Monthly Archives: February 2015

End of month view – February 2015


Well some bright spots of colour, but sadly not many in my garden!

The grass bed, above, is full of bulbs and self seeded forget me knots, but there’s little sign yet.

The Veg Patch is even emptier,IMG_6070

but the Swing Beds are looking a little fuller, with tidied mounds of herbaceous perennials at least providing some green.IMG_6071

The big news, however, is the creation of two new beds.  The first, the ‘Mid Century Bed’ is opposite the swing and at right angles to the grass bed (you can just see the grasses – and the digger – in the left middle of the photo below).  I’m still ruminating over what to plant here.  I had originally thought of concentrating on roses and peonies, but of course am now trying to think of ways to extend the season.  Also, I had originally though of a pinky/blue theme, in common with the rest of this area of the garden, but am now thinking of plummier, more ‘bruised’ colours, like those used in the Stoke City garden at last year’s Chelsea Flower show.  See reminder below, swoon.

As ever, your thoughts are welcome



The second new bed, the Bronze Bed, is directly in front of a long outside table.  The thought behind this new bed is that it is much sunnier than the Oak Bed (on the opposite side of the lawn, alongside the road), which is very shaded by the over-the-road-oak in the summer.  The new bed should get much more light and can hopefully be planted with blooms we can admire from the table.  I already have some ideas, and have bought many packets of seed, but the only plant to have arrived to date is my beautiful Hamamelis Aphrodite, still to be planted.IMG_6075


The Oak Bed, opposite the new bed, is starting to come alive, with hellebores and begenias flowering and bulbs pushing their way through.  However, post spring, it will be a relief to abandon this bed to the shrubs, and concentrate on the new bed instead.IMG_6077

And to finish, my lovely Diving Lady, whose pool is rather purple, but inviting nonetheless…IMG_6066

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


Advice please!


My sister’s lovely stepdaughter is getting married on 28th March and she (the sister) kindly volunteered me to provide flowers for the wedding.

We had a chat and agreed that spring bulbs in terracotta pots would be fun and go with the laid back vibe she’s looking for.  I did a bit of research and came up with two different bulbs, Narcissus Elka and Muscari Latifolium, both of which are supposed to be in flower at the end of March.  All was agreed and I got buying and planting.

Initially I left the pots in the greenhouse, just until they had sprouted and were hopefully beyond any marauders (I’m still smarting about those crocuses).  Then I moved them out into the cold frame.  The cold frame is never actually closed, so all it did was corral them and also provide a bit of protection.

Fast forward a few months and I have concerns.  The Narcissus are doing too well.  Although the stems are only about 4″ tall I can definitely see flower buds (see above and below).


Now whilst I don’t know how long they’ll take to flower from this point, I feel it won’t be four weeks, and so I have now put them in the fridge:


Whether the complete lack of light will make them etiolated, yellow and sickly looking, I don’t know.  Perhaps I could let them have weekends outside?

Conversely the Muscari seem very behind:



so I’ve now moved them back into the greenhouse.

The question for you, dear readers, is am I doing the right thing?  Is there somewhere else I could put the narcissi to delay them and, from the look of the Muscari, should I be moving them somewhere even warmer, like the south facing conservatory?

I look forward to any suggestions at all, including giving up now, and making a diary note to head to New Covent Garden on Friday 27th!

Thank you.




Wildflower Wednesday – late February 2015


This picture sums up the look on the Duver at the moment as the season changes from winter to spring.  Much of the Duver is still brown, but there are increasing  flashes of green.  The leaves above are of one of three yellow tree lupins which reach up to about 5 foot.  The perfect new leaves look so fresh and optimistic against the surrounding drab.

Another promise of the future is this perfect rosette of Digitalis, covered with an almost Jenga like formation of dried out grasses.IMG_6045

There’s plenty of fresh green growth on the Butterbur, IMG_6038

and more flowers than I remember seeing in the past.IMG_6037

There are also still a lot of Wild Garlic or Ramsons,  Allium ursinum, flowering, particularly in one spot at the base of an oak,IMG_6036

as well as, close by, Winter Cress, Barbarea vulgaris, which I haven’t noticed before.IMG_6033

And, whilst I like to think that spring is on its way, there doesn’t seem to be much sign in a whole month from January’s photo, on the left, to this!

Roll on March!

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





View from the works


Those of you who’ve followed Duver Diary from the beginning will know that one of the prompts for me to start this blog was having much more time on my hands having taken voluntary redundancy at the end of 2013.  Some of you might also remember that in my first ‘Resolve and Realise’ post I confessed to terrible procrastination and that, despite having significantly more time, I didn’t seem to get significantly more done.

Well all change!  Something’s been brewing for many a long month and I think it’s time to share – I’ve gone back to work.

Of course from a gardening (and blogging) perspective, life will get rather more complicated as work is City of London based.  And although I’ll be able to work from home sometimes, I also expect to be staying in London an increasing amount of time (but hopefully not more than three nights a week).

But at least I know what to expect.  I weekly commuted from when we moved to the island in 2008 to the end of 2013, and if I’m honest I’ve missed it.  I’ve missed the office camaraderie, the intellectual challenge, the deadlines and wearing heels.  What I’ve haven’t missed are those beautiful mornings when I crossed a sparkling Solent to the mainland, knowing I was leaving my precious garden (and family, but this is a gardening blog, remember!) behind.  But I survived, and so did the garden – and family.

And there are other positives – much easier access to London based gardening events (eg RHS London shows, talks at the Garden Museum) and of course more funds for gardening projects, which brings me to the top picture.

As a return to work treat I have had some hired muscle helping me create my two new beds. The first, opposite the Swing Beds, I’ve decided to call the ‘Half Century bed’, I’m thinking of planting largely with roses and peonies, and the second, the already half dug ‘Bronze Bed’, in front of the long table under the verandah, will be (funnily enough) bronzey orange flowers.

Now some of you might be thinking why, if you’re just returning to work, would you consider increasing the size of your garden?  But I think you’ll be in the minority.  I think most of you will know that gardens aren’t really about practicalities, they’re about dreams.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – February 2015


As in January, a strange mix of spring bulbs and rather more exotic plants are blooming.  The Grevillea above has a number of genus companions, including this one.IMG_6026

These are both outside, the first in the ground and the other in a pot that’s too heavy and too far from warmth to move.  Bearing in mind they’re (largely) Australian, do you think they’re following the seasons down under?

As well as the Iris reticulata ‘Gordon‘ featured last month, IMG_5985

this has now been joined by Iris reticulata ‘Blue Note’, providing an early pool for the Lady Diver. Although why on earth she’d want to be swimming outside this early in the year I have no idea.IMG_6020

I’m very excited to report that since last month, my Hamamelis count has increased to three. The one below is the one I think is ‘Arnold’s Promise’.IMG_6000

This has been joined by a very small  H. Jelena featured in last week’s Wordless WednesdayIMG_6012

and, as of yesterday’s visit to the Hillier Gardens, a rather more magnificent H. Aphrodite.  I’m very chuffed that Aphrodite was my Valentine treat from the OH!IMG_5987

There are more Hellebores blooming, although they’re still not good at lifting their heads.  I seem to recall last year the first ones below, in particular, became more erect as the month went on.IMG_5994IMG_5998IMG_6008

As far as bulbs are concerned, I actually have more of these (inherited) Leucojum than Snowdrops. IMG_6016

as well as many little Muscari Armeniacum ‘Big Smile‘, planted in pots.IMG_6015

My only real ‘winter interest’ shrub is the Sarcococca confusa.  Sadly this is tucked away in the shady bed, thus breaking all the rules about keeping it near the door so you can enjoy the perfume.

I have been considering digging out a large Phormium (which is near the door) and replacing it with something new for winter interest, but I just can’t decide what would be best.  I’m vacillating between Daphne/Lonicera/Viburnum.  Any thoughts?IMG_6006

One of my favourite plants flowering at the moment is this little primrose.  It is self seeded on the steps which run between the two Lavender Beds.  It’s a lovely colour, rather more ‘dusky’ than this picture would suggest.  I would love more of it, but I’m terrified to try to dig it up to divide it in case I just rip the plant from the roots (it’s growing in a very small crack).  And I’ve never seen any likely looking seeds.IMG_6004

And, in case you’re missing the sun, (as I said last month), I give you the following.

Not quite as sunny as last month’s Abutilon ‘Orange Marion‘, but this one is the better named –Viola ‘Sunny Side Up’,IMG_5982

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

Sir Harold Hillier gardens – winter wonderland


It was reading an article about the transformation of the Sir Harold Hillier gardens‘ Centenary Borders (in The Garden magazine in September 2014) which alerted me to the fact there might be rather more to see there than the impressive and unusual trees.  And a subsequent look online informed me that the gardens have, at 4 acres, one of the largest Winter Gardens in Europe.

A half term related visit to the mainland on Friday seemed an ideal opportunity to visit the Winter Gardens, right up until we saw the weather forecast.  However, we packed our stiff upper lips, together with our wellies, and set forth.  And actually, had we not lingered rather too long on our delicious fish and chips in the cafe(!) the weather wouldn’t have been too bad at all. As it was, is was soon grey and deteriorating, and sadly the photos weren’t helped by me forgetting the camera (again!)  However, I did my best with my phone, and hope, despite the gloom, some of the magic of this garden will be conveyed.IMG_0413

Although the Winter Gardens are long established here, they have recently been extended, with many new plants added, including 500 new cyclamen tubers.  There is, understandably, a relatively limited planting palette, but the size of the garden allows for some magnificent drifts of planting, giving wonderful effects.

See below, Cornus – I think this one is Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ – echoed by the planting on the other side of the pathIMG_0411

Another Cornus, C. alba ‘Sibirica‘, glowing in front of a dark Pittosporum

IMG_0418Large planting of Rubus cockburnianus together with Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’IMG_0423

and many hellebores including drifts of the yellow ‘Ashwood Garden Hybrids’,IMG_0409

with brighter yellow provided by the Eranthis hyemalis


There were also interesting foliage plants including the Anchor Plant, or Jet Plane plant,  Colletia paradoxa,


and Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Warnham Gold’


The garden also holds the National Collection for Hamamelis, and has all known species and around 90 varieties.  Many were clearly very long established and significantly taller than me.  Just stunning.

Hamamelis mollis ‘Brevipetala’IMG_0425


This one’s Jelena, the same one I showed in a 9cm pot in last week’s Wordless Wednesday.  I think I’ll have to be patient to see  mine reach this size!


So, not only one of the largest Winter Gardens in Europe and a National Collection of one of my favourite plants, but what else was going on?  Oh yes, an exhibition of snowdrops!

The snowdrops were all in pots and displayed inside, in Jermyns House, the previous family home of Sir Harold Hillier.  Apparently they have a series of these ‘floral displays’ with Hellebores in March and Camellia and Magnolia in March, a lovely idea.

By coincidence they had one of my favourites (which I’d admired on the Frustrated Gardener’s blog last week), Galanthus Diggory.  Not a great photo, but the petals have an extraordinary seersucker texture.

And I’ve included a couple more for the galanthophiles amongst you…IMG_0435



And finally, what of the Centenary Borders I mentioned at the start?  Well, as you can imagine, they’re not looking much at the moment, and my soggy Valentine (on the left) wanted to go home.  But I’m pretty sure we’ll be back!IMG_0446


The Greenhouse review – February 2015


I’m joining Julie at Peonies and Posies for a second monthly Greenhouse post.

There’s not much blooming in the greenhouse at the moment, so I thought I’d start with this little Muscari – M. Armeniacum Big Smile.  I planted up lots of these bulbs in terracotta pots and have been bringing them into the house one by one.  Whilst the flowers above are only an inch or so tall, with the blooms still tucked well within the leaves, the pot currently sitting on the kitchen table has flowers stems nearly eight inches tall!


Since last month I’ve had a significant spring clean.  The tatty Sungold Tomatoes, which were still in the bed above, have all been cleared and the space has now been filled with various tender plants – pelargoniums, marguerites, a grevillea and a banana – which were previously at the other end of this bed.

Other than a big clean, I’ve sorted my seed trays and pots (no, I know I haven’t cleaned them…)


I’ve continued to watch over seedlings planted at the end of last year – Broad Beans, Calendula and Sweet Peas IMG_5971

and cuttings taken last year.  The ones below have been pretty successful – particularly the Diascia personata and Lavender at the back.  As you can see, the Marguerites at the front were a little more patchy, and the Pelargonium (front right) even worse, but there are still five plants for free – what’s not to like!IMG_5973

At the other end of the greenhouse I have my heated propagation mat.  I was worried last month that this had broken, but the problem seemed to be with the thermometer unit which I’d plugged in between the mat and the socket,  Once I’d removed this and plugged the mat in directly, all was toasty again.  IMG_5981

The problem of course is I now don’t know exactly how toasty, but it seems to be doing the job as a batch of Sweet Peas planted on the 31st January are already showing brave little stems.IMG_5975

Since the 31st I’ve planted yet more Sweet Peas and Calendula (Buff Beauty for the Bronze Bed) as well as some poppies and also a Gentian, G. acaulis.  I would love to grow Gentians in the Diving Lady’s pool and I’ve read that this is the easiest Gentian to grow.  We’ll see.

There are plenty more seeds to plant this month, not only more hardy annuals, but also tomatoes and chillies.  Hopefully by next month there will be many more brave shoots to share.

With thanks again to Julie for hosting this Greenhouse meme.