Monthly Archives: January 2015

End of month view – January 2015


A rather sorry end of month view, but then it is January so perhaps I shouldn’t fret.

The old tin bath above was new (in a second hand sort of way) towards the end of last summer. I painted it to match the house and initially filled it with a bit of a quirky mix, including a number of Aeoniums and some Diascia which provided a jolly show to greet those arriving up the steps at the front of the house.

For the winter, I’ve changed its look to a dark red and silver combination of Cyclamen, pansies, Cineraria and Euphorbia mysinites.  Unfortunately I hadn’t read the crucial advice for winter containers, which is to cram in the planting from the word go as the plants won’t really grow and spread in winter as they do in summer.  Consequently my pot is a little sparse, but still, it provides welcome colour at this time of year.

The rest of the garden looks a lot like it’s ‘resting’.

The Drive Bed, below, has a few hellebores (worryingly I think fewer than last year) as well as one of the two Garrya Elliptica.  The strap like leaves are the Sisyrinchium striatum I moved from the Swing Beds in the autumn, the idea being that their flowers should match with the pale yellow flowers of the climbing rose ‘Snow Goose’, later in the year.IMG_5917

The right hand Lavender Bed is not showing much apart from the Phormium, Euphorbia and clipped LavenderIMG_5921

whilst the left hand Lavender bed is a little fuller with Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve‘, Anisodontea and a low conifer (front left) which I’ve forgotten the name of.IMG_5920

The view of the Grass Bed is rather disturbed by all the workmen’s kit.  Whilst the grasses are still looking good, the rest of the bed is pretty empty apart from the Forget me knots.  The numerous spring bulbs are still to raise their heads.IMG_5923

I had a little tidy of the two Med Beds in front of the greenhouse, and cleared away many leaves which had blown into the bed.  The two most obvious plants here are the Euphorbia mysinites (front left) and Agapanthus plants which I planted out last year and were grown from seed two years earlier.  I don’t know whether the Agapanthus will flower this year but I live in hope.IMG_5938

The picture of the two Swing Beds shows the Salvia and Phlomis italica dominating the foreground.  Both need cutting back so they don’t get too leggy this year.


The photo below is of the Oak Bed, which spends most of the year shaded by the Over-the-road-Oak.  There are a lot of Spring bulbs to come in this bed which take advantage of the better light before the Oak gets its full canopy.  And there are already a number of Hellebores flowering towards the front of the bed.

The Viburnum Tinus is rather overwhelming here and also needs to be cut back.IMG_5913

And to finish, a little more colour.  Sadly this isn’t in my garden, rather in my neighbour’s, but it’s their lovely Mimosa, flowering bravely in the January chill.



With thanks as ever to Helen at the Patient Gardener for hosting this End of Month meme,

Wildflower Wednesday – January 2015


These photos were actually taken on Saturday because it was just such a beautiful morning.  Quite a contrast from this morning’s walk, when the wind was blowing the rain horizontally!

The picture above shows the lovely tracery of branches of our old friend, the over-the-road-oak.

Googling ‘Sea Beet’ for this week’s post, I came across the following article from the Guardian from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, which highlights three plants which can be foraged in the UK. All of them are growing on the Duver and looking good right now, in the middle of winter -Alexanders, Smyrnium olusatrumIMG_5882

Sea beet, Beta vulgaris subsp. maritimaIMG_5886

and Wild garlic or Ramsons,  Allium ursinum.IMG_5876

I’ve never foraged from the Duver (other than blackberries) but I’ve definitely enjoyed wild garlic.  However, that has been picked from my garden, where I’m desperately trying to eradicate it!

There really isn’t much sea beet on the Duver so I think that should be left well alone, but there must be nearly an acre of Alexanders.  Perhaps I should give that a try – according to Hugh F-W “The flavour is aromatic, fragrant – a little musky, a touch juniper-ish”.

In addition to the three plants above, I saw plenty of Winter heliotrope or Butterbur, Petasites fragrans.IMG_5880


Gorse, Ulex europaeusIMG_5892

and something I’ve not seen before.  These fresh, green, sword shaped leaves were obscured by scrubby growth that was removed by the National Trust earlier in the year.  This has opened up the view and also cleared the area to allow these plants to thrive.  I think they must be Iris foetidissima, see close up of leaves below.IMG_5883


Assuming that’s what they are, I look forward to seeing them all in flower.

To finish, a couple more photos – the first showing the marram grass, Ammophila,  glossy in the winter sunshine,IMG_5894

and a final one, a little nod towards spring.IMG_5899

With thanks as ever to Gail at Clay and Limestone for hosting the Wildflower Wednesday meme.



Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day – January 2015


Anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time will know how much I love my Melianthus Major (above).  And seeing it in the sunlight today prompted me to join Christine at My Hesperides Garden with her Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day, even though I’m a day late!

I’ve used my Macro lens, so these photos are close ups, deliberately concentrating on individual leaves, rather than the whole plant.

It’s been interesting to look at foliage rather than flowers today (and just as well at this time of year!) and I’ve been interested to see how much blue/silver toned foliage I have,  including this tiny Pachyveria succulent,IMG_5825

Phlomis italicaIMG_5844


young Digitalis foliage, IMG_5846

Euphorbia mysinitesIMG_5871

Lavender IMG_5853

and Olive.  IMG_5841

The only red at this time of year is the Cornus and the inherited Phormium below.  I’m not really a fan of phormium and I’ve inherited four.  One I think I should really have out, but the rest provide good structure, so I’ll probably leave them alone this year.IMG_5832

My lovely Stipa tenuissima grasses are looking quite dead, but they will return!   Meanwhile they’re still providing lovely movement along the back of the grass bed.  I’ve combed them through but don’t usually cut them back.  They should start regrowing fairly soon.IMG_5849

One plant I don’t think I’ve ever featured before is another inheritance, a bottlebrush, Callistemon citrinus.  This has got quite large now but I’ve read you can’t prune too severely as it won’t regenerate from low down (a bit like lavender) so I think I should give it just a light trim this year, immediately after flowering, to try to keep it in check.IMG_5864

And to finish, I guess these catkins are strictly flowers, but somehow they sit better here than on GBBD!  These are the lovely catkins of Garrya Eliptica, also known as the Silk Tassel Bush.


With thanks again to Christina for hosting this lovely meme.

Resolve and realise – January 2015


You know that saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person”?  Well a year ago I was that person.  I was working (and staying) in London, three days a week, as well as working a further day from home.  Consequently, all my gardening had to be fitted in between Friday and Sunday. And do you know what?  I was far better at getting things done then than I’ve been over the last year, when I’ve been working far less, and rarely away from home overnight.  I find the lure of the sofa, a good cup of coffee and a gardening magazine often wins out over getting the wellies on and getting out there.  Procrastination, I love it.

But it’s got to stop, and this is my plan.  I’m going to share a monthly ‘Resolve and realise’ post where I plan (resolve) to do a number of things over the coming month and then the next month share what I’ve achieved (realised).  Not only do I think it will help concentrate my mind over what I should be up to, but it will certainly concentrate my mind over what I’ve actually done.  Bizarrely, I love a deadline almost as much as procrastination, and for me, it’s definitely the lack of one that leads to the other!

Obviously I don’t have any December resolutions to report on, so I’ll concentrate on (late) plans for January:

  • spring clean greenhouse (yuk!)
  • prune wisteria
  • prune vine
  • dig and prepare new ‘bronze bed’
  • sow more sweet peas
  • sow more broad beans
  • plant out bought replacement crocuses in pots (after a mouse had all of my bulbs)
  • force rhubarb2013 05 and prior 065
  • and mulch all bedsIMG_1292

If anyone would like to join in with me, please feel free, just leave a link with your comment.

In future, I plan to write these ‘Resolve and realise’ posts on the first Sunday of the month, so the next one will be on 1st February.


Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – January 2015


So, a funny GBBD – I seem to have a mix of ‘expected’ early spring flowers, like the Iris Gordon, above and belowIMG_5756

together with some tender, hot climate flowers that you think would know better.  For example Melianthus major has just decided to have a second flush of flowers right now:


But to continue with ‘expected’ flowers, I have a only a few hellebores so far –




Correa backhouseana,IMG_5775

the odd Clematis Freckles, IMG_5788

and my one paltry Witch Hazel, Hamamelis, (could be Arnold’s Promise, but now starting to doubt it after Chloris said it was the last to flower…)IMG_5770

Less expected at this time of year are succulent flowers.  These are in the (unheated) conservatory.  Two SempervivumsIMG_5749


and an Aeonium.IMG_5751

Meanwhile, outside, Anisodontea capensisIMG_5796

two Grevillea,IMG_5792


my incredibly long flowering LeptospermumIMG_5757

and my stalwart Fuschia microphylla.IMG_5779a

And in the greenhouse, in case you’re missing the sun, I’ll finish with Abutilon Orange Marion.IMG_5777

With thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens who hosts the GBBD.


The Greenhouse review – January 2015

Greenhouse (2)

I’m joining with Julie at Peonies and Posies to capture a monthly view of what’s going on in my greenhouse.  Like Julie, I’m lucky enough to have a sizeable greenhouse.  Mine was built in 2011 and was from Cambridge Glasshouses.  Sadly, unlike Julie’s Alitex, I don’t have very attractive staging – maybe one day!

One of the reasons I’m keen to join in this meme is that I think I could probably make my greenhouse work harder.  I certainly raise thousands of seeds and cuttings in it, as well as veg, mostly tomatoes, but have never used it for cutting flowers and would like to do that this year for the first time.  Another reason is to make sure I keep the greenhouse clean and tidy.  Like tidying my house before visitors come, I’ll have to keep my greenhouse tidy for your monthly visits.  Sadly, due to feeling under the weather recently, I certainly haven’t achieved my spring clean before these photos, so please excuse me!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’d read you can carry on cropping Sungold tomatoes through to December, and as a result I didn’t clear them out.  Also, because of the way the bamboos were constructed I ended up not clearing the Cucamelons either as they were growing up the same structure.  Consequently nearly half of the bed running along the back wall still has (increasingly tatty) plants growing in it.  And although I have harvested a few new tomatoes (and it’s always good to try out new ideas), this has definitely been a mistake.  It’s meant a significant delay in a proper clear out and clean up, and now that I’ve moved tender plants in, it will make my spring clean much harder.



The other end of the bed is now largely taken up with pots of tender plants


although there are also some pots of narcissi and muscari I’m growing for my step-niece’s wedding:IMG_5707

I don’t have any heaters in the greenhouse and so it’s possible the frost could still catch some of these plants.

The one heated item I do have, is a heated propagation mat which sits under the capillary matting shown below.  I’m concerned that it may have broken over the winter, but I haven’t dared investigate properly.  It wasn’t cheap and I only bought it last year, so I hope that’s not the case!

On the mat I have numerous cuttings including pelargoniums, diascia, lavender, penstemon,IMG_5709

abutilon and more penstemons.IMG_5710

In the bottom right of the photo above you can see my ‘potting trough’.  This is just a large plastic tray where I do all my potting.  The trouble is, it’s a messy process (or is that just me?) and I do find it hard to keep my potting mixes out of the clay ‘beads’ my staging is filled with.  I have considered moving my potting activities to a shed near the veg patch, but this greenhouse spot is south facing and has a lovely view, so I’m loathe to move!

On the left hand side of the door, the staging has a lot of seedlings including sweet peas, calendula and broad beans, shown in my first Wordless Wednesday post of the new year.IMG_5689

And in the middle, whilst they’re rarely sat on, I do have a table and chairs.IMG_5712

Hopefully by next month I will have had a proper spring clean and all will be looking rather more shipshape!

With thanks again to Julie for hosting this new meme.


A rosy glow


I’ve been laid rather low since the new year with some weary inducing virus, topped off by conjunctivitis, and as a result haven’t felt like tackling any outside jobs.  Instead I’ve spent many languid hours curled up with gardening blogs, magazines, books and seed catalogues, but sometimes you just have to (wo)man up  and get out there, and today was the day.

I wasn’t really feeling up to proper digging (I still have my new bed to dig) and so instead tackled my climbing roses which had got rather out of hand towards the back end of last year.  I have to say rose pruning was something I found rather scary when I first arrived here as I’d never grown roses before and had inherited quite a few (and now planted a lot more).  However I’ve quickly grown to love it and find myself drifting into a totally absorbed, Zen like meditative state!  It seems to me that roses (all plants really) inherently want to grow and therefore I don’t think there’s much I can do with my trusty secateurs to upset them (particularly when I’ve seen how the shrub roses in a National Trust cottage down the road bounce back, when their pruning appears to be achieved with a chain saw!)


This is the before picture.  The front two uprights have Rosa St Swithun (pictured top and below) and Clematis Freckles growing up them. 


These St Swithuns, and the two behind , Rosa Korizont, see below, are climbers, whereas the two on the outside pillars are ramblers.

Rosa KorizontIMG_2286

There is some confusion about what the ramblers are, and in fact I have just looked back in my records and realised I’ve been misleading myself and you too with my posts last year.  I thought I’d ordered Rambling Rector and received one Rambling Rector (on the outside left hand pillar) and one other, which I’d decided was Snow Goose.  However, having just checked back in my records, I realised I’d actually ordered Rosa Alberic Barbier, which must be the rose on the right, making the one on the left the mystery, as it clearly isn’t Rambling Rector.  

I’ve just had a look at the David Austin website and think it might be Kew Rambler, but what ever it is, it certainly isn’t another Alberic Barbier!

Mystery rambler:



Rosa Alberic Barbier (with Digitalis Suttons Apricot)


Whatever the roses are, they have all had a very good tidy and a rather brutal cut back.


The after picture is a little fuzzy as by the time I’d finished it was heading towards 5pm and there was very little light left so I’m afraid this is camera shake from the long exposure.


I still need to give them a feed and a good mulch of well rotted manure, but a very satisfying afternoon’s activity.  Worthy of a rosy glow?  Well maybe, but there’s something else.

Last week I was delighted to hear that Julie, at Gardening Jules, had nominated me for the Liebster award.

As Julie explained on her blog, “it’s an award from one blogger to another and a way of letting other folk know about blogs you enjoy to read”.  To accept I need to answer 11 questions from Julie, then select 5 blogs I’d like to share and then ask my nominees 11 questions. Choosing young blogs with less than 200 followers is good too.

My answers to Julie’s questions are:-

1. Do you encourage wildlife to your garden?

Yes, I try to.  There are certainly ‘wild’ areas, as well as food for the birds and a bug hotel, but we don’t currently have a pond, which would definitely help with wildlife.

2. Do you grow organically and use natural methods?

This is a tricky one.  I tend to, but have a husband who’s not as convinced.  For example, I used the wool pellets ‘Slug Gone’ to protect my hostas last year, and they were pretty successful. However, one time when I’d moaned about some slug nibbling, the OH was straight round with the little blue pellets.  I wasn’t happy….

3. Any tips for recycling plastic?

No easy answers here.  I think the key is to avoid/reuse as much as possible.

4. Any recommendations for flowers to arrange in your home?

Lots!  However I think one of my favourites has to be Cosmos.  I love daisy flowers anyway, there are many different Cosmos varieties to choose from and they are SOOOOO productive, you can pick armsful through the season

5. Have you tried edible flowers?

Yes, I like adding nastutium and calendula to salads, and have frozen borage fowers in ice cubes to put in Pimms!

6. A favourite fruit recipe?

This isn’t quite the right recipe as Deb Perelman, who writes the Smitten Kitchen blog has written a book and there is a different Lemon Bar recipe in that.  However I love this blog so I’m sure this one will be good too.

7. A favourite vegetable recipe?

I ‘m hoping I’m allowed to call tomatoes a vegetable, in which case I offer up Panzanella:

8. Do you like to create anything other than flower arrangements using natural materials?

I’d love to be able to weave with willow, but never have, so just flower arrangements for me.

9. How do you feel about growing natives or non natives?

I’m relaxed about both.  I think we have to be careful about what is introduced, but think it would be a terrible shame not enjoy non native plants.

10. Any recommendations for an unusual fruit or vegetable that is good to eat?

This is another trick one.  I do try to try new things but have often been disappointed.  a recent case in point was my Cucamelons.  Revolting!  Likewise Electric Daisies.

Something I do like to grow are the small Padron Peppers which have a bit of heat and can be cooked up with olive oil and sea salt and used as a starter.  And also the Pumpkin Munchkin, which are a single serving size and can be grown up bamboo and so don’t take up too much ground space.

11. Do you have a good view from your home?

Yes.  We pretty much bought the house for the view.  From one side you can see south across Bembridge Harbour towards Bembridge and from the other, east towards the Solent.  The views are actally better in the winter when the trees are bare.

 So those were my answers, here are my questions
1.  Why did you start to blog?
2.  What’s your favourite post you’ve posted?
3.  And why?
4.  What’s the favourite/most interesting thing you’ve learnt from reading others’ blogs?
5.  What’s your favourite book?
6.  What’s your favourite film?
7.  Who would play you in a film about your life?
8.  What’s your view on GM crops?
9.  Do you play a musical instrument?
10. Do you prefer dogs or cats?
11. Sausage roll or chocolate eclair?

And the blogs I’d like to nominate are

Sussex Prairies

 Dig with Dorris

Edinburgh Garden Diary

Railway Parade House and Garden

Brookend Cottage Garden