2022 Gardener’s Logbook

Whitefrost in late December 2021

Another year has left its traces in our lives, some of those traces have been even more unexpected than the ones left by the two previous years.

14 February: Helleborus

Some of our hellebores have been in bloom since December. They are wonderful companions during the not so colourful months of the year.

16 April: the circular bed on early spring

The daffodils in the centre of the circular bed are amongst the first in spring to bloom, followed closely by the fluffy Warminster broom. The white daffodils always come a little later than the yellow ones.

17 April: daffodils in full bloom
28 April: Lavender Crescent

This year was bit of a challenge for the lavender crescent. There was not so much rain and the lavender has not been planted here that long ago. In autumn it turned out that cockchafer grubs had made themselves comfortable within the roots of some of the lavender plants happily chewing away on them.

28 April: Medlar tree

This is the first of our standard medlar trees. We consider ourselves lucky in that we came across three of them. Nurseries normally offer cultivars of medlars and those cultivars usually would be grafted on rootstock of hawthorn. These three standard trees appear to not be grafted onto a rootstock but seem to be grown from seedlings. Medlars are rooting deeply in the soil so once established they can cope with dry periods. We planted the first one in late April, not expecting to see another year with less-than-average rain during the season. Despite regular watering it took until summer before the tree at last showed growth and we knew it had settled in and started to send its roots down. The two others were planted in autumn.

28 April: wild tulips
28 April: the circular bed in late spring – Warminster broom in bloom

The Warminster broom at its best. The whole bush is humming with bees and bumble bees and the sparrows love to play hide&seek in it.

5 May: Cunningham’s Snow White
6 May: Bernstein

During the two lockdown years we unearthed just over 12 tons of rubble in the plot behind the former pig stable and created a bed for our rhododendrons there. Meanwhile the bushes have settled in really well. Cunningham’s Snow White has replaced Whitestone, which gave up for whatever reason. Bernstein has recovered after having been rather poorly.

12 May: Matteucia . Shuttlecock fern

We planted the shuttlecock fern with the rhododendrons. The place is the only spot that provides shade at least for some hours in the day. It is north of the old pig stable so the shadow of the small building falls on to the bed.

25 May: Centaurea montana – perennial cornflower
5 Juni: a summer garden

This is a moment when the drought had not struck yet. There are rhododendrons in bloom and granny’s bonnets and sage and oriental poppies – plus the roses are just starting to show off.

11 June: Percy & Albert, the Galahs from Australia

In June the door bell rang and there was the postie with a huge parcel. Out came, securely packed, Albert & Percy, the two Galahs or pink and grey cockatoos. My dear friend Marianne from Bendigo in Australia had made them as a big big surprise for me. Marianne has been crocheting all sorts of animals lately. She had told me about the turtle and the penguin and a huge owl and the little snails – but she never revealed she was working on those two fellows. Here they sit in front of the paeony and have a look around the garden, nibbling some grass. They are now good company in the studio. Thank you, Marianne!

11 June: Paeony with visitors
11 June: Echium with visitor (see image on the very top of this page)
18 June: Purple salsify with hover fly

Purple salsify or Oyster plants are biennial. I had sown around half a dozen this spring to have them in bloom next summer. Unfortunately they turned out to be to the liking of our resident root vole and it ate them one by one and left not a single one. So we won’t see any of those flowers in 2023.

18 June: Rose with hover fly

Hover flies often look like wasps. This is what is called mimikry: the flies try to look dangerous while being totally harmless. The adult insects are a treasure as pollinators and in many species their larvae prey on insect pests like aphids (green and black flies) and leafhoppers. A number of species do service in biological pest control, not just by feeding on insect pests. On doing so they also reduce the risk of cultivated plants getting infected by diseases spread by aphids or other insect pests. Some larvae live in aquatic environments and can purify water. Hover flies can be attracted by planting a lot of flowers. They particularly love yellow, but will also go for parsley, chamomille and buckwheat. In our garden they are regulars on all the roses with open flowers like Jacqueline du Pres, beach rose, burnet rose, dog rose and field rose – all the basic hedge rose species.

26 June: Cornflower with hover fly
26 June: Poppies with visitor
28 June: wild carrot – hover fly approaching

Wild carrots usually have white flowers, some have a hue of pink, many a single almost black flower in the centre. This special individual turned out burgundy. We collected some of the seeds and will try to grow more of them next year – permit they turn out the same colour.

17 August: the beanpoles

2022 was not a perfect year for growing beans. In spring the nights remained pretty cold for a long time, something beans are not so fond of: they want the soil having warmed after winter for germination. Thus they started growing rather late, and then got hit by the prolonged dry period. Despite regular watering the harvest was less than last year.

17 August: Elderberry with Wanderer’s Joy
20 August: Harvest of Geishirtle pears

Our pear tree „Geishirtle“ was as full with pears as it possibly could be. And the fruit were delicious beyond words.

4 September: wild carrot with shield bugs (Graphosoma italicum)

The wild carrots have made themselves very at home in our garden. They are lovely when in bloom, but I like their seed heads best. They will curl inwards to shelter the seeds for the time when the ripen. Once the seeds are ready to be dispersed the curled in baskets open up again. In the meantime the shield bugs decorate the delicate structure.

4 September: Gute Luise pears

Our pear tree „Gute Luise“ provided a nice harvest, too. The standard tree has been planted in autumn 2016.
The bumper crop came from the plum trees that have been here long before we moved in. We took down kilo after kilo. I cooked them into jam and various sorts of tasty chutney.

25 September: Corylus colurna

This is a dream come true: in autumn we planted a Turkish hazel. For quite some time we had been considering having one of those trees. It is a standard tree and will gradually grow into a proper tree with a slender crown. It is drought resistant and should be able to cope well with a climate changing towards more heat and less rain, while still being fully hardy.

10 October: Harvest of Goldparmäne

Our apple „Goldparmäne“ is a half standard tree and has started bearing fruit last year. The apples are tasty and spotless while still somewhat small.

16 October: Autumnal Hydrangeas

In October we acquired a bucket full of mycorrhiza. We vaccinated the soil around the roots of our trees with this mixture of fungi. If all goes as planned this will make it easier for the tree to grow in the poor sandy soil we have. We were lucky in that this autumn the soil remained warm for quite long so the mycorrhiza fungi could spread and grow nicely before winter came.

6 October: Harvest of Quinces

It was another year of many quinces though not quite as many as last year. We have now discovered a few more possibilities to use quinces, one is a very fruity chicken curry.

18 October: Cosmea
18 October: Elaeagnus x submacrophylla

Elaeagnus x submacrophylla (formerly known as E. x ebbingei) is a hybrid between macrophylla and pungens. It is evergreen in mild conditions, in our garden it might shed its leaves in spring when the new ones appear. In February 2021 it froze almost totally back during a cold spell of around -20 degrees. Miraculously it started growing back in summer 2021 and has recovered within just a year. Like Hippophae (Buckthorn), the genus Elaeagnus is known to live in association with diazotroph microorganisms (Frankia from the group of actinomycetes), that collect nitrogen from air and thus improve soil quality. In places Elaeagnus is planted within orchards to improve the performance of the fruit trees by rising Nitrogen levels in the soil and thus providing natural fertilizer.

26 October: new vegetable bed

As to vegetables there is more to come next year: we decided to prepare a new bed for vegetables and discontinue one that has been not so much fun to work in due to a mass of very small rubble in there. It is bits and pieces of roof tiles, but the bits are so small that it is virtually impossible to sort them out of the soil. We will use this bed for sunflowers to make a feast for the goldfinches.

Saussage Dog on guard

As I write this we brave for a night of -11 degrees. It is mid December and unusually cold for the time of year. Here we have no snow at all and some of our kale is not amused about the freeze. The Siberian variety is happy (after having suffered in the 30 degrees of summer and then made a full recovery). But the Galizian variety very much looks like this sort of cold is not to its liking at all. The little birds keep raiding the feeders. The woodpeckers are back for food. And we all hope for some more moderate temperatures rather sooner than later.


The past years were special, each in its own right: 2018 was hot and dry. 2019 not as bad as 2018 but still hot and dry enough. And 2020 was totally different. With all studio-and-book arts-related fairs and events just not happening, there was a lot of time to spend on something else.

Next to printing and making books comes the garden. So here we go.

February came with an icing. Winters have not been too hard lately, this one was not much of an exception. Even though I am not a fan of lots of snow and long icy periods, I have started wishing for conditions reducing the number of root voles to a healthy level. And I mean healthy with respect to our fruit trees, beet root and kale – all of which have suffered from the beasts.

Pheasant visiting in February

I would like to stress that most of our animal visitors or full-time and part-time residents are welcome. The colourful pheasant keeps coming every now and then. There are a great many of small birds, and, guessing from the great variety of droppings, there are many fury visitors as well.

March gifted us with the colours of the hellebore plants.

In May the tulips were still beauties in their own right. There was nice company from our black pansies.

We put up the bean poles while the broom was in bloom.

We had a colourful early harvest – and tasty, too, while the kale was only just starting to go strong.

June brought abundance to the flower beds. It felt like if all the flowers were frolicking that, after two years of hardship, they were allowed to grow and bloom properly again.

We could watch our first own quinces to slowly grow and start developing their bright yellow colour and their lovely scent.


However, there is always a „but“. The rhododendrons were suffering. They had been planted some two years ago and the past two summers had been far too sunny and too dry for the still not quite established plants. Normally they would have been able to do well underneath the huge old oak trees. But in fact they did not. The question was: where could they go instead? The only spot that could provide some shade over the sunny daytime hours was in the back of the former pig stable. We knew we would unearth rubble once we started digging down to prepare a bed for the rhododendrons. But the amount of rubble still came as a surprise.

Within one month, June, we dug out some 5 tons of rubble. We had ordered a container, so it could go right in there straight away. All the broken bricks and roof tiles and floor tiles and bathroom wall tiles and bits&pieces of concrete went. An endless stream of wheel barrows filled with compost went in to replace the huge volume that had gone by taking out all the rubble. On the last day of June the rhododendrons had arrived in their new and hopefully forever home. So far they seem to be happy and thriving.

We are happy to provide a sip for whoever is in need. Our resident sparrows and robins and tits love to come for a bath in the puddles we create on our patio floor over the summer.

As one of our apple trees had been badly mauled by the root voles and we still do not know whether it might be beyond recovery, we decided to have another one and went for the variety „Kaiser Wilhelm“. It appears that the heat of the previous two hot summers has done something to the structure of the sandy soil, at least in some places. So we dug out a plot of approx. 2 x 2 metres and exchanged most of the soil in there. We wanted to give the new tree not only a good start but also provide for a strong growth afterwards.

Late in autumn we planted a number of old and wild plum varieties as part of our free growing hedge along the main road. These are to replace the losses of shrubs we had, caused by root vole activity since we first planted the hedge in late 2017. We hope the plums will have more strength to grow back roots that have been eaten away. We welcomed a number of newcomers: a nicely grown pine tree and a special sort of elm tree, some roses, a hydrangea and two white forsythias.

There was still more digging to be done. The summer hedge made up from common mugwort we used to have on the perimeter of the house garden was to go. Not only had it gone shaggy it was also showering the garden with its seeds and we had mugwort growing all over the place. We decided we wanted to have irises instead. So all the mugwort had to go and irises had to come in. We already had some bluish ones, but we gave them company with white ones and dark purple. So we are looking forward to next spring, when they hopefully will show off all their colours and beauty.

As I write this the days and nights have become chilly. We had a number of mornings with white frost already and some days with lovely November fog. There is still some colour in the garden with very late cornflowers and some golden-brown chrysanthemums. Lotta has grown into a jolly, playful, loving family dog. She will be three years old next week.

On the Brink of Summer

Lady od Shalott

It is only late May and it is still some time to go until we’ll have summer proper. But the light and the atmosphere feel like summer already. The huge oak trees have put on their full green coats. The tulips and daffodils are long gone. Now is the time for the poppies, the wild ones and the garden varieties. The first roses have started to bloom just recently. A dark blue larkspur shines next to the huge white oriental poppy.

Oriental poppy with visitor (white tailed bumblebee)

Bumblebee feeders

We have a large population of dead nettles alongside the old stables and in the odd far corner. Presumably, they have been dwelling here for a very long time. They are our bumblebee feeders. They start flowering early in the year and will feed the white tailed bumblebees (who are the earlybirds amongst the bumblebees at the very start of the season) while temperatures are still rather low. The abundant white flowers keep feeding them and their cousins including honey bees and solitary bees for months. All the bees and bumblebees here have done a fabulous job: One of our apple trees is determined to deliver fresh apples in its first year with us. The others have tried but were too early and their flowers got caught in a late spell of severe frost. But this one tree waited out the frost period before opening its buds. There is still a long way to go before we can pick our first apples. Fingers crossed.

Gooseberry youngsters – they are supposed to turn red at some point

We have put up the netting over the berry bushes these days. There are red and black and white currants and red and green gooseberries. There was good reason to do so, because our meadow welcomes a great variety of diners as regulars. We like our little helpers that come day after day and browse our meadow for grubs and wireworms and whatever they can find to fend for themselves or feed their chicks. Our guests are rooks and starlings, magpies and fieldfares. There are wagtails and black redstarts on the ground and martins and swallows in the air, there are sparrows and tits and a pair of goldfinches was checking things out the other day. However, we’d rather they stick to browsing the meadow than picking the berries off the bushes.

A very young ladybird on garden sage

Some of our little helpers are even smaller. These are ladybirds and hoverflies and all sorts of butterflies. So far I’ve seen peacock butterfly, small tortoiseshell, brimstone butterfly, a small emperor moth and many others.

Slightly longer ago we put up little fences around our fruit trees. At the foot of the tree we keep a circular patch free of weeds and grass. It is here where we decided to sow crimson clover. The sandy soil is poor in nutrients and the clover’s rhizobia will improve soil quality over time by fixing nitrogen straight out of the air. The clover is not hardy and come winter will wither and leave its roots in the soil and thus share all the fixed nitrogen with the roots of the trees. We needed the fences because apart from the feathered diners we als have hares coming in at dusk feeding on the green stuff on our meadow. They even had a go at the broom bushes which I cannot appreciate. The books say broom is poisonous to hares and other wildlife. But those hares might not have read the books yet. We also put nasturtiums in with the clover. They are said to attract black lice and also they have nice flowers. The hares are welcome to munch the dandelions and daisies and sheperd’s purses in our meadow, but we wanted to make sure they leave the clover and nasturtiums and lupines alone.



The pumpkins are going strong on top of the compost heap. I put them out much earlier than last year so I’m hopeful we’ll have a nice harvest. I had an experimental go at what is called The Three Sisters, that are maize plus climbing beans plus pumpkins. As we have strong winds pretty often and I wanted to grow climbing beans I felt it was a nice solution to have the maize as posts for the beans (with the pumpkins growing elsewhere). However, the beans are outgrowing the maize so I had to put up bamboo poles nonetheless. I’ve had to water this bed on a daily basis and it still looks like a bit of an adventure. But the broad beans nextdoor are doing well, and I had some old seeds of purple Mangetouts which are growing surprisingly strong.

We had a furious storm on Monday night. Tuesday morning the rain gauge revealed that just under 16 litres of water had fallen on to each square metre of ground. The pinks looked somewhat bedraggled. Some of the climbing beans succumbed to the strong winds, still not having attached themselves in time to either the maize plants or the bamboo poles. There were gaping holes in the soil where the water had hollowed the burrows of root voles and moles.


But most of the garden is fine despite the very strong winds and violent gusts dashing the hail against the window panes. We live on sandy soils and the large amount of water was welcome after what had been a rather hot and slightly windy weekend. We only just missed out on 30°C and it started getting humid.

As I write this dusk is closing in. It is after 10pm – the days are long, the sun rises early. The rooks that sleep in the oak trees wake up around 5.30am and straight away start telling each other the dreams they had last night. Soon the foxgloves will open their flowers, and the large bush of oxeye chamomille, too. And there will be more roses.

Patio rose Yorkshire Princess