Happy New Year!

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I just wanted to let you know that I’m back! Unfortunately, 2011 turned into my annus horribilis and my poor, neglected garden was largely left to fend for itself. I have to say, it didn’t seem to mind! But now it’s a new year and I can’t wait to get back in amongst the plants.

I have already had several visits to various garden centres, under the guise of looking for Christmas presents, and have made several purchases. This is a good time to visit because, not only is it quiet and peaceful but there are also sales of which to take advantage.

My gardening buddy, Raewyn, gave me strict instructions that my garden was too small to have the stunning Cornus shrubs on show. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about them and returned to buy. I also bought 2 of what I hope will turn into lovely Asters.

 This is my stylish thermometer,
a Christmas present from my
lovely sister, Lorra
This is how it looks now This is the plan

My long-suffering husband finally succumbed and agreed to the purchase of a garden archway. It wasn’t the archway as such that he objected to but the nibbling away of his treasured lawn. I am working on the principle that a garden is made more interesting by not being able to see everything at once. I’m not convinced but it is my intention to cut a swathe across the lawn to increase my planting area and infuriate my husband. I just hope it looks ok or I will be eating a lot of humble pie and reseeding a lot of lawn.

I am even more excited this year as I have a new gardening buddy; my son’s partner, Rin. They moved into a new house and have now decided to tackle the very small garden. Raewyn had some great ideas and I am looking forward to sticking my two-pennyworth in. To start them off I bought them a cordon apple tree – Scrumptious – from Pamona Fruits for Christmas.

So here’s to a fruitful 2012!

A Guided Tour

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I’ve been unusually unbusy in the garden this week. The rain over the past couple of days has been very welcome and seems to have roused the garden  from its sunbathing stupour. Everything is fresher and more alert.

I’ve had another seed disaster with Nicotiana and Oenothera, neither of which has germinated. Some seedlings appeared but I am sure they have wafted in while the trays were outside in the sunshine. Both have been sown again and I am going to keep them indoors until they germinate, or until I learn to recognise plants from weeds, whichever is sooner! Of course it’s back to the fridge with the Oenothera for the next four weeks. Sowed some purple and white honesty that came free with my magazine along with the free WHITE sunflowers.

As I haven’t done much this week I thought I would just do a progress report around the garden so hang on to your hollyhocks as the saying goes. Speaking of hollyhocks…

The apple tree is looking much healthier this year, I only got 5 apples on it last year. Most of the blossom has gone now and I’m sure I can see some tiny apples forming, or it could just be wishful thinking!

The Redlove apple tree is also looking splendid with its rosy foliage. Even if it wasn’t going to provide me with juicy apples, it would still be a very attractive tree. The blossom was the deepest pink although there was only a tuft at the top and on one of the branches. Lorra says I shouldn’t allow it to fruit this year but I think the temptation of producing an apple with red flesh might be too much to resist.  
This is the first aquilegia I planted and was kindly donated from my sister, Charlotte. I spend much of my time pulling up the seedlings (these ones I do recognise) but they are so pretty I have allowed them to spread into other areas of the garden. I even shook a seedhead under the silver birch tree last autumn to fill a space and the seedlings are dependably flourishing there.Now I have two more lovely aquilegia to keep me busy.  
 I am so disappointed with the giant aliums this year. Although I now have 5, increased from the original and huge 3, they are very much reduced in size.  
This is the black leafed dahlia I thought I had lost, it took ages to show any sign of life this year. I don’t know its name but I am very fond of its dark foliage which forms the perfect backdrop for the profusion of bright yellow flowers which continue until the first frost. I think I bought it after a trip to RHS Tatton. I’m not sure how it will fare in a pot, I’ve always put it in the garden in the past where it’s had lots of room to expand.
 In the foreground is my magnolia stellata which was free except for postage. I was very disappointed when my little twig arrived but, although it’s still not much more than a twig, I am happy that it has some lovely, healthy  leaves and I am sure it will be stunning when it grows up.The short-stemmed lilies in the background were also free with one of my numerous orders. I gave some to dad and put the others in this pot. They look like little palm trees.  
I am very fond of this purple geranium and its abundant flowers pouring over the edge of the garden. I didn’t know I liked geraniums as I had only met pelargoniums before and wasn’t keen on them. When Raewyn told me I needed one in my garden I was none too pleased. Now I have two! Now I know I said I wasn’t going to buy any more plants but I do have another 4 geraniums on order and I am hoping they will arrive later this month. My new hellebore can just be seen peering out between the winter pansies which have also sprung into life. I had started to remove the pansied as I put in more plants but now they look at me with their little faces and I haven’t the heart to take them out.  
I am so pleased with the new rose, Swan Lake. It looks so radiant with its glossy new perfect leaves. I am concerned that it is a bit overcrowded by the sambucus.
I was very concerned about the sambucus when I planted it last year. It seemed to get lost and couldn’t really be seen among the other plants but this year it has come back with a flourish. I love plants with dark foliage and these feathery leaves sway so rhythmically in the slightest breeze.
I had a thing about grass last year and bought this rye grass at RHS Tatton against Jean’s advice. I put it in a pot as I didn’t want it to run riot. It didn’t do much last year but it seems to be making more of an effort at present. I am hoping it will soon throw up some flower spikes so I can justify my purchase.

Well, that’s the flowers, now for the fruit and veg.

I just wanted to introduce you to my little scarecrow who sits in the raised veg bed encouraging everything to grow. He hasn’t got a name but has been known to pop up in another part of the garden. Strange that this only seems to happen when my younger sister, Lorra, has paid me a visit!

I remember sitting on the patio last year and eating blueberries straight from the bush. Can there be anything more pleasing than that? The flowers are all but gone now, replaced by a blue haze with such promise.
I had some lovely beetroots last year although I think I cooked them too long – about 3 days I think! I am hoping for a good harvest this year and have thinned them out a little but I try not to disturb things too much, preferring to sow thinly in the first place.
I feel I have struggled with these cabbages this year but have you ever seen a more perfect specimen? Not a nibble or a blemish on their perfect leaves. I am convinced now that the initial failure was due to my heavy handedness when transplanting from tray to soil. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they continue to develop without further mishap.  
The carrots have now got proper leaves and seem happy. Again I have sowed thinly because, according to Monty Don, a carrot fly can smell a disturbed plant from half a mile away. This is just one section of the bag. The section on the right is where the cat like to jump in a leave deposits but my ‘cane garden’ seems to have stopped it in its tracks and even the disturbed seedlings are finding their way to the light. I will plant up the two remaining sections as soon as I get round to it.
It took a good few hours to prick out these lovely little celery seedlings. Celery anyone?
The potatoes seemed to take a while to get going but now they are positively rampant! The compost is almost up to the top of the bags. Admittedly, I have fed them this year with potato fertilizer so here’s hoping for a bumper crop.
I am so pleased with my peas after the disastrous start. No one ever told me what a ‘pea stick’ was so I’ve just used twigs I have found under the trees in the garden and they seem to be doing the trick. They are so pretty, I hope I haven’t planted them too close together.
The raspberries are growing well under the tree. Some of the leaves of the sickly one that was removed died back but it seems to be surviving. I will have to think about supports for them soon.
I sowed these salad leaves about a week ago and can’t believe they’ve come up so quickly. Another couple of weeks and they will be on the dinner plate!
The strawberries are looking good and have had many flowers. The three plants in the top of the planter are last year’s main plants, the rest are the runners.

The Mystery of the Missing Peas

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Decided to have a poke around in the peas to see if I could find any sign of more shoots but I didn’t find a single pea apart from the two that have already emerged! Where have they gone? There are no signs of anything having dug them up. Have sowed another two rows.

 

The tulips continue to delight me, gleaming like jewels in the beautiful sunshine. The darker ones flowered a little later in the back garden than the apricots which is why I thought I had planted one colour in the back and one in the front. Strange that it was the dark ones that opened first in the front garden even though they are all facing the same direction.

 Spent a lovely day at Ness Botanical Gardens in Neston, Merseyside. I can’t believe that it’s only 40 minutes away and I have never been. Of course, there’s no visiting a garden centre without making a purchase.I found this tiny tulip but all it says on the label is ‘tulipa specie’ which is not very helpful. It’s not looking its best in this photo. The spiky petalled flowers open up in the sunshine and close up again when it’s dull; it’s really pretty.  
 This picture was taken at Ness Gardens and shows the mass of Summer Snowdrops growing under a tree.  
 This is mine!  
  I love the little green dots around the edges of each bell’ ‘.
 The lovely weather encouraged much activity in the garden this weekend and the Jasmine ‘Clotted Cream’ was finally planted. I stole the trellis from a clematis which meant another trip to the garden centre to replace it. I didn’t even know it was 20% off weekend so I had to make the most of it!We saw these Primula Denticulata at Ness but they were quite expensive so I was thrilled to get them at a bargain price along with some scraggy yellow primula from the bargain bench, left over from Mother’s Day.  
  I also purchased a Spiraea Arguta and planted it in the top of the front rockery and an obilisk and some sweet pea seeds ‘Elegant Ladies’.We put some of the new trellis against the front fence and made an effort to untangle the poor clematis that was clinging desperately to itself. The convolvulus was removed as I accepted that it really hadn’t survived the winter.I can hardly believe the difference in the Aubretia in aweek.  
The blossom is out on the grafted apple tree and gone from the damson.
This corydalis flexuosa is one of my favourites.Finally this weekend I sowed some Nicotiana, ‘Tinkerbell’ and ‘Lime Green’ and the sweet peas. I can see signs of my second batch of cabbages.

 

Spring is sprung

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It’s been such a busy week, mainly due to the lovely sunny days we’ve been enjoying. Night times are still cold and we have had some frost.

I planted the English bluebells as soon as they arrived this week.

I am intrigued by my new apple tree. It’s the Redlove which, I am reliably informed, has red flesh and a flavour of berries. I have been looking at it for a long time and pondering whether or not to buy one. I have taken the plunge even though I already have an apple tree with 3 varieties grafted on one trunk. There must be a limit to how many apples two people can eat! Whilst visiting Plantation Nursery this week for afternoon tea with Raewyn, we spotted some lovely bright blue pots for half price; perfect for my new apple tree and my unhappy camellia (see below).

Charlotte and Danielle bought me a lovely orchid when they came to visit about a year ago. I have to admit, I don’t have any house plants as they just die. I’m not sure whether I kill them with kindness or inconsistency but it happens every time. Of course, when you buy an orchid, it comes complete with lovely flowers and all seems very cheerful and so it was for many months. The flowers disappeared and I was left with a pot full of leaves, healthy and increasing in number. As time went on, nothing happened. I suspected that it was getting too big for its pot, probably due to having lots of protruding rooty stuff. The question was, do I spend money on a new pot and orchid compost, or do I cut my losses and send it on its way to the great compost heap in the sky? I gave it a good talking to and warned it that if it didn’t do something soon, it would be shown the door. On a visit to the garden centre, I was drawn to the orchid section and, in a weak moment, succumbed to the necessary purchase. On returning home, I carefully repotted and watered and spoke sternly to said plant. Imagine my excitement when it threw up a stem full of buds! This week one, just one, burst into flower and what a flower it is! So, I am pleased for two reasons; I have managed to keep a houseplant for more than a few weeks and my money was well spent on nurturing this little treasure.

I bought a camellia a couple of years ago when down at Charlotte’s, I’m pretty sure she bought one too. Last year one tiny bud formed, right at the bottom of the stem – and there it stayed. It never turned into a flower but the rest of the plant seemed quite healthy with lovely green shiny leaves. This year I was quite excited when many buds appeared and I was in anticipation of a display of bright flowers. However, my hopes were dashed when the buds turned brown and that was obviously that! Raewyn told me that camellia don’t like the early morning sun. I had planted my poor camellia in the exact spot where the sun rises and shines between the two houses first thing in the morning. I treated my precious plant to a new pot, some new ericacious compost and a new position. A couple of the leaves are turning brown but my fingers are crossed that it will cheer up soon.

7 cabbage seedlings are now out in the open but I think my successional sowing hasn’t worked as both sets are coming up at more or less the same time. Maybe I didn’t leave enough time between sowing?

It occurred to me this week that the two remaining euonymus shrubs that have been climbing the back fence since we moved in to this house, were not really adding anything to the garden so down they came. It just remains for the long-suffering Steve to do the back-breaking work of digging out the roots. There were several more of these around the garden but they too have been gradually removed as my interest in the garden has grown. Sometimes I think I don’t see the stuff that’s been around for a long time. Anyway, I thought there were more attractive things to grow up the fence. A text to Raewyn and we’re on our way to Fryer’s for afternoon tea! Fryer’s are rose specialists so they have a huge variety to choose from. Did I tell you how hopeless I am at making decisions? After a discussion with the ‘rose man’, I chose a white rose with a pink tinged centre called ‘Swan Lake’.

I also chose a Jasmine called ‘Clotted Cream’.

I fear I may have made a huge mistake in cutting down my red climbing rose. It has been climbing the fence for a few years now and I have had a handful of the most beautiful roses from it but never in great numbers. I suspect it doesn’t get enough sun in its current position and I may ultimately have to move it. I had been out earlier in the month to prune it a little and reposition it on the trellis. Raewyn showed me an article about how to prune roses which said to remove the weak shoots and thin end bits (that’s a technical term!). On close inspection, I noticed that most of the shoots were weak and also that the main stems had at some point been split by I’m not sure what. So I took a deep breath and the secateurs and chopped it right down. I now live in hope that it will be rejuvenated and not killed!

I never seem to leave Raewyn’s house empty-handed and this time it was some tiny Zinnia seedlings. Of course I had no idea what Zinnia were! Have decided to plant them behind the little box hedge.

March 2011

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Still cool with sporadic frosty nights. Some sunny days and plenty of wet ones.

5th March:
Daffs on the verge of bursting open.

Planted peas and 6 more cabbages (no sign of previous ones germinating yet). Trying successional growing so that everything doesn’t grow at the same time, have a feeling they will all grow at the same time anyway.

Potted up dahlias and put them in the grow house. Might be too early but they had little thready roots.

Planted paeonies in pots – Shirley Temple, Sarah Bernhardt and Karl Rosenfield.

9th March:
Snowdrops arrived and planted.

Ordered Redlove apple tree.

2 tiny cabbage shoots have appeared.

12th March:
Can see signs of blossom on apple tree.

 

Daffodils and hellebore in full glory although some daffs have still to flower.

Blueberries are springing into life

Not sure if the standard fuschia will come back

I love this corkscrew grass in the Chelsea border

This tiny eryngium is braving an appearance

Giant alium leaves making good progress

Kestrel potatoes still chitting in conservatory

Hollyhocks making an appearance

Onions under cover

Raspberries have proper leaves on now

This rhododendron has been in the garden since we moved in 20 years ago

Planted 2 rows of Boltardy Beetroot.

Now have 3 cabbage seedlings

Emptied potato sacks at tip ready for washing out and replanting at end of month.

Rearranged and fed red climbing rose. Cut down phormium, don’t know if they will come back.

13th March:
Raewyn gave me some iris bulbs which have been planted.

4 cabbage seedlings.

February 2011

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Much warmer, some days in to double figures!

8th February:
More signs of life every day, daffs seem to have grown overnight. Giant aliums pushing through and tiny specks of green on raspberry canes.

Put second and larger of the covers on raised bed. This went on much easier than the smaller one.

Planted box hedge around patio, could have done with a few more plants though.

 13th February:
Tulips have appeared and daffs continue to grow. Little green shoots are sprouting from the onions.

Ordered 6 more box to complete hedge. Bought 375 litres of compost for £9 – bargain!

Threw all cuttings away except for a few. I suspect they had too traumatic a time! When I re-potted after the wind they had developed a good root system but I think the frost was just too severe. Maybe I should have brought them indoors.

14th February:
New box plants delivered and planted immediately. Ground very wet and sloppy though, not sure they are going to like it.

17th February:
Planted dwarf lavendar. Filled up carrot bag and planted 6 cabbages in modules and placed under the cover of raised bed.

24th February:
What a magical time in the garden. Every day brings a new revelation. One sunny day makes all the difference. Daffs and tulips continue to grow. Hellebore is bursting into flower, the first ones in the garden. Fresh green leaves of aconitum and geranium emerging as well as phlox and aquilegia. Buds appearing on apple tree, sambucus and camellia.

Planted leeks and 4 tomato seeds under cover.

Ordered some snowdrops “in the green”.

28th February:
Ordered Pyloria and free Paeonies.

January 2011

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A couple of warmer days to melt the ice and snow, -3 and -4 at night but the days are managing to stay above freezing.

9th January:
Tidied garden, removing remains of perennials and raking up leaves. It’s amazing how many things are showing signs of life already, sedum, aquilegia, clematis.

Pondering about whether I need a PVC/insect net cover for raised beds. Cost £178 so I need to be sure.

Cuttings in grow house not looking too good.

18th January:
No sign of daffodils yet but I think I can see some aliums.

Greenthumb came to scarify and aerate the lawns.

Potatoes (Kestrel) have arrived so they are waiting patiently in the conservatory. Veg seeds also arrived so I have some planning to do.

Bought hoops and covers, need to get them on to warm the soil.

Used winter tree wash on apple tree. Should have been done in December so I hope it’s ok.

25th January:
Some daffodils daring to emerge in to the cold. I’m sure I will have lost lots of plants due to the severe winter.

Managed to get one cover on so at least I will be able to get my onions in soon.

New box hedge arrived and needs planting as soon as possible. I was going to put them around the edge of the round patio but will have to see whether the damson tree roots will allow it.

30th January:
Onions planted in covered bed 10cm apart and 20cm between rows.

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