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Sheila May

On a Chalk Hillside September 2021

This summer has been “mixed” weather-wise for us on our Chalk Hillside.  We had the hot dry early spring-time as during the first lockdown last year.  April into May we remembered the lessons from last year.

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On a Chalk Hillside August 2021

I was concerned that these Papaver Somniferum variations (which remind me of 1950 bathing caps) would not be good for polinators, but as you can see,  I needn't have worried

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On a Chalk Hillside July 2021

 Before we could replant the top half of the subshrubs and bulbs border this winter, we had to remove the giant in the bed. Removing the Lavatera cachemiriana was such a big decision, and it was such a big plant.
Plus - how to side shoot tomato plants.

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On a Chalk Hillside June 2021

Moving on this month to the part of the ‘L’ shaped bed that runs from the Gunnera manicata bed path to the decking steps above the groynes, and therefore directly above the tiny shade border I talked about two months ago.

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On a Chalk Hillside May 2021

Over the bank holiday weekend I had been crawling round various plants in the garden trying to get an “in-focus” shot in stiff easterly winds which have plagued us for most of April to show you this month’s star plants, when I got caught face down by my newish neighbours who asked if I was taking an art shot. 

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On a Chalk Hillside April 2021

Because the Golden Hop (Humulus lupulus 'Aureus') is so rampant, I planted shade-loving winter plants directly beside it - a  dusky pink Helleborus orientalis seedling and a Harts Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)

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On a Chalk Hillside March 2021

I planted the Irish primrose Primula vulgaris ‘Carrigdale’ in my border – it flowers for a lot of the year – last year one of the clumps in a pot was in flower by the end of January though the clumps in the border waited a few weeks to flower

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On a Chalk Hillside February 2021

The first snowdrop garden I ever visited was Hodsock Priory on the borders between Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire during the 1990’s.  They especially open round half term to allow people to walk through the formal gardens and down to the woodland where there is massed planting of Galanthus nivalis under beech trees:-

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On a Chalk Hillside January 2021

During the second lockdown, as I said last month, lots of the autumn colour in the garden was more noticeable from berries hips and seedheads than from leaves

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On a Chalk Hillside December 2020

When we talk about autumn colour, it seems to me to either be talking about spectacular leaf colour on trees; or late flowering plants such as herbaceous perenials that feature in Piet Oudolf’s prairie planting schemes, or tender perennials such as dahlias, cannas etc.  

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On a Chalk Hillside November 2020

I started the three articles on gardening in lockdown showing you  the shoots of Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’ just coming through in the first week of lockdown, so I shall finish by showing you it in beautiful flower on 23 July as we were coming to terms with “the new normal”

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On a Chalk Hillside October 2020

A star plant from the last day of May – the beautifully scented honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum ‘High Scentsation’.  This honeysuckle was stunning this year, huge flowers and the scent hung on the still, super-heated air for metres in all directions for several weeks

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On a Chalk Hillside September 2020

Gardening has a rhythm of its own irrespective of what is happening in the wider world – the seasons change; certain plants come to the fore or go over; certain jobs have to be done at certain times.  We have been very grateful to have our garden to occupy us during lockdown. 

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On a Chalk Hillside August 2020

If you want to actually develop an area of wildflower meadow rather than just leave a bit of lawn to grow a bit longer than usual, then you will also need to try and reduce the vigour of the grass because it is such a successful plant that it outcompetes the wild flowers.

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On a Chalk Hillside July 2020

After the excitement of Chelsea week in our wildflower experiment of letting our grass grow last month, this time we are moving into June to see what comes up in our lawns.  This is what is happening in mine – how are your lawns looking? 

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On a Chalk Hillside June 2020

Following on from last month where I reached around St George's Day in terms of what wild flowers were coming up in my grass as I let it grow longer, this month I will carry on from the last week of April and see what grows.

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On a Chalk Hillside May 2020

If you are working from home, homeschooling children, or having to take care of all aspects of your own life without your usual support network, you might not have even more time to mow your lawns (or if you are like our elderly neighbour you might run out of petrol for your mower and be reliant on others to get you more). Why not let the grass grow? 

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On a Chalk Hillside April 2020

On the spring equinox – 20 March – as the schools were shut indefinitely; my sister, step-mother and mother had all entered 12 week shielding in locations far far from me; our daughter was in lockdown in her care home and our son and family was also social isolating as our youngest granddaughter had been sent home from nursery that week with a high temperature I went out in the beautiful sunshine into our garden in a very worried, stressed state. 

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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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