Saturday, 25 April 2009

Cherry Blossom Time!

The flowering cherries have just come out - they only last a few days but they are glorious.

Today I had a look at the peas under their cover - you may be able to see from the photo that there should be two rows but there are some gaps in one row.  
The gaps were in the seed that I didn't use last year - so in future I will use all the seed each year.  I have reseeded in the gaps, using up the last of this year's seed.  They are growing well, though, and fast now under their cover.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about trying out copper tape to prevent slug attacks - you run it round the top of the pot and the theory is they can't cross it.  Well it worked - the slugs and snails are about now and there are no holes in the leaves - behold!  
Such a simple and cheap solution - I have loads of it left so I might now try to grow other plants in pots which slugs find very tasty.  I have a hankering for delphiniums...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A nice surprise!

Sometimes plants surprise you.  Today I looked absently up the plot, looked again, rubbed my eyes and went for a closer look - I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing.  The Victoria plum tree I planted five years ago and which has so far produced 25 blossoms and 3 plums is covered in blossom, and I do mean top to bottom, side to side, hundreds of them.  What a shock!  But a nice one.

I have been mulling over why it has suddenly decided to come out to play.  This tree and the Blenheim Orange apple have never really flowered, despite the same care and attention as the other trees.  Maybe it's the hard winter, maybe it's just grown enough now.  Young fruit trees can be like that sometimes.  Anyway, I'm crossing my fingers for the Blenheim Orange now - I think I see buds on there too!
We have had some lovely sunny weather in the last week, though still with a chill wind so my baby vegetables are remaining under cover for now.  The peas and lettuce are doing well, here's a picture of the broad beans under their cloche.  Very healthy plants, looks like 100% germination so the decision to change to a different variety was the right one.
The other fruit trees and bushes are also doing well.  The Katy apple is due to flower in the next week or so.  The gooseberries and currants are also flowering prolifically at the moment.  In an earlier post I showed you what a flowering blackcurrant looks like - well here is its edible cousin, a redcurrant.  There is a resemblance, but not much!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Garden Makeover

Back in October I blogged about starting to renovate my Mum's garden.  I did a lot of the really hard work then, but we still had to replant and rebuild the garden.

This is the corner of the garden before I started today :

The problems with this rock garden were:
  • poor soil leading to plant malnutrition
  • the soil washes down in places when we have heavy rain
  • certain large plants had taken over
So, having removed the thugs of the plant world, the task was to put more stone in to hold the soil back, at the same time importing soil for the parts worst affected.  On Friday we went plant shopping - always a hard thing to do when you are not sure what the garden is going to look like in the end.  If I was a proper gardener, I'd have done the construction work first, but hey...

Some parts of the garden get shade pretty much all year round, some get a lot of sun in the summer, so it was important to get plants which could cope with different conditions.  We had lots of stone, given by a neighbour who demolished something last year - it was stone originally used in building the old mill here or maybe the privvies, long since demolished!

So here is a similar shot of the garden post renovation:

I moved a lot of stone!  I have well-exercised muscles now but I am exhausted.  The 2 bags of soil were also very unwieldy, but Mum gave me a hand with them - I wasn't letting her near the stone though.

Here's another shot from the other end - plants from bottom right are:

  • Potentilla - the bush on the right, has lovely flowers in the summer, this has been here some time
  • to its left, Helenium, orange flowers in a sunny spot
  • you can just glimpse through the bush one of the Heucheras
  • to its left is a white anemone, which was planted here years ago
  • to its left is another Heuchera
  • left again is a self-seeded geranium of unknown genus, soon to flower
  • there are also a couple of other self-seeded plants here, including a wild flower - purple toadflax, which is pretty
All of these plants are in the hottest end of the bed, which gets sun in the afternoon.

The middle section is partial shade, you can't see the bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis) which is behind the potentilla in this shot.  We moved some daffodils and a cowslip in front of this plant, and built up the edges to keep the soil in.  Almost in the middle of the picture is an aquilegia, which grow like weeds in this area, behind it a ligularia.

Then in the shady part we have a meconopsis betonicifolia or Himalayan Poppy (more on this below) which can't be seen in the shot, and in the lowest and newest bed are two types of primula denticulata and a lamium.

We still have a bit of work to do, but easy compared to this backbreaking stuff!

The Himalayan Poppy - I first saw this flower in a book about 10 years ago and really wanted one, but couldn't find it anywhere locally.  So when the plant nursery had some, I had to buy one for myself too - I really don't know how it will do in our climate, but there's only one way to find out!  Here it is - the plant label next to it shows the beautiful blue flowers it should produce in a few months.

I'm going to have a cup of tea now...

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Sunshine so lots to do...

The weather has turned nice again, so I have taken the opportunity to get out and garden. These white daffodils are just blooming now, rather pretty I think.

In the vegetable garden, I have been busy weeding the jerusalem artichokes, the rhubarb and the two herb beds over the last few days.  All done now, so everything is now well in hand and I can afford to relax a bit on the vegetable front.  The peas and broad beans are germinating, just waiting for the potatoes to put their heads up now.

This morning I decided to pot up the plants I bought earlier in the week.  I have done several small tubs of busy lizzies and lobelia - they will be flowering by the time the daffodils and primroses have finished.  In the process I removed a small "bed" which consisted of a circle of stones with a soil infill.  It has been empty of plants for some time, but when I took it apart, I found a toad:

He has been living here for some time - I thought I had lost him last year as I didn't see him for months but I am happy to have him back as he keeps the slug population down.  So I built a new little house for him in a pile of stones, with a soil infill and popped him in there.  There is another bed he can use for sleeping, and it's not the first time I have disturbed him, so he should be fine.

Talking of slugs and snails, this year I am trying out copper tape to prevent snail damage.  I have a big hosta in a pot (putting it in the ground would be tantamount to murder) but every year it gets stripped by the slugs and snails.  So I thought I would try to prevent it with this tape which is backed by adhesive and has pointy ends.  Easy to apply, I'll see how it goes.
And finally another picture of daffodils, you can just see the shoots of a peony in the background.

Enjoy the holiday!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Cuttings and Daffodils

We are having a bout of wet and windy weather here, so two days ago I took a couple of pictures before the wind flattened my daffodils.  Here's a pale variety of daffodil, can't remember the name - this particular flower is now sitting in a vase on my windowsill as it was blown over.  

While I was out, I had a look at the pots sitting on the sheltered side of the house, to see what was stirring.  I have a rose called New Dawn, a rambler which flowers in June/July - here's a picture from a post last year. 

A neighbour gave me some cuttings of this rose, only two survived and only one grew well, the other died 2 years ago.  I decided that it would be prudent to take some cuttings so when I pruned the survivor in July that year (I do this as it is clinging onto the wall with a few bits of string and the autumn gales risk damaging it), I took a few cuttings.   Last spring I had a look at them and found one had survived reasonably well, with small roots, one other still looked green but only had stumps for roots.  I repotted them, but the wet summer didn't help them much.  So I was pleasantly surprised to see that the more vigorous cutting is now thriving:
The other has also survived and is putting on new growth.  It's rather small though.  Still, I feel happier having another rose spare - I plan on keeping it in a pot for now.

Monday, 6 April 2009

First garden shopping of the year

Today's bloom is a lovely narcissus, with a wonderful scent.  I have two pots of them, one by the back door and one by the front door so whichever I choose, I can smell them.  Heavenly!  

Yesterday I persuaded my other half to give me a hand with some heavy work.  Actually, I suggested to him that if he wanted to continue eating the fruit and veg that I grow, he really had to help out.  He's not a gardener, you see.  So he moved a load of bricks and stone donated by my neighbour who had a wood stove installed in his chimney in the winter, generating lots of
useful left overs for me.  I laid some of the path, will do some more later in the week.  After an hour of that (as much as he could stand), we went out for a walk in a deserted valley nearby - I wish I had taken my camera because there were lots of very young and wobbly lambs about!   

So today I had to go get some compost as I need to be starting lots of tender plants indoors now, and had run out.  As I needed some cat food too, I called at the garden centre of the DIY store next to the pet store - not somewhere I usually shop for garden things, to be honest.

I've started to think about plants for the pots around the house in summer.  The difficulty here is the slugs and snails - whatever I get has to be resistant because we have them in plague proportions.  Every week in summer I carefully pick off the snails and take them over to the wild shrubby area nearby (they can't get back from there), yet next week I find more!  So when I saw two plants I know grow well by the house, I just had to get them - Busy Lizzie and Lobelia. Small plants, to grow on and make up into pots - they will be pretty and flower for a good long time.

So I wandered round the other plants and saw a patio rose which is alleged to flower most of summer and can stay in a pot.  It will have small yellow flowers, so I got this too.  I love roses, but the micro climate here makes it difficult to keep them healthy.  They either get drowned by the rain, or killed by the heat radiating from the stone the houses are built in, which holds its heat for hours after the sun has gone.  So I picked a plant which looked vigorous.

Here they are, busy lizzie left, lobelia top right and rose bottom.  My first garden shopping trip of the year, surely not the last!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

April Showers

I was desperate to finish weeding the strawberry bed today, as the weather is deteriorating into typical april showers, with colder winds for the next week.  I also really, really hate leaving a job unfinished!

So this morning I braved the weather - got rained on a couple of times - to get the last of the weeds out of the strawberries and complete the feeding/mulching.  Mission accomplished!  I took a picture but it turned out to be out of focus.  But once you've seen one strawberry plant, you've seen them all.

Here's another slightly out of focus picture (sorry!) - gooseberries just starting flowering.  They are tiny flowers, almost invisible except to the tiny insects that pollinate them.  If you look very carefully there is one fully open flower on the left.  Note the large thorns that will cause me a great deal of pain later in the year...

Finally, here's a picture of the purple sprouting broccoli which is the mainstay vegetable for this time of year.  It's not easy to buy retail and when you do find it, it often doesn't taste very nice as it is picked too early, so growing your own is the only option.  As you can see, with only a few plants there will be enough to eat 2 or 3 times a week for the next few weeks.  Yum!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Flowering Blackcurrant means spring is here

This is an ornamental blackcurrant, grown purely for its flowers which are much more showy than its edible cousin.  For me, this symbolises spring as for some reason it was a popular bush where I grew up and I walked past a number of them on my way home from school.  They have a very particular scent which travels on  the breeze on a sunny day like this one.  So when it flowers, I know spring is underway, and the scent takes me back to sunny afternoon walks towards home - it's a very evocative plant for me.

It's easy to keep flowering each year - after it has bloomed, I cut out one third of the branches, reshaping as necessary.  That's all it needs.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Grape Hyacinths

The grape hyacinths (Muscari) are now coming into full bloom.  The scent is heavenly - similar to regular hyacinths but less overpowering.  

In the vegetable garden, the weeding in the strawberry bed is progressing well, with over half the bed done now.  The onions are finally starting to grow in the warm sunshine and the lettuce is coming along.  I harvested some leeks today too.

The gooseberries are just starting to flower, and the currants won't be far behind.  It's all looking good now.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009