Winter work

The break between old year and next year is a perfect time to catch up on structural work like moving trees and shrubs, pruning and creating new beds. A great time to do lots of looking too – observing the structure of deciduous plants and working out planting schemes. I have been making full use of the short days which pass so quickly – up and out by 7am, before sunrise and back in after 4. Mornings are often soft with mist, dampness catches in bare branches and drips down in slow rain.

The biggest task has been moving 8 tons of mulch into new beds. This is done one wheelbarrow at a time – whilst fantasising about tractors.

Winter has worn down most of the grasses but the miscanthus is still looking strong.


These really come alive with the light, especially during the early sunsets.



More tree planting in the field – this time scots pine, holly and picea. ¬†Although these young trees are snug in their tree guards I can’t help worrying about how exposed they are in the field. Winter gales with ice and snow? Maybe we won’t get them this year. Maybe that’s something for the next decade.


Frost and Fungi

First frost this morning, beautiful crisp, cold and clear. Yesterday we moved the less hardy plants into shelter – just in time. Sun melts the frost as it rises leaving pockets of icy shade. Dripping leaves and crunchy grass.


Leaves that remain have reached maximum intensity before the fall.


Fungi are everywhere, appearing overnight in perfect damp conditions. Some look quite tasty; I don’t trust the identification skills to knock up a meal though.

Some cyclamen in full flower before they are covered in fallen leaves.


Inside, the schlumbergera is in flower. It’s a little early for Christmas.





Leaves sticking to feet in the wet morning dew. Mist. A dramatic splurge of colour. Shorter days. Cooler nights. The scream of an owl through the dark. Autumn.

Berries, a gorge-fest for birds.

Some autumn leaves

There’s another 164 new trees in the field this year. So far. Not that you’d notice.

Some late autumn colour – asters, thithonia, acideanthera, liriope

Grasses are looking great. There’s a lot more of these on their way..

Remains of previous flowerings


Some phenomenal growth rates in the birches and this cedar

After spring, this is my favourite time of year.


June is a distant happy memory of lochs and trees. Back at Snakesbury there was some rain, more than usual in fact, and we are all appreciative. An experiment with leaving large areas of lawn uncut this year with paths mown through. I think it really works.

I especially like the way the trees rise up through the grass. The pheasants have also liked it – this year there’s a couple although unfortunately the big family with 12 chicks is now down to 3 gangly teens who have learned that the brassicas in the walled garden are very tasty. I don’t really mind, they’re good to have around.

The long borders are unruly at this time of year. I’m thinking that bigger blocks of colour are the way to go; smaller specimens tend to get lost. Its a learning process.

The dieramas have been perfect this year – they’re really coming into their own now.


The shrub borders are also really coming into their own now – I think that the bark paths have really been success. So do the pheasants – they love scratching around in the bark for treats.

Grasses are looking good now, just starting to flower. I’m interested to see many butterflies attracted to them – never seen this before.

And of course the buddleja ‘black knight’ is a butterfly magnet.


I’m enjoying the massed planting – and at times I wonder where all these plants have come from.

Mixed success with fruit this year – amazing apricots (over 3kg) and soft fruit. Good morello cherries but the others have been less abundant than in previous years. Some good pears, not many apples at all. Anyway, the apricots..


Iris of May

I’ve realised that iris are my latest obsession – and what’s not to be obsessed with; hardy architectural leaves and the widest array of wonderful flowers. Here are some of the May irises.

I only recently realised that some of the bearded irises are scented – in some cases quite strongly scented. Not quite sure how I missed that before but always good to discover new things.

Alliums have started flowering too – the tallest ones seem to come first; I have purple and white.

The white bed is starting to look, well, white. It’s actually turned into a white/foliage bed with rodgersia, physocarpus and bronze-leaved penstemon.

Cotoneaster hedges on the patio are covered in blossom – and bees. They will need a prune soon, nudge nudge..


May is flowering time and I’m very relieved to observe that there’s no shortage of bees so far this year.

The oriental poppies are better than ever. May is just amazing.



Cool nights and quite dry weather have resulted in an extended spring. Even though it was really warm and sunny today there’s a cold wind and forecast of 4 degrees tonight. Wonderful soaking rain a few days ago, thanks be. It is the year of the forget me not, scattered blue looking very considered and deliberate.


May is the time of viburnums and euphorbia.

The pines are sending out long candles of new growth.

After the recent rain it is genuinely possible to watch the perennials grow – if you have the patience..


Empty patches of soil have been filled with plant life and if you look away for too long weeds are trying to join in.

The shrub garden is really starting to take off; I’ve already started moving some of the larger ones out to the field.

And in the field the rabbits are hungry, digging around for new grass shoots – or is it just to drive me crazy. The hedgerow is looking very good, and we have starting talking about it needing its first trim later in the year.


Spring flowers bringing me to a standstill: the amazing dodacatheon ‘shooting stars’


The start of some wonderful irises, these Dutch Iris are ‘Alaska’


But the stars performers of May are these bearded Iris, Iris germanica ‘Nick’.




Spring at last

Even if there’s a really cold wind when the sun is out it finally feels like spring. And everyone in the garden thinks so too. Here’s many pics of what’s happening.

Exciting news is that I got given a greenhouse by our generous neighbours. I plan a reshuffle in which one of the existing greenhouses will turn into an alpine house. Alpines are at their best in spring.

The epimediums are looking really good too.

Erythronium dens canis the dog’s tooth violet; their best angle is wherever you’re standing.

Euphorbias are really showy at this time of year – some of my favourite plants.

Many bulbs flowering now – here’s a few of them.

The great cherry blossoming has begun – slowly with the fruiting cherries and spectacularly with the flowering ones.

Crab apple flowers are opening as the day progresses.

Amelanchier, acer and horse chestnut with new spring foliage.

Corylopsis has been really amazing this year – perhaps after the relatively mild winter.IMG_1335

I’ve cut back some of the stipa as an experiment – it was starting to lie down with the prevailing wind so hopefully this will encourage it on.IMG_1120

And this weekend I finished off preparing the long borders; year four and looking good.IMG_1342