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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With a little sunshine this weekend and a slight increase in the temperatures the first hellebores are starting to open. This is the plant that hooked me on hellebores some 7 years ago. I used to use it as my avatar on twitter and Blotanical. It is one of the Ashwood hybrids and I love the yellow and red combination.
The mystery snowdrop has opened and I am none the wiser. I know where and when I bought it but I can find nothing written down in my notebooks or on the blog about what it is. Ho-hum
At last I have found the label for the snowdrop – Galanthus Selborne Green Tip
Although I like the special snowdrops I have bought I still feel more anticipation at waiting for the clumps of ordinary Galanthus nivalis to open. I also have the double Galanthus nivalis Flora Pleno which is already beginning to spread despite only being planted just over a year ago.
My eranthis are beginning to appear around the garden which is pleasing as some were only added a year ago. Unlike the snowdrops I can tell the difference between these three. Eranthis hyemalis is the ordinary one, schwefelglanz is a pale yellow and grunling has green stripes to the flowers. I think there are some more which I would like to collect, I heard tell of a double the other day so I will be seeking those out.
The very first daffodils in the garden are about to open. I have no idea what variety they are, they came with the garden but they always flower early. This picture amused me as I think they look like two geese or ducks – but then I may have a strange imagination.
I did find some time to do a few gardening tasks over the weekend although I found after an hour outside my toes were quite frozen despite several layers of socks. I am pleased that I tidied up the driveway border in the front garden and also the Big Border. The garden is looking more ready for Spring than it has in any other year which is satisfying although there are still some areas that I need to tackle but these will involve more heavy duty work and some shrub rearranging. Today I mulched the woodland border just managing to get the wood bark down before the bulbs had emerge too much making it tricky. Like many gardeners I have spent some time over the winter thinking about the garden and planning what I want to grow and plant over the coming season.
I am going through a period of working through various emotions and trying to work out, as much as is possible, what I would like to achieve in various aspects of my life. I suspect this need to have a plan or objective is due to several uncertainties in my life that I have no control over at the moment. One of the things I can control and plan is what I want to do in the garden over the coming season and what will make me happy. I have mentioned over the last month how I have been inspired by some television programmes and books and I feel that I have a much clearer idea in my head of how I want the garden to develop, finally. Part of this is re-engaging with my old love of growing plants from seed and in particular some annuals that I haven’t grown for years including rudbeckia and zinnias. My pocket diary this year has the saying ‘Do more of what makes you happy’ on the front and I have taken this as my motto for the year. I spent yesterday evening sorting through my box of seed packets and sorting out what I hope to sow this year and when, for no other reason than the flowers make me happy – no planning for shows etc.
Part of my frustrations come from only seeing the garden at weekends although already this is starting to change and I almost get home in day light. I have invested in recent years in a number of miniature bulbs, partly with a view to showing, but also because I love their daintiness. However, I don’t get to see them properly as they are in the greenhouse and its generally dark. I don’t have the time, working full-time, to perfect the plants for showing and I am someone who needs to do something well if they are going to do it – I hate failing. I have decided to put showing on the back burner until I can do it properly unless there is a show near home and I happen to have something looking good. My friend, Dee, posted a picture of iris reticulata on Facebook today on display in her home and I think this is what I want to do more – bring the pots into the house as the bulbs are about to flower. I have invested in a plunge bed and I hate waste so I have been exploring the possibility of converting it into a heated propagator which it seems is very feasible, thanks to advice from friends on twitter. This will mean that the annuals etc I want to grow from seed and the cuttings I would like to try taking will get a better start so hopefully all will turn out for the best.
I sometimes think I should rename the blog – The Indecisive Gardener – as I change my mind so much. I think some of this is due to the overload of images and information you can get via social media so I need to step back a little bit to let my head clear. I spend a lot of time on social media in the evenings, especially at this time of year, as it’s a distraction and it stops me chewing my fingers (a very bad habit). I had been doing some embroidery which I have blogged about before but the project I was working on is a little fiddly and I have been avoiding it so I have today ordered some new materials for new project which should be a good distraction and a calming influence until the evenings are light enough for me to play in the garden after work.
This week’s Photo Challenge theme is very aptly ‘New’. Interestingly this has made me perplexed as I just couldn’t think of an image either already taken or that I could take which would represent this. Luckily my eldest son suggested that I should feature some of the seed packets which keep arriving in the post at the moment since they represent the potential for lots of new plants – I thought that was rather clever.
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.
Here we are in March and my greenhouse is at capacity and I haven’t really started. I have to start by showing you the two shelves my sons gave me for my birthday which are at the end of the greenhouse and are wonderful. I have to be careful what I put on the top one as it is so close to the top of the house but the aloes and pelargoniums seem to like basking in the sunshine. I have put gravel on the shelves which helps maintain the humidity. The second shelf is more shady benefitting from the one above. It is currently home to some Kangaroo Paw seedlings which have had a rough ride through the winter with the leaves going black – I’m not sure if they are meant to do that but new fresh leaves are appearing which is a relief. There are also some cyclamen, pelargonium and Fritillaria rubra seedlings and most satisfying of all some Camassia leichtlinii semi-plena seedlings grown from seed collected from the garden.
As you can see I have been busy sowing seeds. These are predominately seeds of perennial plants such as Aquilegia as well as some hardy annuals. It may be a little too early especially as the temperatures are meant to dip again this weekend but I think they will recover fairly quickly and I have to do these jobs when I have the time.
The succulent collection hasn’t changed much since last month but it continues to please me. I really must find some time to repot some of them.
Finally as you can see at the end of the day the greenhouse floor is full. This is because I have received a number of perennial start plants to review for Plant Me Now which I have potted up. Although they have spent the day on the patio they are residing in the greenhouse overnight for a while until they have bulked up a little. I will do a proper review next week. The heater is on a thermostat and is set to keep the greenhouse frost-free, I find it a fairly effective approach and the succulents seem to be happy.
Oh and the large pots are home to some Agapanthus which are just showing shoots and a bottle brush that I grew from seed a few years back and I haven’t had the courage to plant outside yet.
I suspect that by this time in April the greenhouse will be bursting at the seams and hopefully there will be more trays of seedlings to admire.
What a lovely weekend it has been – dry, sunny, warm – what more could you ask for. As ever I had some gardening plans for the two days and as ever I knew I wouldn’t achieve them but I do like a plan.
I have been mithering for some months about the area around the workshop which has never been finished. We had agreed that there was an opportunity to put a small seating area by the workshop but the ground needed leveling, along with some steps. Of course in order to do this all the detritus from building the workshop etc had to be moved first as well as plants I wanted to save. We had agreed that the first stage was for my son (the head landscaper) to sort out the top step by the workshop so I could start moving the pebbles and stones across. However, my head landscaper was feeling inspired by the sunshine – or fed up with me moaning – and decided to crack on and sort the whole area out.
We have gone for our usual simplistic landscaping using what we had and put in wood edging and levelled the ground. We now need to top dress this with lots of gravel. The area isn’t that big and having measured up for a potential bench we have now decided, a decision I suspect we will regret, to push the ‘dry stone wall’ back a foot. The head landscaper says this will be straightforward (!!) and the earth we remove will go to top under the border around the Sorbus.
So this is the view from my new seating area – it’s all rather exciting as I thought I was going to spend the weekend weeding.
Well all that was on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday we decided that more gentle pursuits was required so the head landscaper had a lay in and I finally potted up the dahlia tubers, begonia corms and a brugmansia I had succumbed to at the garden centre. I also sowed loads of seed that I have been meaning to sow for the last couple of weeks – saving the job for a rainy afternoon!
To round off the perfect weekend I popped out for an hour to visit the garden at Little Malvern which was open under the NGS scheme but I will save that for another post. Returning home I did a little weeding along the grass path (the photo below was before the weeding) only finishing as the sun was going down – how incredibly satisfying.
Despite the completely mad weather this weekend I have still managed to get my horticultural fix. Some say that a small tornado went across the country yesterday I don’t know if that is exactly what it was but my journey home from the monthly Hardy Plant Society group meeting was one of the most unpleasant journeys I have had for a while. The wind was so strong I could feel it pushing at the car, there was thunder and lighting, tree branches all over the road and at one point electricity cables flapping loose above the road. Luckily it seemed to have blown through very quickly and we were left with regular downpours of rain making the garden even more saturated than last weekend and quite frankly unworkable.
Luckily, although unsurprisingly, the HPS meeting was excellent. Amazingly, given the time of year there was plenty on the display table; my eye was particularly drawn to Fatsia ‘Spidersweb’ and I have even sussed out a potential site for one. The main talk was by Nick Macer of PanGlobal Plants – the theme was a planthunting trip to Manipur in India. Lots of wonderful hardy big leaved exotics to lust after. I was really pleased that Nick remembered a twitter conversation a few weeks back and bought with him a Grevillea victoriae and Polypodium cambricum ‘Richard Kaye’ which I was keen on. I also bought a Euphorbia pasteurii ‘Phrampton Phatty’ which although I realise can be quite thugish has wonderful foliage and will be going in the area I cleared last weekend. As ever I was tempted by the plants Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers had on offer and came away with a lovely pot of Eranthis hyemalis (see top photo) and some Narcissus romeuxii subspecies Albidus var zaianicus to add to my small but growing collection of Narcissus.
I did manage to steal 30 minutes to walk or squelch around the garden between showers to take some photographs and to see how the bulbs are progressing. My favourite border at the moment is the lower slope which runs behind what was the Bog Garden and which I planted up with epimediums, ferns and bulbs in the Autumn (above). I keep peering into the depths of the epimediums to see if there is any sign of the flowers appearing as I will be cutting back the evergreen foliage to show the flowers off.
Even if it hadn’t been so wet the ground was so sodden that any ideas of gardening would have had to be forgotten. Instead I cracked on with sowing seeds and in particular those of perennials that need the cold to help break dormancy. 20 packets of seeds from either the Hardy Plant society seed distribution scheme or from a Czech supplier I was put onto by a fellow plant nut were sown. They are predominantly woodland plants many with names that are new to me which is very exciting. I was even more excited to spot a paeonia seedling reappearing in one of the pots in the cold frame, the seed having been sown over a year ago. It seems I am rather drawn to paeonia as I have acquired 6 packets of them this year without really realising it – ho hum.