Sunday, 28 February 2016

Midsummer memories on Love My Dress Blog

Happy reminders that we do have lots of utterly beautiful flowers - at this time of year floral abundance is less obvious!

Many stunning pictures on:

Friday, 19 February 2016

Weeding weather

Winter 2015/16 has gone on too long. I believe we have had about 5 days in three months when it hasn’t rained or blown a gale. My gardens are at sea level on heavy Dorset clay, so there is nowhere for the water to drain and it sits, and sits, and sits. Usually I have been able to work the beds and get them ready during the winter for spring sowing, or at least to mulch the perennial areas. This year even mulching has been difficult as the wheelbarrows sink into the grass leaving muddy ruts, and collecting the composts has been tricky for a ratphobic as even the rotted leafmould heaps are full of rodents who have been using them for warm and dry bed and breakfast accommodation. The little devils have also taken up residence in the raised and covered ranunculus beds, enjoying the crumbly soil and warm dry plastic roofing.

I know it will all come right, things will eventually dry out because they have to, seeds will eventually get into the ground to sprout grow and bloom, and it is not worry about that that makes me gloomy, but the lack of opportunity to get out there and weed. I love weeding, for me it might even be the most satisfying bit of gardening – which probably sounds bizarre when I consider the thousands of beautiful flowers I grow, the bountiful harvests of home grown blooms, the scents, colours, textures, shapes…. I only get to know the flowers through weeding, only by working among them can I see what’s going on, check their health, their state of growth, see what unexpected treasures are springing up among those that are eagerly anticipated.

I weed most beds on hands and knees, bum up and head down. I may approach a weedy patch reluctantly but within minutes I am right in there, enjoying the challenge of teasing out the miscreants and freeing the wanted plants from the greedy little interlopers. There is such satisfaction in managing to winkle out some little buttercups from a just shooting astrantia without damaging any of the new growth, or from a patch of Trollius or Maids of Kent. I almost feel joy when I successfully unearth trails of couchgrass from where they are happily disguised in patches of small iris or tiny blue flowered Sisyrinchium. I become obsessive about couch, carefully trying to trace each length back to its roots, and I admit that I lay out particularly long lengths and have been known to measure them – my record still standing at over 17 feet from my previous garden! I obviously fail to clear it in some areas as every year considerable time is spent carefully removing lengths from large clumps of pinks, with a necessarily delicate touch and a very sharp pointed copper trowel.

That is another point of obsession, the right tool for the job. For handwork I will only use the copper trowel, it fits my hand perfectly, is balanced just right, and the blade is sharp if you need it to be and slices through ground with ease in any condition. It will also slice through fingers when weeding too quickly in well crumbled soil but apart from that caveat it is the perfect tool. I also have a hand fork from the same stable, and a scratcher, but in practice I all but never use them and weeding is all about me and my trowel. And my waterproof trousers, the other essential – I don’t choose good thick padded trousers but keep several pairs of thinner ones that are easily hosed down then hurled into the washing machine and dry in no time. I think I’ve had two pairs for at least eight years and they are still hole free.

I’ve tried all manner of kneeling pads, those attached to the knee and freeform, but I find them universally annoying and would rather have dirty knees or trousers in summer, or go for waterproofs at other times.

In one of the annual beds the first job of the year is always removing seedlings of a decorative little grass called Frosted Explosion. Its seedheads are delicate ephemeral fluffy wands that add a summer fairy’s touch to bridal bouquets, but the name gives it away, if not picked in time these seed heads disperse in an explosive way to colonise whatever ground they land upon. Why oh why don’t all the annuals that I want to self seed enjoy the same productive habit? Quaking grass is another spreading weed in this garden, and I can spend hours happily attempting to remove all traces from a bed only to find more seedlings appearing a few weeks later. I don’t mind either of these grasses, and I do indeed use them, but they do try to colonise ground that really should be home to others.

Bindweed is less benign and refuses to disappear from some beds but it also presents a very satisfactory weeding experience, the challenge of detaching those tiny young shoots that so often start in the centre of established shrubs and perennials, the joy of unearthing a long multi-rooted length. It has taken me three years to get on top of bindweed, and I know there will be more this year. It doesn’t appear in the first flush but waits to take you by surprise when you think the bed is weed free, I shall be watching!

This winter there have been so few weeding days. Usually a good clear up means there shouldn’t be much to do over the winter but this year the rains came too early before all was cleared, and it has been so mild that growth has continued so there will be a huge amount of necessary weeding action once the weather does finally clear. The perennial field beds are filled with giant buttercups that need to come out and will take more serious attack than a trowel offers, but to come at them with a border fork will do no good to the soil where standing water scarcely disappears before the next downpour. Earlier this week beautiful frosts gave way to a couple of clear days but the wet ground was first frozen then cold cloddy and sticky, I could only manage a couple of hours otherwise I would have done more harm than good on ground that will turn into a hard crust when the rain stops.

Until the ground improves, I wait, but I am impatient now. After a long mild spell it has been colder this week so does not feel the right time to start sowing under cover. I sense a huge rush coming on in a few weeks, but somehow I have to bide my time till then, weeding must wait, and so must I.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Hosts of hellebores

One reason I hardly ever blog is because my broadband makes it bloody difficult. It can take around 25 minutes to get logged on, write something upload some photos, have the photos deleted for no reason, lose the text, lose everything....... 25 minutes is several bnarrows of compost or manure, a lot of weeding, or planting, or picking, or arranging, or mailing. 

I keep getting emails about superfast broadband coming my way one day. The look again and one day is by 2020. O.62 Mb speed is scarcely functionning.....

There was some text with this, but I can't take the time to do it again. But here are some pretty pics of some of the many hells in the garden, it refused to upload any more for some unknown reason... and a glimpse of the magnifcent magnolias, and some pretty little windflowers now carpeting the wild garden among the primroses and daffs.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

How long?

Note to self in November didn't seem to work. Hey ho. Current note in Into Gardens explains current love of the quiet of winter before the rush starts.

An advertisment for a part time wild floristry assistant has just garnered 42 replies. I don't know how to sort them all out as so many sound delightful.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

REQUEST PLEASE Photos of cut flower growing in 2014

Note to self. Must resurrect this blog now the main season is over and there is a little more time (in theory!) Three months since the last blog is not satisfactory...
Now I'm tapping the keyboard in the hope that some of you cut flower growers (experienced or complete beginners) may be interested in participating in a photo archive project.

I’m trying to collate photos to show what’s happening in cut flower growing in the Uk today. Please can you help.  If you’d like to.

I’m looking for photographs of the widest possible range of cut flower gardens/ small scale cut flower businesses which will show various approaches to cut flower growing – and the reality of the hard work and the mercurial weather.

Photos don’t have to be glamorous, I’m not looking for perfection, I’m not looking for photos of beautiful flower arrangements, just glimpses of different situations at different times of year. I’d really like to see some pictures of gardens at the down times as well as bursting with flowers. It would be great to see some gardens preparing for the season as well as in full swing. I feel that people will be just as interested to see the nuts and bolts (sowing, planting, weeding and more weeding) as much as the beautiful rewards. I would like to show different ways of cut flower gardening, on different types of sites, with different approaches.

There are two reasons for trying to collect varied images, one is for some online teaching about cut flower growing – I want to broaden this so although I'm the one with the mouth it's not just about me and my style but to show how there are many many ways to pursue cut flower growing, so everyone’s photos will be credited with your website details to provide a resource pointing to the current crop of UK growers . The other  reason is to try and get a picture of what’s going on in the cut flower growing world in 2014, partly because it would be interesting to get the broad picture, and partly because there’s a possibility of a collaborative ebook including features about different growers round the UK.

Photos need to be reasonable quality, but if you’d like to mail me some snaps first to take a look at that would be fantastic.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as you have a chance. Preferably sooner! THANK YOU!

Monday, 1 September 2014

August passes 2

....and judging by more August hanging decorations and garlands, things just keep getting wilder

August passes.....

Weddings, courses, bouquets, bunches, churches, tents, roses, even vegetables and another month in flower world has flown by.