Monthly Archives: April 2017

plant sale heaven…

We dropped off our contribution of spare chilli plants to the fund raising sale at the library yesterday.   Today, we made sure that we arrived at the library nice and early to check out the other contributions.  Of course I didn’t need to buy any plants, but at prices from 50p to a couple of quid, it’s hard to resist and anyway the sale is for a good cause.

My ‘haul’ comprised Viola ‘Freckles’ – a pretty white viola with a multitude of tiny violet speckles; a day lily that might be ‘Stafford’ an unnamed dark purple auricula, Salvia ‘Amistad’ and a scented leaf pelargonium which is probably ‘Attar of Roses’.

I cut back the longest stem on the pelargonium to prevent the plant from becoming too leggy and unbalanced; the extra leaves stripped from the lower part of the stem haven’t been wasted as I’ve slipped these under a pillow case.

A very successful plant sale I must say!


at the back of the north wind…

Oh my, the air temperature has dropped dramatically since the beginning of the week though, hopefully, we have seen the last of the ground frosts.   Of course, being aware of the oncoming weather is to be forewarned.  I have brought all plants in pots undercover and have been draping the tender new plantings with fleece….

which is somewhat ancient and because it has been stored in the piggery over the last year, rather tattered courtesy of the mice.   It reminds me of Miss Havisham’s wedding dress.  Still it does a good job of protecting the plants on chilly nights.

Last week, the lovely OH cut the orchard and the grass of the vegetable plot, leaving the areas where we have spring bulbs. Everything is looking spruce, which reminds of the sage advice on making a garden look good if you have limited time i.e. ‘cut the grass and edge’.

The plums, damsons and gages have finished blossoming so hopefully had good pollination.  The apples are coming into bloom now; I hope the cold weather won’t affect the pollination too much.

Whilst the cold weather has set back germination a little, I have, amongst others, recent sowings of peas, lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and Basil ‘Aristotle’ coming through at the moment.  The latter makes lovely green mounds and is an excellent choice for pots.  No sign of Basil ‘Genovese’ yet; I have bought another packet of seed just in case the lack of sprouting is due to old age.

More tulips are in bloom…

and the artichokes are producing flower heads.  I’ll pick some of these to steam and serve with a mustard vinagrette for a light lunch tomorrow…

Bon appetit!



cabbage is king…

I’m a big convert to cabbage, particularly Cavolo nero, (black kale).

It’s a very versatile vegetable.  We use the young leaves in salads and the longer crinkly ones in, well just about anything, from soup, stews, as a side dish and, the other day, in a kale and pancetta flan served with a good handful of our juicy rocket leaves.

I have plenty of seedlings ready to be planted out – lucky then that the lovely OH has finished weeding the brassica tunnel as well as spending time on pollarding some of the goat willow and weaving a retaining wall.  The wall will support the soil until the hornbeam hedge has established enough to knit the slope.

In between sowing and planting out….

I’m still trying to identify the perennials in the wildflower verge…

and I’m completely enthralled by the tulips ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Comet’.  I can’t wait for ‘Ballerina’ to complete the trio, (all have a lovely scent as well).

there’s gold in them there hills…

Well, I’m probably a bit late on planting out the first earlies but bang on schedule for the second early potatoes.  I’ll plant out the main crop towards the end of April.

In the past we’ve earthed up, but to be honest it’s a bit of a faff, so this year I’m going to try mulching.  I’ve popped the seed potato into the soil at around 6 inches depth.  Next step will be a good watering, followed by a 6 inch layer of old hay, then another good watering.  We’ll use some redundant fruit cage netting to pin down the hay initially.  Once the shoots start coming through then I’ll top up with grass clippings from the orchard.   In any event, this will be a good way to get a lot of organic matter into the lower end of the main vegetable plot.  I’ll be interested to see what the yield is like and whether there is any greening.

In my daffodil holding area I have some double narcissus which look a lot like ‘Cheerfulness’ and ‘Yellow Cheerfulness’.  They both have a lovely scent so these will be moved to the ornamental garden in due time.

Looking across to the wild flower verge, the first of the perennials of the wildflower mix we sowed in the verge last year are starting to flower…here, Red Campion.  Others are comimg through, but I have found that I’m useless at identifying plants just from the leaf form.

Top fruit wise, and it looks like we had excellent pollination on the apricot!  I’ll thin later this year.

The bees are flying and are a nice calm colony which is all to the good as I have to jettison the occasional stray out of the polytunnel.

Reading this week: The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock



grape expectations….

Oh, I was so excited to see tiny flower heads on the grape vines.

As I’m not very familiar with growing grapes, and thinking I might have to thin the flowers somewhat, I consulted the RHS and discovered that I have to remove ALL the flowers as the vines are young.   No grapes this year.

Ah well, plenty of other good things coming through.  The broad beans are flowering in the polytunnel…

and the first spears of asparagus have appeared, so I shall console myself with a soft boiled egg and asparagus soldiers tomorrow.

The lovely OH is hard at work handweeding the main vegetable growing area  and we even managed to squeeze in harvesting some young nettles for soup before the leaves become too tough…

The recipe was one from River Cottage.

Reading this week:  Kew on a Plate by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew & Raymond Blanc

annuals – bold and brassy as a big band…

We are still working on the structural planting but as this progresses I’m thinking a little more about colour.  Our buildings are orange brick so the first cut of a colour palette includes orangey reds; coral and apricot along with silver grey, lime green, pale lemon yellow, pale icy blue and smoky purples – we’ll see how this pans out.  However it won’t be this year, though I have splashed out on the bare root climbing roses for the pergola, (Bathsheba and Wollerton Old Hall), and the gorgeous Chaenomeles ‘Geisha Girl’ for the ironwork bisecting the garden. 

So I’ve decided to take over one quadrant of the space and create a cutting garden.  A good rifle through my seeds has come up with a range of easy to grow annuals, (with a definite lean towards easy).

Step forward sunflowers, pot marigolds, poppies, rudbekia and cactus dahlia.  To keep it moderately classy I’ll also sow cornflower and cosmos.

The nastursium I’ll plant into the tulip pots, and hanging baskets where I’ve planted the cascading blackberries.  The trailing forms, like the very lovely ‘Jewel of Africa’, I’ll pop into the baskets and perhaps plant them in the polytunnels where they can scramble amongst the tomatoes.  The dwarf versions, like ‘Tom Thumb’, I’ll keep for the pots.

The tulips, are coming through now – very exciting!



glorious glasshouses…grass, and polytunnel greens…

If you put aside botanic gardens, then the best place to gaze upon gorgeous glasshouses is in the walled garden.  We ventured out to Millichope Park in Munslow to see the, very nearly, finished restoration of the curved glasshouse.

As part of the restoration, many tiny panes of glass were made good or replaced. Some are engraved with details of people who, one way or another, have been involved with the place, including the volunteers.

There’s lots of beautifully engineered elements like the frame openings and heating vents and pipes…

It is a very impressive glasshouse and a breath-taking rejuvenation.

The owners of the plant nursery rent the walled garden from the Park owners and are in the process of restoring the area as a garden rather than a productive space.

The plant nursery sale beds are arranged by colour which is very handy particularly if you aren’t looking for a specific cultivar/species.

I came away with a geum, ‘Totally Tangerine’ as well as a phlox and pearly blue aconitum.  A visit to the tearoom rounded off the trip.

On Saturday, a small group came to practise scything in our orchard.  The lovely OH made sure that the spring flowering areas were out of bounds, (these areas won’t be cut back until end June or so), but the rest of the orchard was available and I’m very grateful for their input  as the area is looking very spruce now…

The pheasant’s eye narcissus ‘Actaea’ is in flower….

though something is nipping off the flowers from the fritillaries. The concensus, from the scythers, is that it is pheasants doing the damage.  Well, at least no flower means that the bulb will be strong, but no flower means no seed!  I managed to capture this one in full bloom.

and we have started picking rocket and herbs from the polytunnel….

Happy days!