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?

Share:

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

 

Play
Share:

SWG007 Mid April: planting combinations, new peonies and ailing camellias

April19

peony Duchesse de Nemours

I’ve been in my small garden long enough to know that every square inch is precious, so I still surprise myself when I realise I’m giving up space to plants I don’t love, like a pieris near the French doors by my office.

There’s a camellia I love – camellia sasanqua Winter’s toughie – which is struggling in a small pot in the courtyard part of the garden. The right thing to do would be to transplant it into an ericaceous barrel with the pieris, but I’ve hesitated because I’m afraid of crowding out the pieris. The shrub has only just moved into its own barrel after tucking in beside a rhododendron for a number of years, and my natural sympathies for the plant make me reluctant to force it to share space again. But it’s time to be ruthless: the camellia means more to me, and with my full garden getting ever fuller, I really can’t afford to be indulgent.

In this week’s podcast I’m talking a bit about my ruthless streak, including my habit for shamelessly chopping back strong perennials that are crowding out first-year plants like a fabulous Bourbon rose I bought at the RHS Chelsea flower show last year. I couldn’t think of the grower’s name during the recording, but it is Peter Beales Roses, a fine grower who had a most impressive (and crowded!) stand at last year’s show.

You can hear the current episode below, or use an app like iTunes or Stitcher to subscribe to it as a podcast for iTunes, Windows or Android: Stitcher subscribe instructions are here.

Here’s a list of plants and other key names in this week’s episode:

  • Pieris
  • Rhododendron purple splendor
  • Tulips Orange Emperor, Professor Rontgen, Passionale, Moneymaker, Clusiana Sheila
  • Narcissus Sun Disc
  • Zaluzianskya – night scented phlox
  • Anemone Blanda
  • Lavender: Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote
  • Mahonia japonica
  • Lily of the Valley – convallaria majalis
  • Herbaceous Peonies: red Sarah Bernhardt; Duchesse de Nemours (pictured above)
  • Bourbon Rose Mme. Isaac Pereire
  • Peter Beales Roses is the supplier I visited at last year’s RHS Chelsea flower show
  • Sarah Hayhoe is the stained-glass designer: see samples of her work in one of my Chelsea posts from 2013.

What are you doing in your garden this spring? Have you allowed yourself to spring clean plants that aren’t earning their keep?

Play
Share:

SWG005 Mid-March in a Scottish cottage garden

March21

Feu de Joie narcissus a double daffodil

 

For gardeners it is indescribably exciting when the bumblebees get moving, the pollen starts flying and the blossom on the fruit trees starts bursting in springtime. In this episode of the Stopwatch Gardener podcast, I’m looking at the mystery daffodil that baffled me for years before being identified by the friendly Duncan at Croft 16, and I’m indulging in early fantasies about the roses to come, the first of which will appear in May.

Read the rest of this entry »

Play
Share:

SWG004 Early-mid-March in a Scottish cottage garden

March6

Magic portal in the garden - through the fireplace surround

Welcome to another episode of the Stopwatch Gardener podcast, where this week I’m rushing about the garden like a mad thing, getting excited about every early-spring plant and the very first humming bumblebee of the season.

I also take a minute to remember my lovely, much-missed dog Lizzy as I look at the place in the garden where she was buried a few years ago.

I’m delighted that Crug Farm has joined Beth Chatto, Vanessa Mann and Frank Kirwan to donate plants to my Rare Plants for Rare Disease fundraiser for neuroacanthocytosis research on 24 May 2014. If you run a nursery, especially if you trade in rare or unusual plants, I’d love to ask you for a donation to this worthy cause. Contact me here if you can help with a rare plant donation.
Read the rest of this entry »

Play
Share:
« Older Entries