Its dark early now

It happens every year, without fail, I should be used to it after all these years, but I still get a shock at how quickly the nights lengthen after autumn dances in — the effect being greatly exacerbated by the return to Eastern Standard Time.  At least it means that I eat at a reasonable hour, instead of peering hopefully into the fridge at 8.30  when I finally come in from the garden during summer.

Dark coming early in the Arctic zone

There is a small-ish apple tree, a Fuji, growing at the bottom of my garden in the Arctic zone.  It’s struggled a bit over the years,  producing rather pathetic crops that failed to develop past the golf ball stage.  However this year it produced a bountiful crop about half of which have reached persimmon size, still small despite assiduous thinning on my part  The apples ripen very late here so they provide the bird population with a feast  when most other sources of foods are drying up.  In order to allow some fruit to ripen on the tree I spent a morning struggling with the difficult task of festooning the tree with two large pieces of bird netting. The aim was to exclude the charming little silver eye population who choose to over-winter here rather than migrate to the mainland. The next morning most of the silver eye population were happily enjoying breakfast inside the net. Shooing them out presented some difficulty as they never remember where they get in, followed by another hour of tracking down gaps and either tying or clothes pegging them together.  This worked well for a couple of weeks except for the big wattle birds who pecked the apples through the net, ripping holes in the process.

Oh dear, there’s a horrid human looking at me,  now where was that hole!

 Finally I gave up after discovering a  lone silver eye inside again and another frustrating hour ensued while I  removed the net,  unhooking it from endless fruit spurs while struggling on tippy toes. A large basket of apples was gathered as darkness fell,  the pecked ones for cooking,  the golf balls for the horse and the decent sized clean ones hopefully for storage. At least my endeavours gave the apples another couple of weeks of ripening on the tree but next year I’ve resolved there will be a netting tent supported by pipe arches, the proper sort I see in other people’s gardens. Of course it may be eight years before I get a decent crop again.

In the mean time the big wattlebirds are also enjoying nectar from the beautiful dangling flowers of Canna x Ehemanii

 

 

Three layers to be skinned, they need to be good to be worth the trouble

 

 

Another crop did unusually well this year,  the old chestnut trees at the brewery always produce a ton of chestnuts but generally they are slim specimens not worth the inordinate amount of trouble takes to glean something edible from those spiny casings.  The Plantsman and I collected a few a couple of times but the resulting spine infested fingers were just too high a price.  This year while on our morning walk Spotted dog and I noticed that an amazing crop of close to full size nuts had appeared scattered under the trees and across the car park,  where they had been knocked down by the possums.  I filled my pockets till they bulged like chipmunk cheeks and returned the next morning with big bags to collect the overnight fall.  It was a brief window of opportunity,  two days later the early morning harvest was nothing but empty husks,  every possum in a ten mile radius had joined in the feast. 

Malus ioensis having its brief fling of colour

Malus ionensis flaunted its brilliant pink and orange leaves briefly before releasing them to carpet the ground. Sharp mornings are causing the butter yellow leaves of the ash and the birches to follow suit. The ginko turned soft yellow overnight but holds its display for much longer.  The huge backdrop of willows are slowly blanketing the ground by the creek with their leaves but unfortunately they’re also covering the plants below with sooty mould.

Horrid infestation spreading to the gate post!

I had noticed a welcome dearth of wasps over summer and put it down to the few extremely cold nights we had last winter. However when I was down by the creek  an intense humming overhead finally alerted me to the fact that they hadn’t all died, instead they were all busy supping honey dew produced by a plague of black aphids layered along the branches of the willows. The resulting sooty mould is coating the plants below so I’m praying for an early frost to wipe them out. Its not happened before so I’m curious as to what has triggered such a horrid aphid explosion.

Another gorgeous autumn colourer, Cornus Eddies White wonder becomes Eddie’s Red Wonder. It’s the time of the year for peering into miniature narcissus pots to check for those delightful little spikes of green coming through, soon some of the little hoop petticoats will follow.  The autumn flowering crocus have been successively producing their guileless flowers for the last couple of months, Creamy Crocus vallicola first, followed by banaticus, nudiflorus, longiflorus, oreocreticus, goulimyi, tournefortii, and all the others that I can’t remember.  The location labels transport me back to places like Kosmas, Gythio, Chios, Samos, Vikas Gorge, Kajmakcalan, where we had collected the seed.

Crocus tournfortii collected at Mega Livadi, Serifos

Crocus goulimyi from the Peloponnese

Every so often,  presumably depending on prevailing air currents,  air temperatures, and other meteorological  divinations,  a brilliantly multi-coloured sail swoops down from the mountain,  sashays around above the house, swings across the road and disappears momentarily through a gap between tree and hillside, reappearing nicely placed to touch down on the Cascade paddocks.  I was interested to read that one of the perils of hang gliding off the Organ pipes was the danger of the sail being shredded by wedge tail eagles determined to drive out the interloper — as if hang gliding isn’t enough danger by itself.

Swoop around, duck through the trees, then touchdown

And Charlie came for another sleepover 🙂

We’ve been good, can we come in now?

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End of Summer – its all over now

A mini spree of warm days and gentle Greek evenings carried us through the last days of summer and well into the first month of autumn, those lovely evenings are closing in by minutes each day and now April is here I’m shocked to find that is dark by 6.30.

Portly pied muscovy regarding us thoughtfully

Spotted dog and I took a long perambulation down the rivulet linear park one beautiful evening in March, and it  was really lovely to see a couple of young fathers out each with a gaggle of small bike riding children.

On the way back we  stopped to chat with the pied muscovy who was balancing on the lip of the weir while engaging in some serious chest feather preening.

 

 

Platypus frolicking in the spillway

 

Then to our delight,  mine anyway – I’m not sure that the dog noticed, a platypus appeared, cruising,  ducking and diving, and being generally delightful. After first spying it a couple of years ago in a large dark waterhole behind the brewery we always keep an eye out when passing, peering hopefully into the depths. but rarely catch a glimpse.

 

I was pleased to wake to to a damp morning with autumn rain forecast, it was quite a relief  for both the garden and me as it gave me a chance to get on with ‘inside stuff’ that has been waiting for ages. Replacement of all the windows in the house has caused total chaos as furniture has been shoved around and the wake up call regarding the mounting problem of ‘ too much stuff ‘ was made loud and clear

The older dahlia clumps have been flowering gaily for ages although I’ve noticed the patches are not so vigorous as in previous years. This is probably a combination of overcrowded tubers literally mounding up out of the ground on top of each other and the encroaching growth of nearby shrubs reducing the direct sunlight hours received. There will be a surplus of pretty pink but reliably tough dahlia tubers available later this year.

Cyclamen are the current treasures pushing up their delicate pink and white blooms in various nooks and crannies throughout the garden.  Like galanthus in late winter the autumn flowering cyclamen are an annual treat that beg for close inspection.

Wee treasure, Cyclamen mirabile

Sadly labelling hasn’t been as assiduous as it should have so in some cases I’m struggling with identification.

Small Colchicum species

The first colchicums  have suddenly appeared,  the large varieties rushing to open their soft pink goblets then tipping  over like skittles.  The Plantsman placed them  in bare ground between boulders by the creek but aesthetically they would look more attractive planted amongst  light grass to help keep them upright.

 

I prefer the smaller ones with their lilliputian charm and less untidy when they topple

Colchicum autumnale alboplenum

Malus Golden hornet is struggling  under its load of crabapples again, the weight causing its branches to hang down attractively as it repeats last year’s gold and purple entwining with Verbena bonariensis.

Crinum powelii (?) (it was one of the few plants here when I arrived so that’s the best I can do with identification) is an untidy beast with huge strappy leaves that disintegrate disgracefully as the ethereal softest pink trumpets open atop their chest high stems. Best placed behind something bushy in the garden but gorgeous  and long lasting as a cut flower

Crinum powelii ?

Crocus banaticum spreading ts petals wide

 

One of the early autumn flowering crocus, and my personal favourite, Crocus banaticus brought inside to show off its remarkably large iris-like  blooms. This crocus likes, actually thrives in, damp conditions so I find it easier to keep alive than many of its beautiful friends who demand a long hot bake over summer

 

I was very surprised to see this little chap appear unheralded and unlabelled in one of the creek beds, Galanthus peshmenii I presume, but very early.  The Plantsman and I had plans to visit it in its native haunts among the limestone rocks of Kastellorizo, a tiny Greek island off the southern coast of Turkey.  The  labelled clump of its autumn flowering brethren Galanthus reginae-olgae nearby are still fast asleep — that is, assuming some ghastly catastrophe hasn’t befallen them over summer.  It probably hasn’t, but I worry til I see those pale green shoots spearing through

Galanthus peshmenii — I assume

One very hot day the Spotted dog noticed the horse’s water trough and found it very agreeable

Either it’s too small or I’m too big, but if I just keep turning around I’ll spiral down into the water!

 

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Days shortening, autumn approaching

The current bling in the garden is Lilium henryi flowering its socks off. I’ve grown the elegant creamy version, originally purchased from Glenbrook, for years and it’s never failed to impress, elegant turkscaps drifting above the prickly Austen rose ‘The moth’, and a half finished  painting waits for completion, again put off till next season. Now both the the cream and the original soft orange blooms are nodding in the breeze. The orange bulbs were a happy acquisition last year, thank you Catherine, and have done really well.

Lilium henryi

Lilium henryi

There is a sprinkling of hepaticas in the garden courtesy of the Plantsman whose own garden was a little hot and dry for their liking. He popped them in amongst the galanthus in the creek beds and they seem to have settled in nicely under the deciduous canopy of the willows.  Now I’m a total convert to their miniature jewel like charms and have planted more inside the creek fence despite it being difficult to ensure they’re not thugged out by the heavy duty perennials that I’m struggling to keep in check at the moment. They will flower in spring, delicious little dots of lilac, blue and pink, but in the mean time one can enjoy their attractively trilobed leaves.

The layer of hay that was laid down on the creek beds to prevent the blackbirds/water hen from further spreading the mulch of aged horse manure has been lifted to allow autumn flowering Galanthus reginae-olgae to come through. Unfortunately the aforesaid birds-of-destruction have cottoned on to the presence of the wormy manure layer and are scattering the hay wherever they can get under the layer of bird netting — dammed nuisance.

Buddleia arch

Buddleia arch

Above the accidental Buddleia arch the crocus slope is gradually coming into being. It was originally optimistically imagined as a fast draining scree of soil and gravel on top of the concrete but I’ve since concluded that it will have to remain a collection of pots. Any planting I do on the driveway needs to be easily removeable, just in case it needs to be actually be used as a driveway at some point in the future (admittedly an unlikely scenario)  Several long plastic troughs in a tasteful shade of charcoal have been purchased to house a selection of the hot/dry-loving bulbs, different species being carefully kept apart within each trough by buried sections of milk cartons cut to size. The plan is that by placing these long troughs  across the driveway the problem of water pooling in the lower side of the pots on the steep slope will be alleviated.  I could have created a set of level terraces  using planks (or whatever else came to hand) but that would offer cover and comfort to the snake that has been observed sun baking in that area in previous years and I really prefer not to encourage him.

Perambulations over the last couple of months with the spotted dog through the Cascade gardens and past the rivulet spillway had failed to spy the pied muscovy. I was concerned that he/she may have been accosted by Mr Reynard one evening — but joy! yesterday there he/she was,  paddling slowly and majestically,  bow very low in the water, looking hopefully for tit bits from passers by.   The Cascade bunnies are being supplied with apples and carrots in order to win their trust, poor little suckers, and thus entice them into traps. What happens after that isn’t spelt out clearly on the council sign but there is still quite a party of untrapped individuals gallivanting about.

Peaceful gardening over the last couple of weekends has been punctuated by the sudden appearance of a small pack of two, a German shepherd and a large staffie cross, barking furiously at a nonplussed Spotted dog through the creek gate. With some encouragement from me they went tearing off along the creek (straight across the lower creek beds!) and soon after a cacophony of barking indicated that they were giving the dogs along the ridge a good deal of cheek. A bit later the warning sound of agitated barking from the caged dog a couple of houses away, plus unusual alertness on the part of the Spotted dog, had me ready with hose in hand to aim at their rapidly retreating rear ends. They made a real nuisance of themselves going AWOL for a few days, I was unwilling to take the dog walking around the ridge but no sign of them over the last week so hopefully they’ve been safely confined to barracks by their errant owners.

Peonia mascula ssp. hellenica

Peonia mascula ssp. hellenica

Species peonies are swinging into their second seasonal act as their seed pods ripen, turning themselves inside out to show off  extravagant shiny  black and scarlet combinations. Normally the Plantsman would have me carefully collecting them for sowing later but this year I’ll leave them to ornament the garden.  Nashi pears are ripening with the fruit bigger and better than previously,  the flying fruit disposal service (big gurking wattle birds have just moved in!) have only tried a few topmost pears so far but as soon as they stab the fruit the wasps gleefully take over and hollow it out. Luckily very few wasps in evidence this year, maybe a consequence of the cold winter. The snowberry shrub (Symphoricarpos albus) under the old Kentish cherry has a lovely crop of fat puffy white berries that are great for vases but its wandering ways have placed it on the removal list for this winter.

Brunsvigia ?

Brunsvigia ?

This gorgeous blue creature suddenly appeared in a pot whose contents I had completely forgotten,  for some reason I think it’s a brunsvigia, but Google will only offer me pink, red and white versions. More research required..

 

 

 

 

 

 

One sad casualty of the very wet season seems to be the Acer davisii that I planted for its delightful green and white striped snake bark trunk.  The leaves have failed to develop much past a couple of centimetres,  instead they’re shrivelling and dropping off. I’m also concerned about the health of a precious little pink flowered  Cornus kousa planted in the same bed.  However the Verbena bonariensis have thrived, the flower heads floating happily above my head, mixing it with the golden hornet crabs and welcoming visitors like the one illustrated

Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis with friend

Add usual the salvias continue to shine and dahlias, despite showing pressure from over crowding,  are picking up their game now. Another wintery job coming up is separating out the mounds of dahlia tubers in order to replant a select few.

Cyclamen hederafolium

Cyclamen hederifolium’s ethereal blooms

Cyclamen purpurascens and hederifolium  are displaying their first tentative flowers for the season, they’re so delightful I’ve planted out several more from pots in the rocky edges of the path with suitable good fortune-inducing incantations and accompanying bell ringing. C. hederifolium should be happy but that small native digging critter is still  a clear and present danger.

Hydrangea quercifolia Snowflake-

Hydrangea quercifolia Snowflake- trussed up to allow access for window replacement

This week has seen the replacement of the original shabby cold-conducting aluminium fly traps that framed my windows with smart double glazed affairs. The bank balance is groaning but I’m looking forward to a toasty winter.  Window replacement required the moving of many very large pots away from the house walls, brutal pruning of camellias  and the ignominious trussing up of Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’ with the usual bright blue hay bale twine. The  Oakleaf hydrangea found life good this year, maybe something to do with a failure to prune on my part, and is flowering generously,  gorgeous big panicles of delicate double blooms, greenish cream with hints of pinky russet.

Punk Zoro

Punk dog

 

Spotted dog sporting his latest look after lurking under the lilies

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2017 two weeks old, and it’s still wet

However did Christmas and the new  year whip by so fast,  I’m not ready to leave 2016

It has rained consistently for several days over the New year, on and off, mizzle, showers, then, just in case we were napping, a big heavy tropical flash flood wall of water.  Was an immense relief to get 82 bales of freshly cut hay safely stacked away for the horse over winter.  Since I sold the horse float and the big unit for pulling it I have had to rely on other people to deliver hay each year , it’s become an annual source of anxiety until all has been safely organised, paid for and stored in the shed.

The effect of the soft rain drops held by the flowers of Cotinus ‘Grace’  is very beautiful

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A favourite rhodo,  Rhododendron ‘Laramie’ purchased for its fabulous indumentum,  has curled its drooping leaf edges up to show their furry undersides before dropping them.  ‘Laramie’ had been growing and flowering happily in that pot for several years so I’m putting the death throes down to rotting roots – will try planting it out and hope for recovery

Salvia guaranitica 'Costa Rica Blue'

Salvia guaranitica ‘Costa Rica Blue’

Salvia ‘Costa Rica Blue‘ seems to have finally come into its own after I realised it needed a bit of judicious pruning. It has  6 foot stems coming up from the base adorned with bright green tropical looking leaves setting off the racemes of soft ultramarine flowers. It continues from summer until first frost, giving deeper notes beneath the towering heads  of Verbena bonariensis.  The verbena has done a real Jack’s beanstalk act this year, its soft lilac dancing around the golden ash with the much darker blooms of Clematis ‘Aotearoa’

Verbena and Clematis 'Aotearoa' mingling in the ash

Verbena and Clematis ‘Aotearoa’ mingling in the ash

Constant inundation of the Galanthus pots has also been worrying me, I suspect they haven’t had time to drain properly and the wet combined with summery heat threatens rotting. Fingers crossed until I see the first leaves of the season emerge, these are plants that I cannot replace.  I spread aged horse manure (very old) over the creek beds then covered them with freshly slashed long grass from the cascade paddocks to prevent the blackbirds from scattering the aforesaid horse manure in search of worms.  Then a covering of plastic trellis netting was required for further protection against the local blackbird mob and the resident native hen family. I’m hoping this action won’t gain the attention of the willow roots. The downside is that I must remember to remove the grass mulch before the Galanthus start to wake up, and in  the case of the autumn flowering Galanthus reginae-olgae this will be late summer.

Five!!

Five!

On the subject of blackbirds there has been an explosion of families this year,  shiny black papas and soft brown mamas darting to and fro with hapless worm lunches made all the easier to procure by the constant mizzle.  Now,  two weeks later,  I’m regularly startled by a startled fledgling whirring off from its hiding place in a flurry of immature wing feathers

Lilium Night flyer

Lilium Night flyer

Lilies have been lovely,  despite some ferocious wind,  this year I remembered to prune the monster Rosa ‘Bloomfield abundance’ that towers over a couple of pink trumpets before the lily buds were ripped to shreds.  Other pots with tall orientals have had to be regularly righted after tipping over in the wind, need better placement but not possible last year.  Despite my best efforts to eradicate them last year rapacious double tiger lilies are still trying to take over the bottom bed from the more precious martagons and duchartreis. They’re really quite ugly, like weird orange octopodes.  I’m removing the scarlet runners from this bed (grew too many to eat anyway)  and will devote it to lilies — plus current residents, a big clump of chives, a healthy daphne and a beautiful black hellebore. As  the side path runs down behind it on a higher level one gets a nice eye level view of the taller varieties.

golden-lilies-1I love the pure yellowness of L. Citronella’s neat turbans,  2 pots of bulbils grown on from last year are now a tray full of healthy babies waiting to be planted out.

Also lots of potting and repotting and planting out has been happening with the species cyclamen, one of my very favourite plants.   Those planted out in the garden tend to be upset and uprooted by some small furry native critter, or a small black feathered import, so more precious treasures are safer in pots.

The sadly broken Betula Moss white has new growth bursting forth so now I have a quandary, do I let two or three shoots develop for a nice multi-stemmed effect or do I sternly limit growth to the strongest and stay with the single, albeit slightly bent, trunk

birch-trunks

Thrilled to finally see the softest pinky cream layer appearing on the trunk of the only  remaining Betula utilis var. jacquemontii.  I’m a little disappointed that my original matching set (cliched design but classic) of three jacquemontiis has been replaced through various misadventure by a single jacquemontii, 2 Moss whites, (one recently inadvertantly stooled) and a common silver birch that is silvering up nicely, maybe that reflects the general chaos that is my garden, it can’t even manage a simple cliche!

Cleaning out the old flowering stems of the Iris wattii by the front door revealed a kitchen implement whose disappearance I had been puzzling over since the last jam making season

So that's where the mouli sieve has been hiding

So that’s where the mouli sieve has been hiding

And something so beautiful, despite a couple of tiny chewed bits, on a very small first year plant. This clematis hasn’t made much growth at all, I envisioned it leaping up to the trellis on top of the paling fence and draping itself luxuriously about the neighbouring lily pily, but it’s still crouching a foot off the ground so I’m a little concerned about its long term viability

Clematis flora plena, first flowers

Clematis flora plena, first flowers

And the Spotted dog, stickybeaking at activity in someone else’s garden during his daily constitutional

Yes, definitely a cat over there

Yes, definitely a cat over there

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Gardening alone, December 1

November has passed and the first couple of hot windy days have made the massive abundance of spring floweriness  shatter and fly,  nigella and opium poppies are holding more fattening pods aloft than flowers and the roses already need deadheading. Big oriental lilies have blown over in their pots, luckily the buds remain undamaged (so far), and the early flowering Salvia vulgaris are now displaying more bract than flower.

View to brewery

View east  to the brewery

Sadly one victim of the ferocious wind was a beautiful sapling Betula pendula ‘Moss white‘, one of two  carefully nurtured since planting in winter 2014.  I was gazing past the first tree, increasingly puzzled as I looked in vain for its companion, then saw the broken trunk obscured by the forest of opium poppies. It had been ring barked by that blasted grub and the support tie had snapped. The narrow moat cutting through the outer bark had not been sufficiently mended with new growth and my beautiful little tree keeled straight over,  broken at that point. Extremely disappointing as two of the three  Betula utilis var. jacquemontii I planted several years ago  to achieve the same triple white trunk effect  had failed to thrive and eventually died,

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Broken Moss white

The gorgeous Salvia virgata  are flowering for the first time,  bitter sweet reminders of a wonderful week spent travelling the Zagori  region in northern Greece, and the huge, soft fondleable heads of Salvia sclarea are unfolding. I let them seed around and try to steel myself to remove any that place themselves inappropriately. Of course a few always come up in the broken driveway where their roots cannot delve sufficiently deeply so they fall over as soon as their great heavy furry heads  develop.

Clematis are making their understated statements, I haven’t had much luck with the large flowered varieties so have to be satisfied with the more subtle charms of Clematis x durandii, integrifolia and the viticellas — ‘Etoile Violette’, ‘Aotearoa’ and a lovely dusky pink seedling from the Plantsman.

Clematis x durandii and Clematis integrifolia

Clematis x durandii and Clematis integrifolia

The thrill for this season is to have not one but two Cardiocrinum giganticums flowering,  wow, bestowed on me by you know who,  and who would have loved to see them flowering. I’m nonplussed that one managed to put up a six foot stem as thick my wrist crowned with scented lily-like flowers while its bulb nestles in a six inch deep polystyrene box.  So much for a massive and  carefully prepared planting hole as normally recommended. Of course the recommended practice possibly produces three metre stems crowned with twenty or so blooms.

Cardiocrinum giganteum

Cardiocrinum giganteum

Roses are still sputtering along, the mass of spring blooms came and went quickly and now when I look out over the garden from the upper deck there is a better balance between green foliage and bloom colour.The Katherine Morley ring-in produced a couple of beautifully shaped blooms,  still not the correct pretty mid pink shading through paler pink,  but a vast improvement on last year’s muddled effort nonetheless. Now it would be good to see some leafy growth above twelve inches.  Both moyesiis, R.x highdownensis, and Fred Streeter, are doing well and will probably become considerable thorny nuisances,  their flowers are delightful little deep pink discs and I’ve great hopes for a bountiful crop of hips this year. Rosa Nuits de Young was purchased from Glenbrook a few years ago and heeled in in the vegetable garden while I pondered her eventual home. Since then of course she has walked all over the vegetable garden, popping up beside the kale and tomatoes and becoming entangled with the Scarlet runners. One layer has been replanted to beautify the trunk of a struggling apple tree and I must harden my heart and take to the rest with Roundup. Many years ago in another garden I grew a layer of Rosa spinosissima that was  taken from my aunt’s wonderful old garden. Recently a cutting from a plant that I had passed on was returned to me — give and thou shalt receiveth it back when you’ve lost it!

Rosa spinosissima and Rosa 'Nuits de Young'

Rosa spinosissima and Rosa ‘Nuits de Young’

I’ve had to admit to myself that Knautia arvensis has been too  marvellously successful and outgrown its space, flowering madly and leaning over the struggling Iris pallida.  However it too holds a memory, that of walking through a meadow of tall plants on Kedross Plain in Crete,  searching for Iris unguicularis ssp. cretica, Tulipa doerfleri and Fritillaria messanensis.…. so it will remain.

Beautiful little martagons are leading the lily season, most of mine are either pure white or a rather uninspired paleish pink, but I was thrilled to find the red spotted fellow below lurking behind the shed.

Liliums. Red spotted martagon and grayii

Liliums. Red spotted martagon and grayii

Isophysis tasmanica produced a single lovely flower this year, such a simple elegant bloom but it’s struggling with life  in a pot so far from the high slopes of Mount Eliza.

Isophysis tasmanica

Isophysis tasmanica

Hole? me? no, definitely the giant bandicoot

Hole? me? never! must be the giant bandicoot

 

and the last word from the Spotted dog

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More rain! and spring is galloping by

Every moment snatched for the garden is spent grubbing out squillions of weeds, and my heavy soil  clutches firmly to their  roots so that most of the time weeding  involves removing the top layer of soil. it’s particularly troublesome where I’ve introduced not-yet-properly-composted compost that has formed a firm little crust on the soil surface. This crust clings determinedly to the plant being unceremoniously yanked out — definitely time for some more careful Rounding up.

The hybrid tree peonies are starting to open their enormously fat buds. My tree peonies (apart from a purchased Rockii that sadly never emerged from hibernation) have all arrived as layerings from another garden. Somehow I’ve managed to gather 5  variously sized plants of P ‘Vesuvium’, a gorgeous darky black-red double  with rich yolk yellow anthers, really lovely but five is 3 too many. I have two double yellows that seem to be happy,  they’re very similar but i’ll check more closely this year for subtle differences, maybe P. ‘Age of Gold’

peonies

My favourite is Marchioness, a happy fusion of a soft primrose base with apricot staining flaring  out from the cluster of red tipped stamens ams pinky toned petal edges.  Sadly she doesn’t seem to care for me, despite doses of composted manure and occasional drenching with  fungicide she  struggled this year to produce three blooms. I look hopefully for a little layerings to start a new plant but nothing so far.

Roses are opening,  I know they’ve been in full bloom for ages in warmer gardens where they don’t receive regular bouts of freezing air from the mountain, however my roses leave the mid spring display to the peonies and rhodos. R. Sparrieshoop  is the first to start  waving simple mid pink  blooms about (waving far too  much with the recent wind! ) and R. Archiduc Joseph is quick to  follow with his softly quartered blooms. He would offer flowers earlier but being located at the creek end of the garden places him in the path of hungry possums who feast  on the early leaves and buds. This plant originated as a cutting of a particularly strong clone in a previous garden.  Not my favourite colour,  love the soft creamy coral blush in the centre but not so keen on the  strong crimson toned cerise outer petals that,  typically for a tea, deepen with age . That deep brick/cerise  crimson can be a difficult colour to mix with rosier and lilac toned pinks but the whole effect works beautifully with Rosa mutabilis (currently languishing in the vegetable garden while i get around to digging  a hole)  actually I’m not going to mix them in this garden,  no space near the Archiduc and i have plans to plant the airy mutablis in front of the lower deck. Should be nice to look at the garden through her.

A welcome return this year is the variegated honesty, Lunaria annua ‘Alba Variegata’ .  The seed was sent to me after i admired it at Wychwood when the Plantsman and I visited several years ago and although it came up well the first season it has dwindled ever since, possibly out-thugged by Forget-me-nots. However this year a variegated white flowered plant popped  up, I’ll be careful to collect seed again.  Wychwood has been sold after a fair while on the market, I do wish we had managed to make another trip there in the last couple of years

Cistus

CistuThe

The last of the species peonies to flower, Paeonia emodi, is building up to its big moment. There is so much to love about this plant, gorgeous fingered foliage that starts with spring bronze and finishes with soft autumn yellow, and soon we’ll  see the high point of deliciously carefree white blooms

Paeonia emodi buds

Paeonia emodi buds

Three Pacific Coast irises came my way after I admired them in a particularly special Dandenong garden. Two have thrived but  the third was badly placed under a robust photinia, moving it to a better position was one of those jobs frequently remembered when walking past then promptly forgotten.  Now the Photinia robusta itself has  been removed the third little iris has discovered a new zest for life

Another completely different little  iris with  its delicately textured petals and classic shape, Iris reichenbachii

Iris reichenbachii

Iris reichenbachii

Amsonia tabernaemontana was purchased years ago from Raithbys because it sounded interesting,  I’d never seen this plant in my gardening travels. At the time both Amsonia tabernaemontana and the more feathery Amsonia hubrechtii were available and I’ve often wished I’d bought one of each. It was a tiny plant initially and being fully winter dormant i watched anxiously each spring for the first few stems to come through. The first year that it produced those lovely delicate sky  blue flowers was a major cause for celebration. Beside it is the pink oriental poppy,  Raspberry Queen (another utterly uninspired  name) from Lambley, it’s actually rather a gorgeous rich watermelon pink, I gaze adoringly…

Amsonia tabernaemontana and oriental poppy

Amsonia tabernaemontana and oriental poppy

Lovely little cistus with  tissue paper crumpled petals from the Plantsman, I found the tag hidden under its skirts, Cistus parviflorus from seed sourced from Ikaria, possibly my favourite Greek island (of those I have visited, there may be a new favourite down the track)

A big cistus, Cistus ladanifer v. petiolaris ‘Bennetts white’ with its huge white saucers, stunning when in flower but rather average for the rest of the year

And still more white,  one of my favourite shrubs with its outstretched arms balancing filigree white saucers. unlike Bennetts cistus the Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ offers elegant shape, autumn colour and berries,  although I have to admit the berries aren’t really up to much.  The location of  this shrub,  jammed into  an unattractive corner recently laid bare by the removal of an unattractive acacia,  is unfortunate. It was purchased and planted very early on before I had any idea what shape the garden would take, therefore everything was planted close to the fence.  Note the Paeonia daurica subsp. macrophylla in the foreground, it has flowered but brieflySadly, eventually Mariesii will be shaded out by the gingko.

Spring would not be complete without the last fabulous blossom hurrah from Malus ionensis, the scent is lovely, it hums with bees and last year it produced a huge crop of large green spherical crabapples.

Malus ionensis

Malus ionensis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the last word from the bat-wing Spotted dog

No really, I'm perfectly comfortable thank you

No really, I’m perfectly comfortable, thank you

 

 

 

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Ark overloaded

The garden ark is increasingly showing signs of  plant overload, the gorgeously profligate growth of spring revealing both new treasures and armies of weeds every day. In my damp nook under the mountain it is is a little too damp, between regular showers from the mountain,  indispersed with bouts of steady rain, occasional gale force winds and water runoff from the hillside above, it’s very very wet.
Sadly lost one foolish planting in the Kentish cherry bordert that was waterlogged most of winter. It was a seedling from a scabiosa like plant  (I’ve forgotten its name but will follow up!) we had collected in the Peloponnese in 2010. Luckily the mother plant, a  big generous bushy dome baking in the warm dry heat by the lower deck, still looks healthy as it continually produces charming lilac blue scabious flowers.  Surprisingly, both the sparkling blue grass Helictotrichon  and Salvia dolomitica planted beside the ‘recently departed’ have survived the water logging. I’m very fond of this grass, nice clean blue blades,  handsome tall flowering stems, and very amenable to division but doesn’t show any sign of seeding itself all over the place.
The ‘Golden twig’ ash is passing from its spun gold stage to a soft limey green while the gledistia has barely woken up, the lacy leaves of the small Japanese maples  are opening, my favourite coral bark maple that has gleamed Chinese red stems for me all winter is sporting its soft bright leaves, the pears and the quince have finished flowering (very hopeful of a fully developed quince this year, although the rain and wind may have limited pollination)

Paeonia mascula ssp hellenica

Paeonia mascula ssp hellenica

Peonies are still flowering, the species peonies have been glorious, and I’ve realised that Paeonia ludlowii has a satisfyingly long season from first fatty buds in September to the last butter yellow blooms almost hidden by the new leaves now. Later beige-streaked-red  seed pods shaped like little cornish pasties  will hang down, providing another source of visual pleasure.

One of my favourites belowPaeonia cambessedesii. A little beauty with wonderful pewter leaves that form a perfect foil against the pink blooms

Paeonia cambedessii

Paeonia cambessidessii

And a new treat, this delightful little dwarf bearded iris, another one from the Plantsman, I think it’s  ‘Blue stitch

iris-blue-stitch-1

Spanish bluebells have been a pool of blue in the front, and do look lovely.  However they are toughing their way across more precious plants and the big juicy leaves simply don’t die back as subtly as one would like. It’s time to dig them out and move them to an obscure and difficult spot elsewhere, maybe outside the fence. Of course babies are always left behind to fight another day.

See below the wonderful new purple stems of Iris x robusta ‘Dark Aura’, they will fade as the growth ages but then come the elegant flowers. See also the Forget-me-not (no chance of that!)  and Nigella damascena seedlings with which  I constantly do battle.  I love the Nigella, but the other has become a curse.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Iris Dark Aura

Dicentra have spread their ferny silvery carpet across their allotted bed, happily stifling the three new K&D white azaleas as they go. The azaleas are looking rather lovely with their generous white flowers so I’ll encourage them with some TLC.

Each spring I renew my rather late-in-life love affair with rhododendrons, not all rhododendrons mind, not those with screeching puce,washy mauve or flagrant coral colouring, or weird splotchy speckled throats (yes Sappho, I’m looking at you) ,  but the cool yellow Saffron queen,  exquisite little Blue diamond,  rich red Babiani, (grown for that reassuring lift of rich colour in late winter) Kallista with huge fragrant trumpets like creamy matte satin, and most of all the gorgeous scented Princess Alice

Rhododendron 'Kallista'

Rhododendron ‘Kallista’

Rhododendron 'Bibiani'

Rhododendron ‘Bibiani’

I’ve been really pleased, and surprised, to see the lime green nicotianas survive winter and bushing up again, I’ve already picked flowers from the most advanced plant. I had assumed they were annuals and the frosts would see them out.

And as usual, the last word from the Spotted Dog himself

I'm waiting for my walk, and I'm not letting you out of my sight

I’m waiting for my walk, and I’m not letting you out of my sight

 

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