Klimt border, very early, always good
The beginning of May is Euphorbia time usually twinned with Aliums. Alliums are bulbs, and my favourites are Globemaster, which when purchased from Bob Brown a couple of them soon turned into 30. Bob said that that never happened to him! Globemaster comes before Allium Purple Sensation, which lives up to its name. To my horror James has fallen in love with Nectaroscordons which seed more than any of them, and increase at the base, which they all do. Funnily enough at the edge of a border I can see why James likes them. Opening very slowly from a sheath they are like half a dozen bells in various shades of brown, on a long stem. One of their drawbacks is they smell very strong, and it is not a nice smell. Allium Everest is white and elegant, and I have got them in the Klimt border. Quite expensive to buy initially, they have doubled up a lot. My favourite is Allium albopilosum, which is pale pink, huge, and beautiful in every aspect. We have had a bad frost this morning, and James returning from his dog walk said two of my magnolias had dropped their leaves. Oh dear.
The result of James making me go through all my Country Lifes and Gardens Illustrated has given me quite a few new ideas. Particularly when Gardens Illustrated list their dozen best Baptisias for example. I rather like the look of Baptisia ‘Golden Chestnut’. Their only drawback is that they are slow to come up. Mine are only just emerging now. Though I suppose you can fill the gaps with either Camassias and or Tulips. I do not always get the tulips right by any matter of means. Tulip Formosa is Polly’s new discovery, and a very good one too. At this time of year is the appearance of Aconitum Stainless Steel, a very pretty soft grey blue and tall, However not only very poisonous, it collapses after flowering so you have to have something in front of it.
The star of the magnolias is Magnolia Sieboldi, flowering now, and Magnolia Lilliflora Nigra, which seems to flower indefinitely, and has got quite large, in a spreading way. I cant imagine a garden without Magnolias. We have eight Magnolias which I think is a lot for an acre and a half garden. They have suffered a lot today. Particularly this morning, and Athene. Everyone is saying this, but I have never known such a beautiful Spring.
Mostyn, my family home, the back of it with the Japanese garden on the left. This was in May.
I never thought I would be writing this. One of the main things is attention to detail because we have more time on our hands. Never before have I religiously threaded the stems of Clematis in and out of the chicken wire. Therefore they are going to break and flower more instead of a messy jumble. We have nine clematis and three are growing up tripods, Arabella has hardly moved yet after about five years, but is so pretty I am hanging on to it. My favourite is Princess Kate, and Alionushka, that is up a tripod in the par terre and has had an AGM. Polly likes Madame Julia Correvon, which to my eyes is always untidy. Our walls are not tall, and are also north facing. I like the tripods which are made of steel and have small gold balls on top, painted by me. They slightly remind me of Portmeirion.
Now is when we are making notes as to our changes to the tulips in our borders for next year. To be really effective we should put in a small cane or take photographs of where they are going to go. Polly discovered a very good one, a Viridiflora called Formosa. She saw it at Arundel, planted by the Bannermans, and it is dual tone green and yellow. Delightful.
James has been nagging me to go through the immense pile of magazines I have, or we have! Every day I put it off, Finally I have done it, cutting out articles by Mark Griffiths in Country Life. He is the best. Gardener Troy at Ilford Manor has told me what I am doing wrong with Siberian irises when they do not flower, basically not enough sun and good soil. It was Mark who inspired me with the planting of lilies in pots by the greenhouse, difficulty with the staking as I am afraid the pots are not big enough. We will see if we get on better this year. This is always what makes gardening interesting.
The wind has been pretty fierce the last few days. The tulips are making the beds look very pretty and giving them a colour scheme. Over the years you learn which tulips repeat well that you love. Viridiflora tulips are top of my list. Artist, which is peach and green and Deirdre, green and white. One of my favourites is Ballerina, though a good friend grows it and her husband said. “I am not having that” There is always a bias against orange. It depends what you put orange against, it is always like that in the garden. It smells beautiful too. A big job was taking out half the front garden and we have ordered Malus Evereste to go there instead. Polly has done all that. The other main thing has been sorting out where the dahlias are going to go. Some of the squares in the par terre are going to be the same as last year. James is being a great help in the garden at the moment, wiring jobs that seem to take ages, and at the moment there seem to be no signs of the rabbits. Malus Transitoria is about to break out of bud and looks lovely, and the pale yellow magnolia is one of the prettiest things you have ever seen.
One thing that is really special are the camassias at the bottom of the paddock, and in the Burgundy border. We have carefully placed Camassia Electra in the main border and it is such a soft pale blue that it lightens up the whole bed. Clive put us on the cover of a calendar last year, which I was pretty thrilled about. It was so beautiful that I said “where is that”
Today is April 17, my fathers birthday, he would have been 100. I miss him a lot, he was very eccentric and different. We were going to get a visa to go to Russia, and he said we would never darken his doors again. He never had a passport, and said the war was enough for him, It is cold and windy today, quite gloomy compared to what we have been having. We have made a major change out the front of the garden. For years we have grown a Clematis armandii and it ended up thick and woody, not attractive, That has gone now, and five rosa mutabilis which all seemed to lie on the ground. Time had not improved this planting! We also eradicated Scilla Peruviana, as it had not flowered in 15 years, all these were adjacent.Most of my tulips are flowering, and some of the colour schemes are good, The Klimt border is always good, with Sanne running all the way down it, which has repeated very well. The par terre has triumph tulips, which have repeated for four years, They are very strong. I have several species tulips which run under the ground to increase. I will try and take some photos of them all. They come up year after year. As I am here all the time I will start dividing them. Now we have the summer to look forward to, and the autumn border and my dahlias. Polly thinks I have ordered too many dahlias, and this weekend she wants me to check where they are all going. Needless to say I have found a new one with Avon bulbs that has taken my fancy.
Apart from the odd quite fierce frost we are entering the phase of Spring, which is infinitely preferable to Winter. People often ask me what is the best time of year here, and for me it is Spring. How exciting it is when plants push their way through the ground, a few inches every day. Today I am dividing some special snowdrops, yellow ones, called Primrose Warburg. I have got about 40 of them, and I think I started off with 3. The last two days have been very sunny, and Polly has mowed the lawn for the first time, and sprayed the roses. Her and Colin have put out all the benches, which are pale blue and mauve, this sounds ghastly but is actually very pretty. We have done some new planting with Astelia Banksiae, thin green leaves with silvery edges, which will get to three feet. I always thought Astelia were tender but it seems not. They make a good background plant for Pulmonaria Diana Clare and white Astrantias. I am quite excited how this corner is going to turn out. The dogs went to a local hairdresser which I was very nervous about, but they looked fine, and rather better than before. Two years ago they went and looked appalling, I nearly wept. They looked skinned. Pertemba, the youngest, ran away from James, and went missing for about half an hour. I was quite worried, but it transpired that he had fallen in love with a terrier that was on heat!
I am getting used to this, but it still feels peculiar. I am lucky to have James and the garden, which I hope I am having some good new ideas for and the time to implement them. My birthday, which was onMarch 24th, did have my two sons and grandchildren ring me. My Amelanchiers, three of them, are flowering down the bottom. I am about to order six new irises from Cayeux, which is probably the best Iris supplier. I first saw them at the Chelsea flower show, and they are in France. Have just ordered a beautiful terracotta pot from Italian Terrace, to put some dahlias in. Stuck in the house I seem to be spending money, still finally I am getting some larger pots instead of the
whimsy little things that I have been getting used to!
This is what I am looking forward to
This is an interesting time of year, several plants are coming up very fast. One of the main advantages of Hemerocallis is how early they emerge from the ground, and what a lovely lime green colour they are. We are talking about the end of February so they are good value for ages. There are several lime green, evergreen ferns, so if they go in the right place they are really worth having. The same applies to alliums and you only have to watch that they do not increase too much. I think that the sentence ‘go in the right place’ applies to almost everything, in fact it is one of the most difficult things in gardening to place plants where they look best. All of the tulip leaf is up, and I feel pleased with the ones that are repeating well. Though there is some creature that is digging them up.
My gardening lunch party was a success. It was last monday, and I had Sybylle Kreutzberger, Bob Brown, and Rupert Goldby, James and Polly came, and Polly did a pudding called Eve’s pudding, which I used to do for the children. Bob came up with some ideas that I did not agree with, but they made me think. He seemed shattered when I said that I did not really like shrubs! He said that he had never heard anyone say that before! My new web site is up, and I am lucky as I have Clive’s beautiful photos on it. His son Robbie did it for me. I never even had a web site when Polly came to me eleven years ago. We have been doing quite a lot of new spring planting. Hellebores, and cyclamen from Ashwood Nurseries, and quite a lot of plants from Fibrex, who specialise in ferns and pelargoniums, and are near here. We also went on a buying spree to Bob Brown. Mice had decimated our hellebores and the tops of our walls. Next year we need to be more aware of the damage they do.
Coming back to the garden from a week spent in Seville, blue skies and heat of 75 degrees, It seemed to exceed expectation, particularly a day trip to Cordoba. Here there were 5th century arches by the Moors all underground. Normally Spain is not my favourite, but this holiday was special. Cordoba took my breath away, also the Palace in Seville. I am always fascinated at the amazing taste that countries had such a long time ago. We are not building like that now, is it money I ask myself.
But the garden was not a disappointment. A week with a lot of rain and not too cold, there is plenty to look at , Abundant displays of crocuses, more than last year, dont ask me why. Last year we seemed to have very few of Crocus Yalta, but this year at least a couple of hundred., Crocus tricolor, doing what it says, and as with all our crocuses, we need to. keep planting. But everything is coming up and the bare beds are greening. Mice and rabbits seem to have been everywhere. But I must stop moaning about them. As usual I am thrilled to be home, in my little routines! and having the dogs back is always a real plus.
Polly is the lines of the beds, and what an improvement that is, We are replanting the little stone walls with different things, and we have not done that for a very long time., We went and bought several plants at Cotswold Garden Flowers, and had a cup of coffee with Bob Brown, as a result have asked him to Lunch with Sibylle. It is a bit like having royalty to lunch, we want it to be PERFECT.
Clive Nichols photo of Pettifers early Spring, one of my favourites
James told me that last year he saw a couple of Nectaroscordons down the bottom of the paddock in the wet bit. Now he said that there were hundreds. He was right, as I went down this morning and could not believe my eyes. It is amazing what plants will do if they like the conditions! My friend Victoria Wakefield gave them to me ages ago, and I felt quite faint in the car driving them back home. You try smelling them!
I thought of something that Pam and Sibylle said to me a while ago. They were the two Sissinghurst gardeners with Vita Sackville West.. I said ‘how do you not get upset when things are going wrong in your garden, for example some creatures are digging up my tulips in the par terre”. They replied ‘You just concentrate on the plants that are doing well!’ Mice have run riot on the tops of my little walls. That is nothing, we caught 12 in Nicholas’s room just before Christmas.. What I call Nicholas’s room was Dominic’s when he was young.
Crocuses have started dotting themselves about. I like the tommasinianus that are all over the place in random positions, and I have decided to leave them where they are.. James thinks that they are not Salix Irrorata, but they are getting whiter by the day. I shall have to take a photo and send them to a couple of friends. I have been taking quite a lot of ivy off the right hand wall. I really dislike it as it gets in my eyes and does my right shoulder in. You would have thought that I would have learnt my lesson by now. The brick that I have exposed is attractive, a lot better than the ivy. I think the ivy has been there a very long time. I love the hellebores, they are almost my favourite flower and they are everywhere. Today was very windy and cold. Then I washed the trunk of my Betula Ermanii with my floor mop and it is finally starting to go pink, which is how it looked when I first saw it at Bodnant.
Five magnolias are growing away strongly in the paddock. They love it there and are doing so well. When they are flowering I will put some pictures on.