Wednesday 29 May 2019

#Florespondence: Camassia leichtlinii 'Caerulea'

For years I've been meaning to grow blue Camassia's and finally, voila!

As you can see, it's very attractive to bees and the purple-blue star-shaped flowers are very attractive.

I've planted the Camassia under the Quince tree, along with early flowering Crocus, Narcissus, blue Anemones, Primulas, and also with grass Stipa tenuissima. The idea is a succession of flowering bulbs from early to late Spring, then the grasses, which are evergreen, adding a wind-blown rustle the rest of the year.

The front garden, which is west-facing, means the Camassia capture the afternoon and early evening sun, even on cloudy days, as in the last photo. I'm pleased with the look, which I think should improve further as the Quince tree grows taller.

Friday 24 May 2019

#Florespondence: Osmunda regalis 'Purpurascens'

It's quite possible that this, Osmunda regalis 'Purpurascens', also known as the 'royal fern', is my favourite fern. It's certainly regal. It's utterly enchanting, from the moment it sends up its fronds and begins to unfurl.

It's in a bed close to the dining room doors, so I have watched it develop morning by morning throughout Spring, whilst eating breakfast. Quite a show.

Yes, this is my favourite fern.

Tuesday 14 May 2019

#Florespondence: Tulipa 'Ballerina' and 'Havran'

When I first got interested in gardening, about 18 years ago, I was lucky enough to come across the Christopher Lloyd book, Colour for Adventurous Gardeners. It brought together colours that you might not consider go together, and showed you that they could. It inspired me to ignore convention and experiment. When I was designing my current front garden, the theme of which is a 'hot' garden (hot colours), I thought I'd do some more playing around with colours.

One of my favourite tulips is the flaming orange, Tulipa 'Ballerina', which really flowers its socks off for around three weeks. I wanted to choose something to grow with it, and decided upon the beetroot red of Tulipa 'Havran'. This is the result.

With direct sun, and the petals fully out:
Orange Tulipa 'Ballerina' and beetroot red Tulipa 'Havran'

Under clouds, they revert to their fluted glasses look:

I think they look splendid in sunlight, and elegantly beautiful in muted light.
Tulipa 'Havran'

Tulipa 'Ballerina'

The tulips are going over now and are looking a little punch drunk. However, the colours, though fading, continue to make me smile.

I'm so happy with the colour combination, that I'm going to buy more of the same species to plant in this part of the front garden, to really fill it up for next year.

Friday 10 May 2019

Growing asparagus: a little story about the triumph of hope over experience

I'm certain it's not meant to be quite this hard to grow asparagus. I mean, I know it can take up to four years from when you sow the seeds or young plants, before you can start harvesting. But for me, it's taken nearly 15 years to date. Huh, you say? I'll explain.

House one: a lovely large garden on the edge of Witney (Oxfordshire), backing onto fields. We built a dedicated asparagus bed, along with plenty of other veg borders, and I put in year old crowns. It was all going swimmingly, until the swimming part went over the top. Like, being flooded four times in 18 months type of over the top. After each flooding I kept adding manure and compost to make up for what had been taken away by the flood waters. But the forth time was awful on a whole extra level, when a teenage boy got caught in the flood waters behind our back garden and died (more complicated that this but I don't want to go into detail). We sold the house at a loss and moved.

House two: the garden was smaller, but I also had an allotment nearby, and we built an even larger asparagus bed there. It was all going so well, and were getting excited that the following year we were going to start harvesting the asparagus. But life decided to throw a trowel into the works. My partners company was going bust and he was going to lose his job. On top of this, my, at this point undiagnosed, ME, was getting worse and I was down to only being able to work 1.5 days a week. Oxford is very expensive to live in (pretty much London prices) and we decided to move north and make some lifestyle changes (if you want the details, visit here). So I passed on my allotment to a friend and said goodbye to the asparagus.

House three: ok, third times a charm right? Turns out it was the 'things run in threes' type of bad luck charm. The garden was wonderful, I designed it from scratch and it of course included an asparagus bed. However, we had problems with the neighbours. Again, I'm not going into detail, but they were violent and abusive to each other on a daily basis, and often towards us, and were making our life a living hell. I couldn't sit outside in the garden because the constant screaming was overwhelming. We couldn't sleep at night or rest during the day, because the screaming was on and off 24/7, along with frequent physical fights in the street at 2am. It was also extremely triggering for me and I started having nightmares again. In the end, the impact on the health of both us was too much, and we decided to sell up and move.

House four - where we live now. There are some minor hiccups, but on the whole, we think this house and neighbourhood is a winner. You'd think by now that I wouldn't jinx things by putting in an asparagus bed. Well, hope over experience and all that. After all, the bad run of threes is over. Right?

Voila! I haz asparagus bed.
The green mounds of foliage in the forefront are Astrantia (left) and Oregano (right),
then the young asparagus seedlings.

I'm growing two varieties, Asparagus officinalis 'Crimson Pacific', a purple variety, and Asparagus officinalis 'Jersey Knight', a green one.

What are the black sticks around the young asparagus? They are there just whilst the asparagus settle in, to stop naughty cats from digging around them and causing damage.

And just in case, I've added some hot chilli powder, which tends to not only stop cats, but also foxes and badgers.

Surely it's my time for FINALLY having the asparagus crop of my dreams? Well, in another three years. I hope. Sigh.

Wish me luck everyone!

Tuesday 7 May 2019

#Florespondence: Clematis 'Eleanor'

Did you know there are alpine clematis? Well, I didn't, and when I came across this little beauty, Clematis 'Eleanor', at a plant fair last year, I was very taken with it.

Eleanor grows to only 30cms high and 60cms wide. It's an evergreen, and the flowers are a creamish-green colour. It loves full sun, but will tolerate part shade. Like all Clematis, it needs Alkaline or Neutral soil. It's hardy to H4 in the UK and zones 9, 8, and 7 in the US.

I've put it in a pot with a young Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna 'Purple Stem'. It's a pot to give interest all year round, and sits just outside our dining room door to the garden. This is an east-facing position, so gets the morning to lunchtime sun.

Apparently it has fluffy seed heads, so I'm looking forward to seeing those. This is such a sweet little plant and a nice addition to my alpine collection.

Monday 6 May 2019

Photo essay: Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire April 2019

Carew Castle

I love castles, just love them. They are such fun, and fascinating historically. Wales has a lot of wonderful castles, but not surprisingly, a lot of them aren't that accessible for people with disabilities. Which isn't a complaint, unless we complain to Edward I. Which actually isn't a bad idea as he was a nasty piece of work and deserves all the crap that can be heaped upon him. Ok, rant over. So, accessibility. When I was looking up places to visit in Pembrokeshire, I found an accessible walk around Carew Castle and the millpond, so I was very excited as it meant I got to play in a castle in my scooter. Hurrah!

So these photos are mainly from the perspective of my scooter. Kevin and I went with our friend Sonia, and her gorgeous niece, Angel.

The inside of the castle

The delightful Angel on one of the upper levels.

Kevin and Angel having fun with one of the tiny windows. Or is it a large arrow hole?


The outside of the castle and the millpond

Then the sun came out and oh!

The castle was built at the beginning of the 12th century, built by the Normans who were
extending their conquest into Wales.
However, there was an iron age settlement previously on the site.

Kevin and I.

Angel and Kevin.

The toadflax was looking so pretty in the walls.

Carew is a truly fab castle and we all had a lot of fun.

Near to the castle was the Carew Cross, dating from the 11th century. A very fine Celtic cross.

* * * * *
Other posts from our Welsh holiday:
Llanthony Priory, Black Mountains
Solva Harbour, Pembrokeshire

Friday 3 May 2019

Photo essay: Solva Harbour, Pembrokeshire, April 2019

The head of the harbour at Solva

We recently spent about 9 days down in Solva, Pembrokeshire. Solva is only a few miles away from St David's and it's a quiet and sweet little village. We stayed at Caswell House, which we loved, and it was an easy scooter ride down to the harbour. Yes, there was a scenic path to the harbour for people who use mobility scooters - it's one of the reasons why we chose this location. 

Solva (Solfach) was a beautiful village and we enjoyed the stroll/roll down to the harbour several times. My favourite place (besides the coast!) was Mamgu (pron. Mamgee) cafe, where they served both traditional and modern Welsh cakes, cooked fresh to order, and had really excellent coffee. Lots of people are sticklers about traditional Welsh cakes, and don't get me wrong, I love them. But the Cranberry and white chocolate ones were just delicious and became my favourite.

These photos are of the views on our stroll/roll down to the harbour.

Boats on the harbour

More boats on the harbour. And sparkling water. I really liked the boats and the sparkling water.

Looking towards the village of Solva

The c. 200 year old Lime Kilns. Making lime was once the main industry in the village.

Scooter view looking towards the head of the harbour.

I should mention that the route for the scooter wasn't always paved, and might be a bit steep for people with manual wheelchairs.

* * * * *
Other posts from our Welsh holiday:
Llanthony Priory, Black Mountains
Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire