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

Six on Saturday – 10/11/2018

Thank goodness for memes, especially The Propagator’s Blog and his Six on Saturday. At the moment as I’m between allotments (take over new one end of December) I’m struggling to find much to blog about. With a box full of spring bulbs waiting the wings I am desperate to plant, my patio pots are loathe to throw in the towel and admit they’ve had enough. To be fair, the weather here has still been fairly warm for this time of the year, although we are experiencing heavy showers mixed with sunshine and strong winds at the moment.

I have planted up a coupled my patio posts and covered them with netting to prevent the squirrels from digging around. I do, however, still have a large number of tulip bags to put in but I know I have until December so all is not lost yet.

This morning I did my ‘gardener duties’ in daughter and SiL’s garden. Again there are still plants flowering happily. The Gerbera is flowering as are the Osteospermum. Although mildewy and flopping badly, the Cafe au Lait Dahlia is still going strong. I am wondering if I can leave it in situ as long as I mulch the top to protect from frost. Also I’ll have to watch it carefully in the spring to make sure slugs and snails don’t chop off fresh shoots at the pass. Usually I start tubers off in pots each year and only plant out when it is looking well established.

The Agapanthus is also still flowering! You might notice that some of the surrounding plants have died already. I am hoping they have died down, and will appear next year and they are not just dead. Whoops, I’ve just noticed some weeds in this photo 🤦‍♀️.

I love wallflowers, especially the bare rooted bunches which I think are a bargain. In mid-October I bought 3 bunches and find that although sold as 10 plants per bunch, you generally get more than that. Of course, there are always a few that don’t make it, generally the tiny ones. I planted a whole bed of wallflowers – Sunset Apricot, Sunset Bronze and Sunset Purple interspersed with a large variety of daffodil bulbs. It was a bit of a back breaking job, but will look a fabulous display next spring. I was pleased today to see that only 2 plants look as though they are struggling, but you never know they might just survive the winter.

There is a very large terracotta pot at the end of the garden, which I was asked if I would plant up for a good spring show. Buried deep in the pot, I planted 35 bulbs which are variety of red and white from the local garden centre called The Armistice Collection – A donation from the sale of each Armistice collection bulb pack will be paid to The Royal British Legion. I couldn’t resist buying them. Because it is such a big pot, it needed some height and I found a Photinia ‘Little Red Robin’ and filled in the surround with primulas and red cyclamen.

My sixth is of the gladioli I retrieved from the allotment to dry off. After taking this photo, I cleaned them off, removed the dried leaves and they are now stored in a box in the shed. They were really good this year and fingers crossed they are successful in 2019 on the new allotment.

That’s my 6 for this week. Please peer over the garden fence at other gardens you will find on Six on Saturday.

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, Personal blogging

Spring in the Garden and a Move on the Horizon

At last after far too many soggy days we have sunshine! This time of the year often means clear skies equal frosty nights but hey, it’s infinitely better than constant rain. I even have some daffodils appearing, which I always find exciting.

I’m going through cupboards and drawers discarding 17 years of clutter. For some extraordinary reason, whilst I was whipped into a throwing away frenzy, I binned all the carefully saved bulb packets. I think it was because I had assured myself all bulbs had been labelled whilst planting last year. WRONG! The above pretty crocus is sans label, I have had to Google until I came across a name I recognised. I believe it to be ‘Snow Bunting’, that seems to ring a bell anyway.

The garden is still mine until I hand over the door keys on the last day – whenever that is going to be! It will be a sad day but until then I can’t turn my back on a much loved garden and think after Easter you won’t be mine anymore. Above is the wettest, boggiest part of the garden, however the ferns love it and the foxglove I moved during the summer looks very happy. That is annoying really as I have never had much success with foxgloves, it would decide now to behave.

Whilst lots of people love foxes, the local urban foxes are the bane of my life and love trashing my garden and digging holes. There are lots of daffodils and tulips bulbs in this bed and in order to make life a little challenging for Freda Fox and her growing family, I placed lots of little sticks as a deterrent. It doesn’t look too attractive but appears to have done the trick, albeit there are still a few places they have made holes – you can’t win all the battles when it comes to gardening.

There is one solitary brave flower on the forsythia, it is a large shrub and the flower looks as though it has been stuck on for fun. I didn’t notice it when taking the photo but the spirea is also in bud, this shrub has wonderful golden autumnal shades in the Spring, turning a boring green in the summer.

I never tire of the little red lipstick shapes of the appearing peony. In all the years I have had it, the wretched plant only ever has one flower and I have never managed to find out what I am doing wrong.

Back to the patio, the hyacinths are pushing through the soil, which looks like a boiling porridge pot and is spilling over the sides as the plant makes its way to the daylight. I must remember not to use so much soil next time.

With little sunshine on the patio at the moment, the crocuses are not opening up in the way they should, so ‘Firefly’ is not showing to its best, still pretty though.

New update: My Move

Kirstie and Phil of Location Location Location TV fame would be proud of me – compromise being the order of the day. When looking for somewhere to move to, I had a choice of a small property and tiny garden on the Isle of Wight with all the travel issues that brings, or a ground floor apartment in Hampshire with French doors facing south on to a large patio. Fingers crossed all goes to plan and I have gone for the second option in Emsworth, a pretty harbour village near Chichester. My daughter and her husband are moving there next week and with a large garden that needs a lot of work I’m gently feeding the idea that they need help PLUS the icing on the cake is I have already found someone with a plot to share on an allotment just down the road. I am really excited about the prospect and can concentrate on patio/container planting and managing a small allotment – lots to blog about. I will be so disappointed if it collapses, but I am going to be positive. Keep your fingers crossed for me please people!

Garden blogging

Eruptions in the Garden

A little late in comparison to recent years, the garden is at last erupting with spring delights.

img_1445

Watching the soil in the pots  by the kitchen door, as the shoots push themselves through, it struck me it is like watching a cake rise.

Although I’ve tried to be careful and label all my pots, over time some labels have disappeared and it’s a lottery as to whether I am going to see tulips, daffodils or iris.

img_1444

These pretty multicoloured tulip leaves are ‘Tulip Botanical Mixed’ and their colour is unknown.  I bought a pack of 25 bulbs from my local garden centre, and label just says ‘mixed colours’ so I am in for a pleasant surprise. I didn’t plant all 25 in the pot, most are in the flower beds.

img_1446

The above pot has a vivid yellow  tulip called ‘Tulip Candela’, a large creamy  ‘Tulip Purissima’ and ‘Orange Breeze‘  which as it says on the label is orange.  Fingers crossed this will be as fabulous a display as envisaged when I planted them.

img_1448

A few months ago I came across a large bag of mixed daffodil bulbs, which I didn’t remember buying.  At the time the ground was so hard I couldn’t plant them in the flower beds so searched out a number of odd containers languishing by the shed.  This particular trough was a draw to an animal, or two, having great fun digging up the bulbs as fast as I kept putting them back, hence the sticks which acted as a good deterrent. It’s heartwarming to see so many shoots – this is going to look good!

img_1451

Away from the pots, everything is also coming to life in the flower beds.  Hoe in hand, I stood looking at the garden this morning in the welcomed warm sunshine and didn’t know where to start.  It is all too easy to go at the soil in a gung-hoe fashion with a hoe (excuse the pun) and slice off the tops of emerging shoots.  I decided, as we have been promised some good weather over the next few days, I will work on my knees, with a hand trowel, and tidy one section at a time.

Above, is the Agapanthus – it is a deciduous variety with a very pretty blue delicate flower.

img_1449

The Peony is well behind this year.  On checking previous blog posts for mid-February,  there are photos of the red shoots being at least 8 inches tall.  I wonder if this year I will have more flowers, it’s been a disappointing provider of blooms despite being at least 6 years old.   Taking another look of the photo as I type this post, I suspect there is too much soil over the root ball, I seem to recall it needs to bake in the sun, a bit like iris.  Time will tell.

img_1452

All the daffodils are coming through in the bottom flowerbed, despite being nibbled.  Last year something ate all the flowers which really did spoil the display.

img_1443

Wandering around to the front garden, the ‘tete-a-tete Narcissus are developing into a wonderful, welcoming display.  This is just one clump of three underneath my lounge window.

Finally, the snowdrops around the lilac in the front are now in their prime. The grass is courtesy of the bird seed from the feeders hanging in the tree, an issue I’ve not had trouble with before.  I have no idea of the variety, and assume they are just the common-or-garden type.  Nevertheless they are a wonderful bringer of spring delights.

Garden, Garden blogging

Gardening Teaches Patience

I am feeling a bit embarrassed about the state of my garden at the moment.  In my defence it has been either too wet or/and I have been too tired to get out there and do some badly needed house  garden work.   The back garden has no sun during the winter months and with the amount of rain we have had, for what feels like months on end, it is not getting the chance to dry out.  Also despite adding plenty of ‘goodness’ over the years I have worked on it, the heavy clay soil makes draining an almost impossible job.   I squelched out there this afternoon after my hospital treatment because it was sunny and I thought I should make an inspection – probably not a good idea, but it’s given me something to blog about. 

 
I have posted a similar photo of the north facing border recently, and apologise for doing it again.  The rain has flattened the soil and where it has flooded, due to the water not draining, the lawn edging has broken down.  I have spiked the soil with a fork on several occasions to no avail.

  
The above photo shows more clearly what the flowerbed has turned into, the fresh greenery at the base of the wall is crocosmia (montbretia) which continues to spread and grow despite where it is planted!  You can just see the achemilla mollis coming through again. 

It is not just this bed that has had its boundary between soil and lawn flattened, the bed at the bottom of the garden has the same problem and it’s becoming difficult to see where the border ends and the lawn begins.

  
 

  
You can see that I have tried to dig over some of the panned soil and edge the lawn.  The trouble with this is there are a lot of spring bulbs and the last thing I want to do is damage them.   It’s all a bit of a mess as I said earlier, the grass is growing but it’s far too wet to mow and clumps of grass are beginning to spread into the flowerbed, so there is a lot of work to do.   

The sticks are my effort to prevent the local cats from pooing and digging up the bulbs,  it works to a point, they now poo on the lawn instead!  It’s good to see the agapanthus growing along with the aqualigia, all signs of Spring not being too far away.  What worries me most is that we haven’t yet had a really hard frost or a very cold winter spell.   The damp and lack of frost is aiding and abetting slug and snail eggs hidden beneath the soil, so I could be suffering a bumper crop of these beasties with their voracious appetites.   We need a really good frost so I can turn over the soil and kill off as many eggs as possible.

   
 My spring bulb pots are on the side south facing patio, strategically placed so I can see them from the kitchen window.  The tulips are beginning to poke their way through.  I have spoken to them and tried to explain it is still a little too early but they are taking no notice of me!  The narcissi are looking as though they will be flowering in the next week or two. 

There is so much to do and I really should be thinking about pulling up dead stems etc, I usually leave them as protection for new growth.  However, it just looks untidy now and it’s frustrating me.  I am hoping that we have a good weekend soon and I can get out there and make a difference.   At the moment with going to and fro the hospital every day I don’t have time in the morning and am tired when I get home.   

It all comes good in the end though, as experience has taught me, so patience is the essence here, which is what gardening is all about.