California Dreaming!

At the time of writing this blog I am visiting Palm Desert in California for a few days with my Husband Alan and my Sister who lives in Huntington Beach Ca.  Today`s temperature has been 104`F, how do they keep their plants alive in such hot weather?  Gradually over a few days the temperature dropped to 100`F.  Unfortunately brush fires have broken out in many areas, so sad to see people lose their homes, belongings and gardens.  We have a lot to be thankful for in the UK even when we get the storms.   We shall be visiting the Palm Desert Visitor Centre which has hundreds of different cactus growing – you do have to keep your eyes open as there are notices about rattle snakes hiding near the rocks.  You also have to be careful when taking photos as my Sister discovered a couple of years ago when she backed up to a large cactus bush with unpleasant affects.

While we were at our overnight hotel at Heathrow Airport I had a text and photos from my Daughter in Law to say I had won a Gold Award for my hanging baskets and a Gold Award for my container Garden.  I was thrilled as we have had a rough few months when my Husband was to and fro from hospital following a serious eye operation.  I am sure concentrating on the garden really helped me.

Now down to work:

What a funny month August was – not funny ha ha – In the South we have had several really bad storms and gales with torrential rain and on one occasion hail which shattered a lot of the flowers.  The plants did not recover so quickly as they did earlier in the season.  As all  my plants were in containers on the front decking some of them looked really sorry for themselves so emptied them out and cut some back with the hope that they might recover.  A few did but became very untidy.  The Apricot Shade Begonias have lasted right through the summer until mid October, also the Non Stop Begonias Citrus variety.

I had four dahlias for trial from Thompson & Morgan which turned out to be very prolific.  I grew them in containers and were around 18 inches high although one variety were a little taller.  The flowers were stunning with a slight perfume.  I was also given two Hibiscus for trial, these have proved very successful growing to around 12 – 14 inches high and continuously flowered.  They were still flowing when bought indoors for the winter before the cold nights.   They are to be treated as indoors plants until next Spring when they can go back outside.

As I finish the blog we are back in Huntington Beach where we have had some heavy rain and still looks stormy – just to remind me of home.

As we look forward to Christmas have fun everyone and enjoy your gardening…………………..til the next time

Jean.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

After a busy week with barely a peep outside, I went into the garden this morning and I felt a none too subtle shift from high summer towards early autumn. There I was last Sunday extolling the virtues of planting for late summer colour, marvelling at the fact that my plot had yet to reach its peak. And this morning, well, I realised it had gone ahead without me!

Experience tells me that we should be able to enjoy the garden until well into October and to a lesser extent into November too. But it’s a bitter sweet knowledge. And it doesn’t help that it’s just started pouring down outside when, in 15 minutes, a party of nonagenarians is due for a spot of horticultural therapy a la NGS Garden and Health Week! OMG it’s pelting down…………..

Phew, that went well. Sun came out. One of the ladies visiting the garden had been a WW2 Land Army Girl in Middlesex for five years. What she doesn’t know about spuds isn’t worth knowing. Eve, my neighbour, from whom we inherited our allotment when her lovely Ted died, (he was 91; we’re bred to last round ‘ere in Finchley!) remembers going down to the plot with her grandfather when she was seven to pick blackberries. (Trish, is that what you call split infinitives?) The blackberry hedge was well established by then. Eve is now 87 so it’s at least 80 years old. I’ve contacted the allotment committee to see if they have any records as to whether it is the oldest cultivated blackberry bush on the allotment site.

Anyway…. With the turn of the season comes reflection (and re-registering for NGS 2018: I Really Must update our garden description. Even I am bored with same-old same-old year after year!) So I thought it would be a good time to review some of this summer’s planting schemes (whilst I can still see them that is!) First then, T&M annual bedding plants:

  • First Prize goes to Non Stop Mocca Bright Orange for its stunning bright red(!) double flowers above deep dark foliage. Many more next year. Plant with everything!

non stop mocca - summer 2017

  • Durability Prize: Petunia Mini Rosebud Romantic Peachy. Although not much of a spreader, its dense mats of flowers need no deadheading and sparse watering. (Good job too, seeing as their hanging baskets just fall short of hose distance, and are just above comfortable watering can height.)

petunia rosebud peachy - summer 2017

  • Greatest Endeavour: Begonia Glowing Embers. Poor things; when I planted them out with coleus Redhead, amongst some 2016 black canna divisions, who was to know that they would be completely dwarfed by the canna’s 6ft tall paddle leaves. Still, their delicate little orange gems managed to poke out of the darkness. Talk about hiding your light under a bushel.
  • Forgot I Had Them Prize: Bidens Collection. Having trialled these bidens last summer I was more than happy to plug another lot into the shady hosta and heuchera baskets in the fernery (posh name for shady bit at back where nothing else grows) this year. Once planted I promptly forgot about them until towards the end of July, when their starry little daisy like flowers started popping up, clearly no offence taken.

And a special prize goes to the T&M trial dahlia plugs that I trialled on the allotment:

  • trial dahlias - summer 2017Didn’t Think I Could Grow Them Prize: Trial Dahlia Plug Plants. Having never grown dahlias from anything other than tubers, I was hesitant to take on this trial. That said, wasn’t I likely to be the ideal candidate as, if they proved successful, then surely they could be catalogued as Idiot Proof! Three plugs each of four experimental varieties. Due to lack of space I planted each group of three into a 12” pot to start them off and eventually transplanted them onto the allotment. Well, within a fortnight two out of the four came into bloom, with more robust buds coming on. One group seemed particularly prone to slugs so I collared them with plastic tomato auto watering rings, which put a stop to that problem. I swear by those rings! Never have used them on tomatoes though…….

Now for performance review of the established plants in the garden, bearing in mind one always loves the plants that are Flowering Right Now the best:

best plants - summer 2017

  • Variegated version with pinky white flowers, mixed with deep blue and white varieties, breathe new life into the mid-summer borders.
  • Pastel carpet roses from Flower Carpet Range and County Series, Chelsea Rose of Year 2015 For Your Eyes Only, just keep flowering away all summer long.
  • Shrubby salvias, salvia Uliginosa and huge tender salvias Confertifolia and Involucrata. In fact all salvias. Except sage, I can’t grow sage. I have even broken my cardinal rule of not having any tender perennials in the borders, by lifting the most vulnerable ones for over wintering under cover.
  • Anything tall. Miscanthus, calamagrostis, eupatorium, thalictrum, veronica Virginucum Fascination. With exceptions: tansy has to go; sick of it, better things in the offing at Plant Heritage Plant Sale in September, oh, and rampant filipendula should carry a government health warning.

jitterbug cat -summer 2017And in conclusion, the prize for the most innovative hanging basket must go to Catus Jitterbuggus, who enjoys the shade of the patio in her very own hammock.

Make the most of the next few weeks, and remember it’s never too late to do a bit of plant buying…. Love, Caroline

Welcome To The New Gardening Year 2017

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year and are now ready for the new gardening year ahead.
During the summer of 2016 I planted Passiflora Caerulea and it soon grew to eight feet, must really have loved it in the full sun. I had around six flowers on it by early Autumn and then I noticed the fruit about the size of an egg appearing and turning gradually yellow. By then the days were colder but left them on the plant to see if they developed any further. The first week of January I decided to take the fruit off and cut them open and was very surprised to see that there was a lot of ripe flesh inside. I decided not to eat them as they had been around for a while and was not sure if they were edible after so long.

The Freesias I planted back in October started to grow far too quickly so I put more compost on them so the frost wouldn`t catch the tops but that only helped the local cats to use my containers as their toilet and scratched up the bulbs several times. Not wanting to to use anything that would hurt the cats but would stop them I asked a neighbour if I could have some branches of holly from her bush. That really did the trick with no damage to man nor beast.

On a mild day I checked the garden and noticed the Nemesia I had planted in a coloured pot during last summer were still growing and flowering as was some Cerinthe Major whose seeds had dropped on to the garden and had started to shoot, the plants are standing around 12” tall at the moment but I am afraid that when we get some very hard frosts it could be goodbye to them. My Hydranga `Annabelle` which had beautiful huge balls of white flowers, were still holding their own even though all the white heads are now brown, but still looking beautiful.

This Autumn I decided to plant up a couple of containers with a Winter Collection of small shrubs which gives a very nice show of various colours, and in the summer can be planted out in the garden.
My roses are in four containers but don`t really seem to be happy they all lost their leaves at one point and I did wonder if it was irregular watering that was causing it, although the bottoms of the containers were quite wet, so I am making room to put them into the border in front of a fence. If anyone has any answers re losing their leaves I would be very pleased to hear from you, this is their third year. The roses bloomed and looked great apart from the loss of leaves..

Having won Gold and Silver awards for my Container garden and hanging basket in 2016 for the Bournemouth in Bloom competition, I now have the challenge of turning the silver into gold for this year!

I have been making a provisional list of plants which I would like to grow from Thompson & Morgan for 2017 summer, I expect that will be re-written a couple of times before the final one. First of all we have to move a 5 ft.garden storage box and a small garden cupboard. The larger one is right into a corner and appears to be making the wall damp so will have to do some clearing out and moving it to under the kitchen window – fingers crossed.

I am hoping to try out a couple of Thompson & Morgan`s new Easy Fill baskets, I think the idea of having a solid piece of plastic holding the plants tight in their holes will stop the compost from falling out.

……………. so until we meet again, have fun deciding what you are going to grow this year, it`s getting lighter longer every day – hooray!!

Christmas is fast approaching!

Over the past few weeks I have been tidying the garden, putting the containers away upside down so they don`t fill with water.  Also have been putting away ornaments which were in the garden so they don`t get spoilt with the salt spray/wind that gets carried here in Bournemouth from the sea front. Sprayed them with a well known oil spray to stop them going rusty and wrapped them in fleece, putting three of them together in a black bag. Covered some of the more tender plants with fleece and waiting for my fleece bags to arrive  – with thanks to Geoff Stonebanks letting me know where I could buy them.

Unnamed trailing antirrhinum trialled & Begonia 'Apricot Shades'

Unnamed trailing antirrhinum trialled & Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’

I have also finished planting up some tulip bulbs, unfortunately they were being dug up as fast as I planted them. Whilst talking to friends at our coffee club who said she had a large holly bush if I would like some. I put quite a few sprigs into each container and so far this has stopped my bulbs being dug up – we shall see how long this lasts!
My patio Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ which were planted on the edge of a narrow border have just finished flowering. I have had them growing with Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’ which really filled the small border right up to the middle of November. I have cleaned off all the begonia corms that were dried off and put them away in newspaper and then wrapped in brown paper until around February when I hope to get them started for Summer 2017.

 

Rose 'Golden Wedding' & unnamed fuchsia trialled

Rose ‘Golden Wedding’ & unnamed fuchsia trialled

My smaller acer trees have looked  wonderful this autumn, the colours seem to change day by day, also the Rose ‘Golden Wedding’ was still managing to flower up until middle of November with slightly smaller flowers.  The Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY has lost all its leaves and almost all the fruit but there are a few fuchsia flowers still appearing. The trial of the un-named white trailing bidens is still flowering even though I have cut it back, from the same trial an un-named peachy pink antirrhinum was still flowering and as there was a frost forecast I decided to gently take it out of the basket and pot it up for the kitchen window sill, where it is continuing to thrive and grow – fingers crossed!!

Acer trees

Acer trees

We have just had the first storm of the season – Storm Angus! Trees down, roads blocked, underpasses flooded and the poor garden knocked about. That really was the end of the leaves on my acers, such a shame, now they just look like twigs. At the top of the garden I found the top part of one of my containers (which is usually fixed on its own stand) just sitting on the ground and couldn`t find the stand anywhere. Eventually found it under a fuchsia bush at the bottom of the garden, at least it didn`t tip the plants out that were still flowering. I was thrilled to bits that both my Calla Lilies (as mentioned in my previous Blog) are still flowering – end of November. I also have two cactus indoors which are flowering profusely and have been for almost a month now.

Indoor cactus plants

Indoor cactus plants

As we approach the end of November and in my case there is less to do in the garden, everything is turning towards the Big Man in his Sleigh and with over 30 members of our family ranging from a four year old great granddaughter to Alan who is 79 we have to start early with presents etc. and cards, I usually make all my own cards.
Here`s hoping that you all have an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas with lots of `garden` presents and a great gardening year for 2017.
…..Happy Christmas Everyone…..

Suffolk train stations back in bloom

The colour has again returned to Ipswich and Stowmarket train stations thanks to a partnership between train operator Abellio Greater Anglia, local seed and plant specialist Thompson & Morgan and Ipswich-based charity Activlives. In a repeat of last year’s hanging basket displays of Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’, volunteers, work placements and young learners from ActivLives have been busy this spring growing baskets of Thompson & Morgans’ best selling begonia, but looking to add scent as well as colour to the platforms for 2016 Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls’ has been added to the mix.

Ipswich Station Thompson Morgan, ActivLives' gardeners and Jackie Station Manager at Ipswich

Ipswich Station Thompson Morgan, ActivLives’ gardeners and Jackie Station Manager at Ipswich

Not only will the baskets brighten up the journeys of everyone who passes through the stations on the London to Norwich mainline, the project has provided local young people with valuable horticultural experience. Participants from a number of organisations, including WS Training, Talent Match and Seetec, take part in training programmes at ActivLives’ two garden projects in Ipswich to gain skills for work.

The Activlives team planted up the baskets back in April. They have since tended the choice Begonia blooms at the glasshouses in the walled garden at Chantry Park, bringing them into peak condition for display at the rail stations.

Ipswich Station Thompson Morgan with ActivLives' gardeners

Ipswich Train Station with Thompson & Morgan Blooms

Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord said: “We were pleased with last year’s baskets, but Activlives has outperformed themselves this year, with bigger better baskets for the best impact. Planted in incredicompost® and fed with incredbloom® at planting time, these baskets are looking stunning and will continue to perform right through to autumn, with minimal care from station staff – spent flowers simply fall off to be replaced by fresh new blooms. The addition of Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls’ should really lift the spirits of workers on their daily commute and make a warm welcome for visitors and tourists passing through both stations.”

Begonia 'Fragrant Falls' & Begonia 'Fragrant Falls' at Ipswich Station

Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls’ & Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ at Ipswich Station

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