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).
This morning I spotted the little Iris reticulata (‘Harmony’) that I bought last spring and tucked away in a pot on the patio. That little bit of purple caught my eye and so I have moved it to the front porch so that it may be admired more frequently.
This week I have tidied up my strawberries, removing all the dead leaves and rescuing lots of baby plants on runners. My main motivation for doing this was to uncover any bulbs that were trying to come up beneath them and to remove any hibernating slugs. I collected about twenty mini strawberry plants and stuck them in pots, not actually sure where I’ll put them when they grow!
Of the 18 sweet peas that I sowed last week 8 have germinated so far.
Indoors my Christmas cacti are flowering prolifically, their cheerful hot pink always a joy. In a pot in the front porch a Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) is giving off quite a fragrance for its small size. To start with I kept wondering why there was the smell of wee lingering around my front door until I realised it was coming from these little white flowers. I’m getting used to the aroma now, it’s more icky sweet than urinary, but it’s certainly not my favourite floral scent. I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh, it is January and it should be commended for making the effort at this time of year.
Snowdrops are croci are starting to make an appearance in the front garden. Last year I divided the clump of snowdrops and replanted some bulbs in the back garden. The leaves of some of these have emerged but I expect that they won’t flower this year after such a rude disturbance.
No posts for three months and the first in the Winter category. It’s no surprise that less has been happening in the garden. The plants are mostly sleeping and it has been so cold, damp, and dark that I have barely ventured out. I have done a minimal amount of tidying over the last couple of weeks – trimmed the wisteria, jasmine, and very messy passionflower in the front garden, and swept some leaves. I try to leave most cutting back until spring kicks in so that invertebrates and birds have somewhere to hide out. I have come around to the idea of trying to support all invertebrates in my garden, even though there are some that are my sworn enemies, because more invertebrates = more birds and maybe the birds will eat the baddies. There are also some carnivorous beetles and the like that perhaps will devour some slug eggs. We can live in hope anyway. Basically, diverse ecosystem must be better is what I reckon.
Today my seed potatoes and veg seed arrived. Last year I left ordering my potatoes way too late and they didn’t have enough time chitting so I’ve got in earlier this year. Chitting potatoes is not a bowel disorder but the process of leaving the potatoes out in the light so that they start sprouting. The idea is that this gives them a head start before you bury them. I am growing different varieties to last year: Casablanca, a first early (on the right); and International Kidney, a maincrop potato (on the left).
Due to lack of sunny spots in my garden I only have space for three climbing vegetables which I grow up the side of my shed. Last year I grew three varieties of bean, taking a break from curcubits due to mildew fears. The year before that I grew cucumbers (harvested 25), classic large pumpkins (one was edible, one was already gruesome for Hallowe’en), and tomatoes. This year I have bought seed for: cucumber ‘Crystal Lemon’ which are small round yellow cucumbers; ‘Turks Turban’ squash/pumpkin; and ‘Violetto’ climbing French beans. It’s obviously too early to start sowing but I am prepared!
This week I did, however, sow some sweet peas. They are a Spencer mix which came with my RHS membership. I am hoping to do better this year than I did with my sweet peas last year. I sowed them in the autumn and kept them in the conservatory over winter which was too warm and without enough light so they grew very leggy and weak. Then after I had finally put them outside in the spring I neglected them and didn’t provide enough support so they were a bit of a mess really. This year I will harden them off outside as soon as they are a few inches tall. Apparently sweet peas are actually hardy and can stay out during winter once they’ve been hardened off carefully, and they will be all the tougher for it!
As a member of the RHS I had the opportunity to order some seeds from them that they have collected from their gardens. There was quite a long list to choose from and we get to pick 15 species, and then 5 second choices in case they run out of any from the first choice list. Some of what I’ve chosen is probably completely inappropriate for my tiny garden but I’m very much looking forward to receiving them.
Outside some snowdrops and a crocus have appeared, and daffodil and bluebell leaves are emerging. My mahonia has flowered continuously for three months and is now spent but what a performer – this is a very underrated plant! It has green berries now which I think are supposed to turn blue. In the front garden a small-leaved purple hebe has been flowering which I’m not sure is supposed to at this time of year. The best colour in the back garden is being provided by the deep red leaves of an epimedium. I will endeavour to take some photos of all these plants when there is some light.