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October, the neither month!

img 1071 October, the neither month!
Rhus in full autumn glory
I feel sorry for October, it’s an odd month I find, its neither summer or autumn, it’s main purpose is to be the change month. That doesn’t mean it’s dull month, indeed it’s far from it, giving us delights of both summer with plants like Salvias and Asters flowering at their best and still at the same time, early autumn colour starts to appear, things like Rosa rugosa with their beautiful hips, Euonymus with its jewel like multicoloured seeds and seed cases to the early foliage performers turning, liquidambers slowly going from green to a deep red, Euonymus alatus turning its burning red. There is indeed no other month like it! By the time November appears, Jack Frost is about finishing off the last remaining Salvias and Asters, some of the scented flowering shrubs start appearing, by the end of the month, all but the last stubborn oak and beech tree would of dropped their leaves and we will be left with the clear up and the fun of kicking the leaves, smelling the last of the sugars in the crisp cold morning.

img 0972 October, the neither month!
Salvias will keep flowering until the first frosts
 October, the neither month!
img 08451 October, the neither month!
As will beautiful asters

img 0735 October, the neither month!
Rosa glauca has great hips!
October was a busy month for me once more, carried on my current project in Botley, Hampshire. The new foundations of the garden are almost in place, the new fence line is, the steps and pathway from the main part of the house to the orangery area is now done and we are hoping to start on the river fence and decking this week, should be fun, using cleft sweet chestnut and chestnut palling. Have also started sorting out the beds on another site, we have 3 large beds to redo with one being reduced in size a little and the plants being spread into the other two. All this while carrying on my normal regular garden works. Been around a bit too, with 6 talks at different gardening and plant groups from Buckinghamshire to Dorset. I love traveling the country and meeting many other gardeners who all share a love of plants with me. Only managed one garden visit around Harold Hillier Gardens towards the end of the month, ended up being a little wet but still fun and enjoyable walking around, looking at the wonders from the world. It’s also the month I started my Master of Horticulture through the RHS, a day spent at Wisley, trying to get my head around it and straight into the first assessment and somehow I managed to get it done and a day earlier, just waiting for the marking now, quite nervous about the whole thing, never done anything like it but it’s given me a drive to learn even more about this wonderful trade we call horticulture. Next ones now started, 100 words is a start, isn’t?

img 0922 October, the neither month!
Piles of leaves to pick up!
img 0253 1 October, the neither month!
Leaving some herbaceous Plants like this Echinops is a great way of attracting birds into your garden as well as looking good in the winters frost

Next month will be spent clearing up the leaves and start cutting back the herbaceous Plants, well not all of them, I like to leave the leaves on the beds for as long as I can, I feel the leaves are nature’s own food, the plants drop them off near by to allow the goodness that they hold back into the soil and re fertilise the soil. All the micro organisms in the soil will help to break down the leaves and release the goodness back into the soil and really help to keep it healthy. I also like to leave the sturdier stems on the herbaceous Plants to give a bit of interest during the winter, I love the effect the frost, sow and even a heavy dew has on them, turning them into something else, with all the fine detail being shown up with the help of the weather. The compost heaps will also be growing quite well during this time of year and if you have the space, a bonfires will soon be lit, I do love a good bonfire, I think it’s the cave man in me, just something about the flames, the heat and the smoke that I think takes me back to childhood days. One thing I try and do is stack up the material to burn to one side of the fire area and then move it onto the fire, this is partly to do with having a more controlled blaze but also so any animal like a hedgehog, who fancies my big piles to hibernate into, won’t be burned alive. I forget how many times I have started to move stuff and there’s a rustling sound soon after as a hedgehog disappears the other way. Bulb planting is another job that’s underway this month, I don’t have too many to plant but there’s enough to do, my ones at home are nearly done but I still have a few at clients houses to do. It’s something to look forward to next spring, when the fruits of you labour start to appear and delight you with their colours

Well that’s it from my monthly review, I hope you enjoyed it and see you around!

Until then

Thomas

img 1061 October, the neither month!
And bulbs to plant!
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Autumn is coming, autumn is coming!

img 0851 Autumn is coming, autumn is coming!

img 0851 Autumn is coming, autumn is coming!
Euonymus alatus in full autumn glory

Autumn is certainly coming! As I am writing my September review, I am looking out onto a scene of autumn staring back to me. The group of flowering cherries have now dropped their multicoloured leaves to the ground, almost like a towel on the floor as you disappear into the shower, their leaves spread out like a multicoloured mat, mixing with the last flowering of the white daisies in the the green green grass. Soon the winter winds will spread this carpet far and wide over the next few weeks, with the cherry leaves soon to be mixed with the different species as they slowly change colour and add a last gap of colour before all we see is the naked branches during the winter months.

img 0809 Autumn is coming, autumn is coming!
No matter what the weather brings , I love this time of year. It’s the change time within the garden year and from maintaining the garden, keeping it all looking so good for as long as we can, I now am slowly starting to change approach to one of planning for next year, from the simple thing of adding plant material that has given us months of delight,  to the compost, producing a great material to feed the garden to changing borders, adding new plants and bulbs into the garden, ordering up the new bare root plants, all exciting stuff!

img 1788 Autumn is coming, autumn is coming!
Bed ready for bare root plants from last year, can’t wait to start these projects again

One thing I try to do as we are preparing the garden for winter is to try and keep the skeletons of plants flower stems within the borders to add a bit of structure into the borders, plants like the seed heads of cardoons, agapanthus, sea hollies, alliums and so many more, really almost anything that produces a hard woody seed stems. These can be transformed by Jack Frosts work during the night, with the frost adding a layer of white icing, changing the look of them, enhancing the stems. Also the seed loving birds like Goldfinches can be attracted into your gardens to enjoy the bounty you have left behind.

img 1422 Autumn is coming, autumn is coming!
Frost changes the way everything looks

For me the last month has been a busy one, lots of working going on, finishing off the hedgecutting, pruning of once flowering ramblers, weeding and started a garden renovation of my own design, which let’s be honest, it’s always great seeing your plan take shape on the ground, the new decking had to go down first and next is the step area going from the back door to the French door windows. It’s great to slowly get back into the throws of it all now, with my Achilles starting to get better, still avoiding doing a few things on it like mowing but overall it’s now slowly getting stronger.

img 0749 Autumn is coming, autumn is coming!
New decking down

But overall I was pretty busy in September, lots of talks given all around southern England from Dorset to East Sussex, met some wonderful gardening and Horticultural groups, with some many members who come along and support the group and listen to me mumbling on about roses and plants in general, I think they enjoying, I always get asked back at sometime so I think they do! But I certainly enjoy talking to everyone, answering the questions that may be posed the best I can, the diet could be better at times, with my now rather sad knack of knowing most of the fast food places from Bath to Brighton. Lot of visits also fitted it, with Glee, the Landscape show and a GMG trip to Lullingstone Castle and Great Comp all fitted in, done blogs on most of them (Great Comp coming soon) so won’t bore you any more on them.

img 0712 Autumn is coming, autumn is coming!
The joys of a life on tour!

This month coming up is looking quieter overall, not so many talks planned, not many visits either but a bit of work to get done on the positive side. The main thing is me starting on the RHS Master of Horticulture course, it’s a 3 year course mainly based online and is the RHS top level qualification. I am both very nervous and worried about starting it, been years since I have done any kind of formal education but I am also so looking forward to having my brain stretched and more knowledge to gain from areas I don’t know as much about, roll on this coming weekend!

Some of the jobs I shall be doing over the next month including cutting some herbaceous plants back, finish off pruning summer fruiting raspberries, hoping we get a dry day so I can finally cut my wildflower areas, put down some wildflower Turf and start my bulb planting.

Got lots planned blog wise too, don’t forget if you want me to do something on a certain topic please feel free to ask! Certainly getting a review or two in as well as covering the normal stuff like plant of the week and 6 on Saturday

Well I hope the leaves don’t fall to quickly for you all and I hope to catch up with you all next month

Until then, may your trowels be dirty from bulb planting

Thomas

img 0253 Autumn is coming, autumn is coming!
Echinops covered by Jack Frosts magic
img 0220 Autumn is coming, autumn is coming!
The leaves the leaves just keep on coming

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August, where did the summer go? 

img 0459 August, where did the summer go? 

img 0277 August, where did the summer go? 
Not a bad view from the caravan while washing up!

Doesn’t seem a month since I last did my end of month review and so much has happen during this time. Spent a lovely week on holiday down in one of my favourite parts of the county, Dorset. With its rolling green hills, blue sky coupled with Dorset Apple cake, mmm apple cake and clotted cream, stuff dreams are made of! It also have beautiful cliffs full of fossils there. Finding fossils is a great part time love of mine, would love to spend so much more time trying to find these treasures from millions of years ago, but I sadly can’t. It does however mean anytime I spend doing it, i just make the best of it. I was so pleased that my middle girl found her first one and she loved it and soon followed it up with a second.

img 1157 August, where did the summer go? 
 The wonderful thing is, I use the fossils I have found into my alpine pots, it makes the pots feel even more personal and remind me of times away in the summer, that’s the delight of gardens and plants isn’t, you can special plants or features that can take you away to special place and memory every time.

img 3403 August, where did the summer go? 
August this year seemed to follow the pattern of a few years ago, once the final bell of the school term rang, the weather also followed suit, the bright sunny warm days that we enjoyed so much before the end of tine school year, finished at the same time and turned into the dull mix of cloud, rain, thunderstorms and the odd sunny days for the rest of August. After the dryness and heat of July, it was a little bit of a welcomed break, (mainly from watering!) and seeing the very dry grass slowly coming back to life once more.

img 0332 August, where did the summer go? 
It’s gone!

Biggest highlight of the month, was to get rid of my large boot! And to start to get around a lot more, even more exciting to be able to drive once more! So nice to have that freedom back, to be able to get to where I want to go without relying on lifts and to be driven there. As soon as the boot came off, it was back to work, not proper, but back to doing things like catching up with pruning the rambling roses, trimming up the hedges and pruning the shrubs that haven’t been done in my absence. So lovely to get back to the gardens and gardening once more, seeing how they have grown and developed the during my time away. Even nicer to finish off the planting on a few sites!

img 0496 August, where did the summer go? 
Planting done!
img 0286 August, where did the summer go? 
Paths finished with slate in the rose garden I designed
img 0445 August, where did the summer go? 
And beech dividing hedges trimmed!

Didn’t manage to walk around as many gardens as I would of liked too, SirHarold Hillier gardens and the excellent gardens at Chawton House, a beautiful estate near Alton, to attend a plant fair there, was pretty well behaved for me and didn’t buy too many plants….. 

img 0420 August, where did the summer go? 
What a great venue for a plant Fair, Chawton House
img 0421 August, where did the summer go? 
Chawton House’s Garden manger, Andrew Bentley, leading a tour on the day

 Also managed to attend the Shoot Maintenance Matters meeting at Capel Manor. Spend a little bit of time walking around the wonderful parks there and enjoying the morning before making a video for Shoot and attending the excellent meeting! Already expressed my views in another blog so won’t bore you with them again but it was great to spend time with like minded people, who are looking to get the best from their designs. Great to know so knowledgeable gardeners are highly sort after!

img 0459 August, where did the summer go? 
Looking forward to next month and it’s going to be a busy one, trips planned both to GLEE in Birmingham, following week, to the landscape show and hoping to add a trip with GMA to Kent as well, fingers cross I can make it! The talks are also making a come back in September, with me in attendance from East Sussex to Dorset! Work will hopefully busy with a new project starting in the middle of the month, still a bit of hedge cutting to finish off, a couple of wild flower meadows to trim, spring bulbs to order, bare root rose orders to place to make sure I can get the ones I want. Looking forward to getting truly stuck in this month!

Until next month, happy gardening

Thomas

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Flaming June! 

img 1183 Flaming June! 

img 1176 Flaming June! 
Ahh June what a hot month that was, temptures up to the mid 30’s for 5 days or more, first time since 1976, the weather forecaster told us, I can’t quite remember much of 1976 myself, (I was 3 at the time) but bits I can remember, are the bits when my mum, told me to come in from the sun, I do remember the cedar greenhouse my dad had in the back garden, so full of wonderfully scent pelegoniums, that with the hot weather,coupled with the sweet spicy smell off the western red cedar frame, filled the greenhouse full of exotic scents, that have stayed with me for over 40 years now.

Sadly for me, the injury that laid waste to all my enjoyment, both in work, visiting gardens, seeing new plants and group visits,  in May, has also laid waste to my best laid plans in June. The frustration of not being able to drive and work was made worse by looking outside, seeing the sunshining, the weeds growing and the patio I started to redo, in the back garden, continue looking like someone just started it, found it too hard and just couldn’t be bothered to finish it! The poor kids have their small back garden even more reduced. Next job after that, was a new 2 storey playhouse with a lovely sloping roof, filled with more alpines as a green roof, cedar shingles on the side, as space for them to enjoy and store their play stuff (cunning plan no to have it scattered around my small flower beds. But it will all get done, maybe not until after they go back to school but still have years of enjoyment from it.

But I do get to enjoy my own planting, the new roses I added this year have mainly grown away well (apart from the tea rose, Grace Darling, was rather upsetting) but overal my garden was looking good, suffer with the illnesss that effects all plantspeople though, and that’s adding too many plants into my own space but there’s always room for one more isn’t there!

img 2825 Flaming June! 

Highlight for me this month was the Perennial meeting held at the brilliant Horti Loci nursery near Hook. The meeting was for the show garden at Hampton court designed by the brilliant Tom Massey. It was a chance for those volunteering both in the plant cloakroom and those helping to man the stands on the day, not only too meet each other, learn much more about the outstanding work that Perennial carry out throughout the horticultural world, supporting both current and former horticulturalist though tough patches, both financially and all other forms of support, ranging from advice and verbal support. But also does so much more than that, it brings all sorts of horticulturalist together by holding excellent fund raising events which anyone can take part in and meet other horticulturalist you wouldn’t meet otherwise, making friendships who people you won’t normally meet, again, in a roundabout way, helps whose horticulturalist support each other, sharing knowledge and friendships. Please support them in which way you can! Sorry went off track slightly, to meet the brilliant very friendly team who run Perennial, learn about the thoughts behind the brilliant  design from Tom Massey, and then for a tour of the nursery by Jamie Butterworth, who went though the hard work the nursery does producing plants for all the major shows including the wonderful choices Tom has made for his garden. What can I say, it was a wonderful experience, everything was just so well run on the day, fantastic weather, well run talks, food that was just out of this world, very tasty indeed and to cap it off, a great well run nursery that employs staff who are plantspeople, who know nad understand the plants they grow there! Well worth a trip there if you get a chance


Well that’s it for this month, shall be back next month, hopefully with me getting out a bit more! If you are going to Hampton court flower show, please take a look at the garden, if it’s Tuesday I will be there, I am the one with a transformer boot on my foot!

img 2788 Flaming June! 

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Spring into April 

img 2206 Spring into April 

Well that was a almost typical March wasn’t, in like and lion and out like a slow cooked lamb! But was it ever a busy one! Roses had to be pruned and trained into beautiful shapes, ones that not only coat the features whether it’s a old wall or wooden feature, in beautiful twists and turns but also into shapes to encourage the highlights of midsummer, the delicate tissue like flowers, sometimes so highly scented delights that to me make summer. One thing to me that’s almost as nice as pruning roses, is planting them, indeed the last few planted over the weekend in my own little patch, saw my numbers planted reaching over 100. Some modern hybrids, others grown in our gardens for many thousands of years, seen so many changes in the world, yet remain still as unchanged during this time. Of course March just wasn’t about pruning roses and planting them, many other jobs have been finished or nearing completetion, Jobs like mulching borders, feeding plants, dividing plants, all jobs to make the garden ready for the summer of delight.


Talking about delights, how brilliant were the magnolias this year? Certainly one of the best displays I can ever remember, left untouched by Jack Frosts icicles of death, with little wind, they flowered their little hearts out, one trip to Savil gardens, left me dashing between one bit of eye candy, photographing them to the next, it was like being in a horticultural sweet shop that was on a try as many as you can freebee day! I love the big open flowers, some with slight fragrance, others so strongly sweetly scented filling the air with their perfume. Their ancient flowers, so primitively they are designed to be pollinated by beetles and pre-dates the time of the bees, will slowly finish allowing other plants to come to the forefront of our flowering minds, things like Rhododendron, Camelias, wisterias, cherries, apple and pears will soon fill our gardens this month, with their turn in the beautiful flowering catwalk.

We also said good bye to so many of our winter visitors in March, gone are the hoards of Waxwings (which I still failed to see!) red wings and field fares, but the summer visitors are slowly on their way, with sightings of sand martins, swallows and even the odd swift, now been sited all over the uk. The frogs and toads had a busy month laying their eggs in our ponds and lakes and even the butterflies have now started to emerge from their slumber, with brimstones starting the ball rolling at the being of March and red admirals, small tortoiseshell, battered peacocks and newly hatched orange tips joining the spring party. Many of our spring flowers, like cowslips, bluebells, wood anemone are filling our wildness with their joy.

April is once more a hectic time for me in the garden, with little veg and cutflowers to do in the gardens I look after, with all the fruit trees and roses now pruned, My thoughts now turn to pruning the winter flowering or fruit bearing evergreens and deciduous like osmanthus, cotoneasters, winter flowering jasmine. The sunny showers are also prefect for carrying out a little more planting of the now containisered herbecous plants and shrubs although I would avoid planting out any recently potted up roses that have yet to settle into their new pots, planting now will damage the new fine roots they are puttting out. Also the same should be said for the summer bedding, for me I don’t like putting these out until May is apon us. April can fool us in thinking Jack Frost has disappeared but he’s still lurking around waiting to pounce just as you plant out the tender plants, making you spend more money to replace them. other jobs can include starting to put in plant supports for herbecous plants and start the fortnighly spraying of roses and box hedges to help cut down the spread of fungus on the plants

Well that’s it from me this month, have fun in your garden this month!

rhododendron golden torch1 Spring into April 

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Madder than a March hare 

029 Madder than a March hare 

Well that describes Februaries weather to a T, a month of complete oppersites, a pretty cold spell followed by the warmest February day on record, then in steps storm Doris, flicking her windy locks though the trees, homes and gardens. March is the moth that’s supposed to come in like a loin and out with a lamb! One thing I have learnt about the weather is that it will do what it wants to do, and we as gardeners have to live with that and enjoy the challenges that brings.

img 1945 Madder than a March hare img 1789 Madder than a March hare img 1785 Madder than a March hare 

Above all I have to say I enjoyed February, made great process on many of the projects I aim currently engaged on, as well as carrying on with my beloved pruning, fruit trees have nearly been finshed and wall roses have been started. The new rose garden I am building near Salisbury, now has its shape and will be waiting the compost to be added and then, the roses planted, that’s the bit I am looking forward too! The back garden work in Winchester is slowly nearing completion, with the wooden poles added ready for the hornbeams to be pleached on to them, wires on this week and then we are ready to go. Also have visited some great gardens this month, new places like Waterperry and old favourites like Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Wisley and a beautiful oasis of a garden in Chandlers Ford that holds over 250 different snowdrops, enjoyed seeing new and old plants just generally looking good! And speaking to some great people, that have huge amount of knowledge that they are so willing to share. That’s the lovely thing about is job, you never stop learning whether it’s a new plant, new method, always something new to learn and kind generous people who love talking about their experiences. Can’t beat this job at times

img 9903 Madder than a March hare 

The title, madder than a March hare could also be summing up the month workwise! It is the busiest month in the whole of the garden Calender. There is so much work that needs to be finished or just started this month in readiness for the growing year ahead. The last of the fruit trees need finishing off before their blossom starts to fill the garden with its white pureness, roses need their annual trim before they start putting on their growth, it’s the end of the bare root season so new bare rooted trees and shrubs need to get their roots into the warming soil. That’s just a few jobs to finish off let alone the ones to start like weeding the beds, seed sowing both indoors and outdooors for vegetables and flowers really starts now and of course, seeds sown inside also need potting on into larger pots as they slowly change from seedlings into plants that will either satisfy our hunger visually or physically. Then there’s the purely boredom job starting,  mowing the lawns, it’s one of those jobs that starts off slowly, but before you know it, needs doing at an alarming rate

But fear not, the plants have a way of distracting us while we toil away, they thank us with their beauty, the yellow daffodils shining away in the borders and grass, each one like a mini sun, warming our hearts with their warm yellow tones, then there’s the crocus, remaining solidly shut until the sun works its magic, then they open their goblet like flowers up, in a plant sun bathing way. Of course it’s also the month the queen of the trees makes her move, the mightily magnolias open up their annual display of flowers for us to enjoy, even if its just a few days, if Jack Frost is around, from the small sized magnolia stellata covered in flower to the mightily magnolia cambellii, the size of an oak, covered in huge scented flowers, there’s one for everyone to enjoy

February was also a very busy month on the blog site, I am over welmed that so many people have enjoyed my ramblings and thank you so much for following and reading me. I am so grateful! Last month saw the launch of a new feature looking in a little more detail at weekly jobs todo in the garden, if there’s anything you would like explained a little more, email me and I can take a look and maybe do it in the future. This month will also see the launch of a new pruning forum, not sure when, still fine tuning before I am ready to release it onto the world!

Well that’s about it for my monthly ramblings and I hope you enjoyed it, until next month, happy gardening

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February’s ramblings… 

img 1374 February’s ramblings… Well that’s January out of the way, some may say thankfully but I quite enjoyed it, the cold spell we enjoy was the longest for a couple of years with temperatures down to -5c with me here in Hampshire. Here’s hoping February is going to be more of the same please! February was always know as field dyke month, the month when the winter rains really came down and filled up the water meadows to help produce the lush grass for the cows.

At last the evenings and mornings are getting longer, which is great for encouraging more and more of the spring plants into flower. Snowdrops appear from the depths of the soil from where they disappeared 9 months back to enthral us with their simple beauty and forms. They are now also one of the most sort after of all bulbs, with one called ‘Golden Fleece’ selling last year for £1350.00! I have to admit to having a slight ‘addiction’ to them, having 4 kids prevents me from spending silly amounts but nevertheless I have about 25 in my little collection, I could have so many more………

I am still pruning, oh I love pruning! Nothing better than getting the plants ready for the summer pruning, most of my fruit trees are now slowly and sadly coming to the end but my real true love in the pruning world is just about to start this month, Roses! Oh how I love pruning these prickly customers, I can (and indeed do) spend so many happy hours turning a tangled mess into something I hope is an art form, draping the walls with its shapes, twirling around posts as in some kind of dance or the shrub standing tall and smart ready for the inspection. Of course roses aren’t the only thing to start pruning this month, Buddeja, Hypericum, foliage Spireas, Hydrangeas are all other plants that can be pruned. I also like to cut back any grasses like Miscanthus,Calamagrostis I have left now, just before the new growth appears, makes life a little easier. Some of the hollow stems are put to good use, making a useful addition to a bug hotel, all others end up being shredded and added to the compost as bug food!

Of course it’s not just pruning that can be done at this time of year, if you are lucky to greenhouse many early crops can be sown now like lettuce, tomatoes, chillies and leeks and outside it’s a brilliant time to sow parsnips and early peas.

February is great month to start planting trees, shrubs and herbecous plants. It’s ideal to get them into the ground just before the soil starts to warm up, the reason I prefer now to any other time of the year is because it means the plant has the least time sat in a damp/ water logged soil possibly rotting away. Planting around now means the cutting that time down still while the plant is dormant. When planting, I like to add lots of organic matter, a handful of vitax Q4 and also some mycorrhizal spores in the way of Root grow. The mycorrhizal (forms of plant friendly fungus) grows on to  the plant roots, forming a symbolic relationship with them, helping to increase the amount of water and nutrients to the plant by approx 1/3, thus enabling the plant to be come more established quicker and more able to fight pest and diseases. Can be used to to help combat rose sickness, plants planted into demanding sites like old industrial sites. Mycorrhizal can also be used to prolong the life on older plants if their health is starting to wane.

Still lots of plants providing colour and interest at this time of year and the big big guns are now starting to flex their muscles, the first spring of the Camellias come out, with the odd Rhododendron starting to tease us before they unleash their beauty upon the world. Now let’s not forget the real stars, the real stunners of the spring time opener, Magnolias, oh how they delight us with their huge range of flowers from white to almost black, as small as a tennis ball to well the size of a small child! and there’s  scent, how delicate but sometimes overpowering, they to me are the stars of spring

That’s me for this month, I look forward to March’s notes, until then, happy gardening!

img 8894 February’s ramblings…