Saturday, 25 November 2017

A Garden Transitions

Doodle Disruptia.

          With plants transitioning from warm weather to cold,
          the garden has tons of colour.

          This week, I put on my spectacles to consider six plants
          in various stages of the process.

1.  Let's start with something still in bloom.  Before we moved here, this unknown mint spent years self seeding all over the place.  I like the way it & the corydalis soften the brickwork areas of the garden.  Here, both grow in the shade near the leaky the water tap.

Unknown mint creeping under the corydalis.

2.  The leaves of this spider fatsia are just starting to turn.  We got it earlier this year to fill a shady spot on the patio.  Although it didn't bloom, its foliage met all our expectations, as well as those of whatever has nibbled on it all summer.

3.  The honeysuckle, also on the patio, is getting a really nice yellow.  This fella gave us trouble during the rainy season because, situated between these 2 chairs, it didn't have enough ventilation.  I raised it on some bricks, then spread a layer of mould barrier grit on top.  There were few blossoms, but I was ecstatic that it returned to health.

Honeysuckle & Mizzy BunnyButt

As you can see from the mushrooms (& the moss on the cement), damp will be an ongoing problem with this little guy, so next year, it'll probably be either relocated or elevated more.

Mushroom in the honeysuckle.

4.  What's a garden without verbena bonariensis, eh?  It looks great on its own but plays well with short guys, tall guys, strong colours, pale colours . . . low maintenance and it lasts forever.  My kinda plant.

Verbena bonariensis in full bloom

Amazingly, these two photos were both taken this week, & on the same day.

And nearly done.

5.  Seedpods are to autumn as blooms are to . . . something.  Oh, summer.  A season that doesn't happen in the UK.  I don't know which crocosmia this is, as it's one of those guys I fell in love with in some long ago garden & have taken with me on my subsequent moves.  Here, it's thinking about laying down for winter on top of the purple sage - an old friend purloined from 2 houses previous to the crocosmia.  

Crocosmia seed heads.

6.  I'll end with new growth.  This sea holly created quite the stir when it showed up at our house earlier this year.  A single stalk ending in one nearly done bloom, it looked like a piece of art rather than something that grew in nature.  It died back soon after planting, but not longer after, voila!

Eryngium bourgatii Picos Amethyst.

And here, with Mizzy BunnyButt for scale.

Mizzy BB never looks impressed.

There's my Six on Saturday to last through the week.  Be sure to stop by The Propagator for his Six & links to many, many other wonderful half dozens.

Mr Big Nose Dog on his colourful walk.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Falling in Love Again

When it comes to the garden, I've given my heart away too many times to contemplate monogamy.  This week, I look at what's currently active in the garden that also, somewhere along the way, captured my heart.

Earlier in the summer, goldenrod w/queen of the prairie.

1.  Goldenrod is that boy who's friends with your brother, the kid you grow up tripping over & treat like family, but never fancy.  Before I emigrated, goldenrod covered acres of field along my drive to work, putting on its yellow headdress at the height of summer.  A coupla months later, frost would outline every stem & seed head in breath-stopping beauty.

A few years after arriving here in the UK, the sudden sight of that unmistakable yellow gave me a different feeling.  Not acres, but 4 lonely plants in a neighbour's garden.  I'd never seen goldenrod in captivity before.  As it would happen, the very next place I lived had a huge flowerbed taken over by the stuff.  When I left there, this time I took some with me.

My late father called it wild mustard, the familiar name learned from his herbalist mother & said it in his gentle southern accent.  I never met my grandmother, a woman born in the 19th century, but she gives a 4 generational provenance between the mustard family & my own.  Goldenrod & me, we're two old friends reunited in this new & strange place.

Goldenrod as it looks now, w/o a hint of frost yet.

2.  One of my many UK homes had a flagstone area outside the back door.  Some stones had been removed at the far end to allow space for what, to me, was an extraordinarily exotic plant.  Because of its pink blooms, I called it the Gigantic Mauve Thing.  Makes no sense, but that's me in a nutshell.

After learning its Latin name, I called it Roger.  As is my habit, I lifted a few Roger rhyzomes each time I moved.  Then at my last place, taking a little bit of Roger would ruin the balance of his flowerbed, so I left him behind.

Once settled here, I enticed Roger's more handsome brother, Bronze Peacock, into my garden & planted him by the water feature.  Perhaps knowing my heart belonged to his brother, he frittered & frazzled & threatened to die, so I plucked him from the bog & stuck him in with the tomato plants.  No bloom this summer, but knowing I've left all thoughts of his brother behind, perhaps next year Peacock'll do better.

Rodgersia reminds me of nights on the flagstone patio, waiting for the tawny owl to cry, of mornings watching the pheasants feed, of a time when I thought Good was bigger & stronger & more likely to happen than was Evil.

Rodgersia Bronze Peacock - when it's healthy, it is bronze.

3.  One of my moves took me to a smaller garden than before, overshadowed by my neighbour's love of trees (& dislike of pruning).  I confiscated the one small sunny area of lawn & put in a circular rose garden with lavender around the edges.  Starved for room, I plugged the spaces between lavender & roses with the creeping thyme I'd brought from my last place.

By the next summer, the thyme filled the empty gaps in the bed.  I'd sit on the lawn & pull the few struggling weeds from it, brushing up against the lavender as I worked.  Those three scents mingled, the creeping thyme & lavender with an afterthought of rose, it made me drunk with pleasure.  I'd often lay down in the grass next to my rose bed & breathe breathe breathe them all in.

Smell is as important as colour in my garden.  The trio of rose, lavender & creeping thyme is one I repeat over & over in every place I've lived since.  When I weed each of those subsequent beds, I remember that POW of the first time I fell in love with that smell.

Red lavender as it looks now, & white creeping thyme underneath.

4.  I used to live near Gertrude Bell's family home, Rounton Grange.  The house is long gone, but the area of the kitchen garden has been taken over by Dark Star Plants, a nursery that specialises in plants with dark foliage.

On one of my visits there, the seller said that they were prohibited from propagating a certain plant for 30 years so that the folk who developed it could make money first.  In my memory, that plant was this little black mondo.  We bought three of them.

Some time later, a friend came over to get plant ideas from my garden.  Based on what she said her design would be, I thought little black mondo would be a good choice.  While leading her over to check it out, I told her about how it wouldn't propagate so unfortunately, I couldn't give her any plants.  Yet there mondo grew with 5 babies sprouting out all around it.  That's the first time a plant ever called me a liar.  At least, to my face.  And yes, my friend got some of the babies.

On that day, little black mondo exposed the frailty of my memory, but also the delightful fictions it writes.  When I see mondo, I think of my friend, a remarkable adventurer.  I think about Gerturde Bell, who wouldn't've had the patience for me, but whom I admire nevertheless.  And I think of how rules & regulations can't stop life from being itself.

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Niger' - Black mondo.

5.  Everyone should have one outlaw romance.  Mine actually grows in the empty lot next door.

From what I can see through the upstairs window (not that I'm snooping), the lot used to be an Edwardian garden, now gone to the foxes.  In addition to roses & fruit trees, it has several climbers scrambling the wall between the properties, attempting murder by strangulation of my potted shrubs & trees.  All summer, I waged merciless war against those climbers until the leaves turned colour & the Virginia creeper turned my head.

Its beautiful crimson calms me.  I have reckless thoughts of taking cuttings, of growing my own dashing creeper.  Then my potted shrubs & trees stage an intervention, after which I make some focaccia, open a bottle of wine & revisit a box set of Last Tango in Halifax.

My outlaw romance.

6.  Once, while foraging for dead plants to use as Halloween decorations, I found a hunchbacked shrub growing under some mature trees at the edge of a field.  Its seedpods looked like earrings made from dried blood drops, perfect for our Halloween party.

When none of my gardening friends could identify it, I assumed birds had facilitated its escape from a nearby Edwardian greenhouse ruin.  I tried growing the seeds, but no joy.  It took years to identify it as Himalayan honeysuckle.

That long ago Halloween party celebrated a short film collaboration by several of my women friends.  The various Himalayan honeysuckle incarnations since that first discovery, they've all connected me with the excitement of group creation, the shared experience of women, humanity's bloodchain spark in all of us.

Seedpods from Himalayan honeysuckle.

That brings us to the end of my garden's #SixonSaturday.  Be sure to drop by the instigator of this hashtag, for his Six.  In the comments to his blog, you'll find links to other gardeners' collections of Sixes.

There but for the Grace of God . . . street view of the Creep.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

In Only A Week

Acer leaves the colours of a Van Gogh.

At this time of year, posting Six on Saturday highlights how much change happens in a lil ole week.  Bees are hand jiving in the fatsia japonica while the acer leaves that were golden only three weeks ago, are now shrivelling into a burnished copper.

1.  At the beginning of the week, I had to accept that the lawn needed one last mow.  CFS keeps me on a strict energy budget & mowing sends me into serious, angry-letter-from-the-bank overdraft.  I bit the bullet & bought an electric mower as my hoped-for solution.  No petrol smell, no petrol weight, no metal parts.  For the moment, a great & inexpensive solution to the year's last (anticipated) mow.  We'll see how long this light weight baby lasts, come next year.

My new mower.

2.  No surprise that bulb planting gobbled up a good portion of the week.  None of these bad boys were mad purchases of exotic new residents, unfortunately.  Rather, a clutch of brown bags containing bulbs that'd grown in pots - narcissus, tulips, daffs & some Can't Remembers (i.e., bulbs I didn't label so can't remember what the heck they are). 

Planting last year's bulbs is like getting a card from a really good friend who's moved away.  Except for the Can't Remembers.  That's more like reading what people wrote in my year book all those long years ago, wondering who they were & what they were talking about.

Old friends & forgotten favourites.

3.  Planting bulbs got me close & personal with what's already setting the stage for next summer.  My daisies bloom in late spring/early summer, so they didn't surprise me so much.

Daisy in waiting.

4.  But the Michaelmas daisies did surprise me.  On the other hand, this fella bloomed in mid-summer for the first time, so perhaps it's changing its game.

Aster getting an early start.

5.  I came across a little green stranger snuggling next to the purple sage.  Obviously not a weed, but what the heck . . . oh my goodness, how did I forget that I'd planted a sedum there this year?  Probably because after a short struggle, it'd withered away.  I'm very glad to see it didn't succumb.  This may've been a Purple Emperor, although here, it looks quite green.

The sedum lives!

6.  The last 10 years've been fairly nomadic for me, with a new garden every few years.  My current one is the first I've had with no pond.  But since there's a Doodle at our house, we must have water to splash in.  This week, the pool got drained for winter, with some help from said Doodle.

I think all the water's out now.

While I love the blousy look of late summer & early autumn, everything happening this week tidies the garden for next year.  The sudden neatness gives the whole place a feeling of anticipation.  I guess every week in the garden is a good week after all.

Once again, thanks so much for stopping by my little patch of the world.  Do check out the gardener behind Six on Saturday for his own six & links to all the other great Six gardeners.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Covering the Ground

Until a few years ago, I was one of those crazy kids who enjoyed edging the lawn, the stepping stones, the borders, the mole hills.  What satisfaction, delineating my space!  Then I contracted CFS which keeps me out of the garden for an eternity at a time (okay, for days at a time), so I've had to come up with energy saving hacks.  Here's what one of those ideas - ground cover - is doing this week.

1.  Way back in the spring, I did a test pit in the flower bed of both chamomile and Irish moss.  For those more knowledgeable than myself, you may scratch your head over the chamomile, but it was sold to me as ground cover.  At the beginning of November, this is my chamomile test pit (the brown stuff with a few lingering white flowers). 

Chamomile with cosmos & iris.

Even as it fades, it hits me mid-thigh, so about 24 inches tall.  Its height kept it from entering the ground cover areas of my garden, but I really did love the spread & lightness of the blossoms, so here it stays, waiting for next year.

Chmomile with Mizzy BunnyButt for scale.

2.  The Irish moss did what it said on the tin - grew like a barn on fire, covered itself with lovely, tiny white blooms, then stayed a tightly packed, delicate foliage.  I moved it from the pit to between the stepping stones where it kept most of the weeds at bay.

Irish moss with only a few weeds after weeks of neglect.

3.  Excited that my anti-work idea was, well, working, I scoured the internet for ideas (here's a good site) & filled some other spaces with Leptinella Platt's black brass buttons.  I'd discovered these bad boys too late in the season to see them bloom, but by golly, that didn't matter.  Look at that divine foliage!

Platt's black brass buttons

In a very short time, these beauties were swamped by grass & weeds.  This week, I rescued them & safely potted them up for winter.  I'm thinking that next year, they may live with one of my potted trees.

4.  After moving the brass buttons, I filled the gaps with my old friend, creeping thyme.  My favourite combo for creeping thyme is lavender.  The combined scents during weeding makes me swoon.  Couldn't really plant lavender here unless I wanted hopping, rather than stepping stones.

Purple creeping thyme.

5.  There's a pretty ugly cement path from my back door.  Not only is it ugly, but it's in a shady part of the garden.  Apparently, purple New Zealand bur is shade tolerant, its foliage colour varying according to how much light it gets.  I planted it along the cement path where it proved a fast grower & gave even the creeping buttercup a run for its money.

New Zealand bur smudging the path edge.

However, grass fights a better fight against it.  Even so, both these photos are after weeks of neglect, so not bad at all, in my opinion.

New Zealand bur fighting the grass.

6.  You've been so helpful in identifying the strangers in my garden that, as in previous weeks, my last entry will be one of the Great Unknowns.  This plant has woody stems about 12 - 15 inches tall, had small yellow flowers on it mid-summer that reminded me of miniature Rose of Sharon, & now has these wonderful red seed pods on it.  Its rate of spread would indicate it has a World Dominance gene.

This week's Great Unknown.

Thanks for stopping by again this week.  If you enjoyed my Six on Saturday offerings, drop by The Propogator for his Six & links to other gardeners' Six on Saturday posts.