Earlier in the year the woods and lanes around me were scattered with bluebells and there was wild garlic to be picked. Lately the brilliant yellow of buttercups have been shining out, and the bike path I regularly used has been flanked by clouds of frothy white cow parsley. In my front garden there're masses of pale yellow and bright orange California poppies, the fragrant thyme's been flowering, and now the verbena's joined in the party. I've got Verbena rigida Venosa which is a compact plant, and Verbena bonariensis which is the leggy, slender stemmed plant beloved of fancy RHS Chelsea gardeners (and me!). The back garden's home to an array of container plants, mainly tomatoes, courgettes and strawberries, and I thought I'd note down some of the 'lessons learnt' so far, as we come almost to the end of June. (Yikes! It'll be autumnal before we know it if this year keeps racing along like a thoroughbred.)
So what've I learnt, or at least realised I lack knowledge of?
1 - Fresh strawberries for breakfast is an achievable luxury. It's very pleasing to pop outside in my dressing gown and gather a small handful of berries to go with my chopped apple and yoghurt. It's not taken a massive effort either. I bought four or five plants last years, which I think cost a fiver, and spent money on potting compost and containers. But for that small investment I've had lots of fruit, plus the plants send out runners which produce baby plants, so you end up getting a lot of 'bang for your buck'.
2 - Broad beans are super-easy to grow. They've really been no trouble at all, apart from just needing staking with some pea sticks or bamboo poles to stop them getting too wind blown.
3 - Courgettes and tomatoes need large containers to grow in. I've belatedly realised how pointless it is to scrimp on large containers and try to squeeze these space hungry plants into too-small tubs. By large I mean containers that're at least 32cm in diameter. The containers are robust. They'll last for years, so it's a false economy not to buy a few more. If the plants have room they'll respond by producing lots of veggies for my dinner plate. I can save money by not splurging on expensive plants as impulse buys from garden centres instead of being miserly about buying suitable containers.
4 - When your water supply's metered, it pays to get a rainwater butt. Yorkshire rain falls freely, so I need to buy and get fitted a water butt to ensure I'm not wasting tap water during dry spells.
5 - Sunflowers are instant mood-lifters. There's something very appealing about their wide, generous faces held up to the sun, and I need to grow more of 'em next year. Lots more.
6 - I'm gradually learning the volume of planting and the forward thinking that needs to go into growing veggies in particular. If I want to seriously grow enough to keep myself in salad leaves, tomatoes, courgettes, yellow squash, runner beans, broad beans, as well as berries and herbs over the summer months I need to be less slapdash and 'oh! me and my tiny appetite'. I need to be more systematic about, for instance, growing salad leaves like rocket as 'come and cut again' crops. I need to think 'oh! me and my not-so-tiny-appetite'. I need to think like the manager of a veggie and soft fruit production line. How can I get a constant crop so I don't have to nip down to the Co-op for a bag of pre-washed salad leaves as I've run out? Plus, I need to grow staples like spring onions and spuds. Prices in the shops are only headed one way (up, up, up!) so the more I can grow, the better.
Gardening does seem to be the constant realization that you know next to nothing. Whether that's about how to get rid of aphids or about how to pronounce complicated Latin names for flowers or which shrubs grow well in shady spots. It's all about learning, and thankfully there're plenty of ways to do that, from 'Gardeners World' on telly to online resources like the RHS website, and to cheap-as-chips gardening books available secondhand in most charity shops. Though the best way to learn is getting stuck in. Literally getting your hands dirty. Try. Fail. Succeed. Gardening is, to use that hideously overused word, a 'journey' and in a complicated and increasingly bat-shit crazy world it's one of the most peaceful and life enriching interests you can have.
June's a time of abundance in a garden. Everything's flourishing, all leafy green and flowering or producing fruits or veggies. Well ... not quite everything.
As well as the successes - a handful of juicy strawberries freshly picked for breakfast each morning, pods of broad beans waiting to be picked, verbena I've grown from seed shooting upwards, plus a trio of stunning sunflowers - there're the not-so-goods.
Firstly, the blackfly infestation that's made itself at home in the front garden and I've spotted in the back garden now too. Nasty little things clustered around the heads of the foxgloves and zinnias. A friend offered to zap 'em with an insecticide, but I do try to garden organically. So I'll try the hot water and washing up liquid method later on, see if that deters them.
I'm not sure if it's the blackfly or something else that's bothering the gooseberry bush I turfed out of its container and planted in the front garden. Maybe it's not happy in the position I've put it in, or maybe it's the soil. I don't know, but it's increasingly bare of leaves, just lots of forlorn spikes.
Then there're the thyme seedlings. I'd planted the teeny delicate things in a crack in some paving, hoping they'd flourish and spread across the stones. But I noticed yesterday they're virtual goners. Again, don't know if insects have munched them for dinner, or whether something else got to them. Oh well, I'll have to try again. Maybe next time I'll leave the seedlings in pots until they're more robust before planting out. That might at least give them a fighting chance of survival.
So much of gardening is trial 'n' error, but thankfully seeds are cheap and so is potting compost. There's only so much you can learn through books and websites. Better to just have a go and educate yourself through your successes and failures.
What's blooming in your garden right now? And just as importantly, what's not done well and have you figured out why?
Well, June is flaming, isn't it? Blimey Charlie it's been hot, and despite the sun lotion I'm looking like a Neopolitan ice cream - white, pink and brown. I've been slapping on the after-sun in an attempt to avoid painful sunburn, and thankfully so far it's working.
I've been pottering about in the garden lately, but haven't blogged. Not real reason why, just that when I get the chance to be a lazy baggage I generally take it. I think on the evolutionary scale I'm nudging up next to the sloths.
Anyway, Saturday saw another outing to a public garden. This time it was at Pocklington, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Amidst glorious countryside is Burnby Hall Gardens & Museum. (The museum I won't bore you with. It's fine if you're okay looking at stuffed animal heads from when one Major Percy Stewart, an 'adventurer and traveller', toured the world shooting its wildlife. I'm not.)
The Gardens are home to a National Collection of over 100 varieties of water lily, plus there're a number of sculptures to see, lakes teeming with coy carp and a Stumpery. Let's get the practicalities out of the way first: it's pushchair and wheelchair friendly, there's a good cafe and clean, well maintained loos. It's £5.00 for standard adult entry, but cheaper for seniors, children and there's a family rate. It's no to dogs, except obviously assistance dogs. If you're taking little 'uns you need to keep an eye on them as the lakes are deep and the fish mean it's tempting for children to get right to the water's edge. Speaking of fish ...
You can buy cups of fish food for a quid from the cafe, and it's worth it as feeding them is massively entertaining. The fish - carp and roach apparently - are ever eager for food, and smart enough to know that people approaching the water's edge may have some. They cluster around, jostling for a morsel, mouths gaping over.
The fish glide among the reeds, flag iris and lily pads.
The different varieties of lilies are well labeled, but you can't get among them to have a close enough look. It'd be good if there were some mini-piers. Modestly sized viewing platforms you could walk along to almost get encircled by them. But that's a minor gripe. (Perhaps I should just invest in a pair of binoculars next time Lidl/Aldi have them in one of their Aisles of Wonder.)
There are various sculptures dotted around the Gardens. Including this big cat, with apologies to the artist whose name I didn't note down.
Here's a gathering of giraffes at the water's edge. Again, sorry I didn't note the artist.
The Stumpery was cool and shady on a blisteringly hot day. There were plenty of wood carvings here, mainly variations on the folklore figure of the Green Man. I think Stumpery's were a bit of a Victorian thing, and they're probably really good for insects, bees and birds. All that rotting wood and nooks and crannies for little creatures to nest or hide in.
I bet a Stumpery on a gloomy, overcast day would be enough to make a decorous Victorian lady feel decidedly agitated. As dusk fell it could get rather spooky, don't you think?
Back out in the open again.
Down by the water's a good spot to eat your picnic lunch.
Yup, all in all I'd recommend Burnby Hall Gardens for a visit. The Rock Garden's being re-planted, so it's going to look rather barren until the autumn, but there's still plenty to occupy you. Plus plants for sale and the usual knick knacks, sweets and fudge in the gift shop. More info's at www.burnbyhallgardens. com
Hope you're not too hot & frazzled by the weather, and happy gardening!
I've washed my hair, sorted out clothes for tomorrow ( a family christening ) and there's an almond, raspberry and white chocolate tray bake heating up nicely in the oven. So I thought I'd post the last few photos I took at the Himalyan Gardens. The one above shows the magnolia floating sculpture in the background and a rather beautiful heron near the water's edge.
This sculpture's stunning. It looks like a sycamore seed, but from this angle it could almost be an angel's wing or a bird's wing. So graceful.
I loved the drifts of colour from these flowers. There's something very pleasing about broad, generous swathes of planting, maybe because we're so used to see small numbers of flowers in our (usually) small gardens.
Back on home ground I've been busy - between showers of rain - tidying and re-potting, planting a few more verbena seeds and pulling up Yarrow as it's self-seeding all over the front garden. I've eaten the first few strawberries from my tubs, and there're lots of green berries waiting to ripen. Plus, courgettes are fattening nicely, another week or so and I'll be picking the first of them.
Right, that cake's about ready to come out of the oven, so I'd better get on.
Here are the (belated) second lot of photographs taken at the Himalayan Gardens & Sculpture Park, near Ripon. Beyond the yellow irises you can see a sculpture that I thought was a lotus blossom, someone else thought was a lily, but the name gave it away - it's a magnolia. It seemed to be tethered underneath, allowing the flower to move gently and turn as the breeze moved the water. It's not the best image of the sculpture, but my photography's very hit 'n' miss.
This duck is one of the many animal sculptures on show, including various owls and a rather splendid goat (that I mistook for a deer!)
These were in bloom everywhere, drifts of them in a rainbow of colours. I think they're called Candelabra Primulas, and they're remarkably pretty.
This was taken looking down at the plant.
There's the pink one again.
I've still got a few more photos to post as I seemed to take loads on the day. But I'll leave you with the stunning blue poppy, an emblem of the garden, and take myself off into my own garden before the rain makes an inevitable return.
Hope you have a good Thursday.
The Himalayan Gardens & Sculpture Park near Ripon that is. As their website says this 'highly acclaimed garden is just 8 miles from Ripon and Masham, and is best known for its flamboyant burst of colour, with rare rhododendrons, azaleas and Himalayan plants stealing the show. They are nestled among mass plantings of glorious hybrids and drifts of spring bulbs.'
It's essentially a private garden of about 20 acres - yikes! Imagine having a garden that huge - and is open on a limited basis to the public. Essentials first: there's plenty of parking, well behaved dogs on leads are allowed, there's a very good cafe (mmmm, cakes ....), a children's play area and clean loos. Unfortunately as the site's got lots of steep slopes and winding downhill paths it's not wheel chair accessible, and if you were accompanying someone partially sighted they'd have to take great care on potentially slippy paths. There were plenty of older ladies & gents enjoying the site that we saw, so if you're steady on your pins it's fine for the 'more mature' clientele. Don't do what I did and wear your pretty summer sandals though. They were at least flat, but not the most practical choice. Trainers are ideal, as would be walking boots or sturdy shoes. It's comfort over style all the way. Take a picnic, plenty of sunscreen and an extra layer as it can get breezy.
As for the gardens ...
Pretty as a picture.
This serene being was appropriately placed in the Buddha Garden, the site being divided into different zones or rooms. In the same space was this joyful hare.
Isn't it beautiful? Graceful but with a sense of humour about it too.
This sculpture is called 'Fisherman's Head' (naturally). Did you spot the other sculpture beyond it? The tall metal fountain that drew your eye toward the water gushing from it and surrounding it.
I'm not even sure what kind of plant this is, but there's something primitive about it. As if it's an ancient plant with a tale to tell. Look at its top with those curls.
I'll post the rest of the photos tomorrow. I'd definitely recommend a trip, despite it being slightly off the beaten track, and it'd be good to see the gardens at different times of the year. A great garden for the enthusiastic horticulturalist but also anyone who loves to sculpt, draw or paint. Oh, and bird watchers need to take their binoculars as our feathered friends were paying their own visit too.
Head over to https://www.himalayangarden.com for more details.
Had a lovely day at the Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park yesterday. No passport required as the gardens are nowhere near the Himalayas, instead being situated at The Hutts, Grewelthorpe which is near Ripon. I'll blog about that another time, when I've sorted out the photos taken.
In the meanwhile, why not start planning ahead for seed planting next year? Yeah, I know that sounds over-eager, but Fothergill's are having a seed sale with dozens and dozens of varieties on offer at £1.00 per pack. There're some fantastic bargains to be had, especially if you order with a friend or two and split the packs between you. I've overindulged a tad with the credit card - oops! - but it was too good a chance to miss. Especially when postage & packing only added a measly £1.95 to the overall total.
So whether you're after Rudbeckia, Honesty, Asters, Lupins, Hellebore Christmas Roses, Bok Choi, Basil, tomatoes or chillis, Caraway or Chard seeds, head to http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk which stocks last.
I was given a lemon tree in a container as a birthday present back in March, and I haven't bumped it off yet so I must be getting something right. I've been keeping it in the conservatory, but now the weather's warmer it's sat outside to take advantage of sunny days and frost free nights.
What you might not be able to spot from this photo are the teeny-tiny green fruits on the lemon tree. They're mini-sized, but will they actually develop into proper edible lemons? I've no idea, but we'll see as the weeks progress.
The back garden's still home to a hoard of (mainly) tomato plants waiting to be re-potted into larger tubs. Lack of potting compost is the reason for the delay. It's a drawback of not having a car that I have to get heavy stuff like compost delivered or ask a family member to give me a lift, or else stagger home from the local shop with a solitary 20 litre bag which is as much as I can carry myself. Okay, I'll put my tiny violin away. Enough with the sob story.
Now, on to a totally non-garden related matter. The kitty cat ...
Honestly, it's hopeless. As soon as Em sees the camera she's as sullen as a moody teenager finding out there's no wifi. I was hoping to get a photo of her stretched out and relaxing in the sun, but no. So here she is with her 'yeah, whatever' expression.
Right, I'm off to give to the tomatoes a much needed drink of water, then myself a much needed cuppa.
(The photo above isn't one I've taken, but it's from the Breezy Knees website. Just get a load of those borders!)
Here's a few more photos from our visit to Yorkshire's Breezy Knees Gardens, as promised.
Not only did the array of huge poppies look fabulous, but I learnt the importance of either staking them or - better still - surrounding their foliage with other plants that can offer support. Otherwise they flop as if the effort of keeping upright is just all too much faff.
So many poppies.
All the beds are well mulched with bark chippings, meaning staff don't water anything except new plants being added to borders. The mulch is essential as otherwise watering would be a non-stop job in the height of summer, wouldn't it?
Up close and personal with an Allium.
I did take other pictures but was having camera (or more accurately tablet) trouble, partly 'cause the sun was so strong I struggled to see the screen. So can't post photos of the many and varied iris we saw. Iris were everywhere, and like the poppies they come in a wide range of colours. I wrote down the varieties I especially liked - Iris Sibirica 'Melton Red Flare' and a dramatic velvety Iris 'Deep Black'. Stunners!
I'd love to go back to Breezy Knees, and particularly experience it throughout the four seasons. It's such a large site I reckon you could pack an awful lot of visitors in before it even felt remotely busy, though I bet it's a popular place on a Bank Holiday.
When I win the lottery ( ... I have these dreams, despite the fact I don't bother buying Lotto tickets ...) I'll buy a piece of land and divide it up into 'rooms', those spaces so beloved of garden designers. I'll have colour themes for my 'rooms'. Luminous swathes of all white flowers nestling in green foliage. A section with cool, silvery green leaved plants, restful on the eyes. Another section with foliage that's dramatically purple and ruby and bronze. A wide, generous herbaceous border with every colour of the rainbow to delight the senses. A formal herb garden. A sculpture trail. Oh, so many things you could do ... if you had the money and the space.
Just a final quick note: I did say in my previous post that the lack of labels in some cases made identifying plants difficult. I'd also add another tiny criticism of the site - whoever designed the beds does love a ruler and set square. Lots of right angles - straight paths and sharp corners. Some of the wide flower borders would benefit from having winding paths that meander lazily through them, or just are sited less rigidly around them. So corners to beds as softened, lines relaxed. It'd be more naturalistic and conducive to having that unhurried, relaxing stroll. But it's a small drawback when there're so many positives.
Anyone else visited these gardens, or are planning a visit?
I'm betting you've never heard of a place called Warthill. Neither had I before I was driven there yesterday. I'd never heard of a place called Breezy Knees Gardens either. It's advertised as 'The Flower Garden of Yorkshire' and is set in 20 acres not far from the city of York. There're deep, abundant herbaceous flower borders ablaze with colour, a rose garden, a conifer garden and a rock garden, a decorative fountain, a cafe and horticultural nursery, and lots more (including a sculpture of a pair of huge wellington boots and a version of Stonehenge made of greenery rather than stones.) If you're interested in expanding your knowledge of plants or simply love looking at one splendid flower or shrub after another you're going to love Breezy Knees. It was a gorgeously sunny day, and we strolled around to the sound of birdsong and saw dozens and dozens of fat bumble bees greedily feasting on the stunning flowers.
It's a great place for working out what you like and what you don't in terms of colours, shapes and textures, especially if - like me - you're a total novice when it comes to planning a successful flower border and creating something harmonious to the eye.
I know some fashionable types think alliums are yesterday's news, but I still admire their graceful stems and that mauve 'pom-pom' on top.
Every time I saw these I had to stroke them, like velvety bunnies ear. Must have some for my garden as they're so wonderfully tactile.
Pretty things everywhere you looked.
There were masses of poppies. White, pale pink, and of course the classic red.
Lots of beautiful, stately lupins too.
I took more photos so will pop them on the blog soon. I'd definitely recommend a trip to Breezy Knees. If you or a friend/relative have limited mobility the majority of the site's wheelchair accessible which is great. It's £6.50 for adults, £2.00 for children, and there's a small but good cafe and (clean and nicely maintained) loos. You can wander over to their website www.breezyknees.co.uk for more info. I can imagine most teenagers would be bored witless by it , but it's a grand day out for the rest of us.
The only slight drawback was the not-too-brilliant labeling of plants in the borders. It could be frustrating if you wanted to make notes for future ref. So you probably want to take lots of photos and get your plant A to Z book out at home in the evening in order to play amateur sleuth and identify them. Either that or end your visit with a wander around their horticultural nursery where all the plants were clearly labeled and make your notes then. If you have a few quid to spend you can go home with an array of plants too, just to make your day complete.
Moved from a garden-less city flat in the South West to a Yorkshire village in 2016. I now have a garden ... of sorts.