W for Waves, winds and Winter wrens

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W is for Wind, Waves and Winter. Wind is the main challenge for my garden along with salty air and occasional sea water run off! Even the most hardy plants can shrivel and hunker down under such conditions (For example I finally gave up on a spiky Pyracanthus!). The only consolation is that it is mostly in the Winter that the worst of the winds reign, and you can sometimes get away with the annuals and perennials during the Summer. Last year I was lucky as there were few real Autumn storms and some of the flowers just kept going! However a sudden storm or windy week in the Summer can bring havoc. The worst casualties are G’s big pots of bamboo, which we keep round the hot tub. They just turn into a browned off stalks by December. Luckily once Summer comes they do grow new shoots again, and I just cut off all the dead ones. I’m not sure what is the best plan, perhaps to wrap fleece round them come the Autumn.

Making the best of it, some of the grasses look wonderful with the wind rushing through them, reflecting the wild beauty of the grassland in the nature reserve.

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Plenty of Wildlife beginning with W too. I did my RSPB Garden birdwatch recently and was glad to be able to include a Wren, which was happily hopping about, probably searching for spiders in the hedge, and a beautiful pied Wagtail which has become a regular visitor.

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What they lack in size, wrens make up for with their loud song! Someone certainly thought it was Spring this morning at dawn, there was some fantastic singing going on in the dawn chorus!

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Wrens apparently often huddle together in nest boxes – with a record 61 once found in a single nest box! I’ve only ever seen one a time, but pretty regularly. Apparently the males make several potential nests and the female gets to choose which one she wants. Will have to keep an eye out for signs of nest making. I have some brass wren ornaments on the top of the trellis panel, which are tiny, but still bigger than the real ones!

Also have had cute little Wood mice in the compost bin (looking rather sleepy and startled when I open the lid).

Last but not least, Weeds. Well not too many hopefully in my garden, though it is rather difficult sometimes to tell if anything sprouting in my new bed is a) seeds I enthusiastically planted in Autumn, b) weeds inherited with my Eastbourne clay top soil c) seeds scattered by the frenzy of birds at the bird table and under it. I guess that’s a good excuse to just wait and see what turns up!

Anyway let’s hope we will be waving goodbye to Winter very soon!

Autumn ends, winter comes,
And everybody’s gone.
Days grow short, and pull apart,
And now the nights are long.
We winter wrens have made amends,
With the silence and the cold.
So, just leave us to our own device.
We winter wrens are fine.

So, just leave us to our own device
We winter wrens are fine
‘Cause there’s no mistake of the call we make
When there’s no one else around

‘Cause there’s no mistake of the call we make
When there’s no one else around

Lyrics, Winter Wrens by Dolorean

 

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V for Vigour, Verbena and Vinca minor

One of my favourite plants is Verbena Bonariensis. I first fell for it, when I saw in G’s parents’ front garden which was a tidy shingle sunny bed, with these towering purple blooms right at the front, fabulous. They self seed everywhere so Pat found a few escapees and gave them to me but they failed to thrive (some being accidentally beheaded by G when he decided to strim the grass (and anything near it.. doh)

I then grew some from seed, and carefully nurtured them, potting them on as they grew. When I planted out and left them around 3-4 inches high, by the next day, there they were gone. Slugs and snails my main suspects! Anyway I persevered and last year managed to get a plant to survive and I see it is already sending up new shoots, so I’m happy.  Maybe the self seeded ones are a bit less tasty, and more defensive. They are never going to have enough space or sun to do as well as Pat’s garden (which won a prize in an Eastbourne in bloom competition), but there will be enough to keep a few bees happy.

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They are rather on the tall and leggy side, and when I spotted  a dwarf one for sale in the garden centre, I couldn’t resist. I kept it in a nice white pot, and it kept itself tidy (if rather spiky) and bloomed for ages. Nice to look at, but I don’t think I saw a single bee or butterfly on it. Which is rather a shame. It’s still alive I think, though probably could have done with a mulch before this cold spell started, but we will see if it makes it.

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Another V is Vinca minor. The periwinkle is a lovely ground cover plant, and I have a couple on the shady side, that are reliable without overtaking the garden.

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V is also for Variegation. I don’t think you can get enough variegation in your leaves! They can really add texture and depth to a patch of green or a dark corner!

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And ending with a Villain, the dreaded Vine weevil. You buy a plant, and care for it and then weep as it wilts and dies. Often the cause is an infestation of vine weevils in the pot. I lost a few purchases this year, and must remember to try and check the roots for these little villains, before I settle the plants in! Apparently this is a good time to check the roots of any ailing plants in pots, so must try that when they thaw out!

 

U for Underplanting and umbellifers

 

Um, well can U think of any plants beginning with U? I can’t find any in my garden!

This year however I will need to think about my Underplanting, in the new raised bed by the hedge and under the new crab apple tree. Suggestions for a rather shady but fertile spot welcome, especially something tall that can hide the rather unsightly netting covering the hedge.

Some more Umbellifers perhaps, although these prefer the sun! Surely the most lovely of these plants (rather popular with Chelsea garden designers), is the ubiquitous cow parsley. Probably not a good one for my little patch, but up on the downs, here between Lullington Heath and the Cuckmere valley, it is just glorious, clouds of soaring white flowers all along the South Downs way.

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Other umbellifers include the wonderful fennel, sweet cicily and angelica

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Up the Umbellifers!

Tumbling toms and thunbergia

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T is for tomatoes. I may not have a greenhouse or a lot of space, but I do still like to squeeze in some Tomato plants. Tumbling Tom is a favourite so I grew that one and a new one maskotka. Hard to choose between them really, both did really well in some bargain big £1 tubs from Ikea, in a corner that doesn’t get a huge amount of sun, but is more sheltered from the wind than most of the sunny side. Plenty of cherry tomatoes, and enough  green ones left for four jars of chutney.

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Walk a few yards up the hill behind our houses and you’ll soon spot some Thrift (often known as sea pinks) growing on the slopes and edge of the cliffs. It feels most at home there and in my garden where it is most welcome

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In the Spring of course a succession of bulbs start to cheer up the pots. The tulip bulbs probably need replacing, they weren’t as great this year, they really don’t keep all that well.

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We usually head out to some National Trust or other gardens in the Spring to get the best displays!

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A new plant for me this year is this fantastic Thunbergia (superstar orange). It grows from seed to a substantial climber in one season. What gorgeous orange flowers they are. It did quite well in my garden, but not as well as the one I gave my mum. She’s not really a gardener (My Dad always used to do the garden) but following directions, she kept it in her conservatory, then planted it in her front garden against a warm wall, and it positively blossomed, far longer than mine did! Quite stunning

 

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Another stunning T is a visitor to the garden in January, a Thrush. I only ever see them in January for a short period, while they (or possibly just the one!) clear the berries from the shrubs at the bottom of the alley way. A lovely way to cheer up my cold and frosty January!

 

S is for Summer flowers and Starling squabbles

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S is for Spring and for Summer, but they seems a long way away at the moment. Last year an impulse buy from the garden centre was Scabious, butterfly blue. It impressed me with its lovely flowers and longevity, and was adored by the bees and butterflies! It seemed to self seed a couple of plants too, so these were potted up and are being carefully nurtured for this Summer!

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Another late Summer flower much loved by pollinators is the Sedum, which has thrived, despite some neglect (in fact it appeared to thrive on it, very happy in a pot that was really too small) I left the flower heads on to go russet and crispy!

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A Winter beauty, very resilient is the Skimmia. I first put it in the flower bed, where it obediently survived but didn’t thrive, failing to send its roots out into the world, or to grow a single leaf.

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Now I know a bit better I’ve kept it in a pot and some ericaceous compost where it is much brighter, and pretty much the only real colour out on my patio just now. A cutting has also taken, so there will be more colour next year!

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And I can’t leave S without mention of the noisy ones. What is the name for a collection of starlings I wonder? A squabble of Starlings perhaps.  Today I got a kettle of water and a hammer and broke the thick ice in the bird bath, and within minutes they were back out there drinking, fighting, squawking  and splashing. Life is never dull with them around!

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Q Oh so quiet .. And R for rosemary and rudbekia

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I was struggling to find anything botanical for Q. Although perhaps my favourite thing is the bliss of an afternoon spent fiddling away in the garden. Not completely Quiet perhaps, but peaceful and uninterrupted. Just as an artist may revel in the potential of a clean page, so I love to luxuriate in a free peaceful afternoon. One to be filled only with the tiny sounds of the garden.  Just me in the garden fiddling about pulling up a weed here, and deadheading a flower here, Snip!.  Grasses swaying, leaves rustling, starlings squabbling and splashing, a robin singing and bees buzzing. Years ago I had a tiny courtyard garden, and if you sat out early evening you could hear a hundred snails crawling out from their hiding place behind the Virginia creeper up the wall, and munching! Eek! I visited some friends in France one Summer and remember lying out on their garden wall in the evening gazing at a vast starry sky, watching, while dozens of feeding bats swooped all around, so close I could hear the vibrations of their wings swooping inches away from me.

Love may be like a red red rose. Alas I have no roses. My most loved R is probably Rosemary such a wonderful powerful herb. I used to have a huge bush in the courtyard garden I mentioned above. In my garden now I planted a small one in the well drained end of the planter and it has done magnificently recently! The only herb that I can really use in Winter! I love an excuse to trim it back, (Rosemary roast potatoes anyone!)

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The other new favourite is rudbekia, which I grew from seed last year, and they started to bloom just in time to go in the new raised bed. What stars they were, blooming for months, those wonderful cheerful yellow heads. Hopefully the clump will be ever more resplendent this year!

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I can’t leave the garden without mentioning the boss. Mr (or Mrs!) Robin is certainly a welcome fixture in the Winter garden.  Beautiful singing, and territorial posing with that wonderful scarlet bib.(Pictured at Nymans, we don’t get a lot of snow by the sea!)

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Another welcome rarer visitor is a black Redstart, that can more often be spotted on the seafront near the cliffs, but makes the odd venture into the gardens.

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Anyway that’s quite enough from me!

 

 

P is for poppy, propagation and pots

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P is for Poppy, such a beautiful flower but one to ever remind us of the horrors of war. I didn’t really plant any poppies this year (the previous year I grew one was so disappointed at how quickly they died).

I did have a few Californian poppies but not so many as previous years, they would be happier with a bit more sunshine I think. In the flower beds a couple of rogue poppies came up anyway , a furtive pink haze and I am always happy to see a beautiful interloper in a tricky spot. Weed, what do you mean weed, there is no such thing, only the wrong plant in the wrong place! The poppy is very welcome anywhere in my garden.

P is also for Phormium, a suitably tough beast of a plant, that can cope with our ferocious weather. P is also for plentiful Summer Pots, of Petunias and Pansies.

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Always ready to cheer up a dull corner. Always amazing how one tiny tiny plug plant can expand and full a tumbling hanging basket. The yellow pansies came in small trug from Waitrose and filled two big pots; They didn’t stop blooming for months and months. Perfect.

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I must admit I’m not really a “Pink”girly sort of girl. I really don’t much like the colour pink (certainly in clothes and decor). However in 2016 I decided to bite back my prejudices and let the pink escape to run riot in my garden. I must say I was rather pleased with the outcome! Humble chives, joined the thrift, cosmos, fushcia and saxifrage where they made a perfectly pink corner, with the valerian boldly bursting out in the background.

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In late Summer I also grew some Phlox. What a little beauty! One packets of seeds, many different shades of pink and all blooming well into Autumn, in fact there is still some in flower today and the snowclouds have been passing over. Next year, more phlox please!

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All rather quiet in the garden and shed just now, but it will soon be time for my favourite pastime. Propagation! The heated propagator will have a dust down, and I’ll be filling my seven tiny seed trays in our sunny spare bedroom with warm compost and new seeds. The chillis will be first, as they need such a long season to get going, with whatever other herbs and flowers like starting early and by March/April I’ve usually got so many seeds on the go at different stages, that nobody can easily sleep in the spare room as the window sill will be too full of seedlings to pull the blinds. Then I really run out of space and dream of a garden big enough to have a greenhouse.

Let’s get Potting!

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