Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Wild About My Garden

It's Wild About Gardens Week, so I thought I'd show you some of the latest wildlife photographs from VP Gardens. This year's theme is gardening for pollinators, so I've started with a common carder bee on Agastache 'Black Adder'. This has been in flower since May and is my number one bee plant this year.

I've enjoyed watching the lavender go 'sproing' when the bees land on it over the past few weeks. It's still warm enough to eat lunch and drink coffee on the patio at the moment so this has been great entertainment as the pot is right next to the bench where I sit.

Of course the mass descent of small tortoiseshells into my garden happened after the Big Butterfly Count finished last month. The red admiral butterfly always makes a late appearance here and I've yet to capture one with my camera...

I had a bit of a surprise whilst tidying up my tomatoes recently. I heard a kerploosh in the water tray below and thought I'd dropped a tomato. About a minute later this handsome chap appeared instead. I wondered about the lack of slugs around my tomatoes, now I know why.

I've not really thought that much about the harvestmen in my garden before, but finding this one posing in my dahlia pot made me go and find out a little more. It's another of those unsung but useful invertebrates which help to keep our gardens tidy.

Warning... some of the more squeamish of you won't like the next photo, so scroll down quickly past it if you need to...

I always feel autumn is well on its way when these orb spiders appear. Later this month there'll be plenty of opportunity to take more photos with the webs sprinkled with early morning dew or raindrops. It's a magical time in the garden.

What's wild in your garden this week?
Other recent wildlife related posts you may be interested in:

Monday, 15 September 2014

GBBD: Salvia 'Hadspen'

Salvia involucrata 'Hadspen' is a new plant at VP Gardens. Karen gave it to me last year after we'd admired it on a trip to Bodnant when I went to stay with her. I rather like this early morning shot as you can see the autumnal orb spiders are starting to capture it for their webby schemes.

I've planted it in the top terrace bed, where it nods to my Salvia 'Amistad' across the way. Both are tall specimens (S. 'Amistad' is as tall as me this year) so they need plenty of space. S. 'Hadspen' has decided to splay out a little and its flowers make me giggle. They're such a girly pink - not like me at all - and they make me think of a row of bright lipsticks lined up along the stem.

Here's a closer shot of some of the flowers along one of the plant's bracts- see what I mean? And what about those ticklesome little 'brushes'? I need to find out more about the unusual staminal lever mechanism adaptation* salvias have for their pollination.

This salvia hails from Mexico and the leaves are very aromatic Thank goodness they're in the more acceptable blackcurrant-like bracket than the unpleasant cat-pee one some salvias have. Its also a tender perennial - hence my placing it in the well-drained and protective walled part of my garden. This is another plant which will be given a Dahlia Duvet after autumn's first frost.

I'm delighted with this plant in its first year here. It's a reminder of good friends and happy times as well as being attractive in its own right.

* = Wikipedia's general introduction to Salvias, plus this scientific paper are a good start if you'd like to join me on this quest. There's an impressive lineup of papers to peruse after googling too.

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Got a Great Gardening Idea? The Future Fund Wants to Hear From YOU!

It's not often I get to tick a garden off my 'Must See' list AND hear a great story, but my visit to Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons yesterday turned out to be a red letter day.

Imagine the scene...

... it's an ordinary day at your magazine's office, then the postman brings you a sober looking solicitor's letter. What could it be? If you're like me, you'd immediately assume the worst.

But stop and consider the complete opposite instead. You rip the letter open and learn someone has not only read your magazine for years, they've loved it so much they've left the magazine a sum of money in their will.

Well, what would you do?

That's exactly the delicious dilemma The English Garden faced recently and the result was yesterday's launch of the Future Fund. It comprises a bursary of £5,000 for 5 recipients (one per year) and is open for anyone to apply to fund their bright idea.

There are no limits on what's included, except the applicant must be over 18, reside in the UK and the idea must be garden(ing) related and help the gardening community in some way. That doesn't mean it's exclusively for community gardening; it can be for anything which helps to grow and benefit our horticultural community as a whole.

It's the ultimate horticultural 'pay it forward' in my view.

Have a look at the above video and The English Garden's website for more information. If you don't have a bright idea (just like me), then please tell everyone you know who just might have the nub of something which is in need of some cash to help it on its way.

Full details and application forms will also be in The English Garden's October and November editions.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Plant Profile: Pyracantha

It's a versatile shrub - on our estate we have stand alone specimens, hedges with one or more varieties,
plus mixed hedges with Euonymus, hawthorn, Viburnum and Mahonia proving the most popular companions

Until recently I haven't felt the need to grow Pyracantha (aka firethorn) at VP Gardens. It's in abundance on our estate where it forms plenty of the hedge planting, just like it did for us at our previous house. It has plenty of plus points; it's an evergreen shrub, relatively quick to grow and has short, sharp thorns which makes it an effective security barrier.

It also has double season of interest, bearing creamy white flowers in the spring and bright berries from now until they're devoured by the birds. As you can it's a good year for berries. Within a few minutes walk of our house there are both red and orange bearing varieties on show, which echo those found on the rowan trees nearby.

My border of shame - long, shady and in need of rather a lot of attention
Last week whilst writing September's Tree Following post I reluctantly decided the 'Rambling Rector' rose is to go. It seemed perfect for protecting the long fence along our garden's boundary and stopping curious children from climbing over. However, it's rather too good for the job and I have to spend a lot of time hacking it back. Also the hips it's supposed to produce have never been that abundant, so its winter interest - one of the reasons why I bought it - is poor at best.

Pyracantha can be trained easily, so it's ideal for hedges - both short and tall - and other forms
So this year I'm looking at Pyracantha with a fresh eye and reconsidering the whole design of my side shady border to sit alongside my rose's replacement. Since we've moved here I've learned Pyracantha can be trained easily and I like the idea of an espalliered form along the fence. It has exactly the same plus points as the rose I originally chose, plus better interest for wildlife.

If I do go for it, I shall choose a yellow berried variety so we'll be different to what's around the rest of the estate.
Further cultivation notes

Pyracantha is suited to most soils except heavy clay. Berrying can be reduced if the site is shady (so I may need to reconsider its suitability for where I have in mind).

Berries are produced on last season's wood, so this needs to be born in mind when growing as a hedge or other trained forms.

Now (autumn) is a good time to plant. If planting against a wall or fence, plant it about 18 inches away to avoid the dry spot there.

Pyracantha is fully hardy and relatively easy to grow. It attains a height and spread of around 10-12 feet.

Scab and fireblight are the two most common problems. Prune out affected wood/leaves and burn. It may be attacked by woolly aphids which can be washed off with a pressure spray.

Propagation is easy via hard or semi-ripe cuttings. If growing from seed, then 3 months of cold-stratification is needed.

The berries aren't edible when raw, though just like Rowan, they can be made into a jelly.

Further reading:
RHS website entry for Pyracantha
A website dedicated to all things Pyracantha
RHS guidance on espallier training trees

Picture credit: Pyracantha flowers - Stan Shebs via Wikimedia
Plant Profiles is sponsored by Whitehall Garden Centre.

Note to readers:
Sponsorship goes towards my blogging costs; the words are my own There are no cookies or affiliate links associated with this post.
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