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.

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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.

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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…

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…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.

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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…

 

 

 

 

 

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Garden design, Grass and lawncare, Plants, Uncategorized

Monkeying around…

I’m really quite pleased with this weekend’s main gardening project – moving my monkey puzzle tree.

Actually I’m really quite pleased to have been in the garden at all – it’s been ages.  Pre-Christmas, Christmas and post-Christmas did not leave much time to get outside and tackle winter gardening jobs, and when there was a bit of spare time the ground was so hard and frosted there wasn’t much point!

So now that we’re back to school/work and in the regular routine, I spent a few hours on my non-working days in the greenhouse and the front garden.  It was so good to get my hands dirty again.  As well as sowing a few seeds in the greenhouse and my new propagator – see below, isn’t she pretty…?

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This was an early birthday present to myself – a bargain in the Black Friday sales.  It’s currently warming up some astrantia and echinacea seeds – fingers crossed it will do the trick.

Anyway, back to the monkey puzzle.  Moving it is Step 1 of my grand plan for the front garden, which I am attempting to totally redesign.  Previously shrubby and a bit, well, boring, I have already begun removing the most dull/old/overgrown shrubs and last year managed to introduce a few perennials.  This year I will be moving a few plants around, and planting as many perennials as I can get my hands on.   More on the Grand Plan in a later post – back to Step 1.

I wanted to move the monkey puzzle as I had put it to the front corner of the garden after we moved in here.  We acquired it when my youngest daughter was just a few days old so it’s almost 8 now.  It’s done fine and is gradually getting bigger (they grow very slowly for the first 5-10 years) but the branches are growing towards one direction, a bit like arms which are stretching towards you for a hug…but this would be a very bad idea as it’s incredibly prickly.  I think this is because the trees behind are shading it and it’s been growing in the direction it gets most sunlight (west).  So I’m hoping that moving it into the middle will enable it to get a more even tan, so to speak, and might help it to rebalance its direction of growth.

I was a bit nervous about moving a tree which is about seven years old and had been in its current position for about three years, but when I came across Rachel the Gardeners post on this here I was reassured that, with a bit of care, it should survive the transplanting process.  So I dug carefully around it, lifted it with as many roots intact as possible and replaced it into the nice deep hole I dug in the centre* of the front garden.

*Please note my entirely UNscientific method of measuring the centre: pace lengthways across the garden and pace the breadth.  Then take half the number of paces each way and you’re in the middle.  Simples.  I don’t really do measuring.

Et voila – one replanted monkey puzzle tree.

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I really like it there – it seems to change the whole nature of the front garden.  I guess it’s the addition of a focal point.  So I’m hoping that I can nurture it into its new home and that it will continue to grow and thrive, and that in years to come I can give people directions to my home by telling them ‘we’re the first house as you enter the village – you can’t miss us as there’s a massive monkey puzzle tree slap bang in the middle of the front garden.’

Now for the botanical bit…

Monkey puzzle (Araucaria araucana) originates in Chile, South America and came to Britain in the 1800s.  Its common name derives from this time, when it was very rare to see one.  Apparently Sir William Molesworth, who owned a young specimen at Pencarrow garden in Cornwall was showing it to a friend who remarked “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that”.  The name has stuck – as has the novelty of seeing one in someone’s garden and my own children frequently enjoying shouting ‘MONKEY PUZZLE’ at the top of their voices when we pass one.

Trees can grow more than 12 metres tall, although it will take at least 20 years for it to reach its full height.  They usually bear either male or female cones, although it won’t produce seeds until it is at least 30-40 years old.  It’s thought they can live up to 1000 years.

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