Gardening with Nature on the Edge of the Atlantic

Unseasonable weather

10 May 2020

Cat’s ears creeping through the bench by the garage.

Yesterday I put away all of my winter clothes and hauled out my summer gear. Today the temperature is creeping up to eight degrees at ten in the morning and that is without allowing for the windchill factor. There is a strong, blustery, easterly wind blowing across the valley and white horses are galloping across Roaringwater Bay. It is hard to believe it is May not March and it is a day for warm coats and hats if you have the nerve to go out and garden. Despite the sunshine even the cat’s ears are reluctant to open up. My winter clothes have been retrieved after just one day but I feel like the cat’s ears and would happily stay indoors. Frosts are forecast and for the second time his year I am fearful for my New Zealand Leptospermum. They survived an early flowering in December/January and as you can see are flowering again. I just hope they survive the cold.

Most of the more showy flowering trees have lost their blossoms but these are now replaced by a less dramatic but equally beautiful flowerheads of other trees. You just have to look a little closer to find them. In 2015 I planted a number of trees on the west side of the house in what had once been an open field. These include varieties of Sorbus. These tend to look a little tattered by Autumn but their delicate blossoms make up for this and in general they are dong well despite the location. The above is a Sorbus Sheerwater Seedling. The others are Sorbus Aria Pratti, Sorbus Joseph’s Rock and the well known Mountain Ash or Sorbus Acuparia.

I consider Whitebeam to be one of the toughest small trees for this location as they do particularly well here. I have added one: Sorbus Aria Lutescens to the Rowan in the standing stone garden.The silver gray leaves is one of it’s best features and will contrast well with the lichens which are more than likely to cover them in a few years.

13 May 2020

Fruit Cordials

I started making my own fruit cordials some years ago as I find most commercial products too sweet for my taste. Today I made a batch using my frozen blackcurrants, red and white currants and my ‘newly discovered’ aronia berries. The latter are considered to be a ‘super fruit’ and have the highest antioxidant content of all fruits. They are a little to dry for my taste when eaten raw but the birds love them. The shrubs have also settled in well in various locations throughout the garden and the blossoms, seen below, are very attractive.

Today I just managed to collect enough elderflowers for my first batch of cordial. I need at least 25 flower heads that have not fully bloomed. This is more difficult than it seems as I can rarely find this number in one foraging expedition around the garden. I have decided that I need to add another three or four trees to the hedgerows next winter in the hope that I have more luck. I use the River Cottage recipe which adds the zest and juice of an orange as well as three lemons. I reduced the kilo of sugar by a half but intend to reduce this even further in the next batch.

An elderflower blossom almost ready for picking.

14 May 2020

My last two rhododendrons are now in full bloom in the copse the most sheltered part of the garden. I would love to add to these but they do not like harsh conditions. I am hoping that the camellias and the other shrubs that I planted around them will eventually provide a few more places where they can be grown without risk.

I think that Sadie is well aware that the rhododendrons are a perfect backdrop for a good photograph.

The first of my Buddleja are now in blossom and are very popular with bumble bees. I think that the one below is a Buddleja Globosa or ‘Orange Ball Tree’ but as I grew it from a few cuttings that I stole whilst out on a walk I can’t be sure!

I had also planted a Buddleja Weyeriana ‘Golden Glow’ in the same small garden. This was also grown from a cutting but this time taken from a venerable old shrub that delights me by coming back year after year despite its exposed position in my garden. To my surprise the young shrub has not survived the recent frosts despite its parentage.

I have been experimenting with grasses and grass-like plants as a way of providing the first line of defence to other shrubs. Liberta Grandiflora, like most of the New Zealand plants available here, is very tolerant of salt and wind. The flowers are attractive and long lasting. There is just one catch. This is a plant that spreads around the garden very quickly and is difficult to move once mature. At present I am trying to curb this by removing the seed heads once they appear.

Libertia Grandiflora at the corner of the copse exposed to the south west gales and below, details of the graceful flower.

I am still smarting from the destruction of my clematis Montana Rubens and Montana Grandiflora. The former is struggling to survive and I suspect that the hare/rabbit is still making nightly calls. The Montana Grandiflora has produced one flower that seems to be out of reach of the predator but it looks as if that is my lot for this year.


I had many plans for the garden in 2020. To date I have been showing photographs of the more ‘finished’ parts of the garden although there are many unfinished areas. All plans are on hold as I am unable to go to garden centres and hardware stores to shop. Before I start completing my paths, I need to research organic materials that can be placed under the gravel. I also need to source organic repellent for the many beasts that are raiding my flowers and vegetables. (Millie will probably have to be dealt with in a different way). I would like to find something that discourages rather than kills although I think Millie is a lost cause. We have had an unusually dry spell of weather over the last month and I have just emptied the last of my water butts. I have not had to call on the well for water so far and I would like to add more water butts as soon as possible. The Covid-19 restrictions change next week and I hope to be able to visit the local garden centres to get their advice.

Wild Flowers

The garden is a mass of wild flowers at present. Foxgloves and Cat’s ears predominate but there are dozens of varieties if you look closely enough.

Smooth Sowthistle buds and flowers.

Smooth Sowthistle with the attractive orange tinted emerging flowers.

Lesser Stitchwort growing on the bank behind the house. At the moment that area is also covered in Cat’s Ears, Violets and Germander Speedwell and together they make a very attractive display.

22 May 2020

Yesterday was to be the day when I took the plunge and started to harden off the plants growing on the windowsill in the garage. I also hoped to plant some leeks and tomatoes purchased from a local organic grower and to replace the beans stolen by the mice (they leave the leaves for some reason). The unexpected weather warning for storm yellow conditions for the next few days has put these plans on hold. I have just received two boxes of ‘goodies’ from Future Forests but will have to defer the pleasure of planting them out and have placed them in the garage instead. All of my cuttings and small plants had to be moved to a safe location and the garden checked for possible flying weapons or plants that may be at risk. The torrential rain last night was very welcome and my empty water butts have filled up again. But sadly, on a quick visit to the garden this afternoon I discovered that a branch has been wrenched off my beautiful Cornus Kuosa Santoni. It was planted when the area was totally exposed and has survived years of extremes in the weather. I hope it survives the rest of the storm. I could not bear to check for further damage and will wait until the winds die down in a day or so.

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