Here be dragons

Stink Lily, Black Dragon, Voodoo Lily, Snake Lily and numerous other names. This is Dracunculus vulgaris and is flowering now in our school garden. Stunning in looks and scent, it has the aroma of rotting meat which attracts the flies it needs for pollination.



My niece was married this weekend and her flowers were stupendously stunning. All found in a typical English cottage garden, the blooms were deliciously scented and breathtakingly beautiful. Here are a few of my favourite shots. For horticulturalists, a list of flowers and foliage used appears below (as many as I can name). … click pic to view large …

table decorationbridesmaid's bouquetDSC00092church doorway


  • peony (“Bowl of Beauty” and others)
  • rose
  • clematis
  • phlox
  • hydrangea
  • evening scented stocks
  • astrantia
  • astilbe
  • sweet pea
  • lily of the valley
  • ivy
  • beech
  • eucalyptus
  • cow parsley
  • delphinium
  • alchemilla mollis
  • sweet william
  • cherry
  • fern
  • antirrhinum (snap dragon)
  • choisya
  • lilac
  • solomon’s seal
  • digitalis (foxglove)
  • nigella
  • milkweed
  • weigela
  • scabious
  • spiraea
  • lupin

Red Scourge

Miss France
Miss France

I’ve been growing Oriental Lilies in containers in my garden for quite a few years now. My first 3 bulbs were a variety called “Miss France” which I think would be called dwarf, growing to about 50cm. tall with mid pink flowers. A few years later I acquired a handful of bulbs in each of four new varieties, all of the giant kind, which grow to well over a metre, up to 150cm. These are “Stargazer” (deep speckled pink), “Casa Blanca (pure white), “Legend” (yellow fading to white) and “Willeke Alberti” (pale pink). They have all been prolific bloomers, year after year, proving to give excellent value for money, especially as most of them were thrown in as free gifts with an order of mail order plug plants. In July, at the peak of their blossomy beauty, the stems struggle to bear the weight of such bountiful blooms, so I have taken to supporting them from an early age (about mid-May) with a bamboo frame. At my previous address, no.9, the most worrisome pest  I had to deal with was a grey squirrel which I caught digging up my lily bulbs and trying to steal them away from their pots. Here at no.39 it is bug life, specifically the Red Lily Beetle, more specifically lilioceris lilii.                              

…thanks to RSPB and Telegraph for pest pics…

This bright red beetle, about the size of my smallest finger nail, has been in my garden for a couple of years now, initially undetected but, this year and last, enemy number 3 (number 1 and 2 are snails and slugs in any order you wish). The beetle, if allowed, will  chomp its way through lily stems, leaves, flower buds and petals, happily destroying my horticultural pride and joy almost overnight, breeding and depositing its larva as a pulsating, oily gobbet of what resembles black bird poo surrounding a gold coloured grub which will gaily continue its parents work to a devastating degree. Adult beetles seem to have a human radar, enabling them to sense one’s hand approaching, at which point they will drop to the ground on their backs, exposing their dark undersides and therefore virtually invisible to the human eye. Policing this pest has become a daily task, along with slug-eviction and the catapulting of snails over the fence (not into my neighbour’s garden I might add, but into a small play park on the other side).  Close inspection of all lilies from all angles takes a good five minutes every day, sometimes twice a day, with any interlopers removed and dispatched to lilioceris heaven forthwith. At the end of autumn I’ll be replanting all my lily bulbs into new pots with new compost which will foil any beetles planning to over-winter beneath the soil and so gain a headstart on me next spring. The gloves are on, red beetles, and you cannot win. *invincible pose* …click on any pic to view large…

A woman’s shed is her castle

Agapanthus & Lily 001
summer 2012

When I moved into my current home, just over four years ago, I sourced a small garden shed for sale in the local newspaper; its owner was leaving the country and everything had to go. She said it was about 5 years old, but when she took only £40 for it and not the £60 advertised price I thought she may be feeling guilty about making out it was newer than it actually was. Still, after reconstruction in my brand new garden, I gave it a coat of beautiful blue paint which covered most of the dodgy rotten parts and it didn’t look too bad. A couple of years later a friend kindly refelted the roof and once again the shed had a new lease of life. Yet another year on it was still looking respectable and I had grown rather fond of it as the home of my gecko and origin of the avatar I use on all my social media interaction. Shabby Chic had taken off, and my shed was definitely shabby.

This spring, however, after a protracted and extremely wet winter, things shedwise had taken a bit of a nosedive. The whole thing was leaning so far to the right that the door barely fitted, half the roof was sagging so badly even the cat avoided it, there were large patches devoid of paint and the wooden slats were rotting fast and hanging at all sorts of angles. The time had come to invest in a new shed.

So, after a trip to the local hardware superstore, my brand new 6ft x 4ft shed (“Shetland” made by Shire Garden Buildings) was delivered, flatpacked, a week ago and I have spent a few afternoons between rain showers painting it inside and out. I used Cuprinol Shades in “Forget-me-not” for the outside which is pretty similar to the old shed’s colour. A 2.5litre can was enough to give 2 coats all round and 3 coats to the panels which will get most weather. I had a free donation of a half can of Weathershield smooth exterior masonry paint in “Dutch Gold” and watered that down slightly to cover all the inside surfaces including the underside of the roof and the underside of the floor. I realise masonry paint isn’t really the right thing to be painting wood with, but, hey, beggars can’t be choosers and I figure any kind of paint will help extend the life of the shed. Also, the colour is so FABULOUS that every time I open the shed door it will be like walking straight into a blazing hot, sunny summer’s day.

So, that was the easy part out of the way. Next I had to somehow transform all those colourful parts above into a solid structure using this:-shed 024

Hmmm … this might take a bit of thinking. Now, I’ve never had a problem building flat-packed furniture; bookcases and shelving units are a piece of cake; I even put together a wardrobe and chest of drawers quite easily. This, however, looked like it needed more than one pair of hands, so I figured “the more the merrier” and put the word out that there would be a shed party at my place on a certain afternoon with food and drink supplied for any keen builders, supervisors, instruction readers, ladder holders, drillers, hammerers or observers (weather permitting).

Today was that day; the sun shone, the kitchen was well-stocked with eats and drinks and right on cue my helpers started to arrive. Mandy and I set to work on emptying the shed; a steadfast toad was the last thing to leave and needed a fair bit of encouragement to do so. The demolition of the old shed was our first task and I think we both really enjoyed it. Then right on cue four more friends and colleagues arrived and we set to making a level base for the shed floor to sit on which took a lot longer than I’d anticipated, but as soon as that was done the drilling, screwing and hammering got underway. There were a few snags to be smoothed over and problems to be solved, but with three teachers of Design Technology in the work party it was all plain sailing. The last crew member arrived in time to help with the roof felt, door and window, then we popped a cork, toasted the shed and our team effort, and all sat down to an al fresco meal on the grass.

I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to my lovely friends Mandy, Brian, Ruth, Sheila, Lorna and Tommy for their hard work and good company; I couldn’t have done it without you. You are all brilliant! Here’s the afternoon in pictures  …. click to view larger  …


Our cold and late spring followed by a blazing hot early summer seems to have been beneficial to all the flowers in my garden. Below are the visual treats I’ve been enjoying in July; mouthwatering. Now I’m awaiting crocosmia, agapanthus and loads more glorious oriental lilies.

On the downside my hebe and bearded iris inexplicably failed to flower this year although the plants look healthy with plenty of vigorous growth. One pot of hostas seems to have a fungal infection and has also failed to produce any flower spikes, although its sister plant elsewhere in the garden is blooming.

The old shed is in a sorry state, but its replacement was delivered this morning and I have been painting panels all day. Watch this space.  …click on pic to view large…

Green(ish) Fingers

Spirea "Magic Carpet"
Spirea “Magic Carpet”

The weather felt warm enough to venture out into the garden this weekend. I had been to the nursery and bought trays full of pelargoniums, fuschias, surfinia, lobelia and calendula to add summer colour to my little patch.

I also treated myself to a new clematis, Montana rubens “Elizabeth”, a pale pink climber to complement my pair of white Montana “Alba” which sprawl across my back fence. One of these has failed to come into leaf this year and I have had to perform a salvage operation today in the hope that it’s not too little too late. The plant has been growing in a large pot for about 5 years (probably four years too many) and has become waterlogged this spring. Upon investigation, I discovered that the roots have grown through the drainage hole which has become completely blocked and drowned the plant. This is a definite no-no for clematis according to all the info signs at the garden centre. I had to take a hammer to its ceramic pot then plant the rootball in a large hole in the earth. I hope it will recover.

So what’s thriving?

  • Spirea “Magic Carpet” has doubled in size and looks fabulous. It has overrun Heuchera “Green Spice” which I’ve moved to the front garden along with Heuchera “Key Lime Pie”.
  • Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) “Alba” gets bigger each year and I’ve moved the Geums which are being swamped by it.
  • Clematis “Daniel Deronda” is covered in buds and I’m being strict with it, training it across the fence rather than letting it tangle with itself like it did last year. The hard prune I gave it in winter seems to have paid off.
  • All geraniums – they are such good value.
  • Oriental Poppies which I planted last spring. I’m hoping for a good few blooms.
  • Oriental Lilies are all getting tall and lush. It’s a wonder really as they are in pots which I neglect year after year apart from the eviction of evil red Lily Beetles whenever I spot one.

And what’s struggling?

  • All the Heucheras in the back garden. I’ve moved two and given some gentle words of encouragement to “Sweet Tea”.
  • Echinacea “Purpurea” seems to have been attacked by slugs. The gloves are on!
  • Aquilegia – one has been totally decimated by slugs and I’ve moved it. The second is being overrun by Spirea. The third (self-seeded) is OK but in a shady location and looking a bit frail. Maybe I’ll move that too.
  • Foxglove has not appeared at all which is a bit of a surprise and disappointment.
  • Lavender. Just a tiny frond of green is left on an otherwise brown twiggy clump. Maybe my soil doesn’t agree with it.

Gardening is a bit hit and miss with me. I only venture outside in fair weather meaning that for most of the year my plants have to fend for themselves in the cold and wet. I don’t really follow the rules which is probably why I suffer the odd failure, but overall I think I do pretty well and for a few months of the year it looks super colourful outside the house.

All the hanging baskets are planted up now, plus a few pots of fuschias and pelargoniums. In a month they will be a riot of colour. My next job is to replace my poor old shed with a brand new one and install some guttering and a rainwater butt alongside it.


Phlox with hanging basket in the evening sunshine.

“The garden’s looking nice this afternoon”, I thought.

It’s been a tremendously wet summer so far, but the plants seem to be flourishing with all that rain water falling on them. It’s obviously better for them than tap water. The downside to this is that the slug population has exploded. Some of my hostas have leaves resembling lacework. It’s all about colour for me; flowers, flowers and more flowers. It’s a tiny space, but I’m thinking about putting in a small raised bed for some veggies next year…. thinking….until then, I have one tomato plant, but it’s looking good!

The white agapanthus is about 25% of the way to being fully open. One of only two flower stems in this one-year-old clump. The poor old shed is on its last legs, leaning slightly further to the right than it was last year.

The first oriental lily opened this morning – there are many more to follow. Their scent is out of this world.

The large clump of monarda produces unusual flowers. The reds are always the first to show, followed by purple (just starting) then white.

click on pics to view large…