In A Vase on Monday – Narcissus

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I am really getting into Cathy’s weekly meme – In a Vase on Monday.  As someone who has never really embraced picking flowers from the garden or arranging flowers it is becoming a bit of a revelation to me.  To the point where last weekend I went to a flea fair with my eldest and came home with a couple of small vases including the blue patterned jug and bowl above.  I knew I wanted to use the jug for narcissus as I think they would make  wonderful combination, however on reflection I decided to use a different blue and white vase again, like last week, with an oriental theme.

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The narcissus are the from around the garden and show what a variety I have accumulated over the last few years.  I hadn’t realised there were so many different ones and I have to admit to forgetting the names of many.  I know there is Sophie’s Choice, Pheasants Eye, Tete a Tete, Thalia, Cheerfulness in there. I obviously have a preference for the white and paler yellow narcissus.

The real benefit of cutting the narcissus and bringing them indoors is that I get to benefit from their scent which I often miss in the garden.  I have also realised that by bringing some flowers in each week I get to enjoy the garden in the evenings when I get back from work.  I am even toying with taking some to work to put on my desk!!

For more Vases on a Monday ramble over to Cathy’s (Rambling in the Garden) and check out the comments box

 

 

My Garden This Weekend – 12/4/15

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I’m sure you won’t mind me saying that I am rather pleased with my garden at the moment.  It makes me smile so much especially when the sun shines, as it has been all week, and the small spring flowers glow.

I have been taking advantage of the longer days and have managed to work outside for an hour at least three evenings during the week and I am hoping to make this a habit for the rest of the year while the days are long enough.  It is a wonderful way to unwind after a trying day at work.  Although having spent some hours this last week digging up sycamore seedlings I could feel irritation creeping back from time to time so I had to restrict myself to sycamore weeding for just 30 minutes at a time.  I have never known a year like it, they are everywhere.

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The grass path has had its first cut of the year and I have decided to retain it if for no other reason than the cat objects to the gravel paths!  I am pleased with the border above – still in need of a name, maybe the Cherry border?  It has perplexed me for years ever since it was first created. Earlier this spring I really cleared it out and planted some hellebores, a peony and some other perennials.  Various daffodils which were already in the border have been flowering and a host of aquilegia are now putting in an appearance.

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The back of the border leads round to the former Bog Garden, again in need of a new name – I’m thinking Camellia border.  This has also been a little perplexing for a few years.  There are a number of ferns in this border including some Onoclea sensiblis which I hadn’t realised when I bought them a few years back need moist conditions, so I have really mulched the border to try to retain the moisture.  One evening this week I added a Cardiocrinum giganteum, Mertensia virginica, Dentaria pinataand a whole host of snowdrops lifted and divided from the other side of the path.  I know some people argue against planting snowdrops in the green but for me I needed to do it now as they are swamping some of the epimediums and other spring plants. The larger log to the left of the photo is the cat’s scratching post. The other

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The other end of the border. I am hoping that next spring, and even more so the following spring, the border will be a sea of white in early spring. It will be interesting to see how it all fills out over the coming year and to think about ways of improving it more.

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I spent several hours in the border above where the worst case of sycamore seedlings has been, the neighbours have a large sycamore just the other side of the fence so I blame them.  I first created this border probably 3 or 4 years ago and this spring is the first one when the plants have started to fill out and bulk up. What you can’t see if that there are fat noses of Solomons Seal coming up all over the border but still no sign of the large hosta I am waiting to relocate. My only disappointment is that hardly any of the small narcissus I planted 3 years ago have flowered this year.  There is meant to see a sea of yellow here and there is nothing.  I don’t know why.  The clumps aren’t congested at all so I don’t understand why the narcissus are blind.

I feel that the garden is beginning to have a more cohesive appearance.  I just need to continue this through the rest of the year.

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Today I have wrecked destruction on the patio border.  It looks awful at the moment but hopefully the image in my mind will come together as the year progresses.  I removed a small euonymous from here as well as some Japanese Anemones which have been moved up to the back of the woodland border.  I have also dug up quite a number of bluebells which I have to say have gone on the compost heap.  Outrageous I know but planting bluebells in a border is madness, they are such thugs once they get going and the leaves soon swamp out other plants.  In this border there is a whole host of lily of the valley and last year I struggled to spot any.  I relocated some of the bluebells last year to the top of the garden where they will cause less problems so I don’t have a problem ditching the rest.  I also lifted and divided the clumps of snowdrops here spreading them along the border rather than all clustered at one end.  Others were relocated in the woodland border along the top of the wall to try to increase the spread for next year.  The reason behind the destruction is because I had a number of plants that needed the wonderful conditions in this border – the elusive moist but well-drained soil; it is also quite shady.  So I have planted Blechnum chilense, Peltoboykinia waranabei (a home-grown seedling), Anemonopsis macrophylla seedlings and most scarily four Meconopsis ‘Hensol Violet’ seedlings which I grew last year and have nursed over winter – I so hope they flower, I will be delirious if they do.

 

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I leave you with a shot of the wonderful blue sky we had on Saturday with the flower on the large Prunus against it.  Given the winds we have had today I am surprised that so much of the blossom is still in place and the air is positively humming with pollinators on the blossom and other spring delights.

 

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

Book Review: Outwitting Squirrels

 

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I was asked to review Anne Wareham’s latest book – ‘Outwitting Squirrels, and other garden pests and nuisances’. The book’s strap line intrigued me “101 cunning stratagems to reduce dramatically the egregious effects of garden pests and honest advice concerning your changes of success“. Knowing Anne I knew she would not hold back with her views and although I may not agree with her at least they would be well argued.

I hadn’t expected the book to be so amusing.  Anne has a way of presenting herself as quite a serious person, intent on debate and improving the way people write about and criticise gardens but there is real humour between the covers of this book right from the introduction.  And I was surprised to discover myself laughing out loud and agreeing with her from the get go.

The book looks at a range of pests and diseases but also nuisances which the gardener has to endure in their bid to achieve their idea of paradise. She has only written about those that she has personally encountered so sadly for me there is no reference to the dreaded badger.  In the introduction she states that many gardeners bring problems upon themselves in one of three ways either by growing vegetables and fruit, growing things in a greenhouse and/or by being a perfectionist or gardening with one. I have to admit my gardening life is a lot less stressful since I gave up growing edibles, a bit of slug damage doesn’t send me over the edge in the same way as caterpillar damage on the cabbages did.

We then have short chapters on various pests from deer down to slugs and snails and red spider mite.  Each chapter is a chatty amusing narrative full of anecdotes of situations Anne has encountered or heard about but at the same time you learn all sorts of interesting information such as your garden has on average 200 slugs per cubic metre (yuk!) She presents various solutions to the pest and her take on whether indeed they work and at the end of each chapter there is a quick reference dos and don’t of dealing with that pest.

Now what you need to realise is that this book is not a reference book with colour photographs of the pest or disease and step by step instructions of what to do.  Instead it reminds me of conversations I have had at local gardening clubs where people share their horror stories and you quickly learn that really there is no solution to whatever it is that is plaguing your garden so the best approach is to learn to live with whatever and to try to control it through observation and good gardening.  There are no quick solutions in gardening, what might work for one will not work for someone else and this is really Anne’s message.  Yes you can try all sorts of things to keep the deer/rabbits/cats out of our garden but at the end the day the only solution is to install a fence (over 6ft for deer!) or to learn to live with the problem.

I was particularly pleased to read the chapter on slug and snails where Anne points out that the real problems are the tiny earth dwelling slugs and that the only real solution is a small application of slug pellets early in the season which is followed up every couple of weeks – hooray at last common sense prevails! All this collecting slugs at night, beer traps, copper bands etc is a waste of time.  What you need is to keep your border tidy, encourage birds etc and to stop fussing about the danger of slug pellets as if you use them very sparingly they won’t harm the wildlife.

The book goes on to look at other problems such as box blight, clematis wilt and algae.  Having battled with algae for many years Anne has learned to accept it and to take a relaxed approach to fishing it out on a regular basis or alternatively adding black dye to the water.  The final section is on human related problems – people, experts, noise, legal problems, garden machinery etc.  The what to do conclusion under experts really sums up the ethos of the advice Anne is giving “Value your own opinion and experience; there are people who experiment and thereby save you having to do it – but it’s not a bad approach for you either. Talk to your neighbours. They may know some useful things about gardening conditions , but do add a pinch of salt, as they may know less than you do”.

I think the benefit of this book is it makes you laugh at the problems which can drive some gardeners insane.  It puts things into perspective and almost gives you permission to trust your own instincts and not to care quite so much.  After all gardening is meant to be relaxing and enjoyable not a daily challenge. It is a good read not to heavy in content, light-hearted but with a serious message.

In Vase on Monday – Oriental Charm

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This week’s Vase on Monday features just one species – the Prunus Kojo-no-mai. I wanted to capture the charming cherry blossom before it went over.  The flowers lower down the branches are already going over possibly helped on their way by the bees which seem drunk on the nectar.

I knew exactly which vase I wanted to use.  I bought it many years ago when I was a teenager and we travelled as a family a number of times to Australia stopping in Hong Kong or Singapore en route.  One such trip coincided with my Mum’s birthday and so we went for a day trip over the border into China.  This was when England still held the lease on Hong Kong and the borders were very tight.  They took an itinerary of all our cameras, watches etc which was checked when we came back across the border to make sure we hadn’t sold them.  We were told not to photograph the locals as they believed that their souls might be captured by the cameras.

It was a real eye-opener for an impressionable 16 year old.  We travelled by train in packed carriages with local people carrying net bags with various live animals in them such as ducks which you knew was for their family’s dinner.  We got a red star in our passports and were then put on a coach for the official tour.  We went to a typical house, obviously we didn’t notice the shanty town that we drove through, and were happy to believe that everyone lived in houses such as the two storey large detached house we visited.  I also remember that we went for a real Chinese meal and also to see panadas but they were all crated up ready for shipping somewhere.  Finally, we went to a typical department store! It was so typical that it only sold things aimed at the then small tourist industry and this is when I bought this vase.  When we came out of the store we had to wait for our coach and collected as a group on the pavement.  You could tell how unusual it was for westerners to visit as we were soon surrounded by local people who stood and stared at us.  Interestingly one of the American ladies who had ooed and arhed over the caged animals was completely freaked out at being stared at herself!

The black box beside the vase was bought on one of our visits to Hong Kong.  The little landscape inside is carved out of cork and is incredibly fragile.  Somehow I have managed to keep it in one piece all this time.

So there you go a little bit of the orient for Monday.

For more Monday vases visit Cathy over at Rambling in the Garden

Fruits of my labour

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I have finally painted the shed.  As I said in my End of Month post I have been dithering about what colour to paint it for a year or more.  The first plan was black with orange accents but as time progressed I realised that this would make the shed stand out like a sore thumb, not really what I wanted.  I then settled on a green with paler green accents.  Then when I was writing the post and looking at the photos I decided that actually I quite liked the colour the shed was.

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The majority of readers also agreed that the natural colour worked well in my garden.  So I opted for a clear preservative with a willow accent just to give it a little character.  I am incredibly pleased with it.  It looks smart but also a little bit individual and the clear preservative has enhanced the natural silvering of the wood.  Apart from part of the side of the shed (above) where I had wiped out my brushes from staining the fence last year with a view to doing the shed the same colour but it’s not that obvious when you are in the garden.  We have agreed that the bench and step risers will stay the same colour as they currently are.  The willow ties in with the back door to the house which I like.

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Next up I have commissioned my eldest to make me some better supports for the step over apples rather than my Heath Robinson bamboo cane and string contraption.  The new supports will be painted willow and if I am lucky he is going to turn some finials to go on top of the posts which should look rather smart.  Then I might suggest an obelisk but I will keep quiet on that idea for a while as he is a busy chap.