Busy, Busy, Busy

When not gallivanting around the north of England, I’ve been gardening frenetically these past few weeks.  Why, I’ve barely had time to file my nails and flick through ‘Hello’ magazine.

Some jobs are annual tasks, such as …

The Long Borders are full of allium and tulip promise. Since this photo was taken I've pruned the cornus in the foreground.

… the mulching of the beds.  I normally try to get them all finished during the winter but I seem to be playing catch-up this year.   I also finally got round to …

… digging the vegetable beds and adding three barrows of compost to each; except the one that holds, frankly, disappointing over-wintering onion sets.  I also added two barrows of manure to four of them – from the infeasibly large manure pile out on the drive.

Working through my bin of compost. The pale green lump by the spade is duckweed. Note to self - it doesn't break down (who knew), so don't bother composting it again.

I’ve used up most of my leaf mould now.  It went as a mulch on some of the beds (the kidney beds in particular) and on the young beech hedging.  With the leaf mould all but gone, I started to use the compost that I made last year.  I’m terribly pleased with it.  It is almost entirely composed of grass cuttings but regular turning and the adding of green waste, paper and cardboard has made it into the above.

I’ve also been digging up herbaceous plants and relocating them into gaps in the borders.  Splitting and dividing where they have been large enough to do so, moving plants to more suitable locations and generally striving for more cohesion.  The trick though, is to remember what’s planted where – something I have yet to master; though it’s been fun trying to work out which dormant plant is which.

I finally dug up the Gunnera manicata (see earlier post –  ‘Gunnera manicata’) which was struggling on the east lawn.  It split easily into three parts which I barrowed over to the meadow and re-planted next to another gunnera that is much happier (as much as a gunnera can be happy).

Hopefully, I shall end up with a large bank of huge stately leaves.

And in the space vacated by the GM?  Well, I put in a Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple.’   I’ve been meaning to plant a Smoke Tree/Bush for a couple of years now.  When I saw one recently reduced by 50%, I grabbed it quicker than quick can be, clasped it tightly to my chest and scowled at anyone who came too close.  Here, with plenty of space available, it can attain any size it pleases.

The Priory has a rose tunnel.  Not a gorgeous, elegant rose tunnel but a rose tunnel nonetheless.  It is old and rustic and made from chestnut posts and top-rails.  I would prefer something more architectural and curvy but hey, it is a rose tunnel – not something I’ve ever had the chance to play with before.  Some rotten and some missing posts were replaced last year and it was extended in length too.

I’ve dug nine more planting pockets for David Austin roses and I’m now awaiting their delivery; all disease resistant, repeat flowering whites.  Edging the planting spaces are snowdrops and I’ve ordered more to plant in the newly cut squares.  I’ve had a murderous glint in my eye ever since I first spied the evergreen honeysuckle (above) and was finally given permission (after much nagging on my part) to despatch it.  Hoorah!

A quick unravelling of stems and …

… a maniacal whizz-whizz with the chainsaw and the deed was done.  A few swipes with the mattock and out came the roots.  Hoorah again.

In leaf and flower, the roses will, with luck, hide much of the tunnel structure.

The Iris Bed hasn’t worked.  I’ve tried but have decided that, like the honeysuckle, its time has come.  I inherited three patches of bearded irises with planting spaces in between.  I then added two more patches – creating five planting spaces.  When the leaves were tidy, the irises could look rather good and provided some structure in the bed all year round.

The Iris Bed (with iris leaves waiting to be cleaned up) - September 2011

But the flowering season was terribly short and the amount of time needed to weed in amongst the rhizomes and take off dead shrivelled leaves meant that the bed as a whole was simply too labour intensive.  They had to go.

So the iris bed is to become a new tropical border.  I planted a small one last year and the owner was rather taken with it; so we’ve decided to expand  into this bed.

I spent quite some time digging up irises and some double tulips I didn’t much like (though I re-used a few Carnival de Nice) and then replanted sedums, rudbeckia and other bits and pieces in various parts of the garden.  I’m now almost ready to dig it all over, incorporating manure and compost.  I do though need to remove a few inches of soil;  it is banked up too high against the outbuilding wall and causing internal damp.

Nearby is a relatively new path; looking like nothing so much as a runway.  I’ve ‘painted’ it with watery manure and a broom (fun job) in an attempt to age it and it isn’t quite as shocking as when it was laid.  I’m cutting two new borders along side it in order to soften the straight lines.  Excess soil from the Iris Bed will be incorporated into them when ready.

This is a big job as you can imagine; the path is about twenty metres long and the new beds will have curved outside edges when I have finished.  I’ve got some ideas for the planting plan but I also have a big pile of books and gardening design mags to thumb through for inspiration – while filing my nails.

27 thoughts on “Busy, Busy, Busy

  1. What a surprise! You really did a good job there! I really thought you only go out for long walks or lay in the greenhouse, filing your nails and maybe eating grapes… I’m pretty curious about that tropical border, because it was nice before, so I expect something even better. That big honeysuckle had to go, definitely. The rose tunnel might look rustic but I like it, the roses will cover it all quickly! What kind of Austin did you buy? (I mean which Austin’s relative named rose?)


    • Oi!! What do you mean, “a surprise”? You cheeky Italian. I’ll have you know I work very, very, very hard – when not popping grapes and seeing to my nails. And having a kip in the greenhouse. That’s very funny re Austin relatives because yes, one of them was. I bought (and planted today) – Mme Alfred Carriere, Snow Goose and …. Claire Austin. I hope you approve. Dave


      • Obviously I approve! All white blends and they say Claire Austin has a strong, myrrh, vanilla fragrance, which sounds amazing to me. I hope Mr Austin is going to have grandchildren or we’re not going to see any new English Roses for a while…


  2. Hi Dave,
    I think you’ll have to do something about the lemon-yellow background. Subtle it ain’t, and IMO it leaches colour from your photos….

    But, more to the point – the duckweed. It is truly weird that a miniscule fragile plant like that doesn’t break down in compost. I’ve noticed that too, and I don’t understand it. It does eventually succumb to my two year cycle, but very reluctantly. I’m sorry for your hosepipe ban – this is not something I have ever had to contend with! I would happily send you some water, but the p&p might be a bit much!


    • Duckweed is strange stuff. Unbeknownst to me, I recently had some infiltrate my tropical fish tank – on the back of some other plants. Within weeks it had smothered the top of the tank. I spent quite some time on Sunday removing every last tiny leaf. Yawn. Shame it doesn’t break down quicker though as I added a huge amount to the ‘bins last year.

      I wouldn’t worry about P&P Mr K – perhaps we could just run a hosepipe down from your stream? And you were quite right about my lemon-yellow. Better? D


  3. The rose tunnel structure wouldn’t be at all out of place in New Mexico – that kind of sturdy simplicity just fits here. It doesn’t seem out of place at the Priory, either, actually, from what I’ve gathered (which could be completely wrong, of course). I agree with Sara and Holley that once it’s covered in roses the shape will soften beautifully. Re: the “runway” – with the big trees in the background, I can see it being a very special place eventually, in a sheltered, serene kind of way. At first I misread metres as minutes (don’t ask me how, because I don’t know) and thought that was a very long path indeed.

    Welcome back!


    • Hello Stacy, the path was originally much, much narrower and made of housebricks that had shattered over many winters. But it wasn’t that noticeable. Then the new one was laid and it was a bit of a slap in the face. I had always wanted to plant a pleached avenue along it but was vetoed. But with plants (probably nepeta – it’s too damp for lavendar) flopping onto it, it should be a lot softer. I suspect the old bird bath at its end may need to be replaced with something bigger. Golly a twenty minute path would be long, wouldn’t it? Chuckle.


  4. You’ve clearly been busy and things are looking better for it. I’m not surprised you haven’t had time to blog. I know what you mean about iris, they do look lovely when in flower but the rest of the time they can be a nuisance, especially in very small borders.


  5. Wow, and I thought I was busy!! It all looks really exciting though and it must be very enjoyable to be able to do a few planting plans for such large beds. And i think the rose walk will look great when in flower, v jealous.


    • It will be nice, one year Jason, not to have new beds to dig or old ones to re-design and re-plant. It would be very nice indeed just to do annual mulching and tweaking of borders – though I can’t begin to think when that might be, as I still have other projects to get off the ground. D


  6. Dave what do you mean you don’t have time to file your nails?! 🙂

    I was exhausted just reading how busy you have been – I have just the one raised bed for vegetables about the same size as yours and that is going to keep me out of mischief. It is all lovely very very loverly :-))


    • Hehe. Yep, I know. The state of my nails will continue to be shocking. I’m very worried about the hosepipe ban and wondering whether I’m actually going to be able to plant much in the way of veg this year – and keep it all watered. D


  7. You have done so much! Even with all your gallivanting around! Love, love, love the rose tunnel! The structure looks great to me, and it will be fabulous when covered with blooms. Glad you removed the honeysuckle, though. I think that was the right decision. Interesting to hear you talk about the iris bed as I’ve been considering putting on in. This makes me re-consider. Your borders along the walkway are going to look fabulous. Lots of great inspiration here.


    • Thank you Holley. I did save some irises for elsewhere – I don’t hate them! It’s just that when they’re planted en masse they can be a little too time consuming. Glad you like the rose tunnel. I guess it won’t start looking the part for another year or two. Dave


  8. Looks like you’ve been very, very busy indeed! The garden’s looking good and well prepared now for the growing season ahead. Welcome back after you brief pause from blogging!

    Interesting too see too that you’re expanding you’re tropical border. Not surprised that the owner was taken to the one you did last year 😉


  9. I knew you had to be doing something constructive, with so much time on your hands and fingertips, Mr Dave! When oh when are we going to have wall-sized computer screens so I can see all your beautiful photos properly? They deserve it. When do you have time to be anxious, by the way?


    • Yeah, sorry about the size of photos – they are a little on the large side. I’m looking to change the blog layout anyhow but nothing too drastic. I always make time to be anxious Mr F – it’s what keeps me going! D


  10. Wow, lots done and even more to do. The mulched beds look very smart, and lovely to have a smoke bush. I think I’ve resigned myself to the likelihood that we won’t have space for one, alas.

    Lovely to have new borders to plot, plan and plant (shame about the digging though). And somewhere for lots of roses to sprawl. I think the ‘arch’ doesn’t look too bad, could have been a lot worse than chestnut posts, and once it’s smothered in roses its square shoulders won’t seem so brutal.


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