Friday, 31 October 2014

End Of Month View ~ October 2014

As October evaporates in a heat haze a bit of outside has come inside today to acknowledge Halloween. Meet three of my little 'Wee-B-Little' pumpkins with some being more little than others.
The taste jury is out as yet but soup will be on the menu soon along with a verdict. We have quite a few of these to get through but only one of the much larger 'Black Futsu' the surface of which reminds me of a lunar landscape.

I am still struggling with getting to grips with the new camera so again this will be a photo light post. Now that the dark nights are upon us time to do some serious reading of the manual before the snowdrop season is upon us.

So a quick run through October starting with the garden where there seems to have been little in the way of action as the season has shifted discernibly to autumn. There have been various affairs going on in the background which have distracted me. One that I will share here is that after much earnest discussion we have purchased a static caravan in the southern Lake District. The discussion has been going on for a couple of years and with himself's possible retirement on the horizon it was time to make a decision about our options. One of the few advantages of not having the child or children we hoped for, is that our savings can be spent on ourselves. We both love France and spent time looking at some properties over there this summer but we did not want to uproot ourselves completely. If we lived near the south coast we would have been seriously tempted but instead we have looked nearer to home.

We can be in the Lake District in less than an hour and a half and both love the area despite all the wet stuff. Himself is a keen rambler and sees himself walking up fell and down dell, whilst as well as taking me for some gentle low level walks in the beautiful surrounding countryside. So October has seen us rather preoccupied fitting up our new second home with some necessities, before the site closes for winter to reopen in March. Himself is already chomping at the bit to be there as much as we can in the spring, so I am in a quandry about how I will manage seed sowing next year let alone the allotment. I have much thinking and planning to do over the winter and there will have to be some compromises!

One fiddly job  that I have done much later than planned is to top dress all my pots of special snowdrops with fresh horticultural grit. They are all looking pristine and fresh at the moment in readiness for flowering. At the moment the pots are all outside but if the weather turns really cold I will bring them under cover into the greenhouse which needs clearing in readiness. I'm also planning to relabel some snowdrops as names are disappearing. Talking of labels I will be posting the results of my label experiment soon - a year on from the date it began.

Meanwhile at the allotment clearing and dismantling is the order of the day. Beans and sweet pea wigwams are coming down and old foliage is heading to the compost heap. There are still some harvests here and there. The 'Polka' raspberries continue to flourish and produce. I picked what I think must be the last courgette of the year earlier this week. After four months of eating courgettes I'm happy to wait another few months before eating another. The strawberry plants are sending out flowers and occasionally there is the odd strawberry to nibble - especially sweet at this time of year.
Tomorrow we are having an autumnal celebration on site which I'm looking forward to with soup and parkin being on the menu.

Plantwise I've resisted the temptation to make purchases apart from bulbs. A shipping order from Peter Nyssen arrived a couple of weeks ago which is looking at me and shrieking "Plant Me Now!" every time I go past. I've also added another snowdrop to the collection or was that last month? Whatever the date of arrival it's galanthus 'Ding Dong' which is an early riser. Maybe there will be photos in November. Yes I must make a start on that manual.

Thanks as always to the lovely Helen over at 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' who provides us with the opportunity to reflect and contemplate about our gardens each month as well as look forward to the future.

Monday, 27 October 2014

In A Vase On Monday ~ Still Blushing


I picked a spray of this rose in the third week of June, along with some sweet peas for a vase which you can see here. The sweet peas are done and dusted but the rose is covered with sprays which have started to open during the last few days. The flowers are not as pristine as they were in the summer - some of the petals are peppered with small holes, but from a distance with my eyes squinting they look as every bit as fresh. What seems to have faded with time though is the scent. I'm not sure whether it's my imagination but do roses loose scent as the months progress? Maybe it's temperature related. I'm not sure whether all the buds will have the chance to open before the onset of colder weather but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for some roses in November.

The rose in question is 'Blush Noisette' which I fell for when we visited the 'Queens Garden' at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire a few years ago. It arrived here the following January as a bare rooted rose which severely tested my powers of imagination. However to my delight out from a twiggy mass leaves and flowers duly emerged and opened that summer.'Blush Noisette' dates back to about 1814 and can be grown either as a shrub or as a small climber.


The little vase is a relatively new inexpensive one, which I think I picked up from that well known Swedish furniture store renowned for its meatballs. I've still to try them.

With thanks to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' who came up with the idea of sharing a vase of flowers to celebrate the start of a new week.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Musing ~ October 2014


"One says October, one says Nature lies down to sleep ; the gardener knows better, and will tell you that October is as good as month as April. You ought to know that October is the first spring month, the month of underground germination and sprouting, of hidden growth , of swelling buds ; scratch a little into the ground and you will find buds ready made, thick as your thumb, fragile shoots and straggling roots - I can't help you, Spring is here ; go out, gardener, and plant (but be careful that you don't cut with the spade a sprouting narcissus bulb)"

~ an extract from 'The Gardener's Year' - by Karel Čapek, 1890 - 1938.

I'm not sure whether October is really the new April but oh what a positive attitude towards the first month of autumn. Now working to get myself into that mindset.

Monday, 13 October 2014

'The Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops' ~ A Review


Well rules are made for breaking aren't they? So with the publication of a new book on snowdrops my self imposed embargo on book buying just had to go by the wayside. 'The Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops' by Naomi Slade has recently taken up residence amidst the groaning bookshelves. Long term readers of this blog will know of my addiction to these early flowering beauties. My initial impressions of the book are favourable although I still have to do it full justice i.e. read it from cover to cover. I'm sure I will do this whilst waiting for my 'drops to appear.

The book starts off with an explanation from the author, who describes herself as not a 'fully fledged galanthophile', as to why she loves snowdrops. Her love affair began as a child when she picked Valentine posies of snowdrops to give to her mother. As she says "snowdrops have no competition for the enjoyment of their charms. They may be small, but they arrive on to an empty dark stage, lighting it up in the very depths of winter. And the hungry audience applauds". Naomi points out that they are a plant that can be enjoyed and grown by anyone no matter the size of your garden. As well as being bewitched by the plants the author explains that she was also fascinated by the people she encountered growing snowdrops and by the stories behind many of these bulbs.

The next chapter of the book looks at designing with snowdrops. Advice is given on finding the the optimum growing conditions for your snowdrops. There are suggestions of good planting companions as well as a useful list of bad companions. The author covers growing snowdrops in containers with other flowers and shrubs of late winter/early spring interest as well as discussing the merits of snowdrops as a cut flower.

This is followed by a section entitled 'Understanding Snowdrops' takes "a brief tour around their history, morphology, tradition, medicine, convention and metaphor - among other things". I appreciated the fact that the make up of the bulb was explained in terms that I understood. I have no knowledge of botany and struggle with dry technical explanations.

A 'Spotter's Guide' offers a 'taster selection of snowdrops' - the choice being based on "availability, charm, interest" as well as the author's personal taste. All the snowdrops included are available in the United Kingdom and most can be tracked down in the USA too. There is sound advice for anybody who has been bitten by the snowdrop bug to walk before you can run by starting with a "few solid bulbs that are distinctive, reasonably priced, and not too fussy". Earlier in the book there are some suggestions of "easy -care" snowdrops which are suitable for the beginner. As the author points out you can always "slake your thirst for fancy-pants flowers with outings to shows and gardens" until you have enough experience and successes behind you so that can then develop your collection. Some 60 odd snowdrops are illustrated and featured here albeit some in more detail than others. Not all of my favourites were included but I was pleased to come across mention of some of them elsewhere in the book.

I giggled at some of Naomi's descriptions of the snowdrops on her list. 'Lady Elphinstone' is described as a "frothy creamy creature, reminiscent of of a good dollop of lemon-meringue pie", 'Blewberry Tart' as "cheeky, charming and decidedly immodest" whilst 'Ketton' is likened to the classic little black dress which can be be dressed up or down to suit the occasion.

This guide is followed by a comprehensive section on growing and propagating. The reader finds how to choose and prepare a site for planting. Planting in the green and as dormant bulbs are both covered along with the pros and cons of both methods. Propagation and pests are also included in this section.

'Where to See Snowdrops : Out And About' suggests gardens and snowdrops events to visit not only in the UK, but also in the USA, in Southern Ireland and the Netherlands. A list of where to buy provides contact details of specialist nurseries selling these little white gems. At the back the 'For More Information' section lists various sources which I'm sure I will delve into over the next few months. A minor nitpick here - many of the sources listed under the heading of books are in fact references to newspaper articles or magazines horticultural and otherwise, some to articles in specialist journals and some refer to online articles. The 'book list' is followed by details of relevant organisations and websites.

Throughout the book are mini - interviews with snowdrop experts who were asked a standard set of questions namely:
How did you fall in love with snowdrops?
What do you particularly like about them?
What is your favourite snowdrop?
If you could go back to any point in snowdrop history, where would it be?
Who is your galanthus idol?
Planting in the green or as dormant bulbs?
What is your expert tip?

I found these interviews fascinating although I would have preferred that they had been grouped together for the sake of easier comparison of replies.

In conclusion from what I've read/seen of the book I wish that it had been available when my fascination for snowdrops started. It is well written, the author has great enthusiasm for her subject and the book has a wealth of clear and good quality illustrations. I'm sure that some of my blogging friends who share my enthusiasm for snowdrops would enjoy this book as well as any other plant lovers.

'The Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops' by Naomi Slade is published by Timber Press. It's available from good bookshops, from the usual online sources or you may be able to obtain it from your local library.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Tree Following With Lucy ~ October 2014


Some real wildlife action this month - if you look very closely you might be able to spot the pigeon lurking in the branches. It was conveniently waiting for me when I ventured out to take a photo between yesterday's dramatic cloudbursts. I only wish that it could have been less camera shy as it had its back turned to the camera.

There's really not much in the way discernible difference in my willow's appearance from September's post. The weather has been so kind so I think that it has just been basking in the sunshine and stretching out its branches in content. Something has changed though and for a few minutes I was hard pressed to pinpoint what it is. The penny eventually dropped as I decided that the foliage is gently fading as well as thinning out. Nothing dramatic but a slow slip-sliding into its quieter time of the year. I'm wondering what changes the next month will bring.

For more monthly tree updates do have a peek at Loose and Leafy. With special thanks as always to Lucy for hosting this excellent opportunity to share both information and some fabulous photos on the subjects of trees.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

End Of Month View ~ September 2014


The illustration is 'The Vine Diptych' by the Swedish painter Carl Larsson.

Sometime in early September I realised I had not put together an End Of Month View for August but could not work up any enthusiasm to write about the month.  I think that it was because this August was best not mulled over too long - here it was cool, often wet and windy too. All in all a huge disappointment. On the hand September has been amazing. The days have been positively singing with many hours of soft sunshine. It has been hard to resist the call of the garden and the allotment during the noticeably shortening daylight hours.

Before I continue I should mention that this post will be photo free as I've had a camera crisis. The camera I usually use no longer directly downloads photos on to my computer. I had been relying on taking the camera card out and sticking into a USB multi -card reader as an alternative for some time but this method has suddenly refused to work. I think that the photos are hopefully trapped somewhere on my camera. In the meantime I'm still getting to grips with my new camera which was a present from himself when I celebrated a significant birthday earlier this year. I've been practising with it but do not feel confident yet. Hence a month with only a handful of photos which readers may well have already seen. So a quick summary of September ~

Allotment - clearing up has started but still much more work to do to prepare for winter. We've been enjoying the odd strawberries and endless bowlfuls of autumn fruiting raspberries. The apples except for some 'Sunset' have been picked. 'James Grieve' and 'Katy' have not done particularly well this year but 'Sunset' has a good crop although the fruits are on the small side. I'm hoping that the fruits that I had left on have stood up to last night's rain and wind.

In the greenhouse the vine has produced a bumper crop of grapes probably more than ever since I've been tending the vine. I inherited the vine so do not know what the variety is. It is purple fruited, tasty but annoyingly pippy. I'm happy to eat a few but there's no way we could keep on top of this year's supply. With a damp week ahead predicted I'm hoping to pick the remainder tomorrow. Then it's either wine or grape jelly on the cards.

The French beans petered out as September went on but 'Cobra' has started to re-flower. I doubt if there will be enough time for more beans to mature but you never know. I am still picking courgettes. We ate the first at the end of June and have been eating them since. I have to confess that I've not fed them since planting and am wondering what would happen if I had done so.  Next year I will repeat what I did when I initially planted them which was to add some worm compost and some shredded comfrey leaves in each planting hole. It seems to have done the trick together with the weather.

A 'Black Futsu' pumpkin is in evidence and its extensive foliage may be hiding others. I also planted some small pumpkins this year. 'Wee Be Little'  produces small bright orange globes and is still in production. Will definitely sow them again next year or something similar.

All has nor been rosy though. My later crop of dwarf French beans were all munched by the molluscs which was rather a blow. The big disappointment though has been tomatoes which should have been plentiful in September. The failing lies completely with me. I need to give some serious thought as to where I situate the plants - greenhouse, garden or allotment. Food for thought over the winter.

Garden - not so much to say about the garden which still needs an injection of late summer colour. I'm working on it though and will report back in due course. I'm also finding it harder and harder to work out a satisfactory balancing act between allotment and garden and do both justice. At the moment the garden is suffering. This is something that has been concerning me for some time and an issue that I need to consider carefully. The time may come in the future to say goodbye to the allotment although I don't feel ready to do that just yet.

Plant purchases - over the last couple of months these have included : kalimeris 'Charlotte', hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' (unfortunately my slugs have not read the blurb which says slug resistant), heuchera 'Georgia Plum' and agapanthus 'Midnight Dream' wended their way home with me from the Southport Flower Show'. Hemerocallis 'Light The Way' which I fell in love with in France this summer was duly tracked down to the Beth Chatto Gardens and a couple of plants were ordered. In September a trip to Abi and Tom's Garden Plants at Halecat in Cumbria resulted in the purchase of pulmonaria 'Blake's Silver', crocosmia 'Honeybells', aster 'King George' and clematis 'Heather Herschell'. Then there was the fabulous salvia 'Amistad' from the nearest garden section of our local improvement store.

With thanks as always to the lovely Helen over at 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' for so kindly hosting this monthly meme.

Monday, 29 September 2014

In A Vase On Monday ~ Allotment Meets Garden


Allotment and garden came together to create this week's little vase. From the allotment the violet blue daisy flowers of aster 'Little Carlow'. I know that asters have had a recent name change but I haven't got a hang of it yet and it will probably take me some to do so. 'Little Carlow' produces clouds of tiny flowers which are a bee and butterfly magnet. It's quite a tall plant reaching about three feet. I have some divisions from this waiting to work their magic in the garden.


From the garden the bright yellow daisies of 'The Yellow Peril' which I've posted about before. It has defied my attempts to kill it off. There's an uneasy truce between us but for now it sits in a corner where it's thuggish habits are carefully monitored. Any spreading growth is yanked out as soon as I see it. I must admit that I've become fonder of it over the years and now welcome the late colour it provides. It came as a nameless division from a gardening club friend. I think that it's a helianthus but I'm clueless as to which one.

Finally tucked in to the vase a couple of sprigs from my new salvia 'Amistad'. Pottering in the greenhouse yesterday I gently tugged at the cuttings that I took earlier this month. I was so excited by being met with resistance.

The vase is the reverse side of my stoneware cider jug.

You can enjoy a host of other vases over at 'Rambling In The Garden' - thanks as always to Cathy for providing a virtual mantlepiece each week for us to showcase our vases.

Friday, 26 September 2014

A Mere Snip


A quick post to alert any fellow Kindle owners of a bargain buy. 'The Well Tended Perennial Garden - Planting and Pruning Techniques' by Tracy DiSabato-Aust is currently available for a mere snip at £2.32 in the U.K and at $3.78 on the other side of the pond. I would have downloaded it but already have a hardback copy of the first edition which is a most practical and hands on how to tome. Described by the publishers Timber Press as "the first, and still the most thorough, book to detail the essential practises of perennial care such as deadheading, pinching, cutting back, thinning, disbudding and deadleafing, all of which are thoroughly explained and illustrated. More than 200 new color photos have been added to this revised edition, showing perennials in various border situations and providing images for each of the entries in the A- Z encyclopedia of important perennial species."

Useful appendixes include a yearly planting and maintenance schedule which although a guide for U.S. Mid-west gardens can be adapted to British gardens. There are also some fascinating lists of the specific pruning and maintenance requirements of perennials. These include a list of perennials which reseed which could either save you much weeding or produce more pass on plants depending which way you look at it. Other lists give guidelines as to the intervals at which perennials are likely to need dividing. I'm reassured to read that my aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard) only requires division every ten years or more - the last time nearly polished himself off. The author warns that the plant has tough roots and resents disturbance and that's an understatement!

Although this could be a very dry book the author's detailed observations and her gentle sense of humour make sure that it's not. It's certainly worth adding to your Kindle's virtual bookshelves at that price.