Bulbs…

Despite my lack of blogging I have actually been out in the garden a few times over the past weeks, mainly attempting to tidy but also to get the final planting into place for winter.

Some garlic arrived that I’d ordered from Thompson & Morgan, 4 bulbs of ‘Albigensian Wight‘ to be exact.  If I’m honest I’d forgotten that I’d ordered them but they are now safely split and planted as per my usual method.  It’s a little less than I normally buy but I have promised the boys they can have a raised bed next year to share so I need to save a little space, also the ‘Albigensian Wight’ is by far my favourite variety so I decided to simply stick with this (I’d normally also plant some ‘Solent Wight’ which I’d buy from the Garlic Farm), even the inner cloves were big and fat so it saves me feeling guilty about making room for the usual mini ones in the center that never grow very large but take up valuable growing space.

I have also been planting quite a few flower bulbs, mainly Geums, Ranunculus and Anemones.  The Ranunculus and Anemones are best soaked overnight to get them off to a good start before planting, we have such mild winters here (usually – fingers crossed!) that they have always survived in my garden with little help, even thought their hardiness is in question, I did plant the Anemones (my usual favourites for cutting ‘Mr Fokker’, ‘Sylphide’ and new for me ‘The Bride’) in lines in the cutting patch though so that I can cloche them over the colder months to make sure the corms survive. The Ranunculus will just have to fend for themselves scattered in the borders.

Whilst placing a bulb order I bought some Fritillarias meleagris in Plum & White to add to my lonely single one that grows under our tree and I take great pains to stop M from mowing off each spring; an Amaryllis Emerald ‘Spring’ for some Christmas cheer (I do love Amaryllis) and some Hyacinth ‘Purple Sensation’ to grow indoors in hyacinth vases, if I can find them, I know I put them away last year but I can’t remember where.

In the garden it’s very much winding down, I quite fancy a rest this winter so I haven’t bothered to grow many new things, only a bed of mixed Kales as they tend to survive no matter what and look so pretty through the cold months.  I’d normally have purple sprouting broccoli and parsnips amongst others but this year I’d like to get everything properly tidied up and start a fresh next February with mostly clear beds.  I may attempt to get some of the hardy herbs in better shape and perhaps some winter lettuce, maybe some spinach but I’ve read we are due very low night temperatures this weekend so I’ve probably missed my window.

Still cropping (just) are:

Tomatoes (the last few)

Courgettes – I’m amazed how long and how many we have had from 4 plants

Strawberries, Alpine

Carrots

Horseradish root

Herbs

Cucumbers – they were so late to get going this year and now we are getting a lot of late crops.

Spring Onions

I turned out some of the last small potato bags recently, if you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know I just covered the bags with cloches once the tops died back to stop the soil getting wet, as we were a little potatoed out and couldn’t keep up with the eating.  I am surprised to say they still were delicious, even though they’ve been sitting in dry soil for many weeks now, the skins were a little thicker but they were still much nicer than store-bought ones (to be clear all the potatoes I grow are second earlies, so mainly ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Anya’ variety).

We awoke to our first frost this morning, a light one but it’s taken out the dahlias and a few other softer flowers, I am quite relived in a way as I need to get the borders tidied and it’ll be easier to do when much of it has died back.  Autumn has finally arrived!

March Flower Planting…

Here comes the sun and I’m loving it!  I have spent quite a lot of time in the garden recently, things are warming up so I wanted to get ahead on the flower beds and get some seeds in to germinate.  I have a raised beds, no dig system so all I have to do is make sure any roots from last year are removed and pull out any weeds.  Quite a few of the Hardy Annuals self seed so it’s worth leaving any seedlings in and seeing what they start to turn into before removing them.

So, already germinating in the kitchen are Cleome seeds (Violate Queen) that were planted last month, they are for the flower borders and are well on their way, they should help fill the huge gap I had last year towards the end of summer, I have also germinated SchizanthusDr Bager’ and I think some Malope Trifida seeds that have no label.  DidiscusBlue Lace‘ & RudbeckiaCappuccino‘ are in the greenhouse under a fancy new cloche I bought with cardboard underneath.  I bought these as a pack of 3 from Crocus and they are a bit of a nightmare to put together, I had help from Mr C, if having a 2 year old stealing your screws as you need them can be called help.  It’s really early to be attempting to germinate seeds in an unheated greenhouse be we are forecast such a warm week and with the cloche I hope to get some results.

Also in the greenhouse under the cloche I have planted for the cutting beds:

Helianthus/Sunflower)Chianti‘ x 8

…that’s it.  Hummm, I was expecting to write a nice list but that really is it.  I put Calendula Officianlis/French MarigoldIndian Prince’ direct into the ground also under a cloche and I plan to sow Salvia Horminum ‘Blue Clary’ (which usually self seeds but I can’t see any this year), Tithonia Rotundiflora/Mexican SunflowerTorch‘ for a possible gap where I should be putting Scabiosa (I have no seed and it should be germinating now) and Bupleurum for use as foliage, all in pots for transplant outside later.

There isn’t a lot for picking in the garden, only some Hellabores (Argifolius and some rather pretty Orientalis) but I am very excited to see all the Spring bulbs peeking out of the soil and can’t wait for their colourful displays, for the meantime I am happy to look at the Aricula that have survived a winter of neglect in the greenhouse and are now flowering indoors after a feed and a clean up.

Cut Flower Beds, the plans for 2010…

I sat down this morning to plan my cutting beds for 2010, can’t help but realise as I type this that I had planned to change one of the cutting beds (of which I have 4) to a vegetable bed as I grow quite a few of the ‘cutting flowers’ in my main beds and don’t have as much room as I would like for vegetables, oh well, too late now!

I started the same was as I always do, with mini prints of the planned flowers.  I will confess to being a bit bored of my cutting selection, so much so that I made very little effort last year but having done a bit of research over winter, I find that the plants I grow (mainly recommended by Sarah Raven) really are the best for cut flowers and I can’t possibly throw any seed away so I am making a point of planning early and using up my existing seeds.  The mini prints allow me to lay them out on the table and move them about until I have a good combination.  I try to keep taller flowers together, so to they can be supported at the same height, I also try to keep Hardy Annuals at the top of the bed and the Half Hardies at the front so they aren’t overshadowed as they go into the beds later in the year and the sun comes mainly from the front.

So, here they are my lists.

Bed 1

  • Euphorbia Oblongata (HA) x 4
  • Cerinth Major Purpurascens (HA) 2 Rows x 5 each

Bed 2

  • Salvia Viridis – Blue Clary (HA) x 5
  • Bupleurum (HA) x 5
  • Zinnia – Elegans, Sprite Mix (HHA) 2 Rows x 5 each
  • Nicotiana Alata – Lime Green (HHA) 2 Rows x 5 each
  • Salvia Paterns (HHA) x 5
  • Anthirrhinum – Crimson Classic (HHA) x 5

Bed 3

  • Calendula Officialis – Indian Prince (HA) x 4
  • Nigella Damascena – Deep Blue (HA) x 5
  • Nigella Hispanica (HA) x 5
  • Zinnia – Deep Red (HHA) x 5
  • Bupleurum (HA) x 5
  • Zinnia – Giant Dahlia Mix (HHA) x 5
  • Amaranthus Caudatus – Viridis (HHA) 2 Rows x 4 each

Bed 4

  • Helianthus Annus – Chianti (HA) 2 Rows x 4 each
  • Ammi Majus (HA) x 4
  • Centaurea Cyanus – Blue Boy (HA) x 4
  • Malope Trifida Vulcan (HA) x 3
  • Cosmos – Purity (HHA) x 3
  • Scabiosa – Black Cat (HA) x 3
  • Cosmos – Dazzler (HHA) x 3

So that’s it, my planned lists for 2010.  There are some self seeded Hardy Annuals already growing which I shall move into place (a good reason for keeping some of the flowers in the same beds) and I started a few in the greenhouse last Autumn, some of which didn’t make the Winter but I’ll update on this another time.  There are also only a handful of plants planned for Bed 1 as it contains my bulbs in between the rows and in the last 2 years I have found that the bulb foliage overshadows any new seedlings trying to grow.

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…

Well, thank goodness for that, some rain at last and after the builders had roofed our old extension so perfect timing.  What a difference it makes, the garden has sprung into life and turned a rather spritely green which is a nice change from brittle yellow.  Last week I planted out the final seeds for the flower garden, which were the sweet peas.  I have used toilet rolls as I figure they act as a sort of root trainer, I did this last year and felt rather smug with my invention only to find it wasn’t very original and everyone does it.  Anyhow they are in, two per roll pushed about 1 inch down, a mix of Midnight, Painted Lady and the seeds I saved from this years Matucana.

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Also starting in the greenhouse are the flowers Antirrhinum/Snapdragon (Crimson Classic, I think), Centaurea Cyanus/Cornflower (Blue Boy) and Scabiosa (Black Cat) all of which will stay there for the Winter after which I will plant them out, under cloches as early as I dare next Spring so they get a good head start.

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The 3 buckets with Broad Bean (Super Aquadulche) are on their way. I still have to decide whether to put them outside for the Winter or leave them in the greenhouse.  They did OK last year outside in a sheltered spot but they were a big scraggy and wind worn by Spring.

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As mentioned in my last post, here are The Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Red Arrow x 2, Rudolph x 2 & Late Purple x 2) looking rather splendid, oops, some weeding required around the bottom; on which note, here is what happens when you go overboard scattering seed heads

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just a few extra nigella seedlings to remove then!

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Last, and by no means least is a photo of the wonderful book ‘Vegetable Growing Month by Month’ by John Harrison.  John contacted me asking to use one of my photos a while back and in return he sent me a copy of his book and some seeds, I know who got the better deal!  Great book, it’s get every detail you need to grow veg month by month (does what is says on the tin) and I am very pleased he sent 100s and 1000s Tomato seeds as I have been looking for these mini tomatoes to add to my seed collection.  I should also mention John has a super fantastic site Allotment Vegetable Growing which is well worth a visit and has every piece of advice, including recipes you could possible need.

Hope the rain keeps up for a while!

September Flowers…

OK, so I know it’s technically October, but I photographed this vase a week or so ago.

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Not very elegantly displayed I’m afraid, they are rather dumped in a vase but they perfectly sum up what’s going on in the flower garden.  We have:

  • Helianthus Annus/Sunflower – Red Sun
  • Tithonia Rotundiflora – Torch (bright orange)
  • Dahlia – No idea to be honest, they are from a dark collection I bought from Sarah Raven
  • Cosmos – Dazzler (the green leaves only ussed as foliage)
  • Cotinus Coggygria/Smoke Bush (Leaves used as foliage)

It’s typical of the orange and dark reds of my late summer garden.

In the cutting patch we also have Cosmos Purity and Dazzler still very much doing their thing, even now in October.

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I am loving the white ‘Purity’ on my kitchen window (sorry about the rather dark photo), where I am pathetically trying to disguise this

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not sure how clear this is but the window has a permanent splatter from our building work on the back of the house.

Despite my lack attention to the garden a lot of the regulars have self seeded even with the total lack of rain we have had, here in Kent.  Honeywort has self-seeded as have the Salvias (Varidis, Blue Clary and Pink) and the grass Briza.  In fact the Briza goes rather crazy and self seeds all over the place so I spend a lot of time pulling it out but I do love it with it’s pretty bobbing heads and it makes a great foliage for cut flowers both fresh and dried. There is also evidence of some Spring flowers coming through such as the Cornonas (Mr Fokker and Sylphide), I will give these a mulch to make sure they survive the winter, not that it usually gets very cold here.

Ok, more posts on the way, I am rather focusing on the house at the moment but the garden is still getting some attention.

Sowing Hardy Annuals…

A Hardy Annual pretty much lives up to it’s name, it can withstand cold weather, as opposed to a Half-Hardy Annual, which MAY survive the cold (some of mine do if I mulch them but more about that another time) and it grows, flowers and sets seed all in one year, unlike a Biennial which grows foliage one year and flowers the next or a Perennial which comes back year after year.

As Autumn has arrived, it’s time to sow hardy annuals (HA) so they can form a small plant before the weather gets too cold.  You can sow them in Spring but they will not flower as early, Autumn sowing gives them a head start and in my experience works well for my cutting patch, you can then sow replacements in Spring in the greenhouse that take over after the Autumn sown plants are past their best.  I used to start mine in small pots in the greenhouse but I mostly sow direct now, it saves a lot of energy and keeps the greenhouse free for other things.  You can just scatter your seeds in your chosen spot but it’s hard to tell what is a weed and what  is a plant as they sprout so it’s better to sow in lines/drills, the seed packets should have the ideal depth and distance for each final plant, you will probably have to thin them out a few times as they grow.  I wont go into too much detail, as to be honest there are so many good tutorials on the internet on how to grow HA and they are much better written then I could ever manage!

I find that I grow a lot of the same plants each year and most of my HA self seed, so I just transplant the seedlings to the desired spot once they are established.  My worst problem is not watering the seedlings enough, or thinning them too keenly too early and having the slugs take out the rest leaving me to begin again next Spring.  I am late planning my cutting beds but I know I will grow the following HA:

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  1. Bupleurum rotundifolium – Griffithii
  2. Salvia Viridis/Sage – Blue Clary
  3. Euphorbia Oblongata
  4. Centaurea Cyanus/Cornflower – Blue Boy
  5. Calendula Officinalis/Marigold – Indian Prince
  6. Nigella Hispanica/Love-in-the-mist
  7. Nigella Damascena – Deep Blue
  8. Helianthus Annus/Sunflower – Red Sun
  9. Cerinth Major Purpurascens/Honeywort
  10. Malope Trifida Vulcan
  11. Ammi Majus/Bishop’s Flower
  12. Scabiosa Atropurpurea

I sow the Helianthus/Sunflower in Spring in the greenhouse but everything else is started in September, I give a few seeds a helping hand by shaking the seed heads in the spot where I want my new plants, cover them lightly with fine soil, water and then leave them too it.  I still rather neglecting the garden, we have new school for Felix and builders working on part of the house so there is enough going on but I am worried about getting behind, I had better stop writing and get digging or I will regret it next Spring!

August Flowers…and sorry!

I bet you were wondering where I have been?  Well, the summer holidays have slightly taken their toll, Mummy duty has been full on (I am writing this sitting in the living room as Mr C can’t be left alone with F, who is terrorising him at every opportunity).  Also, The Linen Cat has been having a sale which has meant a lot of packing and posting and some hasty panic sewing of new stock to fill the gaps.

Owl lavender bags about to be posted

Owl lavender bags about to be posted

This along with a complete lack of rain and not enough watering from me has resulted in slightly neglected garden, and blog, I feel suitably guilty and need to get everything back up to speed.

Right, the cutting garden is still producing:

  • Helianthus Annus/Sunflower – Red Sun
  • Amaranthus Caudatus – Viridis’
  • Centura Cyanus/CornflowerBlue Boy
  • Salvia ViridisBlue Clary
  • CosmosDazzler
  • Salvia Patens
  • Nicotiana AlataLime Green
  • CosmosPurity
  • Bupleurum

I have to admit that at this time of writing some of the above are getting very scratty and a number have produced seed heads but I am still picking large amounts of Cosmos and Sunflowers (warning!  bad photo alert!):

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The boarders are still pitiful, very dry and with little colour, I will correct this for next year with plenty of late summer plants to fill the gaps, for this year I want to concentrate on making sure the cutting garden is planted up in September with new Hardy Annuals that will survive winter and give early flowers next year.  This is made a lot easier by the fact that most of my Hardy Annuals self seed, I prefer to plant in the same spots so I just give a shake of the dry plants as I lift them, give the soil a rake and water to allow the seeds to settle in then move the seedlings into position once they have sprouted.

I have also saved quite a lot of seed this year.  The dry weather and my total neglect of the garden has left me with quite a few dry seedheads so I figured I may as well pack them up.

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Above, you can see Sweet pea ‘Matucana’, Nigella Hispanica and Damascena both of which produce beautiful seed heads which I also use in cut flower arrangements.  I now need to draw up plans for next year’s cutting beds (I will post these, along with photos of the planned plants and instructions on planting Hardy Annuals and Biennials) and get planting so the seedlings have time to settle in before the weather turns cold.

July Flowers…

The July borders are a bit of a let down to be honest.  The only real patch of interest are some bright touches of red provided by Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ (which I confess to love, hence the new header) and some Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’.  Both look nice though against the dark brown Smoke Bush and acid green Alchemilla Mollis.  I will avoid photographing the rest of the borders as I have cut most back and it looks a bit sparse to say the least, I have invested in new seeds from Sarah Raven to get some added colour for next year for planting in Autumn.

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The cutting garden is still doing it’s thing and producing one of my favourite vases of the year, a mix of Helianthus Annus/Sunflower ‘Red Sun’, Amaranthus Caudatus ‘Viridis’ and the forming seed heads of Ammi Majus (which is basically posh Cow Parsley).  I have ordered seeds for Helianthus ‘Chianti’ for next year which should be be an even darker sunflower and hope to grown dill, for the flowers to go with it.  The trick is to pinch out the tips when the plants are about 15/20cm tall in order to get lots of medium sized heads instead of one massive one if you are growing these for the house.

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My final photo is of the pots by the bench in the vegetable patch as they are looking rather nice at the moment:

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Here I grow Viola Tricolour ‘Heartsease’ which I grow to both look pretty and to decorate salads (as they are an edible flower) and behind are the lovely bright pink Verbena ‘Sissinghurst’ which I understood last year would probably not survive the winter so I put the pots in the greenhouse and all of them have made it – hurrah!

Tulips…

Are in full swing and considering that it’s their second year I am quite pleased.  I braved removing the rabbit proof  fence over the weekend that is made from a roll of small mesh wire, bent to approx 2 1/2 ft high (so I can easily climb over to weed) and held in place with old canes every few feet as below

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as you can see our fence doesn’t look all that glamorous but there are plenty of climbers that will hide it a little over time (honeysuckle, chocolate vine etc).  The tulips are providing the main colour, in the border we have:

‘Ballerina’ (bright orange), ‘China Pink’, ‘Jan Reus’ (deep red), ‘Burgandy’, ‘Jimmy’ (orange), ‘Uncle Tom’ (a double Jan Reus), ‘Attila’s Elite’ 

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and in my cutting patch I grow

‘Black Parrot’, ‘Green Wave’ (as pictured below), ‘Orange Favourite’ and ‘Recreado’.  

I grow these between my usual lines of cutting flowers.   I also grow Narcissi ‘Geranium’, Allium ‘ Caeruleum, and Coronaria ‘Mr Fokker’ and ‘Sylphine’ in the cutting patch.

I plant all my tulips very deep (about 10 inches) so that I can overplant them and also because I don’t lift them in the summer, I just leave them in the ground which so far has always worked for me.  

It has taken me so long to post this blog that I am a little sad to see the tulips starting to fade this week (they are being battered by the rain today) but the alliums are already beginning to open and take their place so all will be well.

New Linen Cat with Tulip 'Green Wave'

New Linen Cat with Tulip 'Green Wave'