greentapestry : 2017

Saturday 23 December 2017

Almost There

"'Christmas Eve', Fanny said. 'Christmas Eve'. As if saying it aloud would make her better able to believe it. 'Christmas Eve', and she watched her own breath puff out like pale smoke on the cold air of her bedroom, and turn to a fine mist on the windowpane.

Christmas Eve, was the best of it all, the waiting and laughing, the sense of excitement through the house, like one of Nancy's black pots kept simmering. She thought of the rest of the day, and the evening to come, and saw a gleam of brightness cast forward from the blazing gold of Christmas Day, lancing towards her like the light streaming under the crack beneath a half-open door.

Christmas Day, Fanny thought, is like the room beyond that door, a bright, bright room, an Aladdin's cave of treasure, the tree with its candles and the banked up fire all glowing, and the pile of shining presents, and the Christmas table, heavy with good things, the smells and the laughter and the love and oh, the bright brightness. But for now, she was standing just outside, in the waiting room, and the light from the room that was Christmas Day, just reached her, just touched, and she could feel her heart beat very fast'."

~ an extract from 'Lanterns Across The Snow' by Susan Hill.

Illustration by Lena Anderson.

Well, we're almost there - Christmas Eve is oh so tantalisingly close. Enjoy that most magical day of Christmas as well as the days to follow. Wishing my lovely blogging friends a most Happy Christmas!❤️ xxx

Sunday 3 December 2017

Undercover ~ #my gardenrightnow

Today's garden related activities have taken place under cover in the shelter of the greenhouse, where I've been tending to my collection of special named snowdrops. I can't remember exactly when my addiction started but it was somewhere before the turn of the century. Over the years the number of snowdrop varieties has slowly increased and now this collection gives me great pleasure during the bleakest month of the year. My bulbs have come from specialist nurseries, eBay and as swaps or gifts from kind friends including fellow bloggers. Bulbs can be alarmingly expensive especially the new varieties but if you are prepared to wait prices do come down over the years. My greenhouse is close to the house so even on the coldest or wettest days I can pop out and see what is going on. As well as being able to see the flower markings at close quarters, I can also lift the pots up to inhale their delicate but distinct scent.

Growing snowdrops in pots can be a challenge especially when it comes to overwintering them. Originally all the pots were outside all year round but I lost a substantial number of bulbs following the cold winter of 2010/2011. Since then the pots come inside the greenhouse for the winter usually sometime towards the middle or the back end of November. The greenhouse door is opened on all but the coldest days and a small electric fan heater prevents the temperature dropping down below zero. Watering takes place at least once a month sometimes more depending on the weather but is always done during relatively mild spells. The pots will be returned to the big outside world sometime in the spring.

This autumn has seen the snowdrops come into growth earlier than I can ever remember. Today was chance to check all the pots where there appeared to be no visible sign of life. I wanted to remove any definite no shows in case those pots were harbouring any disease that might spread to neighbours. I found the odd pot where bulbs had completely disappeared. The good news was there were all varieties which I have more than one either growing in another pot or in the garden. The long term plan is to establish as many varieties as I can out in the garden and reduce my potted collection to a top twenty. Apart from the fact that they take over the greenhouse in the winter, lifting the crates in and out of the greenhouse has become more and more of a Herculean effort each year.

Why not join in the fourth and last in 2017 of this seasonal challenge to share what's been going on in your garden or allotment right now. This is a special festive or hope edition so I have focused on what gives me a fix of hope every winter. If you want to join in you can either put together a blog post or post a photo on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #my gardenrightnow

A BIG thanks to the lovely Michelle over at Veg Plotting who came up with this inspirational idea.

Monday 20 November 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ Hanging On In There

Today's 'In A Vase On Monday' includes a couple of late lingerers together with a piece of leafy loveliness. The contents are as follows :
  • A spray of flowers from Rosa 'The Fairy', a small shrub bearing clusters of little pink pompoms, usually from July onwards until late November/early December. Looking back she has occasionally flowered in June. She has fine glossy foliage and unlike a near neighbouring rose 'New Dawn' does not usually succumb to black spot.
  • Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Blackfield' - another new purchase which has been giving me much pleasure. The flowers look darker to the eye than they appear on the camera.
  • Some foliage from heuchera Little Cutie 'Frost'. Despite the irritating name this has a most striking leaf. As the leaves were attempting to merge anonymously into the background I removed one just for the purposes of this photo. It has since been replaced to plug the gap. Apparently there is a whole family of Little Cuties but this is the first that I've come across. 
I've just had a good peek over at 'Rambling In The Garden' and see that our hostess Cathy has also included a new to me heuchera in her vase this week. Coming across and learning about new plants is but one of the pleasures of sharing vases on Mondays. Thanks as always Cathy for the opportunity.

Monday 13 November 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ "Say Cheese!"

'In A Vase On Monday' is celebrating its fourth anniversary this week. Many, many thanks to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' for bringing this element of fun into the week and for your encouragement and generosity as the hostess of this meme. It takes much dedication and energy to grow and sustain a meme over this length of time. I'm in awe of your achievement.

My vase was picked yesterday when to say it was somewhat nippy is an understatement. The skies were blue and sunny but what a bitter north west wind was blowing about. Still I thought that I would wrap up well and get out there. Cathy had asked us to think outside the box when it comes to our choice of vases this week. Initially my mind drew a blank but when I saw this empty Stilton cheese pot in a charity shop early last week I thought that it might fit the bill.

Pickings are getting sparser as the weeks go on but I found a few bits and pieces namely :
  • A few seed heads of lunaria annua.
  • Some twiggy fluff from clematis jouiniana x 'Praecox'.
  • Spent ivy flower heads.
  • A couple of brunnera macrophylla leaves.
  • Some chrysanthemum flowers - the plants came to me via a fellow allotment plot holder. The variety is unknown. At this time of year their colour is most welcome.
  • Sprigs of the white flowering persicaria amplexicaulis 'White Eastfield'. This is a new purchase bought at a plant fair at the beginning of October. I am already smitten. Not only does it provide some late colour but it seems to fading gracefully.
  • Especially for Cathy, a trio of galanthus 'Faringdon Double'. This is an early flowering snowdrop which seems to be especially early this year. I took the pot into the greenhouse for a couple of hours to encourage the flowers to open but they would not oblige. 
The little wooden mouse was a holiday gift from himself.

A big thanks Cathy for enriching the garden blogging community over the last four years with such fabulous vases! 

Wednesday 8 November 2017

A Wednesday Worisit ~ Fishface

We came across this fungus growing in the shingle last month when we visited the fabulous RSPB nature reserve at Dungeness. Our fungus identification book has annoyingly disappeared, so until I find out a name I'm referring to it as Fishface. Himself says it reminds him of a burnt omelette! What do you see when you look at it? Maybe you know the name and can solve the mystery.

Saturday 4 November 2017

November Thoughts

"From the window of my writing room I look out over the garden. I shouldn't; my mind should be on the writing. But it's hard not to - especially this year, especially now, when the annual pageant of autumn colour has been playing out with even greater theatrically than usual. Sitting at my window , mug of tea cooling in my hand, I'm an audience of one, a packed house, all attention ......

While I sit glued to the window, the book languishes unwritten, the bulbs unplanted, the apples unpicked, the garden untidied. But there are two messages that should be engraved on every gardener's heart at this time of year: don't panic ... and don't feel guilty. Allow yourself time to enjoy the garden, time to look. After all the trees won't mind if the fruit isn't picked, and the birds will bless you for it - and for the straggle of dead and dying herbaceous stalks which will provide them with seeds and shelter all winter long.

And there is still time to plant those bulbs. I have often been reduced to planting tulips at Christmas or even on New Day's Day, and they seem to come to no harm. There is even an argument for delaying planting now that our autumns and early winters are so mild and wet".

~ an extract from 'The Morville Year' by Katherine Swift.
~ illustration by Rachel Grant.

Monday 16 October 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ 'Last Of The Summer Wine'

Yesterday was a such balmy gentle day marked with some decent spells of sunshine. If you weren't aware of where we are up to on the calendar pages you may well have thought it was a summer day. I enjoyed pottering about in the garden for a good part of the day and picked my flowers for 'In A Vase On Monday', knowing that it would be payback time weather wise today. This morning's leaden sky has given way to blue skies, but it is getting windier by the moment as the remnants ex-hurricane Ophelia nears. We also had a most spooky red sun pierce through the leaden grey sky this morning. Apparently the colour is due to the winds dragging in both dust from the Sahara and debris from forest fires in Spain and Portugal. Here as readers from the U.K. will know today marks the anniversary of the Great Storm of 1987which fortunately didn't do much damage in the north of England but had absolutely devastating effects in the south. My sister has memories of probably the most frightening night of her life at home with just her son to keep her company. He was a mere ten days old at the time. Anyway the Great Storm is another story so for now back to this week's floral gatherings.

In my vase (rescued from Mum's kitchen cupboard) are :
  • 'Blush Noisette' roses. This is a climbing rose which I purchased as a bare -root plant in 2009. I had seen it flower in a rose garden the year before but still could not envisage the parcel of twigs that arrived in the post ever morphing into such beauty. I'm pleased to report that they did. The main flush of flowers is in the summer but it does repeat. At the moment there are quite a few stems bearing still to open buds. Their fate will obviously depend on the weather over the next few weeks.  
  • Some sprigs of mentha suaveolens or apple mint, which like the rose is subtly but oh so deliciously scented. It's a hardy perennial which disappears underground in the winter. It makes for a good container plant either on its own or with friends.
  • Some cosmos bippinatus 'Pysche White' flowers. I saw this cosmos in flower on one of the stands at the Malvern Autum Show last year and made a note of its name then. The flowers are beautiful but are really not suited for cutting as the stems are on the short side. If I grow it next year it will be just to look at and for the bees who really enjoy this plant. 
  • The blue is scutellaria incana also known as skullcap which is a late flowering perennial. It does self seed a bit but not to a nuisance extent. It also seems to be in flower for quite some time. I must make a note of its flowering period next year.
Well I'm off to see what  delights our hostess Cathy from 'Rambling In The Garden' is featuring in her vase today. Do have a look if you haven't already.

Monday 9 October 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ Latecomer

A lightening snip and plonk for 'In A Vase On Monday' as I'm catching up with all sorts after a week's holiday. For some reason dahlia 'Bacardi' has only just come into flower and was a most welcome surprise when we returned home late yesterday afternoon. A note has been made to get the tuber planted in the ground next year rather than leave it in a pot. It has probably not had as much room as it would have liked so not surprisingly has been sulking. There are also a few sprigs of plecanthrus argentatus flowers in the milk bottle vase. This late flowering tender perennial came to me by way of one of my allotment neighbours last year. Unlike the dahlia it makes an excellent container plant and also has most attractive silvery foliage.

Thanks as always to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' for hosting. I'm looking forward to seeing what is residing in other vases this week.

Monday 25 September 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ 'Ticket To Ride'

Returning home with us from the allotment yesterday were more apples, raspberries (some for porridge, some to be ginned), the last of the potato harvest and some flowers or so we thought. However some stowaways had sneaked on board in the shape of the little snail that you can see above and below, a green shield bug and an earwig. We eventually caught up with the first two extra passengers but the latter seemed escaped in transit. It wasn't until that I set to photograph the dahlias that I spotted the snail who seemed to be having great fun showing off its mountaineering skills. The dahlia has been flowering all summer now. It was all of a couple of pounds from Wilkos and has been growing at the allotment for a few years. The label is long gone but I'm reasonably certain that it's 'Arabian Night'.

The second vase contains more allotment pickings in the shape of cosmos 'Rubenza', a pink cosmos (the seed packet said 'Purity' - something went seriously amiss there!) and dahlia 'Magenta Star'. The photo seems to make the dahlia more pink than it is. It has beautiful dark foliage which has a sheen to it whilst the flowers are most striking.

Thanks as always to our hostess Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' who gives us the most welcome opportunity to share our 'In A Vase On Monday' posts come rain or shine.

Monday 18 September 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ Dripping

We seem to be positively dripping towards the autumn solstice here - day after day where rain appears in some form or another. My flowers were picked and photographed yesterday between the rain showers and downpours that were not initially forecast.  I thought that I should get ahead whilst I had the chance in case today turns out to be a case of more of the same.

In my 'In A Vase On Monday' today are some of my late summer favourites namely :

  • A very pink penstemon, name unknown ( possibly 'Apple Blossom' ) which seems to have two flowering flushes each year. It is both reliable, easy going and pest free. What's not to like apart from the colour maybe? 
  • Eurybia divaricata (formerly aster divaraticus) - a woodland plant which has attractive wiry ebony stems topped with clouds of little white daisies. As the flowers age the tips of the petals take on a lilac-mauve shade.
  • Lysimachia barystachys, aka white loosestrife - this hardy perennial is a newcomer to the fold as I only purchased the plant earlier this summer at the RHS Tatton Flower Show. I came across it on the brilliant Plant Heritage stand, which I wish I had discovered earlier in the day as my hands were pretty full by then. So far so good. Apparently it has good autumn foliage so I'm looking forward to seeing the leaves change colour.
  • Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail' - this is a moisture lover which sends out glowing red tapers of tiny fluffy flowers from mid summer to early autumn above lance shaped leaves.
  • Leycesteria formosa, aka the Himalayan honeysuckle or pheasant berry. This is a deciduous shrub, which has attractive stems and pendulous flowers with bracts, which eventually give way to deep purple berries. This year it seems to be positively dripping with flower and ahead of itself. In previous years it has shown colour as late as mid November but I think that it will give up the ghost before then this year. It is particularly recommended for partial shade or woodland gardens and seems to be one of those unsung easygoing shrubs that apart from pruning just gets on and does it own thing. My shrub is a good few years old and I can no longer remember how I came by it. It does have a tendency to self seed but it can be also propagated either by softwood cuttings. If you try sowing seed from your own shrub be prepared for really sticky fingers as you open up the ripened berries and try to extract the seed. It's great fun. 

Finally not actually in the vase but lurking by it some stems of cosmos bipinnatus 'Pysche White', which I've grown at the allotment this year. I usually grow 'Purity' but thought that I would have a change this year. They just didn't look right in the vase but I thought it was a shame to leave them out. Picked in yesterday's damp gloom they were still a major source of attraction for honey bees. 

A quick peek has revealed that our hostess Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' is sharing enough sunny goodness with us today to dispel any rain day blues. I'm looking forward to seeing what other flowers are starring in vases this week.

Saturday 16 September 2017

"I Don't Care What The Weatherman Says....."

But I do, I do and regularly check multiple weather forecasts, keep up with a local weather related Twitter feed, monitor my own little weather station as well as cast my eyes and nose to the skies for the sign of imminent rain or the smell of snow depending on the time of year. Yes you can smell snow before it arrives! Thinking about it my interest in the weather was piqued at an early age when I was appointed as a weather monitor at primary school. This exalted position involved a daily venturing out on the school roof which was exciting in itself and would certainly not be allowed in this day and age. Once out there were temperatures to read and record, a rain gauge to peep into and I'm convinced that my duties involved the far from scientific technique of waving a hanky about to establish the wind direction. 

Spending some time traveling on trains last weekend gave me the chance to catch up with some of that backlog of garden magazines, including the September issue of the RHS magazine 'The Garden' (July and August are still in the to be read pile). My eyes were drawn to a snippet in the news section (page 8, if you have a copy) entitled 'Weather Watching', with mention of a free online course starting this month,"open to to anyone interested in, or wanting to learn more about, weather and its forecasting. Participants do not need any science or weather knowledge".

This is a course that has been devised by the Met Office in conjunction with the University of Exeter under the umbrella of FutureLearn, an organisation which runs a variety of online courses. This particular course runs for four weeks and involves two to three hours of learning each week. The last week of the course includes a "gardening module with content supported by the RHS Gardening in a Changing Climate report, and covers a topics such as frost, and adapting your garden for climate change. There are also options for photographers and walkers".  I'm hoping that it might be possible to do both the gardening and the photography modules but still need to check that out.

Further investigation revealed that you can study at your own pace and that there are bite sized sections. Well with the darker nights setting in I made the decision to enrol. I have just dipped my toes into the water and am slowly navigating my way through week one. So far so good. A good starting point is the really friendly discussion board before moving on to the more serious stuff. I will report back at some stage, but if the idea of such a course appeals it is not to late to join me on this journey. The course only officially started on the 11th September with a completion date of 22nd October. After that you can no longer access the course material unless you pay for it. All you need is some free time and internet access. You can find out more detailed information here.

I've had one eye to on the sky whilst I've been writing this. It's looking brighter than yesterday but it's cool out there. Shopping calls and a coat and umbrella are the order of the day methinks. At least it's not too windy to put an umbrella up. What's the weather like where you are?

Monday 11 September 2017

In A Vase In Monday ~ Between The Showers

Getting a vase together has been somewhat of a challenge today - the weather is more like the middle of October than September - wild, windy and wet. However compared to the dreadful hurricane that has battered the Caribbean and Florida we can't complain. There was a suitable gap between the showers late this afternoon and I dashed out, picked and then took a quick photo before my vase disappeared over the edge of the railings. What you can't see is the twelve foot or so drop down into the stream behind.

In today's 'In A Vase On Monday' are a spray of rose 'The Fairy', ammi visnaga 'Compact', symphyotrichum (the artist previously known as aster) 'Little Carlow' and clematis jouiniana' Praecox'. The vase was a small teapot at some stage in its life before it ended up in the charity shop I found it in.

The forecast is more of the same so there were will be plenty of time for vase hopping, once we have tended to pressing domestic tasks such as making damson gin. Thanks as always to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' for so graciously hosting every week come rain or shine.

Monday 4 September 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ Just Because ...

This week's 'In A Vase On Monday' ingredients are all from the allotment and with the exception of the marjoram  have all come from seed. In my vase are :
  • A couple of heads of a pale orange dahlia, which I think originated from a 'Bishop's Children' mix grown a couple of years ago. They flowers suffered slightly in transit. Note to self - must clutch flowers in my hands on return from allotment rather than cram them into the top of my bag.
  • An orange cosmos - either 'Diablo' or 'Tango'.
  • Tagetes - possibly 'Cinnibar'.
  • Sweet pea 'Eclipse' - now a regular in my sweet pea sowings. In the photo they look more pink than their true colour which is a purple/mauve shade.
  • Centaurea 'Black Ball'. I didn't sow any cornflowers this year as I noticed some self-seeders appearing. I had too many plants last summer so somewhat ruthlessly culled the seedlings down to just five, not knowing whether they would produce blue or black flowers or a mix. I would have been happy with any combination. They were showing signs of making sturdy plants, when they were given a brutal 'Chelsea Chop' by the rabbits that are now unfortunately regular visitors to the allotment site. Only one plant went on to flower. I'm now planning to sow some cornflowers directly at the allotment this month, in the hope that they will make for tougher plants before the rabbits get hungry next spring. We are also planning to supplement our rabbit defences over the next few months to try to keep them out.
  • Marjoram - which is not only has sweetly scented foliage but bears flowers which attract the pollinators.
The little glittery elephant is there just because I think that it goes well with the flowers and the vase. It was a charity shop purchase made locally earlier this year.

Oh I see that our hostess Cathy from 'Rambling In The Garden' is sharing a delicious looking coffee and cake combination this week.  Now who could resist popping in to see to see her and all the other vases that she will be generously sharing.

Saturday 2 September 2017

#mygardenrightnow - A Work In Progress

A sunny late summer morning and what better place to be than at my allotment, working on my long term mission of getting on top of the mare's tail. This work in progress has now been years in the making and I feel that I'm never going to get the upper hand. If you could knit or crochet with the stuff I think that I could have made a blanket by now big enough to cover the entire plot. The shadow you can see in the photo belongs to me.  I only wish that I had not first seen my plot in the winter - little did I know what trouble lay underneath the ground. Any advice is more than welcome.

All is not doom and gloom thankfully. There were butterflies and bees about as well as crops to take home, swap and to be gifted. A couple of wonky cucumbers were put in my hands. They may not be straight or supermarket shelf worthy but they will be deliciously crisp and tasty. 'Katy' and 'Sunset' apples were swapped for some Cox's Orange Pippins. A plot neighbour and I picked some of the rose hips from the eglantine rose on my plot - she is going to make rose hip jelly and in due course a jar will come my way.

From my plot I picked a couple of courgettes, a patty pan squash, 'Charlotte' potatoes, some climbing French 'Cobra' beans, apples and a few autumn fruiting 'Polka' raspberries. The raspberries are the start of a second flush and will decorate my porridge tomorrow morning. Now it's back to the kitchen to the bowl and two carrier bags full of apples picked earlier in the week.  There's much peeling ahead of me this weekend.

A HUGE thanks to lovely Michelle over at 'Veg Plotting' for inviting fellow garden and allotment lovers to share a scene from their patches of earth captured at some point this weekend. Your contribution can take the form of a blog post, a tweet, a photo via Instagram, a YouTube post or you could use Facebook. Do join in if you haven't already.

Monday 28 August 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ A Bridal Bouquet

My first 'vase' this week is a bouquet tenderly held by a newly-wed bride. The flowers - a mix of white and cream roses, the palest of pink sweet peas and soft pink astilbe together with eucalyptus foliage. The bride in question married my nephew last weekend and we were privileged to have been invited to share such a happy day with them.

One of the vases of flowers which had decorated the church was moved to a table just inside the entrance of the reception venue. Very similar to the bridal bouquet but with pale pink roses instead of white and white delphiniums in lieu of the sweet peas. We didn't notice that the lampshade was at such a tipsy angle when we took photos of the flowers - maybe it was the champagne fumes.

Finally what I thought was a most special touch and one that made my eyes moisten. A step ladder to one side of the table was decorated with simple floral vases, together with photos of the bride and groom's parents and grandparents (including a photo of my parents).

I'm sure that our hostess Cathy will forgive me from straying from the brief this week. If you haven't already popped over to 'Rambling In The Garden', please do so. As usual Cathy has a floral treat in store to wonder over and there are links to other vases each with their own story.

Monday 14 August 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ 'All Shook Up'

The ingredients of today's 'In A Vase On Monday' had the dubious pleasure of a bus journey back from the allotment to home via the shops. One or two of them became battered and bruised en route and sadly a few stems had to be jettisoned. My vase this week reflects the seasonal changes of the palette from pale and pastel to dark and sultry. In my vase are :
  • Sweet peas - 'Matucana', 'Midnight' and 'Eclipse'.
  • Crocosmia - I inherited a patch of this at the allotment so have no idea what variety it is.
  • Dahlia 'Magenta Star' and an allotment dahlia - possibly 'Arabian Night'. 'Magenta Star' is a fabulous flower, which not only attracts pollinators but also has deliciously dark stems and foliage that seems to have a sheen about it. The photo doesn't do justice to it so I will try to remember to take another photo before this year's flowers are over. The allotment dahlia has been left to overwinter in a raised bed for the last two years and is now a most sturdy plant producing a multitude of flowers.
  • Geum 'Mrs J. Bradshaw' - this poor lady suffered in transit. I only managed to retrieve one stem. This is a long flowering perennial which comes true from seed and can be sown in autumn in a tray and left in a cold frame to overwinter. I was given a trio of plants by my allotment neighbours last year and they have made a good show this season.
  • Cosmos bipinnatus 'Rubenza' - grown from seed sown in April. I prefer the 'Double Click Cranberries' that I grew last year. Although the 'Rubenza' plants have not grown as tall or as broad as 'Double Click Cranberries' I've not really been struck by the flower colour. I think that I will be clicking again next year. 
  • Tagetes 'Cinnibar'? - these seeds were grown in the expectation that they would result in an all orange cosmos - either  cosmos sulphureous 'Diablo' or cosmos sulphureous 'Tango. I sowed both varieties in April but one of them has turned out to be an impostor. As far as I can tell they are very similar to tagetes 'Cinnibar' which I've grown previously. Labels got lost somewhere between sowing and planting but the other is definitely an orange cosmos. I picked a flower for this vase but it suffered a fatal injury on the way home so could not be included. Hopefully there will be more blooms to pick soon which I can include in a future vase.
A huge vote of thanks as always to Cathy the lovely hostess of 'In A Vase On Monday'.

Saturday 5 August 2017

August Thoughts

"One early evening at the beginning of August, I come back from my allotment with potatoes, carrots, shallots, beans (broad and runners), kohl rabi, and a little tomato, and soon the juice of runner beans under the knife with the smell of other vegetables cooking. After supper, through the open back door, the pale cups of the oenothera and the sweet Turkish smell of the night-scented stock, the clovey smell of other stocks, and the deeper clove of carnation, took over. Then there was the fresh astringency of a perfect unfurling bud of 'Golden Showers', lemon balm up the path, and then phlox.

But what had drawn me in to the darkening garden were the night-scented stocks, and it is the one smell that, inside comes to me on its own without seeking it out. This is one of the high points of the year - the quiet house, the lamp on the table with the bowl of sweet peas, dahlias in a jar on the shelf. It's so still that there's hardly the flap of a moth. It's warm enough again, after the dip we took at the end of July, to relax and think of another day's activities ahead in and out of the house, pegging down strawberry runners, taking cuttings of honeysuckle, remembering not to miss the time for sewing spring cabbage ; drying shallots and then onions in the sun, cutting down the broad beans for a second flowering , and being reminded, by the smell  of your hands when you touch stalk and leaves of excitement at the emergence of those grey-green leaves at the beginning of the year if you had done a sowing the previous November".

~ An extract from 'Led By The Nose' by Jenny Joseph.
~ Illustration by Lena Anderson.

Monday 24 July 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ A Snow Princess

This week's vase features a 'Snow Princess' and in this case she has not been blown in on a cold blast of arctic air but has been ushered in by a summer zephyr. Three new to me annuals were sown earlier in the year and this is the first to come into flower. Hopefully I can report on the other two in the near future. 'Calendula 'Snow Princess' was a new arrival in some the 2017 seed catalogues and as far as I'm concerned has lived up to my expectations. Although definitely not the colour of snow the creamy flowers are most attractive and I like the bronze tinged petal tips. There is of course the bonus that her petals are edible but I've not nibbled yet.

After reading this article by Graham Rice I sowed a few seeds yesterday, in the hope of some late flowers and will also be sowing again come September. Here she is together with some rosemary and a sprig or two of a viola. The container is a little jar hand-painted by my mum. As always a heartfelt thank you to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' for her oh so gentle encouragement to fill a vase on a Monday.

Sunday 23 July 2017

Five Favourite July Plants

The lovely Chloris over at 'The Blooming Garden' has kindly invited her fellow garden bloggers to share their favourite July plants. Chloris has shared her top ten plants but it seemed more than that to me. Do visit her blog if you haven't already to peruse her choice of some fabulous plants. I've gone with the option of five plants. Four of them have proved to be reliable stalwarts over the years whilst the newcomer shows signs of promise in that department.  So in no particular order are :

Erigeron karvinskianus (formerly erigeron mucronatus) also known as the Mexican fleabane. This is a perennial which flowers from March onwards until the first hard frosts. It is in these summer months though when it looks at its best and the flowers are most prolific. It is best grown in full sun but has obviously not read the books as it is dotted about our north facing courtyard. Apart from its long flowering period another attraction of this little daisy is the way the flowers change from white to pink as they age. It is a plant that just gets on and does it own business without any intervention or attention. Moreover it seems to be pest and disease free.

It can be grown easily from seed or bought as a plant although I think that the latter option is usually relatively expensive. I have gasped with shock more than once when I've seen the price label at plant sales. Once you have it I think that it is with you for keeps it as it self-seeds with abandon. I'm quite happy for it to do so despite himself's regular assassination attempts.

 Kalimeris incisa 'Charlotte' - this is the newcomer of the bunch only arriving in August 2014, a purchase made at the Southport Flower Show from Holden Clough nursery. Preferring a sunny position is a hardy perennial which flowers from June to October. It bears pale mauve aster like flowers with a yellow centre. As far as I've been able to find out it is relatively disease and pest free. It's biggest selling point as far as I'm concerned is that it attracts bees and hoverflies. As you might be able to see I need to get in to do some dead-heading and some belated propping up. Friday night's torrential downpour has battered and flattened the plant somewhat and now that it's established I think that it might need staking in the future. The biggest selling point as far as I'm concerned is that 'Charlotte' attracts bees and hoverflies. 

Allium sphaerocephalon also known as the drumstick allium. Coming into flower later that most other alliums this is another easy-going character that just gets on with it given a sunny spot. I like the fact that they take so little room to accomodate so that you can plant them in between summer flowering perennials. A downside as it with all bulbs is trying to remember where they were the flowering stalk dies down. The flowering heads start off green before slowly from the top down turning into a deep purple colour. They can have a bit of a flippy- floppy tendency but that doesn't matter. They will self-seed gently. Again they are another magnet for pollinators. If you don't already grow these make sure to add some to your bulb order this year. Talking of making bulb orders I've read that it has not been a good season for bulbs because of the warm dry weather. The advice is to get bulb orders in early. I'm usually last minute when it comes to do doing this but intend to get cracking forthwith.

Clematis jouiniana x 'Praecox'- this is a long time July favourite although it first comes into flower in June. It's an extremely vigorous herbaceous clematis which can either be grown either as scrambling ground cover or as a climber. Awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit this again is a pollinator magnet. I love it although it has one major fault in that it dies a most disgraceful death. If you are not of a sensitive disposition and want the full picture have a peek here. It has reached the situation though where it's taking up too much room so is in for a most severe pruning next spring. 

Geranium pratense 'Plenum Violaceum' - another easy going perennial which has such pretty double flowers. Mine is in a north facing border where the flowers do not scorch as much if we have a very hot spell. Sadly it is sterile as I would welcome seedlings with open arms. I've had it growing in the garden for a long, long time, along with its sibling geranium pratense' Plenum Caeruleum' but sadly the latter did not remerge this year. I must seek a replacement. There is also a white flowering sibling too!

Thank you Chloris for your welcome invitation. I'm now off outside as the weather has brightened up. I have a pot of oh so tiny hardy begonias to prick out so may be gone for some considerable time.

Monday 17 July 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ Bounty

It's vases in the plural this week. The first vases were picked slightly prematurely on Friday afternoon and went to other homes. Our allotment association took part in a local annual fun day on Saturday. We have been kindly invited to have a stall there for several years now. We took plants, flowers, fruit, veggies, jam and chutney to sell. All our profits go towards the cost of insuring our composting toilet on the allotment site. Friday saw me at the allotment picking sweet peas and dahlias. I picked over a hundred stems of sweet peas some of which stayed at home but there was enough to make up four bunches for the sales table. A couple of bunches were the first very sale of the day. They were bought by two young lads who had an earnest debate beforehand as to which was their favourite colour of sweet pea flower. It was the highlight of the afternoon for me! Young gardeners in the making.

Back to the allotment this morning to do more watering, weeding and picking before it got too hot. Look what was waiting for me .... yet more sweet peas!

Thanks as always to the lovely Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' for encouraging bloggers to share vases full of sunshine and flowers every Monday. Do call in to see her latest vase and to follow links to other vases from far and wide.

Saturday 15 July 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ~ A Most Special Gift

Just one bloom from me today in the shape of a rose which is new to the garden this year. Back in the depths of January a birthday present arrived for me from my dear sister. She had purchased my gift from a company which sells roses that are specially named by the customer. So it came with a certificate bearing the name 'Luisa's Daughter,' in memory of my Mum who died in December last year. It  arrived complete with a certificate, a photo of the flower together with planting and cultivation instructions. It opened its first flowers last weekend when I was away. I had been looking at the emerging buds willing it to open before I left but it teased me and wouldn't oblige. Still it was a delight to come home to and joy of joys as well as looking most pretty it is noticeably scented. As you can see it's also being appreciated by passing garden visitors.

Thanks as always to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting. I wonder what plants will be tempting me to add them to the wish list for future July blooms.

Monday 3 July 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ Sparkle

Today's 'In A Vase On Monday' has been put together late in the day as I've been out in Liverpool with my lovely niece. She has been a student in Manchester for the last four years and got her final results last week - a first class honours degree! We are all so proud of her especially as there as been one or two family illnesses during this time, which must have been both distracting and upsetting for her. Still she managed to get her head down and work really hard to obtaining such an excellent result. It was a pleasure to treat her to lunch today and listen to her plans for the future. She is most lively and excellent company, has a wicked sense of humour but is caring and gentle too. Himself stayed at home but we will be raising a glass to a special young lady later.

In my vase this week are :

  • buddleja davidii (which originated as a cutting from my parent's garden)
  • some alchemilla mollis
  • a solitary stem of penstemon 'Sour Grapes
  • the lilac daisy type flowers of kalimeris incisa 'Charlotte'
  • the  larger yellow daisy type flowers of anthemis tinctoria 'E. C. Buxton'
  • a couple of stems of the curious mathiasella bupleuroides 'Green Dream', which looks exotic and tender but has proved most definitely otherwise.

Oh and I have new vase! With time to wait before our respective trains home we took a wonder round 'The Bluecoat Chambers' where the above jug caught my attention. My niece didn't persuade me to refrain.

Thanks as always to our hostess Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' for encouraging us to share our vases each and every Monday.

Saturday 1 July 2017

Musing In July

" We have our first dish of peas. The aisles of pea plants grow tall and the green walls are full of bulging pods ...... Compared with the gathering of strawberries, pea picking is is intricate, but undramatic. There is no sudden grow of crimson , no soft warmth of fruit. It is a world of shapes, pea being undistinguishable from leaf only by virtue of its bulk and form. We pick by feeling rather than by sight. The pea plant is a gentle green, deep and soft against the pale colour of the lettuces that shelter from the sun in the shade of the pea rows. Our baskets full of hard, rattling pods, we pick lettuces for salad. It is good to feed oneself from one's own earth" 

Words from 'Four Hedges A Gardener's Chronicle' by Clare Leighton.

Illustration by Sara Midda from "In and Out Of The Garden".

Monday 26 June 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ Summer In A Nutshell

"Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight:
With wings of gentle flush o'er delicate white
And taper fingers catching at all things
To bind them all about with tiny rings"
~ John Keats, 1795-1821 

This is the vase of flowers that I look forward to most each year - the very first vaseful of sweet peas.  My summer would not be complete without them. The flowers have been opening in tantalising dribs and drabs over the last couple couple of weeks and now finally there are enough of them to cut to fill a vase. Such vases usually sit on the kitchen windowsill and I hope there will be many more of them to follow.

This year's sweet peas were spread over two sowings both in rootrainers in a cold greenhouse. The first batch was sown on 14th February and the second at the beginning of March (unable to find label with exact date but will update this post when and if I do). The plants raised from the February sowing have turned out to be the stronger although the germination rate was less than fifty per cent. I have since read an article which recommends not watering any early sowings of sweet peas until they have germinated and must remember that for next year. I think that some of those early sowing seeds rotted away. I've never sown sweet peas in February before so have nothing to compare against. The March sowings all germinated but the plants are not as vigorous.

Once hardened off the plants were planted on wigwams at the allotment with two plants to each bamboo cane. They all got a dollop of manure and some chopped up comfrey leaves when planting. I must start to feed them soon. This year's varieties include 'Matucana', 'Midnight', 'Gwendoline', 'Ewewhon', 'Eclipse', Mollie Rilestone (not in this vase), 'Noel Sutton' and 'Ballerina Blue'.

Thanks as always to our lovely hostess Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' for encouraging us to share our vases each Monday. I had the pleasure of seeing Cathy's magical garden last week and came away wishing that I could take it away with me. Looking forward to seeing what is in everyone else's vases today.

Monday 12 June 2017

In A Vase On Monday ~ Handpicked With Love

This week's 'In A Vase On Monday' just had to feature my new vase, bought recently at a well known supermarket for the princely sum of £3.00. The flowers within were all picked at the allotment this afternoon and are :

  • Leucanthemum vulgare or ox-eye daisy growing at the back of the community greenhouse. It is also known as the moon daisy which I think is most apt as the flowers seem to be gently glowing.
  • Briza maxima - growing at the front of the community hut. This self seeds in the same spot every year which is most considerate of it.
  • Buddleja globosa which I've just found out is also known as the Chilean orange ball tree. These were snipped from a shrub growing near the allotment perimeter fencing. I wish that I had clocked the shrub a week or two ago as the flowers are going over but it's a part of the site that I rarely walk past. I wonder if this self seeds like buddleja davidii. A search for tiny offspring didn't produce any sightings. I will now be keeping my eyes peeled.
  • Finally from my own plot a few sprigs of helichrysum italicum also known as the curry plant. Just stroke the leaves and you know how it got its common name. As somebody who pulls a face at  the mere mention of curry I'm not sure why I grow it other than I'm partial to its silvery foliage. The flower is a soft yellow when in bud, before opening to reveal brighter in your face yellow, which again makes me wonder what possessed me to plant it in the first instance. Anyway I've become fond of it over the years so I daresay it's not going anywhere.
Thanks as always to our hostess Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' who inspires to share our pickings in a vase each Monday.

Sunday 4 June 2017

#mygardenrightnow ~ From The Allotment

Over at Veg Plotting and as part of the Chelsea Fringe event, the lovely Michelle has extended an invitation to share a photo of our gardens or allotment plots this weekend. I've spent most of my spare time at the allotment over the last couple of days, not only working on my plot but also supporting a plant sale which was held this afternoon. Funds were raised for the allotment association, delicious cake (too much) was eaten, growing hints were shared, plans were made to exchange pears and other fruits for jars of jam but above all there was a chance to meet new faces and strengthen community spirit. Do pop over to Veg Plotting or to Twitter to peek over garden fences and allotment plots from far and wide.

Friday 2 June 2017

EOMV May 2017 ~ Watering Can Neck

Tennis elbow, driver's arm, writer's cramp, housemaid's knee .... is there such a condition as watering can neck? If not can I make a plea for it to be included in dictionaries across the land forthwith. The early part of May passed in a blur of pain, which was located at the top of my spine spreading out to my shoulders. I was unable to think of anything that could have caused it other than the increased lugging of full watering cans. Himself kindly applied foul smelling liniment to the affected parts but it was slow to abate. Needless to say gardening and other activities suffered.

The splendid trio of watering cans in the above photo are not mine but were spotted in the garden of a cottage in Bishop's Castle, Shropshire where we spent a most enjoyable weekend in the middle of the month. Another highlight of the month was a visit to Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire in the company of a good friend, where we were held spellbound by dandelion and fairy sculptures as well as a memorable display of tulips. A return visit is on the cards later this year.

Meanwhile whilst the neck pained the garden did its own thing so May was filled with the loveliness that is chestnut candles, lily-of-the valley, cow parsley, bluebells, honesty, sweet rocket, aquilegias, Solomon's Seal, alliums, tulips and geranium phaeum in various hues and shades. I hobbled in and out of the greenhouse just about keeping in top of the watering and was pleased that I've not grown as much from seed as in some previous years. For the second year running I've not sown tomato seeds but obtained them as small plants from Simpson's Seeds. Both the quality and variety choice is excellent and I'm not left with surplus plants to care for and rehome.

There's been much in the way of weeding, planting and constructing bunny deterrents at the allotment and not much in the way of eating produce. However by the end of the month there were encouraging signs that we will be picking soft fruit soon including raspberries, strawberries and goosegogs. The apple crop looks as if it will be good, shallots and potatoes are doing well so far, French beans have been planted and this weekend will see courgettes and pumpkins move from home where they have been hardening off, to being hopefully planted in their permanent positions. The non-edibles such as sweet peas are just starting to show colour which is a sure sign that summer is knocking at the door. May is without a doubt my favourite month of the year so I'm always slightly sad to see the back of it but still looking forward to the delights of June.