Spring is in the air

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What a strange month February has been. It started off with freezing night time temperatures, down to -10 and not getting much further than 1 or 2 degrees in the day. Towards the end of the month we had some lovely sunny days where we could dare to venture out in the flimsiest of clothes with the temperature hitting 17 or 18 degrees, only to plummet the following day back to 9 or 10.

A new arrival of snowdrops could only sit forlornly on the windowsill while the soil remained stubbornly frozen outside.

Some parts of the country are threatened with drought while, here in the north west, we continue to be blessed with persistent precipitation!

However, that hasn’t prevented quite a fruitful month’s garden activities and now we are at the beginning of March, the future can only be bright.

The snowdrops were eventually planted and didn’t seem to suffer too much from their ordeal. The daffodils are in full bloom now, I really must plant some more for next year. The tulips are making an appearance, tentatively daring to poke their pointed leaves out of the gravel of the pots. My lovely hellebore has been flowering for weeks although the new ones I planted last year have only leaves. There are encouraging signs off life all over the garden with sedum, phlox and even eryngium emerging. It is so exciting when they appear as if by magic after their disappearing act over the winter.

Last weekend was spent sorting through envelopes and packets of seeds to organise what should be planted and when. My utility room quickly turned into a plant nursery with trays and pots delicately draped in polythene and the promise of new plants. My big problem is the number of seeds in a packet. Surely no-one needs 250 Zaluzianskya Capensis (Night Phlox), but despite my best efforts to only plant a few, they were so fiddly I ended up just scattering the whole lot! I also planted 30 Gaura Lindheimeri which I didn’t mind at all because a garden can never have too much gaura! I also planted some seeds that I collected myself last year including sweet peas and candy stripe phlox. Imagine my pleasure when, less than a week later, they had both germinated. Now someone more knowledgeable and experienced than myself will probably tell me that these spindly specimens will amount to nothing but disappointment but, for now, I am immensely pleased that they have germinated at all. Also adorning my new plant nursery are Trollius Europaeus (which I may have to put in the fridge at some point) and one of my absolute favourites, verbena bonariensis. Who could resist 10 Echinacea seeds called “Pow Wow Wild Berry”? However, after lovingly planting them in pots, I re-read the packet to find that I should have surface planted them. Oh well, there’s no way I was going to find them again so I am hoping that they still manage to survive in spite of me.

I have found another gardening buddy at work, Gill. These buddies come in very handy and Gill had just planted some onion sets and decided she had too many so she gifted some to me including some red ones. They now occupy half of my large raised veg bed which are under cover at present.

This year’s major garden project also got under way with the erection of my new garden archway.

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Rain, rain go away

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It’s hard to believe that only a couple of weeks ago we were basking in glorious sunshine. Now it’s wet, cold and windy. It’s enough to put off even the most motivated gardener. Now, never let it be said that I am a fair weather gardener, I have been out in wind, rain and snow but even I am getting fed up with being soaked and chilled to the bone. However, the plants won’t wait until the weather improves and I have leeks and celery that desperately need to go in to the ground and the Cosmos is rapidly outgrowing its pots.

I have managed to plant Cosmos Candy Stripe in the reclaimed strip of garden between us and next door. This has long been the short cut through for the postman and paper person. I thought that once the cosmos was planted it would be obvious that this was no longer an option but a broken plant proved me wrong. I wouldn’t mind but it is easily possible for even a short legged person like myself to stride over, but I always seem to have a big footprint right in the middle of the bed. The problem has now been solved by sticking a few garden hoops in side by side to create a little fence – got the message now?

The rhododendron which has been in the garden since we moved in, is really looking sorry for itself and I am thinking of replacing it. I agree with Carole Klein when she said that every plant in a small garden has to earn its place and this one is past its best.

Last year I had a thing about aliums after they were so abundant at the Tatton Show and I planted hundreds of them all over the garden. I am beginning to regret this as their foliage is so uninteresting and takes up so much room. I can see some of them being pulled up in the not too distant future.

My potato sacks are now topped up with compost to the very top. I can’t help thinking that this is more banking up than they would ever receive if planted in the ground. It seems like tons of compost. The question is, what do I do with it after the potatoes have been harvested? Can I use it again? Can I distribute it as mulch around the garden? Will it carry disease? Answers on a postcard please! (or you could leave a comment at the bottom of this post!)

I have put the tulip bulbs in trays to dry ready for planting again at the end of the year.

I invested in a QuadGrow Slim for the tomatoes which arrived this week. The tomato plants have now been transplanted into their pots outside and hopefully, the reservoir beneath them will keep them happy.

Raewyn took me to my new favourite nursery Primrose Cottage which inevitably resulted in the purchase of new plants. I bought two agapanthus from the RHS Show at Tatton last year but the harsh winter finished them off so they just had to be replaced with a white ‘Arctic Star’ and a blue ‘Grasskop’ . I picked up a lovely kniphophia that I have been meaning to buy for a while ‘Green Jade’, a purple and white salvia ‘Madeline’ from the reduced bench and another with unusual drooping flowers ‘Wendy’s Wish’ with some bedding plants for a hanging pot completing the shopping list.

After watching Gardeners’ World at the Malvern Show, I ordered some seeds, Orlaya Grandiflora, Zaluzianskya capensis and Trollius europaeus. I know it’s a bit late and I might leave them until next year.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had any luck with the nicotiana I sowed for the second time but the purple and white honesty has germinated which is very pleasing. Some of the sweet peas have collapsed.

Plants, plants, plants!

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I’m going to have to stop buying plants, I’m running out of garden and Steve won’t let me have any more lawn!

This has been a really busy week in the garden, not least because of the almost daily delivery of plants I forgot I’d ordered. They’re always so disappointing when ordered online. The pictures look lush and beautiful but what arrives is just a bunch of roots or a leafless twig. I know they will grow into the lush and beautiful (if I’m lucky) and I suppose that’s the exciting part.

I had another grow house disaster. Hundreds of Cosmos seedlings were upturned when a strong gust blew it over again. I don’t know why I didn’t secure it after last time when all my autumn cuttings suffered the same fate. However, undeterred, and determined not to lose a single one, I set about carefully gathering them up and repotting. It seems to have paid off as some of them now have two pairs of leaves. The offending grow house has now been secured to the fence.

I refuse to plant the 100 gladioli bulbs so generously provided free with my online orders of plants. I just don’t like them and I can’t be bothered with all that staking. I have had glads before and they spent their lives lying horizontal across the lawn before I eventually got round to removing them. Does anyone want 100 gladioli?

The Magnolia Stellata arrived and has been planted in the pot to replace the dead rose. It doesn’t look like a Magnolia, it’s just a couple of twigs with a few leaves.

This week has also seen the planting of 3 helleborus orientalis and 1 Queen of Night, 3 penisetum alopecuroides beneath the silver birch and 12 pulmonaria – 3 each of Majeste, Blue Ensign, Rubra and Opal.

Two paeonies went from pot to ground but ‘Shirley Temple’ is still in the pot until it is bigger; I didn’t think it was going to grow at all.

The dahlias are still in pots but most are showing signs of life. The black one, which has been my pride and joy for the past two years is sadly not producing any leaves at present.

A couple of Amaranthus seedlings have magically appeared in the conservatory trays but still no sign of nicotiana or sweet peas.

Second cabbage crop is doing well in seed tray, I won’t be so quick to transplant this time as I killed a couple of the first lot. Still no sign of celery.

I dug up a few feet of border in the front garden that the postman uses as a short cut through to next door. Here I have planted 100 anenomes. Now I have to find a way to deter the postman from trampling them.

A trip to the nursery with Raewyn saw two more additions: Dicentra Spectabilis and Dicentra ‘King of Hearts’

 I love this candy stripe phlox nestling among the rocks. It was quite puny when I planted it last year but it is really making itself at home now. I know I’m going to regret planting these cornflowers because of the way they seed themselves but they are pretty.

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.