Thursday, 27 June 2013

Drum roll for the English roses please ...

After pondering over catalogues in the dark days of winter, I chose seven bare root roses, and three container grown plants. I planted them very carefully and lavished well rotted horse manure on them. When Spring finally came, I watched for the first leaves, and was very relieved when all of them began to grow. I have nurtured them and kept them weed, pest and disease free, and they have grown strongly since those first leaves appeared. They are now beginning to flower and I am embarrassingly excited by this, and have the urge to tell total strangers in the street!

Today, 'Munstead Wood' has opened its first bloom :

Gardening is so much about hope and optimism, and I envisaged this flower as I laboured in the cold and the bare soil. There is so much deferred gratification, we gardeners are probably a psychologist's dream !

This is how they all started :

That's enough, I'm sure you get the picture ! I can almost feel that icy soil now !

I have been interested to see how the growth of the bare roots compared to the container grown roses, and have found that although the bare roots were obviously slower to take off, there is nothing between them now, as the growth of the bare root plants has been phenomenal.

But, this heap, I think, is the star of the show :

The English roses I planted were :

Winchester Cathedral      (white)
William Shakespeare       (dark red)
Teasing Georgia              (yellow)
Shropshire Lad               (pale pink)
Munstead Wood             (deep red)
St Swithins                      (pale pink)
Sceptered Isle                   (light pink)
Tess of the D'Ubervilles    (dark red)
Wisley                                (pale pink)

I also planted:

bare root hedge of the old Gallica rose 'Charles De Mills'   (dark red)
Rosa Mundi   (bi-colour crimson / white)

This is the 'Charles De Mills' hedge when it went in :

And here it is now, just about to burst into glory :

I had one left over when planting, so I tucked it in a more sheltered part of the garden and it is already flowering :

I couldn't miss out including a photo of 'Geoff Hamilton', although he is a couple of years old now, but blooming beautifully, despite the rain (so far ...)

Also in bloom at the moment are :

Buff Beauty.

I think this one is 'Pink Profusion', but I have lost the label, so have probably made that one up !

All my other new babies are waiting in the wings, with swelling buds that are going to open any day ... except for ... poor old 'Tess' who is really struggling ...

Interestingly, she is the most expensive rose I bought, and I got her from a very reputable nursery. They would be happy to replace her, but I feel , all is not lost yet. She is about a quarter the size of all the others, and although looking happier of late, she is still sickly. Note to self - must remove dead stem, as that won't be helping !

Monday, 24 June 2013

What is my small imposter !

I was walking round the garden just now, as you do, bit tired after a day at work, bit chilly due to the the gloom of the evening, bit lack lustre, and I was saying hello to the new arrivals.

I have been watching the rose buds with anticipation,waiting for them to open, and the winner of the prize for the first open English rose bloom goes to ... 'Geoff Hamilton'.

Robust, vigorous, healthy ... and open! Everything you could ask for in one plant!

There are some foxgloves I have grown from seed, they are a very soft pink, and the flowers are a good size.

Shrub rose 'Buff Beauty', with its head so full and heavy, I had to hold it up to take the photograph. It is still very wet after all the rain, so hopefully will hold its head up by itself as it dries out.

A very dark delphinium, with a lovely white 'eye', grown from seed a year or two ago.

The first flower to open, of the old Gallica rose 'Charles De Mills. One of the most beautiful roses. Not a repeat flowerer, and not strongly perfumed, to my nose, anyway.

Peony Sarah Bernhardt, valiantly trying not to bow down with the weight of the rain.

So, I was walking around, meeting and greeting when I spotted a small imposter ...

I must have chosen it, bought it, planted it and nurtured it, but I can't remember doing any of that ! I don't know what it is, or even where it came from. Can anyone help me out ? The only glimmer of sanity I have, is that I planted an assortment of summer bulbs in early Spring, and it could be one of those . It is very pretty, almost orchid-like in flower shape, and about 15cm tall. It is quite exciting to have a little stranger in our midst, after seeing all the old, familiar faces !

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Foxglove 'Illumination' ... dare I say, disappointing ?

Last year, like many others, I was extremely excited by the 'Plant of the Year 2012', a perennial foxglove called 'Illumination Pink', launched at Chelsea. It was hailed as the best thing since sliced bread, and it seemed that no garden could be complete without its charms. So, after an extremely long wait, I got me some! Three to be exact, and although I can't remember exactly how much they cost, I know they were not cheap.

Foxglove 'Illumination' is a hybrid, so does not set seed, utilising the little known Isoplexis (Canary Island Foxglove) which supposedly gives tropical colouring. It has a long flowering period and is a perennial, unlike most Foxgloves which are biennial. It is semi evergreen and should last for years. It says that the expected height is approximately 45cm (18 inches). Now I know it is early in the season, and there is still time for growth, but mine are 30cm tops !

A friend and I ordered them jointly, to save money, and when they came, she kindly kept them cuddled up in her greenhouse until Spring. When she handed them on to me, I also  nurtured them in my greenhouse before planting them out in a spell of nice weather in late March. I planted them out in well manured, good soil, in a mixed bed. To be honest, then I totally forgot about them, until my friend asked how they were doing, and what I thought about them.

I went out to look for them, and to be honest, I had to have a really good poke around the beds before I found them. They were certainly not the towering beacons of colour I had been expecting !

Do you know something ? I am not overly impressed! Maybe it is my fault, and I have not given them  their optimum conditions for growth, and maybe there are some of you out there, indignant at such negativity ! Maybe they were hyped up far too much, and my expectations were too high... but, for whatever reason, I am disappointed. My three plants are all small, about 30cm tall, and the flowers are ok, but not as exciting as I was led to believe. 'Illumination' is a cross with an exotic foxglove ... so I was expecting a large exotic flower.

I went out and took photos for this post, and when I viewed them, I realised that actually 'Illumination' looks far better through the lens than it does in the garden ! It looks more imposing, more exotic and more colourful ! Take it from me, you would walk past it in the garden without a second glance !

The pink is far more intense in the photo than in reality.

They may impress more as the season progresses, as they are supposed to have an extremely long flowering season... and of course they are perennial which gives them an advantage over any usual foxglove, which is biennial.

I will retain an open mind until the end of the season, but first impressions are that it is, sadly, quite an ordinary plant.

Am  I being Mrs Grumpy here ? Has it got charms which I just can't see? I can be persuaded ...

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Learning to love ...

It may be irrational but there are some plants I love, in a fuzzy sort of a way, and some I hate with a passion. I don't know why I hate the ones I hate, as I have no real reason to, in fact sometimes I have never even grown them. Sometimes it's a colour I dislike, maybe an acid yellow, a brick red or an orange - that can bring down the red mist ; sometimes it's the foliage or the habit.

So when an area of the garden began to irritate me every time I walked past it, I decided to replant parts of it ... with some of my worst enemies ! I want to learn to love, to turn the other cheek, to embrace  and to celebrate ... well I want to give it a try, anyway !

The bit of the garden we call the 'Bus Shelter' garden has, frankly, been a bit of a disaster! About two years ago I had a vision of rippling grasses, so I ripped out nearly all the planting, replacing it with grasses I had grown from seed. Four hundred grasses I  had grown from seed, to be precise. I guess it looked as I had pictured it, for about 2 of our 52 weeks ! It quickly went from rippling to flopping, seemingly overnight. After all my work, I was loathe to rip them all out and replant AGAIN, so I have tried to live with it, digging out a few grasses when I had something suitable to replace them with.

So, earlier today, it looked like this :

Messy, floppy, limp, without definition ... need I go on !

I made a decision and headed down to our lovely local nursery ('Appleby Plant Nursery') , where they grow a lot of their own stuff and always have lots of good advice to give, and asked for lots of good advice about perennials which can cope in semi-shade.

And so, this is where I begin to learn to love the plants I really hate, namely Geum and Achillea. Perfectly fine plants I'm sure, and beloved by many, but usually given a wide berth by me. I did grow Achillea once and it spread like a thug through the borders, and then it had the temerity to flop over and need staking. I didn't like the smell of the foliage, and I didn't like the colour. Since outing it, I have read lots of articles and books where it is highly recommended as a border plant, and listed as a real stalwart of the garden. It likes shade, I liked the colour, and it is smaller than my last encounter ( only about 40cm), so hopefully, it can stand up for itself! So, I bought myself, not one, but TWO 'Achillea Desert Rose'. I will learn to love ...

Geums, I have never grown as I don't like the harsh colours I have seen  (acid yellow, brick red and bright orange) and I don't like the foliage, as it has something weed-like about it ! Then I saw a recent 'Gardener's World' where a Geum enthusiast was showing her National Collection, and extolling their virtues. My lip was curling until she said these words ... "Geums are in flower for about 25 weeks a year", at which point I  realised that it is hard NOT to love anything which blooms for so long. 

I left the nursery with Geum Rivale, which is as subtle as any plant can be. It is a delicate little plant, holding its flowers on long stems so that they move very freely. The flowers are fascinating, and a lovely browny, reddy, pinky, orangey colour that doesn't even have a name ! It has lovely little seed heads too, which are equally as attractive as the flowers.

I also got its more robust cousin, Geum Hybrida 'Lady Stratheden', which has an AGM....... bit too yellow for me, but I will learn to love ...

Other purchases included a well grown Anenome and two lovely Heucheras:

'Heuchera Frosted Violet' which has a soft, velvety feel to it, and ...

'Heuchera Obsidian' which is a lovely, glossy, in-your-face sort of a plant.

So, I rooted out yet more of the *** grasses and replaced them with my new love/hate plants. The island bed is still not finished. There is a big obelisk + climbers to go in the centre , and more 'selective weeding' (aka uprooting ) to be done. But, I think it is improved already by the new planting, and the loss of some more grasses.

Monday, 17 June 2013

They're out ...

My last post,  'Deefa ... Delphinium !' showed Delphiniums poised on the brink of flowering . Guess what ... the sun has worked its magic and they are now starting to bloom fully.

The darker blue ones seem to be blooming first, and they are the only ones which are fully out.

This paler blue Delphinium won't be long until it is out.

I think this one will be white.

Some of these plants I have grown from seed in previous years and others I have bought from various places, or been given them. They are very reliable and totally hardy but they need to be staked. In my earlier years of gardening, when  gardening  time was snatched between children and work, I never quite got round to the staking thing. Disaster ! They look fine , and you think you have winged it, but all it takes is a bit of wind, or a heavy downpour, and they are ruined. I learned the hard way, but like all gardening mistakes, I only made it once. I made lots of different ones on other occasions, but never that one again !

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Deefa Delphinium ...

It's an Alphabet thing ! A for ... apple, Deefa ... Delphinium ! Lots of bloggers are taking part in Alphabet Thursday, so I thought I would have a go ! If you pop across to you will be able to check out a variety of posts !

Delphiniums are the quintessential English cottage garden flower, beloved by all. There is something very about the Delphinium which evokes afternoon tea, and strawberries, and cricket matches on the green. It also evokes, for me, poorly staked plants flattened by rain and wind, and snapped flower stalks ! Because that is the English summer too !

Delphiniums are a perennial which are very easy to grow, and reliable 'doers' in the garden. I have grown a load of 'Pacific Giants' this year, and the rate of germination has been very high. I did use the propagator to germinate the seeds but a sunny windowsill would have served the purpose too.

I planted the seeds in March, and like all seeds this Spring, they were slow to germinate and even slower to grow !

Above is an experiment, comparing the growth between a tray of seedlings placed in the frost free conservatory, and a tray in the glorious warmth of the kitchen. It is clear which seedlings are happiest !

Getting bigger and more robust ! Spot the rogue Dahlia that has sneaked in there ...

The clumps of Delphiniums at the back of this border, behind the Hostas,  are  only in their second and third seasons respectively. They have put on tremendous bulk and height. The buds are forming and I can see which wonderful shade of blue they will be, when the buds open. Maybe tomorrow that will have happened ...

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