Friday, 31 August 2012

End Of Month View ~ August 2012



August was heralded in by the pink trumpets of the oriental lily 'Robina', which made its presence known by its scent, particularly noticeable on warmer evenings - well there were one or two! August was perhaps not quite as wet as the earlier summer months and the temperature rose. Finally there was more than the odd butterfly on the wing - one day last week saw a mass meeting of peacocks on the buddleja in the garden.

The least said about the allotment the better - please don't mention the word BEAN! I am now fast forwarding to next year and have already started to clear beds in preparation. There have been some enjoyable moments - lots of 'Anya' potatoes which although somewhat on the small side have proved delicious both hot and cold. We have enjoyed the first few apples. Still making my mind up about 'Katy' which produces the picture book rosy red apple that the wicked stepmother must have tried to tempt Snow White with. The texture once you bite into them is on the soft side though and I prefer a crisp crunchy apple. The tree that has been the most productive is 'Sunset' which will be harvested soon. The tomatoes are in full flow now but my earlier delight in the prowess of my cucumbers has been cruelly tempered. After an initial couldn't keep up with them fast enough phrase, I noticed that fruits were turning yellow when small and then withering. I'm not sure but think that this might be a result of overwatering. My cucumbers are growing in a community greenhouse and I suspect that other plot holders have been watering them too. However there are still some waiting for me to pick so all is not doom and gloom. There have been sporadic courgettes but no danger of a glut. The shallots and garlic have now been harvested and removed back home where they will no doubt be appreciated in the coming months.

Back to the garden and to my end of month view for May when I mentioned a new to me word  - 'gabion'. In case you are wondering a gabion is a wire cage that can be filled with rocks, concrete or soil. They can be used in various situations including landscaping and retaining walls. After himself has shedded blood, sweat and nearly tears the pile of rocks (plus many more) which featured in my May end of month post ~


is now looking like this ~


On the far side of the wall is a small stream which forms one of the garden boundaries. We have never really tamed this area which sloped down to the stream. The level of the land has been built up and we now have a clearly defined formal edge and have reduced the risk of accidents. Himself has had to raise the inspection tanks for our septic tank, hence the concrete mixer but he is now nearing the end of the construction phrase. There has been talk of planting sempervivums to soften the edges of the walls and then we need to mull over what we are going to do with this extra space. Hopefully there will be planting underway next month and into October.

This months plant purchases - monarda 'Fireball', heuchera 'Circus', day lilies 'American Revolution' and 'Strutter's Ball' finishing of with a mentha arvensis otherwise known as banana mint.

With thanks as always to Helen over at 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' who hosts the 'End Of Month View'.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Show - Stoppers


Have you noticed how that each flower show seems to have its own signature plant? This year at the Southport Flower Show, monardas or bergamot were very much the flavour of the day. They were leaping out everywhere you looked and were most enticing in a variety of hues of pinks, red, violet, lavender, purple and white. Sadly some of the specimens for sale were almost triffid like in their proportions - far too long and leggy but we eventually managed to track down some short and sturdy plants. I came home with a couple of plants of monarda 'Fireball' which you can see above. 'Fireball' is apparently a compact plant which is not as susceptible to mildew as some of the other monardas. My plants are now ensconced in the holding bay. I already have a couple of monardas - 'Gardenview Scarlet' which grows at the allotment and 'Prairie Night' and have clocked another couple for the wish list.

As well as providing invaluable late summer colour, being bee and butterfly magnets, monardas have most deliciously scented foliage. In her book 'Cottage Garden Flowers' Margery Fish wrote ; "The foliage of bergamot has a most beguiling perfume. It does not need to be picked up or touched to fill the air around with its haunting fragrance. Even in the depths of winter it makes its presence known if one is working in a border where it grows, when very often there is scarcely a leaf showing. I often feel that one ought to make more use of this gift from Heaven. True one can put a leaf in the teapot and change the flavour of ordinary tea into something more exotic, a few sprigs among the sheets with give lasting fragrance, and it gives the necessary bite to pot - pourri that nothing else can supply." You can add chopped leaves sparingly to salads and use them to flavour jams and jellies. Finally if all that isn't enough reason to find room for a monarda in your garden, the birds enjoy the rounded seedheads come the autumn.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Southport Flower Show 2012

Just a quick post on my visit to the Southport Flower Show on Thursday. Plans to go the show again with my friend D. had been in the pipeline for sometime but we were still ticketless, when I entered a competition via Twitter to win tickets to the show. I was delighted to be one of the three lucky recipients of a pair of tickets to the show. Thanks so much @southportflower - it meant more pennies to spend on plants.

Although it is not as large in scale or as ambitious as Chelsea, Hampton Court, Tatton etc. Southport is a most friendly and relaxing show to visit. There is plenty to keep you occupied, excellent catering and other facilities and no sense of being uncomfortably overcrowded. Moreover the show seems to improve as well as expand each year.

Highlights of the day for me were the unexpected glorious weather, wondering around the packed floral marquee, listening to a talk by Alys Fowler on 'Incredible Edibles' and the magnificent display put together by the North West Group of The Hardy Plant Society. The last two merit their own posts so I will cover them soon.

My only gripe was that it was difficult to hear Alys at times and I was sitting near the front. The guest speakers at Southport are tucked into a corner of the floral marquee, so that there is a busy and sometimes noisy thoroughfare very close at hand. It would be great if the speakers could have their own dedicated area.

Riddle of the day - the difference between a large gold medal and a gold medal.

The show is open for another day but if you can't get there it will be back even bigger and better I imagine in August 2013.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

This Week .....

This week ~


  • I have been enjoying the flowers of cosmos bipanatus 'Purity' waving in the breeze. These are a must for me to grow from seed every year
  • I am wondering about the origin of a solitary purple sweet pea which has appeared growing through some ground creeping ivy.
  • We will be eating some 'Anya' potatoes from the allotment. Quite nutty and delicious.
  • I am debating whether to relocate a very pink penstemon but am completely unable to decide where to.
What are you up to this week?

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

"Lavender's Blue"


"Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green
When I am king dilly dilly, you shall be queen"

~ lines from an English folk song which dates back to the seventeenth century.

There is something infinitely soothing about returning to the seasonal routines and rhythms  of childhood. I have just spent the weekend with my mother, where I was despatched out in to the garden on Sunday morning to gather stalks of lavender, which she dries and uses to scent her wardrobe and drawers. As well as providing scent lavender also acts as a moth deterrent. This task should be done on a dry day when there is no moisture on the flower stalks.  The morning is the optimum time to so this when the scent is strongest. It is best to cut the flowers just as they open but already open flowers can be used. They should be dried on open trays or hung up in small bunches out of direct sunlight. Mum dries hers in the airing cupboard.

I enjoyed the half hour or so which I spent snipping and dodging the bees hovering round the lavender bushes. This added element of danger was part of other childhood tasks - I was the chief assistant when it came to jam making. It always seemed to be warm when Mum made jam, so windows were invariably wide open. These sessions were punctuated with regular interludes of frantic wasp swatting, between standing over a simmering pot, scooping out a never ending of plum or damson stones. I certainly earned my pocket money!

August is a good month to take lavender cuttings so I came home with some slips to try to root.

The above illustration is one of Cecily Mary Barker's 'Flower Fairies'.

Friday, 3 August 2012

End Of Month View ~ July 2012

So that was July is done and dusted. Here the month did not get off to the best of starts, when we arrived home from holiday to find that our shed had been broken into and the lawnmower stolen. Fortunately  himself had mowed just before we left and the wet stuff came down again in torrents on our return, making lawn mowing a low priority for some time. I'm glad to say that my composting worms housed in same shed had not been tampered with although I did make myself feel happier by imagining the thief/thieves being covered in composting worms.

This post is going to be fairly brief as I do not have photos to illustrate. My computer continues to be in a state of sad decline. Whilst emergency surgery is under way I'm not downloading photos on to it . I can download them on to himself's laptop but the procedure seems all rather complicated, so I have not taken many.

A quick round up of the allotment which  has been a real challenge this year and all that seems to have really flourished is the weeds. This year they are giants. The strawberries mainly came and went mouldy with wetness whist we were away, so there were few bowlfuls of red goodness. Lots of raspberries but they did not taste much - lack of sunshine apparently. The apples are now noticeably swelling. White currants and black currants have done well but no red currants.  I plan to transplant all these currants as soon as possible along with the gooseberries. They are in a raised bed, along with some rather rampageous raspberries, so there is simply too much competition going on in a relatively small space.

 I'm now enjoying cucumbers, tomatoes, salad leaves, beetroot, courgettes (at long last), spring onions and broad beans. The shallots have been harvested and garlic is not far behind. Disappointments include my French beans - both dwarf and climbing varieties -  both have been decimated by molluscs. I  put in a second planting of climbing French beans last weekend but within a couple of days the leaves were already christened with bite marks. I have a few left over which I will plant up in a container at home where I can do a nightly snail/slug patrol. Maybe they might fare better. So far it's thumbs down the newly introduced 'Shiraz' purple mange tout pea which has been developed specifically for the British climate. They have grown well and are producing a good crop but I'm finding that the pods are not only tough but also tasteless. Back to my normal purple podded pea next year methinks unless I hear or read some favourable comments.  Surprise at the allotment - a duck nested in the corner of my strawberry bed. I have not seen the duck for sometime but there are three eggs in the nest. Where she has come from is a mystery as there is no serious water in the vicinity.

In the garden himself is continuing to work on his major project, which is going to give me some serious new planting space. Hopefully by the end of this month I will be able to report on this in more detail. As usual at this time of year I think that there is too little colour in the garden. Must do more to remedy this state of affairs.

New plant purchases - yet again admirable self restraint. I can count them on one hand - no on one finger. A visit to a local garden centre yielded a potful of lilium formosum pricei in the sales corner. Now I could not just leave it behind could I?

Thanks as usual to Helen over at 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' who kindly invites us to share our end of month views.