Chelsea – Seventh heaven / wonder of the world

The Chelsea Flower Show – add it to your bucket list!

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The season is turning

The season is definitely turning.  I know because today was the first day that our cat Molly hung out with me in the garden, quite content quietly pattering around me, finding various good vantage points to observe from. The key word in there for anyone that’s not met our cat, is ‘quietly’.  She’d let you know if she felt she should be getting more attention.

So I planted out some giant snowdrops,  bought ‘in the green’. Apparently these have more of a success rate than just planting bulbs – although my bulbs of the common smaller snowdrops came out just fine. And that was after I left them out unplanted for a fortnight longer than you’re supposed to and they got a little mouldy so I had to rinse them in a *very* diluted lot of bleach and water. Anyway, hopefully these will settle in well. I’ve planted them in clumps this time in the largest flowerbed by the cabin (though I kept 5 or 6 back for the windowsill box) – so they should have a little more impact than the scattered effect the single  drops have had, when even though I planted 100 they still appear quite sparse. Hopefully that’ll improve over the years as they multiply out.

What else? The first daffs in the garden have appeared in the window box. I planted some sporaxis bulbs in the raised bed (from the 99p shop!) to provide some height and colour before the crocosmia comes out in September.  Gave the lawn it’s first cut, edge and scarify (scraping with a fine rake), got loads of dry/dead grass out.  Hope that will help it to bounce back from the winter as it gets a bit of sun to the growing leaves,  now the thatch is gone. That might not be enough for the back bit,  which had suffered with some damp/water logging (possible drainage issues) and under the mulch which blew onto it. We have sporadically poked drainage holes in it through the winter… Guess we’ll see.  If it doesn’t recover then we can consider taking more drastic measures if need be next year.

Now, in another sign of the times, I’m sitting with my feet up in the cabin – where it is warm and sunny enough to have both sets of doors propped open for the first time this year.

Enjoy the pics.

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Our Kitchen windowsill box & other pots & troughs in Winter through Spring

Technically, the cyclamen in our windowsill box are indoors cyclamen, however they are hardy to around -4°C and seem to have been relatively happy on the outdoor kitchen windowsill of our terraced (and therefore sheltered) side return. l covered them with a few plastic bags on the couple of occasions when the temperature really dropped and occasionally plucked off new bud stems that the frost got (you could tell because they simply never opened!) … and as you can see, they’ve pretty much come through unscathed; since the plants simply put their energy into creating new flower stems that had more luck weather-wise! I think they look quite pretty with the multicoloured heathers. These winters heathers were originally all pink as they were sprayed by the garden centre that colour, however new growth comes through in the plant’s natural white flower to pretty effect.

Clearly though, the most exciting aspect of the pots at the moment, is the promise of Spring! Lots of lovely things have started sprouting in the last 2-3 weeks. Daffodils, crocuses and even the odd tulip (not really due til May) are all there, poking through. The pansies are not quite in flower yet, which is a bit of a disappointment – but my fault really for planting them out so late that the autumn warmth had long left the ground. Hopefully they’ll fill out soon and start to bloom with their ‘cat’s whiskers’ faces in amber and gold. I will, of course, keep you updated!

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Last of the summer bedding.

I have mentioned that I am a novice gardener, right?

I went outside earlier this week and saw that my deadheading wasn’t having it’s usual restorative effect on the petunias. In fact some have just flopped! My first thought? Watering. I’ve clearly not been watering them enough and they are thirsty… but then I remembered that it has rained this week and noticed that actually, some of the new petunia flowers are coming out in much smaller sized flowers than they used to be…

Then it occurred to me – yes, 3 months of reading weekly editions of Gardening News and a collection of the charity shop’s finest from the gardening section clearly prepared me well –

‘THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN OUR FIRST FROST, SUMMER IS OVER!’

And so before it all disappears, here are some pics from my courtyard garden in the side return.

Summer bedding, class of 2014:

The silvery stuff is great, grows prolifically and is happy to be raided for cuttings to fill out flower arrangements.

The silvery stuff is great, grows prolifically and is happy to be raided for cuttings to fill out flower arrangements.

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This white petunia absolutely loved living in my chimney pot planter. This is the result of just one bedding plant plug! Clearly this must be a vigorous specimen as the purple vein petunias particularly and the double purple velvet didn’t grow nearly as well or as fast. Perhaps it is the deeper soil than in windowboxes and hanging baskets? Incase you are wondering: the tall red bells with white throats are penstamons. They are perennial (so I should just be able to leave them where they are and they’ll appear again next year) and have flowered continuously with the minimum of encouragement. For white petunias again next year, I am relying on my cutting propagating.

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Choosing your gardener/landscaper/own personal artist

Today is the day for the planting! I had some wonderful people come round and visit my garden to quote on the planting. All were very enthusiastic about the direction it was going in.  After quotes and ideas were tendered I took some time to consider a) whether I really wanted to spend money getting a contactor to do the job (doubt is forever present!) and b) who to go with.

I had an expensive quote, a reasonable quote,  a quote that never arrived as the contractor had such a lot on and also a contractor that politely declined the job as they felt it was a bit beyond their knowledge level, given that I had quite a defined list of ‘wants’/vision for the garden.

I have to admit that I also did take some time post quotes also to really consider whether this was a job that I could not manage myself. I did a lot of gardening book work and reading to see if I could suss it out … but every time I went to take myself to the nursery to order plants, I found I just had more questions than I did before.

So I went with the contracting. I am so pleased I did! I found that my new and improved plant knowledge meant that I could much more meaningfully engage with my plantsman when agreeing the planting list – which was a wonderful,  enjoyable process. We discussed ideas for plants and he made lots of great suggestions before submitting planting lists for me to check through and agree.

It was time spent just going through colours, shapes and textures of plants. A process being coordinated *just for me*. Much as with RTL (the landscaper), this process of bringing in expertise has been a creative one – much like commissioning artists – you want to employ someone you can work with on a practical level (including the ability to have a constructive disagreement), someone you can afford/who is prepared to work to your budget,  and also someone who ‘gets you’. Someone who is prepared to work to your style, provide insight and expertly shape your plans along the way.