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Showing posts from August, 2011

Garden Visiting

Because my garden flowers are practically over, I decided to visit my friend Janets garden to see how hers was faring.  Janet is a very keen gardener who specialises in unusual plants and every available space is crammed with colour.  What she can't get in the ground she puts in pots, she has dozens of them, plus hanging baskets and troughs.  When I have volunteered to water her garden whilst she is on holiday, I can vouch for the fact that it is a mammoth task to keep them all well-watered, but it is worth it because they put on an amazing display. 
Her garden, unlike mine, is beautifully kept; she works very hard at it, and any time you pop round unexpectedly, there she is on her knees, weeding.

These are some of the Sunflower plants that I gave her, which under her care have done far better than my own.

Every border is a delight of mixed planting and as you can see for yourself there is still plenty of colour to be had at this time of year as long as you choose the right plants.  I …

Willy Nilly Growing Dill

  This morning I found this self-seeded Dill plant amongst the Zinnias at my allotment garden. 

During the Middle Ages Dill was prescribed as a protection against witchcraft and as an aid to digestion.  It is still used for the latter purpose for young children, in gripe water.

It is an aromatic annual that has blue-green thread-like foliage and umbels of summer flowers.  It is uniquely flavoured with an aniseed taste and is used  to flavour savoury and sweet dishes, particularly in Scandinavia and Europe.  It gives character to dill pickles, vinegar and potato salad.

If the seeds are infused it reduces flatulence, hiccups, stomach ache and insomnia.
Grow in a sunny spot in rich, well-drained soil, but keep it away from Fennel or it will cross-pollinate.
On a walk by the reservoir yesterday morning I noticed that the boats all had their covers on as protection overwinter, the clinking sound of the sailwires against the mast reminded me of the harbour at Blakeney where we visit during…

The Reluctant Gardener

Late summer garden

Late summer in the garden is a difficult time, most plants are going to seed, the annuals have given up the ghost and everything in general is in a state of transition.  In the picture above you can see the odd last ditch attempt at flowering, but mostly it is a sprawly, mixed up mess, that desperately needs attention.  But I am in a state of indecision.  Is now the right time to pull plants up, trim them back or just leave them till the last minute, before I need the space to plant my spring bulbs.

Bare earth, at this time of year, just invites weeds to take up residence.  I know what will happen; it will get to the stage where I can't stand it any longer, and I will be brutal - chop everything back to within an inch of it's life - and then wonder what I am going to do to fill all the space.

I have already begun the autumn clear-up - the cornflowers and nicotiana have been thrown on the compost heap, the tomato plants have been unstaked and felled, and my o…

Gardening on a Shoestring

  It is a matter of pride and principal that I spend as little money as possible on my garden.  Growing most of my plants from seed, taking cuttings, and splitting plants to increase my stock.

The Erysium (Perennial Wallflower) pictured above is a cutting, one of three, that I took from the parent plant as soon as I bought it. Already I have increased my plants, fourfold, from just one.  There is no magic formula for taking cuttings, just snip off a healthy shoot and pop it into potting compost, put a pop bottle (cut in two) over the top, until it makes root, and bingo a plant for free.

So far I have taken Lavender, Argyranthemum. Pelargonium and Dianthus cuttings, as a safeguard, just in case they don't make it through the winter.

This is a good time of year to start increasing your plant stocks and also for a little forward planning; sowing hardy annuals and saving seed from this years plants.  I am sure that you, like me, spend far more money than we intend to keep our garden…

Top 5 Favourite Summer Flowers

As it is the end of the month, I thought, instead of doing an August review, I would pick what my best performing plants have been throughout the summer.
The Clematis Victoria which adorns the fence of my patio garden has been a really good 'doer' this year.  Some years the slugs strip the soft covering off the stems and it dies back.  Because of the dry weather this year the slugs didn't manage to do any damage and the plant has blossomed it's little socks off.

The Rudbeckia 'Rustic Dwarfs' in my allotment cutting garden reappeared magically after the hard winter and set about growing themselves, even though they were supposed to be annuals.  I have been cutting them all summer long, and there are still plenty of flowers on the plant.

             After a very slow start the Sweetpeas eventually came good.  I planted three stands of them in different parts of the garden  and a long row in the cutting garden, using up all the old seeds I had accumulated, even tho…

Our Summer Visitors

   You can see the difference in the number of birds between yesterday and today; as the summer draws on more and more Swallows and House Martins gather on the telephone wires.  This morning the sky is full of them twittering and gathering into large flocks.

When I looked out of the window at 6.30 a.m. there wasn't a single one to be seen - then I heard them heading in from the east, they have possibly been roosting down at the reservoir - they came in one big mass, you could hear them before you saw them.  They sit on the wires preening, vying for position and having a good natter to their neighbours.

They have been my constant companions in the garden all summer, performing their aerial feats above my head, chattering all the while.  The martins build their nests in the eaves of the houses down the street, and come back every year to the same nests, making repairs with mud collected from the puddles.  They dip and swoop across each others path without missing a wing-beat.


From Mighty Oaks

 This noble, deciduous tree, once a powerful pagan symbol, has large, spreading branches, lobed leaves, and male catkins.  Oak bark provides a leather tan, and as tanners seemed immune to tuberculosis, the bark was used for treatment of the disease.  Acorns have been used as human food in times of famine, though they were mainly used as animal fodder.  The raw kernels are bitter, but chopped and roasted that can be used as a substitute for almonds.  The Californian Indians used acorns as one of the basic items in their domestic economy and were used in the form of a coarse-ground meal.  The bitterness had to be removed this was done by pulverising the nuts then leaching them in repeated doses of water.  The result was a mush having a consistency of peanut butter and having a flavour of sour cream and grapenuts.  It was regarded as an extremely substantial food.  In Europe the most common recent use of acorns has been in the roast form, as a substitute for coffee during the war.  T…

A Walk on the Wild Side

Our garden backs on to open fields where cows graze and field mushrooms flourish in autumn. In medieval times this was where the old Brabazon family built their manor house. The land dips down steeply and this was where the old water mill was and the fishponds, which until a few years ago was still filled with water. The farmer who owned the land dug out a trench to let the water escape as it was a hazard for the grazing animals. The area is now covered in Horsetails which is an ancient, primitive, non-flowering herb, the young heads of which can be eaten boiled.  It's minerals and salts enrich the blood and strengthen hair and nails.

The land was shaped by glaciers rolling through the valleys, and all along the bottom are streams and ponds which reflect the sky and trees. At this time of years almost all of the wild flowers have gone to seed. I found a few whilst walking Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) In folklore, Chiron the centaur, is supposed to have taught Achilles about the healing virtue…

Beguiling Begonias

There are many different types of Begonia, they can be evergreen or deciduous shrubs, and small tree-like plants, or perennials and annuals, grown for their colourful flowers and/or ornamental leaves.  The one shown in the picture is in the tuberous group, grown for their flowers, produced in summer.  Large-flowered double types are known as Begonia x tuberhybrida which form bushy plants suitable for containers and hanging baskets.  They like to grow in dappled shade in moist conditions and are frost-tender.  The tubers are dormant in winter and should be brought inside in much the same way as dahlias.  They can be propagated by seed in spring, or by stem or basal cuttings or division of tubers.  They bring colour to dark corners and are fairly easy, but can be subject to mildew.  I have not always successfully saved the tubers overwinter, it is a bit hit and miss, but for long-lasting colour in the garden, they can't be beaten.

Fabulous Fuschias

  To my mind these are the most feminine of flowers with their elegantly recurved sepals like ballerinas on tiptoe with tutus and arms outstretched.  Yet no one seems to mention them, I must read through hundreds of blog posts in a week, and don't recall one post about them.  Is this because they are 'out of fashion', too common or gaudy - I don't know why, but surely they are good value for money in containers flowering all summer long, with so many varieties to choose from.  They are raised easily from cuttings and can be trained as standards.


 Yesterday we were invited to a special celebration.  One of the oldest houses in the village had a birthday, it was 250 years old, built in 1761.  The occupants of the house held a party in its honour and a birthday cake had been made which exactly resembled it, even down to the red telephone box outside.  All the villagers got together for the celebration and it was a good opportunity for everyone to catch up on the gossip, eat lovely food and raise a glass.

Just to put 1761 into a historical context (thank you Wikipedia) I will just list a few events that took place in that year:-

George III married Charlotte of Mecklenburg and they were crowned King and Queen the same year.
Earthquakes occured in London.
The tune Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star was published in France.
The Faber-Castell company was founded in Nuremberg.
The slave trade to and within Portugal is forbidden.
The British capture Pondicherry, India, from the French.
Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder fails to garner…

A Bicycle Ride in the August Sunshine

It was one of those 'glad to be alive days'
The sun was shining the sky was blue so I decided to get on my trusty steed and head off into the sunshine turning left at the wonky post box past a poor squirrel at the side of the road under the shade of beech trees, their empty nut cases crackling under my wheels past inquisitive cows and into the woods, and the vine covered trees with the snaking roots back through a village with a Victorian post box and the pink house with an elder bush growing out of its chimney pot and the horses in the field, their  tails swishing in the wind nearing home now past a nosy ewe checking out a feed bucket back home now, up the garden path, the nasturtiums singing out in the sun time for a rest, with a good book and a nice cup of tea.

Friday Flowers

  This will probably be one of the last Friday Flower collections of the year, as there is not much left in flower in the garden.  Shame on me.  The autumn is a bit of a blackspot for me, I really must try and rectify it for next year.  Because of the mixed weather, plants haven't flowered for as long as they normally would have.  The garden has suffered because of it and is looking pretty sad right now.  But it does mean that I can get on with the autumn clear-up.  Cutting straggly plants back, adding mulches, weeding, pruning and planting bulbs.  There is still plenty going on in the garden, it just isn't as colourful.  But, I suppose, colour isn't everything.  Different shaped leaves and the contours of the shrubs, the trees colourful with fruit waiting to be harvested.  Perhaps it's not too bad after all.

Cut and Slash

  The time has come in the gardening year to get brutal.  To start cutting back, chopping out and raising to the ground.  Pruning, one of my favourite gardening rituals, is upon us.  Shrubs that have outgrown their space, got leggy or died back, all get the treatment.  The Kolwitzia pictured above is a prime example.  All the flowers were at the top of the plant, it stands about 10 feet tall and creates a lot of shade beneath.  So yesterday evening I began the mammoth task of getting it under control.  Unfortunately, it means that it won't flower next year but something has to be sacrificed  in the name of a bit of order.  I am half way through the job but will continue bit by bit until all the woody stems have been removed - it could take some time!

A Bit of a Ramble

  Yesterday therewere strong winds all day, making it almost impossible to be out in the garden, so I decided to take a canal walk.  Where I live we are surrounded  by the Grand Union Canal , five minutes drive in any direction and there is somewhere to walk by the water.
  There are lots of lovely old bridges that were, and possibley still are, for getting cattle across to the fields on the other side.
    Because the canals are enclosed the wind wasn't so strong down there and I enjoyed my peaceful walk, without seeing another human being. just a few Mallard and Coot to keep me company.