Ursula's Cambridge Garden

Freelance gardener, plantswoman and garden-designer writing from my small urban garden in a great city


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Merry Christmas 2016!

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Dear all

Just a very quick post to wish everyone a great Christmas and a happy break and to remind everyone that now it’s winter it’s time to celebrate all the lovely evergreens that lift our spirits in December and January, hiding almost unpraised for most of the year, now is there moment to shine!

Clematis cirrhosa flowering happily in the December sunshine…

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Convolvulus cneorum, a new silvery addition to my garden…

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Good old stalwart, Sarcococca – a particularly fine leaved form Sarcococca ruscifolia var.chinensias ‘Dragon Gate’, discovered by Roy Lancaster.

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Lovely medieval Myrtle, with it’s lovely purpley tinge.

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And bamboo and Yukka and rosemary soldiering on…

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and my dear old Astelia.

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Merry Christmas and a happy gardening new year!


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An Autumnal round-up – better late than never!

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I can hardly believe that the last time I posted was in the week of Chelsea Flower Show, but it is true!

It’s been a very long time since I have had any time to write my blog as I have been very busy gardening for a growing number of clients. It has been great gardening weather this summer and autumn, so here are some highlights.

At Client #2’s garden everything is taking on a happy maturity.  Here in the west-facing semi-shade bed Carex ‘Ice Dance’,  Heuchera, a Japanese Shield fern, Pachysandra and Alchemilla mollis, with a backing of variegated ivy, makes a pleasing composition of tranquil lush greens and mellow yellows.

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In the east-facing bed a tough Valerian blends nicely with a blue hardy geranium (split into five  newly invigorated clumps in the Spring from a huge congested plant) and a Cistus – all three very resilient plants for a sunny bed.

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The south-facing lavender and catmint bed did very well, against a wall, where I have also planted 20 Nerines, which over the years will clump up and produce a lovely September show as their favourite place is the base of a sun-baked wall.

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And moving into Autumn an inherited Rudbeckia glows in the early morning sunshine…

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The substantial project of re-planting Client #4’s garden has been progressing well, with all new planting in two of the three large beds planted by the end of May, and the remaining third bed fully planted up last week.

Here the Miscanthus, Anemanthele lessoniana and Stipa tenuissima of the Grasses bed are coming into their Autumn glory…

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The Romantic south-facing border had its front areas planted in May with lavenders, sedums and Agapanthus,  and this pleasing partnership of Achillea ‘Cerise Queen’ and Gaura ‘Whirling butterflies’ seen here..

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And the interior of the bed was planted up this October with bearded iris, japanese anemones, peonies and Cistus, Viburnum tinus and Abelia, against a very smart new fence.

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Client #7’s front garden is being slowly cleared of a mono-culture of manic hardy geranium, to be replaced in due course with a lawn, step-over apples and a Magnolia.  This is how far I’ve got so far, but there is a lot more work to do so watch this space…

 

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In my own garden there have been some great performing plants over the summer and autumn.  Salvia and Astrantia have done well in a large pot in semi-shade, flowering almost continuously from June until this week….

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The wonderful acid green of Euphorbia oblongata has also been a stalwart of the garden throughout the summer –

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My new Yukka has been very happy in its pot in the sunshine

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and the Calamintha nepeta has done very well flowering for months and months on my balcony, beloved of the bees (I read about this plant in Noel Kingsbury’s book on the Lurie Garden in Chicago, where they said it was a great performing bee magnet).

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My new Agastache has been a lovely gentle orange all through late summer and early autumn (seen here with Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ and Hackonocloa)

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I have this autumn extended the width of my south-facing bed, and replanted it with a palette of plants that are very happy in gritty, sunny conditions, as well as a very large number of new Allium and Tulip bulbs (a present from my parents) which I look forward to seeing the development of over the next year.  Here is the bed with the new section of pavers removed…

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And the new plantings complete

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I have also added Japanese anemones and Acanthus to my Cotinus bed

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I look forward to seeing how these two beds do with their new plantings.

My Phormium, which has been living in a pot, is finally planted….

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And my Tree Fern, has settled in well, planted in a pot as a tiny baby twig of a plant at the start of the summer, and now looking quite lush.

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So,  as the colours of autumn gather in around my garden…

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my table is building up once again with more plants for new Client #9’s garden project which is just about to be planted up, so I hope to report on that next time I write.

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And finally a shot of my parents’ wonderful Hydrangea in its summer glory (grown from a cutting I gave them in 1994!)

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Which my Mother has now given me back a cutting from – still flowering in my garden this week – the circle of horticulture goes ever on!

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Happy autumn gardening!


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Not the Chelsea Flower Show!

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I’ve not been to Chelsea Flower Show this year, because I am far too busy gardening for clients, but there is still much to report, even though I’m not writing up about an 8am arrival on first Members’ day, as I was last year!

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Everything in the garden is racing back into full-speed-ahead mode now it is May!

My Libertia has finally flowered after three years of waiting and I have a new Phormium and Yukka, seen here all together in my pot section.

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And of course it’s Iris and Aquilegia time of year again – always such a delight…

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And finally my dear cat kept digging up all my ferns in my shade bed, so I decided to plant them all in pots, and I am rather pleased with the effect.  Happy gardening till  next time!

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The Great February tidy up

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A very belated happy New (old) Year to you all!

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If you are a fan of autumn grasses and leaving all plants to show of their winter skeletons  (a new philosophy which has subtley effected many gardeners over the past decade – meaning you leave everything to treasure the effects of shrubs and perennials right through the winter, even in their death-throws!) – then your big moment for clearing up in the garden – in fact the most important of the whole year – is now in early February.

Ornamental grasses in particular follow this pattern – a big cut back in February, lovely new growth in Spring/early Summer – spectacular seed heads in Summer/Autumn, lovely architectural skeletons throughout the winter.  This is their month to be dormant waiting  to start all over again – and for things like Stipa and Miscanthus a really severe cut back kick-starts them back to life with a vengence.  Equally if you want to see all your lovely spring bulbs you necessarily have to finally clear away the now spent detritis before its too late.

So my big cut back was on 3 February.  This is the view from my sitting room in August last year in high summer…

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And this is the same view when I had finished the great five-hour tidy up!

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So that’s the contrast between high summer and the verge of spring now with all the tulip bulbs beginning to show  and the new leaves of emergent perennials.  A very satisfying if delicate days work, as one has to be very careful not to sweep away or damage something that is on its way back to life.  I think this is a good way to garden – rather than emptying the garden of everything in October and looking at bare soil for four months, which can be depressing and wastes so much of what late autumn plants have to offer.

Here new bearded iris growth is revealed, and the rhizomes get a chance for maximum baking in the spring/early summer sunshine for best flowering…

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And this is the whole tidy effect from my balcony at the end of the task!

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2016 has been very stormy in my neck of the woods but not desperately cold at any point yet, except for one harsh week or two.  And there has been plenty of rain – the bamboos have loved that, as have my Hellebores – I planted eight new plants last year and they’re really settling  in now, as are the ones my mother gave me several years ago.

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Also the Euphorbias seem to have survived flowering too early in December and are just powering on

 

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And last, but not least, of course, this is the month of the snowdrop – and the month to divide and re-plant your stocks to get more drifts.  Snowdrops only like to be planted ‘in the green’ so February is the month for purchasing snowdrops.  Never plant dry bulbs of snowdrops.  I have been getting more into this wonderful genus – I have just read a lovely little publication by Jackie Murray called simply ‘Snowdrops’ – a very concise guide, in which the author’s enthusiasm is quite infectious.  I don’t think I will ever be a fanatic (otherwise known as a ‘Galanthophile’) but I would certainly like to increase the range of varieties I grow.

These are some double ones in my garden…

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and some rather perfect ones looking poised in bud, in my Mother’s garden…

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Happy gardening to you all and a happy and healthy Springtime ahead.


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Autumn calling

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It has been a busy summer break since I last posted, and quite a hectic ‘Indian summer’ September as we slip into autumn.

A few horticultural highlights of the holidays were, firstly, a return visit to wonderful Kiftsgate Court Gardens in Chipping Campden, a garden we have visited for many years running. Here is the wonderful still pool in the water garden, with leaf sculpture fountain by Simon Allison, with a great ‘island’ for escaping from it all!

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The Phormiums were spectacular and architectural…

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and the Dierama stunning in the sunken fountain section of the garden…

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These are wonderful long-lived perennials that are notoriously difficult to get established – Helen Dillon and Dan Pearson have both written about them and cautioned patience waiting for them to get established.  They resent competition and moving, so I am looking forward to an eventual display from the one I have planted in my garden that my mother grew from seed.  I possessed one many years ago given to me by my gardening aunt and it did flower, so I look forward to this plant’s welcome return as a feature in my garden.  It is commonly known as ‘Angel’s fishing rod’ and I think the photographs show very clearly why!

Kiftsgate also had this lovely combination of japanese anemones and Agapanthus.

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And this is their Gaura flowering well…

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Gaura is new to me in my own garden (see below) – I had read about it often, but never grown it, so this year I popped one in a big pot in June and it has flowered non stop until the end of September in an airy, light, effortless way that is very effective, so I heartily recommend it.

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And secondly we visited the splendid Wiveton Hall Farm in Norfolk, where the cafe has a little plant section which stocks some lovely things, including this Salvia ‘Patio Blue’, now happily thriving in my garden.

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Back in my own garden, I was surprised over the summer as I never thought Astrantia liked my garden, but I  found that one has self seeded itself and likes it after all (seen here against box)…

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It has been a great year for the majesty of my fig tree if not the actual crop (no figs to eat this summer unfortunately)…

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However, the main thing that has been taking up my time and gardening imagination, however, has been a busy autumn of planning, and then planting, for my two clients – at one stage over 120 plants were in my back garden awaiting delivery and planting! (seen below lined up in the middle of the aerial picture)

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It has been a glorious September with some notable highlights.

My Quince tree fruit is looking very classically perfect and is even ‘glowing’ in the rain this morning!

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My ‘Graham Thomas’ honeysuckle has had a second flowering in September…

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And it was a great September for Crocosmia…

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And finally my Cotinus ‘Dusky Maiden’ has been looking lovely back-lit in the low, early morning sun.

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Wishing you all a great autumn in your gardens until my next post.