Thriving on Neglect

My neglect of this blog is symptomatic of my neglect of the garden as a whole. Somehow I lost control just as the garden peaked in midsummer and since then the borders have greeted me mournfully on my return from work each day.

I have always struggled with late summer colour in the garden. The torch lilies I have planted seem to be varieties that flower earlier in the spring, while the calla lilies and canna lilies that promise colour until the first frosts stubbornly refuse to flower for more than a few short weeks. I have only found one dahlia (‘Rose Quartz’) to fulfil my theme and, if I’m able to nurse them through our cold springs, it is a martyr to slugs.

And so I find myself reliant on the final flush from the roses to lift my spirits as I realise another gardening year has passed without achieving a fraction of what I had hoped. Here ‘Super Trouper’ shines out from the corner of the north east bed.

Next to it, the survivor rose rescued from Copse Hill is in bud. The unnamed red rose next to the front door continues to bloom despite several pruning accidents. It seems to have flowering continuously since May.

Etoile d’Hollande is also resurgent on the other side of the front door, this bud emerging from new growth put on since summer pruning. The pink roses we inherited on moving in however speak of my neglect. Those close to the house are enjoying a late flush of flowers which contrast with the hips on those I failed to prune further round the crescent.


Finding Solace in the Garden

Last weekend my garden felt like a refuge from the horrible events of the previous week. Although we live high on the Kent Downs our house is one of few on the estate without a view to the surrounding countryside. I’ve sought to build on this sense of enclosure by planting informal hedges and climbers to screen us from our (lovely) neighbours.

Cocooned in this little piece of paradise (OK I am probably exaggerating here but that’s the dream) at the bottom of a quiet cul-de-sac it is easy to hide from the horrors of the wider world. As a Fathers’ Day treat I was allowed an undisturbed day’s gardening and couldn’t help contrasting my own happiness with the grief and pain of so many.

My own experience reminded me of the scene in Gorillas in the Mist where Dian Fossey, fleeing conflict in the Congo, finds refuge in Rosamond Carr’s flower garden. The film portrays the garden as a place where Fossey is able to find the mental and physical and strength required to continue her work. I don’t claim to be a Fossey but the weekend confirms that my own garden provides a similar space for me.

Wedding Flowers

This time last week we were at the wedding of HAV’s niece. Wild and garden flowers played a big role in the bouquets, posies and decorations alongside the more traditional wedding blooms. Vases of Canterbury bells, cornflowers, cow parsley, love-in-the-mist and lavender lined pathways and graced the tables. Sadly the cold spring meant that my own garden’s contribution was limited to a few rose petals to be used as confetti but I have plans….

The Canterbury bells and lavender currently lining the front path of AV Acres are souvenirs of a wonderful wedding weekend. These will find a more permanent home in the sunny border facing the road in the front garden, alongside century flowers and rosemary. Meanwhile I have sown the cornflowers and love-in-the-mist seeds given to me by HAV’s brother and sister-in-law for my birthday in the wildflower border. A beautiful reminder of a beautiful couple’s beautiful day.

A New Love – The Holm Oak

We’re just back from a week’s holiday in the Ardeche where I discovered a new love, the holm oak.

I’ve encountered the holm oak before, I drive past a magnificent specimen each week on the way to my daughters’ ballet class. A solitary tree it stands sentinel over a fork in the road.

Nearer to home there is a very different example. This shrubby version forms a dense part of a natural screen separating a green from the road.

I’m also aware of Lawrence Johnstone’s use of the holm oak at Hidcote. Johnstone’s substituted holm oaks for the olives that would never have survived the cold at Hidcote. I’ve only visited Hidcote once and wasn’t convinced by the holm oaks but a week in the Ardeche may have changed my mind.

A previous holiday on the Cote D’Azur inspired me to create a Mediterranean scented garden on the patio at AV Acres. Like Johnstone the local climate limits my planting choices. The patio is north facing so many sun lovers would not survive. I’m wondering if the holm oak is the answer.

Fresh greens

Last weekend the garden at AV Acres seemed to be all about the emerging foliage. There were few new flowers but suddenly all the herbaceous perennials emerged from their winter sleep while the shrubs and trees slipped on their summer coats as if for a wedding. The congregation are just waiting for the bridal party to enter the church.

Plantain lilies emerging from the north east and north west beds despite the slugs’ best efforts.

Hardy calla lilies fighting back after being nipped by the late frosts.

The contrasting foliage of rosa rugosa in the north east bed and Etoile d’Hollande by the front door.

Decisions, decisions

I recently decided to create an informal hedge of filberts, guelder roses and roses along the eastern boundary of the front garden. My hope is that this will create a better backdrop for the north-east border than the neighbours’ cars. 

Don’t get me wrong, our neighbours are lovely. It’s just that my planting doesn’t stand out terribly well against either their cars or the brickwork paving of the drive (I regularly bemoan how intrusive our own drive is).

The filberts and guelder roses are (or will be) grown from cuttings and seedlings but it’s a great opportunity to select some more roses. The colour scheme for this corner of the garden is orange through to yellow, colours I wouldn’t normally choose for roses. Fortunately a nursery I’ve used had a sail so, after an evening  studying the options, I’ve placed my order and am eagerly awaiting delivery.

A Weekend of Scent

This weekend has been all about clearing the beds under the trees that screen the front garden from the road. As a consequence I’ve had my head buried in the gorgeous scent of these fabulous Viburnum burkwoodii. While I rather suspect they are one of the things triggering my hay fever I’m more in love with them than ever.

On the garden side these beautiful shrubs form a backdrop to a bench overlooking the rest of the garden. This has inspired me to plan a scented arbour for us to sit in. I’m planning tubs of oriental lilies, climbing roses dripping from the trees above, creeping lily of the valley under the seat, and scented plantain lilies all around it. Who knows if I will ever realise this vision but I’m certainly enjoying planning it.

Fabulous foliage

I love the sight of new foliage emerging at this time of year. The fresh greens edged with crimson and pink somehow convey the plants’ energy as they unfurl. 

This bergenia is a classic example. Rescued from under a thicket of cornus I’ve since removed from the front garden at AV Acres, it has found a temporary home on the patio in the back garden. Here it’s been a beacon of hope on the dark and rainy days that deny the arrival of spring.

The elusive blue

The design of the front garden at AV Acres is based on a colour wheel with the south-west bed devoted to blue through to purple. In keeping with my lily and rose them I’ve planted African lilies, blue lilyturf, Lenten roses for their glaucous foliage, plantain lilies in shades of blue green and rose mallows. There’s still room for more though and after a thwarted day visiting garden centers I’m all out of ideas.

Ice cold poker

Despite March (and now April) having bought heavier frosts than anything seen in winter many of the herbaceous perennials have decided that it is time to wake up. New fresh foliage is emerging in vivid greens and pinks and the whole garden has an energy that you don’t see at any other time of year.

One plant that seems ahead of the rest is this torch lily (red hot poker) with its first flower of the season nestling amongst its leaves. I’m pleased as this is a division of one taken from the garden at Copse Hill and this will be its first full season here at AV Acres. On the other hand I can’t help but worry that another frost will be its downfall.