Wednesday, 1 April 2015

End Of Month View ~ March 2015

Word of the month must be 'ROAR' which is just how the month arrived and departed perhaps with the loudest roar coming yesterday. It blew an absolute ferocious hooley as well as spouting out a fair bit of the wet stuff. In one of the few dry interludes there was a chance to take a couple of photos of 'The Gabion Wall' border. This is filling out nicely now. The hellebores are making good clumps as well as the pulmonarias and the little 'Elka' daffodils are a treat. I've also planted a few of my special snowdrops in this area. The one disappointment has been the refusal of cardamine pratensis to be sociable and produce more than a few flowers. There are astrantias 'Gill Richardson' and aster diveraticus dotted about for later flowering interest but I need to introduce more plants to the mix. Before that a weeding of epic proportions is required. The main culprits are herb robert and couch grass. I need to find some unobtrusive small paving stones so that I can get around without compacting the soil.

The above pumonaria is 'Majeste' - apologies for leaving the accent off the e but I'm using a borrowed computer for this post which is proving to be rather challenging. The leaves are in need of a tidy up and general spring clean. Finding time to fit in these jobs in is proving to be a challenge along with the allotment as we are trying to spend time in our caravan in Cumbria. The weather this March has not been particularly kind but it should start to warm up/rain less soon. Now that we have extra daylight I'm looking forwards to gardening outdoors in the evening whilst the allotment can be fitted in during the day. Well that's the plan anyway. We have a pocket handkerchief sized garden outside the caravan but that's more than enough. I will be planting up a couple of pots but in the meantime have been enjoying the patches of snowdrops, primroses and daffodils that can be found throughout the site. We also have some wonderful scenery on the doorstep. We returned in the middle of the month to the church we visited last year in search if its plantings of daffodils. Again we were too early so were greeted with snowdrops and swathes of crocuses. If anything the season seemed further behind this year.

However at the more sheltered and mild Grange-Over-Sands just a few miles away spring seemed more advanced with blossoms in full flow. There is a fine ornamental lake graced by some most interesting feathered visitors, a community orchard (more in a future post) and a prom with a richness of perennial planting (again more to come in a future post). It's the only prom where I've encountered hellebores in bloom.

I've not much to report in the way of seed sowing having made a conscious decision to sow less, sow later and try more direct sowing. I might also be buying a few plants this year rather than sowing them myself. I think that April therefore is going to be a busy month.

March plant purchases have included more snowdrops, pulmonarias 'Diana Clare' (a second to join the one already in the garden) and rubra 'Rachel Vernie), the sultry viola 'Molly Sanderson, as well as clematis 'Princess Kate' which was rescued from a bargain bin in an Ambleside garden centre.

With thanks as always to Helen over at 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' for kindly hosting the End of Month View. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

On The Scent ~ March 2015.

In The Process Of Sowing Sweet Peas
Here the start of British Summer Time apart from being marked with some most unseasonable weather, has seen some scent orientated seed sowing. Thinking of summer days ahead has resulted in the sweet peas going in. It's hard to envisage that these hard dark brown cases yield the most delicious of scents come summer but they will. Sweet peas are the one annual that I can't imagine being without. Small bunches are cut regularly throughout the summer to waft their fragrance at me as I stand at the kitchen sink.

The Kitchen Windowsill
This year I'm sowing later than usual. In previous years autumn sowings have resulted in weak lanky plants, especially after mild winters, which has not been the ideal scenario when it comes to planting. Winter sowings have sometimes resulted in seeds rotting off so I've made a conscious decision to sow later this year. I do not soak the seeds prior to planting and usually do not have many problems with germination. I'm using root trainers for sowing. I only discovered these in 2013 and am now sold on them when it comes to planting sweet peas and beans. The act of transplanting is made so much easier on both the plants and the person planting them. Unfortunately the plastic is showing some signs now of wear and tear but they should see this season out. I was initially put off by the expense but they were well worth it. When eventually hardened off my sweet peas plants will travel to the allotment for planting.

From A Past Summer
Great fun was had choosing the 2015 varieties like that of choosing sweets in the good old days from Woolies pick 'n mix. All bar one were selected with scent in mind so we have :

  • 'Matucana' - which is one of the oldest sweet peas to have been introduced to these shores in around 1700. I've grown this for years so know that although the flowers are quite small they still pack a big punch when it comes to scent.
  • 'Erewhon' - I grew this last year. This is bi-coloured and is apparently quite unusual as it has lighter coloured upper coloured petals whilst the wings are darker. 
  • 'Beaujolais' - this was chosen for colour contrast rather than scent. I presume that the flower was named with the colour of the wine in mind. It still has some fragrance though.
Then four varieties which as far as I recollect I've not grown before namely:
  • 'Gwendoline' - the seed packet promises a 'rich heady perfume' and this sweet pea is an RHS Award of Garden Merit winner. 
  • 'Mollie Rilstone' - she has arrived in one of those silver foil packets with no picture and no information other than sowing instructions. 
  • 'Eclipse' - as above but you can see a beautiful photograph taken by Julie over at 'Peonies and Posies' if you click on the name of the plant.
  • 'Hi Scent' - which is regarded as one of the most highly scented sweet peas available hence the name. In some catalogues the spelling is 'High Scent'.
Are you growing sweet peas this year and if so have you any special recommendations for scent? After all it's not to late for more. With thanks to Louise over at 'Wellywoman' and Sue at 'Backlane Notebook' for coming up with the idea of a monthly post on the subject of scented plants. Hopefully later this year I can return to show the results of my sweet pea sowings.

Monday, 23 March 2015

In A Vase on Monday ~ Water, Water Everywhere!

"The water like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white"

- from 'The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner' - Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Meet "Mrs Betty Ranicar" possibly my favourite hellebore who you can see floating in a glass container. She was going to float in another receptacle - an old dark blue flower shaped glass sugar bowl which nestles in a silver stand. I prepared to launch her when disaster struck. After three attempts which saw water oozing out of the bowl I reached in to remove the bowl, only to discover that it is fatally cracked. So a last minute change of plan resulted in the 'vase' you see which normally holds a candle. Its origins have been lost in the mists of time. The glass beads came with a gift from my mother I think.

The hellebore was purchased in 2005 at an RHS Show in London. Although she has never been a particularly vigorous plant she is still going. The plan is to move her later this year as she is possibly in too shady a spot. She is named after a renowned Tasmanian gardener in whose garden she was discovered. Apparently she usually comes true from seed. However last year was the first year that she produced any seed! Instead of sowing it immediately on discovery the seeds went into a little brown envelope just for a few days or so was the plan. The packet was swallowed up in the contents of my seed box only coming to light a few days ago. I have now sown it but am not sure how successful germination will be knowing how the seed is best sown fresh.

The bottle of water was required for me to quench my thirst after the exertions of wiping the water up. In this case fortunately there was a drop to drink. It also seemed to echo the colour of the glass beads and the fact that the shape of this hellebore reminds me of a water lily.

Thanks as always to Cathy over at 'Rambling in The Garden', who came up with the excellent idea of celebrating the start of a new week by sharing floral offering from our gardens.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Sock It To Me!

Returning home from a few days away there was much delight in these parts. Little packages waiting on the doormat were opened to reveal seeds and socks. Now for a confession I have a bit of a thing about socks. After years of having to wear either dresses or skirts for work I now revel in trousers for everyday wear, accompanied by socks in the cooler months. I already have snowflakes, icicles and polar bears in my winter collection but nothing featuring flowers. When I came across them I just could not resist these snowdrop socks! Perhaps a little late for this season I look forward to wearing them in the future.

They are part of a collection called 'Floral Feet' from the Cornish company Seasalt, which may appeal to fellow bloggers and/or sock aficionados. A bit more expensive than my normal tootsie wear they feel soft and inviting. As with all these things the acid test comes to the wearing and washing thereof. However if they are as good as they look and feel I will be most satisfied. Meanwhile another pair featuring daffies on a dark blue background is calling out to me .....

N.B. This is not a sponsored post. I bought the socks myself and have no links with the company.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ~ March 2015

Giving me greatest pleasure this Bloom Day is crocus tommasinianus 'Whitewell Purple'. The bulbs were planted back on a cool and squally October day in the moss formerly known as our lawn. When I wrote my 'End Of Month View' post in February I was cursing the squirrels as there were only a couple of flowers in evidence. All that hard labour for a paltry showing so I presumed. Since then there have been more showings and although there is not yet a sea of purple on green the foundations are down. As for those bushy tailed creatures perhaps I was too quick to presume that they were the culprits, so I will be offering them a formal apology when they next scarper past. The conclusion is that I was tardy in planting the bulbs, after they had arrived in good time, so this year the plan is to plant more but in September so that they should flower in February. That's the theory anyway but it all depends on me remembering to order them early enough!

As always thanks to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens who hosts this monthly meme which is absolutely fatal when it comes to the wish list.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Tree Following With Lucy ~ March 2015.

This year's tree is much smaller and younger than last year's willow and is one that we planted in the garden. It's the pear tree 'Doyenne du Comice,' which was introduced into the garden in the autumn of 2011. She was transplanted some twenty feet or so last February - a case of being in the wrong place and happily survived to tell the tale. At the moment she stands at about six feet - the tape measure has not come out but I've stood against her and worked it out that way. I will be interested to see how much she grows over the coming year. I forgot to check her girth so will do that before next month.

There was great excitement last year when she produced her first ever crop. A grand total of three fruits made it to maturity and then disaster struck - they turned mushy before they made it into our mouths. Oh there was much wailing and gnashing of disappointed teeth! As the comedian Eddie Izzard said of pears 'they're gorgeous little beasts, but they're ripe for half an hour, and you are never there. They're like a rock or they're mush". Well that might be exaggerating but I do think that I will have to check them on a daily basis after picking this year. That's of course presuming that I will have a harvest to pick.

As suggested by its name this pear originated in France and it is widely reputed to have the best flavour and texture of any pear. I think it was those character references that sold it to me. It was raised in Angers, France in the 1840s so has now been around for some time. It was apparently introduced to Britain in 1858.  I think that I was so sold on the mouth-watering descriptions of' Doyenne du Comice' that my research stopped at the f word i.e. flavour. Further reading following purchase and planting revealed that she is sterile so a pollination pear partner was introduced the following year which I think is 'Concorde'. Now a third tree Malus 'Red Sentinel' has joined them to add to the blossom effect. The latter which is only a small tree, was only planted last spring so I'm eagerly anticipating its first flowers. 

Only a couple of close-up photos today as the weather has thwarted my plans to take a couple more photos in addition to the ones I took yesterday. It is pouring down out there and from what the forecast is predicting we are in for a cold weekend. However as you can see the leaves are poised ready to break out any day now. Possibly next month will see a pear tree dressed from head to toe in white.

Thanks as always to the lovely Lucy over at 'Loose and Leafy' who enables a veritable parliament of trees from far and wide to get together each month. I'm really looking forward to another year of tree following.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Seasonal Musing ~ 'The Primrose'

"Welcome, pale Primrose! starting up between 
Dead matted leaves of ash and oak, that strew
The every lawn, the wood and spinney through,
Mid creeping moss and ivy's darker green;
How much thy presence beautifies the ground ;
How sweet thy modest, unaffected pride
Glows on the sunny bank, and wood's warm side
And when thy fairy flowers in groups are found
The school-boy roams enchantedly along,
Plucking the fairest with a rude delight,
While the meek shepherd stops his simple song, 
To gaze a moment on the pleasing sight;
O'erjoyed to see the flowers that truly bring
The welcome news of sweet returning spring" 

by John Clare, 1793-1864.

The illustration is one of Cecily Mary Barker's exquisite 'Flower Fairies'.

A special thanks to Cathy over at 'Words and Herbs'. One of her recent posts pointed me in the direction of a book that I had not come across before 'Flora Poetica - The Chatto Book Of Botanical Verse'. I just had to have a copy of it so it has been very recently added to my bookshelves. This poem is included in the book.

Thursday, 5 March 2015


This little fellow's behaviour has been most disconcerting over the last few days. He (and I am making a presumption here) has been repeatedly throwing himself against our living room window. I'm amazed that he has not done himself any serious damage. Although we have previously observed long tailed-tits hovering around the window frames in search of grubs, this one is behaving noticeably differently. He collides into the window, before yo-yoing down to land on the outer sill, where he sits looking in, before flying off and then launching into repeat action replays. He does vary window panes. What is also noticeable is that he is on his own which is most unlike long-tailed tits as they like companions. There is a bird feeder in view of the window and I have noticed that he is taking time out to feed which is a relief. All that frenzied activity must seriously delete his energy stores and he is only a small bird.

We've been wondering why he has been behaving so. Perhaps as spring draws near it could be related to thoughts of mating? Maybe he sees himself in the window and thinks that he is a she? Has anybody else seen long tailed-tits behave like this? In the meantime whilst this activity continues window cleaning will be postponed and the windows will remain firmly shut!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

End Of Month View ~ February 2015

The word for this month is 'ANTICIPATION'. It's one that I think that should be sung loudly from the roof tops as we reach the end of February. It's that magical time before spring really takes off in giant irreversible strides, were there is still time to simply stand and stare. The days are getting longer, the birds are chirping away, the green bin awaits the first emptying of the year this week and all around the garden and in the cold frame there are signs of new growth.
Galanthus 'Blonde Inge'
February here has been hard to gauge but I think that it has been definitely colder and drier than it was in 2014. There has not been much in the way of wintry precipitation other than the odd bit of fleeting snow, sleet and hail but nothing that has caused serious problems. The most distracting feature of the weather has been cold winds from a northerly direction. I'm convinced that the older I become the more of a fair weather gardener I'm becoming. I definitely can't do wind even well wrapped up. However even on the foul days I've been able to get a daily flower fix from my special snowdrops in the greenhouse and here are just a couple more for the record. Not newcomers but old favourites in the shape of glanthus nivalis 'Greenish' and galanthus plicatus 'Percy Picton' :

Galanthus plicatus 'Percy Picton'

Whilst the former is probably just past its peak the latter is just getting there. It's a late flowering 'drop and unlike a lot of virescent snowdrops it's relatively easy to grow.
Galanthus nivalis 'Greenish'
Elsewhere in the garden the usual suspects are in flower - snowdrops, little irises, hellebores, crocuses, primroses and the pulmonarias are just joining in with the exception of pulmonaria rubra 'Redstart' which came into bloom in early December. Most of my crocuses are in pots and there are some that I think will be heading for the compost heap. They do not seem to be able to cope with the vagaries of the winter elements and have croaked before they have even got going. It's almost as somebody with big feet has stood on them flattening the flowers. I wonder if this has anything to do with the height of the crocus concerned and whether it's the taller varieties that suffer. More research is required but any suggestions of sturdy varieties would be appreciated. Another disappointment in the crocus stakes has been the hundred or so crocus tommasinianus 'Whitewell Purple' bulbs that were planted in the lawn last autumn. To date there are a grand total of two flowers - it must be those pesky squirrels again. Since then I've bought the odd clump or two ready made flowering bulbs in the hope that ready-made planting might thwart them.

The allotment has been sadly neglected. Where have I heard these word before? Just getting about the site during the winter months remains a challenge as the main paths are so waterlogged. I'm anxious to avoid a repeat of the experience of a fall I had a couple of years ago. Perhaps I'm being over cautious but the plan is to wait until the days are slightly warmer when the standing water starts to evaporate. There will be much to do when I do get there.

Seed sowing has not got off the ground yet but that is a deliberate decision which I will come on to in a future post. At the moment the greenhouse space is occupied by the special snowdrops, a few overwintering cuttings and autumn sown seedlings as well as pots of dahlia tubers which will be kick-started into action come April. I've planted 'Red Sun' and 'Golden Gourmet' shallots in cells this morning and they will head to the allotment in due course. Next job on the list is to make a start on dividing and replanting some of the clumps of snowdrops which are now partially obscured by the gabion wall. Meanwhile it never ceases to surprise me just how well the snowdrops on the other side of the stream continue to flourish without any attention. The stream borders the garden and dotted along its banks are clumps of snowdrops.

Divide Me!
Plant purchases this month have been more named snowdrops (surprise, surprise), the afore-mentioned crocus clumps, helleborus 'Anna's Red' and chaemoneles speciosa 'Yukigoten' which promises creamy double flowers followed by yellow quinces later in the year. I can't wait! I've also been the fortunate recipient of several snowdrops from a fellow snowdrop lover and good friend who reads this blog. Thank you :)

Meanwhile going back to that word anticipation my attention is on the daffies that you can see in the top photo. Starter for St. David's Day or not? Only one more day to find out!

As always a big thank you to Helen over at the 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' who came up with the inspirational idea of sharing our end of month views.