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.
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.
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.
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.
Inspired by the gorgeous sweet peas my Mum grew last year, I sowed some last November. They grew a bit too fast due to the warmth of my conservatory and were a bit of a neglected, tangled mess. Today I potted them on into bigger pots and clipped them back to 3 or 4 pairs of leaves. They’re quite lanky and weedy so I hope this will encourage them to thicken up! I really have no idea what I’m doing though.
While I was at it today I also sowed some Verbena bonariensis seeds in trays. I admired the verbena at Kew last summer so I’m looking forward to having some of my own, I just hope it can manage without all-day sun.