It’s been too long…

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It has been far too long.

We’ve had an uphill battle with our garden since the moment we moved here, almost four years ago now.

Some of you who may have read some of my older blogs may remember how bad it was. A regularly tended garden was left to revert back to nature over the course of some twenty years plus after the death of the gardener in the family.

I’ve honesty never seen anything like it. Massive flower boarders were thick with weeds, brambles and decomposing plant matter accumulated over the years. Som epatches were so bad that even the brambles were growing deformed due to no light and competition. It’s been a slog. An exhausting, isolating slog.

Our garden boundary is marked by a Hawthorne hedge. It should be a hedge, it had been left to grow into trees some 20ft tall. We spent a weekend hacking back a massively overgrown and dead clump of Forsythias, some 15ft  square.

We went from an easy, low maintenance garden to a task that was way more than we expected. Our children weren’t able to play due to nettles, brambles and thistles occupying most of the space.

It came to a head last year (after 3 years here) when everything I planted got eaten by slugs. I was tired of being stung by nettles and poked by thorny brambles. After a rather massive tantrum I’m not proud of, I gave up. Seriously though, I planted Aubergines and Courgettes in containers and they were gone by the next morning, along with a patch of Papaver Somniferum seedlings that I was tending like a proud parent.

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This year has been better so far already, we made a headstart ahead of the Spring and everything looks much better already. A few top tips for anything thinking of taking over a chronically neglected garden:

  • Take lots of pictures, I wish I had taken more. An overgrown morass all looks the same when you’ve been in the same position for an hour weeding. Take pictures and see progress (preferably with a glass of something cold in your hand).
  • If you can afford to get help in, please do. We had to do everything until this year due to monetary restrictions and progress was slow. This year, a tree surgeon cut the hedges and chopped down some trees for cheaper than we could have done it ourselves.
  • Plant something, anything. Even if it’s in pots. The worse part of having a pigsty of a garden is not being able to plant it up properly.
  • I didn’t want to use weedkiller but sometimes, it’s the only way. I have Bindweed rearing it’s ugly head again now. Use it sparingly but don’t be afraid to use it.
  • Think very carefully about your capabilities before taking someone like this on. In hindsight, I don’t know whether we would do it again if we didn’t have to.

I bought the Hydrangea in the picture to make myself feel better a while ago, the flowers are lovely. This one is easily as large as my hand.

For those of you who are reading whose garden isn’t exactly the image of Monty Don in his lovely TV garden; you’re not on your own.

The next challenge is laying a patio, watch this space!

Until next time.

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Papaver Somniferum (Opium Poppies)

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Afternoon!

I’m not very good at this, am I? Yet another huge gap between posts, is it better to be silent then boring? I can’t decide, there are so many great gardening and plant blogs on this site that it seems so hard to add anything new.

Spring has sprung in my small part of the world. Everything is waking up, unfortunately that means the dreaded White Bryony and Bracken.

One breakdown at a time.

I planted some seeds a couple of weeks back and I’m amazed they have grown. When you buy seeds off the internet, they can be hit and miss. My record with seeds isn’t great anyway but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Ta dah! The beautiful loveliness of Papaver Somniferum should be gracing the garden soon, slugs and acts of God allowing.

The tiny purple and pinkish seeds sprouted and have left me with some small 4 seedlings.

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(Ok, so I understand if you’re not as excited as I am, it’s not much to look at and yes, I didn’t weed around it before I took the photo, you’re looking at the plant with jagged leaves in the middle of the screen).

Poppies are one of the best plants. Hardy, reliable, lovely to look at and low maintenance. They tick a lot of boxes. I already have Oriental Poppies in the garden that were planted last year and they are coming back really well. I decided to go for something slightly different.

Opium Poppies are controversial. It’s illegal to buy, own or grow the seed in some countries due to their use in the drug trade. Luckily, it’s totally legal to grow them here as long as there is no harvesting of the opiate. I know, I know, I’ll try and resist any funny business 🙂

This *should* be the giant version, which will produce flowers up to 4 feet in height and tennis ball sized seed heads.

My grandmother had these in her garden and they always fascinated me as a child. I like growing things that you can’t buy in the garden centre.

Coming soon…Iranian Poppies!

 

Out, damn root!

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I’m sure Shakespeare would forgive the misquote, this stump removal is fast turning into Shakespearian tragedy!

Those of you who may have read along for the last year or two may remember the gnarled mass of shrubs, in varying stages of life and death. The area spans around 10ft by 8ft. This is how it looked when we moved in, up to now

 

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We found several Honeysuckles, a Pampas grass or two, a many stemmed Buddleia and an old cat skeleton! The poor cat must have waundered in and got stuck. The soil level is a good couple of feet higher than anywhere else, due to vegetation rotting. No pruning has happened here for a very long time! Thw greenery you see is the top of the plants, the inside was brown and twiggy. I pulled a matrix of Nettle roots out that was so thick, it was like a carpet!

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The skip was filled in no time at all, in fact we could have done with a second skip! The cost was prohibitive so Mr Corvus did some compacting and managed to fit more in.

After much hard work, blood, sweat and profanity that would cause a sailor to blush, ta dah

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We have edging stones! They were buried but we found them. It makes the garden so much tidier without the solid mass of twisty branches.

Hopefully we can get the stump out and crack on with the planters and trellis to screen the garden off from the road.

 

 

 

 

 

Neglected Garden

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You may remember that this we are just edging into our 3rd year in this house, the garden had been neglected for a very long time!

Most of our time has been spent hacking back nettles, digging up brambles and pulling Bracken when it has the audacity to grow.

The garden was a hopeless mass of trees, all twisty and misshapen from competition for light and water. It’s a real pity, we’ve just cut down an old Apple tree, it was badly deformed. A big Plum tree is next on the chopping block, closely followed by a solid mass of old Honeysuckle and Pampas Grass.

This is the fruits of our labours so far, lest you think I’ve been idle in my blogging break.

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It’s not all of it either, the Plum tree is the one stuck out at a funny angle in the background. This pile is a good 10ft x 8ft and around 4ft high, I’ve had to stop the kids playing by it in case it falls on them.

It goes against the grain to chop down trees that are alive but unfortunately, the space is crowded and ugly. There’s 2 Apple trees and a Cherry waiting to be planted, just to even the balance.

The man who lived here before us loved his garden and even now, some 20 years after he died, it really shows. He put a lot of thought into where to plant things, one of the boarders has a brick boundary, it must have taken him ages to put together.

I dug up the remains of his greenhouse in one of the big patches of brambles last year, I think I posted a picture. When his family moved, they must have smashed it where it stood and scrapped the metal. It seems a waste for a few reasons, mainly because it would have been expensive, the Dad obviously used it and not least because I find myself needing one now!

In summary of my ramblings, it’s getting easier. I’m winning the bramble war and planting lots of lovely plants in replacement of the weeds I’m getting rid of. I hope we can finally break the garden this year and complete the few jobs we have left.

E is for Echium…and Excuses.

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A curious thing happened this morning, I stumbled out of bed this morning and the hibernation fog seems to have lifted. I didn’t want to leave the blog for so long but I got writer’s block 😦

I logged in to see that the format has changed slightly and my tablet no longer likes the site, whoops! At what price progress eh? Nevermind.

One thing I am really excited about is the small Echium I bought last year.

I’m not sure many of you will remember and to save you the hassle of trying to trawl through previous posts, I’ll recap.

I saw an article about architectural plants and the Echium was listed as one of the best. It was amazing! Where I am, I’ve never seen one up close, although I think they grow pretty well in coastal areas.

Echium seeds are a nightmare to germinate, well for me anyway! So I cheated and bought a small plant from ebay. It cost around £5. When it arrived, it was probably no more than a few inches tall. Look at it now!

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Wow! This growth is one season’s worth. With any luck, it will shoot up and flower this year. It’s got to be a good 3feet tall now, it can grow anywhere up to 15ft+.

This one is Echium Pininana, “Tower of Jewels”.

One drawback to them is the constant worry over the winter of frost damage or snow. I suppose you could keep it in a large pot in the first year and plant once frosts have passed in the second year. Doh, maybe I should have thought of that?

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This planting site is quite exposed. as is the rest of our garden, we back on to open fields and it gets very windy! This is a cheap fleece from Poundland, finished off with string. So far so good! We’ve had a couple of slightly harder frosts but luckily no snow. If you are somewhere with harsher weather, then it’s possible an idea to wrap the outside in an old quilt.

It will grow rapidly and then die shortly after flowering this year, provided I can keep it alive. If you want a continuous supply of them, then make sure you plant seeds to replace the plants that will die.

I’m  really looking forward to seeing it in flower, fingers crossed.

Weeds and buried treasure

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Apologies for the absence, all 3 kids have various colds, coughs and sniffles! The week seems to have run away with me. As if we’re in October already!

The picture above sums up my week in the garden 😦 This area is meant to be my veg patch for next year but as you cam see, it’s overgrown with the unholy trinity of brambles, nettles and bracken. Therein lies my problem, if you can spot the concrete post, it supports a green wire fence which seperates us from the farmer’s field behind. Can you see the 8ft bracken growing behind it? It makes everything harder to keep on top of.

After much digging, pulling and cursing, I managed to get the area weeded and dug out. My garden waste bin overfloweth!

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The general area is clear, nothing I can do about the giant bracken in the hedge though! On inspecting the soil, this poses another problem. I came across a paved area which I think houses a greenhouse. How do I know this? They look to have smashed it where it stood and turned the glass over into the soil. Why me?

Altthough I found no Viking gold, I found: tubes of superglue, sunglasses, pens, pencils, old plastic, old felt, wood, glass, plastic flowers! I’m very dubious of using this soil as a veg patch because of all the crap they’ve left in it.

Do I remove the soil and replace or use the patio area as a greenhouse base? Hmm.

This garden doesn’t cease to surprise me.

My trip to (a) Battlefield

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The sleep deprived fog has lifted! Helped in no small part by a rare child free field trip away from the homestead.

My grasp of history is pretty good but I didn’t really know much about the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, until yesterday.

My destination was Battlefield in Shropshire. As the name suggests, it was the site of a battle in the reign of Henry the 4th and Battlefield replaced it’s previous name as a reminder of what had happened there.

A quick summary – the Percy family, led by Henry Percy, supported King Henry for a few years previously against several uprisings and attempts to overthrow him. The King promised land, titles and money as reward and didn’t deliver, instead he gave them to a rival house. This didn’t go down to well! More than 6,000 men died on the fields and ultimately, the Percy family were defeated and Henry Percy didn’t come out of it at all. His remains were quartered and sent to 4 cities. His head ended up on a spike at York. The men from both sides who died were buried in mass graves where they fell.

Battlefield is a lovely place, despite it’s sad history. Nestled on an open field is St Mary Magdalene church. It’s still consecrated but isn’t in regular use. The people at the Museum were happy to give us the key and let us stroll around.

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(Please excuse the use of a photo taken from Google, I didn’t think to take one of the outside)

After the Battle, the King paid for the erection of a Chapel, as losses were so great on both sides, they believe that prayers should be said for the souls of the dead on the battlefield, after all their bodies remained there. The Chapel was built and in 1460 a church replaced the Chapel. The Victorians restored the church and added to it to the current state you see today, on the site of the battlefield. 

We had a walk around the graveyard first, most of the grave date from 1862 to the 1930s, with a couple of modern additions. It’s always sad to see graves in a state of disrepair. I was drawn to a headless angel statue, marking the grave of a child who died aged 2.5 years in the early 1920s, it seemed like his whole family were there too not long after him. It gives you perspective doesn’t it?

I don’t want to be seen as being disrespectful or morbid because that isn’t my intention at all but I took one picture of the detailing of a headstone. It’s very obviously Art Deco in style, as it’s half of a sun burst on an angular plinth. I couldn’t figure out whether the other half had broken off or whether it was just a half to start with.

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As an aside, it’s interesting to see the fashions in headstones, modern day headstones are boring in comparison to some of the Victorian and early half the 1900s offerings. Some people feel that graveyards are creepy but there’s no better place for quiet contemplation.

Some of the detailing on the outside is fantastic. This is the Victorian statue of King Henry the 4th

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Can you spot him?

In typical Gothic fashion, there are a few tortured souls standing guard.

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One arm is holding his stomach and the other is clutching his head.

There are eyes everywhere!

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There’s so much detail, I wouldn’t want to bore you with all of them.

On the inside, the Victorian(?) tiles caught my eye. Well, not so much caught as immediately demanded attention

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They were made in nearby Jackfield in Telford, which in  times gone by were an important manufacturer of tiles. I wish they still made them like this, my kitchen would be infinitely more interesting to look at.

This is the floor of the small side chapel, I think I’m right in saying that this is where the original chapel was

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Before I run this risk of waffling on too much (or have I already done that?) I will conclude by saying that it’s a lovely place with a sad history but is well worth a visit if you are in the area. It doesn’t cost anything to visit but they appreciate donations to help with the upkeep of the church.

Orchid envy

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It’s a lovely Autumnal day. At 7am this morning,  the mist was rolling over the fields, I couldn’t see anything past our driveway. It’s eerie but I like it.

Baby Corvus was awake in the night due to a cold. He settled down at 1.30am but unfortunately my brain wouldn’t pipe down. Is it crazy to think about gardening at 3am? The only thing that stopped me was the lack of light, we don’t have any external lights or street lighting, gardening by torchlight may become reality. I got to sleep somewhere after 5am and was up at 7am.

I visited not 1, not 2 but 3 plant nurseries and the cuttings woman who sells plants on her drive.

Garden centre 1 – lots of beautiful plants but they are pricey.  I ummed and ahhed about this Orchid for what seems like forever. They are beautiful but temperamental from what I have heard ,  definitely well beyond my limited range of expertise. If it had been a bit cheaper than £8.99, it might have been worth a shot. It seems a shame to buy it knowing that I’ll probably kill it.

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Nursery 2 – had loads of lovely plants at very decent prices but nothing that really appealed. I picked up a few indoor Hyacinth bulbs, will see how they go.

They had an eyewatering display of painted Heathers. You may have read my blog on Heathers a few days ago, these are quite garish. I hope bees are colourblind!

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Nursery 3 – normally has a fantastic bargain corner, where all the sad and slightly neglected plants are. I debated another large Standard Fuschia for £3 rather than the £25 it was priced at but I bought one not too long ago. It’s growing great, 2 just feels a bit greedy.

I have mentioned the lady who takes cuttings from her plants before. She must have a fantastic garden, the range of plants she has is great. She is well into her 80s and really knows her stuff. I try to catch her when she’s at home but it’s not very often. I bought a tiny fern and some spearmint. Not wildly exciting but for £1 for both, I’m happy.

Cuttings lady saves the day again, otherwise I’d have got home empty handed.

Roses are a girls best friend

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Well, if you’re the uncomplicated sort like me. (As a side note,  I understand the hype about diamonds, their value and beauty but they just don’t do it for me).

Anywho, and this is a Rose that I picked up at Poundland in the Spring, I’m not sure what variety it is or if it has a spexific name. I didn’t really expect great things from it. Just as it was about to burst into flower, we got inundated with Aphids and the buds fell off. I treated the Aphids, fed and watered it and look how it rewarded me today!

The scent is very strong and traditionally Rose-y, if that makes sense. It appeared to be thornless until it started growing again, it’s stunning. There’s a few more buds, I hope they get to open before the frosts set in.

Please pretend you can’t see the weeds in the background, I’m taking the lazy way out and waiting for them to die back before attacking them.

Hydrangea

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Early last year, I visited a good friend in Oxford. She had the most amazing Hydrangea, huge and very healthy. She had a tiny terrace garden and consequently it had to be placed near a steam vent, it must have done it some good because it was a triffid!

She inspired me to get my own. Aldi had them in cheap, I think it was either £3.99 or £4.99. Later last year, it got mildew. I treated it with a Tea Tree spray solution, the leaves dropped off. I chopped it down to bare stems and left it alone. Here it is, it’s the white one on the right!

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The purple Hydrangea on the left was a freebie from my Aunt, it looked so sad! A repot, feed and water had it come back to life.

They’re easy to grow and make a statement. These will be staying in pots for now.