Sunday, 31 July 2011

Before and after - front edging strip

There's just a couple of pictures in this album but worth a look if only to see the huge lumps of rock I was excavating from the puny little two foot strip I was re-cutting around the house.

It began with my falling out with the lavender border next to the house.  It was planted four years ago because the lawn grew up to the wall of the house but certainly wasn't thriving there because of the shade and drips from the roof.  I knew when I chose lavender that it was just about the worst possible place for it - North facing, against a house wall, in the shade most of the day.  Never one to obey the rules;  I always think most things are worth a try and so I planted the lavenders.  To be fair they did really well and each year they looked lovely.  By this summer they had begun to get woody and 'break' and two had died back completely during last winter so without a great deal of consideration I decided, even though they were in flower,  they had to go and I set about yanking (not digging!) them up.  Then I felt sorry for the hardiest of the survivors and planted them in the back garden - guess what - so far, they are flourishing.

I then decided I would widen the border slightly to neaten the very ragged edges the floppy lavenders had created and prepare the ground a bit better than I had done previously when I just wanted to stick the lavenders in and let them take their chances.  What a nightmare!!!  After pulling up two I regretted it  and wished I'd left well alone.  Too late; I was stuck with having to get on with it.  

One of the photos in the album shows the two largest pieces of rock I had to dig out - I say largest as the whole border was filled with rocks and stones of all sizes and shapes, not to mention the pieces of wood, a long iron bar and any other old builders rubbish you can think of.  How the poor old Hidcote lavenders survived all that I can't imagine.  

I was then faced with a thirty foot long, two foot wide strip to fill.  I started by splitting some lovely little irises ( iris setosa canadensis - a dwarf variety - maybe 'Nana') which I heartily recommend.  They flower in spring.  I then thought I might be able to buy a couple of pots of crocosmia which I could break up and plant with those for a late summer show.  I am aiming to plant enough strong, upright perennial plants (so the gardener doesn't strim them when he does the edges!) and to always have something in flower but this is proving a bit of a challenge.  I priced up a suitable of mix of stuff and it came to about £180.  This was beyond my reach, so for this year at least I've put in the irises as a bit of something for the spring and some annuals to get me through the rest of this summer and I'll think about it again next year.  The annuals are French Marigolds that I don't really like and some red salvia,  also not on my hit list but at around £30 it was more financially doable, kept the colour scheme and filled in for this year.

All in all I love the front garden.

July Borders

My posts are like buses....   none for ages then two come along!  As I said before I added four little albums and the links to them and I thought I could write a sentence or two about each one - how little I know myself.  So here comes the chatter to accompany the July borders album.

Firstly a question...  has anyone any idea what the beetle is on the astrantias (and everywhere else)?  Do I kill it or nurture it?  I don't seem to have a lot of beetle damage this year - I might even have beaten the lily beetle thanks to the wonderful Provado - I can't recommend it enough.

As for the giant tree climbing snail - I still only seem to have snails in the front garden and not in the back.  I know they came in with a plant from somewhere because they were new to me last year.  Are they harder to kill than slugs? - again I seem to winning the invasion war on that front thanks to organic slug pellets.

I really would welcome comments/answers please.

As for the borders themselves............ in July my front garden looks better than the back.  In the back garden all the roses, delphiniums, poppies and foxgloves have gone over and I think they are the backbone of those borders.  The front garden has all the hot colours and always has something in flower so I like it pretty much all the time but by July the three baskets have come into their own.  Round the corner  the Golden Showers rose and Black Prince clematis are flattering each other and at the front the tree/half circle border is bursting with crocosmia Lucifer which has to be one of my favourite plants.  It is such an extraordinary colour in all kinds of light and is especially lovely as they day shifts into evening.  It positively glows.  I've even come to like this year's corporation parks planting in the skinny border which is a surprise as it contains one of my least favourite plants - the marigold but it does seem to be OK here.

I hope you have a nice trip round my July garden.

Before and After - the caravan space

If you look in the left hand column under Photos you'll see I've added some albums to make the pictures easier to find.  One of them shows how we've used the space by the side of the house where the caravan used to stand.

Luckily the real hard work was done in that it was already laid to hard core and gravel for the van so all I had to do the day the 'van went was to load it up with all the garden junk I've always hated sharing my space with.  Then it was a big think as to how I really wanted to use the space.

Initially I decided that just for once I wouldn't rush at it and I would live with it for a year and see how I actually did use it and then see what was needed to make that work.  That lasted about two days and were off looking for trellis and an arch!

We did very well and came away with a double bargain (by sheer fluke) from Newbank.  We had hunted all over the place for the trellis to match what we already had.  We knew it was unlikely we'd find it because we'd had a similar job a couple of years ago. After buying our first lot of trellis (from Newbank) and were told that it had come from Poland (???) and it wasn't available any more; at that time we were lucky to find an odd piece at Newbank which wasn't quite what I wanted but did the job.  At the same time as the great trellis search we were also sussing out various arches.  The spread of prices and quality was huge.  Back to Newbank to buy the cheapest arch we'd seen which would do the job.  We knew it would as, again, we'd used one at our previous home (in the third garden I'd done from scratch!)  This was £49 but was the last one and we got it for less - I'd tell you how much if I could remember. As before there was no joy on the trellis as it had not been sold for some years.  Then I spotted some used, old, weathered pieces on a trolley in a work area which they had recently taken down from various display areas and replaced with new stuff.  They looked as though they were just waiting to be scrapped so I set off to ask if I could buy them.  An executive decision later and they were ours for £15 instead of £60.

My valiant husband then did battle,often between showers, and in a couple of days the entrance was complete.  Then just by happenchance, as these things often are, I was at Boscow nurseries (for a mooch) and came across Lady Boothby.  To explain; this isn't one of my many titled friends (!!) but a climbing fuchsia. A couple of years ago I had fallen in love with one at my favourite garden - Wollerton Old Hall and was keen to get one. Yet again in another amazing co-incidence shortly afterwards my sister bought me one for my birthday.  We took all ten feet of it to lunch in Manchester - but that's another story. Then last year following the hard winter I was convinced it had given up the ghost and dug it up.  My sister left hers in and it is thriving!!!  Since then not only was I bereft of Lady B but also dying of envy.  When I saw four of them at Boscow at only £2.50 each it was as if it was meant to be.  A pair of these for the new trellis was a given.

Our utility area, as it is now named, houses the three - soon to become four!! - dustbins (do you know about this?), a greenhouse, bags of potting compost, a great watering system for all and sundry, a huge box for chair cushions and (for this year only [oh yes!] pots of vegetables. It will soon have a rotary line too.  The parasol base in the photo is to be replaced with the usual tube in the ground.  The brolly base was just to test out the theory.  We will use it to take the overflow we sometimes have when we do the washing.  If it works OK and the washing actually dries there it will become our main one and then we won't have to have the washing spoiling the garden on Mondays!!!  Obsessive - moi?

We added a couple of lounger type chairs to the ex-BBQ space.  These were also a bargain from Argos - not made to last a lifetime but cheap for wooden ones at £90 the pair and do the job very nicely.  All the chairs have cushions I was just to lazy to put them out for the photograph.

I forgot to mention the greenhouse.  This was another "I don't want one of those", quickly  followed by - ''That's a bit of a bargain, I think I'll have one of those''.  We were at B & Q doing other stuff and I spotted the 6' x 4' polypropylene greenhouse for £185 (after our wrinkly discount).  By the way, the large warehouse B & Q in Bury only offer that discount on Wednesdays unless you ask (!) and then they'll let you have it.  Go figure!  The Crostons B & Q let you have it every day.  As for the greenhouse, I have never seen anything with so many pieces - hundreds of bits and bobs.  Husband (mostly) got it up and running fairly quickly and I am (unexpectedly) thrilled to little bits with it.  I wanted it for raising seedlings in April when we get back.  I started with a small, green, loose-cover job the first year and then bought a bigger one last year and still didn't have enough room.  They haven't gone to waste as the shelving fits the new greenhouse perfectly and has saved me having to buy staging.  We added a small potting bench which also fits perfectly.  Argos and B & Q sell them.  I thought I'd toss in some bits and bobs of plants I'd already got, such as the peppers and basil plants I was going to grow outside, rather than let it stand empty.  Something worth mentioning here in case it happens to you...  I had a four foot tomato plant all raring to go and I broke it getting it out of my old greenhouse.  There was a three inch stump of the stem remaining - no leaves, nothing.  I put it in the greenhouse out of curiosity and within a little over a week I had a two foot tomato plant.  It is now a good deal taller than that and flowering.  Like the (bargain) potatoes in pots which I planted miles too late this late tomato has romped away to almost catch up its predecessor.  I have also added some tiny strawberry plants (Mignonette) and started some dill.  I also started some lettuce, radish,beetroot and carrots in there as an experiment and to get them up to speed before putting them outside.  It is such fun and with a bit of thinking about it should be really useful next year.

We've stapled my usual green coated chicken wire to the fence panels where the loungers are and planted some climbers that I've moved from the patio area.  They were plants that I was moving any way because, again also by luck and excellent timing, when we were away last week in Lincoln we visited Belmont House (NT) and they had just one Blush Noisette rose which I've been waiting to buy to match the brilliant goer that I already have on one of the patio trellises.  It was going to cost me something like twenty to thirty quid from Peter Beales where my original one came from.  This one cost £7.50. The moved plants may or may not survive in that spot but I am hoping the jasmine Beesianum and clematis (Josephine Evijohill) will have enough sense to find their way to the outside of the fence they are planted against as directly under their feet it is pretty much solid concrete - necessary to haunch up the slabs when the patio was built.  I do have a fall back plan if they fail: I will remove them, the soil, the wire and just hang pots on the fence instead.  I'd much prefer permanent planting as I am trying to avoid  having to plant up any more pots each year.  It is costly to do and hard work maintaining them.  I love pots of annuals but I don't like the maintenance.

So.....  job well done.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

July Veggies

It takes until July for me to begin to get some pay back from the veggie garden but it is lovely when it does and worth the wait.  I'm under no illusion that I make any impact on my grocery shopping with the small amounts I grow but it is lovely to have one part of your garden actually producing something for you other than just lying there looking beautiful.

The peas are already pulled up but they have been fantastic this year.  We eat many of them just by picking a few here and there when we are in the garden and munching them there and then so they don't often get as far as a saucepan.  I picked two crops of around 2 lbs which did actually get cooked and some were frozen.  Both were really lovely.  This was a pleasing size crop for petit pois.  The real surprise is that there hasn't been a single pea discarded - this is to be taken literally - not one pea was flawed in any way.  Remarkable.  

The 100% success rate moved on to the first potato lifting too.  A while back I emptied one of the four bins I'd planted with what I thought was the earlies.  The whole bin gave us one meal of marble sized potatoes.  I later realised I'd lifted one of the King Edward bins which are, of course, lates.  What an idiot.  Happily last week when I emptied the right bin I had a great crop of (again) 100% perfect potatoes.  No discards and no blemishes of any sort on them.  The variety is called Annabelle and if this was an example of what they can do I heartily recommend them.  Creamy, waxy new potatoes whose skin you can rub off with your fingers should you want to.  They cooked in about ten minutes and were lovely with the peas and baked haddock (not smoked!) and caper sauce.  I cooked double the amount I needed so that the other half could be used the next day. These were yummy sautéed in a little olive oil and unsalted butter with the left overs from a home roasted ham lightly fried and an egg.  The yield was good.  I got six to eight meals from three seed potatoes; also they were pretty evenly sized.   I split them into two different sized groups and that worked fine.  This result was even more pleasing as these were my bargain rescue potatoes which I'd put in a month late and didn't hold out much hope for.  They have been cropped earlier than the ones in the garden.  I can recommend growing them in a bin if this was an example of what they can do.

My cauliflowers look as though they are doing what they always do....  the ones I have left are getting smothered with cabbage white butterfly eggs.  I know you have to net brassicas but as I've said before I want the throw it in and see what it does type of veg growing. We did have the first early one - small but perfectly formed but looking at the remaining ones I'm not sure what we might get from them.  Does anyone have a companion plant suggestion or anything else which is an easy solution to protect brassicas from the butterfly fiend?  Please share it here.

The rhubarb has sorted itself out really well.  I moved it from sunlight to shade and it has quadrupled in size and health.  I have half of yesterday's rhubarb crumble in the fridge as I speak in testament to its bounty.  Rhubarb and ginger jam next year if it keeps going as it is.

The square foot garden was fun and initially I thought it was a great idea.  I still do think it would be a lovely idea for children to do because they could grow lots of different things in a small identifiable space.  For me? not so good.  After three years of doing this I now know I want to stick to a few basics which are easy and successful so my square foot garden will comeback into the game as a brassica (cauliflowers and broccoli) bed next year.  Maybe I'll even net it (!!!) 

The patio is home to pots of strawberries - all sorts of varieties so we get ongoing production.  The word production is a bit of a joke as all we get is the occasional foraged strawberry as we putter about the garden - not a single serving as yet!  Right now I am living in hopes as the ever-bearers are coming into their second flush and are full of flowers.  Fingers crossed.  I have also just bought six small Mignonette plants which I am going to try in the greenhouse.  As these produce a tiny fruit, like a wild strawberry, they will only be used as an addition to a salad or dessert.  That said they have a lovely flavour and appearance.  I have just pegged down half a dozen runners off a couple of the large plants (Elsanta and Calypso) to get some new plants for next year but already I am wondering if I want to be overrun with strawberry pots everywhere for such a small return.

The runner and French beans still have to come into production. I have one (!) decent runner bean at the moment - heaven knows what I can do with that.  Watch this space.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Jefferson and Susan's Garden, Sunday 24th July 2011

This is the most fantastic garden and well worth a trip for anyone.  Don't be misled by the front of a fairly ordinary house - just wait until you get round the back.  I won't spoil it for you with photos. I saw it last year in light showers and last Sunday in none stop torrential rain so I may pop back for a sunshine visit on Sunday if that yellow thing is actually in the sky!

 Just a reminder about the open garden this Sunday, the weather looks good so it should be a good day
Please Park on the Main Road
Jefferson & Susan’s

Open Garden for Charity

24 July 12 – 5pm

23 Dalesford Haslingden
Rossendale BB4 6QH
Tea & Cakes in Cafe
Sorry no Dogs - Strong Shoes -
We have a young but very interesting garden on many levels
English and Mediterranean Style, Long Borders and Interesting Features.
Japanese Garden, Outdoor Chess, Ponds.
Steel Sculptures and Art Studio.
We are supporting:
Rochdale Hedgehog Rescue - Lancashire Wildlife Trust & the Smile Train
                                                                                                                              Please Donate £3.00