Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – May 15, 2013

Foxglove, Hosta, and Clematis are the stars of my garden in May!

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  • Clematis (asurreygarden.wordpress.com)

English Cottage Gardening – Planting Mt. Everest

My back garden is, well, it’s very steep. I twist my ankle every time I take a stroll in it. I call it Mt. Everest.

Mt. Everest aka my back garden

Mt. Everest aka my back garden

I have some nice David Austin rose bushes planted in the border, but this year my gardening goal is to make a beautiful Gertrude Jekyll-style border for my bees who live at the bottom.

Bees at the Bottom of the Garden

Bees at the Bottom of the Garden

So far I’ve planted lots of lavender and some lambs’ ears. Today I’m planting nepeta and lilies. I’m thinking about buying golf shoes to garden in.

To keep myself motivated, I’ll post the progress of my border throughout the rest of the season. Wish me luck!!

Deb

English Cottage Gardening – Plant An Apple Tree For Arbor Day

Johnny_Appleseed_1972_post_card

This Friday, April 26 is Arbor Day in the US. It’s a day when individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees.

Arbor Day originated in Nebraska on April 10, 1872 and an estimated one million trees were planted that day. Many countries now observe a similar holiday.

Planting trees is also very good for honey bees.

Did you know that trees provide most of the surplus nectar and pollen for bees?  Or that 5 or 6 trees produce as much nectar and pollen as a whole field of wildflowers?

Most people don’t.  That’s unfortunate because planting a tree, especially in an urban area, is one of the most effective things you can do to help save the bees.

So what kind of tree belongs in an English cottage garden? The only trees that can be said to be truly authentic to the cottage garden are fruit and nut trees. An added bonus is that bees love them!

The notion of planting a tree for shade would have been totally foreign to cottage gardeners. A tree was worthy of space in the garden only for what it could produce for the table. Most of these traditional trees weren’t large and were further pruned back to reduce their height for ease of harvest.

Cottage Garden with Apple Tree

Cottage Garden with Apple Tree

Apple trees were by far the most common type of tree found in a cottage garden. Cultivars which are especially suitable are Heyer #20, Parkland, and Rutherford.

So plant a tree and save a bee this Arbor Day!

Composting Day!

Loyal Yard Dude Alex shovels compost with the assistance of The Noble Bayard

Loyal Yard Dude Alex shovels compost with the assistance of The Noble Bayard

The heart of every organic English Cottage Garden is compost, and lots of it!  You are looking at three cubic yards of specially blended compost which is equal to 45 bags. It isn’t going to be enough.

I add at least 4 inches of compost to my beds every year.  My gardens would do better if I added twice that much.  Southern Ohio soil is mostly clay, and it needs a lot of work by earthworms and microorganisms to make it friable. The only way to achieve that is to add organic material.

I make my own compost, but it’s not nearly enough to cover my beds. This year I was lucky to find a supplier who will blend compost to my specifications and deliver it for a reasonable fee. I’m using 1/3 aged manure, 1/3 leaf mold and 1/3 mushroom compost.

I’m also lucky to have the assistance of Loyal Yard Dude Alex Lang. For a reasonable fee, he will shovel compost for hours and doesn’t complain except when it comes to composting the border running down my back yard aka Mount Everest. He also doesn’t mind the bees, which is very important!

I help too, and am writing this post during our lunch break.  Time to go shovel some more poop!

Loyal Yard Dude Alex spreading compost over the hosta bed.

Loyal Yard Dude Alex spreading compost over the hosta bed.

The Noble Bayard makes sure the work is up to spec!

The Noble Bayard makes sure the work is up to spec!

Beautiful Beehives Of The Day

Clarence House beehives

Prince Charles’s beehives at Clarence House. Appropriately gorgeous!

What a wonderful setting for hives…

Girl History Month – Gertrude Jekyll ‘Artist Gardener Craftswoman’

There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight.

Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) was an influential British horticulturist, garden designer, artist and writer. Her brilliant designs continue to inspire gardeners everywhere.

Hidcote Manor Garden

Hidcote Manor Garden

Gertrude was born into a prosperous family and was educated in the arts from an early age. Jekyll’s brother, Walter, was a friend of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, who borrowed the Jekyll family name for the title of his psychological thriller, Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde.

Young Gertrude

Young Gertrude

When she was 18, Jekyll was admitted to the South Kensington School of Art, where she studied painting, as well as botany, optics and the science of color. She would have had a career as a painter had not her sight begun to fail.

Watercolor by Gertrude Jekyll

Watercolor by Gertrude Jekyll

As her eyesight dimmed, Jekyll conceived the idea of creating art works from flowers and shrubs, and turning the design of gardens into an art form. She started to design simple cottage gardens and, as her career advanced, produced grand designs for country houses.

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Jekyll was greatly influenced by William Morris, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement in art, architecture, and crafts during the late 19th century.  Morris advocated a return to an informal planting style based upon an idealized English cottage garden.  Jekyll shared Morris’s mystical view of nature and drew on the floral designs in his textiles for her garden designs.

William Morris Textile Design

William Morris Textile Design

In 1889, Jekyll was introduced to the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, with whom she began an association, creating landscapes for his avant-garde constructions. This successful partnership, with each influencing the other, resulted in one hundred Lutyens/Jekyll designs and greatly contributed to the English way of life.

Hestercombe House Garden

Hestercombe House Garden

Jekyll was a formidable plants-woman, who experimented with plants in her own garden at Munstead Wood in Surrey before recommending them to anyone. She taught the value of ordinary plants familiar to gardeners today, Hostas, Bergenias, Lavender and old fashioned roses.

Glebe House

Glebe House

Gertrude Jekyll concentrated her design work on applying plants in a variety of settings, woodland gardens, water gardens and herbaceous borders always striving to achieve the most natural effect. She had an artist’s eye for color and contrasted plant textures to great effect.

Munstead Wood, Surrey

Munstead Wood, Surrey

Jekyll was the author of 15 books, her most famous being Wood and Gardening, a guide to the creation of gardens in a variety of climates and conditions. She was a prolific designer, completing around 350 commissions in England and America, many of which still exist today.

In 1986, the rose breeder David Austin created a deep-pink shrub rose and named it in Jekyll’s honor.

David Austin's "Gertrude Jekyll" Rose

David Austin’s “Gertrude Jekyll” Rose

Jekyll died on December 9, 1932 at Munstead Wood, Surrey. She is buried in St John’s Churchyard, Busbridge. On her tombstone is inscribed the simple epitaph by Sir Edwin Lutyens, ‘Artist Gardener Craftswoman’.

grave stone

Tools For The Cottage Garden

English Garden

My neighbors know my favorite garden tools are old silverware and my fingers. I’m Old School.

But there are 10 traditional cottage garden tools that make life in the garden easier. This season I’m breaking down and purchasing them.

1.  A Spade and Fork – Essential for digging and lifting the soil. I’ve been making do with a child-sized shovel from Home Depot. It’s time to get serious. I’m moving up to a child-sized spade and fork from Clarington Forge.  These tools are made in England and have heads made from a single piece of steel. The heads are securely riveted to an ash shaft. They are exceptionally strong and are backed by a lifetime guarantee. Much better than my old spoon.

Spade and Fork

Spade and Fork

2. Hoes – I’m going with a flat bottomed Dutch hoe that’s good for digging and weeding. In the early days of cottage gardening, hoes were the main tools used, although in much heavier versions. You may recall seeing them depicted in older English paintings.

Hoes

Hoes

3.  A Hand Trowel and Hand Fork –  If you can only afford one set of the finest garden tools, buy these. They may be the only tools you really need!

Clarington Gift Set

Clarington Gift Set

4.  A Rake – A rake is another tool that performs a multitude of garden tasks.

Rake

Rake

5.  Pruning Shears – I have about 5 pairs of pruning shears, from a big lopper to a tiny pruner. I’ll probably buy another one this year! All of mine are bypass secateurs which have two blades, like scissors.  I use them on all my plants as they are gentle and do not damage the fragile stems.

Bypass Pruners

Bypass Pruners

6.  Gloves – A good pair of gardening gloves is essential when pruning roses or anything with thorns. Also crucial if you want to avoid poison ivy.

Gloves

Gloves

7.  A Wheelbarrow – I couldn’t live without a wheelbarrow. Mine is a large plastic number, not vintage or beautiful but essential for composting the beds.

wheelbarrow

8.  A Watering Can – I collect rainwater for my container plants. And it looks good in a cottage garden!

watering can

9.  A Planting Dibber – This tool is useful for anyone looking to plant a large amount of seeds or small transplants.

Planting Dibber

Planting Dibber

10. A Trug – Okay, maybe not a necessity, but it sure is gorgeous!

A Cottage Garden Trug

A Cottage Garden Trug

Pruning Roses And Flying Bees

Sunrise on Columbia Parkway

Sunrise on Columbia Parkway

It’s a gorgeous day on Columbia Parkway! The sun is shining and it’s almost 60 degrees F. It’s perfect for doing yard cleanup, putting down some compost and checking on my bees.

I noticed this morning that my rose bushes are starting to bud. Time to do some much needed late winter pruning!

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Winter pruning is important for the well-being of roses, as it stimulates the growth of new shoots which will provide flowers.

The best time to prune is just as spring growth starts. It’s not a good idea to wait until the new young shoots are a few inches long as this wastes the plant’s energy and will delay flowering.

The basics of pruning

The first step is easy. Cut out any shoots that are dead and diseased. Spores on these stems can easily reinfect the new shoots in spring so removing them will help with disease control. Also cut out any stems that are particularly weak or rubbing against each other

The next step is to prune the remaining stems.  Most roses benefit from moderate pruning, reducing the height by 1/4 to 3/4. I usually trim about 1/3 of the average height of the stems.

If you have the time you can make sure to prune just above the bud and at a slight angle away from the bud. The angle of the cut is more of an issue for Hybrid Teas and Floribundas as they can be more susceptible to die back than shrub roses. I do make sure that my secateurs are clean and sharp.

Once you have finished pruning your roses it’s important to clean up all the cut stems and fallen leaves as they can carry disease onto the next season.

Then apply a good layer of mulch such as garden compost or well rotted manure. No bark mulch please!! This will help to bury any spores left on the soil surface, keep the soil moist and cool, prevent weeds from germinating and feed the microorganisms in the soil.

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After I finished pruning, I checked in on my bees. They were flying like crazy!

I was delighted to see they were collecting pollen, not just out for a warm weather potty visit.

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I’m adding a third hive this year, so I’m moving the original hive to the bottom of the garden. Moving day is tomorrow! I’ll be sure and let you know how it goes…

Trees For Bees – The Linden Tree

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Linden trees, also known as bee trees and basswood trees (and as lime trees in Europe), are large trees that grow in four-season climates all over the world. These trees can reach 80 feet in height and have a 40-foot spread.

The trees bloom in June and July and their yellow flowers are highly aromatic. They are extremely popular with honey bees (leading to the colloquial name of “bee-tree”), and you can buy basswood honey made almost exclusively from these trees.  Linden trees have the reputation of producing some of the best honey in the world. It has been described as “delicate and mild, and has warm herbal notes and a clean finish.”

Linden trees grow in plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. The coldest temperatures in zone 3 can reach 40 below zero and 12 below zero in zone 8. Besides temperature, soil conditions influence the success of linden trees. They like finer soils that drain well but hold enough water to support the tree.

Linden trees

Linden trees are successful when planted wherever there is excellent to good farming soils. They prefer slightly acidic soil but will tolerate pH levels as high as 7.5. Linden trees do not withstand drought for prolonged periods and are not found in the western states of the US.

The leaves are large measuring anywhere from 3″ to 6″ in both length and width. The linden tree provides much of its own food since the leaves do not lose their mineral content as they decay. Linden tree leaves are high in calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, and potassium.