Monday, 15 June 2015

Blue Geranium

My blue geranium is in full bloom now.  I love this plant, it requires no attention, is not fussy about position and is 100% reliable.  This plant is actually in quite a sunny spot, which is not what you would expect for a geranium and the only problem I have with it is that is is huge!  I chopped a piece of it last year and put it in a pot, the offcut is also flowering well though it is a much smaller plant.  The colour is a purple/blue, depending on the light.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Flaming June?

 I can't remember a spring as cold as this one, the cold wind has made gardening into a subtle form of torture. While the temperatures are now recovering a little, it is still cool for the time of year.  Some flowers are out - my red poppy ... 
 ... and the self-seeding endemic yellow poppy.
 On the vegetable plot, the potatoes are finally getting going.
 These loganberries have been in for 15 years, until last year they showed no sign of life at all.  Last year they put out a lot of shoots, and this year there are a lot of flowers, so I am hoping for a good crop.  If you're not familiar with them, they are a hybrid berry, a long berry which looks similar to a long raspberry, but they retain their core like a blackberry.
 The strawberries are flowering very well now so we will have fruit in July.
 While the apples have set well, the late cold seems to have pruned the plum fruit rather badly, so not many of those this year.  We got a hard frost at a crucial time.
 
This year has been a good one to study the effects of the variable temperatures on planting.  Above is the lettuce planted just a couple of weeks ago.

 
 


 This is the same variety planted over 6 weeks ago under a cloche.  It's smaller and the leaves are thicker.  You can also see smaller seedlings around it - these were planted at the same time but did not germinate until more recently.  So early planting does not necessarily guarantee good results.
 The weather has not just been cold, it has also been windy and I think it is the cold wind which has done this damage to the garlic.  I've never seen this before, as it has also been very wet, they certainly weren't suffering from dryness.  The new centre leaves are perfectly green so this has to be wind damage.
 Germination has been patchy for many plants - there should be 2 rows of peas here but in fact we only have 2/3 and 1/4 of a row. These were the first to be planted and this germination is very poor, the worst I've ever had for this variety (Alderman).   The second sowing has done a little better, but there is a very staggered germination there too.
 The cold has really held back growth - these broad beans are rather small for this time of year.  Some of the seeds failed and I had to resow in the gaps.  They are now flowering but they're tiny.



 While the beetroot germination was a little patchy, I do have some good plants surprisingly.  Beetroot suffer in the wet, so I put them in the driest bed under a cloche and this has ensured germination.  They are now starting to grow on.

A nest of wrens fledged today, with a bunch of them behind the shed.  Here's one of the fledglings sitting on  a pruning which I helpfully left for them!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Arley Hall and Gardens

 A week ago I had a trip out to Arley Hall and Gardens.  I'd never been there before but it turned out to be well worth the trip.  It has a number of different types of garden and planting and I think that spring is probably a really good time to visit, though I am sure other parts of the garden will come into their own later.
 We started in the woodland garden which is packed full of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias with a sprinkling of spring flowers.
 The weather was kind to us but parts of this garden can be muddy, so be warned!  There were very few people around, as you can see so it was a very refreshing walk in green surroundings.
 Around the main buildings are the more formal gardens.  This one had some lovely tulips still hanging on and some flowering herbs, but probably the main event here will be the roses you can see in the picture.
 Next door is the walled kitchen garden, with some of the best examples of trained fruit trees I have seen in a long time.  This apple is a beautiful example.  The garden is huge so there were lots of trees along the side - apples, pears, cherries.  In the middle were some vegetable beds and an ornamental walk.
 For the fruit and vegetable grower, this kind of conservatory is a dream!  Along the back wall are a number of old and well tended fruit trees - fig, apricot, peach etc.  A rare sight these days and clearly a hangover from the earlier big house gardening traditions.  Nice to see an old tradition being maintained.
 Next to the kitchen garden is another walled garden, this time with ornamental planting and buzzing with nesting bird.  In the centre of this picture is a fountain.
 Here's a picture along one edge, it doesn't take in the full length but you do get an idea of the scale.  There is a great variety of colours and textures in the planting.
 This long walk is one of their treasures, with spectacular topiary on both sides, but particularly on the right side where it makes a complete wall.  If you look carefully in the distance you can see a man mowing the grass.  A lot of work here.  This border will be at its best in June/July I think, given the cold spring.
 Another small garden nearby has a sunken feature with more small scale planting but surrounding by large topiary.  Quite spectacular.
In between the sunken garden and this one is a stretch of roses, which were not flowing so I missed them out of my photos.  This garden is a classic late 19th century rock and water garden,with meandering paths bordered by rhododendrons and azaleas, with a rather lovely and very old Japanese maple as a feature.  This garden does need a little restoration at its outer edges but in spring it is quite lovely.

All in all, well worth a vist.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Spring, Winter, which is it?

 The temperatures had risen, the soil had warmed up and dried well so it was time to put the potatoes in.  Several trenches dug, to the delight of my allotment robin who bobbed about picking morsels out of the soil.
 I don't grow early potatoes anymore as our climate is just too variable - we are increasingly prone to very cold spells in the spring.  So these are maincrop - Desiree and Cara.  They're safely in now and under the soil which is just as well given the cold snap we now have.
 I tried the rhubarb but it isn't quite at its best yet, will try again later this week.
 Beetroot is either great or dreadful for me.  This year I have tried a method given me by another grower, to just create a divot in the soil with a stick or dibber, put the seeds in and cover them over with a little soil.  These are under a cloche now.  They seem to like it drier.
 It's nice to have some colour around the house now.
 My favourite white daffodils are the last to flower.
 All the pictures above were taken last week in the warm weather.  Now it is freezing, we had sleet last night and hard frost the last few nights.  Naturally my plum tree chose this time to start flowering, so I really don't know how many plums will set this year.  We'll have to wait and see.
The germination of my broad beans has been quite poor, unusually so.  It could be the long dry spell, it's hard to know.  Yesterday I filled in the gaps with spare beans and we had heavy rain afterwards so I hope they will grow better.  Strange weather, but it looks like being on the chilly side for the next week or two so I will probably hang back with sowing the tender plants.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Spring 2015 finally arrives!

 In the last couple of weeks we have gone straight from winter to spring almost overnight.
 On the vegetable plot there has been much digging to do, above is an example of my heavy clay soil - you can see the clods of orangey clay in there.  I have three beds like this, they are at the bottom of a slope so prone to getting very wet, and we have had wet summers recently.  In autumn I piled manure and compost on these beds to improve them, this has rotted down over winter and I've now dug it in.
 The skies have been fairly blue recently so the soil has warmed up nicely, particularly under my cloches.  The starlings have moved into my roof edge to nest so it must be spring.
 With the broad beans and garlic already in, I decided to move on to other plantings.  I had left space along the edge of the garlic for these seeds - parsley, lettuce and rocket.   They have been in for a week now and are germinating well under the cloche.
 The garlic has come up quickly but I'm leaving it under the cloche for now.
 One of the rhubarb plants is not far off picking.
 Though the plum tree is still very bare...
 ... the early apples are budding well...
 ... the currants and gooseberries are putting out flower buds too.
 In addition to the lettuce, I have also done a first planting of spinach in a small bed next to the rhubarb.  I have planted in a bit of a pattern, with perpetual spinach round the outside, and orange chard in the middle, in a square.  Hope it turns out geometric!
 The robin on my plot is my constant companion while digging, helping himself to the goodies I uncover.  As you can see in this action shot, he does come very close!
I am happy to help as he now has a young family in a nearby shed, curiously his mate has her territory round that shed, while he always comes back to my plot for food.  Here he is among my cut off raspberry canes, I'm looking forward to seeing young robins soon.