The Sublime and The Ridiculous

Yesterday I worked in two new gardens and a more diverse pair would be hard to find.

First I visited a glorious country barn conversation with gardens full of fine shrubs and grasses and for the most part well tended. The above photo shows the view over the wall. Whilst cutting back and I found 3 plastic eggs, each containing a chocolate. It was possible they had been left for me, a welcome gift and perhaps a little bribery. It was more likely that the children of the house are not very good at Easter egg hunts. I resisted the temptation and carefully replaced them where I had found them. It was a very satisfying mornings work and I will be returning soon. Hopefully, it will become a regular things.

My second visit was to a housing association bungalow with fake grass, gravel, an assortment of interesting statues and lots of pots, some empty, some full. “I’m very good at gardening” my elderly client told me. Later, after I had planted the empties, pulled and pushed the others planters about and then returned them to their original positions, rearranged slightly disturbing child sculptures, all under the instruction of Old Lady Number Two, we had a cuppa. “I like you, you are my friend” she told me. “I like you too” I replied. This will not be a regular job. I am not sure I could cope.

Two gardens, so different from each other, but both fun, in their own special way.

You’re Fab

This is a sad post. A friend has died. I wish I could make this untrue. I wish I could soothe the pain it has caused. But I can’t. All I have is meagre words; I will use them the best I can. Let’s not make this a gloomy post, let us say to the world “she was a good ‘un” and “she will be missed”. And she was. And she will be.

And let me say the words I should have said to her.

Bonnie was challenged by this world in a way few are. In spite and despite these battles, she carved an indelible etching of creativity and joy as she travelled through life. She was brave and talented and dynamic and funny and strong and fierce and kind. She was my friend. She was ambitious; the only way was big and beautiful and crazy. She was scarily modest. She was both charming and disarming, which is a lucky rhyme. She was soft-hearted and hard as a smooth round pebble that gives you comfort when you reach for it in your pocket. She was passionate and funny, did I say funny already? She was doubly funny. She was inventive and practical and artistic and worked stuff out. She was lovely, pure and simple. She was many things I wish I could be and know I never can be.

Bonnie was undoubtedly a good ‘un and to say she will be missed just scratches the surface of truth. And she loved Wagon Wheels. There is nothing more to say.

Six on Saturday

Here we are again, Mad May, and things are speeding up again. Weeks are flying by, soon it will be mid summer’s day, then September and then months of gloom and doom. Have I cheered you up? I expect not. If you want a proper cheering up, or if you are cheery already and wish to boost to hyper-cheer, then pop over to Mister Chuckles himself, The Prop, who with the Chucklettes and will grant your wish. Let us proceed, it’s nearly August.

First we have Chambercombe Bob’s hostas. Before any smart Alec speaks up, they were his hostas and he kindly gave them to us. So far they are unslugged and looking rather lovely at the front of the house. Which reminds me, I forgot to show you the front when I did the grand tour. I am not foolish enough to think the mighty molluscs will continue to ignore them but you never know. Stranger things have happened. Or perhaps that would be too strange?

Next we have Chaerophyllum hirsutum ‘Roseum’, a glorious pink umbellifer. I did a little squeak when I saw it for sale at an open garden last summer, as it is a great favourite of mine. It was in a weeny pot and I wondered if it would make it through. It is still small but very keen. That is all I can ask of it.

One of my esteemed clients, Welsh Ann, let me dig this fern up from her garden. Again, she was witness and co-conspirator in the act. It is an ostrich fern I think, Matteuccia struthiopteris, and I love it. It too lives in the mysterious area called “the front of the house”.

Here we have an old faithful, Pelargonium cordifolium var. rubrocinctum. Typing that has just has just reminded me why I don’t feature it often. Seriously challenging in the spelling department.

Onto the wonderful Dodecatheon meadia. I have had this for several years in a pot, and it pops up every year and every year I say “oh blimey, I forgot how lovely you are” and then it fades away until the following year. Another annual event are the aphid. Still a squish and all is well.

Hold your breath everyone, there is a mini-peach on the peach tree. The single flower did its thing. Look at its lovely little bum! I am prepared for tears but live in hope.

That is it for this week, take care and be good(ish). ‘Til next time.

I needed to share

Yesterday I visited a nursery that I hadn’t been to before. We needed compost and on their web page they specifically mentioned that they stocked peat free compost. Always a martyr when it comes to plant shopping opportunities, I thought I would pop in on the way home and see what they had to offer.

After a quick scoot around, muttering to myself “keep moving, don’t be tempted, keep moving, don’t be tempted”, I went to the counter to ask the price of the compost. Which is where it all got a bit bizarre.

I was told, by the gentleman in charge, that because Monty Don had mentioned it, peat free was now trendy and therefore more expensive than anything else. That it had only become popular since last year and that all the local allotmenteers had changed back to peat-based as they had all suffered a significant reduction in their productivity and a plague of copious weed seed. That any impact was overblown and Ireland would not disappear into the sea in the foreseeable future.

Slightly taken aback, and verging on the hangry side, as it was well past pasty time, I listened to his diatribe, smiling sweetly. Then he moved onto the subject of diesel cars vs electric and that as he was ex-military he wouldn’t be bullied into changing anything about the way he lived his life. Still smiling sweetly, hopefully with a hint of menace, I told him that I had been using peat free for a considerable number of years, that indeed there had been quality issues in the past but that standards were improving all the time and that I thought any potential shortcoming was a small price to pay for saving the planet. I then asked for 3 bags of his peat free compost.

He took it upon himself to help me with the bags and said if I opened my boot he would put them in for me. I told him my boot was full of tools as I am a professional gardener. Cue instant change in attitude. Not quite so confident now, he shook my hand and told me how wonderful the nursery is and the fine quality of the plants. Still smiling sweetly, I took my leave.

Like many things, is all about education, not about blame or finger pointing, which can result in the blinkered mule-ish behaviour that I was subjected to. I recommend to all my clients that they should buy peat free, as I do, and I explain why. Ultimately it is their garden, and they do as they please (within the confines of the law, obviously!) and I can only advise and explain. And I can always vote with my feet.

Will I be returning to this nursery? Probably. I am not sure I have convinced him yet.

A Distinct Feeling of ….

Professor Gadget messaged me to say that we would be going to the garden centre to buy compost, top soil and perhaps some wooden stakes. We would not be buying plants. Definitely, without any doubt, not one single pot of herbaceous or woody material would be finding its way into the trolley.

I whole-heartedly agreed. It has been suggested to me, by The Honourable OH and legal co-owner of my our garden, that all waifs and strays should find their feet in the soil before any more purchases were made.

I can’t even say we tried very hard.

Excuse No. 374

I have been rather slack in the blogging department. It is not that I haven’t wanted to, and I’ve had lots to share, photos poised and tales to tell, but I seem to have lost the habit. And it was a good habit, not like my other less innocuous ones which seem to be holding on tight.

One reason for my reluctance, feeble though it might be, is that my computer is playing up. Every task is mollusc slow and liable for eccentric outcome and my nerves are shot with trying to trick it into submission. I will get a new one, once I have saved my pennies, but in the interim my ever pragmatic Mum, Peggy, has loaned me hers. She even told me the password.

The other glitch in my Off the Edge journey was the blog conversion mishap. After much soul-searching (two minutes), I have decided to ignore it. I find this is often the best solution for problems. Just pretend they don’t exist and they definitely won’t go away, but you can have a shilling of respite until they return to bite you on the bum.

The upshot of all this rambling, is that I will make a concerted effort to post more often. You may or may not think this is a good thing, it all depends on your point of view. But it definitely will be a good thing for me.

The above Lamprocapnos spectabilis was supposed to be ‘Cupid’ but isn’t. I should complain, but I have decided to ignore it, this one is unlikely to bite me on the bum, there is too much love for that.

Six on Saturday – I Messed Up

Yes, it really is me. It might not look like me, but it is. I messed up. I have been having problems with tagging for a while and WordPress Support told me it was because my theme was obsolete. Not gardening, that will ever be necessary, but the appearance of my blog. Ever eager to keep up with the young ‘uns, I attempted to update, unfortunately with catastrophic consequences. Perhaps an exaggeration, annoying and frustrating at best. At one point I took over the body of a travel writer, I’m not sure what he thought about that. Now my content is back but all my set-ups lost. I am despairing. And I haven’t got the time nor energy to put it right at the moment. So here we are, looking a little different; no header, no menu, no disclaimers, no golden boots, no nothin’. Someone who surely couldn’t be quite as daft is our leader The Prop or indeed any of his loyal followers. Just stoooopid old me. With head hung low, I will continue.

Granny mentioned last week that she would like to see some long shots of the garden, so this week I have obliged. Not terribly exciting (yet), but hopefully it will give you an idea of what I have been up to. I’ve yet to think of interesting names for different areas of the garden, so please bear with dullard me, suggestions are always welcome (I might live to regret that).

First, the header photo, which is the west facing border. Planted here are lazy, or perhaps traumatised, canna and hedychium who are yet to show their noses. The neighbour’s fence behind does a hula dance whenever there is a gust of wind, so perhaps they are best staying safe in the ground until she gets it fixed. There are also various salvia and Bidens ‘Hannays Lemon Drop’ and the mini Tibouchina ‘Groovy Baby’.

Next the north facing border, which has some expanding to do. Here we have two hydrangea, two impatiens and the trillium. The tall plant in the middle is Pseudopanax ‘lessonii ‘Moas Toes’, which has settled in quite well, in spite of all the strong winds its spindly self has had to deal with. As with the whole garden, the fence needs to be disguised. All in good time.

Now the little raised bed with the pear tree in it, the only planted area when we arrived. The tree has now had it’s top taken out and looks much more in scale. Already insitu are a couple of hostas and an astilbe, I’ve added some other bits including geraniums and ferns and a recent addition, a serpentine solomon’s seal.

Next is an east facer, which certainly gets more sun now the tree casts less shadow. Lots of goodies in here including Diascia perfoliata, penstemon and Bletilla striata ‘Alba’ (fingers crossed for a flower this year). At the shader end Rodgersia ‘Heavenly Gill’ is just beginning to poke its fingers through the soil. Hopefully she will be happier with her feet in the ground after many years in a pot.

Onto the south facing back of the house where I’ve made a mini border and have lots of pots. Here are pots of mint (apple, chocolate and ginger), garlic and cut and come again lettuce. Lilium ‘Forever Susan’ (allegedly) is doing well and she is close-by so I can regularly check for The Red Ones.

Finally, the side of the house, compost and turf stacking area, general dumping ground and, most excitingly, the approximate site of a new, grown up, greenhouse. I am very excited by the prospect of having a proper greenhouse. We are still at the planning stage and it won’t be in place until late summer, but if there is something to look forward to, I’m sure it is this. I already love my new garden, and I have no doubt this love will grow and mature with the plants. There will be tears and frustration and celebrations, just like life really.

That is your lot, no close up of the pretty ones, they will be back next week or maybe the week after or …. we will see. Have fun and keep the faith.

Six on Saturday – Oops, I Did It Again!

In the scheme of things, buying inappropriate or excessive plants is not a sin, but sometimes even I say “where on earth am I going to put that?!”. Only to myself, of course, it would imprudent to say those words out loud. It does happen though. And I am pretty certain I am not alone. A man with a small problem in the plant aquisition department, tempered by the need to run outrageous distances and not even enroute to a nursery, is our very own Master of Abandon. It might be a good idea to pop over to find himself and the rest of the gang in their various states of restraint. Shall we make a start, there is chocolate to be eaten.

Last week, on the way to a job close to Mum’s, I popped into the supermarket to get some supplies for Peggy and lunch for us both. Somehow, I still can’t fathom quite how it happened, a saxifrage and an apple mint found their way into my basket. I have planted the saxifrage into the tufa planter to replace the veronica that snuffed it over the winter. And they say there is no such thing as instant gratification. Actually, I say it quite often. Hmm.

Purchased last year, when I should have been hortily downsizing, this little Primula sieboldii ‘Winter Dreams’ is doing it’s snowflakey best at the moment. Not regrets there.

Anemone ‘Mistral Fucsia’, bought when I didn’t have a home, let alone a garden, has opened to reveal the most outrageous central boss. Money well spent, don’t you think? And there are lots more blooms to come, including its co-star Anemone ‘Mistral Vinato’.

I keep harping on about how I really want some Thalia, drooling over other Sos-ers’ specimens, and promising that next year I will definitely be getting some. Now the daffs in the pots are flowering, the ones I forgot to label and wondered if they were poeticus and now I am thinking ….. could they be? What do you reckon? The trumpet starts off quite creamy and then gets much paler. I will have to ask OH to have a sniff.

This unnamed auricula is always a joy and has been by my side for several years now. I must find it a friend. No, I have enough plants already.

What happened was ……. we went to the garden centre to look at the greenhouses (yes, I know, how exciting!) and then we looked around the plants and then we found death row (witch hazel, erythronium, viola, mini conifer) and then we looked at the rest, which on reflection we shouldn’t have, and then a trolley came onto the scene, then other things happened, one of which was this Echium ‘Pink Fountain’. Where on earth am I going to put it?! Oops!

All done, have fun my friends. Keep making the world a beautiful place.

Six on Saturday – Everything And

Who invited the snow? Actually it was more of a short sleet flurry here, but I do like to fit in with the crowd. Still, cold and windy is not my spring weather of choice, nor, more importantly, is it the plants’. I’ve been thinking about the garden this week, about themes and colour schemes and genius loci. Then I thought “no, you daft mare, no planning, just find plants you love, put then where they tell you they want to go and enjoy the process.” Which is just as well, because I do have an eclectic taste and although I have a few favourites: salvia, impatiens, hedychiums, I wouldn’t want to exclude anybody. It has been decided, I’m going to chuck everything but the kitchen sink at it. A man of great discretion, never lacking in style, is our meme-tor, The Prop, take a look at what he and his minions have been up to. Now, shall we proceed?

First, joy of joys, the lily purporting to be ‘Forever Susan’ is emerging from the primula. I have been deceived twice by interlopers, but that is all behind me now. I have a feeling in my bones that this time it will be the right plant. Probably.

Last summer, OH bought me an unnamed epimedium from a stall outside someones house that he happened to be walking past. Who said romance was dead? Or does it sound dodgy? It is most likely a vigorous sulphureum and I am very pleased for that as I have planted it in a rather inhospitable position, very shady, very dry. Seems to be doing just fine so far.

A new, yet to be planted out, addition to the family is this Polemonium ‘Blue Ensign’. It came with two companions, ‘Sissinghurst White’ and ‘Pink Dawn’. Neither are as far on as this little beauty, but both are looking spritely enough and will not be rushed.

Soon there will be Italian Anemones! I think this one will be Mistral Fucsia (sic). Happy days.

Now a euphorbia donated by my sponsor, well it was a self seeder and I asked nicely. Mind you, he is a very generous man, although he would have you think otherwise. Not sure which plant spawned this little beauty, it could be Bonfire. The chartreuse flowers are set off wonderfully against the ruddy stems and foliage.

I may have misled you. I’ve even got the kitchen sink! Inside are two tiles bought for us by Hero on one of her adventures and have been waiting patiently for a permanent home. Which is not inside the sink, I hasten to add. Quite what will the sink become, I am not sure yet. Wet or dry. Mini-pond or mini-alpine bed. We shall see. I am quite certain that OH does not want to carry it much further.

That is your lot, my lovelies. Have a good week, keep on keeping on.