Sunday, 31 March 2013

Reasons to be cheerful ... Part 2

Yesterday it was 'Reasons to be cheerful Part 1 (inside)' and, as promised, here is 'Reasons to be cheerful ... Part 2 (outside). There ARE reasons, honestly, despite the cold !

All these things are in flower today in my garden, and, whilst it is not really a Spring garden, there is still some colour. So, in no particular order, as they say ...

The beautiful Anenome Blanda, which looks far too delicate to survive in cold conditions.

Ever cheerful, bog standard daffie !

Cheating ? Maybe a little as, strictly speaking, these are new leaf bracts rather than flowers,  but this 'Euphorbia Craigeburn' is still very colourful as it bursts into life.

Self seeded Hellebores. I have just potted up about 20 little seedlings which I found lurking under the leaves of their parents.

These Iris Reticulata are my new babies and this is the first time they have flowered. The blue is the most fantastic blue ever.

Pulmonaria loves the conditions in my garden, so much so that it self seeds everywhere ... and I just let it. The bees love it too, which is another good reason to let it go crazy. I have got some lovely pure  sapphire blue which is not out just yet - nearly but not quite.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Marathon Man of the garden this year, deserving of a 'Long Service' medal, as these Snowdrops have been in flower for AGES. I have never known anything like it in other years. It must be the continuing cold which is keeping them flowering without going over. They go well with the Euonymus next door .

So, there are reasons to be cheerful out there, although there is still an awful lot of bare soil.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Reasons to be cheerful - part 1 (inside)

Hard to believe, I know, but there are reasons to be cheerful. I was mourning the lack of colour around me today, and wishing the Spring would get a move on, when I thought I would see what IS actually in full  technicolour at the moment. I took these photos in the conservatory aka plant repository, which has solar heating occasionally and an oil-filled radiator to take the chill off the coldest nights. The temperature never falls below 5 degrees.

This is  the first flower this year on a Lemon Scented Pelargonium . It is a very special plant to me, as I grew it from a cutting taken (lawfully!!) from the glasshouses at Normanby Park Victorian walled garden. I went on a 'Propagation Day' there, run in conjunction with the RHS and we were invited to take cuttings. It is lovely but has a tendency to become very leggy if left unchecked.

This is what I laughingly call my 'Christmas Cactus' but thinking about it. surely it is an Easter Cactus ?
The plant must be 20 years old and was given to me by a very dear friend, who is no longer here, so, again a very special plant.

Here it is, showing lots of buds still to come.

Wow ! Sunglasses on ! That is bright !  This compact little Geranium has flowered right through the winter, in fact it hasn't stopped flowering since I bought it last May. You can't ask for more than that from a plant, can you ?

This one is maybe a little bit of a cheat because it is still in bud and not out yet ... but it won't be long, and it is bringing colour already. It is a Fuschia which is 2 years old. It flowered right up to late Autumn and has been resting over the coldest months, All powered up and ready to go ...

This dainty little flower is Streptocarpus Saxorum (Cape Primrose). It has been in flower for about 3 weeks and the plant is covered. All the flowers are held on long thin stems like wires, so they dance about in the slightest breeze, even when you walk past them. The plant itself, if I'm honest, is not the best shape as it is leggy and very lax in habit.

Oh dear ! This is where colour co-ordination goes out of the window ! We are all pinks and pastels then - wham ! This baby!  It is a bog standard bedding geranium bought to fill a few gaps last season but it has flowered its little heart out, and never stopped.

So, maybe there are a few reasons to be cheerful inside the house . Tomorrow I am going to prowl around outside and see how many reasons there are to be cheerful out there !

Friday, 29 March 2013

Do you think we have enough? Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of the saga of the logs, the plot is very simple ! We needed some logs, knew someone who had some logs, and a bargain was struck ! The logs were delivered and there were enough to start our own wood shop ! And, tbh, some of the logs were more 'tree' than log ! However, this is all cheering stuff when you have an open fire, as you can never have too much stuff to burn. The problem was, there was nowhere to put them and they were taking over a bit...

A lorra lorra tree trunks ...

... and a lorra lorra  logs !

So now they needed their own place to call home ...

Nearly there ...

Final positioning before the logs move in ...

The logs begin to move in...

Order is restored from the chaos ...
And of course, we were 'helped' at all times by one of our 'Ungardeners'! 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

'Illumination across the nation ...'

Whilst these 3 young plants might not look very exciting at the moment, they are the all- singing, all - dancing new Foxgloves which took Chelsea by storm last year.They are 'Illumination Pink' and my friend and I have been waiting for them for a l-o-n-g  time. We ordered them from Thompson & Morgan very soon after Chelsea and of course, everyone wanted them, so we had to wait in line. Although they were delivered about 6 weeks ago, I have only just taken delivery as my friend has been growing them on in her conservatory, her greenhouse being deemed too cold for such special (and expensive) charges.

They are a hybrid, so are sterile and will not set seed, thus giving a long flowering period. One of the parents is the Canary Island Foxglove, which has supposedly given 'Illumination' its exotic colouring. It is a semi evergreen perennial, unlike most Foxgloves which are biennial.

I will wait until it is warmer before planting it out, even though it is hardy, and will harden it off a bit, as it has been in a heated environment.

Although I have read about this plant I have not spoken to anyone who is actually growing it, so I don't know if the claims for it are wildly exaggerated or not. Is anyone out there nurturing one as we speak ? I would love to know how it is doing !

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

It's Easter... they were going cheep !!

It's Easter and these shrubs were going cheep ... well, to be honest, they were going cheap!

There I was cruising round 'The Range' looking for 'things - other - than- plants' when they caught my eye. They were tucked away on a 'bargain shelf', calling out to me to give them a home. How could I refuse ? They cost me £6.50 for the lot ! Two of them cost £1.00 each, and the other two cost £2 . Alright, I know they need a little tlc and a little love, but they look no worse than a lot of the shrubs in my garden right now.

The Pyracantha is as tough as old boots and is always a stalwart to grow against a wall. It will stand a little shade and won't mind the cold, so I won't waste it on a South or West facing wall. It is described only as 'Pyracantha red' so I know no more than that, but I think it is a fair assumption that the berries will be red !

The Perovskia 'Blue Spire' has silvery stems and leaves and so would look really good alongside the red stems of Cornus. It is also hardy and has, as the name suggests, lovely blue flower spikes. RHS advice is to prune it hard in early Spring to keep that lovely silver colour.

The evergreen shrub is 'Arbutus Unedo' - and I will admit to having one before and killing it off rather speedily. The RHS describe it as 'hardy' and 'large'. It is also known as the 'Strawberry tree' as it has cream flowers followed by red fruits, which resemble strawberries.

The last of my bargain buys is 'Lorapetalum Fire Dance' (say it in a Cilla Black voice!) which is a new one on me but it looks quite special. It is related to Hamamelis (Witch Hazel) and has quite similar flowers , those lovely fragrant, stringy, spidery ones, produced in late winter, early Spring. It is evergreen (ever-red), so it has a lot going for it. Hardy, but needs a bit of protection during the first few winters.

So, by my reckoning I have saved at least £20 which I can spend, with a clear conscience on yet more plants ...

Monday, 25 March 2013

My seedling guests are confused ...

Usually my seeds and seedlings know where they are in the grand scheme of things. ! They are allocated their place in my growing system, and they usually stay there, moving gently along from stage to stage, in the fullness of time. Not at the moment, however, - they are shuttled between 1 star and 5 star accommodation with dizzying speed. Usually, when all is right with the world, my seeds start life in the propagator and stay there until the majority have germinated. That is full-on 5 star accommodation, that is ! They have everything a pampered, small guest could require - warm, even temperature, heaps of light, no cold draughts, room service, the lot.

5 * -Tigerella tomato seedlings keeping their feet warm !

Then they move to the 4 star accommodation aka the Kitchen Windowsill. Admittedly, the temperature is not quite so even, but they still have daily room service and they are draught free.

4* - 'Bishop's Children' Dahlias, Aubergines and chillies 
When they are a little bigger and a little tougher, they are moved to 3 star accommodation in the conservatory. The lucky ones have a place away from the draughts of the doors, which are constantly opened by the dogs, Ruby and Gus (aka The Ungardeners). The most favoured 3 star guests can nestle up to the thick stone wall between conservatory and house, which tends to retain heat and is a bit of a micro-climate.

3 * - Delphinium 'Pacific Giant'

2 * - 'Bishop's Children' Dahlia seedlings

Less lucky seedlings have to cope with 2 star accommodation -  being on the table in the middle of the conservatory, it is draughtier, but at least it isn't near a window with the fluctuations of temperature that implies. The room is heated on cold nights like these, so it never falls below about 6 degrees.

1* - sweet peas (mixed) in the unheated greenhouse

Then there is my 1 star accommodation - the unheated greenhouse. At the moment, the only young plants braving that are my sweet peas, as they are as tough as old boots ! I am growing Cupani, T & M 'Ultimate Mix' and some native Alpujarran cultivars. The Spanish ones seem to feel the cold more than the ones bred for the UK climate, but they are hanging on in there !

Every dusk sees me running around like a loon, carrying all the seedtrays into the kitchen, so that they can all spend the night on the kitchen table, in the warm ( the equivalent of sofa- surfing I suppose!). They are ferried about mornings and evenings and are probably very confused by it all. I am finding it difficult to keep them all growing well, as, not only is it very cold, but light levels are low as well, and so windowsills are not easy either. I am constantly having to turn seed trays, and move them away from cold draughts at night. Growth is slow and I am sure I am having more casualties than usual. Because growth is slow, there is a queue of seeds waiting to go into the propagator, so the whole process is delayed.

Normal service will resume as soon as possible ... come on Spring!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The East wind doth blow...and it should be SPRING !

So cold out there today. I ventured out very briefly to take these photos but was very glad to get back into the warmth of the house.

The snow was just beginning to melt in the sun.

The ornamental pond has no frogspawn in as yet - probably a good job !

The 'Bus Shelter' in the snow
Poor  frogspawn looks dead due to these low temperatures
The Cordyline has made it through so far ...

But just look at this
you up ....

like a waking giant, the first leaf of a gunnera is beginning to stir, so Spring can't be too far away !

Saturday, 23 March 2013

It was sooooo worth it ...

Thank heavens for all those logs! Snow outside. Toasty inside ...

Have we got enough ...

In theory Winter should be fading fast, and roaring log fires should be just a memory, but the view from the window tells me different. Snow on the ground and snow in the air !

What a good job we got a few logs in earlier this week to tide us over ...

No , we haven't just set up a sawmill, just a new logpile. 
Just in case you think we have magic weather here in Winterton, some of the photos were taken on Thursday when there WAS a little whiff of Spring and I think we even took our coats off briefy!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Tulips from A .. supermarket !

I love Tulips. Nothing says 'spring' better than a bunch of tulips on the kitchen table to cheer you up when you get home. However, mine come over all floppy after a few days, and gradually lean I over the side of the vase, in a rather feeble way.
So, there I was, in the queue at Sainsbury's, tulips in hand, when the woman who was serving me said ;
"Do you know the tip, then ?"
Now, you all probably know the tip, and it is just part of your tulips -to- vase procedure. But I didn't know the tip. Apparently the tip is to pierce the stem of the tulip , just behind the flower head, with a needle or pin, and this supposedly stops the tulips from flopping, and means that they last longer. The hole made has to go right through the stem. I thanked the woman and told her that I would try 'the tip' and also pass it on, which I have subsequently , duly done.
I got a sudden urge to set up a mini experiment to see if 'the tip' actually works. Remembering back to my science lessons, I recall that there should be a 'control' group, so ... I just did 'the tip' on half the tulips. I wonder if it will become obvious which have been pierced, and which have not. I shall wait , see and photograph and share !

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Sweet pea seeds

For years I have soaked Sweet Peas for 24 hours before sowing , then Monty Don blows it all out of the water on GW last week by saying that he just plants them straight away ! Heretical ! However, I just had to give it a try today. As the sun is shining and the birds were singing, being outside was far more pleasant than it has been for the past couple of weeks.

It is the 4th planting I have made- yes, 4th ! The first was in the Autumn and that was eaten by slugs/ snails that had forced entry into my greenhouse. The second was earlier this Spring, and I planted 'Cupani', which I did soak for 24 hours, but the germination was a bit erratic, even though I used a propagator. However they are alive and flourishing.

As a xmas gift from a friend I was given some sweet pea seeds which were from the Alpujarras and I planted those at the same time as the Cupani. Germination was poor and I think the cultivar is much more used to Spanish temperatures as most have wasted away and died. I think I planted them far too early, so have made another sowing today. I do not know how these will turn out, so I am interested to see.I also sowed a T & M 'Ultimate Mix' which I have not grown before. I have used toilet roll innards for the first time, as I think they will give a nice long root run, and as the cardboard will disintegrate once planted, there will be little disturbance when planting out. Some seeds are planted individually in toilet roll innards, and others are planted in my usual way , 3 to a small pot.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Look what we've got !

The first clump of frogspawn suddenly appeared last week, but could I see the proud parents ? They were nowhere to be seen. Often, when I am looking into the pond, I get that strange sensation of being watched, and realise that several pairs of froggy eyes have popped up above the water and are scrutinising my every move ! Some evenings I can also hear the 'frog chorus' as I walk down the garden and the pond almost looks as if the water is boiling, as dozens of frogs writhe about together in the shallows. Then, as suddenly as they have appeared, they disappear, leaving the pond for their offspring to enjoy !

The top clump (more grey than brown in colour) is newer than the clump at the bottom (more brown than grey). At the moment the eggs contain 'full stops' which will become 'commas' as they begin to develop. I have my doubts about the viability of the 'brownish' clump ... Has anyone any wisdom to share about this ????

I will keep you posted about their development, and keep taking photos. There are currently about a dozen clumps of frogspawn, but no toadspawn, that I can see. Frogspawn is in clumps while toadspawn is laid in strings around pond weed. The newts, a little later in the season, lay individual eggs which are wrapped in leaves by the female. Hopefully I can find and photograph those too, to share with you.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

English Roses - treat them like royalty !

I fell in love with English Roses many years ago and bought several, which I then proceeded to murder slowly ... I knew no better ! They are relatively expensive to buy, and are real investments for the garden. My expensive mistake was not to research their likes and dislikes. I have one which survives, a 'yellow 'Graham Thomas', hanging on grimly next to the summerhouse, in deep shade. I now know most of the things I did wrong.

My main mistakes - the first roses were planted in semi-shade which over the years became deeper shade.They don't like a lot of shade. I planted them in grass with just a tiny little planting circle around them. They like space and air and sun. I raked in a few handfuls of fish, blood and bone every spring and left them to it. They like well rotted manure every season. I don't recall watering them in the first couple of seasons. All new plants appreciate watering in times of drought.  They all grew leggy and I don't think they ever saw a pair of secateurs. They should have been pruned every year once established. I also crowded them with other plants and I have learned that they like space around them at least while they are establishing. I never checked them for disease or bugs. Shameful... I have plenty of excuses though - kids, work, dogs, life...

But now I have done the research, and I have learned from bitter experience. This time I will get it RIGHT !

So, in late February this year I researched bareroot English Roses online and found a cracking nursery selling good quality plants at half the price of container grown ones. I had a very happy couple of days browsing the choices and finally ordered for the ones I wanted. Late winter is the ideal time to plant, if the ground is not frozen.

When they came I immediately unpacked them and put them in a bucket of water until I was ready to plant. Then I got this :

How beautiful is that? Four year old, beautifully well-rotted horse manure and it was FREE !  I know my roses will thank me for using that ! All the books say 'use well rotted horse manure' and I used to
think 'Dream on ..." but not anymore!

I researched planting online and found conflicting advice about the level to plant the Graft union (big fat knobbly bit where the graft is made between rootstock and cultivar). Some advised below the soil and some advised at soil level. In the end I went with the RHS who advised 'soil level 'planting, as research has shown more chance of rose dieback if planted below soil level. 
I dug BIG holes , big enough to spread out the roots and to add lots of  manure. I also put a couple of handfuls of bonemeal in the bottom too. Then I backfilled and watered .

Give them space
Give them sunlight (although some can cope with a bit of shade)
Check regularly for disease and aphids etc & treat if necessary
Feed regularly  & use well rotted manure if poss
Prune between 1/3 and 2/3 annually

So this is what I've got:
Charles De Mills (Gallica)
Geoff Hamilton

A Shropshire Lad
Well, I'm sure you've got the idea and don't need to see photos of every rose I planted! I now have a short run of hedging using 'Charles De Mills' and then individual specimens of :

St Swithins                        (pink)
Winchester Cathedral       (white)
William Shakespeare       (crimson)
A Shropshire Lad             (peachy pink)
Teasing Georgia                (yellow)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles  (crimson)
Abraham Derby                (apricot/ pink)
Rosa Mundi  (Gallica)       (bi-colour pink)

I think I have done all I can to make them healthy and happy, but only time will tell.
They are all showing leaf buds which should indicate that they are all rooting well.
Hopefully I will be able to post photos of beautiful blooms as the season progresses.

A few photos to remind you of the summer ...

A book, a glass of wine, a few birds singing ...

We call this the 'Bus Shelter' for obvious reasons !
Euphorbia and Ligularia - what mighty beasts they are !
The sub-tropical garden - not the wisest choice for Eastern England ...
King of the Beasts - Gunnera
The deck ... erm ... bedecked

 There was ice on the windscreen this morning and the roads were slippery so how about a few photos to remind us of the summer and that golden orb in the sky ? 
I love the shady corners where Hostas and ferns love to lurk

Sadly low temperatures saw these boys off !

Sempervivums in old handmade clay plantpots
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