Happiness is … firsts

First strawberry of the season. (Already eaten)
First poppy flower.




The Rose Garden

2010 before putting in the rose garden
2010 before putting in the rose garden

About four years ago, after an overly inspiring Rose Tour which they sadly (maybe fortunately) don’t run any more, I ripped up a part of my driveway and put in the rose garden. Roses are expensive though so although I did VERY detailed plans I never managed to finish it. The soil is dreadful, despite a huge amount of compost going, and, though some of the roses struggled valiantly, some of them have died. I haven’t given up on my rose garden, I’m just making it a long term plan. For now I intend to transplant all the roses that were in there into the cutting garden. Madness I know, the soil there is not much better but we have dug a massive trench and will fill it almost entirely with compost. Then I’m going to add more compost to the rose garden and plant it with annuals for the next few years.

The Design PlanippI’m using heritage ‘Old Spice’ mixed sweet peas on teepees in the centre and surrounding them with clarkia. At the back are the existing ‘Great North’, a stunning white spire rose with a lovely scent. I want to put in a storage tank to collect the water that comes from the neighbour’s down pipe and through that wall but I have to make it into an attractive feature. Behind that is a viburnum hedge on top of the retaining wall. All the beds are edged in low hedges of a plant whose name I know well but currently escapes me.

The Plan of Action

As you can see, current reality differs somewhat.

It’s a bit unfair as this is mid demolition but this is what the rose garden currently looks like. I had a bit of a pond in the middle surrounded by bricks which I’ve dismantled. The Hybrid Teas which are to be moved have been pruned back hard in anticipation.

Jobs to be done

  • remove roses
  • add compost
  • prune spire roses
  • clip existing hedge
  • plant rest of hedge
  • plant annual seeds
  • remove ivy from back wall
  • plant viburnum hedge
  • build water tank

Happiness is… Hellebores

ippI absolutely love hellebores, I don’t know why. They’re not a plant I grew up with. The first time I met one was in my aunt’s garden, a rather uninspiring sickly flop of leaves with a green flower, which died not long afterwards. But I do remember an air of rarity in the way she talked about it. And they are quite rare here. In the sense that they appear in nurseries and garden shops but they are just hellebores, unnamed, and the colours seem mostly potluck so you have to buy them flowering. I have two surprise hellebores I bought a few months ago, which holds it’s own excitement, but when I look at the varieties available in the UK, with their range of colours, I am, quite frankly, incredibly jealous.

I love their name, Lenten Rose, and they are frost resistant and ippdrought tolerant. Beth Chatto talks about them in her book, The Dry Garden, and they are generously unfurling now, while everything else is waiting for more civilised temperatures

These are the first hellies I planted in my garden, just under a year ago. I bought them in flower so this is the first time I get to watch them unfurl. Aren’t they beautiful. They are both doubles, a double white and a double pink. I lost the labels so I’m not sure which is which. They’re planted in the shade garden which I’ve decided, rather pretentiously, to call the woodland walk; even if it is, at the moment, just a squeeze between a couple of shrubs and a tree. I have three more to plant out and then it will start looking a bit more like a woodland floor.


10012011260I love dahlias, they’re one of the flowers that I instantly fell in love with. We don’t have to lift ours in winter so they tend to stay where they are, coming up each year exploding with flowers. This week I decided I would move some.

ippWhen I lifted these massive clumps of tubers out of the ground I realised they were overdue for dividing. It was now a massively difficult task, not helped by the fact that our soil can dry to the consistency of concrete. I managed to divide them into seventeen plants with tubers and but now I see the RHS says it’s better to divide them in spring when they’ve started shooting. Probably should have read that first.

ippAnyway this was cool. I assume these were the original tubers I planted. Now hollow, they broke apart beautifully.