Monthly Archives: September 2014

Broadwaters Park – A Weekend Walk

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It’s a park we pass now and then, in Kidderminster, and it always looks so appealing from the adjacent main road, with tantalising glimpses of wonderful planting, skirting a brook. We decided it was high time we took a look.

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It’s an area of 2 hectares, by the, now renovated, 13th century Broadwater Mill, on the banks of Wannerton Brook. The mill has had many identities over its 7 centuries, including that of a flour mill, a fulling mill for the cloth industry, an iron forge and latterly, as a laundry. It was originally a much larger building several stories high, now just a single storey.

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A strange place for a planter!

I would say it’s less of a park – more of a lovely short walk, about a 20 minute gentle stroll by the brook. It’s punctuated by several interesting and quirky wood sculptures. (Did you spot the forge worker, by the mill?)

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A totem pole at the park entrance. It has actually incorporated a carved “ball in a cage” feature – so clever!

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Squirrel Nutkin – What to do with an old tree stump – enhanced by some wonderful mushroom growth.

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And – How to lose a snail!

We also saw a family of carved ducks – oh, and a heron! But he was real! (The camera wasn’t quick enough!)

The main drift of planting, follows the bank of the brook, crossed by several stone bridges, running parallel to the main road.

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It could be a lovely spot for a picnic, but only if you could cope with the constant hum of traffic from the nearby busy main road.

However, at the entrance to the park, there is a lovely, more secluded area, ideal for opening the hamper, with or without the travelling rug! Today, there were no picnickers. I’m afraid it was a damp, drizzly day. There were instead some children playing “Hide and Seek”. What a refreshing scene to witness!

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Here, there was a “nugget” of raised beds, filled with, what appeared to be, sensory planting, full of rustling grasses, now in their prime, and colour, courtesy of bright, yellow rudbeckias and white anemones. Scented herbs, and “touchy-feely” stachys, flowed over the edges, that led you into a small herb parterre.

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Sadly, by the brook,it was a case of “You should have been here last week!” The planting was going over and definitely past its peak, but there was no denying it had been a glorious spectacle.

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This WAS a glorious, golden spectacle, with Rudbeckias, Crocosmias, Acanthus, Achilleas and Solidagos.

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And this WAS a colourful swathe of wild flowers. I could make out the last of the field poppies and cornflowers.

All created and tended by a band of about 60 volunteers – The Friends of Broadwaters. A job well done!

Not one for a day out, unless a picnic is the plan, but definitely a much more pleasant way to walk along a main road!

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Come In and Have a Catchup!

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I’m sure we’ve all been lapping up this late summer weather. I certainly have! I’ve been “busy” walking round the “Estate”, appreciating and taking stock. There’s not too much of great urgency to do – just “pottering” – so it’s a good time of year, at the end of the summer, when things are settling down for the winter nap, to review the good and bad points, and take notes for next year.

The “Grass garden” this year, has had an explosion of growth and colour, but I fear that the grasses may be getting a bit crowded out, in the process. So that has been earmarked for a bit of readjustment next spring. I don’t want to tackle that now. I want to be able to appreciate the grasses and seed heads, in all their winter beauty.

The day’s task, however, were my two Fothergillas, that had recently been moved. They seem to be struggling. Fothergilla major is obviously in a far too dry and shady position, while its smaller, blue-leaved cousin is positively sulking. So out went the Viburnum opulus, with such a viburnum beetle problem, that its leaves were like cobwebs by summertime. No flowers, means no fruit and, as for autumn colour? Well, you need leaves for that! The Fothergilla was more deserving of its more open position. So we shall see how it fares, with a bit more sun and water. No more droopy leaves!
The truculent Fothergilla major “Blue Mist” is a much smaller specimen, growing only to 2-3 ft high, with beautiful glaucous leaves. They both have lovely scented bottle brush flowers in springtime. The solution? I have another lovely scented shrub growing in a pot, Clethra alnifolia “Hummingbird”. My thinking is that, as it grows taller than the Fothergilla, it may be better suited to its inclusion in the Scented shrub border, where it would fill a gap in the flowering calendar. The Fothergilla could then be rehoused in the, now vacant, blue glazed pot, which would set of this plant’s lovely blue foliage beautifully. It would also allow it to be grown in the ericaceous compost it prefers. So it would have to snap out of its sulk, now that it’s been pandered to!

Fothergilla major "Blue Mist"

Fothergilla major “Blue Mist”

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Looks better already!

I also planted up one of my latest acquisitions – Daphne x Napolitana “Meon”, a dwarf variety for a small gap in the scented shrub border, again with the plan of flowering at this “in-between” period between summer and autumn’s fragrant flowers. At a final height of only 18 inches, with tiny rose-pink flowers, it may be small in stature, but not in perfume. The other purchase, the Caryopteris, with its lovely aromatic glaucous leaves, and dark indigo blue flowers, is destined for the front garden, as it will need more sun, but as yet, it’s final position is undecided. That will need to wait for a bit longer.

Caryopteris x clandonensis "Dark Knight"

Caryopteris x clandonensis “Dark Knight”

That was the some total of the day’s “tweaking”. The rest of the day was spent appreciating, so let me share with you!

If you took notice of the archway, (at the start of the post) you can see it’s smothered in two different climbers – Clematis flammula and Lonicera belgica. I’ve been watching patiently for the clematis to start flowering, hoping it would coincide with the honeysuckle’s second flush. And it has come off! Just!

Clematis flammula

Clematis flammula

This is a very vigorous group 3 clematis, which means it flowers on new wood, so is easy to prune, by cutting hard back to about a foot from the ground, and it will make all this growth, in one season. It’s smothered in tiny white, starry flowers at this time, that smell of hawthorn. In fact, the arch, for a split second, can become a time tunnel, transporting you back in time to early summer!

Lonicera belgica

Lonicera belgica

This has to be one of the best summer scents in the garden! Lonicera belgica may be “commonplace” in our gardens, but its gorgeous scent, and unusual flowers with their lovely colouring, makes it seem exotic in my eyes. Sadly for us, its main flush of flowering early in the summer, amounts to nothing. The buds can cover the climber, but as they open they wither and die off. I believe it to be an infestation problem rather than cultural, as it’s second flush at this time is magnificent! I haven’t yet identified the culprit, but it’s found every one of the four plants we have in various places in the garden. Never mind, we can enjoy it now!

Clethra alnifolia "Humminbird"

Clethra alnifolia “Humminbird”

The recently transplanted Clethra is a lovely shrub, not often seen, I believe. This variety is a more compact variety than the species, growing to 3-4 ft. and it has the advantage of coping well with our shady conditions. More importantly, it flowers at a time when few other scented shrubs are in flower. It’s also known as the “Sweet pepper bush” and has sweetly scented bottle brush flowers, during August. It has gone over now, but its autumn golden yellow colouring is just starting.

I must say, that what our scented shrubs lack flower wise, at this time of year, is made up for with some magnificent autumn colouring.

If the Clethra was unknown to you, what about this?

Zenobia pulverulenta "Blue Skies"

Zenobia pulverulenta “Blue Skies”

What a mouthful that is! This is a beautiful shrub, with pure white new stems and glaucous, oval leaves. If you look closely, you should make out the small bell-shaped, pure white flowers, that look like lily-of-the-valley. They don’t smell like them though, having instead, an aniseed perfume. It is actually an ericaceous shrub, semi-evergreen, that grows to about 5-6ft. but is happy in a pot. And this blue glazed pot, I think, is perfect!

Well, I think that’s it for now. It’s now time to switch our attentions to the beauty of autumn, that lies round the corner.

The Cuttings Calender – August

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And now another roundup of monthly vases!

This “Study in Purple” has stolen the award this month. It was a “composition”, rather than a “plonk” or an “accident”.

What was available? Well, lots of blues and purples, as you can see, so that was what I selected. The rich purple phlox, “Nicky”, has been flowering for ages now, so I was keen to use it, along with the wonderful, structural flowerheads of Echinops – a gift, so name unknown. They have the most amazing flowerheads – soft purple, when in flower, fading into steely blue orbs, before they become seed heads and disintegrate. I didn’t want to let this flower pass by the vase! And the supporting cast? Dainty, lilac Thalictrum delavayii, dots of purple Verbena bonariensis, and spikes of the grass, Melica “Atropurpurea”. A spire of Veronica features in there, too. The golden flowerheads of fennel were added for contrast, and to soften the overall effect. Foliage provided, courtesy of our good old purple sage!

The other contenders?

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Despite this being a definite “Plonk in a vase”, in its defence, the composition was a considered one! Start with the pinky-red rose “Braveheart”, which is the same shade as the pink in the honeysuckle, Lonicera belgica and add a creamy white rose to pick up the other colour in the honeysuckle. I rest my case! Lovely, but a bit wayward!

The sweet peas are still doing their thing.

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And, of course, Hydrangea “Annabelle”, still delights us with her presence ….

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…. both with and without “Mum”!

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And this “vase” is definitely worthy of the “A+E” selection. The story is, that the front of our house is in definite need of attention, so before the painter can move in (i.e. “Mr. Chef”), all the planting had to be hacked back, including a patch of lavender. O.K. it had become somewhat sprawling, but it still grieved me to cut it back and discard it. After all, we have a wood burning stove, and what better way to dispose of it all! However, it’s still a bit early, so I saved some in a basket, to sit in front of the stove, till that “glorious” moment arrives.

And already September is starting to show its promise!

A Tip for Tuesday!

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Have you an old paint scraper lying around, doing nothing? Pop it into your garden work bag! It makes a great hand hoe! You know – when a garden hoe is too clumsy and cumbersome, for when you need to get up close and personal. It’s great for getting in between plants in the border, without hacking them off at the base, which I’ve been known to do!

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Oh, and don’t forget the bread knife!

P.s. I’m sure I should be sending this to a garden magazine. I could win myself a garden voucher!

Little Weed!

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My goodness! I AM showing my age with that title! And so, probably, is any of you who understand it! (For the record, for all you youngsters out there, “Little Weed” was a “character” from the early children’s TV programme, “The Flowerpot Men”!)

I’m not being derogatory, honestly! I didn’t plant her. She just appeared, weedlike, after I weeded the currant bed, and planted the new box hedge, back in June. Thankfully, I now recognise sunflower seedlings, so she was allowed to stay.

My how she’s grown! She’s now about 5ft tall, and thriving on neglect. How the slugsnsnails have missed her, is beyond me! (You do realise, of course, that if I had planted seeds in the border for a display, they would have been “got” within a week, and never reached puberty!) She’s shining out like a beacon, from the “Allotment”, shouting “Come and see me!”. Rude not to oblige!

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This was she, last week, full of promise. The photo was to show what might be in store for a future vase. Sadly, (though not for her) there’s only one bloom, so she’s safe where she is, in the allotment.

Blooming perfect!

In a Vase on Monday – Gather Ye Rosebuds….

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At long last, I’m managing to join in with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, by concocting a vase on the correct day!

I must confess to it being a bit of a rushed job, as I’m not long back from work, but I have been watching and seeing what’s available over the last few days, that could be used. When our “Silver Anniversay” Rose gave us a second flush of flowers, I saw the potential for, not only a vase, but also the title.

The composition was straight forward. The rosebuds at this stage have a lovely greenish tinge. Of course, our old friend “Annabelle” is now fading to a gorgeous lime colour and provided the “froth” that supported the roses. Lucky us, to also have the perfect shape and colour to complement the flowers, in a simple, round green pot. I did try adding some sprigs of the grass, Deschampsia, but felt it added nothing to the appearance, and spoilt its cool simplicity. So they were discarded. I even managed to find “props” in the fallen, pure white petals.

I hope you enjoy my first attempt, albeit rushed, and hope you will allow its simplicity!

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Now, all I have to do, is to work out this link business! Wish me luck!