Wordless Wednesday -Cosmos Snow Puff

I’ve had a wonderful day at the field trials ground at Mr Fothergill’s Seeds in Suffolk. This new cosmos caught my eye. Perfect for pollinators. More words to follow when I’ve recovered from the journey. I will be growing this and many other new seeds next spring.

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In a Vase on Monday – My Cut Flower Patch

One of the joys of June is to walk out into the garden and pick a bunch of flowers for the house- flowers that have been nurtured all winter, and are now ready to harvest.

Sweet williams are currently my favourite. They provide masses of flowers which last at least a week in a vase. Sown in June last year, they were pricked out and grown on, and then planted out in late August. And today I’m picking basketfuls of fragrant flowers.

Regular readers will know that all my flowers are grown for my mother in law Joan and my wonderful mum, Marion. Once a week I fill every vase they own with home-grown flowers.

Here’s some photos from my cut flower patch. I have 10 3m by 1.2m beds. Half are planted with sweet peas, dahlias and sweet williams. Half are set out with potatoes, beetroot, beans, courgettes and strawberries

In the background you can see the fruit garden. It’s completely overwhelmed with brambles and stingers this year. A renovation project is planned, when I get a minute to spare.

I’m growing a range of old-fashioned Sweet williams with seed from Higgledy Garden. As you can see, bees love them too. I’m always thinking of what would be best for pollinators.

I particularly love the auricular-eyed sweet williams. Rich Venetian colours really stand out in the summer sunshine. And they go so well with summer roses. This one is called William Shakespeare. Looks like red velvet to me.

And another favoured rose for picking right now is the highly-scented Constance Spry. It only flowers once, but what a spectacular show.

I’m sowing more sweet williams right now, preparing for next summer’s bounty. I use half seed trays filled with good quality seed compost. Fill them right to the top of the trays. Press down gently to level. Sow seeds thinly to prevent moulds and damping off disease. Seeds germinate at 17 – 19C, room temperature at this time of the year. So no propagators are needed. When seedlings have two leaves, I prick them out into full size seed trays to give each plant more space to grow. I’ll place the trays in a bright place to grow on, making sure the plants don’t dry out. And I’ll plant them out into the garden in August, 25cm apart, when I’ve harvested one of the vegetable crops to make space. I water plants with seaweed extract and home-made comfrey liquid which makes them grow healthy and strong. I’m adding some almost black sweet williams Nigricans and white alba for next year.

Here’s another view of my cut flower patch with Diascia Hopleys in the foreground. Another good do-er for flower arranging.

I’m joining in with Cathy for her In a Vase on Monday meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and the others are growing and putting in their flower arrangements this week. Let me know how your gardens are doing this summer. How are you coping with unpredictability weather, rain and high winds? I think summer storms are becoming the norm.

In a Vase on Monday ….. er Wednesday.

Defeated by torrential rain, I’d given up on gardening until today. Here’s a brief glimpse into my day.

A quick peek in the greenhouse before I go off to work. And it’s sunny in here. At last. Yippee!!! Windows opened. Wonderful scent. Just love primulas. So cheerful.

Second year hyacinths are never as good. But they still have a value. I love the intense blue of this one, set against the yellow of the dwarf daffodils. I’m growing Tete-a-tete in pots for picking. And in honour of my wonderful Welsh grandmother, Tenby daffodils, which grow wild in Wales.

Love my newly acquired plant pots. The green one on the left is from Burgon and Ball , and the one on the right is from new company Plant Furniture.

After a quick snip of flowers for the show, I’m off to Radio Leicester for the Gardeners’ phone-in, 11-12 on a Wednesday. A fun place to work. Sophie and Jack the producers look after me. I’m always so grateful for all the encouragement and support they give. I probably couldn’t do it without their kindness to be honest.

We chatted about growing tomatoes. I’m growing bush tomatoes in containers and hanging baskets alongside programme host Ben Jackson. We’ve got cherry tomatoes from Mr Fothergill’s, Suttons and Thompson and Morgan to try out. And we’ll be growing them in Dalefoot sheep wool and bracken compost as an alternative to peat. It’s always more fun growing something with another person. I haven’t got an allotment, for example, where you would have neighbours to chat with and share hints and tips. so I’m going to grow along with Ben, and we’ll share seeds and compost and compare results. It will be a fun project to do over the summer.

We always have a laugh on the gardeners’ programme. If I see something a bit unusual, I’ll take it in to show the team. Today I took in these Badger Paw gloves. I spotted them at the Garden Press Event a few weeks ago and thought they looked interesting. The event showcases new ideas, new seeds, tools and machinery, containers and plant pots- all heading for supermarkets, garden centres and nurseries this summer. The Badger Paw is said to be perfect for preparing soil, planting, weeding and clearing roots. It’s made by Creative Products and has breathable stretchy fabric. What we couldn’t work out though was why the claw is only on one hand. It’s an interesting concept and I’ll let you know how I get on with it.

My posy of flowers this week also contains hyacinths – which just seem to keep on flowering. They love the cold weather. Tucked inside my paper wrapping are iris reticulata, hellebores, snowdrops, and dogwood twigs from my new florists’ “Hedge-in-a-Box” kit from Hopes Grove Nurseries. I spotted their ingenuous hedge kit for gin makers at the GPE. On the stand there was a sign saying make any suggestions for new hedge kits. So I asked if they could design a hedge for florists with coloured stems and flowers for all year round picking. And my wonderful “hedge-in-a-box”arrived on Monday! I’m really thrilled with it.

Thanks for joining me today. Thanks also to Cathy for hosting this meme and kindly allowing me to join in later in the week when either the internet – or the weather – has let me down.

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End of the Month View – March 2nd 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellicar Gardens -open for NGS 25th February @ellicargardens

There aren’t many invitations that start with the warning “beware of the goose!” But when Sarah Murch sent an e-mail inviting us to visit, she told us to sound our horn when we arrived. She would safely let us in past the goose.

Now, I had a very unfortunate experience with a gander some years ago. I only just managed to outrun him. They are surprisingly scary at full speed, with their necks out stretched and wings flapping. Not an experience I particularly wished to repeat.

But to be honest, we didn’t need to worry. The Ellicar garden goose was more concerned with guarding his “family” of adopted bantam chicks. But we gave him a very wide berth anyway.

The newly-hatched chicks and goose combination were just the start of what turned out to be a most surprising visit. We found a llama, goats, rare breed sheep, cows and two adorable rescue pigs. And they all clearly love their owner. They all come racing across the field as soon as they catch sight of Sarah.

This is Orlando, Sarah’s newest acquisition; a birthday present, she explains. Well, I’ve never met anyone who’s had a llama as a birthday present before, but I’m soon quite envious. I find myself enquiring exactly where one could obtain such a gorgeous creature, how much they eat, how much they cost…… I’m nearly ready to order one on the spot when I hear the coat can be brushed and fluff woven and knitted into jumpers! What a joy. We move swiftly on. Turning our thoughts to the gardens, around the corner, past the paddocks, is a sight of great beauty- a natural swimming pool.

The pool is frozen over when we visit, but Sarah explains the water is warm enough to swim in from March to November. The temperature is 17C in spring, and 20-26C in summer. The pool is naturally filtered and surrounded by grasses and willows that cast their reflections on the water. Sarah painted a lovely picture when she described swimming with kingfishers flying by, just above their heads.

The garden is planted with wildlife in mind and many of the perennials and shrubs provide nectar for bees and butterflies, and seeds for birds. Grasses are a special feature of the garden. At this time of the year, they look stunning, backlit by a sunset, which is when I took these photos.

The grasses include various stipa, silver feather grass Miscanthus Silberfeder, and feather reed grass Calamagrostis Overdam.

Seed heads shine amongst the colourful dogwoods and willows; eupatorium, aster and sedums in particular.

Coral bark willow, Salix Britzensis- pollarded to produce bright red stems- looks fabulous set against a background of white silver birches. They are underplanted with masses of emerging spring bulbs, including crocus, snowdrops, iris and narcissi.

We love this living willow “fedge” a cross between a fence and a hedge, with teasel heads in front. And there’s a children’s garden, with bug hotel, wild flower planting- and even a willow den.

Ellicar Gardens covers five acres and has been created over the past eight years by Sarah and her husband Will. The gardens open this Sunday February 25, 12-4pm for the NGS charity. There are other opening dates on the website. Adults £4.50, children free. Carr Road, Gringley-on-the- Hill, Doncaster, DN10 4SN. For more information : ngs.org.uk. Hodsock Priory is about 20 minutes drive away and the winter garden there is open until March 4th. Their last opening day is also in aid of the NGS.

Hodsock Priory .

Ellicar Gardens

Two happier pigs have never been seen! Just irresistible.

Flowers in a Vase

We all need more sunshine and smiles. And these multi-headed sunflowers have provided both this summer. Regular readers will know that I grow flowers for my mother in law Joan as a way of keeping her connected with me and my garden. Joan, who is 88, can’t come to visit as often as she would like, and so each week I run round the garden and gather a sample of everything in flower. Joan enjoys flower arranging. She did the chapel flowers for 65 years. She loves arranging my bundles of flowers and filling every window ledge and hall cupboard with colour.

I’ve had the best year yet with these sunflowers from Mr Fothergills seeds. Some of the multi-headed varieties provided 9 flowers per stem. Almost a bouquet in themselves. I will be growing varieties Halo, Buttercream, and Solar Flash again next year. I’ll start them off in the spring and plant out in May, using Slug Gone wool pellets to protect them from being nibbled. This year I grew morning glory up the stems, and under-planted them with calendulas.

I have been in love all summer with new Calendula Snow Princess. In truth, it’s a very pale cream, not white. But so frilly. It reminds me of a tutu. And so prolific. Every time I’ve walked up the plot there’s been a handful of stems to pick. Such a pretty flower, and accommodating as it didn’t mind being planted under sunflowers.

No two plants are alike, but I particularly love this one with the delicate caramel picotee edging. Lasts for 7 days in a vase. I’ve just planted out some for next year. If you have a spare bit of ground or a few large pots, there’s still time to sow some from seed. There’s also time to sow other hardy annuals- cornflowers, nigella, larkspur, poppies. They will grow slowly over winter and provide early flowers next spring.

in just about every bouquet of flowers this summer I managed to include one of these white water lily dahlias. This tuber cost £1 from Wilkinson’s in the spring. I started it off in a pot in the greenhouse and planted it out end of May. It grew to nearly 5 feet and has been smothered in flowers. I will pay better attention to earwigs next year, putting plant pots of straw or corrugated cardboard on canes amongst the plants. As I don’t like to kill anything, the straw etc will be shaken out in a wild part of the garden every morning. Interestingly, the earwigs didn’t attack a deep red cactus-flowering dahlia growing right along side.

Another stalwart of my summer cut flower garden is rudbeckia. These were gown from a packet of seeds called All Sorts Mixed from Thompson and Morgan. I love the twisty edges of this one, and the lime green stripe on the back of the petals. Truly scrumptious.

Rudbeckia Marmalade from Mr Fothergills seed has beautiful shiny, chocolate-coloured centres.

Rudbeckias last for at least 7 days in a vase and brighten any posy of flowers. I grow mine in semi-shade under a plum tree, as that’s the only space I have. Seed packets cost just a couple of pounds each, and Mum and I share a packet between us as there are too many seeds for one garden.

Fitting in with the daisy theme are these Snow White asters which flower reliably every October under my old plum tree.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this gallery of photos of my MIL’s flowers this week. I love to join in with Cathy and her meme In a Vase on Monday. But my flowers are always picked on Saturdays and Sundays when we go over to the in laws to do their gardening, shopping and look after them. However, I always read what the others are growing and picking in their gardens- all over the world. Go over and have a look. It’s fascinating to see how many are growing the same plants in different climates.

Do you grow cut flowers for your home or friends and family? I have 10 1.2m by 3m beds with little paths between. Four of them are filled with flowers, and the others are packed with kale, beetroot, chard, onions and strawberries. There’s quite a few weeds too! Leave a comment and let me know what you are growing right now, or what plans you have for next spring. Flowers have certainly kept everyone cheerful here this summer. And you can never have too many smiles, can you.