Thursday, 13 September 2018

Front garden - 3 months in

New front garden

The front garden seems to have come a long way since the landscaping was done in June.

Before the landscaping:

After the landscaping (view from above as I seem to have not taken a photo from the same position as above/below):

Plants added in:


The circle and hole in the middle is because this is where the Quince tree goes when it comes in November. I got the landscaper to dig the hole because it's extremely hard clay and it made sense to use his muscles! I have four Stipa tenuissima there in pots, to go around the edge of the Quince border, then I will be adding bulbs and and corms, like Anemone blanda blue, Narcissi falconet, and some snowdrops.

The path is for both function and form. It makes accessing different parts of the border for maintenance easier, and I hope it invites you to want to wander around and explore what plants are in the ground.

I have added the new Acer Griseum tree. Again, I got the landscaper to dig the hole so when the plant arrived it wasn't too taxing on my limited energy to get it in. In the below photograph, it's in the top middle, but I think it's hard to see if you don't know it's there. It's a young tree but will grow and become much more noticeable. I've planted it just where the afternoon sun in winter will hit it to highlight the beautiful paperbark branches (it's known as the paperbark maple).

The wooden structure is the bin store. As time goes on the plants will grow around this more. I've got some Allium purple sensation to go along here as I thought they are tall enough to stand out well against the wood.

It's starting to fill in a bit, but I can see some gaps, even allowing for the eventual full size of those plants currently in the border. So I guess this means I'll have to buy some more plants - what a shame!

The large planter has three different lavender in it, but they are currently swamped by the nasturtiums, which have attempted world domination. I'm hoping the nasturtiums will self seed around the front garden. Eventually I want it to look like a sunny hot jungle. Well, maybe not jungle, this is Sheffield after all. But the primary colour scheme, reds, yellows and oranges, along with the secondary, blues and purples, should look nice and hot.

Still to go in are lots of bulbs, plus some Primulas, more yellows and oranges. And I think I'll have to add a couple of yellow hellebores. Along with the different grasses, I'm trying to give it structure and colour all year around. Also planted are two Sarcococcas, S. confusa and S. hookeriana var. digyna 'Purple Stem', near the path/front door, so we can savour the fragrance going in and out of the house.

I'm really pleased with how it's going along. It's more attractive to me, to bees and butterflies. And to Goldfinches. I daily have flocks, nay, gangs(!) of Goldfinches descend on the bird feeder, which I can see from sitting on the sofa in the lounge room.

Oh, I really need to add some new plants into the Gwenfar's Garden box! I'll get there.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Cars are mobility aids too

People can be incredibly judgemental about people who use mobility aids. They think you are cheating if you suddenly get out of your wheelchair, scooter etc, that you are faking it (often the thought extends to thinking you are lying to get benefits). Disabilities are complex, and they can fluctuate so one day you need your wheelchair to get around, yet a week later you can manage some walking without it. For example, I use a mobility scooter so that I waste less energy getting from A-B, say to the supermarket, so that I have energy to do the task, such as shopping, or meeting a friend for lunch.

After all, you get in and out of a car, a bus, a plane. Sometimes you use a bicycle, other times a train. These allow you to do everything, from getting to and from work, to travelling the world. They help you live your life, to be able to do the things you need or want to do. How is this any different to someone who gets in and out of their wheelchair?

People with any type of disability are frequently criticised for 'relying' on their mobility aids. Yet no-one questions the reliance on cars or public transport. In fact, any type of transport, anything that helps you get from A-B, is a form of mobility aid. Hell, your legs are mobility aids! Just because cars are ubiquitous, doesn't make them any less a mobility aid than a wheelchair or walking stick.

So next time you see someone getting in and out of their mobility scooter, or you find you sometimes see them with a walking stick and other times they aren't using it, before making any judgements, just remember, cars are mobility aids too.


I've created this simple poster (I'm no designer!) to try and express the above. Feel free to download, use it, share, etc. 

My thanks to my dear friends Kate and J-P, whose discussion with me about whether I should get a mobility scooter or not, brought up the idea that cars are mobility aids too yet no-one questions this. This idea totally changed my perspective and getting a scooter has meant I'm much less house-bound or reliant on my partner. It's literally changed my life.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Nursery visit: Millthorpe Nursery

On the weekend I discovered Millthorpe Nursery, in Holmesfield, just on the outskirts of Sheffield. I had pass the sign several times and kept meaning to drop in. And I finally made it, and so glad I did.

It's a small independent nursery, and has only been going a couple of years. They have a mix of hardy perennials, shrubs, annuals, shade lovers, fruit trees, a bit of everything. And it's how they present it that I really loved. None of the usual A-Z rows of plants. Instead different groups of plants are displayed, sitting on top of pallets, to give you ideas on how a plant might be used in your garden.

Plant displays on pallets

I gather they change the displays around depending on the season. They also have a small garden which you can wander around and sit in to enjoy. This showed plants fully formed and gives you further inspiration on how the plants in the nursery might look in your garden.

Head towards the stone wall and arch to find the small garden

Anemanthele lessoniana in it's full glory in the garden

The owners tend to be potting about, tending plants when they aren't assisting customers. If you have a question, as I did about a fern, if they don't know the answer off-hand, they'll look it up for you. I found them friendly and helpful, without crowding you.

Pots used in displays can be purchased

The nursery seemed to have a nice mix of popular plants, but often with an alternative variety from what you might see in a big garden centre. So no Crocosmia Lucifer, but they did have the lovely Crocosmia 'Coleton Fishacre'. This means you have the chance to discover something new, which for me, means it will be worth me dropping in often to see what else I can discover.

As their displays change with the seasons, they will soon be offering Spring flowering bulbs, which you'll be able to buy individually so you can get just the number you want. Although I have already put in my main bulb order online, I think it would be a shame if I didn't return and see what they were offering...

I'm so glad I finally dropped in. There will be lots more dropping in, in the future.

Millthorpe Nursery are generally opened Tuesday to Sunday. See their website for seasonal opening times.

You can follow them on Twitter @MillthorpeNurs and Facebook.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

An interim design for the new back garden

Work has completed on the back garden and I thought I should introduce the design and how it all looks now. The design for the back garden is not yet fully formed, but like with the front garden, I'd really like to get plants out of pots and into the ground to reduce the amount of watering I'm doing, which has been taking a toll on my very limited energy. So here's what the garden looked like when we moved in:

We got rid of the sheds immediately on Freegle, as we have a large garage that is basically my garden shed, so didn't need these. They were taking up growing space. Of course, once they were removed, this is what was behind them:

Ignore the beehive shaped items, they are my compost bins, but otherwise, quite the mess*, and you can see how much the conifers were trying to take over. Even as all this was being done, I was thinking about my interim new layout, which I now present:
Note that the three trees in the top right are the conifers which have been removed.

Originally I was going to have one long bed on the right-hand side, next to the beech hedge. But then we realised it would make trimming the hedge very difficult. So I changed this to the three beds you now see. The spacing allows you to both access the hedge more easily, but also walk around the beds to view the plants from different positions. It's a much better and more interesting layout too. These beds are north-facing, but still get a lot of sun. So they will be for ornamentals only, including some that like a shadier spot. The shade will develop over time as the Acers I'm planting** grow and provide dappled light.

Alongside the hard standing on the left are two beds with my arch in the middle. Because I have acid soil, I'm unable to plant my clematis direct to the soil, so I will be putting them on each side of the arch. These two beds get sun all year around, and will be a mix of herbs, some vegetables and some ornamentals.

The L-shaped bed will be for vegetables. I'm not growing a lot of vegetables at the moment, as they require more attention and energy than I can give nor have. So it will be for easy to grow veg, like my garlic, sorrel and salads.

Finally, the old dilapidated fencing has been replaced. I'm still trying to work out exactly what I'm going to do with this area. There will be a border along the fence, and probably where the pergola is going, but ideas are still whirling around in my head.

All this, along with the Raspberry border, completes the work for now. I have plans for the rest of the garden, including a pond and the pergola, but they are for next year. I also know that there is an issue with some standing water over parts of the grass, when we get lots of rain, and I need to work out how to manage that.

This interim design allows me to get plants into the ground, and the raised beds will make things easier on my back and my energy levels. I can now start gardening whilst I still work out what to do with the rest of the garden. Plus, time to save for the next round of work.

Now that the landscaping has been completed, next up is the planting - the best bit!

* * * * *
My landscaper was Mark Spence, John and Jordan, of Spences Landscapes, Sheffield. They did a fine job and I definitely recommend them.

*I blogged about this in my original new garden blogpost, so I'll not repeat myself here.
**I'll talk about the actual plants once they start going in the ground.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

New design for the front garden

I'm in a bit of a bind. I want to follow permaculture principals and take time before making major decisions about my new garden. But I am also in an odd situation where I have exactly the same layout of our previous garden (not the one-year rental but the one before that). In fact, it's not just an East-West layout, we are sharing the same side party wall and therefore having the sun and shadows fall the same way as the last garden.

These facts are also coming up against me needing to reduce the amount of plants I have in pots, for as the recent warm weather has shown, it's been a lot of work maintaining them. And I just don't have the health to keep managing this sustainably from an ME perspective.

Current front garden

So I've decided to take the plunge and go with the ideas I have for the front garden. To be honest, they aren't new ideas. I had them for the last garden, I just never got a chance to implement them. And that idea, is to have a 'hot garden'. By hot garden, I mean, hot colours. Reds, oranges, yellows. The hot colours will tempered by a few cooler blues and purples as well as the grasses. I'm choosing hardy perennials, really hardy ones, that I plan to leave to fend for themselves once they have been watered in.

The hedge along the driveway will be removed

You can see the plan at the top of this post. The driveway and current paths are grey. I'm getting the hedge alongside the driveway removed. This is to give us a bit more space, particularly when the car is parked and I need to get past it with my mobility scooter. But I'm also adding a bin store (the yellow rectangle bottom left) for, well, the bins. I've chosen one that's made of wood, which should be reasonably attractive, as these things go. Eventually plants should help it blend in better.

The hedge shared with the neighbour will be reduced by c. 50cms

The hedge along the footpath will be reduced by half, to let in more light, and also because it's currently out of control. And the beech hedge I share with the neighbour will be cut by about 50cms (I've already oked it with her). I don't want to reduce it too much. I love the beech hedge but would like it to be just a little less high.

Geum Totally Tangerine

All the grass is going and I'm putting in a path, that is wide enough near the driveway to make it easy for me to turn my scooter around, and then leads to a central circle bed, which is where I'll be planting my Quince tree. Yes, I'm trying a Quince again. I'm thinking of trying the variety 'meech's prolific', as it should produce fruit a little sooner than other varieties, and is, well, meant to be prolific!

The reds will include Dianthus cruentus

My plant list includes Heleniums such as Dunkle Pract and Waltraut, Crocosmias including Irish Dawn and Coleton Fishacre and Geums, Totally Tangerine and Mrs J. Bradshaw. I'm going to finally grow a plant I've admired for several years, Kirengeshoma palmata, and the shadier side, next to the beech hedge.
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Irish Dawn'

Grasses will include Stipa gigantea and Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln'. And a cutting of a cutting of a cutting (times a couple more), of the first plant I ever brought in the UK, 20 years ago. It's something a little 'boring' in that it's so common, but it captured my heart 20 years ago, and it captures the hearts of bees on a daily basis. The plant is Hypericum 'hidcote' - yes good old St John's Wort.

I'll also add some purples for contrast, such as Verbena bonariensis.

These will all be under planted with bulbs, from Galanthus and Crocus to Tulips and Alliums. My aim, is to have a explosion of colour all year around. Ok, I'm still working on the winter bit. If you can recommend any bulbs that flower in December, let me know. But you get the idea.

Grass will be removed and borders and paths added. Plus a quince tree.

This also sounds like a lot of work, right? Yep, it is. And to actually do the work, I'm getting in landscapers to do the landscaping, then Andrea to do the planting. I'll be using my limited energy wisely, making tea.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Photo essay: a little bit of early summer at Sheffield Botanical Gardens

In the now 5 years I've lived in Sheffield, somehow I've managed to not visit the Sheffield Botanical Gardens in early summer before. Quite remiss of me, and clearly, quite a lot I've been missing.

Always, my favourite part of the Botanical Gardens, the Rock and Water Garden.

I think this Allium Roseum.

Iris sibirica. Variety unsure, maybe 'snow queen', 'white swirl' or 'white swan', or none of these!

The Rose Garden was looking good and you did get some fragrance. It will really shine in a couple of weeks. I hope to get back to see it and do some fragrance testing.

Rosa Devoniensis climbing had a fine fragrance.

Hidden between the fence/road and the Pavilion, the Four Seasons Garden always has something to delight.
Lychnis flos-jovis. Want.

Above/below: Crinodendron hookerianum, the Chilean lantern tree. It's frost hardy and I'm wondering if I could risk trying it in my garden?
Or maybe just continue to visit it at the Botanical Gardens!
Thanks to Head Gardener Plants for the id.

Above/below: Paeonia lactiflora 'Bowl of Beauty'

 Iris sibiricia 'Silver Edge'. Also want.

 Mass planting of Iris sibiricia 'Silver Edge'. I loved the green and blue, light and shade, contrast.

Iris sibiricia 'Perry's Blue' 

Mass planting of Iris sibiricia 'Perry's Blue'. 

Sheffield Botanical Gardens, always a pleasure.