Last week I bought my seed potatoes as it’s time to start chitting (sprouting) them. Last year I grew Casablanca, a first early, and International Kidney, a maincrop. The Casablanca were fine but I screwed up the International Kidney. They kept looking wilted, and the weather was very hot and dry, so I kept watering them. I thought they couldn’t be ready already but in fact I should have dug them up and by the time I did they were mostly rotten. So this year I have decided to just grow two early varieties: Rocket and Swift, neither of which I have grown before.
I also bought the rest of my veg seed. I’ve got two varieties of climbing French bean: Cobra and Golden Gate. I’m going to have a go with some peas: a mangetout Delikata and a sugarsnap Cascadia. The main reason I chose these varieties is that podding peas is tedious! I’m also going to try growing some beetroot Boltardy.
The snowdrops have been flowering for a few weeks now, followed by the crocus. Today a little Iris reticulata has emerged, and the daffodils that I planted in pots are starting to come out.
The first daffodils to flower are Narcissus ‘Spring Dawn’. I also planted Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ which claimed to flower from December to February but are not yet out. The Spring Dawn are a nice soft yellow but their stems are a bit floppy. Also, mixed in with these pots I have smaller, later-flowering Narcissus ‘Geranium’, and tulips ‘Prinses Irene’ and ‘Don Quichotte’. Arranged around them are squill Scilla mischtschenkoana and two-toned grape hyacinths Muscari latifolium. A couple of squill are starting to emerge but seem a bit stunted. I think it remains to be seen whether my bulb arranging skills are any good!
My RHS members’ seeds arrived this week. This year I’m going to try to grow: Amsonia hubrichtii (Arkansas blue star), Anemone huphensis (Chinese anemone), Cenolophium denudatum (Baltic parsley), Cosmos bipinnatus, Datisca cannabina (Cretan hemp), Dianthus carthusianorum, Digitalis ferruginea (rusty foxglove), Helleborus x hybridus, Lunaria redivida (perennial honesty), Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ (white campion), Nepeta kubanica (catmint), Papaver atlanticum (Atlas poppy), Rosa glauca, Salvia nemorosa, and Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass).
We came back from holiday to a glut of cucumbers so I pickled them using this recipe.
‘Violetto’ climbing French beans, Casablanca potatoes, and cucumber ‘Crystal Lemon’.
It’s cooled off this week, after last week’s mini heatwave, and has been a bit wet. I took a few snaps in the back garden before reporting on my seedling progress. My ceanothus ‘Puget Blue’ is just coming into flower now which is always a highlight. Behind it you can see my bleeding heart flowering away, and the rosemary.
A bright splash of colour is provided by a yellow wallflower which is just as well as the forsythia was a bit short-lived this year. It came into flower late because of the “Beast from the East” cold snap in March, and then went over quite quickly with all the rain. I have pruned it quite harshly this week so it looks even worse now.
There are bluebells and bergenia flowering on the shady side of the garden. But my bluebells can never compare to the wild ones that carpet our local woods and were at their peak last weekend.
So a germination update: since last week three beans, three cucumbers, two butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), and two smoke trees (Cotinus coggygria) have germinated. Yesterday I pricked out 14 Korean mint (Agastache rugosa) and four cranesbill geraniums (mixed unknown varieties). Today I have sown some more tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) and purple cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’) as I have not had any luck with the first batch. The wild cow parsley is flowering right now so I don’t think I have much chance of having flowering plants this year.
Yesterday I planted out my sweet peas which has freed up some pots, so today I could sow some more seeds. My “potting bench” in the conservatory is now looking rather crowded! I have sown the beans, cucumber, and squash that I bought a couple of months ago, and the remaining RHS seeds which were two grasses (New Zealand wind grass Anemanthele lessoniana and Chinese fountain grass Pennisetum alopecuroides) and devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis).
I have had really good germination from the snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) and Korean mint (Agastache rugosa), four geraniums, and two puny quaking grass (Briza media). Everything else, eight other species, nothing! I only sowed half the seeds in the packs so I may have to try again. Maybe my loo rolls aren’t popular, or the vermiculite, I have no idea.
Many months ago I pruned some succulent houseplants and left the bits lying around with the intention of sticking them in some compost. I then forgot about them but was amused to find them looking still alive with roots searching for moisture. In the case of the echeveria, the original leaves shrivelled but new plump leaves have grown. It amazes me the survival skills of these plants, whereas with others getting a cutting to root can be a nightmare (looking at you, ceanothus)!
This week my attentions have turned to the back garden. My bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) that I bought last year has started flowering, I really love this plant. I have also just noticed today that the pittosporum has flower buds for the first time. This shrub was here before us but I have never seen it flower before! I will be interested to see how it looks when the buds open up.
My main mission so far this week has been to repot my paulownia into very large pots. I ordered the largest pots I could find, then regretted the decision as I started to worry that they would look ridiculous. They don’t look as bad as I feared after putting some other pots in front of them to blend them in a bit. The paulownia look like weird sticks at the moment but there are lots of promising buds which are growing each day.