Still Here, Still Gardening


Or at least, I’ve been gardening as much as I possibly can.


A new pond on the west lawn

It is still very, very wet here in Sussex – I can’t do as much as I’d like to do.  Or need to do.


Miscanthus transmorrisonensis (with coiled drainage pipe & spoil heap art installation)

When it has been dry enough, I’ve cut back various beds and

DSM_9507mulched with my rather lovely, two-year old leaf mould.  Tucked behind the beech hedge is an old boat which I’ve planted up with ferns.  I apply a thick layer of mould each year and even though it has no drainage holes, they seem to thrive.  Actually they do so well that the boat serves as a fern nursery – producing offspring for use elsewhere in the garden.


I’ve had ample time to check and clean out the nest boxes.  This one held a perfect, abandoned nest and half a dozen eggs.  I don’t know why the parents (blue tits, I think) deserted … perhaps because a holding screw was missing and the box a little wobbly.  About 60% for my ‘boxes were used which is my usual take-up rate.


When the weather has been truly appalling (most days), I’ve sometimes been under cover making new ‘boxes.


With a mitre saw, some planking off-cuts and a stack of roof tiles, I can churn them out easily enough.  Hmm … there might be a fundamental design flaw with these particular ones.


With that design issue addressed, I’ve put the new ‘boxes up in the gardens.  This one is on a weeping willow on the west pond.  There are now thirteen of this design (plus two robin/fly-catcher boxes and one for tawny owls).


Bad weather time is also shopping time.  I’ve ordered lots of plants including these dahlias: I’ve wanted Dahlia ‘Twyning’s After Eight’ for a while.  I’ve also ordered – and am feverishly waiting for – a large order of tropical plants for a new border.


Don’t you just love a photo of a cellophane wrapped plant sitting in a cardboard box?

Three bare-root Rosa ‘Sander’s White Rambler’ have arrived.  They will go into gaps in the rose tunnel.


I’ve potted up various plants too including these pretty little violas (they look sad, wet and bedraggled),

DSM_9238this Streptocarpus ‘Crystal Ice’ (infested with green-fly)


and this spare bamboo (it looks sad and lonely).  I saw this idea of planting up an old water tank in the garden of a rather nice restaurant recently and had no hesitation whatsoever in nicking the idea.  The bamboo will fill the tank in time, I suppose.


On a happier note – look here.  This is my new holding bed.  Or will be.  I used to have two holding beds but lost them when the new greenhouse went up. I have really missed my holding beds.  Who knew that a holding bed could give me so much pleasure?  Who knew that a holding bed was so very useful for holding things?  Who knew that losing my holding beds would cause such inconvenience and dissatisfaction.

So here is my new holding bed.  It needs a little more work yet – two more boards and some soil for a start.  But soon it will be a fine new holding bed and I shall be happy.


I wanted to part-screen the greenhouses and so last April I dug a new bed and mulched it.


Then I planted a long line of alternate green and dark red-barked dogwoods.  I saw this done in a Gloucestershire garden and the established leafless hedge, lit by mid-winter sunlight, was striking and quite handsome.  But now that I’ve done the deed, I’m unsure.  It may look a little er, naff?


I used half a dozen dogwoods which I had knocking about the place (as you do) and for the rest simply pushed in the spring prunings from established plants.  Conventional wisdom told me it was too late in the year for cornus cuttings to take but do you know what?  After all that hard work and initial doubt … my cuttings were a complete and abject failure.  Utter rubbish.  Out of about 30 cuttings only one took.  Oh, well – worth a try.


I really want the hedge to get under way this coming year and so last week, I abandoned the cuttings plan and bought three more dark dogwoods (Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’ ).  Then I rummaged about the garden and came up with some more spares.


I dug this one up with an accompanying carpet of snowdrops – which I have split off and dotted along the bed.


Job done.  Now I’ll sit back, wait a couple of years and see just how naff it looks.  Or not.


Thanks to everyone who entered the Charles Dowding’s Veg Journal competition.  There were loads of entries – far more than I was expecting.

And the winner was … Ros Forge.  Congratulations!

43 thoughts on “Still Here, Still Gardening

  1. Hi David, I am a fellow Sussex Gardener and have just started my own blog. I have just come to yours via the Rhs website to see how it is done. I loved your poppy post with beautiful photos and interesting notes. I share your interests and will be coming back to read again. Thank you for being inspiring. Wendy


  2. I seem to have missed this post along the way David – hence, a bit late to the dogwood party. I think you are worrying about naffness unnecessarily – the soil looks lovely and rich – I would be quite happy to grow in it.


  3. Love the cornus and they’ll look stunning in winter sunlight. Well…if we ever get any. How are you holding up down there? Monmouthshire has become a lake and it’s a tad windy here. I’ve struggled with my garden mojo, just feeling quite dispirited by the relentless weather but I spent today ordering seeds and summer bulbs in defiance. I grew Tahoma Star a few years ago. The bees and butterflies adore it. Have you ever put up a box without a hole in it and only realised once it was up. It’s the sort of thing I would do. 😉 Hope the arms are still intact.


    • Hi WW-Lou, I’m holding up after a fashion thanks – only too aware that I need to be cracking on and mostly unable to do so. Good to hear about Tahoma Star – I try only to buy single dahlias as I hate to think that otherwise the bees can’t get at the nectar. Haven’t yet put up a box without a hole – but I did start off without the steel plates. Until squirrels started chewing their way in that is. Dave


  4. Hmmm, I’m undecided: I’ll be interested to see how your cornus hedge looks when it is all grown up. When snowdrops and hellebores throng along its feet, they may dispel any lingering naffness… I do love the glowing stems of dogwoods in the winter sun.


  5. Those dahlias are awfully tempting this time of year aren’t they! and you’ll be so pleased with yourself in August and September.
    The dogwoods and snowdrops will look great, totally un-naff, although I don’t think I’m a good judge of naff-ness… but I think if you plan on finding room in your holding beds for all the pots along the greenhouse, well you might need to buy some longer boards.


    • It is difficult to imagine dahlias in flower at the moment. And difficult even to imagine wanting a holding bed. You’re right about the pots – quite a few of them will be dispensed with and their occupants put in the holding bed. Which will save me tripping up over them. Longer boards on order! Dave


  6. I’m delighted to have stumbled upon your interesting blog, David. Fabulous garden, I look forward to your posts. Great idea planting up the boat with ferns. I envy you a little for the glasshouses. One can never have enough space.


    • Hello Annette, thanks for your kind words, for following and for taking the trouble to comment. The fern boat does seem to be popular – I barely thought to mention it before. It’s been planted up now for about five years! Dave


  7. The odd thing is that probably all of us *do* love photos of cellophane wrapped plants sitting in cardboard boxes.

    I fell in love with ferns when I lived in the northeast, but here they don’t do well even as house plants. I envy you your boat full of them. (Not much call for boats here, either.) And I don’t know how you’ve managed not to go around the twist in all that weather of yours. My hat’s off to you. (Full disclosure: I don’t actually wear a hat.)


    • I would very much recommend a hat, Stacy. And unlike mine it needn’t be grubby or disreputable. Though there is little point in wearing one here at the moment – it would just get carried off by the wind. And you don’t really know whether or not I’ve gone round the twist do you? I might be quite loopy you know. Quite, quite loopy. Oh and I’ll try and make cellophane wrapped plants in cardboard boxes a regular feature. D


  8. I saw some red and green cornus growing together a few weeks ago and they looked amazing. I think your hedge will be fine and not naff at all.
    I noticed you had put a nesting box on an established tree. Does anyone know if there is any danger to the tree if you do this? I was recently given a beautiful nesting box but have been rather afraid to put a nail into any of our trees in case I cause an infection.


    • Hi Annette, good question but I don’t think a couple of screws will damage a large tree (though I think copper nails/screws can do harm). Incidentally I would always use screws so that they can be easily removed. If you ever have to cut down the tree and chop up the wood, hitting an old nail with a chainsaw can do a lot of damage. Thanks for the reassurance re the cornus! Dave


  9. There’s only so much you can do with this very wet weather we’ve been having but nevertheless you have been very productive still! Nice work there, with the bird boxes and all, and yay for the new holding bed! Also like your Cornus strip, not naff at all!


  10. I’ve a couple of nest boxes and I have no idea where to put them (apart from on a tree). Any hints on height and orientation, I’ve never had a nest box used. I think the Cornus will look great but it does take time (like most things in the garden.)


    • Hi Amelia, I read that boxes should be at least four feet of the ground – mine are more like eight. This helps discourage cats and rats, I guess. I have found to my cost that putting a steel plate round the hole is necessary in order to prevent grey squirrels raiding. And I face them roughly north-east – this shelters them from direct sunlight and the prevailing weather (here in SE England that is). Also if yours have never been used I would suggest re-siting them even if the height and orientation is correct. Hope that helps? D


  11. Nice bird box assembly line! I had to smle at Caro’s suggestion of a flotilla of boats, perhaps not quite classy enough for the Priory, but you’ve had me thinking about a posible future for our storm-ravaged boat… Where do you get your dahlias from? I haven’t ordered mine yet, but I am going to take over my holding bed with them and cram more into the veg beds, I am so desperate for hot strong colours . I’ll let you know about your cornus hedge 😉 I love massed cornus underplanted with snowdrops, but can never quite decide about alternating colours. I hope it stops raining before you run out of trees for all those bird boxes…


    • I had hoped you were an enthusiastic fan of alternating cornus, Janet and thus help dispel my doubts. Obviously not. The dahlias were from Crocus and actually, I’m not particularly impressed. The Twynings are thin, spindly tubers and one especially is very weedy indeed. We’ll see soon enough whether they amount to anything. You have a holding bed? I’m very envious. D


      • Sorry, but I am almost certainly wrong and it will look amazing, in fact I will probably drooling over it in a couple of years! Will add dahlias to the list of things not to buy from crocus. But I do still want Twynings After 8 for my front garden….


  12. It is amazing how there is always so much to do, even when we can’t get out into the garden. Great work! I love the hellebores (at least I think they are? in the first picture?). Dana


    • Yes, indeed they are hellebores, Dana. We have another week of bad weather forecast so I’m going to be knocking about trying to find more indoor stuff to do. Becoming rather a challenge. Dave


  13. Glad to hear that you are still out there gardening, you are doing far more than I am in all this rain. Had to smile when I saw that you had pushed in Cornus stems, I did exactly the same with the canes I pruned away in February a while ago, thought a hedge of them at the end of the woodland would look nice, not a single one took, but when I put them into pots they do! Hope this rain stops soon, at the moment we are having hail stones thrown at us!


    • Hi Pauline, a gardener friend had the same experience with cornus – we both thought that cuttings would root easily; we both thought wrong. (I think we had your hail an hour or two after you yesterday. Really quite alarming). D


  14. I do like your ferny boat but your soil pipe installation should be in the Tate? I have some ex Twynings After Eight seeds if you would like them. Got a mixed result last year but they should still be viable.


  15. Cornus hedge with winter underplanting will look fab and your hard work will be worth the wait! Winter bed at Capel/Cambridge/Wisley looking great. Underplanted with grasses, erica, hellebores, eranthis. I particularly love C. Kesselringii underplanted with Erica x darleyensis f albiflora, a stunning visual.
    Any thoughts of using boat to row around the grounds?!!


    • Thanks for that reassurance, Caro. I have planted eranthis in the past (after seeing it en masse in the Lake District) but it seems to have disappeared. I shall have to try again. There is a second old boat at the Priory for pond duty – though I don’t think it’ll be long before that is retired and planted up too. D


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