Monday, 30 April 2012

End of Month Review - April 2012

"April was dry.  April was very dry.  We had virtually no rain in April at all.  The ground is cracking in places and yet the garden is coping remarkably well."  The opening words from my End of Month Review for April 2011.  Well, that is certainly not the case in April 2012.  We have had rain nearly every day for the last two weeks and more.  This rain is needed, some areas have serious drought issues and there needs to be large amounts of consistent rain to restore water levels.
I often write my blog a day or so before I publish.  This is largely a time-management thing, it means I am not fretting if I want to write something but think I have not the time.  I also like blog writing on Sundays and rainy Sundays like today are perfect.  It gave me a quandary though, should I photograph the garden tomorrow when it is due to be sunny, or use rainy photographs.  Well, it was not much of a quandary, as said above April has been wet, it would be misrepresentation to use only sunny photographs.
The front garden is largely green at the moment.  The good thing about the rain is the green-lushness that it has created.
The gravel garden is looking lush too.  Everything is growing really well at the moment.
This is one of my favourite views of the garden from the house.  I see this from my conservatory window.  There are nice splodges of colour and as one of my most established borders, it is doing very well at the moment.
The poppies and cerinthe are coming on a treat.  They self-seed well and create wonderful combinations.  The tulips are working with them perfectly at the moment.
The border near the pond is quite new, mainly planted since last Autumn.  It is doing quite well aided by the annual wall flowers and the tulips in the older part of the border.
The dahlia border, which this time of year is the woad border, is coming on ok.  The woad is not yet in flower yet this time last year was full throttle.  The recent cold has really held things back.
The woodland border is a sea of forget-me-knots and is now accented with my crab apple 'Rudolph'.  This is such a beautiful tree, dark red foliage and deep pink blossom.  Can't wait for it to fruit!
I have wanted a crab apple for a while, so I am pleased that it is doing so well.
My other apple trees are also now in blossom.
The Bramley is covered in blossom and it usually is covered in apples.  I look at each flower as potential apple crumble....
In the wild garden the bluebells are now opening.
Usually I am mowing paths through the grass this time of year, but it is too wet at the moment so the paths are disappearing.  The yellow splodges are Tulipa 'Sylvestris', it is doing very well this year.
The main formal lawn is in need of a cut and this photograph does not show the rampant dandelions running amok through it.  I am not actually a 'lawn person'.  It's grass, I mow it to keep it looking reasonably neat and then every Autumn I dig more of it up.  This is now the largest stretch of actual lawn I have.  I'm thinking that it will be more path and circular bit by the end of the year.....
The prairie borders are coming on, but need more stipa tenuissima in them.  I will have to sow some more seeds.
Sam's corner is looking better.  This is the grey very shady bit between the conservatory and the utility room.  It gets sun in the late afternoon and is a bit of a useless space really.  Sam now has a few pots and a new friend.  Not sure what to call the friend, I think it should be Eric so that I have Sam'n'Eric but not quite sold on that yet.
I finish on the pond.  My pond has never been this full.
My pond overfloweth!  This is a great thing and makes me happy.  It was never full last year, I worried about it nearly all year.  The other exciting pond news is that I spotted a smooth newt in it the other day.  This made me very happy, I love that wildlife like my pond.  I have called the newt Tiny (because he is my-newt).

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Snakes in the greenhouse

or mousewars

I sowed some sweetcorn kernels and courgette seeds a couple of weeks ago.  The next day when I went into the greenhouse I found to my horror that something had eaten them.  I am blaming a mouse, but in fairness (if you can use the word fairness after arbitrarily blaming someone) it could have been a vole, a pygmy shrew or indeed a rat as any of those sharp toothed rodents have been seen in the vicinity of my garden.

For the purposes of this blog and as far as I am concerned though, it is a mouse.

and its not Mrs Frisby, this is not a nice mouse, it is a mouse that eats my seeds and runs around nibbling stuff every night.

It is not a mouse that is starving, in need of feeding its family or any sort of sob-story you wish to give me.  This is ninja-mouse, that slides soundlessly into my greenhouse, clothed in whispering black silk, and creates havoc.  In no way have I sympathy for this mouse.

Those of you who follow this blog or me on twitter will know that I have some cats.  Some cats - ok, I have four cats.  Geoffrey is geriatric (19 years old) and even when younger never bothered to hunt anything.  Austin is younger, but a strange cat who lives mainly in the conservatory and specifically where-ever Chesney is not.  She has hunted in her younger days (she is now 13) but now can't be bothered.  Lawrence (also 13, he was found in the same plastic bag Austin was, dumped in a supermarket car park), is a hunter.  He mainly catches pigeons but also mice and pygmy shrews are his speciality.  He can be found sitting by the compost heaps particularly at dusk.  Chesney is my youngest cat, a mere 1 year old, and too silly to hunt anything.  He thinks about it, but as he tends to run and jump at things like a bag of potatoes he is rarely if ever successful.  He is also the only one of my cats to have a bell on his collar, this is largely to warn the other cats that he is around.  I did, many years ago, fit bells on all their collars, the sound of the bell seemed to attract furry things to Lawrence, he killed more, so I took it off as it is a habit that I do not find attractive in cats.  So why am I telling you all this, because I have four cats and a mouse problem!  Of course, ninja-mouse is not stupid.  Where is the one place shut up all day and all night when I am not in it?  The greenhouse!  It is a safe haven for him.
 Actually, I say he is not stupid, but he is eating all my organic slug pellets.  They must taste nice and they boast they don't harm small animals and birds.  I can confirm that this must be the case because he is living off them!  I only use slug pellets in the greenhouse as that is where I have the biggest slug/snail issue (protected area from the birds - so safe for them).  I am convinced the ninja-mouse is in cahoots with them.

So I resort to twitter to bemoan ninja-mouse and I am given two main bits of advice.  Firstly - get a humane mouse trap.  Now that is sort of attractive, but sort of not.  I could not use an inhumane mouse trap, they are horrid; but if I successfully caught the mouse what would I do with it?  How far would I have to take it and it is not going in my car anywhere - what if he escaped?

The second piece of advice was buy a fake snake and mothballs.  This advice was duly followed.  I move the snake around every day and the greenhouse reeks of camphor.  I quite like the camphor smell it turns out.

It turns out that ninja-mouse also likes the smell of camphor and laughs at my fake snake.

Back to square one then..... or is it, the non-stupid ninja-mouse ate my ricinus seeds I sowed the other day.  Now according to wikipedia, ricinus is the most poisonous plant in the world.  Eating the beans is not a good idea for any person, never mind a ninja-mouse!  Has my mouse issue got a bit better, well yes it has.  I do not know for certain he has been poisoned.  He might have just finished eating all my seeds and young plant shoots.  Am I sorry to see him go?  No.  Did I hope that the silliness of snakes would scare him off?  Well maybe not really but it felt a humane way of dealing with the issue.  Did I think he was stupid enough to poison himself?  No - but it appears he may have been.  He must have been the apprentice ninja-mouse and was not even in the game long enough to get fired.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Of tulips and grandparents

As mentioned before I grow a lot of plants that have symbolism for me.  They remind me of a place or a person or a time.  Tulips remind me of my maternal grandfather.  I was seven when he died and I don't remember him very well, but one thing I do remember were the long borders of yellow and red tulips that he grew.  I don't remember anything else that he planted and I do know that year after year after he died these tulips emerged again and again.  They were beautiful.

Sadly after he died my grandmother took no real interest in gardening, it was not something she wanted to do.  She employed a gardener for a period of time but after he left then the garden just descended into chaos.  Part of this chaos was a myriad of teasels and I grow teasels as they remind me of her.  Anyway, I digress.  Tulips - this post is about tulips and this time of year is about tulips.
I grow quite a lot of tulips.  I see them as a herald of Spring, a call to remind us that colour is returning to the garden.  These species tulips have become a real favourite.  Not so many years ago I didn't know that species tulips existed, now I do they are a real joy.  Some are even starting to self-seed a little and bulk up.  This is a delight to me.
They are so fragile looking and yet really quite tough.  This one is Tulipa Clusiana Lady Jane.  I have lots of these.
Even when in bud I love the way they bend almost like snake-heads, they look like they are seeking something out.
These dark red ones came from a mix called Mysterious blend, so I am not sure of the name, but they are a great dark colour and have mixed in well with my annual wallflowers and self-sown cerinthe.  The tulips poke through the self-seeders wonderfully.
Tulipa Gavota - a new one for me.  I didn't used to like bi-coloured tulips.  I do now.
Even when the flowers have gone over, tulips retain their beauty.  I think this one is Praestans Fusilier.  Probably one of the best names for a tulip ever!
Not sure of the name of this one either, its another 'Mysterious Blend' one, I didn't used to like the multi-petalled ones either.  I'm through that stage now.
Parrots, no, didn't used to like Parrots;  there is a theme running through this isn't there?  I find that constantly though about gardening.  Things I think I do not like, or do not understand why people like them so much.  Then one day I see a different one, or ones placed in a certain way and it is like opening the curtains to a dimly lit room!
 Not all my tulips are fully out yet, but even as they unfurl they have beauty.

Aladdin's Record - this is another new one to me this year.  I am a great fan already.
I finish though on Tulipa Sylvestris.  I grow these in the wild garden in the grass.  I think they edge the most to being called my favourite.  They are simple, beautiful and tough, what's not to love?

As this post started with my maternal grandparents I suppose I had better mention the plant associations with my paternal grandparents.  This is trickier in some ways.  My paternal grandfather liked to control the garden.  His lawn was mowed to bowling green precision and we were not allowed to walk (heaven forbid run) on it.  He was also a fan of topiary, so I suppose my knot garden is sort of a reminder of him as that is probably the most formal element I have.  My paternal grandmother, now this did take some thought, but I decided that it was juniper that reminded me most of her, which I don't currently grow, but there is a bottle of gin in the house.......

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Blackberry Tales 2 - The jar of souls

Since first moving into this house I have been perplexed about the amount of glass found in one particular area of the garden.  I have wondered whether a greenhouse was in that spot though much of the glass has looked like bathroom window glass.  I have found bits of broken bottles too and one actual bottle that looked quite old.

I have also, on parallel musings, wondered about why my cat Chesney and the local foxes are in cahoots to dig up my new prairie borders.  Almost every day I have to replant some of the grasses whilst I am waiting for their roots to take proper hold.

There is one hole in particular that keeps being redug.  I fill it in, a couple of days later there is dug again.  So as I wandered around the garden the other day I saw that the hole was back.  I sighed as usual and bent down to flick the earth back into the hole when I noticed that there was something in the hole.  I poked around abit (carefully) and realised it was made of glass.  One trowel fetched from the greenhouse later and I realised I had what appeared to be a large, intact, jar of some sort.  I managed to removed it from the ground.  It was about 8 inches high and 3 inches diameter with quite a large opening at the top.  It was also full of earth;

or was it earth?  I pondered emptying it, but I have read a lot of M R James stories and I know that removing posts/jars can be a bad thing to do.  So I paused and considered.  I shook the jar a
bit but the soil was fairly compacted in there.  It clearly was not a time capsule as I half-hoped when I found it, and it looked like it was just earth.

So I tipped it up and emptied it.  The earth poured out like fine sand.  There appeared to be some actual sand at the bottom of the jar.  This poured onto the ground and filtered away quickly.

That worried me, it shouldn't have done that.  I rushed inside, cleaned out the jar with hot soapy water and then filled it with a combination of a good source of C55H70O6N4Mg and H2O.   This has definitely done the trick as everyone knows a jar full of flowers is incapable of evil powers, it is turned forever to good.

though what is this creeping up the wall.......!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The haul

or how I braved freezing cold rain, hail, sun and even snow and still came through the other side smiling.

Today I went to a plant sale at Swines Meadow Farm Nursery, at Market Deeping.  It is only just over 30 miles from where I live, but a good hour's journey.  It is worth the journey though.  I have been to Colin and Karan's nursery before for a propagation workshop last year.  I will doing an update shortly on how my propagated plants have developed.  I digress, today I went east for a plant fair and to meet some people I know only through twitter.  This is always an interesting thing to do as we chat away happily to each other, day and day, but the actual meeting is not without nervousness.

The important thing of the day of is - what did I come home with.  Well, the Caltha palustris (marsh marigold) above is for the pond.

This is a new plant to me, Cardamine Digitata.  This is for my woodland border.  I think it is  very pretty.  Sort of wafty and pinky.

How gorgeous and dark is this?  Fritillaria Uva Vulpis.  That will go in the woodland border too.

I used to grow this at a previous house, so I jumped at the chance to get another Centaurea Montana today.  The lady who sold it me advised me to cut it back hard after its first flowering as  that will encourage it to flower again.  I shall follow instructions.

I have tried to grow Lathrys Vernis from seed several times and always failed.  When I mentioned this to the stallholder she advised that I give the seeds a cold period outside, they need variation in temperature to get them going.  I might have to try that too.

This is Geranium Sherwood.  I used to have one of these too at a previous house.  The one I had before was bought from East Lambrook Manor many years ago but it died.  I am hoping for more longevity this time.

Some garlic chives - always useful

Chilli Rocoto Red.  I have a crop of chillis growing already, but not one of these and I do like variety.  Also apparently this one will over-winter, now that is a bonus as I struggle to keep them going usually.

A strawberry plant - not a fruit I actually like, but my son put in a request that I grow some so I am just doing as I am told.

Davidia Involucrata.  Everyone should find space for this tree as it has glabrous leaves.  One of the best. words. ever!

I also bought this Liriodendron Tulipifera 'Roodhaan'.  I bought one from elsewhere last year but it didn't survive the drought.  So this is its second and last chance.  There isn't the threat of drought this year is there........?  (ok, I know).

This is another new plant to me, Rehmannia elata - the Chinese foxglove.  Apparently it is easy to grow from seed but not very hardy.  I shall definitely be collecting the seeds, the flowers are a beautiful fresh pink.  I can't wait until it flowers.

and finally, the bargain of the day, this Magnolia Stellata which was an amazing £10 and so jumped into my car without a second glance.  Gorgeous or what!

Now the day was huge fun.  It was largely funded from my poker winnings on Friday night (I came second so left the night with £20 more than I went in with - we are not exactly hardened gamblers!)  It meant I could buy and not really worry too much as it was money I hadn't expected to have.  I also had a great time meeting the twitter folk who all turned out to be as lovely in real life as they are in the twittersphere. 

The plants are now stored in the greenhouse as I am expecting some cold nights this week.  I thought I would give them a little protection for the next week before launching them out into the world.

I drove home through more hail, sun and horizontal blizzarding snow, but it was a day that definitely ended with a happy sigh.