Nature & Wildlife, Other Gardens, Plants, Uncategorized

Curly wurly

I’m noticing a certain kind of shape around me at the moment – for the past few days I’ve been spotting curls and twists, exposed I suppose by the bare branches of winter.


One that I notice daily is the contorted hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’which is right outside our back door.  This large shrub is also known as a twisted or corkscrew hazel and by the nickname of ‘Harry Lauder’s walking stick’, after a Scottish entertainer who apparently used to carry a walking stick made from a branch of the shrub.

Only a couple of days ago I was listening to a podcast of Gardener’s Question Time and this plant came up – one of the panellists revealed that the twisted hazel was first discovered by a drunken vicar, who fell into a hedge, looked up and saw the contorted stems.  So he took a cutting, grew the plant and that’s how it’s ended up in many of our gardens (according to Chris Beardshaw!).

It’s a fascinating shrub to look at, but especially in winter, when you can see the exposed shapes of the branches, and then in spring when little yellow catkins appear.  Even its leaves are quite bumpy and textured so it’s well worth having one in the garden for year-round interest.  You can even bring it indoors – sort of.  I’ve pruned a few branches from mine as each year it throws up a few vertically, which is out of keeping with its general weeping shape; so I’ve put the pruned shoots into glass vases so I can admire the twists and turns inside as well as out.

And now it appears I’m being followed by twisted branches… on a visit to the hospital last week to donate blood I noticed a twisted hazel in one of the flower beds in the grounds.


It looks quite good with the background of the brighter green conifer.

Then on a walk around the village a few days later, I looked up and noticed these striking trees in someone’s garden:

IMG_0730.jpgI’m not certain if these are hazel or not – I expect this is the ‘tree’ version of my medium-sized shrub.   I couldn’t get close enough to check but they make a fantastic silhouette against the winter sky.

Finally, one of my favourite little plants in my garden, this little grass…


…which is Carex comans ‘Frosted Curls’ and provides a wee corner of interest in its spot in the front garden all year round.  At this time of year its little curls bounce around in the wind and towards the end of last summer it provided a brilliant backdrop for the chocolate cosmos I planted next to it.


So there you have it, everything’s a bit twirly at the moment and I like it.  Nature really doesn’t do straight lines and what’s more interesting for your winter garden than a twisty, turny, curly, wurly plant to make you stop and look for a while…






Chickens, flowers, Garden design, Grass and lawncare, Plants, Pots and containers, Raised Beds

Lobelia learning curve

I sowed lobelia last year, directly into the raised bed I used to grow cut flowers* and they did quite well, but flowered fairly late in the season and are not really great for cutting, they’re better for baskets or pots.  So this year I sowed early under cover, with the aim of using the plants for two large wire hanging baskets which we inherited with the house.  I have a vision of these lovely trailing purple flowers decorating the front of our house and making visitors ‘ooh’ appreciatively when they visit.


Lobelia erinus

However.  Lobelia seeds and indeed their seedlings are ickle tiny wee things and quite tricky to prick out, as I have discovered!  It’s not impossible, and I did manage to transfer most of the delicate little plants from the seed tray in clumps into a slightly bigger modular tray.  I’m hoping from here they will grow big enough to then plant into baskets so that they can look beautiful at the front of the house, visitors will ‘ooh’, etc etc… However.  Having dragged the wire baskets from the back of the shed to have a good look at them, they are BIG.  60cm each in fact, and I’m pretty sure my little crop of lobelias will only fill one of these at best.

I will definitely keep growing them anyway, they’ll do for a smaller basket or pot – but perhaps in the meantime I might have to invest in some pre-grown bedding plants for the hanging baskets, especially if I want them on display any time soon!

In other garden news, I did the first grass cut of the season – yay!  I observed two things:

1) the chickens didn’t freak out as much as I thought they might at the sound of the lawnmower. This is good, as I really didn’t want to have to cut the grass fortnightly during the summer under cover of darkness after they’d gone to bed to avoid scaring them!

2) The grass is in a pretty crappy state.  What with scarifying, plus a bit of extra treading around fixing up a chicken run, plus a lot of rain recently, it’s not exactly looking green and lush and is still very mossy.  This will be a long-running battle I think, to restore it to a healthy state.


My grass does NOT look like this <sob>

*This sounds impressive, but didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, apart from the cornflowers and a few snapdragons.  I am giving it another bash this year and have sowed earlier so hopefully will get better results!

flowers, Garden design, Plants, Uncategorized


Scarifying has been the main aim of today.  Recently I was enjoying a cup of coffee in the garden and surveying the back lawn, when I realised that it was looking decidedly mossy – in fact it was starting to take over.  The blades of grass were poking up sporadically between large patches of spongy moss, and it was starting to look like 70/30 in favour of the moss – maybe more in places!

So a plan of action was formed.  The Head Gardener (aka My Dad) appeared today with an electric scarifier and we set to work trying to hoik up a large amount of moss and thatch and non-grass from the grass.  He did the scarifying, I did the raking and scooping.  We filled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow until his trailer was full of a giant pile of moss, ready for tipping at the local recycling centre.   It seemed like a big job but actually took less than an hour – and was SO satisfying.  Removing all the mossy stuff has left the grass looking a bit scruffy and muddy in places but I’m assured by the aforementioned Head Gardener that it should come back looking much better, although we may need to repeat the procedure annually, if not twice a year.


One of many, many wheelbarrows full of moss

He’s very good at reminding me that gardeners must play the long game.  We can’t always get results straight away – in fact, we hardly ever do!  It takes time for seeds to germinate, for buds to form and flowers to bloom.  If we prune a shrub, it will take time for it to re-grow into a more pleasing shape; some trees will take years and years to grow – we have a Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana) in the front garden which will take so long to reach a significant height that we will probably be long gone by the time it does so!  And he likes to remind me, Instant-Gratification Girl, that I must be patient when it comes to my garden.  I hope to enjoy it for many years, so a quick transformation is not necessary and virtually impossible, so I must take my time, plan carefully and be persistent with things like the grass and the Secret Garden/Allotment.  Grass must be looked after, soil must be enriched and worked – the results will show themselves in time, and will be worth the effort.

In Bargain Shopping News, I was at Lidl today and picked up some more cut-price plants: two geraniums (99p each), four primroses (£1.89 each, 12 box (£1.99 for six) and a jasmine (£4.69).


The primroses are gorgeous – I chose two cream/white plants and two in pinky-purple shades.  I will probably put these in pots but to be honest I’ve fallen so suddenly and completely for these sturdy little flowers with their vivid colours that it will be difficult to resist going back for more for the flower beds…