Monday, 31 August 2009

Heucheraholics Beware!




A riot of colour graced the sales table at our garden club meeting last week. The topic for the evening was heucheras. Our speaker was Vicky Fox from Jubilee Cottage Nursery near Crewe, who earlier this year won a gold medal at their very first Chelsea Flower Show. They have also won gold medals at Cardiff, Hampton Court, BBC Gardener's World Live and Harrogate. The standards that they must meet at shows is exacting. There must not be any leaves with marks, good composition is important and the heucheras must be planted in what would be a suitable situation for them. The judges also like to see the plants in flower. The Chelsea gold medal has opened many more doors to them. Vicky and her husband Richard also sell their plants online at : www.plantagogo.com


Vicky's introduction focused on the origins of their nursery before she went on to talk about heucheras (common name - coral bells) in more detail. The genus was named after Johann Heinrich von Heucher, an 18th century German physician. One of the questions that Vicky is regularly asked concerns the pronunciation of heuchera. Should it be :

Hu- Ker -ah ?

or

Hoy-ker -ah ?

Strictly speaking it should be the latter but her opinion was that either pronunciation is acceptable. In the UK most people would opt for the former.

Evil weevils - heucheras live in dread of encountering vine weevils. The eggs of the vine weevil look a bit like Osmocote. They are laid in the crown of the plant and are washed down into the ground by rainfall. The weevil then attacks the roots of the plants. Vicky suggested collecting the weevils at night by picking them off plants (they hide during the day). Hedgehogs, chickens and robins would all be happy to be served up with the grubs for their supper. Vicky suggested that should your heucheras be attacked by weevils that there is still hope for the plant. She recommended giving the crown of the plant a good tap to make sure that there are no weevils still lurking and then repotting or replanting. Quite often the plant will grow new roots.

Vicky then ran through her heuchera
top ten :

'Mahogany' - a sun lover - the foliage of which resembles a polished conker in the autumn.

'Green Spice' - a reliable plant with big leaves. The leaves have a green round edge which becomes more pronounced as the year unfolds. Prefers a shady spot.

'Southern Comfort' - huge leaves which go bronze in late summer and look as if they have been sprayed with paint.

'Blackout' - rounded young foliage which becomes very black when mature.

'Tiramisu' - stunning foliage.

'Caramel' - makes a good specimen plant. Likes a bit of sun but will grow in shade. The leaves though will develop brown marks if grown in too much sun.

'Sparkling Burgundy' - looks glittery when wet.

'Beauty Colour' - needs some shade. Good sized leaves.

'Plum Royal' - adores the sun. Rich colouring. Silvery young foliage. Described by Vicky as a "designer's dream".

'Bronze Beauty' - has a great autumnal look. Shiny big leaves.

'Marmalade' - fine in full sun. Flowers well. A fabulous plant.

Now this top ten stretched to eleven as Vicky was unable to leave any of them out.

More to come later this week on the new for 2010 heucheras !

Saturday, 29 August 2009

A Tale of Woe



No I have not fast - forwarded to October. This little cameo of the contents of one of my kitchen draws is very much in the here and now. They are the only pickings from two tomato plants. Earlier in the year I sowed three varieties of tomato, all at the same time. Alas 'Czech's Excellent Yellow' keeled over as seedlings - probably the consequence of too many seedlings in the greenhouse at the time. I was looking foward to trying this variety as I had not grown it before. However 'Marmande' and 'Ildi' flourished. I duly planted six of the former and one of the latter (the rest went to friends) in the lean to at the allotment. This ramshackle construction is an extension of the shed and has three glass sides.

Initially all went well until probably June, when I thought to myself that my tomatoes were not really flourishing as well as they should do. I could not pin it down to anything specific. Time went on, the state of affairs did not improve and of we went on holiday. On our return despite excellent care from my allotment neighbours, two of the 'Marmande' plants were decidedly floppy. The foliage was limp and yellowing. I gave the plants another couple of weeks but they did not perk up at all. They were looking so poorly that I decided needs must and pulled them out. Their fruits have been ripening in the kitchen draw and the time is ripe for tasting this weekend. The four remaining 'Marmande' plants are unhappy. Three have droopy and curled up leaves and I think that the same fate awaits them. The other seems to have gone into a state of suspended animation. It is about eighteen inches tall and has one truss only. Meanwhile the only healthy and vigorous plant is the 'Ildi', which has lush foliage but we are still at the flower stage. No baby toms yet and we are almost at the end of August.

Where did I go wrong ? I do not think it is blight with the 'Marmande' but must consult my vegetable tomes. I am wondering whether the border in the lean to might be the problem although I freshened up the compost before planting. I might grow my tomatoes in pots next year or possibly in the other greenhouse which is out in the open. This has a grapevine planted in it so I will need to think carefully about where to site the tomatoes. One to contemplate when the nights are long !

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Ooooooooh - La La!

F IS FOR ?







ALL THE FUN OF THE FAIR IN FRANCE !

You will find more frolics all featuring the letter F over at ABC Wednesday !

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A Happy Carrot Moment!



Yesterday saw one of those magical "Eureka!" moments at the allotment, when I unearthed the first of the 'Yellowstone' carrots. I have been picking some little round 'Parmex' carrots for a while. These were sown into cells in the greenhouse and then transplanted. I sowed 'Yellowstone' though directly into the ground at the allotment. I grew them at the recommendation of The Pigtailed One, aka Bob Flowerdew during a talk we attended back in March. I sowed them sometime in May - as usual I wish I had kept accurate records. Apart from thinning out and the occasional watering I have left them to their own devices. Yesterday I had a delve around in the soul and tried to gently tug one out. Nothing happened - it was anchored firmly, so out came my trowel. The moment of truth - out from the soil emerged a veritable monster of a carrot, unblemished by the dreaded carrot fly. I have lived in trepidation of encountering this invisible creature, especially as I did not protect my carrots with fleece. I have had great fun imagining what a carrot fly looks like in my more idle moments at the lottie. However all was well and although I know that big is not always beautiful, especially when it comes to taste, I was so excited by my harvest.

Sadly there was nobody else around at the lottie for me to show them to at the time, so I just had to jump up and down with a smug look on my face - a sublime happy carrot moment. They were much admired though later in the morning by my plot neighbours - of course by then I had dug another one up. I have not grown carrots before so this could well be beginner's luck but oh respect Pigtailed One ! I only wish that my tomatoes were just as happy but there's a story for another day.

Friday, 21 August 2009

"Sunshine On A Rainy Day"



My bargain of the week - instant colour for the princely sum of £1.20p a bunch from our local Country Market ! Nearly all my dahlias have dark coloured flowers so could not resist these yesterday along with a most sturdy scented pelargonium with an equally appealing price tag of £2.00. Gardening plans on hold today as the weather alternates between sunshine and showers but tomorrow looks more promising.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A Seaside Garden

E IS FOR ?



LE JARDIN EXOTIQUE!

For once supermarket shopping took priority over garden visiting on the last day of our holiday. Armed with a list of must have essentials himself and I lingered in the supermarket aisles - something which we do not normally do on home ground, where himself needs gentle coaxing to even cross the threshold. However once that important task had been completed, I am glad to say that we had time for a garden visit. We had made our way to Roscoff to catch a ferry back to England the next morning. Le Jardin Exotique de Roscoff is within close distance of the ferry terminal where we planned on parking up the campervan overnight. We had visited the garden before but in the early autumn. So here was an ideal chance to see the garden in August. This is a botanical garden which was founded in 1987. It contains no fewer than 3,000 species of plants from the southern hemisphere. They grow happily here as there is a favourable micro climate (Roscoff being surrounded by the sea on two sides) as well as the benign influence of the Gulf Stream. The garden is perched on a granite rock mass and there are some marvellous views over the area particularly from this vantage point ~



Although most of the other visitors were speaking English we still felt we we were a long way from home in this garden with its lush planting. It was a somewhat overcast and humid day but when the sun broke through the clouds it felt decidedly tropical. There were many trees and succulents that I am not familiar with but labeling was not consistent throughout the garden so I was none the wiser :)









There were a number of ponds, one of which is inhabited by some turtles who most obligingly surfaced to have their photo taken ~





There were some plants that I am familiar with. Throughout the garden agapanthus both blue and white grew in profusion as did watsonias and kniphofias.

Watsonia and agapanthus ~



Crinum ~



Sadly the garden could do with some more attention in some places as there were some rather weedy and under planted patches. However all in all it is a pleasant spot to while away an hour or so. As you head towards the exit there is a nursery area offering a good selection of plants grown within the garden. I treated myself to a white flowering plumbago and a little cutting of a shrub by the name of polygala myrtifolia ~



There is another exotic garden in the area on the nearby Ile De Batz - one for a visit at some point in the future hopefully. The next afternoon though we found ourselves on the other side of the water in what is going to be an absolutely stupendous garden - report to follow soon.

Enjoy more posts on the letter E over at ABC Wednesday !

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - August 2009

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: GBBD - August 09
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My first ever all singing, all dancing slide show for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, most kindly hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. My head is reeling and I am off out into the garden to recover !

Friday, 14 August 2009

Out With The Shades!



This is probably the brightest coloured flower in my garden. I have to confess not to being a big fan of yellow and apart from daffodils, primroses and some pale creamy yellow daisies I have snubbed the more in your face yellows up to now. However in an a conscious attempt to introduce more colour into the late summer garden, I asked for a friend if she could let me have a little bit of this plant when I saw it flowering in her garden. Now that was about three years ago and this plant has turned out to be a veritable thug. It's girth has widened considerably - goodness knows what it is eating but it's in for some serious thinning out next spring. My friend does know what it is but a helianthus is a prime suspect up to now. Apart from its spreading habit is quite a tall plant and I have had difficulty thinking of suitable companions, so much so that it sticks out like a sore thumb. In fact thinning out may not be drastic enough - perhaps the time has come to remove it completely and look for a replacement. I would go for another late flowering plant but I will definitely do more research before planting next time. If I do this I will save a portion though to plant at the allotment as it does sparkle on dreary days. Now is a perfect time to be looking for candidates so I have a perfect excuse to go to a plant fair at our local nursery this weekend :)

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Life In The Slow Lane

D IS FOR ?



DONKEYS !

We came across this delightful duo last week, when we were dallying along the main thoroughfare of the little town of Huelgoat. We were most curious to see who might be using this alternative mode of transport but sadly there was no sign of their human companions.

Do dip into ABC Wednesday where you will find more debate, discussion and digital imagery all about the letter D.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Most Serious Matter Of Holiday Reading


Well here we are safely back home. After a day of frantic activity unpacking, washing, shopping, inspecting the garden and lottie visiting I am ready for a rest ! Time perhaps to unwind with a glass of wine and a read. My favourite part of holiday preparations is choosing which books to take with me. I generally do not read as much in the summer months when outdoors is calling but holidays are different. This major decision takes me longer than deciding which clothes to take. This year's selection went down very well. My only regret as usual was that I did not take another couple of books as I finished them with time to spare.

This year I took the delightfully titled "The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, "The Behaviour of Moths" by Poppy Adams and "The Lady Elizabeth" by historian Alison Weir. The latter seems to have been swallowed up somewhere in the vast recesses of the camper van. Hopefully it will resurface sometime along with a jar of chestnut honey that we bought on our travels. My gardening book was a re-read of Elspeth Thompson's "The Urban Gardener". I probably enjoyed this more than I did first time around, as I can now relate to some of the author's experiences of the joys and pitfalls of having an allotment. With possibly another break later in the year I am intrigued to know what other folk are reading this summer and might recommend.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Blogging From Brittany

C IS FOR ?



CHATEAU !

Keeping with a French theme the above photo shows the three towers of the Château de Rohan, in the lovely little town of Josselin in Brittany.

I have been devouring delicious crêpes and crevettes - mmmmmmmmmmmmm - but alas have no photos to illustrate :)

You can find more creative posts on the letter C at ABC Wednesday hosted by Denise Nesbitt. I am greatly enjoying my holiday but am looking forward to getting my hands dirty again very soon. Au revoir !