it’s raining again …

… but there’s an upside to the relentless rain: the garden is looking lush and green.

P1270693Or at least it looks lush and green from a distance. Closer inspection, conducted yesterday when the sun made a brief appearance, revealed that there is much work to be done.

P1270694And last Autumn’s uncharacteristically restrained bulb order hasn’t helped. Back in November I was delighted by the speed with which I was able to plant my bulbs, but now I am filled with regret. I watch and wait over one wine crate filled with tulips — Attila — and an old wash tub filled with ranunculus*, all the while wishing I’d planted more.

P1270709Yesterday afternoon I spotted pots of  Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ in M&S (£1 a pot) and I decided a little set-dressing was in order. I bought as many as I could carry and decided to concentrate my efforts on the part of the garden I can see from the kitchen.

The rest of the garden will have to wait until the weather has improved. For now I have a bit of instant Spring —meteorologically-speaking it is Spring, but half the time it still feels like winter — in the form of bright narcissus against clouds of Clematis armandii.

*at least I think it’s a tub of ranunculus — note-keeping is not my strong point. I do remember ordering some, I think I planted them here…

anemones

P1270360This time last year these anemones were flowering in my garden. Planted in an old wine box, their jewel-bright flowers provided an exotic splash of colour throughout the winter (first appearing in October 2012 and valiantly doing their thing until mid-March 2013).

They haven’t returned this year, but I’m not too disappointed. Much as I love Anemone coronaria De Caen — the sooty stamen, which look like someone’s been at them with the mascara, and the soft, velvety petals which come in such glorious colours * — I always felt they looked somewhat incongruous in the garden. I’ve decided I prefer these anemones in the vase, which is fortunate as the florists are filled with them at this time of year. That’s not to say that I won’t be tempted to buy more corms later this year though.

P1270359The deep violet blue flowers above (my favourites, I think) were at my parents’ house in London this weekend, and the ones below are here in Bristol.

P1270370I bought this bunch last week when the buds were still so tightly closed that I had no idea which colour/s would be waiting for me on my return. I got a nice surprise yesterday: a blowsy explosion in my favourite jug which, by chance, suits them perfectly.

For some wonderfully detailed, highly magnified photographs of individual flowers click HERE— it’s amazing what a google search can lead you too.

this evening

P1220302I understand from various photographer friends that 5am is the best time to photograph a garden. Sadly I cannot get my lazy bones out of bed at that time, and so although I know that 8pm is nothing like a fair substitute, it will have to do.

This is how the garden looked ten minutes ago.

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P1220303The trellis is a little overbearing (though I’ve managed to avoid it in these shots), but by this time next year it will have weathered nicely and, I hope, it will be hidden by climbers such as Clematis montana Tetrarose, which smells delicious.

P1220294 P1220301The bottom of the garden is a bit of a hotchpotch, and my runner beans are holding it all together while I decide what I want to plant here in the autumn. But yesterday these wonderful irises (White Bridge from Nyssen) finally opened. A second clump, in a shadier spot, have yet to unfurl. I’m itching to cut a few stems, but can’t bring myself to rob this part of the garden of its star performer.

P1220293One of the prettiest geraniums, Splish Splash (who thinks up these inane names?) also opened this morning. I planted it around the base of R. William Lobb last autumn and I hope it will look good alongside the deep pink rose which should open soon.

But the real excitement for me, and the reason I went out with my camera this evening, was the sight of the first flowers of Ferdinand Pichard. More on him tomorrow.

NB The geraniums in the shot above the irises are Mrs Kendall Clark (pale blue) and, deep breath, g. x oxonianum f. thurstonianum (hot pink star-like flowers), both firm favourites of mine and fantastic as a cut flowers.

cut flowers

P1220104The weather continues to taunt us: bright sunshine one minute and with it the promise of a glorious day; the next moment the black clouds roll in and all thoughts of summer are put on hold. But the flowers suggest the seasons are moving on, or are in transition at least.

P1220107This morning, whilst the sun was out, I picked the last of T. ‘Queen of the Night’  (which always remind me of baby aubergines), dusty pink aquilegias, and an allium,

P1220110some nepeta, R. ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and R. ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’,

P1220109and R. ‘Teasing Georgia’.

P1220125Summer in a vase.

catching up

P1220083The last three weeks have passed in a blur of work (an article; a lovely shoot; a couple of projects bubbling away in the background and a significant deadline) and domestic stuff (school to-ing and fro-ing, DIY hell and the usual never ending round of laundry). All in all there has been little time for anything else, even food shopping has fallen by the wayside. And outside, apart from the arrival of the fence, which had nothing to do with me, the garden has been largely ignored. Fortunately the garden has been a busy in my absence, generally fattening itself up and filling out just in time for half term.

P1220090This year the Euphorbias have really held the space together. They’ve provided colour and form since early March, a point in the year when the garden can feel really bleak, and are still going strong. I cut them back, head by head, as they collapse.

P1220088Euphorbias are something of an acquired taste I suspect, but I really wouldn’t want a garden without them: the lime green of their strange, prehistoric-looking flower heads is such a wonderful foil for so many other flowers, and I’m particularly pleased with the way they work alongside the alliums.

And when the flowers are over, the foliage continues to keep the garden looking lush and full. In the picture above, you can also see the wonderful leaves of the maclaeya which will take over responsibility for providing height and drama in a month or so. Though with the strange stop/start nature of the spring which should really nearly be summer, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.

P1220084But at least the roses are on their way, which means that at last there will be a little more colour in the garden. This is the ever-reliable and deliciously-scented Gertrude Jekyll. Fat buds on all the other roses suggest a much better show than last year.

May Day morning

P1210840Every morning I take a quick tour of the garden — quick because the garden’s very small, and also because I am usually against the clock with a school run, dog run and my run (10k three days away!), to do before my working day can start.

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P1210842Every day the garden looks a little different. Sometimes the changes are startling — the geraniums have grown by how much!? — and sometimes so slight that I am the only one who notices them. Yesterday morning’s visit revealed the latter sort of change. And try as I might, I found it impossible to take a photograph that captured the thrill I felt on spotting the gently rumpled appearance of the patch where I sowed my chard seeds.

The disturbance on the soil’s surface can mean only one thing: the tiny seeds are waking up and delicious stalks of the aptly named ‘Bright Lights’ are on their way. But really, from any distance further than a nose-length, the hessian sack in which they are growing still looks like nothing more than a patch of empty soil.

So the following photos, taken yesterday morning, May Day, will have to do instead.

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P1210852I’m very excited about these seedlings with their straight, stout stems. They are  Velvet Queen, one of two varieties of sunflower that I’m experimenting with. I’ll thin them out and put them into individual pots until I know exactly where they are to grow. Not sure how they will take the disturbance, but I’ve been caught out by the weather, lack of pots and the fact that work needs to be done around the boundaries of the garden.

malaika

P1210824I can’t quite bring myself to throw this tulip out. It was the first one up; the only one to return from a group of Malaika that I planted last year. More from a fresh batch are about to open any minute — and I really do mean any minute: the buds are fat and flushed with colour, and with a bit of luck and the warmth of the sun they could be open by lunchtime.

P1210827I’ll resist picking them until they’ve done a week or two in their pots. They will provide interest whilst the sweet peas make their slow start up the wigwam, and the rest of the garden gets into its stride. Malaika is one of my favourite tulips — so elegant as it emerges and then puts on a spectacular show as it dies. I will buy more next year.

at last…

P1210770…spring has sprung!

P1210766Things are finally happening in the garden: the Amelanchier is now in bloom, the first of the tulips is up — a hanger-on from last year, and the only one in the pot to put in a repeat performance (I thought it worth leaving them by way of an experiment).

P1210759The little clump of violets — which were a freebie, left in a bag attached to a neighbour’s railings — has bulked up and is twice the size it was last year. I am hoping that it will form a mat around the base of the rose, William Lobb, with which it shares bed.

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P1210748And in the pop-up green house the rocket and sweet pea seedlings are racing away, with runner beans, climbing courgettes (more of which in a later post), cobea scandens (alba and purple varieties), and coriander not far behind.

I’m sorry posts have been rather thin on the ground. I’ve been tied up with the project I mentioned in an earlier post, and on top of that the Bristol 10K is looming. I have become a slave to running and the 5th of May feels very, very close. The time I had in mind for the race (there is no escaping the fact that it is a race, it seems) is, I fear, woefully optimistic. As with the climbing courgettes, more on running anon.

fallow*

anemoneIn January, I embarked on an interesting project with two friends, which will run until July. It’s strange to have a formal structure to my week after so many years in which my work has come in fits and starts with lengthy lulls between the deadlines. I can’t write about it in great detail because, although it’s not a secret or particularly special, the project isn’t entirely mine, so it wouldn’t feel right to air it here until we’ve finished. Enough to say that it’s rewarding and painful in equal measure, and doesn’t leave me with much spare time. Something has had to give, and I’m afraid it’s been the blog.

But this post is by no means “over and out!”, more an explanation of the fallow state of my corner of the internet.

P1190966I began writing here, nearly three years ago, in order to record the life of my small city garden. Naturally enough, as with most other blogs I read, its remit quickly expanded; but the garden was always there in one form or another —  a bunch of flowers, a newly planted bed, rose petal jam. But in January the garden was asleep and so it felt like an appropriate moment to take time out from blogging regularly.

P1190968Actually, the garden wasn’t entirely asleep: these Anemone de Caen, which I planted in an old wine crate last spring, have been flowering, one or two at a time, since late October.

Over the last week other things have started to emerge and the usual gloom I feel about the garden at this time of year is lifting. My mood was given a further boost by the arrival of a really wonderful and incredibly inspiring book: Veg Street Grow Your Own Community by Naomi Schillinger, whose blog Out of my Shed is one that I have long admired. I’m off to read it now, over a cup of coffee and, as the sun is out, I might even venture into the garden with pen and paper and make a few plans.

I will post a proper review of the book later in the week, but for now I’ll just say that I cannot recommend her blog highly enough, and I feel sure that I’ll be saying the same about her book.

* Hoping that, as with farm land left to lie fallow, there will be increased productivity later in the year!

happy christmas

P1190649                                   We had a lovely day, hope you did too.

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and, better late than never, our wreath …

P1190516made from a swatch of weeping birch twigs which I found on the pavement on Christmas morning last year and kept for just this purpose. A rare (and embarrassingly excessive), bit of forward planning.