Saturday, May 19, 2007

Main border: May 07

Here's my main herbaceous border (the Christopher Lloyd Tribute Border as I now call it - though it's a long way from finished, and as you can see doesn't bear a lot of resemblance to Great Dixter just yet!). It's Californian poppy season, so I've got them in rivers through the other plants - lovely. You can just make out the last of the forget-me-nots (which have slightly taken over this spring) and in the foreground the Phacelia tanacetifolia is making a lovely pale mauve contrast. The cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is revving up nicely and should be spectacular soon - already the foliage is looking great. The purple dots are alliums, which are dotting the border nicely - I've got Purple Sensation and A. christophii already out, and A. giganteum about to burst into fireworks at the back. You can just about make out the irises, too, at the top left-hand corner: I've got some fairly plain but nice irises, probably sibirica, but the star of the show has been I. Lothario, which you can just about make out in the picture. It's been spectacular this year, and is the first year it's really flowered, though I've had it about three years now - I think I've finally managed to keep it clear of competition from other plants. It's all looking lovely - slightly blowsy but full of interesting things to look at.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Flowers for cutting

I thought I'd say a bit about my cutting garden, as it's this year's project and very much at the front of my mind just now.

I've carved out a more-or-less square plot, about 19ft x 19ft, on the far side of my greenhouse where it's pretty sunny most of the day. It's overshadowed by a large goat willow, but not too badly, and I'm in the process of raising the willow's crown so it doesn't cast too much shadow.

The design is quite simple: a 2ft bed around three sides of the square (the fourth is for my greenhouse and coldframe), with two 4'6" wide beds across the middle. It'll all be enclosed in 1" x 4" pressure-treated timber to define the beds and make maintenance easier. There are also 30" paths around the beds for access.

The area was previously a herb garden (a bit ott since I had it in mind once upon a time to set up a herb nursery - then realised how much work was involved). Result is I need to dig out large amounts of lemon balm, chives and lovage before I can plant. The good news there, though, is that the soil is in good heart as it's already been dug over and improved once.

So far I've got lavender and Rosa gallica officinalis, also known as Apothecary's Rose, along one long side, for drying as pot pourri; the short side will be for perennials for cutting - so far a clump of asters dug up from the main herbaceous border, but I'll be adding bulbs (daffs and tulips), a statice (great for drying) and whatever else I can find. I've added a Chimonanthes praecox (wintersweet) in the corner - again rescued from imminent suffocation in the big herbaceous border - thinking I'll cut branches if ever it gets around to flowering (they're notoriously slow to settle). Along the front edge will be dahlias, chrysanths and any other late-season perennials I can think of.

In the centre beds, so far there are only sweetpeas climbing up rustic hazel poles: but my antirrhinums are chomping at the bit in the coldframe waiting to be planted out, and I've got plenty more coming on to join them there. It just needs me to keep up with them by digging out a home, and we'll be raring to go!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More weeds than plants

This time of year it always happens, just the same. I look out at my garden and suddenly realise that without my even noticing it, there are more weeds than plants.

How does it happen? One moment it's all tulips and forget-me-nots (and boy was the display gorgeous this year), the next I realise I haven't thinned the honesty seedlings which are now monsters staging a border takeover, and there's a whopping thistle poking its head up and vying with the alliums for top billing.

Nothing for it - out into the beds wielding a fork and laying waste to all that greenery I had so innocently thought was plantery I wanted. Next spring I'll keep up with the weeding from the moment those little thugs start off, instead of being distracted by all those sweet little seedlings poking their heads out of the potting compost in the greenhouse and demanding water, potting on, hardening off, planting out... well, maybe...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sun today, rain tomorrow

The weather really can't make up its mind. We've just had the driest spring on record: six weeks without a single drop of rain. And that's in 20-degree temperatures - by English standards, that's summer. My poor garden was getting more dessicated than a Dr Who victim (sorry, my 7-year-old is obsessed and I therefore have an hour's Dr Who indoctrination every Saturday evening. It has a way of seeping into everything else, too.)

Now, we've had nothing but rain for more than a week. Admittedly, that's far more typical of your average English spring, but we do usually have the odd dry-but-cloudy spell to ring the changes. Now the path down the garden is once again under three inches of water and I can't get out there as it's a quagmire and there's no point planting anything until it dries out a bit.

My greenhouse is very well-tended, anyway - the only dry spot in the place. I put my cucumbers into the earth border today (this post should probably go in my allotment blog but what the hell). They're "Cum Laude F1" - the seed cost a bomb but lovely little plants. The rest of the greenhouse is bursting at the seams - I'm sowing seed every two weeks all this year to keep allotment, cutting garden and Christopher Lloyd summer bedding scheme in full production, and my humble little 6ft by 8ft can hardly stand the pace.
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