19 June, 2019

The incessant rain that we have had lately has transformed the garden into a magic place. The colours are soft and remind me of Ireland. The growth is amazing and everything is standing up. Finally the colour combinations are working, particularly the placing of Camassia Electra in two of my borders. It is a very pale blue, a beautiful colour. Sybil Kreutzberger told me you should plant Camassias in the grass, which I do at the bottom of the Avenue of Malus Transitoria, but the odd one in the beds transforms the beds at that time of year. I have since discovered that there is a pale pink Camassia and am thinking of planting it in the Autumn border at either end where there is plenty of space before the perennials bush out.

This seems to be a year for disease. Geranium Ardennes, with an interesting bright red flower, is covered in whitefly, so that the leaves have all turned black, in fact I am so fed up with I am going to throw it away. It is a tricky number anyway! Euonymus Cornutus Quinque Cornutus, a real mouthful I know, its top branches are decimated by some insect and Polly has had to spray it. This is one of my most unusual plants in the garden with tiny brown flowers and amazing berries in a a kind of five pronged hat. The Verbascums have unattractive looking caterpillars on their stems, and the Lilies in pots have to be watched for red beetles. I hope this is not enough to put you all off gardening! Yesterday morning I discovered a lot of black fly on some of my Achilleas.

Allium Firmanent is now flowering, a dark coloured mauve June Allium, very useful, and Dianthus Carthusianorum, slightly difficult, but unusual and lovely. The star of the garden is Stemmacantha Centauroides, majestic, with a grey leaf and white tennis balls on top which look as if they have been wrapped by Christo. I am so sorry that I cannot put any photographs on, but my i pad is refusing to load them and I have to find time to spend some time with Apple to get them to sort it.

Wednesday, 29th May,2019

The whole picture of the garden and the colours have changed. It is time for the alliums to take the stage, and they certainly have. Allium Purple Sensation reigns supreme on the main lawn on either side. At the bottom of the bank in the Burgundy border is Allium Globemaster, a softer mauve and a shade bigger. You have to watch the alliums carefully that they dont take over. Last year and the year before we took a lot out. Even more dangerous is. Nectaroscordon, given me by Victoria Wakefield. They smell too strongly, not a pleasant aroma, and Polly and I. do not think it is a good form. It slowly escapes from a sheath, and increases more in the ground more than you can imagine apart from seeding wickedly. In the Reine des Violettes border we have a June allium. Firmament, which is darker, and quite useful. In the Klimt bed is quite a lot of tall white alliums, called Mount Everest, white,, and quite a bit more expensive. I suggest you buy them wholesale from Peter Nyssen which you will find on line. The main border was vastly improved this year by planting Camassia Electra next to two herbaceous clematis which were dark maroon. They are also next to Thalictrum Elin and Thalictrum Anne which are both a shade somber. The colours together were beautiful and seemed to lift it. You have to remember that Camassias dye down to nothing so dont forget to plant either side things that will fill that space.

We have had perfect weather, a wet spring, which was badly needed, and the beds have joined up and are excitingly lush. Almost everywhere we now have got the knack of changing the foliage so they all look interesting before they start to flower . A lot of things seem to have grown a lot, surprising after last years difficult summer.

The peonies are starting to be the star of the garden, and I will put some pictures of them on in my next blog. I m going to try again with pictures

27th April, 2019

The tulips are not over, because there was very hot weather over Easter which is now followed by cold and windy weather which is holding the garden up. The borders are on the way to leafing out, and I feel I have made two quite big mistakes with my tulips this year. I thought I loved Belle Époque, and I now think it is rather strange instead of beautiful. I had my hopes pinned on Sapporo which is in the Chartreuse border, but find it deeply disappointing! Still,our new ideas for next year, now is the time to assess your tulips, I think will be absolutely lovely. The Chartreuse border, because we have taken out a large Skimmia Kew Green, leaves quite a lot of bare earth at the moment. The tulip Sapporo has let us down, not chunky enough and it does not really do what it said it would. It said it would start off yellow and turn cream. The Klimt border is always reliable, and tulip Sanne goes on flowering for a very long time. Out the front we have been sent the wrong tulips, which I am going to complain about! Couleur Cardinal, first spotted at Powys Castle, is glowing and has different shades of red on the outside. Ballerina never lets me down, and combines well with Purple Dream. In the par terre we have planted the same combination two years running, and it was much improved by the addition of Black Bean.

Both Cornus Controversa and Cornus alternifolia argentea are in leaf. The first one almost a month before the second. The ferns are unfurling, and Polly has mowed the lawn with swirls rather like Bridget Riley. It will be interesting to see what the Autumn Border looks like this year as we have introduced quite large sections of yellow, and the middle large clump of grass, Miscanthus yakushima dwawf, has gone.

Our new border with the Salixes irrorata has taken off. They were small when they arrived but with good roots and have almost doubled in size. Everything in the paddock has got so large, particularly as two of the large trees went in as whips. All of the camassias at the bottom have come into flower, and the Malus Transitoria are a picture..

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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.

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!