Sunday, 31 May 2015

31 May : Plant Sale

Five things to love about the plant sale at the village hall :

Trestle tables covered with plants at bargain prices. A smiling lady in a vibrant floral top, a bouquet of pinks, oranges and yellows. Delicious homemade cakes and tea in pale blue china teacups with saucers. The man selling raffle tickets who looked at my purchases and said "That foxglove comes from a garden with pure white violets and there are some growing in your pot." Filling the car boot with sunshine from Devon to take back home.

Friday, 29 May 2015

28 May : Rain

It's chucking it down. On the bright side it is a relief to know that at home the precious lupins will not be thirsty. Here in Devon the important guests are tucked up on the sofa underneath rugs with a cosy fire crackling away and a trash film and, in the kitchen, some unexpected time for me to think and plan. My head is full of planting schemes for autumn, books to read, gardens to visit. It's a good feeling.

Marsh Marigolds in the Chelsea Physic Garden

Thursday, 28 May 2015

27 May : Chives

I don't grow vegetables but sometimes I wish that I had room to do so. In my mind's eye I can see the bean canes neatly tied, parallel rows of seedlings, colourful arrangements of salad leaves, carefully netted fruit bushes. My heart believes I could do these things, my head knows that it is unlikely but I will definitely have a chive border one day. Oh yes.

Garden at Cowslip Workshops, Launceston.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

26 May : Cranesbills

The cottage garden is filled with geraniums which have grown undisturbed for many years and now form soft mounds under the birch tree. I particularly love this white one with feathery leaves and will take a small clump back home to plant under the hawthorn tree. Unfortunately, in an attempt to find out which variety it is, I have stumbled across a specialist nursery for hardy geraniums. I had better go and hide my credit card.

Cranesbill Nursery

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

25 May : Gifts

This lovely rose, a gift from Abi two years ago, is captured mid move from the trough outside my back door to its new home beside the hawthorn tree. I will let it grow to a large bush because it looks almost like a wild rose - just the thing for a woodland border. In other news the plants that my neighbour Lucille gave me are also in the border. She assures me that they are hollyhocks grown from seed but they look suspiciously like foxgloves to me.

Monday, 25 May 2015

24 May : British Library

There are strawberries in those massive planters. I wonder if the fruit gets eaten by hungry students or if everyone is very polite and leaves the fruit there. I would like to steal the idea but my pot-mania has reached excessive proportions and there is No More Room.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

23 May : Garden Wisdom

Garden Wisdom
compiled by Leslie Geddes-Brown
illustrations by Angie Lewin

I saw this book in the gift shop of the Watts Gallery when we were buying entrance tickets and then spent the next hour worrying that someone else would buy it before I returned. They didn't and it is just as well because this is the book that I would take to my desert island. The most delightful selection of writings about gardening, each snippet thought provoking and making me want to read more by that writer, interspersed with delicious illustrations by Angie Lewin. I wish now that I had bought two copies so that I could have one to read and one for best. What? Don't you do that? 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

22 May : Boule de Neige

It was Boule de Neige that won the Premier Rose award in the end. I am glad of it. Such a perfect rose - a meringue confection of ivory petals with a old fashioned scent that makes me feel lightheaded. I think if I could only have one rose on my desert island it would be this one.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

20 May : Fragrance

Apparently I am super-sensitive to the smell of vanilla. I did not know this about myself. These Nemesia Wisley Vanilla have charming cream buds which fade to white flowers with a pale lemon centre. Unfortunately, they also have a very strong vanilla scent that drifts down the path and gets trapped by the front door. If the window is open the whole house smells as though I have one of those electric fragrance plugs. What am I to do? I fear that they may have to be banished to the end of the garden.  They catch the late afternoon sun so willingly that I feel ashamed of myself.  

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

19 May : Buttercups

Long tunnels of watery green beech trees, towering pyramids of horse chestnut candles, huge banks of creamy hawthorn blossom and billowing froth of cow parsley, spiky white wild garlic and the soft carpet of blue bells, bold yellow slicks of rape fields against the hot sky and the glimmer of buttercups. This is England in May - I would not want to live anywhere else.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

18 May : Hosta

Every year you arrive when I am not looking, tightly rolled leaves pushing up through the self seeded violets. When I see you I know that summer is on the way. You don't expect any special treatment and soon there are layer upon layer of lime green leaves with an ivory sashing displayed for my enjoyment. I am not sure what arrangement you have to come with the evil kingdom of slugs but you always pristine until the end of summer when you quietly fade away. Please don't think I take you for granted - you are the quiet counterpoint to the flashy acers and the flamboyant cistus. Hosta, I heart you.

Monday, 18 May 2015

17 May : Rosebuds

I'm taking bets on the first rose to bloom. The normally reliable pinks Dr W.van Fleet and Constance Spry are a little behind the pace. Ivory Boule du Neige is recovering from a drastic winter pruning but making valiant attempts to keep up with the field. New entrant is the Queen of Sweden with well rotted manure as performance enhancer. Outsiders include white Iceberg and the lovely apricot rose which I do not know the name of but the carmine Zephirine Drouhin appears to have died so there will need to be an inquest and much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Top favourite to win is Abi's pink rose - a wonderful, vigorous, much treasured bush. I will report back.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

16 May : Allium

It's been a mad week. Here, there and everywhere. No time for anything except watering. It's like that sometimes. Meanwhile the Allium is refusing to hurry. It is ignoring my silent pleas and unfolding at a leisurely pace. I would like to say that I am enjoying the process. But I am not. Get on with it, Allium, I want spectacle.

Friday, 15 May 2015

14 May : Lupins

I don't want to sound over-confident but I might be beating the slugs. My lifelong ambition to grow lupins has had so many disappointments, so many set backs, that I am cautious - but look at those leaves! Big enough to hold rain drops! And flower buds! Admittedly they are less like Noble Maidens and more like Noble Mermaids today. But still...flower buds!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

12 May : Peony

The garden is on the point of the explosion because all the buds are just about to pop – roses, cistus, allium and, most exciting of all, the peonies. There are five varieties of peony but I am afraid that the new one which I bought this year has flopped and may be retired in disgrace. No room for floppiness in this garden.

Monday, 11 May 2015

11 May : Lily of the Valley

There is a house on the way to the station which has a front garden full of Lily of the Valley and nothing else. Every year I see the thin green shoots emerging through the stony soil and then for a short period the garden is a thing of extraordinary beauty. I really admire that gardener for waiting fifty weeks each year for an intense Lily of the Valley hit. I wish I was that patient.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

10 May : Pruning

I pruned the Constance Spry rose hard because all of the flowers were going to be above my head. But as I am a faint-hearted gardener, sure that my clumsy pruning will kill the plant, I hedged my bets and only cut back half of the bush. The new shoots and leaves are copper coloured and look magnificent next to the peony buds. The old shoots are boring green. There is a lesson there.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

9 May : Scabious

I am afraid that the pink geraniums must go. I am sure that Monty Don has a more compassionate attitude to his plants or perhaps his garden is big enough to absorb mistakes but in my small garden every colour must be perfect to avoid incurring my wrath. So, farewell pink geraniums, the fault is mine but you are now an ex-window box. And while I am being honest, the idea of a hydrangea on both sides of the summer house was also wrong - all my grand designs defeated. In mitigation, the kitchen window sill is looking stylish. 

Friday, 8 May 2015

8 May : Clematis

The clematis outside the kitchen window was very successful this year - delightful violet blue flowers hanging nonchalantly from curved stems. New shoots, buds and flowers all happened despite being neglected, inexpertly pruned and despaired of last year. On the strength of this unexpected success I have bought a Clematis montana 'Pink Perfection' which I have planted against the fence with a generous helping of bone fertiliser. I am going to call this the 'Woodland Border' - obviously only I will know that - everyone else will call it the border on the right hand side of the garden. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

7 May : Aquilegia

The aquilegias have burst into bloom all over the garden, intricate layers of curves and frills. Extremely elegant in shape and the most delicious shade of shell pinks, it is impossible not to love them but I do wish they would be more predictable. I have tried to move them and to sprinkle seeds but they just turn up capriciously where they want. I am not an obsessively controlling gardener but growing aquilegias is like herding cats.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

6 May : Wind

The wind blew ferociously all day and night, great shuddering gusts, and I did not dare go into the garden to see what had been damaged. In the park the trees bent and cracked so that I was afraid to walk past them but there were brief bursts of sunlight and, somewhere, rainbows.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

5 May : Viola

There is a secret to growing violas - place the pot where the early morning or late afternoon sun shines through the petals. The petals lose their dark velvety colour and glow. I saw this once over twenty years ago, a huge lead urn filled with purple viola in a patch of sunlight, and I have never forgotten it. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

4 May : Freesia

When I opened the bedroom door the air was velvety with the fragrance of freesias. The flowers were barely open when I left the house on Thursday but in the still, warm air the petals have unfurled and my pillow smells faintly of their perfume.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

3 May : Bluebells

Thick, drenching rain today. We set off to walk on the moor but when we saw the dense low mist we turned back to the comfort of the fire in the cottage. Later, when it had stopped raining, I walked out, through the village and up the hill. Past the high bank, thick with violets, and into the shelter of the woods, watching lambs watch me and admiring the uncoiling of ferns.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

2 May : Dartmoor

It was too cold for an ice cream but we had one anyway so we had to go for a walk. We heard a cuckoo in the distance, saw moorland ponies and admired the yellow gorse. By the end our cheeks were pink with the wind but our hands were warm and our lungs were full of clean air.

Friday, 1 May 2015

1 May : Lydford Gorge

Lydford Gorge was quite empty when I arrived, a rare treat. I walked through the layers of new beech leaves, lime green and unfolding as I passed. The bluebells were on the point of opening and will be spectacular in a few days but the wild garlic is already out, white spikes in thick mats of lance-like leaves. Later, after climbing the steep steps from the Devil's Cauldron, I sat gratefully in the cafe and ate fruit flapjack, watching a blue tit nestle over her eggs in fluff lined luxury via webcam.