Garden blogging

Adding colour to beds and borders by planting flowerbulbs

This is another assignment I completed online recently through Learning With Experts. My course tutor is the horticulturalist Andy McIndoe and after submitting each assignment he gives his experienced critique of my ideas and useful advice and suggestions.

This assignment consists of three parts, which really stretched the mind and made research interesting. I could have written lots but have tried to keep it concise.

PART 1 – I am lucky to have a good choice of situations so have chosen my patio (container), my allotment (space plus lots of light) and daughter and SiL’s garden variety of flower beds, where I am their unpaid gardener!

(A) Patio container: I am aware Lesson 3 is Beds and Borders but as my personal gardening space is a patio, I am including this. On looking through catalogues and websites I found a beautiful early flowering Tulip called ‘Slawa’. It has intense purple petals, which are also variously described by producers as deep crimson or deep maroon. It has a copper-orange edge to the petals which fade to a pinkish orange as it matures. I have chosen the deep plum coloured Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’ which will flower first from March to April. It grows to a height of 25cms and the Slawa should appear in April. I hope they will both be in flower at the same time for a short while before the hyacinth dies down.

(B) Allotment: After caretaking an overgrown and neglected plot since April, I am really excited to have my very own well loved plot in December. The present owner has kindly agreed I can start to plant spring bulbs. As an announcement of “I’m here!” I intend to plant lots of bright yellow traditional daffodils called ‘Dutch Master’ which will start to flower in March. The follow on will be an assortment of Alliums, ‘Purple Sensation’, ‘Gladiator’, and personally I don’t think you can have Alliums without ‘Christophii’. These will flower from May to June, again as with (A) I hope the alliums will start to flower before the daffodils die down. I think the combination of yellow and purple will look wonderful.

(C) Daughter’s Garden: This is quite a large garden with a variety of beds facing different directions, sunny/partial shade/shade. In one way this is great but in another it can be restricting. I have chosen to plant English Bluebells in the bottom corner, which is shady. They will flower in April, if the squirrels haven’t dug them up, I had better buy some more chilli flakes! I know that lesson 4 is about naturalisation so I will learn more when I read it. My second bulb I fell in love with a few years ago after seeing them grow in the meadow at Parham, West Sussex, is Camassia. I have chosen ‘Quamash’ a vivid blue and will plant them in the partially shaded part of the border just before the shady corner with the bluebells.

For my spring flowering shrub I would plant a Hamamellis. I particularly like ‘intermedia Diane’. Whilst it is quite expensive, I love the unusual bright red/orange flowers, which appear in February, I think for impact it’s well worth the money. To make a striking combination, I would add two Tulip varieties. ‘Request’ and ‘Arjuna’. I found these in the Sarah Raven catalogue called the Blood Orange Collection. The bronze/orange petals should look great against the red Hamamellis.

PART 3 – I’m back to patio planting with this and have chosen a small evergreen Photinia shrub called ‘Little Red Robin’ which is ideal for a container, growing to a height of 90cms. After choosing this shrub I then hit a problem knowing what to plant with it and even resorted to a colour wheel. The combination of the green leaves and new growth in spring of red leaves, meant I struggled with a complimentary colour so have gone for white. I’m not a great fan of Muscari, not sure why, probably because it gets messy, but I will make an exception and chose a white Muscari ‘Album’ followed by a pure white double flowered Daffodil ‘Obdam’ from J Parker. My only concern is that if it’s a new shrub the Photinia may be small and swamped by the 40cms daffodils.

I have not been asked to promote Learning with Experts, but have independently decided to post my assignment for my followers to read. Andy McIndoe suggested a number of other interesting varieties which I have made a note of. His final comment was: “Some great ideas and hope you’ve enjoyed researching this one. Best wishes Andy “

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

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.

Garden blogging, Six on Saturday

Six on Saturday – 14 July 2018

I will subtitle this post “The Good, the Sad and the Ugly.

In reverse order (this may make your skin go funny) …

1. The Ugly – Social Pear SawflyThere is (was) a small hawthorn shrub on my allotment. A couple of days ago I discovered it absolutely covered in what looked liked cobwebs full of black eggs and orange caterpillars. I looked up ‘orange caterpillars’ and found they were Social Pear Sawfly and like to feed off hawthorn and cotoneaster, as well as pear and cherry trees. Once they have completed their feeding they go down into the soil where they pupate and emerge as adults in the following spring. The best way to eradicate them is to prune out the branches. As this was covered and the hawthorn in an odd place anyway, I carefully cut all the branches, bagged and binned them.

2. The Sad – Sweet Pea Bud DropI know I’m not alone this year with sweet pea problems, although I have never had much success with growing them in pots. They have always been prolific in the flowerbeds in my last garden and I grew them successfully for years. I started my sweet peas late this year, but they were doing ok, a little slow and short but ok. Then all of a sudden almost overnight all the buds turned brown and the bottom leaves died and it is called bud drop. There a numerous reasons for this apparently, (i) overwatering (ii) the wrong fertiliser, I used ordinary liquid fertiliser instead of a tomato feed, (iii) too hot, would you believe and (iv) watering with too cold water. I was tempted to pull them up but then read that they can recover if I cut them down to the base and don’t feed them, they might recover – we shall see!

Now for the good –

3. The allotment – Bee on Flower Just occasionally I manage to capture what I consider is a good ‘bee on flower’ photo. This little bee was totally oblivious of me as he clambered all over the pumpkin flowers.

4. Morning Glory ‘Grandpa Otts’I just love this plant, and there is no colour touching up on this photo. Morning Glory Ipomoea purpurea, usually an annual, is a close relation to Convolulous (bindweed) which is a perennial weed. My allotment is burgeoning with bindweed with its white flowers, so it seems strange to grow Grandpa Otts from seed yet spend most of my days pulling up the white stuff.

5. Ipomoea x sloteri ‘Cardinal Climber’This is another member of the Morning Glory family that I am growing on the allotment. It is looking good in contrast to Grandpa Otts growing next to it. It has totally different leaves to the usual Morning Glory, the bright green leaves are triangular, with deep, narrow lobes that give them a lacy appearance.

6. Roselily ‘corolla’I am hoping that I am going to get lots of photo miles from this flower. Until I was given 2 Roselily bulbs earlier this year, I had never heard of roselilies. They are in a pot on my patio and been in tight bud for weeks on end. I was almost beginning to despair and seriously thought of cutting them to place indoors in a vase. So pleased I didn’t, because this morning I could see they are about to burst. They are doubled flowered lilies with a light perfume and I am really looking forward to seeing them in full bloom, which I will share with you. That’s my Six for this week, don’t forget to pop over to The Propagator Blog for other Six on Saturdays.

Garden blogging

In a Vase on Monday – Perfect Peonies

Ok, I’m going to be very honest these are Waitrose bought peonies. They are so beautiful I couldn’t resist. Although peonies in a vase may not last long it is wonderful to be able to have a week or two enjoying them.

I found a vase I don’t often use because of the narrow neck and wide top – not all flowers lend themselves to this design because they need more support or maybe it’s my poor floral design technique! However the peonies seem to suit this shape.

What I found of interest was that although all the buds were the same size at point of sale, they have all developed at different times. This was of benefit which has been great for this short post because I managed to take a number of photos of peonies at various stages of development.

Please pay a visit to Rambling in the Garden where you will see some inspirational posts for In a Vase on Monday.

EOMV, Garden blogging

End of Month View – May 2018

They say better late than never! No longer the owner of a garden I was feeling a little melancholy, to say the least, when reading the links to the various blog posts for the End of Month View. Whilst looking at the photos of other gardeners flowers and plants I realised there is no reason why I can’t still join in even though I no longer have a garden.

I left my lovely garden in Worthing at the end of April, moved to Emsworth and now only have a patio, however I do have an overgrown bindweed choked allotment that I offered to look after whilst waiting for my own to come up.

It is only half a plot, owned by an elderly lady who is loathe to relinquish it (naughty!) and advertised for someone to look after it. Whilst not ideal, it is something to do until either I am offered another plot or I can persuade the lady to pass it on to me, which can be done apparently if we send joint letters to the council. It is so overgrown, but has lots of wonderful fruit bushes. I am making myself work on one area at a time and not spend any money!

The other gardening project I am involved with, (again not mine!) is helping my daughter and son in law renovate their large overgrown garden. I have written several blog posts on our progress titled Restoring a Hampshire Garden. They are both still learning and I have given them an idea of what to plant and in what positions. Also I brought a lot of plants from my old garden for transplanting into theirs. There were a number of precious plants with memories that I was not going to leave behind. Last week we planted the grasses, including a rather beautiful Pennisetum ‘Karley rose’, Penstemon ‘Husker Red’, Dahlia ‘Preference’ and a bright pink echinacea.

As for my own personal gardening, I am getting into container gardening in a big way! A couple of years ago I completed an online course for container gardening with Learning With Experts, and my tutor was the inspirational Harriet Rycroft. With extra words of advice from Harriet plus the likes via Instagram I have been busy planting my own container garden just outside my patio doors.

The patio faces south, and is bathed in sunshine from early morning to late afternoon. There are a lot of trees around and I have had an issue with squirrels digging up the pots. One morning I came out to find all my freesia bulbs missing. Magpies and pigeons are also a nuisance.

Turning to good old Google, I read that chilli flakes and especially Birds Eye chillies were an excellent deterrent. I added gravel around the base of all plants and gave them a liberal sprinkling of chillies and so far, fingers crossed, the squirrels have kept a wide birth.

Talking about trees, there is a fabulous Monterey Cyprus opposite the entrance drive which has a tree preservation order. It does block out the sun for a couple of hours mid day, but that’s no great loss, a little shade can be a good thing.

There you go, that is my End of Month View, and although I no longer have my own garden I am keeping very busy. It is very hot working on the allotment during the day so I am trying to go early evening and soon hope to be able to post some photos of it’s progress, but it’s a bit daunting and sometimes soul destroying. The bind weed grows overnight, apart from pulling it up daily I can’t really do anything constructive until the autumn and the slugs have eaten all my sunflowers – but that’s gardening for you!