Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – Garden Topiary

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Welcome to my second post for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day hosted by Christina of My Hesperides Garden. This month I am looking at the various forms of topiary, which provide colour and form in my January garden.

Garden-Topiary

I have written before about the scale of my garden – around 5 acres with the house sitting well inside the plot. This gives me a front garden of about an acre, a back garden of 3 acres and a kitchen garden of about a further acre. The land in front of the house has been kept as a garden for many years – there are beautiful mature trees, hedges and evergreen shrubs. The land behind the house has been used for cattle and horses for many years, so the garden I am making there is quite immature, although there are a few mature trees. The photographs above and below were both taken in the front garden.

Garden-Topiary

You can see that the house is approached by a long gravel drive – I was standing by the house when I took the photo above, looking down the drive towards the road. I love to see the garden like this – with its bare bones showing. A garden that does not delight in winter is a garden without structure and for me clipped evergreens are an essential part of my winter landscape.

Garden-Topiary

When we moved in the yew hedge that you can see on either side of the arch was mature but topped at about 4 feet, allowing an open view across the front garden. I prefer to add a touch a mystery, so have allowed the hedge to grow much taller and added the arch to tempt the visiter through to explore. I took this photo last spring when the forsythia was just starting to flower.

Garden-Topiary

On moving in I started to renovate the rather empty borders in the front garden, adding plenty of bulbs and perennial planting. I had a sharp lesson to learn about the wild life here though – the front garden is populated by a large number of rabbits and the occasional deer, as well as being home to my free range chickens. I now know that I have to plant with care – much money was wasted with those early plantings. I have found that box is immune to all the wildlife, so I have used it to provide structure in all the front beds. Above are a group of box balls that I have cultivated from small misshapen plants bought for a £1 a pot bargain at a garden centre.

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Looking back over the box balls across the front garden you can see the strong fence that divides front from back, keeping the wild life out of the back and the dogs in. In the view you can also see a clipped laurel hedge in the distance and a very large clipped box dome shape on the other side of the path. I have often wondered if the entrance was once make by a pair of domes, but is so one has disappeared without trace. Growing amongst the smaller box balls you can see a contorted hazel tree.

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Above you can see more of the yew hedge which I have allowed to grow in height. I usually park my car against this hedge and now cannot see across into the garden when I get in and out of the car.

Garden-Topiary

Yew plays an important part in the front garden. There are 2 very old full size yew trees, the tall yew hedge described above and a number of large topiary pillars like the one you can see outside the old coach house. This yew is essentially a chicken hotel – a number of the garden chickens choose to roost here overnight and it provides a good place for them to shelter on a wet or windy day.

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Above is one of the old full sized yew trees.

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Moving to the back garden there are a couple of mature yew and box features and then planting such as that under the pergola above, where I have added box edging and balls. When planning a new bed I almost always include some clipped evergreen features to make sure the garden looks beautiful in winter. Under the pergola I have added low box edging, which is just reaching maturity and the three box balls, which have grown to quite a substantial size now.

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Whilst the clipped hedge adds structure and colour in the winter, it also gives a neat boundary to enclose my more exuberant planting style throughout the summer months. In these photos it does look like it could do with a good clip to tidy it up!

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I also have a number of box balls and pyramids in pots around the house – again I like the permanence they give to the planting throughout the seasons.

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I add box balls to most of my borders.

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This is a very old box hedge just outside the kitchen. Although largely straight when we moved in, I have allowed the shapes to grow organically with a minimum of trimming and love the undulations the hedge has developed. This hedge is a good screen – cutting off the view of the front garden from the back of the house.

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Above is the same hedge as it will look in a couple of months time when the hyacinths and narcissi are in flower.

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I have included this photo taken in the autumn as it gives an aerial view of part of the back garden with the Kitchen Garden in the distance. You can see the immature yew hedge that I have planted all around the boundary of the Kitchen Garden and that divides the plot into quarters. At present one quarter is the Cutting Garden, one for vegetables and one for fruit. The final quarter is currently undeveloped.

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Back at ground level this is the developing yew hedge in the Kitchen Garden. Planted four years ago I can still see over it, so it needs to grow a few more feet in height, but I hope that eventually this hedge will enclose the Kitchen Garden like a wall, creating a ‘secret garden’ within the garden.

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I also use lavender as topiary – I love the way the look of the plant changes throughout the seasons. In the winter the lavender makes neat silvery grey hummocks.

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In the early summer it keeps its neat shape, but with fresh airy foliage.

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And then there are the beautiful flowers in mid summer, before it is trimmed and the cycle starts again.

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In the back garden I also have this bed, which largely relies on yew and box for its impact. The high yew hedge provides a back drop and sets off the statue at the back of the border. I have added two box pyramids and a box edging to provide structure for the planting of roses, peonies and japanese anemones. These will look better as they mature.

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This is the back view of this border with a very old mulberry tree in the foreground.

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And here is another aerial view, taken at leaf clearing time in the autumn.

Although there is a strict regime of clipping and feeding to keep the topiary looking at its best, I love the contrast of the sharp green shapes against the bare bones of the garden in winter and the loose abundant flowery growth of the summer.

I am looking forward to taking my photographs for the next GBFD on 22nd February, when I plan to take a look at the role of winter flowering shrubs in my borders. In the meantime you can find plenty more foliage blogs today over at Christina’s blog.

In A Vase On Monday – Winter Flowers

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Welcome to In A Vase On Monday –where I invite you to join me every Monday as I make a posy of flowers or foliage from what is looking good in my garden and link to Cathy at Rambling In The Garden, who started this lovely meme over a year ago.

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This week I was determined to make use of these lovely bud vases that daughter number two gave me for Christmas. These vases are from a collection of stained glass that Sarah Raven sells in assortment of lovely colours (this is the aqua collection) – I am already keeping my fingers crossed for another selection for my birthday.

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Winter flowers are still limited in my garden, but the selection is increasing day by day. Fortunately I picked these lovelies yesterday, as this morning I woke to find the garden under a thin layer of white. Hellebores in particular look terrible when it freezes, although the flowers soon perk up as the temperatures rise.

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Every year I am amazed to find a clump of muscari in flower before any of the other small bulbs. Most of my muscari flower later – in March or April – but this one clump, that precedes my arrival in this garden, is always in flower in January.

Blooms-In-January

Blooms-In-January

I am pleased to see that my clump of Helleborus niger – the Christmas Rose – is finally springing into life. Last year these plants were in flower in time for Christmas, but although the conditions have been mild, so far they have only just started to flower. I kept two plants in the greenhouse as an experiment – hoping to have early flowers to use in arrangements, but they have still not flowered – perhaps these hellebores need a cold snap to coax them into flower. Helleborus niger like to grow in a sheltered partly shady position in a rich moist soil. The flowers stand proud of the foliage, so I do not remove all the leaves of this hellebore routinely as I would with a helleborus orientalis.  I do tidy up any damaged or browning foliage and mulch the clump in late autumn. I also find that dead heading keeps fresh flowers appearing on a regular basis.

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My final vase is filled with a few stems of saracococca confusa – commonly know as Christmas Box. This low growing evergreen shrub has lovely scented flowers throughout January and February – a great addition to any winter garden or growing along the path to a front door. My clump of 3 shrubs have been slow to establish, but seem very happy now. They are putting on growth, have a deep green sheen to their leaves and plentiful scented flowers.

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The flowers of helleborus niger are liable to wilt very quickly when used in a vase. Discussions at In A Vase On Monday last year revealed that the best way to make them last is to sear the cut stems in boiling water for a minute or two before adding them to the arrangement. This done my flowers are looking even better this morning than they did when I took these photographs yesterday.

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Today is a momentous day in our household. Daughter number one is leaving home to start her new working life in London. My husband and I are driving her to her new rental home this morning and staying the night to help her settle in. With my first chick flying the nest today I am feeling rather sad – as she keeps reminding me though she is only going to London. I am looking forward to having a reason to again spend time in a city that has played such a big part in my life – there will be shopping trips, shows to see and afternoon teas in elegant hotels to savour. However much I will enjoy planning trips to see her though, I hope that the call of home will be strong enough to bring her back here to visit us too.

I hope that you have enjoyed this week’s In A Vase On Monday and that you will pop over to Cathy’s blog to see what she and the others have made today. I will be back later in the week with my foliage report for January – this month I will be looking at topiary in my garden – and I will be linking up with Christina at Creating My Own Garden of The Hesperides.

 

The Greenhouse Review – January

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Welcome to the first in a year of monthly reviews about what is going on in my greenhouse. I always have something growing in there and I am looking forward to sharing it all with you. Before I start I have to say that I do realise that I am extremely lucky to have such a beautiful and sizeable greenhouse!!

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My greenhouse is made by Alitex and was installed in October 2010. I have had so much work to do in the rest of the garden that the space around the greenhouse is still bare, but I have plans to put this right and think the building will sit better in the garden with some planting around it.

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Here is the front door – shall we go in?

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Along the back wall I have left a narrow strip of earth about 2 feet deep – when I talk about planting into the greenhouse bed this is what I refer to. At present this earth is filled with bulbs – I will be adding the Owl’s Acre Winter Sunshine sweet peas towards the end of the month.

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January-Greenhouse-Review.

When looking at greenhouses I fell in love with this Alitex cream staging – it has been surprisingly easy to keep clean. Under the staging I keep an assortment of trays, pots and plant supports. The shelf above the staging is too high for me to reach to look after plants, so I use it to store pots, baskets and other flower arranging paraphernalia that does not fade in the sun.

January-Greenhouse-Review.

January-Greenhouse-Review.

On the staging I keep tools, plants and seedlings sheltering from the winter weather. You can see that I still have some bulb planting to do – I find tulips are fine as long as they are in by the end of January. If the weather turns against me this lot will be hastily tucked into pots of garden compost to grow on in a sheltered position.

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I treat my greenhouse like another room and add decorative touches, as well as washing down the floor on a regular basis (only with the hosepipe of course!). In the summer I keep a small table and chairs in here for a sheltered cup of tea, but at this time of year I need all the space I can get so tea is drunk whilst standing up working.

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I have brought two young camellia plants into the greenhouse for the winter and hope to get some early flowers – they are looking promising at the moment!

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January-Greenhouse-Review.

I have pots and pots of iris, crocus and hyacinths standing on the staging. I am not aiming for very early flowers here (the greenhouse is not heated on a regular basis), but rather want pristine flowers a few weeks early. When they all start to flower in February the greenhouse will smell divine and the surplus will be moved outside to adorn the tops of pillars, tables and steps in the garden.

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I am short of food to pick at the moment, but this tray of spicy salad mix will be ready in a week or two. I will start a new tray off every 2/3 weeks from now until early summer when the outdoor salads will take over. I will also be planting trays of pea shoots and rocket in the next week or so – I am not a great fan of bagged salad and prefer to use my own as much as possible. I am still a few weeks away from that though, so will have to make use of the supermarket for a while yet.

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These are pak choi plants that I started too late in the autumn to plant out. I have brought them in from the cold frame (where something was nibbling them) and hope they will start into growth again soon.

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Above are this years strawberry runners. In my last house there was a bed of strawberries growing by the greenhouse that produced the largest, juiciest and sweetest strawberries I have ever tasted – I have no idea of the variety, but I brought a few plants with me when we moved. Those plants have settled in well and these unnamed runners will keep the crop young and vibrant. I will plant these out in March. I could grow them on to fruit under cover, but really I need the staging space for all my seedlings.

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This is a better view of the greenhouse bed. Closest are the Paperwhites that started flowering before Christmas – I used them in my Christmas arrangements and there are just a few left now to pick – I will remove these bulbs and plant the next crop later this week. Next to them are a batch planted in December which should start to flower very soon – I like to keep a succession of this scented bulb going until March.

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At the end of the bed I have some tulip bulbs, which you can see are just pushing through the soil. They will flower a little earlier than those in pots in the garden and will be perfect for cutting.

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My greenhouse is divided into two by an internal partition. If the weather is particularly cold and I need to protect my recently sown seedlings I close this door and heat just the smaller section to try and keep the cost down. In reality I rarely use any heating as most of what I grow is very hardy and I do not overwinter tender plants.

January-Greenhouse-Review.

January-Greenhouse-Review.

In this smaller section I do all my seed sowing and above you can see my heated propagator – empty at the moment this will be plugged in and full of trays of seedlings by my February report.

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Above are my Winter Sunshine sweet peas – planted in November these have been pinched out and will be planted into the greenhouse bed very soon. I hope they will grow on in the sheltered conditions and give me early sweet pea flowers. Although all sweet peas are quite hardy, these have been bred to perform well in low light conditions.

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Ruby loves the greenhouse – she is a regular visiter and I have to take care not to shut her in when I leave.

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To the front of the greenhouse I have 2 large cold frames on either side of the front door – this one is full of autumn sown hardy perennials hardening off ready to be planted out in March. The other cold frame is empty at the moment, but will soon be full of vegetable seedlings.

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Before we leave the greenhouse I should show you my wheel barrow, which is a constant occupant in the greenhouse – I keep it ready for quick forays into the garden when the winter weather conditions are suitable.

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Finally I am very excited to share a couple of photos of my new greenhouse. I know that I already have a very large space, but I have been hankering after a smaller greenhouse in the centre of the vegetable garden for a couple of years now. I grow so many flowers in my other greenhouse that I wanted a space where the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers could grow freely and where I can keep my vegetable seedlings handy for planting out. I rarely have the luxury of whole days in the garden and tend to get by with an hour here or there, so having my seedlings right by the vegetable beds will help. I am also planning a few raised beds around this greenhouse to grow protected salad crops and winter essentials.

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The real joy of this greenhouse is that it belonged to my father. He loved his covered space and brought it with him when my parents moved from Lancashire to Suffolk. It has stood unused for two years now and as my mother is not a gardener it made sense to pack it up again and move it here, where it will be well used. It will stand on a base of railway sleepers and hopefully will be in place by the end of February.

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Finally I thought I would share with you this photo of the back of the greenhouse taken in January 2012, when we had a ‘proper’ winter.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at my January greenhouse and I will be back on Tuesday 10th February with my look at what I am sowing and growing in my greenhouse in February. If anyone would like to join in, please do write a post about what you are growing in your greenhouse and put a link in the comments here – as my greenhouse is primarily for vegetables and cutting flowers I would love to see all the interesting plants others are growing in their sheltered spaces, as well as sharing all our tips and tricks!

If you are an Instagram user I will also be posting a few greenhouse pictures on Instagram under #inthegreenhousetoday, so please do a leave a comment or post a photo of your greenhouse using that hashtag there too.

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