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.