Friday, 18 November 2011

Jack Frost holds the sword of Damocles and the handbag of Mrs Christmas

Winter planting at the entrance to Whichford's stockyard
Winter plantings are settling in well but this gardener is unsettled and uneasy because of the lack of frost. This time last year everything was frozen solid and didn't really thaw out until January so I am braced for unpleasantness.

I have even found myself picking the leaves off deciduous shrubs which refuse to admit that winter is nearly here. There are better ways to spend your time.

Planting in the gloaming
I am still planting madly, sometimes in the dark - so if you visit and find messy patches around my plantings or wonky plants either Dominique's chickens or the lack of carotene in my diet are to blame.

There is still a lot of sorting out to do in the greenhouse and polytunnel so that the maximum number of plants are safe over the winter but my priority at the moment is the public garden because we will have a lot of visitors for our Christmas Sale, which starts today (Friday 18th Nov).

I'm looking forward to Bunny Guinness and Fiona Perry's talks over the weekend - we are lucky that we always seem to manage to get hold of very interesting speakers for our events.

Conifer doesn't cut the mustard when backed
by rosemary
New life for our logo
Although I normally still have a few plantings to do at this time of year I was determined to get the Ham House Urn done, the pot which greets people at the entrance to the garden. We use this urn as our logo so it would be a shame to leave it full of half-dead petunias and Fuchsia boliviana. I emptied it and brought some new plants out.

I thought this conifer (left) would be ideal until I plonked it in the urn for a coat of looking at.

I had committed the schoolgirl error of not thinking about the background and saw that what I thought was a strongly-shaped plant completely blended in with the rosemary behind.

Leymus arenarius works better

Doh! Try again.
So I tried again with a Leymus arenarius.
This worked much better because, even though the colour is similar, the form contrasts well with the background and is reinforced by the fact that Leymus arenarius has also been planted in the giant Orange Pot on the well.

This is quite a windy site because of the adjacent gateway to the stockyard so it may be that by spring all the grass is pointing to the left. We'll see.

Re-use, recycle.
I was glad not to have to go and buy another plant for this pot, I buy very few plants except for bedding plug-plants, re-using shrubs and perennials partly to save money and partly to reduce waste. I also reckon that this is how most 'normal' home gardeners function. Don't get me wrong, I like a bit of retail therapy as much as anyone and it would be easier just to go and buy a batch of smart new plants, but I don't want to be like those chefs who produce appetising recipes with appallingly expensive ingredients.

Decision made, urn planted.
Bulbs will pop up in the spring.

Here's the finished article: the Leymus is flanked by two Festuca glauca, and a Heuchera 'Plum Royale' and four Pansy 'Can-Can' sit on top of some Tulip 'Negrita', Narcissus 'Bath's Flame' and Iris 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'. These are all colours and plants repeated in other plantings in the garden and on the entrance path, I am hoping that the eye will travel comfortably from one to the other so that visitors are drawn into the garden. That's the theory anyway.

Pearls and pink phormiums
The pot featured below is just across the walkway from the urn. it is a Pearl Pot, designed for the Pottery's 30th anniversary, five years ago. Its clean lines make a change from some of the more elaborate designs that we produce.

I'm risking phormiums again this year (this is P.'Pink Stripe') even though I lost so many last winter. You can't really beat them for strong, clean verticals with a bit of colour. I have also stuffed in an artichoke seedling which may or may not survive, but its grey leaves are interesting for a while at least.

Phormium 'Pink Stripe in Pearl Pot
Tidy-up time
This week I selflessly (it's a job I rather like) gave Donna, my work experience helper, the job of starting the autumn tidy-up of the flowerbeds. She was tentative at first but I did my best to reassure her that she was unlikely to kill anything precious and she did a nice, thorough job of cutting back herbaceous perennials and pulling out weed seedlings in several beds. It looked very neat after she had finished. Little does she know that Dominique's chickens have been back and scattered soil into the paths she swept so carefully...

Nice and tidy, for now...

John and Dave have also been very helpful with sweeping and leaf-clearing this week. I suspect that John rather likes the chance to play with the leaf-blower, ah these boys and their toys!

John - happy to get the leaf-blower out.
 'Tis the season to go shopping
Right, I'm going to leave you now with a few pictures of my favourite goodies in the Octagon, which has been stocked up for Christmas (note to self: get husband to look at this page). I try not to go inside it too often in case I am tempted to buy something, also my boots are always filthy - but this week I used my camera and this blog as an excuse for a mooch. Never mind the footprints.
Teapot and mugs by Jim and Dominique Keeling, Whichford Pottery
Beautiful and unusual lamps
Restored antique tools from Garden and Wood - all eminently usable
Dinky Whichford glazed pots filled with gorgeously scented candles from St Eval


  1. Lovely, Harriet! I don't know how you work that close to a shop containing such gorgeous items without being massively in debt. I've noticed that poultry seems to be a recurrent theme lately. Does Dominique raise any Dominique chickens? Sure seems like a fit. Here in the US, Dominiques are still listed on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy's "watch list" and I think they are listed as rare in the UK. Anyway, a bit of a diversion from gardening but wonderful birds as chickens go. --Joe

  2. Thanks Joe! I don't think it would be a good idea to have rare chickens in Whichford, every now and then there is carnage when Mr Fox visits. They do have a pretty sturdy run to live in nowadays but the fox will find a way eventually...

  3. Bonjour Harriet,

    J'ai bien aimé lire sur votre tentative pour enjoliver le pot représentant Whichford, c'était comme si on y était! Finalement, c'est réussi et on a bien hâte de voir la succession de floraisons qui suivra.

    Ici aussi, dans le sud Québec, nous connaissons un temps très doux. Je regrette de ne pas avoir semé de laitues puisque le sol n'est pas encore couvert de neige. Mais ça ne devrait pas tarder!

    J'adore toutes vos potées et de savoir que vous vous faites un devoir de réutiliser le matériel disponible sur le terrain les rend encore plus belles! J'envie votre climat qui permet de profiter longuement des végétaux... et des pots de terre cuite magnifiquement travaillés en dehors du sol (et non pas cachés sous le patio comme chez moi)!

    À bientôt et bonne vente de Noël!