Autumn

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There is some autumn colour about. In my garden my blueberry bush is putting on the best show. My Japanese maple is disappointing this year compared to last when it went very red, the leaves haven’t changed much at all and are starting to drop. Less sun I guess. My nerines have also not done so well, I only got five flower stalks this year, which I think is my fault for forgetting about them amidst the jungle and not making sure they weren’t being shaded. I am cheating by using a photo from last year.

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My Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ is flowering for the first time, bringing some cheeriness to a dark corner. It’s still quite a small plant and I’m looking forward to it getting bigger and filling out the space.

In September I dug up my maincrop potatoes, the Pink Fir Apple. They are very knobbly and funny looking and washing them was quite tedious but they had a good flavour. I’m not sure I would grow them again though.

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Chocolate fruit and worm poo

My chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) has produced a lot of large fruit this year. Just this week they have changed from pale green to purple, swelled and burst open.

Today I spent some time playing with my worms and harvesting some worm poo. I got my wormery last autumn and it’s taken a while to get the hang of it so this was my first collection of finished compost. I carefully separated out the worms from the compost so as not to lose any – the worms are happily multiplying, lots of tiny baby worms and eggs.

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The compost looks very rich so I will be mixing it with something else for potting, or perhaps sprinkle it sparingly on my flower beds. There were quite a lot of undigested eggshells but that was the only thing still recognisable. I had crushed the eggshells a little in my hands when putting them in but in future I will make more effort to smash them up. In the early days I think I put in too much food waste, too fast. I also made the mistake of putting in large, tough things such as cabbage stalks.

At the bottom of the wormery is a sump where liquid collects and a tap for draining it, then it can be used as liquid plant food. The main reason I had to sort out the worms today was that the tap had got bunged up and it wasn’t draining properly. Quite a lot of compost had fallen through into the sump and so it was a thick mud that needed clearing out.

Pond Life

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At last we have a waterlily flower (Nymphaea ‘Pygmaea Helvola’)!

I was also very excited to discover some dragonfly nymphs living in the pond – I accidentally scooped one up when I was clearing some pond weed. Then a few days later I started to notice several exoskeletons that had been left on plants, presumably shed as the dragonflies emerged.

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I’m currently cultivating quite a jungle, my paulownia are huge and the size of the leaves is impressive. They do lose a lot of water though and have been wilting in the hot, dry weather we’ve been having despite constant watering. They definitely need to go into bigger pots this autumn. Yesterday it got a bit windy and one fell over, luckily it wasn’t damaged and I’ve tried to weigh down the pot.

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We’ve harvested the second batch of Charlotte potatoes, we got about 2.5lbs, so not a huge amount more after waiting another couple of weeks. The climbing French beans have been coming a bit faster now, we’re getting enough for dinner once or twice a week. If only I had more space and less shade, then I could provide a lot more food!

First harvest

We’ve been picking strawberries for quite a few weeks and are now starting to get some blueberries and a few climbing French beans. Today we couldn’t wait any longer and decided to dig up some potatoes. We’re growing two bags of Charlotte (2nd earlies) and two bags of Pink Fir Apple (maincrop). It was very exciting rifling through the compost to find the spuds! We got almost 2lbs from one bag of Charlotte (2 seeds), some were still very tiny so we’re going to leave the second bag to grow for a bit longer. Something to remember for next year was that there weren’t any potatoes or roots growing deeper than the seed potatoes so we should perhaps use a thinner layer of compost below the seeds and therefore leaving more room for compost further up the stalks. The upper part of the plants are in quite a state: they got a lot taller than I expected (not enough sun maybe) and then fell over. The was one particular stormy night at the beginning of June where some of the Pink Fir Apple got snapped right off! I’m not really sure what to support them with, and there’s also the problem that the sunniest spot for them is also quite exposed to wind, as far as sunlight goes beggars can’t be choosers in my garden!

End of May

The biggest excitement in the garden yesterday was my pond iris (Iris versicolor ‘Kermesina’) flowering. It completely opened up in just a few hours while I took my eyes off it. My climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) is full of frothy white flowers, I do love a good lacecap.

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Just as one geranium (a pink Geranium macrorrhizum) finishes another begins to flower (‘Johnson’s Blue’). I’ve cut back all the finished flower stalks of the pink one so I might be lucky and get a second flush out of it. The pink crosswort (Phuopsis stylosa) is also starting to bloom and has grown back massively since I gave it quite a severe prune in April.

After quite a dry April we have been having more rain, but also lots of sun, so everything is growing very fast. I had to mow the lawn twice in the last week! My paulownia are huge. The sweet peas that I sowed indoors last autumn are starting to flower and smell gorgeous. They and my ‘Maigold’ rose are filling that corner of my garden with scent.

Some of my climbing french beans have started flowering and I’m worried that it’s too early. I thought they would grow a bit more first, I hope I haven’t overfed them or made some other rookie error. The second sowing of beans are currently in the porch hardening off, I should be able to plant them out by the end of the week. The kale that I sowed has germinated very successfully and I’ve thinned them a little. I should probably thin more but I didn’t want to reduce my options too much in case of some kind of catastrophe.

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Today I planted out 15 Verbena bonariensis in the back garden, more than half of them are in the lawn. All part of my effort to go full jungle. Mowing is going to be trickier but then that’s all the more reason to reduce the lawn even further. I’m thinking of dotting around some ornamental grasses, so it would still be grass – who can complain!

Warming up

I’ve been watching the weather forecasts like a hawk for any night-time dips in temperature and have decided that today looks safe for planting out my first batch of climbing French beans. They have been hardening off in the porch for a little over a week and have survived that without problem. The second batch of beans seem to be germinating a little slower, only two have appeared so, which is perhaps due to less sunshine than we had in early April. I have sown a few kale seeds in the tubs with the beans hoping they will be suitable companions, perhaps the beans will supply the kale with nitrogen and the kale leaves will shade the compost and reduce evaporation.

My potatoes are growing, not amazing amounts but enough that I’ve started earthing them up regularly. Surprisingly the maincrop variety seem to be ahead of the earlies! Perhaps because they were better chitted. My strawberries are flowering and I’ve mulched them with straw. Chives are also displaying lots of pretty, little, purple pom-pom flowers.

Last summer my son and I dug out a very small pond. The water forget-me-nots (Myosotis scorpioides) are now flowering, and also the watercress that I grew from some supermarket, bagged, cut watercress. My lily of the valley have been flowering for a couple of weeks, they are from the same rhizomes as the flowers that I had in my bridal bouquet 19 years ago! They are finally establishing quite nicely in the shady bed at the back of the garden.

My climbing rose (Rosa ‘Maigold’) has started flowering and smells gorgeous, it has tons of buds so I’m hoping for a record year. And look how magnificent my paulownia looks!

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While out in the garden with my camera I noticed my cat looking intently at something – a red admiral butterfly feeding on the ceanothus. The ceanothus is still looking stunning, flowering away, earlier I spotted a blue butterfly on it almost camouflaged in the blueness! The swifts are back and its so good to hear them screeching around again, and mesmerising to watch their aerial acrobatics.

And here is my wisteria which has been looking glorious for the past couple of weeks but I have been unable to get any photographs that do it justice.

Happy Bees

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My Ceanothus ‘Puget Blue’ and Clematis montana are in full flower now, a bit earlier than last year I think. The ceanothus is absolutely buzzing with bees, the hum is quite amazing. I feel very proud to be providing lots of food for the bees.

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My pink Balkan cranesbill (Geranium macrorrhizum) is also flowering, not prolifically but better than it’s ever been.

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I’m very pleased with how colourful my ‘full shade’ bed is with bergenias and bluebells, illustrating that you don’t need direct sunlight as long as you put the right plant in the right place.

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Productive Garden

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My tiny blueberry bush is flowering at the moment, and the aubretia next to it looks very pretty too.

Yesterday I pricked out some of my verbena seedlings and started planting out my new plants. Some of my tomato seeds have germinated and there is 100% germination of my beans. I think I will hold off sowing the second batch for another week as the first batch are growing so fast and it’s not frost-safe outside yet. I have sown some lettuce seeds which I will be keeping indoors rather than feeding the slugs. The sweet peas that I sowed straight into the ground have germinated and I have put rings of coffee grounds around them in an attempt to put off the slugs.

The desk/potting bench in the conservatory is looking quite productive at the moment. Also in the last week I have lifted some snowdrops from a large clump in the front garden and planted them on the shady side of the lawn in the back garden, next to the bluebells. I took some more cuttings from my Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald n Gold’ which is great for brightening up dark corners. Cuttings I took from it last year and planted out in the autumn have survived the winter and are slowly making new growth.

New Plant Purchases

We went to RHS Wisley today and came away inspired, and with six new plants! I’m very happy because I got some plants that have been on my list for a while. I got a bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), a decorative blue grass (Festuca glauca ‘Intense Blue’), bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’), a double-flowered, creeping chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno’), and corsican mint (Mentha requienii). Lots of plants that beg to be touched and sniffed! I also bought a replacement for my hydrangea that sadly died from waterlogging because I failed to put the pot on feet. I was hoping I could revive it but it’s definitely as dead as a parrot. I chose a Hydrangea serrata ‘Bluebird’ which is a lace-cap like I had before but the previous one was a H. macrophylla.