20 Jan 2013

Optimism and seasonality

Catkins
~ Not unlike icicles - the winter catkins of Garrya elliptica ~ 
Well, hello again. Christmas zoomed past and now, here we are, covered in snow/slush as of yesterday (and more falling as I write). The veg beds and water butts are frozen but I'd already huddled tender potted plants together in one fleece-covered area for protection and mulched round other perennials.

The forecast threatened to thwart my first proper day back at college (we sketched at the V&A museum last week) but most of us made it so we were able to go out into the gardens for the plant walk and take notes with freezing fingers in falling snow. The Capel Manor gardens are closed to the public in the winter so it's a privilege to see some of the glorious winter colour and shapes that would either be gone or be overlooked by the time the gardens reopen. Walking around yesterday the class stopped by a holly hedge in the Which? trial gardens - I couldn't help but notice the fantastically fairytale twisting branches of the hazel hedge behind it.  Elsewhere a bank of dogwood stems of various colours and snow-crusted sedum heads looked stunning against the snow but I couldn't stop to take a photo as the class had moved on. Here's the hedge though:

Twisted Hazel hedge

I'd love this in the veg patch gardens, I imagine it would make an excellent windbreak in summer.

Doing this course and being obliged to go outdoors and look at the same garden every week regardless of weather, has sharpened my awareness of tiny seasonal changes and how plants react. Instead of hibernating with my summer garden plans, I'm out in the veg patch gardens thinking about how best to use what I've learned to improve the way I grow things.  The big pre-Christmas assignment on All Things to do with Soil has provided plenty of food for thought and this term we're studying botany. That doesn't mean that I'm not also using my time to plan what to grow this year - my newly bought seeds are up on my Pinterest page '2013 Veg Garden' ...



... with last year's seed box still to be sorted through.  The British gardener is a triumph of optimism over adversity but I have resolved to try and keep things fairly simple this year, growing stuff that I know will work well (herbs, squashes, unusual tomatoes, beets and beans) so that I can concentrate on digging up another long border to have a flower cutting patch. That area will also include a few edibles such as my globe artichokes 'Violette de Provence', grown from seeds and currently in deep pots, and Red Orach (Atriplex hortensis 'Rubra') as it's a plant that falls between two camps being both ornamental and edible!


14 comments:

  1. That contorted hazel pic is really nice!

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    1. Thanks Mark, I love all the tones and subtle colours in the photo. The hedge is just starting to bud as well so I'll be keeping an eye on how it develops in the months ahead. Definitely one for wish list!

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  2. Happy New Year Caro! Planning ahead for a new season is the perfect remedy to get through these snowy and icy days. Your plans for a cutting patch sound exciting. I've sorted out the seedbox - now to get the orders in :)

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    1. Happy New Year to you too Anna! I am glad to have an excuse to stay indoors and do some seed planning and grateful that the frozen ground will be killing off soil born diseases. The cuttings patch will have to be very pretty as well as useful as it will be in the community gardens so I'm taking my time with my choices. I've already received my seed order for this year - and I'm trying to resist further purchases!

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  3. The hazel hedge is fabulous, isn't it? I'm looking forward to hearing what else you'll be growing in your cutting patch. I've wanted to grow flowers for cutting for the past couple of years, but it just hasn't worked out for one reason or another.

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    1. Oh me too Jo - I've wanted to do this for a couple of years but unsure if I could keep up the work once started - and working in a community garden requires that I don't abandon the effort! The college course is giving me the confidence to choose the right plants and to plan for several years ahead so it will be a garden in progress. It's one that I'll definitely be writing about over the coming months!

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  4. Twisted hazels are such fascinating trees.
    I shall have a look at your seed choices on Pinterest and no doubt find a few likes!
    I like your idea of keeping it simple this year and I hope to do the same.
    Flighty xx

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    1. You'll see that I'm following your lead on Burpee's golden beetroot this year! It's time I tried something different and last year I didn't get round to growing beetroot at all! It's something not see in the supermarkets so worth growing.

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  5. Your course sounds amazing, sketching at the V&A. I'm with you on growing what has done well in the past, life is hectic enough without making life on the plot difficult.

    I love the contorted hazel. I'd love one in my garden but it doesn't look very good in leaf which is for most of the year and in my small garden it would need to work harder for its place. Really like the idea of using it as a hedge though.

    The nights are getting lighter, 5pm last night and it was still light so even though it's clearly winter outside it feels like spring is just around the corner. And I'm so excited. Can't wait to see the plans for your garden evolve over the coming year.

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    1. The course is very enjoyable, Lou - good company (so nice to be able to talk plants and gardening all day!) and excellent tutors. It's great having planned excursions - next week we're going to Cambridge Botanical Gardens, a place I probably wouldn't have visited in the normal way of things.
      Good to know that the hazel can be dull in summer but as winter interest it's hard to beat!

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  6. Your course does sound amazing, what is it? I've resolved to use what seeds I have for this year - 3 boxes full - apart from a very few seeds I want of different types. I'm also hoping to start more seed saving too. If the snow would just clear I could get started but as you say at least it will be killing of the bugs, hopefully a good deal of the slugs that ate almost everything last year.

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    1. Hi Poppy, I'm studying garden design which divides into horticulture in the morning and design/drawing in the afternoon. A pretty nice way to spend the day! I'm about to trawl back through my seed box, throwing out any out of date seeds and seeing what else is there. I don't think we'll escape the slugs this year - in fact I'm reading that it will be worse than ever! Yikes!!

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  7. Happy New year Carol, glad you got to your course despite the weather. That hazel hedge is wonderful, I wonder if my contorted willow hedgelet will look as good, once I get around to moving the plants, that is... Like the sound of your plans for the growing year - a new bed to claim! Fabulous. Look forward to seeing your cutting garden develop.

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    1. Hi Janet, Happy New Year to you too! I'm also looking forward to see how your garden progresses this year - I'm sure there will be some dramatic improvements!! That contorted willow sounds very interesting and I'm sure will be very pretty. I'm going to look this one up as willows have lovely leaves .... I should know about this tree!!

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