August 25, 2019

Caroline’s Garden Diaries 4.5.2014: Greener on this side

There’s so much happening in the garden that you need to look round it at least twice a day, and even a few days away at this time of year are painful. Missed it while away in Devon, but while there, visited an interesting garden, rather hippyish, i.e. wild with large statues of pigs. Also found two wonderful tree nurseries within a mile of each other. Couldn’t fit the tulip tree in the car but have come back with a couple of uncommon shrubs.
Hadn’t planned for the shrubs, they were simply on the bucket list, Deutzia pulchra that Roy Lancaster had raved about, and Enkianthus campanulatus that I love from seeing it in Ray Wood. But meanwhile, the garden is getting fuller by the minute; the new shrubs are more a shoehorning than a shoo-in.

As well as getting fuller, with plants filling out and growing up, there’s a big colour change in the garden, most prominently in what I think of as the spring bed; I’m just realizing that it isn’t because it has a lot of spring flowers, hellebores and special primulae, but because it has a beech hedge as its backdrop. And once a beech tree starts to come into leaf, you don’t see the flowers any more – the effect of that curtain of zinging green is so overwhelming that they lose their impact, spring is over.

Maybe I can learn to see it as also an early summer bed that is a shrine to new-beech-leaf-green. Then change ideas about suitable planting; what is working is a big block of tall euphorbias in full flower, whose yellowy-green is a perfect complement.

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Caroline’s Garden Diaries 31.12.2013: Coming Full Circle

New Year’s Eve, and here I am again with a bud of Iris unguicularis opening in a vase, and admiring pots of Primula malacoides, plants that began this diary at the start of the year. Garden’s come full circle. Not surprising on a planet that has goes a full circle round the sun, that’s what a year is.

But it’s not exactly the same as last year, earth and moon wobble around on cycles of their own, sun spots change the weather, time passes, things happen. On a miniscule human scale of one person growing some seed, the Fairy Primroses are different this year – tried different seed company, American, to see if colour range is better; no, it’s not and unusually for American things, plants are smaller, while those from Chiltern Seeds are very healthy plants, many of them a lovely lavender colour.

Would be normal to sum up the year at this point, part of clearing out the old, but don’t really feel like it; summings up are often “highlights” and “10 top things” and those doesn’t capture my sense of what gardening is about. Could follow Helen Yemm’s garden piece in the newspaper that talks of things to do next year; had a couple of thoughts like that, especially as the Chiltern Seed catalogue has just arrived with message to “grow something new from seed” – maybe a Ginkgo? Now that’s an idea for 2014, I’d love to see baby leaves of oldest known flowering plant.

No, my bigger picture for the year is the wonder and glory of the changing seasons, through cold dry spring, cold early summer, to warm long days of later summer, beautiful mild autumn, and now windy wet winter. Shoots have pushed up, leaves unfurled, buds have opened, flowers delighted, leaves went fiery colours and fell, now there’s seed-heads and bare twigs against the sky. We’ve been round the sun – what a journey we had.

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Caroline’s Garden Diaries 15.12.13: The Dead of Winter

Have always loved the phrase “the very dead of winter”, I think my mum used it, she was always quoting poems; it is from T. S. Eliot’s The Journey of the Magi, a favourite of ours. To me, it doesn’t feel like “the worst time of the year” as in the poem – perhaps because I’m not a King on a refractory sore-footed camel – but rather gives me a feeling of everything stilled, asleep, waiting; it’s cold, yes, but there’s warmth in the peace.

And actually in the garden, although we’re nearly at the solstice, the very dead of day, there’s still a lot of life; still nerines in flower, if fading fast; still apples everywhere; still odd flowers showing unexpected flickers of colour. Even better than life hanging on, there’s also new life out there. This week, scraping leaves off the lawn where the first snowdrops always come up, can’t believe it, the first grey points are appearing!
And then I noticed a flower on the winter iris, I. unguicularis. Not only one but at least another eight nearly out! Eliot’s poem again, a Birth in the very dead of winter.


One of the Chinese witch hazels is also covered in buds though they won’t open yet, Hamamelis being one of those plants that give you a lot of warning about what you’re going to get when their time comes. Magnolias the best example; even now, months before they flower, they have thrillingly fat buds. Look forward to seeing them, and some beautiful scented flowers on the witch hazel, but other side of the coin, I know that the other witch hazel is going to disappoint – no buds so no flowers. At least there’s lots of little fat pink catkins on new purple hazel.

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