Thursday, 9 June 2011

Matters Horticultural

Frou frou
in various stages of undress

I have never really admired peonies before; they tend to flop, droop and dangle their massive blooms all over the place. My garden is very windy and peonies need staking and confining if I don't want their primadonna ways to smother their less ostentatious neighbours. Their frilly knickered glory is also short-lived and I have been rather ruthless with them up to now. But plants are like books to me, I wouldn't deliberately kill one or give it away to any other than a really good home; as peonies don't take kindly to being transplanted I  have had to tolerate them in my borders.

But in a vase they look spectacular. So that's where they will end up from now on. A worthy setting for the star of the show.

Whereas the Weigela,  covered in a mass of pink blossom,  is a welcome addition to the May/June borders, being self-sufficient, hardy and very sturdy. Above all, its scent is gorgeous, sweet and fruity. It is also perfectly happy to be pruned back after flowering and will spend the rest of the year in the shadows, lending its green leaves to the lush background so very necessary to give structure to an English country garden with its emphasis on herbaceous planting.

Bob The Flower and his assistant grow annuals, a few easily propagated herbaceous plants and one or two common shrubs and sell them at weekends in summer in a car park in the centre of Craven Arms. 
Bob started about ten years ago in a small field he rented from a local landowner. He now does a roaring trade. People mainly come for his trays of bedding annuals, hanging basket and container plants, as soon as the danger of night frost is over.  I bought a whole carbootful of annuals and container plants, all garishly coloured, to fill the many gaps left in my borders by the killing frosts of last winter.

Bob's plants are cheaper than those from expensive nurseries; he also sells vegetable seedlings. I bought French beans, beetroot, courgette and lettuce (little gem) plants from him. I really couldn't grow vegetables more effortlessly or cheaper.

Plenty of arse over elbow action going on at Bob The Flower's

When we got home this chap was waiting for lunch. We only seem to have one grey squirrel, although they normally hunt in large packs. He has been with us for years, has made his home in the owl box in the horse chestnut tree, regularly steals the bird food and uses the birds' drinking dish for a bidet. 

I am not fond of tree rats, which is all grey squirrels are, but one chap, so long as he doesn't bring his missus and expect us to subsidise a large brood of layabout dependants, well, where's the harm.


  1. I so enjoyed this. I have one large gray I call The Colonel. He tries to control everything, but lately a preponderance of red-winged blackbirds who seem to have found their way to my feeder, have kept his ego in check.

    I love the unruly peony, and its anarchist ways. I have twenty six of them almost ready to bloom, but they are inside wire "holders" that keep them in line. I do love your arrangement in the top photo.

    Love your fun last paragraph.

  2. i love squirrels, tree playful and fun...bob sounds like a nice chap and a fair trader...and i think your flowers are lovely

  3. A great post, enjoyed in my favorite armchair by Pigeon Lake Alberta whilst lazily waiting for suppertime. Our one squirrel showed up today too....

  4. What fun. you have a lovely garden, what I can see of it behind the bird feeder. I like squirrels. I think they are fun to watch, such characters. it's so hot and dry that only the hardiest are blooming in my yard. day lilies and yellow bells. the rabbits in the wild space are starting to invade the garden (same heat and dryness) and are getting our tomatoes.

  5. The squirrels are the bane of my existence. I regularly have four of them on my front porch and last season I got myself a big barreled squirt gun which caused them consternation, until they figured out it didn't hurt them at all. Now they just use it for a bath... :-)

  6. This lone grey squirrel of yours is quite the star. Perhaps he will not want to share his spot center stage with any others?

    How lucky you are to have Bob the Gardener nearabouts. Great to have him get all the beautiful flowers and veg started in a healthy garden. Lucky you to have the possibility of growing all the above in your garden.

    Peonies! Yes, the buds attract ants, and yes, the blooms don't last too long, but aren't these flowers so lovely? I still remember a friend from back in the 1970's who'd always bring me a big bunch of pink peonies each spring.

    Now I must buy my own peonies or even admire them from afar.


  7. I must at least try and get at my garden again.

    My father put a metal cone around the post beneath the bird feeder to keep the squirrels and chipmunks from getting at the seed. It worked!

  8. We call the squirrels Tree Rats too!
    Bring on the Frou Frou - I want a whole riot of frilly pink in my garden after a winter of dark green and grey.

  9. never heard of weigala. i love scented flowers and these are very pretty indeed. i think the peonies are gorgeous and wouldn't mind a few in my little backyard. alas for my decidedly ungreen thumbs.

    tree rat. is that what squirrels are? :p

  10. A bit of heaven for sure!

    Aloha from Waikiki :)

    Comfort Spiral




  11. I have a peony that didn't bloom for years and years, then all of a sudden it produced flowers, and I was just thrilled.
    Your gentleman squirrel is very good not to bring the squirrel hordes with him to annoy you!
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  12. Peonies. I wish I could grow these, but we have too much shade, and too many deer. When I was a child I used to love to pick them, crawling with ants and loaded with fragrance, dropping their petals all the way into my mother's kitchen.

    Bob and his assistant make a lovely portrait and I wonder what you said to make them smile so?

  13. Hello:
    Oh dear, peonies are amongst our favourite flowers and we did, in our last few years of gardening, create an extensive Peony Walk. You would have hated it.

    Bob The Flower has clearly created a wonderful business with his bedding plants. Good for him.

  14. Hello Friko

    We could do with Bob the Flower here.

    On the other hand, I don't envy you the grey squirrel. As far as I know, the population is pure red squirrel in this part of the world and long may it continue.


  15. We wouldn't mind grey squirrels if they didn't kill and eat baby birds in their nest - as it is, they aren't tolerated in our garden. However, one is acceptable, I suppose, especially if he isn't a family guy!

    Peonies do look fabulous in a vase, and they're much more reliable there. They wouldn't do well in my garden, but I buy the flowers occasionally.

  16. ha friko what a great post! i love my visits to the garden center . . . i always leave with more than i had planned. wait a minute, did i write "planned"? what am i thinking? there's no plan!!! squirrels are good but i prefer chipmunks. still kind of like very hairy mice, but somehow cuter. steven

  17. I love Peonies and I wish I could sustain them here...but just too dry and windy! They would suffer greatly and we can't have that, can we?
    Great photos and I am in love with Bob!!

  18. Bob the Flower and his Assistant look like they come straight out of South Georgia.

  19. We all need more traders like Bob. Plants from most nurseries cost a bomb.

    The oaks around here are alive with squirrels. I've got quite fond of them over the years.

  20. Beautiful flowers and thank you for introducing us to your plant providers. There's so much character in that face on the right.

    I love squirrels. A friend of mine rehabilitates orphaned squirrels and they're sweet and loving - each with their own personality.

  21. Three cheers for Bob the Flower & his assistant! Independent enterprise at its best...

    Your weigela is a lovely coloration - mine are the more standard cherry red but I like them none the less.
    We don't get many squirrels but the deer are becoming much too comfortable nearby. And I look constantly for a rare visit from "our" bear...he is so beautiful and minds his own business.
    Happy Gardening, Friko - June in England must be heavenly.

  22. My peonies drive me nuts. It gets hot here too soon for the frou frou kind, so I have stuck to the singles for a few years. Re Bob and his ilk: One of the things I did when I visted England was check out your nurseries. Loved them. I am happy to see you have as much challenge in baffling the squirrels as I do. My dogs like to chase them, and they in turn appreciate the new fence with its caps they can traverse like a highway in the sky. Fun all around. Dianne

  23. These are lovely pictures, Friko. I love love peonies, have some pink loveliest at my dinner table right now.
    Enjoy the evening x

  24. I do rather like sqirrels even though they're a bit like furry pigeons .... and about as popular .
    The colony in Kettering's churchyard pinch bananas from the neighbouring market and sit just out of reach enjoying every last mouthful . Blatant .... and very funny .

  25. Bob The Flower -- what a great name and what a great idea to sell in a parking lot. Love the photos of Bob and his friend -- they are salt of the earth type. Your squirrel is now part of the family I see. Enjoyed. --- barbara

  26. Bob the Flower and assistant look like they enjoy life! And I completely agree about peonies -- if you don't cut them early on and stick them is a vase, they go and rub their pretty faces in the dirt.

  27. I love the way you described both peonies and Weigela. Then, I thought the pic of Bob the Flower and assistant was my fave. But then I saw the arse over elbow action caption. And THEN I saw the little chap waiting for your return. All in all, this post just an upward spiral in the pleasure rating for me.

    Loved it. :)

  28. I love the "frilly knickered glory" description of peonies. And Bob the Flower and his assistant. What fun!
    Enjoy your garden.

  29. Beautiful! You build on my fantasies of a true English Garden, beloved and eccentric pest and all. Oh, we do romanticize this stuff in the states and I have the worst garden envy. Our South is nearly tropical in its huge heat wave at the moment; peonies would tempura themselves here. But squirrels? Yes'm. Got'em.


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