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Wednesday 27 April 2022

Fashion and Gardening, Mutton Style - plus Link-Up

 Is This Mutton blogger Gail Hanlon beside her vigorous Clematis Montana Rubens Superba

Dear friends. Today I'm trying to achieve the impossible by combining fashion with gardening. Regular readers will know that most of my fashion posts are photographed in my garden. And I promised you a while ago that I would tell the story of how we created the garden. 

The spring garden is a source of great wonder and joy for me, starting as always with the bulbs and then the "Beast" - three Clematis Montana - springing into life.   After that, it's an unfolding picture of favourite perennials, summer bedding in pots, and the spectacular rose bed display.

Fashion blogger Gail Hanlon is also a keen gardener, shown with Clematis Montana Rubens Superba

The garden is actually quite small.  It would have been a good size if the previous owners hadn't built a garage and parking area on it. At the front of the house is a drive, south facing. It has a long border along the side which I use entirely for spring bulbs, and a large rose bed.

In spring there are hyacinths in the front of the rose bed. I like the deep blue and purple ones. The scent is magnificent. After they have flowered I dead head them and let the leaves die back.  This allows the bulb to gather energy for next year's display. 

The rose bed used to have 12 roses but I dug out three under-performers this year to give them more room. 

There two varieties, both English roses from David Austin.  This is Gertrude Jekyll, a vigorous and beautifully scented shrub rose which can climb.  She is named after a famous English gardener. 

And this is Scepter'd Isle, a more cup-like bloom, very long flowering, with darker leaves.

Tips for Growing Roses

  • They're very tough and resilient, so it's hard to kill them, unless you plant them  in conditions they don't like (shade or poor soil)
  • It's cheaper to buy them as bare roots and plant in winter.  Dig a very deep and wide hole, to allow the roots to spread out and not be too close to the surface
  • Make sure the compost is rich and full of nutrients
  • Use a fertilizer like Rose Plus before spring and later in the summer, for an encore flowering
  • Water them once a week in summer, it makes them stronger to repel bugs and blackspot
  • They may fall prey to aphids.  I use Rose Clear, but it's a pesticide so I try to only do it once each summer 
  • Prune them in winter

The Back Garden 

When we first moved in, and for a few years afterwards, the back garden was a dark, glum place. The previous owners had obviously been told "North facing, you need plants for shade," and that's what they did.  The garden was edged with leylandii conifers and hardly anything thrived under them except an azalea and a euphorbia. There was a patch of grass which was covered in moss. We hardly ever sat out in the garden. 

I was determined to have an English cottage garden. 

The picture below shows the garden when we removed the conifers. The soil was terrible. 

And here's the transformation, in 2012, with a new fence, railway sleepers around the border, and artificial grass. We planted a plum tree and a cherry tree:  both have thrived, although we got rid of the cherry last year because it didn't produce much fruit  (it needed another tree nearby to fertilise) and threw a lot of shade. We also have an old apple tree from the previous owners, near the shed, and the border on the left hand side has a large hawthorn tree and forsythia hedge.  The trees and clematis are brilliant for birds because they like the comfort of knowing they have shelter and can hide. 

The London garden of blogger Gail Hanlon at the start of its transformation

The fence is concealed now by three Clematis Montana I planted a few years ago, two pink (variety Rubens Superba) and a white one. Those are what you see in the top picture, from the lane on the other side of the garden.  They inter-mingle and tend to smother the poor plum tree, but look wonderful while in bloom.  There are also two honeysuckles which flower a bit later, when the three clematis have stopped. 

Tips for Growing Clematis Montana

  • They are VERY vigorous so ensure you have enough room for them to spread
  • Prune them immediately after flowering. They're Group 1 clematis which flower in April/May. If you prune them later, you will cut off the growth for next year's flowers
  • Fertilize after flowering
  • They are the easiest clematis to grow: they tolerate dry conditions 

What Grows Well in Shade / Part Sun

The main border is quite roomy, but the clematis cast shade so I have to be careful what goes in.  I use mainly perennials. Over time I've learnt what doesn't grow well in my back garden:  anything that needs direct sun, like echinacea, (coneflowers), osteospermums, dahlias, kniphofia (red hot poker).  

What does grow well, and these plants tolerate a degree of shade, is:  phlox, most salvias, penstemons, roses, dianthus, scabiosa, Japanese anemones.  I like a few plants to tumble over the edges of the sleepers, and phlox subulata and erigeron (fleabane) are excellent for this.  I have a few foliage plants for contrast. 

There's a metal obelisk but it's obscured by the "beast". A couple of perennial sweet peas pop up every year. They're not scented but they're a lot less trouble than growing annual sweet peas. 

My colour scheme for summer is pink, white and purple. In early spring, with the forsythia in sulphuric yellow bloom, I have daffodils and tulips in pots, and a few anemones and alliums in the border. In the front border, there are many different types of daffodil, planted over the years, and blue muscari line the edges. Sometimes I have forget-me-nots too, but they are biennials so I sow seeds in trays during the summer and then plant them out ready for spring. 

Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton with fringed dark pink tulips

I took this picture (below) yesterday. The garden has woken up:  the bulbs have nearly finished. I have high hopes for my new salvia, to the left, which is called Amistad and is a beautiful purple. It will flower from June to November hopefully.  It is supposed to be tender, but it tolerated winter with no problems. We did have quite a mild winter with no snow.

The garden features a lot in my fashion posts. Here I'm wearing a pre-loved blouse from Etsy and trousers from Kaleidoscope, with pink sandals (old) from Topshop and bag from Amazon.

Another very giving plant is salvia Pink Lips.  It's a different variety of the usual hot lips which is red and white.  They don't need much watering because they come from Mexico. They flower for a long time and don't need a lot of watering.

In late summer I sow seeds of "love in a mist" (nigella), above, which is an annual with delicate, pretty foliage.  Strong little plants emerge after winter and they flower quite early. It's always so lovely to see them emerging randomly all over the border. I harvest seeds from my own plants, and also buy a few more packets. 

Getting Started as a Gardener 

If you've moved to a new house, don't do anything in the garden (bar a few pots) for a year. It gives you chance to see where the sun falls, so you can decide where you should sit in the early morning or evening, and where plants should go. You'll also see what plants appear, and it'll give you an idea of what thrives in your climate and soil. Visiting local gardens that are open under the Open Gardens scheme is also great because you can see first hand what grows well in your area and get tips from the gardeners.

Colourful pots or window boxes are a great way to add colour if you don't have much room. I always have two pots outside the front door, and a bright display in front of the shed, which makes the garden look longer by drawing your eye down.

If you're new to gardening, you could always start with a few bulbs.  These power houses thrive in any conditions.  Simply make sure they don't dry out completely in winter and early spring. I water my potted tulips - it makes them last longer.  I treat tulips as annuals and plant them fresh every year.

Daffodils and muscari go on for years. If you love snowdrops, the best time to buy them is "in the green," when garden centres will sell them after they have just flowered. They're rarely successful from bulbs. 

Below:  the garden in high summer 

The Garden in Winter

The winter garden is fairly bare. I would love to grow some winter trees and plants:  witch hazel, daphne, colourful cornus. But with perennials in the border I don't have room for them.  I have a few hellebores and plant some colourful pansies in pots.  I don't "put the garden to bed" as people used to do.  I leave all the plants in situ.  Their leaves and dried flower heads protect them over winter.  Insects like to shelter under the leaves. As soon as the earth starts to warm up, we can prune and tidy. 

I hove you've enjoyed my tour of the garden. We sit in it all summer. I'd love to know in the comments if you love gardening, and what your favourite plants are. If anyone is good with house plants, tell me more!

What I'm wearing: ice lavender wrap and pansy essential V-neck, both by Kettlewell;  silver necklace M&S (current); white Mia straight legged trousers, M&S (last year), lavender brogues, The Bias Cut (old). 

Sharing this post with: On Mondays We Link Up at Glass of Glam, Top of the World Style at High Latitude Style, Chic & Stylish at Mummabstylish, #SpreadTheKindness  and #Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge, #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Turning Heads Tuesday at Elegantly Dressed and Stylish,  Style with a Smile  at StylesplashTFF at Doused in Pink, Lizzie in Lace, Confident Twosday at IDoDeclaireRena at Fine WhateverFabulous Fridays at Lucy Bertoldi, #Neverendingstyle at The Grey BrunetteFancy Friday at Nancy's Fashion Style,  Weekday Wear Link-Up at Away from the Blue Sunday Showcase with Chez Mireille and Elegance and Mommyhood  (first Sunday of the month), Stylish Monday (first Monday of the month) with Ask Suzanne Bell, Talent Sharing Tuesdays at Scribbling Boomer, Link Up Pot Pourri and Traffic Jam Weekend at My Bijou Life

Now it's time for the #WowOnWednesday link-up. Bloggers/Instagrammers can find new readers, plus readers can find new blogs to read. I promote my favorite five posts on Facebook and Twitter every week, and feature the most clicked posts in Instagram Stories. 

Last Week's Favourites (Most Clicked) 

Penny from Frugal Fashion Shopper - "Two skirts and an update on the move."

Kellyann's popular Closet Confessions from her blog This Blonde's Shopping Bag. 

Favourite Non-Fashion Post

Michelle from Fifty & Fab sharing her Hypoxi before and after photos. Hypoxi is a body shaping and cellulite busting treatment. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

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  1. I'm impressed with your gardening skills. And love your hyacinths, they are so gorgeous and smell unbelievable. I love to spend time in my garden......... reading a book that is and eat! Lol

  2. Gail, thank you so much for these gardening tips, especially on how to avoid black spot and how to prune back clematis Montana. How much do you prune it back by after flowering?
    Hugs xxx

    1. I'm going to cut it back a lot this time. I try not to cut into old wood, even though it's unsightly, because I did kill one once by doing that!

  3. You have such a lovely garden, you are a very skilled gardener, must be lovely now all the colour is coming out in the Spring. Thank you for sharing.

    Lauren - bournemouthgirl


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