Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The big dig

Please excuse the fact that the text is centred, I've edited it numerous times but blogger refuses to play ball today. 

Succulents are a major thing in my gardening life now.
A few years ago I wasn't keen on them at all, as a group of plants. I suppose I'd seen too many specimens in my time, sitting on windowsills indoors, not getting enough light and merely existing. They seemed so inanimate, of course I was aware that they grew but any change seemed unperceivable not the most exciting, or so I naively thought.

A seismic shift in my thinking occurred about four years ago. A visit to Cornwall in the extreme SW of the UK with a great gardening friend introduced me to succulent growing on a grans scale, how it should be done. The mild climate of the area allows Agaves, Aeoniums and the likes to grow fat and proud, relishing getting their roots in the ground and wallowing in the ample rainfall that the region receives.
The Minack theatre not far from lands end occupies a precipitous position, tumbling down the cliffs in a natural amphitheatre which was turned by Rowena Cade during the last century into an outdoor theatre. It receives the full force of the Atlantic ocean right in the face, there's nothing but water between this point and the east coast of the USA.
The Abbey gardens on Tresco in the isles of Scilly which were visited later in the week were a revelation and cemented in my mind the slowly forming ideas of how succulents should be grown. Not dotted about here and there with bare soil between, but growing cheek by jowl, making the most of the varying shapes, forms and colours.

Since then I've been building on my collection, adding more each year, but however unlike in Cornwall, my succulents are not outdoors year round, my conditions over winter are just too much for many of them. It's not the cold, but the wet. From autumn right through to spring we get prodigious amounts of rainfall and this combined with cold conditions would be the downfall of manys a juicy plant, growing on the edge of hardiness.


Contrasting texture is what I'm after, playing hard and loose with the rules of what should and shouldn't be grown together.
Pelargoniums (here the variety 'Mrs Pollock') come from a Mediterranean climate, so why not bed them in next to Aeoniums?

Certain plants such as various Astelias and Aloe striatula are planted permanently, while the x Mangaves and Echeveria are crammed in around them from late April through to September.


Smaller specimens are tucked in among the stone walling, giving the illusion that they're happy year round residents, which I think is key. This little Agave 'Cream Spike' produced, (like all the Agave do when bedded out) masses of roots, really enjoying their summer holiday in the ground.

Agave 'Cornelius' is a new favourite, picked up from Cotswold Garden Flowers (don't let the name put you off, it's a treasure trove of the unusual) near Evesham, Worcestershire, last May. 

But then, the time comes, normally around mid/late September, where I have to think about digging up the majority of them. I try to time it so that they're dug following a dry spell, that way the go into the cold greenhouse relatively dry. Rot is then is much less likely to set in during the dark, dank days of winter. Most will not receive any water unless absolutely necessary when residing in their winter quarters. It's a tough regime offering them little love from October through to April, luckily they're resilient characters.

This was a sport I found on an Aeonium, though I don't know the parents species name, I'm incredibly fond of it and hope it'll start producing offset soon so I can prop it as I'd hate to lose it. It easily popped from the ground and was potted into a teracotta pot.

Echeverias are incredibly easy to deal with, most will lift easily out of the ground and are placed in trays with a little compost in the bottom, and will be happy here until spring.

With each passing year, and assuming that I'll have them for some time, the Agaves become trickier to deal with.
Quite apart from the spines which impale me given the slightest opportunity their increasing size means that housing them in pots and carting indoors becomes more difficult. Though the spikes in the hands are an occupational hazard that I'm more than willing to accept.
It's really just a more adventurous form of bedding plants, but not using carpets of Impatiens and Begonias, not that I'd rule either out if I thought them suitable for the look.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

My garden, a brief late September walk though.

Inspired by Loree over at The Danger Garden I decided to do a bit of a walk through of the back garden, to give an idea of the general layout. It's quite a small space but I tend to cram a lot in, lush foliage abounds. When taking pictures I often focus on small details, individual plants or showing compositions, rather than taking a step back to show a more general view.
Most of the pictures were taken on my phone a couple of weeks ago, the quality and sharpness of some ain't amazing but here we are.

The entrance to the garden, along the side of the house. There is planting behind where I'm standing but it needs an overhaul so will not feature in the blog today.
The chairs are incredibly comfortable, but they are quite stark, their whiteness shines out and slightly jars, I'm trying to relax about them, though it didn't help when a friend suggested that they looked like two bath tubs.
The cat isn't ours, he has started hanging around, as cats tend to do. I honestly don't know why he has decided to choose our house. 
We've called him Jim and it seems to fit.

Looking left, the Lophosoria is becoming rather triffid like, some plants in this bed need trimming back while others providing less interest will be removed.

Moving along the rear of the house is the micro patio and seating area, this has not been a summer for dining out, the rain and general greyness was not conducive to outdoor living. Damn metal manhole/drain cover! Ignore it please.
One of my container plantings, a mix of hardy and tender plants, little in the way of flowers, relying heavily on interesting foliage for colour.

Having children, toys can be found anywhere, the raptor fitted in with the jungly, Jurassic feeling, especially given the presence of Tetrapanax papyrifera 'Rex' in the background.
A new border, planted up in June this year, so just establishing and will need a bit of tweaking to improve its look next year.

The Dicksonia was only moved here in May, and has settled in nicely. It was originally located close to the back door (and before that at my parents' place) but its arching fronds made progress difficult and downright unpleasurable when dripping wet.
Partially hidden behind the tree fern is a shady planting with three slowly establishing Trachycarpus wagnerianus, Musa basjoo, Borinda papyrifera and Bergenia ciliata. 

Moving farther along I've created a path leading behind the oil tank (damn it but I hate that massive green plastic thing) This is the sunniest part of the back garden so I'm trying to make the most of that with my plant choices.

The Sonchus fruticosus behaves as a semi herbaceous perennial, having survived three or so winters outdoors. Normally it concentrates on producing lush green foliage but this summer it has decided to push out these yellow flowers. I'm not keen myself, but as you can see the insects approve so I've let them stay.
Honey bees have been making a bee line in order to indulge for weeks now. 'scuse the pun.

Looking down and to the right the planting mix is filling out, enjoying the extra light since removing a Fargesia 'Simba' recently.

Doing a 180 degree turn and looking at the scene I'm less that impressed overall, a jumble that doesn't work from this angle, more tweaking will be required here.

Though there are elements that I'm happy with, the planting in the middle distance is a bit of a nondescript fuzz, 
Winter will give me time to ponder what needs to change to give a more cohesive look that works better from all view points.

Friday, 2 October 2015

From above

While it's lovely to be down there,  among the plants in the midst of their multiple shades of lush leafage, I also enjoy the fact that living in a two storey property I can also check things out from above. Looking at the structure of the plants from a very different angle gives an entirely different perspective of the garden and it's layout.
It also gives me the opportunity to look with fresh eyes at the overall picture I'm trying to create. When in the garden proper my attention tends to be grabbed by the individual plants, you know, distracted by what's currently looking good, what's blooming,  what has been munched by a slug or whose leaves have been notched by adult vine weevils. From this distance such imperfections and problems melt away. I can see clearly what's working well and what needs to change. 
The leafy crown of the Dicksonia antartica  spreading its lush arching cartwheel of frondy spokes looks incredibly telling when viewed from such an alternative angle. It will be fighting for space next year as the green parasols of Tetrapanax papyrifera 'Rex' reach ever increasing dimensions.  
I'm thinking the Aralia elata growing behind may get the chop, it's removal will allow for better growth from the Borinda papyrifera behind, which is currently in a little too much shade. The Aralia is a bit of a suckering beast so I won't miss having to pull up its spikey offspring which seem to be popping up with increased regularity.  Of course if I do decide to remove it I will be plagued with them for the next few years anyway while it protests and tries to fight back. But it's a plant that needs to have manners put upon it.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Charleville House, Enniskerry

Charleville House near Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow is a large private garden that occasionally opens its doors to allow the great unwashed in. 
It's close to the more famous house and gardens of Powerscourt, which overlook it from a distance.
Nowadays the property is owned by Kenneth Rohan, a property developer with an interest in fine art, so security is tight. 
Entry to the estate is through large gates, with a long driveway sweeping through parkland towards the imposing Palladian mansion house, built in 1797 by the Monck family who resided there for two hundred and fifty years. 
To my eye the scale of the house looks a little off, especially when viewed front on. I think the wings should have been wider to balance the height of the tall narrow pedimented breakfront. But then who am I?

Entry to the garden itself is through a gate to the left hand side of the house, which leads into an area with herbaceous borders run alongside a fenced tennis court.

I was rather taken with the Scabious, something along the lines of 'Chat Noir' or 'Chile Black' I tried them in my own garden but due to the dense planting they were a little stretched so tended to flop a bit.

Catananche, or Cupid's dart

The inky buds of this Agapanthus stood out in contrast to the lighter colour of the opened blooms.

Damn it but Eryngiums are nice plants

Lilium 'Black Beauty'

I've never managed to establish Solanum laxum 'Album' for some reason, but I feel that there are too many plants and too little time/space to bother with it again at the minute.

Crinum x powelii does have rather unfortunate leaves, they're often untidy and prone to looking straggly and brown at the tips, however the flowers are pretty good. 

Especially in the white variety 'Album', providing large scented blooms from midsummer onwards.

Humps of Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula'.

I'm rather embarrassed to admit that I continue to be enamoured by Hydrangeas, I don't know why, I know I shouldn't but sometimes we like things that we know we shouldn't. Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' is a classy bird. Even better is the new variety 'Phantom' (Which received an RHS AGM in the most recent hydrangea trial), similar flowers but less inclined to flopping.

The invasive Persicaria campanulata running for its life in every direction, but yet contained behind a low box hedge, I do wonder if there is some form of root barrier preventing its spread forwards?

More Hydranges

and more

I know, I know, I'll stop, after this one.

A sultry dark and velvety Dahlia

Love me a Crocosmia

Now Heleniums I just can't get onto. I try, I know I should like them with their russet and red hues, but there's just something a bit, you know, Meh, about them.

Oops, how'd that picture get in here.

Dwarf sunflowers, Why? They defeat the purpose of a sunflower surely?

Amaranthus definitely split opinions, I like their fat spike and colourful foliage but others weren't so keen.

Persicarias a plenty.

Lovely foliage on Ficus carica

A swathe of Darmera peltata

and Rogersias, a group of plants that I'm warming to. I mean they tick all the boxes for the exotic garden: Large, exotic, lush, architectural, colourful (given the correct varietal choice)
Check to all of the above.

Then we came upon something completely unexpected through a gap in a hedge, a circle of lawn surrounded by a sea of green Hachenochloa 

Thrusting pyramids of Yew punctuated the swaying mass

I loved it for its simplicity. I wonder if it's under planted with bulbs of a spring display when the Hachenochloa has gone to ground?

A venerable old apple tree was smothered with mistletoe

It was quite a sight, though I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for the poor tree carrying such a weight.

The visiting group heading towards the glasshouse.

Some local wildlife.

An enormous pot, partially hidden among the trees, someone may have climbed inside, I'm not mentioning any names.