Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Snow, Angels and Stocking Fillers

Vile sploshy sleety chilly weather.
I retreated to the pottery to take this photo of
the stock yard on Tuesday

I try to avoid getting soaked in the morning so that I don't have to be chilled all day, so before break I lurk in the greenhouse checking on my cuttings, picking over the bigger plants and watering sparingly.

The entrance arch at the Pottery this week

Potting on and on and on...
Like the little lady on my Austrian weather house I pop out when the showers ease up and grab a few small pots to plant in the relative warmth of the greenhouse. Yes I am still planting.

This winter's planting in the Great Warwick Pot
Tulip 'Princesse Charmante'  lurks beneath.
Almost all of the bulbs have found homes now. All the big plantings have been finished and are out there fending for themselves.

Nevertheless on rainy days I have been adding small potfuls to the collection. Not all of my plantings are crammed with bedding and perennials. I like to do a few simple things too. Pots are great for focusing on small, unusual plants - those plants are also less likely to get lost in a busy garden.

True grit
For example the little rose bowl in the picture below just has Muscari 'Pink Surprise' (a present from RenĂ©) in it; the grit dressing keeps it looking neat, stops the compost from getting compacted by the rain, keeps the drainage sharp around the emerging shoots, wards off slugs, mice and squirrels, and generally fosters a sense of satisfaction in the gardener. I never seem to have enough grit and gravel. I hope Father Christmas isn't listening - I draw the line at getting grit in my Christmas stocking.

Small Rose Bowl simply planted with Muscari 'Pink Surprise'

Small Ali Baba jar planted with Allium karataviense 'Ivory Queen'
Fat and full
When I picked up this dear little fat ali baba jar I really wanted to do something clean and simple in it. The layer of pebbles looks nice enough by itself for the moment.  Next spring should see the emergence of Allium karataviense  'Ivory Queen', with smooth, sculptural leaves and buds, followed by white tennis-ball flowers. I am hoping that their clean lines will complement the jar.
Allium karataviense in bud
last spring
Pots in pots
Ali-baba jars are tricky to plant - you have to avoid planting these with vigorous-rooted plants or plants which hate root disturbance because it will be difficult/impossible to extract them when they need moving on. You either need to half-fill the jar with polystyrene and then plant something which can be taken out easily (disposable bedding or dormant bulbs) OR you can place another pot in the top of the jar and plant that. This insert method works very well in the large jars because they have plenty of room for a decent-sized pot.

The picture below shows part of this winter's courtyard display - the Giant Jar has another pot in the top, so that it can be planted, but it would look just as good empty or with some spectacular branches or seedheads arranged in the top.
The pot in the top of the Giant Jar contains Calamagrostis 'Overdam', a Euphorbia seedling and
 2 x Vinca minor 'Argenteovariegata', plus Tulipa 'Picture', Narcissus 'Rip van Winkle',
Crocus tommasinianus 'Roseus' and Pansy 'Can-Can'
I really shouldn't say this but at this time of year I think the pots look just as good empty - the low sunshine (when we get it) shows off the details beautifully and makes the terracotta glow.

Shallow basket pots in the stockyard at Whichford Pottery
The Birds
On Thursday the weather had calmed and as a result there were birds everywhere, stuffing their faces as fast as they could before the next bout of sleet. I wandered about with my camera for twenty minutes and in that time I saw redwings, fieldfares, bluetits, great tits, robins, coal tits, long-tailed tits, a green woodpecker, pigeons, rooks, a buzzard, blackbirds, a bullfinch, a linnet and I could hear pheasants and a mistle thrush. Not bad.

We have a little patch of mixed woodland planted about 15 years ago behind the pottery, it has been left fairly dense, with some paths cut through it and is a great place to go for a moment of peace and quiet. This is where I saw most of the smaller birds, including my very first linnet, looking exotic with his pretty pink chest.
My first linnet
Noisy boys
I am rather fond of the fieldfares, with their smart plumage, noisy chatter and boisterous behaviour. They are the naughty but charming boys at the back of the class. I saw this fieldfare and his mates from the top of the steps above the clay pile.
Fieldfare perch

My perch

I was lucky to catch this picture as it jumped to reach some berries - looking positively angelic:
Fieldfare angel
 Vintage ladybirds
And finally: John (our driver/packing expert) after much hinting and smirking (very worrying considering his usual sense of humour) produced this little heap of delights:
Santa/John brought vintage Ladybird Books
People my age will have fond memories of Ladybird Books. I think this is mainly for the vivid illustrations; my husband and I both remember 'Garden Birds' but 'Trees' and 'Garden Flowers' are both new to me. I like the pleasant clarity of the pictures and the brief, unpatronising text where no effort is made to make the facts either cool or amusing. I shall be studying them more closely but have already learned that the Horse Chestnut gets its name from the fact that it is a 'coarse' or 'inferior' type of chestnut and that pelargoniums "can only be grown in pots". Well, there you have it.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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