio around. I’d built one log store a few months back. However the wood delivery was slightly more than one store so we got another one delivered which had been sat in the utility room for weeks, but I got pushed into getting it made so it was out of the way for Amy’s birthday a few weeks back. The two look smart together, though I’d have liked one on the other wall but we are still waiting on the builders to finish jobs. I figure they’ll act as a little bit of a windbreak fo some of the plants I’d like to grow. Alice is excited to be jumping, not about the log stores.

I’ve had a lot of the pots sat on the lawn while the builders have been working but now they have done this wall I’ve moved a few back. I’ve made a small platform out of a tile sample and breezeblocks. Not the smartest setup but it only intended as temporary displaying some of the winter foliage plants next to Alice’s mud kitchen.

5. Christmas lights

We have a handful of battery-powered lights out on the trees now we are into December. Hard to photograph but they add a bit of cheer in these dark months.

6. Rose

The pink rose has had a bit of poor performance this year. It has flowered several times but the wet weather has meant a lot of the flowers have been pitiful when they have bloomed. It is going through its last burst of flowers for the year. Impressive that it’s still flowering in December but unless it manages a few better flowers next year it may face the chop. In a small garden, you have to be ruthless. I don’t mind going the way of Lloyd and removing the rose from my garden for more foliage.

As mentioned already still not that well, so only managing short bursts in the garden doing quick jobs. Combined with the weather I’m not sure I’ll manage that many job this weekend, but I hope you all have good weekends. Might be winter but the jobs don’t stop.

Check out the six on Saturday guide if you fancy joining in the fun.

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Sunday shuffle

Having removed the white beam to replace with a holly tree this has left this border feeling a bit crowded. I’d planted the holly about a metre away from where the white beam was. It’s had a knock-on effect of making the surrounding plants feel a bit untidy so I’ve been slowly working over the last few weeks on redistributing the plants to make this border feel more cohesive.

Here we have the holly planted in place. The white beam is still leant against the fence until I have time to saw it up. Then it will be added to one of the woodpiles.

Here is the holly view from the path. The pink hydrangea in front of the holly seems to be a small variety. It came with the garden and hasn’t put on much growth, but that’s fine as it should work well there as the holly grows bigger. At the front of this section of the border are two large geraniums. They would spread and take over the world if I let them but I keep them to mounds of about a metre spread. I’ve given the area a bit of a mulch with some compost to put some goodness back into the soil now the tree has gone. The aim for this area is to fill with a number of shade-loving foliage plants to mirror the opposite border under a cherry tree. There is a climbing hydrangea you can just make out along the back planted earlier this year. They are slow to establish but it will eventually give nice glossy leaves and a burst of flowers. The opposite border has a well-established climbing hydrangea and it is stunning. All of this should start bringing the garden together into a cohesive whole. Starting out I made the mistake of planting too many single specimen plants and now I’m cutting back to limit my palette and have more repeated combinations. My love of foliage plants has been well documented and has proved effective in the front garden, so I’m bringing more of that to the back garden.

The Buddha’s head is a recent addition. It probably won’t stay there as I’d like it engulfed partly in foliage. The fern in front is a Japanese tassel fern. This was a reduced fern as it isn’t in the best state but as it was a variety I didn’t have. They form shuttlecocks of fronds. It is supposedly evergreen, so may serve the purpose of Matteuccia for the whole year. Not in the best state right now but should recover.

The addition of the holly has made the hydrangea paniculata limelight look a bit squashed so this has been dug up and moved along about a metre along to the other side of the bug hotel. It should have enough space here to fill out better.

Surrounding it there are a couple of cheap hellebores and heuchera. The straggly leaves at the front are ox-eye daisies. These self-seed all over and I redistribute them to gaps in spring. To the side of the hellebore is a Blechnum fern. This should grow to about 40cm creating another evergreen block of foliage over the next few years.

In between the limelight and holly I’ve planted another discount fern, a Christmas fern. This is named because it should stay looking good till Christmas. As you can see it isn’t in the best state but like the tassel fern it should recover. It should fill out to be an undemanding patch of ground cover. This is a US native making my fern collection a truly international affair.

Moving the hydrangea limelight along had a knock-on effect of needing to move the Acer Palmatum ‘going green’. This has gone along about a metre from where it was, leaving about 2 metres between the Acer and hydrangea. In between is a currently tiny Buxus plant that I plan to allow to form a small ball to keep some structure through the year as this section of the border has ended up bare each winter. There are a few more of the Blechnum ferns dotted around that that will spread and give a nice bit of foliage cover around the Acer. In the top right corner is a second climbing hydrangea planted this year. It’s put on a bit of growth this year and I reckon should claim the fence over the next two years. Right at the front of the border are two geranium x oxanianum. These are a short geranium with small pretty veined flowers.

The Acer itself should thrive in spring providing bright green leaves. This year it has put on a bit of growth but not been exceptional. I’m unsure whether I have the right conditions for Acers, but I like them enough to persist. As the other shrubs and climbers establish it will gradually become more sheltered and hopefully, it will manage to tolerate my sea winds. The stems are bright green. These photos don’t really do them justice. The plant label tried to use this as a selling point as winter interest. Currently, though it’s too small for it too have any major impact. Hopefully, in a few years, it will fill out well. The log pile at the back is frequently visited by the neighbourhood frogs. The half-buried teapot providing another shelter.

As I’ve been going along I’ve realised I have a few too many fine-leaved plants in this section and similar colours. So to add to the contrast and textures I’ve picked up two half-price hostas. Come winter garden centres want to get rid of hostas taking up space. They look like empty pots but will return in spring. These are very large pots and the plants look decent with roots out the bottom. Both are blue with quite large leaves. One is Hosta ‘Elegans’. This is a giant blue leaved variety. I’m thinking that this one can go to the back of the border. The other is Bressingham blue which grows slightly smaller. Blue varieties are generally more slug tolerant but only time will tell.

I’d also bought a pinus mugo mughus. This is a dwarf pine. My trips down to Dorset had given me an urge for a pine but I can’t fit a decent sized one. This is a slow-growing tough plant that will grow about a metre. I thought it would fit well with what has ended up being quite Japanese in nature. I have no intention of having something as carefully managed as a Japanese garden but I have got a lot of Asian plants in the mix. I’m not sure that I can fit it in the border though so I may look at placing it elsewhere or in a pot.

The overall look of this section of the border is a bit bare currently but give it a few years and the plants will fill out. Maybe half are evergreen so there should be more year-round colour. The Acer and hydrangea will establish over a few years whereas the holly will be many years to reach full maturity. But it should still look good even as a small shrub. It might not look that amazing right now but I like my blog to show a record of progress.

While I’ve done the heavy shifting Alice has filled the last two pots of tulips. Tulips have gone low down, then a few spare iris have gone higher up. The aim is for the iris to flower followed by the tulips coming through but we’ll see if this works.

But she was keener to strike a poise than be helpful asking for photos in front of each plant.

This section of the border has a lot of slow growers so it’s going to be a while before it really establishes but it’s good to have these blogs to look back on. I have an image in my head of how it will come together but I’m sure the reality won’t match my image. The planting should be fairly low maintenance and provide a decent home for a variety of wildlife. Now I just need the patience to wait for it to grow.

Six on Saturday: 7.12.19 Frost

Over the last week, we’ve seen another drop in temperature. The warm hats, scarfs and gloves are out for the duration. With this, the colour has faded with the dahlias shrivelling up, but many of the plants have taken on a new beauty in the frosts. If you are willing to brave the chill to venture out into the garden there is still lots to take pleasure in.

1. Hydrangea

The colour may have faded from the hydrangea but the mopheads still look good with the morning sun on the frosted heads. I leave the heads on through winter then cut back in spring when the new growth starts. This protects the new growth from late frosts. Then I thin out a few of the older stems. This seems to keep it at a size where it doesn’t block the path and it flowers well each year.

2. Hebe

The hebe flowers still providing little bursts of colour in the garden. The thin dark green leaves look like they’ve got a variegated edge rather than the layer of frost it actually is.

3. Sempervivum

This particular sempervivum pot has suffered in the frost and isn’t frost-proof as it’s cracking a bit. The sempervivum looks lovely with the layer of frost. They seem to have survived over the last few years from cold but don’t like to get too wet so I may shift them to a sheltered spot. The pot has plenty of drainage and the soil mix is heavy on the sand and grit.

4. Heuchera

The frost seems to make the various heuchera in the garden stand out more with the heavily veined varieties looking particularly spectacular.

5. Grass

The lawn has been decimated this year with builders, rain and having to leave things off the patio on it. But it is rather a pleasant feeling that crunch underfoot as you walk across the lawn.

6. Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens ‘black mondo’

The ophiopogon remains a stalwart plant throughout the year with its evergreen black leaves. The edging of white frost has only added to its beauty.

I started the work last week shifting a few plants around where I’ve planted the new holly tree. I’m looking after Alice on my own today while Amy is out so probably won’t get a chance to do any more today but I may brave the cold tomorrow to try and finish tidying the area. The shrubs all need moving slightly along to give them all space to spread to their full size eventually. I hope you all have good weekends whatever you are up to and don’t forget to check out the Propagators blog if you fancy taking part in six on Saturday.

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