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!


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


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.


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


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.



Productive Garden


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.


Tidying & Feeding


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!


Ace Acer


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.


Sowing & Blooming

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.


You say potato


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.




The waltz of the flowers continues with my Epimedium × warleyense now blooming. This is such a great plant for shade. I’ve had it for about five or six years now and the clump is slowly spreading. Last year I divided some pieces off and replanted in another area, after starting them off in pots inside the conservatory. In addition to the pretty flowers, the leaves are very attractive – almost heart-shaped, on delicate, long stems, and turn red in autumn – and they’re evergreen! (The photo on the right was taken in the autumn.) Apparently plants in this genus are also known as horny goat weed and have certain medicinal properties as that name might suggest! I won’t be experimenting.


Fig Fruit Flower

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.