Sunday, 31 July 2011

Planting Weekend

The plan for this weekend was to get the new big bed planted up and thereby empty the nursery area of most of its contents. Only half of that plan worked.

On a recommendation from Sue at Green Lane Allotments I finally bit the bullet and ordered some clematis online. I really don't like buying plants unseen but the lack of varieties locally meant either some very long drives or risking mail order. Taylors delivered promptly and the plants were good, although one was rather small. Despite their careful packing one box had taken some severe knocks before it got to me but thankfully the plants were relatively unscathed.

It should not have taken all of Saturday to plant ten clematis but my excuse is being thoroughly tired, it was extremely hot, and sitting in the arbour was a terribly attractive proposition.

Sunday morning was better and I set out all the perennials. I already knew that I didn't have enough plants for the whole bed and without any shrubs I wasn't going to be able to put a backbone in. Once the nursery benches were cleared it was immediately apparent that that serious additional Horticultural Retail Therapy was required.

A quick trip to Seaview Nurseries produced quite a bonanza. Not only did I come back with shrubs for the bed but also the makings of our next evergreen hedge.

Ilex aquifolium Heckenstar, known as Blue Holly, potential height 25m and potential spread 8m. That should make a nice bit of bird-friendly dense hedge.

That's better!

Completed a small section next to the arch before I called it a day and had an early supper. Honeysuckle and clematis at the back, Heuchera Palace Purple and Japanese Anemone Bressingham Glow at the front. It could do with something to provide colour and structure during the winter ....

July has been another dry month, rain only stopped play on a couple of days.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Soil shifting

Friday was definitely 'soil shifting' day. We finished digging over the huge bed next to the trellis and topped it off with the large pile of good soil that has been sitting under the blue tarp.

The planting beds we created in the arbour frame were looking very empty so I rectified that with Jasmine officinale 'Clotted Cream' and Clematis 'Guernsey Cream' (the nomenclature is completely accidental, I am not going for a dairy theme ...)

As I continue to move the small log pile next to the log store and unearth suitable sized bits of tree trunk I'll put in more edging. We did consider fixing larch slab but I think that would look too hard and solid. Experience also tells me that should I want to make any of these beds wider all I have to do is roll the logs forward a foot or two and dig behind them (although I'll resist that temptation for now!)

After some cogitating as to whether LP then ought to move to a different part of the garden and prepare more ground for hedging, the "sod it" factor prevailed and I decided we'd keep going here before moving round to the back of the house.

The turf was stripped off and has been relaid next to the arbour/Stumpery* It works well to build up the ground which sloped into the front bed at this point, I'll water it regularly, bumps and hollows need smoothing/filling and it may or may not survive ....

LP then started on excavating the nastiest soil we have found in this whole garden. Compacted solid, dry, loads of stones - very slow work and he ended up thoroughly frustrated and annoyed that he did not get it finished before the end of the day. Sheesh - it would have taken me all day just to strip the turf, a fact which I pointed out to him to no avail.

He dug, I moved the spoil to the Stumpery.

After he'd gone I had a big tidy up and decided the 'meadow' in the middle of the lawn had finished flowering and set seed so, with the exception of the Yarrow, it could be cut. Mixed with some fairly fresh horse muck I filled half a compost bin which will be nice and hot by the end of the weekend.

There followed some serious relaxation surveying the unusual sight of a tidy garden whilst applying essential rehydration (hic)!

* named by James, Highgrove it isn't but what else do you call a 16' x 8' bed full of old tree stumps?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Building and Painting (but no Pond)

It's been a busy couple of days in the Cottage Garden. On Tuesday morning it looked like this:

More rudimentary carpentry - installation of gravel boards at the bottom of the trellis fence.

A long-awaited delivery should have been painted before assembly but LP arrived so all I did was paint the roof bearers and cross beams, then there was building:

LP's perfectionism was put to good use and although it took twice as long assemble the arbour as it probably should we've now got a gorgeous seat which is straight, level and very securely bolted to the frame on the ground. If we get wind strong enough to blow this down then I'll be more worried about the house, greenhouse and shed ☹

When LP left on Tuesday he joked "this will be painted before I get back tomorrow" and my retort was "probably, it's light until 10.00pm". Trouble is, I HAD to get it painted before Wednesday so that he could dig the soil around the arbour base - I finished at 9.50pm which was bloody stupid but satisfying.

Wednesday contained more perfectionism and general messing around which takes ten times longer than you expect it to. Digging, the relocation of some huge ferns which had self-seeded at the back of the house, big tree stumps, plus the usual black membrane, bark chips.

It's no bad thing that we have some much needed rain this morning (Thursday) so I won't be finishing the digging and planting. Spent a wet, messy but very pleasant hour in the nursery area sorting out all the plants which are waiting to go into the Cottage Garden. Mostly perennials, I will add more shrubs as I find them. Some purchased, about half grown from seed they are all desperate to be out of pots and in the ground; it has been very hard to keep them well watered over the last week or so and a few have suffered.

Unsurprisingly, there has not been time to excavate a small pond but there has been time to appreciate some of the plants in the Lasagne bed.

Lobelia Fan Rose

Rosa Winchester Cathedral

Monday, 25 July 2011

It's Monday

Country Bumpkin left a comment on Friday's post. Two simple words: It's Monday. Which is CB-speak for "so, where's the pond, then?".

I resisted the temptation to point out if she cares that deeply about our village puddle then she can ruddy well get in the car and come over here and help me.

After a very domesticated weekend where Management and I moved the washing machine, freezers, re-hung doors and finally got the laundry room functional (a definite TA DA moment), I continued by re-painting a wall that Wayne repaired a crack in and varnishing more skirting board.

(after filling and before sanding, Hobbit is NOT impressed)

As the supply of home-made compost is nearly finished and the huge bed in the Cottage Garden has a need for much soil improvement, I made two trips to the stables bringing back 13 buckets of manure on each occasion. This time I let B. bring the filled buckets up to the car with a quad bike and trailer and that saved much physical effort but didn't save any time due to the necessity of much talking.

After a brief collapse and supper I had a small bonfire at 8.30pm which got rid of all the rubbish removed from the huge bed last week.

Oh, and there is still no pond .... but there was time to enjoy the view.

Friday, 22 July 2011


The unwary might think that Bag End is entirely my creation but that is not the whole picture. I might be in charge of planting and the actual "making it happen" generally falls to me but the inspirational design-led "why don't we........." moments usually come from Management. The trellis dividing the Cottage Garden from the utility area was his idea, as was the tall trellis fence which gives us privacy from the neighbour. I have told him on numerous occasions both ideas were completely inspired.

At the end of the day we sat and looked at progress to date and started talking about the small pond, barely a puddle, which I want to create opposite the house. Himself sits in a chair and directs operations, asks questions about planting, gets very frustrated when my answers make sense to me but not him, and soon we have a solution that might take weeks (months?) to implement, but I know it will work.

What has not been so successful is the Fedge Bed at the side of the Potager. The ends are OK (ish), Weigela Bristol Ruby and Heuchera Palace Purple near the house and Skimmia japonica Rubella, ferns and Heuchera Beauty Colour at the hedge end, but the middle is going nowhere. The Viburnum are fairly unhappy and after nearly a year in the ground those which have not died are only just starting to make new growth.

The real problem however is that the bed is too narrow, Management has solved this problem with one sweeping suggestion. What he has come up with is completely right, will work perfectly and is basically quite simple. It will, of course, be a lot of physical work and take more than 20 minutes. Like all Bag End plans that I would actually like to see to fruition, however, the detail will remain between him and I until work starts.


Bag End has dozens of visitors each day looking for food and once we get some ponds built I hope the number will rise. Today we had a couple of particularly attractive ones.

First this Poplar Hawk-moth. I found him on the windbreak netting in full sun and looking rather vulnerable. Carried him into the garden and relocated him in the shade on a laurel leaf. He was still there 8 hours later so can't have been too bothered about being disturbed.

This lovely looking Red is a probably youngster (no ear tufts).

Busy at Bag End

Thursday and Friday have been busy days in the garden. I'm thoroughly tired but it has been extremely productive.

First there was construction:

(can you tell what it is yet? ☺)

Sometimes working with Management can be stressful because he is more of a perfectionist than I am. Working with LP is an order of magnitude worse (but in a good way, I think ....) At one point he didn't want to accept something which was less than one-eighth of an inch out ... over an eight foot length.

There was also digging:

Whilst I cleared all the timber which had been dumped stored at the end of the house and moved it to behind the shed.

It's all getting quite exciting because I can see a point where all that has to happen in the Cottage Garden is planting.

Good job I have a nursery area full of plants waiting to go in the ground. ( I was tempted to say "planting waiting to go in their permanent homes" but that is asking for trouble and guarantees a day in the future when I play Musical Plants.)