Littlebury Gardens in January

IMG_0260I’m not sure how but it’s almost the end of January! The weather has been very mild this winter and a few plants in Littlebury Gardens are still growing, albeit at a creeping pace. The Buddleja davidii, Sambucus nigra and Brunnera macrophylla have lost most of their old leaves but the new ones seem to be growing just fine.

Under our plum tree some Galanthus (assume nivalis) I planted without thinking 15 months ago are showing their heads and are about to flower. Disappointingly without expanding the crop – this year I’ve added lots of fertiliser granules to see if I can get them to multiply.

The large Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ is budding up spectacularly, as is one of the three random Hellebores I bought at the local Clapham Fayre in the summer. Out front, the three vines we have in pots – Jasminum officinale, Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ and Clematis x cartmanii hort. ‘Avalanche’ are acting like winter has barely happened. The Clematis in particular is now budding up, despite a year of damaged foliage and I’ve started giving it a full strength diluted potassium fertiliser.

The fruits of my planning and plotting are arriving through the post including a rather outrageous amount of seeds (some in the pic above!) I’m itching to get planting but am holding back until mid-February as a reward for focussing on and completing my RHS Level 2 exams. And because that’s the best time to plant some of them (inside) of course!

I have snuck on a batch of Solenostemon though, 15 seeds. Couldn’t help myself. Planted this week in a heated propagator. I wasn’t a big fan of Solenostemon / Coleus until I saw a display at RHS Wisely in 2014. Some of them were quite remarkable. I bought a pack of, what I think, are the most interesting plants from Thompson & Morgan.

I also took receipt this week of an Aeonium arboreum ‘Schwartzkopf’ which is supposed to be a dark purple, almost black rosetted succulent. However, the one I received from eBay (never again!!) is merely a stick with speckles of possible regrowth. Fingers crossed.

Muehlenbeckia axillaris - finally confirmed! And the little cutting is growing well.
Muehlenbeckia axillaris – finally confirmed! And the little cutting is growing well.

Today, prompted by an offer on Thorncroft Clematis, I also finally ordered two late flowering purple Clematis. Clematis viticella ‘Polish Spirit’ which I’ve been looking at for months and a Clematis viticella Galore Evipo032. The Galore was an impromptu purchase of a £5 offer.

Yesterday I also took the plunge and bought three more Dahlias. *gulp* that takes the total to 20…) Three dwarf white ‘Gallery Art Fair’ for the front window boxes.

Otherwise, January has purely been about revising for my first batch of RHS Level 2 exams. The knowledge is sinking in now, but blimey, the sheer volume of information to memorise is mind blowing. Whoever says horticulture and botany is easy (*cough* David Cameron *cough*) I dare to take this course and pass. It’s hugely fun and rewarding however and I’ve learnt so much ready for my 2015 gardening year.

Oh, while I remember, two amazing things have happened: i) the Buxus cuttings I planted on a whim last summer have only bloomin rooted! Thick, strong roots. I was really excited about those. Perhaps my topiary from scratch dream will one day happen. ii) I finally discovered that the cutting I nicked and planted from down the road is Muehlenbeckia axillaris (right) – I’ve been trying to find that one out for about 7 months! Loads of places sell it, but nowhere labels the flpping thing. Now I know what it is, I can plant it safely. I think it’s fairly common (though I’ve rarely seen it) and considered something akin to Ivy as a bit of a thug, but having seen it used wisely I think it’s one of the most beautiful ground cover or climbers there is.

Littlebury 2014 Flower Power

2014 was my experimental year in the garden. While everything certainly wasn’t very cohesive, there were a lot of flowers given our tiny plot! It all turned out much pinker than I expected…

Clematis x cartmanii hort. 'Avalanche'
Clematis x cartmanii hort. ‘Avalanche’
Hyacinth mini flower forest time
Hyacinth mini flower forest time
Spring crocus' flowering already because the weather was so mild
Spring crocus’ flowering already because the weather was so mild
IMG_0043
Cyclamen
Echinacea purpurea 'Fatal attraction'
Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal attraction’
IMG_0041
Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’
Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)
Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)
Cacti
Cacti pot
IMG_2701
Fuchsia ‘Jack Stanway’

 

Fuchsia Hawkshead
Fuchsia Hawkshead
Sambucus nigra black lace
Sambucus nigra black lace
Allysum
Allysum
Fuchsia Golden Treasure
Fuchsia Golden Treasure
Kniphofia, turned out yellow rather than orange / red
Kniphofia, turned out yellow rather than orange / red
Buddleia proving it's a butterfly bush
Buddleja proving it’s a butterfly bush
Hosta Francee
Hosta Francee
Brachyscome August cut back hard
Brachyscome August cut back hard
IMG_1394
Viburnum tinus
IMG_1388
Helleborus x hybridus ‘Ivory Prince’

 

Monarda Cambridge Scarlet
Monarda Cambridge Scarlet
Schlumbergera
Schlumbergera

Hyacinths

Up until this year Hyacinths were a massive no no for me. Too blousy and old fashioned. But looking for things to do in the winter I planted some and I’m going to change my tune. I think they are beautiful and their fragrance is lovely. If carefully planted they can look contemporary too. Here are my indoor Jan Bos plants:

10 favourite plants of 2014

It’s the last day of 2014 and I’ve been really interested in plants this year (no sh*t Sherlock) and at the start of the year I really struggled to identify even one plant that I really liked. A year later, and I still don’t have a huge list of favourites yet. However! There are a handful that have planted themselves in my head as essential picks. Read on to find out what they are… Continue reading 10 favourite plants of 2014

Studying RHS Level 2 Principles of Horticulture

At one point during my emo self-obsessing teenage years I was convinced I was stupid. Then one day I realised I wasn’t stupid, I was just plain ignorant! Ignorance was indeed bliss because you can change ignorance, you can’t change stupidity. So I changed my ignorance.

Fast forward a bit and below is a photo of my view right at this minute. Twelve years since I last had to study for an exam, recreating the exact same multi-coloured highlighter pen mess of papers on the living room floor…

The last time I was doing this was over ten years ago and I was staring dumbstruck at the TV as the second plane hit the Twin Towers
The last time I was doing this was over ten years ago and I was staring dumbstruck at the TV as the second plane hit the Twin Towers

Continue reading Studying RHS Level 2 Principles of Horticulture

Tip toeing in the footsteps of Darwin at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Snuck in…

This weekend I spent two fun and informative days at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with a bunch of fellow gardeners studying the RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture. I have so many thoughts buzzing around my head now that I’m going to chuck a few things down here in a bit of a garbled blog post to record it. Continue reading Tip toeing in the footsteps of Darwin at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Shovelling sh*t while the plants still go at it!

October is almost over, so here’s a diary of what’s been going on in Littlebury gardens to refer back to next year.

The month started fairly mild, but has been wet and the weather has now finally gone cold (reaching -8 degrees at night by the 21st). Which is fantastic news because the Vine Weevil menace should now withdraw until next year! The neighbours will think me less mad as I won’t be going out at night with a torch. For now.

Our friend Ian helped us shift a load of soil and rubble to the tip at the weekend, which meant we could bring in a load of muck to improve the soil and mulch around some plants. I’ve been weirdly excited about improving the soil. Job done.

Clapham Common - sunny but cold morning, leaves dropping off all trees now
Clapham Common – sunny but cold morning, leaves dropping off all trees now
Wandsworth Town community garden still looks amazing
Wandsworth Town community garden still looks amazing
Our Garden on the 22nd Oct
Our Garden on the 22nd Oct
A load of old shit, literally. Manure for a mulch!
A load of old shit, literally. Manure for a mulch!
Salvia 'Raspberry Royale'
Salvia ‘Raspberry Royale’
Salvia ‘Maraschino’ – these both look so neon, they’ll be perfect next year as they are clearly strong flowerers
One of the ferns looking good - this one appears to deter slugs
One of the ferns looking good – this one appears to deter slugs
Spring crocus' flowering already because the weather was so mild
Spring crocus’ flowering already because the weather was so mild
Berries on next door's trees
Berries on next door’s trees
Winter and spring pots at the ready
Winter and spring pots at the ready
The Lavender and Rosemary did better than I thought they would. The Cornus kousa var 'Chinensis' is starting to drop its leaves. Brunnera macrophylla 'Mr Morse' is doing better out of its pot.
The Lavender and Rosemary did better than I thought they would. The Cornus kousa var ‘Chinensis’ is starting to drop its leaves. Brunnera macrophylla ‘Mr Morse’ is doing better out of its pot.
Hart's tongue fern and the Dryopteris look OK - must catch the slugs before they do the damage next year
Hart’s tongue fern and the Dryopteris look OK – must catch the slugs before they do the damage next year
If the Salvias can do this from a cutting in just one month in autumn, in summer next year they will be incredible
If the Salvias can do this from a cutting in just one month in autumn, in summer next year they will be incredible
I didn't expect to grow anything down here! But it's done really well
I didn’t expect to grow anything down here! But it’s done really well
For some reason, everything does really well in this small shady bed. The fern is a bit cat trodden on and slug eaten, but otherwise, the Hellebore from a Clapham fete is doing really well, so is the other division of a Brunnera 'Mr Morse' - bring on the spring white / fresh garden!
For some reason, everything does really well in this small shady bed. The fern is a bit cat trodden on and slug eaten, but otherwise, the Hellebore from a Clapham fete is doing really well, so is the other division of a Brunnera ‘Mr Morse’ – bring on the spring white / fresh garden!
This shady pot area is doing alright. The Fuchsia 'Hawksheads' have come on well despite looking a bit dodgy mid summer, and the ferns are, unbelievably, doing really well in that scrap of soil. Some bright orange and red violas just for fun this year.
This shady pot area is doing alright. The Fuchsia ‘Hawksheads’ have come on well despite looking a bit dodgy mid summer, and the ferns are, unbelievably, doing really well in that scrap of soil. Some bright orange and red violas just for fun this year.
The Cordylines seem to be much happier now it's cooler and wetter. The Astilbes have looked a bit dodgy all summer - perhaps our garden is too dry. Otherwise, the Brunnera is doing well here too, as is the other Hellebore, fern. While the Echineceas are shutting down.
The Cordylines seem to be much happier now it’s cooler and wetter. The Astilbes have looked a bit dodgy all summer – perhaps our garden is too dry. Otherwise, the Brunnera is doing well here too, as is the other Hellebore, fern. While the Echineceas are shutting down.
Who knew that a mulch could make everything look so much tidier! That Hebe (while I love it) is going next year, its flowers are too pastel. If you want it, let me know, it is quite stunning.
Who knew that a mulch could make everything look so much tidier! That Hebe (while I love it) is going next year, its flowers are too pastel. If you want it, let me know, it is quite stunning.
The Monarda 'Cambridge scarlet' managed a couple of flowers this year but otherwise seemed to be doing badly. However, in the last two months it has sprouted loads of off shoots. I'll have to keep a check on its spread but hopefully this is a sign of a better display in 2015.
The Monarda ‘Cambridge scarlet’ managed a couple of flowers this year but otherwise seemed to be doing badly. However, in the last two months it has sprouted loads of off shoots. I’ll have to keep a check on its spread but hopefully this is a sign of a better display in 2015.
The Kniphofia, like the Monarda, managed one flower and did little else until now where it seems to be growing more strongly. Perhaps more water in summer.
The Kniphofia, like the Monarda, managed one flower and did little else until now where it seems to be growing more strongly. Perhaps more water in summer.
No flowers from the Acanthus spinosus this year but it's grown loads (I did plant it quite late in early summer). Expect a good display in 2015.
No flowers from the Acanthus spinosus this year but it’s grown loads (I did plant it quite late in early summer). Expect a good display in 2015.
Fatsia japonica is coming into flower now - it's quite overgrown and a sun hogger, so will probably cut right back to ground level next year to make more manageable (and protect more from snails!)
Fatsia japonica is coming into flower now – it’s quite overgrown and a sun hogger, so will probably cut right back to ground level next year to make more manageable (and protect more from snails!)
Sambucus niger has grown well this year. Will cut right back in spring to help it bush out more.
Sambucus niger has grown well this year. Will cut right back in spring to help it bush out more.
The cyclamen look great but I think have become too waterlogged as they appear to be dying back in bits. Either that, or the Vine Weevils laid their evil eggs and the larvae are munching the roots.
The cyclamen look great but I think have become too waterlogged as they appear to be dying back in bits. Either that, or the Vine Weevils laid their evil eggs and the larvae are munching the roots.
Inside, the Schlumberga is budding up after good growth in the summer. This'll be it's third flowery Christmas!
Inside, the Schlumberga is budding up after good growth in the summer. This’ll be it’s third flowery Christmas!

Chelsea Physic Garden in Autumn

Today I made the most of my new Royal Horticultural Society membership and visited the Chelsea Physic Garden next to the Thames. It’s a living, breathing museum and really does feel like that – it’s the most outdoors museum I’ve been to, complete with labels and educational messaging next to every ‘exhibit’. If you want to know where aspirin comes from, you can actually see and touch the plant right here. Continue reading Chelsea Physic Garden in Autumn

It’s October and it’s still warm! Bulb planting and drain pipe trellis time

What’s going on with the weather? Although it’s dark by about 6.30pm now, it’s still sunny and very hot in the day time. Not that I’m really complaining, but I wouldn’t mind a frost to start killing off the pests and diseases.

Echinacea purpurea 'Fatal attraction'
Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal attraction’

Continue reading It’s October and it’s still warm! Bulb planting and drain pipe trellis time

Clapham garden: Autumn is on the way

Summer is almost over and Autumn is on the way. Many of our new plants are simply too young and small to have the impact I was hoping for, which, if they survive the Winter, will be a totally different story next year. But finally the beds are starting to look lived in.

Clapham garden September

I’ve learnt a lot this year. Where the sun falls throughout the day and at what time, that slugs and snails are a huge unstoppable menace, and that our soil is very poor, full of rubble. So I’ll be removing a lot of soil in spring and adding a tonne (possibly literally!) of manure and compost and moving plants around. There were other problems too, with the two new Echineceas (tomato soup and fatal attraction) both losing the colour of their flowers – I think through lack of sun. Continue reading Clapham garden: Autumn is on the way

RHS Wisley Flower Show 2014

Yesterday I went to RHS Wisley for the flower show, in particular the National Dahlia Society’s annual show and I hadn’t prepared myself for the garden itself, stupid fool that I am. But that added to a magical experience, it was like discovering Kew all over again, a secret garden of Eden, its existence I knew nothing about. Immediately it is one of my favourite places in the world. Continue reading RHS Wisley Flower Show 2014

Camley Street Natural Park, King’s Cross, London

This weekend I was in central London on a trip as a treat for our work’s volunteers. During one of the activities I stumbled across Camley Street Natural Park, about 5 mins walk north of King’s Cross Station. It looked like the gates to Jurassic Park… Except for bugs and birds. It’s two acres of wildlife heaven in the middle of a modern concrete jungle and I highly recommend popping there for a short stroll through it. Lovely mini woodland walks, activities for children and adults. Plus it’s near lots of other beautiful London spots. Continue reading Camley Street Natural Park, King’s Cross, London

Parrot Flower Power – iPhone app and Bluetooth sensor gizmo

For Christmas, Chris bought me a Parrot Flower Power – what is it? It’s a battery powered sensor shaped like a plastic twig that you stick into the soil next to a plant and it will tell you the plant’s general health. Continue reading Parrot Flower Power – iPhone app and Bluetooth sensor gizmo

Brachyscome iberidifolia (blue) window box pruning

Brachyscombe iberidifoliaBack at the start of the year we spent ages trying to decide the type of window boxes to get for our bay window and what flowers to go in them. In the end, opting for slate blue/grey resin for a contemporary but weathered look, which is light to carry and frost resistant.

For flowers, this year I wanted something simple, to create a single line of colour with a single type of plant. It worked well for our previous neighbour and I’d seen how striking keeping it simple can be. I also wanted the flower to be blue and to last throughout the whole summer. I stumbled upon Brachyscombe Blue, an Australian daisy like plant. Perfect as daisies type flowers against green foliage looks quite modern.

The first day on 1st April looked like this…

Brachyscombe window box

I was immediately pleased with the look as it was quite sleek and modern. Brachyscombe is apparently not particularly hardy in the UK, so treated like an annual. We’ll see come winter.

Immediately after planting the flowers all vanished but after a month or so, they were back and it’s flowered constantly ever since.

Here are the window boxes after a month or so, which looked great from the street:

Brachyscome blue window boxes

Deadheading and cutting back

I’m not sure if Brachyscombe definitely need dead heading, it’s hard to find the advice online. However I did notice that if I didn’t deadhead, the number of flowers seemed to slow down. After a month or so of deadheading individual flowers, I soon found this to take far too long. Also, the clumps were becoming a little straggly, flopping over the side and pulling unsightly gaps into the plants. So I followed some advice from online, which recommended cutting annuals back hard.

Brachyscombe blue pruning and dead heading

Just a tad brutal…! I actually quite liked these little tufty grass-like mounds. Anyway, two weeks later they bounced back with more flowers than ever and currently look like this:

Brachyscome August cut back hard

As you can see, they came back better than ever!

All in all, I’d recommend Brachyscombe iberidifolia blue for containers and window boxes. Their flower power is strong and they keep on going all through summer with a little liquid feed each month, I guess until the first frosts.

There are some downside though which mean I’ll try something different next year: the type I have aren’t exactly the sky blue they were originally, more a light mauve (although bluer than the photos show); they close up in the evening, so you only see the full display in the day time at weekends really. That’s it.

Biddulph Grange

In the summer of 2014 we had a staycation in the UK, roadtripping it to Yorkshire, Northumberland, Scotland, the Lake District through to Buckinghamshire. We’d recently joined the National Trust and we massively made use of our membership on this road trip, visiting more than a handful of manors and estates in the week. But one that stood above most, inspiring me greatly was Biddulph Grange. Continue reading Biddulph Grange

Cacti mini garden

Three barrel cacti, including one from Chelsea Flower Show 2014. The flowering one is obviously the healthy new one from Chelsea 🙂 The other two, I’ve had for a couple of years and they’ve pretty much done nothing. I’m putting this down to using some fairly poor “cactus compost” in a packet, which I thing is probably too dry and sandy for the cacti with no nutrients. So, I potted all three into this one pot with a mix of the cacti compost but with about 50-60% normal potting compost with John Innes. Since doing so, at least the spikiest one has now started growing.

Cacti

Clapham Manor Street front garden

At the Chelsea Flower Show 2014, one of the gardens I loved the most was the London Square garden, inspired by the many London squares around the city. And the plant of the year for me was Cornus Kousa variety I believe is a chinensis, within that garden. So it caught my eye that this small front garden on Clapham Manor Street had a very similar look. I loved walking past it each day coming back from work. Continue reading Clapham Manor Street front garden

landscape and garden design in Clapham, London