Monday, 25 May 2015

In A Vase On Monday ~ 'Mark 2'

Weather permitting bank holidays are usually spent at the allotment as himself refuses point blank to take to the roads. Today was no exception and a most productive day was spent planting French beans and mange tout peas as well as topping up some of the raised beds. There was the odd bit of weeding, the odd chat or two and I picked a handful of herbs for a vase. However the herbs I hit on, with one exception, did not like being snipped in their prime and went into full sulk mode back at base. Even being plunged into water did not do the trick - they have remained floppy and uncooperative so this necessitated a change of plan.

So this is vase mark 2. Its ingredients are restricted to the allium schoenoprasum aka chive flowers from the allotment, along with just one head of allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation' picked from the garden. They are sited on the mantelpiece above the fire in the living room. I have absolutely no idea how the vase fell in to my hands. I like its shape and feeling of chunkiness although it does not hold much.

For the record the herbs that did not make it were bronze fennel, golden marjoram, sage flower buds and comfrey. They are sitting outside in a vase but on last inspection have not perked up at all. They may well be heading in the direction of the compost heap come morning. 

Other Monday vases crammed full of fabulous flowers can be admired over at 'Rambling In The Garden' thanks as always to Cathy. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


If feet could purr mine would be doing so now after a visit to my lovely podiatrist. Hopefully the niggling pain that has been making me draw sharp breaths for a couple of weeks or more is sorted. I've definitely been feeling rather out of sorts, even grumpy you might say, but I positively bounded home this afternoon in time to catch television coverage of the RHS Chelsea Show and then to do some potting up in the greenhouse. All most soothing.

At long last the state of affairs is moving to that crescendo of the greenhouse shuttle. Sowing started late here this year, it has been staggered and there has been less of it. This was a deliberate decision which I thought would cause me some regrets. Strangely enough I've found it rather liberating, as for the first time in twenty five years or so I feel that I have a measure of control rather than pots of seedlings shouting the odds. The greenhouse may be untidy but there are no unlabelled pots or a queue of seedlings screaming at me to move to them to a bigger home ..... well not yet anyway. I'm not sure what will happen next year yet but will decide come the autumn and the new batches of seed catalogues.

There have been the odd disappointments - four lots of seeds that have failed to germinate at all. Two lots of perennials from the same supplier and two lots of vegetable seedlings from the same source (but different to the perennials). I've come to the conclusion though that I've sowed lettuce long enough to know what I'm doing. I'm watching a tray of lunaria rediviva keeping fingers crossed that the one solitary seedling in there has some companions to keep it company soon. I'm taking some comfort in the fact that they can be slow to germinate.

I'm most excited about the appearance of hablitzia tamnoides or the Caucasian spinach vine. I've been searching for seeds since I heard a talk by Alys Fowler on unusual edibles at the 2012 Southport Flower Show. This is a shade loving deciduous climbing perennial. It can be used as an ornamental plant to cover a pergola, has heart shaped leaves and produces small green flowers. The young shoots are edible. Alys advised at the time that it could be a difficult plant to get hold of and she was quite correct.  My seed came from Thomas Etty Esq. The seedlings are much to small yet to move to the big outdoor world of the allotment and will probably stay closer to home for a year or so, before I expose them to that environment. Maybe next year I will be able to have a nibble and report back. Is there anything that you are particularly pleased to have sown from seed so far this year?

Friday, 15 May 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ~ May 2015

A spring stalwart in my garden is geraniun phaeum in various shades. These are such easy going plants that just get on and do their own thing with little need for human intervention. This plant is what is often referred to as a "good doer" and is happy to oblige in any soil in full shade, partial shade or full sun. It's one of those plants which will even grown in dry shade. They can grow quite tall but somehow or the other keep themselves upright without the need for support, attract bees but seem to repel molluscs. What more could you ask for?

There's a little catch or two as there is with many plants. The plant does spread somewhat around the girth and also seeds about a bit but I can live with that. I've several of these geraniums growing in the garden with the first appearing in early April but with others only getting into full gear now. Foliage colour varies and includes some variegated forms. My plants once had names but I've lost track over the years. The plants you see above are geranium phaeum album and the second is probably phaeum 'Lily Lovell' but I would not like to hazard a guess at any other of the others. 

They will grow under shrubs and trees and are perfect companions for a wide range of spring flowering bulbs and perennials. A good haircut after flowering will prompt fresh new foliage to emerge. Propagation is best done by division. I usually do so in very early spring but the plants can be divided any time in their dormant season. They are one perennial that I would not be without.

Thanks as always to our lovely hostess Carol over at May Dreams Gardens who enables us to share our blooms each month as the year unfolds.

Monday, 11 May 2015

In A Vase On Monday ~ "I Saw A Mouse"

The ingredients of this week's vase are geranium phaeum - one with plain leaf and one with dark blotches, anemone sylvestris, primula vulgaris 'Dawn Ansell', some foliage interest from rosa glauca prunings (which kick-started the vase) and a little mouse in the form of a flower of arisarum proboscideum, commonly known as the mouse tail plant.

The little milk jug has been aired in public before and was given to me by my mother many moons ago.

I would like to be able to say that no mice have been harmed in the making of this vase but I have a feeling that this little creature may soon wither. Thanks as always to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' for brightening up the start of the week. Do pop over there and enjoy other vases of fabulous flowers from far and wide.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Tree Following With Lucy ~ May 2015

"Oh white pear, your flower-tufts 
thick on the branch
bring summer and ripe fruits
in their purple hearts."

an extract from 'Pear Tree' by Hilda Dolittle.

As expected the blossoms on my chosen 'Doyenne du Comice' pear tree are mainly done and dusted. You can see above that there are still a few petals still clinging on tenaciously after Wednesday's rain. Here she is in fuller blossoming mode on the 15th, 19th and then on the 25th April ~

Alongside her companions have also been flowering. The other pear tree was first to flower whilst although the crab apple 'Red Sentinel' was last in the race it still retains most of its blossoms. I'm hoping that the extra petal power provided by the crab apple will increase the productivity of both of the pears. All three trees escaped the cold weather at the end of April, which sadly frosted the blossoms on one of my apple trees at the allotment. From now on I shall be watching my pear tree with bated breath for the embryonic fruits to start swelling. I hope that they heed the words of the poem.

In other news I think that she has gained some height - either that or I've shrunk. You can catch up with what is going on with other wonderful trees over at 'Loose and Leafy'. Thanks as always to Lucy for hosting.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

End Of Month View ~ April 2015

'Stealth' is this month's word - all sorts of flowers have opened in the blink of an eyelid and the month has evaporated just as quickly. The first floral find of the month was away from home in Cumbria where I was delighted to come across this bone china cup and saucer for sale in a charity shop. It's one of a set of 'The Flower Of The Month' series manufactured by Royal Albert. I have a few mainly cups featuring other months of the year. Himself also came across a book of Lakeland walks which together with the china cost the grand total of £3! I'm still quite understand the connection between April and the sweet pea but there you go.

In the middle of the month we returned to Cumbria for a visit that I was really looking forward to. We went to the Lyth Valley Damson Day but sadly I have no photos of blossoms to share. Nobody had told the blossoms to flower that weekend. This was a shame as the event is held annually to celebrate the arrival of spring in Westmorland and the damson blossom. Apparently this was the first time that the blossoms had not obliged. Still there was plenty to see and wander at including a dog agility competition, various demonstrations of rural crafts, damson products for sale and fortunately a couple of stalls selling guess what - plants! Needless to say I resisted the bouncy castle.

April here like as in most of the country has seen more sunshine than usual. The down side has that is has been extremely dry and not good planting weather. It's ending more true to form with some decent deluges during the last couple of days, so I'm hoping to to do some work soon in the gabion border which you can see below.

Spot The Dandelion!
It looked quite good for the first couple of weeks in April but the colour is now beginning to fade. The weeds are also making their presence known especially self seeded cow parsley. As I mentioned I want to inject more colour and plants in this area especially for later in the year. The thinking cap is still on. Hopefully I can report some action by the end of May.

Wildlife has been interesting this month but not always appreciated. My varied selection of sweet peas were decimated before they even germinated. I made the mistake of forgetting to put a propagator lid on the root trainers, resulting in nearly all the seeds being eaten by some furry little creature. We were away when this happened so it was particularly galling to rush to my greenhouse on return to discover the remains of seed cases littering the compost. Another lot has gone in but germination has not been brilliant with 'Beaujolais' being a complete no show.

Elsewhere a wren has decided to nest amongst my collection of pots of special snowdrops. I would normally be quite happy to welcome such a home builder but with it being so dry I've been worried about the plants not getting water. Himself being more pragmatic assured me that nests do get wet, so he used the hose with a fine mist attachment to water and hopefully neither bulbs or bird suffered. In other bird news we've had a moorhen visiting most evenings. Sometimes there are a pair of them so maybe a nest is nearby. They perch in the branches of the willow but look most uncomfortable doing so.

At the allotment there has been the usual endless tedious weeding. The weeds have been thriving in the warm weather. There are encouraging signs in the shape of strawberry flowers and the fruiting berries such as gooseberries are already showing fruits in the making. Sadly a midweek visit gave cause for concern as it looks as if one of the apple trees have been frosted. Two lots of spuds have gone in along with shallots. We've also replaced two of the raised beds that himself built when I took the plot on as the wood had rotted in places. There are plans to replace one more later in the year as well as install two new beds. We have chosen ones that will be easy to pick up and transfer in the future should I give up the allotment.

My April Pride And Joy - Malus x robusta 'Red Sentinel'
The greenhouse is getting fuller although I have reduced seed sowing this year and sown later. I thought that I would miss all the frantic activity but straneglet enough it's been quite liberating to have fewer plants to attend to. I've not even had to start the greenhouse shuffle yet and for once I've not found myself wondering around searching for mislaid seedlings or committing the crime of forgetting to label trays. It does mean that I give more attention to what I'm growing which is a positive. I'm also not having a plant stall at our garden club annual plant sale next month which again has reduced the need to worry as much about caring for so many plants.

I have been however active on the plant buying scene I'm pleased to report. Two plant fairs have come along this month so I've made the most of it. I've bought so many that I can't remember what they are but no doubt they will be revealed in the fullness of time!

With many thanks to Helen over at 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' ,who enables us to chronicle our monthly retrospective thoughts and views. It's much appreciated.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Waiting Game

After what seems an interminable wait the very first ever flowers of my crab apple opened fully this weekend. They have been teasing me most of this month. Malus x robusta 'Red Sentinel' arrived as a bare rooted plant from Victoriana Nursery Gardens last February. It promised scented white flowers followed by clusters of small red fruits. When researching which crab apple to buy there were three main factors which made me chose 'Red Sentinel' i.e. white flowers, good disease resistance and finally fruits that apparently cling on to the tree for a long time. In her book 'The Winter Garden' Val Bourne writes "Crab apples are also great trees for winter fruits. When it comes to selecting varieties, one red-fruiting form stands supreme - Malus x robusta 'Red Sentinel'. The abundant bright red fruits, which follow white spring flowers, are studded in clusters along the branches and persist well into winter. A great advantage of the tree is that it does not suffer from scab, a scourge of many other crab apples." Sold! Later in the year we saw a more mature specimen of my malus in full fruit mode which only served to confirm my feelings that I had made the right decision.

I thought that I saw signs of flowers towards the end of March and sure enough this was confirmed as the month moved on to April. There's been a progress check most days and when signs of colour finally appeared I was delighted but mystified. The buds are most pink as you can see in the photographs but sure enough on opening the pink has morphed to the promised white. As for scent my nose has not detected any yet but so far there is only the one sprig that is fully open. It has also been noticeably colder here since yesterday afternoon which may affect the scent. Time will tell but so far so good. I'm like the cat who has got the cream and if I could purr I would! Are you playing the waiting game this spring and if so what are you waiting for?