Monday 31 December 2018

Back garden - the first six months

Back in June I introduced the interim design for the back garden, but I haven't yet got around to showing you how it looked during the rest of the year. Now it's the end of the year, it seems like a good time to have a look at how the garden grew.

First, here is a reminder of the garden I inherited when we moved in.

We gave the sheds away on Freegle, as we have a large garage that is now my garden shed. The conifers, which seem to drain away all light around them, were also removed.

This was the garden on completion of the landscaping work.

My new raised beds!

I then got a little extra work done, creating what I'm calling the Wisteria border, using keyhole gardens as an inspiration, along with my simplified version of a bug hotel (logs on the right).

The bug hotel is made up of the trunks and thick branches of the conifers that were removed.  Eventually I'll be adding a pergola to this area, allowing the wisteria (which you cannot really see yet) to grow up the fence and over the pergola, with seating underneath so you can enjoy summer shade and fragrance. The tree in the left keyhole bed is Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Ballerina', which is meant to be one of the best Amelanchiers for Spring flowering and edible fruit.

And an overview of the new garden at the height of the growing season.

I had the height of the L-shaped bed (on the left, behind the concrete area) reduced by one level. I realised it was too high to comfortably access and weed, so I had the sleepers re-purposed for the new Wisteria Border. The plum tree, in the top left corner, was sadly chocked with black rot, and based on experience, I knew it was unlikely to recover. So it's been removed and a new Greengage will be added in it's place in shortly.

I also added a temporary bed where eventually another raised bed will be added.

First we (my gardener Andrea and I) put down black plastic to kill off the grass and perennial weeds, then we added some of the paving stones that were left behind by the previous owners as a border. This will filled in with a range of pots, a mini pond, and some left over stones from the front garden. We added the stones in such a way that it gives a gradual climb up to the mini pond so that creatures like hedgehogs can access the water. And there are stones in the pond to allow easy access in and out for frogs and other pond inhabitants.

We installed a couple of water butts next to the house. Eventually I want to put in a couple of large rainwater tanks, to make the most of the large roof and water resource to capture and store.

And here is the garden now, at the end of the year.

I've moved the bird feeder closer to the hedge. I've observed that birds seem to use feeders that are either close to trees or hedges, and this worked as it's now attracted a lot more birds.

The concrete shaped blocks on the fence will soon be painted a sage green, and wire shall be added all along the fence so that I can train various plants including clematis, a rambling rose, some ivy and/or other evergreen climbers, along it. This should be more attractive than the grey that currently dominates.

Next to the seat to the right I've had some of the hedge cut into, so that when you sit down it will be in a little alcove from which you'll have some shade and be able to view the whole garden.

This is the end of the major work for at least a year, whilst I think about how to plan the next part and save up to afford the new landscaping! I do know that the temporary bed will become another raised bed, the pergola will be built, and between these a proper pond added. I also need to work out my plan for the grassy area in the top left, which will become more raised beds for a kitchen garden area. And I'll also be adding in a mini forest garden. In the meantime, I am Am really pleased with my design, and the work of the landscapers and gardener.

Greenfinches and Goldfinches on the bird feeders.

The garden is a little bare at this time of year. But already the first garlic shoots have come up, the broad beans are growing well and I should have some salad and herbs to harvest throughout winter. The first of the ornamental bulbs are coming up, and the garden will soon be bountiful in beauty and food, and as a calm and happy place to be. Not bad for a six month old garden.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Blogging, and Athyrium otophorum var. okanum

There hasn't been a lot of blogging going on recently. Once again, it's because the ME is bad and most things are a struggle, and unfortunately blogging goes down the bottom of the to do list.

However, I have managed to take some short wanders around the garden, and I'm particularly enjoying this fern, Athyrium otophorum var. okanum. It's deciduous, although hasn't show much sign of dying off even though it's late Autumn.

It's a clumping variety with it's leaves gently arching. It doesn't like direct sun, and I've planted mine in the shadiest part of the Wisteria border, next to the beech hedge.

I love the patterns within the leaves, and the reddish-purple ribs from which the leaves arch out.

I'm not giving up on blogging, but the frequency will probably continue to be reduced for a while. That doesn't mean I forget about gardening and plants. Never! It's just a case of very careful priorities, and I'd rather spend 5 minutes in the garden than 30 minutes blogging (a short post like this takes me that long these days).

Enjoy this delightful fern, and I hope you are all well and happy in your gardens.

Saturday 6 October 2018

Trentham Gardens - sculpture

Earlier in September we visited Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire. I didn't get around to blogging about it due to lack of energy. Since then, Jessica over at Rusty Duck has also visited the gardens, and blogged! As her blog is such a lovely walk around the garden, which I invite you to read, I don't feel I need to repeat what would be a similar blogpost here.

Instead, this is a photo essay of many of the sculptures at Trentham, some in the gardens, some around the lake, in particular, a year-long display of fairies in the garden. It was a rather overcast grey day, and I think the fairies would have preferred the sun, but they still gave their all. I've listed the name of the sculpture where I could find it.


River of Otters, by Gary Burgess


Planting by Nigel Dunnet


Spring, amongst the dandelions

Spring, different angle



Another 'Wishes'

Hare amongst Persicaria

A third Wishes. Three wishes!


I enjoy seeing sculpture in gardens and this was a lot of fun. The fairy sculptures will remain at Trentham until 24th December 2018. It will be interesting to see what will appear in the gardens next year.

Thursday 4 October 2018

Autumn light

A short study of Autumn light in the front garden.

Capturing the exquisite blue of this Salvia patens 'Blue Angel'.

A sense of movement through Panicum virgatum 'Squaw' and Verbena bonariensis.

 The fairy wands of Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln'.

Welcome to Autumn in Gwenfar's Garden.

Thursday 13 September 2018

Front garden - 3 months in

New front garden

The front garden seems to have come a long way since the landscaping was done in June.

Before the landscaping:

After the landscaping (view from above as I seem to have not taken a photo from the same position as above/below):

Plants added in:


The circle and hole in the middle is because this is where the Quince tree goes when it comes in November. I got the landscaper to dig the hole because it's extremely hard clay and it made sense to use his muscles! I have four Stipa tenuissima there in pots, to go around the edge of the Quince border, then I will be adding bulbs and and corms, like Anemone blanda blue, Narcissi falconet, and some snowdrops.

The path is for both function and form. It makes accessing different parts of the border for maintenance easier, and I hope it invites you to want to wander around and explore what plants are in the ground.

I have added the new Acer Griseum tree. Again, I got the landscaper to dig the hole so when the plant arrived it wasn't too taxing on my limited energy to get it in. In the below photograph, it's in the top middle, but I think it's hard to see if you don't know it's there. It's a young tree but will grow and become much more noticeable. I've planted it just where the afternoon sun in winter will hit it to highlight the beautiful paperbark branches (it's known as the paperbark maple).

The wooden structure is the bin store. As time goes on the plants will grow around this more. I've got some Allium purple sensation to go along here as I thought they are tall enough to stand out well against the wood.

It's starting to fill in a bit, but I can see some gaps, even allowing for the eventual full size of those plants currently in the border. So I guess this means I'll have to buy some more plants - what a shame!

The large planter has three different lavender in it, but they are currently swamped by the nasturtiums, which have attempted world domination. I'm hoping the nasturtiums will self seed around the front garden. Eventually I want it to look like a sunny hot jungle. Well, maybe not jungle, this is Sheffield after all. But the primary colour scheme, reds, yellows and oranges, along with the secondary, blues and purples, should look nice and hot.

Still to go in are lots of bulbs, plus some Primulas, more yellows and oranges. And I think I'll have to add a couple of yellow hellebores. Along with the different grasses, I'm trying to give it structure and colour all year around. Also planted are two Sarcococcas, S. confusa and S. hookeriana var. digyna 'Purple Stem', near the path/front door, so we can savour the fragrance going in and out of the house.

I'm really pleased with how it's going along. It's more attractive to me, to bees and butterflies. And to Goldfinches. I daily have flocks, nay, gangs(!) of Goldfinches descend on the bird feeder, which I can see from sitting on the sofa in the lounge room.

Oh, I really need to add some new plants into the Gwenfar's Garden box! I'll get there.