When two frogs love each other very much

April16

frog in hosta by sheila averbuch stopwatch gardenerPeople tend to think you’re kind of crazy if you count the plants in your garden, which is why I stopped at 157. That’s 157 different kinds of plants, not the number of things out there that have roots, or different varieties of the same kind of plant. From herbs to fruit bushes to bulbs, annuals and evergreens, this tiny patch has stuffed itself with more types of plant than I would ever have thought possible for such a modest space. I was trying to estimate its size today, and I reckon it is 20m x 10m, with two additional strips of 11m x 5m each.

But even now, as osmanthus, daphne and fancy double narcissus push April to its fragrant, flowering peak, there’s not a single plant in the garden that’s making me more excited than the pile of translucent goop I found in our tiniest pond this afternoon. We’ve been in this garden for 12 years and no frog has ever laid spawn in any of our three micro ponds. That’s all changed this spring, when two frogs who loved each other very much found a quiet corner. We’ll watch with interest to see whether gloop turns into tadpoles that turn into frogs. I wonder what baby froglets eat when they get big enough to do so – frog eggs, maybe? We’ll see.

I think the diversity of plants in the garden, and my total moratorium on pesticides (and the mini-ponds, of course), has helped birds, frogs, toads and newts make themselves more at home here. There is the occasional bird casualty from our predator cat, and my children know to warn me if they see anything disgusting I wouldn’t want to come across (“Oh, Mummy! A mouse head!”). But overall, the wildlife and the cat have reached a kind of detente, and things are right with the world in terms of wildlife friendliness here. This year I also loaded up a bird feeder with niger seed, curious to see if its reputed powers of goldfinch-attraction were true. Sure enough, the yellow-winged, red-faced goldfinches showed up in January and haven’t left.

It’s a challenge, in garden design terms, to fit a huge variety of plants into a garden without giving it a piecemeal, chaotic feel. I’ve tried to repeat plants down the longest stretches of the garden, and I’m trying to fit in another osmanthus delvayii in the farther reaches of the garden, although it might mean the ruthless extraction of something else. (As I wrote in an earlier post, I’m a huge fan of purging plants I don’t love, and I gleefully yanked out a perennial pea last autumn that did nothing for the space.)

I’ve also become a big fan of empty containers, and thanks to our local Freecycle I picked up four enormous terra-cotta pots that had been painted white – something I never would’ve done myself, but which has picked out the paler narcissus, the white flowered osmanthus, and earlier in the year, the snowdrops. The stretch of garden outside my office tends to be dark, and the white pots are like beacons, luring me into the garden and away from my desk.

Must. Resist.

What’s going on in your garden this time of year? Has wildlife made its presence felt?

Non-tacky garden wall fountains are hard to find

March19

 

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In 2007 I started collecting pictures of garden water features I’d like to have, but the reality at retail level was disappointing. Unless I wanted a leprechaun spitting into a pot of gold, shops both online and off-line were destined to be a dead-end for me.

After much thinking, searching and persuading of my husband to organize an electrician and an outside power point, I have assembled this (admittedly blurry) slate coloured fountainhead in the shape of a lizard, pouring into a stone-effect slate coloured trough which is in fact fiberglass. In the foreground is a hellebore. The fountain head is from Haddonstone and the trough from Dunbar Garden Centre near me here in East Lothian in Scotland.

I promise to post more pictures of the wall fountain as soon as the growth is more lush and/or I found some way to disguise the transparent pipe that carries water from the submerged pump in the trough up to the fountainhead.

Apologies for the ten-month absence on this blog. I became ill and stressed last May and needed to step right back from lots of things, including the podcast I had been publishing on this blog. However I plan to start posting at least monthly here again.

What are you doing in your garden this month? Does March make you feel as restless and as eager to garden as it makes me? Leave a comment below.

SWG009 Mid May: garden purples and wonderful wisteria

May21

May garden with wisteria and alliumsThere is no better month in the calendar than May. In my garden the lilacs, dusky parrot tulips, early alliums and herbaceous peonies all cavort with the aquilegias I never got around to weeding out (and I’m glad I didn’t).

In this episode of the podcast I’m sitting back and marveling at what this month does in the garden. All of the things I love best, including lilacs, rhododendrons and wonderful wisteria are at their fragrant, flowering peak.

Most of the tones in the garden are purples, with the occasional shot of Barbie pink from a herbaceous peony I’ve never managed to identify. If you’d like to come see for yourself, my garden here in East Lothian is open this Saturday 24 May from 10am-1pm, raising funds for research into an ultra-rare disease that affects a close family friend.

So in this podcast I’m also looking at some of the stunning plants donated for the “Rare Plants for Rare Disease Research” fundraiser. If you are within driving distance at all of Edinburgh, please visit us (postcode EH34 5DA if you’re traveling by GPS), and enjoy wonderful homemade cakes and teas, as well as a selection of plants from some of Britain’s best-known nurseries, many of whom just picked up medals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014.

All proceeds go to researching the causes and potential cure for neuracanthocytosis (NA), a neurodegenerative disease which affects just one in 7 million people: sadly one of those people is Alex, daughter of my very good friends in London. Please come on Saturday with a fat wallet and a full heart, and help us fund the research that can make such a difference to Alex.

Here are some of the plants I’m looking at in this episode:

  • Rhododendron purple splendour
  • Wisteria floribunda
  • Allium Hollandicum Purple Sensation
  • Tulipa Muriel
  • Herbaceous pink peony – unknown name
  • Narcissus Baby Moon
  • White lilac
  • Purple lilac Charles Joly
  • Rambling rose Lykkefund
  • Clematis Montana
  • Geum montanum
  • Aquilegia saximontana
  • Geum Borisii
  • Osteospermum
  • Mertensia lanceolata
  • Primula (alpine various)
  • Trollius
  • Scilla peruviana

 

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SWG008 Early May: white bluebells and water features

May1

white bluebells with parrot tulipThe abundance of May slightly takes me by surprise every year. So much of the greenery that strikes my eye, from the herbaceous peonies to the delphiniums, was invisible in January, but now it is all part of the greenscape that makes the May garden seethe with life.

This week in the podcast I’m appreciating how well white flowering spring bulbs look up against all those greens, including the unusual white bluebells that grow in this garden, as well as leucojum (the summer snowflake). In this episode I’m also looking at a few new sponsors for my charity plant sale on 24 May – including David Austin Roses (donating a raffle prize of a cut roses bouquet), Macplants, and Binny Plants – and I’m giving a brief rundown on the water feature I’m planning in the corner of this small garden.

Do you have a water feature in your garden? I thought and dreamed about one for years, but I could never find components that wouldn’t look twee or cost a fortune. I have finally found a stone-effect trough that is convincing to my eye, along with a classy wall-mounted fountain spout from Haddonstone. I’ll keep you posted as and when I get it installed, if I figure out how to make all the pieces work together.

What are you doing in your garden this week?

Want to subscribe automatically to the podcast to hear it on your mobile device? Go to Stitcher and learn more about downloading the app.

 

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Join us on 24 May in East Lothian to support rare disease research

April30

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Plant lovers and gardening addicts of Edinburgh and East Lothian, it’s time to do what you do best – pick up a fabulous plant for your garden. Come to my garden on 24 May in East Lothian, postcode EH34 5DA if you’re navigating by GPS, and support Rare Plants for Rare Disease Research.

This sale of familiar plants, alongside rare and unusual plants donated from some of Britain’s foremost nurseries, is a great way to spend a Saturday morning at the end of Chelsea week. All proceeds go to the Advocacy for Neuroacanthocytosis Patients, a charity started by my friends when their daughter was diagnosed with such a rare disease, they resolved to fund the search for a cure themselves.

We’re in Pencaitland, just a half hour’s drive from Edinburgh, and would love to see you if you can spare the time. More details in the flyer above — please share this with anyone you’re connected to, who might enjoy a lovely morning looking at lovely plants, and some fabulous home-made cakes from my wonderful neighbours.

Donations of plants have already been received with warmest thanks to Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex, Crug Farm Nursery of Wales, Sarah Raven, Kevock Garden Plants, Binny Plants, Winton House, Macplants and Frank Kirwan of Humbie Dean and organiser of East Lothian Garden Trail. We’re also holding a raffle for a luxurious cut roses bouquet from the stunning David Austin Roses.

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