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My Mediterranean inspired container garden

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I love container gardening because I can create gardens in the smallest of spaces and I can easily change my displays as often as I want. I first posted about my little container garden at the front of my house in May, when I had a really colourful display of spring bulbs in containers around my front door.

Inspired by the planting schemes and container gardens I saw during my holiday in Provence, I decided to try and recreate some of this at home. So, I had a change around and purchased some new plants.

The most prominent plants I saw in Provence were agapanthus, lavender, oleander, pelargonium, cactus, cypress trees, roses and bougainvillea. I’ve used these as inspiration and picked a selection of plants that would remind me of my holiday and also work in my sunny front garden.

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Inspired by the simple planter I saw in Mouans-Sartoux these classic red pelargoniums are perfect for my window boxes as they prefer full sun and don’t need a lot of water, making them very easy to maintain. The contrast of the bright red colour lifts the pastels of the plants on the ground below and they will flower into the autumn when I’ll overwinter them. To do this I prune back the flower heads, bring them into my house and leave them on a windowsill. I find this works a lot better than covering them with fleece in my greenhouse, which is what I do with some of my other plants over the winter.

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Next to my front door (left to right above) I have agapanthus, echinacea, coreopsis, verbena, phlox and my existing pot of succulents. I also chose a little box tree and clipped it into a tall skinny shape to remind me of the striking tall cypress trees that defined the Provençal landscape.

Agapanthus were everywhere in Provence, in containers, in borders and even in central reservations along the roads. Roger Brook from the no dig gardener blog posted this brilliant guide for growing and propagating agapanthus. Since my pot is small and young I’ll be wrapping it in fleece over winter and storing it in my greenhouse.

I’ve never had any success with echinacea purpurea before but I’m determined to have another go because I love how they look. This is another perennial that likes a lot of sunshine so it’s perfect for my sunny location. The snails seem to enjoy a nibble so I’m having to use organic slug killer to protect them.

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Coreopsis rosea – American Dream: this hardy perennial is like a dense matt of tiny little pink daisies with wispy green leaves that the bees and hoverflies love.

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Alongside the coreopsis this verbena rigida forms a drift of colour and really reminds me of Provence. It too loves full sun and is a half hardy perennial, so it will live wrapped up in my greenhouse over winter too.

There’s tons of phlox varieties out there and I think they’re really underrated. Perhaps more cottage garden than Provence but it still works well with the pinks & purples that remind me so much of my holiday.

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On the other side of the doorway I chose a simple pot of parsley to have handy for cooking. A pelargonium that I overwintered last year, a cuphea, my existing sempervivum (houseleek), lavender and I already had the pyracantha and the rose.

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pelargoniums  rose

The little evergreen cuphea (below) is outstanding and will continue to flower into the autumn along with the lavender and rose, which provide lovely scent. All these plants are great for wildlife and it’s been wonderful having bees and butterflies right outside my home.

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I loved mixing my new purchases in with some of my existing container plants and although I really don’t feel I recreated the stunningly chic displays I saw in Provence, my summer display has brought me a lot of pleasure and has reminded me of my holiday. Next year I want to continue the theme but I really want to add an oleander and an olive tree!

As we move further into September the lavender will remain flowering for a few more weeks, as will the pelargoniums and the cuphea but the others will fade. So I’m already starting to think about my autumn/winter planting schemes and which bulbs I’ll choose for my spring display.

Do you enjoy container gardening and have you started thinking about which plants you’ll chose for autumn and winter?

 

Published from the plot! Taking time out in the garden

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I started my blog for many reasons, one being a reminder to switch off from work and concentrate on the things I enjoy in my life.

Gardening helps me to achieve a healthy work-life balance and it hasn’t been a problem lately. In fact I’ve been outside so much that my blogging balance has taken a serious hit! I also work for a much better company now and I’m not subjected to 24/7 corporate bashing anymore and I find it far easier to leave work behind.

Talking of which, this week I do feel in need of a rest, I want a break! So I’ve taken myself off to the plot with Molly (my newish dog) to do some serious chilling out.

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Can you see Molly sniffing around under the turkish bed?

Adam’s been building a new shed (wait till you see this ‘shed’ – it’s more of a summer house/chalet!) so there’s bits and bobs of rubble all over the place waiting to be re-homed.

I’ve done some pottering and I’ve also been chatting to my fellow ‘allotmenteers’ Norman and Bill. Oh to be retired and do this every day!

allotment messI’m still waiting for my strawberries to turn red in amongst all the rubble.

I’ve also been sitting in the sunshine with my feet up, watching all the bees doing their work in my  higgledy-piggledy wildlife border.

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gooseberriesMy wildlife border started out as my fruit border but now we mix the soft fruits in with perennials and annuals, or in the case of the foxgloves – biennials.

I’ve lost count watching the bumblebees buzzing in and out of the foxgloves.

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I loved sitting and chilling but as usual the British weather has brought the clouds, so I’ve decided to catch up with my blog.

In my last garden update I said I was having trouble finding time to blog and joked about an internet connection in the greenhouse! Well, today I’ve actually made that happen.

I’ve plugged my iPhone into my laptop and turned on its wireless hotspot. I’ve  successfully uploaded my photos and typed up this blog post on-line from the new shed! Let’s see what happens when I click publish…

new shed being builtA quick glimpse of the new ‘shed’. We still need to paint it and Adam wants to do something amazing with the roof! Watch this space!

I could really get used to this lifestyle! If only the ‘shed’ was my full time home office.

Have you ever thought about working from the garden? Do you find time to chill out and enjoy your outdoor space?

A trip to the RHS Great London Plant Fair

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It’s taken me ages to get round to posting my trip to the RHS Great London Plant Fair but I’m so glad I’ve finally managed it because I’ve really enjoyed looking back through my photos and remembering just what a cool time I had at this little show. We stopped off here on our Easter trip to Great Dixter in Rye. Some of these photos are a little blurry because I took them all with my iPhone, a handy little camera but not that great on quality.

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The show was spread across the two small RHS halls and it was just the right size to cover in the mere 3 hours we were able to spare on our way to Rye. It had a lovely spring feeling to it, which made a nice change since spring hadn’t sprung outside. As well as enjoying the impressive displays I found it quite educational and it gave me some good ideas.

Something I particularly liked was the use of baskets and containers. Anyone who claims that their garden is too small or difficult to grow anything should really try container gardening. It’s so easy and can be very impressive. Just look at the pelargoniums in this photo below if you need more proof!

RHS-London-39RHS-London-21 I’m loving the hyacinths in the suitcase! I also love to see helebores in containers too. I’ve seen them growing really successfully in containers a few times now and they look great in the basket above.

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The heucheras and heathers in the two pictures above, as well as looking good in baskets and pots, are the real unsung heroes of the drab few months we’ve had. These plants really come into their own and provide intense colour in the winter months when there’s little else going on.

Luckily we’re now getting some better weather but the warm purples and reds of these plants still stand out and provide a brightness while we wait for summer to arrive. I have some heather planted at my allotment but why didn’t I fill the hanging basket outside my door like this?! Next year….

Talking of containers, check out these edibles! The spinach in the paint pot and carrier bag looked cool.

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The part where I really lost myself was amongst the amazing displays created by members of the Alpine Garden Society. I just love these little plants and when you think about the effort that goes in to creating such perfect specimens for show I know that there’s many other people who love these intricate little plants too.

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The hepatica (above) was so cute I just wanted to stare at it for hours.

Back in the other hall there was an awesome display of sempervivums planted in troughs, pots and wooden fruit boxes. They’re so easy to grow and as a result I have these ‘houseleeks’ growing in the most random of places and I love it when they shoot up their totally alien looking flowers.

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I really enjoyed this little show and yes, we came away with a couple of purchases (no surprise there). I bought a tiarella and Adam bought some ‘Flexi-Tie’. The tieralla loved its little journey down to Rye and then onto Oxford (we visited the botanic gardens there so I’ll post about that some point) and it’s now happily living in a little container in my garden.

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I sooo want one of these mini mountains in my garden!

It seems like such a long time ago now and I can’t believe it’s taken me ages to get round to this, the truth is I’ve just been enjoying the milder weather so much that I’ve been spending all my time outside in the garden :) It’s so brilliant to finally see new shoots appearing and my seedlings growing stronger. I’ll do a ‘what’s growing on update’ soon.

Did you visit the Great London Plant Fair? Do you enjoy these types of shows? Could you get lost for hours looking at the little alpines too?

A great day at Great Dixter house and gardens

Great_dixter_16It’s not every day you have an experience that has an amazingly profound effect but our little pre-Easter visit to Great Dixter has done just that. We haven’t stopped talking and thinking about it ever since.

We felt so privileged to be invited by Naomi from out of my shed to a bloggers meet at Great Dixter, one of her favourite places – and I can see why it’s a favourite. Luckily Adam could come with me, it’s such a long journey so we made a little holiday out of it. Staying in Rye for a couple of nights and stopping in Warwick on the way down and Oxford on the way back.

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Great Dixter is the former home of gardener and writer Christopher Lloyd and since his death the garden has been managed by Christopher’s friend and head gardener Fergus Garrett.

As part of our meet up Fergus gave us a brilliant talk about Great Dixter and everything they’re doing there. We also had a house tour, nursery tour, met the woodsman and deputy head gardener Siew Lee showed us round the garden. Everyone we met had a genuine passion for Great Dixter, it felt very much like their home and their garden that they share with visitors.

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To me it felt like a living breathing garden where no corner is left unloved. Heritage, preservation and innovation all coming into play.

With the house and the bones of the garden being preserved and loved in the memory of Christopher Lloyd the planting is carried out in a spontaneous and experimental way that ‘Christo’ himself would have done and would be proud of.

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I love the way you can get up close and personal with the plants.

Great_dixter_9 Great_dixter_3 Great_dixter_10 Textures and unusual planting schemes really grabbed my attention. It’s one of the most visually interesting and tactile gardens I’ve visited. Soft evergreens contrast with the spikey exotic or the barky. This is really a garden where there is interest throughout the seasons.

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Great Dixter are experimenting with planting schemes that aren’t just for the hell of it but for the wildlife and for the future of gardening itself.

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Something both Adam and I found totally inspiring was their meadow planting and they’re encouraging local land owners to join with them in this to really make a difference to our British countryside. Fergus mentioned that the reduction in flowers at nearby Romney Marsh has lead to a decline in the number of bees, so if Great Dixter can encourage the local land owners to also do their bit with meadow planting then this should help restore the bee balance.

The knowledge they have on how to manage a meadow, leaving it till the last seed head has dropped at the end of the summer before chopping, is superb. Their experiments really are carried out so they can get the best out of what they’re doing and then they pass it on. If you visit in summer you will see the meadows under the topiary, a very unique planting combination and mixing the two styles has roused some controversy but in my opinion is pure genius.

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Fergus on the right, busy at work in the long border. Just look at all the textures in this photo. 

A few weeks back I reviewed a book by a fellow blogger and mentioned that I feel gardeners are people who ‘share’ and this was very evident here. Fergus shared his passion and experience with real honest enthusiasm as did everyone else that we met.

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Great Dixter really feels like it’s all about gardening rather than a show, even though this place was an absolute show of colour, skill and uniqueness. No bed was left bare and this was something that Christopher Lloyd started and is being carried on. The stunning views, the oast house, the colours of the wood. Fergus said they could turn the medieval barn into a café to make more money but they don’t want to because they “prefer having a man with a beard in there making things out of wood.” I prefer the man with the beard (Simon) too, he was an absolute crack up and his traditional craft work with green wood and traditional tools was fantastic.

Great_dixter_19 Great_dixter_29Great_dixter_20Above is the exotic garden with its bananas wrapped for the winter. This used to be a rose garden but could easily be a conifer garden depending on what Fergus and his team decide to do.

This is an evolving garden that can change, allowing the learning process of gardening to be at the forefront of what the Great Dixter experience is.

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Great Dixter is like a little haven of unspoilt paradise. You feel like you’re a million miles away from everything here, there’s a magical feeling of being in the presence of a house and a garden that was and still is, so well loved.

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Even the house appears textured…

The day we returned home we had guests coming to stay. I popped down after only 5 minutes of them arriving and greeted them, the first thing Amy said was “Adam’s just been telling us all about your brilliant day out at Great Dixter!” Wow! They must have had a Great Dixter onslaught as soon as they walked through the door!

I’m not surprised though because I just don’t think Adam or I have been quite so inspired by a place as this one. I don’t think this will be the last time I blog about it either as it really will influence my gardening from now on.

 Great_dixter_13Naturalistic by nature.

I love the fact they leave their perennials throughout winter for all the same reasons that I do, they look interesting, add odd textures and are great for wildlife. The architectural forms of the teasel (above) left standing were like beautiful memories of the summer and winter just passed. 

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The planting was just stunning, where most gardens this time of year are looking rather bare and bleak the succession planting at Great Dixter meant that everywhere you looked something was growing, even in the most random of places. This is something I’ve wanted to achieve for ages, whenever I see a garden that is awash with colour and interest it’s a step closer to me being able to do that myself and I certainly got some ideas here.

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Just look at what they create here with clever under-planting techniques and planting schemes for all seasons. If the colours and textures are like this at the start of spring this place must be bursting out of its seams with colour in the height of summer.

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I also bought a couple of plants from the amazing nursery. I chose an arum italicum, (apparently slug resistant) perennial that looks a bit like a hosta, which Siew Lee pointed out to us. It sounds great for shady areas providing glossy green colour in winter and berries in the summer. Adam chose a helianthemum also known as a rock rose because it flowers for such a long time, sustaining colour in the way Fergus talked about.

I brought so much more back with me in terms of ideas though and a good feeling that what I’m doing with my garden is right. Not just what I’m doing though, what anyone is doing. The act of gardening no matter what your style, is right. Fergus’ talk instilled within us that you should follow your heart with gardening and work with nature. In the nicest possible way I couldn’t wait to leave and get back into my own garden and get planting.

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Talking of good gardeners who share it was a pleasure to meet all the bloggers and thanks to Naomi for sharing one of her favourite places.

Blogger list:

 Great_dixter_65Great_dixter_64 Great_dixter_66Thanks for a great day Great Dixter!

I can completely relate to the gardening at Great Dixter. My own garden isn’t based on design or trying to be something in particular. I simply love it being crammed full of anything I like and anything I can get hold of basically. I’ve even been known to salvage ‘past their best’ plants because I couldn’t bear to see them being discarded and they added colour and interest to a bed that I’d just ripped a load of marigolds out of. I love the fact Siew Lee embraced the ‘common plant’ too. All plants are natural and equally beautiful in my book, there’s no place for ‘snobbism’ in my garden or at Great Dixter.

When Fergus ended his talk he simply said, “we love gardening…we just absolutely live and breathe it here” and you can’t half tell.

Have you ever fallen in love with a garden that isn’t your own? Have you ever been inspired to try new things after visiting a garden? Have you ever been to Great Dixter?

Seed list 2013 – my year of experimental growing

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In my last blog post I wrote about the seedlings that I’ve got growing/germinating/thinking about (hopefully) germinating in January. I’ve also been right through my seed collection and grouped everything into zip lock bags, an idea I saw someone post on twitter – last year I had a disaster with an automatic watering system so waterproofing is required! Instead of ordering the seeds by type, I’ve ordered them by month in the hope that I’ll be a bit more organised and I won’t forget to sow things, like the cucumbers I forgot last year.

I’ve totally discovered that I have far too many though! Some seeds simply won’t get sown, so I’ll prioritise new unopened packets and the seeds that I’ve gathered myself over any open ones that I’ve carried over, as they could be a bit dodgy.

Here’s the list!

Broad beans – Karmazyn and Aquadulce Claudia
Leeks – Mammoth Blanch and Musselburgh
Sweet Peas – various varieties
Tomatoes – Every year I grow a variety that my mum also grows, Sugar Plum. They’re the best! I saved the seeds from my crop. The sugar plums are late developers so I’ll be experimenting with some other varieties and sowing them in Jan & Feb then the sugar plum in March.
Lobelia – String of Pearls
Sprouts – Evesham Special
Sweet Pepper – Californian Wonder & Ingrid
Chilli – Cayenne (I saved from my crop last year), Anaheim and Jalapeno
Celery- Golden Self Blanching
Cabbage- January King (I think these are the big beastie ones!)
Cornflowers – mixed
Peas – Purple Podded & Douce Provence
Chives
Wildflowers – mixed packets that were given to me for the Bees
Beetroot – Boltardy
Radish – French Breakfast 3
Sunflowers – Velvet Queen
Asters – Mixed variety that I bought in Amsterdam
Carrots – Nantes Early, Resistafly F1, Amsterdam 2, Cortina & Purple Haze
Nasturtiums – Mixed Whirlybird
Dwarf French Beans – Amethyst
Runner beans – ‘Selby Beans‘ saved over from my crop
Stocks – Mixed
Cucumber – femspot F1 & Crystal Lemon (the round ones!)
Courgette- Atena Polka
Cauliflower – Purple Cape
Squash – Summer Satellite, Winter Uchiki Kuri & Cornell’s
Swiss Chard – Rainbow Mix
Black & White Kidney Beans
Turnips – Golden Balls! Oddly, while I was sorting, Mark’s Veg Plot posted this about his golden balls.
Spring Onions – Summer and White Lisbon Winter Hardy
Mustard – for green manure
Various Herbs and Salads – you name it, I grow them in pots everywhere, mixed in with my flowers.

Things I’m missing and need to buy:
Broccoli – Organic Green Sprouting
Pumpkins
Curly Kale!!!

I’ve been banging on about these and would you believe it, I don’t have any yet!

The other things I grow are Rocket potatoes and Turbo & Red onions from sets. I usually get the onions from Wilkinsons and they’ve never let me down. My mum traditionally buys me the Rockets from their local market and starts chitting them for me. I think this tradition is rather cute so I’ll carry on this year. I need to confirm where she got last year’s from though because they were poor. However, that could have been due to the weather.

I also grow fruit but I don’t think I’ll be adding to what I already have. You can guarantee that every time I visit a garden centre I will come out with something though and I’ll be given lots of plants and vegetables. Adam will no doubt want to sow a load of flowers too. Good job I love gardening!

I’m on holiday in Andorra next week and if I get any spare time I’ll be thinking about my crop rotation and I’ll share some plans at a later date. Have I missed anything from my list?! What have you got planned for 2013? Do you have any tips you can share?

Reasons to love Yorkshire – RHS Harlow Carr

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It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit RHS Harlow Carr – it’s always inspiring.

We took Adam’s parents for a stroll around on Saturday, it was their first visit and despite it being December 1st the gardens still looked amazing.

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It’s hard to choose a favourite part of Harlow Carr but the areas that inspire me the most are the ultra neat and well thought out vegetable plots, with their recycled plastic raised beds, willow edging and perfectly planted rows. How do they do that?

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The alpine greenhouse is fascinating with an array of delicate plants in sunken pots inside and interesting troughs dotted around the outside. I always spend hours in the alpine zone and it sparked an idea to do an alpine advent on Instagram where I’ll be posting a different alpine each day.

A nice surprise was finding a new greenhouse. Check out the cool chilli and tiny apple decorations inside! The ideas coming out of this place are just endless.

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I highly recommend a visit to Harlow Carr. I just think these guys really know what they’re doing and I come away with new ideas and good intentions of planting my vegetables in perfect rows each time…but for some reason I just can’t quite get the look?!

Have you been to Harlow Carr or any of the other RHS gardens?

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Talk about matching greenhouse, cold frame, container and water butt envy!

(CLOSED) Giveaway – create your 2013 garden with Seedparade

I’m delighted to bring you a giveaway from the wonderful online seed retailer – Seedparade.

With this giveaway you get to choose £30 of seeds, which will easily create you an entire edible garden for next year or provide you with a mass of flowers for any type of garden.

I’ve been really happy with all the seeds I’ve purchased from Seedparade who choose the finest quality seeds from around the world. I love their organic selection and their wildflowers for various soil types, so I hope that the lucky winner will be pleased. They also have a blog with lots of good ideas.

How to enter
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning £30 of seeds of your choice, is to follow my blog.

  • If you are logged in to WordPress click the black ‘Follow by email’ button on the right hand side of this page (just above the Facebook like widget).
  • If you aren’t logged into WordPress simply enter your email address into the text box above the same black button then click ‘Follow by email’
  • If you already follow me and wish to enter, simply email me at digbean@yahoo.co.uk

T&C’s
Please note, Seedaprade regret that they can not ship outside of the EU, so I apologise to my global readers but this giveaway is just for UK and EU.

Choosing a winner
I’m a professional computer nerd so you can be assured that at the end of the competition I will be able select a winner at random. You are also able to unsubscribe from my emails at any time, but you must be subscribed on the closing date to be in with a chance.

The giveaway is NOW CLOSED. Thanks to everyone who entered. open until December 8th (11.59pm).

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