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..

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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.

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May

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.

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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..

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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.

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

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

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

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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

February

Cold for a few weeks now – down as low as -6 degrees in the polytunnel. A big fall of snow just up the road but nothing here apart from thick frost that persists all day in the shady parts of the garden. Today the sun shone, and although it only reached 4 degrees somehow if felt like a transition to something a little warmer.

IMG_1235 (1)White lines of birch against a blue February sky.

Earlier than last year, I decided that today would be stage one of the long borders preparation. This involves cutting down all the skeletal remains of last year’s growth. They’ve been looking great all winter – but in the bright light of a February morning they were starting to look a little tired. Here’s a before shot:IMG_1236This big clump of miscanthus will be moved in April when it warms up a bit – after 3 years it has outgrown its position. IMG_1239This year I used my new Niwaki herbaceous sickle – a brilliant Japanese tool made for harvesting rice and perfect for cutting perennials. I’m pretty sure that the whole process took roughly half as long as previous years – and I don’t feel any RSI in my wrists from constant use of secateurs. Highly recommended!IMG_1243Very quickly both sides of the borders were done, and five trips to the compost heap with  the trolley completed the job. The sun can now reach the new growth for the first time. Next stage will be to clear between each plant, removing weeds and dead leaves, then applying a layer of mulch. That will have to wait for the next sunny weekend – although the days are getting longer it was already late afternoon by the time I finished.IMG_1254Enough time for a quick springwatch walk to check on progress. Unfortunately no residents in the Snakesbury quack house yet..IMG_1250Really cold in the old orchard along the edge of the field – the sun is too low in the sky to reach here until March. There’s a plum that has blossomed really early in previous years, but no sign of life from it yet. February.IMG_1251

 

 

Winter: now here

The first frost of the year; it seems like winter is here. On the plus side, annual weeds have flopped into mush. The last leaves are falling, revealing the underlying structure of trees. Days are short, the darkness longer every night. The best place is fireside. When morning comes the frosted garden is worth getting cold for. These sedums hold the frost well.IMG_1140The last of the medlars, bletted, now frozen, soon to return to earth.IMG_1138The long borders are being shaped by the frost.IMG_1154Leonotis seedbeds will persist through the harshest winter weather.IMG_1150Gunnera is not nearly as resilient.IMG_1163The weekend brought more rain which made for slightly warmer soil, so I planted some bareroot trees and shrubs: 10 each of guelder rose, wayfaring tree, bird cherry, hornbeam and spindle. That brings the total to 96 planted so far this season, with another 240 to go. The new woodland is starting to take shape..

July

A seemingly endless progression of sunny hot days – quite unusual: very dry and very warm. The flocks of house sparrows are up at dawn, later to sleep at 7:00pm precisely. After that the quiet is only broken by blackbirds, the occasional overhead flight or train, and the very distant sound of the A-road.

Photography light in July is best in the evenings when it sinks behind trees and lights up the borders from the side. These are Crocosmia and Persicaria.IMG_0902Agastache and Deschampsia; great companions.IMG_0851Blues and silvers of Catananche caerulea.IMG_0869Golden RudbeckiaIMG_0863The giant oat grass Stipa gigantiaIMG_0892Steel blues of sea holly Eringium aplinumIMG_0843And in the white border some white Echinacea purpurea IMG_0828

July is when the season starts to change, very slightly at first. Things like Asters and Japanese anemones start to appear – not flowering yet but soon. Berries, apples and pears are ripening, the few remaining cherries are a feast for wasps and brave birds. We are very happy to see the Indian Bean tree flowering more prolifically than ever.IMG_0868

Summer heat

This summer. Days of sun, we’ve had.  It cools down rapidly at night in this part of Kent, perhaps the proximity to the coast. Mornings are generally cool and cloudy until about 11 when the sun returns. Perfect growing weather – although I’m considering the merits of a shadehouse.

The dieramas have done very well this year. I forget that they’re there until the flowers emerge and I want more of them.

IMG_0777Eremerus, the foxtail lilly – specialist in catching all of the sun.

IMG_0796Giant oat grass, agastache and gaura have taken over in this wild bed.

IMG_0792Berberis emerges from a mist of stipa.

IMG_0798A long view of the grasses bed with the stables in the background.

IMG_0769Colours: clash or compliment.

IMG_0816Catching as much sun as possible.

IMG_0812The field grass is starting to turn gold.

IMG_0805Long shadows in the evening light.

IMG_0755Morello cherries: delicious sourness.

IMG_4220More raspberries than we can eat.  Summertime; blissful abundance.