Mini Shade Bed

On the north side of my house there is a tiny bed that was, until last autumn, swamped with yellow Lysimachia and Hostas. The Hostas always look lovely for a few weeks, but when the slugs and snails shred the leaves they are so ugly I usually cut them back. So this bed was bare for the rest of the year. What a waste! So I dug it up.

I spared a few hostas and certainly didn’t succeed in removing all the Lysimachia, but there was suddenly a whole new area for me; the rest of my garden is sunny, dry and hot, while this area is shady – except for a little morning and midday sun in June and July. And although stony, the ground retains moisture here. The pleasure of  putting in new plants began last autumn…

… In March I was a little worried, as there were very few signs of life, but by April a few Primulas and my Corydalis cheilanthifolia were flowering, and the Heuchera were sprouting new leaves. Only by May could I see real progress:

Shade Bed Early May


I chose three Heucheras: Mint Frost, Electra, and Kimono and a fourth was a free gift from the nursery: Cracked Ice. With the two Phyllitis scolopendrium and the Hostas there is lots of lovely leaf colour. And some Epimediums should produce nice ground cover too when they leaf out a bit.

Shade Bed Mid-May


By mid May the geraniums started to flower – on the right is a lovely pale-leaved Geranium phaeum ‘Lily Lovell’ –  a gorgeous purply blue. And the pinky white flower at the front is Primula sieboldii ‘Coshibori’.

By late May it was filling out nicely:


In the centre is the pretty Semiaquilegia ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ next to a blue Geranium sylvaticum ‘Mayflower’, and on the right is the Geranium sylvaticum ‘Album’ I showed you last Wednesday… pure white and very pretty!

When it gets very hot a potted Hydrangea bought in spring will find a cool spot nearby and if it weren’t for the mosquitoes (which are early and numerous!) I would be tempted to sit out there next to my clothes line and contemplate this shady oasis more often!

Do you have a favourite plant for the shade?

Here are some of the plants in this bed between late April and early June, including some of the Geraniums I have there, photographed especially for Eliza who also loves them in her garden! (This is an excellent way of keeping a record for myself, so forgive me for indulging!)

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In a Vase on Monday: Bitter Sweet

Today, as I sit at the breakfast table in almost darkness and listen to the rain pounding down on the roof, the lightning occasionally surprising me and the thunder practically rattling the spoon in my coffee cup, I think how glad I am that I picked my flowers for my Monday vase with forethought and even took my photographs yesterday morning before the next round of storms arrived! As always I am glad to join Cathy from Rambling in the Garden with her meme, and present a Monday vase filled with materials from my garden.

We have had a heatwave, with such incredibly high humidity I felt I was swimming through the air on Sunday as I gathered armfuls of peony buds to bring indoors. And some candidates for my Monday vase were easy to pick too. Vase8th4

I have called the vase “bitter sweet” as the lovely Sweet Williams and one of the fragrant peonies Festiva Maxima are included, along with some sage flowers.


It is such a pretty sage (there is a label near it but I’m not going out to check it in this weather), and it actually tastes rather nice too, but sage can be a bit bitter if you use too much of it, don’t you think? Also “bitter sweet” because – bang on time – the heavy rain and stormy weather has arrived just as the sweet peonies are in full bloom. We needed the rain desperately, but the flowers have once again suffered.

Other flowers included this week were the Campanula which was the first to fully open, some Chives, Veronica (again, as it lasts very well in a vase), and a single Nigella flower.


The intricacy of these flowers never ceases to amaze me…


The house smells wonderful with all the peonies I have brought indoors and here is a bonus vase I filled with them yesterday too. I will go and rescue a few more later if the rain lets off a bit…

Have a great week, with calm weather! ;-)

Aquiring Aquilegias

Last spring I aquired a long-yearned for Red Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis. They are almost impossible to get hold of here.


It was lovely for a couple of weeks, then it disappeared, never to be seen again! So I have now bought some (rather expensive) seeds and sown them. Wish me luck!

(And any tips would be very welcome :) ).

Then in the late summer I aquired some other Aquilegias from an online nursery that offered quite a selection, with great hopes for this spring.

Aquilegia chrysanta ‘Yellow Queen’


Aquilegia chrysanta ‘Rose Queen’


Rose Queen didn’t last for long, with only two flowers. The Yellow Queens were more successful, but I have decided they don’t fit into my garden… a little too exotic? I prefer the traditional Aquilegia vulgaris I think!

I also ordered Aquilegia alpina, a lovely blue one that is yet to flower(!), along with several Aquilegia caerulea ‘Crystal Star’, which are supposed to look like the yellow ones but are pure white… but this is what I got…


Very pretty, but not what I ordered. Never mind. It looks like Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Green Apples’, which I saw everywhere last year and didn’t feel tempted to buy. What do you think of her?

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Nora Barlow’ was another purchase late last summer and I am glad to note it looks much nicer in real life than the pictures I had seen of it (although mine doesn’t do it justice either).


Finally, I planted up a tiny shade bed on the north side of the house last autumn and picked out a very pretty Semiaquilegia ecalcarata ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’


It has been flowering for about two weeks now and still has a couple of unopened buds. I can definitely recommend this as an accompaniment to Heuchera or Geraniums in the shade and will post about this new shade bed soon.

Have you grown any different Aquilegias either this year or in previous years?

Gooey Chocolate and Cardamon Cake

All those who came on my virtual garden tour a few days ago were promised a slice of cake, and  this is what I had in my kitchen to go with a nice cuppa…


After tidying up my spice cupboard recently and discovering some fresh and oh so aromatic ground cardamon, I decided on a chocolate cardamon mix. Adapted from my Swedish Visiting Cake, it has no baking powder in it, so it stays dense and gooey in the middle, a bit like a brownie. Look at that gooeyness!


Chocolate Cardamon Cake

Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease and flour a 23cm (9 inch) baking tin (loose-bottomed if you have one).ChocCake3

Melt 110g (1 stick) butter and 25g dark chocolate and allow to cool a little. Meanwhile whisk 225g sugar (1 cup) with 2 eggs until creamy. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract. Fold in 110g sifted flour and 3 tbsps cocoa powder (this should make up 1 cup altogether), a pinch of salt and 1 tsp cardamom. Gently stir the cooled melted butter/chocolate into the batter. Pour into the baking tin and bake for 20-25 minutes. Check towards the 20-minute mark as you don’t want to bake it too long or that lovely gooey centre will dry out.

Leave to cool before removing from the tin, or serve warm – directly from the tin. You could sprinkle it with a little icing sugar if desired.


Delicious served with fresh flowers fruit.


In a Vase on Monday: All the Girls Together

I am joining Cathy’s fun meme again this week, where we fill a vase (or similar receptacle) with materials from our own gardens. And if you are going to join in, now is probably the besttime to do so – June is a bountiful time in the northern hemisphere!

Veronica and Iris are good old-fashioned girls’ names. Then there’s Gladys (Gladioli) and Valerie (Valerian)… am I pushing it a bit with Penny (Peony)? And that’s where I run out of connections! LOL!


Here’s a closer look at Veronica – she’s feeling a bit blue today. ;-)


But Gladys (Gladiolus communis) and Iris (sibirica) are doing their best to cheer her up…


as is Penny (Peony)…


In fact Iris is showing off a bit, but she IS rather a beauty…


The other girls (yes, they all seem to be female if you ask me) are Fennel, Alchemilla mollis, Aquilegia, Chives, Sorrel seedheads, Aruncus leaves, Clover and Valerie (Red Valerian).


They are actually not in a vase, but one of those traditional German baking tins with a funnel/hole in the middle. I put a glass jar inside the funnel for the Iris, Veronica and Gladioli. The other flowers were tied into three “bunches” and arranged in the water-filled baking tin itself. Maybe not ideal for the Aquilegias that way, but it was done, with no time to change it!


Now let’s drool over this beautiful white Peony in my giant teacup. Several readers were able to identify it for me last year as Festiva Maxima.


I wish you could smell it. Breathe in deeply and pretend! Personally I think peony perfume tops roses any day.


Now if you had a tree or flower’s name, what would you like to be called? I quite fancy “Corydalis”… or “Hazel”. Or for the male readers how about (Sweet) William, or Al(lium) christophii…? ;-)

Do pop over to visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and see what others have found to put in a vase and share this week.


A Garden Walk at the end of May: Part Two

Yesterday I started to show you around my garden in Part One. I hope you will now join me for the second half of the garden tour… there’ll be tea and cake afterwards! ;-)

We got as far as the bench near The Professor yesterday, at the bottom of the pathway. So now we can look back up at the west-facing rockery. The Iris sibirica are still blooming, and the pink scented peony is opening too. Below the Binocular Man you can see the Cotoneaster in flower next to one of the largest rocks in the rockery. The round frame bottom right is for the pink Aster novae-angliae ‘Alma Pötschke’ in the autumn, as it gets so leggy. I forgot to give the Asters and the Achilleas the Chelsea chop this spring and it is probably too late now.


Let’s look at that pink peony up close. Mmmm, can you smell it?


A few steps further along the base of the rockery and we can see around the corner where the Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber) flourishes. In this steepest part of the rockery there is a lot of Teucrium hircanicum spreading nicely, some Willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium ‘Stahl Rose’ ) a lot of weeds(!), some Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale), a Buddleia davidii and the Miscanthus Adagio at the bottom. Somewhere in there is the rhubarb too! On the right is a tall hardy Hibiscus.


If we turn around we can see the former stream bed, fed with rain water directed from the roof, that used to run down to a pond before our time here – the pond is now our compost heap! There was some extravagant hardware built into this garden in the 1970s, but little thought on maintenance, and terrible neglect when we arrived. The now dry stream bed is planted with Day Lilies, Aruncus, and a single pale yellow iris that only flowers if we have had enough damp weather… It seems a shame to disturb them, so it will probably remain as a reminder of what once was…GardenWalk98

On the left of the bridge across the stream bed are the ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris). Although they get full sun here they still thrive, but need cutting right back most years by midsummer if they get scorched by strong sun.


Now we can see the south-facing rockery, full of Valerian, Poppies, Lavender and at the top the glorious golden Euonymus fortunei – a very hardy, evergreen and drought-resistant shrub that I wouldn’t be without.


If we take a few steps back we can see the trees in our garden and the woods beyond as the backdrop. The Miscanthus on the left (just visible behind the ferns) will change this view when it finally gains height in the summer.


Up the steps next to another large rock and back to the patio…


There, now we have reached the top of the south side and you can see the fresh growth of the lavenders and roses, which will provide colour throughout June and July, along with the Red Valerian which will hopefully attract lots of butterflies and Hummingbird Hawk-moths again.


Shall I put the kettle on now? Take a seat and enjoy the view!


I hope you enjoyed the walk around my rockery. Perhaps you will give us a tour of your garden soon too? ;-)