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.

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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.

What a difference a break makes

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Have just returned from a wonderful holiday at Abhainn Ri luxury cottages in County Wicklow. Despite my concerns, the garden seems to have thrived without me. I got the feeling that it was rather relieved to have a break from my fussing and apart from the hanging baskets looking a bit sorry for themselves, everything seems to have continued to flourish.

This morning I harvested my first bowl of strawberries with the promise of many more to come.

The apples are developing nicely although I wonder if there are too many and that maybe I should sacrifice a few to benefit the others.

 This is my one tiny Redlove apple which I haven’t got the heart to remove.

You can hardly see the tiny buddleja ‘Buzz’ which got held up in the post when we were away on holiday. At least it looks as if it might survive which is more than can be said for the other sorry specimen which I have put in a pot.

 
This tangled mess is the raised bed containing leeks and onions.  I am so proud of my lovely cabbages. They are not developing firm hearts but I am not sure when they will be ready to eat.
 The peas have gone mad and the covers have been removed to allow for pollination of the flowers.  There are plenty of salad leaves for us to feast on and the celery is coming along nicely.
I am really worried about my poor sickly tomatoes. They have been fed and kept watered but they are just not happy. I have grown them from seed; maybe I should have just bought plants?  
 Short-stemmed lilies
 Amaranthus and dahlia

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.

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.