Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sweet Charity

Erigeron 'Charity'
 Until we went to the coast of East Yorkshire for a holiday earlier this year I had never come across this plant before.  It was everywhere, hanging over walls, spread out in big masses of this lovely pink flower.  It obviously doesn't mind the salt winds that blow on the coast, and all the plants looked extremely healthy.  So imagine my surprise when visiting a nearby garden centre back at home to find this little clump forming plant.  I was so impressed with it I now have it in pride of place in the garden.  This Erigeron 'Charity' has daisy-like flowers light pink with greenish-yellow centres borne for a long period in summer and is perennial.  It supposedly grows to 2ft. in height but all the plants I saw were low to the ground.   Its common name is Fleabane and it is fully frost-hardy.  It can be propagated by division in spring or early autumn or by seed in autumn.  Apparently it doesn't like winter damp but shouldn't be allowed to dry out during the growing season.  I will have to keep my eye on this little fella', but I think any extra effort will be worth it.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Gentle Geraniums

Geranium clarkei 'Kashmir White'
 This is the second flowering for this plant; it started blooming in early summer, and I chopped it back when it had finished, and had this second flush.  It is a carpeting Geranium and can spread rapidly on rhizomatous roots.  It is perennial with divided leaves and loose clusters of cup-shaped flowers, white with pale lilac-pink veins.  As with all Geraniums it is easy to propagate by division or by root cuttings or seed.  It began to take over the bed that it was in a few years ago, so I dug it out.  But, it decided it was going to stay, and from a piece of root that was left in the ground, has established itself once more.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Pale Beauty

Lavatera trimestris
Every year I sow a few Lavatera seeds and usually germination is good and I get plenty of plants to fill in spaces around the garden.  This year germination was poor, and I only got about half a dozen plants.  They come in three colours, pale pink, dark pink and the odd white one.  For me, the nicest part of the plant, are the buds, which are like furled-up umberellas.  They have trumpet shaped flowers which go on until autumn to a height of about 2ft. with grey-green leaves.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Swarm of bees
My neighbour saw this from his garden, it is quite a large swarm, perfectly stable, in the tree.  Hopefully, the local bee-keeping association will be able to hive it, or whatever it is they do.

Majestic Mints

Pineapple Mint

Crushed scents of mints pervading,
apple, lemon, eau-de-cologne but a few
of the many varieties, captured in sachets or pot-pourris.
Fresh tastes in summer dishes, drinks and dainties,
the much-loved mint sauce that stirs
the appetite for meat.
A valuable plant since bible times
and one of the first used medicinaly.
Sara Midda

Many different types of mint have been grown in Britain since at least the ninth century.  They were used widely to purify water and air and to rid a room of fleas and lice, to cure headaches and mad dog bites and as strewing herbs.
Most mints, including the best known spearmint and peppermint are creeping plants that hybridize easily, producing infinite variations.
They can be used to flavour sauces, vinegar, vegetables, desserts, and julep.  Their teas are popular in the alcohol-free Arab world. 
Mints are stimulant, aid digestion, and reduce flatulence.  Peppermint has additional antiseptic, anti-parasitic, and anti-viral and sweat-inducing properties.  It is included in ointments, cold remedies, and an inhalation of the essential oil treats shock and nausea.
The mint shown above is Pineapple Mint which I have let run free to flower in one border.  I ruthlessly dig it out in spring, but there are always a few bits of root left, inevitably, and the cycle begins again.  When in flower they are covered in bees, so that can't be bad.  I also have Spearmint in an old bath tub which I use in cooking, for mint sauce and mint tea, and Chocolate mint which has a brown underside to the leaves and smells vaguely of chocolate, this is in a large pot.
Whenever I pass the spearmint which is placed near the kitchen, I can't resist running my fingers through it and nipping a little off just to hold it to my nose and delight in its fragrance.  Surely an unforgettable smell.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Wildflower Wednesday

Hedgerow fruits
Crabapple, Bramble flowers, Blackberries and Sloes

Achillea, Willow Herb, Sloes, Fat Hen, Dead Nettle and Mallow

Hedgerow flowers
Convolvulus Thistle, Dock, Honeysuckle, Hawkbit, Hogweed seedheads, Hogweed

Red-leaved Rose

Rosa glauca (rubrifolia)
This rose was not widely grown in gardens until the end of the 19th century, when its refined wildness and beauty out of the flowering season first began to be appreciated.  It is a native to the mountains of central and southern Europe, from the Spanish Pyrenees east to Bulgaria, and north to Germany and Poland.

It is a deciduous arching shrub of sparsely bristled and thorny cinnamon-coloured arching canes up to 6ft tall.  Its leaves are glaucous blue-green and covered with a waxy bloom.  They have fragile, clear pink flowers that are produced in clusters.  The fruit is dark red hip.

The hips are early this year as they are not really meant to appear till autumn.  I transplanted it a couple of years ago as it outgrew its space, it is fairly vigorous.  My neighbour has one also which  has grown up the dividing fence and  continues on my side.  It is very striking in the border even though the flowers are short lived.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Delightful Damsons

Damson Plum (prunus damascenum)

"Did God or man make plums from sloes?
The truth may be, that no one knows.
How blessed are we when summer comes
To celebrate this feast of plums."

As you can see from the above picture, the Damsons are slowly ripening.  A range of varieties of damson are available, some being more appropriate for eating when ripe, straight from the tree, while others benefit from cooking.  They can also be pickled and preserved or made into damson gin.  In Slavic countries they are used to make slivovitz.

The name Damson derives from the Latin prunum damascenum, meaning plum of Damascus.  They were first cultivated in antiquity in the area around the ancient city of Damascus, capital of modern-day Syria, and were introduced to England by the Romans.  Remnants of  Damsons are often found during archaeological digs of ancient Roman camps across England, and ancient writings describe the use of damson skins in the manufacture of purple dye.

The Damson was introduced into the American colonies by English settlers before the American Revolution and are regarded as thriving better in the eastern United States than other European plum varieties.

The tree blossoms with small white flowers in early April and the fruit is harvested in late August or early September.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Picturesque Parsley


The excellency of this herb, accordeth with
the frequent use thereof.
For there is almost no meat or sauce which will not have
Parsley either in it or about it.
The chiefest virtue lieth in the roots; second in the seed;
last and least in the leaves
and yet these are of most use in the kitchen.
Henry Buttes

Parsley is very convenient to the stomach and
and comforteth appetite,
and maketh the breath sweeter.
Thomas Elyot
Curly leaf Parsley
 This is last year's Parsley currently in flower, which I shall save for seed.  It has been the most popular herb in Britain since the 17th century, but was considered poisonous before then.  It is said to be difficult to germinate but a little patience is needed; raise it in modules in early spring with a bit of warmth.  A useful addition to many dishes, parsley sauce being my favourite.  These days plain leaf parsley is much feted as having a better flavour, but to be honest, I can't really tell much difference between them.  But, the curly leaf is certainly prettier in my opinion.  As it gets older the leaves start to get a little tough, so new sowings must be made to see you through to the following year.

It is a tap-rooted biennial and comes in several varieties; Italian or French with a strong, coarse flavour. Hamburg, where the root is used and has a nutty, parsley taste and can be boiled as a vegetable and curly.
It is vitamin and mineral rich and can be eaten fresh to freshen breath.  Leaf infusions are a tonic for hair, skin and eyes.  The leaves are eaten as a vegetable in the Middle East.  The root is used in soups and stews, and seeds are diuretic.  They relieve rheumatism, aid digestion and tone uterine muscles after birth.  Leaf poultices soothe sprains and cuts.  If grown near roses it is supposed to improve their health and scent.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Rustic Dwarfs

Rudbeckia 'Rustic Dwarfs'
This is a picture of my Rudbeckia's from last year, I feel fully justified in showing you this, as it might as well be a picture from this year, as they have grown exactly the same. Why am I telling you this?  Because they are meant to be annuals - that is what it says on the seed packet.  Even more amazing is that they came through one of the hardest winters I can remember!  So, I looked them up in my plant encyclopedia, and guess what - they are a perennial, grown as an annual, presumably because they are half-hardy.

As I thought they were an annual, at the end of the flowering season I have always dug them up.  Last year I didn't for some reason, laziness probably, and they survived, to grow bigger and even better.  I have been picking bunches for weeks now, and they will continue flowering right until the first frosts.  So, I would say that is jolly good value for money.  The packet of seed was 99p.  All this colour in the garden for under a £1. 

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Fragrant Phlox

Phlox 'Purple Flame'
 This plant flowers from July to September and grows to about 3ft.  It is an easily grown old cottage garden flower that is a must.  It is an elegant plant introduced in 1740.  It produces cylinders of small flowers on strong stems that don't need staking.  They like a light soil and sunny or partially shaded spot.  Can be subject to eelworm attack which causes twisting and swelling of the stems.  Remove weak shoots in spring, to concentrate the plants' energies on the remaining flowers.  Some shoots can be shortened before flowering to produce branching shoots which will flower later.  It is available in a variety of colours including pink, orange, red and white plus purple and should be propagated by root cuttings.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Flower Friday

Lavatera (Barnsdale), Spirea, Echinachea, Lily
Lavatera - This variety doesn't become too large and the flowers aren't too gaudy, more of a white-suffused pink colour.  I will be taking a few softwood cuttings of this as they aren't as hardy as the basic lavatera shrub.
Spirea- this one is a small, slow-growing shrub, very pretty with airy pink flowers, some careful pruning is required after flowering to keep the flowers coming for next year.
Echinachea (Cone Flower) - I am very proud of my small stand of this plant as I grew them from seed and it was touch and go as to whether they would survive.  I find them very difficult and have tried on previous years without success.  They completely disappear over winter, then it's fingers-crossed time, hoping they will return.  As yet they are still single plants, but I'm hoping they will form clumps as they mature.
Lily - I have had a lot of lilly beetles this year, more so than in previous years, and the lilies have suffered somewhat.  These have been very slow to open and have a bit of beetle damage.  If this is to become the 'norm' then I may well give up on growing lilies.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Wonderwoman of the Plant World

Lythrum salicaria
This plant, commonly known as Purple Loostrife, is a one-stop chemist of a plant.  Practically anything that is wrong with you can be cured with this plant, according to my herbal.
Uses:  The leaves are eaten as an emergency vegetable and fermented into a mild alcohol.  The astringent leaves tighten skin, counter wrinkles, and add sheen to blond hair.  The herb adds brightness to eyes and reduces puffiness.  It shrinks blood capillaries, reducing over-reddened skin and curbing nose bleeds.  The flowering plant is an intestinal disinfactant, treating diarrhoea and food poisoning.  It acts as a typhus antibiotic, a sore throat gargle, and is given for fevers, liver problems, to cleans sores, and stop bleeding wounds.
It must have been a godsend to ancient apothocaries and witches.
Lythrum verticillatum has similar uses, and is planted in pastures to prevent abortion in cows and mares.
This British native must have been invaluable and grown in the earliest cottage gardens. 
They prefer wet, even boggy soil, but are very adaptable, also flowering well in dry conditions.  Either way, they like sunshine.  It is a clump-forming perennial with racemes of clear pink flower spikes produced from mid to late summer.  Good for cutting.

Lythrum 'Robin'
 This pretty free-flowering perennial which has narrow dark green leaves produces an abundance of pink flowers on tall spikes, and flowers throughout the summer,  Remove dead flowers to encourage another flush later.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Jolly Hollyhocks

Sidalcea (Wild Hollyhock)
 From the Malvaceae family this variety is 'Brilliant'.  The Sidalcea was introduced in 1838 and has been popular in cottage gardens ever since.  This summer-flowering perennial is grown for its hollyhock-like flowers and it loves the sun and well-drained soil.  It can be propagated by division in spring or by collecting the seed, but seed-raised plants don't come true to type.

Hollyhock (Althaea)
Hollyhocks are synonymous with cottage gardens, where they've been grown since the sixteenth century.  It is a short-lived biennial with  tall spikes of cup-shaped flowers borne up the stem.  They are fully hardy and easily raised from seed in spring or late summer.  They come in many colours white, cream, yellow, pink and crimson.

So we have two examples of Hollyhock, wild or cultivated, each beautiful in its own way.  The Sidalcea only grows to a couple of feet, but the Hollyhock can grow up to nine feet.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Gabriel's Grapes

This post is in memory of an old gentleman friend of mine called Gabriel Guerririo.  As you can guess from his name, he was from Italy, but became a p.o.w. working on a farm in this village and never returned to his homeland.
He kept an immaculate garden; his wife Camilla tended the front flower garden and he grew his vegetables around the back.  There were two ramshackle greenhouses; one for tomatoes and one for his grapevine.  He had two sheds; one for his tools (beautifully neat) and one for his wine press and huge flagons of fermenting wine.
Gabe's garden was his pride and joy and weeds didn't dare set foot in it or they were whisked away quicker than you can say 'jumping jack flash'.  There was a big artichoke patch and rows of pristine vegetables - then there was his grapevine.  Festooned in summer with hundreds of bunches of grapes, carefully tended, and destined to be made into a rather viscious tasting wine.
One day he proudly presented me with some prunings of the vine and instructions of how to plant and care for it.
Most years I hack it right back as it threatens to take over; but, last winter I never got round to it, and now have six beautiful little bunches.  There may not be many - but it's a start.
After his wife died he lost all interest in his garden and it became a wilderness.  I helped him out occasionally but it wasn't the same.  The grapevine became a tangled mess and he stopped making his awful wine.
He died a few years ago now, but his memory lingers on with my little grapevine.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Purple Haze

Lavendula Angustifolia
Old English Lavender

Blue hazed lavender that lines the grass-trod paths
Where in summers past, enclose-clipped borders of knot-gardens,
The housewife spread her linen to dry.
She made conserves of its pointed flowers with three times their weight of white sugar,
which drove away head-pains, and distilled and bottled lavender water
to last the winter through.
Lavender, from the latin 'lavare' - to wash.
For this was the flower used to perfume water for washing.

How could I have gone this long without mentioning Lavender.  Can there be a nicer approach to a cottage door than between two lavender hedges, spilling on to the path, releasing their scent as you brush past.  With colours from white to rich electric violet, floating in a purple haze above mounds of grey-green foliage.

Lavender has been around since 1265 but it is not English at all having been brought to Britain from the Mediterranean.  It is quite indispensable in the cottage garden its flowers and foliage are superbly perfumed and a magnet for bees.  It has been used as a scent for centuries and is still the best 'air-freshener' available.

Clip over the plants in the spring removing all flower-heads and cutting down to within a few centimetres of the old wood.  Regular attention will ensure the plants remain compact and bushy.  A sunny spot, good drainage and it will be happy.  Take softwood cuttings in summer.

If you are interested in vegetable growing then click on to my new 'page'  Kitchen Garden for daily progress reports.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Splendid Scabious

Scabiosa caucasica

Go where you will through England's happy valleys,
Deep grows the grass, flowers bask
and wild bees hum.

The flower of this unassuming well-known cottage garden plant looks like a pincushion surrounded by a ring of petals.  This variety is Columbaria (small scabious).  It forms a rosette of finely cut, green leaves and single, lilac-blue flowers produced from summer to early autumn attracting butterflies and bees to the garden.  As it is not as tall as the common Scabious it does well at the front of the border growing to only 40cm.  A useful tip is to place grit around the base of the plant to protect it from winter wet.

A few gardening jobs that I have been getting on with this week, inbetween showers; turning the compost heap.  This really does help the heap rot down quicker.  I have also added a layer of horse manure to it which hopefully will accelerate the rotting process.  I spent a couple of afternoons in the field carrying trugfulls of manure and storing it in containers at my allotment to spread over winter.  I also cut back the spent raspberry canes.  Despite the dry start to the season, the raspberries have been bountiful as have the blackcurrants and redcurrants.  There are still plenty of them hanging on, but as I have a dozen punnets picked and in the freezer waiting to be made into jelly, I will leave the rest for the birds.

I have been harvesting my veg daily, including potatoes 'Vivaldi', tenderstem broccoli and French beans.  There is so much to choose from at the moment but that is a good situation to be in.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Butterfly Bush

Buddleia davidii

Not introduced until 1890, but well known to cottagers from the late Victorian era onwards.  Grow in sunshine in any soil.
I have several Buddleia's in the garden ranging from pink, lilac through to dark purple, at the moment they are in full swing, together with attendant butterflies and bees.  Although they are considered a weed as they self-seed everywhere on waste ground and railway embankments, they are, in my opinion, a great addition to the garden for the wildlife they attract.  Once the flowers are over they do look a bit of a mess with all the flower racemes turning brown, but with a bit of judicial pruning they give a second showing of lesser blooms which prolong their usefulness in the garden.  Alas the season for them is all too short.  To keep the blooms lower down on the bush so as to be appreciated they must be cut hard back in spring.

Just as an afterthought, if you want to increase your stock of these lovely shrubs, just propagate by taking a hardwood cuttings in autumn, and literally just stick it into the ground.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Flower Friday

Bouquet of Zinnia Rudbeckia and Anthemis

Lovely Leeks

Pictured above is a Leek seedhead.  A few of the leek plants from last year went over before I had chance to use them so I dug them up and put them altogether is a spare piece of ground and left them and this is the result.  In good years tiny little leeklets will appear on this head which can then be grown on to form proper leeks.  On those where it doesn't happen I will collect the seed for next years plants.

Euphorbia seguieriana

Commonly called Spurge or Milkweed.  Flower heads consist of cup-shaped bracts, in various colours and usually each containing several flowers.  Does best in sun or partial shade and can be propogated by basal cuttings,  by division or by seed in autumn or spring.  Milky sap may irritate skin so care must be taken when handling.  This particular plant has self-seeded in my veg garden, and really does stand out with it's golden bracts.  Later on in the year I will attempt propogation as I have one or two shady spots in my flower garden that could do with brightening up.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Bountiful Beauty

This little beauty is the Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus grandifloras) which is a contradiction in terms.  It isn't everlasting and it isn't a pea - I suppose what is means is that it is perennial and from the pea family.  I have this growing along the picket fence at the front of the house.  The colour ranges from very pale pink to dark pink - the picture shows the mid-pink colour.  It is a herbaceous tendril climber with unwinged stems and neat racemes of flowers in summer.  It has gradually seeded itself right along the fence and I have to be quite brutal cutting is back as it threatens to attack any passer-by.  Unfortunately it has no scent, but it is so proliferate that you can forgive it for that.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Seedhead Splendour

For a few weeks I adore Opium Poppies, and the bees adore them too.  Standing waist high - if you look into the centre at all those stamens filled will pollen you will find bees furiously collecting it and making a helluva racket.  The flowers don't seem to last five minutes before the petals fall in a shower.  Then you just have to marvel at the pearly, grey-green pepperpot seedheads resting on silvered stems.

But, alas, their beauty starts to fade, and you start to get a little fed up of them.  They are easy to pull out, but I always leave one or two plants so they can spread their seed  and start their spectacular display all over again next year.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Resisting Temptation

Clematis - Victoria
Yesterday I didn't go out ino the garden till late afternoon.  I had loads of boring household chores to get on with, and I knew that once outside, I would stay there.  It was a lovely day, but I kept my head down, got on with my jobs  and tried to ignore the sun trying to lure me out.  By late afternoon I had finished, and secateurs in hand, went round all the plants that had gone to seed  Alchemilla Mollis (Lady's Mantle) was flat on the ground and the flower heads were starting to turn brown, a sure sign that they needed the chop.  Then I started on Geranium psilostemon which is a clump-forming perennial that has many cup-shaped, single, black-centred magenta flowers.  These are notorious self-seeders and I have at least five plants in the garden that are all self-set.  Most perennials, when given a chop after they have flowered, will invariably give a second showing of flowers later on in the season, so it is well worth doing.

The Clematis pictured above has been in flower for weeks; it is trained on a fence and has wound its way through my neighbours'  golden privet which is growing on the other side of the fence, making for a spectacular show.  I also noticed this morning that the Clematis Alpina which is a lovely blue, and flowers early in spring, has started flowering again - isn't nature a wonderful thing.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Early Morning Light

After overnight showers, this morning has turned out sunny and bright.  Everything is sparkling with raindrops and the sunlight through the courgette flower caught my eye. 

These are James Grieve Apples which are swelling up nicely now.  They are a really delicious early Apple which smell as good as they taste.  When they mature in late August they have a lovely rosy colour, but unfortunately they don't store well.  The tree is 25 years old now and produces an abundant harvest every year without fail.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Sunday is Container Feeding Day


So that I don't forget to feed the plants in pots and containers  Sunday is designated as the day.  Whatever the weather I have never forgotten to do it.  Sunday lunch, a bit of a snooze, then out with the watering can.  I try to keep the number of containers down every year, but it gradually creeps up as I run out of space.  The job takes about an hour.  If I do it in under an hour then I know I haven't done it properly.   There are the pots in the courtyard area for all the summer planting, all the greenhouse crops, outdoor tomatoes, carrots, radishes and lettuce. strawberries - the list goes on.  I sometimes feel that I make life difficult for myself as it is time-consuming - not just the feeding, but the daily watering.   Next year my resolution will be, less container planting , but like every other resolution I make, it will be broken - of that I can be sure.         

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Hebe Jeebies

This is one of the last remaining Hebes that I have left after the disastrous winter. Now in full flower showing off that it survived.
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A rewarding time of year

Courgettes, cucumber and tomatoes

This is a great time of year for harvesting crops.  A culmination of all the time and effort that has been put in in the preceding months.  This is what it is all about for me; walking around my veg garden picking things that are ready to eat for my next meal.  This morning I cycled home with a large cabbage, as big as a football, calabrese, peas and courgettes plus a bunch of sweet peas and another of rudbeckia.  What could be better than that!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Exquisite Echium

Today should have been my Friday Flower Collection but given all the pic uploading trouble I have had I am posting just one.
I have managed to find another route in to my pics so I will do the post I originally intended which is about annual flowers.  Pictured above is the Echium which I sowed from seed to use as a filler in the borders rather than have bare earth showing.  It is a moderately fast growing, erect, bushy annual or biennial with spikes of tubular flowers in shades of white, pink, blue or purple.  The buds on this variety are pink which turn to a purpley-blue as they mature.   This is the first year I have tried this plant but I will definitely use it again.

Food Factory

Rather than have a blog without pictures I have re-used one from earlier as I am still having trouble with uploading.

The greenhouse, my food factory, is in full swing now.  The tomatoes are ripening and hanging in beautiful trusses, the cucumbers are swelling and I have already picked one, with many more on the way,  The sweet peppers all have flowers just waiting to be pollinated and the aubergine fruits are starting to pop through.  As the season progresses I have to find ways to use up all these lovely goodies.  If I have too many cucumbers at one time I snip them off with as much stalk as possible left on, then stand them on end, with the stalk in about an inch of water, which keeps them fresh, until I am ready to use them.  If not, I slice and pickle them with onion, deliciously sweet and crunchy and called Sandwich Pickle.  The tomatoes are used fresh where possible, but inevitably, there are far too many to use fresh so they get frozen whole, like snooker balls, ready to cook down for sauces.  The post prolific of all the tomato varieties and the one with the best flavour in my mind, is Sungold.  It does really well outside and the cherry sized fruits are the first to ripen.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Short back and sides

I think now is a good time for me to wander round my kingdom and take stock of what needs doing.  There are a few flowering shrubs that have finished showing off and could do with a haircut.  By cutting back after they have flowered it helps to keep them in their place and also ensures a good supply of flowers for next year.  These include Deutzias, Philadelphus and Kolwitzia.  Also removing the seed heads of Delphiniums, Salvias and Foxgloves will encourage a second flowering if you are lucky.

Pictured above:  Buddleia 'Black Prince'

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Paradise Planting

I have a plan, or at least I will have, when I have thought it through.  My veg plot is a little too formal for my liking; serviceable but too rigid.  To make it a little more like a paradise garden I have to mix up the planting a bit.  So for next year I have decided to make a patchwork veg garden rather than straight rows.  Then I can include more flowers in with the veg. So here's the plan:-

To sow purple headed alliums amongst the leeks (same family)
Purple Aquilegias with the red cabbage
Marigolds with the curly kale
Cornflowers with the fennel and carrots
California poppies with the onions
Blue anchusa with the purple leaved sage

What do you think - sounds like a plan.  That's all I've come up with so far.  As George Eliot the writer says
"No finical separation between flower and kitchen garden, no monotony of enjoyment for one sense to the exclusion of an other; but a charming paradisiacal mingling of all that was pleasant to the eyes and good for food.

Just by manipulating the rows of vegetables themselves, thinking about contrasts between the shape and texture of their foliage, you can make the plot start to sing.  Although flavour is the prime concern of any fruit or vegetable, experiment with more decorative varieties.  Can't wait to get started!

Pictured above:  Rose 'Compassion'

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Colourful Cosmos

Cosmos 'Sensation' is a simple yet beautiful flower.  It is a moderately fast-growing, bushy, erect annual.  I grow it every year - some years it grows better than others, and although it is only meant to grow to about 3ft. it can reach 5ft.  It has feathery mid-green leaves and daisy-like flower heads - perfect for picking as it lasts a long time in a vase.  It comes in shades of red, pink and white and flowers from early summer to early autumn.  This year is a bad growing year, possibly due to weather conditions, but nevertheless, it still deserves a place in the garden.

This is the swelling fruit of a Squash 'Patty Pan' I think, not really sure as the name tag has come adrift somewhere; together with Butternut Squash and Courgettes 'Gold Rush'  and  'Green Bush' I should have enough to keep me going.  They are all grown in the same patch about 3ft. apart to give them plenty of room to spread their wings.  Last year I attempted to grow the squash up frames to save space but the fruit became so heavy that the frames collapsed.  Not one of my better ideas.  The squash 'Sweet Dumpling' is not faring so well - it is in a container, but has hardly grown since I planted it - maybe it's late starter, we'll just have to wait and see.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Ghastly Greenfly

In my garden and the allotment I have planted lots of Sweet Peas which are at their best at the moment.  The ones planted in the ground are doing fine with no problems, but the ones I have grown in a container are covered in greenfly.  Does this mean that the plants are stressed and that has attracted the greenfly - I don't know - but I gave them a good spray with a friendly bug killer this morning in the hope of saving them from devastation.

I grow three varieties of  Sage (Salvia Officinalis) in the garden in my herb beds.  The one pictured above is Tricolour.  This half-hardy cultivar has mild-flavoured green leaves with pink and white margins.  The other decorative Sage is:-

Icterina which is a gold variegated Sage with leaves that are mottled green and gold with a mild flavour.  The third variety that I have is just your basic one, which is used for cooking.

There are several other varieties that I would like to get hold off but I have never seen for sale and they are Pineapple, Red Rooted, Clary, Prostratus and a Purple Sage.  I keep looking in the seed catalogues but they are obviously not as popular as the more common ones that you see.  The funny thing is, that I have had the above varieties for a number of years, even though they are meant to be half-hardy, but they have never flowered.  Not even the common one has flowered, but perhaps it is because I keep them trimmed back so that they don't get too woody.

One of the joys of cycling to my allotment early in the morning is passing by the churchyard in the village.  At this time of year the Lime trees are in flower - the flowers are extremely fragrant and the noise of the bees that are attracted to them  is like a constant hum.  The worlds' most valued honey is made from Lime blossom.  The other name for the Lime tree is Linden or Basswood which refers to the linen-like bass fibres below the bark, once used as cordage (cords or rope, used in rigging of ships).

Sunday, 3 July 2011

It's A Jungle Out There!

I may have mentioned before that the area of the allotment garden where I used to keep my hens has been allowed to grow wild in the hope of it returning to a small wild flower meadow.  The trouble with this is that certain wild plants have taken over, namely, Goosegrass, which is a member of ther Bedstraw family.  This plant is a far-straggling weedy annual that grows to 4ft. long, readily clinging to clothing by the tiny down-turned prickles on its fruits, stems and leaves.  It has covered everything; grown up the wire fences, climbed up into the fruit trees, and generally made a nuisance of itself.

I chose a really hot day to try and get rid of it all wearing gloves but not covering my arms - the result of which is that my arms are now covered in a nasty rash that is very sore.  It is easy to pull out, and sticks together in thick swathes - I accumulated enough to make a large 'haystack' that would fill an average shed.  Of course, as I pulled it, all the seed heads fell off, so it will re-appear next year and the whole process will begin again.

As I was clearing up to go home for a welcome bath, as I had become a hot, sweaty mess, I heard a screaming- type noise and went to investigate.  One of the cats from the neighbouring property was in the long grass with something in its mouth.  On closer inspection I saw it was a baby rabbit that was doing the screaming.  I instinctively went after it to try and make it drop the poor thing, but it ran into the hedgerow out of reach.  I know it is in a cats' nature to do these things, and when it is a rat I don't mind so much - well you know where I'm going with this.  So it is a jungle out there in more ways than one.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The June Review

I thought I'd review the borders at the end of each month to see how they change over the year - a good reference for me as to what needs changing/adding/moving next year.  I think you would need to click on to the picture to enlarge it for the full effect.  This is my sunniest border with Lavenders at the front Erysiums and Salvias in the centre and Delphiniums at the back plus Verbena Bonariensis threading through.  The biggest eyesore that doesn't fit in with the overall scheme of things now is the Anthemis which has grown too tall and is definitely now in the wrong place.

This border is in the centre of the garden on the shady side, but it does get late afternoon sun.  It is relatively new and most of the plants in it were only planted this year, after we removed a leylandii hedge that was used as a wind break, as the garden backs on to open fields.  Removing the hedge has opened out the vista of the garden and released more ground for something a bit more pleasant to look at.  Various shrubs  fill the back of this area with a plum and apple tree included plus Apple Mint which has a soft grey, downy leaf which has been left to roam through the planting.

This is the Dahlia bed which is in full swing at the moment underplanted with Nasturtiums which are just coming into flower.

This is one of the raised veg. beds which has been taken over by Californian Poppies, in the space that is left there are Chives, Pinks, Tomatoes, Lettuce, Spring Onions and Climbing French Beans, which are growing up a metal arch.

The Brassica bed is doing well Cabbages are hearting up the Cauliflowers now have small heads, and free of caterpillars, so far, plus no slug damage.  Miracle of miracles. 

The onions in the final bed have all gone to seed, lack of water I think - but, the onions at the allotment look splendid, growing by the day.  The red onions give a real shot of colour along the row, I have not been too successful with red ones before, but this year it looks as though I may have cracked it.