As you may already know earlier this year I left behind my Norfolk home and garden of 12 years and moved south to Suffolk. In actual fact it is a return to Suffolk after 21 years away, but, as yet, I am still in temporary accommodation and it’s a flat with no garden.
As suggested by fellow bloggers I’ve been out and about stealing from other people’s gardens, local parks and even from the shoreline on the Shotley Peninsula. No, not digging up precious specimens in the dead of night, but stealing shots of all the different blooms I’ve spotted on my wanderings. Braving the salty breeze, along with the naturally adapted sea kale (above), I found these petunias and osteospermums surviving at the bottom of a local garden close to the estuary shore.
It has been good for me as I’ve had to identify all kinds of plants that have been new to me rather than just relying on the old favourites. The flora in the local park has moved on from the early to the late flowering plants with this sweep full of bee favourites.
The bees have introduced me to new wildflowers such as the Devil’s Bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) as well as reminding me that some standard garden shrubs, for example this purple hebe, are also a good source of nectar.
The drifts of perennial and annual flowers were truly buzzing in the September sunshine.
Well, before all the rain and unseasonal drops in temperature, it was that time of year where many gardens across the towns and villages of East Suffolk had plenty of flowering plants in their grounds and many front gardens were adorned by the splendid hollyhock.
You couldn’t miss cottage gardens decorated with these colourful beauties, often self-seeded, thriving in the local free-draining soil. This very blousy, double pink hollyhock was attracting plenty of busy bees in the sun between the recent showers. And, then the torrential downpours arrived bringing hard times for both bees and butterflies. Apparently, the jet stream is in the wrong place again!!
Think of a traditional civic park in the UK and regularly mown grass criss-crossed with paths and dotted with formal bedding schemes springs to mind. A vision surviving from our community minded forebears, the Victorians.
But in the 21st century planted civic spaces in many towns have moved away from this formal interpretation. Perhaps this is partly due to the labour intensive nature of seasonal bedding schemes and therefore the greater expense.
Torilis japonica – upright hedge-parsley
Chichorium intybus – chicory
Dipsacus fullonum – wild teasel
Nowadays we find hole areas of parks have become very informal with a move to include the introduction of more natural, conservation areas. Plants are being chosen to support the indigenous wildlife and there’s even a hint of re-wilding some areas and a hands off approach to weeding.
Of course, look closely and there is a fine balance between allowing nature to flourish yet not become entirely overrun with the more thuggish weeds. Weed or not, the bees are only too pleased for the odd flowering thistle and the butterflies such as Painted Ladies, Commas, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals all love a healthy patch of nettles. (Sadly, when I was in the park I only spotted a couple of Commas, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly good year for butterflies, possibly due to the recent heavy downpours.)
It isn’t just the annual and biennial wild flowers that are important for bees, as in the autumn, when there are fewer blooms around, ivy flowers provide a very important source of nectar. And, this is where the large, venerable park trees supporting their heavy old cloaks of ivy are so important as only established, mature (arborescent) ivy flowers.
So far it’s four months since I packed up my home and said good-bye to the flower garden and I am most definitely missing some summer floral interaction! These photos were taken in the local park, Holywells Park, a five minute walk from my temporary home.It isn’t a huge park, but it is a most welcome sanctuary of green only five minutes from the very busy Ipswich Waterfront and less than a 20 minute walk from the city centre.
The park is spread across 67 acres and features a variety of wildlife habitats including ponds, woodland and meadow areas as well as more than enough space for humans to walk their dogs.
Plenty of lavender to attract the bees.
Terraced area between the clock tower and conservatory where the old house would have been.
For a gardenless person like me, there are also more formal plantings. Borders full of flowers, mostly lavender and alchemilla mollis, that soften the edges of the terraces between the old buildings. We have had some hot weather during the last month and only a couple days of any rain, and I think that the phlox has bolted and is running to seed, but it is still providing plenty of food for the bees.
Nettles invaluable to wildlife, especially butterflies, left amongst the flowers.
From the walled garden and terraces out to the park.
It was a very pleasant space to spend a quiet half hour during the early morning and I couldn’t believe the noise and pollution that hit me as soon as I ventured back out into the morning rush hour! At least these beautiful lilies bring the scent of a summer garden into the flat.
Irises are a great favourite not least with some of the world’s most famous artists. Vincent van Gogh painted several ‘Iris’ pictures depicting clumps of bearded irises.
Then, of course, there was Monet’s garden where irises had been planted en masse.
And, it’s not just Western artists that have been inspired by the iris. The iris’s complex, sculptural form has been exquisitely represented in Japanese Edo Period woodblock images.
I recently cleared all my father’s tulip display and noticed the irises were just about to bloom, unfortunately he couldn’t see them from the house. It feels sacrilegious to cut them in their prime, but better to appreciate them fleetingly indoors than not at all.
If bearded irises are cut with full buds they will then open over two or three days.
And, I thought these particular colours as well as the irises’ luscious form combined well to make a design that I could possibly develop further sometime in the future for some silk scarves.
Or perhaps this less muted more fresh combination.
For the first time in 22 years I am not spending spring weekends both coaxing and at the same time taming a garden from its winter state. It is a strange sensation to be without even a windowsill of outdoor plant space. Dare I say it, for the moment it makes me feel rootless!
Here is my old garden last year on the 26th April 2016 . . .
And, here is my last photo of the garden taken on 27 February 2017 before the pots were loaded onto the lorry.
So it is thank goodness for the odd bunch of seasonal flowers.
For me certain colour combinations are simply crying out to be tweaked and developed into some form of textile work . . .
Here, above and below, are a couple of ways I have manipulated the images to emphasise the colours and the shapes in preparation for possibly a silk scarf or a hand hooked cushion cover.
After working on these photos saving some and deleting others, I pondered my gardenless state. Reminiscing I scrolled back through hundreds of old photos featuring the gone garden when I came upon this strange picture. If you were wondering just how odd some people can get here’s proof. No, it wasn’t April Fool’s Day either when I concocted this visual yarn!
My favourite Iris reticulata cultivar is ‘Katharine Hodgkin’. Strictly speaking I. reticulata are late-winter bloomers brightening up the February gloom, but my bulbs often don’t flower until well into March. This cultivar is a hybrid between I.winogradowii and I.histrioides and, provided with free draining soil and some sunshine, flowers well. The above bulbs are in a pot. They were mistakenly dug up last autumn from beneath a weeping pear. They were then unceremoniously and temporarily shoved into an empty pot and forgotten until I found them blooming earlier this month. It appears benign neglect hasn’t been detrimental.
We’ve had a week of on and off sunshine here in Norfolk and most of the cherry trees are just about coming into bloom. However, even in more sheltered gardens the double blossoms are still only fat, about-to-burst buds. Sadly, the forty-year-old cherry tree in my father’s garden has died after a combination of old age and over vigorous pruning, but the Magnolia soulangeana lives to bloom for another spring.
Magnolia soulangeana is a flowering tree. It is often planted as a feature tree as I think this one was. It was originally surrounded by lawn, but rebuilding of the house and the introduction of a terrace has resulted in it now growing up against the terrace wall. Its moment of glory is fleeting, but as it’s so early in the horticultural year it is most welcome after the grey, grey winter.
It has plenty of blooms which can now be easily appreciated from standing on the terrace and looking down into the tree – a new and unexpected perspective.
Over several winter weekends I emptied all my pots in preparation for moving house.
I did take a few photos of the winter garden just before it was partially deconstructed.
It was hard, awkward work emptying the big pots and the biggest two pots with fifteen-year-old clipped yews had to be left. I couldn’t even budge them and I couldn’t bear to cut the yews to pieces. It all ended up making me feel like . . . . .
Still, an overflowing tub of grape hyacinths is an uplifting sight,
It is October, but the dahlias just keep on blooming. Some flowers are a little windblown and tatty, and the big blooms of dahlia ‘Crazy Love’ have been nibbled by earwigs, but they are still worth cutting and bringing indoors to cheer up a gloomy week.This is the second week of October and that’s three small fresh flower arrangements with no heated greenhouse or air miles involved. Flowers grown with the addition of homemade garden compost and watered with recycled bath water. I am rather pleased about that although it has been a battle with the slugs this year.
And, as I cleared away last week’s dying flowers I thought they still had a charm and grace in their faded condition worth photographing and perhaps using as the starting point for a scarf or two.
Finally, even the zingy lemony yellow dahlia (a potluck purchase as an unidentified tuber) has earned its keep as I have realised it’s acceptable in a blue and white vase on the kitchen window sill.
August in the garden, even when not hot and sunny, has a very different palette to the pastels seen at the beginning of summer.
I used to have a bed filled with bright pink echinaceas and hot orange rudbeckias, but these prairie lovers have been squeezed out as my garden has matured.
I miss my prairie, high summer bed which is now in the shade of a Bramley apple tree. It really is a bit too gloomy, but I have strategically placed large pots of dahlias to give it a lift.
Another part of my garden that has changed significantly is under the pergola. This area is now in fairly deep shade cast by the wisteria and a vigorous grape vine. However, towards the south-facing edge a blue hydrangea and some lily pots have just enough light to bloom, but they most definitely require regular watering.
I do love the scent of lilies, but in the end, on a dull August day, the vibrant, visual zing of a bunch of dahlias jolts me into remembering it is high summer after all.
Gardening is all about the turning of the seasons. Clear, bright spring changing to warm and sunny summer, but sometimes the seasons simply won’t play the game. Apparently, this ghastly, unseasonably heavy June rain is down to the jet stream. That is the jet stream is not normally directly above the UK at this time of year, but HERE IT IS.
We see it whipping round the world at over 100 miles per hour somewhere in the region of eight miles plus above the planet’s surface. It affects the UK by deepening the depressions heading our way from the Atlantic and that means more rain.
Rosa Alister Stella Gray (1894)
Rosa Francis E Lester (1946)
Rosa Narrow Water (1883)
All this rain has caught most of my roses at precisely the wrong moment. Of the old fashioned roses the small cluster and single roses are coping a little better than their more blousy, fully quartered cousins.
Rosa Comte de Chambord (1860)
Rosa Madam Isaac Pereire (1881)
Luckily, I do have a few climbers threaded through large shrubs which have offered some blooms protection from the hail and heavy rain we had last week.
Rosa Bleu Magenta (1900)
Rosa Gloire de Dijon (1853)
It’s been a bit hit and miss with a couple of my more modern roses depending on how exposed the flowers have been more than anything.
Rosa St Swithun (1993)
Rosa Awakening (1990)
Even my favourite soft, papery single rose Anemone Rose has been disappointing.
Rosa Anemone Rose (1895)
Rosa Souvenir du Docteur Jamain (1865)
Rosa Queen Elizabeth (1954)
So, looking on the bright side we have some survivors and a weekend of deadheading!
Rosa Ferdinand Pichard (1921)
Rosa Debutante (1902) Small regrowth after a total collapse a couple of years ago so glad I never got round to digging it out!!
This year’s favourite is a ‘summer only’ display and will be in full flower in July, but here’s a peak at a random early bloom of François Juranville (1906).