I’ve been meaning to head to Hyde Hall for longer than I care to share, it’s been on the ever growing list and because it’s not all THAT far away there was a certain level of guilt that I hadn’t made the effort.
As we skidded into the end of April, and my looming birthday, a pal and I booked a day together tramping the big beautiful dry gardens of the very East of England. RHS Hyde Hall followed by Beth Chatto Gardens.
What a day we picked, for windy East of England was at it’s very windiest, gusting burst skudding in from the North East whisking hair totally out of place and unzipped coats aflap.
It seems a bit disconnected to me the modern new visitors centre snuggled at the base of the hill looking up towards the old buildings which were presumably once a farmstead, perched on top the hill giving a perfect view of the surrounding countryside but exposing itself to brutal ‘weather’. The distance between has been and is being planted, deep wide beds sprawling across the hillside filled with shrubs, woody and herbaceous perennials and on this day a gaggle of gardening staff and volunteers (we counted 9 on that first windward bank).
What strikes is how robust all these plants must be to resist such gusty onslaughts (avg wind speed in April is around 50kpm). Add to that it’s going to be on the drier side with sloping ground and high transpirations rates from wind and sun exposure and these plants start to look pretty hardy, indestructible and highly garden worthy.
In planting design we are often advised to “go with the tried and tested”, the indestructibles, “right plant, right place” and all that, which is a reliable course of action. Of course plants, some plants, are a good deal more flexible and determined than plant encyclopaedia would have us believe. ‘Live’ examples such as these borders demonstrate the versatility in some unexpected varieties.
Salix (Willow) has long been coppiced for functional use of material and more recently for decorative colour in winter months. These Salix sculptures show off the plant in a quirky and creative manner and had me wondering the how and when, not to mention what will it look like in full summer.
A new Dry garden flanked the ‘old’ and had suffered from both wet, last year, and extended cold this winter and spring. More volunteers were pulling out non-survivors but again the thriving mounds of unexpected toughies had me scribbling in my notebook. The Iris bucharica, one of the Juno’s, looks deceptively delicate, the unspoiled fresh growth of the Euphorbia myrsinites belies the exposed site. From here the views are expansive over to the north and east, stretching for several miles and reminds one that there is a cold wind blowing.
Neatly tucked into the exposed hillside is a dry stone wall, making the most of the views with several opportunistic plants huddled on the leeward side
with Papaver and Aubretia brave the windward side.
At the top of the dry gardens sits a gloriously scented and not commonly seen Wattle, at least that’s what they are commonly called in Australia where I smelt my first hedge of them. Acacia pravissima is in bloom and flavouring the air with rich spicy scents.
The gardens reaching behind the hill feel far more sheltered full of woodland planting, bog loving tax odium with it’s ‘knees’ up and damp plantings of Cornus and Salix all scattered with spring bulbs.
Once through the Camelia and highly scented Skimmia walk a new looking gabion wall, filled meticulously with horizontal slabs, surrounds a sunken garden of tree ferns and and rodgersias. Plenty more to come in the summer months.
The road, or path in this case, less travelled. Pine woods banking the North Norfolk coast at Wells-next-the-Sea. Made up of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), Maritime pine(Pinus pinaster) and Corsican Pine (Pinus nigra var. maritima)
Well we have all been waiting for the spring to arrive and FINALLY after weeks of freezing cold, miserable and not so miserable days it finally arrive with a whoosh this week. To be frank I was beginning to despair, clucking over recalcitrant seeds lurking under their blanket of compost refusing to poke out in what was effectively still mid winter. And really who could blame them. Then last weekend out came the sun, up shot the temperature and low and behold it was spring.
I live next to a tree filled park, an enormous beech towers over both house and garden, heralding the change of season with remarkable clarity. Light flood through in winter when the branches are bare, a green dappled light in spring as the steadily rising sun filters through the newly forming, slowly unfurling lime coloured leaves, then summers haze of shady hours and autumns mounds of crisp brown leaf matter, cluttering borders, corners, path and gutters. It’s no surprise then that its rush to burst out with green frothy leaf age is noticeable.
Alongside this green flutters delicate pink and white as the fruit trees blossom, magnolia show off chunky blooms and Amelanchier pushes pink leaves up behind pale white blossom.
Not bad for one week!
I must admit to being the most terrible Orchid killer. I’ve been given several over the last few years and all have died except the last, a Cimbidium. Perhaps this was due to ‘not paying due care and attention’ to them or simply leaving it too the point of drooping leaves and dried out crackling compost before emergency care measures kick in.
Care labels never really give you enough info, it’s all a bit bland and perfect. I don;t live in a green house, or indeed an orchid friendly house it would seem. But a final attempt seems to be going ok, not brilliantly but as I patiently obsess over whether the flourishing leafy Cimbidium will in fact flower or simply continue to grow new leaves I am please at least that it hasn’t died!!
I recall Sarah Raven on GW a few years back advising that even moving an orchid (a Phalenopsis I think) from shop to car and car to house around the time of UK Mother’s day (early March) might be enough to kill it off if there’s a stiff breeze and wintry blasts. So no cold then. Another tidbit sunk in from somewhere (!) on the use of rainwater ONLY and the odd drizzle of water draining through when it’s dry not drowning it weekly. It lives in trees so watering would happen in the wild when water runs down a tree trunk or off a leaf branch. The last week on GW Monty was at RHS Wisely where they have a glorious exhibition of their Orchidacae collection and the news from this piece was that not only do they not like cold blasts, soggy roots or tap water but they don’t like dry radiator heat either. **GROAN** So my Cimbidium sitting on the dining room table basking in the sun for the first part of the day and wallowing over the, up to 20 degrees, radiator is not it’s preferred option either. I’ve since added some gravel and a little water beneath to make it at least more humid.
Following a client presentation just off J11 on the M25 on Saturday I skidded up to Wisley and the big Orchid laden glass house as the clock moved on towards 16:30. Driving rain, horizontal winds and scudding clouds were not enough to put me off, though I barely made it round as the glass house closed at 17:10. What surprised me is that my Cimbidium and indeed the Phalenopsis were in the cooler part of the glass house, not the steamy humid, glasses wiping part, though there may have been some varieties in there, I was moving to fast to take notes! So in fact my dining room is the perfect temp for them, just a little extra moisture and some new compost with a drizzle of orchid friendly food in the rain water and maybe just maybe this year I might get a flower spike.
At the beginning of Autumn it is easy to tell myself that the grasses and herbaceous perennials with good seed heads and strongish stems will look good throughout the winter months.
Bringing a hint of glamour with each over night frosty dip and a certain charming collapsed-ness as you look out of the kitchen window on a snowy morning. Then comes the turning point when collapsed-ness turns into total devastation and mush, blackened by the cold and liquified by the rain the foliage is no longer glamorous but distinctly untidy.
By nature not a tidy person (no, really, I am not!) this shouldn’t really bother me and as long as I don’t wander into my garden it doesn’t, too much. But February moves on and this week it’s brought some sun and MILD weather and out have come the daffs, more snowdrops and lots more forgotten favourites, poking out of the ground into the watery sunshine. It’s becomes just too tempting NOT to go out and poke around to see what has survived and emerged.
Finding myself standing in the tiny town garden behind my house yesterday was all it took to launch me into choppy action. Wintery collapse had done it’s best and with the spate of mild weather many perennial plants are underway for 2013. Down came the Sedum stalks with little mounds of new growth bursting through at their base, swiftly followed by the brittle stems of the once floaty Miscanthus‘ and Agastache.
The Balotta growth spurt just after Christmas had come a cropper in the snow, turning yellowish grey and withering, pruned out to reveal soft new greenery.
Chopped to the base the blacked stems and fluffy seed heads of the Asters revealing timny new plants that will bring this years clouds of lilac. All into the compost bin alongside the woody tips of a soon to be thickened out Hydrangea and a rogue branch of the Wigela Florida. Lastly the Hypericum stems were coppiced to the stump, not strictly necessary but it’s such a beast and if not kept under rigid control it rather takes over one corner of the patch.
There is a certain satisfaction piling clippings and dead matter on the strip of lawn as my secateurs and I whirl through the borders, them cutting and revealing, me trying not to stand on emerging shoots. Chopping the debris into pieces and dropping them in the recently emptied composter provides a staisfying end to the spring chop, clutter clearing the wintery decorative structures and making way for spring.
It’s about that time of year when people who love their gardens and the process of growing start getting a bit antsy about the weather. Not being able to get outside due to inclement weather is one of the things that drives me nuts at this time of year although being a pro now I do go out in far more inclement weather than I would if I didn’t have to. At heart I am a fair weather gardener to which my neighbours will happily attest!
Nevertheless even at this time of the year when it’s snowing or freezing temps or yet more rain (we’re Brits, I know we should be used to this by now…) the plethora of juicy seed catalogues start plopping onto the door mat as if too entice us towards the sultry months ahead (ok sultry in my dreams, more likely to be damp and cool followed by more damp and more cool, if we’re lucky there will be a spate of simply scorching days to which we will hark for years to come).
I usually start planning the veg plot in October November time, partly as I feel I’ll miss it somehow unless I plan well in advance and then there is obtaining the rare seed that I like to attempt each year and the paranoia that it will all go if I don’t order early. Suffice to say with leftover seeds from last year(s!) and this irrational collecting behaviour I am usually vegetable seeded up by Christmas. But not so of the flowery seeds.
Inevitably the media tempters will start showing gardening programmes around February that display last years bounty. This year travels of Monty here and the abundance in Glebe cottage there and to boot an A-Z of gardening which brings all the old programmes back to haunt us through the ‘down time’ in the gardening year. For research purposes I HAVE to watch all the programmes (No, I do!) and am consequently tempted beyond comprehension with all the possible flowering things there are to grow in the coming summer.
From experience I now know some of these little blighters need a VERY early start and to miss this = fail before you even get it in the ground. Last year I had stunning Nicotiana mutabilis that produced fat globular rosettes of leaves, juicy and lush and not one of the blooming things flowered, not ONE! Mainly I suspect because combined with my late start, (May as I recall) the weather was vile and we barely had sun for more than an hour about three times (slight exaggeration but you get my point. Late start + bad weather = no flowers. This year? HaHa they are already in the seed tray in the heated propagator, which will undoubtedly lead to leggy little monsters that flop at the first sign of a draft.
So back to seed catalogues. There are so many but personal favourites this year are:
Sarah Raven - slightly pricey but wonderful and unusual varieties.
Real Seed Catalogue – if you haven’t tried them do, they have a great ethic and some wonderfully rare seeds on offer, plus the advice is excellent and works.
I’m looking forward to the Bishop’s Children Dhalia’s and some black skinned, lime flavoured Tomatillo the most and not pinning too many hopes on a second round of Nicotiana mutabilis…. What are you looking forward to growing this year?
I am feeling slightly flat today having missed posting yesterday. ‘One a month’ was the original mantra, I missed Jan 2013 by a whisker of activity. Ho Hum, not going to give myself a hard time about it but ho hum!
So Hippeastrum…You’re probably wondering why on earth I would be writing about this rather kitsch plant that seems to pop up over the winter months (Oct to Jan blooming time) looking all blousey in your mother-in-laws kitchen/conservatory/dining room.
Well let me say that I inherited one from a family member. It was given to them as a gift about 4 Christmas’ ago and had been lurking in it’s increasingly tatty box in the garage unplanted and un-loved. I noticed it trying to poke it’s foliage into the light during the annual debris clear out in the garage 3 years ago. Being a bit of a collector, I can never resist an ambitious plant, and being thrifty (read mean) I can’t bear to throw potential away without trying. So I took it home and potted it up in the pot provided. It sat on the cold window sill and went onto produce not one but two spectacular stems with enormous stripey pink and cream flowers. Not so fleeting – a good 3 or 4 weeks in flower and in return I buried the whole pot in the partially shaded border for the spring and summer months, leaving leafage and feeding along with other shrubs and bulb-ery in that part of the garden. Low and behold more leaves appeared and the bulb grew, ish. At the end of Autumn I duly took it inside not wanting it to turn to mush in the sub-zeros we had last year and molly coddled it hoping for a spectacular show as the year before.
Not a bit of it, oh it thrived, leafed up and sucked up water, leafed up some more but no flower spike I will admit to feeding it at the sight of each new leaf (they look like flower spikes in the first few days) but not a single flower spike emerged. Having a remarkably short attention span for plants that don’t ‘do’ what they’re supposed to it was consigned to an east facing windowsill for the rest of the winter and then plonked in the ‘do something with’ shady border, under a rampant clematis for the rest of last year.
During this years autumn clear up I discovered it was quite happily lurking with 3 or 4 leaves tattered and bent from slug attention and neglect. This time I’d read up on the old hippeastrum and swiftly cut back the leaves potted it on to a 2ltr pot with fresh compost mix and brought it inside, “one last chance” I told it, “if you don’t flower this year you’re compost!”
Now I’m not a big conversationalist when it comes to dialogue with my plants but on occasion I have been known to threaten such things and even tell them how beautiful they are, with not much small talk in between. I’ll be honest I have never noticed one jot of difference in a plants behavior following such chats but, well some of you might. Christmas came and went, New Year came and went, nothing. Lush juicy leafage but no sign of a flower stalk. Then after a particularly cold weekend away I returned home to the makings of a flower stalk. The stem seems to lurch in growth, not so much steady increments but 6 inches one week and nothing the next. I am a sporadic water-er and feeder so no doubt this will have everything to do with it but maybe not, maybe this Hippeastrum is just contrary and likes doing it it’s own way. About ten days later the first flower unfurled. HUGE. Honestly it is the size of my hand span (size 7 glove) a softer reddy pinky creamy than I recall and flowery. Then flower number two emerged fattening up and up until one dark night the whole thing keeled over into the money plant, tipping soil all over the place. Staking was required. I pinched the green stick from the Orchid I am also attempting to coax into re-flowering and tied three lots of string around at even intervals up the chunky stem, it seems to be holding nicely. Bloom two was no less magnificent, no less blousey, ok possibly a tad more gaudy. Finally bloom three popped out pushing towards the opposite direction and balancing the whole perfectly. Flower one is still perfect, flower three is emerging (takes about a day) and I am wondering how long it will all last.
Of course because it’s so in your face flouncy I am thinking of purchasing another to complement it, and take up more window space and frustrate me in the coming years. Though this time having done my homework and discovered they need 6-8 weeks of cold (10 degrees C) and a spot of drying out, simulating a dormant period in the growing phase. Once dormancy is done and leaves begin to poke up, it’s into faking spring/summer mode for the plant, upping the temp to a healthy 15-18 (i.e move it to a lived in room) and begin the feeding and careful watering. Careful watering is so as not to rot the bulb and of course as a horticulturalist I should say I do this, I don’t I am slack, the hippeastrum is forgiving, one thing I do make sure of is that it doesn’t sit in or on water, I park it in half a sink of water for 20 mins then drain it for an hour on the drainer, sit it back on it’s dish until I remember again it needs watering.
At the time of posting the third flower is still out some 3 weeks later. Well worth the effort.