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Sheila May

On a Chalk Hillside March 2020

Whilst as you saw last month I spent January reviewing our vegetable and fruit production, obviously this is a wet weather/darkness type of job.  As with all gardeners, as soon as I can after the Christmas/New Year festivities I am itching to get back into the garden to start the big winter clear up. 

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On a Chalk Hillside February 2020

When we moved here we inherited an orchard of mature plum, pear and apple trees. It was our intention to also grow a lot of vegetables to help us eke out our income and stop us blowing our savings and for many years we only ate fruit we grew ourselves, and continue to grow and store vegetables for our whole year.

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On a Chalk Hillside January 2020

Continuing on from last months’ blog article regarding this particular bed in our garden I will start with my favourite plant in this border - Rosa glauca, planted centrally to the bed.   I just love this plant – its glaucous grey leaves, its delicate single pink flowers so fleeting and so enchanting against the leaf colour, and then its cinnamon coloured hips that gradually change to deep red as the autumn progresses.

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On a Chalk Hillside December 2019

Opposite the Acer walk I talked about recently in the gravel garden is the grandly titled Shrubbery.  This is a rectangular bed that has the steps down through the gravel garden on one side, and the boundary fence on the other

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On a Chalk Hillside November 2019

Several times in the past few posts I have mentioned increasing or replacing old plants by taking cuttings.  I take a lot of cuttings – some plants work well from cuttings, others I have less success with.

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On a Chalk Hillside October 2019

I don’t know why it comes as a bit of a shock each year, but by late July I suddenly go into a bit of a panic about collecting seed for the Hardy Plant Society seed distribution scheme.  Each year I think I’ve run out of time and each year I have to remind myself of the date by which I need to send the seed to the designated collection person.

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On a Chalk Hillside September 2019

Over the months that elapsed from moving the plants in the original hospital bed to create the courtyard until we created the gravel garden, a new idea emerged.

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On a Chalk Hillside August 2019

 In the 80’s I assisted an ecology/botany graduate friend of mine to lead a botanical/walking holiday in the Plakias area of Crete in the spring to see and identify the spring flowers.  We were not at or on beach level, but walking through the foothills above the beaches (where all the original villages were), and enjoying the beautiful Maquis environment.

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On a Chalk Hillside July 2019

The new garden area needed to provide some interest all year, but be a follow on from the Rose garden nearer the house which peaked in June, so that sitting on the courtyard in high summer you had a beautiful view up the garden.

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On a Chalk Hillside June 2019

Most holidays to various Greek Islands in the 90s in particular were during September and October, and we always encountered Fig trees clinging to cliff tops or beside the roads smothered in ripe and juicy figs which were a delight to pick and eat sun-warmed from the tree.  We determined we were going to have one ourselves.

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On a Chalk Hillside May 2019

What does the term Mediterranean Courtyard evoke in your minds’ eye?  Is it something like one from Portmerion Village in Wales?
Or perhaps one or two ideas from within the Temperate Biome at the Eden Project?

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On a Chalk Hillside April 2019

Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are members of the sunflower family, and in this garden behave like any hardy perennial, dying back in the winter from their statuesque stems up to 3 meters tall with their tubers sprouting again in March/April.  They have lovely flowers like sunflowers too.  You can grow them as a wind break in the garden to protect more delicate plants.

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On a Chalk Hillside March 2019

 Like most gardeners I almost never sit in my garden relaxing - we rest on various benches during our labours for a cup of tea or coffee for a short time, seeing all that needs doing.   Consequently I wanted something to look at all through the year as well as scent and colour.

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On a Chalk Hillside February 2019

Generally each year I have two or three concerted efforts to cut back or pull out the brambles down the boundaries, once in the winter, again in later spring, and hopefully during the summer as well, which creates cuttings material (ie the honeysuckles branches snap off as I pull out the brambles) but does not eradicate the brambles, which are growing in and through the roots of the other shrubs and climbers.

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On a Chalk Hillside January 2019

I may have mentioned in my earlier pieces about creating the pond how certain plants overwhelm the space allotted (and indeed every other space) and have to be removed completely – I’m thinking Typha minima here particularly – but it is staggering to me how vigorous waterplants are in their growth when you think they are either freefloating in just water, or anchored into very very poor soil in the margins. 

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On a Chalk Hillside December 2018

When we created the terrace for the pond, you may remember we also created a space down one side that was to be the bog garden, with a separate Gunnera manicata bed below it, but attached. 

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On a Chalk Hillside November 2018

You saw the berries of the Guelder Rose already red in June this year in my piece last month, and I thought I would look at other berries, hips and haws that are in my garden.  I think of these as autumn colours, but some appear earlier than that, even in years without a drought or heatwave to extra stress the plants, though they don’t usually become noticeable until autumn when there is less colour around them.

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On a Chalk Hillside October 2018

The mesh seemed to be effective against the deer as during the evening, after it was tied all the way down the 50m length, they went into our neighbours garden instead and ate all his runner beans that he had been about to harvest.  (He was not pleased at all!)

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On a Chalk Hillside September 2018

I thought this month I would start with some pictures of a few plants that are normally flowering in my garden in August and September.  I say normally, as the drought and heat has altered flowering times enormously. 

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On a Chalk Hillside August 2018

In order to determine how deep to dig the pond we needed to determine what plants we wanted in the pond.  Naturally our first thoughts were of water lilies. 

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On a Chalk Hillside July 2018

Perhaps it’s a good time to talk about a pond.  Let’s start with another look at the plan for the pond I showed you last month:-

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On a Chalk Hillside June 2018

We like ponds.  There was one in the garden when I was a child which was already established when we moved in.  It had a rockery behind it which had two miniature roses in it – ‘Baby Masquerade’- that had been planted when the house was built in the 50’s and had reached their full size of 35cm x 30cm.

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On a Chalk Hillside May 2018

What a slow spring – and then a mini heat wave and everything started sprinting – the plum blossom out and over in eight days, and the pear blossom suddenly showing on 18 April, and then almost completely over by 28th April. In that week the garden went from flat, bare and twiggy to lush green mounds everywhere.

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On a Chalk Hillside April 2018

Let me turn my thoughts to cowslips and other spring flowers. Just past the pear trees that are at the far end of the rose garden, the hillside slopes away in a steep grassy swathe.  This grass must originally have been “lawn” but had over the years reverted to a rougher sward, speckled with wild flowers, particularly of horticultural note – cowslips (Primula veris).

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On a Chalk Hillside March 2018

 If you have read earlier entries of this blog you may recall one of the first things we did when we moved here was put up a polytunnel, so you may be wondering why I also wanted a greenhouse. 

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On a Chalk Hillside February 2018

The original inspiration of my tiny border came after we first visited Margery Fish’s garden at East Lambrook Manor to see the snowdrops shortly after we moved here.  She had planted the winter bulbs through Arum italicum subsp italicum ‘Marmoratum’ and I was hooked.  What a great combination! 

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On a Chalk Hillside January 2018

Last month I discussed the structural and ground cover plants which work in the beds for many months of the year, this month I shall cover some of the plants that I have used in the rose garden to make it floriferous and of interest from spring to autumn.  

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On a Chalk Hillside December 2017

As we approach the shortest day it makes me happy to think some more about rose gardens.  Following on from last month’s article about planting the rectangular bed nearest the house, this month I am moving on to the three irregular-shaped beds we created by putting the hoggin paths through (described in the October blog piece).

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On a Chalk Hillside November-2017

What is your idea of a rose garden?  Is it of beds of roses, and only roses, closely planted, maybe dripping in either colour or scent (or both if you are lucky) ? Perhaps a bed of all one hybrid tea rose en masse like at the Southsea rose garden?

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On a Chalk Hillside October 2017

So, how to lay a Hoggin path?  Obviously you need to measure out and peg out the outline of the path first.  Then, you dig out the soil to the depth of 15cm and contain the paths with a wooden edging.

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