A Soft Shuffle into Spring

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Forsythia flowers, brightly coloured against the sky.

This years spring weather has been rather nice in Edinburgh and everything’s coming out a little ahead instead of five weeks behind like last year.  With coursework piling up I’ve been finding it hard to keep on top of anything that isn’t really essential but I was determined to get my garden started and, since we get an Easter break, I’ve actually had a chance to.

The image at the top of the page is the ‘twig’ of a plant I was wondering about in the last post.   Of all of the random shrubs for it to be, Forsythia is one I don’t mind too much.  It doesn’t seem to be doing spectacularly well where it is, however, so I may have to move it from where it is or give it some decent formative pruning.  Luckily, it’s still young enough that either shouldn’t be a huge problem.

 newgarden_5 Raised beds with various support / covering structures.

Since my last post I have decided to be brave and cut down my elder tree (Sambucus nigra).  I was going to wait until it had flowered, but then I’d have had to wait another year to cut it back and it was more than a little nuisance where it is – over a pathway, close to the front of the building and growing into the hedge.  One other reason I wasn’t too sad to see it go was that there’s new growth coming from the base.  At some point I believe it was probably being kept as a shrub as it has quite a massive stool from which I can hope I’ll get a more shrubby-growing Sambucus.

Into the raised beds have gone: lettuce, spinach, and pak choi (under the fleece) and sweetpeas (under the ungainly green structure).

I’m going to add more beds to the garden but I need to figure out the logistics as there is (I found out, whilst installing the raised beds) that there is a pipe running about a half-spades depth diagonally across the garden – hence the oddly shaped raised bed at the end.  I want most of my garden to be growing space, but I’m not sure of the logistics of getting it all done over the holidays!

Further to that, I really want to get my pond in the ground somewhere.  Due to the early spring, the little Aponogeton is already flowering – it didn’t do so until July last year!  It’s a great little plant, has been very reliable for me even in Scotland and doesn’t take over my tiny pond.  Unlike the blanketweed…

Aponogeton

The lawn is a little mossy and weedy, something I hope to fix once I’ve decided how little of the grass is going to be allowed to remain! However, some weeds I could definitely put up with:

Speedwell

 

In With The New

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New garden - showing grassy area and current beds.

When we moved in I had only a few days before my course started up again.  We barely had time to throw the garden supplies in the cupboards before things got busy and it wasn’t until nearly Christmas that I finally got out to look at the garden.

I got my kit together for getting to grips with the new garden – pH kit, measuring tapes, notebook, and, of course, camera.

A kit of my things for 'measuring' the garden - including pH kit, measuring tools, camera and notepad.

PH kit results.

The pH kit results were no real shock – soil a bit on the acidic side and mostly clay-ey so fairly bog standard Scottish soil.  I’m going to be adding some raised beds for veg, but everything else I get is going to have to cope with this soil with some organic matter thrown in / on.

The most noticeable thing plant-wise in the garden is the elderberry tree – Sambucus nigra.  It doesn’t have very nice berries, nor is its shape particularly good.  Unfortunately I only took a picture of it after I’d dealt with it.  Originally it had a large branch heading towards the house and was accompanied by a sneaky bit of privet, masquerading as another elder branch.  I took both off to reduce the amount covering the path and reduce the risk of branches hitting the front of the building.

Even ‘cleaned up’, though, it’s still a bit of a straggly thing.  I’m guessing its never really been pruned and instead of a nice, short shrub we now have a bit of a monster.  Once I’ve had flowers from it next year I’m hoping to take it down and replace it with some Sambucus bushes that I’m growing from seed.  They’re Sambucus cerulea or Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea depending on who you ask – a version which has fruits which look sort-of like small blueberries and which are supposed to be very sweet.

Common elderberry growing as a small tree with multiple trunks.

Other, more sneaky, plants include a couple of Cotoneasters and, I think, a bit of yew hiding in the hedge.  I’ll probably take these out as I intend to reduce the hedge a bit as its very wide.  Also… I  hate rather dislike Cotoneasters.

A Cotoneaster growing in the hedge. A different? Cotoneaster growing in the hedge. A yew? (Taxus) growing in the hedge,

Other things already hingin’ aboot the garden include a wee Pieris japonica, a twiggy fancy Fuchsia, a stick which might be an Acer, and some  Antirrhinum (snapdragons), which are still flowering even now.

Pink wallflower close up.

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Full Circle

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In a few weeks time we’re going to be moving house and so I will be leaving the first garden which has been ‘mine’.  I’ve ‘packed up’ the garden, returning it back to a more ‘low maintenance’ space and digging up a few of the plants I can’t bear to part with – my ‘rescued’ 50p bronze grass which has become two beautiful specimens a couple of feet across, some cuttings of my grown-from-seed buddleja, my hostas and some herb cuttings.

Some pictures charting my few years growing here: Continue reading →

It’s All Gone To P(l)ot

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pots

It’s been a shamefully long time since I last blogged but here I am again, having been re-enthused by the vagaries of life, much as I’d been drawn away from blogging by same.

I’m now studying Horticulture with Plantsmanship at RBGE and SRUC – a course which combines practical, hands on gardening and how-it-all-works theory.  It’s been a bit of a mad few months getting back into the rhythm of studying – evening time isn’t really your own – there’s essays or projects or idents to be taken care of and just keeping the normal things in life going seems hard enough without adding more writing on top even in the enjoyable form of blogging.  However, now that the first semester is past and Christmas / New Year is fading in the face of slowly increasing daylight, I seem to have begun to get used to everything and can contemplate activities other than eat, sleep, coursework, take care of cat, repeat ad nauseum.

Given both myself and the other half are now in Edinburgh we’re contemplating moving closer to town – travel costs are ridiculous (getting worse every year) and travelling for 2 1/2 hours a day is really eating any spare time we do have.  This means, however, that I’m not likely to have a garden this year – there’s not much point in building up all of the usual annual plants and veg when I might not be here in the summer and, if we move out, we’ll be restoring the garden to its former paved and gravelled ‘glory’ before we go.

On the upside, I do have a plot this year for my course, so I can throw my energies into it without worrying too much about my own garden being left bare.  I’ve started a blog for it over here to chronicle how that goes.

Double digging

However, not having a garden won’t mean nothing green at home and nothing for me to have here – my woes with bugs on my indoor plants have subsided (for now, at least) and I finally have flowers on my plants again.  I have broadened my collection, this time around, and now have a few other gesneriads alongside my violets – Sinningia, Streptocarpus, Columnea, Aeschynanthus and Petrocosmea. I’ve also been growing some  carnivorous plants – Drosera spathulata.  It’s apparently one of the easiest to grow from seed and I’ve been quite tickled to sit and feed them bits of crushed up mealworms to help them grow faster!

Sonata-kolchuga african violet

Also, it’s been a while, so obviously it’s time for a silly-cat-picture.   Come hell or high water, Sam must sit on my lap…

samfail

 

Marion King liked this post

Water Feature

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Water plants in bags, ready to 'plant'.

Last week was fairly exciting for me garden-wise – for the first time ever I have a pond in my garden!  Well, pond might be a stretch, but it’s a fair-sized container which is now sited in a slightly shaded spot in the garden.

Pond filled with plants. Water hyacinth. Air bladder on water plant.

Water snail getting used to its new home.

The collection, which I bought from Paul Bromfield Aquatics for a very reasonable price of £15.10 contained an Aponogeton, Nymphoides peltata, Einchornia crassipes, Lagarosiphon major, & Hydrocharis morsus ranae as well as 6 Black Ramshorn snails.  They all seem to be settling in well, which I’m rather glad for as I’ve no idea what I’m doing with aquatic plants, to be honest.  I try to spot the snails each morning and can usually see one or two of them kicking around on either the gravel or the side of the container.

'Celebration' bean flower. 'Scarlet Emperor' bean flower. 'Mrs. Fortune's Climbing Bean' bean flower.

Beans growing along twine.

The beans seem to be coming into their own – this is a first for me as I’ve just never quite managed to grow beans before.  These were on my ‘try harder’ list for this year and something seems to have just clicked.  The three different flowered varieties above are ‘Celebration’, ‘Scarlet Emperor’ and ‘Mrs. Fortune’s Climbing Bean’, the last being one kindly sent to me over a year ago by Matron.  Hopefully I can manage to get a through of these through to producing actual pods!

As you can see from the last photo I ran out of ‘up’ on my beanpoles and so tied some twine for them to climb across to the pea wigwams since the peas aren’t likely to grow that tall.  Hopefully growing across won’t give them any problems and, if it works, should certainly be a useful way to grow them in the future without having to buy much taller poles (which won’t fit for storage in the shed).

Coriander in flower. Reine des Glaces lettuce. Variegated thyme in flower.

Coriander, Reine des Glaces lettuce and citrus thyme.  I got a new type of coriander this year – one meant for leaf rather than seed production and was very pleased with the results.  Until these every one I’d planted had run straight to seed – I hadn’t known there were different types and cultivars which were better for one over the other (it seems obvious now).  The lettuce, ‘Reine des Glaces’ has grown well for me too, outperforming the old favourite ‘Webb’s Wonderful’ in my garden as a crisphead lettuce.  ‘Really Red Deer’s Tongue’ and  Forellenschloss, the two distinctive looking lettuces I first grew last year, have performed well again this year as has ‘Little Gem’.  I had no germination from my Red Iceberg seeds, though – which is odd given that I’ve never had germination problems with seed from the company I got them from – I can only imagine the dull summer weather has affected them or that they are very, very slow germinators!  It’s a shame as I’d really like to have tried them.  I will, soon, be planting some lettuces for winter – I love my salads from the garden and would like to stretch the season a bit longer.

Pea flower with odd pattern. Onions.

This beautiful pea flower is from ‘Golden Sweet’ – not all of the plants have this pattern so I’m not sure if it’s a ‘problem’ or just variation.  It does look rather pretty, though.  Onions are actually something I had on my  ‘don’t bother’ list this year but ended up trying due to cheap sets of ‘Yellow Sturon’.  I am pleased with the results – I don’t really have the space to grow the onions from seed as I have so many other things I want more which need that early windowsill space.  I think I’d try growing onions again, given this results with sets given the low prices.

Daddy long legs mating.

 

Persistent Miserable Weather

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It’s been miserable.  No… i has been bloody miserable! This summer really never kicked off – a few warm weeks in the spring and then nothing but cool, damp ick.  My strawberries have been hit by fungus, my squash are sitting there looking miserable and most of my annuals are sitting in miserable little lumps refusing to spread out.

Then there’s the slugs… Oh the slugs. Big ones, wee ones, brown ones, spotty ones and all of them munching away happily on my veg, my flowers: anything they can get their greedy wee mouths near.

I’ve made some beer traps, using the method at the bottom of this page, and seem to be having more success than the usual pit-fall style ones.  I’ve also made a start on installing a pond – hopefully, to encourage the kind of beasties into the garden who will munch on the slugs.  At least, for now, they’ve stopped munching on my lettuces! I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve surrounded them with some strong smelling marigolds (tagetes) or simply because the strawberries are currently more tempting but, either way, I’m finally getting my first proper salads from the garden.  In July.  Sigh.

The one upside, I suppose, is that there are a few plants which have been growing a little bigger than usual…

I’m standing level with the base of the foxglove there – I’m 5′ 8″ and even with a huge bend in it, it was still much taller than me!  Last year they were big, too, but nothing exceeding 5ft.   I guess, being fairly shade-loving plants, they don’t mind the dull weather and are lapping up all the water greedily.

Also in the fairly sizeable category:

I’m very impressed by the pea variety – Champion of England.  It’s vigorous, grows large and tastes good with very little care.  It’s probably been another beneficiary of the rain, in terms of lovely plump peas but I feel in a warmer summer it’d probably be a bit of a monster and I’d have seen more pods.

This is the first year I’ve gotten a crop of broad beans -in the last two years I’ve grown them but never actually gotten to eat any – either they were killed off by a long winter, were eaten by slugs or just didn’t grow well.  I’m happy that I’ve finally gotten a bit better at them.  They are suffering a bit from the rain, though – some fungal problems which likely would be a non-issue in a warmer year.

 

 

African Violet Updates

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Unfortunately, since my last african violet blog post I’ve had a mini-disaster – one of the reasons I’ve not much felt like posting recently.  At some point I got a plant in my collection which had mites and mites, for those who don’t know, are fairly devastating to AVs.  They stunt the grown of the crown and cause horrible leaf deformation, a huge slowing of growth and twisted flowers if they manage to bloom in the first place.  Unfortunately, the treatment for mites is almost as problematic (for me) as the mites themselves and between the stress of the mites and treatment, I ended up losing, probably, ~80-90% of my violets.

Luckily, having had so many of my little seedling hybrids to start with, I still have some of them!  I lost a growing seed pod, but it doesn’t feel quite so bad to lose ‘possible’ future plants as it would to lose those young ones which are getting close to maturity – or at least flowering size.  From around 140, I now have 30-odd plants.  Not all of them died to the problems – once I’d lost a few I found it was a little more inured to whittling them down.  Before this, I had no idea how I’d be able to even cull a single one, despite the fact I knew I just didn’t have the space for 140 violets!

So far, only one is starting to flower – many of them are showing at least some trailing habit which means they’re concentrating on producing more crowns before they’ll put up flowers.  I’m happy to wait this out as I’d rather have a better idea of how they grow than remove all of the suckers and see the flowers earlier.  It’s decent trailing plants which I want – good form and shape, before trying to get pretty colours.  This means, of course, that the only one which is flowering is one of the very few non-trailer type plants.

Even it’s being especially slow – teasing me with a slow, daily, petal-by-petal form of opening.  The first bud is a lot paler than the rest, so even when it does get a move on it’s not likely going to be a good representation of the plant – I’m going to have to wait for the second one to slowly tease its way open over the next few days!

I can’t believe I have my first flowering hybrid, though – I didn’t really imagine I’d get this far when I first pollinated the parent plant nearly a whole year ago.  The fact that they’re this far along, flowering after 6-7 months, feels amazing given that they had such a rough start.

 Species & Restocking

Since the mitepocalypse, as I’ve come to refer to it, I’ve restocked a bit.  Wonderfully kind Angelika Dibley sent me some plants when I was probably at my lowest regarding my violets – I wasn’t sure if I could summon the energy to continue with them.  Her kindness cheered me up enough to give me the kick in the bum I needed to get cracking and, as well as restocking my plants, I’ve gained some new shelves for them to live on!

To restock, I also grabbed some plants at Gardening Scotland from Dibleys stall – some I’d had before and lost, others which were new.  They’ve always gone out of their way to be helpful and this show I walked away with some lovely fully grown AVs alongside some other gesneriad plugs.

I also grabbed some leaves from Galina Domnina.   Although the site, at first glance, looks only to be in German and Russian, there’s also English in there too.  The shopping cart won’t work if you use google translate, so if you’re curious to read all of the russian etc. then make sure you cancel it before buying.  The leaves I bought from her were top quality and I’m looking forward to them eventually spawning young-uns.

Additionally, I was given a species plant from a member of the AVSE  (African Violet Society of Europe), Gabi.  We’re keen on keeping the species going in collections all over the AV world  and so she kindly sent me a plant of S. ionantha ssp. grotei (formerly S. difficilis).

One downside to the mitepocalypse and subsequent restocking, though, is that all new material is being strictly quarantined.  Once was enough!  This means that most of my violets are under plastic – not the prettiest look.  However, eventually they’ll all be back in action and I’m looking forward to having shelves full of bloom again.

It also hasn’t stopped me starting on the next generation (albeit self-pollinated).

Quick Garden Recap

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The last few months have really been hefty on new things to do and, whilst I’ve had time to work in the garden, I’ve not had time to post about it here!  I feel bad about that as writing in my blog is something I’ve always enjoyed doing.




One of the biggest changes this year has been the addition of many more ornamentals into the garden.  Edibles of many sorts still take up most of the back garden space but, if the ‘shady side garden’ and the newly dug ‘way back there’ garden are taken together, I think I’m suddenly now at half ornamental, half produce!  In saying that, the ‘WBT’ garden is still a little sparse, so it’s got a little way to go before it catches up with the others.

I managed to get along to Gardening Scotland again this year and picked up a few plants to combat the sparseness – some hostas for the shade and a beautiful, orange flowered and leaved deciduous rhodedendron which apparently grows more up than out – perfect for my thin beds.

On the veg side, I’ve actually got broad bean pods this year! Two, so far, from the one plant which survived the non-winter we had (the rest were slug-munched, due to the severe lack of cold) but the spring planted ones are catching up fast.  I’m trying another variety, ‘Listra’, which I received in a swap, alongside Aquadulce Longpod.  It’s supposed to be an early podding variety which can be sown fairly late – at the moment both it and the Aquadulce which were sown at the same time are flowering so we’ll see how the pods develop.

The non-winter we had this year seems to have been followed by a non-summer except for the two weeks of sunshine about a month ago.  The plants don’t seem to mind it too much – anything which wants a lot of water is doing well – such as the peas and beans, lettuce, chard, berry bushes and potatoes – but I’m hoping there’s going to be enough warm weather for them to actually crop well.  Last year was a bit of a dud, and I was hoping to do better.

 

Marching On

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Forget-me-nots are a favourite of mine – I’m not sure exactly why.  Perhaps just because they’re delicate looking yet hardy little things which bloom for a surprisingly long season.

March was a busy month, and I’d been enjoying the garden a lot, what with the heatwave.  Now that we’re back to the usual drizzly weather I thought I’d best actually note down some of what’s went on last month.

The above pictures show the ‘new bed’ for this year – really an extension of the main bed which I’ve been meaning to do for a while.   Once I knew for sure we weren’t going to move I went at it with a vengeance.  The walkway at the back is for easier access – there was no point in making it thinner or omitting it as the sun never reaches that part of the garden due to the fence.  As it is, I now have easy access and a spot for dry-shade plants if I want to try some (on the gravel edge).

This new section has almost doubled my growing area for veggies on this side of the garden.   I’ve already put in my pea teepees (the ugly white fabric was protecting the pea seeds from being eaten) and installed a ‘cold frame’ – one of the flyaway greenhouses on its side with the top removed so that I could slide the plastic cover down over the bottom.  You can see the top stuck into the ground next to it – I’ll be using it as a frame for covering various things later in the season.  I’ve also got plans for the old internal shelves – cages for possibly growing vines in/on.  Because of the changes I made to the patio I wouldn’t have had space for it upright, anyway, and now  I’ve gained a much more useful, slightly shaded coldframe.  The other greenhouse is up now, too, and firmly secured to the fence.  It’s going to be used for warmer crops as it sits in the sun all day.  I’m hoping to try some aubergines this year!

The spring bulbs have been out in force, urged on by the sunny weather.

Fritillaria meleagris

Daffodil (Pink Blend Mix) Tulip (Sherbet blend mix)
Daffodil unknown miniatureYellow hyacinth
Tulip Fosteriana Orange Emperor

I’ve sown what feels like hundreds of seeds last month.  This month is a little calmer but I’ll also be starting to sow things successionally so that I can eat my salads out of the garden all summer.  I haven’t included my lettuces, spinach, rocket or pak choi in my seed sowing lists as I tend to sow them ‘on the fly’ or as a catch crop if and when I think I have space.

March Seed Bonanza

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This year I decided to put my seeds into monthly bags to make it easier to see what I had to sow each month.  This means that every time I open the bag I know I can pick up the seeds I need and I won’t ‘miss’ any due to forgetting that I put them off for a week.  There were a couple of things, last year, which went in too late because, despite having a list, I either couldn’t find the seed packet at the right time or I was distracted by something, forgot them, and scored them off of my list.

Within each bag, the packets are sorted by week:

The unbound packets are week 1, the others are held together until I’m done with the packets and then left loose too.  Anything which might need resown is rubber banded for ease of grabbing.  It’s still not a great system but the bags are easier to store than a solid seedbox.

As you can see in the first picture March is by far my busiest month.  A lot of hardy annuals start to be able to be sown outside this month and many others indoor for planting out in a month or two.

My March planting list is here.  It tends to be a little fluid – I had my amaranthus in week one, but had to move it as I was ill at the tail end of last week and never got them in.  The aim is to give myself a guide  to what needs done vaguely in which week and to give myself a record of what was sown when so I can look back next year and decide whether that was a good time to sow or not.

Things which are resown throughout the year, such as lettuces, mustard greens etc. are in a bag of their own as moving them from pack to pack every time would have been annoying and would have meant stuffing the bags overfull – I have a lot of lettuce seeds this year due to some swaps I made during winter!

Daffodil in front of a tree stumpThe first daffodil of the year for my garden has finally poked its head up – I’m glad it’s managed to make it as both my hyacinths and eranthis (winter aconites) have been horribly munched by something – no idea what.  The aconites have had all of their petals ripped off, the hyacinths have huge holes in their buds – any ideas?