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April 19, 2015

The fringed tulips ‘Exotic Sun’ opened to the most glorious flowers…


And I,m enjoying the odd rogue tulip that gets in with the main bunch like this one T ‘Curly Sue’…


And here’s another rogue,  soft orange with shades of yellow, and contrasting prettily with its grey-green leaves…


In a country garden this pointed orange tulip looked splendid in front of a Clematis alpina ‘Helsingborg’ the combination enhanced by the grey of the ancient stone wall…


In the garden here, the lovely Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ are flowering.  It’s such a beauty with its star-shaped flowers and recurved petals and it can be divided after flowering to increase the display…


Meanwhile the red lily beetles on the fritillarias have been doing a lot of damage this week. Two or three have been squished daily but it would seem they are now procreating…


On the allotment I weeded the summer raspberries and it was great to see lots of fruit buds emerging. And the trenches have been dug ready for the climbing beans which were sown in pots here this weekend. I am reluctant to sow seeds direct in the ground since the soil is very dry and we are trying to conserve water to reduce the costs on site. In the meantime the soil has been forked and raked ready till rain is forecast then cut flowers, beetroot, spinach and salad leaves will be sown in rows in these prepared beds.



Spring is in the Air

April 13, 2015

There was hardly a sign of a flower on the tulips seven days ago and then suddenly they began to appear…


Similarly last time I looked the Euphorbia mellifera was all leaf but has now put forth flowers ready to flood the air with the scent of honey next month…


But plant of the month for me is the Triandrus daffodil ‘Thalia’ with its snow-white flowers and gorgeous perfume.  I planted the bulbs on the allotment at the base of the Autumn Bliss raspberries so they take up very little room and can be left to die down. The scent from this vase in the sitting room is noticeable when descending the stairs and this is day 5 since picking.


A pot of Marsh Marigolds- Caltha pulustris- was gathered from the edge of a stream at Easter and is still looking good several days after picking…


And the  multi-stemmed Amelanchier canadensis shrubs in the garden here are in almost full bloom.  The bronze-pink leaves un-furl at the same time as the star-shaped white flowers open and both offer fabulous, early spring interest.


On the allotment the peas are planted and the supports and netting is in place. I am trying once again with peas ever hopeful that I get a crop worthy of blogging. I am not bothering with dwarf French beans since a handful every few weeks isn’t particularly rewarding. Instead I’ll be sowing climbers: the purple ‘Blauhilde’ and the runner bean ‘Lady Di’ and I’ll stagger the sowing and planting to get a good, long cropping period.

Fritillaria meleagris

April 6, 2015

The lesser celandine is back with a vengeance in my garden and I’m trying my hardest to ignore it knowing that it will dissolve into the soil at the end of April.


But I really resent the fact that it’s competing with the Fritillaria meleagris bulbs planted in autumn near the garden tap to ensure damp soil.


The chequered bells emerged a few days ago and are really lovely but spoilt by the mass of green groundcover that they now have to push through. Sorry Monty Don but I don’t share your love of celandines, well not in a small town garden.

I used up the last of the gooseberries from the freezer in Dennis Cotter’s gooseberry and elderflower parfait I am giving this fruit one last summer then I’m very tempted to rid the bed of two quite large shrubs that yield a kilo of fruit between them and most of which sits in the freezer for nine months.  I could buy that amount and devote the space to produce that can be consumed for weeks or even months on end.




The huge blackberries, Black Butte-Floricane, were also in the freezer and were picked last October from a friend’s garden.  This variety can produce up to 5 kg of fruit per plant when established.

More early potatoes were slotted in at the end of two long beds at the weekend: two rows of Charlotte and 2 rows of Maris Piper.  I love new potatoes and they crop relatively early leaving space for repeat sowing of beetroot, spinach, salad leaves and lettuce in July.

There’s a very subtle scent from the Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’ climbing through the railings up the steps. It was planted last autumn in a large terracotta pot which I packed with bubble wrap in the hopes of keeping the roots cool. It starts as a very pretty creamy-green bud and then opens to a pure white flower with white stamens.



The Tulipa turkestanica are also in flower so I picked a couple for a blue glass vase…



A pot of Forget-me-Not at this time of year is a definite reminder that spring is here…



Rosemary Disease

March 29, 2015

Last year a splendid Rosemarinus officinalis measuring 130 cm  tall and almost as wide and growing on the side of the allotment shed, suddenly presented with a large dead limb. I assumed it had been accidentally torn off the main stem although I couldn’t see a tear so I simply blamed the badger. This week I arrived to paint the shed and found that the entire rosemary bush had died. It most likely suffered from a bacterial blight Pseudomonas syringae which thrives in damp conditions especially when there’s insufficient air circulating round the plant which I now realise was the situation for my shrub.




We are clearing more shared areas on the allotment to take part in Grow Wild and will be sowing wild flower seeds over the next few weeks to attract more bees and pollinators to the site. This is the pathway to the compost loo visible up the steps at the end. The bed on the left was planted with herbaceous cuttings from various of our gardens a couple of years ago and is thriving. The bed by the wall is now to be cleared ready for sowing seeds. Here’s the before picture so watch this space…



Last week I mentioned the lovely Skimmia fragrans and in a garden centre yesterday there were several large specimens on sale and all were smothered in honey bees. It was a very heartening sight and you can just see two in the image below…

DSCN4235 Friends of the Earth have produced a fact sheet Twenty Things You Need To Know for helping the bee population available to down load here

I came home and cut a flower to enjoy the scent indoors…DSCN4233


Seed Sowing and Dahlia Preparation

March 22, 2015

It doesn’t take much to get me gardening again – the sun on my back, a large bag of compost for sowing, some wooden stick labels  ( 50)  from the Pound shop, a Sharpie Fine Point marker pen, some clean pots and I’m off. Oh and seeds of course…



Sown today were Ammi majus, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, Linaria ‘Canon Went’, Rainbow chard, Butternut squash, Beetroot ‘Red Ace’ and a salad leaf mix. These are now in the heated propagator and will then transfer to the pop up greenhouse as soon as there are signs of germination.

And the post arrived with a lovely parcel of red dahlias won by me from Julie’s blog Peonies & Posies in a generous give-away from  Sarah Raven.


I am really delighted and have potted them up into 2 litre pots with fresh potting compost and they’ll stay in the dry and warmth indoors in a light-filled space. I’ll keep the soil moist and they should steadily put out green shoots and be ready to plant out when all danger of frost has passed. Here are the tubers looking as Sarah says, like bunches of salami, but I’ll photograph them again when they are in flower.



Sarah Raven’s growing instructions are clear and I’ll be sure to pinch out the tip of the main shoot as they grow and to remove all but five shoots sprouting from the tuber to encourage bushy plants.  These can be used as cuttings to make more plants which I will most certainly attempt. Last year I was inspired to grow flowers by Louise Curley’s book The Cut Flower Patch and it was fun and successful and this year I want more space for more flowers.

With this in mind I’ve planted up the new bed with 18 perennials. They were only just through the soil in their 9 cm pots so not much to show in the bed as yet but as soon as it’s looking good I’ll take a picture and give the planting plan. To save money I moved and divided up Phlomis fruticosa from the allotment and Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ from elsewhere in the garden. Whilst planting the bed I spotted the emerging shoots of Geranium psilostemon and remembered Beth Chatto describing them ‘like waxy lipsticks’ pushing through the soil.




And I’m really pleased that I prepared four pots of Allium sphaerocephalon bulbs in October to poke in and around other plants in the new bed.DSCN4166

The Sarcococca is no longer scenting the air but Skimmia fragrans is although you have to get up close for the full benefit. It’s an evergreen shrub that prefers shade and the leaves have a scent close to the scent of kaffir lime leaves.  The flower has a spicy, sweet perfume and is most noticeable when the sun  has warmed up the air. It’s in a pot in the garden but would do well in a crowded conservatory where other plants could provide shade.


On the allotment the first two rows of potato ‘Winston’ went in possibly a bit early since the soil is only just warming up. I covered the rows with a fleece to give some protection from ground frost. It’s an early cropper that grows big for baking and has a great flavour. In a week or two ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Maris Piper’ can be planted. Two more rows of broad bean seedlings were planted too and the red-flowered broad bean Crimson Flowers has been sown in a pot outside the kitchen door.

I picked some hellebore flowers to float in a shallow bowl on the kitchen table…


Rain & Cold

March 16, 2015


A jug of Tete a Tete miniature daffodils with Euphorbia robbiae …


And because it’s rained a lot I felt free to pick some Crocus ‘Ruby Giant’ which is very pretty with its bright orange stamens and green and white striped leaves.




And because it was too wet to garden I roasted sweet potatoes, red and green peppers, aubergine, un-peeled garlic and red onions in olive oil. It took 10 mins to prepare and 50 mins to cook at 210 C and I then added steamed purple sprouting broccoli and chopped parsley from the allotment.  It was excellent with foil-wrapped sea bass cooked at the same time for 15 minutes.  There were enough roasted vegetables over to add to a pizza with mozzarella the following day.

I’d read about Jiffy 7’s for sowing seeds but had never used them but I’m inspired to do so having read a Sally Nex blog  kitchengarden and now a batch are on their way.

And this morning the pop up greenhouse went up and the large heated propagator is ready to go.





March 8, 2015

The garden is looking vibrant and fresh and every week it gets a little greener as new leaves emerge on the climbers and herbaceous perennials .  All winter I’ve enjoyed the contrast of the two evergreen box parterres with the rusty, orange leaves of the pleached beech hedge that cuts through the symmetry halfway down the garden.


So it was with some horror that I noticed last weekend what looks worryingly like box blight on one of the tall, square boxes on the first parterre.



Anyone with a box hedge or box topiary will be aware of this disease and Monty Don highlighted it in Gardener’s World last autumn when he lost his extensive 20-year-old box hedges to box blight. It’s caused by a fungus the spores of which thrive in warm, wet conditions especially prevalent in mild and rainy winters as of the last two years. All the advice can be found on the RHS website with images on what to look out for.  Sadly, whilst not as advanced as this disease can be, there seems little doubt that I have the beginning of it on a large box plant – the first thing you see when you come into the garden. It’s the one and only patch and shows no signs of the characteristic spores on the underside of the leaves but it does have the brown and bare stems associated with the disease. So I lifted the whole plant out (the parterre looked like a small child that had lost two front teeth) and replaced it with a box ball that was in the bed I’m redesigning. I removed as much of the surrounding top soil as I could and replaced it with fresh compost. It felt a bit cavalier because if it is box blight then this plant too will succumb but I am prepared to take the risk.

Golden Gourmet

The weather was unexpectedly sunny last week so I made a trip to the allotment to plant some Golden Gourmet shallots.  I covered the row with a cloche to prevent the birds pulling out the green shoots as they emerge over the next few weeks. It was lovely down there but the ground was noticeably heavy and wet and when I weeded out the odd clump of grass a huge clod of earth clung to it and refused to be shaken off. A good reason not to disturb the soil too much until it dries out and is easier to work.


In the garden I pruned the dead flowers, left over from last year, on the Hydrangea petiolaris that lines most of the walls. New leaves are emerging and it will be in full leaf in a few weeks followed by lovely cream flowers in May and June.DSCN4093


Helleborus argutifolius has been flowering since November but the plants are rather tall and out of scale in a bed of crocus and miniature daffodils.  So I picked two and held the cut stem over a gas flame for 60 seconds and they’ve remained upright in a vase for the last five days.  I now feel justified in picking more in order to encourage new leaves at the base of the plants.


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