We just got accepted for the NGS open garden scheme! We first offered ourselves up a few years ago, but were scuppered by the dodgy access issues and -ahem- lack of hard landscaping on the site, making it all a bit hazardous for the typical NGS mature visitor!
This time however, the building works are on track so we plan to open late August 2008.
Meanwhile we have planted - exploiting the sodden August weather - our bog at last with a yellow colour scheme throughout: Primula bulleyana, primula sikkemensis and the splendid yellow and purple veined iris 'Holden Clough' with a few carex grasses and evergreen ferns intermingled.
A couple of weeks ago I walked up to Ruskin's Seat on the neighbouring Brantwood Estate at 9pm at night and cast a really analytical eye on the landscape. I have some new garden areas to plant up soon, and they are in what I term the Woodland Garden, so I am keen to keep it low-key and inspired by the surrounding landscape. The evening light was exquisite, the grasses and bilberries and mosses all distinct in shape still but woven into a dense low canopy. Each plant colony had a dense hub and then a broad, spreading mass of smaller satellite groups. The pale grass stems were highlighted against the dark moss, and the blueberry hummocks almost share the formality of box at this time of the year. The only colour was the beginnings of the bell heather in sparse rocky places. The few trees / shrubs - junipers and hollies up here are wizened and sculpted, multi-stemmed specimens.
Look and learn, I thought.
Don't anyone ever say this blog isn't instructive.
Here are some pix of me and George's invention for tethering our two new coldrames to the hillside. Cunning, eh? If you too have the misfortune of gardening in an area of periodic cyclones, this could help you:
Wire, bungy ropes and a wooden length fixed to the ground the length of the frame - then just throw the ropes over the frame lids whether they're open or shut, fixing to the wires at either side.
Here are a few pictures of how we're shaping up this year.
The first is a general overview of the main ornamental borders nearest the house. We recently overhauled these as the herbaceous planting was overgrown and also in recent years the boggy back border had dried out as I improved the soil, so plants like gunneras were actually getting a but limp in summer.
So this year its a little more slimline, with a wider path thanks to George, and some new plants like eremurus (an experiment in this windy wet place...) but generally a reduced pallette, as this is what i'm trying to do throughout to give the garden more coherence. The back hedgerow is now lush and dense after just 5 years, and gives us much needed shelter from the regular mountain-bikers on the track.
The second is really just showing off - I'm finding the new raised bed kitchen garden utterly compelling. Its like being a child again, looking after these squares of geometric little vegetable rows. These broadbeans were sown in the tunnel mid-Feb. and doing really well outside now.
The third image is the woodland garden, so-called despite there being no mature trees yet. We started to mow round existing hummocks of native grasses and heather and what's evolving is a really unusual space. Again I'm trying to reduce the plant palette, use repeated groups and keep it generally colour-free.
An interesting away day was had by myself and some local ladies recently, at Acorn Bank near Penrith on the Northern Fruit Group's Apple Grafting Workshop. I enjoyed watching the elderly working with sharp knives and a devil-may-care attitude (see picture) as they showed us young 'uns the joys of creating apple trees from sticks, wax and plastic ribbons. My creation - 'Ashmeads Kernel' on M25 (thats a rootstock number not a motorway) - is recovering in the polytunnel.
One of my formative gardening memories is the successful raising of a 'Golden Delicious' (misnomer if ever I heard one) seedling from a pip in my back garden, a tree which was still there some 15 years later when the house was sold, and though I have as yet no orchard here, I long for this most fundamental of horticultural delights. I now have the technology, if not the space, to populate it with the rare and quirky of the apple world, forms selected by the fantastically perverse Northern Fruit Group, a club dedicated to growing fruit where it doesn't want to be grown, saving rare and wild weather-proof varieties for future generations, who better bloody well be grateful, what with the number of sliced thumbs this grafting must be causing.
A second trip was to the northern french town of Hesdin, where my partner's mother's garden had spent last summer turning into Sleeping Beauty's Forest, with added ground elder. We spend 5 long, 'dur', days labouring against every perennial weed known to man and wrestling some very energetic roses into submission. The French neighbours' curtains twitched as Adam flailed behind their shared walls, swearing prolifically as another thorn wedged itself into his head, and the local garden centre offered us shares in the company due to the quantity of mulch we bought.
Speaking of which, what gerden centres! Baby chicks, rat traps, log splitters, small agricultural machinery - these meccas put ours to shame, though bizarrely the only mulch you can buy baged up is large bark chips from maritime pines, rather municipal in appearance by probably very long lasting. We used them over a long border of membrane which I wrestled under the brutal roses in a desperate attempt to control the weeds.