Enjoy this month’s column from the Garden News Magazine. I love sharing all my ups and downs, growing cut flowers and vegetables. And if I can get a mention for Monty kitten and the hens, then that’s a bonus.
Here’s some additional photos to go with the write up.
Thanks for reading, and have a great gardening week!
You’ve got until 8th August to submit your Big Butterfly Count survey results. So far I’ve had mostly cabbage white butterflies, a few Meadow Browns, two Commas, two Tortoiseshell, two Peacock butterflies, two Holly Blue, one Painted Lady, and a stunning Ghost Moth! You can also submit reports for moths you encounter during your 15 minute survey. Let me know how you get on with yours. My figures were disappointing compared with last year and the year before. However, even poor numbers are worth recording as Butterfly Conservation, who are organising the event, says the citizen science survey is ‘like taking the pulse of nature.’ It’s an indication of how insects are coping with our changing climate.
Are you taking part in the Big Butterfly Count this year? I’m just about to settle down with a cup of tea and count the butterflies in my garden.
Wildlife specialists, Vivara, are sponsoring the count this year and sent me this butterfly house to promote the citizen science project.
I’ve placed the house in a sunny sheltered spot in the cut flower and vegetable garden. I’ve put some twigs inside the house and hopefully butterflies will use it to shelter from bad weather. If I’m lucky, some might use it to overwinter in my garden. Last year we had peacock butterflies hibernating in the hen house and the potting shed. Adults overwinter in dark places such as sheds, bird boxes and holes in trees, and left undisturbed, they will be dormant until spring. As soon as the weather starts to warm up, they emerge and look for nectar-rich plants to feed on.
The butterfly house has a hook on the back and a screw and rawl plug for hanging it up.
I always look for the FSC mark on any wooden product which shows it’s been made from materials sourced from well managed forests. The butterfly house is a sturdy product which should last for years.
Vivara have one butterfly house to give away. Leave a comment at the end of this piece and a winner will be randomly selected.
Butterflies need all the help they can get. Numbers are falling drastically. The Butterfly Conservation charity which runs the Big Butterfly Count says last year a record 145,000 counts were submitted, but worryingly 2020 saw the lowest average numbers of butterflies logged since the event began 12 years ago.
Cold, wet spring weather is thought to be a factor. Here in Leicestershire we had a cold, dry April, followed by the wettest May for 50 years. It rained every day, and right at the end May, we had a week of frost with temperatures dipping to -4C. This week we’ve had flash floods with 15mm of rain in one day, and hail stones the size of marbles.
Taking part in the Big Butterfly Count helps scientists assess the health of our environment, and helps us understand how the climate is affecting butterflies.
To take part, spend 15 minutes counting the maximum number of each species you can see at a single time. You can do this in a garden, school grounds, or public park. Go on to the Butterfly Conservation website and record your findings, or download the i- record App. There’s a downloadable wall chart showing all the different butterflies which helps identify them.
Here’s some butterflies I spotted in my garden:
Five Ways You Can Help Butterflies:
1. Join Butterfly Conservation. It’s half price until 8th August. There’s magazines and leaflets on gardening for butterflies. Also, invitations to local guided walks, and conservation volunteering days.
2. Run an event on behalf of Butterfly Conservation. Every little helps. You could host a coffee morning, a plant sale, a sponsored activity.
3. Volunteer for Butterfly Conservation. There’s office and outdoor work available.
4. Grow something for butterflies. They need nectar-rich plants for food, but also trees, shrubs and plants for caterpillars.
5. Take part in the Big Butterfly Count which runs until August 8th. It’s the biggest survey of butterflies in the world and provides a valuable insight into the health of our UK butterfly species.
Plants I grow to attract butterflies:
Buddleja is the one everyone knows about. Literally called the ‘butterfly bush.’ There’s some new miniature varieties for growing in small spaces and in containers. Look out for the Buzz series in lavender, magenta and white.
Lavender. Hidcote is my favourite as it is compact and doesn’t sprawl. Of all the lavenders, this one seems to cope with wet winters better than most. It needs well-drained soil and a sunny site.
Perennial wallflower- Bowles Mauve. Rarely out of flower all spring and summer. It’s a good idea to have a variety of plants from early spring through to autumn so there’s always something in flower for butterflies.
Marjoram. I discovered this when I let some marjoram or oregano plants escape from a pot. They grew to 60cm and scrambled through the bottom of a sunny hedge, providing pink/purple flowers all summer.
I also grow a selection of plants for caterpillars. Fruit trees, alder buckthorn, holly, blackthorn, oak, broom, lady’s smock or Cardamine pratensis, nettles, bird’s foot trefoil, all important caterpillar food.
Thank you for reading my blog. And thank you for all your kind comments on here and via other social media, letting me know how much my posts have cheered you up during the past two very difficult years. It’s much appreciated. Good luck in the prize draw! I’ll announce a winner on Sunday evening, 1st August, 2021.
This week’s ramblings from the plot. If you click on the photo you should be able to zoom in to read the column. I’ve been writing about my garden for a year and a half. I love sharing the ups and downs of growing fruit, veg and cut flowers. Not everything goes according to plan. But it’s good to share the disasters as well as successes, so everyone can learn from it.
So pleased to see Monty kitten gets a mention. We always send eight photos each time and never know which ones will be used. It depends on the layout. As you can see, Monty is turning into the best ever gardening cat. He is always by my side, whatever job I’m doing in the garden. He takes an interest in everything and likes to get involved. To be honest, I’m sure he thinks he’s a dog and not a cat, as he’s so loyal and often likes to come for a walk with us along the back field footpaths. If we get too far from home, I pick him up and carry him back, as I’d hate him to suddenly dart into a hedge and be lost. All our previous cats have been rather aloof and independent. Monty is one of a kind.
I’m getting on well with the paper mulch. It’s saving so much time. I can’t understand how I never heard of this product before, but now I know, I’ll be using it every summer under my dahlias, courgettes, cosmos and pumpkins. It saves so much hoeing and back-breaking hands and knees weeding.
And finally, I loved taking part in the social media event, GardenDayUK where we all made a flower crown, and spent some time reading, resting, having a tea party, enjoying being in our gardens, and sharing our gardens with the hashtag #GardenDayUK. This was the first time I’d joined in, and I enjoyed being a part of the celebrations.
Next time, I’m writing about butterflies, the new Rose of the Year ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ a visit to Stockton Bury Gardens in Herefordshire, and my success with my sweet pea pavement flower sales for charity. I hope you are having a great gardening week. Thank you, as ever, for taking the time to read my blog. It’s much appreciated.
Life seems to have been incredibly busy these past few months. Two family members have been desperately ill. I’ve sat by their beds and held their hands. Willed them to stay with us. One emerged from a deep deep coma, and returned to us. The other one passed away, peacefully in his sleep. And so, I sit in the garden now and think of them. Hoping the one returned to us as fragile as a butterfly, will spread his wings and fly, and mourning for the one who did not, although it was his time to go and we must celebrate a life well lived, well loved, happy and fruitful. The garden, as ever, becomes a place of solace. I’ve ground to a halt after months of literally running from one place to the next, almost in a permanent panic. Back here, in the shade of the trees, there’s peace and calm. Whilst I’ve been busy, the nesting birds have raised their young, and many have fledged. A highlight of a particularly difficult and stormy day was suddenly finding six long-tailed tits, newly emerged from the nest- all gathered along a hazel branch, at eye level, fluffing up feathers, preening, eager darting eyes. Almost like pom poms on a string. What a day to fledge! We had 40 mile per hour winds and torrential rain. With the storm coming from the south east, the westerly edge of our wood was weirdly still and silent, and this is where our little flock gathered. The parents desperately calling to them, ‘tsuk, tsuk, tsuk’ but the chicks totally unafraid, studied me as much as I studied them. In all the excitement of leaving the nest, I was just one of the new wonders for them to discover. I’ve stored up this moment as a happy memory during a difficult time. It’s amazing the little things that give you hope in times of need. You never know when or where these moments will come from, do you. And often it’s the simplest things that provide a balm.
Enjoy this week’s views of the garden and ramble along the back field footpath where there’s masses of white cow parsley and the last of the hawthorn blossom now festooned with ribbons of fragrant dog roses. Thank you for reading my blog.
White Roses. Pearl Drift requires minimal pruning and no chemicals. It is resistant to blackspot due to it’s LeGrice breeding. Grows to 4ft and is reliably repeat-flowering. Highly recommended.
Semi-double flowers allow bees to access the pollen. Sweetly scented.
Dianthus Mrs Sinkins. Another highly-scented flower in the June garden. Repeat flowers if cut back and dead-headed. Grows in the overspill gravel alongside the drive.
White campion – Silene latifolia alba- arrived by itself and grows amongst the cow parsley. Much less rampant than the pink variety.
Wild dog roses, great big swathes, overhang from the top of the high hawthorn hedges. There will be plenty of bright red rosehips.
Along the holloway walk. The pathway is edged with snowdrops in winter, and white starry stitchwort in summer. I’m adding white foxgloves for next year.
I’ve left gaps in the trees to look out from the pathway, towards the back fields, this year planted with spring wheat. I’m looking forward to having a golden backdrop for the garden. Wheat and barley are my favourites.
Step out of the top five bar gate, and on to the lane. The cow parsley has never looked as lovely. Or maybe, I just haven’t had time to stand and survey the scene before.
Looking across the fields towards Bunny Wood. There’s an ancient footpath to the woods.
A well-trodden path, very popular with hikers and dog walkers. We sometimes see deer. Usually there’s hares – more this year than usual. At dusk we watch the barn owls quarter the fields. At the moment they are out in the day as well as at night, which means they are probably feeding young. Tawny owls also call out across the fields at night.
A hawthorn ‘archway.’ A favourite viewing point.
Plenty of cow parsley. As pretty as any florists’ flower.
Thank you for reading my blog. Let me know what gardening jobs you are doing at the moment. I’m catching up on planting and weeding. Everything is very late this year, but I expect things will catch up in time. Have a peaceful happy week.
I’ve been out! Actually out in the car, driving to a garden. It’s only the second time I’ve been out for a garden visit in 16 months. A few weeks ago I visited Belvoir Castle, and this week, I chose Goldstone Hall for my floral excursion. It seems so strange to be out and about, meeting up with friends. Everyone’s experience of the pandemic has been different. Some say their lives changed very little, they continued to travel to work and managed to get out and about when lockdown eased. Others, like me, had to stay at home. Anyway, I’m picking and choosing which outings to go on, and slowly emerging back into a normal life. Here’s a slide show of photos I provide when I’ve been out. Goldstone Hall in North Shropshire didn’t disappoint. It’s a beautifully- designed and immaculately-managed 5 acre garden surrounding a pretty Georgian manor house. Although I didn’t stay overnight, (there are 12 bedrooms) I am planning to return with my Mum for a short break soon. The idea of waking up early, and quietly wandering around the masses of roses, vegetables and herbs, definitely appeals.
This Abutilon vitifolium is one of the first shrubs you see when you step into the garden. It’s a fast-growing shrub from Chile with vine-like leaves and abundant pale mauve flowers. It flowers mainly in spring and early summer, but can flower all summer long if happy in a sheltered warm position. It can easily be grown from seed and cuttings.
The main flower border runs along a sunny wall. There’s roses and clematis all along the walls, with perennials and grasses in front.
Here’s another view of the wall, taken from the front of the border. Some pretty wine-coloured aquilegias grow in patches all along the border. This one looks like the variety Bordeaux Barlow.
Lupins in the cutting garden look particularly lovely in early June. There’s masses of sweet peas, cornflowers, sunflowers and gladioli to follow.
A herb walk is a scented pathway with 100 different herbs planted alongside heritage vegetables, salads and heirloom fruit trees and bushes.
The polytunnel is packed with produce. I am going to copy the idea for growing strawberries in lengths of guttering with a drip watering system attached. Would keep the plants off the ground and away from slugs- and it would be much easier to pick fruit.
Not an inch of space is wasted in the poly tunnel.
After a head-gardener tour of the grounds, we enjoyed a delicious lunch in this open-sided oak pavilion. Perfect for a lovely warm summer’s day.
We had new potatoes, freshly dug from the plot, a spinach and asparagus quiche, and salad – all grown in the gardens we had just walked around.
Here’s the recipe for the panna cotta we enjoyed.
The view of the garden from one of the reception rooms in the hotel. There’s a sense of peace and tranquility here.
More information about Goldstone Hall.
Goldstone Hall is an Royal Horticultural Society ( RHS) partner garden, and opens for the National Gardens Scheme and for garden group tours. There’s more on the website at https://goldstonehallhotel.co.uk/.
It’s time to celebrate Garden Day UK again. Garden Day, on May 9th, is a chance to down tools and just enjoy what you’ve achieved on your plot. It’s one day when you don’t have to do anything really. Just sit in the garden, allow yourself a moment to pause and reflect.
One of the lovely features of Garden Day is the wearing of a flower crown. Take photos of your crown, and upload them to social media. Tag @GardenDayUK to share photos of your creation.
I’ve been sent this beautiful crown to wear tomorrow. It’s made from miniature cream roses and pink and blue statice. There’s some gorgeously-scented herbs, rosemary and thyme, and some grey foliage as a background foil for all the flowers.
Flower crowns are really easy to make. Take a length of florists’ wire, wrap it around your head to check the length. Add about 8” so you’ll be able to twist the ends together. Add a circle of olive foliage, or lengths of rosemary as a background. Make little bunches of flowers, any you fancy, from your own garden or from the florists. Lay each bunch along the wire and bind in with thin florists’ wire, paper-covered wire, or string. When you have covered the circle, check the crown fits, and twist the bare lengths of wire together to form the crown.
I’m looking forward to sharing my day with my Mum. Whatever the weather, we will be either sitting in the orchard, or if it’s raining, in the greenhouse.
How will you be spending Garden Day tomorrow? Do share photos of your garden on social media. It’s a good way to connect with other keen gardeners and to share ideas and gain inspiration on growing plants.
Here’s some photos of my garden today:
Finally, we will be accompanied by Daphne ( speckled hen) Daisy and Dot, and Merlin the cockerel, as they search for slugs in the cut flower patch. If we are very lucky, there will be eggs for tea!
Happy Garden Day everybody!
Thanks, as ever, for reading my blog. Please leave comments in the box below the hashtags, right at the bottom of this post. Or click on ‘comments’ under the headline and the box will drop down.
Published by Quadrille, an imprint of Hardie Grant Publishing
RRP £26 Published spring 2021. Hardback. 272 pages
ISBN 978 1 78713 6359
At about five or six, I was given the task of ‘collecting the mint.’ My grandmother, who was cooking lunch, had a huge patch of mint in her farm garden. Basket in hand, I carefully plucked the sprigs of mint and laid them neatly in rows, tips all the same way. No higgledy piggledy stems for me. Even at that young age, I took things seriously. Given a task, I wanted to do it right. I smile now, looking back at what a serious little girl I was. The first grandchild, surrounded by adults, there were no siblings or cousins for five years. I listened intently to all the adults talking and took in every word. Through their conversations, I formed a view of the world. Many years later I can still hear their voices quietly reporting the day’s events, whispering a neighbour’s misfortune, a sadness, a death. Murmuring sorrow for some, and joy for another- a wedding, a birth, some good fortune achieved. Conversations at the kitchen table brought the world into the home. I listened and learned, but cocooned in the routine of work, gardening, farming, cooking and eating, nothing appeared to change for us. It seemed as if everything happened to other people, but my world stayed the same, stable and safe.
The scent of fresh-picked mint still has the power to transport me back to happy childhood days. My mint was sprinkled over home grown new potatoes, tiny and white, as shiny as pebbles, with creamy home-churned butter and a sprinkle of grainy salt. Something so simple, delicious and ultimately, memorable.
This last 12 months, many of us have found comfort in baking. Focussing on the past, perhaps I’ve attempted to bring back the security and safety I felt as a child. I’ve found myself cooking hearty soups, casseroles, and vegetable pies. The spicy, buttery Welsh cakes my Welsh grandmother cooked on a griddle. Rice puddings, fruit crumbles and sponge cakes. Separated from family and friends, these old favourite recipes have been a comforting presence. Sights, sounds and scents of cooking, recalled as if they were only yesterday.
However, we have now emerged from lockdown, and I’m looking for a new way forward. I’m keen to try new recipes and new ideas. I’m eager to welcome family and friends back into my home and garden and I’m looking forward to making new memories for them- and for me. While not forgetting all the echoes from the past.
Mark Diacono’s new book ‘Herb, a cook’s companion’ is a good starting place. Recipes such as Lemon Thyme and Leek Tart have a rich butter and egg pastry base with a leek and cream filling. Lemon thyme leaves and nutmeg add a delicious twist to a familiar recipe.
Here’s my first attempt. I must admit, it’s not perfect. My pastry needed to be folded over more firmly, as the lovely egg filling escaped over the side. My second attempt was better and everything held firm. I’ve never thought of adding herbs to the pasty base before, and it was a triumph. The lovely buttery lemon-thyme pastry melts in the mouth. A perfect complement to the leek and creme fraiche filling. Again, adding nutmeg and bay leaves lifts this recipe out of the ordinary. It looks beautiful too. Presentation is something I’m trying to improve on. This looks as good as it tastes and received thumbs up from the family.
Greek Herb Pie.
Mark says: “This Greek summer favourite, aka Spanakopita, is so worth making a delicious regular. Heavy with spinach, salty feta and crisp laminations of filo, it’s as good cold as hot, early in the day as late. This version nudges the spinach (which can be a bit of a grump at times) towards the cheerful with the brightness of dill and mint in generous quantities, and parsley anchoring the leeks to the cheese. A delight.”
Herb Soda Bread
A buttermilk, oat and wholemeal flour bread, with a small bunch of chives or sweet cicely, or either of the savories, finely chopped.
Lemon Lavender Meringues
A twist on the usual meringue recipe. Between 5 and 8 lavender heads are whizzed with caster sugar in a spice grinder and added to whisked egg whites and lemon zest.
Fig Leaf and Lemon Verbena Rice Pudding.
Even my family favourite rice pudding is given a new lease of life with the addition of fig-leaf infused milk and lemon verbena leaves. Such a lovely change from the usual.
The book covers how to grow and harvest herbs and how to preserve them in sugar, vinegar, oil and salt, and how to dry and freeze them.
There’s comprehensive coverage of choosing what to grow, how to grow herbs from seed, taking cuttings, propagation and planting out. There’s full plant descriptions of many popular herbs such as anise hyssop, Korean mint, basil, bay, chervil, chives and parsley for example. Then there’s suggestions for more unusual plants such as shiso or perilla – which I’ve always grown as a purple ornamental bedding plant. Seems it can be added to salads and used with recipes containing aubergines, grilled or barbecue prawns, and with eggs and avocado. I shall experiment!
Following the growing section, there’s recipes featuring soups and side dishes, main meals, puddings, biscuits and drinks. There’s something surely to please everyone – especially people like me, looking for a special dish to make for friends and family, as we start to reconnect.
The publishers have kindly offered one copy to give away. Please leave a comment in the box below to be included in the prize draw. A winner will be randomly selected. International entries are welcome.
Please look back on Wednesday 5th May to check if you have won a copy. I’ll announce it on the blog. (Please do not give out your address or any other details to anyone. Be aware of scams.)
Have you found cooking a source of comfort over the lockdown times? Are you, like me, looking to try something new this year, as we start to feel more positive and move forward. Get in touch and let me know your thoughts. And thank you, as ever, for reading my blog. It’s always appreciated.
* comments box is right at the bottom of the blog, past all the hashtags. Or click on ‘comments’ under the headline.
Here’s a quick link to the recipe mentioned in this week’s Garden News Magazine. Let me know if you make my peach crumble cake. The recipe is great with tinned or fresh peaches, apples, plums, cherries, rhubarb and blueberries- anything you have to hand. Thanks for reading my garden diary column and for all your lovely kind comments and encouragement. It’s always appreciated.
Some more photos from my April garden diary. Enjoy the spring flowers- and new additions to the garden, Merlin the cockerel, and Daphne, Daisy and Dot bantam hens.
Here they are, enjoying a dust bath. They soon found a cosy corner in the garden where I’d piled some old compost. Perfect for their favourite daily activity. I love the contented little sounds they make as they swoosh compost into the air in all directions. Hens are certainly messy creatures.
Here’s Merlin, searching for slugs, snails and grubs in the veg plot. I’m hoping they will help me with my organic gardening, no chemicals- approach.
I’m not forgetting Monty kitten, looking quite windswept as he sits on his favourite look-out post on top of the boat cover.
The greenhouse – with barely and inch to spare. I can just about still get in there.
The poly tunnel swathed in fleece as we hit -3.5C two nights in a row. It’s currently 7C at lunchtime with a freezing icy wind and sleet. The old peach trees are flowering despite the cold. I’ll have to pollinate them with a paintbrush. There’s no bees about in these cold temperatures.
Despite the cold, daffodils are looking lovely. So cheerful.
My favourite narcissus Snow Baby looking lovely in spring pots planted three years ago and still going strong.
My new spring pot with ‘instant’ plants from the garden centre. Cheering up the front doorstep.
Wild anemones flowering in the mini woodland garden. Bluebells are just starting to raise their heads above big strappy leaves and potted Lily of the Valley is scenting the potting shed.
A few flowers fresh picked from the veg plot.
My wild Tenby daffodils, flowering around the pond, still look good at dusk. These are planted in memory of my Welsh grandmother, HM Foulds. A very reliable and hardy daffodil, highly recommend.
Bulbs and spring bedding plants are making me smile, after such a long, cold winter. I couldn’t get out last autumn to buy any plants, so I’ve reached spring with nothing to put into containers. But restrictions have lifted- and I’ve had my jab (hurray!) and I’m able to get out there! I can’t adequately describe the shear delight of actually being able to visit a plant nursery and buy a few flowers. Never in my life did I think such a simple thing as going out and buying plants would be so joyful- and appreciated. I’ll never take it forgranted again. Never.
I bought some potted anemone blanda, Bridal Crown narcissus and bellis daisies. I didn’t go mad with my first trip out. Every plant was savoured, the scent enjoyed, the colours marvelled at. I set the Bridal Crown in the centre of a favourite terracotta pot, and nestled the anemones and bellis daisies around the edge. Bridal Crown is perfect for a centrepiece as it’s multi -headed, which means it flowers for a long time. The stems twist and turn in different directions, giving a fountain-like centre to any pot. Anemones have a charming habit of scrambling between the narcissus stems and filling the gaps. Bellis daisies are just so cheerful. I particularly love the double pomponette types. All in all, my plants have provided a much-needed breath of spring, and the containers are cheering up my front doorstep and all the garden table tops, just in case we have visitors, which is now allowed. It will feel strange to have friends and family walking around my plot, after a whole 12 months without anyone visiting.
Here’s this week’s Garden News article, mentioning my treasured plant pots.
And more photos of the containers, which have survived two windswept nights of -3.5C temperatures.
The scent is wonderful.
Just planted. Instant plants can be put together to make a colourful display. No one would know the containers hadn’t been planted last autumn.
Anemone blanda, mixed blues and whites.
I popped in two large anemone coronaria. I would usually grow all these bulbs myself, starting them off in September and October. But there’s so much choice at the garden centres, you can easily catch up now, and they don’t cost a fortune.
Here’s the Superseed Trays I mention in the article. I’m trying to reduce my use of flimsy plastic trays which are not recyclable. The plastic breaks down to smaller and smaller pieces and gets into rivers and streams and out to the ocean.
I love trying new products and I’m always amazed by the ingenuity of new business enterprises.
I’ve adopted a rescue cockerel. His days were numbered as there were too many cockerels where he came from. Sadly, if you hatch out chicks, some of them with obviously be cockerels and then they become unwanted. I’ve named him Merlin because he has the most gorgeous petrol -coloured feathers. And he has magiced his way into my life, just when I needed something to make me smile again. He’s now been joined by three beautiful bantam hens, so he’s in heaven here.
And finally, the latest photo of my lockdown kitten Monty. He’s been a constant source of joy since arriving here last summer. Hasn’t he grown into a beautiful boy. He’s enormous and very fluffy, but he has such a kind and gentle temperament. And he’s always by my side, keeping me company in the garden.
How are you all doing? Are any of you managing to get out and about and see friends and family again? It’s a while since I last wrote on here. We had several very sad deaths amongst friends and family. The latest being a dear friend, Jo, who died just six weeks after a diagnosis of cancer. We will be attending her virtual funeral on Friday, and I’ll be planting a tree in her memory.
Take care everyone, and thank you for reading and for your friendship and kind comments. This has not been an easy time for any of us, but there’s always hope for the future.
Temperatures are reaching 16C here today, just a week after snow and lows of -5. I’m working in the garden in shirt sleeves. Heavy coats and warm jumpers are left indoors. My lemon trees in the greenhouse have started to grow and I’m feeding and watering them now. They have been relatively dry over the winter. To promote more flower and fruit, I’m harvesting all the lemons and making cakes and biscuits. Spare fruit can easily be frozen whole and microwaved when juice and zest is needed.
Here’s a tasty recipe for a February pick-me-up. You can eat these lemon crunch triangles on their own with a cup of tea, or add vanilla icecream. They can also be frozen. I’m making some for now, and a batch for when we can open up the garden for visits from friends and family. I can hardly wait to see everyone! This has been a long winter and one we will never forget. I’m making videos of the garden to send to my mum, and to relatives and staff in the care home, to give them a flavour of spring. They can’t get out to see any flowers are the moment, so the videos of our snowdrops, hellebores and crocus are an escape to the outdoors for them. You can see the videos over on instagram where I am karengimson1.
Let me know what spring flowers are growing in your gardens. Are you cooking anything new this week? Freezing temperatures are due to return by the weekend, so I won’t be putting anything delicate outdoors just yet. But it’s lovely to see all these jewel-like spring flowers, and fresh lemons from greenhouse are very welcome indeed.
Here’s a link to my recipe for lemon crunch triangles:
I’m making these again today. I opened the kitchen cupboards and there was literally nothing cheerful in there! No biscuits, chocolate, cake. We’ve run out of everything. I wonder if we will look back on these times and ponder how we lived through this pandemic and learned to appreciate the simple things in life. I shall certainly never take for granted being able to just pop to the shops. Everything has to be so well organised. Lists on top of lists. All food is being delivered, for which I’m extremely grateful. But, oh, the dismay at discovering that I’ve forgotten something- just as I’ve pressed the button to order supplies. It’ll be a week before I can get another delivery. We do see an end in sight with vaccines on the way, so keep going everyone. Keep smiling. And make pastries, as there’s nothing nicer to cheer you up than the sight of these lovely tasty treats. Any fruit can be used, they are just as lovely with apples, frozen plums, raspberries, tinned peaches – any combination you like. Let me know what recipes are keeping you cheered up, and report back if you make any of these delicious pastries too.
And a photo of spring flowers to bring some joy as well:
White primulas. My favourites. Though I have seen some deep red double varieties mixed in with burnt orange which might look lovely in a blue China casserole dish…. if only I could get out to buy some.
Narcissi Geranium and cut flower collection tulips from last spring. All my tulips are poking through the ground now, and daffodils are in bud and flowering early. The veg patch is covered in forgetmenots. I use them as a green mulch to protect the soil and keep down weeds. Some are potted up to stand on the summerhouse steps. They are very easy to dig up as they have a shallow, fibrous root system. They do well when lifted and grown on in containers.
Daffodils make a very welcome return. I’ve watered them with potash or tomato fertiliser, having taken advice from a medal-winning grower. The liquid feed helps to strengthen the stems and enhances the colour, making them stronger and brighter. A good tip as we regularly seem to be getting stormy spring weather. It’s so sad to see daffodils flattened by the wind.
Eranthis hyemalis – winter aconite in the woodland garden. They won’t last long as temperatures are currently 13C.
Green-tipped Galanthus Viridapice looking pretty on the potting shed window. Snowdrops too have been a very welcome and joyous sight. But in the mild weather, they have opened right out and will be going over sooner than usual. I shall water these too with weak tomato fertiliser in the hope of boosting the size of the bulbs and increase the number of flowers for next year.
Have a lovely weekend everyone.
*I’m trying something new- doing Instagram live sessions from the greenhouse every day, essentially to keep in touch with my Mum and MIL Joan, and also to show my daughters how to grow plants from seed. Under normal circumstances I would be by their side helping them with their new houses and first gardens. But I can’t while we are in lockdown, so I’m doing what I can from home. I’m karengimson1 on instagram.
I thought you’d like a calming walk around the garden today. We’ve had snow for two days now, but it is starting to melt. It’s currently 3C and rain is forecast. Snow covers a multitude of sins. You can’t see the brambles or stinging nettles. I’ve made a start on tackling the thickets- they have grown up in only three years of neglect. It’s interesting to see how nature is always trying to reclaim the garden. Always trying to take back what we’ve borrowed. We only carve out this place for a short while.
Bellis daisies. In flower despite the cold. We planted some in pots years ago and they’ve seeded about the plot. They pop up in borders, the gravel paths, and in small colonies in the lawn. I rather like them for their tenacity. Stamp on them (accidentally) and they do not flinch.
By the front door there’s a patch of Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis). It grows in the gravel spilling over from the path. There is no soil here. And yet, with minimum fuss and no maintenance, it flowers its heart out from October to March. Friends say it can be difficult to grow, so I’m grateful for my little patch of thriving iris. Last year it produced this pretty lilac sport. The mother plant is deep purple. I love it when plants suddenly do the unexpected. Don’t you?
The bank of wild cherry trees look like charcoal drawings in the snow. They are full of buds. I’ll cut a few twiggy branches and bring them into the house. They’ll flower readily in the heat of the kitchen. One way to bring spring forwards a little. It’s cheating, I know, but I can’t resist.
More trees surround the wildlife pond. It’s wonderful to think we are only four weeks to seeing frogspawn in the pond. Spring always starts for me when we see frogs again. You can learn more about frogs by following Froglife, a wildife charity dedicated to the conservation of frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards.
We are seeing a lot more deer in our area. We think they might be Sitka deer. Sometimes I just catch sight of them out of the corner of my eye. They are almost like ghosts, drifting silently along the dark hedgerows. They seem to blend into the shadows and become part of the landscape. Sometimes, in spring, if we are really lucky, we’ll come across a fawn in the long grass. The mother is never far away, and we tiptoe quietly away, so as not to startle her.
We’ve turned the summerhouse towards the sun. Amazingly, it’s quite warm in there. Such a well-made building, insulated with thick, wavy-edge oak. They knew how to build in the 1930s. We are grateful for our sturdy and peaceful sanctuary. It’s the perfect place to sit for a while and read, or watch the birds. Sometimes we see a fox. At dusk, a barn owl quarters the back field. They hunt methodically, searching for prey by flying back and forth. We worry when the weather is stormy and wet, as it increasingly is nowadays. Barn owls have no waterproofing. Their soft feathers help them to fly almost silently, but it’s at the expense of being weatherproof. They struggle to hunt and find food in the rain. One heartbreaking evening last summer, we saw the female out in heavy rain. She looked off balance, her flight hampered by the wind. We watched as she wobbled and barely made it over the top of the hedge. Desperation must have driven her out in poor weather. She had two chicks to feed. Later, the farmer who checks the nests, found only one chick had survived.
I’ll leave you with two happy photos. Snowdrops always make me feel hopeful. They return every year, whatever is happening in the world around them.
And this beautiful glass ‘vase’ of flowers- a present from a kind friend. Certainly. We are all looking for anything that brings joy at the moment. Thank goodness for kindness, friends and family. And for flowers which always make us smile.
Let me know how you are all getting on. Are you managing to sow any seeds or do any gardening yet. Take care everyone. And thank you for reading.
I’m on instagram at karengimson1 and twitter @kgimson. Come over and say hello!
One of the ways I’m keeping upbeat at the moment is reading blogs. Barbara Segall writes about the Japanese rice recipe Seven Herbs of Spring in her ‘Garden Post’ blog. I was immediately inspired to go out into the garden and find seven herbs to make my own revitalising rice dish.
Barbara explains that the severn herb dish is a kind of porridge eaten during the first weeks of January as a way of detoxing and giving the digestive system a boost. Simple food after all the excesses of Christmas. I didn’t quite have the herbs Barbara mentions, but rather than just giving up, I searched out and used what I could find. I was delighted to discover small amounts of mint, fennel, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, Welsh onion, and chervil. Most were in self-watering containers placed in the greenhouse for winter protection. Rosemary grows by the back door, and perennial Welsh onions are in the polytunnel. They are a good source of fresh onion-flavouring when chives have died back for the season.
Just searching about the plot and discovering small amounts of herbs was a joy. The scents released as I snipped the herbs into a colander made me think of summer when I planted these containers. I perhaps use fresh herbs more in summer than I do in winter. It requires more of an effort to go out in the cold, ice crunching underfoot and wrapped up against the chill wind. Much easier to reach for the dried herbs (dare I admit to using such a thing). But the taste was worth it. Every mouthful was a burst of flavour – transporting me back to sunshine and summer heat.
I boiled some organic long grain brown rice to go with my herbs. A nice easy meal, in contrast to all the complicated, lengthy cooking of the festive season. The rice was ready in 25 minutes. I roughly chopped the herbs and sprinkled them over the steaming rice. I found some tiny emerging spring broccoli and nasturtium leaves to add to the dish and yellow broccoli flowers, which are edible and should not be wasted.
Delicious! Using what I have about the place and keeping things simple. It made me feel as if I was looking after myself. Which is no bad thing just at the moment when we are all rather stressed and in lockdown.
Do read Barbara’s blog and learn more about Japanese cooking traditions. Barbara’s writing is like silk. It’s a joy to read. And you never know, it might inspire you to grow more herbs and cook something delicious and good for you. Let me know if you do!
Here I am, pottering about in my garden again. I must say, the weeks fly by and it’s soon time to write another column for Garden News Magazine.
I hope you enjoy today’s article. I’ve had some lovely letters of support from readers saying my ‘potterings’ have kept them upbeat and busy during the pandemic. I’m pleased to see many readers have been inspired to have a go at different gardening techniques, or decided to grow something new. And many say the recipes are tasty, and always turn out well. What a relief!
Here’s some additional photos the editor didn’t use for the column. It’s fascinating to see which ones they choose. I submit about 10 for them to select from. It takes about a day to decide what to write about, take the photos and then actually sit down and compose the piece. It’s 350 words – which is actually quite a challenge. I try to say a lot in not many words. I edit it three times before I send it, taking out any spare words each time. What a luxury it is to write the blog. No one is checking the word count on here.
My hazel plant supports in the snow. New rods have replaced any that snapped, and have been woven along the centre to add strength. We seem to be getting stormier summers, so plant supports have to be extra sturdy.
Some sweet peas I grew last summer. I’ve sown some in autumn, but the second sowing now will provide plants that flower right through to November. Successional sowing extends the season.
Here’s a photo of ‘Sunshine’ climbing French beans. Highly recommended, easy to grow and prolific. We have a freezer full, and they only take a few minutes to cook from frozen. All the flavour and goodness is captured for tasty winter meals. I’ll be starting my bean seed in May. Don’t start them off too early as they cannot be planted out until the first week of June. If sown too early, they become leggy and weak. They are very fast growing.
Here’s a larger photo of the willow heart flower arrangement in the potting shed window. It’s made from Paperwhite narcissi, alstroemeria from the poly tunnel and dried gypsophila and honesty seeds from summer. The foliage is eucalyptus saved from Christmas floral arrangements. Flowers are held in a jam jar covered in moss which has garden string twined around it, kokadama -style. We are all trying to do without florists’ foam, and using jam jars, and tiny glass test tubes works really well.
If you’ve received your copy of Garden News Magazine this week, here’s the recipes I mention in my column. Above is the summerhouse where I write my pieces, and where I sit and make my cherry marzipan chocolates.
The recipe link for Cherry Marzipan Chocolates is here :
They are very quick to make and children love creating them. They make tasty home-made presents for Christmas.
I also write about Chocolate and Orange Panettone. Start saving your tins now to make these delicious treats. They are very easy to make and look beautiful. Get the children to make potato stamp labels. Be as creative as you like. Everyone can get involved.
I write about turning my satsumas from the greenhouse into a liqueur. The recipe comes from Bob Flowerdew, replying to me on twitter when I asked what I could do with this year’s prolific harvest. It’s been a good summer for growing citrus. Bob always has great suggestions for what to do with produce from the garden, and is generous with his advice.
Here’s Bob’s recipe for Satsuma Liqueur :
And finally, I was talking on the radio last week, when I mentioned I was making Sloe Gin. Here’s the recipe, with thanks to garden writer Barbara Segall, who inspires me on a daily basis to try something new.
450g sloe berries -or whatever you can find. If you only have 300g, use those.
350g caster sugar
Kilner jar or lidded jar
Place the ripe sloe berries in the freezer to break the skins. Add all ingredients to a large kilner jar. Swirl the contents every day for a week, every week for a month, and every month for a year. Strain the gin. Use the berries for cakes or trifle.
It’s wonderful to have a bottle on the north-facing kitchen windowsill. Mine has changed colour now and it’s a joy to see. Almost like a stained glass window.
Chrysanthemums are in full flower in the poly tunnel. They’ll provide cut flowers from now until January. I grow hardy varieties in 10″ pots. They stand out on the gravel paths, next to the greenhouse all summer. Chrysanths can cope with the cold, but wet weather spoils the flowers, so I lift the pots into the unheated poly tunnel the first week of November.
I don’t know the name of this bright yellow chrysanthemum. It came from my father-in-law Keith. He had been growing it since the 1950s, having been given a cutting from Aunty Dorris. When Keith was no longer able to garden, I took over the tradition on growing the yellow flowers for his wife, Joan. Until this year, I’ve managed to supply Joan with a bunch each week through November and December. They are her favourites. This year, covid has interrupted our plans – and I’ve had to e mail photos of the flowers instead.
I’m growing these pretty little white chrysanthemums too. These are called Stallion. They are multi -headed and last at least a fortnight, sometimes three weeks, in a vase. Flowers have a bright yellow button centre, and take on pink tinges as they age. Very useful as a filler in a bouquet.
We’ve had a message from the care home saying one family member can visit before Christmas. They will have to take a rapid covid test, sit in their car for half an hour to wait for the results, and then spend 30 minutes visiting our relatives in their own rooms. We can’t visit any communal spaces. And we still can’t take flowers, for some reason. But we can take tins of biscuits and jars of jam- anything that can be disinfected before being giving to the residents. I’m writing about it here because the blog has become a record of our times, living through this covid pandemic, and the effect it’s had on people living in care homes.
Hopefully, soon we will be able to have the vaccine and this nightmare will come to an end. I’m hopeful it won’t be long now.
Thank you for reading. I’m celebrating reaching the milestone 100,000 readers on the blog. When I started writing, I had no idea so many would read my potting shed musings. Thanks for being one of them. Have a calm and happy week.
As a few of you know, I talk on the radio once a fortnight, chatting about what I’m doing in my vegetable and cut flower plot. This week, I tried valiantly to make a few twigs from my garden sound exciting. It really tested my powers of description! Anyway, if you were listening in, here are the photos to go with my interview with Ben Jackson. I was waving my arms around, explaining how you can gather foliage and off-cuts from the garden, make them into a twiggy bouquets, add lights, and plunge them in a pot. I do hope it enthused a few people to have a go and make their own Christmas decorations.
Willow stems, dried oak twigs, pine foliage and Hydrangea Annabelle flower heads with orange lanterns, Physalis alkekengi.
I decorated the hydrangea heads with some florists’ silver spray from Oasis. You only need a tiny amount.
Some old man’s beard, wild clematis vitalba adds a fluffy texture and movement to the arrangement.
Mouldable copper wire fairy lights from supermarkets only costs a few pounds. Mine came from Wilkos and use rechargeable batteries.
Tiny flowers from the hydrangea heads flutter down around me. I scoop them up and use them as table decorations. They are like nature’s confetti.
Wire lights can be threaded through dogwood stems and any greenery from the garden. This ‘bouquet’ of twigs is pushed into a plant pot of garden soil and stood by the front door. It looks like a container full of expensive plants, but in truth, it has cost me nothing. Stems will stay fresh until after Christmas due to cold and wet weather. They can be composted in the new year. So there’s no waste to go into bins.
I’ve used pine, spare Christmas tree stems (the tree was too tall), ivy, dogwood and willow to give height, and skimmia at the front. You could pop some hellebores and white heather either side to cover the base of the pot. If you have plastic pots, why not cover them with hessian to give them a natural look.
Here’s some more ideas using willow. Wind the willow or dogwood into a rough circle and keep adding more stems. Eventually you can pull it into shape and secure it with thin lengths of willow. Kept dry in the shed, wreaths will last for years. Each Christmas, I add new foliage, pine and rosemary for scent, rosy-hued hydrangea heads and clematis seeds. These are simply fed in amongst the willow stems and secured with string or florists’ reel wire.
You can add rosehips and crab apples to the willow frame. Birds tend to enjoy them, so I have to replenish the decorations every day. We were very excited to see some very small birds, possibly long-tailed tits enjoying the clematis seeds. It becomes almost a cross between a Christmas decoration and a bird feeder.
Add whatever you can find in the garden and hedgerow. In this silver birch wreath, I’ve added ivy, with green and black ivy berries, and dried cow parsley seed heads. The wind sometimes blows the clematis across the back fields, but there’s plenty more in the potting shed, ready for the festive season.
These willow stems have been folded over to form a heart. Hold ten stems in one hand. Bend half of them over and tie in the middle. Bend the other half over to form the other side of the heart, and tie in. Tie further up the stems to keep the heart shape secure. Disguise the ties -or the mechanics, as we call them- with a mini bouquet of foliage. Here I’ve used Holly, ivy, Garrya elliptica, hydrangea flowers and a few crab apples.
Willow wreaths don’t always need any decorations at all. A pretty ribbon is all that’s used on this wreath for a simple shepherd’s hut.
I decorate five bar gates around the plot. A single heart is often all that’s needed. It will cheer any Christmas Day revellers, walking along the lane. From this gate we can hear the church bells ringing. The sound carries far across the fields. It’s a wonderful spot to stand and listen for a few moments, mug of tea in hand.
Let me know what decorations you are putting up in your house and garden this year. Will it be old favourites, like mine, or something new? Get in touch and let me know, and thanks, as ever, for reading. Today, I’m celebrating my milestone 100,000 blog visitors. When I started writing, I thought just a handful of people might see my posts. I’m absolutely thrilled to see 100,000 have read about my little plot. Have a great weekend everyone.
I need little excuse to send cards to friends and relatives. I love keeping in touch with cheerful notes, and this year it seems even more important that usual to try to keep a connection. But I’m usually disappointed with the cards I see for sale. They are often single -use items, covered with embellishments and glitter. Not always recyclable. So I was happy to see a sample pack of eco-friendly stationery from the Little Green Paper Shop.
Founded by Ana in Cheshire in 2014, the online shop stocks a range of beautiful cards made from such intriguing substances as elephant dung and cotton fibre, and apparently, reindeer droppings. The elephant dung paper is hand-made in India and provides a source of income for elephant sanctuaries which the makers support.
Ana started by supplying wedding stationery, but has branched out to provide cards, crackers and wrapping paper for Christmas and other special occasions. Ana designs, prints, cuts and packages the items, and it’s very much a family affair with her husband and two sons helping out.
The samples I received are so delightful – and made me smile- I have placed an order for Christmas, and I’m planning to have some business cards printed. I fancy the idea of having cards made from seed paper which can be planted and will grow. Truly something earth-friendly and worth giving. Quite different from the throw-away cards you usually see.
Kitten Monty likes them too! And cats, as you know, are never wrong.
Please leave a comment in the box at the bottom of the page and Ana will select one person to receive a sample pack of cards and paper.
I didn’t pay for my samples, but as usual, there’s no obligation to write about them, and I only say nice things when I want to, and in this case, I think the cards are unusual and truly special. I’m happy to recommend the Little Green Paper Shop.
Sunflowers have been the stars of the autumn garden. This one is multi-headed Helianthus Black Magic. I sowed seeds in March in 3″ pots and planted them out the first week of June. They survived high winds and torrential rain, even hailstones mid-summer. Summer now seems to see a pattern of stormy weather with winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour. Plants have to be sturdy to survive- and well supported, with a scaffolding of 6ft hazel poles. Many times I’ve feared for my sunflowers and tall-growing cosmos and salvias. They were bowed down, but never beaten. Much like us, really. With all our covid worries.
White dahlia My Love, with a mixed selection of sunflowers, rudbeckias and calendula, grown from seed from Mr Fothergills and Burpees Europe. This summer I took part in a social media campaign with the hashtag #GrowSomeSunshine. We grew sunflowers and made a donation to the NHS, posting photos of our flowers on twitter and instagram. The campaign, run by gardening journalist, David Hurrion, raised £3,175. I’m hoping David will repeat the campaign next summer. It’s been a cheerful way to support our wonderful nurses, doctors and NHS volunteers. I’ve had sunflowers right across the front garden, lining the path to the front door. People passing by the garden gate lean in and smile. Garden gate conversations have become a ‘thing,’ with friends from surrounding villages walking along footpaths to visit us and chat. Only two people have actually been in the garden. On sunny days, I set out chairs 2 metres apart and served biscuits in individual little wrappings. They brought their own flasks of tea. Small dispensers of hand gel sat neatly amongst the potted plants on the garden coffee tables. Things like this are starting to feel more normal now. I’m writing this here as a reminder in the future, when I want to look back and see how we lived in the summer of 2020.
I love the range of colours in modern sunflowers. This one grew from a packet of seed called All Sorts Mixed. Well-named as there were eight different sunflowers in the mix.
This one is almost pink. A lovely range from a packet of Helianthus Evening Sun. plenty of pollen. A magnet for bees. As pretty as a stained glass window.
And another photo of Black Magic, which starts off a deep, dark chocolate colour, and fades to beautiful bronze.
Scrumptious. Almost good enough to eat. Which is what will happen to them over the winter. I’ve saved seed heads and dried them on the greenhouse staging. A few will be brought out each day over winter. A feast for the birds. Sunflower stems are hollow, and make homes for ladybirds and lacewings. I’ll bundle stems together and stuff them in my ‘twiggery’ which is just a pile of twigs and stems, left in a quiet corner for insects to hibernate.
What’s looking good in your garden right now? Join in with the #SixOnSaturday hashtag on twitter and instagram and look to see what other gardeners are growing in the UK and around the world. I use it to plot and plan what to grow next year. There’s plenty of good ideas from keen gardeners. A cheerful way to spend an hour or two on a rainy autumn Saturday.
I started growing cut flowers, and writing about them, when my mother-in-law-Joan was diagnosed with dementia. Joan loved flower arranging- she did the Methodist chapel flowers for 65 years. It was a passion we both shared. I instinctively knew Joan would start to forget me, and by taking flowers each week, I hoped to hold on to her for as long as possible. To keep a connection going. It was all I could think of. Before lockdown, Joan started to forget my name. But she never forgot the names of the flowers, and my posies gave us something cheerful to talk about. It gave Joan confidence. She could chat about a subject she understood when everything else in her life was confusing. Lockdown was an agony. I tried to send letters. Phone calls were too distressing, Joan couldn’t understand exactly why we couldn’t visit. Hearing loss caused further upset. I sent photos and updates about the family and her grandchildren. Leicester remained in localised lockdown, and the care home where Joan lives with her husband Keith, was within the extended lockdown area. So it was more than six months before we were able to visit.
And these are the flowers I took to Joan. Daisies have always been her favourites. The yellow rudbeckias came from some roots I saved when we had to sell their house. They lived in the same house, brought up three children, and enjoyed their garden for 63 years. The whole family worked together to help them live at home for as long as possible. But dementia not only steals memories of friends and family, eventually it takes away the ability to do even simple tasks. It was heartbreaking to watch Joan try to make a cup of tea. And yet she still wanted to try, because she loved looking after us. I really looked forward to popping around for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Her cake tin -before dementia- was always full of flapjack, coconut chocolate squares, and fruit cake. I often write the recipes here on the blog so they are not lost in time. Joan made my life happier. She always cared, backed me up and sympathised, helped where she could. I miss it. I miss having someone who would always stop what they were doing and just listen. Some things in life cannot be changed, but to have a sympathetic ear makes all the difference. To have someone always on your side. I’ve been lucky, I know. I was so determined to hold on to Joan, but covid defeated me. On our visit, I could hardly breathe, hoping Joan would recognise me. But she had no idea who I was. And I wasn’t even allowed to give her the flowers. It’s against the rules. Even a simple bunch of flowers could be deadly. The virus could be on the stems where I’ve touched them. So after showing her my flowers, the care home staff asked me to lay them on the garden path, where they stayed, looking as lost and forlorn as I felt. I don’t disagree with the rules- the staff have an unimaginable job to keep everyone safe. But I feel sad that my small bunch of flowers couldn’t go on Joan’s bedside table to bring her some joy at this difficult time. I’m updating you all, as you have followed my journey these past few years and kept me company whilst I’ve pottered about my garden and tied up my bunches of flowers for Joan. It’s been a comfort to share my thoughts on here. I’ll not give up, of course. As soon as I’m allowed, I’ll take flowers again. There will be hellebores and scented hyacinths at Christmas, catkins and forget-me-nots in spring, and roses and daisies all summer. In a care home, it’s easy to lose touch with the seasons and Joan loved visiting my garden. She enjoyed the beauty of flowers and the countryside around us. Let’s hope we can make up for lost time soon.
Rudbeckia Goldsturm (black-eyed Susan) flowers from July to October and cut flowers last ten days in a vase.
Verbascum nigrum grows to 1.5m on the vegetable and cut flowers plot. Spikes of bright yellow flowers emerge all summer. Pollinators love the flowers too.
Achillea millefolium (yarrow) grows in a small patch of wild flowers, sown from a packet of mixed seed last summer.
There’s oxeye daisies, with wild carrot flowers as a pretty filler. The carrot turns green as it goes to seed, perfectly matching the green rim around the centre of the daisy flowers.
If you look carefully, you can see the tiny hearts of Capsella bursa-pastoris or Shepherd’s purse. There’s hope, and lots of love, in this small bunch of flowers.
It’s been a challenging few weeks. We wanted rain. And we got it. A month’s worth in four days. Followed by Storm Ellen and 40 mile per hour winds. Anything not firmly staked, flopped over. Sunflowers and cosmos took a bashing. It’s taken a couple of days to prop up plants, tie them in, and sweep up twigs and leaf litter. I sometimes wish I was passionate about interior design instead of gardening. Wouldn’t it be lovely to create a scene, and have nothing smash it to pieces. But, sadly, I’m not remotely interested in being indoors. I’m only really happy when I’m outside, in the fresh air. Anyway, to cheer us all up, here’s some photos of what’s in flower in my garden today.
My new rose, Belle de Jour. Rose of the Year for 2021. Flowers open clear, bright yellow and fade to sunset shades of peaches and cream. There’s a delicate fruity scent and plenty of pollen for bees. Nice healthy green leaves, which is good for an organic garden like mine.
I think we can definitely say these flowers stand up to the weather. Some roses ‘ball’ in the rain. They fail to open and turn to mush. Luckily, Belle de Jour copes with a deluge; there’s not a mark on the petals. My rose came, by post, from Roses UK which promotes the British rose trade. I’m sure the new rose will be a huge success. It’s looking lovely in my garden already. And I’m always pleased to support British nurseries.
I’m growing a new variety of courgette, ‘Summer Holiday.’ Isn’t it pretty. I don’t know why, but this photo makes me so happy. It looks such a gorgeous little thing, bright yellow, with a twisty green stem. It’s a joy. And so easy to grow. I’m in favour of anything easy, this summer. Everything seems to have been hard work, so a highly productive trouble-free plant is very welcome. There’s a recipe for courgette and cream cheese soup to follow. It only takes ten minutes to cook.
Courgette flowers look beautiful too. They only last a day, but are a sunny, joyful sight. I’ve planted courgette and squash all along the base of my climbing bean frame. They make good ground cover and smother weeds.
Here’s the beans I’m growing this year. Don’t they look colourful.
Yellow: Climbing French bean ‘Sunshine’. A new variety.
Green: Climbing French bean ‘Limka’.
Purple: Dwarf French bean ‘Red Swan’.
All growing together along the hazel A-frame support, with blue morning glory intertwined. The dwarf French beans grow to around 122cm (4ft). Climbing beans are around 2.5m (8ft). Every day, I’m gleefully throwing handfuls of beans into the freezer. They will be such a treat mid-winter when fresh greens are in short supply.
I have a newly-planted border all along the path to the front door. It was infested with couch grass. Over the winter I dug out all the plants and turned over the soil, searching for every scrap of tiny white couch grass roots. I had to do this four times before getting on top of the problem. In May, I planted the border with annuals; sunflowers, nicotiana, cosmos, and underplanted them with salvias, which I treat as bedding plants as they are not very hardy here.
I favour dark dusky-coloured sunflowers. This one pictured above is ‘Black Magic.’ It’s a multi-headed sunflower the colour of dark chocolate. Bees love it, and the seed will feed birds in winter. I won’t bother growing ‘Italian White’ again. The first sign of a gale and the petals curled up and dropped off. Not hardy enough for my windswept plot.
If you like yellow sunflowers you would love these, growing in the back fields behind my garden. We cheered when we saw the farmer sowing the seeds in spring. It’s a wildlife -friendly mix to attract pollinators, and the seedheads feed birds and mammals over winter.
The ridgeway footpath goes all along the side of the sunflower field. We walk along it twice a day, as we are still in the habit of our lockdown exercise regime. And some of us are still not venturing far, as we can’t take any risks. I’m still getting over a serious illness from three years ago, and although surgeons gave me a second chance, I’m not strong enough to fight off infection. Doctors nowadays are forthright. And mine, straight to the point, said a ventilator wouldn’t be an option. So there we are. I have to be careful. I’m not dwelling on it. I’m just grateful for small mercies, sunflowers included, as I can gaze at them and feel happy. I don’t know how, but I can.
We still have swallows flying here. They must be finding plenty of insects. I’ll miss them when they go. I think of the journey they have to make, such tiny birds. Such a long way. It’s always an anxious time waiting for them to return in spring. Maybe, I’m going to have to get my courage up, and be like the swallows. Set off into the unknown. I can’t stay here forever, as lovely as it is, and as tempting as it’s become to say how well I’m coping. Someday soon, I have to set forth. Wish me luck!
On the footpath, going home, I pass by this old crab apple tree. It must be 100 years old, the size of its trunk. It makes a natural arch over the pathway. I like to gaze into the distance and wonder how the view might have changed over the past century. Probably not a lot as it’s still all farmland round here. But the people who’ve passed by this tree, their lives would have been very different 100 years ago. We have so much to be grateful for.
Nearing home, by our field gate, you can see the row of trees we planted 30 years ago when we were in our 20s. We never thought those little saplings would grow into a wood. And we didn’t know how much joy they would give us, watching the leaves change through the seasons, and giving a home to birds and wildlife. This summer, these daisies suddenly appeared. On sunny days, they have a strong chamomile scent. They may only be weeds, but they are a lovely sight, even so. Don’t you agree.
How has your garden fared this summer with the heatwave, drought and storms? It feels like we have faced many challenges, all round. Let me know what’s looking good in your garden right now, and whether you are managing to get out and about yet, or like me, waiting for your moment.
Peach and blue tones feature in my garden diary this week. Dahlia David Howard is usually a much brighter colour than the flower pictured above. But we’ve had sweltering temperatures the past few days and heat has faded some of the blooms. I rather like this delicate hue. I’ve waited until dusk to take my photos. The dahlia bed is next to the orchard, and I can hear hedgehogs shuffling through the dry twigs and grass in the undergrowth. If I wait quietly, they will come out and feast on fallen plums. I never knew how much they loved plums until a few years back when we had a massive harvest and, each night, five baby hedgehogs turned up. It was magical to watch them enjoying the ripe and juicy fruit. In the day, there are butterflies sipping the juice, meadow browns and peacocks in abundance this year. Not so many painted lady butterflies as last year though.
Here’s my second ‘peach’ photo. Rosa Phyllis Bide. It’s a medium-size rambler with large sprays of semi-double flowers 6cm wide. I grow it because it is disease resistant and doesn’t need spraying with chemicals. All my roses have to be tough. If you choose carefully, there are many varieties less likely to suffer from the fungal disease black spot. Phyllis Bide is easy and trouble-free, and repeat flowers from June to November. There are sometimes a few blooms in December, eagerly snapped up for Christmas table decorations. Flowers are gorgeous set amongst creamy white beeswax candles. Bees also love the pollen, and catering for wildlife and pollinators is often at the heart of everything I do. In my garden, Phyllis Bide grows up a wooden post and into a lilac tree, adding interest when the lilac is out of flower. It’s about 2.5m tall with a 1.5m spread.
This is a late-flowering Phyllis Bide rose, covered in snow on 11th December. Sunshine soon melted the ice, and the flower was still perfect. Isn’t it beautiful. A heart-sing moment, captured with an old i-phone camera.
My third photo is from the polytunnel. I’m growing pots of dwarf peach and nectarines. This one is Prunus Nectarella. It grows to about 1.5m by 1m in a 60cm container. I’m also growing Garden Lady and Bonanza. Planted in pots, they can be carried into the greenhouse or poly tunnel over winter, which helps protect early flowers from frost. They flower in February when there’s few pollinators about, so blossom has to be pollinated with a soft paintbrush. It’s a lovely calming occupation on a cold winter’s day, and gives hope spring is not far away.
Peaches and nectarines suffer from a disease called peach leaf curl. It’s a fungus which infects leaves causing them to distort and blister. It results in early leaf fall, reducing vigour. Wet conditions are needed for the disease to thrive, so keeping them indoors over winter helps to protect them. All the effort of growing them is worth it. Eating a peach or nectarine that’s been allowed to ripen naturally on the tree is a delight. Shop-bought fruit just can’t compare.
I wrote about my peach crumble cake recipe here. Do try it – with any fruit you have, apples, pears, plums- or peaches, and let me know what you think. It’s become a family favourite here.
Now for the ‘blue’ photos this week. I’ve chosen morning glory, Ipomoea purpurea. This is a seedling from a selection I’ve grown for years. Morning glory is an annual climber reaching 4-5m given a warm sunny fence or wall. Mine grow up through my climbing French beans. I’m hoping the flowers will attract pollinators which will benefit my vegetables. You can see the nectar guides in this photo. Flowers have visible and UV guides or lines directing bees to the nectary. Sunshine has highlighted the lines. It’s almost mesmerising. I save my seed each summer and store it in a cool, dark place over winter. I’ll start them off again in 3″ pots on the kitchen windowsill in February. Recommended varieties include Star of Yelta, Grandpa Ott and Heavenly Blue. All easy to grow, and once you’ve bought a packet of seed, you’ll have morning glory for ever more. Such a lovely thought!
My second ‘blue’ photo is gladioli. Another summer treat. This one came in a blue-mix assortment from Gee-Tee Bulbs. I plant them down the centre of my hazel rod sweet pea A-frame, where they grow quite happily without needing stakes. As soon as the heads pop out of the side of the frame, I harvest them for my cut flower posies. Gladioli can grow tall and floppy, and in the high winds we seem to be getting more and more, they often end up crashing to the ground. Grown with sweet peas, or though a climbing bean frame, they’ll get plenty of support. Corms are lifted in autumn when I pull up sweet peas. I let the leaves die back naturally and then I take off the little offset corms which grow beneath the ‘mother’ corm. I’ll keep them dry and frost free over winter and replant them next spring. If you have lovely, free draining soil you could leave the gladioli in over winter. But I have cold, heavy clay which seems to be flooded every winter now. Corms would rot in the wet. Links for bulb suppliers are at the end of this piece.
And finally, my sixth photo is meadow cranesbill or Geranium pratense. Again, you can see the violet and silver bee guides. So delicate, it reminds me of a butterfly wing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s voyage around my garden. My plot has kept me up-beat during the covid pandemic, giving me something cheerful to focus on. Thank you for all your kind messages. It’s lovely to hear so many of you feel you’ve have had a brief respite from worry, just for a few minutes, reading my blog and virtually ‘walking’ around the plot with me. Keep in touch, and let me know what has helped you through this difficult time. Have you grown anything new, or found comfort in familiar things. Thanks for reading. It’s much appreciated.
Calendula Snow Princess. Starts off butter yellow and fades to cream. Edges look as if they have been dipped in chocolate. Each flower is different. Such a pretty thing.
I talk about my calendulas in this week’s Garden News magazine. It’s quite a challenge to say a lot in just 350 words. But luckily I like a challenge. And I’m getting some lovely feedback from readers who say they enjoy hearing what I’m getting up to on my plot.
I have to weave in and out of the calendulas along the path. Verbascum provides a lot of flowers for minimum space. If cut back repeatedly, it flowers until first frosts, and certainly brings in plenty of pollinators.
Sweet peas are in full production. There’s Wiltshire Ripple in the foreground, and Mayflower 400 behind.
We’ve had four hoglets born in the garden this summer, one less than last year. They are all thriving and putting on weight. I’m remembering to put water out for them every night. They drink from the tiny bucket pond on the veg plot and the horseshoe wildlife pond. Early- ripening plums are falling to the ground in the orchard, providing a feast for the hedgehogs. Luckily there’s enough for all of us to share.
And my sixth picture this week, isn’t strictly speaking from the garden, but this little kitten has come to live here and is currently keeping me company in the potting shed. He’s slept all day in a fruit crate, having kept us awake half the night with fun and games. We haven’t decided on a name yet. Suggestions welcome. He’s very bossy. Brave and intrepid. We’ve never had a kitten before. All our cats have been adults or seniors from the RSPCA. But this little fellow is here because of covid. Vets cancelled all neutering operations, and the inevitable happened when the mother cat managed to get out. I like to think that he is something positive to have come out of this challenging time. Certainly we will never forget the year he was born. And he’s making us all smile -when we haven’t really had much to smile about recently. Honestly, who could resist!
Let me know what’s making you happy this weekend. How’s your garden looking at the moment? Have you managed to meet up with family and friends? Get in touch and let me know.
I am @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram. And karen gimson on Pinterest.
Do come over and say hello. There’s a thriving and supportive gardening network on social media. I don’t know what I would have done without my twitter friends these past five months. They have distracted me from worrying and helped me focus on gardening-related matters. It’s been like team work.
Phacelia is a bee magnet. I’m growing it around the edges of the vegetable plot. It’s an annual, but self-seeds readily. It can also be grown as a green manure crop, but for this use, it has to be turned into the soil before it flowers. I’ve been re-reading Jean Vernon’s Secret Lives of Garden Bees. Writing about Phacelia, she says: ” Look closely at foraging bees and you’ll notice the blue pollen balls that they collect from these flowers. ”
Geranium pratense. Meadow cranesbill. A native wild flower found along the grass verges here. Seed has blown into the garden and it grows along the hedgerows and amongst ornamentals. It’s very welcome.
Occasionally it throws up a white variant, and also flowers in delicate shades of lilac. I love the green ‘veins’ on the flowers. It reminds me of the markings on a butterfly wing.
Over on the veg plot, I found these flowers this week. They are potato flowers from the Shetland Black tubers growing in compost sacks. Aren’t they beautiful. You can tell the potatoes are part of the deadly nightshade family. I’ve never grown black potatoes before, so I’m eagerly awaiting the harvest.
Dianthus cathusianorum. In the gravel edges on the front drive, these bright pink flowers wave about on 50cm stems. They must love the free-draining conditions. We have to remember to drive around them. The scent is wonderful. Spicy. Heady. Memorable.
And finally, sweet peas. These are from a range called ‘Ripple Mixed.’ I’ve grown Wiltshire Ripple for many years, but the mixed pink and purple- striped flowers are fast becoming new favourites. Highly scented. Nice long stems. Long lasting in a vase. Recommended.
That’s my six for today. What’s looking good in your garden this weekend?
Why not go over to the propagator’s blog and see what everyone is selecting for their six today. It’s fascinating to see what everyone is growing, all around the world.
I don’t use chemicals in my garden. Some weeds are allowed to thrive, if they are useful to insects and pollinators. Dandelions are particularly good for bees, especially in early spring when pollen is scarce. There are some types of solitary bee that only feed on dandelions. I wouldn’t want to deprive them of their vital sustenance. But, I don’t want a lawn predominantly covered in dandelions. It’s all about striking a balance, so I start to thin them out in mid-summer. Niwaki sent a Hori Hori knife for a trial and It’s perfect for deep-rooted weeds such as dandelions. I was using a trowel before, which often didn’t get to the bottom of the tap root, and was hard work over a large area. The Hori Hori is sharp enough to easily slice through grass, and strong enough to gently lever weeds out of the soft wet ground. I notice, on the website, it says the knife is: “Mighty, but not invincible. It’s best not to stick it in heavy clay and yank back hard.”
When I’ve removed the dandelions, plantains and thistles, I pop a Seedball into the hole that’s left. Seedballs are wildflower seeds encased in clay. They can simply be scattered around the garden. They come in selections named bee, butterfly, poppy, urban, bat, bird and beetle. Hopefully, in time, I’ll end up with a flowering lawn, full of cowslips, self heal, wild marjoram and primroses. I’m aiming for a tapestry carpet effect.
The Hori Hori has a strong canvas holster which I think could be attached to a belt. The hand-forged carbon steel blade runs right through the handle, for strength. Tough and strong, it seems built to last. The handle is FSC beech wood and the blade is 7″ 17cm long.
As well as digging up weeds in the lawn, my knife is great for removing weeds from between paving slabs. I also spent a happy hour digging up ‘free’ plants which had self-seeded in the gravel. I found bellis daisies, perennial geraniums, sedums, erigeron daisies and several seedling trees- silver birch, maple and mountain ash. Much easier to lever them out with a sharp blade than using a trowel.
Bellis daisies seed readily around and make lovely bedding plants for borders and plant pots. Free plants are always welcome here.
Here’s a seedling mountain ash rescued from the gravel path. Beautiful spring flowers for bees, and autumn berries for birds. Great for any wildlife garden.
Erigeron karvinskianus also seeds readily between paving and in gravel. Another ‘free plant,’ dug up and transplanted into a 9cm pot.
My Hori Hori has quickly become a tool I reach for whatever task I’m doing, planting, weeding, slashing bramble roots. It’s comfortable to use and makes life much easier. And that’s what gardening is all about for me, managing the weeds, not totally obliterating them, just tipping the balance, and keeping me in charge, rather than always rushing around desperately trying to keep up.
I’ve asked the team at Niwaki to offer a reader prize. They have currently sold out of Hori Hori knives, probably due to the upsurge of interest in gardening over the covid period. So they are offering some forged garden snips instead. Keep an eye on the blog, and when they send me another item to try, the Hori Hori will probably be back in stock for a prize at a later date.
Meanwhile, to enter for the garden snips, just leave a comment in the box below and Niwaki will randomly select a name. Usual rules apply. Niwaki’s decision is final and there’s no cash alternative.
A winner will be announced on Monday. Please check back. Thank you.
Do you have any favourite garden tools. Nearly all of mine belonged to my grandfather Ted Foulds. And some belonged to his father, so they date back to the 1930s. They have certainly stood the test of time, and I wouldn’t be without them.
We are not going to the Caribbean this year. Or any year, I should imagine. I’m frankly not planning to go further than the the next village. However, I can bring a bit of sunshine into the garden with my planting. This nasturtium is a seedling from a range called Caribbean Crush. It has predominately pink, apricot and peachy shades. A lovely change from the usual bright orange and yellows. This plant is an overwintered seedling, so it flowered early. It hid away in a raised bed of brassicas in the unheated poly tunnel. It’s been wonderful to have one or two flowers all winter. Leaves and flowers are edible and add a peppery taste to salads. And a few stems in a jam jar make a pretty posy for the kitchen table. If I save seeds from this plant, the offspring will be variable. But, I want to keep this particular unusual pale peach colour. So I’ll take shoot cuttings and put them into jars of water to root. Shot glasses are the ideal size. I take cuttings about 9cm (3.5″) long from the tips of healthy plants. I’ll carefully cut off all but four small leaves so the cutting doesn’t lose too much moisture. The glasses are placed under the staging in the greenhouse, out of direct sun, but in a warm and sheltered place. A north-facing window indoors would also be fine. Cuttings will root within two to three weeks and then I’ll put each cutting in a 9cm pot in gritty compost. I use peat-free compost with a handful of grit to improve drainage. When roots emerge from the bottom of the pot, I’ll plant them outdoors – and some will be put into a large terracotta pot to be kept frost- free over the winter. This ‘rooting in water’ technique can also be used for salvias, mint, and all types of impatiens. A good way to preserve special varieties and an insurance policy against winter losses.
Unknown dahlia – purchased from East Ruston Old Vicarage. A lovely memory of a Norfolk holiday. Maybe someone reading this will know what it is called.
Update: Chloris from The Blooming Garden (see comments) confirms the dahlia is Wine Eyed Jill. I shall duly label it, and take cuttings next spring to increase my stock. It is such a gorgeous colour. Thank you Chloris.
Seedlings from Pollie’s Daylillies. Pollie Maasz has been growing daylilies at her nursery in the New Forest, Hampshire, for almost 20 years. She has 1500 cultivars and breeds new hybrids, specialising in unusual and spider forms.
The spider daylilies have a more open flower than the usual trumpet-types, and petals twist and turn. Very eye-catching. They seem to dance about in the breeze. They are my favourites.
You can buy new un-named seedlings which produce some exciting and unusual flowers. It’s like a lucky dip! And as a bonus, you can name them yourselves.
I’ve forgotten the name of this rose. My new year’s resolution is to improve the labelling system in the garden. I’m terrible for planting something and forgetting to label it properly. Very frustrating when friends come to visit and want to know what something is called. Perhaps someone reading this will know the name.
It’s either from David Austin or Peter Beales Roses.
Update: Peter Beales have helped me out and found the name. It’s the beautifully-scented climbing rose, Gloire de Dijon. Very free flowering in June and repeat flowers in late summer. Grows 12′ x 8′ ( 3.6m x 2.4m) has large, tea-scented flowers, and by the time I’d written this, I’d also found the label in the potting shed. I really must get some nice labels to hang on the shrubs. White plastic ones never look good. Maybe you could recommend something? I’d welcome any suggestions.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed my peach selection this week. What’s looking colourful in your garden at the moment? Have you got a favourite plant or favourite colour right now. Leave a comment at the bottom of the page and let me know.
Finally, after four months, I can take flowers to my Mum. It’s been the hardest part of Covid, being separated from our families. It’s the first time in my life, I haven’t had her by my side. She’s usually there in everything I do, supporting me, encouraging me, passing on her knowledge. My setbacks and sorrows are hers. My successes and triumphs are hers. We are linked by invisible ties. If I stumble she is there to catch me. We are a team.
And we share a love of flowers. Mum has always helped me in the garden, bringing seedlings, divisions and cuttings from her plot. I grow them on, and take them back to her in simple bunches of flowers each week. It’s something I have really missed these past few months.
Luckily restrictions are easing and we can meet up again in the garden. And my little bunches of flowers are going with me.
And to add to my joy, I was invited to take part in a zoom lesson by flower farmer Georgie Newbery -just in time to make my first flower posy for mum.
I sat in my summerhouse with my i-pad on my knee- and just for an hour, forgot all about the desperate worries of the last few months. I’m sure I’m not alone in having fears for frail elderly relatives – and for youngsters. My youngest daughter is a newly qualified nurse, and my eldest works at a children’s hospice. No one is safe. The danger has been on my mind day and night. It’s been unrelenting worry. And yet, I’ve got through, concentrating on all the good people are doing- the inventiveness, finding ways to cope, the kindness.
Georgie is one such kind soul. I’m grateful for the invitation to join her first zoom session. She is launching online courses this summer, and asked me to be on a trial panel for the first lesson. I can’t tell you how excited I was to have something to put on my calendar, something to look forward to. It meant a lot.
Georgie, who runs Common Farm in Somerset, started the course by talking about the flowers chosen for the day’s arrangement. There’s the most sumptuous coral – pink Boscobel rose partnered with pink penstemon and a pretty mixed ‘ripple’ sweet pea. Purple fennel was added for scent. I could almost smell them from here! A dark chocolate-coloured Physocarpus Diabolo provided complementary foliage.
Georgie gave tips on harvesting flowers. They are cut early in the morning and plunged straight into cold fresh water while still out in the field. Leaves are stripped as flowers are picked. That’s a tip I’ll use to save time in future. And there’s a bucket of fresh water alongside which Georgie uses to plunge her hands and arms into. Sap from plants such as Alchemilla mollis and Ammi majus can cause an allergic reaction. Washing them straight away helps prevent painful sores.
There’s a special way to hold the flowers between thumb and finger, and something called a ‘florists twist’ which essentially means adding stems at 45 degrees and making a quarter turn with each additional new stem. The result is a posy that has flowers all the way round. And with a bit of practice your creation will stand up on its own, with all the flowers spiralling out like a beautiful layered ball gown. Georgie describes it as being a bit like “Painting with flowers.”
And here’s what I made with my own cut flowers after one session with Georgie on zoom:
The posy was swiftly popped into a glass vase of water. But I was so pleased to see my creation passed the ‘stand-up-alone’ test. The first time I’ve managed to do this.
In my posy, I have Cosmos Apricot Lemonade, a new variety I’m trying this year. The colour is a delicate pale lemon, with purple shades on the back of the petals. A perfect partner to Verbena Bonariensis.
I’m using pot marigold Calendula Snow Princess, a new variety launched three years ago. It has delicate pale overlapping petals that look as if they have been cut with pinking shears. I love the tiny stars in the centre of the flower. Beautiful in bud and at all stages of flowering.
I’m growing calendula down the centre of my sweet pea ‘A-frame.’ This creates weed-suppressing ground cover, and encourages the flower stems to grow tall, making them more suitable for floristry. I’m also growing butterfly gladioli down the middle. I tried this last year and it worked well. It saves time as there’s no need to mess about with canes and bits of string. The frame keeps them upright. They all seem to work well with sweet peas. Cosmos grows at the front of the border, tied in to the hazel frame to stop them flopping over the path.
It’s a jumble of flowers and vegetables. Not posh, or tidy, but I love meandering around the little paths, weaving in and out of the herbs, flowers billowing out of the borders.
One bed is full of wild flowers. You don’t have to have a meadow to enjoy them. My bed is 3.5m long by 1.3m wide. There’s pink campion, oxeye daisies and quaking grass.
Oxeye daisies make a lovely addition to any flower arrangements. They are good for bees and butterflies too. I like to attract pollinators to the plot.
There’s blue Campanula poscharskyana, Phlox Blue Paradise, Nigella love-in-a-mist, and yellow Verbascum in my posy.
Tomorrow, I’m attempting a much larger posy with 30 stems. Georgie advises to take flowers straight from the bucket, and not set them out on a table in a row -which is how I’ve been doing it until now. I’ve always wondered why my flowers look flat on one side. It takes some practice, but the results are amazing.
My hour or so was packed with information on growing the best cut flower varieties, how to condition stems, what materials to use, how to create everything from kitchen table flowers, to ‘all of the garden’ huge bouquets. There’s a chance to ask questions, and Georgie provides a fact sheet to accompany courses.
How are you finding ways to cope with Covid and social distancing? I’d love to know if gardening has been a saving for you, as it has for me. I don’t know what I would have done without my garden to keep me busy. Thanks for reading my blog.
The scent! Roses from the garden, and elderflower. I’ve been making elderflower cordial. A taste of summer, for when days get shorter.
Constance Spry. Planted when our youngest daughter Rachel was born. It weathers any storm. Reliable and hardy.
Rosa Claire, planted when our eldest daughter – also called Clare, without the i though- was born. Just beautiful. So many twists and turns and folds in the petals. Just like the patterns of life. Nothing in nature is ever a straight line. And there’s no direct journey to where you are heading.
Rosa Many Happy Returns. A lovely, long- lasting memory of happy events.
New rose. Kew Gardens. Sent to us by the team at David Austin to celebrate our wedding anniversary. A kind gesture after I posted this photo on twitter. I was amazed to see it viewed 74,000 times. We had so many lovely comments.
On our wedding day, I distinctly remember saying life might not always be a bed of roses. But we’d be ok if we worked together and helped each other.
Thank you for all your wonderful messages on here and on twitter. It literally made my day.
Sweet peas, sweet williams and roses are in full flight. I’m amazed anything survived the recent torrential hail and high winds. Some of the tree leaves have holes where the hail went straight through them. But flowers were unperturbed.
Rose Cerise Bouquet climbs to the top of a mature beech tree. It thrashed about in the storm, sending a cascade of red petal confetti across the lawn. It’s such a floriferous rose, there’s hundreds more flowers ready and waiting to open. It will bloom, on and off, until November.
I also feared for the climbing New Dawn rose. The willow tree supporting it was almost stripped of its leaves. Most ended up in the pond. There was no water to be seen. Just rose petals and shredded leaves. However, remaining rose buds opened, and the tree has put out tiny new baby leaves to replace those whisked away in the storm. I’m sure nature is sending us a message. Through troubled times, there’s always destruction, fear and grief followed by renewal. We have struggled through Corona virus times. But we will recover.
Pinks and carnations are in full flower now. I’ve planted old-fashioned types, Mrs Sinkins white and Doris Pink. I’ve also invested in some modern ‘Devon’ hybrids, Devon Cream, Devon Wizard. Cranmere Pool, Letitia Wyatt. The names sound as delicious as the wonderful scent. A good one to look out for is ‘Memories,’ an improvement on the heritage variety Mrs Sinkins with good weather tolerance and it is also repeat flowering.
I wouldn’t be without sweet williams. I’m sowing next year’s flowers now. A pinch of seed in a 3″ pot, or a sprinkle in a half seed tray. Leave at the base of a sheltered house wall and they’ll germinate in a few weeks. I’ll prick them out into a full seed tray and then plant them into their final positions for them to settle and produce roots and leaves this year. Being biennials, they will grow now, and flower next year. A whole bed of flowers for just a few pounds. I’ll grow the highly scented auricular-eye type, and one called Sooty, which is almost black.
I’m just planting the last of the sweet pea seedlings. The October-sown plants are in full production. But I’ll want a supply right through until first frosts. This is the secret of growing. Always keep sowing a few more and a few more. Make sure you have a back-up supply incase anything goes wrong. I’ve just had a neighbour at the front gate. Do I have any climbing beans, by any chance, he asks? Luckily, there’s some in the propagator – a back-up in case mine get nibbled. He can have these to replace the ones taken by rabbits. We chat about the weather, slugs, snails and mice. And covid. What are we to do, he asks? I shrug my shoulders. Keep going, is the only answer I have. Don’t give up. Celebrate the successes and don’t be beaten by the failures. Help one another where we can, and try to enjoy the simple things. Look closely at all the beauty in the world. That’s all I can say.
This week, it’s mostly all about roses. As you would expect, wild roses have my heart. The garden is surrounded on two sides by tall hedges. We’ve never pruned them in 30 years. It’s one of those jobs we’ve always put off as being too big to tackle. Secretly, I love the wildness. Who says hedges have to be manicured. Who cares what people think. I love the tangle of honeysuckle and wild dog roses cascading from the top of 30 foot hawthorn. It’s a sight that gladdens my heart. I don’t mind if people assume we are too lazy to keep the hedgerow trimmed. I’ll hold my head up high. I’ve always been rather stubborn, you see. It can be a good thing when life gets tough. I’m quietly determined. I don’t make a big noise, but it’s amazing what can be achieved with calm tenacity.
Just pause for a moment and gaze at this pink hawthorn. This opens white, and fades to a beautiful shell pink. The hedgerows around here are mostly snowy-white Crataegus monogyna. Every now and again, there’s a pretty pink variant. It stops you in your tracks. You can’t fail to just stand and stare, it’s so breathtakingly lovely.
Rosa Canina takes full advantage and climbs high into the branches of trees and along the hedgerow. It’s a good year for flowers. Plenty of pollen for bees, and there will be masses of bright red hips providing winter food for birds.
Climbing through a mature willow next to the pond, there’s pale pink New Dawn. Again, I never prune this rose, or spray it. It just rambles where it likes. I expect the wind blowing through the tree keeps the rose disease-free. Blackspot tends to thrive in gardens where roses are surrounded by still air. In this windswept garden, luckily we have no trouble from either pests or diseases. It’s even too windy for aphids to get too plentiful. Those that survive, get eaten by birds.
We have a very overgrown pergola. The phrase ‘overgrown’ seems rather prevalent this week, I’ve noticed. The pergola goes from the back of the house, right round to the front drive. For half of it’s length, there’s this glorious rose Constance Spry. For about three weeks it has enormous highly-scented flowers. It only flowers once, but what a display! I’ve planted clematis, jasmine and ivy to extend the season. It’s a Rose I would never be without.
Constance Spry makes a lovely cut flower. Here’s it’s partnered with Sweet William which is just starting to bloom. It’s time to sow some more Sweet William for next year. I’ll use a half seed tray, good seed compost, and I’ll sprinkle the seeds sparingly. The tray will go at the base of the house wall on the north side, and seeds will germinate in about two to three weeks. I’ll then prick the seed out and put them in their own 3″ pots to grow on, or I’ll plant some in a holding bed on the veg plot. In August, they can be dug up and put in their flowering positions or planted out from the 3″ pots.
Here’s Constance Spry in a cutting basket with highly-scented Mme. Isaac Pereire, a heritage bourbon rose which dates back to 1841. This repeat-flowers all summer and mingles beautifully with Clematis Purpurea Plena Elegans. Plena means double, and these flowers are like purple pom-poms from August/ September onwards.
Finally, here’s the old china silk rose, Mutabilis. Much loved by bees. And, as you can guess, also grows quite happily without much attention, if any, from me.
As usual, after we’ve looked in the garden, there’s always a walk along the ridgeway path at the back of the garden. Today, there’s a video of skylarks. Turn the sound up loud. The farmer has planted wide bands of wild flowers around all the field margins. There’s a whole field of sunflowers and millet for wildlife. This year we have many skylarks. A few years ago we had a very poor summer with only one skylark. There is nothing sadder than the sound of a lonely skylark.
We’ve had some spectacular sunsets this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Saturday’s walk around the garden. Are you growing any roses in your garden? What’s looking good where you are this week. Thanks again for joining me in my garden. All welcome, for virtual visits!
I like to follow the Six on Saturday meme and see what everyone is growing. #SOS
Finding comfort in familiar things, I’m joining in with the weekly In a Vase meme. And this week it’s the first bunch of sweet peas – for my daughter Rachel, for her kitchen window at her first home. We still can’t believe she’s managed to complete the purchase, in the middle of a pandemic. Well done to her and her partner Sam for determination, riding the wave of crisis and uncertainly, and keeping strong along the way. It’s not been easy. But we will look back and laugh at all the ups and downs, I’m sure.
Photo: Albutt Blue.
I sowed my sweet peas in October in root trainers. I used Melcourt multi -purpose peat-free compost and added 25 percent grit for drainage. Sweet peas hate soggy feet. I started them off in the greenhouse to defeat the mice. Mice give up when the shoots are about 5″ tall as all the energy from seeds has gone into roots and shoots.
I’m growing heritage types varieties and a new sweet pea called Pilgrim 400 to celebrate the 400th anniversary since the Pilgrim Fathers sailed for the New World. The heritage types include lovely creamy white Mrs Collier. Seed came from Easton Walled Gardens near Grantham.
I made my sweet pea supports in February using hazel rods. These are usually used in hedge laying and are the binders that go along the middle of the hedge. Farm suppliers sell them for not much money.
I wrote about creating the rustic supports for my regular column in weekly Garden News magazine on 25th February. I must say, having the writing to concentrate on has helped me cope with the lockdown. It’s given me something cheerful to focus on. It’s lovely to be part of such a supportive team and I’ve appreciated the editor’s letters each week summing up our thoughts on the covid crisis and ‘steadying the ship’ with calm and sensible advice. It’s made a difference.
A week after I’d made the sweet pea supports we had high winds and snow. Luckily my frame stayed solid. A testing time for the garden- and us.
I planted out my seedlings on April 12th. The root trainers open out like a book, so there’s little damage to roots when you transplant them. Admittedly, these are made from plastic, but I’ve had mine for 6 or 7 years so far, and treated carefully, they will last a long time.
And here they are this week. The first bed has Charlotte potatoes. We’ll be eating those soon. The second bed has two rows of sweet peas. In between the A-frame there’s a row of gladioli, and calendula Snow Princess is grown as ground cover. There’s no room for weeds. Last year’s frame has been propped up, repaired and has climbing beans and squash planted this time.
I’m growing Wiltshire Ripple which has speckled flowers with a picotee edge.
This is High Scent. Another lovely picotee edge and wonderful scent.
Old fashioned, highly scented mix.
I’ve planted new cosmos Apricot Lemonade in front of the frames. I’ll tie them in as they grow. There’s not an inch of space to spare, which is the secret of reducing watering, by covering the ground.
And here’s the first pickings. Such a joy. This scent is worth waiting for all winter and just speaks of glorious long, sunny, summer days.
With a little bit of Sweet William at the base, just coming into flower on the veg patch now.
And here’s a photo of Rachel when she was little, with her guinea pig Rosie. Thank you for all your lovely comments last week. And for your good wishes for Rachel and Sam. I was very touched by all your kind words. Thank you 😊 x
Rose Constance Spry. Planted when my youngest daughter was born. Roses speak of celebration, and this one really shouts a welcome -to-the-world for Rachel. It flowers for three weeks in early June and fills the garden with a glorious fruit-salad perfume.
Where I am today. Up a ladder. Trying to control the tangle of clematis, jasmine and ivy. This has been allowed to run wild for four years. Little and often might be my approach to tackling the problem. Otherwise, it seems an impossible task. The pergola runs from the back garden to the front drive. A shady walkway in the heat. I’m not going to rush the task. Luckily I’ve got a new Henchman ladder to help with the task. No more wobbling on unstable step ladders.
Alongside the pergola there’s a wedding cake tree, Cornus controversa variegata. Some of the layers have deteriorated. I need to take advice on pruning to try to get it back in shape. Pruning the pergola will give it more light. Behind, climbing to the top of a mature ash tree is Rosa Cerise Bouquet which flowers on and off right through the summer into October.
Another rose looking lovely at the moment is Rhapsody in Blue which has been moved three times. Just goes to show, you can move roses, despite what it says in the books. Highly recommended. Disease resistant and free flowering. Lovely scent and unusual colour.
My grandfather’s rose, Zephirine Drouhin. He gave me this before he died. It’s wonderful to have something from his garden to remember him by. I know it was a favourite of his. I’m sure he knew it would give years of joy. And especially at the moment when everything seems uncertain and Covid has caused so much stress. It is as if he is still helping me, through all the plants coming into flower now. A reminder that life goes on, the seasons keep going. So must we.
My grandfather grew all his fruit and vegetables. People did in those days. Luckily, I watched, followed like a shadow and learned. And he gave me some of his garden tools, so when I’m hoeing the garden, I think of him, working his veg plot and feeding his family. I wonder what he was thinking while he was hoeing his garden. Did he find the peace that I’m finding right now. Was it a comfort to him, as it is to me, through all the trials and tribulations life throws at you.
Foxgloves have seeded in one of the veg plot beds. I’m digging these up and putting them in the wild garden, to make room for winter greens, Brussels sprouts and kale. Flowers will be picked for jam jar posies. I’m putting flowers on the village green again this summer to raise money for Rainbows Hospice for children. There will be an honesty box for donations.
The first sweet peas. Always popular in my jam jar posies. These were sown in root trainers in October. I’ve just sown some more for late flowering through to November. This one is from a packet of seed called Wiltshire Ripple Mixed. All have speckled flowers and a picotee edge. The scent is just wonderful.
As usual, when we’ve walked around the garden, there’s a short ramble along the ridgeway path to my ‘hole in the hedge’ porthole. It’s a viewing point I discovered a few years back. I didn’t make it, nature did, and I watch deer, rabbits, foxes, birds, owls, and hares, quietly and unnoticed.
Today, the May blossom has gone over, but there’s beautiful dogwood flowers framing the view. In an ancient hedge, there’s always something of interest. A tapestry of flowers, rosehips, crab apples, and seeds.
It’s just a humble wild dogwood. But it is as beautiful to me as any ornamental and expensive cornus tree.
And finally, after all that walking, sit a while in my 1930s summerhouse -on-a turntable. In the heat, it’s turned to the shade, facing the wood and pond. A perfect place to contemplate life and all the reasons to be grateful. All the things I value are not the things that can be bought. Hopefully my grandfather would be proud of the person I have become. I’d love to tell him how things have turned out. And that I’ve been happy, thanks to his good advice.
I’m extremely careful with products I bring into my garden. I’m mindful of the creatures that share this patch of earth with me. There’s the obvious: birds, hedgehogs, hares, rabbits, frogs, toads, grass snakes and newts. Then there’s the less noticeable, all the insects and beetles which fascinate me and play their part in the food chain for all the other inhabitants here. So I don’t use chemicals. No fertilisers, weed killers or poisonous pest and disease sprays are used. And yet, the garden thrives and is beautiful and productive. Flowers and food crops do well.
It’s well known I’m an organic gardener, so I’m often asked to try out new products. Recently I had a delivery of Envii Activearth an organic ‘soil fertility activator.’ This contains nutrients and beneficial bacteria which helps to enrich poor soil and encourages worm activity. I care about my earthworms, so the product was ‘sold’ to me when the makers said it would benefit them.
I sprinkled the granules around in my veg plot, especially where I’m growing some beans which need good fertile conditions to do well.
The product smells pleasantly of chocolate. A small sachet goes a long way. I spread it at about 40g per square metre. I saw on the packet the product is also suitable for flower borders and lawns. It contains magnesium, calcium, hydrogen and potassium.
I was pleased to see the packaging can be composted and doesn’t have to go into landfill. Mine went into my green compost bin.
Here’s a peaceful stroll around my garden. Aren’t the birds loud this spring, I can’t ever remember so much birdsong. Or perhaps I have just always been too busy to stop and properly listen. If you love cow parsley you’ll enjoy my woodland walk at the moment. The paths are lined with gorgeous lacy white flowers. I’m planting white foxgloves amongst them just now for next spring’s display.
There’s a patch of wild garlic and three-cornered leek too. I’ve tried making soup with the garlic. Very useful when there’s little in the cupboards at the moment. I’m still not getting out and about, keeping safe and busy at home. I’m resisting attempts to call me back into the world for work. I’m quite happy mooching here in the potting shed. It’s so peaceful here.
This is the view from the potting shed. A favourite layered viburnum. Possibly Viburnum plicatum Mariesii. There were wild violets all around the base. They are still there, hiding under the stinging nettles. I’m working on reducing some of the nettles and adding wild flowers this summer.
We planted these foxgloves, Pam’s Choice, last summer. They brighten up a shady patch round the back of the pond. They stand up to high winds, which is just as well as we’ve had gales gusting 42 knots (says my husband – who is a sailor).
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s ramble around the garden. What’s looking good in your gardens today, and what plans have you for new plantings this summer?
Disclaimer: I didn’t pay for my sample product, but in common with most other bloggers, I only accept samples for review if there’s no payment given, and I can freely give my honest opinion.
Well, we should all be at the Chelsea Flower Show today. But it’s been cancelled, like most spring and summer events. So instead I’m sharing photos from last year. Plants and flower arrangements I made a note of, for my own garden. Enjoy this dip into my photo album.
Kelways Peonies. I love Lemon Chiffon, (cream) Seashell, (pink) Avalanche, (white) Nymph, (pink).
They don’t last long, but such a glorious sight in mid May. I wouldn’t be without peonies.
Lupins from West Country Lupins. Just perfection. I bought this one
And this one. Lupin Masterpiece. Such a glorious plum colour.
David Austin Roses. This one is new variety, Tranquility. Very calming colour.
And new rose Desdemona. Beautiful at all stages from tight bud to wide open. Gorgeous scent. Stands up to the weather really well. Flowers shrug off rain and don’t ‘ball.’ Recommended.
Pinks. This is the new Tequila Sunrise. Lovely changes of colour as the flower ages. Amazing scent.
It’s wonderful to have the pinks side by side so you can compare them. The scent is just amazing in the heat, and contained by the roof of the marquee. A lingering memory of Chelsea.
Some of the amazing flower arrangements at the show. It really is a florists’ paradise.
These were still being created on press day. I stood for a long time watching the process.
This tower of flowers was spectacular.
Close -up detail of the flower-filled tower.
This explosion of foxgloves and cow parsley is my favourite.
Details for this lovely arrangement.
I also studied this arrangement created using test tubes. Really simple and lovely. Simple is what I always go for. As you know.
So I came home and made this from flowers in my garden. Inspired by all the lovely blooms I’d seen at Chelsea. There’s wild daisies, blue corn flowers and cow parsley as a background with green ivy covering the mossy wreath.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this re-visit of last year’s Chelsea Flower Show. I’m going to be watching all the on-line and televised content. This year, it is all about finding ways around problems and learning how to enjoy the things we love. Gardening – growing food and flowers- has been a saving for me. It’s kept me occupied and stopped my thoughts running away. It’s kept be grounded and focussed on keeping calm and helping others. Gardening is also a shared joy. Although we can’t see our friends and family, we can still talk about our gardens and share photos. It keeps us connected, and reminds us we are not alone.
If you listen in to BBC Radio Leicester, send your photos to mid-morning host Ben Jackson. Sharing our gardens is a lovely thing to do. And I’ll be talking about what I’m growing on Wednesdays and Thursdays, alternating with my gardening team member Josie Hutchinson. And also now and again on BBC Radio London.
A seedling sorbus mountain ash. Sometimes nature delivers such beautiful surprises. We didn’t plant this tree, it arrived all by itself. We allow plants to grow and any that fit in with our wildlife-centred scheme of things are allowed to stay. This seedling produces beautiful creamy white flowers. Much loved by bees. Then in the autumn, rich orange berries. Much loved by blackbirds. My youngest daughter Rachel has just bought her first house. What a time to be negotiating a house purchase, in the middle of a pandemic. It’s been extremely stressful. But holding on to our hats and keeping calm, between us we have steered our daughter through choppy waters. And she and her boyfriend Sam have a (rather scruffy) old house with a very large garden. So today I’m digging up a few sorbus seedlings and potting them up for her new plot. I’ll also search out for some wild cherry, maple and oak saplings. The same size as those we planted when we moved here 30 years ago, our heads full of dreams to create a lovely home and have children. Now we are watching the youngsters cross the threshold of their first home, and it brings back all our memories. History repeating itself. We get to re-live our joy, as we watch them start their lives together.
As you can see, our little saplings have grow tall. The mini-wood is carpeted in bluebells and patches of wild garlic and three cornered leak.
Here’s the view from the pond. The turntable summerhouse is turned to the garden today to catch the morning sun.
The leaf-mould paths are lined with white lacy cow parsley. A favourite time of the year.
Wild flowers sweep along the edges of the paths. These are starry stitchwort, or stellaria.
Our little plot provides all the firewood we need for our log burner. A habitat for hedgehogs and beetles, insects and grass snakes too.
By the pond there’s a huge mature viburnum. I believe it is Viburnum plicatum Mariesii. It looks beautiful all year round. In May, it’s covered in flat creamy white flowers, and in winter the snow and ice settles in layers on the branches.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s walk around my garden. I’ve made a sunny place to sit and read in the front garden. Just right for mulling over the past, and looking forward to the future. I’m sure you’ll all raise a glass and join us in wishing Rachel and Sam many congratulations. Good luck with everything, and always be happy. Life’s not always a bed of roses, but if you stick together, help one another and always be kind, you’ll have a wonderful life together.
I’m sure spring flowers are more beautiful than they’ve ever been. We’ve had no rain for six weeks. It’s a problem in the veg garden where I’m trying to get broad beans and potatoes to grow. But for spring flowers, tulips and daffodils, it means they are looking pristine. And blossom has lasted longer than usual. Here’s a selection of flowers for my vase this week. Get in touch and let me know what’s looking cheerful in your garden just now.
Sometimes luck has a lot to do with gardening. I spend time trying to work out clever combinations of colours. Then nature goes and does it better. Here is tulip Blushing Apeldoorn with the softest primrose yellow flowers. Overlapping petals are edged with a picotee orange. It’s a perfect match for narcissi Pheasant’s Eye. The tiny cup in the centre of the flower is rimmed with the exact same bright orange. It’s a picture, don’t you agree? And it has happened just by chance. I’ve taken note, and next year there will be several rows of these beauties lining my cut flower beds.
I love the way the light shines through the petals. It reminds me of a stained glass window in a church.
I’m also using an old favourite, Narcissi Geranium. The tangerine orange centre remind me of egg yolk, enhanced by pure white petals. The scent is a dream. Utterly gorgeous. I’d never be without this pretty, old- fashioned daffodil.
Forget-me-nots are such a good filler for any posy. The bright blue flowers seem to match the intensity of the sky this spring. And the yellow button ‘eye’ matches the daffodils.
Have you noticed how blue the sky is this spring? Climate scientists at Reading University say the reduction in traffic on roads has led to a fall in pollution, which is affecting the appearance of the sky. There’s fewer planes too. Skies look a richer brighter blue, much like you’d see over a tropical island. I’m enjoying the combination of blossom, spring bulbs and azure sky.
Thank you for reading. Get in touch by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page. And feel free to share these photos on any social media platform, kindly linking back to bramblegarden.com at the same time. You might ask, what’s the point of flowers at the moment with a covid pandemic going on. I’m just trying to focus on something positive and remind myself that nature often shows us the way to cope with all kinds of crisis in our lives. And cope we must, for some time to come, until the risks deminish enough for us to safely emerge and socialise again. When that will be, none of us can predict. Until then, I shall garden, plant my veg, pick my flowers and try to keep as upbeat as I can. You are very welcome to join me, virtually at least, at anytime you like.
Links : In A Vase on Monday. Cathy, thanks for hosting my favourite meme.
Bluebells. These came from my grandfather Ted Foulds’ garden originally. A lovely reminder of him. There was only a small patch to start with. Now they run from the front to the back garden. It’s surprising how fast they spread, without any help from me. There’s some wild garlic in amongst them too, which I’m trying to control a little this year.
Trees are leafing up so quickly in the sunshine and heat this year. The bluebells will have to be quick to flower and set seed before they are shaded out. This is the path past the summerhouse to the pond.
The view from the summerhouse. It looks like a jungle already. There’s oak, beech, hornbeams, cherry, willow and ash in the mini-wood. All the trees came as saplings from the borough council when we moved here 30 years ago. There was a scheme to plant trees on farmland. I think it was linked to the woodland trust. We applied, and they delivered 260 saplings for us to plant. The whole family set to and helped us plant them in a day or so.
All along the woodland paths there’s a lovely white starry flower, I think it’s called stitchwort. I didn’t plant it, but it’s very welcome here.
It seems to be all green and white shades today. May blossom or hawthorn is suddenly in flower.
Such a beautiful sight at dawn. These flowers were just in bud yesterday. The hedgerow is so beautiful just now with sections of crab apple, maple, hazel and viburnum all in a hurry to wake from their winter sleep. The scent from the crab apple blossom is something I’ve never noticed before. I think the heat is enhancing the scent.
Oops, that eight photos. I’m sure no one’s counting…..
Enjoy your weekend. Here’s a view through my ‘gap in the hedge.’ I didn’t make this portal, nature did. I love to peer through and watch the wildlife. There’s always something happening in the back fields. Lovely to see some green shoots in the fields too. Fields have been bleak and bare all winter, after the flooding.
If you were listening in to BBC Radio Leicester for Gardens Hour today, I’ve written some notes to accompany the programme.
I’m working from home at the moment. The oak tree above has just burst into leaf. I can see the tree from the top of the paddock. The swallows returned here last Wednesday, and we’ve seen pipistrelle bats over the garden.
Blossom has been fabulous this year, with no rain to spoil the flowers. I’m sitting under this Prunus Kanzan cherry tree today to answer questions and talk about my gardening tasks.
We had a question about an apple tree failing to establish.
If your tree is failing to thrive, it usually indicates a problem with the growing conditions. Poor growing conditions will stunt any tree or shrub.
Water any newly -planted trees well. Soil may be dry around the roots even when the surface appears moist. Check with a trowel to see how far the water is penetrating the ground.
Weeds and grass compete with trees for moisture. Keep a weed and lawn -free zone at least 1m in diameter around the plant.
Mulch locks in the moisture and helps feed the tree. Apply a mulch a good couple of inches deep around the tree, avoiding the trunk. (mulch piled up against the trunk can cause ‘drowning,’ so take care it doesn’t get pushed up against the tree).
You can use your own home-made compost or composted bark for the mulch. Do not apply to dry ground, as it can also lock -in drought.
You can place a drainage pipe in the ground alongside the tree at planting time, which helps water reach the roots. However, take care, as too much water can cause water logging, which is also detrimental.
Feed with a potash fertiliser, which promotes fruit and flowers.
Salix Flamingo – wiki commons photo.
We had a question about a Salix Flamingo willow tree failing to thrive. The tree has come into leaf and the leaves have shrivelled.
I’ve found this tree difficult to grow. It’s grown for its new, shrimp pink leaves which emerge in April. These leaves are delicate and easily damaged by cold winds and frost. Too much direct sunshine on emerging leaves can also cause them to shrivel. We have had a combination of high daytime temperatures, cold east winds, and plummeting night time temperatures. In a sheltered garden you would have no problems, but in a slightly more exposed spot, the tree struggles. Also, being from the willow family it requires plenty of moisture. We haven’t had any rain for several weeks and the ground is parched- despite all the record-breaking amounts of rain we’ve had over autumn and winter.
Usually, the tree recovers and produces a new set of leaves to replace the ones that have shrivelled. Watering and throwing some fleece over at night usually nurses it along until we get more even growing conditions in early summer. I’ve known them to suffer from a type of rust, and also canker. But apart from that, they are very pretty trees. They either like you, or they don’t though!
We had a question about a montana clematis failing to flower. This is my clematis Montana Wilsonii. The one the caller had was a pink variety, planted last year and growing in a pot next to an archway. The clematis on the other side of the arch was doing well.
Clematis montana flowers on the previous season’s wood. The caller hadn’t pruned it, but sometimes a montana clematis will take 2-3 years to settle into flowering as its first thought is to grow to the top of the archway.
Clematis don’t do as well in pots, unless they are a really good size and you can keep up with the watering requirements. So it would be best to plant the clematis in the ground and keep it well fed and watered. Potash feed, again, for flowers. And prune immediately after flowering, although I hardly prune my montana clematis to be honest. It’s pretty low maintenance, once established.
And finally, we had a caller wanting to buy a Venus fly trap. They are usually sold at local garden centres, which of course, are not open at the moment. However several are making deliveries, so it’s worth ringing round to source supplies of plants. I’ve found this one on line from QVC. I’ve bought various plug plants, bedding and bird food from QVC and found the service to be quick and reliable. However, I’ve never bought any fly trap plants from them, so can’t say more than I have managed to find a supplier.
I hope you’ve found these notes useful. Please listen in on Wednesdays at 12.30 with Ben Jackson and on Sundays (usually) with Dave Andrews at 1pm on your smart speaker, DAB 104.9FM or on BBC Sounds.
It’s great to be involved with local radio gardening and we try to offer something for experienced gardeners wanting to try new varieties and grow for shows, and also for those who have never grown anything before. All questions welcome. We will try our best to help. I am part of an experienced team.
Comments box is right at the bottom of the page, below hashtags, social media sharing and links.
Notes for anyone listening to BBC Radio Leicester today. You can send e mails, texts and messages for free gardening advice. I’ve been a travelling head gardener and a garden designer for 25 years. I write for weekly Garden News Magazine. I grow my own fruit, veg and flowers at home on a one acre plot created from a ploughed field. Currently, I’m speaking each week from the potting shed during the corona virus epidemic. Here’s the view from the potting shed, for anyone who likes blossom. Turn up the sound to hear the birdsong.
We cater for everyone. So if you’ve never gardened before and want some essential tips to get started, get in touch. We can help experienced gardeners wanting to grow the latest varieties or try something new. Maybe you want to grow more salads and veg for the family. Or you might fancy the challenge of growing for a “virtual” flower show. We can help.
This week we talk about growing tomatoes. I’m growing classic beefsteak variety Marmande for cooking, and tasty cherry tomato, Tumbling Tom for salads. My plants are 12cm (5″) tall and the roots are coming out of the bottom of the pots, so I’m potting them on. They’ve been growing in 7.5cm (3″) pots and I’m moving them up to 12.5cm (5″) pots. They will eventually go into 25cm (10″) pots and window boxes, but they have to be moved up in stages as tomatoes don’t like lots of cold wet compost around their roots.
Tomatoes like plenty of warmth, so I’ll keep mine indoors until the end of May. Tomato leaves turning yellow could be an indication the plants are getting too cold overnight, especially if they are right next to the greenhouse glass. Move them to the middle of the greenhouse and create a fleece tent to keep temperatures more stable between night and day. Remove fleece promptly in the morning. Alternatively, yellow leaves could mean the plants are running out of feed. Composts usually contain feed for about six weeks. But yellow leaves indicate a lack of nitrogen, so feed with a very dilute tomato fertiliser. Move plants on promptly when the roots have filled the pots. Don’t over water as plants also hate cold wet feet. Use tepid water. Bring the watering can in to the greenhouse to warm up. Cold water causes shock. Tomatoes need warm steady growing conditions and don’t like swings in temperature. Try to water them in the morning so they are not left cold and wet at night. Aim the watering can at the roots and keep the foliage dry.
While I’m stuck at home, I’m looking about to see what I can do to keep connected with the outside world. One thing I’m doing is joining in with the Rainbows 5K challenge.
Rainbows is a hospice in Loughborough, supporting children and young people with life-limiting conditions. They receive only 15 percent of their funding from the government and everything else has to come from donations. The corona virus lockdown means they can’t run all the usual fund-raising events. But the 5K challenge is one way everyone can help out.
You can take part anytime between now and May 31st. I’ll be logging my walking while I’m mowing the grass, weeding, raking, hoeing and plodding about the plot between the greenhouse and potting shed. I am sure digging also counts!
You can also help by tagging rainbows on social media to keep them in the public’s eye by posting photos on Facebook @rainbowsfanpage and on twitter and Instagram @rainbowshospice.
Children and all ages can take part. You can walk, run, hop, skip, cycle. Think of me weeding and cutting the grass for hours on end. At least the garden will look lovely, and it’s all in a good cause!
The National Gardens Scheme is also a charity close to my heart. Mum and I usually spend every Sunday visiting an NGS garden, having a cup of tea and piece of cake and buying a few plants. The lockdown means no gardens are open this summer. But the charity has launched a ‘Support Our Nurses’ campaign with virtual tours and JustGiving pages.
There are three gardens so far featured in leicestershire: Brook End in Wymeswold, with spring blossom, tulips and daffodils and ponds. There’s also Donna’s Garden at Snowdrop Ridge in Market Harborough, which should have opened for the first time this summer. There’s a wonderfully calming goldfish pond video.
Also a ‘walk through’ at Oak House, South Kilworth.
Donations support nurses working for MacMillan and Marie Curie, Hospice UK, Carers Trust, The Queens Nursing Institute. The NGS also helps Parkinson’s UK, Perennial and Horatio’s Garden for spinal injuries.
During the programme I mention our concerns for growers, garden centres and nurseries which are not allowed to open during the lockdown. There are fears many might go out of business with plants having to be skipped. Livelihoods are on the line.
I mention the Garden Centre Association #SupportYourLocalGardencentre campaign at gca.org. There’s a list of garden centres providing local deliveries.
Val and Steve Bradley from BBC Radio Kent, the Sun newspaper, have created a list of growers and nurseries offering mail order and/ or deliveries.
Thank you for joining us at BBC Radio Leicester. These are strange and difficult times for all of us, but we can keep connected through social media and listening to the radio. It’s amazing how we can all help by taking little steps at a time. They all join up to a giant leap forward, don’t you agree. Get in touch and let me know what’s looking good in your garden and how you are getting on during this lockdown time. Are you managing to get on with your gardening? Is your garden providing a calm sanctuary. I know mine is right now.
My favourite Italian terracotta pot near my front door. So sad there are no visitors to enjoy this lovely sight. I’m including it here, so you can all share in the magic of spring flowers. Fairly new introduction Exotic Emperor, a double form of the classic and popular Purissima. Has peony-like petals that curve and twist as they open, revealing a flash of green. Very lovely and my favourite. This is a fosteriana tulip, and here in the Midlands, it always flowers through April. Planted with Narcissus Geranium an heirloom bulb dating back to pre 1930. Beautiful, delicate fragrance. Perfect for cut flowers. I have a row in the veg garden for cutting. Multi-headed – some of the bulbs have four flowers to a stem. I love mixing the old with the new. I’m fond of traditional plants, but I love trying something new.
I’ve always grown the white Purissima tulip, so I thought I would try the new sport, Flaming Purissima, another fosteriana tulip. It is such a joy, with all shades of pink and red ‘flames’ over an ivory white background. Beautiful under a white cherry blossom tree. I’ve planted these in a trench on the veg plot for cut flowers. They last a week in a vase, and watching them turn from tight buds to open, flat, almost water lily-like flowers is a joy. These were introduced in 1999, and they reliably come through the winter and flower each spring for me.
So comforting to know we will have masses of cherries this summer. We leave the trees unpruned. Blackbirds enjoy the crop at the top of the tree, and there’s more than we can use around the downward – arching lower branches. I’ve planted narcissus Pheasants Eye under the trees as an experiment. They flower at the same time. They look so glorious, I’ll fill the orchard with them next spring. They cost very little and are a joy to behold. I’ve taken photos of the garden and made notes to remind myself to order bulbs in July and plant in September. If I don’t make a note, I seem to forget!
In the wild garden around the pond we have this un-named beauty. We planted these 30 years ago. I wish I’d recorded the name as I’d love to plant more as pretty and reliable as these. They have a wonderful scent too. Petals glisten and remind me of sugar coated violets. I wonder if you know what I mean.
And finally, a humble bellis daisy, growing in the cracks between the paving by the back door. I’ve been imploring (nagging) the family not to step on them all winter. I have a little patch 60cm square of delightful little daisies. There’s absolutely no soil there. I feel they deserve to live, having made such an effort to survive.
Enjoy your weekend everyone. This is not to say that we are not all desperately worried by what’s going on in the world, and in our own country. But I’m thinking this sharing of garden photos may help someone keep calm and carry on. There is really nothing else we can do at the moment. Stay at home, help the NHS, stay safe. And look around you and enjoy the beauty of nature. When this is all over, our gardens will still be there waiting for us.