In a Vase on Monday – 15th July 2019

I’ve discovered, by accident, the magical effect of a sunset on sweet peas. It turns them into mini “stained glass” windows.

Picking them at 9pm, I suddenly find it’s too dark to take photos. Nights are rapidly drawing in. Mid-summer lulls you into a relaxed state of mind. Surely there will always be time to meander round the garden. Then, quite soon after the solstice, everything changes. There’s no streetlights here; dusk means picking your way through tall corridors of dark trees, along grassy paths, past the horseshoe wildlife pond. If you are lucky, you’re accompanied by a barn owl, sweeping along the hedge in eerie silence. You’ll marvel how such a large bird can ever catch any prey without being seen. But they make not the slightest sound and pass by like a shadow. If they see you, they don’t panic and madly swerve as some birds would. They barely acknowledge your intrusion, calmly changing direction and floating over the hedge to continue on the other side. They seem not to flap their wings, but soar and glide as if carried by the wind.

Our boundaries are made from farm posts and galvanised pig wire. We like to keep a connection with the surrounding fields. After all, our garden was once part of the farmland. We’ve simply borrowed the ground to grow fruit and flowers.

There are 10 beds, 1.3m wide by 3m long, divided by narrow slab paths. This year it’s a muddle of potatoes, broadbeans, Sweet williams, daisies and verbascum. A rickety A-frame of hazel rods runs through the centre, for sweet peas. This year I’m growing a combination of heritage types from Easton Walled garden and Higgledy Garden, and new varieties on trial from Mr Fothergills.

Amethyst and rubies; sweet pea flowers shine like jewels in the sunset.

My flowers are being sold at Six Acre Nursery, Costock, Leicestershire, with all proceeds going to Rainbows Hospice for children and young people. I am a voluntary fund-raising ambassador for Rainbows, and I also give slide shows and talks to garden groups for charity.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peaceful walk around my garden at dusk. There’s much to see, even in the gloom.

Links : Cathy In a Vase on Monday : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/in-a-vase-on-monday-think-pink/

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

Higgledy Garden Seeds. https://higgledygarden.com/

Mr Fothergill’s Seeds https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/

Barn Owl Trust https://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/barn-owl-facts/

Notes: Most birds make a flapping, swooping sound when they fly. Owls have special edges to the front of the wing that breaks the air into small streams of wind that rolls to the end of the wing. Comb-like feathers further break down the air into even more smaller streams to create almost silent flight.

In a Vase on Monday – 10th June 2019

It’s the much-awaited summer. And it’s raining. It’s pouring. And it’s 9C. So only one photo today for my Vase- and it’s sweet williams and sweet peas again. They are loving the cool temperatures and moisture. I must admit, I am not.

My dark red sweet williams, Dianthus barbatus Sooty, are suddenly providing buckets of flowers. Sweet williams are such good value plants. For a couple of pounds for a packets of seed, you can have a steady supply of flowers three months or more. They are like dark velvety chocolate. Dark colours don’t show up in photos very well, so I’ve screen shot the picture and homed in on the flowers.

There’s a few forget me nots left to go with the love in a mist. And sweet peas are also flowering faster than I can pick them.

Calendulas are looking fab with peach butterfly antirrhinums, and blue chives are being thrown in every bowl of salad, as well as every vase of flowers. Such a versatile perennial herb to grow. The antirrhinums are flowering for their second year, but I’ll sow some more seed for next summer, just in case they don’t overwinter. They last for nearly a fortnight in a vase, if you change the water each day.

I do hope the weather is better where you are. Hopefully we will all get some sunshine again soon. Meanwhile, it’s dark clouds and white cow parsley -aplenty!

Links :

I’ve been to visit the Cotswold Wildlife Park. Here’s a blog I wrote about it: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/06/10/the-cotswold-wildlife-park-a-celebration-of-the-gardens/

Here’s my recent blog listing the varieties of sweet peas I’m growing: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/06/03/in-a-vase-on-monday-3-june-2019/

Don’t forget to leave a comment on my blog review of Hansford Coil spring garden chairs- there’s one chair to win in our prize draw competition. They are wonderfully comfortable and easy to carry about the garden: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/05/31/product-review-hansford-coil-spring-chair/

In a Vase on Monday : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/06/10/in-a-vase-on-monday-the-very-pink-of-perfection/

In a Vase on Monday -3 June 2019

The first sweet peas are always for my Mum.

I’m growing a mix of old and new. Heritage varieties: Mrs Collier (cream) and Dorothy Eckford (white). New this year: Capel Manor. Old favourites: High Scent, Wiltshire Ripple Mix, Albutt Blue and Chatsworth.

The best Blue is Chatsworth. Five or six flowers per stem, prettily ruffled and gloriously scented. Long lasting in a vase, and flowers until the first frosts. The Duchess of Devonshire, the last of the Mitford Sisters, lived at Chatsworth and was president of the Sweet Pea Society for many years.

High Scent and Albutt Blue are modern grandiflora varieties with a picotee edge. Albutt Blue, bred by Harvey Albutt I’m 1999, has a blue rim on a white ground. High Scent is a cream flower with a mauve edge. High Scent is also known as April in Paris.

Seeds are planted in root trainers in October. Use 50/50 compost and grit for drainage. I start mine in a propagator at 15C. As soon as a green shoot is spotted, I remove them from the propagator and grow on in a cold poly tunnel. Sweet peas can cope with cold, but shouldn’t be too wet or they will rot. To out-wit the mice, I stand the root trainers in a deep straight-sided plastic storage box. When the seedlings are 3-4″ tall, I pinch out the tips to make bushy plants. The tips can be grown on as cuttings. Very useful if you are growing heritage varieties and only have a few seeds in the packet.

I planted mine in April in no-dig beds. I mulch the bed with Plant Grow (plant based) fertiliser. This feeds and holds in moisture, and seems to deter slugs and snails.

My sweet peas scramble up an A-frame of hazel rods. I grow them in the same place for four years, then move them to a different bed to prevent the build up of pest and diseases. By then, the hazel rods are collapsing anyway and need replenishing. Each year I weave in a few more twigs to strengthen the supports. I water with a liquid Plant Grow feed.

In front of the sweet peas there’s a row of calendulas and highly-scented pinks. Every space is crammed with flowers.

Alongside, there’s dianthus barbatus (sweet williams). These are sown in summer, make good strong roots and leaves in the first year, and flower in the next. This year I’m growing a dark red variety called Sooty which is just coming into bloom. Sweet williams follow wall flowers to give a continuous supply of cut flowers. I learned how to grow cut flowers at Common Farm Flowers with Georgie Newbery in Somerset.

Little extras in this posy are the last of the forget-me-nots and some pink alliums I always harvest, as a way of controlling them. They can become invasive.

And finally, a favourite pelargonium. This originally came as a cutting from my grandfather Ted Foulds. He loved his garden and each week came to visit and “inspect the plot.” He never arrived without a pot of something, a few seeds, an offset, a cutting. Half my garden came from my grandfather and my Mum. He died 22nd May 2005 aged 83. Still desperately missed, but not forgotten. I faithfully take cuttings of his pelargoniums each autumn, and they flower every summer, as a lovely reminder of him.

Links : In a Vase on Monday :https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/06/03/in-a-vase-on-monday-oops/

Sweet peas at Easton :https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/whats-on/coming-up

Ripple Mixed varieties : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Tall_3/Sweet-Pea-Ripple-Mixed-Seeds.html#.XPTo-4zTWfA

Plant Grow fertiliser : http://www.plantgrow.co.uk/our-products.html

Root Trainers : https://www.haxnicks.co.uk/garden-products/rootrainers

Sweet William seed: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-William-Seeds/#.XPTptYzTWfA

Common Farm : https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/

You also might like to take part in a prize draw for a Coil Spring garden chair : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/05/31/product-review-hansford-coil-spring-chair/

In a Vase on Monday -27th May 2019

It’s been raining on and off all day, so by 8.30pm it was now or never to pick my Monday Vase. I just caught the last of the light. But the flowers are full of raindrops.

There’s a “first and last” theme to tonight’s posy. It’s the last of the forget me nots. They have been glorious for months, providing a blue accompaniment to all the spring bulbs. And it’s the last of the wallflowers. Their wonderful scent has drifted across the veg plot for weeks. The variety is Persian Carpet, and I’m just about to sow some more seed for next year’s display.

It’s a first for the dianthus barbatus ( sweet williams). I have some self-seeded magenta flowers, and some rows of a new dark red, almost black variety, called Sooty.

There’s the first flowers from the sweet peas too. I’ve got heritage varieties, Mrs Collier (white) and Dorothy Eckford (cream) – alongside modern varieties High Scent and Wiltshire Ripple, and new this year, Capel Manor.

It’s also first for the blue love-in-a-mist and Blue Diadem cornflower. The cornflowers will flower right through to October. Seed was sown last October and plants were over-wintered in the poly tunnel. To be honest, the flowers only seem a week or two earlier than the ones grown outdoors, so I probably won’t bother trying to over-winter them again. They took up a lot of space and needed a lot of watering. Too much trouble for something that grows so readily outside.

Self-seeded pot marigolds are putting on an early show. I love these pale orange flowers, sisters of a variety called Orange Fizz. I’ll definitely grow these again. I’ve just planted some tiny plug plants to flower until the first frosts. Variety unknown, as they came from my Mum. Her labelling system is worse than mine! I’m not complaining, as she’s also brought annual pinks, stocks, cosmos and some kind of daisies. I can’t wait to see what they look like. We hoed out a trench and planted them in rows, mum passing me the plants and me setting them in the ground. We got a system going and planted them in half an hour.

The last of the winter pansies have grown long and leggy. Perfect for jam jar flowers at this time of the year. I’ve just sown some new black varieties. They look as sumptuous as velvet on the seed packets.

As soon as I’d picked my flowers, the light began to fade. How lovely to still be able to wander about in the garden in the evening though. If I’m lucky I’ll catch sight of the barn owl again.

Links : In a Vase on Monday: https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/05/27/in-a-vase-on-monday-more-sweeties/

Links : Dianthus Sooty https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk/item_450K_dianthus_barbatus_sooty

Six on Saturday. A view of my garden on 11 May 2019

Here’s some photos from my garden diary today for #sixonsaturday. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the tulips. They’ve provided colour and joy for two months. Surviving the torrential rain and hail, they are tougher than they look.

Carnival de Nice. Reminds me of summer days with striped bunting, deckchairs and raspberry ripple ice cream.

Angelique. Like apple blossom. Petals start a deep blush pink then fade to translucent white. I love the colour-changing beauty of tulips.

Black Parrot. More elegant than some of the parrot tulips around. A joy in terracotta pots amongst grey lavender. Viola Antique Shades provides a perfect match with purple and coppery tones. These have been flowering since last October. Good value.

Darwin hybrids, from a cut flower mix, planted at Christmas. Reminds me of a peach sundae.

I’ll be lifting these tulips and planting them in the orchard to flower next year. One tiny patch provides so much variety, planted only 1″ apart. I’ve earmarked the spot for cosmos and larkspur. Cut flowers until October. Behind them, sweet peas planted only a fortnight ago are half way up their hazel rod supports. There will be sweet-scented flowers by June.

Links : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/11/six-on-saturday-11-05-2019/

Cut flower mix tulips : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/tulips/cutting-mixture-tulips

Carnival de Nice https://www.farmergracy.co.uk/products/tulip-carnaval-de-nice-bulbs-uk

Angelique : https://www.sarahraven.com/flowers/bulbs/tulips/tulip_angelique.htm

Black Parrot tulip https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/tulips/parrot-tulips/tulip-black-parrot

You might like to read My Cut Flower Patch : https://bramblegarden.com/2018/06/18/in-a-vase-on-monday-my-cut-flower-patch/

Six on Saturday – My garden 27 April 2019

I’d forgotten how sweetly scented some tulips can be. This one has a fruit salad, pineapple scent. Reminds me of the tropical trifle my Aunty Betty used to make, liberally decorated with sugar strand sprinkles. Such happy memories of family outings, picnics and seaside trips. A kind and much-loved lady who seemed to have a never-ending supply of fairy cakes, toffee apples and other sweet treats.

Three weeks of joy with these double tulips; they take a long time to unfurl. This one is called Peaches and Cream. I’ve never grown it before and have made a note to plant a whole row for next spring.

Tulips can be grown anywhere. These are in a 2ft by 3ft portable raised bed on wheels. I’ve grown these in the unheated poly tunnel for early flowers. They will be planted out in the orchard for an informal display next year.

Tulips are also planted 2″ apart in a cut flower bed. These were bought in the half price sale at Christmas and planted in January. They were described as a “mixed cut flower patch kit.” It’s a great idea for trying out new varieties.

In the beds behind the tulips, there’s a rather rustic, ramshackle A -frame made from hazel rods. This week I finally planted out my sweet peas. These were sown in root trainers last October. There are heritage varieties such as creamy white Dorothy Eckford bred in 1904 at Wem in Shropshire by Henry Eckford and named after his daughter. How lovely to be immortalised as a beautiful, scented sweet pea. Also there’s new varieties such as Capel Manor which I’m trying out.

Step out of the gate at the top of the garden, and this is the view today. Yellow oil seed all across the ridgeway. You can see for miles around.

Thanks for joining me this week in my garden. What are you growing on your plot at this time of the year? Spring is my favourite season, with so much colour and frangrance all around.

Links : Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/04/27/six-on-saturday-27-04-2019/

Tour of MrFothergill’s Seed Trial Grounds

Photo : Silene Blue Angel. New for 2018/19

Growing plants from seed is a passion for me. It’s an affordable way to bulk up annual, perennial and biennial displays in the garden. And each year I try something new, as well as sticking with tried and trusted old favourites.

Next spring, I’ll be adding Silene Blue Angel to my seed sowing plans. It’s one of the new varieties on offer at Mr Fothergill’s. And this week I was absolutely delighted to be invited to view the trial grounds at the company’s headquarters in Suffolk.

These are the plants that caught my eye. The silene was top of my list. A hardy annual, sown in March and planted out in early June. Plants form neat cushions 25cm tall. For a continuous display, I’ll sow a few seeds at two to three week intervals. I’m picturing drifts of electric blue flowers running through the borders and flowering all summer long.

Brachycome Blue Star is another new variety available for 2019. I’m going to partner it with this one I spotted from the Brachycome Blue/White Mix range. I’ve always loved any kind of daisy flower.

Regular readers know I also love sweet peas. I grow a range of heritage and modern varieties along a rather wonky hazel wigwam structure. Next year I will be adding new variety Capel Manor to the garden. It’s a pretty pinky blue and has a delicate, though not overpowering scent.

I always plant cosmos in the cut flower garden. They are easy to grow and provide flowers from early summer right through to the first frosts. I spotted this beautiful new white variety called Snow Puff. Bees seem to love cosmos, so that’s a bonus too. I’m always trying to find ways to help pollinators.

Here’s some photos of the trial grounds. It was fabulous to wander about amongst so many beautiful flowers, jotting down names for future planting plans. The scent in the heat of the day just added to the wow factor.

Mr Fothergill’s is celebrating its 40th anniversary. In May, the company won Product of the Year at RHS Chelsea for its new Optigrow range of seeds. Optigrow is a revolutionary non-chemical seed priming treatment that uses only water and air to get the seeds biologically ready for germination. I’ll be trying out some of the 19 vegetable varieties available – including tricky to grow parsnips- next spring. I’ll need to write another post about all the new vegetable varieties. There are quite a few I’ve made a note of. And there are many more new flower varieties. I’ve just picked out a few. I’ll definitely have to write another post soon….

Please share this via any social media you like, and don’t forget to say hello in the comments box below. Let me know what new seed you are planing to try out for the spring growing season. I am @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram.

Summer fruit harvest and making garden jam

What a summer! My poor garden is burned to a crisp and everything’s wilting, including me. But the fruit garden is producing bumper crops. You’d think they would shrivel in 32C heat, but the black and red currants, gooseberries and blackberries are sweet and juicy.

Last night I wandered round the garden collecting a basket of fruit to make jam. I had planned to make strawberry jam from the pots of runners planted in April. But the tiny plants only yielded a handful of fruit. So delicious though. The plants only cost 60p each, mail order. I wrote about planting them Here. I’m hopeful of larger crops next summer.

The blackberries were the best I’ve ever seen though. A bumper crop and large fruit. Sometimes wild blackberries are so tiny they are hardly worth picking. But these soon filled a basket.

I threw the whole lot in a heavy based pan to make garden jam. Wow, what a scent. If it’s possible to capture sunshine and summer in a jar, this is the way to do it.

Garden Jam

To make 2 jars I used 500g fruit, 500g sugar 75ml water, juice of 1 lemon.

Method:

Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the setting point later.

Put fruit, water and lemon juice in a heavy based pan. Cook the fruit gently until soft.

Add sugar and simmer carefully until all the sugar crystals are absorbed.

Increase the heat to a rolling boil. After 10- 15 minutes, put a teaspoon of jam on the plate and gently push. If it wrinkles, it has reached setting point. If not, cook for another 5 minutes, taking care not to burn the jam.

Stand for 15 minutes

Pot into sterilised and warmed jars.

Fresh scones :

3oz butter

1lb plain flour

Pinch salt

1oz caster sugar

1.5 tsp. baking power

2 eggs and 6floz milk beaten together.

Add all the dry ingredients and rub together. Add liquids and mix carefully. Don’t over handle the mixture

Roll out thickly and cut into circles. Brush top with a little of the reserved egg/ milk mixture.

Bake for 10 mins until golden, oven temp. 230C, gas mark 8

Eat whilst still warm – or as soon as possible. Can be frozen as soon as cooled, to keep fresh.

I often ask twitter friends for recipes and gardening advice. Here’s a reply that came from Bob Flowerdew. I’m looking forward to trying his recipe.

And this came from June Girvin, which is similar to the recipe I ended up with. It’s absolutely delicious.

After all that foraging and cooking, we sat in the 1930s summerhouse, turned to face the cool woodland and pond and feasted on the jewels of the garden.

Surrounding us, there’s sounds of harvesting and baling. There’s a scent of new hay and oats on the breeze, and we watch entranced as barn owls swoop across the empty fields, like ghosts. They don’t notice us sitting quietly amongst the trees.

Here’s this week’s Garden Hour on BBC Radio Leicester where I chat away about what’s happening in my garden. Put your feet up and have a listen in sometime. The programme starts at 2.10.27 on the timeline. And the music’s not bad this week too.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06cd1bd

I am @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram. Please share this on any social media platform you like, and don’t forget to leave a comment below. Thank you.

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.

End of the Month View -April 2018

We leave cold, wet April behind, and May finally brings some warm, settled weather.

The potting shed window ledge soon has a jug of cow parsley and forget-me-nots from the wild garden.

We’ve waited for this display all winter. Wild cherry trees in the paddock. Alive with bees. An avalanche of white blossom.

Scented narcissi Geranium pop up in the long grass around the pond. I love the egg yolk centres.

Needing some work this summer, the pond is ringed with marsh marigolds and lady’s smock wild flowers- and brambles and stinging nettles! A bit of cutting back and control is planned.

Our front lawn is a blue haze. My Grandfather Ted Foulds brought the first wild violets here, seedlings from his garden. They spread over the whole plot, and I love them.

I’ve planted my sweet peas. The hazel rods are a bit ramshackle, but they’ll soon be covered with flowers. I planted seed in October. I’m growing old favourites: High Scent, Wiltshire Ripple and creamy white Mrs Collier, plus heritage varieties from Easton Walled Gardens .

Suddenly, these dog’s tooth violets pop up through cow parsley in the woodland. I forget I’ve planted them – and then they emerge. Sunshine on a cold, cloudy day. Erythronium Pagoda is the variety growing here.

Shining out from the shade, Tulip Purissima. Reliably comes back every year. Copes with everything the weather throws at it.

I grow Orange Emperor tulips in the daylily bed in front of the greenhouse. Another good do-er. Always comes up every year if planted deeply on a bed of grit for drainage.

Favourite shrubs in flower at the moment are daphne and quince. This one is Japanese quince, Chaenomeles Kinshiden. Double flowers open pale lime green and change to clotted cream as they age.

Pleased to see my plectranthus has survived the winter, tucked up in the greenhouse. A striking plant for summer containers. Easy to grow from cuttings.

There will be plenty of citrus fruit for summer preserves. This plant flowered all winter, filling the greenhouse with such a wonderful scent.

We do quite a bit of owl watching from the top of the garden. Delighted to report the barn owls and tawny owls have survived the freezing winter. We’re hoping they bring their fledglings into our garden again this summer.

Another cause for celebration. The hedgehogs- we think they are last year’s babies- also survived the cold, and have come out of hibernation, ravenous. They are doing a great job of clearing pests in the garden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slide show of my garden at the end of April and into the first week of May. Enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend. I’m hoping to spend some time just sitting in my favourite garden chair. If I can possibly ignore all the weeds growing rampant in the background!

Thanks to Helen Patient Gardener for hosting the EOMV. Why not go over and see how Helen’s garden looks at the end of April.

What are your plans for the garden over the coming weeks? Get in touch and let me know.