The gardens at Pear Tree Cottage sit in a cider apple orchard in the green and rolling countryside of Worcestershire, England. It enjoys a sunny south westerly aspect with sweeping views across to Martley Hillside, Woodbury & Abberley clock tower. The Teme Valley lies just over the hill and, not far away, is the Herefordshire border. Although our climate is temperate, our seasons are often uncertain and always a challenge to a gardener!


16 January 2018

Barking up the Bright Tree!

Betula utilis jacquemontii
Betula utilis jaquemontii
Betula utilis Snow Queen

Just when we're desperate for something to brighten up the garden on a long winter's day, Mother Nature comes up with a solution! In this case, it's good old fullproof/growanywhere/tolerateallweathers silver birches! However, they do have a downside. They are without doubt the messiest trees in the garden. They drop huge quantities seeds everywhere and those dropped seeds germinate everywhere - pots, gutters, cracks and crevices - you name it. The wind blows great mounds of seeds by the tool shed and they also drop twigs everywhere. These faults are tolerated for their bark colour, their catkins in spring, their buttery golden yellow leaves in autumn and their graceful habit.

Betula pendula

As well as having several of the common European Betula pendula in the garden, we also have a Betula utilis jaquemontii and a Betula utilis Snow Queen. The advantage of these newer varieties is that they are faster growing and their bark turns a more silvery white at a much earlier age then the older common European versions.  Others have a brown bark which only turns silver at 10 years plus.  At our age we need instantaneous bark colour!!

10 January 2018

Beaky Bulletin

A very indignant Marigold!
Things have been a tad quiet on the chicken front lately so, here's a little update.

Firstly, I have to ask a question. Why would a chicken choose the coldest snowiest weather to moult? Throughout the very coldest weather, Miss Esmereld, our only layer of blue eggs, looked very sorry for herself. Stray feathers on the ground everywhere and not a single tail feather left - hardly surprising there's been no sign of her little blue eggs for ages and ages. Three months to be precise. Poor thing, there were more missing feathers than remaining ones. I was secretly thinking duvets!

Anyway this morning, I went down to feed the chickens and collect any eggs. To my horror; where there should by 5, there were only 2 girls!! Despite all the fortifications and the electric fence still ticking away, all sorts of alarm bells rang in my head! At any hint of food, they all come rushing to the gate.  Putting down the trough containing their breakfast of mash,  I opened the back door of the 'House for Hens, only to find the missing 3 all piled in to a single nest box in total silence, Esmerelda being one of the three, Marigold and Beatrice being the other two!  With high hopes of a blue egg, I carried Beatrice into the Hennery House nest box leaving the other two to lay in peace. It worked! Today's total was 4 and one them a blue egg. Now Esmerelda has a full compliment of feathers once again, her plumage is looking immaculate. Maybe 'fine feathers do make  fine birds after all!  Hopefully, there'll be more blue eggs in evidence and on a more regular basis.

From the left: Esmerelda,Tosca, Wilhelmina, Beatrice & Marigold.

9 January 2018

Barking up the right tree!

Acer griseum in the sun.
Sunlight through Acer griseum bark

At this time of year when there's little in the way of colour in the garden, it's difficult to beat bark. Whether the light shines through it or actually on the bark, it's still much needed colour. Here we have an Acer griseum - a tad on the slow growing side but its peeling papery bark is the equivalent of arboreal dreadlocks!

Acer sango-kaku

The Cornus sanguinea Midwinter fires are always guaranteed to give colour when its most needed as long as sufficient spring pruning ensures young stems. The other (much younger) Acer: a Sango-kaku dissectum also known as the coral bark maple has a third name: Senkaki. Whichever you choose, its bark colour won't disappoint. Ours, however, has a bit to go before it catches the Griseum when it comes to size. On a long and dark winter's day when the sun makes no effort whatsoever and it doesn't even seem to get properly light, these little gems of colour are even more of a valued necessity.

Cornus sanguinea Midwinter fire

8 January 2018

Marmalade from Home Grown Lemons.

All 26lbs - should see us through the week!
Softening the fruit

It's been a couple of years (thanks to red spider mites) since we had such a crop of lemons but this weekend saw another mammoth marmalade production line over the weekend! Our lemon tree certainly came up trumps as I picked a full 6 lbs of fruit which made 26lbs of marmalade. Good job it wasn't more as I wouldn't have had enough jars!  As it was, I was really scraping the barrel. It had to be made in 2 batches and I substituted much of the sugar with Xylitol - a natural birch sugar which can be metabolised in safety by those for whom sugar is bad thing! Lemon Marmalade - from tree to jar!  

In the greenhouse before picking.

7 January 2018

Cecil the Caterpillar

Cecil the caterpillar!

Allow me to introduce you to Cecil our caterpillar! It's not the best photo but he really is taking shape these days. He's actually a Euonymous - possibly a japonica Microphyllus which Chris has been trimming for about 3 years now. He actually looks more realistic than this photo suggests as his feelers hardly show up. Chris has sculpted bulging cheeks and even eye brows to go with his feelers! The advantage of having a Euonymous variety is: he doesn't eat other plants!

January Pruning.

A dull overcast and bone chillingly cold Saturday was spent pruning the Wisteria, trimming and cleaning out a conifer and giving the caterpillar a hair cut! The Wisteria is always a bit of a fiddle as it's such a thuggish monster and even though we pruned all the whippy side shoots off back in August: with no leaves to hide them; we managed  to find all those we missed in the summer. Weird how they force themselves into the tiniest and narrowest of gaps. Why does nature do that? It would be so much easier to just hang and flop out! 
I'm posting a photo taken in May just to remind me that freezing my socks off on top of a pair of steps really is worth it! Weather permitting: it's the apple trees next week........shiver!

4 January 2018

First Jobs of the Year!

Dusk falls on the wood chip carpet.
The log store filling up.
With all the Christmas and New Year excesses coupled with deliveries of both wood chip and logs on the drive the day before Christmas Eve has meant not too many gardening jobs so far this year! While Chris was splitting logs, I was barrowing wood chip down to the Henclosure. I don't like our little flock on cold wet soil and a nice thick carpet of wood chip was called for. Before barrowing in the last few loads of wood chip, Chris dug out all the Bamboo runners - an annual pain of a job but it keeps it in check and stops it taking over the world! We grow it there because it provides summer shade for the girls and they love eating it!

Having done that it was a case of loading, lugging and stacking the split logs.  As the last couple of hours work took place in the dark, I rigged up an extension lead a couple of inspection lamps to help light our way. The day ended with an empty drive, a full log store and very comfortable chickens! Sorted!!

Only a quarter of the load left!

3 January 2018

Money Raised for Charity

As an acqaintance enquired how much money Pear Tree Cottage Garden had raised since it began opening for charity, I've been looking back through old records and doing a few sums. Our NGS treasurer confirmed that we have been opening for the National Garden Scheme for 4 years. We have opened for Wichenford Open Gardens which is a biennial event for 5 weekends and the grand total is a whopping £10.000.71p.  Now, for a single very rural garden in the depths of the Worcestershire countryside, I find that figure pretty surprising!

Good news for the start of a new year!

13 December 2017

......And then the sun came out!!

The main lawn
Shed of the Year runner-Up!

For one single whole day, the garden looked utterly magical in its blanket of snow glittering in the frosty sunshine. Despite it being 10" deep, how could I resist going out with a camera? Everything was utterly transformed and so silent. Difficult to even imagine lawn mowing! Here's a link to more snowy garden pictures: Sun & Snow at PTC! If you know the garden, they're absolutely worth a look.

The Henclosure.