Hello again! Sorry for the very protracted break but pressure of work meant the garden has been neglected for an exceptionally long time. Nor have I done any wildlife conservation work since 2012. Consequently this blog has been rather put on the back burner of late but I do now intend to make amends.
I am slowly beginning to get on top of all the greenhouse potting, partly be reducing the number of plants – more of this anon – but the garden itself has gone extremely wild! The photographs illustrate what was originally intended to be a wild garden but I which I had planned to turn into an area for fruit; despite there being two gooseberries hidden among the alkanet I think the wild garden concept has probably won!
Wild garden turned into fruit garden turned into wild garden!
I had great horticultural plans for this year; leaving off painting and writing a little to try and get the garden looking relatively respectable again. Unfortunately everything did not go as planned for a number of reasons – although the garden did look great for a week or two!.
One of the reasons was that my wife and I found ourselves looking after two terminally ill cats, one passed away at the turn of the year and the other in June. One was a rescue who we took on knowing she was poorly and actually gave her over two years she wouldn’t have had, although we desperately hoped she would have lasted longer, and the other was a young cat we had since a kitten and her illness (in fact she had two quite separate ones which seemed to us such bad luck) came as a complete shock. To stretch coincidence even further just after the second cat died we discovered that our dog had a tumour on her leg: it was the worse kind but very low grade so it has been removed and we are hoping it doesn’t return.
The second drain on my time was that, quite out of the blue, I decided to invent a second artistic career independent of my main one. In fact I started afresh as if I was a young man (I wish!) beginning his artistic journey and I am exploring radically new media, styles and themes. This has meant two sets of blogs and two sets of paintings to upload to various online galleries which consequently left too little time for other blogs.
Anyway I have started to get back into the garden again now – a rather daunting task! – and I am also beginning to make a photographic record of my plants. There have been quite a few changes predominantly in the greenhouses and hopefully I will begin to share the images and my gardening experiences soon.
The succulent house immediately after potting in May. Please not the ex hot water heating pipe plant stands.
I fear I will have to redesign the garden yet again as I want to fit in the new greenhouse – I have lost count how many times I have changed it. My real love is greenhouse plants and greenhouse management so the inevitable upheaval may be worth it. If and when I get the greenhouse erected I may not heat it initially but rather use it for tomatoes et al in the summer, chrysanthemums in the autumn followed by lettuce through the winter and bulbs in the spring – this was the regime I adopted in my first greenhouse over forty years ago.
By coincidence my wife has just found out some old photographs of the garden at the end of the Century when we had the first avatar of the lawn and there was only one, admittedly large, greenhouse and a tiny lean-to. All the shrubs had either not been planted or had not grown very big and there was actually flowers in the borders!!!!!
As usual I am desperately late with my gardening jobs (partly blamed on the very hot summer but mainly because my default state is sat in front of an easel, painting!). To illustrate here are two, I think rather surreal, photographs: one taken from the kitchen window and one taken from the dining room. Both show a complete mess which I should really be ashamed about but probably aren’t!
The tubs are for mature Dioscorea caudiciforms which ideally should be potted every three of four years but I am not sure if I have actually potted them this century! If I had they would have armchair sized caudexes by now, which admittedly would take up a lot of room. I am potting the ones that grow in the winter and will now have to, reluctantly, leave the summer growing ones to the spring (or will I – I may chance it). Interestingly whether they grow in winter or summer is almost dictated by chance, or more likely watering regimes when they are still seedlings. They come from South Africa so would normally grow during our winter months.
Someone has given me an eight by six foot greenhouse but I am not sure where to put it; hence the bits propped up against the outhouse! I already have four plus three ponds, not to mention a relatively newly planted lawn so flexibility is somewhat lacking. Logically the best option would be to remove the six by four plastic lean-to and put it there but I am reluctant to throw away an old friend. I will continue to muse!
Incidentally something I am ashamed about is not realising the lemon was not getting the rain during a wet spell last month. It subsequently dried out and lost its leaves -very embarrassing that!
I walked to and from town last week and on the return journey I was very surprised to see a Goldcrest in the bushes by the side of the road. It was probably a female as males have a more orange crest. This is the UK’s smallest bird and although not actually rare, in fact the native population is boosted in the winter months by birds from the continent, it is more often found in coniferous woodland than beside the busiest road in town. She was busy searching for small spiders and insects among the bare branches. This sighting really made my day and I wish I had managed to take better photos with my phone.
I was walking the dog along a sheltered path by the railway line on Sunday and saw quite a few Brimstone butterflies. I think this means Spring has finally arrived folks! Having said that in a normal year you can often see an occasional Brimstone on the wing in late February or early March in Southern England – however this is not a normal year and the sight of so many on the wing cheered me up no end. Typically I never had my smartphone with me – although I didn’t really feel energetic enough to run after them for a good shot anyway! They appeared to be all males: the males have yellow wings, hence the name, while the females are off white. It is believed, realistically I think, that the word butterfly is derived from the males of this species
Our Forsythia bush began to open its buds over a week ago and I notice plants all over town are well out now. Although it is depressing in a way I quite like it when the flowers begin to fade as by then the leaves are showing and the combination of pale green and warm yellow is very attractive.
Forsythia on a bank
Incidentally, my wife’s front border which I photographed a bit earlier is looking even prettier now after the rain at the weekend. However in our large garden at the back of the house the weeds are growing alarmingly fast for the same reason. I am not sure when I will get round to attending to them as I have to clean out the fish pond over the weekend and I really must start potting. The turtles do eat the dandelions but unfortunately not in suitable quantities! The rabbit only eats the flowers – we have the fussiest rabbit on the planet!