Archives for the month of: April, 2013

My garden friends were here at the Little Garden in March.  We just call it Garden Club, but we don’t sit in a cold, drafty hall and look at slides of every kind of Auricula or all the gardens of Italy that you will never get to see yourself.  No, we get down and dirty.  I think I’ve mentioned before that it’s a mini-meitheal.  There’s usually a big project to do or a few small projects.

Back border of Little Garden before edging done

Back border of Little Garden before edging done

I have created a large border at the Little Garden just behind the potting shed (which is really the boiler house, but potting shed sounds so much better…).  This border did happen overnight.  I’ve gradually been chipping away at it for about three years now.  The grass that tries (rather successfully) to creep into the bed drives me insane.

Big Garden Edges -- Rose Beds in Winter

Big Garden Edges — Rose Beds in Winter

So I thought it was about time to take serious action.  I decided that instead of putting in a wooden edge which will just rot in a few years, I would dig a sharp edge with a little trench to separate grass from border just like the ones at the Big Garden.  I have to trim the edge there about four times a year so I figured I could just do the same at home.

After edging done by Garden Club

After edging done by Garden Club at the Little Garden

The thought of making this edge on my own was rather daunting (read:  boring), so I enlisted the help of Garden Club.  All I had to do was mark the edge with a bit of line pulled between a couple of posts and away they went.  It was great and it took about an hour at most.  It was Baltic that day so I let them off easy so that we could go inside and eat chilli and buns and drink tea (the best part of Garden Club).

This is what the newly edged bed looks like in high season

This is what the newly edged bed looks like in high season

I’ve trimmed the edge once since then, but I didn’t really need to.  I had just done edging at the Big Garden so I would’ve felt guilty if I hadn’t done my own.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks once the beds are growing and the grass greens up a bit.  Watch here for an update…

A couple of years ago I decided that it was time to start hacking away at the rough field just to the east of the house at the Little Garden.  The area was dug and I immediately started plonking plants in, mostly because I had nowhere else to plonk them.  Bad move.  It wasn’t long before the weeds took hold and started to swamp my plonked plants.

The new bed before filling

The new bed before filling

So I’ve had to rethink the area.  I’ve decided that since it is so close to the house, which also shelters it from the prevailing winds, it would be a good place for some veg and flowers.  I am loath to use the word ‘potager’ because it sends my pretentious asshole meter through the roof.  But that’s actually what it will be in a rough sort of way.  It would be lovely to have bricked paths and fancy, neat beds, but I’m going to have to go with stone-edged beds and re-used Mypex on the paths to begin with.  That’s what the budget calls for.

New Bed Filled with the Recipe

New Bed Filled with the Recipe

As you can see I’ve gone all permaculture.  First I made my circle with stones; there’s no shortage of them around the place.  Then I gathered a heap of cardboard boxes from local shops.  They were only too happy to get rid of the boxes.  I flattened the boxes and removed the plastic tape (this doesn’t disintegrate for about a billion Carbon years).  Then I put the boxes down, a couple of boxes in thickness so that there are about 4 layers of cardboard over the whole bed.  I have a good amount of scutch grass that would be only too happy to poke up through a thin layer of cardboard once it gets wet.

Primula

Primula

The next step was to fill up the bed with my secret recipe.  Well, it’s not really a secret and it’s not much of a recipe either (whenever I use the word ‘recipe’ I always think of the Baldwin sisters from The Waltons).  Recipe:  well-rotted manure (2 types – one with straw and one with sawdust, both horse manure), top soil, garden compost, and old potting compost – no measuring, just whatever I feel like at the time.  I don’t throw potting compost on the compost heap anymore because I found that it made for a dry kind of compost.  So I keep it separate and use it to lighten up the clay soil that I have.  In the case of this new bed, it’s a good, bulky material to help fill the area.

Helleborus

Helleborus

And that’s it.  I could go ahead and plant today if it wasn’t blowing a gale outside (again).  At least it has warmed up a bit, but every time I go outside it immediately starts to rain.  So I’ve been sowing seeds this morning:  another batch of lettuce, loads of different kinds of peas, and a second sowing of leeks (if you don’t sow leeks here by April you don’t get very big leeks).  I think I’ll probably sow some flower seeds now… for my new pah-tah-zhay…

Shoots of Paeonia 'Buckeye Beauty'. Watch this space!

Shoots of Paeonia ‘Buckeye Beauty’. Watch this space!

I’ve taken a few more photos of things now in flower at the Little Garden (here for your viewing pleasure), including shoots from my favourite plant at the little garden, Paeonia ‘Buckeye Beauty’.  Wait till you see her in flower.

 

Flower buds of Willow 'Mountain Mist'

Flower buds of Willow ‘Mountain Mist’

Happy sowing!

This is the winter that would never end.  Never mind that it is spring according to the traditional and equinoctial calendars.  I have been walking around the Little Garden every day looking at buds on trees and shrubs, monitoring their progress.  I hope that when it does warm up it will stay warm and not revert to harsh, freezing temperatures.  That happened last year and it was fairly devastating to my plum and apple crops, and probably other crops as well that I didn’t even pick up on because the rest of the summer was so poor.

Flower buds of Chaenomels japonica

Flower buds of Chaenomels japonica

As I was going around looking at buds, I took a few photos.  I remember when I was taking a class on trees and woody shrubs at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Virginia.  We would have to identify plants by their buds – no leaves, no flowers, just a twig.  It seems impossible at first, but once you work with the plant a bit it does get easier.  The one area I never mastered was conifers – trying to distinguish between Thuja , Chamaecyparis, Cedrus, Larix, etc., made my head reel.  I suppose I haven’t worked as much with conifers as with deciduous trees and shrubs.  This is because conifers have not been as fashionable in garden design as they once were.  I have always hoped that they would make a strong comeback and will freely admit to having planted a couple in one of the Little Garden’s back borders.  One of them is a little Pinus mugo, which is among my favourites.  It’s a squat little plant, but that’s why I like it.  They can get quite large actually but it takes a very long time.  It adds such good structure and interest to the bed in the winter time.

Pulsatilla vulgarai 'Papageno' singing through the frost

Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Papageno’ singing through the frost

Speaking of winter time, that’s what I’m really supposed to be writing about – how cold it is, extended winter, want to stay in front of the fire, can’t sow anything.  I’m itching to sow more seeds but am hesitant.  Now that I am working full-time, I won’t be able to carry seedlings in and out, to and from the tunnel every day.  So if I sow too soon and it remains cold I will either get leggy seedlings because they have to stay in the house, or they will be stunted, stunned by the cold in the polytunnel.  It’s a bit of a juggling act, a guessing game.  What I wouldn’t give for a little heated glasshouse…

Becky, warm in her fur coat

Becky, warm in her fur coat

What I have sown:  tomatoes, leeks, scallions (my people call them green onions), chillies.  I’ve sown some flower seeds as well:  Cobaea scandens, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurescens’, sweet peas.  I have loads more to do.

Self-seeded Wallflower 'Blood Red Covent Garden'

Self-seeded Wallflower ‘Blood Red Covent Garden’

That’s it for now because I have to wrap up and go do some work outside.  Enjoy the pictures of buds and the few things that are now flowering.  Make sure to get out into your own area and have a close look at the new growth.

Next time… a new bed at the Little Garden.