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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Snow is going to arrive any second, and I am making my escape to London, as there is a steep little run on to the main road here which never gets gritted. We have been enjoying the hellebores for quite some time now, and snowdrops. Polly has got on very well with cutting back the borders and mulching them, which is a relief as snow will bring everything to a grinding halt. The golden leafed Cornus Mas has buds all along the branches, but it has not opened yet. We brought some sprigs of Chaenomeles nivalis into the house, and they have flowered for ten days. Interesting, as I have never done it before, and had no idea that they would last so long. One advantage of January is the wafts of scent when you brush past the sarcococcas. Poor James, who has no sense of smell at all, misses out on this.
I have become a grandmother for the fourth time yesterday, very exciting. Dominic and Hetty have had a baby girl and called her Phoebe. So lovely to have something to think about other than Brexit, January or snow. Tensing is getting better, though still in a ruff poor little man. I am going over in my head what I can put in the space in the autumn border where we took out the huge clump of Miscanthus sinensis Yakushima dwarf, which was not dwarf at all. Though I must be honest about it I planted three when one or two would have done, but I suppose taken longer to make an impact. I have got interested in an Aconitum called Cloudy, together with one of my best asters called Pink Buttons. Look up Cloudy as it looks very pretty. In weather like this I look up Graham Goughs plant list at Marchants Hardy Plants and Avondale Nursery which is only half an hour from here, and then I daydream,.