Saturday, 30 May 2015

Back again, on the blog and in the garden

I haven't had such a long break since I started blogging.  I would be hard pushed to explain why it is several weeks since I blogged.  Nothing terrible has happened.  I haven't moved house or continent.  I have just been ridiculously,overwhelmingly busy, rushing up and down the country and, for the first time since my mother died, having a serious go at falling back in love with the garden. That has meant hours weeding and cutting back and trying to uncover the garden again after a year of neglect.  I even went to the Chelsea Flower Show, thanks to the kindness of a friend in sharing some corporate hospitality with me.  There has been a funeral, time spent with all four of our children and our grandchildren, time spent with my father.  Hours and hours in the car.   Whizz, whizz, all a blur.

Time to slow down, time to reflect.


This is The Beauty of Islam garden by Kamelia Bin Zaal.   Interestingly, when I saw it, although  I was struck by its beauty, I was rather overwhelmed by the amount of white marble.  I wanted more planting and less stone and yet, when I looked for something to represent the need for contemplation I am feeling right now, this picture was the one which did it for me.  The cool, the white and the green, the clear water - I can feel my heart rate slowing as I look at it.

I might come back to a longer Chelsea blog.  Much of it is still brewing.  For now I want to stay home and take stock and think about the garden in particular and gardening in general.  Let's start with a blast of colour after all that white.


In the corner of the side garden is a huge rhododendron inherited from the previous owners of the house.  Every year I think that I don't really like rhododendrons.  For eleven months of the year it is a large evergreen hump.  It is far too big to get rid of easily but every year I wonder whether we should keep it and every year it erupts into flower in May and I forgive it everything.  I know it is too huge, too blowsy, too pink (and I don't even like pink) and doesn't really fit with the gentle, wildish planting of the rest of the garden but for three weeks in May I really don't care.  It fizzes with life and as it dies away alliums and hardy geraniums take over and the pink fades to blues and purples and a bit of lime green.


Some of the alliums are just starting in the sunnier bed.  I would love them to multiply.  A friend finds alliums popping up all over the place where she doesn't want them but we have just two places in the side garden where they seem to be happy in one of the beds.  In the other bed they hang around for a year or two and then gently disappear.  I think there are just too many thugs in that bed.  I should dig it over and revamp it.  I have been putting that off for a while but this year I found to my surprise that the oriental poppies which usually dominate almost half the bed in the early summer look as if they are going to fail.  The plants are weak and sickly looking with no flower buds.  I shall dig them up and burn them in case they have fallen prey to some disease and use the empty space as the spur to make some changes.


This is the acid green - euphorbia oblongata, a short lived perennial.  I grow it in the cutting garden as it is a fabulous foil for almost anything and I am bringing it into the side garden as well since it is just as good a companion in the ground as it is in a vase.  Purples and oranges look deep and saturated set against its zinging green.


The peonies in the kitchen garden are just coming out, about a week before those in the shadier side garden which are still great fat buds.  These are the oldfashioned cottage garden type, officinalis. They thrive here.


I was very taken by the peonies on the Kelways stand at Chelsea, especially these white ones.  Perhaps a white alongside my deep pink ones would be worth thinking about.





In the kitchen garden there is much chaos although Ian has mended some of the raised beds which were beginning to fall apart.  The sweet cicely is in flower.  When you brush against it a faint sweet, aniseed smell rises.  The chives are going strong and the mints in their separate slate boxes are ignoring my attempts to keep the different flavours apart and attempting to fraternise.  That needs to be stopped or the culinary mint and the basil mint, both very vigorous and keen to go adventuring, will get mixed up with everything else and I will lose the flavours of lime mint, basil mint and apple mint which are much less invasive.  I know I should have weeded out the buttercup but I spend my life digging it out and this one escaped.  It looks rather lovely in the sun though.


And out by the swing a rose which was a gift from our friends in Provence has come into flower. The flowers are simple but very beautiful and the foliage is small.  It has thrown up three sprays of flower and I assume it will in time become a bush or shrub rose.  It is a beautiful thing and I am on a mission to identify it so if you have any ideas please tell me!  It must have come with a label and was clearly chosen with care for the conditions of our site and the style of our garden.

It is hard for a garden not be beautiful in May and it is lovely out there, despite the bindweed and the invading hogweed.  Any tips for getting rid of hogweed?  Its roots go down to Australia so I haven't done well with attempts to dig it out.

But perhaps the most beautiful thing in the garden right now is the apple tree in flower.


Nine feet high and twenty five feet across and covered in blossom of the palest pink, it is a sight to make the heart sing.

43 comments:

  1. Oh My I can almost smell them. Sensuous shots. Thank you!
    XO
    WWW

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    1. The roses have a fine scent. Soon the honeysuckle will be in flower and that's good too!

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  2. So lovely to see such beautiful flowers. Glad to hear that you have been enjoying lovely times in your garden as well! xx

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    1. I have carefully not been photographing the bindweed Amy. MInd you, if it were a rarer plant I think it would have some fans.

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  3. and you've tweaked your blog narrower, much nicer to read this way.

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  4. It's rosa primula. Oddly I had primrose in the back of my mind, then found the email correspondence with Brian from November 2012. It likes Provence better than N Wales!

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    1. I like the fact that it is otherwise known as the incense rose because of the smell of the foliage!

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  5. Such a beautiful experience your garden is. it must be hard to leave it and go inside. the fragrance, the blossoms, the colour combinations, your descriptions and photographs... so very lovely!!!

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    1. Thank you Gwen. Spring and early summer are by the best time. It all falls to bits rather from August onwards but I am trying to work on it!

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  6. A blogpost worth waiting for!
    I'm envious of your visit to Chelsea, those red and white peonies are gorgeous. I agree with you about the rhododendron, thankfully they don't grow around here in Suffolk. Strangely I was discussing the demise of oriental poppies with a Twitter friend last night, hers in York has disappeared as have mine in SW Suffolk. I had a whole border of them grown from seed, in all shades of red, pink and white they put on a splendid display for years, then this year I realise we are down to one tiny plant with a single bud. Maybe they failed to cope with the extremely wet winter and cold spring a couple of years back?
    Good to know your gardening mojo has returned (mine too).

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    1. Just after I wrote this I read an article by Val Bourne about a disease which is attacking many oriental poppies so I am wondering if this is the cause of the distress in mine.

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  7. Hello! Two MIA bloggers turn up in one morning - you and Stephanie at Millefeuilles - what a treat. And what a treat this post is.

    Is it me or is the apple blossom this spring particularly lovely and quite prolific? I seem to be noticing it everywhere. And yes to the white peonies ... surely there is no such thing as the wrong peony, or too many peonies for that matter.

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    1. We certainly have had apple blossom by barrowload up here. It is always good but the trees in the orchard, as opposed to the older scruffier trees in the kitchen garden, have been wonderful. I saw that Stephanie has blogged again too and was also pleased!

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  8. Beautiful! Wishing you many mindful, joyful and peaceful moments in your gardens!

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    1. I have to remember to do the joyful and peaceful moments and not get bogged down too much in the things to do!

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  9. My first viewing of that Chelsea garden was blazing white in hot sunshine. It looked much better the next day in the rain. I learned later from Victoria who'd been told these gardens are meant to be relaxed in and viewed in the evening, which makes perfect sense for the climate.

    I'm drawn to those red peonies rather than the white - I seem to be in red mood at the moment.

    Lovely to see you blogging again and even lovelier that you've been spending your time away in the garden xxx

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    1. I can see that about the Beauty of Islam garden. In sunshine it would be blinding but in evening or rain it would soothe.

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  10. Wow, such color! The apple tree is so pretty. Do you know the variety, did you plant it and do you get plenty of apples from it?

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    1. Hi Anneke, the apple is called Howgate Wonder, planted by our predecessors many years ago now. It is really prolific and produces huge apples as big as a baby's head. They start off as cooking apples and get sweeter as they are stored.

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  11. Oh it is all looking so pretty here! That apple blossom...swoon. We only have one apple tree and the blossom got blown off before it really got going. I have to add, that view over the hills at the top of your blog, really must be one of the most exquisite, uplifting view of rolling, green hills - how amazing to be able to see that from your home. I remember a loooong time ago you mentioned the difficulty in knowingquite how to manage such a big plot with such an overwhelming beautiful view - did you find a plan that worked for you? I think I would tend to plant borders near the house and get progressively more wild until the boundary merged with the view. Your garden quandary has popped into my mind a few times over the last year or so - funny how some things stick in the mind! :) Whatever you chose to do, you are clearly growing some gorgeous plants! x

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    1. I would still say that gardening with such a view all around is quite a difficult thing. And borders near the house getting wilder is also quite tricky because the shape of our land and the slope too make is hard to produce anything as formal as a border. It would also probably look a little odd if it were too formal. I am learning that the necessary thing is to create some areas of enclosure which almost give you a break from the view and allow you to look inwards rather than out. It is a slow process.

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  12. Elizabeth, I am sure that your garden is already appreciating your return...these pictures are fabulous examples of the beauty of May flowers. It is so interesting to read the information about what thrives where, and what actually seems to disappear after a few years.

    Just this afternoon I have added a new post full of pictures taken last week at Central Park's showplace, the Conservatory Garden. Your own garden's flowers look as lovely to my eye. xo

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    1. Very different though Frances! I would love to see the conservatory garden. I must make sure I do if we manage to get to New York in September as we are tentatively planning to do.

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  13. Lovely photos, the little rose from Provence is really delicate and beautiful though I have no idea what it is. I haven't been to Chelsea for many years but I would have like to see the Beauty of Islam garden. It looks very tranquil and I would imagine that in the heat of the Middle East all that cool white marble and water would be perfect.

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    1. I love the simplicity of the single rose form and these have all the loveliness of a wild dog rose with a longer life and a different colour from the pink and white which grow in our hedges.

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  14. Such fun to go through your garden with you. My allium have taken over a large patch (large by my garden's standards -- not by yours!). I'm going to have to dig some of them out this year, but I'll be resisting for a while because although they're finished blooming, I really like the sculptural quality of the large glob seed-heads. My sweet Cicely is done, a few weeks ahead of yours as well. . . I cut the flowers right off as soon as it shows any signs of going to seed -- really can't afford to have it settling in everywhere!
    As for that sweet yellow rose, it reminds me of my much-loved Golden Wings, a similarly simple yellow rose, but a climber. Sadly, my Golden Wings has been struggling for the last few years as the micro-climate it's in changed with the maturing of other garden plants at a rate I didn't predict. Rookie!
    Can't wait to see what direction you take next in your garden. It's such an interactive process, isn't it? We have these plans, but then disease hits a plant in a corner we'd thought "done." Or a neighbour's tree creates a bigger shade than we'd ever anticipated. Or a husband cuts back a tree whose shade we'd complained about it and all has to be rethough. . . A constant, wonderful, frustrating, and rewarding challenge.

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    1. You are so right. Even in those parts of the garden where I think I have begun to achieve what I set out to do, like the side garden, suddenly throw up surprises like the unhappy oriental poppies which mean I have to think again. Lucky you, having the problem of too many alliums!

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  15. Gosh those peonies are sumptuous - what a lovely combination. Once again this could be my life, although thankfully no funerals! All best to you. Cx

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    1. We do a good line in uncanny symmetries in our lives Chris!

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  16. Welcome back, glad to hear you are back in the garden, gorgeous colours in the paeonias, isn't it funny how some things do for years then fail, poppies are usually so robust. Glad you enjoyed Chelsea, it's such an experience :)

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    1. I enjoyed Chelsea more than I thought I would. Partly it was the company and the way I did it but I had thought beforehand that most of it would feel not at all relevant to me and what I do and I was surprised to find that it didn't.

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  17. Such lovely pictures again! But after seeing your final shot, I've decided that's what I'm going to plant in the tree sized hole in my garden - I'd been dithering, but now I know! :)

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    1. Apple trees are wonderful in so many ways. Mind you it really is worthwhile finding out what is likely to grow well for you. We have another five trees in the kitchen garden and none of them earn their keep the way this Howgate Wonder does. Some don't fruit very well and some produce fruit which is not particularly tasty. Howgate wins on all fronts for us!

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  18. Chelsea looked wonderful this year - some amazing gardens. How lucky you were to visit. I agree about The Beauty of Islam Garden - it was my favourite too, closely followed by the Provencal garden. Lovely photos of the flowers in your garden and I do envy you your peonies. Mine continue to fail to flower and will have to be moved!

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    1. I also loved the Chris Bearshaw garden and the Telegraph garden. I was stunned by the Dan Pearson garden but I am not entirely convinced that what I saw was a garden in anything but the most tangential sense.

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  19. Glad you're back in the garden Elizabeth, but how could you not when it is looking so beautiful. I inherited a whole row of rhododendrons which I've looked on with increasingly evil intent for the last few years. This year we finally did it.. Cut them back to within a foot of the ground. And blow me if they aren't all re sprouting. They'll now get winched out and put somewhere more suitable, in the woodland perhaps. You can't deny they've got spirit.

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    1. I saw your post about the cutting back (or down!) of the rhododendrons and it is truly amazing how determined they are to recover. Mind you, camellias do that too. I visited Bodnant a few years ago and the camellias had been cut back so hard it was difficult to imagine that they would survive. They are all flourishing now!

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  20. How lovely to see you in the garden again. Your rose looks a little like a Jacqueline du Pres which I am longing to be able to replace. I have a similar love hate relationship with rhododendrons but they are looking magnificent in roadside verges at present. I must remember to plant some euphorbia under the Californian poppies which have overwintered and are now going great guns but, I notice, no bees visiting them. I wonder why not.

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    1. That is interesting about the absence of bees on your californian poppies. I have never noticed whether I get them here as for some reason I don't seem to be able to get californian poppies to naturalise, unlike the Welsh ones!

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  21. Please do write more about Chelsea - I would love to know what your thoughts on the Telegraph garden which looked so wonderful in the photographs.

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  22. Oh that rose is truly lovely Elizabeth - I adore the edges of its petals - they look as though they've been snipped with scissors.

    It's a treat to see the peonies here too. I have one that's slightly forlorn as it lives near a hedge. It has never grown very big and only ever has around three flowers on it. Perhaps I should be brave and move it to a better spot.

    It's a huge treat to have a few minutes to visit here again.

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