Sunday, 26 January 2014

Another step forward

Sometimes it feels as though progress with our garden is painfully slow. We have been working hard on getting it back to its original state for two or three years now and there is still so much to do. I have to remind myself to celebrate each little step forward . We tend to make most progress in  early spring and late autumn as we are too busy just holding the line in the growing season. At this time of year I am champing to get cracking on some substantial tasks ( compost system revamp, sorting our new raised bed, clearing brambles at the back of the garden to name but a few) but it's just too WET!

Anyway all is not doom and gloom as last week we had four more fence panels replaced.

This is Mike who has done all the landscaping in our garden making a lovely job of the fence.

We are plagued with ivy in the garden where it has been allowed to get badly out of hand. You can see in the top left of this picture where it has lifted the cap stone on the fence post and it is like that on several of the posts. In some cases we weren't even sure if all the posts existed as they were completely smothered in ivy.

If you look to the far right of the picture you can see what each of the posts looked like before we cleared them - with a kind of hairy, ivy hat on them! Re-pointing and repairing the damage the ivy has done is a long job because the ( enormously heavy) cap stone has to be lifted off and then the bricks have to be cleared and re-laid with lime mortar ( by Mike). Still - I am focusing on progress today - and this job being done means just three more panels to go!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Hooray for Euphorbias!

This time of year I am desperate - and I mean desperate for the garden to get going again. Last year in the UK was torture as just when we thought the winter was over we got several weeks of icy blast taking us deep into March. Fingers crossed I reckon in Leicestershire we have about another 6 weeks to go before things start to grow properly. I love that time of year as I can walk up the garden and greet the plants that have made it through like old friends. I grow a lot of perennials so as things emerge from bare ground, often when I had completely forgotten them it is a lovely surprise.

But in the meantime I say hooray for euphorbias. The two in the pictures  are looking wonderful even now, especially the Silver Swan above which is about to flower and also putting on loads of new growth for next year. If I look hard there are also some bulbs well on the way in the sodden earth. I especially like the alliums as they come up - they look so strong and the first leaves have a lovely crimson tip - I'm not sure if you can see it in the picture but it is quite striking.

I have visions of gardeners all over the country poking, prodding and visually searching for those early signs - or perhaps it's just me  - I'm not known from my patience.

I really enjoyed this post in The Green Tapestry blog about the reasons why we garden, and this got me thinking. The regular excitement of finding out what has survived our quirky UK winters certainly does it for me.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Tool shed secret!

I particularly enjoyed this post about tool sheds from The Blooming Garden blog. Cold Comfort Farm was one of my favourite books when I was younger and the thought of something nasty in the woodshed makes me smile. We have something quite unusual and very useful in our toolshed.

Our very own Victorian toilet!! It is fully functioning - it should flush with rainwater from a tank in the coalshed next door but this mechanism needs repairing and until it is a watering can does the trick nicely. It is so useful not needing to take off boots etc and go indoors. It has the original hardwood seat which lifts up.This has a healthy dose of woodworm but has been polished by the bums of gardeners of ages!

 We are very well endowed with outhouses and have a washing machine and boot shed as well as a coal shed. If you ignore the white bags ( work in progress) you can see the outhouse complex below joined on to the back of the house.

Whenever people visit they always say 'Oh I really envy you your outhouses' and I have to say it was one of the things that sold a very run down house to us several years ago.

So never mind the house - it's the outhouses that are important.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Fixtures and fittings

This may seem like an odd picture for a blog but I wanted to illustrate some of the original fixtures and fittings which we are lucky enough to have in our garden. This is the traditional Leicestershire capped wall that runs up one side of the garden.

 Most of the decorative elements of the walls and fences are this slate blue coloured brick which I particularly like. About a third of the way up the garden the wall gives way to a fence with pillars.

This picture shows some of the old ( possibly original) timber, but much of that is rotted now so we are gradually replacing this. Can you see how the wood is set into more beautiful curved slate coloured bricks at the bottom of each panel? All these are still in place and of course we are preserving these as the footing for the new fence panels.

Almost all we know about this garden is what we have deduced from what we have found in it. Just a few people from the village remember it from a while ago, but I think it has not looked the way it was originally planned and built for many years. We know the house was built for a successful local business family, who wanted to demonstrate their prosperity through the fabric of their house. Logic suggests they had the same aspirations for their garden and it was certainly designed with great care and I should imagine no little expense. The fixtures and fittings we are slowly putting back in place indicate this at every turn.

That's it for today - my mind is on fences as we are hoping to have four more panels replaced this week. Much more on the Victorian legacy of our garden to come!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

If it flowers before June - don't prune

I'm not very good about remembering what I should do when in the garden - but this rhyme about when to prune clematis I can just about cope with. I learned the lesson very effectively with this clematis above almost by accident. When we moved in eight years ago the clematis was in a very overgrown border and every year it flowered and rambled across a half dead cherry tree with an adequate number of dark purple flowers which emerged in July. It certainly wasn't spectacular and had a lot of dead wood in it. A couple of years ago the cherry tree breathed its last and late that autumn we cleared the weedy brambly border. The person helping us with it asked what he should do with the clematis and I said 'Oh just cut it back to the ground - it's half dead anyway'.

Well - of course that was just what it wanted and the next year we had to build it a smart new wigwam and it was awash with flowers. I can't believe it puts on all this growth in the space of a few months. So now every year it is hacked right down to the ground and the 'Flowers before June - don't prune' message is clearly illustrated. Here is is after I hacked it back last weekend and I have no doubt it will be covered in flowers in July!

Footnote: You can also see the handmade ( by Paul) wigwam to support it made out of leftover roofing timbers and inspired by Gardeners World Magazine

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A small sign of spring

In a small window between storms I managed to get out into the garden. Although most of it is sodden and completely dormant there is the odd hint that things are still growing and getting ready for Spring. It is this thought that helps keep us going through the short days and long nights of January and February. Whatever the weather I try to nip out for half and hour here and there just to see what is changing. The mahonia above has been blooming since well before Christmas and is strong and vibrant. On my little trip up the garden today I also spotted the witch hazel which is on its way now.

I found a beautiful white Christmas rose which was a particular pleasure as this was a plant Paul had picked up cheap from a garden centre reject stand ( one of his favourite activities). We had two and they were so potbound that I thought they would never survive. Sure enough one just rotted away, but I moved this one to a different spot ( under the mahonia) and it seems to be much happier here.

And finally I found this. I wasn't quite sure what it was  - but I knew it is South African and will flower all through our winters. I've just looked it up in our one and only reference book, RHS A to Z of garden plants and find it is a Schizostylus or Kaffir Lily. I bought it at the wonderful Hill Close Gardens in Warwick. If you are anywhere close to these gardens they are so worth a visit. They are a number of Victorian allotments rescued from the developers even as the bulldozers came in. They have a lovely cafe too and excellent and good value plants for sale.

So even in the coldest bit of the year there are bits to enjoy - probably we enjoy them even more because there are so few. I guess that is what keeps us doing it!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Introducing our garden

This is our garden. The aim of our blog is to make a record of what we grow and what we change as well as share our successes and failures. So first of all we need to tell you a little bit about the garden. It belongs to our Victorian house which was built in 1900. The house was built on the site of an older house and belonged to a family of saddlers who ran the shop from the house. The garden was clearly laid out as a formal Victorian garden, and though it was very overgrown when we moved here it still has much of the Victorian layout which we have reinstated and preserved.

The garden is large - I'm not quite sure how large - when it is not pouring with rain I will measure it - but as you can see from the picture it has two paths running either side. We have covered one with slate chips on the right and one is grass on the left. It also has a central ornamental path in the shape of a cross in the centre which you can just see running up between the two trellises. About two thirds of the garden is flowers and grass and a third, right at the back, is vegetables. A key feature of the garden is that all of the blue/black path edging tiles are still there. You can see them edging the grass path. we have gradually reinstated most of them to maintain the original shape of the garden.

The picture above was taken today in pouring rain when pretty much everything is cut back for winter. We hope the pictures will get more interesting as the garden grows and the rain stops