I have been busy this spring on two new projects. One of them is a big one and won’t be ready for a while. When it is finished it will be a secret garden, surrounded by fragrant shrubs. I dug up all the daffodils from here and planted them elsewhere. Thank goodness, I had some help with the turf removal . I am very grateful to the tireless couple, Paul and Julie for this. Without them I would be writing from my bed or A&E. That is a lot of turf.
The other project is connected to the winter garden that I made last year. Another winter has come and gone and I never got round to showing it to you. It is coming on well, but it always fidgets me that it tapers off into untamed wilderness; nettles, brambles and cow parsley and a huge pile of logs that were chopped down when we moved here, more than five years ago.
So I have tackled the area at last. I have dug up far more lawn and I am gradually getting rid of the unsightly wilderness. It is a big job; a bit like eating an elephant; I can only do it a nibble at a time.
After digging away at it for 5 hours the other day, I lost my sense of humour entirely.
I know wood piles are good for wildlife, but these pile of logs had to be disposed of because many of the trees died of the dreaded honey fungus; Armillarea mellea. I have been worried about having them lying around so long, but they were waiting to be chopped up for firewood. I don’t think that will ever happen, so The Pianist was persuaded to come out and make a big bonfire, he didn’t mind, he loves a good bonfire. We were responsible about it and waited until the wind was blowing the smoke over the fields, rather than in the direction of neighbours. As we hauled the logs over to be burnt, sure enough many of them were fringed with the tell-tale bootlace-like rhizomorphs. There were quite a lot that didn’t seem to be infected though. Some of them were quite attractive shapes and covered in moss. So I decided my winter garden could sweep round the corner, once I’ve got rid of more lawn, the nettles and other rubbish and end with a stumpery. This will make a nice sheltered spot to plant my Edgeworthia which has spent the winter in a pot. In the next photo you can see the Edgworthia sitting waiting to be planted.
There’s an awful lot of work to be done first. I have to clear up to the hose pipe and round behind the Horse Chestnut tree.
To make a stumpery you have to have to set the logs into the ground but I didn’t dare do this, I am too frightened of honey fungus. So I used a large sheet of thick polythene covered in soil and arranged the stumps on this.
So here is the stumpery, waiting to be planted up. Don’t laugh, I know it’s not exactly Highgrove and Prince Charles doesn’t need to worry about the competition. But I don’t have huge chestnut roots held together with galvinised iron at my disposal . Oh dear, look at all that cow parsley still to go. There are countless young elders, we don’t need to worry about witches here. There is also a whole network of nettle roots which must have been growing here for years. And when you dig there is lots of rubble. In a 500 year old garden you might to expect to dig up lots of interesting things. All I ever find is rubble and Shiphams Fish Paste jars. But next time you see it will look tidier as the cow parsley will be gone and the plants still sitting in their pots will be planted.
I should really have waited until the job was finished and amazed you, but this way you see the work in progress. Here are more views of the winter garden which is coming on quite well considering it was only started last year.
The euphorbias have been a great success. This next one is Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’. Behind it is Abies koreana.
The colour of E. ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is a perfect match for the red grass Uncinia rubra.
B. ‘Bressingham White’ has proved to be a disappointment, possibly the winter was too wet. It is recovering and may even flower, but I grow bergenias for their winter leaves, not the flowers.
A lot of people sneer at heathers, we have all heard that old cliché: ‘the only place for heather is on the moors’. But there is nothing like Erica carnea for giving you carpets of colour in winter.
At the back of the above photo you can just see the leaves of a flowering currant. Here it is, the white flowered Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’.
I have planted witch hazels and lots of coloured stems for winter, but in spring the twisted branches of this little Fuji Cherry, Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ become smothered in the daintiest pale pink blossoms.
Looking pristinely white is the clump of Anemone blanda ‘White Splendour’ growing with Narcissus ‘Thalia’ You can just see the buds of a white flowered Fritillaria meleagris waiting to open.
Another delightful small flowered one is N. ‘Mrs. Langtry’ dating back to 1869.
.But my favourite is the exquisite, little scented N. ‘Segovia’
The dear little Muscari ‘White Magic’ is another persil- white gem.
I have planted all my precious snowdrops here and after they finish, epimediums and primroses take over, but I will save these to show you another day. I did try a few erythroniums but the blasted pheasant picks the buds off and throws them away. He seems to leave the snakeshead fritillaries alone, he obviously has expensive tastes. The neighbour’s cat seems to keep him away from the garden nearer to the house, so I grow erythroniums in my spring beds down here. Having the neighbour’s cat on patrol would be great if he didn’t leave half chewed rabbits lying around, or use the garden as a lavatory. I don’t always wear gloves.
As you can see, the lawn needs mowing really badly. I hate to nag, but if you should happen to read this dear Pianist….