Garden Journal - February 15th 2006

Wildchicken Garden Journal - Miranda Hodgson


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15th February 2006 - Spring is on the way, and congratulations are, too.

The Iris reticulata ĎHarmonyí that were just coming into bud have now opened and are looking very pretty, especially with so little else in flower just now. Iím pleased to see them appearing again as Iím sure I recall reading somewhere that they donít come back if theyíre not happy. Feeding and good drainage seem to be the main issues.


Iris reticulata 'Harmony'

Iris reticulata 'Harmony' will happily flower through snow.


"After what seemed like weeks on end of flat grey skies, weíve finally had some sunny days"

After what seemed like weeks on end of flat grey skies, weíve finally had some sunny days. Whilst the clear skies generally bring colder weather at this time of year, itís worth it just to see blue sky and feel the sun on your face. I kept on reading the weather forecasts to see what the rest of the winter might bring, hoping for something to bring this current change. The balance between high and low pressure over this country means that the weather changes at the drop of a hat. One day youíll see that thereís snow and a temperature of minus 2įc forecast for four dayís time, and when you look the following day itís changed to one of bright sun and a high of 6įc. itís no wonder that the weather is such a big conversation piece in the UK.


To the garden. Iíve gradually been tidying up whatís left of last yearís plants, making space for the light and air theyíll need to get going again this year. On clearing away old foliage, little surprises come into view, mainly bulbs Iíve forgotten planting, and itís a great pleasure to come across these treats. Of course, having forgotten them once, I have to try and remember what they are. Some are easy enough, like the Iris with itís two leaf shoots pointing up like the prongs of a fork, but others are still a mystery.


On cutting back the tall grasses (Stipa calamagrostis and Calamagrostis brachytricha), itís apparent that they need dividing as the centres are looking thin. Theyíve been in since the end of 2002 so itís about time they were done. These grasses hold to the ground tenaciously and it will doubtless take the two of us to get them out of the ground. Not sure how much effort the division part will take, but when I checked on the RHS website there was a photo of someone using a large axe to halve a clump that isnít any larger than what we have here.


Dividing the grasses is a good opportunity to move them somewhere else and also means I can give the extra plants away (Karlís mum wants some). Moving them somewhere else means that the plan for making a few changes to one bed (moving that Euphorbia characias ĎPortuguese Velvet' to a warmer spot) has now become a plan to re-do almost the whole front garden. Iíll discuss just one part of it here.


Euphorbia characias 'Portuguese Velvet'

Euphorbia characias 'Portuguese Velvet'


The grasses currently sit in the main front garden, to the left of the drive ways as you look at the house, and I was intending to move them to the strip of ground on the other side of the drive. At the moment, this area has three square-foot beds with herbs growing in them. The idea is that putting the grasses in this new spot, along with perennials and bulbs, will hold the scheme together more effectively as well as give us some extra planting space. Also, it may be more popular with the birds and other wildlife. The herbs can be replanted around the garden or moved to the allotment, where they can grow as large as they want to.


Taking the grasses out means a couple of new shrubs will need to go in. Since the garden is being developed to benefit wildlife as well as humans, Iíve decided to go for one of those purple-leaved elders and have come up with Sambucus nigra ĎBlack Laceí. The large heads of flowers, in varying shades of pink, will attract insects and the birds will appreciate the fruit. For myself, Iím looking forward to seeing the finely cut foliage in a rich dark purple and being able to see how the afternoon sun shines through it. Deciding what to put next to it will no doubt provide another pleasurable headache.


As a final word, Iíd like to congratulate my step-brother, Ben Hensher, who has just been appointed Head Gardener at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, which is a National Trust property of over 800 acres. Whilst I donít see a lot of Ben, Iíve followed his career over the years and know how hard he's worked. I wish him all the best for this wonderful new opportunity. Go for it, Ben!

© Copyright Miranda Hodgson 2006


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