Saturday, 26 May 2012

Columbine - A Plant with Old-Fashioned Style

I have often thought that if heaven had given me a choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden.  No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.  Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one through the year.  Under a total want of demand except for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden.  But though an old man, I am but a young gardener. - Thomas Jefferson

Each plant has its time in the garden - the Aquilegia's  (Columbine, Granny's Bonnet) time is now.  Surely this must be the quintessential cottage garden plant.

The columbines will self-seed too, often putting themselves in places that you would never have thought of yourself.  You can learn from that.  Sometimes, you may even find a new colour strain arising in a seedling, which is a great thrill.  And by nurturing the novelty, you will be carrying on in the best traditions of the cottage garden. - Anna Pavord
Columbines may occur in open woodland or in meadowland on wood fringes.  Their range of colour is not as extensive as the long-spurred relatives (which would also be quite at home in a cottage garden), but they cover some pretty shades of blue, mauve, old rose, purple and white.  Beware of them - they are inveterate self-seeders.  They may be very pretty in flower but they will leave you with a scene of dereliction later. - Christopher Lloyd

It doesn't matter what you call them they are the stars of the season.  Even if you start off with the sophisticated modern hybrids, with elegant long spurs and vivid colours, their self-sown seedlings will gradually revert to the old-fashioned sorts.  With the exception of the rather unpleasant variegated forms, columbines are one of the mainstays of early summer. - Helen Dillon

These are just a few of the Columbine in my garden at the moment - the colours range from almost black to the palest of blues - their reign is very short, all too soon they run to seed, but while they are here I love their old-fashioned style.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Seasonal Splendours - The Late Spring Garden

Before I begin this post I will just mention that it is one year since Ramblings from Rosebank was created.  I can hardly believe a year has passed and that I have written over 200 posts. Many thanks to all those who have shown interest in my garden and written such lovely comments.  I like to think I have made a few blogging friends along the way.  At times I have felt like giving up but your encouragement in the form of your comments has kept me going - here's to another year.

Clematis Montana
I have never seen such lush, verdant growth in my garden as I have this spring.  All the rain has worked wonders, and although the flowers are still a little scarce, the foliage well makes up for it.

As you can see from the photos the borders are full to the brim  and within a couple of weeks (probably whilst we are on holiday) they should be in flower.  I'd better remember to get extra batteries for the camera as I have a feeling I shall be snapping away to catch everything at its best.

Plants that normally flop about because it is so dry are now standing proud and erect, like this Tellima, and the different foliage shapes add interest to the borders.

The Aquilegias are just starting to bloom and the Alliums are waiting to pop open.  There are buds on the Sweet Rocket and the Cranesbill are slowly coming into their own at the front of the border.

In the raised beds at the top of the garden the sage cuttings that I took last year have burgeoned, along with the parsley and garlic.  As you know I leave self-seeders where they choose to grow, so there are lots of California Poppies and Nasturtiums scattered in amongst them.

The apple trees are a mass of blossom - last year the apples were pretty small because of the weather - maybe this year they will grow to full size.

Now the borders look like what I intended for them all along -  a true cottage garden feel with a friendly intimacy.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Summer Container Deliberations

It will soon be time to plant up the summer containers.  The spring plantings are now looking really scruffy with the tulip leaves flopping about and the pansies all leggy and going to seed.  Each year when the pots are emptied I rush round the garden centres trying to decide how to fill them to the best effect.

Pinned Image
via pinterest
Do I plant them with a riot of colour, cottage garden style, or an arrangement that is a little more sophisticated.  To add another problem to the mix - I also want the plants to be bee and insect-friendly.
Pinned Image
via pinterest
This year I am thinking of a white and silver theme for the patio pots - I usually opt for a pink/purple theme, but I think a change is due.  For the containers at the side of the greenhouse, it is a little shadier, so that is something else to take into consideration, and opens up a whole new can of worms. 
Pinned Image
via pinterest
I have fifteen containers to fill, and that means quite a lot of plants.  I am growing quite a few from seed in the greenhouse, but due to their slow growth because of the cold and sunless April, I will definitely have to buy quite a few to fill the containers to make a good display.

Pinned Image
via pinterest
This is where I find Pinterest useful - there are all sorts of planting ideas on the site - which is great for helping me decide which plants look best together, with plenty of tips on how to creat the best effect for the whole of the summer.  I have learned one thing over the years, and that is to fill your containers with as many plants as you can, using  plants of different heights plus trailers to tumble over the edge, concealing the pot.

So - let the fun and games begin - this is one gardening ritual I really enjoy every year - and quite a challenge.  Do you have a tried-and-tested formula for summer containers or are your efforts as hit-and-miss as mine are?

Friday, 11 May 2012

The Song of the Skylark

This morning I heard a Skylark his song soaring high in the clear blue sky - below is a passage from someone who can describe it far better than me.
Today through the window-pane I see a lark high up against the grey cloud, and hear his song.  I cannot walk about and arrange with the buds and gorse-bloom; how does he know it is the time for him to sing?


Without my book and pencil and observing eye, how does he understand that the hour has come?  To sing high in the air, to chase his mate over the low stone wall of the ploughed field, to battle with his high-crested rival, to balance himself on his trembling wings outspread a few yards above the earth and utter that sweet little loving hiss, as it were, of song - oh happy, happy days!  So beautiful to watch as if he were my own, and I felt it all!

written by Richard Jeffreys

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

When Pruning Pays Off

Kolwitzia in full bloom

When we moved to this house nearly three decades ago, one of the first shrubs I planted was a Kolwitzia amabilis.  This delightful shrub is from Western China - its common name is Beauty Bush.  It belongs to the honeysuckle family and was named after Richard Kolwitz, a botanist in Berlin around 1900; amabilis means lovely.  It grows to about 10 feet in height with arching branches which are covered in pale pink flowers in June.

Kolwitzia - August 2011

  Mine had outgrown its space and become very woody and definitely needed a haircut.  So last August after it had finished flowering I decided to give it a good prune to try and rejuvenate it.

Kolwitzia - May 2012

I cut it down to about 5 feet and removed all the old wood - and prayed that it would come back good
as you can see from the above photo - it now looks vigorous and fresh.
I am not sure if it will flower this year - I think possibly not
but next year it should look a treat.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Subtle Colour

Ornamental Cherry

Normally I don't like anything too garish or bold in the garden.
This ornamental cherry is inherited and a little too brash for my liking
but it certainly adds a splash of colour on a dull grey morning.

apple blossom
I prefer a little subtlety like the blossom of the apple tree

Or these pale pink tulips

soloman's seal
You would hardly know the Soloman's Seal was there
it is so subtle

Forget-me-nots and Lavender
A lovely combination of Forget-me-nots  scrambling through
the Lavender bush

These little pockets of colour from Honesty

and the bleeding hearts

Here and there pale lemon Cowslips puncutate the lilacs and pinks

jack-by the-hedge

A self-seeded Garlic Mustard plant
with tiny white flowers and pungent leaves.

All the above plants subtley blend in amongst the lush foliage
which is just how I like it.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Merry Month of May

Well, here we go, another month has begun - what will it hold.

stinging nettles
Folklore states that nettle leaves should be picked before May Day because after that the Devil uses the leaves to make his shirts.
 While some people believed that elder protected them against witchcraft (especially on May Day when the leaves were particularly powerful) and were happy to have it in the gardens, other thought it was a wicked plant (it was known as the 'Devil's wood' in Derbyshire) and wanted nothing to do with it.

maypole dancing
Traditionally, a day of great celebration and festivities, including Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and Maypole dancing.  Seeding had been completed by this date so it was convenient to give farm workers the day off.

mead - made by fermenting honey and water
Mead was drunk, this is a potent alcoholic drink made by fermenting honey and water, and all over the   world people have been getting drunk on it for centuries.