Friday, 27 November 2009

Plants Not To Be Sneezed At!



I am ashamed to say that until earlier this year I had always turned my nose up at them - heleniums that is. Then earlier this year these plants were the subject of one of my garden club meetings. Our speaker Martin Blow came from 'Special Perennials' a nursery near Hankelow, Crewe. I must admit that this was one of the meetings which on paper did not appeal to me. I almost stayed at home which would have been my loss. The nursery holds a National Collection of heleniums and Martin is a most knowledgeable and enthusiastic speaker.

Martin explained that these plants are known as "Sneezeweed" in America ( I am not sure why), whilst in Germany they are called “Sonnenbraut”, which translates as 'Sun Brides" . The latter seems a much more fitting name for these bright and cheerful flowers.

You will find heleniums in a range of sizes from 18 inches to 6½ feet. The taller varieties will need staking. With careful choice of varieties it is possible to heleniums bloom in your garden from June - November in the U.K. If purchasing a new plant the advice was to look out for a healthy young plant and make sure that there are no distorted leaves. When planting remember that plants need plenty of sun or at least part sun. Heleniums like moisture and should be watered in dry spells.

There is no need to feed them. Martin advised us not to subject these plants to 'The Chelsea Chop' but instead to do some judicious snipping, when the plants are 6-7 inches high. Most heleniums are self branching anyway. A September snip of dead flowers is recommended which encourages plants to continue flowering until October/November time. Once established in the garden It was recommended that plants should be divided every three years, either in late March or early April.

After the lowdown on cultivation we were treated to slide show. I managed to make a note in the dark of the plants which particularly appealed to me. These included :
Vivace - red
Bruno -red
Dauerbrenner - yes,you guessed right - red !
Ruby Tuesday - red and my must have!
Walhorn - new to the U.K. and again red. Notice a pattern?

What does this say about me ? Once again I am steering away from yellows and oranges even in the gloom. However I surprised myself and came home with my first helenium, an unexpected gift in September - Helenium Sahin's Early Flowerer. According to 'Special Perennials' -"The flower colour is variable from reddish-orange in hot weather through to egg-yolk yellow in cool weather." You can see its flowers in the photo at the top of the page.

I hope to add one or two more heleniums before too long in my effort to extend late summer/early autumn colour and interest in my garden, something it sadly lacks at the moment. I have not told himself yet that I would like to visit the nursery and its garden which opens under the National Gardens Scheme next year. The nursery also attends a number of plant fairs especially in the north west of England. For those of you who are too far away 'Special Perennials' offers a mail order service and its brilliant online catalogue is a useful resource, especially the garden diary and growing guides.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Mini - Me

S IS FOR?



SEEING DOUBLE!

My neck nearly swiveled 180 degrees when we strolled past this little Breton cottage one summer evening earlier this year. Sadly the tree obscured the BIG cottage so I could not get the complete picture.

Saunter over to ABC Wednesday so that you can savour more posts on the letter S.

P.S. If you would to enter a draw to celebrate the first official anniversary of my blog please leave a comment here. You could win a special little short story about a special bunch of sweet peas !

Monday, 23 November 2009

Celebrating With 'A Bunch Of Sweet Peas'!



To celebrate my blog's official first anniversary today (date of first post that other folk apart from me could read -I hit the publish button a couple of days earlier than intended) I would like to send somebody 'A Bunch of Sweet Peas'. Alas these will not be handpicked fresh fragrant flowers from my garden but a copy of a delightful little book of the same name. This is based on a real story about a gardener rising to a challenge and succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.



I originally created my blog in April 2005 but for various reasons posts were few and far between until November 2008, when I tentatively dipped my toes in the water as I revealed myself to all and sundry. This came about mainly because although I was enjoying reading other people's blogs I felt uncomfortable. It seemed as if I was visiting other people's gardens but not inviting them back to mine. Also from last July onwards I had more time on my hands after finishing work. I wanted to do something creative to keep up my word processing skills and the old grey matter ticking over, so more regular blogging was one activity that fitted the bill. I was greatly encouraged by VP at Veg Plotting who was my very first reader and then by comments from other folk in the blogging community. Then when I joined Blotanical the floodgates opened and the rest is history!

I would like to say a thank you to all you lovely folk who take time to visit and comment. Your words, thoughts, practical help and suggestions have given me so much pleasure. I am so pleased to have met you and would dearly love to send you all a bunch of sweet peas! However that not being possible there is one bunch on offer. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by the end of the day on Saturday 5th December and team greentapestry will then chose a winner. I will announce the name of the recipient in a post as soon as I can after that date. I hope that the rest of you will accept a virtual bouquet. You deserve it !

Saturday, 21 November 2009

'I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In'


~ almost a month earlier than last year. This is galanthus plicatus 'Three Ships' which is much more advanced than it was at this time last year. I can only put this down to the mild autumn we have had up to now. The flower is now on the point of opening fully but it has been too dull and/or wet to take another photo today. Last year I was delighted to see that my original bulb had multiplied. This year it looks as if I may now have four bulbs ! I had a good look at my small collection of galanthus or snowdrops earlier this week, on the rare occasion when there was a break in the rain. Quite a few pots revealed little snouts of green already poking through the grit dressings, so I hope that it cools down soon to slow them down. Apart from 'Three Ships' none of the others should flower this side of Christmas. I can't wait to see the latest additions to the collection i.e. 'Icicle', 'Greenish' and 'Cowhouse Green' hopefully flower this winter for the first time.

I was please to be the recipient of this Best Blog Award earlier this week, most kindly bestowed upon me by Jo over at 'The Good Life' .Thanks so much Jo. I am glad that you think that my blog is worthy of such an award and I appreciate your regular comments.



I must now pass this award on to other blogs who I think deserve such an award along with these instructions ~

Post the award on your blog along with the name of the person who passed it on to you and link to their blog. Choose 15 blogs which you have recently discovered and you think are great and pass it on to them. Don't forget to leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Well I am afraid that I am going to break the rules and instead would like to nominate ten blogs that I have recently discovered and have been enjoying. I hope that they will accept this award. If you have not already come across these blogs I hope that will visit them soon. They are :

Wisteria and Cow Parsley
Green Theatre
Jean's Garden
Gardening With Latitude
The Violet Fern
Tales From A Cottage Garden
Midges,Moss and Mud
Gwirrels' Garden
Blue Gate Gardens
Secrets of A Seed Scatterer

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Enchanted Forest

R IS FOR?



ROCKS!

Deep in the heart of Brittany, France lies 'La ForĂȘt de Huelgoat', the last vestiges of a vast ancient forest, which allegedly once spread across vast swathes of Brittany. 'La ForĂȘt de Huelgoat', suffered immense damage in the great storm of 1987, which caused devastation in southern England and northern France. However replacement planting has taken place and it is still a sight to behold. Amidst the oaks and beeches lies a glorious chaos of majestic granite rocks, some of which are named after the forms they resemble. In a place like this you can imagine coming across korrigan, the fairy like spirits of Breton folklore but perhaps the dull skies were not to their liking ~








Nearby is the little town of Huelgoat, where we spent a couple of
rainy days earlier this summer. Despite the weather there was much to keep us occupied apart from our excursion into the forest. It was not quite the Tour de France but we enjoyed an afternoon as spectators of a most serious bike race, some 25 circuits round the lake ~



The day then drew to a close and a new one began with riotous fireworks over the lake at midnight ~




Rush over to ABC Wednesday now for a ruck of Rs !

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Between The Rainbows and Sprinkles





Between the rainbows and many lengthy sprinkles I have been :

  • Getting much pleasure from the new bird feeding station that I can now gaze out at from the comfort of the settee. I had spotted one in the RSPB catalogue and had dropped a hint to himself that this would make a welcome Christmas gift. Out and about on my travels though I came across the same model at good old Wilkos for less than half the price, so Christmas has come early. There have not been so many birds during this month's wet spell but I have seen robins, great tits, blue tits and blackbirds visiting. Now I need to get a photo whilst they are munching.
  • Running regularly into the greenhouse to see whether my sweet peas have germinated. These were sown on 1st November and I have been watching their activity or lack of it like a hawk. Well yesterday I could not curtail my patience any more and did what I should not. I gently stirred beneath the compost with my finger and was so pleased to see signs of green. I used to sow sweet peas in October to overwinter in a cold greenhouse but found that they they made too much growth before winter and became rather straggly by spring. So last year I moved to a November sowing which worked well. I have sown 'Matucana' again for its scent. I have also sown 'Albutt Blue' which is supposedly also highly scented.
  • Finding it impossible to get to the allotment to sow my Solent Wight garlic but I have planted some cloves in cells in the greenhouse. I have also sown some 'Douce Provenance' peas in cells to overwinter in the greenhouse. I have not done this before so it will be interesting to see how they do. The forecast predicts a break in the wet stuff for Tuesday so I hope to do the business then at the allotment with the remaining garlic.
  • Reading avidly - books, catalogues and camera magazines but more on these subjects to follow at a future dare.
  • Finding it harder and harder to walk past the sulking pile of unplanted bulbs. In fact I think that the pile is multiplying daily so I have resisted Avon Bulbs tempting sale, well up to now anyway. My conscience may stir me into action soon says she hopefully.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

"The Owl And The Pussy Cat"

Q IS FOR?



QUINCE AND APPLE DAY!

"They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon
They danced by the light of the moon." - Edward Lear


Not so long ago when the leaves were still hanging on to the trees, we spent an afternoon here where an Apple and Quince Day was taking place.

We walked past this beautiful gate leading to the walled garden where ~



There was a storyteller underneath the apple trees recounting tall tales of dragons and far away lands ~



A quince trail was taking place - sadly no signs of the owl and the pussycat,but there were were old friends to greet - Flora and the Three Little Pigs.





There were old varieties of quinces and apples to ponder over ~






Before walking underneath this living archway leading to the kitchen garden ~



Where there was still of blaze of colour from dahlias and pumpkins ~





Back to the one of the stalls to buy a jar of locally produced quince fruit cheese and then out of the garden, taking our leave by the way of this wall ~



On a quest to find out more about the letter Q quick over to ABC Wednesday now !

Friday, 6 November 2009

The Grouch



Finally emerging from my hiding place under the bedclothes after the cacophony of noise that accompanies Guy Fawkes Night, I forced myself out today to stock on supplies for the weekend. The smokey aftermath haze had evaporated and there is a much cooler feel to the air. Like Elizabeth over at Welsh Hills Again, November is one of my two least favourite months of the year the other being February. I think that Thomas Hood's poem 'November' sums it up so well - here is just an extract but it says it all :

"No sun - no moon !
No morn - no moon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease
No comfortable feel in any member
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds ! -
November!"

Further to this just a few other observations that I have made me even more grouchy :
  • Nearly all the leaves on the trees have now floated off into the stratosphere. We live in a hollow just off a busy main road. In summer the leaves give us a lot of cover but at this time of year the feeling of privacy disappears. I almost feel naked now when I go out into the garden. The traffic also seems noisier - it probably isn't but it seems so.
  • Going up the lane from the house to the main road I notice that more empty bottles and cans have been discarded at the side of the lane . Once more I need to don the rubber gloves, find a bucket and go and clear up after somebody else. I could bat for England on the subject of litter but will save that for another day. A large stick carrying the remnants of a firework has also descended from the skies. I wonder about the statistical odds of being hit on the head from a descending firework on Guy Fawkes night. This thought will keep me occupied for the rest of the day.
  • After nearly a week of copious amounts of rain what once was a golden ground cover of crunchy leaves is now a slithery morass of slush. Yeeeeeeeugh !
  • Aforesaid rain has prevented any work at the allotment this week. I had been busy incorporating manure into the raised beds but have been stopped in my tracks. The rain has also preventing any bulb planting in the garden. The pile of bulb packets sits sulking giving me dirty looks whenever I pass. When will the rain cease? After a couple of dry hours it has just started yet again.
  • It seems to be full blown Christmas in the shops. Where has the magic gone ? Why can't they wait until 1st December before putting up the decorations, lights and other paraphernalia ?
  • Last though not least. The patch of eczema on my hand, that plagues me every winter has appeared in the last couple of days. Now maybe that's the main reason behind my general state of extreme grouchiness.

Oh well there's a ray of sunshine in all this doom and gloom. At least I can look forward to curling up on the settee to watch the glitter, glamour and grace that is 'Strictly Come Dancing' on November Saturday nights. Does wonders for a girl's spirits.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

My Second Home

P IS FOR ?



"How luscious lies the pea within the pod."
~ Emily Dickinson

MY ALLOTMENT PLOT which is my second home during the warmer months. It is where I grew some perfectly podded peas - the first pickings were in June.

Please have a peek at ABC Wednesday, where there will be plenty more posts all pertaining to the letter P.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

GBMD November -''Gathering Leaves"



Artist- Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

Oh nnnnnnnno it's Nnnnnnnnovember - the one month of the year that I struggle to find anything positive to say about ! This poem though never fails to make me smile as I think of leaf collecting with spoons. The rain has stopped and I am off to try. Could be a new technique to get on top of the ever gathering mounds.

'Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop? "

~ "Gathering Leaves" - Robert Frost.


You can enjoy more thoughts, poems and musing at Garden Bloggers Muse Day hosted by Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.