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Showing posts from June, 2011

Potato Patch Problems

Last evening I was doing a spot of weed-pulling when I noticed one of the potato plants' leaves looking yellow and rather sorry for itself.  I think possibly potato blight has set in - I removed the leaves, in the hope that it won't reach the potatoes.  It is strange that none of the potatoes have any flowers on them yet - a sign they are ready for digging up.  So, in light of the yellowing leaves, perhaps something more sinister is going on.  I will dig up the affected plant this evening and keep my fingers crossed that I'm not going to lose all the crop.


The above picture is Anthemis (I think the name may be changed and it is now called Argyranthemum, but I can't be sure).  Anyway, this plant is standing proud at three feet tall, but has had to be staked, as it has a tendency to fall forward.  When it touches the ground it then heads skyward so you get bent stems, which look awful if you try to stand them up again.  The one pictured has been staked, the picture below…

Gorgeous Goosegogs

Gooseberries to you and me.  Do you think they are called that because geese eat them?  Anyway, mine are now ready for picking.  Although you can pick them in March when they are small and hard, I like to leave mine till they are soft and translucent and sweet.  I hardly ever cook with them as I prefer to eat them raw.  Biting into them and sucking out the juicy middle then discarding the skin which can be tough.  They are such a prolific fruit but protect themselves very well with spines which make picking a painful process.  Except for cutting back a bit of new growth every now and then they need very little attention.


In my cutting garden at the allotmentthe Rudbeckia are just coming into flower; which is strange because they are a half-hardy annual that I sowed last year, and they withstood a really hard winter, and have grown into huge plants.  How can that happen?  Whereas, I also sowed some perennial pink ones, that haven't made a show.  Nature is a strange thing.  These sh…

Blackcurrant Bonanza!

Yesterday, I was having a 'furtle' in the shrubbery (sounds rude!) looking for weeds, when I came across a self-seeded Blackcurrant bush. absolutely dripping with fruit.  What an unexpected bonus.  So, I have decided to make  blackcurrant cordial instead of jam, as I still have jars left from last year.

Blackcurrant Cordial
Place 13oz. blackcurrants, 1.3/4 pints of water and 10oz. caster sugar in a saucepan.  Bring to the boil, then simmer for just 5 minutes.  Press through a sieve then bottle.

I will put some in plastic pop bottles for freezing as it only lasts  a couple of weeks in the 'fridge.

You can do the same with Raspberries adjust the quantity to 20oz. raspberries with the juice of half a lemon added.


Pick of the Crops
On my early morning visit to the allotment I found that the Broccoli is ready for harvesting.  Of course, they are all ready at once, and if you don't pick them when they are in their prime, they start to separate and go to seed.  So, for the nex…

All Kinds of Everything

At last the window box is finally beginning to fill out.  I expect the cool weather is what has held it back but now it is starting to look as I imagined when I planted it with Pelargoniums, Surfinia Petunia and trailing Geraniums.


The Redcurrants  are cropping really well and have practically taken over one corner of the allotment.  Each batch that I pick will be frozen until I have enough to make a decent amount of redcurrant jelly.



This morning I dug up my first lot of first early Potatoes (Arran Pilot).  I got fed up of waiting for them to flower so thought I would investigate and see how they were doing.  As you can see, not a bad haul for one plant.  I have never tried this variety before, so I am looking forward to tasting them.

I also pulled up the Garlic yesterday as the foliage had bent over, the cloves I planted were brought over for me from the Isle of Wight, by a friend on holiday there.



There were four different varieties, unfortunately two of the names tags have washed…

Sunday Reverie

This year, in my 'courtyard' garden I have planted two large containers with Cornflowers trying to get a more natural feel to the area.  It has worked reasonably well except they do grow a little tall and have to have a bit of discreet staking to stop them 'flopping'.  Unfortunately, they are rarely seen as a wild flower in the countryside any more - but, together with Corncockles and Poppies in a field of corn - it must have been quite a sight.  Early in the 20th century it was commonplace to see all these plants - but what with intensive farming and pesticides they are now rarer than hens teeth.  Shame on us!

Saturday Blues

Had an awful lot of rain in the night and at the moment this morning looks pretty miserable.  The grass desperately needs cutting but, hopefully if the weather forecast is right, it will have to wait till tomorrow.  Although the above picture is not the best I have ever taken, the Dahlias are starting to flower.  I bought a dozen tubers this year to replace those that I lost over the winter.  Normally I have no trouble storing tubers but they all rotted so I have to start again.  I have a separate patch for them as the colours are just a little too bold to put in with my pastel shade cottage plants.  They are used for cutting and the house is usually filled with blooms all during the summer.


Here is another starting to open with lovely bronze foliage.  They seem to be flowering a little earlier than last year but who cares. I have underplanted them with Nasturtiums and when they come into flower I think sunglasses are going to be needed against the glare.


This is the same flower a fe…

The Friday Collection

I have decided to use Fridays to show pics that I have taken but not featured in my daily ramblings.  Above is Cistus or Rock Rose an evergreen bushy shrub with sticky shoots and narrow, glossy, dark green leaves.  In early summer it bears large flowers with a red blotch at each petal base, the flowers only last for a day.  When they unfurl they look like crinkled tissue paper.  I bought this plant this year and from the look of it, it won't disappoint.


This is also a new plant this year Veronica hybrida 'Inspire Blue' (Speedwell) is a compact, bushy plant and spikes of small, bright blue flowers appear from May to the end of August.  It dies back in winter but should grow and flower each year.



This is container grown Scarlet Kale which will grow more scarlet as it matures, grown in pots as I have run out of space in the raised beds.



And finally, slug-free Lettuce 'All the year round' which I tried to show earlier in the week but the computer refused to upload.  I…

Mellow Yellow

Except for daffodils in the spring - the yellow part of the colour spectrum doesn't get much of a look in in my garden, there is something just a little too glaring about it, it doesn't seem to blend well with other plants.  Then, thinking about it a little more, and wandering around with the camera, I noticed that in the front garden I have quite a few yellow plants.  Writing this blog has made me really look at what plants I have, everyday I notice something different - see the garden with different eyes. 

The picture above is Hypericum calycinum or Aaron's Beard, Rose of Sharon.  In the 70's you could find this plant in most gardens - plants go in and out of fashion.  You don't see it around much these days.  It is an evergreen or semi-evergreen dwarf shrub that makes good ground cover and has large, bright yellow flowers from mid-summer to mid-autumn and dark green leaves.  Mine has grown to about three feet and is covered in flowers at the moment.  I get the…

Queen of Climbers

As far as Clematis go I am a 'soft touch' I have seven different ones in the garden; trailing, scrambling through trees, rampaging over a picket fence, gently curving up a bamboo obelisk, intertwining with a climbing rose, over wires against a fence, up a trellis.  I can't get enough of them, each one a different colour.  They are unsurpassed in their long period of flowering (with species flowering in almost every month of the year), they seem to tolerate any aspect and climate - I love 'em.

The Clematis pictured above is my latest acquisition; found neglected, half-dead and looking sorry for itself in the half price corner of a garden centre.  My heart went out to it, I brought it home and nurtured it, giving it exactly what it needed - it's feet in the shade and it's head in the sun.  It is a soft dusky pink and I don't know it's name - there was no label with it so I shall officially name it 'Lainey's Love' unless anyone does know its r…

In The Pink

As far as I am concerned garden pinks are an essential part of a cottage garden; prolific flowerers, divine perfume and really easy to propagate.  This patch shown are in a corner of one of my raised veg plots.  This is their third year and when they have finished flowering I will take stem cuttings, just in case they don't make it through the winter.

I was going to show you my Lovely Lettuces but for some reason the computer refuses to upload the pictures.  I can't believe I'm saying this but I have absolutely no slug damage on my lettuce this year.  I don't know what I'm doing right, but it's working.  This is going to be a case of 'famous last words' isn't it.  But, at the moment they look sensational in all their bright green glory (almost good enough to eat)!

I try to remember to keep sowing for a continuous supply in a shadier part of the garden, as when the weather gets too warm (little hope of that at the moment) they don't germinate ve…

Perfect Morning

The sun is out, the birds are chattering, cooing, chirping - a perfect morning to cycle to the allotment.  My two sheep were sheared yesterday, at last.  Everything was set for last Sunday but it rained and had to be called off.  Prayed that this Sunday the rain would hold off long enough, and it did, just.  I took the camera up with me to get a pic of my newly shorn boys, but they refused to co-operate - but I bet they are glad to get rid of those heavy coats for the summer.  If we have one.

The plot looks absolutely luscious at the moment, plenty of raspberries, redcurrants and gooseberries to pick, plus sweet williams and sweet peas from the cutting garden - the recent daily showers have really helped and I have been able to collect lots of rainwater, which was going down rather rapidly during the long, dry spell.

I have taken quite a few pics this morning, and if the computer will speed up a little I will try and get them all posted.


Sweet peas growing up nets with self-seeded pop…

Attracting Wild Life

One of the first rules in planting a cottage garden to attract wildlife is to provide as wide a diversity of plants as possible.  The more diverse the planting, the greater the variety of wildlife you'll attract, and though that will certainly attract some villians, there will also be enough predators to police your patch.
Pictured above:  Linaria (bees love it)
Plants to attract birds:
There are hundreds of shrubs, trees and herbaceous plants which will attract birds - the list is endless, but try antirrhinum, berberis, blackberry, cherries, cosmos, cotoneaster, hawthorn, honeysuckle, sunflower and Michaelmus daisies.
Food plants for bees:
Annuals include - alyssum, borage, cornflower, french marigolds, nasturtium.
Perennials - chives, delphinium, lavender, lupin, thyme and veronica.
Plants to attract butterflies:
Alyssum, aubretia, buddleia, cornflower, dianthus, forget-me-not, hyssop, nepeta, polyanthus and thyme.
Plants to attract moths:
Honeysuckle, jasmine, nicotiana, petunia a…

In Praise of Peas

Every year I plant peas, some years they are more successful than others, this year we aren't doing too bad.  I sowed three to a 3" pot and waited till they were fairly strong before I planted them out.  I think keeping them covered with a mesh tunnel helped them establish and there was no slug, mice or rabbit damage.  On previous years rabbits were getting in to the allotment garden and having a fine old time selecting what to have for their dinner.  This year I haven't seen so many rabbits about (I think they too have good and bad years) and also my neighbours in the next field keep several cats which may help keep the population down.  (Do cats kill rabbits - not sure about that one).

I know that you have to plant a lot of peas to get decent crops and that it takes a lot of picking to get enough for a meal.  Then there is all that podding and faffing about.  But you know what, I love fresh peas.  I realise that Mr. Birds' Eye does a pretty good job with his peas -…

A Symphony in Purple

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together.  Last year I grew Delphiniums from seed and after taking care of them when they emerged this spring (slugs love new Delph shoots), they have produced a lovely display.  Behind them is a dark purple Clematis (the tag fell off so I can't remember the name) and I have planted lilac Erysiums and purple Salvia and blue and purple Echium to complete the picture.  The photograph doesn't do it justice but it looks pretty good in real life.

Now, at this time of year, it is good to make a note of what has worked and what has not.  I think most gardeners are guilty of buying a plant from a garden centre and then finding somewhere to put it, when it really should be the other way round, that is looking for the right plant for a particular position.  At the back of my blue/purple bed there are pink Cistus waiting to flower, a pink Lavatera and a pink Buddleia, so as the year progresses pink rather than purple will dominate.

In other p…

Feverfew

When I first started to plant this garden nearly thirty years ago, one of the first packets of seed I bought was Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), just because I love the fresh meadow look it gives to the garden.  As you can see, I still have it.  It seeds freely, but I almost lost it all during the harsh winter.  Luckily I kept some seedlings that I found and this is the result.  It also has a double form, which I have as well.


The leaves add a bitter tang to food and are found in digestive aperitifs.  They relax blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and are mildly sedative.  Feverfew's importance lies in its success in reducing some migraines.  Chewed daily its accumulative effect is to relax cerebral muscle spasms and inhibit the secretion of a compound implicated in both migraine and arthiritus, infused flowering tops are applied to ease headaches and arthiritic swellings.  Not bad for such a pretty plant.

It also looks really nice picked and put in a vase.  Its local name is Fe…

Wildlife gardening

Spent a pleasant afternoon in the lovely sunshine getting rid of all the chickweed that surrounded my veg and came across this gorgeous dragonfly sort of resting on my broad beans.  It didn't move while I was weeding around it.  I only usually see them buzzing around the pond so I was dead chuffed to get a picture of it.

The raised beds look pretty good now I have banished all the weeds to the compost heap.  I had to pull out quite a few poppies which had self-seeded as they were overshadowing the struggling veg - I have left as many as I could that did not interfere with anything else.  They look so lovely:-


Having a good weed gives you a chance to inspect everything as you go along, surprisingly, the lettuces haven't been touched by slugs yet (famous last words) and I have only  lost one red cabbage  to them.  I took all the cat-proof nets off as the plants have spread enough now not to leave any soil for the cats to use as a toilet.

Harvested  some peas, only a handful - n…

Border Patrol

My job for yesterday afternoon was to finish snipping off the seed heads of Aquilegia and Sweet Rocket before they become too invasive.  If I let them all seed I would have no room left for anything else.  As it is the wind had flattened most of the Sweet Rocket plants and they were covering more precious plants, so it was a good job done.  Unfortunately, there are now big gaps in the borders and I don't have enough plants-in-waiting to fill them.  What to do?

My job for this afternoon is to try and weed out the chickweed that has sprung up everywhere, I can't seem to get rid of it no matter how I try.  It is a bloomin' nuisance and makes the veg beds look so messy.  When I kept chickens I gave the chickweed to them to pick through - alas, I no longer keep chickens so it will all go in to the compost bin.  I have the same problem with the allotment garden - you hoe it all off, but back it comes.  I think the roots go deeper than you realise and hoeing just seems to encour…

The Bucket - A Gardeners' Friend

Where would we be without a decent sized bucket, preferably big and black.  If I am planning to spend a while pottering in the garden out comes the bucket - in goes the hand fork, trowel, secateurs, string - anything I think I will need during my garden wanderings.  In go any weeds that I may pass by that catch my eye, tie something up here, dig out something there.  I couldn't be without it.  For more serious work, there is the wheelbarrow of course.  Bags of manure, compost and grit follow me round.  But as a general rule, the bucket is handier and more useful.  I do own one of those big plastic garden trugs but I hardly ever bother with it - I am loyal to my bucket.

Lazy Sunday

Did b***** all yesterday.  The rain never stopped all day so spent most of it reading the Sundays.  Not a bad way to spend Sunday but the outside work is stacking up.  This is when I start to get a bit panicky -will I be able to catch up.  The sun has just come out so it may not be that bad today for a few jobs.  Weed, weed, weed is the motto for the day.
Pictured above:  Nicotiana in a pot.  Put the pot on a garden chair to keep them above slug level as the leaves look very juicy.

Sheep Shearing Sunday

Everything was set up - the sheep shearer was coming this morning - the sheep had been penned up, there was a nervous excitement, praying that the rain would hold off.  You can't shear a sheep that has a wet fleece.  So far so good - then, an hour before the event would take place - the rain started.  It wasn't meant to happen till later in the day.  Blast!  So that's it - it's all off.  Luckily it hasn't been too hot for the sheep with their heavy coats, but once you have had them penned they are very wary and nervy about humans after that.  Can't say I blame them. 

The other thing about the weather - I had all sorts of gardening jobs on my list for today that will also have to be shelved.  It looks like it will have to be a greenhouse day today.  The thing is, as we have been away for a week there is so much to catch up on - maybe I'll have to do the ironing instead!
Pictured above:  Geranium that I can't remember the name of.

Raspberries Galore

As you can see from the picture, the blackbirds haven't demolished the raspberry crop.  I have already collected three punnets full since we got back yesterday.  My neighbours are going to be very happy as I distribute them around.  There are more than enough for everybody.  This year I let the raspberry runners develop instead of digging them out, which on reflection, was a mistake, as I don't really need that many plants and they don't seem to have suffered from lack of water - in fact, just the opposite.

One row of potatoes is just coming into flower but the rain we had last night has made everything flop over and they are shading out the nearby cabbage plants, which will hopefully pick up once the potatoes have been lifted.

Picked a bunch of sweetpeas which are a beautiful purple/pink combination and smell divine also picked a huge bunch of Sweet Williams - it is beginning to look like a florists shop at home at the moment.

The Wanderers Return

Just got back from a weeks' holiday in North Yorkshire, based in Robin Hoods Bay.  The garden pictured above is at a Folk Museum in Hutton-le-Hole, which is made up of re-constructed houses from a medieval round house to a row of shops incl. a grocers, cobblers, undertakers, chemist etc.  Lots of lovely original artefacts which are right for each period.  The cottage has a Victorian interior as shown above - I love this sort of thing.

Anyway - back to reality - I was anxious to get back and see how my garden was faring after a week away.  My neighbour has done a wonderful job watering for me and everything, as far as I can see, looks tickety-boo.  It is always a wrench to go away and leave the garden at this time of year, as we left the raspberries were just ripening so I am going up to the allotment next to see if there is anything left that the birds haven't taken.

Brought back some scented pelargoniums which have been stuck in the car for a week, but they have survived and …

The worst possible gardening job

Twice a year we trim back the ivy that covers the front and side of the house.  It is the dustiest, muckiest, messiest job there is to do in the garden.  Out come the ladders, hedge-trimmers, secateurs, leaf blower/sucker, saw, sweeping brush and extra large bags.  It takes most of the afternoon, and if, like today, the wind picks up - it takes forever to keep re-sweeping the leaves in order to get them in the bags.  It's my fault - I planted it, so I can't complain about the hard work that is involved.  Then it is loaded into the car and taken to the tip.  The dust gets up your nose, you hair gets full of bits and you get filthy.  Oh well - all in a day's work I suppose!
Pictured above:  Purple leaf Heuchara

Raspberry Ripple

I tasted my first raspberry at the allotment this morning - the first of many - as the bushes are full to busting.
Pictured above:  My herb garden, which is an old-fashioned sink which is sunk into the ground.  They thrive in here in poor, gritty, soil that hasn't been changed in years.  Treat 'em mean and they'll thank you for it.

Veggies-in-waiting

Finally, I have run out of space in my raised beds at home.  The pots shown are full of veggies waiting for a home.  I could pull out all the self-seeded poppies which are taking up room, but they are so pretty and in a cottage garden, self-seeders are what it is all about.  So the veg will just have to wait in their temporary homes till a space becomes available.

The dreaded lily beetle

I don't know whether you can see from the picture above but the lily leaves have been got at by the Lily Beetle.  It is a beautiful red colour, only small, but deadly to the lily.  It can decimate a lily plant given the chance.  The only thing to do is be vigilant and pick them off and destroy them.  So far I have found four, but I expect there to be more.  Some years you don't get any at all - unfortunately we are of on holiday soon so there will probably be nothing left of lilies by the time we come back.  Oh well you can't win em all.

Sunshine and lollipops

No self-respecting cottage gardener should be without some topiary.  This 'holly lolly' is my effort.  I bought a quite mature holly bush (the most expensive plant I have ever bought, by the way), and cut off all except one stem, leaving a tuft of holly leaves on the top.  You have to keep cutting new growth off from the bottom, as the plant seems desperate to return to bush form.  It needs a haircut twice a year to keep its shape.  I was planning to have a whole hedge full of lollipops but, in the end, decided I couldn't afford it.  I have performed the same surgery on gooseberry bushes as it makes the picking of gooseberries easier and less painful.