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Self-Seeded Beauties.

May 25, 2016

The garden is full of Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh poppy) and whilst I’ve blogged about them before here’s the trick to using them as a cut flower. These were snipped five days ago at ground level early in the morning and plunged straight into cold water. Then the cut stems were held over a gas flame for 60 seconds before placing them in a vase or in this case an ancient jam jar. I love their simplicity and the more I pick the more they produce.

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The other self-seeders which I love are the Aquilegia vulgaris.  Sprinkling the dried seed-heads of this towards the end of summer ensures interest in the beds which flower late. Here it’s come up through a bed of hydrangea softening the lime green leaves.

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Saxifraga x urbium (London Pride) was planted twenty years ago in a very shady part of the garden and it has spread into any available ground. In late Spring and early Summer it produces these delicate pink flowers on wiry stems that emerge from rosettes of fleshy, ground-hugging leaves.

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A packet of foxglove seeds sown in trays early last year were planted out in Autumn and are now in flower under the Amelanchier trees. They look very cool in the half light at dusk and I am hoping they’ll self-seed in this shady part of the garden.

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More alliums have opened including Allium sphareocephalon.  It’s  looking interesting against the grey leaves of Cistus ‘Sunset’ and repeats the purple of the cistus flowers.

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And mingling in a bed of roses, many of which will be out in a week or two, are a dozen Allium siculum.

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One broke whilst I was weeding the bed but in a vase it shows off the beautiful bell-shaped greenish white flowers.

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Alliums and Roses

May 18, 2016

Looking back towards the house through a bed of Allium multibulbosum in early evening light…

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Allium siculum shedding its protective papery-white sheath…

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The deep crimson Darcey Bussell rose planted in October flowering with masses more buds to open…

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And on a practical note I discovered this in Poundland. It was light as a feather to bring home and after adding 3 litres of warm water it filled a large flower-pot with compost. It’s too coarse to sow seeds in but perfect for planting seedlings and so easy to transport…

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Late Spring/early summer is a good time to propagate shrubs from softwood and semi-hardwood cuttings. I would love a bigger bed of Viburnum opulus for cut flowers so I took some cuttings…

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Method Choose a healthy, semi-hardwood stem and using sharp secateurs cut this into 15-20 cm lengths. Remove all  the leaves from each stem and trim just above a bud and just below the lowest bud leaving a cut 5 cm long along the lowest length before dipping it in hormone rooting powder. Pot individually into small pots of fresh seed compost. Water and cover with a polythene bag and keep away from direct sun in damp compost till they have rooted.

Here in a green glass jug is why I want more Viburnum opulus especially to pick with Saxifraga ‘London Pride’ which seeds itself all over the place …DSCN6579

And I seared the end of several Welsh poppies over a gas flame and here they are still looking good on day three…

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

May 11, 2016

I have probably said it before but if I were starting again with a new garden I’d seriously consider choosing only white, palest yellow and green flowers. I realise this would deny the pleasure of intense purple and red roses and the shrill pink of Cistus ‘Sunset’ and many of the dark aquilegia all of which are about to burst into flower. But I love the calm of pale flowers especially these T.’ White Triumphator’ against the green of the parterre…

DSCN6527And the lilac is smothered in dozens of fat, scented white flowers having had a year off …

DSCN6512And planted underneath and blooming heartily is Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ …

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I picked several stems of each for the hall table…DSCN6517

Tellima grandiflora appears every Spring blooming at the same time as Spanish bluebells. It self-seeds into paving cracks and has a pale, calm presence in part-shade…

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The shrill green flowers of Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii illuminate the garden at dusk…

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And more calm  in the kitchen with a bunch of wild garlic flowers for the kitchen table…DSCN6524

Late Frost

May 5, 2016

Hmm.  The emerging potato leaves that I showed off last week were hit by frost a few days later. The blackened leaves are now covered in soil and should re-emerge over the next few weeks and from past experience this blip seems not to harm production. I should have covered them in fleece but ever the optimist I thought very cold nights were over and done with this Spring.

The blackcurrants are smothered in small fruit probably because they were weeded really well late Winter. The roots are very near the surface so they hate competition with grass and in this case dozens of Love- in- a- Mist seedlings. Today they got a feed and the two bushes were draped in a net curtain to keep the birds off…

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Still no signs of germination in the rows of cut flowers sown two weeks ago and the soil has definitely warmed up with weed seedlings emerging all over the place. I had a quick hoe between the broad beans leaving them looking pristine and gave them a 6x feed.

The joy of growing tulips is in the lengthy pleasure that they bring to both the garden and the house.  Starting with emerging buds in early April these grow fatter by the day and it’s a tantalizing few weeks before the plump flower heads begin to open.  Then three weeks after they began to add interest in the garden these T. Brown Sugar’ were picked for a vase for indoors.  After five days in the warmth of the house they’ve opened further and look quite different and are now pleasingly blousey. In a few days they’ll have morphed into swan necks before losing their petals…DSCN6504

But sometimes all I want on the kitchen table is a pot of Forget-Me-Nots. They are bobbing up all over the allotment and had self-seeded in the bed where I planned to grow the spinach. They came home with earth on the roots and topped up with more soil they fitted into an aluminium container very happily…

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Tulip Time

April 28, 2016

DSCN6380Euphorbia mellifera is looking glorious lording it over a pot of T. ‘Brown Sugar’ making a rich, rusty-orange combination.  And just emerging at the base of the pot is T.’Orange Favourite’ to extend the flowering for a week or two…

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These Wilco tulips were bought in the sale and I hope to have identified them as a species T. Clusiana var. ‘Cynthia’ …DSCN6475

Three multi-stemmed Amelanchier have blossomed and beneath them is flowering wild garlic mingling with Euphorbia robbiae and Spanish bluebells…

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On the allotment the eight rows of flower seeds sown ten days ago are showing no signs of germination.  As compensation there are relatively few signs of weed seedlings so the ground is still warming up. However there is emerging leaf on rows of Charlotte potatoes…

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And the chard is looking healthy…

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I cropped the first of the rhubarb and a handful of salad leaves…

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And for the hall table I picked a pot of T. ‘Hakuun’…

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New Planting

April 14, 2016

Inspired by the grasses in Barn House Garden and the excellent tips on how to manage their hair cuts I have bought and planted 4 Stipa gigantea.  I’ve had them before but they were planted in a shady area rather than open to the sky with potential full sun.  The dead leaves had been removed by the nursery and after a soak in a bucket of water they were planted towards the outer corners of the main bed.

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To make room I lifted some small lavender plants,that I seem to plant every year.  They never do terribly well probably because it’s a bed that tends to get watered regularly. These are now on the allotment near the shed in full sun and in an area that relies on rain only.  I surrounded the Stipa gigantia with eighteen Verbena bonariensis.

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The Purple peas germinated fast and built up a good root system in the root trainers…

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They’re now planted at the base of an A frame draped in jute netting…

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The ongoing project to green-up the lane that runs the length of the back of our terrace is progressing with the purchase of more plastic potato sacks for a pound (from you know where). To further keep the costs down I am experimenting by half filling them with kitchen waste covered with two layers of cardboard then topped up with commercial compost before planting. The Muscari grape hyacinths planted in November are looking good…

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As is Tulip Monte Carlo with its lovely fat heads about to open and planted with Narcissus Tete a Tete…

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These bulbs have done well whilst waiting for the compost to break down and in relatively shallow soil. When they’ve finished flowering they’ll be lifted and the soil topped up ready for annuals and perennials and medium size shrubs.  Nasturtium seeds saved from last year will add colour sown round the edge of all six planters …

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Before a week away in Venice I shall be sowing Purple climbing and dwarf French beans, runner beans, courgettes, pumpkin, sweetcorn, beetroot and fennel.  All are reliable grown from seed and will be left in trays in the warmth of the allotment greenhouse. They’ll be hardened off outside towards the end of April before going in the ground in mid-May.

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Here’s a great tip from Alys Fowler in the Guardian two weeks ago on seedling care. I’ve been seriously guilty of pushing new compost around the stems of seedlings when potting them on but not any more. Alys says it damages the delicate stem and prevents the immature plant from taking up water to survive.

The Fritillaria meleagris bulbs planted near the garden tap have produced one lone flower…

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Transition Time

April 7, 2016

Changes in the garden have begun as Winter moves into Spring and we head towards all plants in full leaf by May.  The transition is slow but steady and I especially like the dry, rusty leaves on the beech hedges in contrast to the fresh, green leaves of the box balls and parterres.

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There are signs of Spring all over with new flower-heads emerging on the Hydrangea petiolaris.  It’s such a good plant: it self-supports against walls or fences with suckers on the base of the leaves and although deciduous it is bare for as little as three months. It’s now smothered in shiny, fresh green leaves and the flowers will soon open to white.

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The emerging buds on Clematis armandii are really beautiful and almost my favourite stage…

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But the perfume comes when the flowers are fully open which they are today.

DSCN6383Euphorbia mellifera is providing scent too…

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The lilac had about three blooms last year but today it’s smothered in masses of emerging flowers. One stem is seen here against the beech hedge and there are at least fifty or so to open in May.  I’ll really want to pick the blooms but my darling late mother always warned against it. Does anyone know the source of that superstition and should I dare to defy it?

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The shrub that keeps on giving, Chaenomeles japonica, has been in flower on and off since before Christmas. I am not sure it even dropped its leaves this winter…

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Tulips are bursting through their foliage in the garden and some just begged to be picked for the warmth of the kitchen table. DSCN6364-001

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