Saturday, 31 March 2012

"I Don't Believe It!"


Just as my first crop of 2012 salad leaves have reached optimum munching stage, the unnaturally warm March spell we have been blessed with, has given way to soup and stew weather. This seems to be the outlook for some time to come. Inspired by Veg Plotting's 52 Week Salad Challenge these are my earliest crop of salad leaves ever! They were sown in January under cover and have lived under cover so no slug or snail nibbled edges in sight. Overall challenge wise I'm falling slightly at the wayside, hence my absence from last week's monthly round up but hope to be munching more of my own salad ingredients very soon. The pea shoots are not far behind and lots of other salady germinations have occurred in the greenhouse. Meanwhile whether himself likes it or not, it's a case of lettuce eat lettuce this weekend although I predict a verbal rant worthy of one Mr Victor Meldrew. Cover your ears readers!

Monday, 26 March 2012

That Magical Hour

Pheeeeeew -  a weekend away from home was the source of constant fretting as I left the greenhouse and its occupants in himself's hands. There were all sorts of instructions and dire warnings issued prior to departure. "Spray those seedlings with the blue mister","Take the tomatoes and peppers in at night", "Make sure you fleece the cuttings if it gets cold,"Remember to close the greenhouse door at night" etc, etc. His head was spinning, my head was spinning and so was the greenhouse. It's funny how we perform all these tasks on autopilot, only realising how complicated it sounds when you ask somebody else to take over. What I had not bargained for was just how warm it would be for the time of year. Normally March can still be a time to worry about frost but this weekend with temperatures in the late teens, wilting and leaf scorch were more likely hazards for tiny seedlings. I am pleased to report that all was well on my return and himself can look me in the eye.

With domestic chores to catch up with today sadly gardening activities have taken a back seat but tonight himself has offered to cook, so I'm off into the garden before and after to play. What a difference having that extra hour of evening daylight makes!

The photo is off my autumn flowering cherry which usually has a second showing of flowers come spring. Liz over at Gwirrel's Garden was wondering in a recent post what had happened to this event - well here it arrived whilst I was away.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Greenhouse Year ~ March 2012

"Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too" - William Cowper, 1731 -1800

My greenhouse came home with us after the Malvern Spring Gardening Show in 2009 - well to be more accurate a receipt for a deposit came home with us, whilst the greenhouse followed a few weeks later. It is the best gift ever that himself has given me. We did not go to the show with the intention of buying a greenhouse - in fact the thought of getting another greenhouse had not entered my head. I was quite happy with its predecessor but himself persuaded me that I should go for a bigger model. He pointed out to me that as I was no longer working that I would be spending more time in the greenhouse and would appreciate having more space to fill. How could I resist such logic? There was also the extra incentive of a special show price so it was a done deal by the end of the day.

My new 10 foot by 8 foot de luxe greenhouse remained in its packaging until September of that year but was up and ready for me to use the following spring. The staging (which was made using planed slate batons) and the heated sand bench from my original greenhouse transfered happily into this bigger space. Both these structures were crafted by himself who luckily for me enjoys any activity that involves making and building. The greenhouse is situated just a short hop away from the house so I can get out there easily whatever the weather is doing.

The greenhouse is not heated as such but I manage to overwinter cuttings in it, as well as dahlia tubers and the odd tender perennial. The fleece comes out for extra protection if the temperatures dip well below zero. It is usually though not until March when it sees much in the way of activity. The tomato and pepper seeds which were started off towards the end of February in a heated propagator are now spending their days outside. They are whisked back into the house each night but when I start to prick them out they will have to toughen up and reside in the greenhouse full time. This will probably be next week.


The heated sand bench is now on and we think that it probably raises the overall temperature of the greenhouse by a degree or two as well as providing direct heat for for newly sown seed. Basking in the warmth at the moment are more tomatoes, nicotiana, night scented phlox, celeriac, tomatillo, alpine strawberries and broad beans. The sand bench takes up most of one side of staging but will be switched off in due course so that it can be used purely as a holding area. On the opposite side of the greenhouse are beetroot, peas, sweet peas, onions and a couple of sowings of perennials. The shallots planted in cells back in February have made their way to the allotment ready for planting later this week as they are showing green. I will also plant some directly into the ground.


The cuttings have all come through the winter and are now in need of potting up and hardening off before they get too leggy. A job for that extra hour of daylight next week. The dahlias will also need some attention soon.

So that's the state of my greenhouse  this month - at the moment it all seems under control but there is inevitable trouble bubbling under the surface. Before long it will all explode when the yearly greenhouse shuffle begins, when it seems that there will never be enough space for all that you have grown. 

P.S. The bottom tiers of the staging are being used for storage at the moment eg compost, vermiculite and various other sundries etc but will no doubt be revealed next month.

Thanks to Helen over at The Patient Gardener's Weblog who had the brilliant idea of sharing what's going on in our greenhouses each month. I think it might encourage me to be tidier!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Just For The Record

How do you do it? That is keep records of what is happening in your garden or on your allotment plot? Do you try and keep it in your head, write a daily journal, create comprehensive spreadsheets or just jot it all down on the back of a cigarette packet? I often wonder how people note what was planted when, who gave what plant to them, which nursery or show was it where you purchased a special plant, when did you sow your courgettes last year, take penstemon cuttings, details of catalogues you want to send off for etc, etc. All these snippets of information can be oh so valuable as reference points and memory joggers.

As for me pure memory is no longer reliable or accurate so I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that I must improve on record keeping. Sadly I have left a trail of uncompleted gardening journals in my wake. Thoughtful family members and friends have presented me with all sorts including five year diaries which look so inviting on dull winter days. Year 1 - I make a determined effort to jot down what is happening which in January is not a lot. I might make observations on the weather, note when seeds orders arrive or when the first snowdrops appear but usually by March my good intentions have evaporated. Sometimes later in the year I have had another flurry of activity - usually around July when there is not such a manic rush to be doing. This does not last long though and there are then months of blank pages. Year 2 sees a repeat of year 1 but by years 4 or 5 I need sunglasses to counteract the glaring blankness of the pages ~


My latest tomes are not as time challenging as a five year marathon. These are a Paperchase 'Garden Journal' (the most recent version is slightly different to mine with specific headings eg flowers, trees and shrubs) and a Moleskin 'Gardening Journal'. The former could fit the bill I think if I was to rise to the challenge. It is a reasonably sized spiral bound notebook including lined pages, grid paper as well as plain paper plus plenty of plastic pouches. I am still working out exactly what the pouches are intended for - my guess is maybe for empty seed packets. My Paperchase journal does have a few written observation but is now so stuffed full with magazine and paper snippets that these make opening it positively dangerous to contemplate  - so it just sits and looks at me reproachingly from the shelf. The Moleskin journal is much smaller, is divided by definite categories but can be personalised to some extent with a plethora of bewildering stickies. I should make quite clear that I do not have any shares or interests in either company!

When I started blogging I thought that I would use my blog in lieu of a written diary - in fact I even have a specific diary label but there are few entries under this heading. The intention was to write at least a weekly catch up post but this did not get off the ground. So this year in pursuit of my wish to keep record vital statistics I've decided to try out a different approach. I have used the pages feature offered by Blogger and have created two new pages which you can see at the top of this post. One is entitled 'Seeds 2012' and the other 'Planted'. The plan is that these will be able to act as a valuable aide memoire when I am trying to recall certain activities and happenings. I am trying to be disciplined and fill these in regularly. I am also jotting down the dates of all my sowings on the back of each seed packet as a back up just in case my blog ever disappears in a puff of smoke. Sorted? Ask me at the end of the year. In the meantime I would be intrigued to know if you keep records and if so how?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - March 2012


I have been waiting for the murk and mistiness to disappear and the temperatures to rise before venturing out into the garden - have given up at on the last score. The promised sunshine has not materialised so the temperature is floating around eight degrees centigrade. It has been grey, still and dry for days seemingly - I think ancient sailors might have declared that we are in the doldrums.

I missed out on GBMD last March but if I recollect correctly growth was as not as advanced at the same stage as it this year. Today I have been startled to see that the first flower open on a geranium phaeum, to see slivers of blue on brunnera and a small white heart just beginning to unfurl on a dicentra specatablis. Yes I know that the latter has had a change of name thrust on it but can't get myself to use it - it does not trip off the tongue easily or is attractive enough for this plant. The foliage on the dicentra seems rather stunted - maybe down to the recent distinct lack of the wet stuff.



 As usual the main stars of my garden at this time are hellebores with more waiting to be planted in the wings. There are also little daffs, primroses and pulmonarias. Then there is the little ornamental cherry - prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai', which himself bought me as a belated Valentine's Day present to replace the one that I had killed off. I was delighted when this first oh so thoughtfully came into flower on 10th March, which is the anniversary of our first ever kiss. I have a feeling that this usually peaks in April but have a feeling that that my new plant may well have been bought on under cover. I'm not complaining though.

As always a special thanks to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens  whose brilliant idea it was to share our blooms in the middle of each month.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday ~ 14th March 2011

An old friend ~ the first hellebore I planted in the garden ~ age unknown but a babe in the last century.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Fair Lady Galadriel







"Very tall Galadriel and Celeborn were, and the Lady no less tall than the Lord; and they were grave and beautiful. They were clad wholly in white; and the hair of the Lady was of deep gold… but no sign of age was upon them, unless it were in the depths of their eyes; for these were keen as lances in the starlight, and yet profound, the wells of deep memory."

~ extract from 'The Lord of The Rings', JR Tolkein.

Galadriel, is the very last of my snowdrops still in flower this year and is living up to her name. A most elegantly held large flower on a tall stem. She is new to me and was purchased last summer as a dormant bulb. She was selected from the gardens of the plantswoman Beth Chatto and was named after Galadriel, 'The Lady Of The Woods' in Tolkein's famous tale. 

Meanwhile unlike two years ago when my main clumps of snowdrops were still going strong on 17th March after a long cold winter, there are no flowers left now. Time for me to get in and divide some before they disappear back underground. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday ~ 7th March 2012


Auricula theatre at The Dower House Garden, Morville, Shropshire (10th April 2011) ~ home of Katherine Swift, author of 'The Morville Year' and 'The Morville Hours'.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

A Visit To Great Dixter


Well here the brief glimpse of spring has well and truly disappeared and we are back into winter. It was just a teasing glimpse of what is to come but most pleasant whilst it lasted. It's not weather to be outside today for although the rain has given way to some sunshine there's a cruel bite in the wind. So I'm staying put by and large today and catching up with indoor tasks. I have been looking back on last years photos deleting the blurry and almost identical ones as I go. 2011 was whirling by until I got to September. Prompted by a recent comment by Laura over at Patiopatch in response to this post and realising that I did not blog about our visit to Great Dixter in Kent in the middle of September, I thought that a post was well overdue. In fact it has been most remiss of me not to post about a most magical day.

Where to start? Great Dixter and Sissinghurst have both been gardens that I have wanted to visit for longer than I care to remember. My previous encounters with the fair county of Kent had been fleeting glimpses through train windows, en route to holiday destinations in France, so I was most excited when we booked last year to spend a week in a cottage in Kent. Finally I thought a chance to visit these renowned gardens. As it turned out we got to Great Dixter but not to Sissinghurst. What can I say as I think that it has all been said before by far more eloquent writers and it must also be one of the world's most photographed gardens and houses ~ 


What I will say is that this long waited for visit more than lived up to my expectations. The weather obliged, the planting was sublime and for once I was just as much taken with the house as with the garden. Oh and the delicious chocolate cake we munched sitting outside was an experience in itself. Great Dixter was timeless, tranquil, exciting, colourful and unpretentious and very much a living garden.

Another of the collections of pots for Laura ~ 


Since our visit I have been reading Christopher Lloyd's books with renewed enthusiasm and understanding. I also treated myself to 'Dear Christo - Memories of Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter' in which his family and friends describe in writing and photos what Great Dixter means to them. In the words of the introduction the book is "a reminder that each of us takes away something different from a visit to Great Dixter and that it remains with us long after we have left the gates."

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A Muse For March

"Daffodils,
That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty."

 - Shakespeare, 'The Winters Tale.'


The illustration is one of Cicely Mary Barker's exquisite flower fairies.