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………………

In life, it is always interesting to get a different perspective on something.

Recently I was able to get a view of my garden from one of the readers of this blog when Bobbie and Ron Gratz, whose garden is featured in the Dogs and their Gardens section of the site, came to visit.

Some of Bobbie’s photos are quite similar to ones that I have taken, but it was really interesting to see what caught her eye as she wandered around on a November morning.

I love this picture of the trellis around the pond with the rose and clematis that adorn it starting to change colour.  The blue of the post works so well with the blue sky, but this is a picture I would never have thought to take.

I love these frogs playing leapfrog – although some visitors are not always sure what they are doing – it depends on the angle they are viewed from.  I bought them in US and have never seen anything similar in UK.   I love the moss growing between the slabs that form the seat around the edge of the raised pond that is now their home.  I usually get rid of the moss whenever I pressure wash, despite wondering on many occasions whether I should leave it.  Maybe next time I will see if I can get the slabs clean whilst preserving the moss.

When I looked at this photo, I was really flummoxed.  I couldn’t think of where it could be – I don’t have a wooden bench anywhere in the garden.  I looked at the picture again and again and then I noticed the trellis in the background.  There is only one place in the garden where I have that sort of trellis.  I suddenly realised where the photo was taken.  Turned through 90°, the picture is a sideways on view of one of my Trachelospermum growing to create a green window.

We had to have a photo with one of the dogs.  Here, Bobby has managed to get a feel of the garden from their perspective .  There is no doubt that this photo is taken outdoors and yet the garden is almost irrelevant to the story.  Far more important is the mission that Ruby is on – if only we could read her mind.

Thank you, Bobby, for introducing me to a new perspective on my garden.  Through your fresh eyes, I now have a whole new view of my outdoor space.

Ok, so you have been seeing loads of pictures of my garden that I share with my dogs, now here is your chance to show off your garden.  

Whether it is a work in progress or something that is a little more mature, so long as you don’t have a seperate areas of the garden for you and your dog(s), send me the pictures and I’ll put a selection in a new gallery section on this site. 

I need at least three pictures and up to 500 words to describe your garden and dog(s).  Make sure that at least one of the pictures includes your dog(s).  Pictures should be  minimum 600 x 400 pixel resolution.

Just fill in the form below with some basiscs about your garden and then we will get the process going.

Well, it’s only two weeks now until we open the garden to the public under the NGS (National Gardens Scheme) and the pressure is mounting.  It is a great honour to be one of 3,700 gardens that open under the scheme through out the year.  

The key charities supported by the scheme are Macmillan Cancer Support  and Marie Curie Cancer Care, charities that many of us will have contact with at some point in our lives.  Since 1927, NGS have raised almost £42 million to support various charities; £25 million in the last 10 years. 

Visitors in 2009

By opening our garden, not only do we get the opportunity to help support these charities, but also we get the pleasure of sharing the garden with visitors.  We only open one weekend a year as the pressure to get everything looking as good as it possibly can is just too much to do more than once a year.  

In reality, the majority of the gardening year is focused on this one weekend.  Obviously the gardening jobs happen at different times of the year, be it planting or pruning.  However, opening the garden focuses the mind on the maintenance jobs  – they just have to be done in time.  This weekend, I’ll be giving the path around the pond a spruce up to ensure they are ready to meet the public. 

Peony swelling buds

I am lucky that my cottage garden style of gardening lends itself well to opening.  The vagaries of our winters means that each year different plants are at their best.  Some years, the geraniums are well over, in others (like this one), they are only just getting into their stride.  I am currently watching the peony buds swelling by the day and hoping that they will be at their peak in time.  

Iris buds

I would be surprised if the roses are in full flower in two weeks, but the vanguard might be in evidence.  This year, the early and main season irises look as if they will be flowering together, but there is absolutely no sign of flower yet on the hemerocallis.  

The weather forecast for the next week is such that I am being non PC and watering the garden.  Luckily I don’t have to do too much as out clay based soil is very good at retaining moisture, but when people are paying to look around, they expect to see the garden at its best. 

Oliver in the showring

Whilst the majority of our visitors come to see the garden, each year we have a few who come to meet the dogs.  This means that they too must be looking their best.  One of the main benefits of showing is that those being shown are pretty under control, but Cerys doesn’t go to shows, so she will have some time on the grooming table between now and then.  Oliver is the one who is “on duty” in the garden for most of the day.  At times, though it is likely that Ruby and Cerys will put in an appearance. 

 

If you are planning to visit us this year, you will be pleased to know that there are other gardens open on the same days which are only a short drive away, so you can enjoy a whole afternoon visiting gardens in the area.  We are located on the eastern edge of the New Forest, Hampshire and would love to meet you on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th June from 2:00 – 5:00pm.  Don’t have too big a lunch, leave space for tea and a piece of cake :).  Full opening details may be found on Barhi’s website, on the NGS website and in the Yellow Book, available from all good book sellers. 

If you are in the area at other times of the year, we are open by appointment – just contact us using the form below to arrange your visit.

So what did you lose last winter? By now you should have a pretty good idea, whether it is shrubs (or parts of them) that have failed to come into leaf, or perennials that just haven’t reappeared from the ground this year.

Last winter was a pretty hard one in the UK. Even down here on the south coast, we actually had snow lying and icy conditions. Further north, things were obviously a bit harder, with deep snow lying for weeks.

Slight signs of life in the cotinus

I have been very pleased to find that virtually everything survived the winter. The plant that seems to have suffered most is cotinus.  Two of my three cotinus shrubs have lost major branches.  Luckily part of the plants have survived, but the shrubs are now looking a little unbalanced.  This weekend, I was going to tidy up some more twigs that I thought had also been lost, but on closer inspection, there appears to be slight signs of life on them.  So, I’m going to wait a couple more weeks to see if they actually will come back to life.

A new hosta (with canine protection)

Other than that, I seem to have been very lucky.  There are very few “holes” in my planting.  There have been a few spots where I could put in an extra plant but really very few.  Thank goodness the days of mass plant purchasing seem to be over.  It wasn’t just the effect on my pocket, but rather the thought of having to dig holes and plant up to forty plants at a time.  These days, it tends to be ten or less in one go.  I bought three new hostas – this one has gone in a place that hisorically has not been good for plant survival.  I’m not sure why it is, but the plant got immediate protection (the metal plant support), just in case it is the dogs that reduce my survival rates. 

Our main herb pot

We always anticipate losing a lot of our herbs, after all they are mainly suited to a Mediterranean climate.  This year, only a thyme and chives made it through, and the mint of course, but that is in a seperate pot.  A couple of new herbs we are trying this year are Sorrel, for salad leaves with very interesting green and reddish leaves (at about 4 o’clock in the photo) and  Hedge Germander, said to be good in vermouth, but I liked its lovely dark green leaves (at about 10 o’clock in the photo). 

Keeping herbs in a pot is a must for us to avoid contamination from the dogs, but it is easier only having bitches.  Luckily when dogs visit, the location of the pot, behind them as they come out of the door and on a small step, seems to mean that it is not an attractive target for leg lifting :).

We were very lucky this winter – hope you were as fortunate.

I was going to start this by saying that I started a new project today, but actually it started months ago.  I was talking at our breed club AGM with a friend and we started talking about gardening.  She has a large garden and wants to turn it into a garden.  If that sounds stupid, bear with me.  

She has a large amount of land outside the house.   It is currently mostly laid to grass with a few plants around the border and a couple of trees – it is the typical blank canvas.  Whilst she is at ease with vegetables and fruit (her polytunnels are outside the garden area), gardens are a little more of a challenge to her, particularly taking into account the needs of the dogs and family.

The next stage in the journey was that she asked me to write an article for the club newsletter.  The thing that most resonated with her about this was the idea that not only were there the human routes through the garden, but that the dogs too had their own routes that had to be considered.

A few months have passed by and she recently contacted me for help in the next phase of the project.  She wanted some help in turning the garden into a garden.  I am not a professional gardener but I was intrigued by the prospect of working with her on this. 

It will be a very unconventional situation.  Despite the fact that we meet at canine events, we live many miles from each other, so photos, email and phone conversations will be the methods of communication.  I won’t be giving her a design to work to, but what we will do is discuss her issues and I’ll make some suggestions to help her on the way.  It will be totally her garden, I will just ask the questions to help her make the decisions that are right for her.

With Debbie’s agreement, I will document the process in this blog.  Hopefully it will provide some ideas to others.

I like it when my compost bin is full – it feels like the garden’s way of telling me that it has had enough cutting back for a while.

I used to have two wooden compost bins but found it took so long to turn my green waste into compost. This was basically because it was just too much work to continually empty it to turn it. I would think over the seven years that I had the bins, I got about a bag’s worth of compost out of them. So when the wood finally rotted away, I had a decision to make.

My inital thought was to pay for the green waste bags that the council supply. It just seemed the easy solution. All we had to do was remember to put the bags out for collection once every two weeks. Fortunatley we live in a cul-de-sac and the lorry always came at lunch time. On a number of occassions, we suddenly remembered what day it was when we saw the lorry pass by as we ate our lunch. There was then a mad dash to put the bag out before the lorry had time to turn around and come past again.

I used the green bags for a couple of years, even investing in a second bag as I had so much to come out of the garden, especially at peak periods such as the end of summer. But all the while I did this, the thought that I was paying to throw away something valuable just niggled and niggled at me. I suppose part of the problem was knowing (from my perspective) how much hard work composting was.

Eventually, earlier this year, I decided to invest in a tumbling composter. Turning was going to be easy :). They promised you could make compost in two weeks (in ideal cirumstances). Well, I’m not in a position to hold enough material to always empty it and then fill it again, but I could manage to make sure that everything that goes into it has been through my shredder and turning it is a lovely quick job – just six revolutions a day – well, every day I remember. I have already had bags of compost out of it. It can be a bit of a pain sieving out the bits that haven’t composted enough yet, but a lot of that is because initially I wasn’t strict enough with myself about ensuring that everything had been through the shredder. I have learnt my lesson.

I really enjoy the shredding part of the job. It is strangely satisfying to see a huge mound of green waste turn into a much smaller mound of shreddings. The other thing is that I am constantly amazed by the dogs when I shred. The shredder lives in the garage and some time ago we decided to teach the dogs that they couldn’t come into the garage because there are tools and chemicals in there that could be dangerous to them. So now the dogs stay at the open door of the garage watching me work and waiting for me to come out and play with them.

On one of my journeys between the shredder and compost bin tonight, I found that Ruby had brought a toy outside. Normally she is very good and understands that her toys live inside, but today the ragger was obviously in need of a trip out doors. When I asked her to pick it up, she showed what a good gundog she is and immediately did so. She took it indoors as asked, but then wanted to come out again with it still in her mouth. She thought I wanted her rather than the toy inside. Thankfully after me removing the toy from her mouth a couple of times and gently laying it on the floor and inviting her outside she eventually got the message and was parted from her toy – until we all came indoors again.

Now, all I have to do is wait for a couple of weeks and then I will have some more compost and the process can start all over again :).