What a completely manic month April has been! The clocks have gone forward, Easter has been and gone and I’m back to my normal self – My cancer is in remission and I can walk around the garden, go up the steps and lift little watering cans or pots of seedlings now. I’m still not allowed to lift heavy stuff or dig with a spade, or use a mower, but luckily for me, Mark doesn’t mind doing these jobs.
Where to start? We’ve done so much that I hardly know where to begin. I guess as this is a greenhouse blog, I shouldn’t prattle on about other areas of the garden, but as we are developing a new ornamental grassy knoll area I’d just like to mention that I have added a Bronze Carex and a pink Corederia and Euphorbia Martinii to it. My brother gave me a Criodendron (Lantern Tree) and this has been placed in our second wildlife border just behind the pampas grass. This is a triangular border that has dappled shade so it’s perfect for the shrub as it’s protected on two sides by our boundary walls.
My little greenhouse was getting too much shade from an overgrown Hebe so Mark has cut that right back; the sparrows weren’t too impressed as they like to hide in its branches. However it’s a fast growing shrub so it won’t be long before it greens up again. It’s really surprising how much extra light I have in there now and the plants love it; so much so that I had to take the transplanted radishes off the shelf and put them in the cold frame for fear of bolting. They are doing much better in there, along with two sacks of potatoes (the third is outside already), a hanging basket filled with French Marigolds that germinated rapidly, several pots of marigolds, a trough of mint and mum’s helenium that was in my box of shrubs from the garden centre. I need the potatoes out of there by next week as I have sixteen trees that germinated from seed from the Woodland Trust and they need to harden up. I was told there would be five seeds and four varieties -I had many seeds and three varieties including beautiful Dog Rose and Mountain Ash, I think the other seedlings are Alder Buckthorn. I am keeping one of each variety and my auntie in Scotland said she would take some for her garden when they visit in the summer so the rest may end up in my charity plant sale. Along with whatever else I have too much of.
I tried to have a theme this year of growing just orange coloured flowers but I’ve also added a few yellow varieties of Sunflowers and white Aster, black Cornflowers, and green Bells of Ireland. I made a list of everything I’m trying to grow from seed and was shocked at the number. Thirty-three at the last count. Most are hopefully to share with my friends who have supported me over the previous twelve months, and to use in my plant sale. Although it’s debatable if all my things will grow as it’s gone from warm spring days to cold northerly Arctic winds and rain; and even though the days are getting longer there’s not a great quality to the light. The following paragraph is everything on the shelves in the little greenhouse. So this is the progress so far – Pumpkins just sown, Spinach Beet just sown but seedlings showing within forty-eight hours. Carnations, just sown, Cornflowers sown and germinating within forty-eight hours. Carrots sown two days ago. Radish successional sowings so various degrees of growth from seedlings to plug size. French Marigolds, mostly in cold frame after being sown at beginning of April, a few stragglers on the
staging in the greenhouse. Cosmos sown at start of month, still thinking about it. Rudbeckia, a few brave souls have popped up in the last week from mid month sowing. Aster not even thinking of germinating even though they sown same time as Rudbeckia. Sunflowers, no sign of them from a March sowing. Mid April showings of Bells of Ireland, Venidum, Helianthas Maximilianii, Banksia Hookerenia, Star of Veldt, (rela
tion to Osteospermum) and Californian Poppies have yet to show. I didn’t have any T&M aubergine seeds left so got some from the garden centre who only stock a different company’s seeds so I am growing them, but also trailing them with a German Supermarket’s own brand aubergine seeds. I have had amazing results with T&M’s aubergines so I can also compare it to last year’s crop, in terms of how well they grow etc. The pots of Hollyhock have been only half successful from a late April sowing. There are no signs of the dahlias I sowed, and this happened last year too. I wait in vain for them as they may just turn up. I had eight packets of Free T&M Seeds from a magazine and they included Hyssop, I sowed about a quarter of the packet three weeks ago and there are baby seedlings already. The Chilli Peppers and Alderman Peas Mark started off in January was an epic fail even though I can start them off in the winter, with success. However, this year was milder than most winters so damping off may have been the issue. I’ve re-sown them in the hope they will grow, but so far no chillies and only two peas. Incidentally, the Sweet Peppers Mark did in
January germinated brilliantly and there is one left on the staging for mum after I gave a few to my brother.
My grass Oryza Satvia has germinated, I sowed six seeds and all have come, I’m waiting for grasses Panicum Virgatum, Stipia Pony Tails and Grass Tail Feathers as well as Anemanthele Lessonia. I sowed Liatris the same time as these. Finally there are a few tomato plants of both varieties left over after the family picked what they needed. The worst thing about growing all of the above was having to label the pots. Usually I use the Dymo machine, but it’s getting on now and I have to really press down hard on the plastic clicker bit to get the letters on the tape. I got really frustrated after half the labels came out with missing or Ill-formed letters. One came out as Rude Becki instead of Rudbeckia and as for Bells of Ireland…….
Outside the large greenhouse I have two deep flowerpots with wigwam supports filled with Runner Beans that I swapped with my Uncle Raff for an Aubergine plant and Peas given to me by a friend from work. Inside the greenhouse I have a lovely crop of curly leaved Parsley that needs to be potted up as I don’t want it spreading there. On the hanging shelves, getting used to the heat and light of what will be their permanent home in the borders when they get bigger, are my tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines, along with an Orchid, a Spider Plant a Poinsettia that’s still dying back, a Rosemary cutting and Christmas Cacti cuttings. There are also hyacinth bulbs that still want water so I can’t dry them and store them yet. Lastly on the shelf there is a potted Begonia Apricot Shades. It’s the last bulb I have left, I have no idea what happened to the others last year – I fear they were not dug up and stored. The begonia is starting to sprout – it loves the heat. In the greenhouse borders Mark has set me some grafted plants – each year I like to try something new so this year I’m trying a Watermelon and a Cantaloupe Melon, these are not from Thompson and Morgan, neither is the hot Chilli that came as part of the offer, The only reason why I went to a different place was because unfortunately T&M don’t do grafted Watermelon, and I really want to see if I can grow Watermelons in Pembrokeshire.
However, I have put in an order with T&M, well two orders actually. The first was an offer of 36 free plants with them through Gardeners’ World magazine, and the second order was for 224 Lucky Dip Annual plants for a couple of pounds that I will split with my mum. These won’t be in my charity sale – sorry people! Oh and I ordered Dahlia Fire and Ice as it looks stunning, as well as some Bronze English Marigolds and Petunia Easy-wave. The both orders for what will be 288 plants in all worked out to something ridiculous like eight pence a plant – you wouldn’t get that at a DIY or chain garden centre.
I love the way you can track and order to see if it’s been dispatched. Or look back on previous orders if there’s something I want to order again but can’t remember the variety name. So while I wait for my own seeds to grow and the postman to deliver my goods, I think I will amuse myself by reading a new gardening book. I’ve just finished reading The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden written in 1906; the countryside she grew up in has changed so much. Last month I discovered from Margery Fish (Cottage Garden Plants) what a Tussie Mussie is, so I think I shall gather one for myself. There’s always something new to learn.
Oh and I’ve decided to join the “Solar Light Brigade” that seems to be dominating back gardens in our street, instead of putting pole lights or fairy lights in paths or trellis or trees, I’ve strung up tiny LED string lights in the greenhouses. Blue in the large greenhouse, red in the small. I also bought glow in the dark stakes with a butterfly, a dragonfly and a wasp on top to use as plant markers too. I promise it doesn’t look garish -I’ll take a photo for next time to let you decide.
Until next time,
Love Amanda X
The tomato plants in the conservatory have started to produce their first flowers so it is time to move them into their growing space. I use re- useable Tomato growing bags and fill them with good quality compost mixed with some home grown compost, I like them because they give plenty of depth to plant deeply. This encourages the plants to put down extra roots which in turn makes for a stronger more productive plant. I also use collars around each plant this acts as a reservoir when you water and allows the water to seep into the bag slowly. I can fit 12 plants in the greenhouse and then have pots outside with about five more plants including my favourite bush tomato Red Alert.
The cucumbers, squash and courgettes have all germinated over the last week. I use large yoghurt pots for sowing in; this gives them plenty of depth to get a good root system going. They can stay indoors for a bit longer, until at least the end of May when we can be sure there will not be hard frost.
Having covered the potatoes last week because of the expected cold spell, they needed uncovering today, plenty of new growth so I shall be out there tomorrow ‘earthing up’. There was a little frost damage on a few of the leaves but nothing serious.
We are eating fresh asparagus almost every day, if you have the patience to wait for two years it is a very rewarding crop to grow. A little weeding feeding and mulching in the winter and it will be growing for the next 15- years.
The flower beds are looking lovely, the Perennial Wallflowers with the Forget me Nots are one of my favourite sights. Two years ago I started off a Wisteria to grow into a free standing tree. It has flowered this year for the first time and looks a picture. When it has reached a respectable size I shall transfer it to the garden, maybe near the replacement pond we are constructing but that is another story……
Hello Everyone. This is my first blog for T&M and I approached them because I want to try something new and grow something edible in my vastly overcrowded cottage garden.
We live in a 1920’s terrace house in North London and have a cottage garden front and back. We feel very fortunate to have a long front garden path and a back garden big enough to eat out in.
This is how it looked in 1988 when we moved in.
And this is how it looks now.
Here is a picture of the front
And here is the back
I fell in love with this style when I saw Geoff Hamilton on TV years ago building his Paradise Garden at Barnsdale. I was hooked. My style is to cram everything I like in to the borders and pots including scented shrubs, easy perennials, simple herbs, clematis and honeysuckle, Spring bulbs and autumn colour. Some of my favourites are hardy geraniums, pulmonaria, primroses, euphorbia of all kinds, heleniums and sedums.
Ideas for this year
So now my idea is to start small and grow something I can eat. After hours of browsing I’ve decided salad crops and maybe strawberries might be the best to start with. I don’t think I get enough sun for tomatoes and as you can see I have no greenhouse or cold frame.
Two problems spring to mind. As the borders become so abundant in summer any crops in the beds would surely get smothered. Secondly I do have to contend with rats, squirrels and pigeons running around the beds and pots. I don’t have a problem with slugs as I avoid growing anything they like to eat but if I want to grow salad crops how will I manage?
I intend to get all the advice I can from T&M and elsewhere and in my next blog I shall report my progress.
Until then, lots of research and planning awaits me but it will be worth it in the end!
February has come and gone and on the South Coast here we had a week of freezing fog which made the garden look good but certainly not the roads.
I finished ordering my plants from Thompson & Morgan, I don`t know about anyone else but I look at the order and think where will I put them all, but of course they all find a home once they arrive, usually in my case, in hanging baskets, containers and troughs. As I don`t have room for a permanent greenhouse I have a four foot one which has a plastic cover round the frame, and also a hexagonal one which holds quite a few trays. These have worked very well in the past I just have to make sure I watch the weather forecast so I can get the small plants covered with fleece in good time. When I have finished with them they can been cleaned off and put away until needed again and I have extra space on the patio for my containers, and space to put a few more hanging baskets up. I believe some of the plug plants are due during March so that will be an exciting time checking them all out.
Alan and I have moved a lot of stored items from the patio so he could pressure wash it ready for the summer, even during the rain on one day but now it looks really good. I had almost forgotten what the original colour was. Also thinking about moving four containers which have had roses in them for three years and transplanting them along a border by the fence. I hope this will be a good move and that they will be happy in their new home.
There are a couple of bedding plants from last summer that seem to have survived the winter outside, Nemesia and Cerinthe Major. I believe the latter is from seeds that have been dropped in the Autumn and the Nemesia is one that was left in a container. The frost on my Hydrangea Annabelle early one morning looked lovely but soon disappeared once the sun started to rise.
We arrived back from a close friends funeral in Somerset to find that my Incredicompost from Thompson & Morgan had been delivered. The driver had kindly stacked the bags in the porch for me instead of leaving them outside in the bad weather or worse still taking them back to the depot. My eldest Grandson thought I had over ordered until I told him that it was probably only a third of what I would need for the containers and baskets.
This year I am trying the new Ruby Falls Raspberry that can been grown in a hanging basket. It has started well having been kept it in the front porch, as it arrived during the freezing weather, where it gets plenty of light and covered each night. A couple of warm days this last week has seen some of the daffodils flower but others seem to be very slow, just waiting for a little more sun!
A footnote to my Blog re California November 2015:
I wrote about the awful drought that Southern California was going through when I visited my Sister in California with a lot of restrictions on the usage of water, 2 minute showers etc. They still didn`t get much rain last year until the end of the year when they had several storms following each other. To date they have had so much rain that the rivers and gardens cannot take any more. A dam in Orriville Northern California overflowed and 180,000 people were evacuated. All this before the snow has melted on the mountains which runs down to the rivers. Some wild ducks obviously took a liking to to the very wet garden and have been visiting my Sister`s garden every day and making themselves at home. The good news is, at least the drought is over for now!
That`s about all for this time gardeners, enjoy the start of Spring and all the new planting ready for the summer……..
January, supposedly named after the god Janus, a two headed figure who could look to both the future and the past, the reason why we make resolutions at this time of year, to change things in our life. So it’s no surprise then, that we gardeners are very probably this month perusing seed catalogues, drawing up plans, and generally getting our kit ready for the growing year.
Ianuarius – (Latin for January) translates to a doorway – and this is where I feel I am, getting ready to step out into a new adventure. I can’t believe this will be my third year for blogging for T&M! Last year was not my best gardening year due to my cancer, but this year, I really hope to catch up and transform the garden, learn new things and have a lot of fun on the way.
The first thing I learned this year is how powerful plants can be. During my final session of chemotherapy, I decided to google what goes into the drugs that are saving my life. Cabol, was a synthetic and uninteresting drug, but Taxol, as the name suggests, is derived from the Pacific Yew tree. It also contains poisonous plant alkaloids from the periwinkle (Vinca Major) and the American wild mandrake, commonly known as the May Apple. Plus it has extracts from the Asian Happy tree a 40 meter giant that is also grown in Canada – no one would choose to ingest these, no wonder I have felt so rough!
But now with the chemo over I am no longer banned from the greenhouse, so I sit with my seed tins beside me and make a list of everything I want to grow this year. I start by picking out the fruit and veg I want, I’m going to grow both yellow and red tomatoes. Yellow Stuffer, and either Mountain Magic or Sweet Aperitif. I also pick Bullhorn and Sweet Boneta peppers as well as chilli Prairie Fire. The heritage pea Alderman is also on my list. I have asked if I can trial aubergine Listada De Gendia and some melon seeds and some Calendula. I hope I am allowed.
I will also be working on my new grassy knoll area, so I will be growing Banksia Hookeriana, and Horses Tails, as well as a variety of other grasses. When it comes to flowers, I seem to be especially attracted to all things orange this year. I am thinking of buying the Dahlia Jowey Linda, I love its pom-pom shape; I will mostly likely be growing Zinnias, Star or Veldt and Cosmos too.
My other mad plan is I want to have a charity plant sale with all of the extra plants I end up growing. I want to raise money for a local cancer support group who have been amazingly helpful in the last few months. I have no idea if I can achieve everything but I’m definitely going to give it a go.
To kick start the growing year, Mark has already sieved the compost and sown the peas, peppers and chillies. Nothing has germinated yet, but they have only been in for about ten days. The weather has been unusually mild with only one or two days of frost. Most days it’s at least 8 degrees and our lawn is growing, and will probably need a cut soon.
Apart from the germinating seeds, inside the little greenhouse I have some winter flowering shrubs that I had on special offer for £10 back in December from T&M. They are Chimonanthus praecox – ‘Wintersweet’, Viburnum x bodantense ‘Dawn’ plus Sarcococca confusa. I also took advantage of a magazine offer to claim an extra Viburnum X bodantense, fertiliser and snips for just the price of P&P, so it worked out about £4 per shrub. Bargain! The shrubs can be planted any time between now and March, Mark has already repotted them into 9cm pots as the roots are establishing quickly. Ideally the bigger the rootball the better they should settle in the garden.
I am hoping to transplant them in February, I don’t want to take the risk of frost damage or high winds just yet. Also the small flowers on the Wintersweet are making the greenhouse smell divine.
There are also the ever present Aloe Veras, some mint that needs repotting badly, and the Money tree.
In the large greenhouse we have random amaranthus seedlings growing where the aubergines were last year. I have no idea how they got there. The only thing I can think of is the seeds must have lay dormant in the soil from when we grew them at the edge of the wall before the greenhouse was built. I am leaving them grow for now and will transplant them when they are bigger. Amaranthus are really hardy, I have let them dry out completely in pots and they always bounce back. They love the heat and the longer they have in the greenhouse the bigger they become. There is also a Christmas basket containing a baby conifer and an ivy. The basket also contained Poinsettia, but it didn’t seem to live very well in our house. These plants are going to go into the garden eventually, but for now they are getting used to no longer being in the central heated warmth.
Another offer that T&M did with a magazine recently was to claim 40 free Gladioli bulbs for just £5.95. I wasn’t going to order them, but then I started reading the Margery Fish Cottage Garden Plants book, and her enthusiasm rubbed off on me, so I accidentally bought them too! Whilst I have longed for a cottage style garden, her insight showed me an obvious flaw in why I can’t really have the garden I desire. A cottage garden is usually surrounded by stone walls. Walls that will hold in the heat and protect the plants, we have a wooden picket fence along our front garden meaning that although it will filter the wind and offer some protection, it’s not ideal. Although saying that I do have success growing lupins and and foxgloves so there is hope yet.
My brother, Andrew, has recently bought a Veg Trug™ and flower pouches so he and his girls can grow strawberries and vegetables this year. He also says he going to finish building his greenhouse. (This is an ongoing saga, but at least now the base has been done.) My niece was so excited when I sent her and her sisters some seeds to try. I gave them lettuce, carrots, basil and tomatoes. Things that should germinate easily and quickly so they don’t have to wait too long for the results. It’s so good to see youngsters getting involved in gardening and making the connection between the land and the plate. Hopefully it will set them up to make healthy food choices and encourage them to be outdoors rather than inside on a computer. As well growing their own produce the girls regularly help their grandparents in the greenhouse, and me in mine when they visit.
Mum has two projects on the go, firstly she wants to grow her own tomatoes this year, but she wants to raise them from seed. So she is making a cold frame from the vegetable trays from her old fridge. I like this idea of recycling the plastic boxes, as they already have drainage holes in them and they are deep enough to hold several pots. Her other task is to redesign her tiny front garden. When I say tiny, I mean it, as you can see from the picture. She wants to keep the roses and the gravel but she says she wants a new theme. I am rubbish at designing and my gardening style is too wild for her. By that I mean I grow for nature rather than myself. I have native flowers, wild flowers and stinging nettles in borders for the butterflies. I grow sedums, hebe and ivy for the bees, honeysuckle for the ladybirds and leave the seed heads on Verbena Bonarienses for the Blue Tits. I love the dandelions, buttercups, thistles, clover and daisies that grow in our lawns which most people, including Mark, hate. In return I am rarely plagued by pests. The worst I have is earwigs in the dahlias, as looking after the insects means we have a variety of other creatures visiting our garden. We have a massive family of house sparrows, as well as a resident wren, robin and collard doves. We have a family of blackbirds and magpies, plus plenty of other feathered friends too. We have bats feeding in the summer, foxes, hedgehogs, and slow worms. Not bad for an urban garden in the industrial side of Pembrokeshire.
So there’s plenty to look forward to. Soon it will be time for my daffodils, grape hyacinth and crocuses to flower, they are budding, and there is new growth coming on last year’s trial Antirrhinums, these have stayed out all winter in a hanging basket on a west facing wall. They are yet to be named, and I didn’t see them in the catalogue, so I’m intrigued to see what other trialists make of them and if they were a success. I’m hoping to start off my sweet peas next. Then the potatoes.
Until next time.
It’s been a rather busy six months for me. I can’t quite see where my time has gone. Well, I say that, I spent a lot of it working in my client gardens. Unfortunately, this meant that I wasn’t able to look after my own pots as much as I’d have liked to. It certainly put the Fuchsia Berry to the Test! It really grew lots over the summer and it bloomed lovely to my surprise.
I had my first Berries from the plant in July. Albeit only a few. Never the less, I had berries and my first victims, umm I mean candidates, to try the berries and the flowers (along with myself) were my parents and my guinea pig. I wish I had been able to record my parent’s reactions, they were priceless! I did get a snap of Oscar trying his. He wasn’t too sure.
(I will apologise if you have been following me on twitter as I am using the same pictures in this blog as I have published on there!)
We all tried the flowers first. I ate each piece individually, which is probably best when you first try them as each bit tastes different. Mum on the other hand put the whole thing in in one go and then proceeded to proclaim, while screwing her face up ‘how could you give me something so foul! You evil child!’ All in jest of course. My dad had played the tactical game waiting for our responses before he would dare to try it. Now he was a little put off by mum’s reaction but I managed to get him to try a bit and after a few small bites he said he didn’t mind it but wouldn’t rush to have another one.
The berries were a different story. We all enjoyed them and I got my Grandad to try some when I had a few more and gave him some to take home to nanny for her to try. They never made it home. I don’t think they even made it out of the door!
The berries to me taste like a cross between a blueberry and a grape. The skin has a slightly bitter taste but that maybe because I was feeding my plant with Worm Tea from my wormery.
Over the next few months I trapped more people into trying my berries. Nearly everyone who I asked to try them were dubious whether I was trying to poison them. Ye of little faith! Of course, I promised the I wasn’t and I ate them in front of them to prove that I was going to be poisoned as much as they were. Their responses were much the same as mine. They either said blueberry or grape or a mix of the two.
When it came to the flowers though a few really protested that you can’t eat Fuchsia flowers. Even with me eating them in front of them and explaining that Thompson and Morgan have tested it and verified it is safe they still wouldn’t. Those who did try them had a similar response to my dad. Although they did say that it wasn’t what they were expecting but they did taste ok and would eat them again if they were on their plate.
I think the reason why the flowers got such a bad reaction from my mum and an alternative reaction from others that tried them was because they don’t taste anything like you expect them to. They trick you. Being the hot pink and purple that they are, you expect them to be sweet like most other things of their colouring are. But don’t be fooled. When in their prime picking season, mid-summer, the stamens have a fiery kick to them, like pepper crossed with chilli and the petals and bracts taste like rocket and red mustard leaves. If you want to give your salad an exotic twist this is certainly the thing to do it with.
It was my mum’s birthday in August so, being the good daughter that I am, I made her a birthday cake. Chocolate sponge with chocolate fudge icing and chocolate sprinkle and sugar flowers. Pretty eurgh if you ask me, but then I don’t really like chocolate. More of a tomato girl. Any way just before I lit the candles and we sung the obligatory ‘Happy Birthday’ I went out into the garden and picked some Flowers along with some of my home-grown strawberries to finish the cake off. I think they added that extra little bit of pizzazz! Although mum still wouldn’t eat them even with Chocolate fudge icing on them.
The Fuchsia Berry is certainly a good conversation starter and this year I hope to see if feeding it sugar water makes a difference to how it tastes. But for now, it is tucked up in fleece inside my heated greenhouse.
I wish you all a Happy New Year and a prosperous and plentiful growing season to come,