Friday, 19th April, 2019, Prosilio. CORFU

For a change I can talk about two successes at Prosilio. When we arrived the whole wall of the courtyard was covered with the yellow Banksian rose, and how it stopped you in your tracks. It only went in two years ago, and looks so beautiful and very healthy. In Corfu you do not have to spray your roses, in fact things get planted and then forgotten about. Water is what they really need, as quite often it does not rain for four months which is very testing. I think our watering system furred up years ago, The tumble down walls on the property, which is about five acres, have all been rebuilt by Dmitri, and look splendid giving a lot of structure as you drive up the drive. The whole place is about five acres. The second success is our Echiums, there are fourp clumps of them and I was looking down the slope from the terrace and my heart jolted at the sight of three or four blue visions. Last year they looked so dead that I was about to get Giannis to get them out.

The first week we were here it did nothing but rain, apparently in a week it rained for the whole winter. It did make things a lot easier for me as I was weeding some newly planted rosemary round an old olive tree. I was coaxing it into life last year when it was not raining at all. Now thank goodness it has taken, and the rain helped me to do some weeding without wrecking myself. James is doing some what he calls cutting down the bottom, which is a huge help because I could not do that. He likes taming a landscape, rather than weeding. Gardening is so different here as it takes time to learn what is going to grow successfully on basically rock. The Kermes oak though pretty, is a pest, as it seeds everywhere, like in between walls, but it is evergreen and makes everything look natural. When we arrived here, fifteen years ago, there were no cypresses at all. We have a lot now and they are quick growing.

The best thing of all here is the view of the sea, Avlaki Bay, and Albania. The sky is so amazingly blue, it is really a paradise.

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April 9th, 2019

Tomorrow afternoon we are going to Corfu, and I hope I don’t miss all the tulips which are starting to open out. Sanne, which is in the Klimt border, is now running all down the border looking very pretty, and repeating well. Cornus controversa has been in leaf for sometime, whereas Cornus alternifolia argentea is not showing yet. The shape of those two Cornuses is quite beautiful winter or summer, and if you are starting a garden you must plant one of these two. For a small garden, we have seven magnolias, and I have just ordered another, Black Tulip. I got reminded of it seeing in on Instagram being grown at Holker, and it was a particularly good photograph. I first thought of it about three or four years ago. Spending time in the paddock is almost our prettiest place., Mainly because all the trees we have planted there have matured and they look so pretty in the spring., Tilia Winter Beauty is a mass of red stems, and the red is balanced on the other side by Salix Batsfordiana, which has a thick tree stump from when we did not cut it back early on. It has got huge the Quercus cerris variegatus, and is not in leaf yet. The two trees were planted as whips, and it is almost like a miracle to see them so big. I saw a mature specimen of the Quercus variegatus, at Kerdalo in Britanny, Dianey Binney, of Kiftsgate, sent us there, describing it as the most beautiful garden in the world. At that moment in time it was quite an accurate description. The owner, Prince Wolkonsky, was 90 and still planting. I remember my friend Karen,, saying ‘he is probably having a rest’ and I replied ‘no, gardeners dont rest!’

The hot summer last year was a disaster for my daffodils. So we are giving them fertiliser this year to see if that helps. I am not sure we have the time or the energy to dig out all the blind ones. What have done well are my Leucojums, and my species tulips. My crocuses were not that good and I have seen my fritillaries better, though they seem to have seeded a lot. I think in a way that it is just the critical eye of me and Polly, and i must not look for faults too much, but enjoy what is doing well. It is cold and windy again,, but honestly I will be pleased if it holds things up.

2nd April, 2019

The clocks have gone forward an hour, most things have broken into leaf, and the temperature has dropped 20 degrees. However the best thing of all is that it is actually raining, not hard, but oh how the plants love it, and so do I. We have just got back from staying at Rhiwlas which is James childhood home. It is idyllic, river at the bottom of the garden, surrounded by the mountains of Snowdonia, and ancient Wellingtonias coming up the drive. There are three coal black Scotties which are easy to fall for, they are so individual looking. There is a walled garden which is roughly the size of the whole of my garden, but rabbits galore. I have not forgotten the trouble we had here last year.

The borders are joining up and Polly has finished mulching the autumn border, no mean feat as it is so large, The extraordinary thing is that we have had enough of our own mulch this year. The autumn border has had several changes and I am looking forward to seeing what it turns out like. The middle Miscanthus Yakushima Dwarf has gone which opens up a vista to the avenue of Malus Transitoria. Along the back fence of the autumn border Chaenomeles Moerloosi is flowering. It has to be the prettiest and because it is espaliered it is flowering on both sides which is lovely if you are sitting at the table in the paddock. It is so good I am thinking of planting another one. It seems to come in flower later than my other two, and the fact that it is espaliered makes you notice the flowers more. Tulip Sanne is showing colour in the Klimt border, and is repeating well again. I have to talk briefly about Euphorbias, as we have several and they are so worth growing. What other plants flower or look good for at least seven months. Euphorbia Jacquemontii out the front, particularly pretty, I didn’t know it until I started to grow it. Euphorbia polychroma, it is flowering now and seeds mildly. They do not need lush soil, in fact will succeed in difficult places. That lime green acid colour is very good, and several colours look special with it. I like plants that seed mildly because it makes everything look more natural. Euphorbia donii Amjillasa is probably the best. My magnolias are doing well this year and nothing has been frosted. The best now is Athene, amazing, though I have to wait a few years before it will be a showstopper and gets really big. We had two ladies from the Hardy Plant Society this morning, thinking of coming to us in late September which is one of our best times. I think they will persuade me to join the Hardy Plant Society again, I cant think why I let it go. I like their members as they are knowledgeable and know what they are looking at! Just to tell you all our ferns have been cut back.

15th March, 2019

The days have really got much longer, and both Polly and I are beginning to feel excited about the prospect of next summer, and hopefully how much better the garden is going to be than last year. Last year was frankly difficult, and we have no idea what this year holds for us but it could not be worse! Down the bottom it is going to be quite different, having taken out the huge clump of Miscanthus Yakushima Dwarf which sat in.the middle of the other two in the autumn border, and substituted Aconitum Cloudy (never having grown it before) and Aster Pink Buttons. This was the result of a fruitless trip to a garden festival outside Paris, we were lost all the time, and I was in the back of a tiny car which gave me a bad neck! We have turned what we call the Compost Heap bed into the continuation of the autumn border, put three Miscanthus Malepartus in it and a golden Cotinus, and plenty of asters and a few Helenium Sahins early flowerer. I have been on about this before as it flowers for three months continuously, though for the excitement of this you do have to dead head it. Polly does this in a clump and I am a little more careful.. This year the autumn border is going to have two large patches of Rudbeckia deamii, I loved it last year as it seemed to look beautiful indefinitely, and I mean indefinitely. Why have I been so slow to discover the Rudbeckias I wonder.

While James is away skiing and could not be there to be disapproving, I have gone off to Peter Jones and bought myself a new camera called Panasonic Lumix DC-GX800 with 12-32mm interchangeable lens. It cost £100 less than it said it was going to, and I am going to pick it up today. I wonder what Clive will say, he was pretty rude about my last camera which I thought was funny! It is incredibly light and neat. The long lens will cost £100 more than the original camera so I will hang on and see how I get on without it for the moment. Yesterday I went off to Apple in Regent street, they fixed the problem in 3 seconds and I only had to wait 5 minutes. Anyway next week I have booked myself in for 2 free lessons, which I hope I manage to understand! I can not think why I have not done this before..

Earlier on this week I went to stay with my friend Victoria Wakefield, and we went to see Marina Christopher where I bought some delectable things. My crocus tommasianus Yalta has finally started coming up, over two weeks late. I was going to give up on crocuses!

Thursday, 28th February, 2019

We have had three days of 70 degrees, with blue skies, which gives you a feeling of euphoria and well being. It was a good time to start the new winter border of Salix Irrorata which I first saw at the Cambridge Botanic Garden. Polly managed to dig out two hollies which were inconveniently sitting in the way. and it took her two full days to dig a not very large bed and plant the Salixes. We underplanted them with three white hellebores and two pale yellow ones, and mixed cyclamen Coum. Galanthus Jacquinetta was divided into at least 150 and put in at the back. We are worrying about the lack of rain, as a dry spring is not helpful. At least the Beast from the East has not come back. It is funny, here in England we go on about the weather when we actually have the best climate for gardening with so many diverse things.

I have ordered two expensive terracotta pots. The lily bulbs came from H.W. Hyde & Son. Apparently they should be planted almost straightaway. We need to get special compost for them. I like the idea of them flanking the door of my greenhouse, and am pleased with Mark Griffiths for writing about them and calling my attention to them. They are too exotic to go in any of my borders and it is a good excuse to improve the section outside the greenhouse. I will never forget the attention to detail that Fergus Garrett at Dixter gave to his collection of pots outside the front door. He checked them once a week, unbelievable!

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Monday, 18th February, 2019

Yesterday, a lovely day, I went past the greenhouse and saw slightly to my horror, a squirrel trapped in the cage Polly had put out for a rabbit. I don’t like them, but my heart went out to it pacing up and down in its trap unable to get out. I telephone Polly, which I dont usually do at a weekend, to tell her what had happened. I just left a message but didn’t want to go back to look at it, and kept Tensing and Temba away. The weather is so spring like at the moment that everything is coming on fast. I do hope the Magnolias don’t come out early, and then get frosted.

Polly was working on the Klimt border when I saw hundreds of Muscari, which we decided were better taken out. The word invasive certainly applies to them, and they were cluttering up all the rather choice hellebores which had seeded, and had been there a long time. The hot summer was not all bad last year, as Tulip Linifolia has taken over, something that I want to, and we seem to have a lot more snowdrops than last year. The weather is so good, that I am slowly dividing a few snowdrops, which when it is warm and sunny is quite enjoyable. We are laughing about it, though it is not that funny, as Polly planted 300 Crocus Tommasianus Yalta and virtually nothing is coming up. I just hope that we were not sent the wrong thing. I am always making mistakes with bulbs, and I am not at all sure that they like the turf at the bottom of the steps. Tommasianus seem to get blown all over the place, in quite strange abodes. I carefully move a clump, and today I notice that all their heads have been bitten off, is it rabbits, mice or birds? Take your pick, annoying!

5th February, 2019

I am amazed that I am finding plenty to write about in what I regard as the depths of Winter still. Polly has worked her way down to what we call the Burgundy border. This is a small border at the bottom of the bank leading across to the Klimt bed. We introduced Pennisetum Macrourum to this bed some time ago, not realising that we were giving the above good soil and it was turning it into a Monster. What it has done is gone underground with the most terrifying looking roots and bobbed up even in the middle of a prize delphinium. Polly has had to remove a large section of this plant, even begging me if we could think again. At the moment I have said no, as we would not get the same effect with any other grass (ie natural). Poor Polly this bed is nothing but trouble for her. First of all it was the Camassias, followed by Allium Globemaster, which have been joined by Allium Purple Sensation and Albo Pilosum (a few)., What you have to remember is that this is a smallish bed. It includes Agapanthus Windsor Grey, which extraordinarily enough does not seem to mind being swamped with Alliums and Camassias earlier on. I would guess Graham Gough, who sells it and recommended it to me, does not have the same problem, and I seem to remember gardens on yellow clay. It might have a tougher time there than it does with me.

We are in the process of about to do a new section of the garden, always very exciting. I bought five Salix Orrorata from Bluebell Nursery, and two quite large hollies are about to be dug out by Polly who has been putting up a fight for them, which she has lost. They are going to go along our boundary, and will be offset by Prunus Subhirtella Autumnalis which is already planted and has been flowering well. We are keeping our eyes open for the 300 Crocus Tommasianus Yalta which were planted in the autumn. Nothing yet.