Category: Spring

Friday update

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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.

DSC_0018 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.

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Potting bench update

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).

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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.

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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)!

Big Pots

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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.

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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.

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Work in Progress

We’ve had some sunshine and the temperature has gone up by about 10°C! I’ve done some more work on the bed in the front garden that I wrote about in my last post. I needed some muscle to help remove the trunk of the ceanothus so that had to wait until the weekend. It was quite interesting to see the root ball – there was some very thick root coiled round suggesting that it had been pot grown for a long time before being planted in the ground. Outside of that the root system was not very extensive at all, I’m amazed it had survived as long as it had.

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My new planting looks rather sparse and I’ve had to put stones in the gaps to try to keep the cats off. Some columbines (Aquilegia) have self-seeded in this bed, I quite like them so have left them, but have yanked out all the periwinkle. I’m hoping that I will be able to add to the planting from my RHS seeds. I have sown most of my seeds now, just two of the grasses and the devil’s bit scabious to go. The Korean mint (Agastache rugosa) and snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) have germinated but no signs of life from any of the others yet.

I gave some big dollops of worm poo to some lucky plants: the two roses in the front, the philadelphus, and the wisteria.

I have finally started hardening off my sweet peas this week. I’m determined to make a better effort with them this year after last year not providing them with adequate support. I have saved some long branches from pruning the buddleja which I will give them to scramble up.

Potato Day

Today we sowed the potatoes so I’m writing this post mostly to keep track of that date. To recap on my previous post, I am growing Casablanca and International Kidney.

The weather has still been cold and wet; everything is late this year. My forsythia are flowering now and I’m so grateful for their cheery bright yellow. Some blue wood anemones have popped up and the pulmonaria is beginning to flower, but most plants still seem very sleepy.

I have some plans for a bed in the front garden which I started enacting today between rain showers. I am going to have to put the ceanothus out of its misery. (It is a broad-leaved one, Trewithen Blue, I think.) I mentioned last year that it came back from the brink of death a few years ago and since then has been rather misshapen and straggly. It did not appreciate two small dumpings of snow in March just as it was coming out of dormancy. I even went out with a broom to try to brush the snow off but that was too little, too late. It’s still alive but a lot of leaves have died and the flower buds are brown and floppy – I don’t think they will open. So that along with its already bad shape means it needs to go.

Yesterday I bought two Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Viveleg’ – one will replace the ceanothus (but slightly further away from the philadelphus which it was too close to) and the other will go on the other side of the philadelphus. They have nice evergreen variegated leaves which I hope will go well with the variegated leaves of the philadelphus but also fill in for its bareness in winter. I look forward to its scented flowers in autumn. I also bought some lavender which will go at the front of the bed, I couldn’t decide which variety to get so bought Munstead and Hidcote to mix it up a bit. I’m going to try using some mycorrhizal fungi when I plant these plants out. I haven’t used it before but it’s supposed to support the root system and help the plant get established more quickly.

Another change in the front is that I decided to put the Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa), that was in a pot in the porch, into the ground right next to the porch. It hasn’t grown very much in the pot and I wondered if it would be happier if it could spread its roots but when I took it out of the pot the root system wasn’t that big and it certainly wasn’t pot bound. I didn’t find any grubs so I don’t think it’s been eaten, maybe it’s just a very slow grower. I also popped some bluey-purple hyacinths, which I’d had indoors, in the ground in front of it.

RHS seeds

My RHS members’ seeds have arrived! I received everything on my first choice list which is very nice. It is very exciting but also quite daunting – the responsibility of not messing it up. My first task is to get organised and draw up a list of the germination conditions for each species. I will save figuring out where to put the plants until I actually have some plants!

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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.