Tulips past and present

It is late November now and this week I have been out in the garden planting new tulip bulbs – I want to bolster the displays of some flower beds and just fancied a change of colour in others.

It is November and you are supposed to plant tulip bulbs out quite late in the year like this to prevent ‘tulip fire’ – a fungal disease that can spread in Autumn’s wet and warm soil.  Mind you, you are also supposed to lift all bulbs six weeks after they’ve flowered and then store them in dark dry place every summer before replanting in late Autumn… but my back doesn’t have the stamina for all that, so unless I needed to dig a bed or container over, then our garden bulbs have just stayed in the ground.

I do wonder if sometimes garden care instructions can be overly cautious. Especially with bulbs.  Last year for example, a leak in our shed roof caused my prize new Dutch bulbs, that were stored underneath the leak, to go quite mouldy.  Gardening books would of had you throw the bulbs away, but I stripped back the paper on the affected bulbs, peeled or cut out any really badly affected areas and then washed them in a shallow sink of water mixed with a capful of bleach.  Judge for yourself if the resulting display earlier this year was worth the effort!

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Royal Horticultural Society workshop day @ RHS Garden Wisley

Without mentioning names,  *someone* did very well indeed with this year’s Christmas present: A workshop training day run by and taking place at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden in Wisley, Surrey (South UK). This place is beautiful and run by knowledgeable staff who are regularly brought in to provide expert advice in the UK’s gardening press and on TV.

The day was called ‘What now?’ and was designed to talk attendees through the different jobs to do in the garden during March/April in Spring.  We also got a bit of a tour of the Wisley’s Spring gardens too, which were gorgeous and clearly attended to meticulously.

Below I’ve pasted jpgs of my notes from the day (prepare to get slightly nerdy about Ph levels and fertiliser) – and then the blog post is back on even ground with lots of pretty pictures 🙂

Enjoy!

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Bulb planting. Ouch, my back!

Today I planted up a flower bed at the end garden just in front of the cabin. As you can see there quite a few bulbs to go in the ground, I’ve got something to pop up every month for about 5 months next year:

Snowdrops flowering from January to March.
Miniature narcissus flowering from March to April.
White and maroon fritillaria meleagris flowering from March to April.
White triumph tulips flowering in April or May.
White dicentra (bleeding heart) flowering from April til June.
A selection of white and purple alliums flowering in May or June.
And finally 3 beautiful calla aethiopica lilies flowering from May until October.

The snowdrops, daffodils and fritillaria should provide interest in the darkest months. The long fronds of white bleeding hearts from the dicentra will hopefully have beautiful impact in amongst a sea of white tulips. The calla lilies nestling under the fronds of the tall ostrich ferns will be quite striking if the tall,  curling ferns get up to their full height this year.  And who doesn’t like tall spikes of allium hovering above the mêlée and bobbing in the breeze?

Of course, the only thing is that it took sometime to plant! My back will be grateful for a spot of putting my feet up later this evening…

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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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Standard Wisteria

Here we have it, from hole in  the ground to feature tree seat!

I’ve learnt that a ‘standard’ in gardening is basically anything that if it grew naturally by itself then it would be a bush (a shrub). But if every year the lower branches are lopped off it then it can be trained to look, in effect, like a tree.

Here we have a white wisteria standard that is about 5-7 years old. It did flower this spring but unfortunately that was before I got to put it in the ground.  It has about 5 foot of clear stem before the branches begin so that when you can sit on the seat under it with a bit of headroom.

Underneath the wisteria I’ve used Spanish white pebbles (large) and we’ve planted 2 albus (white) thyme plants and 2 black dragon ornamental grasses. Over time the thyme will creep over and around the pebbles. So when you tread on it to sit on the bench,  you’ll release it’s scent.

The colour of the black dragon grass contrasts nicely with the white thyme and stone. It will provide movement also when there is a breeze.  After the wisteria flowers I will have green leaves that will drop during autumn, but hopefully the weeping shape of the branches will hold to catch the frost gracefully in winter.  Finally, when the flowers are out in spring time, there’ll be a lovely perfume when you take a seat.

All good!

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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.