April showers…….

…. well not really but the flowers are coming that bloom in May.  So far this month we have had two days of rain so the ground is getting quite dry.  Having said that the temperatures and general weather conditions have improved so much that the growth and vigour of our plants have been quite remarkable.  It never ceases to amaze me how mother nature can switch into overdrive and catch up so quickly, to look at the lush new growth you would never imagine that March saw negative night time temperatures for the whole of the month.

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The narcissus are now beginning to go over but the tulips are providing a splendid display at present.  Our other spring flowering plants are still showing some colour but are beginning to fade.  Quite a bit of remedial attention has been required this year as we have lost a couple of our more tender shrubs and some have been damaged having  succumbed to the biting easterly winds.  Most of our beds are now tidy, fed and mulched and we are looking forward to the pulsatilla, aquilegia, and anemones etc.  which will herald the onset of late spring.

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As expected our fruit trees and shrubs are fully laden with flower buds this year all due to the extremely long cold winter we have experienced, keeping our fingers crossed that any late frosts will be of a short duration.

tomatoes-resizedThe greenhouses are now beginning to overflow but only in the short term as we are now able to start hardening off some of our tender plants.  The garlic sown in November of last year is growing on. I have given the kitchen garden a bit of extra feed this year as I guess the soil has  been leached of nutrients following our very wet winter.  Shallot sets were planted out in early April and they are bulking up quite nicely now.  The salad crops are now taking over the greenhouse, tomatoes, chillies, sweet pepper, are bursting to get out of their pots but all a little too early yet. I have potted up twelve bags of first early potatoes namely “Swift” and “Rocket”, we have very little room for potatoes but still like the first earlies.

This week will see the final seed sowings of our veg crops, runner beans, sweet corn  and cucumbers.  I try to leave these crops as late as possible as the seem to be very temperamental of the slightest temperature change.

04-April-Pics_001On the wildlife front it is sad to report that I have only spotted one butterfly, several bumble bees but very little of anything else, let’s hope things will improve in the not too distant future.  Our resident rather daft squirrel is still with us and provides a great deal of amusement with his acrobatic skills. I did not give him the biscuit by the way!  The house sparrows are mustering as are the blackbirds looking for nesting sites, a somewhat noisy few weeks are ahead I think. In view of the serious situation concerning our bee population we have decided this year to concentrate more on plants that will attract  bees even to the extent that I am having a go at a small wild flower patch some two metres square.  Added to this several varieties of herbs are being planted out which I understand bees are very fond of.

One final note, if anyone can name this Magnolia for me I would be most grateful . Given to me some six years ago but have no idea of the name.

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Monday April, 15th 2013

A much better month than March, easterly winds and freezing temperatures have disappeared to be replaced by much milder south-westerly winds and higher temperatures;Magnolia-stellata_shrub

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Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’

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Primula denticulata

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Narcissus ‘Tête a Tête’ and Tulip ‘Scarlet Baby’

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Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’

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Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow)

The garden is now beginning to show all the signs of a good summer, let’s hope the weather does it’s bit.

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Will it ever warm up ?…..

I do hope so.  The month of March has been dreadful in my part of the world, I usually moan about the rain but we have had very little this month.  I could go on about the snow but we have not had any of that either! The big problem, the easterly wind that has prevailed for most of the month. This has not only affected my lack of gardening activity but a lot of our spring flowering shrubs have suffered from a good deal of wind burn and of course they have delayed their flowering. The accompanying photo of Magnolia “Galaxy”, illustrates this, spring is very late this year.

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Enough of the complaining, looking ahead to the forthcoming season, if folklore is anything to go by we should have a splendid display of fruit blossom this year, a long cold spell fixes the fruit buds on the trees.  The garlic should be the size of melons with all the cold they have endured since November 2012.

My own growing plans are moving along quite nicely despite the weather, in the heated greenhouse we have around fifty fuchsias budding up nicely, the pelargoniums are growing away steadily. The tomatoes , peppers and chillies are going along as well as can be expected bearing in mind the low night time temperatures they are experiencing at the moment.  Trying to maintain reasonable temperatures when it’s minus 4°C outside is a costly business! The cool greenhouse is coping with the summer bedding plants with the addition of horticultural fleece. I have managed to  plant up a rather large salad bowl (pot) with beetroot, lettuce, spring onions and radish, the outsuide soil is unworkable at present.  My usual Easter planting of potatoes has had to be postponed this year due to the cold soil, perhaps in a week or two.

One has to be ever hopeful with gardening, I hope to be able to produce some fine blooms for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of April, that is,  if the perishing wind will let me !

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Friday March,15th 2013

Sad to report  that not a lot going on at the moment following a horrendous few days of easterly winds that have buffeted the southwest of the UK, add to that the sub zero daytime temperatures which has resulted in the Spring being set back.

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The Camellia survived as it’s in a pot, so a quick move into the greenhouse for protection.

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These crocus seem to able to withstand all weathers.

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Narcissus that have seen better days to be honest.

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Bit of a cheat really, it is in bloom but in the greenhouse and the green house is in the garden.

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Well it’s here….

Primula…Spring that is.  After around three weeks of grey skies and very cold air flowing across the Southwest of England, we have moved into a much warmer period which although still not all that sunny it is very much warmer and that is reflected in our Springtime garden. My Garden Bloggers Bloom Day photo’s give a general idea of what’s going on at the moment, however we are now warming up for the ensuing season, so it’s all hands to the pump to get the seedlings and plants off to a good start.

February saw the start of our seed sowing, tomatoes, chillies , sweet peppers , cauliflowerstomatoes seedlings-001 etc. together with the host of flower seeds that are sown.  The sowing of our salad bowl, beetroot, lettuce, spring onion, and of course not forgetting the bucket of carrots that have just started to germinate, grown in plastic buckets as we do get carrot root fly quite badly. I am fortunate in that my small greenhouse is heated and I have some lighting that has substituted for the lack of sunshine during February so the tomatoes have not faired too badly and I am now providing a weak feed of concentrated seaweed.

03 March Pics_017The pelargonium plug plants that were purchased at the beginning of February have done surprisingly well and not expensive either ! We plant these in large pots as individual arrangements as they do look rather splendid when planted en masse.  We also have had a good result this year with our dahlias and asters, too early yet to sow much else.  A poor result from the gazanias my fault, planted too early.

My trial of sowing seed in peat free compost has, I am afraid, been a complete disaster.  The product that replaces multipurpose compost is not suitable for raising seeds using bottom heat there is a complete lack of any water retentive product added to the compost which is basically  recycled garden rubbish with a few additives.  I added some vermiculite but all to no avail as watering was needed at least once a day, back to the drawing board as they say.

So the roses are pruned, fed and mulched, some tidying up has been done, a plum tree still to plant and the hanging baskets to get ready, Gardening, it’s not boring you know !

2012 cutting seeds

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Clearing out the freezer

Mixed Fruit JamAt this time of year we take stock of what we have in the way of surplus fruit in the freezer.  The preserving pan has been put to good use and a good batch of jam has been produced. With luck there may even be some blueberries left over for some home made wine!

Mixed Fruit Jam

Ingredients
1kg (2lbs) Blueberries     
680g (1½lbs) Apples
680g (1½/lbs) Blackcurrants
2.26kg (5lbs) granulated sugar
.28l (½ pint)  Water

Method

Place fruit and water into a preserving pan.  Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally until the fruit is soft. 

Add sugar, increase heat and boil rapidly for 15-20 minutes, or until setting point is reached.

Remove pan from heat and leave jam to settle for  a few minutes. Ladle into hot sterilised jars, then seal.

This recipe will yield about 4.5kg (10 lbs) jam, shelf life 2 years.

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – February 2013

Flowers in my garden on Thursday 15th February, 2013

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Not much going on…

…in my garden this week as the rain has been incessant.  The greenhouse is all warm and cosy and the seedlings are all progressing well but not much to illustrate at present. I thought I would write about a garden we visited in this week of 2012.

East Lambrook Manor Gardens, Somerset

2012-Feb_005A small fifteenth century manor house contains a twentieth century cottage garden.  This was home to Margery Fish a distinguished plantswoman who, following World War II,  was soon to realize that the days of employing a gardener were over as labour had become so expensive.  It was here that she realized that an informal style of gardening was required.  From the early 1950’s until her death in 1969 she became an advocate of bringing the traditional style of plantings and combining it with more modern plants,  this began her style of cottage gardening as we know today.  Whilst cottage gardening had been around for long time, Margery ‘s style was more easily adaptable to the smaller garden and visitors could relate this to their own gardens.  Even today at East Lambrook the tradition still carries on by mixing the old fashioned and contemporary together.

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Note the very narrow paths that take you amongst the plantings.

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Snowdrops are in abundance in this garden with many rare varieties.

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Spent artichoke flowers add a bit of structure to an otherwise bare garden

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Galanthus ‘Spindlestone Surprise’, the yellow snowdrop.  The surprise part is that these bulbs are currently retailing at £25 each.

The winter months do not show the gardens at their best, however, with nearly two acres to stroll around in the summer, this garden is well worth the visit. I should point out that the house is now privately owned but the Grade 1 listed gardens are still maintained mostly by volunteers.

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January…….

.sick and tired you’ve been hanging on me, with apologies to Pilot, stolen from their 70’s pop song.
winter-potThe month was a good old fashioned English winter, cold, wet, overcast skies and low pressure for most of the time and of course the odd fall of snow. Our total rainfall amounted to 12.3 centimetres, high for this part of the country.

February is now with us, the last month of winter, gardening wise. We have managed to start tidying up the borders and rid them of the skeletal fragments that were perennials last year, the birds making sure that all the seeds have been devoured. The fallen azara has been placed back into the vertical position and several of our pittosporums have had to be repaired following snow damage.

Our sowing and planting year began with a visit to the hydroponics store, where 200 litres of Perlite were acquired (much cheaper than garden centre prices), this quantity should last us two to three years. My peat free compost does need a lot of drainage added to it but I think I am getting there. So, the soil is prepared the pots and seed trays are thoroughly scrubbed and we are off!

seed packetsAs can be seen, some sowing has already been completed. My greenhouse is heated by means of a heated cable within a four inch bed of sand which makes up my sowing bench. I also have some heated propagators and a small tubular heater so the seeds should all be comfy in their new quarters.  You will also note that I have a thing about growing tomatoes ten varieties this year I think.

A new mirabelle plum tree has been purchased. I was lucky to be able to buy a whip so I can now train this as a pyramid form which is ideal in our small garden
My shallot sets ‘Longor’ and ‘Red Sun’ have all been potted on so they have a bit of a start when planting out next month, must make sure we earmark some for pickles.
The sweet peas that were sown in January, Manucata and Unwins Special Mix are all coming along nicely but the germination rate from my Unwins seed are not as good as my own saved seed from last year.

fuchsiasOur fuchsias have not really died back fully this year and are springing back into life as the heating is now on in the greenhouse  (see photo). These plants are half standards that we grew from cuttings last year, they are foliar fed on a regular basis with Maxicrop seaweed based plant food.

Robin

Finally, I really cannot forget my dear friend ‘Robbo’ who provided the musical accompaniment during my seed sowing in the greenhouse.

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OK, I think I have had enough snow now !!…

Snow-ChairHopefully the weather may improve next week and we will be able to get on with more seed sowing and planting up some bare rooted roses.” My final sentence from last week, sadly, this did not happen. A very cold week with the ever present snow which only left us during Friday evening with one almighty period of rain. Rainfall for the week was recorded at 40mm this was a mix of rain and snow not sure how to convert rain into snow, The barometer is still showing low pressure so I don’t think we are out of the woods yet, however the last two days have been very sunny even thoughit is still quite chilly.
 The garden itself has stood up very well to the snow, however a lesson has been learned. The photograph shows the Damaged-shrubshrub Azara serrata, it’s hardiness rating is between H3 and H4 so a battering of snow did not do it any favours. Perhaps a more sheltered position would have prevented this, hopefully it will recover when I truss it up a bit.

Pleased to report that my seed sowings of shallot and sweet peas have started to germinate so they will now be moved out to the greenhouse. The tomatoes on the other hand whilst they have germinated were having to tolerate very wet conditions, as perlite had not been incorporated into the mix. This was only a trial, the seedlings have been dispatched to a better place. The peat free trial will continue but to date I feel that a lot of trial and error is needed to obtain good results.

My copy of the RHS “The Garden” magazine was delivered today full of good technical gardening stuff. I noticed however that with effect from 1st of January this year the Hardiness Ratings for plants within the UK has been revised, no doubt to accommodate the ever changing climate we are undergoing at present.

This weekend sees The Big Annual Bird Watch as arranged by the RSPB, my pictures show one resident visitor the dear old house sparrow and the Fieldfare which was spotted every day while the snow was here but has now left.

Next week, being the last week of January will see me getting the greenhouses up to scratch and ever hopeful some seed sowing, but don’t count on it.

Fieldfare

Fieldfare

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

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