Garden blogging

Learning with Experts – Bulbs for Pots and Borders (1)

In 2015, when Learning with Experts was My Garden School I did a short on-line course about container planting with Harriet Rycroft as the tutor. I learned a lot on that course which I still put into practice. A couple of months ago I signed up for another course, this time it’s Bulbs for Pots and Borders with Andy McIndoe as my tutor. There is always something new to learn when it comes to gardening,

I don’t think Learning with Experts would appreciate me telling you what the lessons and assignments set are, but I’m going post my written assignments (as I did for the 2015 course). Whilst Andy McIndoe critiques by assignments with very useful advice, I’m always happy for any comments you’d like to make.

Assignment 1 – Introduction to Flower bulbs

Now is the exciting time of year when we are inundated with bulb catalogues. Sarah Raven’s catalogue is like entering a sweet shop with tantalising pictures of how beautiful your garden will look in the spring. J.Parker’s is more utilitarian with small photos crammed on to a page, not nearly as enticing. I have noticed bulbs appearing in garden centres and stores like Wilko and the Range. 

From past experience both personal and from friends, it is not always the prettiest pictures and most expensive bulbs that are the best. I have had great success with bulbs from Wilko when friends have had disappointing results from well known names. 

My most favourite tulip is the frilly edged gold and dark orange ‘Bastia’. I found it in my local garden centre in 2016 – it’s a marmite tulip, you love it or hate it. Last year I couldn’t locate it anywhere so was delighted to eventually find it in a garden centre when visiting family in Guernsey.

‘Angelique’ seems to be growing in popularity. It is a double flowering late peony style tulip, blousy and a ‘Hello I’m Here’ tulip. I grow it in pots with Spring Green or yellow ‘Sweetheart’ because I like the contrast. 

Tulip bulbs vary in price and in the numbers you can buy them, which can be deceptive. Sarah Raven offers Angelique in a pack of 15 for £8.50, (0.57p per bulb), you can buy a pack of 10 from J Parker’s at £5.99 (0.59p per bulb) whereas on the Crocus website you can find them at 10 for £4.99 – the cost of postage and packaging varies considerably. As I am only going to be planting in containers, I won’t be needing more than about 10-15 bulbs. 

With regard to narcissi, in my old garden along with Narcissi ‘Abba’ which looks remarkably like ‘Bride’,  ‘Rip van Winkle’ and ‘Winston Churchill’ I used to grow ‘Thalia Triandus’ a double headed flower with a fragrance to knock your socks off. Personally I prefer to go to a garden centre and choose my daffodil and narcissi bulbs from the pick and mix troughs to ensure they are a good size and not soft. However, it’s always like Christmas to receive a big box of bulbs ordered on line or through a catalogue.

This year in April I moved from a good sized garden to a flat with a patio so I will be concentrating on container planting only. I am going to plan my spring patio display to create ‘In Your Face, it’s Spring’ colour schemes for people to enjoy as they pass my flat, which faces the front of the building. My tulips will probably consist of Bastia, Angelique or La Belle Époque, Spring Green and striking standard tulips such as Menton, Ronaldo and Queen of the Night. My must have narcissi will be my old favourites, Thalia, Rip Van Winkle and Abba along with new ones I’ve not grown before.

Perfume and colour will be the order of the day.

Garden blogging

Plant Identifier App, Dahlias and West Dean Gardens.

Yesterday (Sunday) was one of those glorious early autumn days, warm in the sun and chilly in the shade. I met up with an old friend who I haven’t seen for several months and we had a wonderful walk and talk afternoon at West Dean Gardens near Chichester.

My friend, a professional gardener, and old time cynic, scoffed at my PlantSnap app and was determined to test it and prove it was rubbish! I was determined to prove it worked, at least the 92% of the time which it claims to be right.

We headed towards the glasshouses (as we always do first) and entered the walled garden. I loved purple and yellow colour schemes and these borders didn’t fail to impress. Here we put the app through its paces.

Gardener friend (GF) identified these as Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’, Saying with glee, “This will test its metal!”. Whilst the app didn’t name it as ‘Little Carlow’ it correctly recognised it as Symphyotrichum, naming it as a Rice Button Aster. A lot of the accuracy is down to taking a clear photo, also there are so many similar asters it would be a big ask to expect it to name it correctly.

The above was recognised as Helianthus Verticillatus common name Whorled Sunflower. At the time of writing I can’t remember what GF called it but he was slowly beginning to be a bit of a convert, begrudgingly admitting it was quite good but not excellent – he is a purist!

It did, however, correctly name the Salvia ‘Amistad’. GF finally got tired of the Gardener’s Knowledge v PlantSnap app game.

We moved on to the cutting garden, where a kaleidoscope of colour met us. The dahlias were magnificent.

There were so many beautiful blooms and West Dean can always be relied on for their labelling. There is nothing so infuriating to see a plant you like and not know what it is – call in PlantSnap!

Apps and labels don’t always help. When I got home I Googled ‘Merrow Clement Andres’ dahlia and nothing came up, so I’m puzzled at this dahlia’s name. Anyone recognise it?The app just identified it as a Dahlia. There were so many I wants to make a note of for next year but the two I particularly liked were easier to find out more info on.

With frost lingering, sadly one morning in the not to distant future the dahlias will be finished. We were lucky to catch them in their last throws of blooming.

Just to clarify, I have not been paid or approached to review PlantSnap, it is just a personal view of the app I downloaded recently and thought it fun to share with you in case you, like me, often wander around a garden looking for a non existent label on an admired plant.

Garden blogging

Six on Saturday – Waiting For Frost (6/10/18)

I was surprised to watch the opening minutes of Gardeners World this week and see an autumnal steam of breath coming from Monty Don telling us he has had the first frost at Long Meadow. I’ve got to the stage in my daughter’s garden that I am tired of summer plants and want to move on now and have a good tidy up, dig up the dahlia tubers, cut down perennials and clear the beds to make room for all those enticing daffodil, tulip and allium bulbs sitting in the shed waiting to be planted.

The garden has different ideas, and stuff is still flowering! Here are my Six on Saturday hosted by The Propagator. Please pay a visit, after reading mine of course, to his blog and take a look at all the other great blog contributions.

One:

The dahlias in the garden have suffered dreadfully from mildew, a problem I never had in my old garden, but then this summer has been unusual. I’m not sure if it is the right thing to do, but those that have finished flowering I have cut down, leaving the tubers in the ground for the next few weeks. After looking and pondering for a long time, the Cafe au Lait dahlia has had a stay of execution because the flowers outweighed the mildew on the leaves. I am by no means an expert on dahlias so any advice would be welcome please.

TWO

Although they are supposed to flower spring and summer, this Primula Vialii has decided to carry on flowering, yet the leaves are beginning to look ragged and dying down. I saw that if they are happy where plants, they will spread their seed and more plants will appear next year, I do hope so.

THREE

Another plant which has decided to flower again, despite it being October, is the Callistemon or Bottlebrush Plant to you and me. It has certainly settled well into its home at the end of the hot flower bed.

FOUR

I can’t see this magnificent perennial Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’ ever wanting to stop flowering. Maybe it’s about time I stopped deadheading it! It does, however, produce wonderful colour into the border.

FIVE

Talking about colour, my Son in Law bought this fabulous Canna in the summer and it lives in a large pot on the patio. Can anyone tell me please how to look after it during the winter months? Do I just place the pot, complete with canna, into the shed?

SIX

My final six is a just small section of the end of the garden which is strewn with windfalls from an enormous apple tree. If you are not ducking to avoid being hit on the head as they fall, you are in danger of twisting your ankle by stepping on them. Far too many apples to be collected and made into pies, chutneys, juice and the myriad of other things you can do with apples. I am well aware that a lot of you may throw your hands up in horror at the waste of apples, sorry about that. However, I am hoping they will fertilise the soil well.