What a wash out!

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The  has been so awful that the garden has been left to take care of itself for the most part. However, it seems to have thrived without my interference. We also had a week away during which, seedlings which I had given up on, sprouted up.

Despite the weather, I haven’t been able to resist buying new plants. The front border between the two houses is full of shrubs and trees and is quite shady on my side. A gap in between was crying out for some shady plants so I bough some hostas. When I tried to dig, the ground was so dry and thick with roots it was impossible to make any headway. My gardening buddy, Raewyn, offered me an old stone trough which was pretty battered and insanely heavy. It fitted perfectly into the space and is now planted up with hostas.

I am really pleased with the new dividing border and archway created earlier this year. The plants are really developing well, despite the very poor soil. The thalictrum ‘Elin’ and delphiniums are 6 feet tall although the stipa giganteum is yet to reach 2.

I seem to have more aliums than ever this year. Those that have failed to produce flowers previously have flowered in even the gloomiest parts of the garden.

The cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’ seeds that germinated so readily have produced perfect plants but are only 6″ tall! The angelica archangelica planted last year is magnificent. The umbelifers are huge and stunning and attracting lots of bees. The climbing rose against the fence is bigger than it has ever been in the 7 or so years it has grown there. It has one beautiful bloom, hope there are many more to follow. I am pleased that the Swan Lake rose has flowered and hasn’t gone into a sulk after being moved last year.

Two beautiful acers have been added, one fine-cut and feathery and the other varigated and drooping.

The Ladybird poppy bought from the Tatton Flower Show in 2010 was no where to be seen last year and I thought it was lost. However, it appeared last month in all its glory. The aquilegias have been particularly pleasing this year although most have gone now.

There are lots of apples on both apple trees, including the graft that has never produced fruit before. Fingers crossed that they stay on the tree long enough to be edible. The strawberries are starting to colour and the raspberries are growing tall and strong. The blueberries are plumping up although I may have been a bit harsh with the pruning last year.

My friend at work gave me 6 swedes and some white and red onions, all doing very well. The beetroot is also doing well but I only have one moth-eaten cabbage. The carrots are looking a bit sparse and quite disappointing. Haven’t done too well with the veg this year.

Hope summer arrives soon.

Prolific Planting

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I’ve had a busy couple of weeks digging grit and manure into the new border that is thick with enough sticky clay to open my own pottery.

I am really pleased with the effect of erecting the archway which has created a little ‘secret garden’. I want a screen of tall plants across this large border to add some height without being too dense. I have chosen Stipa Gigantia and Thalictrum ‘Elin’ which have now been planted along with Raewyn’s delphinium and the Verbena Bonariensis bought in January. I chose another climbing rose for the archway, ‘Dancing Queen’ which I bought from Bent’s. I know they are quite expensive, but it was there and so was I so I bought it. On the bright side, it does come with a 5-year guarantee.

My son was quite amused as he watched me ‘scrubbing the dirt off the dirt containers’. He was referring to the covers on the raised veg beds which were splattered with mud from last year’s watering. The smaller bed now contains several rows of beetroot and 8 cabbages.

The ‘Chelsea Border’ is looking very pretty, even at this early stage,  with the delicate shades of pink and lilac of the pulmonaria and primula denticulata. My treasured tiny tulipa has 3 lovely blooms which open during the day and close as the sun goes down.

Summer Madness

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The beetroot looked as if it might be ready before we went on holiday so I decided to pull a few. One of them was a decent size but the rest were quite small so I left some in the soil to grow bigger. Of course, once pulled, action had to be taken so I made my first attempt at pickling using red wine vinegar, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and a bay leaf. My big mistake was forgetting to add some sugar so the result was beetroot spicy enough to blow your head off!

The buddleija Davidii is a really vivid purple which is lovely alongside the pink phlox and eryngium. This is a rather cramped corner with dahlias, rudbeckia cherry brandy, oriental poppies, geums, jasmine, heucheras and alstromeria. Maybe needs some sorting!
The short-stemmed lilies have now finished and those that were in the shady corner have been removed so these are the only remaining lilies in the garden. The heavy scent carries right across the garden. This poor rose seems to survive in spite of me! It was chopped almost to the ground last year, then I accidentally knocked the first bloom off with my hoe. However, it refuses to be beaten and has presented me with more beautiful blooms.

I’m rather concerned about my Kestrel potatoes as they haven’t yet flowered. The foliage looked a bit sorry for itself after our holiday but has revived with a good soaking. I’ve looked on the internet and some forums say that Kestrel don’t flower. I suppose the only way to check is to have a rummage and see if there is anything there. I might not grow potatoes next year as the compost is very expensive and the results have been less than good value so far.

The peas are a different story entirely. They have exceeded expectations. I should have harvested a bit sooner however, as some of them had started to dry out. I realise now that I should have kept them as they would have been next year’s seeds. They have now been safely harvested, podded and frozen. Haven’t eaten any yet though, I don’t even like peas!

The apples are plumping up nicely.

 

The tomato plants are very sturdy with a few tomatoes although there are a many flowers.
The nicotiana has finally flowered both in the pot (Tinkerbell) and in the garden (Lime Green). I planted nasturtiums in the raised veg bed to keep the cabbage whites off my cabbages.
Right Left

These two silver birch trees are having a short back and sides this week. When we moved in they were nothing more than twigs. Funny thing is, I never even noticed them growing into these towering giants. Mind you, I didn’t notice my two sons growing to over 6 foot either!

Bloomin’ Lovely

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Just look at this perfect specimen! Well, so far so good; my first and only Redlove apple. I just hope it continues to thrive and I eventually get to eat it, as it has been nurtured and cared for when I should have sacrificed it for the sake of the tree.

I suppose July and August are the times when you should be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labours and we’ve certainly had the weather for it. We have enjoyed cabbages, which I have decided to harvest young as they taste much nicer. We have had a good crop of strawberries but they seem to have come to an end now. There is nothing nicer than going outside first thing in the morning to collect a handful of juicy blueberries to throw on your breakfast cereal.

By the way, if you click the images, you will get a bigger picture.

I just love this oriental poppy although it doesn’t hang around for long and the flowers end up a soggy mush if you’re not quick to catch them before they fall.

It looks like a delicious frothy dessert sitting on a matching saucer. Last year I planted some ladybird poppies and I am hoping that they will make an appearance again this year. There are a few smaller plants dotted around and I am hoping they turn out to be them.

This is my gorgeous Peaches and Cream hollyhock, given to me by my good friend and gardening guru Raewyn. I love the contrast of the fluffy, frilliness of these flowers compared to the openness of the cream hollyhock (see previous post). They have all been hit by rust but it hasn’t affected their floral display. I have another hollyhock which is yet to flower; I think it is a deep red one.

I spent this morning digging out lilies from the shady corner and planted 6 gaura, Whirling Butterflies and 2 Siskiyou Pink. I should have had 6 of each but they got held up in the post and some didn’t survive. It is my intention to put some hostas in the corner with the heucheras.

The following three images go along the back border:

Here we have the apple tree, sambucus, agapanthus, dahlia, salvia “Wendy’s Wish”, cosmos, “Swan Lake” rose and cream hollyhock… …leading on to the buddleja, eryngium, corydalis flexuosa, lots more cosmos and the new rhododendron “Rainbow” and centaurea montana… …after the hibiscus comes more dahlia, heucheras, poppies and pansies. The jasmine “Clotted Cream” is flowering quietly behind them all.
The nicotiana are growing well and seem to have produced these huge green leaves almost overnight. The osteospernum continue to delight and short-stemmed lilies with the long stems contine to produce some beautiful flowers. The tomatoes are now going from strength to strength in their lovely self-watering pots. The flowers are just beginning to appear. The blueberries are slowly turning purple, just enough each day for breakfast! These are my patio pots containing my favourite dahlia (I don’t know its name though), amaranthus “Greenthumb” and “Foxtail” and artemisia. The amaranthus spikes are soft and furry.

I am concerned that my potatoes haven’t flowered yet and the foliage is collapsing. The peas continue to fatten but I am never sure when to pick them as it will take a fair few to make a meal. The beetroot are probably about right for picking now before they get too big. The celery is doing well and we have only a few cabbages left. The salad leaves have just about finished and I don’t think I will sow any more just yet. The nasturtiums make a nice border to the raised bed but I haven’t tried eating them yet.

And finally, my poor neglected hanging baskets are beautiful despite intermittant watering from me.

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.

Damson Blossom

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This is the beautiful sight that greeted me this morning; is there anything more pleasing?

The cabbages have now been transplanted into the raised veg bed alongside the beetroot seedlings that are sprouting. I have now planted some more cabbage seeds and some celery. Removed PVC covers from raised beds, leaving netting in place as the temperatures are quite warm.

The alstroemeria arrived from Hayloft Plants and have been planted in pots. 3 varieties: Saturne, Neptune and Rivale.

Have also planted carrots in two sections of bag, leaving other two for future planting.

Amaranthus ‘Green Thumb’ and paniculatus ‘Fox Tail’ sown on top of compost in module seed tray in conservatory.

I think this is aubretia. It was given to me by my sister, Charlotte as a tiny cutting a couple of years ago. I don’t know where the tiny viola came from but the woodpecker came from dad who felt sorry for me when I told him I didn’t get many birds in the garden.

An Extra Hour

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It’s amazing what a difference a few sunny days will make and now that the clocks have moved back, I am looking forward to lots of productive evenings to come.

I now have two beautiful flowers on my orchid which I am very pleased about and lots of buds yet to open. To think I was going to send it off to the great compost heap in the sky!

The plants around the round patio don’t seem too upset by the dousing they got from my jet-washing. I have been down on my hands and knees removing the old cement and filling in the holes. The Pave Fix Plus takes 4 days to ‘cure’ but I don’t think that includes the days when it’s been pouring down. Steve jet-washed the decking and the furniture ready for the teak oil but I think I’ll wait until it stops raining.

There are now 9 cabbages emerging under cover but I’m not sure at what stage to transplant them into the soil. I intend to sow some more soon, still with an eye on a successional harvest.

I opened the flaps of the PVC covers when the sun was shining to let some air flow through then closed them again at night.

Have planted 5 sacks of Kestrel potatoes.

I’m not quite sure why I only have one pea plant (or possibly two) but I am certain there are some signs of beetroots.

I have to say, I am very pleased with the colour arrangement of these narcissi and tulips. I wish I could say it was intentional but I bought a mixed bag of apricot and purple tulips and it seems that I have planted the purple ones in the front and the apricot ones in the back; what are the chances of that?

My unhappy camellia is still unhappy and the leaves are turning yellow. I may just have to admit defeat. On a positive note, the zinnia are still alive!

I have ordered lots of plants and seeds with ambitious plans for gorgeous pots as seen in the Gardener’s World magazine! Well, I’m off to put my Oenothera ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (evening primrose) in the fridge.

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