Gardeners Diary

Whilst it is fairly easy to keep our own garden under control, many of us have neighbours who may not be as interested in gardening as we are.  This can lead to unwanted plants making their way across the boundary.  Some plants are ornamental even if they are unwanted, like the ivy that has come through from next door.

Look carefully and you can see bindweed in the Kilmarnock Willow

Look carefully and you can see bindweed twining through the Kilmarnock Willow

However, over the last few years, the ivy has been joined by that most pernicious of weeds – field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis).  Unlike the more garden worthy morning glories, bindweed can quickly take over a garden and so has to be dealt with whenever you see it.  It twines itself around existing plants and is a real pain.  The best way to get rid of it is to dig and dig and dig – its roots can go down 5 meters and every little bit of root that is left in the ground can turn into a new plant!  Digging isn’t an option for me at the moment, I want to keep the border in tact.  So, I just pull out every bit I see and put it straight into the council’s green waste bags.  I make sure that not even a single leaf is dropped on the ground or in contact with any of my gardening tools, such as my weeding trug.  Not a single piece of this plant is going to have a hope of regrowth in my garden!

I have to be especially careful if the dogs are out in the garden with me when I pull bindweed.  Anya still thinks that plants are a very exciting toy when they are in my hands, so she is learning fast that they are mine and I will not let her grab them from me!

I hope you never have to cope with bindweed, it is a never ending battle, but one that has to be fought.

Every year, for the weeks and months before the garden opening, I am focused on getting the garden ready to meet its public.  The opening is a wonderful opportunity to make sure that everything in the garden is looking as good as it possibly can be on that weekend.  The downside of this is that a lot of other things in life are put on hold.  So, when the opening is over, my thoughts tend to move on to other important things that have been neglected.  This means that the garden tends to get on with things on its own in June.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t avoid the garden.  I mow the grass, water plants and dead-head and prune where necessary, I just don’t have the garden at the fore front of my mind.  Now, that period is over for this year and I am back to thinking about the garden again.

NGS visitors 2013

NGS visitors 2013

Before I move on though, I thought you might like a quick update on the opening.  It was a lovely sunny weekend and we made over £200 for the NGS Charities.  I had been concerned that despite the dismal, cold weather we had this Spring, some visitors might have expected us to magically avoid all of it and have a garden with the plants that would normally be in flower in the first weekend of June.  Thankfully I was totally wrong.  People really appreciated the chance to see the Wisteria in all its glory :).

Certainly, over the years, I have come to learn that a different group of plants are in flower each time.  This highlights how it is impossible to plan one’s flowering for a particular time of year.  Yes, you can think that certain plants will be at their best, but you certainly can’t rely on that.  Particularly in a small garden, it is best to plan for a succession of flowering.In larger gardens, it may be practical to walk past areas not at their best, but in the size of garden that many of us have these days, every inch of space has to work hard!

We had a number of visitors making return visits, which was particularly gratifying.  This year, we had three canine visitors, but they were not necessarily as interested in the garden as their humans.  However, Anya was overjoyed to meet even more canine friends.

As soon as the opening was over, I did some major pruning in the hope that it wasn’t too late and that there would be some regrowth before next year.  We will just have to wait and see………………

Each year, we say “everything is early” or just as often, it seems, “everything is late”.  One of the good things about blogging is I have a record of what happened in previous years.  Now, I know that many gardeners write things down in notebooks, but I have never been very good at that and notebooks (of the traditional variety) didn’t hold pictures, unless the gardener had the time and ability to draw.

Peony open in time

Will the peonies and iris be open in time for next weekend?

In 2013 the plants in my garden are certainly much later than feels right.  I always open my garden at the beginning of June and so this gives me a useful reference point.  Never before have  the wisteria been in flower for the visitors and the iris and peonies that are still in bud are also usually well over.  My dicentra spectabalis ‘alba’ is usually a distant memory by the time the garden opens, but this year its lovely white flowers are making a beautiful statement.

The wisteria should be the star of the show this year

The wisteria should be the star of the show this year

Looking back I see that in 2010, I didn’t do the chop until July, so goodness knows when, and if, I will need to do it this year.

2012 was not a year for gardening.  The spring was cold and wet with some plants a month later than usual.  But then in May there was a warm, even hot, period and hose pipe bans came into force just around the time the garden opened.  The hose pipe bans did their job on Mother Nature as the heavens opened during the Royal Jubilee celebrations and it felt like it didn’t stop raining all year!

2011 was also dry Spring and I had to water for almost two months before the opening.  Of course, as luck would have it, it rained on the opening days, but at least visitors were able to see our roses in full bloom, while there is not a chance of that this year.

So, over the last four years, I have experienced one early spring and three late ones – so, is that climate change or just weather?

Usually I agonise as to whether or not to do a Chelsea Chop or not.  This is the practise of cutting back herbaceous perennials that have had their “first fling” to keep them tidy during the rest of the year and is usually done at the time of the Chelsea Flower Show, which is on this week.

No Chelsea Chop

The reason why I have to think long and hard about this is that my garden opening is the following week and while the plants quickly grow back, this does tend to take a couple of weeks.

In a year where everything is early, I tend to do the chop at least a week before Chelsea to give the plants time to look good again for the visitors.

This year however, everything is so late that the plants have a way to go before they put on their first show.  So, instead of having to do a Chelsea Chop, I have plenty of other jobs to do in the garden that the weather put paid to earlier in the year – thank goodness it is a Bank Holiday weekend!

Tonight I decided that I would do some gardening after work.  For once I had enough energy after work and it was sunny, but not exactly warm.  My task was to see how my fuschias had fared over the winter.  I never do anything special to them to get them through but rather leave them to their own devices and replace those that don’t make it.  I had noticed greenery in the pot but wanted to investigate further.

Fuschia pre pruning

Fuschia – pre pruning

So, I set to removing the dead bits of fuschia to see what remained.  I tend to use small scissors for this job so that I don’t remove the new growth by accident.  Eventually I worked out that all the plants in this pot had survived, but that a number of hardy geraniums had also decided that this was a great place to settle.  Whilst I love the geraniums, this pot is not the right place for them.   I don’t have the space to nurture the very small seedlings and so decided to discard them, but there were two that were large enough to be considered as plants and so I decided to transplant them.

fushia post pruning

Fushia – post pruning

I therefore selected a new location for the geraniums, got my trusty trowel and kneeler to break ground.  My mistake was that I had the two plants beside me on the ground.  The very second that my trowel made contact with the soil, in swooped Anya and raced off with one of the plants!

Anya is now 17 months old and well into the wayward teenager phase.  On top of this, she has had the garden to herself throughout the excessively long winter period and really doesn’t yet understand that this is my garden!  Depite having had a run in the forest only a couple of hours before, Anya suddenly became a mad thing racing round and round the garden – jumping through beds (now I know why plants aren’t growing in that spot!) and storming past shrubs.  There was obviously not a chance of any command I threw in being listened to, let alone obeyed.  For a second she stopped, putting the plant on the ground in front of her.  I took a step toward her and she picked up her prize again and raced off in the opposite direction!  Then I thought that I aught to be videoing this behaviour to show you that all of us have this sort of issue to deal with and also how well the garden was standing up to the onslaught.  Luckily I had my camera close by having taken the previous photos.  I changed it to the video setting and then as suddenly as the madness had started, it stopped.  Anya hadn’t heard that sound before and so it was much more interesting than the plant.

Suddenly I had Anya’s full attention, so she and the others went into the house while I finished my planting.  I have no idea where the plant she absconded with ended up.  There is little doubt that what remained would not have made a successful plant.  This little episode has reminded me how much work I have to do to teach Anya how to behave in the garden, but at least she and the garden came out of the whole thing unscathed :).

Some years ago when we were on holiday  in Canada, we visited one of the most beautiful gardens in the world – Les Quatre Vent, Quebec.

One of the things that really surprised me at first glance was the sight of aqualegias and roses in flower side by side.  This is something that I had never seen before in UK.  Here, usually the aqualegias are in flower about a month before the roses.   When I thought about this though, things started to make sense.  Canadian winters are much longer and colder than those in Europe.  So, it is not surprising that the flowers that we regard as spring blooms come out quite a bit later than we are used to.


This year the long cold spring in UK has meant that most plants are very late – possibly even a month behind where they usually are.  Now, in early May, there are the first signs of aqualegia buds, but I would think we have a few weeks to wait before we get to see “granny’s bonnet” in full flower.  There are no signs of rose buds at all, but then again, why would there be – the camellias are only just in flower.

So, the question is – will this unusual weather mean that we get to see the phenomenon that I saw in Canada – plants that usually are distanced by time, blooming together?  If so, then there will certainly be some unplanned plant combinations on show this year.  Thank goodness I don’t allow yellow in my garden and so there is little chance of plant clashes!

One plant that is looking really beautiful in the garden at the moment is Exochorda × macrantha ‘The Bride’.

Exochorda × macrantha 'The Bride'

The beautiful pure white flowers cascade in abundance and light up a corner  of the pond garden.  The pond garden is supposed to be a flower free zone to ensure that it has a cool, relaxed atmosphere, but I can’t resist flowers sometimes.  In this case, the plant, despite its flowers, fulfils its brief perfectly.

Exochorda × macrantha 'The Bride'

The shrub was planted about three years ago, but for its first two years had to compete for water with the leylandii hedge on the other side of the fence.  Last year, the competition was removed and this year we have been rewarded with this fountain of flower – pretty suitable for a pond garden!

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