Monday, 30 November 2015

End of Month Review November 2015

November has been relatively mild, though there has been the odd frost and quite a lot of rain.
In the driveway the pin oak is hanging on to the last of its leaves.  I love this tree so much, it is one of the best buys I have ever made.  I look forward to it really settling in next year and growing and developing.
The Rhamnus in the corner of the front garden has now settled in and has really put on growth this year.  It was originally a standardised topiary ball, those days are long behind it and it is now a sprawly natural shrub and clearly very happy.
The Knot Garden looks green and whilst it needs a bit of attention, it remains generally in my good books these days.
The quince hedge is flowering, which is did a little early last year and it will flower properly and more profusely in the Spring.
The bulbs in the Spring pots are starting to grow well.  This is hope in a pot.
There are fewer pots now on the garden table, they look cold but they are doing ok.  The acer is the only acer left in the garden still with leaves.
The cardoon as you enter the back garden is showing new growth but keeps its dead flower heads standing tall.  It is a very fine plant at any time of year.
The Long Shoot also looks cold and is getting its winter-look.
Roses are shivering,
and the Amicia zygomeris is looking very sorry for itself.
but The Boy Who Waited is looking quite chipper with some hellebores now keeping him company.
The Prairie Borders always look good this time of year.  The dead echinops flower stalks add height and the grasses move wonderfully in the breeze.
The Woodland Border/Bog Garden does not look quite so good, but its ok and it will return well in the Spring all being well.
The Wild Garden looks less wild, more shrubby really this time of year.
and the Dancing Lawn always looks bigger than I think it does in reality.
The beech pillars are starting to look a bit more pillar like.  This is good, its taken them a long time to get to this point.  They were twigs when I planted them.
The Four Sisters have had a good year and are putting on growth well.  I am hopeful they will get through the Winter ok.
I'm really hopeful that the Edgeworthia will a) live and b) flower next year.
The veg borders are all about the broccoli at the moment.
Oh and cabbage, I have cabbaged.  I am very proud of my cabbages but I do have to stop looking at them at some point and eat them.
The Cornus Mas has buds,
The Winter Cherry has flowers,
and the nasturtiums are a soggy smelly mess.
The Tree Dahlia is blackened,
and the rudbeckias look past their best.
but the Courtyard is looking pretty good and is one of the few areas where I really use a lot of evergreens.  It seems to work quite well.
Lastly there is of course the pond.  It still looks clear and I keep picking more parrot weed out of it in the hope of keeping it looking that way.  It is not quite full yet but it is close to being so.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Trial - 12 A new rose

I really need to keep up to date with these trial posts, next year I will do better!

Late-ish last year I was sent a 9cm pot containing Rose 'For Your Eyes Only'.  It was tiny as you would expect in a 9cm pot.  I dutifully planted it out but, I will be honest here, I had seen some pictures of this rose and I was not sure.

All year I have fed and looked after the rose, but like many roses in its first year of planting it did not reward me with much growth.  I was not surprised at this as I think it takes roses a year or two to really settle in.

Then suddenly a bud appeared.  I got rather excited about this.  I watched it and watched and then it opened.
I was pleasantly surprised, I rather like this.  I will be interested to see how it develops next year, but so far I am pleased with it.  It also has the bonus of having a free 'earworm' with it, ah Sheena Easton.....

I note that on the website these are now available as bare root plants.  This is a much better way of buying them and I am sure these will be a) larger and b) settle in better.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

A Sheffield Pitstop - part two The Botanic Gardens

After spending a nice time at the Winter Gardens I still needed more garden-therapy to make up for spending the previous day and a half in a work-based conference.  I decided that Sheffield Botanic Gardens would probably do the trick.  I was not wrong.
I arrived at the imposing gates.  This is a great piece of architecture and I could only hope that the gardens inside were equally impressive.  Obviously mid-November is maybe not the best time to visit a garden, but I had high hopes as I wandered in.
The first sight was this wonderful tree.  I was totally struck by it but failed to check what type it was.  How remiss of me.
The glasshouse is awesome.  I can think of no better description.  The history of the gardens have their beginnings in Georgian Sheffield.   A fund of £7,500 was raised by local business men and residents and experts such as Joseph Paxton were used to start the development of the gardens.  The gardens were designed by Robert Marnock and the buildings were designed by Benjamin Broomhead Taylor.  The gardens were finally opened in 1836 and at first were only open to subscribers and share holders.  The general public could only enter on four special days.

The gardens soon hit financial problems and eventually in 1897 they were purchased by Sheffield Town Trust.  They introduced free admission.  During the war the gardens struggled and were badly damaged.  They struggled to recover from this and eventually in 1996, with the help of Lottery money, further restoration began.  The gardens reopened in 2007 and, I have to say, are a real treasure.
The glasshouse is divided into zones and beautifully maintained.
There were some fantastic plants.
I had tree fern envy (again).
I stood in front of agaves and went 'ah'
and 'ooh'.
I don't know what this is, but I liked it.
and I lamented that the protea was not quite in flower.
I looked out of the windows and could see the City centre shining as the sun was starting to go down.  I pondered on whether Curly Watts was correct and that Sheffield is the 'Rome of the North' and built on seven hills. I concluded that Sheffield was built on more than one hill but further exploration would involve going up and down hills and I was not in the mood.
I then went out in the gardens.  I looked up at the magnolias and thought how wonderful they will look when in flower.
I loved this statue of Peter Pan,
the detail on it was amazing though I pondered how welcome real rabbits would be in the gardens.  Around the base of the statue were the lines from a poem carved into the stone.  The lines were:  "Find a circle of stone opened up to the stars, Where huge animals lived in a cage without bars."  The poem was written by Berlie Doherty for the Botanic Garden and formed part of a series of riddles and associated artworks.  More information about this and the text of the whole poem can be found here.

The are good vistas in the gardens, it was clearly well thought out and designed.
There are good broad pathways,
and they take you and and down steps that demand you to explore.
I loved the planting of these birches.
and I wished I'd seen the prairie borders at their peak.
I had a moment of nerine envy, I cannot get these to grow in my garden.
and I admired this bright white birch that was shining.

There is a lot more to the gardens, including a bear pit that I managed to miss (so I will have to go back.)  I am a great fan of botanic gardens and these in Sheffield are a brilliant example of what they should be.  There were lots of people walking dogs, walking themselves and a couple of people jogging.  There is a cafe that had a few visitors and probably more than I expected for fairly late on a November afternoon.  These gardens are a great resource for the residents of Sheffield.  If only other botanic gardens were treasured in such a way.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Book Review: The Half-Hour Allotment by Lia Leendertz

When I was asked if I would like to review this book at first I thought maybe not for a few reasons.  Number 1 has to be that I do not have an allotment or indeed a wish to have one.  I am also not the world's greatest vegetable gardener and lastly and probably most importantly: I have that cynical 'I don't like garden in a hurry/shortcut' type approach.  So why did I decide to review it?  Well, going in reverse order: I think it is useful at times to look at the things I am immediately suspicious of as for all I know it might be making a good point.  I also would like to be a bit better at vegetable gardening, but no, I am still not going to get an allotment.
The book is under the banner of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and published by Frances Lincoln.  RHS books have a reputation for being thorough and spot on with their advice and guidance and this book does not let that reputation down.  This is a revised edition, the original book was published in 2006.  It is written by Lia Leendertz and it tells us early on that the half-hour principle was 'dreamt up' by Will Sibley.  Pretty quickly the book deals with one of the my concerns mentioned above: yes this book is about dealing with your allotment a half-hour at a time; but it is not about only half an hour a month, or even a week.  No, what is being talked about here is keeping your allotment under control in half-hour slots totalling up to around two and half hours a week.  So you could do your half-hour every week day and then have the weekends off, or any other combination that works for you.  In reality how could you do anything of lasting value gardening-wise in just 30 minutes a week never mind a month?

After that I settled into the book and what a wealth of knowledge it is.  The book talks about vegetables worth the space and those not so worth the space.  Having said at the start of this that I am not a brilliant vegetable gardener, I do like to grow some.  I have struggled with thoughts about what I grow as my space is limited and so is the amount of time I want to spend on vegetables.  I was fascinated by the discussion about potatoes as the book does say that they are relatively cheap to buy and also take up a lot of space to grow.  Two good reasons not to waste space on them, however, Lia goes on to say that nothing can beat the taste of home-grown new potatoes.  This I cannot disagree with, so Lia says that growing new potatoes is very worthwhile and if you are short of space then maybe think twice about main crop.  This is great advice.  There is also a discussion about purple sprouting broccoli.  This is one of my favourite vegetables to grow as I think it is well-mannered, not too expensive in space and tastes wonderful.  Lia pretty much agrees though she does see it as expensive in time, it is something you have to keep in the ground quite a long time and if you are limited in space then this might not be a good thing.  This is all worth considering.

The book discusses seeds vs plugs, seeing some things as good to grow from seeds but others when time and space is short as reasonable to grow from plugs.  Again this struck a chord with conclusions I have reached that growing lots from seed is not always the best thing for me to do.  This year I have grown cabbages, calabrese and purple sprouting broccoli from plugs.  I know I could have grown them from seed but I end up with usually too many or not enough and it is a faff.  To have my plug buying habits verified through the book was rather comforting.

We then have a large section on the best varieties to buy.  If not persuaded already that this book has merit, this section alone makes the book buyable.  For vegetable growers like myself, who are not that good and not that knowledgeable, it would have saved me a lot of trial and error if I had had this book.

The book talks us through basic jobs and it does mean basic.  It talks of digging and hoeing.  There is advice on getting organised and what needs to be done what time of year.  There is also advice on pest control from biological controls to companion planting.  I liked the section on wildlife gardening and also the chapter on allotment gardening for children.

This is not the biggest book you will ever buy and yet it covers a huge amount of information.  I can happily recommend it and not just to people who either have or who are thinking about having an allotment.  If you are the slightly rubbish half-hearted vegetable gardener that I am, then this book will help.  It might not make you any less half-hearted but you might feel happier about some of the choices you make when deciding what to grow.