Showing posts from 2019

GBBD: Hanging Baskets the Easy Peasy Way

Most hanging basket guidance will give you a look that is burgeoning, beautiful, and relatively high maintenance. Last year's health woes meant I was not only later with planting up my hanging basket, there was also a limited choice of what I could actually put in there. Burgeoning was out and budget was in.

Then I remembered the clever use of Bidens I'd seen on holiday at Bishop's Castle a few years ago. Luckily there was still some left for sale, and the pictured basket was the result of just one plant. Not only that, it flowered right up to December. I learned later that Bidens can be grown as a perennial in the UK, though we tend to use it as an annual. Sadly my plant didn't survive past the first hard frost, though if I'd moved it from its north facing position to a warmer spot in the back garden, I may have had more success with overwintering.

Another accidental shortcut was my use of Dalefoot's Wool compost. Remember last year's drought? My basket f…

Spittle Spotting

I've walked around the garden with more of a purpose than usual lately because I'm on the lookout for any plants with spittle, commonly known as 'cuckoo spit'. It's a sign a froghopper nymph (aka spittlebug) has taken up residence within the protective froth just like you can see in the photo above.

Until recently I'd thought these sap-suckers were relatively harmless, but now I see they're of concern as they're a chief carrier of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, which results in the disease and death of many popular garden plants.

It hasn't reached the UK yet and the RHS would like it to stay that way. They've teamed up with the University of Sussex and Forest Research, who need thousands of volunteers - like you and me - to help map the distribution of spittlebugs found in gardens, meadows, grasslands and woodlands from April to late June.

We're being asked to report sightings of spittle, in our gardens or on plants elsewhere, through iR…

Chelsea Memories

By now the Royal Hospital grounds should be back to normal and this year's Chelsea Flower Show is fading into memory. Quite a lot of my show coverage this year was elsewhere on social media, so I'm taking the opportunity to scoop it all up and keep a record of it on here.

Before I do that, I wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate Tom Hoblyn on his Dubai Majlis show garden. This was quite a different take on what the Middle East has to offer and I loved the rusty linking elements together with the planted highlights using my colour of this year's show, yellow.

There were a lot of innovative displays in the Great Pavilion and this gold medal winning one by Roualeyn Nurseries was a delight, especially as I bought a 'Garden News' from them at Malvern.

Staying in the Great Pavilion, Kirstenbosch's display was awash with their signature native flora.

Green walls were everywhere, and I particularly liked its use as a map.

I'm always on the lookout for unu…

The benefits of #NoMowMay

I cut a small posy of flowers for our kitchen on Sunday courtesy of the back lawn and keeping NAH away from it so we could have a #NoMowMay. I've talked about my Wild and Woolly Lawn before, and since then it's gone from strength to strength. I've enjoyed watching the large numbers of insects zooming around our garden this year* which I'm sure is the result of my relaxed attitude to the need for lawn perfection.

As well as the flowers on the windowsill, there are plenty more where they came from outside, and so I took part in Plantlife's Every Flower Counts lawn survey yesterday. With the decrease in wildlife habitats, there is an increasing recognition our gardens can provide much needed havens for wild flowers, which in turn support a wide variety of insects and other fauna.

Plantlife's survey aims to put a baseline figure on one aspect of this concept, by estimating how much our lawns can support honey bees when the grass is left to grow longer and the wild…

Exbury to the power of two

It was lovely to get reacquainted with Exbury Garden's rhododendrons at Chelsea Flower Show this week. I first saw them at a GMG study day earlier in the year and it was great to remember that visit and how special the Exbury hybrids are.

The Chelsea display is a joint production by Exbury Gardens and Millais Nurseries - who specialise in rhododendrons - to celebrate the garden's centenary. In that time, three generations of the garden's owners - the Rothschild family -have raised over 1,000 hybrids.

Now Head Gardener Tom Clarke and his team are working with the nursery to ensure the rarer and more threatened hybrids in the collection are conserved. Tom explained this has to be done by careful propagation as any seed from the garden specimens won't come true (the hybrids are first generation offspring; true seed comes several generations later).

The nursery launched a wide selection of new varieties at the show, many of which are part of the Exbury/Millais propagation…

Postcard from Chelsea Flower Show

I had a delightful day at Chelsea Flower Show yesterday. My head is still processing which stories to tell you, but in the meantime here's Paul Hervey-Brookes' exquisite 'The Art of Viking Garden' to enjoy from the Space to Grow category.

One of the questions most asked about Chelsea is 'what is this year's colour?' As usual purples and greens are in abundance as befits the time of year, but the colour for me this time is yellow. Paul used deft touches in his design to add highlights and ensure they stuck in my mind.

I had a lovely surprise whilst I admired this effect. Paul turned round to me and said 'Michelle, just go and have a good look around' and I was delighted to skip onto his garden. Whilst we've known each other for a while, I had no idea he'd remembered my name.

Update: the awards are out and the garden has deservedly won gold. Many, many congratulations Paul.

My Favourite Place

I'm delighted to be featured on the back page of Garden News this week, where I talk about the delights of The Gower Peninsula.

Unfortunately I have the byline instead of Naomi Slade who wrote the article, not me. I merely enthused down the phone at her and she's accurately captured what I said.

I'm now desperate to go there again. Where's your favourite place?

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day - Photinia 'Red Robin'

I planted Photinia 'Red Robin' when I created VP Gardens nearly 20 years ago. I chose it for its shiny evergreen foliage and new-growth red leaves to brighten one of the darker corners away from the house. Sadly I've allowed it to grow unchecked until recently and now it is far too dominant for its position.

The same applies to most of the border in which it resides and I've started on a slow revamp. Slow because the soil needs feeding (a combination of my neglect and a neighbour's towering conifer hedge sucking everything dry); I want to ensure I've removed every scrap of bramble and ivy that's hopped over the fence from the public land next door; and that area is currently a major flight path for nesting birds so I'll leave them in peace whilst they nurture their broods.

I was going to remove the Photinia completely until I saw how huge its trunk and roots are. It is really is more like a small garden tree rather than a shrub and is currently beyond …

Return to Malvern

It's a while since I attended the Malvern Spring Festival and it was a happy return there last week. I might have been there on the only rainy day, but there was still plenty to smile about. Most of my show gardens photos have turned out on the dull side because of the gloom, but nothing could stop Peter Dowle's award winning efforts from looking good on the day.

The striking sculpture is called 'Zephyr' and is by Simon Gudgeon. When I looked him up, it transpires he owns Sculpture by the Lakes in Dorset, a garden which is now on my must-see list.

Here are a few more of my outdoor highlights...

The rusted metal are my chosen items from Tom Critchley this time and are shown 'planted' in my garden.

Meanwhile indoors...

It struck me there was a lot more thought put into the displays at this year's show. I particularly liked the x-ray and microscope images.

The number of areas and themes for talks has also increased and I particularly enjoyed Tamsin Westhorpe&…

For National Gardening Week

Today is the last day of National Gardening Week and this year's theme of edible growing. To celebrate, I've posted daily photos on Twitter, plus some on Instagram and it's great to use this post to look over the week and see the visual diary of what's happening in my garden right now.

What you won't find is the confession I've waited a while to tell you: I gave up my allotment last year. I cried when I made the decision, but my renewed enthusiasm for gardening this year shows it's the right one.

You'll see from the photo at the top of this post that I brought my lovely Woodblocx raised bed back home. It soon became clear that I didn't have the right space for it here, but there is a very happy spot available for it in the community garden at Midsomer Norton station, which is where NAH has his steam engine. I look forward to going there later this year to see how it's settling into its new home.

So now I have an exciting new project for the gar…

Lent the Austrian way

We noticed immediately Lent is a much bigger deal in Austria because everywhere we went there were all kinds of traditional decorations on show. Wreaths and painted eggs were to the fore, and I loved this arrangement I found in a garden in Selzthal.

Austria's population is 70% Catholic, so I'd expected churches there to have special decorations. Naturally they'd taken it a step further at St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, where we saw Peter Baldiger's dramatic installation, Sky of Stones. Here it is lit in purple for Lent; then it will be in gold for Easter, and finally red for Pentecost. The installation of 1,332 'stones' (they're made from paper) is on view until June 10th 2019.

In the cathedral's precinct, Blumenhaus zum Dom was stacked and decorated with gorgeous wreaths and blooms.

They go for pussy willow in a big way in Austria*. As well as these little bunches for sale at the shop, I saw someone dwarfed by her purchase of a massive bunch of…

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Good in death

We spend lots of time celebrating our floral highlights (and quite rightly so), but I've pondered floral death recently. I'm currently greeted by plenty of hellebores in their final throes when I step outside, and I've decided I really like them.

It means they add a couple of weeks extra interest after they've strutted their stuff round the garden. This is of particular value in the areas I've guerrilla gardened, where I tend to leave things to fend for themselves.

The pictured patch of "June's hellebores"* - of unknown parentage and given to me by June (RIP) from choir - have slowly spread themselves out and formed a couple of lovely clumps at the side of the house despite the challenging conditions I've given them.

Admiring them in their death showed their promise as a seedbank for future guerrilla gardening. I walked along the public land yesterday and there are plenty of potential spots for them which will make a cheery sight when I walk into…

This is for Lucy

There's hardly a day that goes by when I marvel at the strangeness of blogging and social media. It's attracted a lot of attention recently for its downsides, but today I'd like to celebrate its positive side.

When I tentatively set foot online with my blog in 2007, I never thought it would give me all kinds of opportunities; best of all are all the new friends I've made here in the UK and all over the world, all connected by a love of nature and gardening.

One of the earliest of these was Lucy, who has a wonderfully different way of looking at the world and generously shares it via her blogs and photos. I had the good fortune to visit her and her family a couple of times when they lived in Weymouth, but now they are much further away in Halifax.

Those of you who read or create Tree Following posts may not know that it was Lucy who created this meme, which has helped many of us slow down and view one object over time and in finer detail; something she does well in all…

Unusual Front Gardens #30: Fill yer boots

Great to have my mate Mark contributing to this blog again, albeit via a new media - he usually emails them to me!
We've had wellies previously* (here and here), so it was only a matter of time before flower-filled boots were found. They're quite apt seeing Mark spotted them in the Lake District.

* = There may be more in the future as I've spotted some in Rowde outside a farm along with a flower-filled tractor tyre. I just need the courage to stop on a busy main road and snap them. Sadly the "face" I spotted a little further on is no more.

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: O the pleasure with trees!

O the pleasure with trees!
The orchard—the forest—the oak, cedar, pine, pekan-tree,
The honey-locust, black-walnut, cottonwood, and magnolia.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) from Poem of Joys - in: Leaves of Grass

The magnolias are magnificent this year, helped by the unseasonably warm weather of the past few weeks, plus the lack of frost. Views like this one of my neighbour's tree reaching peak magnolia, and those at Westonbirt Arboretum last week (like the one below) make my heart sing. The pleasure with trees indeed.

Write Away: #SpringNatureDiary

On Wednesday I took part in a project commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. They invited anyone and everyone to write a quick 150 word nature diary to mark this year's spring equinox.

Regular readers know I love this kind of project, reminiscent of the fun we had with #MyGardenRightNow a couple of years ago.

You can read my [lightly edited] entry below. 80+ submissions and photos from around the country are available here. It's a wonderful celebration of this year's arrival of spring.

How's spring (or autumn) looking in your neighbourhood?

Today's dawn was special as the first chiffchaff of spring announced its arrival. It's a fitting way to celebrate the vernal equinox.

Nature's changing so fast now. The apple boughs have just burst into leaf and my herb bed tells me there'll be mint for our potatoes this Sunday.

My small urban garden is full of microclimates; demonstrated admirably today by my potted St George's tulips. Those …

Postcard from Austria

Big birthdays and anniversaries demand big holidays, and so NAH and I found ourselves touring the delights of Vienna, Bohemia and Prague for ten days recently.

The weather on the whole was more March lamb-like for us compared with you and Storm Gareth. However, packing was still a bit tricky as we knew the forecast held both snow and temperatures in the low 70s Fahrenheit for us. And surprisingly it all came true.

The above photo summarises that packing dilemma as it depicts the plentiful catkins we saw, along with chilly, snowy peaks in the distance. In the woods I was delighted to see wild cyclamen and hellebores in bloom; the latter are called 'Snow roses' in Austria.

Being Lent, we found many places decorate their homes and businesses with flowers and greenery in a similar way we do for Christmas. More of those delights to come, along with some unusual public planting and an international edition of The Great Green Wall Hunt...