Monday, September 3, 2012

A Waning Summer.
I have to put a sweater on to take my dog, Archie, for his walk in the morning. The morning air smells earthy and it’s not quite as bright as it was a few days ago. Autumn must be coming. There is still so much to enjoy in the garden and the dahlias have more than satisfied my need for colour. This year my other half planted forty in our parking strip. This number has been creeping up each year since we moved to LFP and I am as much to blame with the Dahlia deluge this year as my other half, as I planted some in the garden borders too.

The glorious forty.

The real stunner for me this year has been David Howard. An ember orange, perfectly formed double decorative dahlia flower contrasts beautifully against dark red foliage.

An old favourite is the collarette ‘Pooh’, maybe not as refined as some, and probably because I know it’s called ‘Pooh’ and the flowers remind me of a medieval ruff my minds eye has fused the two so I think of Winnie in a ruff. Is that wrong? Anyway it makes me smile and so must be included.

My other half's favourite is Citron de Cap, which he describes as “lemony white, 8” blooms which have lacinated petals” not the most romantic description, but one website also describes the ‘dusting of rose blush on the petal tips’ and if that doesn’t complete the picture…..

And last but not least, literally the last to flower, Bodacious. The name says it all, so here is what it looks like.

So for the rest of the summer I will enjoy the quiet as it descends on the garden, tidy away the annuals and prepare to plan next years garden. I just caught my other half perusing a dahlia catalog, looks like the dahlia patch will be expanding!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Introducing the ladies

It is a sweltering day in LFP and I'm feeling a bit wilty so I've decided to disregard my original, long 'to do' list of garden projects and have seeked refuge in our house. I am enjoying pottering in the garden of an evening and experiencing the different scents, the sweet peas have done me proud this year producing an abundunce of blooms that have graced our living room with their charm and perfume for weeks now.  The scent of the oriental lilies drift on the breeze and smell fantastic from our sitting area but if you get to close they pack quite a heady punch that's not for the faint hearted and we should perhaps put a warning sign a few feet in front of them. Finally, the lavender is in full bloom, intertwined with marjoram and I don't seem to be able to go past with crushing a leaf or two between my fingers.  Talking of Lavender, don't honey bees love lavender?  I have passed lavender bushes in the past literally buzzing with masses of bees, but I barely have more than a handful on my bushes.  Last year I thought the lack of honey bees around was due to Colony Collapse Disorder, so we got a bee hive, 3lb of bees and a queen and .... still not as many bees around as I would have expected. They do seem to adore the Eryngiums and alliums though, so at least some of my bee planting is appreciated.
One of our girls about to make a landing in the Eryngium patch.
When we last checked on them they seem to be doing fine and we see a lot flying around with great purpose so I guess they are doing their bit to pollinate the whole neighbourhood, not just our garden. I have noticed a lot of different types of bees in the garden this summer so I may put a bee identification book on my wishlist.

An integral part of our household, from the first few months we moved in, are our chickens.
Left. The chooks looking resplendant.
Itsy is the Barred Rock, she is shy but very alert and clever. We also have two Rhode Island Reds, the friendliest, Flo is on the left, and 2 Buff Orpingtons, the pretty girls who like their grain and not fruit, Heidi Plume is on the right.Below shows Itsy, Flo, Heidi and joining them to complete our flock is Maggie Scratcher (a Buff) and Betty (a Rhode Island Red)
The Ladies enjoying the fresh green grass shoots this Spring.
I may sometimes swear at the chickens as they uproot a blueberry bush while they are dust bathing, and I would never have thought they could have defoliated an Azalea so quickly, and with such purpose but they do a lots of good for the garden too.  Their coop gets cleaned and put in the compost heap to help our vegetable patch and dahlia patch flourish, they 'recycle' the weeds I put in their coop from the garden, they provide us with all the eggs we need and a few extra, they entertain us with their clucks (and if you don't know, chickens don't just cluck, they make a whole array of noises), and they just look so damn cute happily scratching around our grass cooing to each other.  It's been worth it, even if they have sometimes left a trail of destruction behind them!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Scent, smell, fragrance, aroma, whiff

Many of my memories are inextricably linked with scent; from the smell of shipping diesel and wet dog to roses and marjoram; in an instant just a few scent molecules can take me to a memory long buried away in the recesses of my mind.  That is exactly what happened when we moved to Lake Forest Park (LFP) and I discovered a rose that had been overgrown by nearby Rhododendrons.  It didn't look a promising specimen, each stem was thin and straggly, the few leaves that it had were covered in black spot, but as we were undecided on what to do with that bed we pruned the shrubs and trees as planned. I heavily pruned the rose with the thinking it would either grow back looking a little better with the new improved light situation or it would make it easier for me to dig up. I forgot about it for a couple of months and then one day I noticed a little scrappy red bud opening. I smelt it, and from that point I knew it was going to stay.  It smelt of my childhood summers. In the backgarden of my parents house there is a white rose and a red rose (forever battling the war of the roses), and their scent would waft through the garden in what seemed like endless happy, warm, sunny days. So, how could I just dig up a rose that reminded me of that? I'm still working on the shape but the black spot is under control and each year I am rewarded with increasing numbers of flower buds that look beautiful and smell sweet with an added whiff of happiness.
This is the rose but you miss a dimension without the scent, if only there was a 'click and sniff' app.

Friday, June 29, 2012

...still have more about Chelsea

I think I have saved the best 'til last. Below are pictures of the gardens that for one reason or another keep popping into my mind.
This shows part of the Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Arne Maynard.  I loved the pleached copper beech, and the pale limestone path mixed with the abundance of planting. In the bottom left of this picture there is a Rosa 'Reine des Violettes' that has been trained over an Hazel cage. I expect to see a lot of these when I next return to England. I heard every group standing by the garden remark on the cage of roses and people seem to immediatley spot them in this photo, which definately doesn't capture their laid back elegance. If you see that part of the garden and think 'where's the water feature?', well it was around the edge in the form of a rill, filled with light coloured pebbles and the odd pinky, copper pebble, perfectly placed. Ahh, Chelsea.
Next up, Andy Sturgeons arts and crafts inspired garden. the centrepiece was definately the copper  'energy wave' sculpture which wound it's way through the garden and pool. Topiary was a feature this year and you can see the Ilex crenata balls here, Arne Maynard had Buxus and Cleve Wests Taxus below. If you plan to entertain on a Summers evening..
..this wall is hollow and becomes a light box at night casting soft beams of light through the holes. with white, scented plantings, I would imagine that it would attract every moth for miles around to 'add to your viewing pleasure'.

Cleve West received best in show (for the second year running) for the Brewin Dolphin Garden

I think this garden seems typically English, at first glance very formal and snobbish and then the realisation that it's very relaxed and welcoming (1. I've lived here long enough to know what you Americans think of the English and 2. I know what the English are really like, because I am one and therefore have a lot of experience of such things).
The planting was a similar mix of formal Yew topiary and relaxed perennial planting of whites, and lime greens with the bright red of poppies for added zing.
Nigel Dunnett's 'Blue Water Garden' was an absolute stunner.
The planting combined a mix of meadow plants from Europe and N. America and the water feature is designed to maximise water usage to the plants and minimize run off wastage. The pavilion is inspired by traditional buildings in the Puglia region of Italy.  The dry stone roof was constructed on site, just for the week, out of tons (14 if I remember correctly) of stone. Ahh Chelsea.

I think the 'Blue Water garden' and Cleve West's garden were my favourites, from a very personal point of view that I can imagine myself in those gardens, paddling in the collecting pools of 'Blue Water' or reading on the grass in the Brewin Dolphin Garden.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Furzey Show Garden by Chris Beardshaw

I loved the Furzey garden, in real life in the New Forest Furzey is part of the Minstead training project for people with learning disabilities and their horticultural section helped with growing plants for this garden .I think this looks as if it has been plucked straight out of the Northwest. OK, I haven't seen any thatch around the PNW. Just in case you are interested, don't get thatch if you are afraid of spiders. I spent a glorious summer living in a thatch cottage with the only downside being the size of the spiders, the description of 'big and hairy' doesn't do them justice. Back to the garden; here is a better view of the planting
It's just so lush and green and there are Rhododendron's!! Probably not seen in a RHS gold medal winning garden since the 70's. Are the RHS judges getting less stuffy? Were there horrified onlookers muttering"what next, Gnomes?".  All this is contextual, I inwardly shudder when I see a rhododendron, with a neat little line of french marigolds and the newfangled variety of petunia, probably with a sick looking conifer chucked in for good measure. Before you say, middle class snob, I have all of those growing in my garden....and actually if I had the space I would plant a garden with all of those plants and a bad gnome (yes,I think there are classes of gnome) and maybe even a pink flamingo to get me over my inhibitions and taste prejudices. For anybody who is English reading this, rhodies and conifers are native in the PNW and grow happily together with a mix of other plants.  But, the plantings in the Furzey gardens made me think of a recent trip to Bloedell:

....and I want that thatch building, our workshop would look just gorgeous thatched. Inside there was stained glass made with R.macabeanum leaves, I only saw it in a photograph, but it must look magical.  The garden also had fairy doors on the trees, I hope I have fairies at the bottom of my garden, doesn't everyone?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Show Gardens

I have hundreds of photos of the show gardens and getting them down to a handful of key photos has been tough. I have allowed time to wittle them out for me and so the photos I've included here are of the gardens that for some reason keep popping into my mind. So, first up is Satoyama Life by Kazuyuki Ishihara in the Artisan gardens.

Although the garden is very small, there was so much going on. I don't mean that in a bad way. You could split the garden into a myriad of different items,such as the building, water feature, path and plantings and then further divide each one, so looking at the sections of the garden was like looking at a mandala. Each part was exquisite and beautiful in its own right but also and perhaps most importantly all of the elements fitted together harmoniously and even in the hustle and bustle it seemed peaceful.
The Bradstone Panache Garden by Caroline Butler. I loved the movement in this garden and the vibrant colours in the soft woodland planting. I love the muted colours on the wall picked in the planting and the sculpture.  The tree forming the organic backbone to the sculpture is perfect.

I think I may have been living in the PNW too long, because on seeing this garden I caught myself thinking "now there are some nice pieces of cedar". Once I'd recovered myself, I was taken by the easy style of the garden. The beautiful rusty tones of the cedar were picked up in the irises, verbascum and bark of the Prunus 'Amber Beauty', leading you through the garden.
I love the simplicity of the lines in this garden shown here in the photo by the path and water feature. I've noticed the water features are overrepresented in my photos of the gardens - maybe because it was hot day?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer is coming.

Summer is coming.  The rain may be pounding the pavement outside, but I know that summer must be coming because I have picked my first dahlia flowers of the year. There may only be 3 blooms so far, but I am full of hope.  The parking strip dahlia bed has an abundance of very healthy looking plants and for the first time I have dahlias in my perennial bed. 2012 may be the year of the dahlia in our little corner of LFP
Blooms from 'Lolo' and 'Moonfire' dahlias.