Summer roses

Yellow isn’t normally a colour I would choose for the garden or in other areas of my life. I can’t wear yellow without looking rather ill and although it can lift spirits on a dull day there is very little yellow in my life. The exception to this, rather surprisingly perhaps, is my garden. Daffodils are one of my favourite flowers and planted quite a few in the garden. Other than that there isn’t much yellow but there is more than I would have included had I designed the planting from scratch.

We made a lot of changes to our garden when we moved in 7 years ago with a completely new layout and a bigger decked area for outdoor relaxing. In an attempt to keep costs down a bit we kept some of the plants that were already in place and quite a few of these are yellow – a mahonia, a lovely Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’ which is under planted with bright yellow/orange Alstroemerias and this really lovely rose.


Yellow climbing rose

Yellow climbing rose

Love roses!

Love roses!

This rose has obviously loved the wet weather we have had and hasn’t looked so good! It has also started growing towards the bottom of the plant to give us flowers all the way up the wall.

Buds and healthy growth lower down

Buds and healthy growth lower down

A close look at these buds shows those pesky little rose pests, greenfly! Not a serious problem but they can weaken the rose if their population gets too high on the plant so I planned to wash or wipe off the greenfly with water. But on even closer inspection……..

Pest control

Pest control

My ‘wildlife gardening’ approach is working!

Cherry update

I’ve been watching the blossom on my cherry really willing it to recover but sadly there has been no such luck I’m afraid to say. The blossom is well and truly dead but still determinedly stuck on the branches which were still very much alive and showing green growth when the top thin layer of bark was scraped away.

I have been searching through my reference books for a possible explanation to this and the only thing that seemed to fit the description of the symptoms was blossom wilt and an email to the RHS with photos and description of my cherry confirmed this. Blossom wilt is a fungal disease that affects fruit trees especially apple, plum pear and cherry. The fungus kills the blossom, spurs and small branches of the tree and also causes brown rot in the fruit.

Leafless tree

Leafless tree

So my next task is to remove and burn all the blossom to try and rid the tree of the fungus which may take some time and a fair bit of arm ache as I work with my arms above my head for a long time. And then it is fingers crossed that the tree makes a recovery despite a year without leaves. Watch this space!

Worried about my cherry

Not wanting to go on about it but this year has started slowly in a change of seasons way. I think everything is about 1 month behind last year. I wrote about my beloved cherry tree and the amazing blossom of last year at the beginning of April, this year it was the beginning of May that the buds finally opened to reveal the blossom.

2013 cherry blossom

2013 cherry blossom

I was very much looking forward to the full blossom show and visits from the bees that we have had from our tree but the blossom didn’t seem to be doing as well as last year. Last year the flowers opened fully and were large enough to link into the next clump of blossom and almost create a full canopy of petals that the bees loved. This year the buds opened but the flowers were smaller.

Smaller impact from 2013 blossom

Smaller impact from 2013 blossom

I put this down to the colder, later spring and thought it was going to be ‘just one of those things’ that vary from year to year and to accept that 2012 was a particularly good year for blossom. But then the blossom started to dry up and turn brown at the edges. Was this a bit of late frost damage or wind damage? We kept on watching and waiting but it kept on turning brown and now it is all dried shriveled petals still on the tree.

Poor blossom

Poor blossom

There are no obvious signs of leaves either and I do keep reminding myself that each year I worry about the leaves but this is just a particular variety that comes into leaf very late and after all the blossom has fallen from the branches. I can’t see any damage to the trunk or branches and it certainly can’t be lack of water causing this! The whole tree is affected.
My wisteria succumbed to a similar, unexplained (by me at least) fate last year and I worried it might be the end but this year it is just about to burst into flower in a beautiful, established wisteria way. I’ll keep watching the cherry with all my fingers crossed that the leaves appear in a week or two and that 2013 spring is just a blip in the cherry’s blossoming life, but if anyone has any ideas on the cause of the brown flowers please let me know! I’ll also do some searching for possible causes to help my lovely tree recover.


If anyone out there has been following my blogs you will know that I have been somewhat saddened by the change in my garden.  For those who missed this I wrote about the loss of the (actually rather ugly) conifers from our neighbours garden.

Well the building has started next door and the builders are certainly cracking on.  I’ve also done some work on this and have drawn up a plan for this part of the garden.  It is a bit of a novelty for me really as although I regularly come up with planting plans for clients, I have not planned the contents of my borders in any great detail instead filling them with odds and ends mainly from other people’s gardens!  Buthis time I felt the need to make sure we regained the lost feel of enclosure.

A Plan for the top of the garden

A Plan for the top of the garden

I decided to use three lilacs in standard form to fill the main conifer gap.  They will quickly grow tall enough to soften the view of a brick wall that we now face.  I had planned to plant them into the ground but now that said wall is almost complete it is clear that this will not be possible if we want to avoid damage to the new building so these will be planted in a long narrow planter.

After the success of our crab apple schnapps last autumn I thought it would be great to have our own crab apples so have included a Malus ‘Royalty’ which has lovely dark red-purple leaves, red-purple flowers and dark red fruits.  This will be planted in the ground to bridge the gap between the lilacs and the tree that was left behind in the neighbours garden.  This neighbouring beech tree has now also been removed so I may need to find another tree I think to add to my already out of date plan.


Malus 'Royalty' blossom

Malus ‘Royalty’ blossom

Anyway, I ordered my trees a couple of weeks ago so I was able to get bare root plants, nice and big for instant impact without a huge cost and these have now been planted temporarily in pots while we wait for the replacement of the earth on the other side of the now very wobbly fence!  As I say the builders seem great – they are not hanging around on this project and will soon be building the ground back up so I can get planting.


Lilacs in their temporary pots

Lilacs in their temporary pots

I am getting quite excited about it all now, I think the planting is going to look great.  What is also obvious already is how much better the plants there already are doing without the conifers to battle with over water.  And actually the new extension is going to look pretty good too, just not green enough for a gardener!

Spring yet?

So it is official, March was the second coldest on record, it was colder than December, January or February this year and the average temperature was just 2.2 degrees.  Although the past couple of days have felt a tiny bit warmer it is still a long way from this time last year.  Spring 2012 was a bit of a strange one though with high March temperatures, trips to the beach in shorts rather than hats and gloves, very little rain and the prospect of a hosepipe ban.

Exactly a year ago I posted about the cherry blossom and enjoying sitting outside underneath the tree reading, a thought that is very far from my mind now with this weather!  There are lots of buds on the tree waiting for warmer times to cover the branches with flowers but a great deal later than 2012.

Cherry blossom buds

Cherry blossom buds


The met office forecasts a return to temperatures that we would expect at this time of year in the next week so I am hoping they are correct.  I also hope that 2013 continues to be very different from 2012 and that we have a complete contrast during the summer as well – we are certainly due a long warm summer in the UK I think!

Rose cuttings

Towards the end of last year Monty Don suggested propogating roses from your prunings in an episode of Gardeners’ World.  I thought I would try this and duly made my cuttings into 20-25cm pieces with a slanted cut at the bottom, sqaure cut at the top (to make sure you put it in the ground the right way up), removed all the leaves and stuck them around the edge of a pot in the hope that they would root.  And it’s worked!  Well some of them have obviously rooted and are now starting to grow some new leaves at least!  There are some lovely healthy looking new leaves (and one or two that have a bit of frost damage) but all in all a success I think.

Rooted rose cuttings

Rooted rose cuttings

Whenever you plant seeds or take cuttings you are always reminded to label them.  Often I don’t do this but this time I did and although I can’t find the specific name of this rose I know that it is a climbing rose with white flowers that have a lovely dark pink edge to the petals.

The plant the cuttings were taken from is in one of my clients garden and has apparently been there for over 20 years and continues to grow strongly so I have great hopes for these new plants.  I am planning on including them in the planting plan for my garden that incorporates some new trees to replace the ones from next door but more on that plan soon.  Until then I will continue to look after these little roses very carefully and enjoy them one of the joys of gardening – propogating and sharing plants with friends.

No Trees

One of the things we loved about our house when we first viewed it was the garden and the enclosed feel it had.  It is surrounded by other houses and gardens but feels very private and not over-looked at all.  During the summer months (assuming it isn’t a summer like last year) we have all the doors and windows open, eat outside, sit and read and the children play in the garden in a kind of blissful, almost idyllic way and are completely out of view of our neighbours.  Visitors to our house often comment on how private and hidden away the house and garden are despite being in a residential road in a town.

My Garden

This is the main view from the house of my garden, it is what we see as we sit outside.  The trees in the top left of the photo are some conifers in our neighbours garden that are not particularly pretty but do a great job at giving our garden the secluded feel we love so much and also mean that we are not over-looked by the rest of the even numbered houses on our road.

However, while I was work the other day I got a text message from our other neighbour simply saying ‘the trees have gone.x’ and this is what I came home to.

No Trees

The trees are indeed gone and so has the secluded, hidden garden we once had.

Of course we knew that this was going to happen and we knew that it was going to open up our garden to the rest of the street but I wasn’t expecting to feel quite the way I did.  Our new neighbour is building an extension and so the trees had to go to make way for foundations and walls.  Don’t get me wrong though, we have no objection to the extension, we just feel a bit sad that the trees have had to go.  This isn’t going to be our final view from our house as the extension of the next 2 neighbours will soon be built and will be the same size as the white building you can see.  So with the building we will almost certainly re-gain some of our privacy but with a different feel.

And so I am left pondering what to do in my garden this summer.  There are many positives to the loss of these trees

– they were not particularly attractive, fast growing conifers

– they took a lot of light from the front of the house that is now much brighter

– they created a big rain shadow and the lawn has always struggled towards the fence

– the border against the fence is so dry that I have lost numerous plants and this I am sure is because of the conifers talking all the moisture out of the soil

– it gives me the chance to do some planning and designing in my own garden again!

I am going to enjoy coming up with a new planting plan for this part of the garden.

The fence is not quite 6 foot tall and so our first job will be to add some trelissing and climbers to the fence to ensure that my very tall husband doesn’t feel like he is constantly peering into other peoples houses.  I will be including a small tree or two in the design as I love the height that they add to the outline of the garden as well as the interest in the ‘horizon’.  And of course I will get the opportunity to buy lots of new plants for myself this year.

So I am looking forward to spending more time in our garden and making it even more my own and while I feel a little sad about our ‘loss’ it will be a positive evolution to my little hidden part of Ascot.

Happy New Year!

I had a great Christmas and New Year and hope that all my lovely readers did too (not sure that there are that many but….).

I don’t normally have New Year resolutions for myself, probably because I am not very good at sticking to them, but this year I do have a couple of things that I want to make sure I do so thought if I go public with them there is a slight chance I might feel encouraged to actually do them!  So in 2013 I hope to

  • Apply a bit more of a plan to my garden.  It is pretty full of plants but they tend to be just bits and bobs, either impulse buys or plants that clients don’t want (and I can’t bear throwing plants away!) or plants that are surplus to client plans.  So I need my own planting plan to ensure it links together and colours all year all over the garden not just in specific areas.
  • Buy and plant Hydrangea ‘Savill Lace’ in my own garden.
  • Have more flowers in the house and hopefully lots that I have grown myself.
  • Make some video blogs with bits of gardening advice.  My brother has been encouraging me to do this for a while now so with his film director help I’ll give it a go!
  • Make more crabapple schnapps as this year’s batch was delicious (and all got drunk over Christmas and New Year!)

Nothing too radical I don’t think but at least they are acheivable.  Have you got any New Year resolutions?

Christmas Tree time

I love Christmas and if I could have my way I would have the decorations up as soon as my husband’s birthday celebrations are done with at the beginning of December. The advent calendars seem quite lonely in the kitchen without some more decorations and as the Christmas cards start arriving, particularly the many tiny ones from the childrens’ school friends, they need to be hung somewhere.

The Christmas tree is arguably the most important decoration in the house and there are lots of decisions to be made when choosing yours – real or fake, colour, what sort, size etc.  Real trees are undoubtedly more green and eco-friendly than plastic ones now.  Over 8m real trees are grown in the UK and I’ve read that we don’t actually import any trees now except the odd one for the likes of Trafalgar square.  They take over 10 years to grow from seed to a desired cutting height and in that time provide wildlife habitat and do lots of good to oxygen and carbon dioxide balances in the air.

Buying the tree is a bit of a Christmas tradition too with a family visit to the garden centre or local Christmas tree sellers to choose the ideal shaped tree while your partner holds it out and then fitting it in the car to get it home.

Christmas trees for sale in the local garden centre

We recently went to New York and there is something much more Christmassy and romantic somehow about buying a tree from the Christmas tree sellers on the street and carrying it home on your shoulder (probably with your Christmas jumper on while laughing and hugging a loved one!)

Buying Christmas trees in New York

In the name of being as ‘green’ as possible last year we bought a potted tree from the local garden centre and planted it out into a large pot once we had un-decorated it.  It has been sitting in the corner of our garden for a year with very little attention from me.  It has put on about 15cm of growth all over but retained its shape well and looks pretty healthy.

Our Christmas tree in its corner of our garden

So it was bought in again yesterday in its large pot and duly decorated and despite missing out on the Christmas tree choosing tradition we are pretty pleased with our tree!

The end result