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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January Blues

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Well, it’s the end of January and most days have been torrential rain and even hail. Some days though, like today, have been tantalisingly sunny if a little chilly. And so I was lured outside to plant the two cornus shrubs purchased a few weeks back, ‘Alba Sibirica’ and ‘Flaviramea’. They look so lovely in the winter sunshine with their bright red and lime green stems.

There are now lots of snowdrops scattered about the place and I spotted a tiny iris in flower beneath the hibiscus. Signs of daffodils, tulips, sedum and aliums emerging. The new growth at the base of the verbena bonariensis indicates that it is now time to cut away last year’s remaining stems. Leaves have been cleared away along with fallen branches in preparation for a flying start once the weather improves. The Miscanthus Sinensis has been cut down to reveal new green shoots.

I am looking forward to planting the first seeds of the year next month.

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.

Out of Control

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Such glorious weather and two bank holidays has meant lots of time to spend in the garden. Everything is growing at an incredible rate and I feel I am losing control – if I ever had any!

A trip to Gordon Rigg in Todmorden with Jean saw the purchase of a lovely new potting tray with a handy shelf. Now I can keep the tables relatively clean.

Banking the potatoes up seems to have given them licence to grow.

One of the raspberry tubs is looking rather sickly so I have moved it out from beneath the damson tree.

On Jean’s advice, I dug up all the tulip bulbs and put them in big pots to die back. It has given me more room for planting and I don’t have to look at the boring foliage. I am wondering whether I should have done the same with the daffodils but they are still in place.

The clematis at the back of the front rockery is looking particularly splendid at the moment with beautiful lilac flowers as big as saucers.

 
 I couldn’t resist these pretty little aquilegia even though I know I could regret it later. Their names were irrestistible too – Winky Rose and Winky Double White.The veg bed is looking very healthy at the moment. The cabbages are doing well and the peas will soon need supporting. I just need to find out what a ‘pea stick’ is! The beetroot have been thinned out and the celery has been pricked out into individual modules. The salad leaves have germinated in a matter of days.  

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.

 

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.

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.

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