Monday, 21 October 2013

And now..... the website

After a long labour, I am pleased to announce the birth of 

Born at 10.00pm, 21st October 2013.

Mother and website both survived the ordeal (just).


Friday, 18 October 2013

Let there be light

Autumn is always a good time to evaluate the garden - what went well, what earns its space, and what poor specimens have been selected for the chop. Literally.

Whilst prowling the flowerbeds, plotting where to plant the 100 narcissus bulbs desperate for a home, I decided I could regain quite a bit of at least temporary space by giving the thuggish cherry laurel hedge a rather drastic trim.  Should buy me enough time for the narcissus to put in an appearance at any rate.

And so the pruning saw was wielded with vigour and it felt like the flower bed breathed its thanks for the increased light levels.

autumn garden, England
The new look hedge and the old version, side by side. Has to be done in stages just to deal with the mountains of pruning generated.
The drastic haircut in all its glory. Euphorbias are on their final warning as well.

Not content with that bit of culling, I progressed to hoiking out some of the bulky euphorbias which, lovely though they are, do not get cut for bunches due to their poisonous sap. Out out vile irritants. Likewise large angelicas, of which I have plenty, and which self seed prolifically.  Likewise foxglove stumps which really should have been uprooted months ago, but kept sprouting mini flower spikes and earning reprieves which metamorphosed into an extended holiday.

Pulling things out also reveals where all the weeds and slugs are hiding, so they were all dealt with unkindly too.  Clearing done, all the bulbs then went in.  Now I've just got to find space for all my alliums. Which patch shall I target next?

I also spent half an hour of today's dry weather gathering in all my dried seedheads to furnish me with wreath making ingredients for the forthcoming festive season.  Better to collect and store them somewhere dry now, before the weather can destroy their delicate forms.

On my way back from school this morning, I saw someone else had been seized with the same hedge-trimming mania and a coniferous one was being drastically reduced.  Cue visit with plastic bag to gather up trimmings.   The result:

The first wreath of many over the next two months.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Abundant autumn

FINALLY got down to the allotment yesterday in a window between gardening for other folk and picking up children from school.  Grass needs attacking and weeds need clearing but yesterday's mission was to pick the remaining apples, dig up the potatoes (or what the slugs have left of them by now) and to get the last dahlias cut before all are laid low by frost.

Deadheading dahlias prolongs their flowering period and gives bucketsful of blooms
How many more buckets like these will I see in October?

Recent rains had weighed down the big bonces of my dahlias and quite a few stems were hanging low, bent double by the weight, but they still form great dabs of colour against the fading autumn backdrop of the allotment.

As ever, I did not manage to knock off all of the tasks on my to do list.  Indeed, the apples were so abundant that after filling two huge plastic bucket/trugs, cutting two buckets of dahlias and picking a kilo or so of beans, there was no time to do anything more than ferry my bounty back up the steep hill to the main gates in multiple arm-wrenching trips.  The slugs have had their potato-feasting time exteneded until the weekend it would seem.

rosy applesapple harvest 2013

I'm still dealing with my harvests today - in the kitchen, apple and mint jelly is straining drippy vinegariness through a jelly bag, an apple and raisin cake lies in half-demolished ruins following its joyous breakfast-time reception by my children, a gooey toffee-esque German apple cake lurks in the fridge and I have apple slices drying in a cool oven.

Despite giving away a shopping bag full of apples to a neighbour and squeezing about 2 litres of juice to put in the freezer, I still don't seem to have made a dent in my bucketloads.  Will store some in the cellar for the coming months, and will doubtless get fat on puddingising the rest - needless to say, my children love this sweet-toothed time of year.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Christmas bulbs: keeping them in the dark

I have imprisoned things in the dark dankness of my cellar today. Not something I did lightly.  Indeed, in order to achieve my objective I had to move the ironing board, the recycling, the camping table, the shopping bags and the vacuum cleaner and then remove the floor sections of my glory hole. (I'm sure the people who come to read the meter have palpitations and have flashbacks to Kathy Bates' film 'Misery' when I go through these procedures and usher them down the dark brick steps).

Today's victims, whose banishment will endure for about 8 weeks, were teacups full of crocus bulbs, and terracotta pots of hyacinths which I'm trying to force into flower around Christmas time.  I am going to put together a few teacup bulb kits for people to plant themselves, but feel that these are nicer sold ready growing, with a hope of flowers during the dark days of December/January rather than the recipient having to plant them up some time in the new year, with the resulting flowers appearing at the same time as the ones in the garden.  What do you think?

This spring's teacup planter crop in late March - a great success with customers.

In the garden, I've cleared spaces and put in lots of scented narcissus bulbs, muscari and leucojum aestivum. I've also laid waste to a couple of the viburnum bushes, which has generated new wish lists for things to put in the gaps.  Scented peonies from Kelways Nurseries are currently tempting me greatly, but they have such a short season for the space they take up.  Should probably be more practical about it, although they are soooooo beautiful and I love the idea of scent with those blousy blooms.

Still have all my tulips to plant, but will leave those until November to avoid the risk of the fungal disease, tulip fire.  At least the weather is turning colder now, which should kill off lurking bugs and beasties that munch.  It will also, sadly,  put paid to my cosmos and dahlias which are still flowering their hearts out.  In the greenhouse, however, I've got a nascent crop of cornflowers, ammi, marigolds and cerinthe which are all doing brilliantly from September sowings.  I've got so many cornflowers, that I'm even going to risk planting out a load after hardening them off to take pot luck in the great outdoors over winter.  If they don't make it, at least I won't have had to invest lots of watering time and compost on their upkeep over the next few months.

I didn't have a great deal of success with my anemones this year and the Twitterati of #britishflowers were all swooning over their tunnel grown crops of the same, so have today planted lots of black nuggety corms in my greenhouse border, to see if I have better luck with getting a decent crop of them in there.  I'm dreaming of future bunches as I tend all these bulbs and babies.

Red anemone de caen with alchemilla mollis and astrantia
This year's anemone planting is 'The Bride' - a white variety. Hope I get these mad red ones reappearing too.
But back to the present:  I've got 100 wreath bases taking up valuable shelf space in my shed, lavender, statice and honesty suspended from anything vaguely suspenderable (including my light fittings where the ceiling is high enough) and bags full of cones waiting for the call to action.  It feels very odd to be thinking about Christmas this early, but need to start organising my plan of action for stall wares in November and December.   I've even got to organise a Christmas photoshoot for my china wares in order to generate some festive purchase spirit in my online shop!  I just hope my family will be in the mood for mince pies and german lebkuchen at some point in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Key word giggles

I was idly perusing my stats for the blog and glanced at the key words which led traffic to my site.  My eye was caught by the phrase 'sweet pea stripper' which led me wonder which of my posts might have included it.  Was it a variety of sweet pea? Was I discussing the ravaging of these scented ephemeral beauties by a plague of devouring insects?  Couldn't think what it could be, so I decided, out of curiosity, to feed the phrase back into Google and see which of my posts popped up.

I never did come across a listing for Tuckshop Gardener, but did find about 4 pages worth of links to various posts about a minor celebrity being hit over the head with a bottle by a stripper called 'Sweet Pea'.  Have been chuckling ever since.