It's all happening now!

It's been crazily busy here over the last week or so. I decided to get all the 'boring' jobs out of the way early in the year so I could spend the latter months doing the things I really enjoy, like planting, sowing seeds and taking cuttings, as well as just sitting and admiring the garden when everything is in bloom.

So, I've painted trellises and fence panels, scrubbed a zillion pots, had a shed revamp, re-lined the fish pond and generally worked my little socks off to get everything ready for the coming season.

My beautiful Hellebore Xsternii, a hybrid between Argutifolius and Lividus, is still putting on a great show of delicate green flowers tinged with pink, providing the bees with some much needed pollen.

The petals on my Angel Heart tulips are just starting to fall now. I do wish they would bloom for longer, as their colour is just wonderful.

Dicentra are getting ready to show off their fabulous teardrops. I must have gone a bit made with divisions last year, as they seem to be appearing all over the garden! The white varieties are lagging behind the pink though, no sign of their little blooms yet.

Clematis Freda leaves are appearing...and leaves are all I got last year! They were new plants though, so I'm hoping now they're established in their permanent homes and have had lots of tlc, they will reward me with masses of their deep pink flowers. I have one growing up my shed and another along the fence. I'm hoping they'll eventually meet to clothe that whole corner.

I still have Narcissus Thalia, a beautiful double headed white, in full bloom. And Muscari are everywhere!

Bluebells are just beginning to show. Still nowhere near as many as I want in my garden, so this might be the year I finally get around to purchasing more. I really want to fill the gaps I have in my little woodland areas  with them.

Anemone Blanda still in bloom. Azaleas and Aquilegias waiting to blossom and Marsh Marigolds are adding a touch of yellow sunshine.

And, this is not pest I really wanted to find in my garden again. They stopped me growing my favourite Oriental Lilies because of the devastation they caused, they started on my pond lilies last year, and now, NOW, I find them on my fritillaries! Pfft, darn things. Beautiful they may look, but they are complete pests, leaving barely anything of their favourite plants left. Leaves, buds, seed pods, they eat them all! Bye, bye Liliy Beetles, it's the squish for you!!

But these little darlings are more than welcome. At last, the first batch of tadpoles have emerged! Still lots more to come so the ponds are definitely going to be heaving and I'm going to need more fish food to keep their tummies full!


I'm a sucker for a strawberry!

I really am! I love them so much, I've ended up with 6 large beds full that edge my patio. Up until this spring, they were wonderfully healthy and provided me with masses of beautiful fresh tasting fruit.

 I noticed this year that a few of the beds didn't look that great (the above one is doing well though). I thought the terrible winter may have had something to do with it, and ordered some new varieties to fill in the gaps. I have Elegance, that produces enormous tasty strawberries in June and July, Florence, a prolific cropper from the end of June to the end of July and Finesse, an everbearer with exceptional flavour, cropping from July to October.

After forking over one bed to add the new varieties, I soon discovered that the culprit may not have been the weather at all, but the rather devastating larvae of the Vine Weevil!

These beasties nibble away on the thin roots of plants and the outer tissue of thicker roots, eventually killing the plant. I picked out as many of them as I could and put them on the table for the birds, but seriously, there were so many I got fed up after a while. Fingers crossed they don't do any damage to my my new plants!

Not content with the strawberries in my beds, I also have some in the ground, and have just popped these wild strawberries, Fragaria vesca Alexandra, into my basket stand. I'm hoping the little alpine strawberries I'm growing from seed will be able to join these in a month or two.

If my other beds don't pick up soon, there may be even more varieties joining them in the next month or so.


Wildlife Ponds

Anyone who knows me will be fully aware of my fascination with the wildlife in my garden. I think my family are somewhat immune to my rantings about what creature I've found while out there now, but others find it amusing when I rave about the teeniest frog I've just seen, or the stag beetles I've witnessed dancing on the water.

My main focus for wildlife are the little ponds dotted around my garden. I started off with one, added another three, then one more joined in last year.  They really are teeming with all kinds of life, including frogs and tadpoles, newts, dragonflies and stag beetles. 

All of my ponds have been made from containers that I happened to have laying around. You can really use just about anything, as long as it is waterproof. The one above is a very large plastic plant pot, lined with a thick dustbin bag and edged with slates and pebbles and lots of bushy plants.

As you can see, the frogs are very happy in it and have layed plenty of spawn in amongst the Spearwort :-)

The three ponds below were the first set I made. I'd dug up a sunken fish pond, having made the decision to have a freestanding one on the patio, and was left with a huge hole to fill. Rather than pile it all up with compost, I decided to pop some pots in to serve as mini ponds for the frogs.  A few years ago, it looked like this, with plenty of logs and pebbles providing hiding places.

And it now looks like this:-

Choc full of Marsh Marigold, Irisis, and Pond Grass, and surrounded by mounds of stunning Carex. The baby frogs especially like hiding out in here.

Last year, we knocked down a dilapidated garage in the garden, freeing up a lovely new space for me to fill. It was right next to the patio, and I thought would be the perfect spot for another little pond, one that I could whip out to from the kitchen in my slippers and have a quick peep at. I used a rectangular storage container for this one (ousting some Christmas decorations ;-) ) but because of the dire weather last year, I never really got to finish it off. Well, yesterday, I set to and added some fresh pond plants to it, carefully avoiding the frogs already in there and the mounds of spawn, and edged it with some slate and pebbles. I'm really happy with it.

And I think this cute couple are too!

I'm looking forward to seeing the borders of it bulked up with plants in the coming years to provide plenty of  shade and shelter. And in return for my generosity in providing them with homes, those frogs had darn well better eat all the nasty slugs in my garden this year!


It's all about the seedlings.

They're everywhere at the moment! Now the warmer spring days are finally here, my outdoor sowings are starting to appear.

Radishes, Night Scented Stock, Rocket, Cut and Come Again Salad and Cornflowers are all flourishing.

And indoors, Chillies, Tomatoes, Basil, Sunflowers and Alpine Strawberries are all doing well. Only one casualty of my indoor sowing, and that's the Just Peachy Nasturtiums. Only 3 of the seeds germinated, and even they aren't looking very healthy. I think I must have had a duff packet. 

The Butternut Squash are coming along nicely and will need potting on soon. I love the veining on their leaves.

And these are Fuchsia Lady in Black. I haven't grown these from seed, but they are still tiny little plug plants that need nurturing.

I think the coldframe is going to be busy in the coming weeks!


Dig, plant, sow, repeat.

It feels like all the gardening jobs have hit me at once this week. Not only do I have my own garden to care for, but I also designed and manage my parents garden, so it's been all systems go with many more seeds to sow, new plants to find space for, ponds to clear and patios to jetwash.

 My back wasn't thanking me yesterday after a whole day of weeding, digging and planting in my parents garden, only to come back and start digging and planting in my own garden. That, on top of jet washing two patios the day before must surely negate the calories in the cream cheese and smoked salmon bagels I scoffed yesterday ;-)

One thing I've really been trying to do this year is buy more UK grown plants. It's surprising just how many  are grown overseas and exported here, which is really sad, as our economy needs the money as do our nurseries and garden centres. It's also said to be more beneficial to the gardener to have locally raised plants, as they will be more tolerant of our conditions here in the UK.

There was a small but pleasing UK grown selection at my favourite garden centre. I bought some of these beautiful Ipheion (Rolf Fiedler) to go around one of my wildlife ponds. They have the daintiest blue flowers and look amazing, especially after an April shower.

This pretty lamium was also UK grown. It has shell pink flowers with variegated leaves and should look great once it starts to spread and mingle. I also picked up some more Narcissus, just because you can never have enough, and happily, they were locally grown.

During the same trip, I managed to find just the right plants to go up my new obelisks. I've chosen a beautiful climbing rose called Joseph's Coat for one and another called Summertime for the second. I also couldn't resist another Clematis. This one is Rosea, which I understand can support itself as it tends to have a bushy habit, but I've still planted it near an obelisk as it should flower at a different time from the rose and give more interest.

The perfume from the hyacinths is completely intoxicating in the garden now. I have so many in little clumps  their scent follows you all over the garden.

The Himalayan Cowslips are in full bloom around the ponds along with the Snakeshead Fritillary. 

And the ponds are my next job to tackle. Busy, busy, busy!


Working 9 to 5

Or, 8.30am to 5.00pm to be precise. Well, the weather was fine again, wet due to the overnight rain, but mild, so I decided to crack on with more of the jobs that needed tackling.

I had a few plants in pots and throughout the garden that were in desperate need of dividing. The hosta above was just starting to send up shoots, so it was the perfect time to give it a good chop in half.

In fact, I got 3 good bits from this, a couple of which I've placed near the wildlife ponds and a further piece has been potted up. I also divided a rather large poppy and a rudbeckia. Don't you love a plant for free :-)

Next, I placed the obelisks that I'd been painting last week. I'm really looking forward to seeing these clothed in sweet peas and morning glory.

I had lots of plants overwintering in the coldframe, and it was time for them to move on and make room for the seedlings that will need hardening off in the next few weeks. I didn't realise quite how many cuttings I'd taken of veronica and geraniums (definitely got carried away!) and then all the aquilegias that I'd potted on. Still, you can never have enough plants, so I found room for them all somewhere.

Then I made my first set of outdoor sowings for the year. 
  • Rocket (Sky Rocket)
  • Leaf Salad (Cut & Come Again)
  • Swiss Chard (Bright Lights)
  • Dill
  • Garlic Chives
  • Radishes (Jolly)
  • Night Scented Stock
  • Marguerite (May Empress)
  • Cornflowers
And a few more trays that have gone indoors until things really warm up.
  • Oenothera (Lemon Sunset)
  • Coreopsis (Presto)
  • Foxglove (Candy Mountain...so excited to see this one develop!)
  • Canterbury Bells (Mixed)
All the outdoor sowings are protected by cloches, mainly to stop my cats and the foxes and squirrels digging everything up, but also as a safeguard against any chilly nights.

Not a bad days work, and the garden's looking very springlike now. Lots more to do, but my back needs a good overnight rest!