Tuesday, 28 April 2009

On the Towpath

O IS FOR ?



OUR TOWN'S CANAL!

O.K - I know that this is stretching it a bit but for some reason O has been bamboozling me. The old grey matter does not seem to be functioning well this week. The canal in question is the Bridgewater Canal and is about ten minutes walk from home. It is a pleasant spot for a gentle stroll, with colourful boats and canal barges to be admired from the towpath.



This is my post for this week's ABC Wednesday where you can see oodles of interpretations on the letter O .

Sunday, 26 April 2009

"What's The Story Morning Glory?"



I was going to sow my morning glory seeds this weekend until I read Helen Yemm's recent and most pertinent article when catching up with last weekend's papers. I am always behind with the weekend papers especially at this time of year.

I have always held back with sowing morning glories until what I thought was quite late but I have had mixed success. Sometimes the leaves have gone that anaemic shade of bleach white as night time temperatures have dipped and so have failed to flourish. Helen wrote about the year in which she thought she might have missed the boat when she could not find her seeds until mid May. In summary she attributes her success to following this method : "The ''knack'', therefore, would seem to be this: ''lose'' the seeds until very late in the spring. Moisten the seeds to quick-start germination and plant them in house-warm compost. Finally grow them in a huge pot, transplanting them with as little root disturbance as possible. Keep this pot indoors, too, until even night time temperatures are reliably warm – well into June in some parts"

I have always pre-soaked the seeds but must admit have deprived my seeds of the pots of "house- warm compost". My pots have gone onto a heated sandbench but it must still take a while for the compost to warm up. So this year I am going to wait another couple of weeks before I sow my seed. This year as well as sowing 'Heavenly Blue' I am trying 'Kniola's Black'. I hope that the resulting plants are as sturdy and attractive as those in the photo above from a Dutch seed company's website.

So Victoria from Victoria's Backyard, in answer to one of your SOS questions you're spot on holding back from sowing your seeds :)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

"Candles In The Rain"



"Little sisters of the sun
Lit candles in the rain"


~ Melanie Safka

Some welcome gentle rain this morning added sparkle to this tellima and heuchera. Up the lane the chestnut is already showing its candles. Some sort of Heath Robinsonesque mechanical hoist is needed to raise me into the branches to take a good photo ! Will speak to himself about it.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Magic Box


Back in September I fell in a big way for a plant at The Picton Garden near Malvern in Worcestershire. The plant in question was Aster 'Photograph'. Of course I made a beeline for the adjacent well stocked nursery only to be disappointed. The plant was not sale at the time mainly because it is difficult to propagate. I was advised to try again in the future . It is a bit far for me to call in regularly so I made a note of the name and put it to the back of my mind.

Then earlier this year I was browsing through a catalogue of a nursery which had come through the post and behold there was my plant ! The nursery in question is the Elizabeth MacGregor Nursery in Ellenbank, Scotland. I do not often buy plants by mail order much preferring to see them in the flesh first as it were, but I have ordered from this nursery before and have always been delighted with the service, quality and the way the plants are packed. I had resolved not to make an order this year but once my aster leapt out at me from the pages, I had to make a sacrifice and order the minimum order of six plants. Yesterday I got an email to say that they were making their way over the border. They arrived today and are now sitting outside the greenhouse recovering from their journey.



I did not place my order until the beginning of April, so the plants are at a more developed stage than I have had in the past, when I have ordered earlier in the year. They say that if you buy perennial plants that have been raised in a more northerly latitude than your own garden that they should thrive.



So as from today my latest residents are :

Aster 'Photograph' - the yearned for plant.
Clematis 'Buckland Beauty' - bought one before from another source but turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.
Phlox paniculata 'Blue Paradise' - for perfume
Hemorocallis' Bella Lugosi' - want to try some day lilies.
Lythrum salicaria 'Blush' - saw at Southport Flower Show and liked.
Ranunculus aconitifolius flore pleno - pretty spring flowering white buttons and so much easier to remember by its common name of 'Fair Maids of France'. Have had this growing before but it disappeared.

Now where to put them them - that's the question !

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Norman Conquest

N IS FOR ?



NORMANDY !


'I had first seen it from Cancale, this fairy castle in the sea. I got an indistinct impression of it as of a gray shadow outlined against the misty sky. I saw it again from Avranches at sunset. The immense stretch of sand was red, the horizon was red, the whole boundless bay was red. The rocky castle rising out there in the distance like a weird, seignorial residence, like a dream palace, strange and beautiful-this alone remained black in the crimson light of the dying day.'

~ from The Legend of Mont St-Michel by Guy de Maupassant.

A school trip to Normandy many moons ago made a lasting impression on me and I was delighted to return a few years ago. Glorious countryside, oh so naughty but nice cuisine and such friendly natives. I am looking forward to returning soon and perhaps lingering longer.

We sailed from Poole to Cherbourg travelling generally in a southerly direction towards Brittany. We took a slight detour to visit Arromanches les Bains. This seaside resort was chosen by the allied troops in 1944 as the location of an artificial harbour which was used to keep the troops in Normandy supplied with equipment, weapons and ammunition. The shapes which rise out of the sea today, opposite Arromanches, are the actual remnants of the Mulberry Harbour.




From there we journeyed on pausing to walk along the most beautiful shell strewn beaches, park up at secluded spots to enjoy leisurely lunches and to visit small market towns en route to our main destination.




What trip to Normandy would be complete without a visit to Mont St-Michel which UNESCO designated as a World Heritage Site in 1979.




It was coming up to the middle of September but the place was heaving with tourists from all over the world. Goodness knows what it is like in the middle of summer ~



By night the crowds had thinned down considerably and strolling about was much more relaxing ~



Waking up in the morning in the shadow of the mount was quite
magical ~



Finally a flourish of flowers - just one of the lovely floral displays that we encountered as we travelled throughout Normandy ~



This is my post for this week's ABC Wednesday - nip over there now for more on the letter N.

Monday, 20 April 2009

'Have A Little Patience'


'Have a little patience' urge the once upon a time boy band 'Take That' and I should heed their lyrics. My clematis texensis 'Princess Diana' has come to life - yaaaaay ! I have not put the wanted post up yet for the Japanese Painted Fern. Thanks to all of you who have given me encouragement that it may well yet show. I am resisting the strong urge to have a a good investigation into the patch of apparently bare soil. In the meantime as well as 'Ursula's Red' which was part of my Easter egg, I discovered that I had another Japanese Painted Fern' Silver Falls' which was lurking in the coldframe. How it had escaped my notice all winter I do not know but it did not escape my spring clean.

Meanwhile since my last diary entry two weeks, ago all sorts have been happening in the garden and greenhouse, but it is the allotment where I have spent more time. We have had some glorious weather both over Easter weekend and this last weekend. More warmth and sunshine are predicted for the next few days. I have been down to the lottie most days. The photo below shows my view this morning when I paused for a break. I like the colour of my neighbours's shed which looks bright and cheerful even on the dullest of days. Time methinks to take a paint brush to my lean - to's layers of flaking off dingy white.



I have planted two of the new raised beds with strawberries. One bed contains an early fruiting variety. These have come from runners so it will be next year before I have a significant crop. The other bed has been planted with some plants of a late fruiting variety. These were spare plants from my lovely plot neighbour H and I am hoping to be nibbling some strawberries this year. Sweet peas 'Matucana' are now in the ground. These were the plants that I sowed in the autumn which have been outside for some time. I have never planted them so early so will they probably be struck down by a hard frost. If that should transpire reserves are in readiness. I have had my first pickings of rhubarb - oh most delicious stewed and topped with plain yogurt. Maybe a crumble at the weekend.



Late this afternoon himself went down with the trailer and cleared the remnants of old wood from the former exterior fencing so this has opened up a new patch. I am really looking forward to seeing this tomorrow !

Friday, 17 April 2009

A Margery Fish Moment



I think that it must have been my Margery Fish phase that was responsible. Whilst reading 'Gardening In The Shade' I was seduced by these words; "Variegated ground cover plants look particularly well under shrubs and under dark places. My stand by is a yellow dead - nettle, Lamium galeobdolon variegatum, which grows most generously, looks nice always and is particularly beautiful in the winter when its silver and grey-green leaves are startlingly brilliant. None of the recipients of the plants have complained about it and I have had none of the hard looks which which usually come after my donations of alpine strawberries, for instance. This lamium sends out long trails and and makes roots at each axil. It roots in gravel, in the poorest soil and at the edge of stones. As well as using it as a carpet to cover daffodils, under silver birch trees, and to pour down a shady bank like a silver waterfall, I put pieces at the edge of paths where they meet walls or buildings, and which are favourite places for flourishing colonies of weeds. It has a great idea of artistry without any help from me and can transform a dark underplanting of ivy or claytonia by weaving the shining leaves among the dark ones but disturbing no one".

I have spent most of the afternoon removing this thug, which has spread all along the patch of land at the side of the house. It certainly creeps along and roots as it goes. Well Margery must have had some exceedingly polite friends. I have very few yellow flowers in the garden so it must been the description and the foliage that made me weaken. I remember that it was a plant that took some finding at the time and that I was delighted to get my paws on it.

Again on the subject of thugs Himself also did battle in the same area today risking spontaneous combustion as he removed a lonicera nitida. Next to come out tomorrow will be some winter flowering jasmine. Then time to have another look at the area and for decisions to be made about what will go in the bare patches. I will also move some plants later this year. It's a shady east facing patch. Hellebores, campanulas, hardy geraniums, heucheras, tiarellas, brunnera and aquilegias are planted there and seem happy. The Japanese Painted Fern seemed happy too last summer but still no sign of it reemerging. My intention now is to include some later flowering interest. I am still deciding what to plant.

I have another lamium which might go in somewhere along there which I bought from the Country Market this week. This is lamium orvala which I was told is "gently self seeding".



Will I regret this purchase ? Time will tell !

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April

 
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April sees some of my favourite plants in full fettle especially pulmonarias -I love those spotty leaves which sparkle both before and after the flowers are done and dusted. Other flowers pictured above include a clematis alpina, narcissus 'Thalia' in the company of some little forget-me-nots, dicentra alba and brunnera 'Looking Glass'. One or two tulips have now opened as well as the first geranium phaeum but it was rather camera shy. Today's predicted warm temperatures may encourage the clematis montana to show her first flowers in the rain. Please click on the collage for the bigger picture :)

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is hosted by by Carol at
May Dreams Gardens where you can enjoy more beautiful April blooms.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

In The Clouds

M IS FOR ?

 
Posted by Picasa


MAN MOUNTAIN !


“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir.

Whilst I get vertigo if I get on the lower rungs of a stepladder himself enjoys mountain walking mainly in the Lake District and North Wales. These photos make me feel dizzy just looking at them ! Please click on the collage for the bigger picture. You can see himself trudging through the snow top left and also in the middle photo, bottom row. His biggest high to date has been successfully completing The Three Peaks Challenge for a charity fund raiser. This involves climbing the highest three mountains in England, Scotland and Wales - these are Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis and Snowdon respectively. The challenge must be completed in the space of twenty four hours including travelling time. I was there with a kiss and a foot bath when he got home :)

Why don't you meander over to ABC Wednesday for more musings on the letter M.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Just Pottering



'From the dark and wetted soil
Petals are unfolding
From the stony village kirk
Easter bells of old ring

So begins another spring
Green leaves and of berries
Chiff-chaff eggs are painted by
Mother bird eating cherries'

~ Donovan Leitch

A most beautiful day here especially this morning when there was not a cloud in the sky. The temperature this afternoon nudged towards sixty degrees fahrenheit just perfect for pottering about in the garden. Lots of pricking out and potting on accomplished. Himself was at work for a twelve hour day shift poor love. I had to reluctantly drag myself away from the greenhouse to conjure a up a marvellous meal for his return. If anyone should happen to stop by here I wish you a most peaceful and joyous Easter.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Calorie Free Zone



Before the inevitable Bank Holiday rain descended, himself took me to Lodge Lane Nursery this morning to treat me to a non chocolate Easter egg. This is our nearest local nursery and came under new ownership in 2007. There have been several changes since then. It is certainly easier to navigate your way around. Some welcome additions include a self service tea room and a toilet which must be especially welcomed by visitors coming from further afield. Sue, the owner is most friendly and helpful.

On arrival we were drawn to an attractive display of vegetable seeds, sundries and some seed potatoes. We had missed out on the nursery's 'Veg Week' but some of the goodies were still on sale.



I was delighted to see some modules of healthy looking 'Feltham First' peas. As only about half a dozen of mine germinated I could not help but put some in my basket.



From the vegetable display we wandered round in front of the newly created vegetable growing area. I will try to take some more photos later this year of this, as well as the gardens which we did not visit today.



We ambled through the polytunnel ~



and along through the sales area :



So what came home with me apart from the peas ? For a while I have been hankering after some phormiums particularly after seeing them used so beautifully in the garden by Easygardener in this post. So into my basket jumped phormiums 'Sundowner' and 'Bronze Form', a little white anenome, mathiasella bupleuroides 'Green Dream', and a stipa gigantea (allotment bound). Last but not least in case my Japanese painted fern does not come to life this year I was tempted by athyrium niponicum var. pictum 'Ursula's Red'.

On leaving himself observed that a choocie egg would have been cheaper but I was definitely one happy bunny.

Postcript - A comment from Patientgardener reminded me that Sue who runs the nursery has a blog which you can read here. Sue also won the BBC Gardener of the Year competition in 2006 but more of that on my next post about the nursery. I wrote my post in a hurry and had a feeling afterwards that I had left something significant out. Thanks Patientgardener :)

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Lesson To Be Learned

L IS FOR ?



LEAVES !

'The floral elements of the garden are the bonus; the sparkle comes and goes but the constant green provides the key'
~ from 'The Garden- A Year At Home Farm' by Dan Pearson.

Back in the summer of 2003 this collection of pots stood outside our front door. This photo has reminded me that leaves can be just as effective in the garden as flowers and usually give you a longer lasting display. Maybe time for a variation on this theme this year !

Why don't you leap over to ABC Wednesday for lots more lovely posts on the letter L !

Monday, 6 April 2009

Bring Out The Oil Can



'A really long day of weeding is a restful experience, and quite changes the current of thought. For some people it is more efficient than a rest cure'
~ so writes Anna Lee Merritt in an extract on 'Weeders and Diggers' from
'The Virago Book of Women Gardeners'.


Just who is this woman kidding ? Having spent four hours or so in arm to arm combat with some of the tenacious weeds at my allotment, I would definitely not call the experience a 'rest cure'. I am creaking - I can only echo the
'Tin Man's'
plea to bring out the oil can. However it was most satisfying tussling with yard long hanks of marestail in the spring sunshine, slinging them with gay abandon into a pile, which was carefully removed at the end of the session. This was my my main gardening activity over the weekend, as we had the first night of the year away in the campervan on Saturday. The forecast for the forthcoming week is not promising reading - rain and more rain but then on balance we probably need it, so I may have to content myself to being restricted to greenhouse activities.

We have enjoyed some pleasant spring weather during the past week, especially in the afternoons so it has been a good week for gardening activities. The greenhouse is slowly filling up and is now home to various lettuces and salad mixes, beetroot 'Bulls Blood', chard' Rainbow Lights' (poor germination), leeks' Bleu Solaise', celeriac 'Monarch' , peas Feltham First (poor germination) sweet pepper 'Sweet Orange Baby' and tomatoes' Ildi','Czech's Excellent Yellow', 'Marmande' and 'Japanese Black Trifele'. Only just sown and not showing yet are sweet pepper 'Corno di toro', carrots 'Parmex', peas 'Kelvedon Wonder', courgettes 'Defender','Romanesco' and 'Soleil', summer squash 'Sunburst', cucumber 'Burpless Tasty Green' and artichoke 'Violet de Provence'. I managed to missed the latter off my seed order list but good fortune dictated a free packet with the last edition of 'Gardens Illustrated'. More sowings to be made this week.

On the flower front there are sweet peas 'Matucana' and 'Pathfinder',perennial white stock, cosmos 'Purity', sunflower 'Vanilla Ice' and nicotiana mutablis.

Himself has earned his laurels this week, by shifting three tons of improved soil conditioner which was delivered here, down to the allotment. It is going some way to filling up the three new raised beds.

Arriving in the post this week a ticket to a summer propagation workshop to be held in June at Lodge Lane Nursery which is my favourite local nursery. There is a spring workshop later this month but the tickets were all booked. Himself is taking to the nursery later this week to buy me an Easter plant or two - not as fattening as a chocolate egg.

Mystery of the week is where has my Japanese Painted Fern gone - here it is last year:



Not a sign of it coming through so far and I am sure that it was through the ground by this time last year. Maybe it is a victim of the cold winter. I do hope not as it is/was one of my favourite plants. It looks as if I may really have a gap but I going to heed VP's recent cautionary advice and play the waiting game a bit longer.

Star of the garden this week a double primrose of long lost label status, but which I am reasonably sure goes by the name of 'Quakers Bonnet'. I thought that a photo of this flower would be more attractive than a mugshot of the dreaded marestail. You can see that I am behind with the gardening tasks otherwise I would have cleared away the leaves on the ground by now !

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

GBMD - April 2008.


'Complaint in A Wash-out Season'

My mind's in pickle. Think of my talents all soused
in rainwater, April you All Fool's Month, you've doused
the light of your joke. Call of this protracted
intransigent deluge,it's hackneyed;
nothing to grizzle about now-winter's gone knock-kneed,
so turn off the tap,
you monstrous infant wetting Infinity's lap.
You turned the garden hose on;
you spat a million missiles through a hundred dozen
long-range peashooters. You should be past
practical jokes in bad taste;
and what an old has-been you look when you flash
in the face of the sun in a shot-silk taffeta sash
and lift the petticoat clouds and dance a fandango.
You've rinsed the guaranteed colours out of the rainbow.
At least when you wash your dye-streaked hair,
be so kind as to shake it out elsewhere,
and request the adenoidal firmament
not to sneeze all over my temperament.


~ Dame Muriel Spark,1918 -2006.

This is my April post for Garden Bloggers' Muse Day hosted by Carolyn Gail - you will find lots more poems and musings on April over at her blog Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.