Archive | August 2016

A bit of August Weather

We are having a spot of interesting weather, and it has made all the grockles (holidaymakers) disappear like magic.




Normally, this end of Woolacombe Beach  on a Saturday afternoon is a seething mass of humanity. Today, just a few hardy folk walking their dogs.




It was very pleasant and peaceful, but less good for swimming…red flags, killer surf, nasty currents, you get the picture.




We were looking forward to seeing the sand castle this guy was building, until we realised he was helping make a protective sand bank in front of the beach huts before tonight’s very high tide. Maybe he will put little crenelations along his protective wall!!

Gotta love August weather…



My beautiful birthday present



I have recently celebrated a big birthday, and some of my family kindly gave me some money with which to treat myself, and I bought a beautiful black metal rose arch. At the back of this large sloping flower bed, behind the path that runs across the top, was a nearly dead tree. I thought it might leaf up and look pretty come the spring, but no, just a handful of sorry looking leaves sprouted from one branch, and the rest remained bare and ugly.

There was, however, a rose climbing through it, which put on a lovely display of yellow buds fading to white flowers. So the sole purpose of the tree was to support the rose. Now the tree has been cut down (yay!) and instead the rose drapes elegantly across my lovely arch. It will need a bit of pruning and training to fit it better to the shape, but it already looks so much better that a dead tree! I will add a clematis or two up the other side of the arch, to extend the season of interest.


arch B & A


Under the arch is a curved path leading through some shrubs to the rest of the garden. But there is just a bank of soil at the moment, where we need to build some steps. Another project to add to the list.

I have been working through the summer shrub pruning, and some of the shrubs have never been pruned before, so it has been quite a task. This huge Philadelphus was just a thick mass of stems, and getting very tall and broad. I thinned it out severely by removing a couple of huge old branches from the middle , which has opened it out. Then I cut off all the small lower branches to ‘lift its skirts’ and allow the plants beneath to recover. Finally I removed a few more of the taller branches here and there to open it up further, and reduce the height a fraction. Now it is a lovely, open, arching shrub.


Philadelphus B & A pruning


Along my driveway is a retaining wall, with a steeply sloping flower bed on top of it. Most of it is covered by a ground-cover Hebe, which is a bit boring, but doesn’t need much attention. One end, however, was just a mat of grass that looked like an extension of the lawn above. Seeing as I didn’t want to have to mow my flower bed, I finally got round to digging out all the grass, and turning it into the start of a rockery.




Eventually I will remove all the Hebe as well, and have a lovely long rockery, but it is not the top priority at the moment.




This corner of the main border is my next project. It contains very little that isn’t everywhere else in the garden, and I am going to clear it back to one or two plants and then replant it with some of the treasures I have in pots waiting for a home.

And to finish, my Birthday present again. Thank you, family!!




Wildlife update

The garden is still amazing us with the variety of wildlife that visits. The bird feeders are constantly covered in finches, and both sparrowhawks and kestrels come visiting to try and catch their dinner. Buzzards circle overhead every day, and tawny owls can be heard after dark. Today I was pleased to see a spotted flycatcher.

We are running our moth trap regularly, and still catching new species.




This huge moth is a Poplar Hawk Moth, caught a couple of weeks ago. You can see the size of it as it clings on to the egg box that we place in the trap for the moths to hide in. These moths have a characteristic resting position with their hind wings pushed so far forwards that they protrude in front of the larger forewings. Below is another photo once it was released onto a tree, showing a flash of the rusty brown colour on the hindwing.




Today we caught another new species for the garden, a frosted orange. This is an autumn flying moth, from late August onwards, so it is newly emerged, and very smart it was too. About thumb-nail sized.


Frosted orange


We haven’t had much time to look for other invertebrates, and hopefully will spend more time next year on beetles in particular, as we both made studies of them at university, many years ago. But we have see a few without trying, including this stunning Spotted Longhorn Beetle that came in and sat on our log basket.


Spotted Longhorn Beetle


The deer have been absent all summer, which the neighbours tell us is normal, and they should return in the autumn. But the rabbits have done what rabbits do best, and multiplied! There are now quite a few of them all over the garden , but they do seem to be mainly eat the grass at the moment, not my precious plants. Thank goodness! Must buy some chicken wire before next spring, to protect any new plants. (Or shoot all the rabbits…)




Sunset in Ilfracombe

I am a bit restricted as to activities at the moment as I have a slight knee strain, but yesterday I was getting a touch of cabin fever, so we decided that a gentle stroll on level ground would do no harm.

Ilfracombe was buzzing with holidaymakers in convivial mood, despite the chilly evening. Down a back street near the sea, this ‘teenage’ herring gull was calling for its parents to feed it, despite looking quite grown up enough to fend for itself, and wasn’t scared off by us at all.




We explored some areas along the seafront that we hadn’t explored before, and ended up by the harbour for the obligatory delicious ice cream (caramel for me, pistachio for him).




And joy of joys, the fudge shop was still open, so we were able to buy a little bag each (Jack Daniels flavour for me, salted caramel for him).




We watched the sun set, then meandered back slowly, absorbing the atmosphere.




A very pleasant evening, and one to be repeated, I am sure.


Cracking Crocosmias

Crocosmia sprigs


I seem to have at least 4, possibly 5 types of Crocosmia in my garden, and they are all looking fabulous! Biggest and boldest is C. ‘Lucifer’, which is early flowering, tall, with pleated leaves, and upright facing red flowers.


Crocosmia lucifer collage


My favourite! I have plenty of clumps of it, but some are growing through and under shrubs, so I need to move them into the open. I also have a tall, upright facing rich orange one, possible the species Crocosmia masoniorum, or a variety of it.


Crocosmia masoniorum collage


This one is new to me, and is gorgeous. I only have one clump of this, so might try and divide it. I also have a smaller slightly pinkier red form, with flowers that lift sideways, but aren’t as upright as the above forms, that I really don’t know what it is. Answers on a postcard…


Crocosmia small red collage


Then there is the Crocosmia of which I have the most. I have clumps of it everywhere. It is most likely the common garden montbretia, Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora, with downwards facing flowers, but it is quite vigorous, and a very bright orange.


Crocosmia collage


The only thing that makes me doubt it is common montbretia, is that I have a shorter, paler form, which is more like the one I used to have. Is that paler form something else, or is it the common one, and all my dark orange ones some other variety? I really don’t know. Most likely they are the same, and just growing differently in different microclimate within the garden. This is the pale one, and you may not be able to see a difference, but it is fairly obvious in the garden.


Crocosmia pale collage


Well, whatever they are, they are all gorgeous, and make good cut flowers, so my house is full of orange flowers!


Crocosmai flowers


A summery summary

The last few weeks have flown by so quickly, with days away visiting family and friends, and plenty to do in the garden. It is amazing how much the floral palette has changed in just a couple of weeks.




In early summer, borders were filled with low billowing mounds of pink and purple hardy geraniums, white oxe-eye daisies, with plenty of acid green Alchemilla mollis. Now those are mainly finished, and instead the taller, late summer perennials have taken over, including crocosmias and Japanese anemones.




There are around 12 clumps of Japanese anemone, with attractive purplish foliage, and the most lovely rich pink double flowers. I am relieved, as some are less attractive, with smaller, paler pink flowers, and to have so much of something a bit dull would have been a shame. But no, they are gorgeous. And its a good job too, as from previous experience I know they have very deep roots and are nigh on impossible to dig up!




I also have one large clump of  very pretty Veronicastrum, with lovely whorls of leaves and tall flower spikes. It has flopped a bit in the recent rain, so it might be getting the ‘Chelsea Chop’ next May. Some late-flowered perennials can benefit from being cut down by half in late spring, which produces a shorter, sturdier plant, but with later, smaller flowers.




Some of my many hydrangeas are now in flower, although the ones we cut hardest are still sulking. I only have one lace-cap, which is a shame as I much prefer them to mop-heads. But at least, with my acid soil, it is blue!




Some of the mop-heads are also blue, and a lovely clear blue too – no muddy in-between colours here!




And the rest are a rich purple.




One of the paniculata type hydrangeas is also flowering profusely, and is a delight!




I am very pleased with the buddleias, mainly, as some of them have amazingly large flowers in rich shades.





I also have a white one, which could be ok in the right place, which is not next to a rather nice white Hebe, above a bed of a white Lysimachia. Why??? Something will have to move.



So the flower border is looking very pretty, (if you don’t look too closely…) but I do now have to start cutting back all the early flowers which have finished, which will be a big job. Another big job…

We are making progress towards a new shed at the far end of the garden, as the one near the house is not large, and really only a potting shed. We have had a base laid on the only level patch we could find, and now we just need to order one. Exciting!




Bye for now!