Sunday, May 22, 2016

Not in da house but in da garden

No marathons this weekend has meant I could spend most of my time outside in the garden playing catch-up as best I could (except for Saturday morning when Mike and I had a trip into Rye). I'll start with the front garden as it's really coming to life now and looks pretty even with the swathe of blue plastic and black weed-suppressant matting.

As I walked back from the gate this morning after my run I couldn't resist snapping a few photos as everywhere is burgeoning so quickly. I'm just enjoying a pot of tea before my next sortie into the garden so thought I'd use the time to show some of them. 


Looking across to the gazebo I remembered that the barn roof needs attention - there are so many 'to do' jobs on our list!  The Cardoons (with the big silvery leaves near the hedge) have trebled in size and should look magnificent this Summer


Coming round the bend there are Geums and Tiarellas flowering







The Rhododendrons are looking stunning and are smothered in bees and hoverflies


Looking back across that bed you can see how I've allowed some self-seeded orange poppies to stay as they contrast beautifully with the dark leaves of the Heuchera


They mix in well with the deep blue and purple Aquilegias and the shocking pink of the Rhododendron

They are so vibrant and look fabulous in all stages of development


As they age their petals go all crinkly and then they develop beautiful seedpods which you can shake around like a salt cellar to get more plants the next year



The gravel garden needs some serious work in the autumn as everything has grown so well it needs dividing again


You may have noticed that I like dark leaves against acid yellow/green a combination I use throughout the front garden - in the foreground are the red stems of Lysimachia 'firecracker (which has acid yellow flowers later in the year)  with a bright yellow grass behind it and then more dark red leaves of a Berberis  behind



This beautiful iris is coming into flower in the gravel but I just cannot remember its name so will have to edit this later when/if I remember


The dark-leaved Phormium tenax has trebled in size since I planted it just 2 years ago!


In the middle of the photo above you can see the bright lime-green leaves of Hakonechloa macra Aureola which really come to life at this time of year


You're never far away from a duck in our garden! That's a Sedum cascading down the wall.




A closer view of the Cardoon leaves which are already higher than my waist

There is so much work to do along either side of the path that I'm ignoring it for now - due to the excessively wet Winter we have lost various plants from either one side or the other. Not in itself a huge problem as that's what gardening is all about and you expect some losses. However, I planted everything in pairs so that they mirrored eachother and now they don't. Humph! Plus the gazebo needs a good clean my mirror needs to come out of storage, the table and chairs need cleaning, the steps need power-washing etc etc etc.............




Right, I've finished my tea so I'm off out again. I'm very busy all next week and so my marathon updates will probably have to wait - as I've got another 2 next weekend that will be 4 updates to write. Oh crikey!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

...and breathe!

Following marathons 76 & 77 last weekend (still to be documented!) I've got a week off marathoning and am wondering if that's the reason the weather has taken a turn for the worse? My legs are itching to get out there and run and my mind is playing tricks on me and telling me I'll never run 26.2 miles ever again, silly old brain! I am of course using the time to catch up on my other passions and enjoy some precious time with Mike.

Pottering


I do love that word, meaning 'to move around without hurrying and in a relaxed and pleasant way' eg I spent the afternoon potteringaround the garden doing a few odd jobs I reminds me of my dad as he liked to 'potter' in the garden as indeed I do too.

Where do I begin? I think I'll start with some of my gardening activities as everywhere is bursting into life and looking fabulous (although there is sooooo much more still to do, as always). I've been taking photos of some the different varieties of Aquilegias that are in flower at the moment and noticing those that haven't appeared yet, most notably my dwarf yellow varieties and 'Nora Barlow', a shaggy mass of pink and white petals which is one of my favourites:


This tall, deep purple & white one (possibly the variety 'Magpie') has self-seeded into a clump of Artemesia in the herb garden and contrasts beautifully with the silver leaves. It stands at around 2'6".

One of many varieties with long spurs - I love the way its colour changes as the flower matures

This one has the palest yellow petals with delicate mauve spurs. It is less than 1' high.

The shape of the pollen on this one is a feature in itself - notice ho the petals tips are a different colour too.

Another shorter growing variety which is only about 6" high and you have to get really low down to appreciate it so I grow it in a raised bed around the gravel garden.


This cheeky chappy has self-seeded into a bed of Euphorbia Robbiae and I really like the colour contrast against the lime-green bracts so will shake more of its seeds around there later in the year

This one has it all - two-tone pink petals, long spurs and the stems are a deep pink too. Beautiful!

Pink again but with the white highlighting the inner petals so beautifully. On the left you can just see a seedpod forming. They are beautiful too.


I think they look beautiful when viewed from above...

...as well as from the side

See how beautifully this purple and white one sits alongside the furry grey leaves of Stachys Byzantina (aka Lamb's ears, a most appropriate name).








This deep red one is a delight; just look at those beautiful hooked spurs and the red stems. Oh my!

This is one of the shorter varieties and the flowers heads are much smaller. I love the paler petals inside contrasted against the darker ones on the outside.

Now for some completely different shapes: 


A tall variety with pleated petals



Deepest blue/purple with the petal tips edged in white.




A 'stellata' variety bred from 'Nora Barlow' (a very pretty one with shaggy pink and white petals which I've grown for many years but seems to have vanished this year for some reason!).

Much smaller flower heads - this one is nearly black.......


....this one is a deep wine-red.

I've thrown this one in for contrast - this is Thalictrum aquilegifolium which has an abundance of froth pale-pink flowers over a long period.


We're also starting to clear another area in the front garden and have laid down all manner of weed-suppressant materials which will be left in place until time permits me to plant the are. Mike has helped me by doing a lot of the heavy digging as our clay is very hard work and goes from saturated and unworkable to hard as stone and unworkable within the space of a few days.

We laid out all the weed suppressant matting that we had lying around but still needed more. Then I remembered we had a large quantity of heavyweight blue plastic we'd kept from renovating a previous home.

Mike went off to collect it from behind the barn and then shouted for me to go and look at something  - a tightly curled up ball of fur which had fallen out of the roll of plastic when he'd moved it. It was a dormouse. I'd never seen one in the wild before and it was so beautiful. Mike said it fell out of the blue plastic, bounced on the grass, opened an eye and then went back to sleep. As they are nocturnal they sleep during the day and he certainly wasn't going to be disturbed by our goings-on!




Of course then we had to find somewhere safe to put him. The obvious place was in the corner where we've stacked a lot of old tiles, bricks and slates which is now home to all manner of creatures including newts, minor bees, snails and ants. I made a space between some blocks and put some hay inside then placed him gently on top. I didn't have the camera with me and didn't want to disturb him when I went back there later so just took this shot from outside his temporary lodgings - you can just make out his shape in the middle if you look carefully. He'd disappeared by morning and had no doubt found a new place to sleep.




In case you haven't seen a dormouse before, take a look at these little cuties - photo from Kent Wildlife Trust.





I've also been re-potting our houseplants which takes ages as I have loads. When I was taking cuttings of this pretty tradescantia I ran out of time and so just stuck the stems into a jar of water for putting into compost later. 




Of course I forgot about them for 3 days but when I went to get them just look what had happened in that short space of time:




Now that is an impressive amount of root growth in 3 days.  Isn't Nature wonderful.


A little light crafting



What else, ah yes, some crochet. We've just received the 4th instalment of Frida's Flowers which is handy as I've just finished off week 3. I wasn't concentrating when I did the last hexagon though and on the round with the deep navy trebles I forgot to catch in the green chain from an earlier round but didn't notice until I was several rows past.

It wasn't too much of a problem to correct it though as no other stitches were made into them (phew!) - I just snipped the navy blue at the back and undid all the stitches then reworked the round again working through the existing gaps. It was a bit of a fiddle but saved undoing 2 rounds.




I didn't like the instructions for the next navy rounds which was supposed to have a 3 treble cluster worked around the yellow you can see in the photo above. I thought it looked a bit gappy and so I did front-post trebles around the earlier ones which I think looks much neater.




There's also been a bit of Bargello going on. I really enjoy this and am loving this project which is based on a design from this book by Brenda Day:




The inspiration for my design is this rather striking zebra effect cushion which she worked in black, cream and shades of grey.




Mine, however, is based on beige and neutrals and I'm not following all her patterns, supplementing them with some of my favourites from the many books I have about this fascinating needlework.




I've just started the main section and will be using shades of red and pink worked around this wavy shape I'm creating at the moment which in fact bears no resemblance to her zebra stripes now and is more about me experimenting on my own! If it doesn't work out then I'll just undo it and start again but I think it's good to try to find your own voice sometimes.




Actually, now I'm looking at it with fresh eyes I've decided I don't want a curvy wave and am going to rip it out and go for something more angular.....or maybe something completely different. Decisions, decisions!

I've run out of time to write about my last 2 marathons so I'll just show the medals for now and do my write-up asap:


No. 76, Bewl Water Marathon


No. 77, Starfish Marathon