Flower portraits

I find it hard to take good photographs of my flower beds but I do love taking close ups of individual flowers, so I am going to share a few flower ‘portraits’ of some of the current flowers in my garden.

First some landscape portraits in alphabetical order

Allium (this is the Cristophe variety)AlliumThen one of the Clematis, (This is called Lemon Dream.)ClematisLily of the Valley. Lily of the ValleyA Pansy (sold last Autumn as winter pansies.) PansyAnd a Wallflower (also bought last Autumn). WallflowerAnd now a couple of square ones

Apple blossom in full flower. Apple blossomLithodora Diffusa (This variety is called Grace Ward.)Lithodora Diffusa (Grace Ward)Though if anything I prefer the one called ‘Heavenly Blue’ which I also have. Lithodora Diffusa (Heavenly Blue)A slightly more turquoise shade of blue!

And a pansy’s face close up.

Quick garden post!

I couldn’t resist giving you a quick update on changes in the garden.

The wallflowers that I planted to keep the cats off the place where I am going to plant a daphne have come into flower and make a colourful show!            WallflowersThe pansies that equally were planted to keep a spot for some lavender are flowering again though I can see the slugs are having a field day! Pansies and forget-me-notsThe forget-me-nots that I love are flourishing.

The apple tree not only is coming into leaf but has blossom. apple blossomI know I must not let the tree produce apples this year but I will enjoy the blossom.

And finally: the clematis that I showed you in an earlier post (taken last September)clematis last Septemberalready has lots of new buds. clematis buds

Another peak at my garden

I was pleased to find that the primroses at the front of the middle flower bed are now all in flower. PrimrosesHere’s a closer look.   Primroses close upThe same person who gave me the primroses, when she was clearing an area of her garden, also gave me some violets.

They seem to have survived less well. (They were all enmeshed in the primroses when I got them!)

But I was pleased to find that at least one had produced some flowers. VioletsIn the herb bed some of the scilla siberica that were part of my earlier planting seem to have survived the upheaval.Scilla SibericaAnd the taller daffodils are now in flower. DaffodilsBut I am not entirely happy with these as they were sold to me as ‘February Gold’ which I love because of the swept back outer ring of petals that these seem to lack.

As you can see here in a photograph I took of the ones in a pot in the front. February Gold daffodilsAnd my latest addition: some golden sage Golden sageto replace the broad-leaved sage that was getting a bit old and was out of proportion in my tiny garden. Not that my younger daughter considers it a garden to her it is little more than a ‘patio’ and there is some merit in her opinion I suppose.

Garden update

The weather has been fairly wet lately but last Thursday it was bright and sunny and going out into the garden I realised that just everything was springing into life. So I went out and did some necessary pruning and took a few photographs.

Last Autumn I planted a clematis on the right hand side of the garden. It is called Diana’s Delight and as with all the clematis I planted, shouldn’t get much bigger than a couple of metres.0553-clematisI have just pruned it as they say you should and hope to get an even better showing this year.

Before Christmas I planted an apple tree. I bought it mail order as I couldn’t find what I wanted at the local garden centre and it had more branches than I expected but it looks good and sturdy. It is a self-fertile Cox on M27 rooting stock. The same as I had before.

I took this photograph in February after I had pruned it. 0553-apple-treeAnother photograph I took in February was of the Lenten rose I had just planted. 0553-helleboresYou can also see the two Christmas roses I had planted before Christmas that were now dying off.

These are on the left side of the garden in the shady bed. 0553-shady-bedYou can see that the Lenten rose now has more flowers.

At the far end are a couple of clematis I planted before Christmas. I have put eggshells round (as I do) to discourage slugs from having a nibble! One of these should be grapefruit scented. I wait in hope! The bare patch next to them is where I should have lily of the valley later.

In the forefront are snowdrops and pulmonaria. 0553-snowdrops-and-pulmonariaWhen I lowered the height of the bed I replanted all the snowdrop bulbs I found and replanted any pulmonaria seedlings I found around the garden. (They do seem to seed themselves, even at quite a distance away!)

However with using up the earth I removed from the bed elsewhere, I see that I have a couple of snowdrops show up under the apple tree. 0553-snow-drop-under-apple-treeThe right hand, sunny, side of the garden is beautifully colourful now. 0553-sunny-bedsHere is a closer look at the herb bed. 0553-herb-bedYou can see the rosemary and thyme in the middle and now I have crocus and daffodils. The touch of red on the left is the remains of some winter pansies I put in to avoid having a bare patch where some lavender will be planted.

The best looking crocus are in the other small island bed though. 0553-crocusThere are lots of other things as well.

This is a photo I took when the sun was really bright. 0553-small-bedOn the right you can see the garlic and one of the three Christophe alliums that I am very fond of. 0553-garlic-and-aliumGarlic is about my only culinary crop because it is so easy. Mind you I just take a few cloves out of the fridge and they don’t grow very big.

In the foreground above you can see my patio rose: Dream Lover. It should be bee friendly and scented!0553-patio-roseThe spikes and the slate are to discourage cats from doing you know what!

The middle bed at the back is the least interesting to look at, at this time of year but this is the sedum that I reduced and replanted. 0553-transplanted-sedumI also replanted the primroses that someone gave me last autumn. 0553-primrosesMaybe I should have put them in the other way round. The flowers don’t want to look at me!

And underneath the fuchsia I found that there was still one of the Springtime cyclamen I planted a few years ago. 0553-spring-cyclamen

I hope you enjoyed a little Springtime peak at my garden. I must go out soon and buy the lavender and a daphne I want, as they become available.


Photo Challenge – Still

I do find it much easier when the subject of these challenges is a noun. Whenever it is a adjective or another part of speech I struggle.

Of course ‘still’ can be a noun but the first meaning that comes to mind is that of the equipment needed for distilling! so I decided I had to look elsewhere.

Although it is beginning to get much colder I noticed that my fuchsia is ‘still’ flowering and so that is what I chose for a photograph. photo-challenge1648-still


Garden Supplement

My 500th Post!

Not having any knitting or crochet to share with you, though there will be something next week, I thought I would show you a few finishing touches I have added to my garden.

Remember this?0473-Ivy and honeysuckleWell I spent a long time thinking about the best way to protect myself from the need to be forever cutting back the honeysuckle and ivy as it forced it’s way through into my garden.

Now it isn’t as bad as it used to be after I did a mega ‘reclaim my space’ exercise.  0473-Ivy and honeysuckle cut backAnd in fact it is even more tamed now as some of the ivy you can see died as it was dependent on ivy that started my side of the fence. And I think some of that ivy was supporting the honeysuckle.

I gave hours of thought as to what I should do and as far as the ivy was concerned even thought of buying some perspex sheet for the far side of the trellis in that corner but in the end settled for garden quality plastic sheet. 0500-Ivy proofingAlthough having the sheet on this side of the fence as well is a little unsightly, it does ensure that the ivy can’t creep under the trellis panel!

I installed the plastic on Saturday and then on Sunday I moved on to some rush screening that you can just see in the above picture.

I removed the trellis panel and attached what was in fact half a 2m x 4m piece of rush screening to the fence post, wall and a plastic pole that you can’t see. 0500-Rush screening upI don’t know if you can see the ties in this photogaph but I went to the garden centre for the pole and some brown string but found something new: a sort of brown plastic tube. Hopefully this is better as I have found that garden string decays after a season or two.0500-TieI used this to attach the trellis in several places where there were cable ties in the wall as well as the posts. Of course I cut the ends down before I replaced the trellis. 0500-Rush barrier finishedAgain I had had several ideas of what to do here but although it may not prove a total barrier, I am pleased with my choice as it looks very natural.

And it does not cut down the light too much as you can see from this shadow. 0500-ShadowAnd then on Monday I gave the render three coats of masonry paint. Phew! glad that is over.

Garden update with new paving now laid!

Maybe you remember me showing you the two choices of paving and asking you which you preferred. Well I chose the one on the right, most especially because I loved the soft dimpled feel of it and indeed it is lovely to walk on with bare feet.Choice of pavingBut it is beautiful too as you shall see. (Paving is Marshalls’ Fairstone Flamed Narias – more info HERE.)

Here is how the garden looked just before the workmen arrived. I had cleared out all loose items that I wanted to keep. Before work started left side Before work started right sideThe start date had been pencilled in as the beginning of July but in the end they came on the 22nd: a Friday.

The first thing to be done was to remove the paving slabs from the upper area and sort out the new trellis.End of First day (Friday) left side End of First day (Friday) right sideThey did have a problem with the skip being late in arriving which slowed them down a bit.

I was quite glad in the end that they started on a Friday because that gave me the weekend to coat the trellis and posts to match the fence. (Three coats – 24hrs (well almost) apart.)

On the Monday they removed the paving from the lower level and started laying hard core where the paving was going to be. They also finished off the top of the wall supporting the higher level.End of Second day (Monday) left side End of Second day (Monday) right sideThey did have another problem today because although the paving wasn’t needed yet it should have arrived and it didn’t!

Nothing much changed on Tuesday except that the drainage channel was added. End ofThird day (Tuesday) Drainage End of Third day (Tuesday) More drainageThe drainage was originally planned to be along the wall between the upper and lower levels but there were wall foundations that got in the way. However the one strip of drainage along the side of the house was very neat.

Wednesday. Scott had come originally with two helpers: his assistant and a trainee but on Wednesday he only had the trainee, as Sean, his assistant, unfortunately had food poisoning.

The most exciting thing happened that day: the paving arrived. Of course this is only a small part of it.End of Fourth day (Wednesday) Paving has arrivedAs you can see the weather was beginning to change and there was some rain.

The next day Scott was on his own, his assitant was not yet recovered and Scott thought he would get on faster without the trainee as he was beginning to lay the paving.End of Fifth day (Thursday) left side End of Fifth day (Thursday) right side This took longer than it might have done as Scott was having to mix the mortar as well as doing the laying.

Sean was back on Friday and so the paving laying was finished – almost.End of Sixth day (Friday) left side End of Sixth day (Friday) right sidePhotographs taken from above that day not to step on the paving.

Scott pointed out that the fence was at an angle which created a problem. End of Sixth day (Friday) problem cornerSo we decided to fill in the last few inches with slate. (My choice – Scot would have preferred gravel!) I looked at the architect plans of the site and yes that side of the garden is longer than the other. The people the other side have their garden a bit higher than mine too.

Scott had said at one point that he would come in Saturday morning but in the end he decided not to which I was quite pleased about as I find having workmen around and not having my normal routine and never able to really relax or start anything which needs proper concentration all a bit of a strain.

However on Monday Scott regretted his decision not to come in on Saturday because it was really wet. The worst day of all for rain and the main thing to complete that day was rendering the wall. End of Seventh day (Monday) left side End of Seventh day (Monday) right sideDo you see how water changes the colour of the paving?

Just a few things to finish off, like the mortar, so on Tuesday Scott came back with his young son (who was on holiday of course). End of Eighth day (Tuesday) left side End of Eighth day (Tuesday) right side Still a bit wet as you can see, though part of that was for the mortar.

I hardly dared walk on the paving for the next couple of days as I didn’t want to risk upsetting the mortar but on Friday evening I started rubbing the lose mortar off the slabs and continued on Saturday and Sunday moved on to tidying up the flower beds.

I don’t know if you can see very well in this photograph but the top half shows the flower bed on the left before I lowered it and the bottom half how it looks now. Difficult flower bedThe flower bed had long been an inch or so above the level of the paving as the original soil had been so poor that I had piled compost from my composters on it year after year until things started to flourish.

The original paving had been very uneven but had generally sloped back to front and left to right. Now the paving had been made level, left to right, not to have a puddle on the right and so the flower bed grew by several inches and had to be lowered. You’d be surprised what I dug out under the soil, no wonder things struggled.

While I was about it, I rearranged the planting. A space on the right for the two clematis I plan to grow, the pulmonaria moved to the left and a space left next to them for some hellebore. I am hoping that my snowdrops that were relocated to the left had corner will survive.

And here are some  photographs of the final garden taken without rain or bright sunshine which I hope give a feel of the general look. As before, one photograph taken looking left and one looking right. Final garden left side Final garden right sideAnd do you remember this with the clothes line up. The bed for the apple tree behind being newly created.Old rotary clothes lineWell now the clothes line has been relocated. Final garden rotary clothes dryerSo I will see the apple tree and not the washing when I sit on my settee.

And just to finish off a closer look at the paving.

The range of colour of the paving is from grey to red with lots of gold in the middle. Paving slabs contrastHere are some of my favourite patterned slabs. Paving slab 1Paving slabs 2 Paving slab 3Paving slab 4And a last view from above. 478-12 Final garden view from aboveBut you must imagine the colours even a little bit more intense. Lowering my view of the screen does it for me!

Garden update – part two

When I mention recoating the fence with preservative I said there would be an update.

Before I coated the fence I decided to lift a few slabs and create a bed where the apple tree will be as I thought that would mean I could make sure there was enough soil and would mark it’s approximate location for when the new slabs are laid. (Unfortunately my new wind spinner lost a couple of vanes and I never found the red one! 😦 )New bedYou can also see what happens when you don’t bother to coat a fence with preservative. The fence in the next garden has not been up as long as mine!

I used the slabs to make a fairly solid place to reach the plants that are overhanging my garden. Slabs for step ladderUnfortunately it wasn’t big enough for the step ladder but I could use a chair safely.

Here is what I had to cut back. The ivy has been the bane of my life since I moved there and the honeysuckle strangled my clematis and made my climbing rose shoot up to the sky. (I could cut the ivy standing on the ground fourteen years ago.)Ivy and honeysuckleHere is how it looks now. Ivy and honeysuckle cut backI am going to find a way to ivy-proof the trellis before I put it back.

This was taken after I had coated the fence and trellis.

Although I felt bad about using the less environmentally friendly coating, I do think that I prefer the colour though it is maybe a little darker.

You can see here the original colour at the top though a little weathered. It was even more orange looking when newly applied.Comparison of fence colour The new coating is a browner brown. It seemed a bit dark to start with but after three coats the colour developed into something acceptable. I didn’t want it too dark as darker colours bring objects forward while lighter colours make them recede and the garden is small enough.

Of course it is not perfect. Here is how the less weathered piece I showed you before looks now. Deja vuWhere there was green staining the fence went black and there are runs from the previous coating showing through in places. DripsAll that painting on of coating really aggravated the pains in my wrists but luckily my wrists are a lot better now and it was worth doing. Hence a garden update rather than craft! though I have been doing some.

An update on the table…

Remember this?Table treatedWell I finally decided that I had to try in out in the garden permanently as I couldn’t keep bringing it out and taking it back in but as I feared the renewed finish didn’t manage to survive. Table nowBetter than it was but not a lasting solution.

Just a couple more things to share.

When I ripped up all the plants I was getting rid of I also ripped up the pulmonaria which was in the wrong place but later realised that I should have just transplanted it. However I did find a few seedlings around the place so have planted them where I want the pulmonaria. Here is one of them. PulmonariaSo maybe  I can save myself some money!

I don’t normally pick flowers from the garden because they last so much longer in situ but I have decided to pick a few of the lily of the valley to bring indoors for the scent and I added a few longer pieces of forget-me-not. Flowers in vaseYou can see that flower arranging is not really something I am good at!

A Cautionary Tale

I have just finished coating my fence and trellis – three coats.

Am I pleased with the result? Fairly. More in a later garden update.

Am I happy with the product and my recent experience in buying it? No.

Twelve years ago (didn’t realise it was so long till I looked up my financial records) I had a new fence put up and coated the posts and both sides of the fence and trellis before erection to maximum it’s life. Since then they have always been covered by a variety of climbers so no chance to recoat.

Being about to have an expensive lot of paving laid it seemed an ideal time to recoat the fence both in terms of colour and preservation. Especially as I have removed all the climbers and I wouldn’t have to worry about getting the coating on the current paving as it won’t be there much longer!

A quick look in the garage amid my myriad paint tins did not reveal the remains of what I had coated the fence with previously, however I knew it was something that imparted both colour and preservation and suspected that I had bought it from Ronseal. Because there seemed to be so many different products on the market and the ones I looked at all seemed to assume you were applying them to bare wood, I felt very confused and sent an email to Ronseal to ask for advice. I said that I couldn’t remember what I had used but that it both coloured and preserved the fence and now I wished to renew the coating and what would they advise me to use. Ronseal replied “It may be the Double Action Wood Preserver that you used previously.  As it has been a few years now, the Shed & Fence Preserver could be applied over.  This can be obtained from B&Q.”

I think the first time I looked my local B&Q had some but when I wanted to buy it they were out of stock; so I looked to find it on-line and discovered I could buy it from Wood Finishes Direct and that even with delivery it would be cheaper or not much more expensive.

I then looked at what they had to say about coverage and how many coats were needed.

First Cautionary event

The information given suggested that at most two coats would be needed and it was only because I thought that one tin would be a bit borderline for two coats that I bought two (just in case).

When I received the tins, which came the next day just as I had asked for, I read the back and saw that for full colour and protection three coats were necessary. So I was glad I had opted for the two tins.

Second Cautionary item

It was necessary to leave twenty-four hours between coats so our recent dry spell was an ideal time to set to work.

My previous coating although on the thin side had been like single cream, this was like water! and it had a very strong smell that I blamed for giving me a headache. It was darker that the previous coating though I thought I had chosen the closest colour but with three coats it was at its lightest, so worth doing. (Reading reviews I discovered that the 2016 formulation had been revised and was a darker colour than before. Not that this necessarily had the same colour range as what I had used twelve years ago.)

It was not a product that I enjoyed using; the only plus point, I suppose, being that as it was so thin you didn’t get runs as it would appear I had had with the earlier coating.

Now why is this cautionary you may ask? Well not for the consistency or the headache inducing smell, though I can’t say they spoke in its favour, but because of what I realised when, quite by chance, I found a tin of the original coating when I had finally finished.

Now my first thought all those years ago had been to use creosote as that was what I had been brought up to think was what you used on fences. But then I read that it was not good for the environment. It was all to do with VOCs and the original product I had bought had been Ronseal’s ‘Double Action Wood Preserver’ (as they had suggested!) which had a nice little label on the back saying that it had a “Low VOC” content.

I had forgotten all about VOCs but had assumed what I had just used was simply the current equivalent to what I had used then.

How wrong can you be!!!!

When I looked on the back of the new tins there was a label saying that it had a “Very High VOC” content. Having spent a long time looking on the internet it appears that Ronseal do make a more environmentally friendly one called “5 Year Weather Defence Fence Life”. This like the earlier coating only needs two coats and can be recoated after a couple of hours! Why didn’t they mention that one? Would it not have worked? I don’t know.

Oh well. You live and learn. Maybe do more research next time and ask more questions.

Garden update – part one

I now have received all the quotations, accepted one and know that the work should take place in July.

Since this is an expensive project, I decided that it made sense to buy a good quality surface that would look attractive and last well. I couldn’t get to see the paving on my short-list locally but Marshall’s sent me some samples. 0468-Stone samplesI think they must have run out of their standard samples of the paving on the left, as I was told you get two small samples of each. The slab on the left is a standard 275mm square slab.

Here they are so you can see the colour and texture more clearly.

Sawn Versuro (This is more enlarged than the Narias)0468-Versuro textureand Flamed Narias 0468-Flamed Narias textureI wonder which you would have chosen?

In the meantime I have a few things to do to prepare.

This is what it looked like recently.

To the left 0468-Left side of gardenand to the right. 0468-Right side of gardenYes I know it is a tiny garden. Not a ‘garden’ at all according to my middle child just a ‘patio’!

I decided that this would be an ideal time to recoat the fence with a colour preservative but first I needed to clean it as it has gone a bit green in places. especially in the corner where I had a sort of arbour.

This shows where I did an experimental clean on a couple of strips so you can see before and after. 0468-Fence cleaningHaving see on the internet that it might be possible to rehabilitate my plastic furniture I had a go with the table.

Before0468-table before treatmentand after. 0468-table treatedI have put the table in the garage for now so I don’t know if it will last when exposed to the elements.

I will have a go with the chairs eventually but they will need more scrubbing and I am saving my wrists for coating the fence.

I have more to share but I think that is enough for now and will write another post when I have done up the fence. Just waiting for a few reliably dry days in a row!