A new adventure…

As I garden – losing whole days at the weekend, stealing moments while the kettle boils for morning tea, working in the dark on my return from work – I compose descriptions of the challenges and successes. Time to see if the words floating through my head during the last 10 years of making my garden, work on a page.

Flowers – SonS

This is very out of character for me as I garden mainly for interesting foliage but this week I do have several beautiful flowers.

The most beautiful flower in the garden right now. Can’t remember the name of the plant and it lost it’s label when I repotted it.
First flower on the salvia amisted.
Beautiful foxgloves. Hopefully dozens next year
My geum tangerine is only just starting to flower
This jasmine is flowering it’s heart out and filling the garden with scent particularly in the evening. I am planting more varieties to hopefully extend the “scent show” next year.
Coming soon…. I have more agathanthus buds then ever before. Feeding and watering after flowering maybe helped or maybe it is just the amazing sunshine we have had

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Staging a plant theatre SonS

My walled garden has large areas of paving so two keys areas of display are entirely made up of pots. This is the perfect opportunity to curate a changing picture depending on what is looking best in any given month. This week I completely stripped back the display around the seating, repotting several key plants and giving each specimen room so the variations in folliage can really be appreciated.

This is the before photo. Really pleased with the brave choice of the terracotta wall but the plants are congested and lacking flow.
I thought this would take a couple of hours but five hours in, I just seem to have created chaos. Obviously a two day job!
At the end of day two it is looking so much better with good height from the yucca and the olive. The palms have more space so you can really see their structure.
A closer view of the section just outside the kitchen door. Orange wall looks much better without the trellis, the passion flower was not thriving and is already springing to life in it’s new location.
At nose level behind the seating there is rosemary, orange blossom and two scented geraniums, one mint, one rose.
Inspired by success, today I reworked the plant staging that can be seen from the kitchen window.
Whilst rearranging over 100 pots I collected together my saxifraga fortunei. I have Rubrifolia, backberry & apple pie and my newest purchse black ruby. Not sure what the other one is, might be a second rubrifolia but one does seem to have a much lighter leaf colour. Maybe our national collection holder will see this and help me out.

Unboxed – Beth Chatto Nursery delivery SonS

Part of my job involves a museum, sadly closed right now. We have a huge collection of artefects including the third largest collection of historic clothing in England. We have a project called Unboxed where we film or photograph the opening of boxes that have been in storage, sometimes for over 20 years. These then become really popular posts on social media.

My mind turned to this when I received an exciting delivery from the Beth Chatto Nursery this week, my own mini Unboxed.

Chewie is excited too
Beautiful plants, in great condition and really well packed
So what is in the box?

Saxifrage Southside Seedling Group

Dicentra spectabilis x2

Viola rivinìana purpurea

Primula denticlata alba x3

Epimedium pubigerum

Primula bulleyana

Athyrium niponicum pictum red beauty

What a lovely stash, feeling very lucky. But wait a minute, didn’t I go alittle crazy on this order? Shouldn’t there be more plants? Then ratta tat tat on the front door and…

A second box! Apologies from the delivery man
More lovely plants

Saxifrage black ruby

Dodecatheon meadia

Gillenia trifoliata

Maianthemum stellatum

Valeriana montana

Geraniums, one white, one purple

Now I agree the two boxes held enough plants to make any gardener do a little dance of joy but I have to confess to picking up these two geraniums from a plant sale next door to my Mum’s house. There are worse addictions to have and my three weeks furlough will be so much better spent finding the perfect spot for each and every new arrival.

Bird song – SonS

The garden has never had so much feathered activity! We have a blackbird nest with the noisiest, most demanding babies and a nest of baby wrens who are much better behaved. I also suspect we have Great Tits nesting in the top of the 24 ft palm. It is a joy, I don’t even mind being dive bombed when I walk past the nests.

Here is one of the babies waiting to be fed
Fabulous new growth on the Fatsia Polycarpa Needham
A couple of months ago I had eleven flower buds on my peony but they stayed very small and when I took a closer look, a creature had made holes in most of them and eaten them from the inside out. At least I have one beautiful flower and the possibility of three more still to open
Viburnum Plicatum f. Tomentosum Kilimanjaro is one of the best plants in the garden. It deserved the title of plant of the year in 2016
I have really enjoyed the camassias this year and will definitely buy lots more to plant this autumn. Also a big fan of the Geranium Maderense Alba with its beautiful foliage. I have grown them from seed for a couple of years and would do so even if they never flowered.
Double the delight. Having a walled garden is wonderful- hardly any frost, hardly any weeds, lots of privacy but the 18ft north facing wall can be very dark. I have solved this with a dozen mirrors of different sizes and shapes. Even better when the reflect a favourite plant like this Thalictrum

The shade bed – SonS

After a day of prep last weekend, this weekend I have planted out my shade bed that runs along the bottom of a north facing wall.

This is the before, almost everything in mismatched pots that are stacked up, some plants in carrier bags waiting for their new home. Certainly no sense of display and many of the ferns struggling.
My delivery of mostly shade loving plants ordered online from the Beth Chatto nursery. Plants arrived promptly and in beautiful condition. Includes: heuchera sanguinea white cloud, Polystichum polyblepharum, brunnera macrophylla and delphinium bellamosum (but that is for a sunny spot)
Particularly delighted with saxifrage dentata with leaves that look like they have been trimed with pinking shears. This will be planted in a spot that gets alittle evening sun
Tiarella, you can never have too many of these
Another Saxifrage, Chambers Pink Pride.
The finished bed using interesting pieces of wood from around the garden and just a couple of feature pots. Hard to spot but there are 40 foxgloves dotted through which should be beautiful next year.
Continuing round the corner. Plants need to fill out and cover more of the soil and the large euphobia might not survive the move at this time of year, we shall see, the rain has helped.

Thank goodness for the garden SonS

I work in a theatre which is currently closed. We are focused on keeping in touch with our audiences and this week it was my turn to share, in our weekly email to twenty thousand people, what I am doing to get through the shutdown. I shared how happy my garden makes me and a link to The Propergator blog. I wonder if anyone reading this joined the Six on Saturday gang through Worthing Theatres?

I love nothing more than unfurling fern fronds. This is the centre of my tree fern, Dicksonia Antartica.
This is the first year I have grown tulips and my garden colour palette is usually blue, purple and white but I am loving the vivid colour of Orange Princess. Will grow again next year.
Echium pininana grown from seed a couple of years ago. Had dozens but removed them because Hubble the dog was very ill after eating them. This one is in a chimney pot so out of reach
I love the colour combination of the Heuchera Orange Berry with the orange wall
Halesia tetraptera, the snowdrop tree.
Last week I introduced my new greenhouse. Already full of seedlings!

My first greenhouse

One of my dreams has come true. I am now the proud and delighted owner of a beautiful, olive green greenhouse. It was delivered and erected back in March luckily before the shutdown. It is just 4ft by 6ft but already full of seedlings and plug plants happily growing.

The chosen location
The site is cleared
The base is laid, the wall is painted
The greenhouse is up
Looks beautiful and like it has always been there
Quickly full of seedlings and cutting.

I did also make room for a comfy chair and it has become my happy place. Something we all need right now.

Wrapping SOS

It is panto season (Oh no it isn’t) so working in a theatre this means it is crazy busy. Every year I make sure my wrapping is done before December- wrapping the presents but more importantly wrapping my tender plants.

1) Staring with the tree ferns

2) Horticulural fleece

I like the green coloured fleece. It protects the plants but still looks fairly natural.

3) Succulents

My succulent collection is now under the garden table to keep the worst of the rain off. Most seem fine through the cold winter but cold and wet will kill them. Later in December I will wrap the table legs with clear plastic for extra protection.

The scills violacea, silver squill ledebouria currently sat on the top of the table have spent the last six month dotted around the garden looking beautiful. They will move indoors next weekend.

4) Window boxes

The window boxes on the front of the house have had a seasonal makeover. I have to remember to water them because even after a downpour they are bone dry.

5) Bananas

The bananas have been sawn down to just two foot from the ground and then wrapped in fleece.

6) A cosy winter project

I have been labelling my pots for the last two years but was seduced by the lovely looking bamboo labels. Lovely looking for the first six months, unreadable after a year!

So I ordered black plastic labels and permanent white paint pens and I am slowly working through my 220 pots, looking up the plants that I have forgotten. A relaxing job that connects me to the garden even on cold winter days.

That is it from me, do visit The Propergator blog to see SOS from gardens across the UK and several further afield. It is like peaking over people’s garden fences!

Late to the party but very well dressed – sos

Rainy and cold weather means I have not been tempted out to the garden. However a couple of unexpected blooms caught my eye from the bathroom window. So I popped out for a closer look and two hours later I was still out there, in my pyjamas and wellies, planting the last of the bulbs, unaware of the drizzle.


The grower at Hampton Court promised these lilies would flower in October so delighted to still have blooms in late November


A beautiful flowering heuchera, not sure which one.


Delighted by salvia amistad, my first time growing it and will now never be without it.


Plectranthus ciliatus is flowering it’s heart out. A lovely surprise in the back section of the garden.


Ceramic blooms could been seen as cheating but they are beautiful and lift the spirits through the darker winter months.


Finishing on the beautiful birthday gifts from my sister.

Lisbon – SoS

I had to tear myself away from my own garden projects this week to spend a delightful couple of days in Lisbon. A beautiful city with Portuguese Tarts on every corner.

1) We selected a house with a courtyard garden so I write this happily sitting under a huge avocado, a lime tree and a Japanese medler wondering at the climbing Asparagus fern with its spiny branches.

2) Botanical Garden of Lisbon

These gardens are hidden in the centre of the city and currently the glass houses are closed for refurbishment. There are many mature trees and an impressive dry garden but generally the gardens feel run down and in need of love and investment.

Incredible Swiss cheese plant

One of the many huge agaves

3) This exotic tree on a street in Lisbon stopped me in my tracks, still trying to find out what it is.

4) The Cold Glasshouse located in Parque Eduardo VII, has about 1.5 hectares of glass houses that are unheated but are far from cold. They are completely wonderful and only just over 3 euros entrance fee.

5) Another Swiss Cheese plant, I bought one of these for our sitting room last week never imagining I would see so many of them in Lisbon

6) Devil’s backbone (Kalanchoe daigremontiana). It is always a thrill to see a plant you nurture on your kitchen windowsill casually growing outside with little if any love.

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