Thursday, 23 May 2013

On trial

A few months ago, Sarah Raven's website put out a call for bloggers to trial packets of seed, so I duly put in for a free packet of her dark cut flower mixture.  The main reason I went for this particular selection was that I have not been able to buy cosmos bipinnatus 'Dazzler' anywhere locally, and this was listed as a key ingredient of the seed mix, along with mammoth dill and scabious atropurpurea 'Black Cat'.  A fine sounding list of names at any rate.

I've been waiting and waiting for the right opportunity to get these seeds into the soil - but it's either been the case that the soil hasn't been warm enough or moist enough to put them in.  Or, I have to confess, I missed a few chances because I'd planted out other seedlings into patches I'd previously earmarked to sow the dark mix into...

On the packet the instructions read 'Sow March to May' but I didn't fancy its chances earlier in the year in this, officially, the sixth coldest UK spring on record.  Even now, temperatures are not reliably warm, but we are reaching the end of the planting window and I'm away next week.  So.... it was down to the allotment to clear and weed a 2 metre squared bed and in with the seeds.  I can now sleep easily, knowing that they are finally sown!  I look forward to meeting them when they are grown ups.

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Dazzler'. Why is this gorgeous selection no longer widely available from the main seed suppliers?

Dahlia day. Taking the plunge.

A container grown dahlia from sunnier years. Will they grow well in 2013 if it ever warms up?
Braved the intermittent hail storms  (it's May for heaven's sake) to visit to the allotment this morning.  My mission?  To plant out a selection of dahlias in my rose and cutting flower bed.  This bed was well manured earlier in the year, so they should have plenty to feed on.  I'm currently out of organic mollusc repellents, so am simply hoping they can fend of the evils until I have time to buy more. The last slug treatment I bought was some wool-based pellets but I have to say that for the price, they don't really go far, as they need to be spread in a fairly thick, wide band around the plant that they are protecting.  They also leave you smelling like a sheep. Think I'll stick to wool foraging on walks in future.

At home, I've re-homed some dahlias into the garden borders, yanking out drifts of forget me nots to reveal planting pockets.  I've still got about 12 more plants to find homes for, so am waiting with my trowel poised for the first signs of weakness in any current border inhabitants.  Leggy lavenders watch out, your days are numbered.

I am quite excited about the prospect of mid- and late-summer flowers as I have not previously grown dahlias in any quantity, or, I have to say, with massive success - but the size of some  my 'Rip City' plants still takes my breath away. I had to pot them on into large plastic tubs usually used for storage as I didn't have any plant pots wide enough. Surely even the hungriest of slugs doesn't have sufficient appetite to decimate something that size!

The plants have all been well hardened off for the past couple of weeks, so the current chill in the air should not be too much of a shock to their system.  With them planted out, I can at least now get in and out of the greenhouse without fear of upsetting a crowd of Witteman's Best, Peaches, Purple Gem, Tahoma Star or Rip City.  They were starting to look quite tough and intimidating.

I hope the plants all romp away, but if they get munched and collapse or are otherwise dismal, I can always call on supplies from Dahlia Dave.  Dahlia Dave came to my rescue for a friend's wedding a couple of years ago as he grows them in abundance at both his allotment plot and back garden at home.  Have I got the knack this year or not? I'll let you know as time goes by.


Monday, 20 May 2013

Winter coat, spring flowers

My Arsene Wenger coat keeps being threatened with warm-weather banishment to the depths of the wardrobe, but then the 3rd Saturday of the month rolls around, and I look out of the window and think "hmmm, might get chilly standing around in this".  It therefore gets shoved in the car as a last minute safeguard against the cold as I man my market flower stall.

A dark double auricula and bright green meadowsweet arranged in an old chilli oil jar.
Maybe a serving of this chilli oil might've kept me warmer.

This weekend I wished I had worn two more layers underneath my snuggly windproof coat - boy was it chilly!  I stood there shivering and eyeing the experienced traders who had all come armed with woolly hats and suddenly, even the most unprepossessing of knitted tea cosies looked desirable.

Hopping up an down like a mildly demented chicken, I lurked behind my lovely flowers and wished that, like the woodturner next to me, I had a physical activity to keep my busy whilst I manned the stall.

Or maybe a blanket of lamb's ears with their thick felty leaves might've done the trick?

I think the hot chocolate man probably did the best trade on Saturday, and for good reason.  But despite the cold, it was good to be part of the local scene and catch up with a few people that I haven't chatted to in a while.  Doing the stall  also gives me a reason to experiment with new flowery ideas and see what kind of things people really love.  My favourites of the day were the 'Poeticus' narcissus above with their wrapping of lamb's ears and gorgeous perfume, and the apple blossom teacups below.

It is starting to get much easier to put things together as the garden is filling out daily.  Can't wait to see the return of the alliums and roses next month as they are brilliant flowers to make arrangements with.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Refreshing.

A striking peachy pink lily flowered tulip covered in raindrops

Deep pink tulips in bud in the rain.

The Ruthless Gardener wanders

Decided I'd take you on a quick tour of the garden and made a little video to show you the borders as they are at the moment. 

In my previous incarnation in trade publishing, I used to be known as 'slasher' for my curt editorial tendencies, and listening to my commentary, I can see that this trait has now translated itself to the garden. I didn't realise how many plants are on a yellow card until I heard my multiple pronouncements of imminent death.  It's always good to keep plants on their toes though - once they stop performing or become pests, get them out!  It also gives you room for more new ones....

So, if you are sitting comfortably, then we'll begin. (Don't know why this especially boring shot shows in the preview, but I'm learning all this video mularkey as I go along)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Knitting nicely

I love this time of year when the beds finally start to wake up from the winter slump of mudness.  At last there are things to look at and the garden is starting to look plump and juicy.

During the colder months, I had a rather large purge on old, unproductive plants that wouldn't earn their space as cutting plants, so I do have rather larger gaps than I have had for ages.  All the more space to plant in - hurray!  I also have empty strips round the edge of the lawn where I widened the border whilst waiting for spring to arrive.  Into these have gone stocks, snapdragon and sweet william seedlings and I've also direct sown some larkspur and sweet rocket into this newly revealed space.  The new bits have, however, needed the addition of plenty of manure, compost and leaf mould because as is typical of lawn 'underlay', they were full of rubble and old manky things.  The things I've planted there so far seem to be thriving, so hopefully the spaces will be no more in a couple of months time.

Bare, well dug soil is all very neat and tidy, but I love it best of all when not a jot of earth can be seen and everything is covered in rambling, scrambling plants which knit together to form lucious leaf and flower tapestries.

Tulip 'Dolls Minuet' with lungwort and sanguisorba leaves
Euphorbia bursting out all over

Honesty, primulas and the finely cut leaves of  Japanese maple 'Dissectum'

The great thing about photographing the garden is you can frame these beautiful little patchwork squares and treasure them.  It also allows you to avoid the bald bits which lurk just outside the viewfinder!  Right then - off to do some more sowing to fill them up with more knitters - if the seeds don't blow away in the gale force winds which are howling around today.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Everything's coming up tulips

At last the tulips think it is time to put on a show. Despite the fact that those I thought were going to be late flowerers, and white, have turned out to be early by this year's standards, and primrose yellow, I'm still pleased to see them.

Yellow tulips towering above shorter varieties not yet in bloom in a raised bed with wooden edging.

A close up of the darker yellow interior of an unknown variety of tulip.

The pale primrose yellow exterior of the mystery tulip contrasts beautifully with the deeper buttercup shade within. Looks like a glowing lantern!
 They look like ostrich eggs on the end of their long stalks, and glow bright yellow from within. So even though they are not the classic white beauties I was promised, I'm quite happy with my lucky dip.  As they are not 'Floridale', as labelled, I wonder what variety they actually are? Answers on a postcard please....

8/5/13 - STOP PRESS: I've just been looking at various websites and I think they are Floradale Ivory - a late Darwin hybrid tulip - so maybe I just didn't read the description very well!

My zinc tub is rather restrained in its palette of tulips so far - very peachy and apricot in its present incarnation.  I know that I planted Perestroyka, Apricot Beauty and Abigail in it, so am having to go back to the saved packets to identify them as they emerge.  The pointy bulbs will definitely be Persetroyka and I'm pretty sure the smaller ones are Abigail.  I think I prefer more punchy colours in this pot though, so may have to rehome these in the flower bed later and have another go with more melodramatic ones next year.

Peach tulips flowering in a ribbed, old, washtub.

 In the flower border, the established residents are still putting on a show, even though they have been in there for a long time.  Their blooms are definitely smaller than they used to be, but still worth having.
I think these orange 'Ballerina' tulips are still one of my favourites - so in your face and shouty!