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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.