The Tea Break Gardener

My gardening week – Six on Saturday 21.04.18

My gardening week – Six on Saturday 21.04.18

Strap yourselves in everybody – get ready for warp speed spring.  After weeks of snow, cold, perma-cloud and rain, Winter has departed and Spring has raced in quicker than any of us gardeners can really cope with.

So much has been happening in our gardens this week and I’m keeping a few things up my sleeve for next week, including – wait for it – new greenhouse news!

Pretty Pieris

New leaves of Pieris -emerging pink

New leaves of Pieris -emerging pink

I’m not usually a fan of this shrub.  I’m not too keen on the composite flower shape, or the leaves for that matter.  Today though the new leaves really caught my eye.  With the sun shining on them they looked gorgeous.  I can’t find a way to describe the pink except to say if a child picks a pink felt tip – it’s invariably this colour.

This week I was contacted on Twitter by a beginner gardener asking me to identify a shrub and it was a Pieris.  I was delighted to offer some cultivation advice.  One of the reasons I started garden blogging is to inspire new gardeners so I was tickled pink to be able to help.

Tulips Vs Daffodils

Pink and orange tulips

Gorgeous pink and orange tulips with a faded, antique look

This week there have been lots of beautiful tulips appearing around the country.  I still only have three types in flower but by next week I expect they’ll all be out.  I still have lots of amazing daffodils in the garden, including the lovely scented, multi-headed types, just opened in the last two days.

I was tempted to share more daffodils with you all, but instead I plumped for this beautiful tulip.  I wish I knew it’s name, but I planted some in a pot three years ago, before the thought of blogging occurred to me, and therefore before it really mattered.

I think hot orange and pink are a cracking combination but there’s something subtle and almost antique about the colouring of this tulip.  It’s almost as if they’ve been through a wash and leached a bit of colour.  Delightful.


Aubretia in wall

Aubretia – this one’s clumped up nicely after a couple of years

My lawn is edged on one side by a lovely wall, built when the garden was laid out in Edwardian times.  We live on a hill, and many of the gardens are therefore sloping – but not ours.  In the days before the First World War, when labour was cheap, manpower was deployed in my garden to create wide terraces.  The result is a lovely flat lawn and a beautiful retaining wall.

What thrills me most about this wall, is that is was constructed complete with little planting holes, dotted randomly along it’s whole length.  I love this attention to detail.

Sadly, when we first moved in there weren’t many plants growing from these purpose made plant pockets but I have tried to establish some Aubretia. It’s a fiddly business trying to plant in a vertical wall and usually involves creating plugs with stones in an attempt to stop the soil washing away when watering.  This year I’m thinking of planting in coir pots and posting them into the hole to try and keep the plant in place whilst they establish.

Magnolia Kobus

Magnolia Kobus

Magnolia Kobus – simple, pure white and enchanting

This tree is fairly new to may garden, and has been planted as part of the new area around my greenhouse.  It was an expensive tree but I needed an instant impact specimen and my family had a lovely time choosing it at Majestic Tree Nursery in St. Albans.

I chose it for it’s shape rather than it’s flower.  If you are in the market for a largish tree, I would recommend shopping in winter so you can make a good selection based on structure and shape.

Whilst I knew this was an all white variety with fairly small flowers I wasn’t prepared for quite how enchanting the flower would be.  Only half of the flowers are open at the moment but I know it will be a favourite tree to photograph this coming week.

Shade lovers

Delicate orange flowers of Epimedium

Delicate orange flowers of Epimedium

I have invested in some new plants this week, and most of them are shade lovers.  Last Sunday I visited a fantastic garden in Amersham, open as part of the NGS Open Garden Scheme.

The garden is called Rivendell and I have written up a short piece describing it’s delights.  The planting is very clever as there are layers of spring flowers, perfectly proportioned and hiding the emerging summer perennials below.

Seeing the Epimediums and creative planting in shadier parts of Rivendell’s garden made me think about a shady stretch alongside a path in mine. We have recently cut back some large shrubs here and it has opened up the area for better planting.  A shopping trip was needed.

Thursday provided me with the chance of a day out to see a friend and we visited a specialist plant fair in Berkshire.  I bought lots of very interesting shade lovers, including three types of Podyphyllum.

I took the opportunity on Friday to hide from the blazing sun and plant one or two of these in the shade but there’s more to be done and I will share some pictures in future weeks.

Sweet Peas and string

sweet pea seedling on string

It is easy to twist string around a sweet pea seedling – after which it will grow straight upwards

Building things out of cane and string is something I really enjoy.

I think it comes from having been in the Girls Guides.  Each year at camp my best friend and I would construct elaborate structures out of canes to make our lives more comfortable.  Our best was a double decker wash stand with wash bowl holder above a second tier used for sponge bag storage.

So you can imagine that I love building my sweet pea supports.  For the second year running I have built a run over 10 metres long, to accommodate about 50 plants growing up string cordons.

If you have a narrow strip at the edge of your veg plot or allotment, or maybe even in your garden – I’d recommend this technique.









  1. Fred April 21, 2018 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    You started your weekly Six with the Pieris like me. Apart from these days when we enjoy the new red leaves, the tiny bells and lots of bees foraging, you’re right, it’s not an interesting shrub for a whole year. Spoiler alertl: next week, I’ll post about my rocky border full of Aubretia…( good tip your string and sweet peas : I will try)

    • Katharine April 21, 2018 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks Fred, we seem to grow many of the same things don’t we? Looking forward to seeing pics of your aubretia and I hope the sweet pea supports work for you.

  2. Homesown April 21, 2018 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    Great Six. The Epimedium looks very pretty indeed. Your sweetpeas look much more robust than mine and I am very interested in your cane and string support. Trying to work it out from photo, but not sure am getting it right.

    • Katharine April 21, 2018 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      Sent you a tweet with a link to my blog post on this. Do let me know if you need anything describing better and I’ll be happy to help. I just looked at your sweet pea supports made of the metal grid – such a great idea – they look fab!

  3. The Quilting Gardener April 21, 2018 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    Great Six. I’ve cut the old foliage away from my Epimedium but the flowers are barely above the ground, let alone open!
    Maybe next week, after all of this heat.

    • Katharine April 22, 2018 at 4:50 pm - Reply

      Yes, it’s a lovely Epimedium – sadly not mine, I took the pic in a garden open for NGS but I would like to plant one just like it. I hope yours opens soon. I heard cutting the leaves down is just the thing to do!

  4. Tim Hewitt April 22, 2018 at 6:29 am - Reply

    Great sweet pea support. Must get on to that!

    • Katharine April 22, 2018 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      Thanks and hope it works for you Tim. Sweet peas are definitely worth the effort aren’t they?

  5. Paddy April 22, 2018 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    I love the way you described the pink of the Pieris leaves – they definitely stand out amongst the other plants in the garden, especially in sunlight.
    I might have to borrow your sweet pea technique for my allotment, as last year we just tried getting them to grow up canes, and the plants obviously had other ideas!

    • Katharine April 22, 2018 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Paddy, yes that Pieris pink is something else. I have definitely warmed to it as a shrub. I hope you do try the sweet pea supports. It definitely works for me. It’s so easy to twist the string round them.

  6. @cavershamjj April 22, 2018 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    I have been trying to persuade my sweet peas to stop lolling about the place. They are meant to be climbing up the cane wigwam i so thoughtfully constructed. This might be what i need to do!

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