New Year’s Eve 2016 colour in the water garden
The last of the 2016 garden projects took place in late November and saw the digger back in the garden with the sides of the bridge across to the Lower Garden taken down ( again !) to allow it across the stream where finally we got to grips with the area around the new patio as it had been too wet earlier in the year . Peter levelled the area and flattened all the bumps and hollows and finally reseeded it with grass so that from next year the patio will be surrounded by lawns as up until now I was only able to keep it cut with the strimmer and it always looked a bit untidy and apart from the unkempt look it was always dicey enough cutting it with the strimmer as you could easily go over on an ankle .
While in the area we used the opportunity and Peter’s expertise to lay a stone circle around the red oak where the bench had been placed in spring and again it has enhanced the look … I had been concerned that the new bricks might prettify rather than blend in but Peter and I had a good look at the location and decided on a size that I am happy works really well .
Proud of their work and rightly so !
The final piece of work was at the new pool area and was really to rectify my own mistake when setting it out as I had laid natural stone around the edge and this stone was a bit over the top and in my opinion never really fitted the natural look of the area so we removed the entire stone border and also extended the water about two metres further into the garden and now the lawn just runs over the edge of the natural pond and looks much better for it .
I reused the part of the stone to line a retaining wall on one side of the pond … everything gets recycled in this garden and even broken down wooden chairs have a second life as can be seen in the Lower Wood area !
The most popular gardening question is when to prune and my usual answer is whenever you are in the garden with a secateurs and you feel like it … of course this does not really answer the technical aspect of how and where to cut in each individual plant’s case but today in the lower garden I saw the new growth of red cornus that I had cut to the ground two years ago , bright snappy young growth with strong vibrant colour and realised that I needed to be brutal with some other groups of cornus that I had neglected to cut back for a few years so went hell for leather at a group of red and yellow stemmed cornus near the entrance to the top garden and removed all growth to the ground even though normally with cornus I would wait until late February taking advantage of the bark colour for the winter months .
I had left this group of cornus get huge without a real pruning for the past six years with the result that the branches had grown thick and coarse and the coloured bark had lost its Wow factor so this drastic pruning will rejuvenate the shrubs into new whippy pencil thin branches and I also find that old untouched cornus branches get twisted and knarly whereas the young juvenile growth grows straight as a die and looks all the better for it .
Today I finally got to plant 300 dwarf daffodils that I had bought in November but with the hard frost we got for nearly three weeks immediately afterwards there was no point of putting them into frozen ground and left them in a bag in the boot of the car where they have looked disapprovingly at me every time I used the car … I bought them specifically to plant up the five raised stone beds I built back in February as well as the new bed opened at the edge of the woodland patio .
As all these beds have been heavily planted with ground cover geraniums and vinca and have now filled out smothering most of the annual type weeds it was the perfect way to plant bulbs as you can hide them within established growth where there is no further need to dig the ground ( nothing as traumatic for a gardener than slicing through a group of bulbs ) and when the flowers have faded you don’t see the dying foliage which you need to leave uncut for at least six weeks to allow the growth to flow back into the bulbs for next season .
I used the opportunity to plant up in the same beds twelve small helleborus of the silver leaf variety as they look nicer throughout the year rather than the rather boring looking green / brown variety although granted the flowers are not as nice on the silver leaf but as I plant mainly for foliage colour the flower is not so important .
The garden centres sell loads of helleborus with horrible foliage but full of flowers which is what today’s instant customer wants but personally I find these colours vulgarly garish and they are available in nearly all the colours of the rainbow but you end up with the boring foliage for eleven months .
I grow only one type of helleborus which has the silver / grey leaf and with a flower which is soft and subtle but it not just instant gardeners who go crazy for the colours and I know established gardeners who go so far as to strip all the leaves from a hellborus all the better to show off the flowers but as I say no appeal for me .
A month after construction I am pleased with the new look of the pond and we used the excavated soil from the edge of the pond to build up a raised bed to the right of the new area which then I lined with the bigger pieces of rock from the dismantled rockery .This week I planted it up with fives saraccocas and three dwarf pittosporum , all evergreen shrubs that grow into a nice domed shape fronted with some silver helleborus and finished the bed off with an additional 200 dwarf tete a tete daffodils for early spring flowering that were the last of the batch on sale at Woodies .
Taking a break from digging !
While the gardening spirit was with me I replanted a pot in the gravel garden that housed the banana tree removed for over wintering in the shed with a dwarf ozothamus variegate which goes well with another pot holding a purple pittisporum .
The planting of pots is a personal thing and you do see some weird combinations used as examples by the TV gardeners and listening to them you would think that like pruning this knowledge is almost part of the dark arts and is one that takes years to master … not true , dead easy in fact if you follow some basic rules … line the botom of the pot with gravel , small stones or broken pottery as this will allow good drainage , then use good soil or potting compost and if you don’t make your own ( I don’t ) then John Innes professional potting compost is available at all garden centres and away you go to select either a small shrub or a combination of bulbs or bedding annuals .
I like to finish the planting with a layer of gravel as this keeps down weeds and keeps water from evaporating and I have no particular favourite planting combination as I first select a particular pot be it on size , colour or shape to a particular location in the garden which I feel would benefit from a pot and depending on this location and how shaded or sunny I will select the plants … a favourite for shade location is the skimmias or viburnum tinus and I only use the viburnum variety Evelyn Price as it is low growing and both the skimmias and viburnum are very tolerant and will take long periods of neglect … I also use hostas and here I only use the big leaved sieboldiana grey variety , Elegans, but don’t forget to douse the hostas with slug pellets in spring as slugs climb pots and love hiding under the pot … nasty little buggers . I always have a few pots which I plant up every May with big vulgar coloured bedding annuals and I always throw a fewtrailing nasturtiums into each pot as the leaves have a terrific lushness that I like … as I said choice of what you plant in a pot is personal and if you like it then that is the important thing !
I did say that I don’t make my own compost but what I do instead is that I keep several large barrels where I collect all the soil that is washed into the gulleys by rain and into which I throw bundles of collected leaves and the odd fistful of the slow release fertiliser pellets , osmacote , when I think of it and these are added to throughout the year and are my “ stock pots ” and a staple part of any potting mixture I make up .
The pots that are closer to the house are pampered by daily watering in periods of heat and regular feeding with a foliar tomato feed … the plants really respond to this and it makes me feel good too but pots down the garden are too far away for such pampering so they make do with what they get from rain but they are filled with plants and shrubs that can take a lack of tender loving care … a team of garden elfs would be a lovely Christmas pressie !!
One morning in early December there was an unusual combination of frost and fog and the lighting conditions gave me these photos .
Whatever the weather Toby always finds a good sheltered spot ! December 4th 2016
Snezana is curently at home on Christmas leave from OSCE duties on the Eastern Ukraine border with Russia and is as usual looking for a project in the garden which didn’t involve working to my instruction and which at the same time would tackle an area I have either let go / neglected or just not had the time or the inclination to get stuck in to … she pruned back hard an area leading into the conifer wood and then cleaning an area infested with bramble roots with a view to planting lavender in the cleared space in Spring . It is an area that since we originally cleaned out the thick brambles with a digger about six years ago has proved difficult as the soil is dry and poor quality but maybe lavender which doesen’t like lush growing conditions and which in fact thrives on stony poor soil , may just be an inspired choice of hers .
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the garden and in January I was invited to give a presentation to the Clonmel Horticultural Society on how the garden developed from it’s beginning in January 2006 and following this I decided to prepare a small booklet setting out the timeline and narrative of Petrovska Garden which can be viewed on the web site at http://petrovskagarden.com/developing-the-garden-from-the-beginning-in-april-2006-to-present-day/ … so if you have time and want to see how from the unlikeliest sites you can build a garden , enjoy !
Finally a Happy New Year to all our readers from the Petrovska Garden gardeners … we wish you all a happy and safe 2017 !