A Walk Around My Country Garden -27 Mar 2020

When I planted this walkway of trees, I never knew how essential they were going to be. I must meander along these paths at least 20 times a day, lost in thought.

I’m sharing as many cheerful photos as I can find today. The covid crisis initially knocked me for six. I am desperately worried about all our elderly relatives. For all those expecting babies in the summer. For my young daughters, one a newly qualified nurse, working with desperately ill patients right now. If I could solve everything with walking, I would have worn out my shoes. It’s the first time in my life I have no answers. I can’t do anything to make it ‘right.’ Normally I can think of something. In every other crisis, I have found a solution. Something to make things better.

So I am turning to what I know. Gardening. Giving out advice to anyone who needs it. Families have struggled to buy fresh salads and veg these past few weeks. I certainly haven’t managed to obtain what I’ve needed. I couldn’t find bread, flour or milk. It’s made me feel vulnerable and determined to be more self reliant when it comes to fruit and veg at least. So anyone who needs grow-your-own advice can contact me and I will help. For specific individual garden design advice, how to start a cut flower garden, grow a meadow, deal with a shady border, I am asking for a donation to Rainbows Hospice direct, any amount and I don’t need to know how much. All my garden club talks have been cancelled, and as you know, all my fees go to Rainbows. The clubs have all rebooked for next year, but I wanted to do something for this year to help. So anyone interested, please e mail me at k.gimson@btinternet.com for more information. I am learning to Skype and FaceTime live, and also using the phone and computer. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as my grandparents used to say. Funny how their little sayings come back to you in times of trouble. It’s as if they are trying to help you, even though they are no longer here.

Enjoy the slide show of photos. I hope it lifts your spirits and makes a difference. From now on, I am solely focusing on people who are doing good, sharing information about what they are doing, supporting them in any way I can. That really is the only way forward for me.

I took this video from the garden gate last night. It’s so heartening to see farmers out and about working their fields after such a dire autumn and winter. If they are out there preparing seed beds, then we can too in our own gardens. I shall be glad to see the green shoots of seedlings after a winter of brown, barren fields.

Hedgerow blossom. This looks like a shooting star to me. Such a beautiful sight. A heart-sing moment. The hawthorn too is coming into leaf. Soon there will be clouds of May blossom to cheer us along.

Lots of daffodils at the top of the paddock. These were a sack I bought from Dobbies at Christmas, reduced from £24 to £3. I couldn’t resist the bargain price, and took a risk. They’d been stored cool and dry so were in good condition. I didn’t expect flowers this year, but they are looking stunning. Every bulb has come up. I’ll water with a potash liquid to feed the bulbs for next year. And if I see another £3 sack, I’ll certainly buy it!

Yellow flowers symbolise friendship, and that is certainly what we all need right now to get us through this crisis. I’m relying on phone calls and my twitter friends to keep upbeat. I’ve just added my name to a list of local volunteers to ring round anyone who lives alone and needs someone to chat to once a day.

Today, the wild cherry trees (prunus avium) started to flower. What a wonderful sight. These trees only flower for a week or two, but we will sit under them with our cups of tea, have picnics outdoors and revel in every single moment they are in bloom.

My cut flower tulips are in bud. Tulips in the sunny front garden are already flowering early. I’ll cut a huge bunch of daffodils and tulips for the front windows. Vases of flowers will cheer up anyone passing by, even though they can’t call in to visit.

These double creamy tulips, Mount Tacoma, are favourites. They remind me of swan feathers. So graceful.

Scented narcissi, Geranium and Pheasants Eye, are starting to flower. Fabulous with yellow hyacinths and the first wallflowers.

In the greenhouse, the succulents are starting to glow. I’ve started to water everything, and I’m pleased this aeonium has come through the winter.

There’s plenty of citrus fruit coming along. I’ll be able to make orange cakes and lemon meringues soon.

Would you believe it, my new Polar Bear snowdrop is still in flower – at the end of March. It’s a new elwesii type of snowdrop with huge rounded petals and short pedicels which make the flowers look up and out rather than hang down. It looks rather surprised to be out in the spring sunshine amongst daffodils. I wonder if next year it will flower much earlier.

There’s life in the pond. The tadpoles are forming. Lots of pond skaters, some newts, and we’ve even spotted a grass snake, on our new wildlife camera set up on bank.

I’ve mounted the camera on a log, so I can move it about the garden without it being knocked over. Tonight we are hoping to catch sight of the hedgehogs. They are out and about at dusk, making nests in the bottom of the ‘fedge’ and under the old disused hen house.

Ladybirds are much in evidence. Here they are on the phlomis. My army of pest control workers. I’ve left twiggy piles of stems all around the garden to give insects a place to hibernate. Hopefully they will repay me by eating the aphids.

And there’s plenty of bees, thankfully. Bumble bees and solitary bees of all shapes and sizes. I have a new book to review, The Secret Lives of Garden Bees by Jean Vernon. I can think of nothing better than sitting under my cherry trees and loosing myself in a book. It will be something soothing and calming. Much needed at the moment.

Here’s an enormous bumble bee on the wild anemones. It’s lovely to have a book you can go to to learn more about the bees visiting your garden. And look at ways you can help them to thrive. Something positive to focus on.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk around my garden today. The sun is shining and it’s 30C in the greenhouse. All the windows and doors are thrown open. Get in touch and let me know what’s looking lovely in your garden today. And if you are feeling alone or sad, let me know. We are in this together. And be reassured that lots of people are doing wonderful things to help one another. You just have to look for the positives in life. As ever.

Love Karen xx

In a Vase on Monday -March 16 2020

On the first warm, sunny day of the year, I’ve made a comfy place in the garden. I sit here, surrounded by familiar things: flowers, fresh from the garden, favourite books, magazines, tea, and mum’s lemon cake. And for a few minutes, I forget my worries. I am determined to enjoy the garden, birds singing all around, frogspawn in the pond. Trees bursting into leaf. I watch a wren creeping along the eaves of the house, searching for spiders. Spiders webs are used to glue their nests together, so I never clear them away. All of nature carries on, oblivious to the crisis we humans are facing. My small ginger spaniel Meg sleeps at my feet. My cat, Grace, chases a fly. They too are unconcerned. And yet I am a boiling cauldron of concerns. One minute panic stricken by the ‘what ifs’ the next, in warrior mode ready to fight. If only I knew exactly what I’m fighting. I return to voices, advice from my childhood, that some things cannot be changed and what will be, will be. I desperately try to remember comforting phrases from the past. I know my family, going back in time, suffered many illnesses and setbacks and survived. The suffering though. Those photos are etched on my mind. We, in modern times, have had it easy. Until now. And now, none of us know what’s going to happen. To give some respite from my thoughts, I turn to familiar things. For comfort I walk around my garden picking spring flowers, as I have done for the 30 years we’ve lived here. I’m posting them for you to enjoy, hoping they will bring you some comfort too, and for a few moments give you something else to think about. Stay safe all of you and keep in touch. Our gardens and our gardening community have never been needed more than they are today.

Dark, plum-toned Hellebore Rachel, with ruby hyacinth Woodstock, surrounded by Prunus Kojo-no-mai, ribes, Viburnum Eve Price, and pink comfrey.

The first of the wild cherry blossom. Simply beautiful. Pure and bright.

The last of the paperwhite narcissi and some skimmia. Deliciously scented.

Keep in touch and let me know what you are doing in your garden. Are you managing to get any seeds sown yet?

Sending love, hope and good wishes to you all. xx

Links: In a vase on Monday: https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2020/03/16/in-a-vase-on-monday-change-of-plan/

In a Plant Pot on Wednesday – 5th February 2020

It’s a wonderful moment when potted spring bulbs suddenly flower. They seem to be in bud for weeks. Then virtually overnight, all the iris and dwarf daffodils burst into life. Colour at last. It’s much appreciated on a dark cold February day.

I planted shallow pans of bulbs on October 12th last year. Dwarf iris Katherine Hodgkin is a pale blue beauty with markings resembling blue ink pen lines. Each winter I try something new, and this time I’ve chosen iris reticulata Blue Note, very striking with deep indigo flowers and white markings on purple black falls.

Bulbs are grown on in the protection of the greenhouse over winter, but as soon as they flower I carry the pots about and set them on the garden tables. It’s so cheerful to look out of the house windows and see something colourful.

I’ve used pussy willow and hazel catkins to prop up the paper white narcissi. They have a habit of flopping everywhere, but look lovely with a few stems supporting them. On the right of the table there’s some cherry stems in a Kilner jar. Picked now and brought indoors they will open early for a glorious pink blossom display.

Scented paper whites might be too strong for indoors, but on the garden tables they are perfect. The creamy white flowers are a pretty accompaniment to emerging fluffy grey willow catkins.

A large Sankey terracotta plant pot of Narcissus February Gold makes a centrepiece for the picnic table. Hazel twigs are used for supports.

Here’s how I started out in October with a selection of terracotta plant pots, many inherited from my grandfather Ted Foulds.

I use a mix of 50/50 peat free compost and grit for good drainage. Bulbs are planted half way down the pots. They are watered once and placed on the greenhouse staging.

Pots are topped with extra grit to finish them off. This keeps the flowers clean and stops them being splashed with soil when watering.

Hyacinths are almost perched on the top of compost in individual 4″ pots. These are placed in a huge plant pot under the potting shed bench in dark, cool, frost free conditions and brought out just before Christmas when flower spikes are showing.

Here’s the view from the potting shed in October as I’m planting all these bulbs. A lovely reminder of all the sunny autumn days we had.

For contrast, here’s an oak tree from the lane where I live. Just as beautiful. Like a charcoal pencil drawing.

Have your spring bulbs started to flower this week? Are you trying anything new, like me, as well as sticking to a few old favourites too.

Get in touch and let me know what’s happening in your garden at the moment.

I am @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram

Links: I like to join in with Cathy for #IAVOM In a vase on Monday, but this week is was working, and my flowers are in pots! But I’ve read and caught up with everyone’s postings

https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2020/02/03/ina-vase-on-monday-in-the-queue-for-green/

Bulbs came from Gee Tee bulbs. https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/

Compost from Dalefoot : https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/our-products.aspx

In a Vase on Monday – Jan 6 2020

I’m back to work today, so I’m posting a review of my past #IAVOM projects, one for each month of the year.

Good luck to everyone who’s back to work, school or college today. The days are getting lighter, ever so slightly, so we’ll be able to spend our evenings in the garden again soon.

Meanwhile, enjoy my ‘slide show’ of photos from my garden, though the year.

JANUARY

Paperwhite narcissi, black hellebores, pittosporum and eucalyptus foliage. Decorating a willow wreath with flowers in a jam jar hidden inside a moss kokadama ball.

FEBRUARY

Snowdrops, crocus, cyclamen coum, puschkinia.

MARCH

Tulip Exotic Emperor, Narcissi Geranium, hyacinth, orange wallflower, and Westonbirt dogwood stems.

APRIL

Hyacinth Woodstock, pink hellebore, pink comfrey, daphne and forget-me-nots.

MAY

Forget me nots and Jack by the Hedge( Alliaria petiolata)

JUNE

Roses, Gertrude Jekyll and Constance Spry with a lace frill edge of wild elder flower.

JULY

White daisies and larkspur, Blue Boy cornflower, with a frill of Ammi majus.

AUGUST

Sweet peas, carnations and verbena bonariensis.

SEPTEMBER

Blue shades gladioli, cosmos and dahlia Nuit deEte.

October (early)

Sunflowers and calendula Snow Princess.

October (late)

All of the garden, fuchsia, salvia,rudbeckia, aster, cornflower, white anemone, sedum, argyranthemum.

NOVEMBER

Dahlia David Howard and blue borage.

DECEMBER

Sedum wreath on a moss-filled wire heart. No flower foam has been used again this year. Flowers are pressed into moss or plunged into tiny test tubes hidden amongst the foliage.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

I am on twitter @kgimson

On instagram at karengimson1

On BBC Radio Leicester on Sundays and Wednesdays

At Garden News Magazine every month.

Links: In a Vase on Monday :https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/12/30/in-a-vase-on-monday-hazel-and-hazel/. Thanks to Cathy for hosting #IAVOM

Bulbs and corms from Gee Tee Bulbs : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/

Seeds from Mr Fothergills : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/

Sweet pea seeds: https://www.kingsseeds.com/Products/Flowers-N-Z/Sweet-Pea

Heritage sweet peas and garden to visit : https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/gardens/sweet-peas

Flower farmer courses and willow wreath-making at Common Farm Flowers: https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/workshops.html

In a Vase on Monday – Venetian Shades

Monday 8th April 2019

Dashed home from work and, what a joy! It’s still light enough to run round the garden and cut some flowers. Photos taken at 7.30pm. I’ve chosen rich purple tones for my flower posy today.

Hyacinths have been the highlight of the garden this spring. I’ve managed to get them into flower from Christmas through to April, just by staggering the planting times and bringing them into light and warmth at different times. My favourite is hyacinth Blue Jacket, but today’s posy features deep plum/ purple hyacinth Woodstock. The scent is drifting across the garden as the light of the day fades to dusk.

Just unfurling is Anemone de Caen, pale pink with plum coloured streaks and black stamens. Planted last october in 4″ pots, these will be planted in the wild garden to flower again next year.

Hellebores are still looking good. This one is a seedling from a plant I bought at Hodsock Priory several years ago. It tones beautifully with spring bulbs. The tiny flowers alongside are Daphne Jacqueline Postill, and from the veg patch, some winter salad and mustard- which has run to seed.

Nestled in along side is pink comfrey flowers. I grow this for bees. They simply adore the plant. An important nectar source, early in the season. Also lasts for a week in a vase as a cut flower. There’s plenty for everyone.

When they have finished flowering, I cut the whole plant down to the ground. It will regrow and flower a second time. Nothing is wasted. The leaves are put into a barrel and topped up with water. After a few weeks, the resulting noxious -smelling brew makes a fabulous high potash liquid feed. Just dilute it 1 to 10 when you use it. Free plant food is always welcome.

Forget me nots form a cheerful frill around the base of my posy. Such a pretty biennial, it seeds itself freely around here and is growing in the wild garden- and where it shouldn’t- in all the gravel paths. Cutting them for vases stops forget me nots self seeding and is my attempt to control them, a little.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a mad dash round the garden with me. The sun set within minutes of taking these photos. Still, we must not complain. I’ve more than once has to cut flowers by torchlight, while tripping over the cat. Roll on lighter evenings. That’s what I say!

Thank you to Cathy for hosting In a Vase on Monday. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

Anemone :https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/26664/i-Anemone-coronaria-i-De-Caen-Group/Details

Hyacinth Woodstock : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/hyacinths/ordinary-hyacinths/ordinary-hyacinth-woodstock

Comfrey. https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/92452/Symphytum-Hidcote-Pink/Details

In a Vase on Monday…..or Wednesday.

I don’t know where the time goes. I’ve been trying to find a few spare minutes since Sunday. But every time I sit down, the phone rings, and that’s the end of any thoughts of escaping to the potting shed.

Anyway, apologies to Cathy for being late again with my IAVOM. Without further ado, and before the phone rings again, here are some photos of my jam jar flowers this week.

If you were listening in to Radio Leicester on Sunday, these are the flowers I took in to talk about. I’ve made a heart out of six stems of red dogwood and willow. It’s so simple to create. Basically, hold the stems in one hand. Bend three one way in a hoop and hold in the middle. Bend the other three the other way and hold in the middle. Bound with twine. Cut the long stems level at the bottom. Attach a jam jar wrapped in hessian or any pretty fabric around the middle of the heart. Then you can add whatever flowers you fancy.

I’ve used two stems of creamy white Exotic Emperor tulip. This is my new favourite. Its the colour of rich clotted cream. Outer petals have a beautiful green flash. In the heat of the radio studio the tulips opened flat like an orchid.

Here’s the same tulip with cherry blossom, Prunus Kojo-no-Mai, showing what it looks like as it opens. It reminds me of a peony.

Here’s where I’m growing them in the cut flower patch. I planted rows of tulips 10cm apart, mixed in with some Bridal Crown and Geranium narcissi. Rows of Blue Jacket hyacinths mingle with orange wallflowers. These were planted in November.

Planting closely in rows saves space. I never feel like picking the flowers in the main garden. It feels like I’m spoiling the display. These bulbs though are planted to be harvested for bouquets and vases.

In January, I tipped some more bulbs into a trench. These aren’t deeply planted as they will be dug up and planted in the orchard when they’ve been cut. At the top end of the trench you can see I’ve stood the bulbs up and spaced them out. I popped hyacinth bulbs in between. It’s much denser planting than for permanent displays.

Here’s the hyacinths coming up, with tulips to follow. This is a cutting mix from Gee Tee Bulbs. If you wait until Christmas, prices are reduced by half. They come up just the same, for bargain prices.

Thanks to Cathy for hosting IAVOM. Why not go over and see what everyone else is growing and cutting for their vases and flower arrangements this week. I’m often surprised to see we are growing similar flowers, all around the world.

Please feel free to share this blog.


links : Radio Leicester Down to Earth programme at 1.10.56 on the timeline

www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0738k4d

Karen with Andy Pierce. Have a listen in on bbc Sounds.

Tulips : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/tulips/fosteriana-tulips/tulip-exotic-emperor

Narcissi bridal https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/daffodils-narcissus/double-narcissi/narcissus-bridal-crown

hyacinths Blue Jacket. https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/62630/Hyacinthus-orientalis-Blue-Jacket/Details

Prunus Ko-no-mai : https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/70924/Prunus-incisa-Kojo-no-mai/Details

Also mentioned on the radio programme:

Sweet peas Wiltshire Ripple : https://johnsonssweetpeas.co.uk/Sweet-Pea-Wiltshire-Ripple

Easton Walled Gardens: https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Sweet pea Best of the Blues : https://www.johnsons-seeds.com/Home_4/Tall_10/Sweet-Pea-The-Best-of-the-Blues.html#.XKUZAozTWfA

Growing pea shoots: Twinkle : https://www.suttons.co.uk/Gardening/Vegetable-Seeds/Popular-Vegetable-Seeds/Pea-Seeds/Pea-Shoots-Seeds—Twinkle_183100.htm?gclid=Cj0KCQjws5HlBRDIARIsAOomqA2jKG_vIuhdZsnRcADU0wvEhRMuHVQeysA1onKhhJlM9i5JHRXUazIaAqPPEALw_wcB

Calendula Snow Princess: https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk/item_235k_calendula_officinalis_snow_princess

Six on Saturday. Joining in for the first time.

Six photos from my garden and potting shed this week.

Catching the light in my potting shed window: Old Man’s Beard, wild clematis vitalba. Commonly called traveller’s joy. I stand on tip toe, reaching into hedgerows to harvest long stems with silver seed heads. They’re a lovely addition to winter flower arrangements.

Silver coins. Honesty seeds. Hanging from the rafters to dry. They will be tucked in amongst rosehips, holly and ivy for Christmas decorations.

Chinese lanterns, harvested in October. I love the various shades of orange. They fade to a delicate papery apricot colour. And left long enough, they become transparent.

My potting shed window looks out onto the wild garden. So heartening to see hazel branches with lambs-tail catkins. A welcome reminder that spring will return. The twigs make useful supports for my paperwhite narcissi and hyacinths which are in the dark under my point shed bench at the moment.

The last few golden leaves are fluttering in the breeze. Hazel, maple, ash trees make a mini woodland. I’ve planted 200 foxgloves in the wild garden. We sowed the seed in mid summer, pricked them out in August, and planted out, they will sit making roots over winter. I’m growing Sutton’s Apricot, a glorious silky, peach- coloured foxglove, and Pam’s Choice- white with a blackcurrant thumb print in each flower.

It’s dusk before I finish planting. I stand by the pond watching blackbirds taking a last-minute bath. I wonder how they can stand the cold water. I expect it keeps their feathers in good condition. A tawny owl glides silently along the field hedge. Short-tailed voles live in the long grass here. Within minutes, it’s dark. It’s not like in summer, where there’s enough moonlight to potter around. November dark is cold, pitch black. Time to go indoors, light a fire and make hot chocolate.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a walk around my garden with me tonight. I’m joining https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/ for his Six on Saturday meme. What jobs are you doing in your garden this weekend?

In a Vase on Monday- spring flowers for Mum

Flowers for my Mum this week. There’s nothing as beautiful as spring bulbs and ranunculus are among my favourites. They are easy to grow. Plant them 8cm deep and the same distance apart in bulb fibre or John Innes compost. I grow mine in pots, starting them off in the greenhouse for an early crop. But they can be grown outdoors in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant them with the “fingers” facing downwards. The RHS has a sale on – 12 corms for £1.60 instead of £4. Aviv Rose is an excellent variety. I also grow Purple Heart . They last for a week in a vase. I made a small posy for the kitchen table with mine.

Red tulips look fabulous with blue hyacinths. I’ve placed these with lots of twigs from the garden. I’ve got grey catkins, red dogwood, spirea, and field maple. Some of the stems came from my new “Hedge in a Box” kit from Hopes Grove Nurseries. I wrote about planting my new florists’ hedge Here.

In amongst the stems are daffodils from Waitrose, grown in West Cornwall. “Surprise Bouquets ” contain 30 different stems for £4. You can’t tell what they are while they are in bud. The mystery is only revealed as they open. I love something a bit different and new marketing ideas to promote British flowers. Greenyard Flowers have been supplying Waitrose with daffodils for 23 years and grow more than 1,000 different varieties.

Some of the daffodils open up with creamy- white outer petals and a darker lemon trumpet. They have a delicate scent too.

All my bouquets for friends and family contain some of this evergreen glossy-leaved shrub that originally came from my Grandfather Ted Foulds. It’s called Euonymus Japonicus. I loved his visits here each week. He would always bring a little pot of seedlings from his garden, or a cutting from one of his plants. It’s lovely to walk around the garden now and remember him from all the flowers and shrubs in my garden.

There’s nothing more cheerful than popping a few twigs in amongst the spring flowers and watching them burst into leaf in the heat of the windowsill. This one I think is common field maple. The lime green leaves are almost as beautiful as any flower.

Thank you to Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden for hosting this meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are putting in their vases this week. It’s an international favourite.

In a Vase on Monday – 9th April 2018

Just dashed home from work. Wonderful to still have some light in the evening for mooching in the garden. Each week I join Cathy at ramblinginthegarden for IAVOM. Here’s a slide show of photos showing what I’m growing and putting in my flower arrangements his week.

The silver and gold-laced primulas are just at their peak. They last for a week in water and have a faint but delicate scent.

Tulips always cheer up any arrangement. These yellow and red blooms go really well with the fancy primulas.

Flower vases are still very much focusing on bulbs. I think I’ve had Carnegie white hyacinths in my flower vases every week since Christmas. These are the very last of them. I shall miss them to be honest. The scent in the potting shed is just wonderful.

Hellebores are still in flower here. This one has a pretty, frilled anemone centre and holds its head up, which is always a good trait in any hellebore. I bought this one from Hodsock Priory in February.

Hellebores have survived everything the weather has thrown at them. This one came from Ashwood Nurseries in Kingswinford when we had a a tour of owner John Massey’s private garden. Well worth a visit. Probably the best spring garden I’ve ever seen. All fees from the open days go to local charities.

Couldn’t resist these summer bulbs. Lilium Conca D’Or is a favourite for fabulous scent. And the dahlia is new to me. I’ve watched others on IAVOM growing and using this variety, so I’m looking forward to trying it out for the first time this year.

Potting shed reading this week is Secret Houses of the Cotswolds by architectural historian Jeremy Musson, published by Frances Lincoln, part of the Quarto Homes group. Photographer Hugo Rittson Thomas allows us to peek into 20 homes, varying from castles and manor houses to grand mansions. It’s like stepping into another world to be honest. And a glimpse of the gardens through open windows- so tantalising! I just wanted to jump in the car and visit them all. But of course they are not open to the public. So I shall have to be content with gazing longingly at the book.

Click on the links to find out more. These are for information only and are not affiliate links.

In a Vase on Monday -Snow, and then spring!

What a week! Temperatures over the past seven days have gone from -12c to 14c. Luckily nothing seems to have been lost. The snow creates an insulating blanket. Plants can still photosynthesize through the snow. I just gently tap some of the snow-laden branches of conifers and acers. The weight can cause splaying and damage. Here’s a slide show of photos showing my garden from last Monday to today. Flowers are in plant pots and jam jars in the greenhouse and potting shed this week.

My 20-year-old Parwins electric heater has been working full time keeping the greenhouse cosy. A second-hand Alton Cedar greenhouse copes really well with the weather. The wood seems to expand in the winter, excluding any draughts. At night, I didn’t disturb the wrens nestling in a row on the door slider. There were eight snuggled together, keeping warm.

Scented pelargoniums have never been more welcome than on a freezing cold day. I picked some to put in tiny vases for my bedside table.

Iris reticulata bulbs are still in flower. They last longer in cold weather. Such a delicate scent. Much appreciated when there’s a foot of snow outside.

As there’s so few flowers this week, I’m showing some photos of my greenhouse, Polytunnel, potting shed set up. All within a few paces of each other. The polytunnel was second hand from a nursery closing down sale. You can see my Dalefoot Compost piled up in front of the potting shed, all ready for sowing seeds and growing fruit, veg and flowers. I started off some tomato seeds mid week. It’s the first time ever I’ve had to put hot water bottles on the compost bags before sowing seeds.

I’m keen to try this sheeps wool and bracken compost. I’ve been peat free for a while now, but composts have been variable to say the least. Dalefoot promises to be water retentive and cheaper to use, as no added fertilisers are needed. Apparently the bracken is naturally high in potash- needed for fruit and flower production. And the sheeps wool continues to act as a kind of slow release fertiliser during the whole growing season. Dalefoot have given me the compost to try out. As usual, opinions are my own and I’ll give an honest appraisal of the product in due course.

A quick peek in my potting shed and there’s still some white hyacinths, yellow tete-a-tete daffodils, with green hellebores and fluffy willow catkins. This time the vases didn’t freeze solid, thankfully. The view from the potting shed is white over. As is the view from the back door, below.

I didn’t go far to be honest. The roads around here were pretty dire.

But then – thankfully, the temperatures started to rise. And today has been the warmest day of the year.

Hope it’s sunny where you are at the moment.

Thanks to Cathy for hosting this IAVOM meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy is growing and putting in her vases this week.

End of the Month View – March 2nd 2018

Thank goodness there’s some colour in the greenhouse right now. I planted these Iris reticulata last October. And just when I need something cheerful to look at, they’ve sprung open like a jack-in-a-box. As soon as the sun hit the greenhouse glass, they pinged open. A lovely moment. Glad I was there to see it.

Such an inky blue. I planted Iris Pixie and Harmony, and then somehow lost the labels. A common occurrence in my garden. I must address the problem of how to keep labels this year.

I’ve no need to tell you what the temperatures are like at the moment. One look out of the window and you can see for yourself. We are white over in the UK. So today I’ve been mooching in the potting shed and greenhouse.

Planted last September, these Carnegie hyacinths are a joy for months. The buds are pretty, with just the green tips showing. I think there’s as much pleasure in anticipating what’s to come, as there is when the buds finally burst into bloom. The scent fills the whole greenhouse and makes it a pleasure to work in there on a freezing cold day. I heat the greenhouse to between 5 and 7 degrees. It is an old Alton Cedar greenhouse -second hand, renovated and painted black. Being cedar, the wood swells in the winter and cuts off any draughts – keeping it warm and cosy in there.

Prepared -or temperature treated bulbs – are planted in September in individual 3″ pots. The bulbs are given a cold period to fool them into thinking they have been through winter. We then put them in a cool, dark cupboard in the potting shed or garage for 20 weeks which finishes the treatment. Then, the bulbs are gradually brought out into a cool greenhouse and grown on. You can delay development by just keeping them cold and on the dry side, which is how I’ve managed to keep them flowering right through winter.

Choose bulbs that have flowers roughly the same size to plant into bowls and create displays for the house.

Today, I’m looking out at a snow, right across the back fields, and there’s icicles dangling from the greenhouse roof.

All along the top shelves are succulents and cacti- which need virtually no water between November and mid-March. These Echeverias have grey -blue leaves and striking orange flowers in summer.

The potatoes are starting to chit. Hard to believe, I will be planting them in a few weeks. I’m growing Charlotte and Lady Christl- both delicious. These varieties are on the RHS recommended list for growing in containers. If you are thinking of growing in containers, you need 8 litres of compost per potato. So put five in a 40 litre bag or 16″ -18″pot. Start off filling the bags with 20 litres of compost and 125g organic potato fertiliser. Sink the potatoes into the compost, and water. As the haulms or stems grow, add more compost to cover them and gradually fill up the pots. The secret to success is not to overwater. Soggy compost deprives the plants of oxygen and leads to stunted growth. Start feeding with potash when the leaves are out of the top of the pots. Other varieties I’ve tried and are RHS recommended include Casablanca, Golden Nugget, Sharpes Express, Maris Bard, Jazzy and Vales Emerald. I don’t grow Sharpes Express as much though, as it tends to disintegrate when it’s cooked and you end up with a pan full of soupy water.

Just behind the potatoes and bedding plant cuttings is a pot of wild rocket. I sowed the seed in autumn and now have lots of little pots like these from which I can pick a few leaves each day. Pick from the outer leaves, leaving the centre of the plants to keep growing.

Here’s a quick peek in the potting shed at dusk. The last of the Paper White narcissi are cheering up the potting bench. Another fabulous scented flower.

And in the potting shed window there’s snowdrops. This one is a very pretty Galanthus Viridapiece which has delicate green-tipped flowers. A favourite of mine.

Thank you to Helen at Patient Gardener for hosting this EOMV meme.

How are you coping with the weather? Get in touch and let me know how your garden is faring in the snow. Keep warm everyone.

How to Plant Prepared Hyacinths. Fairy Lights for the Greenhouse- and an update from this week’s BBC radio programme for gardeners

It’s amazing how a few little touches can make all the difference. In defiance of the cold, dark days, I’ve brightened up the greenhouse with mouldable lights. These are tiny fairy lights on a copper wire. They can be twisted around floral arrangements and basically they hold their shape without damaging the flowers. I’ve used chrysanthemums from the poly tunnel for this display. It makes a lovely warm glow at a time when we all need some winter cheer.

I’ve chosen indoor battery-powered lights from the Christmas range at Wilco . The 2.2m cable contains 20 warm white lights for £3.50 and includes the battery. I’m going to wrap them around plant pots in the greenhouse next.

We talked about mouldable lights on this week’s BBC radio gardener’s phone-in programme. You can listen in on your phone or computer on the i-player. I wrote about how to tune in Here. https://bramblegarden.com/tag/radiogardening-howto-i-player-bbc/.

You can listen to any radio programme for 28 days after the broadcast. And there are special programme clips and podcasts too. The gardeners’ phone-in is on BBC Radio Leicester every Wednesday between 11am and 12 noon on 104.9 FM and digital. And on Sunday there’s local radio’s longest-running gardening programme, Down to Earth hosted by Dave Andrews, between 12 and 1pm. We will be taking phone calls live in the studio this coming Sunday, December 3rd.

Here’s a link to this week’s Wednesday programme hosted by Ben Jackson. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05m8p6x. Move the timeline round to 2.07.57 where the programme starts. We talk about making Christmas presents from materials found in the garden- including jam jar succulents and cacti, and making bird feeders with fir cones. And our mid-morning studio treat, for all the staff, was Chocolate Tiffin made with fresh autumn raspberries from the plot.

Here’s some details on the prepared hyacinths we mentioned. These are some I grew to flower for Christmas 2016.

You will need to buy “prepared” hyacinths which means they have been put into cold storage to fool the bulbs into thinking they have had winter already. To complete the treatment at home, place the bulbs in John Innes No2 compost in 3″ pots. Put the pots in a cold dark cupboard in the potting shed, garage or basement. Or put them into a black plastic bag. Store them for 9 to 10 weeks at 9C. Water just once. At the end of 10 weeks, check over the pots and those with about an inch of leaves and a flower tip showing can be brought out into a cool bright place to grow on. You can make up displays for Christmas by selecting bulbs that look about the same height and putting them into larger plant pots together. Don’t bring them straight into a centrally heated house or the flowers won’t develop properly. The bulbs need to be grown on in cool conditions for another 22 days.

Here’s some hyacinths and forced narcissi I used to create an early spring display this year. You can also bring twigs of cherry blossom into the house and they will give an earlier flowering too. I wrote about forcing Paperwhites Here.

The scent is quite glorious. Interestingly, different varieties of hyacinths need varying periods of cold/dark treatment. The variety Pink Pearl needs 10 weeks, but Anna Marie needs just 8. So experimentation is needed if you wish to mix the varieties in a display. I would set the 3″ pots at weekly intervals and grow more than I needed so that I could select the right number of plants for my display. Just a reminder- always wear gloves when handling bulbs as they can cause skin irritation.

A very quick and cheap Christmas present idea we mentioned was jam jar succulents. Here’s the materials I took into the studio. You will need a small recycled jam jar, handful of ornamental washed shingle, small amount of moss from the garden, and a succulent or cacti from the garden centre. Mine is an offset from one of my own plants. You half fill the jar with shingle, wrap the succulent stem with moss and plant. Finish the present with a ribbon. Plants need virtually no water over the winter. In summer, water once a week with a tablespoon of water. Tip the jar up to allow any excess water to drain out. Do not allow the succulent to become waterlogged.

This one has been in the jam jar for two years.

Talking of Christmas presents ideas I love these RHS Gold Leaf Gloves. I’m practically living in them, they are so comfortable. I may be a fairly scruffy gardener, with old trousers and holes in my jumpers, but my hands are glamorous.

Here’s a quick peek of Ben’s garden, which we talk about on the show. It’s a 2.5 by 2m raised bed, a bit overshadowed and plagued by slugs. But we’ve planted winter veg, salads and flowers – to see how much we can grow in a small, less than perfect plot. The kale and chard keeps growing through the cold weather. You just harvest the outer leaves, leaving the growing tips to keep going. I’ll keep popping by now and again to see how Ben’s getting on with the project. I’ve got a matching plot at home so we can compare progress. I have to say, Ben’s is looking better than mine at the moment. My plot is on a windswept ridge, and his is in a pretty, walled garden.

And after all that talking- we tucked into my Chocolate and Raspberry Tiffin. I wrote the recipe the recipe Here. Click on the link to see the recipe.

Do you have any recipes to share – or ideas for Christmas presents using materials from your garden? I’d love to hear your views.

#wordlesswednesday -spring has arrived in my potting shed

Potted bulbs planted in October have burst into bloom this week. The scent is just wonderful!


 Delph Blue hyacinthstete-a-tete mini daffodils white Carnegie Hyacinths, and creamy white Jacob hellebore. On the other side of the table, out of sight, is my seed sowing station. It’s lovely to be enveloped in spring scents. Much nicer than (the usual) lawnmower engine oil and compost! 

Have your spring flowers burst into bloom yet, or are you still waiting for that wonderful moment?