As it was my birthday today, as well as being Mothers Day, and its too early in the year for garden visiting, we decided to go to Ashwood Nurseries in Kingswinford. They are specialist breeders of Hellebores and I had been recommended them by several people. Plus they have a tea room!
It was very busy when we got there, lots of people in the tea room and we had to wait for a table but the food was very good.
The nursery stocks a wide range of plants – there was a wide range of trees, conifers (which I have an apathy for), shrubs and roses as well as the Hellebores, spring bulbs, perennials and plug plant bedding plants. The range of Hellebores was amazing as was the price for some of them. I saw a beautiful double white one but it was £20 and I just cant justify spending that much on one plant! However, I gave in to temptation and bought a gorgeous yellow Hybrid (see photo) as well as one with silvery variegated leaves. I find myself becoming more and more interested in the foliage rather than the flowers.
Also in my shopping trolley were two Ranunculus Brazen Husseys – dark burgandy leaves with yellow flowers breed by Christopher Lloyd (my hero), a Mahonia (been looking for one for a while) and some Geranium plug plants. I havent bought plug plants before so thought I would give them a go – 12 for £3 is bad!! I also bought 2 gorgeous blue enamel patio pots (justified one as it was half price!) and my parents bought be a Sacred Bamboo, which I have coveted since having seen them on the programme about Kew.
So thats my serious plant buying over now for a while – well at least until the Malvern Spring Show in May (its walking distance from my house!!)
Well tonight saw the return of Gardeners World, although sadly it wont be on next week. I thought that a programme almost exclusively devoted to fruit growing would be boring as I dont have room for fruit trees, but I found it very interesting. Particularly the stories about the communities that have their own orchards – how idyllic!!!
The new format seemed interesting, particularly Carol Klein doing propogating from her own garden. I love trying to propogate plants and am a real novice so shall watch this with interest. I do wonder however if with Joe Swift doing his allotment and Monty’s well known love of growing vegies that the programme wont be too vegie orientated. I suppose the producers are following the growing trend and many new gardeners are those that have taken on allotments and want to grow their own. Time will tell. I thought the inclusive of the Head Gardener (and her dog) was good and hope it continues.
I will be sending off for two packets of the trial seeds although I doubt I will get any if previous experience is anything to go by. Anyway, I grow Cosmos every year and have some seeds from last year’s crop but it would be nice to try the white ones with pink edges. Will have to wait and see if a packet turns up in the post.
I was very excited this afternoon when tidying up some pots. I noticed some very small shoots (see photo) in a pot labelled Tulipa sprengeri. I got the seeds a year ago from Cottage Garden Society and after receiving some advice sowed them in a deep pot with lots of grits. I was told they would take up to 3 months to germinate – nothing happened. Now a year later there are shoots!!! Of course they might not be Tulipa sprengeri – they could be anything particularly as the bird table is close by but I live in hope.
On the negative side I went to plant some Lillumn Regalus corms only to find that some of them seemed softer than others. I bought them in the autumn from Sarah Raven but decided to wait to plant them. They were fine on arrival and were nestling in wood chips so I thought they would be fine. However over the last month the hose from my tumble dryer came loss and my garage was filling with steam and I suspect I may have steamed the corms!! Anyway I planted them in pots as you never know.
Last autumn I read somewhere that you could sow hardy annuals in pots and then in the spring plant them out so you were ahead of the game. I had some free packets of seeds so I thought I would give it a go. I sowed Californian Poppies, Nigella, Poached Egg Plant and Cornflowers. They germinated and grew quite quickly in the greenhouse so at the end of last autumn I transferred them to the cold frame to over winter.
Today I got around to cleaning out the contents of the cold frame – I need to make some room. Sadly none of the Californian Poppies had survived – they were attacked by powdery mildew during the winter. I managed to rescue some cornflowers back in January from the same fate. However the Poached Egg Plants and Nigella have done well – particularly the Nigella which are looking very healthy (see photo).
Once the ground warms up I will plant these out. I dont know if I will bother again next autumn as I lost so many to powdery mildew. I think my cold frame is too small and the water collects on the corrugated plastic roof and then drips on the plants causing the mildew. However, it has been an intersting experiment.
Went to the monthly meeting of the Worcestershire Cottage Garden Society yesterday afternoon. Had an interesting talk from the County NGS organiser about her garden. Very jealous! I dont think my surbaban plot will ever be considered worthy of the NGS. It was a very entertaining talk particularly when she spoke about pest control. She advocates using plastic snakes in the greenhouse and around the garden to deter mice, rabbits etc. I had read of this but hadnt been convinced, however she is adamant that it works. She also is convinced that moth balls deter mice from eating seedlings as well.
I haven’t had a problem with mice eating my seedlings so far but I do have local rats that seem to use my patio as a cut through between my neighbours gardens. I am convinced they dont live in my garden and they only seem to go through the garden (stopping to eat up the mess under the bird table). I keep wondering if I should contact the local environment people at the council, but I dont know where the rats are coming from so I dont see how they can do anything about it. I also read the other day that rats are particularly bad in Worcestershire due to the floods last summer. Presumably their homes and food were destroyed. The article also stated that they were immune to the bait, so there hardly seems any point contacting the environment people. Maybe I should try some plastic snakes put in strategic places on the patio? Its funny I keep telling myself that they are just large mice, which I dont mind, but there is just something about them that sends shivers up my spine.
Going to pick some daffs now – the frost has toppled lots of them so I think I will pick them and then at least they will last a little longer. Dont think I will get much done in the garden today as despite the sunshine it is very cold and the ground is frozen. I might spend some time in the greenhouse though as I have some primula seedlings which need potting up.
Watched the 3rd episode of Monty Don’s Around the World in 80 Gardens last night. Enjoyed it though I felt there was something missing. Maybe trying to give a flavour of gardening in a country as diverse as India in one hour was too ambitious. By constrast the previous week the programme showed a clear progression in style in the Australian and NZ gardens from colonial gardens harking back to the Uk to a style unique to their location, including native plants. However although the Indian episode ranged from the mogul gardens of the Taj Mahal, through a typical Hindu garden to the tea gardens I didnt feel that I had any clearer idea or understanding of the indian relationship with gardens than I did at the beginning of the programme.
At last a sunny weekend and I have managed to actually get out into the garden. I can tell I havent done any serious gardening for a while as my back was really aching. Started tidying the borders, doing abit of weeding and pruning back things like Penstamons and Verbenas. Its wonderful to see plants beginning to emerge from the dank dark soil. The Polminariums that I thought I had lost have started to reappear and the Lobelia Cardinalis that I left in the ground are also reappearing. I dont know if they would have done so well if we had had a really good winter – though I suppose we could still have a cold snap yet. Whilst I hate the cold and particularly snow I was hoping that we would have a really cold winter this year to kill of all the bugs and slugs etc.
Sowed some more seeds – Impatiens, Begonia, Dahlia and Gazania as well as a few Broad Beans which I will try growing in pots on the patio.
Its not only the perennials that are reappearing but all the decidious shrubs are beginning to burst back into life. The new leaves which are furling on the Prunus incisa are a lovely bright green.
At last the Heurchera seeds that I sowed in the greenhouse on the 5th January have started to germinate. I would include a photo but they are so small you wouldnt be able to see them!
Spring is trying to arrive – I have daffodils and primulas flowering in the garden although some of the daffs are only just appearing above ground.
I sorted through my seeds and scared myself with how many I have to sow in February and March so started to take a gamble and start sowing this weekend. Started the ball rolling with some Pak Choi. I have never tried growing these before but I love eating them and they are very expensive so I thought I would have a go. I also sowed some Pelagonium seeds – there were only 8 seeds in the packet so I hedged my bets and only sowed 4. They need a high temperature to germinate and this doesnt suit everything else in the greenhouse at the mo, so I am experimenting with putting the pot in the iaring cupboard!
As the weather is so grim this weekend I have retreated indoors to make Marmalade. My local box scheme, Flights Organics, have sourced some Seville Oranges so I am having a go. I love marmalade and I estimate that each jar will have cost me 50p plus time but this is a huge saving on what you pay in the shops so fingers crossed it sets.
Finally there are signs of Spring in the garden. The Hellebore above is one of my favourites this week – I love the deepness of the purple flowers. Unfortunately, if my memory serves me right the flowers are more washed out when they open. There are bulbs appearing all over the garden, I never seem to remember planting them so they are a constant surprise. I was pleased to see new leaves sprouting on some of the shrubs I moved late summer/autumn.
Things are stirring in the greenhouse. There are signs of lifefrom the Delphinium seedlings. I have never had any success with Delphiniums so I am really thrilled that they seem to have come through the winter. My Ammi majus seedlings are going great guns. I sowed them in the autumn as I read in Sarah Raven’s seed catalogue that if you sow them in autumn you will get plants flowering earlier the following year. I wasnt convinced they would sprout but they are doing really well.
Excitement today as my selection of seeds from the Cottage Garden Society (CGS)arrived. In early December you get a listing of around 2000 seeds that have been donated by members and you can purchase 15 packets for £4. There are no descriptions or photos so I end up spending hours trying to find what things are, trawling through books, seed catalogues and on the web. Then you send your order off – however, if like me you forget and end up sending it off close to the deadline you end up with some of your first choices, some of your second and some completely strange things. The seeds arrive in little packets with only the identifying number on, so you then have to spend time looking up the numbers to find out what you’ve got. The anticipation is great. This year I have all sorts from Bidens to Canna and something called Paraserianthes which I cant find anywhere.
Now I will have to think about sowing them and waiting to see what comes up and what doesnt.