Thursday, May 31, 2007

Garden Design; Colour , Contrast and Shape

When we bought our house most of the garden was enclosed by humongous evergreen hedges and there were lawns everywhere so that green was the predominant colour. When I designed the right south-border in front of a rather high evergreen hedge, I needed something that would tone down all that green. I opted for a purple leafed smoke tree on the right and a purple leafed Japanese Maple on the left. And right in the middle of this long and narrow border (only 1.2 meters wide) I planted a Mespilus germanica with reddish-purple leaves, cut into a sphere shape. I choose purple because it's one of my favorite colours, it contrasts nicely with all that deep green of the conifer hedge and it compliments the ochre yellow gravel path.

I also planted 2 standard roses, Magenta, to add instant height and the magenta colour goes so well with the purple leaves. The colour scheme for the flowers in this border ranges from white to light pink to deep pink to purple during the summer months and autumn. In spring there's yellow and blue as well.

Here's a close up of one of the Magenta roses, as she is right now. Lovely isn't she, and her scent is to die for! I also like the shape of the flowers, so very luscious.

Two obelisks were added for some more instant height and to support 2 non-climbing clematis. The clematis have also purple leaves and stems with tiny white flowers. Along the path with ochre yellow gravel, I planted a few purple leafed Ajuga reptans and some Sedum spectabile, also with purplish leaves.
Ajuga reptans
Sedum spectabile
Purple is the recurring theme in this border and it's found in minute details such as this
the leaves of Geranium phaeum Samobor
the edges of the leaves of this Phlox
and here, very subtle indeed, the flower stems of the Saxifraga X geum pick up the purple theme again. I love this combination of Japanese Maple underplanted with Saxifrage as it works so well in every aspect. There's contrast in colour, leaf shape, size and the leaves of the Maple are mat in finish whereas the Saxifrage leaves are very glossy.

The Japanese Maple also contrasts well with the hedge that is rather a solid block of unmovable green, whereas the Maple is very light and airy and dances in the breeze.

Another purple leafed plant I have used in this border is Heuchera, here in combination with the deep pink Centranthus ruber. Note the contrast in leaves of both plants, both in colour and shape.

And how is this for an exercise in contrast? Fun, isn't it? I love playing around with colours and shapes and am not afraid to try something out. If it is not a success it is not the end of the world, is it? There's always next year! One of the perks of gardening is that you get to try again, and again and again so there's no need to be afraid but instead go boldly where no one has gone before!

Leaves are very important as they are there for a much longer period of time than most flowers. Going for contrast in leaf shape and colour makes the border also interesting when there are no flowers around. Still, my aim is to have my borders in flower for as long as possible, after all they are the jewels in the crown!

The great thing is not to be timid in your gardening, whether it's colours, shapes, juxtapositions or the contents themselves. Splash around and enjoy yourself.
Christopher Lloyd

Monday, May 28, 2007

This and That

May is always a busy time of the year for a gardener in the Netherlands. After the ice saints have been (Gangulvus of Marmertus on 11 May, Pancratius on 12 May, Servatius on 13 May and Bonifatius on 14 May) it's usually safe to put out the tender perennials as the risk of night frosts is very low. So I planted up lots of containers and I moved a few big pots too, but I did not carry them as they are far too heavy. So I transported them across my garden in a different way. It's very easy this way and you won't do your back in.

It was high time that I jazzed up my plant standard with lots of new plants in pots as it was looking very sorry for itself. Here is how it looked before
and this is after. Much better!

As I was potting up the plants I heard a noise. It was Mr Blackbird again, making a bit of a spectacle of himself in the birdbath.
Splish, splash he was taking a bath, which was rather risky because there were kitties about, close by in the potager.
Fortunately for Mr. Blackbird both Vita and Dolly were far too busy enjoying the catnip to pay him any heed.

After planting up several containers I felt the need to do something else. Well if you're a real gardener then you are never lost for jobs, are you? So I got out my DIY obelisk kit and went ahead and built myself a nice obelisk.

To prove that I really have been paying attention while watching those DIY programmes on the telly; here's one that I prepared earlier. It comes complete with clematis Hagley Hybrid.

After all that hard work it was time for a cup of tea and a newspaper. While I was reading the local rag I noticed this interesting article on page 3.
Apparently some Dutch garden blogger won a Mouse & Trowel Award for Best International Garden Blog of 2007. Hmmmm, I wonder who that is? ;-) The things you read in the newspaper. Shocking!

To recover from this shock to my delicate system, I went into my potager to check on things. My three sisters bed is doing great. And before anyone asks: a 3 sisters bed is a bed planted up with squash, beans and corn. These are excellent companion plants. The beans provide the nitrogen for the corn and squash. The corn provides the beans with climbing poles and the squash keep the weeds down and retain the moisture in the soil with their big leaves.

In the Victorian greenhouse the tomatoes were doing great and were growing like mad. I grow them up spirals that are very handy for this sort of thing. You just twirl the tomatoes along the curves in the spiral.
Here's a closer look of how that works. I twirl my tomatoes about once a week and once they have reached the top of the spiral it's off with their heads!
As I came out of the greenhouse I noticed that a very good friend had come for a bit of a cuddle and some dindins; Macavity was here!!! And here he is, sitting on the compost bins enjoying his dinner. See, no mousie Wolfgang and no birdie either Layanee!
Here's some irrefutable evidence that men can multitask too; Macavity is eating and schmoozing at the same time.
After dinner it was time for a bit of a wash.
Who is an impeccably behaved kitty then? Macavity, who else? Macavity, Macavity, there's no cat like Macavity.
He showed up one day for dinner quite unexpectedly. Surprise had brought him along when she was still an outdoor cat. A very frightened and shy kittycat he was then and would not let me come near him at all.
A free spirit is Macavity, used to living it rough with no one to look after him. But lots of time and patience, not forgetting loads of TLC have turned Macavity into a new man err cat. And here he is in all his glory, basking in the sun in his basket on the front door porch.
Macavity, a stray cat that has found out that he's a place of his own now to chill and relax and were he's welcome. Isn't he just the best?

Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.
T.S. Eliot, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Finishing Touch

A few weeks ago we turned our garden shed into a garden cottage. It went from this

to this. Much better, I'm sure you'll agree.

But we were not done yet, because what I haven't shown you is that the roof needed some work as well.
On this picture above you see part of the garden cottage's roof with the first plank removed. The roof is actually made of floorboards with tongue and groove. On both sides of the roof the first floorboard was rotted through and through. When the under-gardener removed them, this happened.
The wood literally went to pieces. After measuring the thickness, width and length of the floorboards that needed replacing, we went and bought 2 lengths of floorboard with tongue and groove. Both floorboards were cut to size and slotted into place and nailed down as you can see here.
But that was not all. A few years ago the trim of the roof was also removed because that was rotten as well. So that needed replacing too. Two more planks were bought for this job, this time without tongue and groove.
And while the under-gardener was taking a break, a very curious person came along to see what was happening.

Mr Blackbird, checking if everything is going according to plan.
To finish off the job nicely, the roof was edged with 2 narrow planks on top to keep the rain from seeping in. And below you see the almost finished result.

Almost, but not quite as the new wood needed a lick of paint too of course. No guesses as to who got her paintbrush out. Again!

BTW now that it's a garden cottage instead of a shed, perhaps we should give it a name? Any suggestions fellow garden bloggers?
And here it is, the finished result. Surprise is checking it out to see if she will give it her stamp of approval. So, at last it's done. Well, not really because lookee, lookee here, more of that horrible brown paint!

Yes, my next project is painting the conservatory and as it's big, it will take quite some time before I'll be putting the finishing touches on this one.
It will be painted white with ochre yellow accents to compliment both the garden cottage and the ochre yellow gravel path that runs along the conservatory. If you look carefully (click to enlarge), you'll see that I've already started painting the conservatory. All the wood has to be sanded first, then cleaned and finally painted. The white paint will take 3 coats and the yellow two, so it's quite a job but when it's finished it will look a treat!

Oh hello, here's that kittycat again. Cute, isn't it? Who's that, I hear you say? Not to worry, all will be revealed ......... soon.

It's impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do.
Jerome K. Jerome, On Being Idle

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I'm Walking On Sunshine!

Internet is an interactive medium, or so I'm told, so let's get cracking with the interactive bit. Work with me here people!

Crank up the volume, click on play to start the video and merrily sing along, in tune please, thank you!

Are you ready? Start moving to the beat gardenbloggers! That's it! Catchy tune isn't it? Poor Wolfgang from Wildwuchs unter Aufsicht won't be able to get this one out of his head for the next 2 weeks or so.


Ohhhhhhhh yeahhhhh!

I used to think maybe you loved me, now baby I'm sure

And I just can't wait till the day when you knock on my door

Now every time I go for the mailbox, gotta hold myself down
Cos I just wait till you write me, you're coming around.

Go for the mailbox, write? When was this written, in 22 BC?

I'm walking on sunshine, woooah

I'm walking on sunshine, woooah

See that Kylee of Our Little Acre moving and a-grooving in her stylish garden shoes!

I'm walking on sunshine, woooah
and don't it feel good!

Hey alright now
and don't it feel good!!
Hey yeah!

Don't it feel good? Highbrow it isn't! Moving on!

I used to think maybe you loved me, now I know that it's true

And I don't want to spend all my life, just in waiting for you

Now I don't want you back for the weekend
Not back for a day, no no no
I said baby I just want you back and I want you to stay
Woooah yeah
Are we bopping bloggers?

I'm walking on sunshine, woooah
I'm walking on sunshine, woooah
I'm walking on sunshine, woooah
Grooving to the beat? Best clog forward, Carol of May Dreams Gardens!

Hey alright now
and don't it feel good
hey yeah, of yeah,
and don't it feel good!
That's right snap those fingers and Green Thumbs!
Shake it, Libby, shake it!

Walking on sunshine
Walking on sunshine
Gotta garden, you know you gotta .... dance!

I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the love that's really real
I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the love that's really real

I feel the love? Excuse I, but shouldn't that be bliss?
I feel the bliss, I feel the bliss, I feel the bliss that's really real!
There, much better, less soppy.

I'm on sunshine baby oh
I'm on sunshine baby oh

We are dancing ladies and gentlemen!
That's right Ladyluz, strut your stuff!

I'm walking on sunshine woooah

I'm walking on sunshine woooah
I'm walking on sunshine woooah

Stuart, that's the idea, shake that booty!

and don't it feel good
I'll say again now
And don't it feel good!!!

There, this shot in the arm was prescribed for you by Dr Feelgood, better known as Yolanda Elizabet of Bliss. No need to thank me, your bill is in the mail!

A bit of Bliss a day
Keeps the doctor away!
Old Chinese Proverb (not really)