The Burning Bush - Combustible Weeding

I have spoken of the tedium, nay obsession of searching out ground elder and racing to get to bittercress and dandelions before they seed, and I have confessed my loathing of bracken. Well now we are beyond the point of no return. Suddenly there are weeds running away everywhere…well not everywhere but with 4 acres of garden they can regularly surprise you.
Well we have one answer, a flamethrower. We have had this “flame gun” for some years now. I must admit to being enthusiastic about its non chemical based powers of weed destruction, ( I choose to ignore the LPG gas) years…but I do admit to being rather nervous of it.

My husband Donald is made of sterner stuff; after all he is the real gardener around here. He can be seen regularly lugging the gun and its accompanying LPG gas cylinder around the garden blasting away at offending noxious weeds.

I recently drew his attention to a footpath where Alchemilla mollis had seeded and there were thousands of seedlings. He suggested this was a job for the flame gun.

One bright afternoon he approached the path. Now April was a very dry month. What happened next is unsure. He was flaming the path next to a squat golden Cupressus and Wooosh!
Now Donald is a Queen’s scout, but he admits to a frisson of fear. The thing roared and burst and fire ran through the shrub like lightening. It was over almost as fast as it began and mercifully after consuming the Cupressus the fire put itself out.

We can only think that the heat and sunshine had encouraged volatile oils to rise and they just needed a flame to go off. Still, a useful lesson; if a lesson it is; about dry and flamible aromatic shrubs in dry, dry weather, we have learnt it.

All a bit scary. I know gorse can be like that but maybe there are more shrubs and trees that can become a potential torch.

Ah well here comes the rain this week and a whole new germination of weeds
That is unnecessarily cynical…the garden needs it and will benefit greatly.
Where is my brown jumper.

Walking in a Woodland Wonderland

Walk along the tempting pathways. Dappled sunlight and bright foliage are everywhere. Just now the bluebells are out, they are fewer this year. Last year that the very air above them shimmered and they dissolved the daylight into a blue haze.
Instead of the blue we have a green lightness through the woods. The leaves of the rowans and birch are still fresh and salad green; the crosiers of the emerging ferns are elegant and beautiful. The oaks are a glistening bronzed green and out before the ash

Oak before Ash we are in for a splash
Ash before Oak we are in for a soak.

Good it is splash this year. , the ash are scarcely moving, even now in late May.
Throughout our woodland garden we have kept many native plants, but everywhere there are highlights and delights.
The subtle beauty of Solomon’s seal, tellima and the lovely sculptured form of emerging hostas. Hardy geraniums everywhere, but I particularly like the Irish Blue and Kashmir White at this time. Time for the pinks and magentas later.
Then there are bright islands of colour in the lighter glades. The Rhododendrons are magnificent these year and some of the large leaved forms that we have planted have done really well and are beginning to become a wonderful feature. And soon my favourites the deciduous azaleas will bloom…….. Golden Eagle, Fireball, Irene Koster and for the best scent of all, I am planting lots of Azalea luteum, the old fashioned yellow azalea found on many old estates.
Evergreens, that were very frightened by the winter are starting to shake off the brown disconsolate look; pieris has been wonderful, but osmanthus, eucryphia and even some Ilex have been very unhappy, they are much better now. It is a relief to see their new glossy leaves.

My Himalayan love affair - Meconopsis

Blue poppies are things of dreams. They startle and spell bind each time you see them in flower.

The first blooms for this year, were there today. They are early; I usually expecting them late in May and into early June. The mild, sunny, dry spring has hastened their appearance.

I saw my first Meconopsis back in 1980’s at Jack Drake’s Nursery. John Lawson who ran the nursery then was a friend and mentor and a great plantsman. He knew how to grow plants to perfection, and a day discovering his trilliums and meconopsis was a rare and lasting treat.

Why are they so entrancing, it is the quality of the petals. They are large and satin textured. In a spring of white, yellow and then the pinks and reds of our early rhododendrons, suddenly they are there, a heart stopping blue.

There are various varieties and species of course, and it is always a surprise to remember our own common welsh poppy is a meconopsis, but these Himalayan beauties are sublime.

Over the years we have tried many meconopsis from seed. Some wonderful, many unsatisfactory

It is because of this latter state that I have just gone from this page, to the Meconopsis group web site and renewed our subscription. The Meconopsis group was founded in Scotland has undertaken the heroic task of sorting out the confusion of varieties and strains of Meconopsis that were throughout Scotland and UK gardens.

Now we grow Meconopsis sheldonii types, which settle and become perennial for us. We have some clumps of Slieve Donard that have grown well for years and a very old plant of Rogers’s nursery, which has thrived on benign neglect.

I always tell people to feed, feed, and feed them. They are gross feeders, loving animal manures if you can get it, or that wonderful smell of spring, dehydrated chicken manure; nothing like it.

Over the bank holiday weekend, I have spent the 2 sunniest days of the year so far in the dappled shade of the woodland area of the garden. This is where the blue poppies are happiest, shade but sunshine too. They like a place where they do not get too dry, and most summers we can provide that alright. Think of them amongst Bowles golden grass, Millium effusum, or amidst a stand of variegated Solomon’s seal Polygonatum oderatum variegatum

Definitely time to get back to seed exchange and visiting other gardens to continue this love affair.

Taming the Sneaky Weed - Ground Elder

So it is now routine.
I rise around 7am and make my way to the kitchen to prepare coffee. I dress, still layers and wool, the early mornings are cool, and taking the hot coffee, go out to greet the day.
The days have been wonderful this spring. Dry, not freezing and bright, though often with a linger of mist on the Loch. The birds are of course so busy that they scarcely notice my passing. The dog is much slower getting up nowadays so they do not have to avoid his untargeted bounds and his nose poking through into bushes.

Most mornings I weed, I weed and weed and weed.
Ground elder is the target of my attention and there is something very satisfying, freeing a patch of ground from its encroaching spread. But is it is triumph of hope over experience. I know it will be back and I know I will miss some, but it still gives a glow of satisfaction as I drag another bag of weeds back towards the compost area. Yes we do compost it, but it needs to be in the centre of a heap and it needs to get Hot, so careful composting is the order of the day.
The other alterative is to leaves it to rot down in the bag. We turn all compost bags inside out so they are black side out, that means they not only look better they warm up better and so help composting start faster.

Of course you must be sure there are no holes in the bag…or it escapes. This is my secret fear, that ground elder will take over the entire woodland and strangle out all the bluebells and lady’s smock …this is the stuff of nightmares.

Hence I walk through the garden with my eyes downcast. I need to remind myself to breath and take in the fresh foliage and view, and I do, but I can’t afford to let the ground elder (or dandelions) slip.
Time for breakfast and as it is a bank holiday I will have some time to do some of that other most pleasurable part of gardening, planting.
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