Monthly Archives: February 2014

I have a cunning plan!

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Or at least I hope I will!

I have been asked to create a design for a Health Centre garden – an unpaid venture, but I’m excited nonetheless, as it’s my first, apart from family and friends.

The chairman of the Patient Group for the surgery met me yesterday, to introduce me to the garden. Her way of describing it in advance, was “Tombstone City” and when we arrived, I could see why! It was an internal, open quadrangle, with the strangest arrangement of geometric shaped beds – all wooden edged, with woodchip covered membrane studded with boulders. Hers was a good description! It came complete with drain covers and old tree stumps, and only one poor plant, which I identified as a hydrangea, was struggling to survive.

It would have been a nightmare, trying to measure the beds accurately. Fortunately, the paved pathways – basic and past their past – were a regular 2×2 ft so provided a simpler method of measuring up.

I had an easy ride in a way. As there was little in the way of funding available, due to the money having to be raised, the basic structure had to stay. My task was to provide a planting plan. I had arrived armed with several ideas.

My first idea was “An Apothecary’s Garden – the healing power of plants” showing the wonderful array of plants that can have medicinal properties. It was to be centred around several “Apothecaries Roses” – the very old rose, Rosa gallica officinalis with beautiful, crimson pink, highly scented flowers, followed by rosehips, if not deadheaded. It was to include many flowers with medicinal properties – Digitalis, Vinca, Echinacea to name a few, – along with some of our more familiar garden herbs. I even envisaged designing an information leaflet to go with it, naming the plants, and describing their medicinal properties, to be available if anyone wanted more info.

Another, was a “Memory garden”, possibly a rose garden, with plants donated in memory of a loved one. Maybe though, too down beat, so I dismissed that one. I was looking for something more uplifting, more positive and hopeful.

My third idea, and the one I favoured, was a “Serene Garden” – a space full of tranquility and calm. I wanted to use lots of grasses for their properties of soothing sound, mixed with lots of “prairie-style” plants, in soothing, but uplifting and cheerful colours of white and yellow, with possibly a hint of blue to give depth to the planting. My colleague fortunately liked the idea of that as well. A garden to soothe both the sick and worried patients as well as the overworked and stressed staff!

The aspect of the garden revealed a lovely sun-trap, in a sheltered position. I asked if the budget could stretch to a bench, which I thought would be ideal there and was pleased to hear that would be possible. I want that area to be filled with lots of scented plants, including climbers (Jasmine? Trachelospermum possibly?) against the brick wall.

I finished off my measuring up, and was then shown around the surgery and introduced to the Practice Manager, who seemed very nice and approachable (good for the many visits I may have to make!) and who seemed pleased and excited by what we were planning to do.

So home I went, with all the cogs whirring away in my head. I’m surprised you didn’t smell the smoke! And now to (rather nervously!) put pencil to paper.

I will keep you all up to date with my progress and, hopefully, before and after piccies. Wish me luck!

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The Cuttings Calendar – January

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Having instigated my Cuttings Calender, and set myself the target of a constant supply of indoor arrangements, I’d better get on with it! It is now nearly the end of February, with little to show so far.

Indoor arrangements – well, I must use the term loosely! I do like single sprays occasionally, sometimes for simple impact, but sometimes because there is little available at the time. I will allow myself that leeway for my first attempts!
My fellow bloggers have inspired me to be more imaginative so I must be more adventurous in future.

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My Mahonia selection in milk bottles, was a contender. It imparted a wonderful scent around the room and was a lovely, cheery yellow. It also lasted well. Snowdrops with Sarcococca also featured for several days.

However, the Sarcococca had to be the pick of January! It was my first attempt and so had to be the one!

Six of the best! – a contender

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This time, I selected a different sprig for each bottle – a sample of what’s flowering in my garden just now. Sarcococca, of course, with Chimonanthus praecox, and Lonicera fragrantissima, as before. I also found a small sprig of Abeliophyllum distichum, a shrub also known as white forsythia, but with small, delicate, pink-tinged white flowers, with (you’ve guessed!) a lovely delicate scent. Another gem of a shrub, which I am starting to appreciate more, is Daphne laureola. It is a low growing, evergreen shrub, never more than three feet high, with whorls of dark green, leathery leaves. At this time of year the small, unusual green flowers make their appearance, clustered under the leaves. A sprig of this went in, and it’s lasted very well. Last but not least I raided the front garden for a cutting of Coronilla glauca “Citrina” – a beautiful plant with glaucous blue, pinnate leaves, lemon pea-shaped flowers, similar to broom and a scent reminiscent of narcissi. A lovely scented collection!

And it’s even got my husband – a.k.a. “Mr Chef” – remarking on the smell when he comes in! Remarkable!

Sweet Wintersweet

Chimonanthus praecox

Chimonanthus praecox

So beautiful outlined against a (rare!) blue sky! The photo doesn’t do it justice, I’m afraid!

My Chimonanthus praecox was one of the first acquisitions for my scented shrub border when we started the garden about twenty years ago. Just as well, considering this plant’s reputation for taking many years to flower. After about three to four years, it slowly started to release both its blooms and its wonderful scent.

Like the Lonicera, it is not much to look at throughout the year. It is somewhat sprawling, and benefits from being trained against a wall or fence. This provides a bit of shelter for it, as well as keeping it tidy. The large pale green leaves,somewhat rough to the touch, droop from the branches in summer, but it is the flowers which burst from the bare stems in winter, which are the great delight. The small, drooping yellow flowers are often described as waxy, and have a wine/purple blotch at the base of the petals. If you can get up close, they emit a wonderful scent – rich and spicy! (Isn’t it really difficult to describe scent? It’s a very personal thing!)

Unfortunately, it’s getting up close that’s proving difficult now. When we had to replace the fence panels a few years ago, my poor, nurtured wintersweet had to be cut back in places in the process. Boy, did it sulk, with no flowers the following year! But it’s hung on, and this year has started flowering again, albeit rather sparsely. It has become somewhat gangly, and the prized flowers are out of reach, as you can see from my photo. I must get the secateurs and pruning manual out for a bit of t.l.c.!

However, all is not lost! They are still within cutting distance, so I’ve been able to cut a stem to bring indoors.

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And this brings me on to my next “thing”! I’ve set myself a challenge to have a constant indoor display of flowers and clippings from the garden. My wonderful milk bottles, which you may have already been introduced to, got me thinking. I’ve already made a start, with my first display of Sarcococca. I will aim to post as many as possible, and I want to choose a favourite for each month – hence “The Cuttings Calendar”! So your comments and ideas will be most welcome! (Hope they’re nice!)

So watch this space!

It’s snowing!

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The first of the season, and I was beginning to think none would be forthcoming. But I should have remembered that February is often the month that surprises us. I must confess that the small bit of child left in me, still loves the snow, and I always revel in the first, fresh snowfalls. And I love how it transforms the garden! The wellies are dragged out for the “walk round the estate” as I wander around shrouded in the new found quietness that accompanies a good fall of snow.
However, all the recent wet weather may well mean that this snowfall may be short lived. Part of me hopes not, as I hope to capture some of the seasonal transformations, to share with you. I will be watching closely, with brand new wellies close to hand!

At long last!

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At last I’ve been able to don the grubby gardening gear, dig the boots out of the shed and venture forth to do something constructive. I’ve finally got my hands dirty for the first time this year and got the soil under my fingernails. (No, I can’t garden with gloves – they’re too much of a hindrance!)
I eased myself in gently(?!) by sweeping up the leaves, and bagging up for leaf mould. I must confess to not finishing this task last autumn. (I blame Christmas for starting too early!) That out of the way, I turned to a more pleasant task, my favourite task of planting. Thankfully, I didn’t have mud to contend with, so decided now was a good time. Now my two new acquisitions, my Sarcococcas, are at home. I can’t deem them to be in their final resting places, as I do have a tendency to be too ready with the spade to move plants, with a view to “perfection”.
It was a lovely couple of hours work, with the sun shining and the birds already twittering away. A blackbird, as well as our old favourite robin, both decided to be my friends and come for a nosy! Even the arrival of the long forgotten, routine minor injuries that plague us – the splinters and scratches – couldn’t dampen my spirits! Mind you, the soil does still feel cold so I must restrain much of my enthusiasm for now.
I felt very satisfied, and pleased with myself, and was ready for the next challenge. An unplanned task reared it’s ugly head – cutting back my golden hop. Not a favourite job, but probably best done now, before I trample over too much new growth in the border. This time I donned the gardening gloves, kept for times such as this. After all, I’m not totally daft – it’s like ripping out razor wire! And as for disposing of the dead wood – that’s like wrestling with snakes! But, as a plus, I was working alongside one of my Sarcococca plantings, so the aromatherapy worked its magic!
I’m considering the “Chelsea Chop” later, for my hop. The golden foliage is a beautiful backdrop to the border, but it soon overwhelms the trellis. Maybe the “chop” will help to keep it within bounds and hopefully send up fresh, new, golden growth. I’ll keep you posted!
That done, it was time for a walk round the estate – has to be done at the end of a working day! The cold was beginning to get to me by then, and was soon accompanied by spots of rain, so it was time to head indoors for a hot drink. I made sure I didn’t come in empty handed, cutting a Chimonanthus twig to bring indoors. But boy, was I satisfied! The first foray is so energising! Fingers xd for many more!
Bye for now!