I have a passion for bulbs, as well as ferns and some other groups of plants, but bulbs I really love. I love that there is so much energy and possibility packed into a small bulb, or corm. I love that bulbs send up their flower, like a rocket, and then die down allowing space for something else to shine.
I’m especially proud of the clumps of Watsonia as I grew them from seed some years ago. The clumps have got so big that they have been divided and moved around the garden. Watsonia isn’t a plant I see much in English gardens, but a few years back when I visited gardens in Ireland it was everywhere.
I’ve included Asphodeline lutea as I was super excited to spot it’s flower spikes yesterday. Like the Watsonia I grew it from seed a few years ago but it has never flowered, there’s just been some wiry leaves but this year there are two flowers spikes. Hopefully in the next few days the flowers will open.
Brodiaea has been growing in my garden for a few year’s now, the original bulbs were bought from a supermarket and it seems to just seed around the garden, popping up here and there as in the gravel outside the seed where I would never have managed to plant it.
A tiny little allium, label missing, which grows in my front garden. I do like alliums and have all sorts that appear throughout the year but I’m appalling at labelling and when I do remember to include the label the birds remove it. But does it really matter, its a cut clump of alliums which I suspect I bought from an AGS plant sale when I was dabbling in alpines.
And my sixth bulb is Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ which also grows in the front garden is at the other end of the size spectrum to the allium. There are two forms of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ one flowering before the other and I have the early flowering variety. It’s a rather glamour bulb – tall and dramatic.
Those are my Six on Saturday at the end of a warm week which has benefited the bulbs greatly, especially those from South Africa.
For more Six on Saturday posts check out The Propagator’s blog
It’s fair to say that I don’t do well in the heat at the best of times so you can imagine that over the last week or so with temperatures reaching the low 30Cs (high 80Fs) I have been pushed to engage with the garden.
I’m coming to the end of a weeks annual leave when in the past I would have really tidied up the garden ahead of the rest of the summer. However, this week the most I have managed is to continue with the endless watering of the pots and trying to keep the newer plantings going. Luckily, I have been distracted by a lovely day out in cloudy damp Wales and two days of embroidery workshops with friends; the workshop room had a couple of vast ceiling fans which made it more bearable.
Today we have had a rather cloudy day with heavy rain and storms forecast over the next 48 hours. Whilst it has still been very warm for this time of year the patio is fairly cool first thing in the morning so I spent an hour tidying and potting up my succulent collection. The above are Agave montana seedlings which have been bidding their time on the patio and in desperate need for potting up. The seeds were sown in 2016 and I expect that if I had potted them up earlier this year they would be much larger now but I didn’t. I think they look rather cute in their matching terracotta pots and they are now residing in groups along the edge of the gravel steps.
I also potted up a few other pot bound residents of the patio including a large branching aeonium, a sad pelargonium and my Bird of Paradise seedling which may flower one day. I finished with potting up two Sempervivums which I bought in Somerset. These are now forming a group on one of the patio tables along with a Daphne which I am trying to revive. I’m trying to display my pots in more interesting groups, as per the pot displays I saw in Austin but I think I have a way to go yet.
After an hour I was hot and sticky and retreated back to my sewing which I wont bore you with. Here’s hoping the promised rain arrives soon.
Its funny how things work out. There I was thinking I would write a blog post about the gardens I saw in Austin when something caught my eye in the garden. It was this beauty, a Iris Pacific Coast hybrid. Now my American friends may think, what’s all the fuss about, but here in the UK they are not widely grown. What is even more exciting is that I grew this one from seed a couple of years ago, probably from the seed exchange at my local Hardy Plant Society. Only this morning I was listening to a discussion at the same HPS about the lack of Pacific Coast hybrids in the UK and why someone didn’t get hold of some seeds from the US and start breeding them. I found myself remembering that I had grown some from seed but I couldn’t remember what had happened to them (I am the most forgetful gardener) and lo and behold there it was flowering away just by my kitchen window. I am thrilled.
I wonder if I could source some seeds from the US ….off to google.
I have treated myself to a new propagator this time one that is thermostatically controlled. I have a heated tray which I use to help with germination in the greenhouse but I want to try some more exotic plants so I have splashed out on a Premium Propagator from Stewart.
Now to splash out on some seeds……
Back in my early teens there used to be reference on the news to the EU butter mountain which bemused me. I had these quite grotesque images of oozing mountains of butter. I was reminded of these this weekend when I emptied out my seed box.
In my last post I wrote about my lack of engagement with things and how unsettled I felt. Writing the post helped me to sort my feelings out, as it so often does, and as one of the commentators so rightly said naming the problem out loud is a real step forward in itself. So Sunday afternoon I confronted the seed box that had been brooding on the coffee table sending me accusatory glances. I had dug it out a few weeks before in response to Anna, of Green Tapestry’s, comment that she needed to check her seed box before ordering seeds. How terribly sensible I thought and something I really should do. When I had been feeling more positive a few weeks back I had spent time on the Sarah Raven website putting endless packets of seeds into my virtual shopping basket. Well of course I needed some zinnia seeds as they were wonderful last year, oh and I fancy some cosmos and some ammi again, oh and maybe some nigella, what about some foxgloves to get going as they are biennial, and maybe some dahlias from seed and so it went on.
I was stunned on tipping out the seed box on just how many packets I had managed to cram in over the last few years and these didn’t include some recent special purchases. It really was a seed mountain and had been created just as the EU butter mountain had – bought with no prospect of being sown. How terrible and wasteful. Sorting through I found 5 packets of assorted cosmos, a couple of foxgloves, nigella and all sorts of other things. In fact the only thing that I didn’t have that was on my wish list were zinnias. So I have decided to only buy zinnias this year and to use up what’s in the seed box.
It has to be acknowledged that some of these seeds have been there a while and may not be viable any more. However, being someone who likes a challenge and gets a perverse thrill out of making something work that isn’t meant to I found myself really taken with the idea. So much so that I set to there and then and sowed 5 packets of seeds which needed cold to help them germinate – hopefully the freezing temperatures we have had the last few days will do the trick. It may even be that by sowing this eclectic mix of seeds I achieve the real cottage garden feel that I am looking for.
I’m struggling a little with life at the moment and to top everything else off my car has died on me so I have the irritation of having the phone the garage tomorrow and no doubt part with large sums of money at some point this week. The only time this past week when I have felt calm and at peace as been in the garden. Even though I am not conscious of worrying about things in particular I think when you are ‘working’ in the garden your mind focussing on what you are doing, the plants, what you could plant in a space and the other things which might only be bothering your sub-conscious leave. Interestingly I started off today deciding not to do anything but I twitched around so much that I decided to potter for an hour in the garden.
The theme of removing sycamore seedlings continued and today’s focus was the hardy exotic slope and the back border. I wrote about tackling the back border about a month ago and I am quite pleased so far with how it is going. I am trying for a leafy texture of plants ideally with some all year round interest. I think planting up the area behind the shed has also helped and it feels more gardened now rather than part of the garden which challenges me. I added a half hardy salvia amongst the bamboos – its a bit of a beast so should fill the space here and the pink flowers will work well with the geranium palmatums which can be a little garish on their own. I have also added some impatiens qingchanganica bought from Growild Nursery, a wonderful new online retailer of plants and seeds. Also added was an Athyrium otophorum ‘Okanum’ bought from Sally Gregson when she gave my local horticultural club a talk on epimediums last week.
The hardy exotic slope is coming together and this year I need to add to the shorter perennials to cover the ground and reduce the bare soil on show. You can see there are some daffodils in the border which are OK and interesting but you can’t see them from the bottom of the slope as they disappear behind the bench. I think I might forget about spring bulbs here and concentrate them elsewhere as to me you need to be able to see spring flowers from the house so they cheer you on a cold or rainy day. I am pleased to say that the ridiculous collection of plants waiting on the patio waiting to be planted out is diminishing, its generally one year old perennial seedlings or bulbs now. The downside of this is that the pile of empty terracotta pots is ridiculous and shows just how much effort and funds I invested in growing alpines and bulbs over the last couple of years but I feel a lot happier with the plants in the ground and concentrating on growing perennials from seed.
I am really pleased with how most of the garden is filling out now and the view from the living room (top photo) makes me smile which is very important. I can see great combinations from the sofa; such as the way the blue rosemary flowers pick up on the camassias and then the honesty at the back of the garden. It wasn’t planned at all but seeing it work makes me understand a little how to bring the garden together and make it more cohesive instead of seeming piecemeal; Mother Nature is obviously showing me how things should be!
And then there is the first trillium to flower. I planted it some 4 or 5 years ago and it disappeared but a c0uple of years back it reappeared and flowered. Last year it has two flowers but it seems we are back to one this year but it is flowering which is a thrill. I learnt recently that trillims shouldn’t be planted too deep and if they are they will pull themselves into the right position which is probably why it disappeared for a couple of years. I will have to make sure I mulch well around it to give it a little moisture and hopefully encourage it to bulk up and spread.
Finally I had to smile as my youngest son, 22, has been to Wilkinsons buying herb seed pots in advance of getting his first home. He says adamantly “I’m not a gardener”, he doesn’t want to admit that some of my passion may have rubbed off on him but showing him how to sow a few rocket seeds this afternoon was an amusing delight.
Another month has passed and the greenhouse is full to bursting although the winter occupants are beginning to move out and the new spring tenants are starting to move in. There has been a slight swop over with the succulents moving across the greenhouse to the slatted benching and the seedling trays moving to the gravel beds. I think the seed trays do better with the humidity around them. I really need to move the succulents out to make room for seedlings etc but I think it will be another few weeks before I can risk the weather.
The new shelves on the back wall are proving to be a wonderful investment. They are freeing up some space and the agaves, aloes and pelargoniums on the top shelf seem to really like the heat. Other
occupants include Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus) which I have grown from seed and a bulbine frutescens also grown from seed.
Seedlings are beginning to appear but I haven’t really started my sowing yet so you can see why I need more space. The majority of seeds sown to date germinate well in the outside cold-frame but tomorrow I am planning to sow some tender annuals. The grassy seedlings are white/cream camassias grown from seed collected from the garden last year. I am quite pleased with them.
The lower shelves are crammed full of pelargoniums, dahlia tubers and chrysanthemums. They could all do with more light but with some regular moving around they will be fine until its warm enough for them to go outside.
The small floor space is rather crowded with the plants that are too heavy or tall to go on the racking. I think the Salvia involucrata boutin can be planted out on the slope soon. The Aeonium is in serious need of chopping so I might do that tomorrow.
So that’s my tiny greenhouse this month – I hope you enjoyed the tour.
Yellow describes this weekend – the sun has shone, the daffodils have bloomed and I have had two happy days gardening. Last weekend having only one day’s good weather I charged around the garden and the same was true yesterday but today, being greeted by a second sunny day the sense of panic gardening eased and I almost managed to potter!
As ever I had a ridiculous list of jobs I wanted to achieve this weekend. The priorities were pruning the roses and emptying the second compost bin. The drive for pruning the roses came from a talk last Monday at the local horticultural society on roses. The speaker advocated hard pruning at this time of year. It turns out that despite my smallish garden I have acquired 9 roses, with most of them purchased in the last two years but it still didn’t take long to prune them. As for the compost bin, as I said in my last post, my compost making is really slap dash. I bought an extra bin this time last year but it ended up being filled with the turf we lifted to make the Big Border so my plan for being organised failed. Anyway, the first bin was emptied about a month ago but the bins were still overflowing and out of hand. With my eldest son’s help we soon emptied the second bin – it was good to see that only a small layer on top was not composted down. The contents were put on the Big Border as a thick mulch as you can see above (I must round off that angular corner on the path).
After this arduous job was completed I spent the rest of the day weeding and tidying the cottage garden border along the top of the wall. It was pleasing to see the Delphinium shoots just beginning to nose through the soil. As I have in past years, I took the opportunity to scatter some pre-emptive slug pellets. I have found that doing this gives the plants a chance to get good strong shoots above ground and they seem to do well. At my local HPS group they call this approach The Valentines Day Massacre because shoots often start to appear around Valentines Day!
I know that I planted out some peonies in the Big Border but as yet there are no signs of any emerging shoots. However, the tree peony which has had a rough ride in recent years since I bought it, is rewarding me for planting it out last spring and feeding it by producing some lovely new shoots. Who knows this year it may flower again like it was when I bought it, I seem to remember it had a beautiful soft yellow flower.
Today, I started off with a little planting. First up a Grevillea victoriae in the front garden border to add a little evergreen colour and also hopefully some more of the wonderful exotic grevillea flowers which I love. Then the last big plant move for a while – moving a large persicaria from near the workshop to the woodland border. It was a bit of a beast but it is moved and well watered in which means I can start to sort out the area around the workshop soon.
Next up I brought all the hardy succulents out of the garage where they have over wintered. I stored them under cover, despite their hardiness, due to the plants being in small pots and I was worried they would freeze if left outside. The majority of these plants are destined for the border in the front garden under the window along with the aloes etc. They need a lot of tidying up but I think I will do that when I have decided what is going where. In the meantime they have had a good water so they should perk up.
I had planned to sow more seeds but instead I decided that I needed to follow my resolution this year to be a better gardener and sort through the cold frames. They are both full of pots of seeds, some sown a year ago, and seedlings from last year. Some of the seedlings have died over winter. I suspect that the compost I potted them up in was too damp which is why all my compost is now under cover. I have decided I’m not allowed to sow any more seeds until I have sorted both cold frames out – not sure if I will stick to that. The auriculas grown from seed two years ago were all repotted with fresh compost and last year’s auricula seedlings were also potted up.
One cold frame has been sorted now and a start on the second. I am thrilled to see I have peony seedlings from seed sown last year. Peonies start by putting a root down first so it can be a good year before there is any sign of life above soil – patience is essential.
The work was rounded off by sweeping up the patio and removing the last of the winter debris and mulching the roses with manure.
A completely satisfying and rewarding weekend – here’s hoping that next weekend will be as good.
As a child I had a proclivity for making mud pies and generally messing around in the garden – as a small child I even came in with a slug in my mouth!! This proclivity has stayed with me through my life, the mud pies not the slug eating, and I am never happier than when I am wielding a fork and turning the soil or up to the elbows in compost sowing seeds and potting up. This weekend I have had the luxury of indulging all aspects of my enthusiasm.
I have sown the first batch of seeds for the coming year. These are seeds are from the Alpine Garden Society seed distribution scheme, which I helped with on Thursday. I was pleased to get the majority of my first choices although because I compiled my order in a hurry I seem to have requested seed for three different varieties of peony. I sowed the peony seeds and other seeds, such as Ranunculus and Anemone, that need a cold special to help with their germination and have left them on the patio table ready for the cold spell that is forecast.
Today I really indulged my mudlark tendencies and started to dig up the plants that I have decided to remove from the bog garden that was. I have said before that the bog garden (above), formerly the pond, just doesn’t retain enough moisture to be a successful bog garden so it is being redesigned to make a woodland border and to give my two camellias a new home. We have also decided to use some of this area, which is next to the workshop, to create a small seating area. While I was digging around working out what was going where I found an area of old pond liner under the wood chip path which probably explains why it is so sodden and slippery. After much hefting of gravel and stones and mud that had accumulated on top of the liner I managed to pull it out and re-level the area. Hopefully it will dry out now, although it still doesn’t explain why the bog garden is so unbog-like!
I have also planted three new roses which arrived this week from Peter Beales. Two of these, Anna Pavord and Ophelia, were planted in the Rose/Cottage Garden Border along the top of the wall. The third, Eden Rose, has been planted under the obelisk which was relocated to the Big Border back in April. I am hopefully for many beautiful roses in early summer.
The weather has been cold and windy so the gardening efforts have been short and sharp and I have had to dodge the rain on a number of occasions by ducking into the greenhouse and checking up on my over winter succulents such as the Aloe aristata ‘Cathedral Peak’ above and peering at the Cyclamen persicum which I grew from seed probably 4 years ago to see if they will finally flower this year. I have been feeding them diligently and I do believe I can detect a few flower buds forming which is rather exciting. I have also moved a pot of Iris reticulata ‘Cantab’ into the greenhouse to bring them into flower early.
I’m not sure how much I will be able to do in the garden before the end of the year as the forecast indicates more rain and lowering temperatures but at this time of the year, for me, every opportunity to spend time outside playing in the garden is a bonus.