Carry on Gardening!

Age is a number.  Growing old is inevitable; growing up is optional!

However as we get older some of us unfortunately suffer from osteoarthritis, especially if we have led an active life and, or, have inherited the predisposition to develop osteoarthritis in our joints.  In the early 1960s I trained in occupational therapy and as a student loved working in the department at a residential rehabilitation centre, but after a couple of weeks in a department at a psychiatric hospital I realised that I was training for the wrong career.  I left college and went to my local technical college doing a two and a half term course for personal secretaries, minimum qualification two A levels.  I worked as a medical secretary, where my medical knowledge was invaluable.  I loved the work, at first in a London hospital and later for a Harley Street consultant surgeon.  In the late 1980s as a full time mum and in need of the means to buy plants for my garden,  I started selling a few plants to friends and neighbours and later on at our local horticultural society shows.  I turned my long term hobby from childhood into my third career, LW Plants, selling plants from home, at plant sales and local flower shows, followed by garden open days for charities, flower and garden photography, talks to horticultural societies, research and writing.

Over 15 years ago I started getting pain and stiffness in some of my finger joints and in 2005 osteoarthritis was diagnosed in both knees, both of which meant I had to start changing the way I approach the way I work in my garden.  In recent years I have been applying what I was taught at college, so as to enable me to carry on gardening and I would like to share this with other gardeners.  Gardening is a wonderful way to keep fit and far more rewarding than going to the gym or jogging along local roads, etc!  My mother was still gardening at the age of 80 and I fully intend to continue enjoying working in my garden for as many years as possible.  Carry on gardening!

Secateurs

I had been using Felco 8 secateurs for many years, but when I started getting pain in my finger joints I changed to the smaller Felco 12 with the roller handle. They make cutting and pruning so much easier to do and are very arthritic joint friendly and I highly recommend them.  I have two pairs and they have an annual service from Felco, which includes new blades and repair or replacement of any part where necessary.  As far as maintenance is concerned I use the Felco sharpener, which is far more efficient than any other makes.  In my experience  Fiskars oil is the best I have used.  To clean the blades prior to sharpening and oiling I use a small square of emery cloth to gently rub off the usual accumulation of debris which collects on them.

Felco 12 secateurs

Watering the garden

My back garden is on a slope and approximately 70 feet long and 30 feet wide.  Thirty years ago there was a 2 foot high retaining brick wall to the patio area, with a steep slope down to the bottom of the garden.  I built a second 2 foot high wall further down the garden, moving soil from the bottom to the middle and ending up with a reasonably level area in the middle.  I now have a very vigorously growing pair of Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ growing in 2 feet of top soil either side of an archway above this retaining wall!

A hose reel is not a safe option for a garden on more than one level.  A trailing pipe is a potential trip hazard and a long hose pipe is too heavy and bulky to carry around when one has arthritic finger joints.  I have found that the most user friendly solution is to have short lengths of hose pipe for watering each section of the garden,  which my left hand can just manage to carry.  In the back garden I have buried a hose pipe on each side of the garden just below soil level.  The one for the bottom section goes down the back of the Long Border, emerging behind the shed.  During the summer months I attach a length of pipe sufficiently long enough to water plants below the retaining wall and store it in the shed during the winter.  The hosepipe for the middle section runs down the other side of the garden, along with the electricity armoured cable to the greenhouse.  It lives in the greenhouse, coiled up under the staging in the summer when not in use and in the winter I detach the extension length of pipe.  The short length for watering greenhouse plants and filling up watering cans, as well as topping up the bird bath, rolls up neatly between the glass by the greenhouse door and large pots stored under the staging.  The hose pipes for the front garden run alongside the house.   Each length of hose pipe has its own spray gun.

Access Irrigation Ltd. brass tap units

The left hand pair are for watering the front garden; the green one for a leaky pipe system just below soil level and the yellow one for a hand held spray gun.  The middle one is for watering pots on the patio, the ferns, hostas and bulbs at the house end of the Long Border and my herb garden at the top of the scree.  On the right the green and yellow pipe is for watering the middle section of the garden and greenhouse.  The grey and orange pipe is for watering the bottom section of the garden.

Patio hosepipe.  Hozelock Ultraflex pipe and Hozelock Multi Spray Pro Gun, with 7 spray patterns and a lockable front trigger spray.   In my experience this is more user friendly for arthritic finger joints than rear trigger action spray guns.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

Press Day.  Monday 21 May 2018.

As a member of the the Professional Garden Photographers’ Association I was able to apply for a press pass for Press Day.  It is so much easier to photograph the displays in the Floral Marquee without the risk, on RHS Members’ day, of people tripping over one’s tripod, or getting in the way of the camera!

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants

Salvia ‘Kisses and Wishes’. New Salvia, launched at Chelsea Flower Show 2018.

Geranium nodosum ‘Clos de Coudray’

A superb display, awarded a very well deserved Gold Medal.

Jacques Amand International

Jacques Amand International

Lilium ‘Claude Stride’
Orchids. Cypripedium macranthos × calceolus, Cypripedium ‘Ivory’, Cypripedium fasciolatum.
Orchids. Cypripedium fasciolatum frochii, Cypripedium fasciolatum, Cypripedium ‘Lady Dorine’.
Lilium martagon ‘Slate’s Morning’, Gloriosa rothschildiana, Cucurma.
Lilium pumilum
Cypripedium kentuckiense, Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens
Arisaema candidissimum
Arisaema candidissimum, Arisaema griffithii var. pradhanii, Pleione formosana, Cypripedium reginae f. album.
Allium ‘Giganteum’, Allium ‘Globemaster’, Allium sphaerocephalon, Allium ‘Mount Everest, Scardoxus multiflorus.
Allium sphaerocephalon, Scardoxus multiflorus, Allium ‘Globemaster’, Allium ‘Powderpuff’, Allium jesdianum, Allium ‘Mount Everest’.
Allium ‘Globemaster’, Allium ‘Powderpuff’, Allium jesdianum, Allium ‘Mount Everest’.
Allium jesdianum ‘Michael Hoog’
Allium ‘Mount Everest’, Allium ‘Pinball Wizard, Allium jesdianum ‘Michael Hoog’.

Allium nevskianum

Allium ‘Mount Everest’, Allium jesdianum ‘Michael Hoog’, Allium ‘Pinball Wizard’, Allium ‘Ambassador’, Allium sphaerocephalon, Allium nevskianum, Allium macleanii ‘His Excellency’, Allium karataviense ‘Red Globe’.
Gloriosa superba ‘Rothschildiana’
Scardoxus multiflorus

A great display, awarded a very well deserved Gold Medal.

Chrysanthemums Direct

Chrysanthemums Direct
Chrysanthemum ‘Misty Golden’
Chrysanthemum ‘Misty Lemon’
Chrysanthemum ‘Misty Cream’
Chrysanthemum ‘Feeling Green’ and Chrysanthemum ‘Misty Cream’

Perfection!  Awarded Gold Medal.

Walkers Bulbs @ Taylors

Walkers Bulbs @ Taylors

Narcissus ‘Altun Ha’, raised by John Pearson in 1987. [Division 2 YYW-W]
Another well deserved Gold Medal

W & S Lockyer

W & S Lockyer. Primula auricula display

Another well deserved Gold Medal

RHS Members’ Day. Tuesday 22 May 2018.

A very hot day with glorious sunshine.  Some great Show Gardens, but others which were not so good.

The Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC.

Designed by Chris Beardshaw. Awarded Gold Medal and Best Show Garden.

Meconopsis

Welcome of Yorkshire

Designed by Mark Gregory

ECO-LG Garden

Designed by Hay-Joung Hwang

Trailfinders South African Wine Estate

Designed by Jonathan Snow

The M&G Garden

Designed by Sarah Price

The David Harber and Savills Garden

Designed by Nic Howard

Wuhan Water Garden, China

Designed by Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins

The water feature was great, but the planting was boring and a shadow of what they achieved in their 2017 display.  In my opinion a well deserved Bronze Medal!

Rescuing an Elderly Forsythia

In spring 1989 I inherited an elderly Forsythia, species unknown.  I cut out the oldest stems at the base and over subsequent years new stems grew and matured well and I was able to remove more of the older stems, again at ground level.  It has always been very vigorous, with roughly 2 feet of strong growth per stem following flowering.  As it is fairly close to the path beside the greenhouse it has needed regular pruning on the left during the summer months for access, with additional pruning on the right to keep its shape symmetrical.  In mid summer my regular practice was to prune the taller stems back to old wood and cut back the others about halfway.  During recent years  I had an increasing problem with the heavy branches on the right hand side, some of which were beginning to grow almost horizontally and vying to emulate the Leaning Tower of Pisa!  My back garden is in a wind tunnel when we have northerly winds, with the old railway embankment at the bottom of the garden and the row of houses forming its sides.  Obviously something had to be done about it as I did not want it to fall over and damage both itself and the surrounding plants.  It is a beautiful sight in the spring and I would miss it.

Forsythia – late April 2016

Once again covered in flowers in late April 2016 and  looking glorious, but far too big and by mid summer it was even taller and wider at nearly 8 feet high and 6 feet wide, again leaning badly to the right.  It was time for the big chop, but as I was opening my garden in early July, I had to wait until mid July to start the job.  Not the optimum time according to the books, but needs must and plants do not read the books!  In mid July I cut it down to about 4 feet high and about 2½ feet wide over a period of a couple of weeks.  By mid August it was putting on some good new growth and in September I trimmed a couple of inches or so off the stronger stems and removed a few dead twigs.

Forsythia – early April 2017

It came through the winter very well and in early April 2017 it actually flowered, albeit not with its normal quantity of flowers!  Again I shortened the new growth during the summer in order to maintain its new look.

 

Forsythia – early April 2018

Despite a cold 2017-2018 winter I was rewarded with a glorious show of flowers in early April and I now have a relatively compact Forsythia, roughly 4½  feet high and 3 feet wide.  I intend to remove the diagonal branch on the right hand side during the summer, as I want to discourage it from sending out any more potential  “Leaning Tower of Pisa” branches!  With careful maintenance I should now be able to keep it under control and still enjoy its glorious contribution to my back garden each April.

Fortunately plants do not read the rule books and with care an elderly shrub can be rejuvenated over a couple of years.

Life and Death of a Wild Cherry Tree

A very tall wild cherry tree at the top of the railway embankment at the bottom of my back garden, photographed on a warm spring afternoon in early April 2017.   In mid to late summer the birds gorge themselves on the cherries!

Wild cherry tree

On the 21st October 2017 Storm Brian hit the UK and sadly this beautiful tree became a casualty.  The following morning it was leaning badly to the right and swaying in the breeze.  Note the cross shaped twigs top right, which are now close to the twigs of the neighbouring tree.

Cherry tree the day after Storm Brian

The old railway line, which is owned by the local council, is now used as a footpath and cycle track; people walk their dogs, parents with children go for walks and bird watchers observe the many species of birds which live in the trees.  Sadly an unstable tree is a health and safety hazard.  The Council tree expert examined it, confirmed that it was dangerous and would have to be felled and their tree surgeons cut it down a few days later.  Following the Great Storm of 1987 we found out that trees have shallow spreading roots, rather than deep ones and as a result are more vulnerable when we experience exceptionally strong winds.

Tree surgeon at work
Tree surgeon at work

The cherry tree can be seen on the far left in December 2009.  The tall ivy covered tree to its right was felled a couple of years ago as it was leaning badly towards the back fences, threatening to cut them in two in a strong wind.  A few weeks later we did experience strong wind!  Our back gardens are in a northerly wind tunnel between the embankment of the old railway and the row of houses.  During the years we have been living here several trees have fallen and others have had to be removed.  However it is a beautiful backdrop to the garden and a haven for wildlife, especially birds, many of which nest there or in  my bay tree.  I have been gardening organically for more than 30 years and the local bird population do a great job eating garden pests.

Snow in my back garden mid December 2009

The back garden in mid December 2017 following the felling of the cherry tree.  Note that to the left of the greenhouse there is a younger cherry tree.  Hopefully it will survive the ivy growing up its trunk, as well as occasional strong winds and be able to provide a welcome treat for the birds for many summers in the future.

Snow in my back garden mid December 2017

Snowdrop Time

In early February 2017 I visited Benington Lordship in Hertfordshire to see the snowdrops in all their beauty.

Benington Lordship. The Manor House.
Sheets of snowdrops flowering on the sides of the moat
Late afternoon sunlight on the tree trunks in the moat
The moat
The moat with the Norman folly in the background
Snowdrops flowering in the grass above the moat
Snowdrops and winter aconites flowering in the grass beside the footpath leading to the Norman folly.
Benington Lordship. The Manor House and Norman folly, with sheets of snowdrops in the foreground looking glorious in late afternoon sunshine.
Snowdrops beside the footpath above the moat.
Snowdrops beside the footpath above the moat, leading towards the church
St. Peter’s Church, Benington
Benington Lordship. The Manor House.
The Norman folly
The Norman folly
The Norman folly archway
The Norman folly
Sheets of snowdrops flowering in the moat

 

Over the years I have built up a small collection of snowdrops.  I only buy single bulbs of the lower priced ones and after a few years they bulk up into good sized clumps and are a welcome sight in the garden for many weeks in the cold days of winter.

Galanthus and Pulmonaria in the Long Border.
Galanthus ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley and Pulmonaria ‘Cleeton Red’ [foreground], Pulmonaria ‘Lewis Palmer’ [left], Galanthus ‘Jacquenetta’ [top left], Galanthus ‘Silverwells’ [centre] and Pulmonaria longifolia [right].
Galanthus ‘Straffan’
Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’
Galanthus plicatus subsp. byzantinus
Galanthus ‘Jacquentta’
Galanthus ‘Bitton’
Galanthus ‘Backhouse Spectacles’

Celebration of Snowdrops. Lindley Hall, RHS London Flower Show 2018.

Avon Bulbs snowdrops display at RHS London show, February 2018
Galanthus ‘Rosemary Burnham’ on Avon Bulbs display at RHS London show, February 2018.

Lindley Hall, RHS London Flower Show 2018.

This installation from RHS Floral Artist in Residence 2018, Zita Elze, celebrates the natural transition from winter into spring, veiled in the last soft snowfall of the passing season. Among the trees and surrounded by thousands of fresh Snowdrops a banqueting table awaits, dressed in white and sparkling with clear glass and the dainty bell shaped blossoms of yet more Snowdrops, this poetic vignette is designed to transport you into a world where nature shines in pure glory of a fresh new year.

 

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

I have been visiting the Chelsea Flower Show for more than 30 years; what a great day out for gardeners.  Not as many Show Gardens as in previous years, but the usual mix of magnificent and controversial!

The M & G Garden,  inspired by an abandoned Maltese quarry. Designer James Basson.

Awarded a Gold Medal and Best Show Garden, but…..

The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden.  Designer Tracy Foster.

One of my favourite Show Gardens this year.

Royal Bank of Canada Garden.  Designer Charlotte Harris.

Another of my favourites.

The Morgan Stanley Garden.  Designer Chris Beardshaw.

Great planting.

Breaking Ground.  Designers Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam.

Breaking Ground Show Garden.

Silk Road Garden, Chengdu, China.  Designers Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins.

Looking great in the glorious late afternoon sunshine.

Linklaters Garden for Maggie’s.  Designer Darren Hawkes.

Linklaters Garden for Maggies

The standard of some of the Trade Stands often rivals that of the Show Gardens.

David Harber Ltd.

David Harber Ltd.

James Doran-Webb Ltd.

James Doran-Webb Ltd. Driftwood animal sculptures.

The Great Pavilion

As always some superb nursery displays in the Great Pavilion.  Three of the best Gold Medal displays.

W S Warmenhoven

W S Warmenhoven display of Allium
W S Warmenhoven display of Allium
W S Warmenhoven display of Hippeastrum. Awarded Gold Medal.

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants. Awarded Gold Medal.

Rosy Hardy having a short rest on her display after a busy Tuesday!

Daisy Roots

Daisy Roots display. Awarded Gold Medal.

National Dahlia Collection

A celebration of Cornish heritage from the National Dahlia Collection, with a reference to Ross Poldark!

National Dahlia Collection display in the marquee

Spring into Summer 2017

Mid April and spring is well and truly sprung; there is a constant succession of colour in my garden from the daffodils, tulips, little blue bulbs, Anemone nemorosa, Ranunculus ficaria and Pulmonaria cultivars, and many more.  The birds are busy and there are plenty of nectar rich flowers for the visiting bumble bees.  So far this spring I have seen brimstone, peacock and comma butterflies.

Comma butterfly basking in the sun on my back fence.

This spring I have been preparing a new talk, Spring into Summer, which completes my trilogy of seasonal talks.  The Garden in Autumn and Winter is a fairly old  talk, albeit with a lot of new photographs and Plants for the Summer Border is more recent, so it is great to have the full set.   I have been busy adding more photographs to my collection as my flowers open in all their glory!

The hellebores have been flowering since early January and are still looking great in late March.

Helleborus × hybridus

My garden backs on to the embankment of an old railway, with a wonderful collection of trees; a haven for wildlife.  The blackthorn contrasts well in full sun against the intense blue sky in late afternoon.

Prunus spinosa

A very tall wild cherry tree at the top of the railway embankment, photographed on a warm spring afternoon.   In mid to late summer the birds gorge themselves on the cherries!

Wild cherry tree

A small section of the Long Border in glorious spring sunshine, with spring flowers framed by snowdrop leaves on either side.   Pulmonaria ‘Cleeton Red’, Anemone nemorosa, Anemone × lipsiensis ‘Pallida’, Fritillaria meleagris, Pulmonaria ‘Diana Clare’ and Ranunculus ficaria ‘Collarette’

The Long Border

My back garden is about 70 feet long and 35 feet wide and faces north east. The Long Border runs the full length of the garden and is roughly 5 feet wide.  I grow ferns and hostas at the shaded end near the house, under-planted with spring bulbs, with sun loving perennials in the remainder, also under-planted with bulbs.

Anemone × lipsiensis ‘Pallida’

An interesting cultivar of our native Anemone nemorosa.

Anemone nemorosa ‘Bracteata’

A great little blue Scilla which naturalises happily amongst my other plants.

Scilla bithynica

An attractive Pulmonaria growing in the narrow border beside the scree, which I replanted last summer with semi-shade loving perennials.

Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’

A Bergenia with a great colour, which grows happily in the Long Border, where it has plenty of space beside the edge of the patio.

Bergenia ‘Ballawley’

Our native primrose, growing amongst Viola sororia ‘Freckles’.  Despite my well drained soil, full of stones, primroses self seed in the most unlikely places!

Primula vulgaris

An old cottage garden favourite, growing within the fresh new leaves of Astilbe chinensis var. pumila, which has now spread to surround it.  Although Astilbe is supposed to be grown as a pond margin plant, like many other plants it has not read the rule books!  Astilbe chinensis var. taquettii ‘Purpurlanze’ also grows vigorously in my well drained soil, full of stones.  All they require from me is a good mulch of my garden compost and regular watering in hot dry weather.

Primula ‘Wanda’

Another old garden favourite.

Primula ‘Gold Laced’

Two beautiful modern Kennedy Irish primroses.

Primula ‘Dark Rosaleen’

Primula ‘Avondale’

An old perennial wallflower cultivar in the Hardy Plant Society conservation scheme.

Erysimum ‘Lewis Hart’

A great tulip species, with beautiful markings inside the flower with the message for the bees, “this way to your reward”!

Tulipa whittallii