Fading green – inspired by nature, again.

Cosmos-garden-bokehFading flowers and foliage in the autumn garden provide inspirational shapes and colour as the vibrant summer greens lose their intensity.

Eventually after a couple of hours in the steamer the dyes are fixed and the scarf can be modelled, photographed and uploaded to the shop.

The season’s bounty

GourdHarvest festival time in East Anglia and time to reflect on the successes and failures of this year’s fruit and veg gardening efforts. Usually I garden at the weekend and the occasional mid-summer weekday evening. I only have five raised beds and a few fruit trees, but coupled with working the flower garden, I don’t have enough time to do either justice. Still, we’ll ignore the low yields, bird-ravaged apples and pears, and instead celebrate the tomatoes and various cucurbita – courgettes, butternut squash and ornamental gourds.


Oh, I’d better come clean – I had a total failure with my butternut squash this year and so this beautiful gourd (above photo) was bought from a supermarket. It looked so tempting I couldn’t resist and it was very tasty roasted with butter.

Altogether I managed to save about a third of the pears from Blackbird attack!
Altogether I managed to save about a third of the pears from Blackbird attack!

Oh dear – we all make mistakes!

Morning-Glory-underneathBack towards the end of June I planted out some Morning Glory seedlings. I usually put a couple in with an early flowering clematis to take over the flowering from mid summer and a couple more that will thread up into the wisteria. However, this year I had the bright idea to add some to twine round my dark red and bright pink dahlias and so I pushed in a few seedlings next to the dahlia tubers.

The dreaded bindweed. Convolvulus arvensis (photographed in a country hedgerow not my garden!)
The dreaded bindweed.
Convolvulus arvensis
(photographed in a country hedgerow not my garden!)

Spin forwards a couple of months, Morning Glory beautiful, but what is this ghastly, strangling white monster that looks so much like Morning Glory – arggh it’s bindweed in with my dahlias, quick yank it out. Then, oh dear, looking closer, I remember my little Morning Glory seedlings, too late, now ripped up and crushed. Of course, both plants are members of the Convolvulaceae family. When I was in Italy, in a warmer climate, I noticed a blue flower version that was as much a weed as white bindweed is here in England. However, as the blue ipomoea dies with the first frosts here it’s a wanted blue flower that’s grown as an annual and not a rampaging, nuisance weed.

The wanted truly blue Morning Glory. Ipomoea nil
The wanted, truly blue, Morning Glory.
Ipomoea nil

Autumn Bliss

The-last-of-the-harvestNow the Victoria plums have finished with the last wasp-damaged remains rotting into the soil and the blackbirds have feasted on the grapes, there’s just the autumn raspberries left to harvest. This year I haven’t netted the raspberries, the bees have had easier access and the pollination rate has been better than usual. The weather has been gentle and I’ve had the best crop of Autumn Bliss in years. And, the strangest thing is despite the unprotected canes the birds have left them alone!

Victoria plums, Muscat bleu grapes and Autumn Bliss raspberries.
Victoria plums, Muscat bleu grapes and Autumn Bliss raspberries.

I survived the tail end of hurricane Bertha!

agapanthus bronze fennel
Survivor, but a little battered.
Agapanthus Headbourne hybrids and Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’
When old mother nature comes knocking at our door in the early hours of the morning what can we expect? I understand from the weather people that the UK has just been hit by a large, summer storm system that was the tail end of hurricane Bertha. Over the weekend there has been torrential rain and flooding and very strong winds.

In the garden the flowers have been bashed, half my raspberry canes are down and the runner beans have flopped over. But I am lucky I live at the top of a hill (yes there are few hills in Norfolk), and I feel very sorry for all the folks who have woken up to flooded houses. I hope the summer wind will dry out their rooms as fast as possible.

Meanwhile earlier this evening I set about saving the beans and spied this little beauty struggling on in less than ideal conditions.

monarda cerise pink bergamot
Monarda cerise pink.
Also known as bergamot or bee balm.

You can have too much pink!

Rosa-KarlsruheIt’s the third week of June and the roses are looking good despite a couple of heavy thunderstorms the other day, and the July-blooming lilies are already fully out. Also, specimens from one of my favourite useful plant groups, the hardy geraniums, are now busy flowering.

Geranium pratense Mrs Kendall Clarke
Meadow cranesbill
Geranium pratense Mrs Kendall Clarke
(not too bad in partial shade but prefers sun)

Hardy geraniums, not to be confused with bedding geraniums (pelargoniums), is a large genus with most of the popular garden favourites performing reliably year after year. I happily and successfully grow both geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’ and geranium x magnificum underneath roses and through other herbaceous perennials. However, I appear to have unintentionally invited a thug into my garden. I wanted small pink flowers to interweave with the mauve and purple geraniums beneath the pink climbing roses.

Meadow cranesbill
(gives one grand short-lived hit of purple in June, does best in full sun)

A fews years ago I bought (yes, I did, mea culpa) geranium x oxonianum ‘Wargrave Pink’ and the label stated “makes excellent ground cover”. Well, if it likes your conditions it rapidly reveals its true thuggish nature. Now, every summer I spend several sessions ripping out its spreading root system in my battle to keep it restrained.

geranium x oxonianum 'Wargrave Pink'
Here comes the thug.
Geranium × oxonianum ‘Wargrave Pink’
(in its defence though it will be pushing out a succession of little pink flowers all summer)

I know I shouldn’t complain as it keeps flowering through the summer, but sometimes you can have too much pink – obviously only if it’s the wrong type of pink. Because . . . roses …

Rosa Ferdinand Pichard
Too much pink – no, not if it’s a fantastic rose like this spectacular specimen.
Rosa Ferdinand Pichard
pink silk chiffon scarf
Can’t seem to kick the pink habit – just finished this silk chiffon scarf.

The Poppy – An Inspirational Flower

Poppy-RoseWith this year’s centenary commemorations for the start of World War 1 there will probably be more representations of poppies than usual.


Various forms of the poppy single or double, annual or perennial and in a variety of colours from white through yellow to salmon pink to deep red are found all over the world.

Katsushika Hokusai poppies
Poppies by Katsushika Hokusai
Edo period (19th century) woodblock print.

The delicate annual field poppy (papaver rhoeas) germinates from recently turned soil, thriving and blooming across the summer. Up close poppies are striking, but still have an ephemeral quality that has long inspired visual artists.

silk Japanese furisode
Vintage silk Japanese furisode with poppy design. Thought to be from the Taisho period (1912-1926).

There’s even the stunning blue Himalayan poppy, meconopsis. I once grew some meconopsis (M. baileyi I think) in my front garden as it provided the best conditions. Eventually in its second year it bloomed. I was so thrilled with the amazing colour, but to my utter surprise the next day somebody leaned over the low wall and picked all the flowers and I hadn’t even had chance to take a picture! I hoped it was a child that was so in awe of the colour that they had taken the flowers home to show to their family.


A Tale of Two Roses

Last-years-gloryWell, that’s very disappointing. My once magnificent rose that showered down from one end of the pergola has just keeled over and died in the last month. I shall wait until the autumn before I undertake the post-mortem, but digging around the roots may still not yield any answers to this total plant failure.

dead rose rosa Debutante
This is what I’ve got this year an unsightly muddle of the dead rose, rosa Debutante.
Rosa Debutante
This is what I should be getting in July, but not this year.

It is rather unsightly, but its structure is supporting a clematis so I won’t be able to cut it down until the end of the season.

Pergola-thin copy

However, on a brighter note, a couple of hardwood cuttings I took from another rose, rosa Souvenir du Docteur Jamain, are finally robust enough to start flowering. I had to leave the original plant in my garden when I moved back to East Anglia from Devon. I guess on this occasion you could say you win some you lose some.

rosa Souvenir du Docteur Jamain
Intense and fragrant the rich, very dark red rose, rosa Souvenir du Docteur Jamain.

Hooray, hooray, hooray

Bearded-irisJust quickly got to comment on the ‘Best in Show’ at Chelsea this year. It has been awarded to the ‘Laurent-Perrier Garden’ designed by Luciano Guibbilei. It is a beautiful garden, I love lupins and foxgloves, but it is his comments to the press that I have really appreciated. He is not a fan of the so-called low-maintenance garden and said,

“This idea of low-maintenance gardens – I’ve no idea who told this to people. It does not exist. The people that want no-maintenance gardens, they should go and play golf. That is what they should be doing.”

Just when and why gardens were supposed to be low-maintenance I have no idea. Most of that type look like supermarket car park plantings to me. I am just over the moon that a leading garden designer has stridently pointed out that gardens are also about gardening. Hooray, hooray, hooray – rant over!

Here’s a flower, bearded iris, from my very much NOT low-maintenance garden.


Beautiful flowers for Chelsea Week

Bearded-irsToday is Press Day at the Chelsea Flower Show and it’s always exciting to get the first glimpses of this year’s garden designs on the television. Every year I wonder at the tremendous horticultural skills displayed as plants are held back or forced forward to be at their best for this week in May.


These photos are some of the flowers in my garden at 7.00 am this morning. All the hard work done by mother nature!

And, here’s a bud, the perennial cornflower (centaurea dealbata), full of potential that will take over as the alliums and aquilegias fade away.


Eight years on.

Reflecting 8 yrs

A moment of reflection this morning and I realised that my back garden has been evolving further and further away from its original plan, but I decided it doesn’t really matter. As with all life, nothing is set in stone and gardening is all about continual adaptation. But here’s a before and after.

garden waiting
The day the removal men dumped all my pots and stuff in the tired, old garden.
back garden planting
Eight years on – my garden this morning.

Over 50 years ago somebody planted this magnolia soulangeana in what is now my father’s garden. It was planted in a sunny but exposed position and the soil is too thin. Amazingly it puts on a brief, over-the-top show once a year. It is not a popular choice these days, not least as it is difficult to place in a more naturalistic planting scheme especially where space is restricted. However, who would be mean enough to cut down a small tree that flowers its heart out every spring?

Magnolia soulangeana
Magnolia soulangeana