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.
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:This big clump of miscanthus will be moved in April when it warms up a bit – after 3 years it has outgrown its position. This 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!Very 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.Enough time for a quick springwatch walk to check on progress. Unfortunately no residents in the Snakesbury quack house yet..Really 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.
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.The last of the medlars, bletted, now frozen, soon to return to earth.The long borders are being shaped by the frost.Leonotis seedbeds will persist through the harshest winter weather.Gunnera is not nearly as resilient.The 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..
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.Agastache and Deschampsia; great companions.Blues and silvers of Catananche caerulea.Golden RudbeckiaThe giant oat grass Stipa gigantiaSteel blues of sea holly Eringium aplinumAnd in the white border some white Echinacea purpurea
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.
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.
Eremerus, the foxtail lilly – specialist in catching all of the sun.
Giant oat grass, agastache and gaura have taken over in this wild bed.
Berberis emerges from a mist of stipa.
A long view of the grasses bed with the stables in the background.
Colours: clash or compliment.
Catching as much sun as possible.
The field grass is starting to turn gold.
Long shadows in the evening light.
Morello cherries: delicious sourness.
More raspberries than we can eat. Summertime; blissful abundance.
May has been an excellent gardening month – mostly warm, sunny days with some decent bits of rain at night. Perfection. Nighttime temperatures had been low, but this changed over the last week. The plants responded with rampant growth and flowers. The dominant colour is now blue – oh and red, orange, purple, green, yellow..hmm.
Bulb activity is continuing through into the summer with gladiolus, iris and alliums.
Grasses are really starting to come into their own now.
The wall-trained cotoneaster is looking wonderful in flower – we will need somebody to come and prune it soon.
We are enjoying the view that was revealed by removing the massive bay tree, killed by the winter cold. Thank you Kate; you speak excellent chainsaw.
Somebody said there was a garden show on somewhere, I think I will give that a miss and hang out here instead.
The many stages of border preparation are now complete. Previous stages, also complete, included:
removing perennial and then annual weeds
moving things around (a bit)
mulching (a bit)
looking (a lot)
Final stage done today was edging. This involves a very long piece of string and some canes, a sharp edging tool and a Jamaican hoe (at least that’s what Bernadette at our old allotment used to call it). I’m not too good with straight lines but the end result seems OK.
The sun came out in the afternoon and it really felt like spring. At last.
Stage two involves pulling out weeds, an essential but not massively joyful activity. Last year this took over a week, this year one (entire) day. I put this down to mulch – but also to earliness of the year; many weeds have not emerged yet. There were, however, many very huge nettles with roots that extended for metres in all directions. Quite satisfying to pull them out, even if it is with the realisation that you never quite get every last bit. The plants left behind seem to like having a little more room to spread out.
Now the borders have been cleared I’m a bit nervous about the impact this weekend’s (forecasted) mini ice-age might have. Apparently we are due snow and minus 3 degrees for the next few days. Hopefully the border perennials will tough it out but I will move all the seedlings back into the house for the weekend.
Springwatch update: there’s blossom on the red plum at the top of the field – a reliable sign that spring is here, even if we do have a wintery weekend.