Outside the Backdoor

Observing what can happen in your own garden even in suburbia!

1 Comment

Spring is green!

I used this phrase for a recent Facebook post and all my G&S enthusiast friends came back with, “Summer’s rose ..” thinking of the lovely madrigal in Ruddigore. But it’s so true – spring is green!

Euonymus fortunei

Euonymus fortunei (c) Elizabeth Malone

It’s probably the time of year when we appreciate the colour green the most. Owning, as I do, a garden bordered by lilac, you do get rather fed up of the brown twiggyness of winter. Whilst I love my lilacs (see Luscious Lilacs), it has to be said that they do sadly contribute to winter dullness.

Banks of lilac in winter bordering the garden

Lilac just budding green (c) Elizabeth Malone

From March onwards, I find it hard to resist walking around the garden taking photos of the new green emerging and now, in April, everything is positively zinging! The hawthorn, which entered April with a generous smattering of new green leaves, conveniently displayed against a vivid blue sky, is now a dense canopy beginning to show the signs of flower buds getting ready to welcome in May.

Hawthorn leaves against blue sky

Hawthorn leaves on 1 April 2019 (c) Elizabeth Malone

In the ‘woodland’ garden, as I like to call it when feeling posh, the euphorbia has been excellent this year. This one is only the common woodland spurge but we brought it from our previous house and it took to this area with enthusiasm until a couple of years ago when I became quite worried as it looked sickly. It’s good to see that it appears to have bounced back.

Close up of Euphorbia flower / bract

Euphorbia / woodland spurge (c) Elizabeth Malone

I’m pleased to say that my Euphorbia Martinii, purchased at Malvern last year, has also returned. I was worried about it, to say the least, as it became rather swamped by a couple of over-enthusiastic dahlias last summer!

Euphorbia martinii bracts with red eye

Euphorbia martinii (c) John Malone

One of the really exciting greens at this time of year are the very first shoots of new seedlings in the greenhouse and on the veg plot. My rocket was first to be sown, first to germinate and also first to be eaten!

Rocket seedlings just germinating

Rocket germination! (C) Elizabeth Malone

I now have peas and French beans following in its footsteps and my tomatoes are almost ready to be pricked out and potted on – a task for the Easter weekend I think.

Last summer we also planted a number of new roses, five I think in the end, and I’m pleased to say all look to be doing well. However, it was the new leaves of our existing Iceberg climbing rose that really struck me last weekend. It was as if someone had been out and polished them up ready for the new season! These particular shoots were especially good to see as they were on new long stems stretching into the pergola, a direction that we’ve been trying to train it into for several years.

Shiny green new leaves on rose IcebergNew leaves on an Iceberg (c) Elizabeth Malone

Which just makes me think that I shall have to write a post later on this year entitled “Summer’s rose”!! But before I sign off on this post, I’m going to leave you with some lovely vibrant green which, ironically, is providing a fantastic backdrop to that most spring-like of spring flowers, the bluebell!!

Bluebells coming into flower with backlit green leaves

Budding bluebell (c) Elizabeth Malone

Leave a comment

Malvern making its mark

The Malvern Flower Show seems like old news now.  Since early May, we’ve had the RHS shows at Chelsea and Chatsworth and Hampton Court and Tatton are just around the corner.  However, I didn’t want to forget our day or what we’ve bought so here’s a round up of how Malvern has left its mark outside the back door.

Spoils of Malvern!

The beauty of the Malvern Show is that it is held in spring when the soil is just warming up nicely and planting conditions are perfect.  At Hampton Court you can also buy plants but it’s in the middle of July and quite often the soil is sufficiently baked that you require a pick axe to create a suitable planting hole!  Selling plants is, of course, somewhat beneath the dignity of Chelsea apart, that is, for the grand sell-off on the final afternoon when you always get those wonderful pictures of people staggering onto buses with plants the size of triffids!

You may recall that earlier in the spring John took the secateurs big-time to the Escallonia bush.  In the course of a Sunday morning, this eight foot by six foot evergreen giant had been reduced to approximately a foot square, thereby revealing a large swathe of hitherto unplanted soil.  Hurrah, new plants, we said!

Malvern provided the perfect opportunity to fill this gap and herbaceous perennials, it turned out, were a bit of a bargain!  Malvern is also an excellent opportunity to buy from smaller nurseries and suppliers.  Quite a few of our ‘souvenirs’ came from A&J Plants, who had an incredibly popular stall – clearly well known to regulars!

And so it was that we ended up packing eleven new plants into the back of our car.  Compared to some people, this was positively restrained but then we did have to transport them around the Midlands safely whilst we visited friends over the weekend!

So what did we buy?  We succumbed to what I am naming my ‘plant of the year’ as it seems to have popped up in every garden we have visited, in the show gardens at Malvern and was later spotted at Chelsea.  It’s a black leaved domesticated version of cow parsley known as Anthriscus Sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’.  It looks very elegant with its light frothy, slightly pink flowers and pairs very nicely with the black Elder that we have nearby.

Anthriscus Sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’

Also light and floaty is the creamy flowered Orlaya.  Sadly this is only an annual but I’m told it’s easy to grow from seed so, if we like it enough, I might give that a go another year.


Keeping to the light and airy theme, we added a new grass. ‘Oryzopsis’ is not a name I was familiar with but I did recognise their common name, ‘rice-grass’.

With a lot of purple in the border, we’ve been trying to add more pinks and whites.  Centaurea ‘Amethyst in Snow’ seemed a good addition as it is both white and purple.

We also purchased a little trio of bright plants to join the hot border.  Two miniature Geums and a Euphorbia Martinii which has acid green bracts with red eyes.  I love Geums but haven’t had much luck with them.  These are in a different place and of a different variety so I’m hoping to have more luck this time around, although Roly (my flower-eating monster feline) has already devoured several flowers.  We added one further grass to this border – the wonderfully named ‘Bunny tails’!  Short in comparison to most grasses, this one forms little mounds of soft, fluffy seed heads.

Orange Geum

Finally, I confess that there was already one plant in the boot of the car by the time we arrived at the Malvern Show.  The previous day we had called into an RHS partner garden, the Picton Garden, just over the other side of the Malvern ridge.  This garden has an associated nursery which specialises in autumn flowering asters – Old Court Nursery.  The garden was very attractive with zingy tulips and vibrant new foliage on both red and green leaved acers.  If you are in the Malvern area, do go and pay it a visit and, obviously if you are in to asters, this would be heaven for you!

Gate to the Picton Garden

However, when it came to choosing an aster as a souvenir of our visit, it was almost impossible as, being autumn flowering, we were faced with a mass of small green plants still emerging from their pots!  Labels indicated size and colour but it was still difficult to know what to choose and so we sought the expertise of the nursery owner who quizzed us over location and what else we already had in the border.  Her recommendation was the very aptly named ‘Cotswold Gem’ which should be a pinky/purple and medium in size.  It seems to have settle in well and so we await with interest to find out later this summer what it really looks like!