Tag Archive: lavender


The framework revealed- the Black Poplar in Old School Garden

The framework revealed- the Black Poplar in Old School Garden

To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

I hope this letter finds you and Lise well. Some wintery weather has descended, but I’m pleased to report a reasonably productive month in Old School Garden.

I’ve collected a lot of leaves, mainly by using the ride-on mower with it’s grass collector. In fact I now have a full leaf compound, so will have to pull the various subsidiary mounds around the garden into my main store once this has rotted down a little. I’ll also need to get cracking with the leaf fall in the pond and borders in due course, but as I write, the oak trees are only just beginning to colour up and lose their leaves, so we’ve a way to go, as usual..

Leaves a plenty

Leaves a plenty

Having also cleared out the furniture store (this performed well as a temporary ‘Cat Cave’ for my daughter and son-in-law’s cats for a couple, of months), I now have a large wooden and metal mesh door that I’ve taken off of it’s hinges and can use as a front screen for the leaf compound; so a good example fo recycling (or is it ‘up’ or ‘down’ cycling?). The outdoor furniture is also safely stored for the winter.

I’ve been busy clearing and lightly digging over most of the kitchen garden, and got my onion sets and broad beans sown. On the day that the first frosty night was promised I also managed to clear the greenhouse and rehomed winter-tender plants such as the Cannas (we had a pretty good show from these), various bedding plants (we’ll see if it’s worth hanging on to these) , Echeveria and Pelargoniums. The vine in the courtyard and some climbing roses and clematis have also had their winter tidy up. And as containers have been cleared I’ve filled them with bulbs along with some winter bedding in the form of Cyclamen, Pansies and Violas.

Greenhouse as temporary shelter for the tender...

Greenhouse as temporary shelter for the tender…

I’m pleased with the various Candelabra Primula I’ve grown from seed, and now planted out  most of these in the Pond Garden and one or two other shady spots (and given some away). I look forward to a good show in the spring.

The 'Plant Theatre' with a new cast of Candelabra Primula

The ‘Plant Theatre’ with a new cast of Candelabra Primula

I’ve also planted out the various Achillea nobilis ‘Neilreichii’ runners (courtesy of the Walled Garden at Blickling), in the two triangular raised planters next to the terrace; once bulbs for spring interest have finished here, these should help to give a good summer show of short, creamy white flowers and bluish grey cut foliage.

You recall I told you about clearing the front border under our bedroom window? Well that too has been planted up with the English Lavender I bought and brought on together with some spring bulbs, Scabious and Potentilla rupestris all grown from seed. See the picture below- eventually I hope that the lavender will fill out to a low hedge at which point the other plants can be moved on.

The front border planted up and edging levelled

The front border planted up and edging levelled

I still have some other plants to put out, hopefully before the weather turns very cold. My last harvesting is nearly done- just a few parsnips, leeks and chard left for later. The ‘Red Delicious’ apple tree seems to have produced a good crop this year so I’ve got a large box of these in store; they should fully ripen in time for Christmas.

You’ll be aware of my involvement in the Allotment Project at Reepham High School & College, where there may be an exciting development in relation to sponsorship and involving produce being used in local hotels and pubs- more on this in due course if it comes to anything.

My other active project at present is the  ‘The Grow Organisation’ near Norwich, where I’ve completed a Concept Plan for them. This appears to have gone down very well, including with some potential partners in Mental Health Services. You may recall that the organisation is providing gardening and food growing opportunities for people with various needs, including some with mental health issues.

The vision is ambitious and includes the progressive, incremental development of the site into a number of different areas, many involving food growing, and also including a ‘Trials Area’ where permaculture and other techniques can be explored. I’ve also included a sunken greenhouse (to allow round the year growing) and a demonstration compost area, where I hope we can get support from national and local composting projects. I’ll keep you posted on the developments here.

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My desk research for the Tree Trail at Blickling continues. My latest session included the Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), perhaps considered a bit of a thuggy weed in some woodlands, but also a great tree with some interesting history. Apart from being used as a gallows in Scotland due to its strength, there is a famous example in Dorset- The Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Tree.

Under this sycamore tree at Tolpuddle, six agricultural labourers, known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, formed an early trades union in 1834. They were found to have breached the Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797 and were sentenced to transportation to Australia. The subsequent public outcry led to their release and return. The tree now has a girth of 5.9 metres (19 feet, 4 inches) and a 2005 study dated the tree to 1680. The tree is cared for by the National Trust, so this little bit of history is a ‘must include’ in the Blickling Tree Trail!

 

The Martyrs’ Tree, Tolpuddle, Dorset. Picture by Simon Palmer.

Old School Gardener

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To Walter de Grasse

wp_20161028_09_44_58_proDear Walter,

I heard the other day that the Met Office is saying that the growing season here has been extended by a month, due to global warming. Certainly, as I walked around Felmingham and North Walsham the other morning it was amazing to see how few trees are anywhere near bare of leaves, and there’s still so much green around!

I guess that I’m feeling as though I’m in a false sense of security, as it doesn’t seem at all urgent that I get on with planting bulbs and the perennials I’ve been nurturing in pots, sowing Broad Beans and onion sets or transplanting tender plants into the greenhouse. Of course I’m probably going to fall prey to a sharp frost anytime now and I’ll be shocked into the reality that it’s winter..well, it will be soon, as the clocks go back an hour tonight.

I look back and once more think about all that hasn’t been done in Old School Garden this month. Still I suppose a few important jobs have been ticked off- like putting in a new fence post and mending and creocoting the fence, gate posts and garden gate, cutting the grass and gathering leaves, putting out the first lot of bird food, weeding around the leeks and continuing to gather produce, especially apples and carrots. I’ve also cleared the front border (just below where we had the paint removed from the house flintwork) , levelled the edging, started to top up the soil and will eventually plant out a row of English Lavenders I’ve been growing on in pots, together with some Scabious grown from seed and some bulbs for spring colour. This will eventually be a Lavender hedge which should grow go well on this south-facing (if part shaded) wall.

I’ve also had a plant exchange with my friend Mandy; she’s given me some Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ and Euphorbia seguieriana. The former is a hardy perennial with pale lilac flower spikes that become ‘fasciated’ (the stems and flower spikes flatten and twist into strange shapes) and so are rather curious to look at. I love Veronicastrum and look forward to growing this- perhaps alongside the two tall pale yellow Scabious I’ve grown from seed this year and which are also ready to plant out.

Image result for images veronicastrum fascination

Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’

Image result for images Euphorbia seguieriana

Euphorbia seguieriana

I gave Mandy a few Candelabra Primulas (also grown from seed) in return. I have rather a lot of these and have been thinking about where to put them; apart from around the pond garden that is, where they were initially intended to go. I think I’ll try a few in the triangular raised beds we have next to the terrace, perhaps mixed in with the Achillea nobilis ‘Neilreichii’ I’ve grown on from runners harvested at Blickling along with some more spring bulbs. I also think I’ll try some in the ‘plant theatre’ in the courtyard garden, in advance of the pelargoniums that normally make for the summer show.

Candelabra Primulas and Achillea ready to plant out

Candelabra Primulas and Achillea ready to plant out

As you may have seen I’ve been active on other fronts gardening-wise. A spent the first of what I hope will be regular sessions at the local high School Allotment Project, where the enthusiastic Mr. Willer is getting great results from the garden and pupils. I’m also drawing up a design for the ‘The Grow Organisation’ near Norwich, which is providing gardening and food growing opportunities for people with various needs, including some with mental health issues. This is exciting, the first bit of garden design I’ve done for a while! finally, the ‘Friends of Haveringland Parish Church’  have just about completed the first stage of turning over the churchyard to a managed conservation area with mown paths, easy access to still-tended graves and to provide a wildlife haven that’s also somewhere beautiful for humans to sit and reflect.

Haveringland Parish Churchyard- after its latest mow and ‘rake off’

Finally, my regular (well, pretty irregular recently) sessions at Blickling continue and apart from the practical gardening work I’ve begun to research the information for the new Tree Trail I’m designing there. this is throwing up some fascinating information; e.g. did you know that the ‘Monkey Puzzle’ Tree (Araucaria araucana, beloved of Victorian gardens) gets its common name from a chance remark made back in 1850?  Sir Willaim Molesworth, the proud owner of a young specimen at Pencarrow garden near Bodmin, Cornwall, was showing it to a group of friends, when one of them (the noted barrister Charles Austin), remarked, “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that”. As the species had no existing popular name, first “monkey puzzler”, then “monkey puzzle” stuck!

Image result for araucaria monkey puzzle tree

Araucaria araucana- the ‘Monkey Puzzle’ tree

Though I haven’t yet had another go at that shredder, it has at least been a month of some progress in Old School Garden and beyond. I must quicken the pace to make sure all those late autumn/early winter jobs are completed soon, before the weather finally breaks..or will it be early autumn well into November?

Old School Gardener

lavender labyrinth at Kastellaun, Germany

‘Lavender Labyrinth’ at Kastellaun, Germany. Imagine the ‘scentsation’ of walking this route!

Old School Gardener

Nepeta- soem varieites are called Catnip or Catmint because cats love them!

Nepeta- some varieites are called Catnip or Catmint because cats love them!

Nepeta is a genus of about 250 species of perennials and a few annuals, native to cool and moist to hot and dry habitats in scrub, grassy banks, stony slopes or in high mountains, in non tropical areas of the northern hemisphere. So as you can see, there’s pretty much a Nepeta to suit every garden situation!

Some members of this group are known as catnip or catmint because of their effect on cats – the nepetalactone contained in some Nepeta species binds to the olfactory receptors of cats, typically resulting in temporary euphoria!

They have sturdy stems with opposite heart-shaped, green to grey-green leaves. Nepeta plants are usually aromatic in foliage and flowers. The tubular flowers can be lavender, blue, white, pink, or lilac, and spotted with tiny lavender-purple dots. The flowers are located in ‘verticillasters’ grouped on spikes; or the verticillasters are arranged in opposite groups – toward the tip of the stems.

Nepeta can be drought tolerant, being able to conserve water. They bloom over a long period from late spring to autumn. Some species also have repellent properties to insect pests, including aphids and squash bugs, when planted in a garden. Nepeta species are used as food plants by the larvae of some butterflies and moths and as nectar sources for pollinators like bees.

Nepeta makea a wonderful sprawling edge to an informal border

Nepeta makes a wonderful sprawling edge to an informal border

Nepeta can be grown in any well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Some species, like N. govaniana and N. subsessilis prefer moist, cool conditions, whereas N. sibirica likes it fairly dry. There are a few tall growing varieties, like ‘Six Hills Giant’, with a more upright habit. These need staking or support to see them at their best.  Most Nepetas will rebloom if sheared back after their initial flowering (N. x faassenii and N. nervosa for example). Some won’t provide much of a second show, but their foliage will be refreshed and tidied by the shearing.

Nepeta looks wonderful when covered in flower from early summer. The pale, often lavender-blue flowers perfectly complement the hairy, scalloped and wrinkled, silvery, blue-green leaves. The flowers appear as a haze of blue from a distance. It is often used as an informal, low hedge echoing the colours of lavender (and is used as a substitute where lavender isn’t hardy enough). But it has a rather lax form and will spread itself to cover its allotted space (and more!). Nepeta is best planted at the front of the border, edging a path, so that when you brush past it you will catch the full scent from its aromatic leaves. Nepeta is also a classic underplanting for roses. The colours complement and the foliage hides the ugly ‘knees’ of the rose bush.

We have some here at Old School Garden and this year I’m experimenting with it in some raised planters to try to get a cascading effect, as I’ve seen it used effectively this way on top of an old garden wall in Devon, though I suspect some varieties will have longer stems than others so are better suited to this treatment. The pastel blues of Nepeta combine wonderfully well with pinks and yellows, such as day lilies and yarrow (Achillea). It also looks good with Allium cristophii and Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’.

Some suggested varieties:

  • N. nervosa ‘Felix’ – Compact plant with vivid lavender-blue flowers. (12″ H x 24″ W)
  • N. x ‘Six Hills Giant’ – One of the tallest growing Nepetas, with lavender-blue flowers.(36″ H x 30″ W)
  • N. subsessilis ‘Sweet Dreams’ – Pink flowers with burgundy bracts. Likes a bit more water than most Nepetas. (2′ H x 3′ W)
  • N. racemosa ‘Walkers Low’– has 8″ spikes of lavender-blue flowers.  ( 2 H’ x 2′ W)

Nepeta faassenii 'Six Hills Giant'- foliage

Nepeta faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’- foliage

Nepeta is one of those plants that thrives on neglect. Too much fertilizer will only make it grow lots of flimsy foliage. A lean soil and somewhat dry growing conditions will encourage both flowers and scent. Many of the newer varieties of Nepeta are sterile, producing no viable seeds. This is a plus if you don’t like the weedy, self-seeding habit of older Nepeta varieties, but it means you will need to either buy plants or make plants from divisions or cuttings.  Division is not a requirement, but if you’d like more plants divide it in spring or in autumn. The Royal Horticultural Society have given it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Nepeta longipes

Nepeta longipes

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

BBC – Catmint

About.com

One plant 3 ways- Nepeta design tips

Old School Gardener

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