Safely stored away

A bit of a panic today when I saw that temperatures might go down to 3C tonight and tomorrow night. 

Whilst I had started to move some of my tender plants under cover a few weeks ago the job was far from complete.  I had been putting it off partly due to the hefting of heavy pots but also because the greenhouse with a few pots tastefully arranged was looking very smart. 

So with fingers quickly beginning to chill I scooted round the garden between showers collecting up the assorted pots.  The pelargoniums were cut back and in some cases transferred to small pots to over winter.  The succulents were gathered and in at least one case potted up into a larger pots.  This left the bergonias and the tender ferns which had got ridiculously big over the summer and obviously benefited from some months in the heat.

As you can see my greenhouse is tiny just 8ft x 8ft but it works very hard. I have rearranged the staging over the summer, trying a different layout to see if the space works better.  Previously the staging ran along both sides – we shall see how I get on over the winter; but I cant change it quickly due to the amount of gravel in the gravel trays.  The deeper gravel trays have drainage in the bottom of them so when I water the top layer the bottom layer also gets a soak.  I take this into account when I arrange the plants so for now I have placed the pelargoniums and bergonias underneath so they benefit from the residual water from the ferns and bulbs.  The other staging is shallower and with no drainage holes so I use the bottom shelf for either resting bulbs or succulents which do better kept almost dry over the winter.

I will rearrange as the months progress especially as the bulbs flower and pass on but I seem to have managed to get a better arrangement this year which allows me to stand in the greenhouse and see everything which is an improvement on last year.

There’s just the rest of the garden to sort out now, oh and a large box of bulbs to sort.

A good clean up

I generally have little interest in gardening in August, its normally too hot for me and I think I’m just waiting for Autumn to start appearing round the corner, one of my two favourite months. This year I’ve been even worse given the heat wave we have endured since May.  However, apart from a bit of regular watering the garden has got on with things itself and to be honest I think the heat has not just stopped plants growing and flowers forming but also slowed down the weeds and the grass.

However, now we have had some good downpours of rain over the past couple of weeks and the temperatures are cooling down my gardening mojo has come out  of aestivation. (isn’t that a good word – its equivalent to hibernation but due to heat) and work has started again.

First up was the greenhouse which has unusually been sitting empty for most of the summer.  The temperatures, exceeding 50C, have just been too hot even for the succulents.  With it more or less empty I decided to take the opportunity to give it a good clean out and despite its age it isn’t looking too bad now.  The next job is to put new gravel in the gravel trays and to sort through the array of potted items to decide what is worth saving and what needs to go on the compost heap.  I doubt I will be doing much serious seed sowing in the future, aside from ferns and some more unusual experimental seeds.  I fail year after year with annuals, especially at the seedling stage and I’m tired of sad and leggy plants so I am ditching this approach.  The greenhouse will, I think, be more for hosting my tender, succulent and fern collections through the colder months.

Next on my list to tackle was the old compost area at the top of the garden.  I blogged some months back that I had gone to the dark side and now use a council garden waste collection service and I had hoped to clear the old compost space back in May but the heat put paid to that.

As you can see the compost heaps which had been sitting there now for a couple of years were full of reasonable quality compost.  My pragmatic approach has been to pull all the compost out and layer it over the surrounding area.  The grass here, which you can just see above, is dead, and has never rooted very well since it was laid some years back. I am working on the basis that the layer of compost is so thick that it will smoother the grass into dying.  It way work, it may not but I have done something similar before and it was fine.  I was quite triumphant as I managed to man-handle most of the pallets at least half way down the garden on my own before my son had to step in and take them the rest of the way and to the dump.

This is my new planting area a couple of weeks ago just before we had a day of heavy rain.  I have done more work on it along the edges to tidy it up and plant it.  A holly hedge has gone in along the fence line using some seedlings gathered from my mother’s garden.  Then I have planted the space up with a collection of plants which have been waiting on the patio for a home.  The backbone of the planting will be from a camellia, a couple of hydrangeas, a viburnum and possibly a tree peony which is being crowded out elsewhere.  I have then added five assorted ferns.  I hope to add more from my collection but I am waiting to see how moist the front edge of the area is. I have also this last weekend added loads of narcissus bulbs and some cyclamen hederifolium.  I also plan to add snowdrops, some are in pots on the patio and I need to thin them out elsewhere in the garden.  I would like to add trilliums and some other woodlanders so the plan is to let the leaves from the willow and prunus remain on the soil and maybe even add other fallen leaves from elsewhere in the garden to try to build up the leaf litter for these plants.

Now I’m moving on to the next projects – a new driveway, moving the fern border on the edge of the patio which has outgrown its spot, and finishing removing the old path along the top of the garden and planting the space is provides.

My hope is to create a more densely planted garden which looks after itself more allowing me more time for my textiles – we shall see if the plan works.

End of Month View: January – Nine Years On

January 2018

Long term readers will know that I have been hosting a meme at the end of each month, unsurprisingly called the End of Month View (or EOMV), for some time.  I was surprised to discover that, apart for some months last year when I took a break from blogging and Steve hosted the meme, I will have been hosting it for 9 years this March.  I started the meme to follow progress in my garden in my second year of blogging and I try to take photos from roughly the same position each month.  I’m thrilled that a number of other garden bloggers have joined in with the meme each using it to suit themselves.

March 2009

I thought it would be interesting this year to compare the garden, through the months, with how it looked in 2009, although I don’t have any comparisons for January and February so you will have to make do with March 2009.  The other challenge is that the garden has changed so much in the intervening 9 years that I can’t quite match the viewpoints.

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March 2009

The observant of you will have spotted that there was a pond.  It lasted for probably 4 or 5 years until I filled it in.  The lesson learnt was just because you have a large hole created from removing a large conifer this doesn’t mean that this is the best place to put a pond.  Ponds look wrong half way up a slope, think about it, and being under a large tree you will spend your life fishing leaves. In 2009 we had recently removed a large Laurel from the back of the garden and had gained the slope for planting.  The slope is steep and so we put in some ‘terracing’ using scaffolding boards. Now however we are looking to take the same boards out partly because they are rotting and partly because the area has become more of a shrubby and it isn’t necessary to have a path to access it.

Jan 2018

March 2009

The greenhouse really demonstrates my different attitude to gardening.  Over the last nine years I have gone through a period of embracing plant propagation, developing a passion of various plant groups such as succulents, ferns and bulbs.  Now I’m in a place where I feel my life is more balanced and I have developed new interests which mean that I don’t have as much time to spend sowing seeds and propagating which is fine as I then don’t need to feel guilty about the collection of seedlings which I haven’t done anything about.

I hope this will be a good theme for the meme this year and if you would like to join in with the meme, however you choose to use it, as always please leave a link to your post in the comments below and if you could include a link to this post in your post that too would be fab.  It helps us to link up with each other.

 

My Garden This Weekend – 18/10/15

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The arrival of Autumn has been more noticeable this weekend with the first flurry of fallen leaves on the paths.  But just as you start to feel sad you spot the first signs of snowdrop leaves beginning to push their way through the soil and you are reminded that Spring isn’t that far away.

With that in mind I have been busy planting more bulbs.  The narcissus and crocus went in a few weeks ago so this weekend it was the turn of Alliums and Dutch iris.  I discovered Dutch Iris, or Florists Iris, a few years ago more by accident than design.  I think I must have bought some in one of the bargain buckets at the local garden centre without really engaging in what sort of iris they were.  However when they flowered they were beautiful although a little stiff on their own at the front of the border.  I have since learnt to plant them further into the border so they grow up amongst the stems of early perennials such as Aquilegias.

Callicarpa (Beauty Berry)
Callicarpa (Beauty Berry)

I have been tidying up the patio which is cluttered with pots of perennial seedlings.  Some have been tucked away in the cold frames to give them protection over the winter whilst others have been planted out.  Some 10 Barnhaven Primulas have gone into the Cottage Garden Border along the edge of the bottom path and under the roses.  They have been grown from a ‘Enthusiasts Mix’ so who knows what their flowers will be like but the idea is that they will compliment the spring bulbs and add some real colour that I will be able to enjoy from the house.  I also planted out 15 variegated white flowering honesty in the woodland border.  I wonder is 15 is a little over the top given the size of my garden but hopefully they will add a magical zing amongst the young shrubs.

Impatiens stenantha
Impatiens stenantha

This week’s scare-mongering by the media that we are about to be plunged into some sort of ice age has focussed my mind that although it all seems quite extreme I do need to make sure that I have taken care of my tender plants just in case we get a sudden frost or significant drop in temperatures.  The Pelargoniums have been cut back and stored away in the greenhouse along with the succulents and tender ferns.  Their place on the outside staging has now been taken by pots of bulbs.

Anigozanthos flavidus (Kangaroo Paw)
Anigozanthos flavidus (Kangaroo Paw)

There are still some tender plants outside such as the Kangaroo Paw and a Burgmansia which is full of wonderful white trumpet flowers.  We have allocated a space for them in the garage and as soon as the temperatures drop to a point when I start to worry they will quickly be moved inside.  In the meantime I am really enjoying them especially the Kangaroo Paw which I grew from seed about 4 years ago and am so thrilled with.  Its flowers are quite magical especially when the sunlight is at the right angle and back light them.

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There is still a little space in the green house for one or two more specials but I am pleased with how good it all looks.

My Garden This Weekend – 4th October 2015

IMG_2970What a lovely autumn weekend.  Misty cool mornings followed by warm sunny afternoons. I do love Autumn; its my second favourite season after Spring.

Turning leaves on witch hazel
Turning leaves on witch hazel

We were busy with some family gatherings and a need to buy a new wheelbarrow – yes my lovely purple wheelbarrow is no more. But I did find time to start the mammoth bulb planting project I have on my hands.  I would like to say that this was planned but whilst it may have started like that the reality is that whims and too many opportunities to buy from wonderful bulb merchants have led to a glut of bulbs.  I did make some notes and plans when I place my annual bulb order with Avon Bulbs but then there was last weekends purchases at the AGS Bulb Day and a lack of self-control at the local garden centre when we were buying the wheelbarrow.

Rosa 'Lady Emma Hamilton'
Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’

Continuing with my learning to love my front garden project I have planted some Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ and also Sternbergia lutea near the front door.  Also more Colchicums were added to what is sort of becoming a collection.  Both Colchicum agrippinum and Colchicum speciosum album were purchased at the Bulb Day and have been planted out in the back garden with a dash of slug pellets to keep the molluscs at bay.  For the last two years I have grown lots of small bulbs in terracotta pots but this year I have decided to plant the hardy ones out in the ground, mainly to free up space in the greenhouse but I believe a lot of them will do better in the soil.  So I have been tipping out the pots and planting out ,or for those that need some protection repotting.  I was thrilled to discover that my two bulbs of Galanthus peshmenii have bulked up and there were 5 or 6 chips/bulbs.  Hopefully they will flower before Christmas.

Nerine bowdenii
Nerine bowdenii

I wanted to get on today as I am conscious of how much I want to get done before the winter hits but as is often the case with my gardening my plans went astray.  I have been conscious that the nights are getting colder and so I wanted to get my succulents in and under cover.  However, having tried sand in the deep staging this past year I have decided that it isn’t working well for me.  It retains too much moisture despite the drainage holes and moss has been growing.  So today I spent the morning digging out the sand and lugging it up the garden to go on the very top path.  We then filled the staging with horticultural grit.  The staging is the type you use for plunge beds so the drainage is very good and it won’t hold the water as much as the sand did.  This should reduce the moisture levels in the greenhouse and keep it warmer over the winter.

Sellinum wallichianum
Sellinum wallichianum

Having played mud pies with the soggy sand for the morning and spent a delightful afternoon with my niece I quickly stored away the succulents in their new refreshed home.  Needless to say the list of jobs I wanted to do this weekend hasn’t really been reduced at all but the greenhouse was a job that I had been dithering about for ages so I am really pleased I got it done – one less worry.

 

My Garden This Weekend – 25/5/15

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I have spent the last two days in the garden and it has been lovely.   I did consider popping over the Malvern Hills to visit some gardens in Leominster this afternoon but by lunchtime I had really got stuck into planting up part of the woodland border so I stayed put and finished the job.  This year is the first year for ages that I remember being really content in the garden.  I don’t know whether it’s because I have been pottering in the evening so more of the jobs are being done or whether it’s because I have stopped charging around exhibiting at shows and reduced the number of groups I go to or whether it because I haven’t got a major project this year but I definitely feel more relaxed and I am enjoying gardening, instead of rushing around trying to achieve half a dozen things at a time.

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Yesterday was very overcast with the odd shower, not really conducive to weeding and pottering so instead I decided to face the horror that is the collection of seed trays and pots in the cold frames. I love sowing seeds and get very excited when they germinate but I’m not so good at looking after the seedlings and growing them on.  As I said to a friend recently if I succeeded with everything I germinated I would have a botanical garden by now so one of my objectives this year is to do better.  I have two 3 tier cold frames and one of them is home to an assortment of pots and trays in which seeds have been sown and then forgotten.  The majority of them date back to 2014 and some of them contain bulb seedlings which I wait until the second year to pot up.  So I spent probably 4 hours on Sunday pricking out and potting up.  There were still some pots with no sign of life so they have gone up the top of the garden to benefit from all weathers and then if they aren’t doing anything probably by the winter they will be chucked.  I was thrilled though to discover 3 pots of Arisaema seedlings, some Paeonia cambessedesii seedlings, as well as fritillaries and acer seedlings.

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Of course one pot of seedlings soon becomes one tray of seedlings etc so it was a real jigsaw getting everything back into the cold frames and greenhouse.  I did ditch a couple of pots that were obviously never going to germinate and some of the older seedlings are having to toughen up on the patio but in the end it all got put back together.

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Today, Bank Holiday Monday, I started with planting out some Petunia exserta seedlings grown from seed from Special Plants.  This led to me weeding the Big Border which led to me relocating an epimedium which then led to me considering the woodland border and the space where the Acer previously was.  The old rhododendron only had one flower this year and has become very leggy and one sided due to the shade produced by the vast willow.  Now the willow has been cut back and there is so much more sky I am trying to get the rhododendron to bush out better.  I pruned it back and this of course revealed some more planting area.  One thing led to another and by mid-afternoon I had added two small rhododendrons that I got for my birthday and a Vestia foetida which I bought at the garden visit on Saturday.  I also added a couple of epimediums – well it would be rude not to take advantage of more shady space wouldn’t it.

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It doesn’t look much in this photograph but I am really pleased.  I had planned to trim the box pyramid but I love the bright green new shoots too much so they have been left for another week.

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I even did some weeding in the front garden which I hate working in and for once I am really pleased with the driveway border.  The geums that went in last year are coming into their own although I would have preferred it if the orange geums could have been as strong as the red ones which seem to dominate the border at the moment.  I have a new fondness for orange geums as I think they add wonderful spots of highlight which really lift a border.

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As you can see the Achemilla mollis is about to flower so there will be a limey green haze along the side of the border which links to the marjoram on the other side of the border.  I just need to try to continue this style of planting along the end of the lawn where the soil gets much drier. As readers will know I have been considering digging up the front lawn but for now I have decided to be kind to myself and not give myself too much additional work so the lawn stays a little longer.

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As you can see its all looking very lush and full but it will be interesting to see how good it looks when the late spring Aquilegia and Alliums are over.

 

My Garden This Weekend – 26th April 2015

 Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Valentine'
Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Valentine’

Today the forecasters predicted low temperatures of around 10C and wind and maybe rain.  Now I would certainly have welcomed the rain since it hasn’t really rained all month and whilst the established plants are fine those I have been planting out over the last month are struggling.  However, the reality of the weather is that we have had an amazingly beautiful spring day with temperatures reaching around 18C this afternoon.  We had rain overnight, not enough to make much difference to the water butts but at least it was some.  I was meant to take my mother out to buy a lilac for her garden as a birthday present but she was so convinced by the weather forecast that we went and bought it during the week meaning that today I was free to play in the garden.

2015_04250061The focus of my efforts today was to address all the seedlings that have been germinating and need pricking out.  I am very good when it comes to sowing seeds but the looking after them once they have germinated, certainly beyond the initial pricking out, leaves something to be desired. I am trying very hard to do better. It is that time of year when space is at a premium and I am conscious that in a week or so I will be sowing the tender annuals such as zinnias.  Both the cold frames are full on the top shelves although the bottom halves are empty since this is very shady and not ideal for seedlings but good for storing tall plants over winter.  Anyway, as ever it started out with some organised pricking out and then the greenhouse got yet another reshuffle.  The temporary shelf was replaced with a wider one – its amazing what wood you have to hand when your son is a cabinet maker.  Whilst this was a distraction I finally took cuttings of the aeoniums and malmaison carnations which I have been meaning to do for weeks. I am really hoping that with a little care I can get the carnations to flower this year. I have started to pull some of the larger plants out during the day to start hardening them off so hopefully it won’t be too long before the space issue is no more.

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The border along the patio which I really sorted back in March is looking so much better now. By removing all the bluebells the lily of the valley has re-emerged and its fresh leaves look very pretty.  Sadly there aren’t that many flowers and I wonder if this is because the plants have been swamped for years; time will tell.  The four meconopsis poppies are still in existence and have grown slightly, hopefully if we have the rain they forecast later this week they will put some real growth on.  2015_04250021

But the thing that has been occupying most of my thinking is the front garden.  I was going to say I have a love/hate relationship with it but that would be far to generous – I hate it.  I always have and it has defied all my attempts to engage with it and make it something I am proud of.  Maybe that is a little harsh since obviously it’s not the garden’s fault that I don’t like it but I do despair particularly with the area at the very front by the birch.  I have added loads of organic matter and mulched it over the years but as soon as we have some dry weather the clay in it turns to rock and it is pointless trying to weed or plant or anything.  I have blamed some of my apathy on not enjoying working in the front garden as it’s not very private but both the laurel (not my best idea) and beech hedges I have planted have grown and provide a degree of privacy. I squared off the lawn a few years back to provide some formality and have tried an approach of planting an edge of alchemilla mollis, bergenia and as you can see ballerina tulips but whilst I love the tulips I think this style/approach isn’t me. When I was weeding here earlier in the week I found myself telling myself off.  The front garden is the size of many a small garden and here I am ignoring it whilst I am desperate for more space for the plants I love in the back garden.   It dawned on me that part of the problem is that my favourite plants are woodland plants and I enjoy planting shady borders. Whereas the front garden is anything but shady and I need to embrace a new range of plants and a new approach to make the most of this space.  2015_04250020Where to start? It occurred to me that I needed to consider plants that could cope with baking in the clay in the summer so I started to re-read Beth Chatto’s The Dry Garden which was quite inspiring.  The thought process lead to the notion that really I should just dig up the lawn and be done with it.  Lawn is far to grand a term as it is mostly moss which goes dry and yellow in the summer. I think I find the strong shape of the lawn quite limiting for some reason, I much prefer the more relaxed approach I have in the back garden.  I also looked at the recent book on A Year in the Life of Beth Chatto’s Garden which is very photogenic but lead me to conclude that a dry garden wouldn’t necessarily work given the wet clay in winter and to be honest I struggled to see me working with this style of planting.  Then by chance yesterday, I won Dream Plants for the Natural Garden in the raffle at the local HPS meeting and this coincided with a thought that maybe I could finally get grasses to work in the garden.  So the current thinking is to go for a naturalistic approach.  I want to add a small tree and I can visualise some Stipa gigantea catching the morning sun, then….. well that as far as I have got.  My block at the moment is that there is no reason for anyone to go in the front garden.  The front door is roughly in line with the side border where the tulips are so anyone coming to the house walks up the driveway and to the door.  I have toyed with putting some sort of path through the garden but again it would be too contrived and no one would use it.  I think there needs to be some sort of path or clearing if only to assist me with working in the space but I just can’t visualise it yet.

I don’t plan to do anything drastic until late summer/autumn so lots of time to think and plan and draw up lists of plants.

 

The Greenhouse Review – April

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Here we are and the greenhouse is just as full as last month although the occupants have changed a little.  Some salvias and an agave which were being overwintered have now moved outside, although I will have to keep an eye on the temperatures.  The succulents and pelargoniums have been moved around to make room for seed trays and the remaining pots of bulbs have been moved out to the cold frames or outside completely.  Working in such a small space is a constant cycle of relocating plants to give those most in need the best conditions.

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I have brought out a heated propagator (the long thin one) to get some seeds which need warmer temperatures going.  These are all Mediterranean plants and I want to get them going asap to give them a long season of growth.  The other propagator is unheated but I am using it to give some of the seeds a little bit of an edge over the normal greenhouse conditions.  It seems to be working as I am starting to have to move out seeds sown only a week ago. I have sown a ludicrous amount of seeds this year especially as I was all for not bothering but it seems to be something deep in my psyche that I cannot avoid.  I should say these are all ornamental plants there are no vegetables or fruit seeds.

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The two small shelves that my sons bought for my birthday last year are in full use.  I have to be careful though as the top one gets  strong light and heat being so much closer to the roof and I am currently housing some of my smaller succulents up there.  The second shelf has a mixture of cuttings which are bulking up, tender bulbs and more seeds.

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This is the top level of the sand plunge whose purchase wasn’t my best decision last year.  You can see how much staging space I have lost at one end.  I can put some taller plants on the ground here but it is rather tight.  I am thinking of putting a plank across the end of the greenhouse between the two lots of staging to give more surface area.  I have got a potting bench which fits in here but it’s too low for me and gives me back ache so I use a work surface in the garage which has been put in at the right height.  I could get a small bit of staging to go in this space but then again it is very helpful to have the floor space for tall plants to overwinter and I have some southern hemisphere plants which should get quite tall and need space so it’s a case of coming up with temporary solutions as and when they are required.

As you can see pricking out has already started, the tray above is full of rudbeckia seedlings.  These of course add to the problem as one small seed tray quickly multiples up into larger module trays with seedlings, and then maybe pots.  I am quite good at being ruthless with seedlings.  I only prick out a tray of each as I know I don’t have room for 50 odd rudbeckia so I only prick out just more than I want.

 

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I have started to move some of the seedlings out into the cold frame to free up space and to start hardening them off.  These are generally hardy annuals so they should be fine with the lower temperatures.  I have two cold frames.  The one above used to be my mother’s and it didn’t have the middle shelf as I think it is meant to be for tomato plants.  Anyway this was wasted space for me so my son has built me a 3rd shelf.  Both cold frames have been full over winter with one year old perennial seedlings overwintering and pots of seeds sown last year or the year before waiting to germinate.  I always leave the pots of seeds of perennials for at least a year, two if I can, as many need cold to germinate and in my experience it doesn’t matter how much time you spend putting them in the fridge and taking them out it really doesn’t work, they need a good long cold snap with low temperatures.

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I have been making myself sort through the contents and bringing out the perennial seedlings to harden off completely before planting out.  Some will get repotted just to bulk them up and some have already found their way to new homes with my mother and aunt.  This is the part of growing plants from seed where I always fail.  I am pretty good at getting plants to germinate but when it comes to pricking out and then growing on, I tend to lose my way.  Plants fail due to a lack of the right conditions and then I become despondent so this year’s aim is to do better.

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The second cold frame is older but of the same style.  Its location by the garage is not ideal.  When the sun comes out like this week the compost on the top layer has a tendency to dry out quite quickly so I need to monitor the situation closely.  Then the lower shelves are very shady and seedlings don’t really benefit from the environment.  Having removed all the overwintering seedlings from here I am now using the lower space for the pots of seeds from over a year ago on the off-chance that some of them decide to germinate – two pots of fritillaries decided to do just that this week.  The top shelf is a real mess and is in need of sorting.  There are some newly sown seed trays but the majority of the rest are pots of bulb seedlings.  The yellow labels indicate that the seeds germinated in 2014 and so if they germinate again this year I will then pot them up into a bigger pot or prick them out.

So there is my complicated greenhouse operation early in April 2015.  Sometimes I think I should just go back to tomatoes it would be so much simpler!!

For more peaks into greenhouses visit Julie at Peonies and Posies

Greenhouse Review – March 2015

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I have been meaning to join in with Peonies and Posies monthly meme on the greenhouse for a while but I keep forgetting.  Luckily I spotted a post elsewhere which has reminded me so here I am.  My greenhouse is tiny, a mere tiddler compared with P & P’s gorgeous greenhouse – not that I am jealous at all! I did do a monthly greenhouse post back in 2012 and you can read the first one here to find out a bit more about my greenhouse.

Essentially it is a small 6′ x 4′ greenhouse with power to it.  It has been through a number of guises since 2012 as I have floundered around in my gardening interests, trying this and that, and have almost come back to where I started.  I don’t grow tomatoes in the greenhouse any more. Well to be honest I don’t grow any edibles at the moment, that might change in time but as of today there are no plans to. Last year I went a little off piste and invested in a sand plunge as I thought I wanted to grow and show alpines but it has become quickly clear to me that for a number of reasons, not least time, this is not something I want or can to do at the moment. I am looking for a way to reinvent the plunge and I am thinking making it into a heated prop bench might be interesting.2015_03080024

So the pots of bulbs are being moved out into the garden and I am looking for places for them to thrive.  That is with the exception of the tender bulbs particularly South Africa ones which I have a weakness for at the moment.  I don’t know if that will last as I seem to be experimenting with all sorts of plants at the moment.  Due to the bulbs my succulent collection, which I was quite proud of, was overwintered in the garage which was fine for a while but somehow, when I moved them back to the greenhouse, I think they caught a chill or I over watered them but the result was I have lost about half of the plants. It is a pity but it frees up some space for  new plants.  I don’t think I will be replacing them with succulents but again we shall see.

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You will also have noticed my shameful collection of pelargoniums which were also overwintered in the garage.  They need re-potting into fresh compost and regular feeding from now through the season.  Again I have lost a few.

All this dithering and being distracted with this and that, has resulted in the losses and I think the tiny greenhouse really brings into focus the scatter gun approach I have had over the last few years to gardening.  However, I am moving forward in a positive way knowing much more what I am really interested in and what makes me happy which can only be a good thing.

As you will have spotted I have been sowing seeds of various annuals and also some perennials.  Spending a couple of hours sowing the seeds made me very happy and it feels like I have come home.

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You can see how well used the greenhouse is.  The bit of space you can see on the floor is actually normally occupied by a Bottlebrush plant, grown from seed, which I am toying with planting out this year as it is just getting too big to be overwintered in the greenhouse and I think the plant needs to get its roots down into the soil.

I also have two 3 tier cold frames which are full at the moment with overwintering perennial seedlings, and more pots which I am hoping to spot some seeds germinating in soon. My goal this year is to do a better job of growing on seedlings which is my weakness.

Thank to Julie for hosting this meme which is meant to be posted around the 11th of the month.

My Garden This Weekend – 16/2/15

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I am still aching from my gardening session yesterday which shows either just how unfit I have got over the winter or that I took on more than I should have.  It doesn’t matter though because despite the aches I am really pleased with what I achieved and it certainly clears your head and recharges you mentally before another week at work.

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Not the most prepossessing photo but it signifies a good couple of hours work and much hauling of heavy and awkward objects.  This is the space that was formally occupied by the Stipa gigantea and I was intent on improving the soil so I could plant out at least one of my new peonies.  Having dug up the couple of bearded irises which had disappeared under the skirt of the grass and hadn’t flowered for years I added a bag of gravel and some sand to improve the drainage and break up the residual clay.  This was then topped off with three bags of green waste compost from the local council which is like black gold. The initial planting has been done although its hardly obviously but I am assure you that a Peony Immaculata, Agapanthus ‘Alan Street’, Agapanthus ardernei hybrid and the original irises have all been planted.  The Agapanthus had been growing in pots on the patio and overwintering in the garage.  However I read somewhere that deciduous Agapanthus are generally hardy so I have taken a gamble and planted them out – fingers crossed.  I now need to think about what additional planting is needed to fill in.  I am thinking of Aquilegias as I have a number of plants to plant out but I also need something for late summer but without strappy leaves.

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Before I added the compost etc to the border above I took a soil sample so I could test the PH.  Now I know it is basic horticultural practice, what you could term gardening 101, but I realised the other day that I had never tested the soil in my garden.  I planted a rhododendron from my last garden when we moved in and as it has done alright I had assumed the soil was acidic. My neighbour has a wonderful Pieris (top pic) in his garden which grows over my fence and is healthy and floriferous so knowing Pieris need acidic soil I don’t think my assumption was too daft.  So I was completely flummoxed when the test showed the soil was alkaline (7.5).  This is Ok for the bearded iris and means I don’t need to add lime to the soil but it got me wondering about the rest of the garden and the two rhododendrons I had recently bought.  Three further tests later from different parts of the garden and the conclusion seems to be that the soil is alkaline this would explain why eranthis do so well in my garden but I am still perplexed as to why the Pieris looks so good and what to do with the two new rhododendrons!

2015_02160018Of course the obvious thing to do having spent a couple of hours digging and lugging heavy things is to empty a small greenhouse of the pots of bulbs (heavy with gravel), remove the overwintering tender plants from the garage and generally re-organise the whole lot.   As I have been indecisive over the last 6 months or so I have gone off the idea of showing plants as I just do not have the time to ensure they are up to standard and I don’t need any more pressure or stress in my life at the moment as there is enough in my working life.  This being so I decided that I really didn’t need to keep the pots of bulbs in the greenhouse especially as the likelihood of sustained long temperatures was past.  I do like seeing the pots of alpines and bulbs in alpine houses but I have discovered that I get more of a feel good factor from a collection of tender plants and I was missing mine which had been banished to the garage.

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The view above makes me much happier.  I have still got some pots of bulbs in the greenhouse including some S. African ones which won’t do well outside and the Narcissus bulbocodium whose hardiness I’m not sure on and need to research.  As the bulbs go over they will be moved to under the staging to dry out and rest.  I will have to rejig things at some point in order to accommodate the hall hardy annuals I want to sow but I am OK for time at the moment.

As you can imagine after all that labouring I was quite exhausted but I was thrilled at what I had achieved.  I have no plans at all for next weekend so weather permitting I will have two days to garden and hopefully the other two peonies will be planted.