Introducing – Milo’s Garden

As promised, it is time to introduce you to another of my new gardens. As those of you who have followed me for a while will know, I favour my human clients full anonymity and to this end allocate each with an appropriate alias. Sometimes it takes a while for the right name to present itself, sometimes, as in this case, I am spoilt for choice. Land of the Giants was one option, another The Greens, but I have come to the conclusion that Milo’s Garden is the best choice.

Milo lives at the end of a single-track road, punctuated by a jaw-rattling cattle grid, eventually petering out into an unmade pitted lane. It is a beautiful place; below a river slices through mossy oaked banks, above there are steep meadows and stunning views across the valleys. Milo’s manor is also home to various four-legged and two-winged companions, but he is top dog. Admittedly, he is the only dog, but it is still a good title to have. He is adorable, affectionate and full to bursting with personality. Milo is also a known felon, prone to absconding and playing a little too hard with the chickens.

Whenever I am working alone in this garden, getting Milo back into the house after a comfort break has been challenging. His Oscar winning performances, whenever he senses his time of liberty has almost expired, involves rolling over onto his back and wagging his tail vigorously. Completely ignoring any commands from me, all the while whilst looking cute, he is only lured back inside when bribery wins the day. It is for this reason, that today, when I let him out of the house, I had a cunning plan. The problem solved by his human Mum. It was quite simple. I clipped his collar to a long enough chain, which is in turn was attached to a heavy weight. No longer did I have to keep him in my continual eye sight, poised for pursuit. This allowed me to eat my lobster thermidor and sup my lapsang souchong in a relatively relaxed manner. Milo shuffled about sulkily, rattling his chains like a canine Jacob Marley until I unhooked him and aimed him back indoors.

Before I left, I let Milo out once more. This time he nipped up onto the small lawn, had a little wander, ate some grass, had a wee and, when it was time to go back in, pretended there was something really interesting to look at in the hedge. I have come to the conclusion that Milo is suffering from a severe case of Small Dog Syndrome. There is no known cure.

Six on Saturday – Shirley Temple and Friends

How did that happen? One day I’m griping about the incessant rain and wind, the next I’m moaning about the persistent dry windy days and bitingly cold windy mornings. I don’t care so much about the night, although I suppose I should. My poor little ones are having to hunker down as the temperatures drop, still thirsty after another hot dry windy day. That is it. Moan over. Oh, and I have done another oops and hurt my foot/ankle. I’m choosing to ignore that one. Have I depressed you? I would recommend cheering yourself up by visiting our mentor Jim at Garden Ruminations and see what the jolly folk have been up to. Let’s shake a leg, the left one is working.

First the de-robed flower of Papaver orientale ‘Brilliant’, perhaps the very same one I featured in full garb previously. Repetition, a fine rule of design.

Next Rosa ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. I am pleased to report that she still is.

One of the first jobs I did for Welsh Ann was to divide and replant some iris. Some stragglers came home with me. When I asked what colour they were, she confidently told me “blue”. I feel she was underselling them somewhat.

Onto ixia, just beginning to flower. To avoid going outside to check the label, I flicked through order forms. Apparently, these are Ixia Mixed. Definitely ixia, not so sure about the mixed.

I bought a few special pelargoniums from the soon to be late, but always great, Fibrex Nursery. Unfortunately the head count was rather excessive this winter, all but one popped its clogs. This is one of the replacements, Pelargonium echinatum ‘Album’. I feel it is best not to mention my previous track record, it might well send it into a spin.

Finally Peony ‘Shirley Temple’. I do love a peony and I do love white flowers in a bed of vibrant colours. Win, win!

That is your six, another week under our belts. Have a good one. 🙂

Introducing – The Fit Family

Since moving to South Wales, I’ve tended not to talk about the people that I work for. There are exceptions, the incorrigible Prof for one. The lovely Welsh Ann also gets a mention from time to time. A little self analysis would suggest that it has taken some time for me to make a connection. I miss my North Devon friends/clients and it would be ridiculous to expect to walk into a facsimile of the same. Now, although quite different folk, I am going to make a concerted effort to reverse this omission and share my gardening adventures with those who wish to listen.

First we have The Fit Family. They live in a barn conversion, situated down a stress free lane (unlike those to come) and have a medium to large garden, well planted with shrubs and trees. Too many shrubs and trees, which are beginning to fight for dominance, and not enough herbaceous perennials. Over one low garden wall is an arable field planted with some kind of cereal crop and beyond a small wood and the grounds of an ancient priory. It is a lovely location.

They are not gardeners. They are runners/cyclists/skateboarders/footballers/frisbee players. They have been adopted by an enormous black cat with no name. I have named it Panny due to its similarity to a panther. It is affectionate and noisy.

Last week I spotted this cat jogging across the garden and smiled. “There goes the lovely Panny”, I thought. Then, “What is that in her mouth?”. This curiosity soon turned to dismay, as I realised her bounty was a squirrel and she was heading intently for the house. I hurried to cut her off at the pass and cried out for Mr Fit, who rushed to find out what the commotion was about. Panny dropped her prey, which lay motionless on the ground. After a close-ish inspection, Mr Fit announced “It is still alive” then “What should we do?”, as Panny lurked in the background. “Have you got a shovel?” I asked. With a look of absolute horror on his face he said “You want me to bash it on the head?”, beginning to regret that he hadn’t taken up my offer of references. “No!” I explained, equally astounded, “I thought you could use the shovel to move the poor thing to somewhere shady and out of reach of the panther!”

Mind you, on reflection, its not a bad idea to let your client believe you have a dark side.

Six on Saturday – Clever

Like many Northern Hemispherer contributors, I’m sure, I have struggled to whittle my Six on Saturday choices down to the allotted number this week. This is not a complaint, this is a relief. Houston, we have take off! There is still lots to do, with potting on and planting out, but this has slowed to a leisurely stroll rather than a sprint hurdles crashing into every other barrier. The watering is becoming a worry, the first water butt is empty, the second sounding a bit echo-ey and no rain on the horizon. I know, some people just can’t be pleased. If you would like to meet the gang, then pop over to Jim’s site and you will be transported to all corners of the universe. Come on, let’s not dilly dally.

First we have the Dutch iris ‘Carmen’, with the Geum ‘Tangerine Dreams’ playing peekaboo and some Allium in the background. I have a soft spot for all things Cloggie and this beautiful iris has not let me down.

I promised My Tiny Welsh Garden that I would show my more subtle geum. And here it is – Geum ‘Mai Tai’, who, compared to her more blousy siblings, is petite and understated. There is room for all.

Polemonium ‘Purple Rain’ is having its moment of glory, I just love the bright yellow stamen against the pale purple petals. I suspect the bees love that too.

Morea huttonii has flowered for the first time in any garden of mine. Slender and fragrant, we had some fine stands at Cliffe where it wowed early visitors. Just two stalks this year, the only way is up!

Onto Rhodohypoxis baurii (or similar) which, in spite of the fact that last year I vowed to divide and repot which turned out to be a big fat fib, is doing rather splendidly. I promise this year I will be more attentive. It is in writing now so I will have to keep my word.

Finally, we have the miniature bulrush Typha minima which is flowering for the first time in our miniature pond. This, perhaps underwhelming, shot is a means to an end. A way in for me to tell a charming tale. It is short, but it is sweet.

We provide a running bird buffet in the ornamental pear tree in the guise of feeders full of peanuts, seed and fat balls. On occasion, I throw some stale bread onto the lawn which is pecked at by sparrows or scooped up by a corvid. Over the last few weeks we have been mesmerised by a magpie who methodically dips a piece into the pond to soften it before eating it. Now that is what I call clever.

All done, another six under my belt. Have fun, my friends.

An Extra

In the beginning I used to blog every day. It is hard for me to fathom quite how I managed this herculean task. Looking through those early On the Edge years, I note I was often concise and to the point. What happened to that woman? Gradually, posts have petered out to the point that Six on Saturday is at best a bi-monthly event. It is not that I have lost my love for either life or writing, it is purely and simply a habit that has been broken. To be honest I have many, less savoury, habits that would have been better to forego. Inappropriate yodeling, for instance, or cooking too much spaghetti and, of course, there is the little plant buying problem. Faults aside, there is a reason for this extra post. In preparing for tomorrow’s Six on Saturday I found myself to have seven photos, none of which I was willing to sacrifice. “Gillypoos” I said to myself “Why not write a blog, purely and simply for the one picture too many”. “Great idea, you are genius” I replied. So here it is. A poppy, Papaver orientale ‘Brilliance’ looking rather wonderful in the morning sunshine. See, that wasn’t too difficult was it?! See you tomorrow.

Six on Saturday – Optimism

Is May my favourite month? Perhaps. Ask me again in June. Whatever I might say in the future, May is certainly up there with the best. It is a time when all things seem possible. Bubbles have yet to be burst. True, we have a few aphid and the nights could be a bit warmer, the tree dahlia hasn’t woken up and I fear it is waiting for a kiss from handsome prince that doesn’t frequent these parts, keeping up with the potting on and pricking out is a challenge and now there is watering too. However, the sums are adding up on the side of the good guys, for the moment anyway. Today, my SoSers, I am a positive gardener and proud to shout it out loud! Hopefully the rest of you are feeling the same, I am sure Our Jim will be skipping about full of the joys. Shall we boogie on down?

First we have Anemone blanda, the wood anemone, well one of those that purport to be called that. Last spring I cut a narrow channel between the lawn and the back patio and planted gazania. It was easy to step over and a blast of colour, which is always welcome in Plastic Fantastic Land. These summer beauties are long demised. Some time ago, I know not when except it was a few months back, as a spring replacement I planted some anemone corms. I watched and waited and was ever disappointed. Then, one day, bingo!

Scilla peruviana ‘Alba” slipped into my virtual basket when I was shopping at Avon Bulbs. This photo doesn’t show it as its best, here it looks a little dowdy. I assure you, it is anything but. One of my clients has a magnificent violet clump of these scilla, I am going to insist on her dividing it this year and donated just a little bit to her best gardener.

Aquilegia have hitchhiked their way into the new garden. I am quite happy about that. This one, well ensconced in the pot of a dark leaved Japanese Maple, is proving that self seeding is the perfect way to travel the world.

Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ reminds me of Button Moon and my dear friends who employed me to eat wagon wheels and garden the grounds of their fabulous hotel. The flower is a beauty, as they were. Happy days.

The candelabra primula have done very well this year. They were bought as plugs last year and have thrived through no effort of mine and much tending of the universe. This one is called White; it needs to contact its publicist.

Finally, in our little patch we have set aside some wild areas, around the greenhouse, around the washing line. I set OH the task of identifying this golden gem. He says it might be Hawksbeard. I am quite happy with that conclusion.

That is your six, on a Saturday. I have fulfilled my brief, this week at least. Have fun, keep the faith and don’t forget to dance whenever possible.

Six on Saturday – Rain or Shine

Rain, shine, rain, shine, more raining, more shining. Just make your mind up, is all I can say. April is over, we need a little more consistency and a lot more warmth. It has been a mixed week but, adding up the pluses and the minuses and the indifferent, a good week. If you want to see what the other SoSers have been up to, pop over to The SoS Hub and all will be revealed. Come on, let’s get going, there are eggs to be boiled.

First, the wonderful Dodecatheon meadia putting on the best display ever. The best for me, not in the world, I am not expecting a Guinness Book of Records representative with a clipboard any time soon.

Next Matteuccia struthiopteris, a gift from Welsh Ann last year. Another, perhaps unintentional, gift that hitched a ride was Inula hookeri. Both are lovely, one perhaps a little bit more of thug than the other. I’m not naming names, you know who you are.

Ever since I saw a bank of Uvalaria grandiflora at Hestercombe Gardens in Somerset I have wanted a little of the action. And here it is. Little, but definitely some action.

Every year I like to buy at least one inappropriate plant for my present circumstances. Last year’s contender was Enkianthus campanulatus. No regrets.

In the autumn I duly dug up my many (relatively speaking) dahlia and stored them in the greenhouse, dusting with cinnamon to combat rot, snuggly packed into crates with crumpled newspaper, checking them on a regular basis. I was especially anxious to get them out of the ground as the soil here is heavy and wet. The only one I didn’t lift was a large dark leaved, grown from seed, monster. Too big for cossetting. It seems it didn’t need it.

Finally, cuddling up against the weather, Tulipa ‘Copper Image’ and T. ‘Negritta Double’ doing what I thought they might do when I planted them. Now that’s a first!

All done, another six, still raining, have fun.

Six on Saturday – On Our Way

Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better. That is how I feel about the garden, my garden, other gardens, any garden, at the moment. There are so many things that I can see that are hard to share quite yet, “look, this naked branch has an inkling of green”, “quick! A tiny undulation in the soil suggests that a shoot will soon appear” or “finally, the glimmer of a swelling bud”. These suggestions of action happen each and every year and every year the extent of this thrill comes as a surprise. This is what makes it all so wonderful. Please feel free to push me into a deep hole and fill it with unrotted cow manure if this joy ever evades me. Thanks to Jim for being the fulcrum of our Six on Saturday wheel. Shall we proceed?

We are having a little competition in our house. The words have not been spoken, but the intent is clear. Every year OH grows spuds in a trug in a manner that annoys me. I say nothing. This year he has his trugfest with just one earthing up (wrong) and I am growing my own potatoes in compost bags that I roll up and fill as the tatties grow (correct). The same amount of seed potatoes, planted at approximately the same time. We shall see.

Tulipa sylvestris is lovely in all kinds of ways. Just when you couldn’t think that they couldn’t get any better, some sparkling raindrops add a little bling.

Much too much, much too soon. No need to flower just yet, you can wait a little longer. Rodgersia ‘Heavenly Gill’ is getting a little previous.

Impatiens omeiana is as happy as Larry, perhaps a little too content, as it is beginning to encroach on its neighbours. A little dig and share, I think.

Onoclea sensibilis Red Form struggled in the heat last year, I am very happy to see it emerging as I was a little worried it had voted with its feet. On reflection, I think it might do better closer to the pond, a spring shuffle.

Finally, Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’, magnificently jewelled, befitting her royalty.

That is your lot. Keep the faith, my friends.

Well Wrapped Teapot

We have just spent a few days away in Machynlleth in the Welsh county of Powys. My aim is always to buy plants whose name I can pronounce, and the same applies to places that I visit. There are a few that slip through the net. Although I underwent an intensive training regime from a Celtic Bard, which mainly involved him pointing and laughing at me when I said it wrong, and repeating this humiliation ad infinitum, I was still struggling to get it right. Fortunately, on our first day away, I was told that most local people call this delightful market town Mach. All was well.

Whilst we were in Mach we visited several antique shops, in one of which I bought this pewter teapot. It wasn’t my first choice, but the £1,650 Welsh stick chair would have been tricky to get on the train home and impossible for my bank balance. The delightful eighteen century wooden horse toy, a mere £350, was also a little above my means. The teapot it was to be. This beauty (to me anyway) was made in Sheffield in the mid to late nineteen century by James Allan. It is a bit bashed about but I loved the finial and for £10 I thought it was bargain.

My plans do not involve tea, or perhaps only comfrey tea. I am going to use it as a watering can for the greenhouse. I haven’t tested its pouring abilities yet, but it will look very pretty, dribble or no dribble.

There was an added bonus. My purchase was wrapped in a couple of sheets of The Cambrian News, dated 1 January 1971. There are many gems in the few crumpled pages which, I hasten to add, will not be going into the recycling bin. One of which is the review above, of two fine films, one of which is “indestructably mad and indescribably funny”. Wonderful.

Six on Saturday – After the Storm

To be honest, I’m surprised anything is still standing in the garden after Wednesday’s storm. The storm was named Noa, which seems appropriate as the amount of rain that accompanied the strong winds was biblical. All things do pass and although it at times felt like the downpours would never end, today we are back to blue skies and a chilly morning. Later I will be out surveying the damage and whispering kind words to the traumatised. I am sure I am not the only SoSer lamenting the harsh weather, pop over to Jim’s and you can find out for yourselves. Shall we shake a leg?

First Tulipa ‘Tabledance’ which has managed to keep its head, against all odds. It doesn’t look like it should look, but I am guessing that its flouncy time will come soon enough. At the moment I am appreciating its demure self. Planted with Queen of the Night, I am hoping they will be a match made in prima donna heaven.

This is not what was on the label. I am quite happy about that.

These Narcissus ‘Mount Hood’ were planted rather late, but I am pleased to report that they also have withstood the battering, with only a little crinkling around the edges. Last week I watched as a bumblebee stumbled up into the corona, moments later emerging a happier chappie.

One lone, spectacularly tall, Anemone Mistral Fuchsia has emerged from a pot of pansies. Ever the drama queen.

The dahlias are all potted up and the majority are making a sterling effort. Peggy is hanging about, as is the Dahlia imperialis. Small Single Orange, the one that had rolled under the bottom shelf of the plastic greenhouse and wasn’t found until February, is also being a little slovenly. I think we can forgive him that.

This photo of Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Cherry Ingram’, (no it’s not new, I’ve had it in my wardrobe for ages) reminds me of my abstract photography course. It was cancelled at the last minute. Apparently not enough people signed up for it. I would have thought just the one would have been sufficient. Still, as you can see, I’m still inadvertently producing the goods.

All done, I hope spring is springing for you or your autumn is golden. See you next time.