Monday 11 June 2012

Wisteria - Uncut.

Wisteria pruning can seem daunting but if you love the fragrant racemes of delicate flowers but really can't face all that precise snipping in July (new shoots to 6 leaves) and again in January (shoots to two or three buds) just find the right spot and let it run wild!

This wisteria has a wonderfully wild exuberance about it which is lost when the plant is elegantly trained and restrained flat against a house, I love the sheer size and untamed extravagance of it. Untouched by secateurs for 16 years it is smothered in flower every year and fills the air with the most beautiful scent. (This picture does not do it justice.) Smothering a drab apple tree in my town garden the climber flowers late compared to other wisterias. I can't be sure of the cultivar as it was already in the garden, a thin, unpromising set of twigs pointing up an apple tree. It has never failed to produce a dramatic display despite my failure to prune or feed! The only slight management has been to unceremoniously lop off bits which grow  low over the lawn when they begin to poke people in the eye. It has the apple tree in a tight embrace, or is it a strangle hold? For now the tree is surviving, blooms and fruits despite its burden. Wisteria is really rather a magnificent garden thug by nature so if you want a mound of trouble free bloom in late spring or early summer find the right place  and set one free.


Thursday 24 May 2012

Round one to the gooseberry sawfly

I am a live and let live gardener, I trust that in the fullness of time most pest populations will be kept in check by other things that live in my plot. As an organic gardener I don't spray at the first sign of trouble, I encourage biodiversity, use companion planting, construct physical barriers and rely on growing strong plants that will shrug off a pest attack, normally this works, things do sort themselves out. The great exception to this is the gooseberry sawfly, last year they ravaged the fruit garden, I was hoping the harsh winter might have done for them but no, they have started their relentless campaign of defoliation again!

After just a few days away I wandered into the fruit patch to find four of my gooseberries looking forlorn completely without leaves, tiny fruits hanging on to the naked branches. The culprits had already left the scene, stuffed with gooseberry leaves they are probably already in their silk cocoons pupating in the soil. The problem is I know the next generation are on their way. The gooseberry sawfly is the most impressive pest I have ever come across the small green- brown caterpillars with black markings hatch from eggs laid on the lower leaves of the plant they then very efficiently eat their way along the branches leaving nothing but leaf stalks in their wake (actually they don't touch the fruit either). In just a couple of days the plague  of caterpillars can strip a bush, they then pupate in the soil. I have spend hours (no exaggeration), shredding my hands picking off the caterpillars but there are always more! When the first wave vanish the naive might breathe a sigh of relief but battle veterans know another generation will appear, in fact there are three generations a year from late April to September. Last year they first stripped the gooseberries, moved on to the red and white currants and finally for an encore ravaged the jostaberries. Sturdy bushes will recover but harvests the following year will be affected and repeated defoliation will weaken and kill the plant.

Its time for retaliation, they may have won the first round by stealth, taking advantage of my absence but the fight is not over! Picking off the culprits just is not an option this time, it just didn't work. I have read about various DIY concoctions from steeped plant leaves used as a spray but they are all from toxic plants and sound a little too unknown for me. This year I have decided to get tough and employ the assassins of the pest world, nematodes, in the form of Nemasys Grow Your Own, which is completely harmless to the environment. I am ready for the next generation. Round 2 to the nematodes I hope!

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Free chive edging is looking great.

The chives which line the long beds in the veg patch are looking marvelous. The purple pompom flowers are just beginning to burst from the equally beautiful, elegant buds. This is especially satisfying because they cost nothing, in fact they are the reward for some shamefully lax weeding practices. When I set out the fruit garden I used chives to edge the long beds.  Chives make an easy, useful, informal edging and they look fabulous. When I set out the veg patch a year later with the same layout I needed more chives to mirror the scheme. Fortunately I found plenty of plants self -seeded around the garden, almost all I needed! A real bonus when  loads of plants were needed to line the 7m long beds. 

If I had been dutifully hoeing the beds a quick, shallow shuffle of the hoe would have sliced the growing shoots before they broke the surface. A nice sharp hoe is probably the best tool in the battle against weeds, getting them young. When things do get out of hand, finding useful seedlings in a weed covered bed is at least a small compensation for a nasty, tedious weeding job. Verbena bonariensis, Stipa tenuissima, Verbascum, Digitalis and Papaver somniferum often pop up in unexpected places and I gratefully move them on. I weed around the desirable seedlings and leave them to grow on until they are a good size to move or pot up. 

My chive seedlings were bolstered with a few clumps cut from the existing plants in the older beds, (chopped out with a bread knife) and just a year or so later they are the stars of the veg plot this week. 

Monday 14 May 2012

Brilliant Bougainvillea

Exotic and brilliantly colourful this amazing bougainvillea with its intensely coloured bracts, sits forgotten in the corner of the conservatory all winter, then almost overnight it puts on this fantastic show which lasts for weeks and weeks. The plant was a free gift with the house so I don't know its age but it seems immensely happy with its lot. It lives in an unheated conservatory which gets pretty cold in the winter and amazingly hot in the summer. For part of the day at least it tolerates the full heat of the sun as the conservatory roof is only partially shaded. Bourgainvillea can withstand temperatures as low as freezing so long as they are kept on the dry side and I am sure mine has endured temperatures of around freezing, causing it to lose leaves, but it recovered.

 It gets scant watering in the winter and a good slosh once a week when the weather warms up. Too much water in early spring can be a cause of poor flowering in bougainvillea. When I say flowering I should point out that the flashy coloured bit is a bract, the flowers are far more staid, insignificant little trumpets held at the centre of each cluster of bracts. As for feeding, well it gets a couple of general purpose plant food slow release pellet shoved into the soil about now ish, that's it.

Since it is a fairly big plant (though it does not object to pruning) and a lover of good light the bougainvillea is probably best suited to life in a conservatory, but if you have the right spot it is very easy to keep. The rampant splash of colour this wonderfully undemanding plant is delivering is all the more welcome because outside it is grey, miserable and still raining!

Friday 11 May 2012

Low maintenance containers- marginal plants in pots and catching up.

A fabulous watering can, soon to be festooned with flowers and an olive jar awaiting the papyrus still sheltering inside!

An update is undoubtedly a tad overdue, things have been happening and several projects have progressed despite the weather: In front of the house tarmac has been ripped up and a new streamlined driveway set out- more garden, less car park; in the veg plot a plethora of seeds and young  plants are now in the ground; the 'hideous corner' is at least partially transformed into somewhere nice to eat and in the new cut flower area lasagna beds have been heaped up and seeds sown. All of this work has been hampered, delayed and in some cases damaged by the staggering amount of rain we have had. It has fallen with such force seedlings have been squashed into the ground and a gorge cut into the base prepared for the new drive (building work on the drains was stopped by the ceaseless down pour!). It is still raining, but this rain is nothing compared to the deluge of previous weeks, we have even had a few dry days, with sun! So it has all been a bit of a battle, not very photogenic and very, very, very muddy. Progress has been made in snatched moments when the rain eases or by spending hours bundled up in waterproofs and wellies. Updates for each  project in the next few posts.

Bank Holiday Monday was a much needed sunny day, so, as a treat, I started on one of my low effort container projects. I love plants in pots, though I have frequently vowed to kick the container growing habit, normally when I am hastily struggling around with the watering can in time I don't have. My problem is basically plants in pots look great. A striking plant in a great pot can transform a space, paving and decking can look bare and uninviting without a collection of artfully placed pots. In short they are the best and easiest way to decorate the garden and give an outdoor space a lift. Buying new garden pots is like buying new curtains, cushions and throws for a room, an easy way to add a touch of pizzazz to a tired scheme.

Windswept marginal plants, at least it is not raining.

 So, as a lover of the decorated garden and change, it is no surprise I depend on interesting planted pots to keep the garden looking good. The problem is the watering. Irrigation systems are not an option for the most part and in some locations the black feeder tubes are just too unsightly. My solution is to minimize the drudgery of watering by concentrating on either plants which thrive growing in water, aquatics and marginal plants or those which need very little water indeed, eliminating the need for the daily round with the watering can. The walled area around the back door will get the maginals and the rejuvenated hideous corner and family terrace the drought tolerating sun lovers. The permanent pots, mostly home to acers, olive trees and topiary (three further weaknesses) only get a good water once a week anyway.

Even glass containers can be home to marginal plants, I created these for  a container book. Crammed with soft blue pebbles these angular vases make marginals look rather stylish. (Image copyright Clive Nichols) 

Any container which will hold water (or can be sealed) is fine for marginal plants, I have chosen to use blue glazed pots and fittingly enough for a water garden of sorts, vintage galvanized watering cans. Often glazed pots will have an unglazed base, this can be sealed with PVA or by smearing it with a good coat of silicon sealant. I have also successfully stopped up drainage holes with a good squirt of silicon sealant in and around the hole topped with a piece of ceramic tile.  The plants can be left in their baskets and gravel ( polystyrene, plastic pots or what ever is to hand) used to fill the containers so the plants sit at the right depth in the water (though don't get too hung up on this there is normally a good range of depths the plants will tolerate). Adding a few chunks of Charcoal keeps the water sweet. There are a vast array of aquatic and marginal plants to choose from, prolific flowers, lush foliage plants and dramatic architectural specimens, most will put on a great show year after year. I have one king Cup, Caltha palustris, which has sat in the same glazed water bowl for about 6 years, I recall only adding more water once or twice each year, ( yes, it has dried out occasionally) and every spring it erupts into a mass of  shinning, fleshy yellow flowers. Perhaps the most interesting part is that the root ball is wrapped in a couple of layers of cling film with holes stabbed into it, a temporary, quick fix that has proved a long term  success.

The area around the back door is partially enclosed by a tall stone wall which faces amost due south so it is a real hot spot, ideal for one of my favourite water lovers, real papyrus (cyperus papyrus). I say' real' because I have heard umbrella sedge, (cyperus involucratus) called papyrus, a nice enough plant but stumpy and inelegant when compared to the exotic looking real thing. The papyrus should grow to about a meter and a half with each stem topped with a huge fountain of fine foliage, the perfect plant to soften the imposing wall. The only snag is papyrus is tender and needs to spend the winter inside, no hardship if you have the space, they look spectacular in bathrooms or conservatories. Mine survived this very chilly winter in an unheated conservatory.

Papyrus happily spending the winter in an unheated conservatory. This large plant is still inside until the storms stop. (Image  copyright Clive Nichols)

The olive jars against the sunny wall. Just waiting for the papyrus to grow!  When the plants arrived  I cut  off the tatty stems,  new ones are just about visible.

The delicate, downy geum rivule, Water Avens, a native marginal and damp meadow plant, should flower from April to September and will soon fill its chunky, ribbed container at the centre of the table.  The perfect location to appreciate its demur, drooping blooms. Other olive jars have been crammed with a combination of flowering and foliage plants which should soon flush out an put on a good show. Ranunculus lingua Grandiflorus, Great Spearwort, when really happy, will grow to 120cm but cooped up in a pot I will be happy with half that, it should be smothered with glowing yellow flowers throughout the summer. The grass, Phalaris arundinacea var.picta, Gardener's Garters, a real toughie, makes an attractive fountain of variegated leaves (see the pic at the top of the page), which should look striking in the olive jar once it reaches couple of feet tall. It will thrive in up to 25cm of water.

Table top Geum rivule

Even my treasured battered vintage watering cans are playing host to aquatic plants. See pic at the top of the post) An old galvanized horse trough has been given a new life with a buttery yellow water lily ( and after family pressure oxygenating weed and a few fish!). A few more plants are needed to complete the scheme and it will take a while for the plants to reach their best, (progress pics to follow), but I imagine my watering time will be minimal, especially if it keeps on raining! I am harvesting as much water as I can to keep the pots topped up through the summer.

Talking about drought tolerant plants as I watch rain violently splattering the window seems quite wrong, so next time.


Tuesday 6 March 2012

Easy early salad leaves

Leaving a few beetroot in the ground to grow old through the winter is an easy way to enjoy a tasty crop of  early salad leaves. I love beetroot when they are small and sweetly earthy, inevitably a few escape harvest when they are at their best and end up resembling the giant turnip of the children’s story. This negligence has a welcome result, by leaving these hefty roots in the ground over the winter and I am rewarded with tender new leaves as soon as the weather warms up just a little. This year they were already producing a few leaves at New Year, the cold snap checked them a little, but now they are flourishing. My first salad leaves of the season, they can be treated like any cut-and-come-again salad leaf. I have never tried leaving these roots for a second season, they are normally in the way once things on the veg plot get busy, but this year I plan to try.  

New beetroot leaves

The perpetual spinach is already on the move too, I know it lacks the delicacy of true spinach but perpetual spinach is real favourite of mine because it is a genuine easy option. Spinach has such a reckless tendency to bolt I prefer the more dependable alternative.  The young leaves are perfect to add a little body to an early salad, and again this is a bonus, no effort crop - I used the leaves all last summer and the plants are already providing a few leaves to enjoy now. Bright green chives and feathery fennel are growing strongly enough for me to pick a little too, I love the herby kick they give a salad.  Finally, I have pretty violas to add a dash of colour.

I have the habit of wandering through the garden in the summer, clutching a large bowl and tossing in snippets of this and that to make a salad. Less adventurous guests have been known to look sceptically into a bowl of unfamiliar leaves normally topped with nasturtiums, pansies, day lilies (hemerocallis) or sunflower petals (helianthus annuus). So I was inevitably attracted to (admittedly a little belatedly) Veg plotting’s ‘The 52 weeks salad challenge’. Inspired by the task I will be making an effort to find easy ways to keep my salad bowl brimming for the rest of the year. My old beetroot and perpetual spinach with their new leaves are a start, but I feel a planning list coming on.    

Friday 24 February 2012

Cutting back perennials - The case for delay.

The dried stems and seed heads of last year’s perennials are finally getting the chop. Perhaps this may seem scandalously tardy to some, but I would rather leave the drifts of perennials to age, for the most part, gracefully through the winter than spend months looking at drab patches of bare soil waiting for spring bulbs to show.

The Upper Deck in February. Miscanthus 'Yakushima Dwarf' and Monarda 'Scorpion'. 

I leave the skeletal stems as long as I possibly can, until their ragged untidiness gets to me, which is probably way longer than those of the neat school of gardening could tolerate. Through the autumn and winter the shriveled blooms and stems are given new charm as they shimmer when caught by golden winter sunshine and sparkle fleetingly when encrusted by frost. The swathes of straw like stems, fluffy seed heads and delicate framework of umbellifers look fantastically appropriate to the season - it is second glorious bite of the cherry. The plants that provided a colourful pageant through the summer go on to deliver a quite different, muted, but no less splendid display, through the colder months. Wildlife benefit too: the deft gymnastics of a goldfinch swinging on slender stems to get at seed heads is prize enough but insects benefit too I think. 
Some plants seed heads are more attractive than others and the ghosts of some perennials and grasses are more robust. When I plant now I now try to imagine my schemes not only in the summer but how it will look in the autumn and winter too. Plants will stay in best shape in sheltered gardens. In  areas whipped by savage winds or really damp spots toughies like teasels and verbascums have the best of remaining upright.

Achillea 'Walter Funke' in February after frosts and snow.

My favourite plants which stand well:

Telekia speciosa
Perovskia (Russian sage)
Verbena bonariensis
Lunaria annua
Molinia (beautiful until early winter then flops)
Aquilegia (ladies bonnets)
Monarda (bergamot)
Nigella damascena (love-in-the-mist)
Digitalis purpurea (Foxgloves)
Papaver somniferum (opium poppies)
Echinacea pupurea
Dipsacus fullonum (teasels)
Foeniculum  (fennel)

There are practical advantages to leaving the cutting back until late winter. The first is you know where plants are. Pretty basic stuff, but if you are planting bulbs, adding new plants, weeding or applying mulch, it helps. Secondly, the old growth provides a protective tangle over new soft growth as spring approaches. Finally, you get masses of plants for nothing - no work required, no money changes hands. I love this bit, the plants set seed and these are distributed naturally through the beds and tiny plants spring up bolstering planting, replacing those perennials which have a short life. In this way the planting becomes dynamic and interesting, a self generating colony where some types of plant will thrive and others will dwindle. Those most suited to your patch will thrive. At some point you may decide to intervene to redress the balance by removing some seed heads or organise the chaos by moving plants, but allowing nature to take at least some control will reduce your workload and spend. This also saves the environmental costs of buying in plants raised in a nursery - all excellent reasons to leave seed heads alone and weed carefully preserving young seedlings. Thrift and time-saving, brilliant.

How about the downside of cutting back late? Well, if you dally too long plants will start growing apace making cutting back more challenging as you try to snip around the new growth. Seeing the beauty might be a problem for some, choosing plants that have a sturdy framework helps, as does smartening -up a bed by taking out plants as they become too tatty for you to tolerate rather than waiting for one epic session of cutting back.

The task of cutting back large tracts of planting can be back breaking and leave you with an aching hand, from which the secateurs have to be prised . The large Miscanthus like ‘Grosse Fontaine’ can be a real challenge to cut back in any number so now, after a tip from a landscaper, I fell them with a petrol hedge trimmer. There are probably lots of reasons why this is not the best method, but it works.

Having enjoyed some of these plants for seven or eight months the process of cutting them back is just about finished. Once I have cleared the old growth, I weed and spread a layer of mulch. The beds look rather bare but spick and span and ready for spring.  

Friday 17 February 2012

Out of hibernation straight into spring panic and last minute bareroot ordering

I have been roused abruptly from a comfortable hibernation and inactivity induced by the nasty cold snap and it has been quickly replaced by a familiar, seasonal panic. An alarming email from a nursery proclaiming ‘time is running out for bareroot planting’ and ‘spring is just around the corner’ was given more weight as I worked in the garden yesterday in the company of singing birds and swelling buds. The nursery were right; though there were patches of snow on the ground just last weekend, here at least, spring is definitely on the starting blocks, ready to sprint away at any moment. How will I ever keep up? No matter how much I plan and prepare the spring panic always strikes.
Top of my to do list was ordering the last few bareroot plants I need. I ordered some trees and a stretch of hedging as soon as bareroot plants became available at the end of last year, but I have decided to fill a space I was saving for an asparagus bed with more soft fruit: Autumn raspberries because they are a complete luxury requiring bargain basement care. When all the other soft fruits are over and incredibly expensive in the shops autumn raspberries reward minimum effort with a fantastic, delicious crop. A layer of mulch and chop them to the ground about now and they provide fruit from August to the frosts. Blackcurrants because they are a favourite for jam making and with few more bushes I can avoid considered, careful pruning (to which I am not naturally suited!) and stool the bushes in rotation every three years. As they have most fruit on one and two year old growth this regime works well. Tart Blackcurrants also have the advantage of being one of the fruits that actually make it to the kitchen in great volume- sweeter fruits get grazed as people pass by. I also fancy trying flavouring vodka with blackcurrants, my previous winter warmers, bramble brandy, raspberry vodka and sloe gin proved very popular in the cold snap!
I have chosen the blackcurrant ‘Ebony’ an early cultivar with extra large, sweet berries and the autumn raspberry ‘Joan J’, new to me but the nursery write up claims it is bigger and tastier than ‘Autumn Bliss’, an old favourite, so it has to be worth a try.

Autumn fruiting yellow raspberry  'Fall Gold' in the garden last year. Prolific and flavoursome.

Choosing bareroot plants has huge advantages, there is normally a far greater choice of varieties and the cost savings are considerable plus less water, fertilizers and fuel are used in their growing and delivery. Admittedly what arrives in the post can look a little alarming to the uninitiated, dead sticks with a tangle of roots but I don’t think I have ever had a bareroot tree or shrub fail and I am not the type to lavish them with care! The stock friendly hedge I planted over Christmas is already budding-up nicely. Thanks to a faulty electric fence the stock, (the wily equines Frank, Stan and Sillas) have already sampled it and are still standing. Their diligent nipping out of the tops should mean they shoot nicely further down. The hedge includes hawthorn, crab apple, dog rose, dogwood, field maple, guelder rose, hazel and the wayfaring tree and so it should be a haven for wildlife as well as stock proof once it is established.

A barrow load of bareroot stock friendly hedging

 Running from November until March, the bareroot season is actually a very wide window of opportunity, all the more galling that I am only getting my act together now, as planting earlier, before the very cold weather gives plants the best start and you the best chance of getting the varieties you want. Stocks do run out, having said this the tardy can sometimes pick up a bargain or at least cut price delivery as nurseries try to shift stock before it is all too late. This is where I came in: my plants are now ordered and should arrive in the nick of time. Now there is just the seed box to sort, plug plants to order, the perennials to chop, mulch to spread...
Some tips for bareroot planting:

v Get the plants in the ground as soon as possible after they arrive if the soil is not water logged or frozen.
v The plants look lifeless but can still be damaged by frost and drying winds so if the ground is frozen when they arrive plunge the roots in a sack of compost or pot stuffed with straw and stash them in a cool shed. This can be tough with larger trees, last year I was caught out by weeks of freezing temperatures and kept a clutch of bareroot fruit trees alive by wrapping their roots in layers of newspapers, old duvets and carpets.
v If the weather is reasonable but you are just not quite ready heel the plants in. Dig a trench large enough to accommodate the roots of the plants, lay the plants in the trench at an angle and cover the roots with soil. The plants should be fine for a few weeks but should be planted properly before spring.
v Buy from a good nursery - the way your plant is grown, lifted, stored and transported will all affect how well it gets away in the spring.
v Most bareroot plants should be planted at the same level they were growing at the nursery, look for the soil mark on the stem. Blackcurrants can be planted a couple of inches lower to encourage them to shoot while raspberries will fail if planted too deeply.
v When planting fruit trees ensure the graft, this looks like a swelling or raised ridge around the trunk where the fruiting tree has been cleverly ‘welded’ onto the roots of another to control its growth and vigour, is above ground level.
v Soak the roots in a bucket of water for a while before planting.

Thursday 9 February 2012

Some introductions, the story so far and things to come.

In this, my inaugural post, I would like to introduce myself, my garden and my plans for this blog, all good, solid stuff so far.
Starting with me, a quick rundown: I am a garden designer, the author of 10 gardening books and I have written for a number of gardening publications. My design style has been described as quirky and imaginative and my books as hardworking, innovative and packed with no-nonsense, practical advice -I am happy with that. A passion for plants renders me unable to leave a nursery without a bulging car boot and leaves me shamefully vulnerable to impulse buying plants. I have a love of growing my own and the decorated garden. I try to be good to wildlife and refuse to use pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Upcycling, reuse and thrifty solutions give me a kick but I believe quality is worth paying for. I think each person’s garden should be their own, a space that lifts their spirits and as such is beyond the comment of the arbiters of taste. In case that all sounds a tad earnest I should add my ideal garden is one devoted to relaxation, entertaining, play and escape as well as plants.
My garden: My garden is very much ‘in progress’, it has been under my care for just two years and as it stands it has islands of my creating adrift in someone else’s grand plan. Gradually the original is being nibbled away and one day my grand plan will be complete and the garden will be mine. There is a list, an incredibly long list, of projects and problems to be tackled to complete the transformation and then, I suspect, it will be time to start again. Thankfully a good garden is never finished.
The garden is in Devon and covers about an acre. It is looped around the house and set on the side of a hill so changes of level offer interesting design opportunities. I don’t have a gardener, the business of gardening is more important to me than a pristine garden, though on grim days when everything is getting out of hand, I see this is in fact complete madness. My husband pushes the mower, joyfully wields a chainsaw and lifts things and when big stuff needs doing I have a gang of colourful local builders to call upon.

My first project was to build a simple veg patch and fruit garden on a swathe of perfect lawn. I have little time to devote to this enterprise and my approach is shamelessly relaxed, at times unorthodox, but the garden is still amazingly bountiful. I take every short cut available and things, (mostly weeds) get a little out of control but there is still plenty of tasty organic produce and apparently I am a much ‘nicer person’ when I have been ‘pottering’ in the veg patch for 20 minutes. 

When we arrived there was no real link between house and garden, no place to wander out barefoot with a cup of coffee and slump in a chair, nowhere to eat and cook outdoors  and so the second big change  was to create a terrace of deliciously worn and horrendously heavy York stone flags. This took massive machines, robust builders and serious earth moving.  At the same time a large seat designed with a playful nod to the gothic character of the house and known as The Throne was built into one of the banks.

Next came the Top Deck, completed early last summer by the same intrepid crew, much recovered from hefting York Stone. Set at the highest point of the garden this is a place to take in the view across the valley and relax amongst swathes of flowering perennials alive with bees and grasses. The bees are mine by the way; the planting around the deck is designed to look fantastic and provide plenty of bee fodder too. Sadly I can’t find a picture of it at its fabulous, flowery peak...something for this year.

As well as all that there have been loads of trees planted, a small deck for two built near the back door, containers purchased planted, moved, replanted and moved again, new hedges and innumerable plants removed, replanted or re-homed.
 That is the story so far and plenty more is planned : a rose/herb garden, an area dedicated to cut flowers, I can never bring myself to cut them from the garden, a wild flower bank around my bees ( it is pretty wild now, but a tangle of brambles is not quite the same), the transformation of some sad concrete paving into something marvellous ( as yet unknown) and a thorough revamp of the driveway and area at the front of the house plus the long overdue tidy up and replanting of a long bed backed by gargantuan laurels. There are also numerous small fixes needed: something to hide pipes on the wall by the terrace, a spot to be found for a pizza oven, hedges to sort out, an asparagus bed to build, an idea for low maintenance container planting to try and some tree seats to design and build. On top of that there is the rest of the garden to keep chugging along.
This is where the blog comes in, there is going to be an awful lot going on and I hope some of it will be worth sharing. There will be the routine chores in the veg and fruit gardens, the new varieties and tactics I try to report on, successes and failures alike. There will be plenty of talk about plants, plants I love, plants that disappoint (I have no time for prima donnas) and advice on how to create planting schemes. I hope to include practical step by step instructions on how to create decorative features I include in the garden and to show how to carry out practical tasks, like the much feared pruning. While exciting larger construction projects should yield an abundance of inspiring ideas and helpful information to share.  I will add in give-aways of my new books and I reserve the right to a very occasional, cathartic garden rant.
In short I am inviting anyone who cares to join me on a gardening journey, a journey which I hope will provide solid, practical information and small sparks of inspiration to ignite the imagination of those along for the ride.    

My thanks to Clive Nichols for the fabulous images.