Friday, 31 May 2013

End Of Month View ~ May 2013


As May departs the sides of the lane leading down to our house are awash with a froth of cow parsley. I can almost convince myself albeit briefly, that I'm living in the country and not just off a busy main road in a town. It's a magical time of year which never lasts quite long enough. It will not be long before either himself or next door comes out with a strimmer and it's back to reality.

It's my favourite time of year in the garden with all the plants that I love the most making an appearance although they are slightly behind schedule this year. I'm about to launch a search party though for aquilegia 'Nora Barlow' who seems to have gone absent without permission. I'm rather sad not to see her and will have to replace as soon as possible. The main work in progress has been planting up the new border at the bottom of the gabion wall. There are still shrubs and more perennials to plant but so far the following have been planted - hellebores, cardamine quinquefolia, astrantia 'Gill Richardson', pulmonaria 'Blake's Silver', hemerocallis 'Catherine Woodbury', and an actaea (not sure which one). I would like to repeat the astrantia and the hemerocallis but will have to wait to either find duplicate plants or divide the ones I've got. The pulmonaria will be coming out and moved elsewhere as I noted scorch marks on the foliage yesterday. The border is getting more afternoon sun than I thought it would do. I should have snipped off the flowers of the hellebores so that the plants will put all their energy into rooting but I'm greedy and want the seeds. I'm also going to plant some of my special snowdrops in there but am waiting until at least next month to see which ones I've got enough of to plant in small groups in the ground. Finally bags of 2011 leaf mould are lurking somewhere which I intend to spread over the border before covering it with bark. Hopefully the remaining bags of top soil, the wheelbarrow and other work paraphernalia will soon disappear.


Progress at the allotment has been slow going and hard work. I think I could start a knitting circle with the yanks of marestail that I've been pulling out. This major weed issue seems worse than ever and I'm wondering whether its a consequence of last year's wet summer. The rabbits have been munching the green tops from the shallots and gooseberry sawfly have decimated the foliage of the goosegogs. On the plus side I've planted 'Douce Provenance' peas, 'The Sutton' broad beans and 'Speedy' French beans. The new strawberry bed has been planted with 'Cambridge Favourite' plants and a new variety called 'Albion'. I did not plant any potatoes until the beginning of May when a bed of 'Pink Fir Apple' went in. These have just started to break through in the last week. There is still much shuffling of plants from home to the allotment to be done including sweet peas, courgettes, squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, sweetcorn, runner beans, more French beans, beetroot, leeks, onions and kale. The beginning of June is going to be busy.

I have been most restrained as far as plant purchases have been concerned with just three plants - a tayberry, sweet cicely and a begonia all bought at the garden club plant sale but June and a visit to a Plant Hunter's Fair is just round the corner!

Thanks to Helen over at The Patient Gardener's Weblog who came up with the excellent idea of an end of month view. Do pop over to see what she has been up to in her garden as well as visit other blogger's posts of what has been happening in their patches of earth.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Identity Crisis


It was that time of year again this weekend - my horticultural society's annual plant sale which was blessed with the most glorious weather. Despite my yearly heartfelt "never again!" utterances I had my own stall at the sale. I did not manage to assemble as much as in some previous years which was a combination of both events and the weather. With not as many perennials divided as usual this spring, there were fewer perennials to take so a good few annuals as well as veggie plants supplemented my stall. As usual the weather the day before did not exactly provide perfect weather for preparations. It was decidedly cool and most windy so both plants and humans got rather ruffled. My right hand man was excused from duties on the day this year because of work commitments but was amazed when I called upon his expertise for some serious plant identification.

You can see the plant concerned in the above photo as well as in the close ups of flower and foliage below. I think that the photo has accentuated its pinkness - it appears a softer pink to my eyes.


It is one of my favourite umbifillers and is either chaerophyllum hirstum 'Roseum' or pimpinella major 'Rosea'. I've bought both plants in the past but one plant and both labels have since departed. They are fairly similar but the chaerophyllum can be identified by virtue of hairy leaves (hence hirsutum) and by its apple scented foliage. Neither of us could see much in the way of hairiness but himself detected an aroma of apple whilst I could not try as I may. So there was much sniffing and debate but no definite conclusion. Oh what a dilemma when it came to deciding how to label the plant, so in the end the two flowering specimens I had went to the plant sale under an anonymous guise. The larger of the two was the first to be snapped up from the table followed in due course by all the perennials flowering or not. The half hardy nicotiana mutablis all went. I wish that I could remember exactly when I sowed these plants last year, as I had managed to get one into flower which I think sold the others. If the weather had been kinder they would have all been in flower but at least they were all sturdy and sizeable plants which will flower soon.

Tomato plants which I had were in great demand likewise peppers which I did not have nor did any of the other sellers. However you can guarantee that if we bring peppers next year they will not be wanted. The mints which were popular last year did not prove to be so this year so most of them came home with me. They will now need repotting now in time for the next sale in July when our allotment association will be fund raising at a local event. My respect for the professionals increases every time I take part in these events as it helps you to appreciate some of what is involved in getting plants to shows and plants fairs. They have my utmost respect especially in a spring such as this.

Now before you ask of course some new plants just had to come home with me. These were an allotment bound tayberry, a begonia for indoors and a sweet cicely - destination undecided.
P.S. If anybody grows either the chaerophyllum or pimpinella perhaps you can help solve my plant's identity crisis.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Musing In May


May 

'Now children may 
Go out of doors,
Without their coats,
To candy stores.

The apple branches
And the pear
May float their blossoms through the air,

And Daddy may 
Get out his hoe
To plant tomatoes
In a row,

And afterwards,
May lazily
Look at some baseball
On TV.'

- John Updike 1932- 2009

The illustration is the from Cecily Mary Barker's 'A Flower Fairy Alphabet'.

Of course it could just as well be Mummy who is planting those tomatoes! 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - May 2013


A couple of blooms from my allotment this month. Firstly it's apple blossom time - the three small trees at the allotment 'Katy', 'Sunset' and 'James Grieve' are smothered with flowers. Sadly the weather has been cool, wet and windy since the flowers appeared but I'm hoping that the allotment bees have had the opportunity to pollinate. I did not realise until yesterday just how fragrant apple blossom is. I stood and sniffed for some considerable time.

Next the white currant which is dripping flowers this spring and which will hopefully provide some delicious berries this summer. I now have three currant bushes - red, white and black. The white currant is the most productive and the sweetest  ~ 


Thanks to Carol you can enjoy a treasure trove of May blooms over at May Dreams Gardens. I'm off to visit there later on this unseasonable cold and rainy day with pen and paper in hand.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Waiting Patiently In The Wings ...


Not much opportunity for gardening this weekend - the weather and other activities conspired to press the hold button. On Saturday I went to a Bee Festival - yes that's a bee festival and not a beer festival. The highlight of the event for me was the opportunity to listen to a talk by the inspirational Pam Warhurst from Incredible Edible. More of that in a future post. Yesterday offered a welcome and rare opportunity for me to meet up with my younger brother who lives abroad. So apart from opening and shutting the greenhouse and some potting up on Saturday night when hailstones held me captive in the greenhouse there's not much to report.

However it's been good to catch breath and think. I've been mulling over the new area that I hope to start planting up soon. This is at the base of the gabion walls and it swallowed up some of the 4 tons of top soil that was delivered recently. The border is north facing and rather shady although it will receive afternoon sun. I am hoping to plant some hellebores in there and to start to plant some of my special snowdrops in that area too. I will wait until the snowdrops concerned go dormant before lifting them from their present pots to plant in the ground. There should also be enough room for some pulmonarias, brunneras, corydalis and other spring flowering woodland plants. You can see some of the plants that are possible candidates in the above photo waiting patiently in  the wings for me to decise their fate.

Maybe one or two shrubs at the back to disguise some of the wall but still at that can't make my mind up as to which ones stage. Himself is keen for me to make a start on planting as soon as possible, before the local cat population think that this area of soil might have been specially provided for them. I can see his point but need just a little bit more time to think. Is there any new planting up going on in your garden this spring?

Monday, 6 May 2013

Greening The Gabion


It was last May when the gabion project got underway and now a year later one of the finishing touches has been achieved. The wall itself was completed some time ago - the above photo shows but a section. The gabion wall was built after the land it is sited on had been cleared and raised. Originally the area sloped down rather alarmingly towards a small stream and was uncultivated. Now we have a clearly defined boundary and have reclaimed some land. The wall is is bigger than I envisaged and has looked rather grey and bleak during the winter. We had decided though to plant up the top with something green. Eventually the decision was made to go for sedums but we have been waiting for spring to order the sedums and then plant them. Preparation for planting began last Wednesday, when 'trays' of chicken wire lined with weed membrane were constructed to sit on top of the walls. Early on Friday morning 4 tons of top soil arrived, followed later on by a delivery of a special planting mix together with 99 sedums. As with all the best laid plans of mice and men, I had arranged to meet a friend for lunch and then had food shopping to do, so had to leave him to toil on his own. The above photo shows what the wall was looking like when I left the house. This is what I came home to :


Special planting mixture and 99 sedums all in place! It will take a while for it all to knit together and form a carpet, which will hopefully cloak not only the top of the wall but which will also then start to tumble down over the edge. However just that little bit of green has made a huge difference. Discussion on the rest of the area goes on and has proved to be rather a contentious issue. Himself seeing it as a car parking space whilst I see it as a planting place. After all there is only one driver in the household and we do have a garage. The debate goes on but in the meantime I have gained some extra planting space at the base of part of the wall. This has involved removing some of our sad mossy excuse for a lawn but no tears here. 

In the evening himself sat down to a well deserved pint then he started to worry. "What if a bird takes a fancy to the sedum for nesting material and flies off with it in its beak?" he asked. I was not able to reassure him that there was no likelihood of this. Then the wind started to rise with a vengeance and as the night wore on he envisaged the sedums flying off into the stratosphere. My idea of hairpins to keep them in place was scorned so I suggested that perhaps he should mount an overnight vigil. Needless to say he did not and needless to say that when we did a sedum count come morning all 99 were present and correct.