Category Archives: Life outdoors

The Unfinished Garden – Preparing for hibernation

21 December

The peculiar non-winter continues and nature is confused. But going back a couple of months when temperatures and light were still on track the lovely beech outside the front door bade a glowing farewell to this year’s season and settled itself into dormancy.

The Unfinished Garden – Fading Glories

12 November

Most of the recent jobs have involved sweeping up the leaves. Pine needles are the worst, they turn the drive a dull orange colour and are hard to gather and heavy to pick up and generally bring a fair amount of gravel with them. On the patio there seem to be more birch leaves than were ever on the tree and as soon as I come back in there are more drifting down.

It’s been unseasonably mild and he who mows has continued to do so. The lawn may even need another cut this week.

I thought this would be the last rose of summer, but I can see there are still buds swelling.

But still it feels like we are on borrowed time.

The Unfinished Garden – Pot Blockers

17 October

One minute I have not enough plants for the pots available, and the next there are a number of ‘pot blockers’, those tender types who will keel over at the first frost but which are still going strong. In the meantime there are Pansies and Heathers waiting to slip into something more comfortable.

For now I have transplanted the Heathers into nice terracotta pots to release them from their plastic starter homes.

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Then I ruthlessly harvested the last remaining Calendula for an indoor posy…

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… and distributed the Pansies in their place.

This is rather in hope than expectation as I have found them to be disappointing in earlier years – yet how can you fail with Pansies?

Looking ahead to next year, I potted up the Digitalis seedlings, but they still look terribly small.17 oct 2015 (5)

At the beginning of this year I spent a long while clearing ivy and creating a better environment for the winter flowering Jasmine Nudiflorum so that it could display itself against the fence (which Mr B painted a smart brown). Now it’s starting to repay the effort. An uplifting sight as the nights draw in.


The Unfinished Garden – An Unwelcome Intrusion

10 October

A chainsaw cackles demonically on a Saturday morning. One of the more depressing sounds to be heard in our semi-rural location. Though we had been warned; a few months ago there was a letter from the Planning Authority informing us of a neighbour’s intention to ‘thin’ the trees on the edge of their property. In fact they had bought the unclaimed piece of land on which stands a line of mixed pine and oak which cast shadows on their garden. All trees which supposedly have Tree Preservation Orders on them. In practice this is clearly no defence from the imperative to have a sunny plot.

The trees were here first, I’d say.

Back in my own patch I just got on with some autumn housekeeping. Sweeping the patio …

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and deadheading the Pelargoniums and Calendula to encourage the last remaining buds.

The garden is beginning to close down for the year, but the hips are abundant on the Rosa Glauca – the sign of a long winter to come?

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And the yellow pot mums are a cheering antidote to the day’s whining soundtrack.

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The Unfinished Garden – Looking Ahead

19 September

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Not so much to see in terms of ‘before’ and ‘after’ this week because the main focus has been to get four big bags of bulbs in the ground. One being a mix of blue and white crocus, and three of large daffodils. Probably 150 bulbs altogether, which sort sounds a lot, and yet once you get out there they don’t seem to cover a big area. I have a bulb planter, which does make the task easier, after you have loosened the soil a bit. Though I know there’s a school of thought that says they are unhelpful to the growing roots because pushing the planter down into the soil makes the sides of the hole compacted.  But I’m afraid my new garden residents will just have to make the best of it.

Even with the bulb planter it’s very hard to get them as deep as they are supposed to be – twice the bulb’s height below the surface. So I cheated and added a thick layer of compost mulch just in case.

Two more new season purchases from the garden centre last week – a yellow Chrysanthemum and half a dozen small Heathers. The ‘mum’ has gone into a pot on it’s own …

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… but the Heathers will have to wait until something else starts to go over.

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Meanwhile indoors I’m so proud that the Phalaenopsis Orchid I was given last Christmas has put on a second splendid array of flowers.

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The instructions which came with it said on no account to leave it sitting in water. In fact it turns out this is exactly what it likes, or so it seems to me at any rate.

The Unfinished Garden – A Late Flourish

6 September

Out of the blue, as it were, a perfect September afternoon, low sunshine bathing everything in warmth and a sense of plenty.

I pottered without any particular project in mind, dead-heading Pelargoniums and Calendulas and pulling the Speedwell out of the winter flowering Heathers that I will be relying on before long for some cheerfulness when all around is dormant. This brought me towards the back of garden, where the wild things are, and I finally got round to pruning back the Eleagnus and the Ponticum Rhododendron which were threatening to hold hands across the path. Not too much though, for fear of exposing the ugly yellow brick house whose garden backs on to ours.

The Sedums are starting and they’re so welcome because they get going with enthusiasm just as other things are fading.

And of course the other autumn quintessential is the springing up of mushrooms in the lawn. Not edible, presumably, but somebody’s been nibbling at them.

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The Unfinished Garden – Moving On

28 August

It’s time to accept that the sweet peas have done their thing for this year, so today I pulled them up and took down the canes. That  patch of ground is looking in good shape now after all the compost I lavished on it for the sweet peas’ benefit. So I replaced them with the primroses (or are they polyanthus?) which I hope will cheer me through the winter, outside the back door. The plants, which I had popped into pots to make room for pelargoniums and so on, each yielded at least two viable new ones for the coming season.

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It does feel later than August somehow and looking ahead I have begun to clear the hardy geraniums from the raised bed which is the main focus from the kitchen window. I think it should be a place where I ring the changes of the seasons and I want to fill it with bulbs for the Spring. But then I realised I need to conjure up something else as well or there will be nothing to see between September and February! (Except the Box balls and cone, and the evergreen Euonymous of course).

Summer isn’t over yet though and the trusty pot marigolds are beautiful in the late afternoon sun.


Next week our neighbours of over 20 years are moving away to live in their declining years with their daughter in another part of the country. Mr J has worked in his garden pretty much everyday since we moved here in 1993 and I found his quiet diligence inspiring. It must seem so strange not to be preparing those familiar borders for the next season. I think he will be sad to go, and we shall miss him.



The Unfinished Garden – More Pictures Than Words – 2

27 August 

I’m pleased that my ‘Spanish’ red and yellow theme has pretty much come to pass.

And those begonia tubers I bought at half-price have produced huge blooms. ‘Bigonias’ you might say.

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But the garden is always edging itself towards the next season and as the blue Lobelias fade, right next to them the autumn Cyclamen Hederfolium are just beginning to appear.

The Rosa Glauca are putting on a fine display of hips.

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And the Foxglove seedlings are finally beginning to get going.

It’s not exactly been a scorching summer this year – only a handful of days above mid-20s Celsius – but now there’s the sense of autumn in the air and I was moved to take action on the Philadelphus which had developed into a tangle in a too-shady corner.

The Unfinished Garden – More Pictures Than Words – 1

27 August

I have not done at all well on the blogging front this month. This is partly due to technical difficulties and being away and other demands on my time. So I shall let the photos do the talking for now.

The Hydrangea Paniculata started in a flourish of white and are fading in a genteel way to pink.

I like Verbena Bonariensis a lot, especially when it spreads itself around. This year they have grown enormously tall for some reason.


The Unfinished Garden – Emergency Planting

30 July

The little wallflowers are now in a desperate state. I was only able to move about half of them to larger pots from the plug trays and they have all been subject to heat, water shortage and then two days of torrential rain.

The only good news is that the rain has also loosened the rock hard soil in the bed I was planning to put them in. So at last I have been able to dig up the rather nondescript (but nonetheless welcome when they first appear) pink hardy geraniums. They’ve gone ruthlessly in the garden waste bin, I know there are enough roots left to ensure they’ll be back next year.

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Then I transplanted the long suffering wallflowers, putting all 80 of them in one bed.

My vision is for a massed Persian carpet effect, taking over from the snowdrops later next Spring. How’s that for forward planning? If they will only survive I shall feel I have snatched a small victory from a near death experience.

The ‘blue’ hydrangeas I grew from cuttings from those in my brother’s garden are in the same corner. They won’t be in bloom at the same time as the wallflowers of course, but they are looking good now, even if they are pink.