Lily of the Valley have emerged. Next to them is a crosswort (Phuopsis stylosa) which was getting very leggy with dead-looking thatch underneath which I cut out yesterday. To fill in a bare patch in front of it I divided a bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana) to go in the gap.
Today turned out to be forsythia pruning day. The flowers have almost finished and I was going to wait a bit longer until they had all fallen off but noticed new shoots starting to grow from branches that I was planning to remove. I didn’t want it wasting energy growing something that I was going to remove, and it’s also easier to prune before it’s fully in leaf, so I went ahead and chopped away. The older forsythia in the back garden has been pruned badly in the past, by a previous owner and by me when I didn’t know what I was doing. Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to gradually rejuvenate it by removing old badly shaped branches right down to the bottom. I’m aiming for an open, natural look rather than a tightly clipped hedge. It bugs me when the council butcher forsythia, especially when they do it in the autumn or winter thereby removing the flower buds!
I applied MO Bacter to the lawn this afternoon. Despite its name it is not a rapper but a fertiliser that is also supposed to kill moss. Its NPK is 5-5-20 and it’s the high level of potassium that kills the moss. It also claims to have some Bacillus spp bacteria which digest the dead moss. I used it last year and I still have a mossy lawn so I’m not totally sold on the idea but the lawn needed feeding anyway so I used up the rest of the bag.
I can also report there has been some french bean germination!
My chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) is flowering and, I’ve just noticed, so is my Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream’). I have never noticed it flowering before so this may be the first time!
The lavender cuttings that I wrote about before didn’t actually take – the new green growth wilted and died. So I took some new ones today from just new green shoots rather than the woody parts, hoping that works better. I also took some dianthus cuttings, from a very leggy plant which will be euthanised if the cuttings take, and sowed some dill seeds in three little purple pots that my Mum gave me.
Blooming in my front garden are tulips and ceanothus. I don’t know what variety the ceanothus is as it was planted by a previous owner and it’s not in great shape. A few years ago I had to chop out most of it as it was dying and the main trunk was splitting. It’s still going though which is amazing, but a bit straggly and messy so I’ll give it a prune after it’s finished flowering.
Also in the front, my wisteria is full of flower buds which seem to grow noticeably each day – so exciting!
Today I sowed some beans and tomatoes. I bought a mixed pack of climbing french beans: ‘Carminat’, ‘Monte Cristo’, and ‘Monte Gusto’. I will be growing them up the side of my shed in the three tubs where last year I grew cucumbers, pumpkins, and tomatoes. I have sown three beans of each type and in two weeks I will sow three more of each type to get successive crops but I will only have space to grow one of each type from each batch. I’ve sowed them in loo rolls so when they’re ready for planting outside I can just plant whole thing and the cardboard will disintegrate.
I wasn’t going to do tomatoes again this year but my parents have kindly given me a subscription to the RHS for my birthday and with the welcome pack came a packet of ‘Gardener’s Delight’ tomato seeds. I sowed some of these today, now I just have to figure out how I’m going to fit everything in the very small area that gets enough sun!
The verbena that I sowed a couple of weeks ago have germinated.
I will be trying to grow potatoes for the first time this year, in bags. I’ve got Charlotte (on the left) which is classed as a 2nd early, and Pink Fir Apple (right) which is a maincrop potato. I was quite late ordering my seed potatoes so they’ve only had just over a week chitting (where you leave them out in a light, warm place to start sprouting). Some of the Pink Fir Apple already had some shoots when they arrived and some small shoots have appeared on the Charlottes. Many people say you don’t even need to bother with chitting so I sowed them today anyway.
In my conservatory I have a fig tree and an olive tree. I’ve had the fig for about five or six years, almost killed it through neglect but pruned it quite hard and watered and fed it back to life. Now it’s thriving – last summer I harvested a pound of figs and made fig and ginger jam. This year it started leafing up quite early and there are already four figs. Figs are quite interesting because they are not technically fruits but inside-out flowers! There is even a specialised species of wasp which crawls inside the fig and pollinates it.
My olive tree is flowering though I don’t expect to get any fruit from it. It got a bit worse-for-wear last year with a scale insect infestation. For a long time I didn’t realise what the funny lumps were and so didn’t do anything about it until it was quite bad. I think they came with the plant but it was just a cheap one from B&Q. It’s under control now but not completely gone. I’ve been occasionally applying a systemic insecticide and also manually picking them off.
I mostly favour flowers which fall in the colour spectrum from blue and pink but a bit of yellow can make a nice contrast and it’s particularly appreciated at this time of year when there are still plenty of gloomy, grey days. In my full shade corner my bergenia are starting to flower. The white Bergenia ‘Bressingham White’ are ahead, with the pink Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’ still in tight buds. The little, pale pink Bergenia ‘Baby Doll’ have not put up any flower stalks yet. Behind is my Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ which has opened up frothy white flowers after displaying pretty, little, dark pink buds that almost look like berries all winter. The leaves have been looking a bit chlorotic; I didn’t realise that skimmia prefer acidic soil so it has been struggling to absorb iron. I’ve been trying to rectify this by feeding with iron-rich seaweed extract and increasing the acidity of the soil with ericaceous compost. Behind the skimmia you can see my forsythia which is still going strong. On the other side of the garden, some yellow wallflower are starting to flower. They were from a ‘wildlife’ seed mix, or something like that, so I have no idea what variety they are. I’ve been doing a bit of mulching this morning, with an all-purpose compost, and I love how black and healthy it makes the beds look.
My geraniums have been leafing up and it’s always such a pleasure to be gardening near them and smell that gorgeous scent when brushing against them. This one is ‘Johnson’s Blue’. Another in the same bed is a pink one, I can’t remember the variety but it should be called Lazarus because for a couple of years I thought it was dead. All that was left of it was a tiny bit of rhizome but it has now come back to life and looking very leafy!
In my garden at the moment I’m enjoying the gorgeous scent of some hyacinths. They were from a supermarket bought container that I had indoors last spring and then planted outside after they finished flowering. My pulmonaria is also coming into flower now and the bees love it.
For some reason I’ve always had a massive slug epidemic in my garden. On a summer’s evening we can easily collect bucketfuls and then do the same again the following night! I usually apply slug killing nematodes (Nemaslug) once or twice a year. Today’s a good day to do it – damp, cloudy, and the soil is warming up. The neighbours must think I’m crazy though, watering the garden when it just rained!
I’ve tried barrier methods – coffee grains, copper tape – with varying success. This year I’m trying wool pellets. They’re very expensive so I’ve just bought a small bag to try out – if they work it might be worth buying more. They do have a very sheepy smell! You sprinkle them on and then water so they form a felty mat. I have put some around my new little Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ whose flowers keep getting devoured, and my nerines which also seem to be a favourite with the molluscs.
Really getting into gardening season full swing now with lots to do and a million ideas racing through my mind! I’ve just re-read The Thrifty Gardener by Alys Fowler which is full of inspiration and tips – I recommend any book by her, I love her gardening style.
First a Paulownia update. In December 2015 I germinated some Paulownia kawakamii seeds in a jar of water. Also known as the sapphire dragon tree, a close relative of P. tomentosa the foxglove tree, but I think with a more pleasing rounded crown. In the new year of 2016 I picked the eight strongest germinators to go into compost, of which three survived, were potted on, and made good growth last summer with nice big leaves. All winter they have each looked like a single stick, about a foot or so tall, but are now showing signs of life with pretty purplish axial buds. In the background there is one of my little anemones (Anemone blanda), I love these guys – I forget they’re there and then in spring they pop up around the garden – and they were one of the first things I planted in this garden.
After reading up on how I messed up my sweet peas (i.e. not putting them outside) I decided to sow some more straight into the ground. I am worried that as soon as they emerge the slugs will get them but I received my order of some Nemaslug (slug killing nematodes) today so will get that on the garden in the next couple of days. While I was having fun sowing, in what counts as the sunniest corner of my back garden, I also chucked some calendula seeds into the ground. The “lawn” is now very slightly smaller but no one will notice if I just take it up inch by inch! On the spur of the moment I chopped a small chunk off my lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’) and bunged it back in the ground about a foot away from the original plant. I also noticed my rosemary was looking a bit scruffy so gave her a little prune and hung up the offcuts to dry for using in cooking.