To NGS or not to NGS?

Yesterday I invited the Surrey Chairman of NGS round my garden. Margaret Arnott gave a great talk at my village Hort Soc AGM last week, about the history of the National Garden Scheme, and invited us villagers to queue up and offer up our gardens in aid of charity. The queue was regrettably for the wine and cheese.

Well, its true, I’m a show-off when it comes to my garden. I LOVE my garden. It gives me hours of contemplation, exercise, mental and physical, as well as calm, on a calm day, and excitement, in wilder weather, so I took up the gauntlet and thought I’d see if my garden might be worthy some time in the future, and invited Margaret around to see where improvements could be made.

Margaret and her husband Terry spent a good hour with me on a damp but clear November day, when most of the autumn leaves had fallen from the trees. I have created a few new beds recently, and with only the bare bones of the garden showingin general, it was understandable that Margaret thought the garden was interesting (it has an interesting layout and a bit of my quirky whimsy to entertain) but needed a couple more years of growth.

My personal style is for structure, a changing scene over the year, wildlife friendly and nectar rich planting year round, and harmonising colours in different areas. This is not a garden to everyone’s tastes. However I also love to create a clean and simple design for those who are less addicted to plants than I am, so that they too can enjoy great performing plants.

After a pleasant hour I realised the answer is to brush up on baking skills, and call Margaret up in the summer for tea and cake, when the garden has live leaves instead of dead ones, perennials are filling the gaps, and stone work is pressure-washed. Hmmm, with that list of tasks, maybe I’ll be grateful for a couple of years before giving it a whirl….

Are you enjoying autumn?

Are you a ‘greens and exercise’ outdoor kind of person? Or a ‘look out of the window with half an eye on the television’ sort? Whoever you identify with, I challenge you to find your nearest green space and look closely. The ground is truly soaked, but if you are lucky to have an acer in your garden or local park, some of these are still looking intensely fiery and gorgeous. Well worth a step outside to enjoy one glowing in low evening light.

I have just cleared around Acer Osakazuki (not the one pictured below) and barely had to distrub the ground. The ground is so wet ..at field capacity if you like a technical term.. that all those tap root weeds slide out of even the heaviest of clay like a lychee popping from its skin. I’ve quartered the time it takes to weed an area, spending only 20 minutes in the garden and heaving out enough of the weedy blighters to fill a few bushel trugs. Of course you’re not supposed to stand on wet ground as it compacts the soil, so you also have every reason not to do anything.

Below is a lovely photo of my nephew and my husband under an Acer, so even though you are currently looking at a screen, I give you the gift of autumn colour. Enjoy!

Lazy gardening habits – my favourite.. and yours?

Mizzle, drizzle, downpour…tiresome and not a little worrisome. A sign of our climate change. It is not all bad news : it’s been torrential enough that I haven’t lugged a watering can round to water in transplants, PLUS I am anticipating a glorious show of camellias next Spring; Camellia flower buds are formed during autumn and rely on consistently moist soil.

But my poor old succulents are looking fed up (that is not a euphemism) and my sages are a bit bedraggled. My garden is on the deepest plug of clay in England, I swear it . Clay is hopeless for plants wanting sharp drainage. I religiously add copious quantities of muck and compost twice a year to improve the soil structure and drainage and it is a godsend.

This week whilst it rained, I listened to the RHS John MacLeod 2017 lecture which offered valid information for today. A guest speaker from Cornell University informed the lecture-ees about climate change and how we gardeners can play our part to minimise emissions. Here follows the summary slide. We can all adopt these practices, and enjoy more time sitting in the garden under our newly planted tree, whilst feeling virtuous about being a lazier gardener.

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An autumn frenzy

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The first ferocious frost bejewels the garden. Magpies are scavenging beneath the birdfeeders to see off those greedy pigeons. This weekend I am looking forward to extending a bed of grasses of Miscanthus ”Silberfeder’ to make a greater swathe. Grasses are not everyone’s cup of tea, but over the years I have become a convert. There are many plants I have changed my view on. I used to especially dislike fir trees, bergenias, ivy, and the ‘swingers plant’ cortaderia. In the same way, as a child, I disliked cheese, marmalade, olives, uncooked tomatoes, cabbage and marmite … now I love’em all. As with food, plants have to be combined in the right way in order to enjoy them at their best. Although I’m not averse to a bit of marmalade on cheese.

The ivy above is ‘Green Man’. Forget our common hedera helix and don’t judge all ivies by this. The ornamental ivies are great for wildlife, are low maintenance and you can chop them any time of year without worrying. They are good groundcover too and have a wide range of leaf shapes and variegation to enjoy. Some are vigorous, some are petite. Use them in pots too.

Cornus Midwinter Fire starts to show off

Here is the fabulous Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire”. It is has rich coloured autumn foliage and then the stems are stunning once the leaves have dropped. It looks great from now until spring, and low sun makes it glow during winter months. Planted with Chinese lanterns (invasive but oh so worth a bit of extra weeding) and Nandina ‘Fire power’, it is a great combination. The evergreen Euphorbia in the foreground is self seeded and makes a splendid foliage shape contrast. Fortuitous. I love that about gardening, sometimes something arrives where you want it, instead of where you don’t.

Planting ideas…

I adore this tree for its spring flowers which are white fading to rose, and are single and semi-double. It has light green attractive foliage, and then the fabulous autumn colour you can see pictured. It is Prunus shirotae, and is an absolute beauty. If you have space for a prunus (this ones spreads wider rather than taller). It acts as a great natural feeding station for birds. My neighbour loved it so much she has bought one for her garden too.