Sunday, 27 June 2010

Summer in the Garden

I bought this peony a few years ago and it's the first time it has flowered. The flower is a very deep pink, deeper than it looks in the photo, and it has five flowers, which is amazing given it has done nothing for the last few years. This peony is in a large pot, with small narcissi and grape hyacinths round the edge, so it provides interest for a few months. I have a peony in the garden but it rarely flowers due to the poor soil and dryness, so I decided to pamper this one in rich potting compost - it's certainly paid off!
In the vegetable garden, my daily labours in watering are now beginning to pay off. It's amazing how much growth plants put on after a water - here are the peas, lots of pods growing now.
And here are the broad beans, which had stopped growing a week ago and have now ballooned in a few days. The weather forecast sometimes shows showers ahead, but they then disappear from the forecast, so there's no prospect of serious rain for the next two weeks, meaning my watering schedule will have to continue for now.
The cabbages have grown well, but then started to show damage. I could see it wasn't slugs, so examined the leaves to see if it was early cabbage white caterpillars, but couldn't see any of those though I have seen one butterfly visiting my cabbages. So my conclusion is woodpigeons - the cabbages are now securely netted and the woodpigeons will have to find something else for their tea!
Not a lot of produce from the garden yet with the cold spring, just spring onions, lettuce and the first strawberries, which are delicious.
Finally, here is my old rose which is magnificent this year. I'd like to say there was a secret to getting so many flowers, but I think the weather has most to do with it, not me. It is a very old bush, all I do is cut out one or two large old stems out each year to encourage it to renew itself, water it when it gets very dry and hey presto! Beautiful scented roses, some of which come into the house - the scent of roses is the epitome of summer for me.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Dry, dry, dry

Another gratuitous picture of my Himalayan Blue Poppy, this time with both flower buds open. I'm going to let it go to seed now and see if I can get some seed from it to germinate next year.
And this scented yellow rose has just started to bloom, handily at head height for a 3-year old girl who passed by and said "Mummy, look at this lovely flower."
On the vegetable plot, things are doing ok but slowing up a bit due to the very dry weather - our last rain was over a week ago and that wasn't enough anyway. So I've started rotation watering - every day certain plants get a drenching, over a week they all get some. It's the only way to do it on a large plot without the use of a hose. These peas have reached their full height now - a little over 5 feet. If you love peas, I would encourage you to grow a tall variety, for two reasons. Firstly, self-interest - you get a lot more produce from the same land than with a short variety and they crop over a longer period. Secondly, to save the old, tall varieties from extinction - since the seed companies concentrated on short varieties for the benefit of farmers the number of old peas has dwindled. This is Alderman, a superb sweet pea that also freezes well.
After months in the ground doing nothing the onions are starting to look like, well, onions! They don't mind the dry conditions fortunately. One advantage of a dry spring after a very cold winter is that the slug population has been decimated, so the onions don't have to fight off the slugs this year. My shallots are also doing well and should be ready in the next week or two.
And these redcurrants are starting to colour up, unfortunately. I still have some of last year's crop in the freezer and 6 jars of redcurrant jam left and have no idea what I'm going to do with this year's bumper crop - lots of jam for Christmas presents I think!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I was really annoyed that a few days ago I really had nothing to post for bloom day. But since then, this beauty has opened - Himalayan Poppy (Mecanopsis betonicifolia). There is another bud following too. I bought this last year, but it suffered firstly because I let it dry out, and then secondly because the local snails decided it was a delicious delicacy. So I potted it on, and armed the pot with copper tape to keep the snails at bay. My reward? This gorgeous blue flower.
My old rose is about to burst into flower too - this is the very first bloom, on an offshoot of the rose. I'll post a picture of the shrub when it's at its most dramatic.
Another rose - around here we have a lot of wild roses growing in the corners of fields and other out of the way places. I have a couple in my small patch. Simple flowers, left over from a time centuries ago when they were the dominant form.
They grow on arching stems - this is one of my plants. The other one puts its huge stems upwards into the trees above. These plants produce good rose hips which the birds value in winter.
And finally, an update from the vegetable garden, specially for my Mum who is in Canada right now. The salad leaves are coming along - here is a mix of various types of leaves. Today I weeded the strawberry bed and we watered all the cucumbers, pumpkins, runner beans, marrows and the potatoes (see previous post). We haven't had much rain here lately, so I'll rotate the watering to cover all the plants now. The peas are covered in flowers, lots of broad beans and strawberries to come. We picked some rhubarb today, though my Other Half managed to lose one stick of it on the way home, not sure how, neither is he....

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Yellow Flowers and Mystery Potato Disease

It's funny how flowers come in waves of colour - while I'm waiting for the creams and pinks of the roses to show, for now we have yellow flowers, starting with this poppy.
On the vegetable plot, a few of my potato plants are affected by these stunted, curled leaves. I suspect it may be a virus, but have never seen it before. Anyone know what it is? The rest of the plants are healthy and growing well.
The first broad beans are now set at the bottom of the plants, but the beans are still growing upwards and putting out more flowers.
And my tall peas are now 4 1/2 feet high, with the first flowers showing. I'm looking forward to my favourite summer meal - pea risotto.
And another yellow flower - irises are blooming in the damp places round here. Happy gardening!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Blue Geranium

I'm a big fan of spreading, bushy geraniums, and this blue one is my favourite. I've long since lost the exact species, as it has travelled with me from house to house, and does well in lots of situations. The flowers are large and showy, though it only blooms once.

The small patch of garden which came with my house has several problems; thin, poor soil; limited ability to build up the soil due to its proximity to the road (soil can wash off downhill); and its dryness in the summer - under trees and in full sun (when we get it!) for several hours a day. The soil bakes in the sun and then it's hard to get water in, contributing to the soil washing off. So although I do add compost and soil where I can, a bit of lateral thinking was called for.
I decided to ensure there is a constant covering of plants across the whole bed and this consists of woodruff and geraniums mostly. This stops the soil getting baked and helps retain moisture in the soil under the leaves. This blue geranium covers the roots of the old (shrub) rose, which suffers in the heat - you can just see it behind the plant here. The rose has really benefitted and now, though I have to water in dry spells, at least it doesn't run straight off like it used to. This old rose is covered in flower buds, and I'm looking forward to it flowering soon - will post a picture then. While the bed is lacking in colour during July and August, in reality little would survive the conditions so I satisfy myself with the green and varied foliage the plants provide.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Remedy for a bad back

I nipped out to take this photo of an allium, went back to my desk and stretched. OW! Don't know how I did it, but I pulled something in my back and was in agony. What to do? Lots of gardening to be done, so I spent the rest of the day being nice to my back, lay flat all night (couldn't turn over even if I wanted to) and wondered how I was going to get the planting done.

It eased a tiny bit yesterday, but this morning was still sore. Still, the plants weren't going to plant themselves, so I got on with it, popping in plants, building a new pea climbing frame, spreading fertiliser, until my back refused to do any more and I hobbled off. A hot shower and a few hours later while sitting on the sofa I suddenly realised I could feel no pain, stretched gingerly and decided I was right - cured! So there you have it - all you need to do to cure a bad back is plant 8 cucumbers, construct a support for peas and transplant around 50 cabbages. Works every time, well the one time anyway.
Here are a few shots from the plot. The bed you can't see in the foreground holds parsnips, cucumbers and pumpkins. You can see the first peas (about half their final size now) in the next bed, the second pea sowing is just behind and behind them are the courgettes. On the right the wonky wigwams are for the runner beans. Behind are the herb beds, the rhubarb and the jerusalem artichokes which are doing so well they're expanding into the beetroot bed next door.
The broad beans have just started flowering, quite late this year like everything else. It will be a couple more weeks before the peas flower.
Here are the strawberries with the potatoes in the background. The strawberries desperately need weeding but I can only do them when wearing a thick long sleeved shirt and gloves as the leaves irritate my skin for days afterwards. That's my Mum's legs on the left!

We're told we may have drought restrictions in a few weeks due to the lack of rain - it's certainly been an unusually dry spring as well as a cold one. Rain is forecast tomorrow, so let's hope we get a good downpour. Happy gardening!