Wednesday, 27 August 2014

In the shade.

I always seem to be banging on about having to garden in the shade, although the garden is generally wet being at the bottom of a hill the trees certainly suck up the moisture near them which causes quite a few problems in a dry Summer like the one we have just experienced. Under the trees I try to maintain a "woodland" habitat, which includes bulbs and many plants for shade particularly things like epimediums and geraniums. To maintain this I do have to irrigate sometimes during the dry months although other parts of the garden can be still quite damp. On the plus side the surrounding trees do provide shade for my favourite Meconopsis and Primulas in the damper parts of the garden, which coupled with our damp climate and heavy acid soil provide almost ideal conditions. I used to be concerned about excess water during the Winter as many of the Meconopsis have very hairy leaves but, although there are a few casualties on the whole they have proved to be as tough as old boots for example Meconopsis integrifolia flowered after being under water for most of the winter a couple of years ago.
I thought I would show a series of pictures which tracks the sun round the sky from sunrise to sunset to give an idea of just how much shade there is. I live in a Conservation Area and of course trees are protected up to the hilt anyway so there is going to be no solution to the problem. I am currently doing some judicious lopping of the lower branches on a few to try and raise the canopy and have also some lower level shade to address including a couple of acers which are beginning to get too dense which will have to be thinned as much as possible, not something they particularly like. The alternative would be to take them out and I just haven't the heart for that particularly as I grew one from seed.

As the sun rises it is obscured first by a birch and then the wild cherry, the berberis and viburnum in the foot of the trees are both around 10' high.

 Next to the cherry is a mature silver birch, a weeping birch and a larch which is the bane of my life when it sheds its needles.

 Following the sun through the sky, the next tree is a massive horse-chestnut, I should wear a hard hat under this at certain times of the year after having received a couple of painful blows to the head but I am yet to learn. 

 Next to the horse-chestnut is what is left of a leylandii which is slowly being whittled down and behind it a holly which is actually covered in an old glory vine which I am quite happy about.

 Another view shows an acer, a buddleia growing out of the top of a garden wall just in front of the garage and in the far distance a Cotoneaster 'Chinese Hybrid' which is actually flanked by some rhododendrons.

Looking up the side of the house to where the sun sets, you can see Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca' which has just been trimmed, you will also notice that the area with the least interference from the trees which faces almost due South, is limited to a narrow border at the side of the house which is itself shaded by the garage.

 This is a good example of gardening with what you have, years ago I should have perhaps done something with the trees, at least those which I planted, but there is always a stage when they are easily contained and then in the blink of an eye they have leapt upwards and besides all that I do like them. So I suppose no more grumbling...............get on with it!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Continuing the search for colour.

The weather has finally broken and the temperatures have dropped quite drastically, the garden is showing  massive damage from both slugs and lily beetle due to having been unavoidably neglected for a month earlier in the year, you can't put back what has been eaten!

A view through "Buddleia Alley"
A couple of Buddleias still flowering seen through a pot of lilies. This passage between the house and garage actually faces south but the garage itself plus several large trees on the other side of it pretty well negate a true southern aspect. There are five Buddleias on this stretch Hydrangea petiolaris,  Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Veitchii') and a Pyracantha all of which have to be cut back severely every few years, not only to allow passage but also to be able to paint the house. 

Buddleja davidii 'Pink Delight'
Although I have at least seven Buddleias, for colour this remains my favourite. Next we have three new lilies.

Lilium 'Anastasia' an Oriental-Trumpet Lily, OT Hybrid, Orienpet Lily whatever you want to call it.

Lillium 'Casablanca' a florists favourite.

Lilium 'Robert Swanson' another Oriental-Trumpet Lily.

  A few years ago I would not have looked at lilies as I thought they were far too artificial in their appearance, however, I now find even the large ones indispensable. I first tried them in pots and then after flowering I moved them into the open ground in the herbaceous borders as they have long been included as "cottage garden" plants by many gardeners. I am now a complete convert, they are easy to grow giving spectacular colour at the back end of the summer. There is only one cloud on the horizon, lily beetle which, until this year, I have kept in check mainly by pulling the adults off the plant and crushing them although I also usually spray as the plants emerge and find that two applications a year helps to keep them in check. 

Geranium 'Eureka Blue'

Geranium nodosum 'Swish Purple'

Geranium 'Rozanne'

Hardy Geraniums must must be one of the most useful plants in the gardener's arsenal these are just a few of the one's I grow which are flowering now, G.'Eureka Blue' and G.nodosum 'Swish Purple' I have been growing for a few years now but I must admit I am very impressed with my new plants of G. 'Rozanne' they definitely do seem to carry on flowering, G.'Eureka Blue' is finishing now, but I will continue to watch 'Rozanne', which I have planted in a number of situations, with interest.

Althaea officinalis

Hydrangea aspera (Villosa Group)

Rudbeckia hirta
A few more splashes of colour come from the Marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis from seed, Hydrangea aspera which is only a young plant and on which, for some reason, the whole of the lead shoot died back to ground level over the winter. I cut it back and the side shoots have developed and flowered whilst several new flowerless lead shoots have shot up the middle to twice the height making it impossible to produce a decent picture of the whole. Rudbeckia hirta became a source of amusement, it was the only seedling from a batch of seed sown two winters ago, I planted it out and then began to wonder whether this very fast growing plant with the feathery leaves which didn't somehow look like Rudbeckia was in fact a rogue cannabis plant which had sprung up, anyway it eventually flowered to everyone's relief.

"Frosted" Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea'
Growing as a perfect foil for the Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii' next to it, every summer without fail the Berberis is covered in powdery mildew, I used to worry about it but now just think of it as its "Summer Frosting"

Meconopsis paniculata 'Ghunsa group'.
Still providing interest as the monocarpic plant dies back these "hairy" seed heads are quite stunning in their own way.

Clematis tangutica 'Lampton Park'
One of my favourite climbers, Clematis tangutica 'Lampton Park' has to be severely cut back every year otherwise it would soon take over the front of the house, as it is now it obscures half the porch and one of the front windows although it has been trimmed back recently to avoid this happening............... rampant!

Maurandya purpusii (Climbing snapdragon)

Parnassia palustris

  Grass of Parnassus, definitely a plant of damp meadows and woodlands. No longer common in England it can still be seen in Scotland and Ireland. I am extremely fortunate that this year  I have had both the Parnassia and Primula scotica in flower, both of which are seen growing together in the North of  Scotland. Known as the Bog Stars these beautiful plants seem to be very widespread in the northern Hemisphere. Legend has it that the cattle on Mount Parnassus in Greece rather liked to eat it so it became a "grass" and is therefore known as 'Grass of Parnassus'. My few plants are very small but I am hoping that they may colonise.

Cyclamen hederifolium and companion.
I was messing around taking a few close-ups and didn't spot the intruder until I viewed the shots later on.

Angelica 'Ebony'- Not quite
As a Chelsea introduction Angelica 'Ebony' became very popular and is still seen in many show-gardens, this however is a seedling cross with Angelica archangelica and is roughly twice the height it should be if it was 'Ebony'. Angelicas seed themselves all over my garden and I now discard anything which is not red with some pleasing results.

For Peat's Sake!
A good friend sent me a copy of an article by Monty Don from the Gardener's World magazine mainly because he knew it would give me apoplexy and he succeeded. In it he states "nobody with a hint of environmental responsibility should consider using peat in their garden" and then goes on to mention vandalism of wetlands etc. Nobody wants to damage precious wetland environments, but when you consider that most of northern Europe is one massive peat bog it must be that peat is probably one of the most sustainable resources on the planet. He admits that it is a good growing medium, in fact I have yet to see any RHS trial or even those carried out on such as Beechgrove Garden TV where peat-based composts do not prove to be superior to those such as coir-based, not only that they are cheaper. Please follow this link to a very informative piece more importantly written by someone without an axe to grind who has researched their subject thoroughly and sets the facts down as they are. When you have read it maybe you will agree with me that peat should have a future rather than become a casualty of environmentalists' propaganda.