This year marks the 40th anniversary, since The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady was published. Amanda Davies looks back at her life, and asks if written today would it be as charming?
Edith Blackwell Holden was a romantic ecologist as well as a celebrated artist. Born on the 26th September 1871, she was one of several children belonging to Arthur and Emma Holden, of Holden and Son’s Paint Factory in Kings Norton. After leaving school Edith trained as an artist and took the opportunity to enhance her skills by spending a year under the tutorship of the painter Joseph Donovan Adam, at the Craighill Art School in Stirling and at the farm that he owned there, sketching the natural world.
Greatly influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement her paintings were displayed both in the Royal Birmingham Society of Arts and The Royal Academy of Arts in 1907 and 1917. In addition she did artwork for four volumes of The Animals Friend, a publication for the 1920’s London based charity National Council for Animal Welfare; plus illustrations for “The Three Goats Gruff” storybook when it was translated into English – a considerable feat in an age when women weren’t supposed to have careers.
From 1906 to 1909 she taught Art at the Solihull School for Girls; and it was for this reason that she made her nature notes – these recordings were never meant to be published; instead they were designed to help structure the course material for her students. In 1911 Edith married Alfred Ernest Smith, eight years her junior; the marriage was frowned upon by her family, so they moved to Chelsea, London, where they associated with Sir George Frampton, the Countess Fedora Gleichen and King Faisal of Arabia.
Edith and Alfred were married for nine years; they didn’t have any children, and it’s reputed that when she met her untimely death on the 18th March 1920 (by falling into the Thames whilst reaching across the bank with the aid of her brolly to gather Chestnut buds to draw,) Alfred never got over it.
So how did we get access to one of the world’s most popular books? The answer is simply down to the insightfulness of her great niece Rowena Stott; who in 1977 (when she herself was an art student,) showed the family’s most treasured pages to a publisher. Seeing the potential of the chronological recordings of the flora and fauna in Edwardian England, it was published in its facsimile form, and has been translated into thirteen different languages; it remains number four in the world’s most popular book list of the last forty years.
In 1984 a twelve-part mini-series was broadcast on television charting her life; and she is as popular today as she ever was – her illustrations are currently being used in adult colouring books, as well as inspirational designs for the home including wallpaper, napkins, and crockery. A leading high-street store still holds the longest continually running licence certificate to produce its annual ladies diary, based on her original works, with quotes and poems and mottos.
If Edith were alive today what would she think of the countryside now? How many of the two-hundred and fifteen plants or seventy-six bird species she documented are around to record now?
When did you last see a Bee Orchid? According to the Woodland Trust, they are common in marshland and native to coastal regions of Wales; you can probably name several flowers in the hedgerow, but can you identify them all? There are native plants including clover, dead nettle and thistle in our gardens; there are many pretty weeds too; what are their names?
There are numerous reports available suggesting that adults and children don’t spend as much time in the outdoors as they should; however, there are also a number of bodies trying to redress the balance; Natural Resources England/Wales and Scotland, have a wealth of information on things to do in the countryside, as does the Woodland Trust and Citizen Scientist too. You can also access the Government’s website that lists all of the currently endangered plant and animal species in the UK – and important advice on legislation when it comes to protecting them.
One innovative American charity, accessible to all online, entitled Children and Nature encourages youngsters to keep a year’s worth of drawings, photographs and notes on what they see in the of the natural world starting in their own backyard. Imagine what the results might be. Closer to home the Facebook group 30 Days Wild encourages everybody to send in a daily update of wildlife in their area.
Possibly record a journal yourself; because who knows, just like the unassuming Edith Holden, in forty years’ time, your memoires could be important too!
© Amanda Jane Davies 2017. A.firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you are all feeling good, and still working hard in the garden. This month has been so mild,it’s been the best year ever for Autumn sowing. Well at least it has for me here in Pembrokeshire. I feel so privileged to spend so many warm dry days pottering in the greenhouses, especially as I was so unwell for the first six months of the year.
So what have I been up to? Well lots of things – apart from my gardening, I’ve been taking part it in a long distance writing course, two online mini photography courses, and I’ve set up my own blogs on Weblogit and WordPress. Both of them are about living with Fallot’s Tretology, Ovarian Cancer and Heart Failure. My personal blog links are on my Facebook page If you would like to read them.
Gardening-wise – since being off sick, I have had an awful lot more time to study my garden. I’ve been able to understand more clearly why things are failing, (unfavourable conditions/wrong site,) the areas of deep shade, the sun’s path through the garden, micro climates, soil types and wildlife. I have made many plans in my head, about what to improve or change altogether. I have fallen in love with simple flowers that have done nothing but flower their hearts out all summer. My surprise love is French Marigolds.
But most of all I have learned to live in the moment. Best described by the words of the late great Welsh Poet William Henry Davies’ poem; Leisure
. “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”
Well I have found plenty of time to stand and stare!
I have been keeping a paper diary of my gardening year. Again I feel so lucky to have done this. I would encourage any gardener to keep a diary similar to mine. Track the sun’s path, note your soil and weather conditions, record the wildlife. Draw your plans, jot down your favourites to grow. However, most importantly, record your mistakes. Mistakes, show that you tried something that didn’t work this time around, but maybe you can improve it next year, or at least not make the same mistakes. It’s really is better to try and fail, rather than never try at all. I’ve failed at growing pumpkins because my supports were not good enough. I can change this if I grow them again. I failed at melons, as the weather changed, so there was nothing I could do, but I will try again next year. I grew cucumlelons two years ago, I hated the taste. A mistake? No as other people liked them, they were easy to grow. Though I won’t do them again.
The last bit of news is I have got so many new blog ideas for here, that I am hoping the kind people at Thompson and Morgan will let me write some additional blogs apart from my monthly ones. It’s so lovely writing for them, as well as sharing my gardening exploits with you lovely readers, I also get given some excellent seeds free to grow and write about. Occasionally, I win blogger of the month and as winner, they give fantastic prizes. Have a look at the photo below, it shows my latest box of goodies sent by the editor. I especially love the teal Gubbins tray, flower pouches, and vermiculite.
October has given me many things – let’s start in The Office – it’s so well stocked, I could give my local garden centre a run for its money! I have recently had to move a load of plants to the cold frame as they are growing too quickly in the warmth of the staging under glass. The border is almost carpeted by Aloe Vera’s rooted houseplants are flowering, the spiky cactus has got fatter, and the yellow tomato is still producing. The money tree, is definitely becoming more tree like.
I’ve had great success with germination and transplanting of Calendula Snow Princess, and Orange English Marigolds. There are a few nasturtiums appearing too. I have a mass of beautiful Black Ball Cornflowers ready to go out in spring. There a numerous pots of Viola Jonny Jump Up ready to go outside.
Next job pot on Amaranthas Ouesburg seedlings from an old soft fruit punnet (I like to recycle) to singular pots are – these I would sorely miss if I didn’t collect the seeds each year. I think the most similar type that T&M do are called Ribbons and Tails. However, mine look more like a cross between a bottlebrush and a pampas grass flower. They have dark red/chocolatey leaves, that start off a deep grey green. The flowers are a cerise/burgundy, soft and fluffy to the touch. They don’t seem to have any scent, and the only thing I have seen feeding from/pollinating them are tiny bugs. They grow anything up to six foot in a hot summer, or even taller under glass. I’ve not tried eating the leaves, although it’s a delicacy in France and akin to spinach, nor have I wanted to try the flowers either. I have no idea which Amaranthas varieties are edible, so I wouldn’t chance it
Once I have done these, I then need to transplant the Larkspur, which look so pretty when they are small; as well as a few lavenders, Malva Moschatas, Heleniums and Radish. I also have a surviving turnip after a pesky slug got in and munched its way through them, as well as my cabbage and broccoli.
There is still no sign of the Kniphofias, Lupins, Foxgloves, and Stevia. Nor the grasses, nigella, hollyhocks or liatris. I’m not ready to give up on them yet.
In gaps on the middle shelves are White Lavender cuttings, a Christmas Cactus, some hyacinths that I have just started to water, two slightly dead looking buckthorn alder trees and a broken stem off my apple tree, that I’m hoping might root. It probably won’t, but I want to give it a chance. On what little space I have on the lower shelves, I have pots, vases, baskets, and various gardening equipment and tools.
Ty Mawr has been mostly prepared for late autumn and early winter. After giving fruits from late July until just a few days ago, the left border has now been cleared of tomato vines. What were left of the fruits were splitting at every opportunity, or failing to ripen. I made green tomato chutney once, but the bungalow stank of vinegar for days after, so I vowed never to make it again. There were hardly any green ones left anyway, so it wouldn’t have been worth the bother.
The only things remaining are a slightly floppy Amaranthas and a few French Marigolds. I plan to put the turnip and radish in this border for winter pickings. I also plan to overwinter my strawberries here too. I’m tempted to try some really late potatoes, but usually it’s best to get them in by September, so I might do onions instead.
The back border has been stripped of all except one aubergine plant. They didn’t really amount to much, maybe two or three fruits per plant. We just didn’t have the long hot summer they prefer. This is my least successful year for aubergines. Strangely the plant that’s left is a tiny T&M one, I grew from very late seeds. It isn’t even four inches, and has stayed this size all through summer, it had food and water and heat like the rest of them, but it just never grew any bigger. It’s the only one not to succumb to powdery mildew, mould or blight. So it’s staying for now. I have no idea if it will be strong enough to cope with winter. I may have to put a little cloche over it, even though it’s already under glass.
The right border has the two peppers which look really healthy, so again, I’m hoping to overwinter them. The chillies are turning a hot red, so fingers crossed I can keep this plant going too. Behind the chillies are ever expanding Nicotianas. One purple, one lime green. They are still flowering and smell divine. However, if they carry on multiplying as they are they will have to be evicted. Or even potted up to put outside next year.
Next to the chillies is a Sweet Aperetif tomato vine, that it still producing little red treats. I’m hoping to beat my personal best and pick tomatoes in November. The plants have usually caught blight by now, so I’m really chuffed this hasn’t happened yet. Spotted between the vine stems is a mini Amaranthas. I have a feeling they will grow like weeds in the greenhouse next year.
We had to take the Yellow Stuffer tomato out from the left border as it looked odd. The leaves were turning brown and the fruits were becoming mottled with brown patches. It didn’t look like blight, but I didn’t fancy eating the fruits so out it went. Lastly, there are two garlic plants growing. They have shot up over the last week, and have three leaves each.
On the hanging shelves in Ty Mawr are two money trees, repotted and brought in for the winter, as well as the spider plant that had to go out for the summer. There is also a single leaf from the money tree in a pot of its own, as it fell off one of the little ones. It had such good roots to it, I thought it might propagate this way. The other hanging shelves hold random pots, tomato feed, secateurs, a few garden ornaments, and outdoor solar lights so they don’t get damaged in the high winds and frost. There’s also a couple of China coasters for when I bring my hot chocolate with me on a plant inspection.
Anyhow, that’s enough from me.
Love Amanda xx
As you know from previous September blogs I love this month. I love the last of the warm sunny days, before the transformation of of Autumn, with its crisp mornings, wood-smoke, and crunchy colourful leaves.
Though this September has not been the gloriously warm and sunny days it usually is here in Pembrokeshire. Instead we have had muggy, mild and wet days. Perfect blight inducing days – yet surprisingly I haven’t had blight in the greenhouses yet.
I feel so privileged to be able to be able to go out in the greenhouses this September – such a change from last year when I was fighting for my life. I genuinely believe that gardening and writing got me through one of the most stressful and scariest parts of my life.
So many seeds to sow!
So what’s been happening in my greenhouses? Plenty! I don’t really know where to start. Last month I asked for suggestions for naming the greenhouses; unfortunately no one has given me any so I’ll just have to name them myself. So in “The Office” (little greenhouse) I have been busy sowing and transplanting many many seeds. I am sure my staging is more abundant with plants now than it was in the spring. It seems to me that putting the red LED string lights in there is helping the seeds to germinate quicker. They seem to react to the lights which come on at dusk. These lights were less than £3 for 50 bulbs from a high street value store. They run by solar power and on really sunny days the charge lasts until dawn.
Seedlings and Hardening off
I started Calendula and Violas off at the start of the month and these have already being hardened off in the cold frame, and now planted out for my autumn and winter displays. The second lot that I did of these two varieties in the second week of September are now in the cold frame, and I’m halfway through transplanting my third batch to individual bigger pots, that I started off on in the third week of the month.As well as them, I have Calendula Snow Princess that T&M gave me to trial in the Spring. They didn’t germinate then, but have more than made up for it now when I sowed the remainder of the packet two weeks ago. There are many many plants that are hardy enough to start in September and October; and it appears that Autumn now seems to be the optimum time for greenhouse growers to get ahead of the game and prepare for their early spring beds and borders. So with this in mind I have started off the following varieties: Cornflower, Foxglove, Helenium, Kniphofia, Lavender, Larkspur, Lupin, Malva Moschata, and Nigella, As well as Radish, Turnip, Calabrese and Cabbage.
The Aloes are taking over!
So far I have seedlings of Cornflower, Helenium, Lavender, Larkspur, Malva Moschata, Radish,Turnip and one Cabbage to transplant. I try to spend an hour a day, watering, transplanting and shelf arranging each day, though my energy levels are rubbish so sometimes they only get a water and a chat. I usually thank them for growing and brightening my day. Also in The Office, the aloes have gone all thuggy. I almost have a carpet of them in the border. I am so tempted to give them as Christmas Presents to people, along with some baked goodies, as a proper old fashioned, but more personal gift The indoor house plants that were evicted to The Office in spring are a lush dark green and look like they are about to send up flower spikes.
Finally, the White Lavender Edelweiss cuttings I accidentally rescued, when they fell off a plant I was looking at in the local garden centre on my birthday, have rooted. I told the person at the desk and I asked if I could take the broken bits home to save them. The actual plant was £8.99 for a 5cm pot so was worried I would have to pay for damages. I dropped the pot thanks to chemo nerve damage. (I didn’t have to pay.) They just looked at me like I was mad. Especially, as I had them wrapped in a bit of wet tissue. I now have a plant for me and a plant for mum for free. The actual potted plant I dropped didn’t look damaged so it was still able to be sold to someone.The tiny Christmas Cacti cutting I took in the spring from my dads plant has sprouted lots of little new leaves.So that’s all that’s happening there.
A bumper harvest!
Meanwhile at Ty Mawr (big greenhouse) there is so far an endless supply of tomatoes, and aubergines. The peppers have not been that great sadly, only five peppers off two plants. They were tasty though.I wish I had counted how many toms I had altogether. I would say to any new tomato growers, for sheer numbers of sweet cherries Sweet Aperitif does not fail. To try something more unexpected grow Yellow Stuffer, they get huge, are best eaten cooked as it brings out the flavour, and are still cropping at the end of the month.
Jewel Jade Aubergines have a fig like texture and are much sweeter than normal dark skinned ones. Although I found the skin inedible. I’m not sure if your meant to eat the skin on this one, or if I needed to let it mature for longer. They felt ripe though. The normal aubergines (Celine) have not performed as well as the greens. The chillies are making an aggressive comeback with many new flowers and fruit
The Garlic I planted from the fridge at the end of last month have shot up and have three leaves each. I’ve never grown garlic in the greenhouse, and have no idea if it will work or not.The amaranthus are starting to get seedy (oops that sounds a bit wrong,) and I must get to them before they droop and I end up with an amaranthus issue next year. The Nicotianas are flowering like mad under glass too. I have no idea if they will become a problem next year, but I am sure I will find out. The marigolds are still flowering and keeping the pests at bay.
Similarly, I have solar lights in Ty Mawr too. Only these are blue, and I really do feel that they contribute to the vigour and health of the plants. The green of the leaves is still succulent and rich,the flowers continue to being pollinated and the fruits still growing. I’m not sure if it helps to turn the fruits different colours, but they certainly seem to be more disease resistant and although I had blight on my tomato outside, so far the greenhouse appears to be blight free.
As it is time to start watering hyacinths for Christmas Blooms, I recently moved the bulbs to The Office, as they have more chance of staying warmer on the staging than on the shelves on their own in the other one. Also if Mark decides to tidy up the shelves of the big greenhouse when we finally pull up the summer crops, he might think it’s a pot of non existent plants and chuck it out.
So that’s what’s happening at Ty Mawr. Lastly, in the cold frame are my weaker plug plants I got from T&M last month, that have finally decided to grow, and hardening off, plus trays of calendula
and violas. I need to rescue my two baby money plants and the spider plant that are still out by the front bench and need somewhere warmer to overwinter.
That’s it from me this month. I’m off to go and collect colourful leaves – not to make leaf mould -although they will end up in the compost bin after, but to take photos as inspired by Andy
Goldsworthy. If you don’t know who he is just ask the ” tinternet,” as I call it!
Love Amanda xx
Where to start? What a month – the weather has been just awful, heavy rain, westerly winds and foggy overcast days. The perfect way to ruin a summer garden and then just when you’ve decided to pack up the patio furniture for next year, guess what the sun comes out!
August has been really hit and miss when it comes to seed germination. I planted up some 2008 Viola seeds that have germinated perfectly, I have planted up fresh from my future Mum-in-Law’s garden, bright orange, English Marigold seeds that grew almost instantly, yet a new packet of cabbage seeds germinated and then died, same for the Stevia, Lavender and a few of the turnips.
As the grass seeds take between one and four months to germinate I’m not sure what the success rate will be. The Liatris appear to have failed entirely. Even though I have tried different composts, different sowing months, and different conditions. It’s a shame because I really liked the look of these plants.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – I have had great success with my food plants – but more about that later. First I need your help. I am a bit bored with writing the names “Big Greenhouse” and “Little Greenhouse” each month so I want to call them something different. I thought of calling the big one Ty Mawr which is Welsh for the big house, but then I would have to call the little one Ty Bach which although translates to little house, it actually refers to visiting the toilet.
In Pembrokeshire a lot of people speak Wenglish! (Welsh-English) for example, “I’m just going to the Ty Bach” or Put it in the Popty-Ping” meaning use the microwave. Although Popty-ping is a nickname that seems to have stuck. The real word for Microwave in Welsh is Meicrodon -phonetically pronounced as Micro Don and easy to remember as it sounds like a tiny Italian Mobster. So please help me out and suggest some names.
In the little greenhouse, I have germinating seeds, some plug plants that I had free from Thompson and Morgan, via a Gardeners World special offer and many empty pots waiting to filled when my seedlings get larger.
Unfortunately, a quarter of my twelve free plants are in a bad state and will possibly fail, the box was slightly crushed when it was delivered, and the plants were very dry, which makes me wonder how long they had taken to get to me once they had been despatched. I haven’t complained as they were free to begin with. I was also disappointed that some of the plants stated in the magazine offer (Hensol Poppies) were not actually in the collection, but they were substituted for Geranium Splish Splash – which although pretty is not what I wanted. However, as I’ve never grown these before perhaps I’m in for a treat. And it clearly states on the offer that they can substitute plants at any time – so again not complaining, but I really only took up the offer because of the poppies (sad sulky face).
The other plants in the offer were Digitalis Alba, Digitalis Sugar Plum and Digitalis Candy Mountain plus Primula Denticulata. The primula looks exciting to grow so I really hope I don’t loose any more of these plants.
On the shelves I also have a Christmas Cacti cutting that has finally rooted, a sickly looking dog rose and two buckthorn alders, again in a sorry state. The reason being we put the trees in the cold frame and then I totally forgot about them.
In the border there’s the usual aloes and cacti and money tree, along with a yellow stuffer tomato plant. Its nice to have an annual plant in there again. I’m sort of missing the annual borders there, but it is really nice to have permanent evergreen plants to look at all year round. Plus it only needs a light weed and feed, so is easy to maintain.
In the cold frame I now have two baby money trees and a spider plant, as they have been evicted from the big greenhouse for the summer.
Whilst sorting out the little greenhouse a few days ago I found a flowerpot with small bulbs in it. No, compost, no, label so no idea what they are. I asked Mark if he put them there, he said: “Yes I did ages ago. I forgot about them.”
“What are they?” I asked. Meaning have you any idea what bulbs they are.
Shrugging he helpfully replied “You are the gardener not me. I don’t know what they are.”
“Where did you get them from?” I tried. Hoping he would say which border or bit in the garden he had accidentally dug them out from.
“One of your pots in the garden.” Was his reply.
As we say in Welsh “Fel Rhech Mewn Pot Jam……”*
It’s used to describe something or someone as Useless – but you may want to google the phrase for the exact translation!
*I mean his reply was not helpful not that he is useless.
And so to the big greenhouse……
I have so many Sweet Aperitif tomatoes, I can pick fresh ones every day. The lowest number per pick per day was seven, the highest is currently at sixty six. The Yellow Stuffers are a bit more reasonable, in that they produce one or two a day, which is ideal. The Bonica Aubergines are slow, but they have flowered and I can just see the fruits forming. The Patio Mix ones are awesome, they are giving me one or two fruits per week since the second week of August. But so far only dark purple ones, the green type from the mix (Jewel Jade) have fruit, but they are not ripe enough to pick.
The Marigolds and Amaranthus and Nicotianas are still keeping the pests at bay, except for a giant slug, that I quickly evicted. I left the Hunter Spider in the foliage as he can help out with pest control.
The Sweet Bonita peppers have many fruits on them, they are large but still too hard, and they are refusing to turn any other colour, they are staying a pale creamy yellow. I took a single pepper off each plant to encourage them to keep flowering. I have put said peppers on the kitchen windowsill to ripen.
The Medina chilli stopped growing for a while, but has since recovered, and thanks to the pollinators there are now more chillies growing. Mark wants us to make a sweet chilli sauce with them – I think he’s forgotten how hot they are! Regretfully, I lost my watermelon to powdery mildew last month before its fruits were big enough to recuse, and annoyingly the cantaloupe melon has done the same. The fruits would grow to no bigger than a tomato then fall to the floor. Then I noticed powdery mildew on its leaves and stalks, so I had to have Mark rip it out. So frustrating, as it was a total waste of time and money buying them from a different supplier. Thankfully T&M gave me some melon seeds to trial this year, but because they were posted to me after their recommended sow by month, I can’t trial them until next year.
The greenhouse pumpkin succumbed to mildew too. The outdoor one is fine. I wish I lived near to Ian and Stuart Paton, the champion pumpkin growers as I would love to ask them for some handy tips. I don’t think I could afford their electricity bill though to keep the pumpkins at a constant eighteen degrees both day and night, nor the gallons of water needed for the pumpkins to grow six stone a day.
The gaps left by the melons were dug over, and fresh fertiliser was added to the soil, in the form of compost and tomato feed, and we have now put in the two spare tomatoes that were in spud growing sacks in the smaller greenhouse. They have established and continue to form fruit and flowers.
Mark still has to do all the heavy watering, lifting and digging,for me, as I continue to recover from the cancer and learn my new limitations with the heart failure. But compared to this time last year, things are 100% better.
Finally, there was nothing better than to see the smile on my oncologists face, when I presented him with a bag of home grown tomatoes at my last check-up. A tiny thank you from me for everything he and his team have done.
Until next month.
Love Amanda xx
What’s happened to the summer sun? Honestly it’s more like autumn in Pembrokeshire! The days are usually overcast, with a fair chance of a shower. The wind makes it impossible some days to open the greenhouse doors or windows for fear of damage, and the sawflies are out in force.
On days it is actually sunny, my poor plants get caught out as temperatures soar. The other day it was too wet and wild to open the greenhouse and we had to go out. When we got back at lunchtime the weather had brightened up and inside the greenhouse was 38 degrees. Thankfully the plants didn’t suffer too much stress. There’s an old trick to getting the temperature down quickly under the glass, which is to open all doors and windows and then damp down the path with a can of water. Then the use a mister to slightly wet the foliage. Each year I think about buying shade paint, but then promptly forget to get it, so I’ve now taken to taping split orange plastic recycling bags to the outside of the greenhouse on really hot days.
This month has been particularly busy in the garden; I’ve harvested peas, beans, strawberries, red currents, raspberries and red gooseberries. These plants are low maintenance and give so much in return every garden should have them! I’ve also grown cut flowers for a vase everyday; this is often an ecclesiastical mix of perennial and annual flowers, herbs, wildflowers and foliage. I’m dahlia mad and a currently have two favourites growing. Ice and Fire from T&M and I love Life, that I bought as a sad dried out little tuber in a local shop for £1.49. My favourite wildflower at the moment is Scarlet Pimpernel – but many would class this as a weed.
The grassy knoll is starting to take shape, but there is room for more ornamental grasses as well as some herbs. Unfortunately, the slugs ate all of my Hyssops after they were put in their final growing positions, so I’ve set off more grass seeds as well as Stevia and Lavender. There are some grasses that require a cold snap before germination, and some that just need a consistent temperature, and there are many varieties that can be grown in July. Some are just sprinkled on the surface of good compost, while others need a layer of vermiculite and then sealed in a plastic bag before they start to grow. Hopefully within one to six months I should see Pony Tail, Tail Feathers, and Rainbow Phornium seedlings appear. These seeds are in the small greenhouse along with a new batch of freshly sown Liatris, Hollyhock, Cabbage, Turnip, Forget-me-not, Foxglove, Viola, and an Olive. The Turnips were eager, germinating in only forty-eight hours. Followed closely by the Stevia, Lavender and a pot of Violas. I’m looking forward to the Heartsease as it’s an old fashioned variety called Jonny Jump Up.
I’ve squeezed three extra tomato plants into the small greenhouse too. One in the border nestled between the money tree and a giant aloe. The other two are on the path in potato grow bags. I have no idea if they will be deep enough in the bags, but they seem to be flowering so fingers crossed. Another tomato is in the spent pea container outside. I’m experimenting with the theory that the Nitrogen left behind in the pea roots (which stay in the used compost) will give enough nutrients to grow a tomato plant in. It’s also only being watered by the rain. It seems to be standing without supports at the moment; I’ll let you know how it goes.
The aloes have finished flowering, the cacti has had a few babies, and the money tree is still putting on lots of new growth. The three house plants that people gave me in work are still green, but as yet there are no new flowers on them. I can’t remember what they are called, but they have strappy leaves and a flower spike comes out off the middle, similar to a flaming Katie. Hopefully the picture will help.
The big greenhouse is full to the rafters, literally! On the shelves we have spider plant in full flower, pretty little white things, but so pot bound we are will have to cut the pot for it to be replanted, I am wondering if it’s hardy enough to go outside in our sheltered bit, between the house, shed and maple tree, next to another houseplant ,(mother in laws tongue) the spider plant belonged to dad, so I don’t want to kill it, or give it away, but it’s too big for the house. Perhaps I will thin the aloes and stick it in the small greenhouse after all. There are also baby money trees in pots which I am looking for homes for. I have cuttings of Christmas cacti on the shelves too. In the left border, we have three highly prolific Sweet Aperitif tomatoes, these cherry ones, certainly live up to their name. It’s so hard not to eat them all walking back to the kitchen. Alternatively, they are absolutely delicious in a cheese, onion, and tomato toasty, sprinkled with turmeric, black pepper, basil and oregano. We also have two large Yellow Stuffer tomato plants growing there too. These are yet to change colour, they are about the size of an apple at the moment, and getting bigger. I’m surprised at how many there are; wrongly assumed that as they were bigger fruits there would be less of them. Under planting the tomatoes with Marigolds, and many rouge Amaranthus, (we have transferred half a dozen outside) has attracted many pollinators, which means more fruits for us, and absolutely no white or greenfly. We do seem to have an ant problem in both greenhouses though. (The sparrows usually sort this out for us by comically hanging off the guttering or doors and grabbing the ants midair. Occasionally the blackbird is in the foliage digging for the grubs.)
The back border is where my aubergine trial is taking place. The normal Celine ones are flowering profusely, and I have already had one tasty aubergine from an early plant. The Patio Mix are just starting to fruit. One is called Jewel Jade and is just starting to form green fruits. I’m still waiting to see if I have a white and purple stripy one come up. The right border contains a pumpkin, (another is in a container outside, another experiment.) as I couldn’t find anyone to take it. It seems to be behaving by not spreading too much, and putting up beautiful yellow flowers. Next to it are two Pepper Sweet Bonita plants, which have fruits that are slowly starting to ripen. There are plenty of new flowers coming too. I absolutely love this pepper as it’s very mild and juicy.
Next to the peppers is a Chilli Medina. I don’t like chillies but grew it for Mark. The first chilli to come off it was a dark green beast, but as I left it on the kitchen worktop for two days it turned bright red. One night making supper, Mark decided to fry some mushrooms with the chilli, I told him to try it first before adding it to the pan. I shouldn’t laugh, but it was hilarious, he went from white to red, to purple in about three seconds. He did a little jumping around on the spot before muttering something I dare not repeat! He would have drunk straight from the tap if he could have. Apparently his tongue was still burning fifteen minutes later, (even though it was de-seeded.) His lasting memory of that chilli was “an unpleasant experience, never to be repeated!). Luckily my friend Trisha’s partner is part dragon so he can easily tolerate the heat in them.
Next to the chilli, and taking up at least six feet of the greenhouse including wrapping itself around its trellis the shelf and the lead for the solar lights is the cantaloupe melon. It has at least four melons growing. I have to keep picking off the flowers, as advice from T&M and one of my mum’s friends, is to allow only a few fruits to develop, as these will be bigger and better quality. Try telling the plant that! Everyday, a new flower appears. I have to keep pinching out growing tips that are as annoying as the tomato ones. I have to untangle it from the lights, and occasionally cut off a few yellow leaves. The stems are hairy and can irritate like a tomato, but otherwise it’s easy to look after.
Oh I forgot, there’s also a purple Nicotiana between the chilli and the pepper. It’s so pretty I don’t want to dig it up and transfer it in case I accidentally kill it. Trouble is, it may decide to seed itself like the Amaranthus did, and then I will be cursing next year, when I end up with a greenhouse full of flowers instead of edibles – though surprisingly the French eat Amaranthus leaves like spinach.
Until next time.
Love Amanda xx