Inspired by Kew

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was really inspired to add a few new plants to my garden after my recent visit to Kew Gardens. It was the Rhododendron Dell there that really captivated me. En masse, they looked incredible, and there were so many different varieties and beautiful colours that I'm sure it would have  been impossible not to find at least one to fall in love with. Add to this the fact that they produce beautiful blooms in Spring, well, I just had to find some space for a few.

I already had one Rhododendron, a Percy Wiseman, that had been languishing against the fence for a few years. Although it bloomed, you couldn't really appreciate it as it was tucked behind other plants. I bought this one forward, and it's now sitting snugly between a Hebe and a Hardy Geranium. It got a good feed of ericaceous compost, and has looked spectacular for the last fortnight, blossoming with little speckled flowers.

One of my new purchases was this gorgeous Azalea, Mme van Hecke. It looks just as good in bud as in bloom, and is evergreen, always a bonus I think.

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I don't 'do' red in the garden, with the exception of strawberries and tomatoes on the patio, so I was about to pop this Azalea, Geisha Red, back on the shelf. Looking again at the plant though, the buds appeared more pink than red, so I decided to risk it. I'm glad I did, as they have indeed bloomed a delicious deep pink colour that blends in beautifully with the others. 

The last purchase was this Dwarf Rhododendron, Impeditum. It has lovely little purple/blue flowers and I was taken with it enough to purchase two, the second of which I've placed in the new area where the garage was removed.

So, this is my very own little rhododendron dell, and I'm looking forward to seeing the plants grow and merge over the next few years.

The rest of the garden is looking full and lush at the moment, and though we've had a few really lovely sunny days, it's mostly been rain, rain and more rain. I do hope that's not the theme for our 'summer' again this year, as I'd love to actually sit in the garden and appreciate everything out there!


Garden Favourites

Some of my favourite flowers are in bloom now, or in bud, waiting to burst forth. There are plenty of Dicentra throughout the garden.

I love the way this one is mingling with the Chives and Aquilegias.

And the Aquilegias, my favourite garden flower, are everywhere. And I do mean EVERYWHERE! These are Clementine Purple, a really lovely variety for contrasting with other brighter colours. 

I have so many, I've kind of lost touch with the names of each one, but I know there are Winky Blue and Whites and Black Barlow around somewhere too.

As anyone who has them in their garden will know, they are prolific self-seeders. I love spotting little patches of their new seedlings, and really don't mind that you never know how the flower on the grown plant will eventually look. I love them all! 

Foxgloves and Poppies are getting ready to bloom, with the promise of glorious colour.

And the Alliums dotted all over the garden are emerging from their jackets.  I added some white ones late last year, so I'm keen to see how they'll look.

As far as work in the garden goes, well, I've been really busy again. We had a few very warm days so I got all the jobs done that I didn't know needed doing until I really studied certain areas.  Some of the Ferns in the  shady area got trimmed back now their new fronds are emerging. The larger Dryopteris ferns were done about two months ago as they looked messy and tend to unfurl earlier. Underneath some of the dead leaves, I was thrilled to find a self seeded baby fern.

It may look like a lot of bare space in front here, but when the fern leaves fully unfurl, they drop and cover this whole area.

I added a new Astilbe, just behind the foxgloves and poppies here.

And a Brunnera, which I love for it's delicate Forget-Me-Not type flowers and variegated leaves.  It should like it here as the soil is  moist in front of the wildlife ponds.

I also think I've solved the climber dilemma I had in THIS post. I've planted Clematis Special Occasion to scramble up the shed, and an evergreen Honeysuckle Henryi to twine around the Lilac. That may take some time to get going though, as I managed to snap off the main growing stem while planting it!

One other purchase was for the back wall. This was exposed when the Leylandii were chopped down a few years ago and since then I've been trying to clothe it in plants to cover up it's ugliness. The Pyracantha has done brilliantly along with Clematis Pixie, and the Ivy is now getting a good foothold and has started to creep upwards. I spotted this pretty Solanum 'Glasnevin' in the garden centre though, and thought it would be perfect to fill the left hand side. The little flowers are so pretty. If it's happy here, it should spread out nicely.

I also did some rather back breaking digging, moving my large Bay from one side of the back area to the other. It was sitting just in front of the Raspberries before and they were threatening to overtake it, so it's now in a new home with only a Hardy Geranium for company at present. I gave it a good trim too, and it's looking much healthier.

A whole new patch in the garden was added too, taking inspiration from my visit to KEW GARDENS. Can you guess what I planted? All will be revealed in my next post.


My Fruit and Vegetable Container Garden

Originally, I had the notion of a traditional cottage garden for my patch, with flowers, fruits and vegetables all mingling happily with each other. I tried it, I didn't like it...it just didn't work. I was either treading on a dainty flower in my effort to dig up a heap of potatoes, or stabbing my eye on a cane trying to reach over plants to grab a runner bean.  I ended up resenting the vegetables for taking up so much space. But, there really is nothing like raising your own food to eat, so a few years ago, I decided to start growing in pots on my patio. To my surprise, it was a huge success, and it's now something I do every year and really look forward to.

I've found that there really is nothing you can not grow in a pot, and it's a huge advantage to be able to hop out of the kitchen onto my patio and cut a few leaves for a salad, or pick some beans to accompany dinner.  There's no secret to container growing either, I use basic potting compost in the pots, sprinkle on some seeds or pot on a pre-grown plant and wait for them to grow. 

A couple of things I have discovered though, is the importance of the container you plant in. You have to use a pot large enough to accommodate the fruit or vegetable, and then some. There's really no point growing in a tiny pot or one that's just about big enough, as the roots of the plant become stunted and you end up watering all the time! Trial and error means I have a preference for plastic pots too. Terracotta looks lovely, but it dries out the soil so quickly and the pots are always breaking in frosty weather, even those that claim they won't! I do feed my pots as well, usually once a fortnight, with a general purpose tomato fertiliser.

Several of the vegetables that I'd grown from seed were ready for their second potting on. I usually wait until I see a few roots poking from the bottom of the pot before I do this, these had more than a few, proving the actual garden has had me very occupied over the last couple of weeks.

Cucumbers are coming along nicely, and when they get potted on the next time, they'll be transferred to the sunnier side of my patio, with some trellis fixed behind the pot for them to scramble on.

Tomatoes will also join the sunny side in a week or two. Because there will be some sun...won't there? 

Lettuce, Mixed Salad and Rocket will stay on the shady side, as it's cooler and helps prevent them from running to seed. They are romping away at the moment, and I've been thinning out the seedlings, as well as sowing new batches so there will always be some ready to eat throughout summer.

I also succession sow French Beans and Radishes, both vegetables I adore and can eat by the bucket load! I'll be adding a third set of pots next week for these. The first set should be ready in a couple of weeks.

Spring Onions are 'springing' along. I usually leave one pot to flower, so I can enjoy the little petals scattered over salads, and the others get snipped on a regular basis. The wooden box at the back has Sage, Thyme and Chives in.

I picked the first few stalks of Rhubarb today, ready to be roasted tomorrow morning and served with some natural yoghurt and a drizzle of honey for breakfast.

The Strawberries in the raised beds on the patio have started to flower, and I've started to drool over the thought of freshly picked fruit for my pudding!

I snaffled this Blackberry runner from my Mums garden the last time I was digging there. I don't really need blackberries in the garden as the nature reserves where I live are full of them in summer, but this is a thornless variety, so I thought it might save my poor arms from being scratched to pieces, and provide enough fruit to add to the breakfast bowl every now and then. 

Of course, there are still one or two edible things in the actual garden. The Apple Tree for one.

And the raspberries, that have a patch of their own in the far right corner. I'm happy to leave them there and just dig up the runners when they get out of hand. They produced an enormous amount of fruit last year!

There are still lots of vegetables in the coldframe, and even more in my spare room, waiting for the right time to go outside, but here's a list of what is out there so far: 
  • Beetroot
  • Rocket
  • Mixed Salad Leaves
  • Tomatoes
  • Courgettes
  • Cucumbers
  • Rhubarb
  • Asparagus Peas
  • French Beans
  • Garlic Chives
  • Radishes
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Butternut Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Apples
I'm hoping for a good bounty this year!