This weeks post is all about ‘Firsts’. First roses, ‘Let’s Celebrate’ is a good place to start. Sweetly scented, dark glossy healthy foliage and frilly baby pink flowers. What’s not to like.
Tulbaghia violacea, bit of a fuzzy photo but it was breezy! The first beautiful violet flowers and lots more to come. Simply stunning en masse or on its own, like this one.
Sweet Pea ‘Painted Lady’, one of the oldest varieties and still one of the best. The very first sweet pea to flower and just wait ’til next week!
Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Summer Sky’. These two will be flowering for months producing armfuls of flowers for the house and for visiting friends. The perfect flower for a vase lasting at least 7 days and usually 10 if you keep shortening the stems and changing the water.
The French Lavender opened fully this morning and the bees were on it immediately. Totally neglected, on dreadful poor, dry soil in full sun and never watered. The perfect plant!
Leucanthemum vulgare, Oxeye daisies to you and me, right next to the neglected lavender and also ignored until now. Then, suddenly, this happens! One day you turn around and the boring green foliage erupts into flower and catches your attention. Stunning!
Sometimes, the fresh new growth of trees and shrubs is just as beautiful as colourful flowers. Our purple beech hedge is amazing at this time of year as the tightly curled leaves emerge from the tight bud.
I rained last night and the drops of water made the new soft leaves look even more stunning.
I love the flowers of alliums but hate the leaves because I have a garden plagued with slugs and snails. The damp foliage attracts them like a magnet and this is the inevitable result. I visited an open garden near Malvern last weekend and a lady with 50 hostas told me she has no molluscs or slugs in her garden. I am not sure I believe her!
The autumn sown Sweet Peas are doing well and the first flowers are already forming. These will probably not be viable as the nights are still too cold but by the end of the month this obelisk should be covered with beautiful blue, white and pink flowers which will be picked every other day for the vase.
Geum ‘Banana Daiquiri’ given to me by a friend last year and loving its new home in the sunny border. One of the shorter geums which is ideal for placing beneath taller, later flowering perennials.
Viburnum Plicatum ‘Mariesii’ looking spectacular in the shrubbery this morning alongside the acid yellow of Euphorbia palustris and the backdrop of Photinia ‘Red Robin’
Finally for this week, I could fill a whole blog post with the myriad colours and forms of Aquilegia in my garden, most of which I did not plant. Some of them started off life as the ‘Barlow’ series many years ago but have morphed into all sorts of things now. More Ken & Deirdre Barlow than Nora Barlow!
Ah well, that’s my six for this Saturday. Off to take the granddaughter to Cotswold Wildlife Park in Burford for the day. Gardening will have to wait until tomorrow!
Tiny Mint Moth on a nepeta leaf. Just 5mm long and wide but perfect in every miniature detail.
Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’ at 7am unfurling her flowers to welcome the day. Simply stunning.
Dahlias in the greenhouse and growing rapidly. Overwintered 24 tubers this year in pots of old bulb compost and they have all survived. It’s going to be a fabulous display once I get them into the ground at the end of May.
I love this miniature Euphorbia cyparissias which scrambles through the front of the shrub bed. The intense acid yellow is a bit shouty but certainly livens up the border at this time of year before the aquilegias take over.
Peony flowered tulips with unusual stripey foliage which have been in the border for ten years and come back every year. No idea of the name but I just call them Mabel.
Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft) with Erysimum ‘Parrish’s’ and Ophiopogon (Lilyturf), such a nice combo on the steps and will flower for weeks until the roses take over in June.
Got to dash, the sun’s out and I’ve got a million things to do in the garden!
We are having a spell of frosty nights here in the Cotswolds and I am determined not to lose the emerging Wisteria flowers this year so out came the fleece on Wednesday and so far, so good. However, the forecast is saying -4 degs C tonight so fingers crossed!
The Amelanchier lamarckii (Snowy Mespilus) is flowering and looks glorious on a sunny morning like this. Rather like magnolias, you have to enjoy their brief flowering period when it happens because it is fleeting.
Our 30m long hedge of Photinia x fraserii ‘Red Robin’ showing off its new red tips. It provides a useful wildlife corridor for Dunnocks and Blackbirds who scuttle around in the leaf litter beneath and stay safe from prying eyes!
I believe these are Narcissi ‘Ice Follies’ but I am not sure. They are certainly the largest headed daffodil in the garden and must have been here when we bought the bungalow in 2009 because we didn’t plant them. A happy accident with the Anemone blanda.
Never been keen on Kerria japonica. Scruffy, straggly things with yellow pom pom flowers and always seem to spread in the wrong places. This lot started at least 5m further up the border 10 years ago when I stupidly planted a freebie from a friend. I think their days are numbered!
Got to dash, I am off to our Cotswold Cottage Gardening Group meeting in the village today with some spare plants to sell and give to friends. To me, that’s the joy of gardening, sharing plants, ideas and experiences with other gardeners. I find them the nicest people of all.
Glorious weather for late March but a return to frosty nights is forecast next week. Some things like this Chaenomeles won’t mind but I am very concerned about my young Wisteria chinensis ‘Prolific’.
Just as the flower buds were about to burst open, a late frost killed them all last year at about this time. So, it looks like fleece will be required for a week or so to protect the emerging flowers.
My latest attempt at a solitary bee nest box! Not sure how successful it will be but I have already noticed ‘C’ shaped notches being cut out of rose leaves so the leaf cutter bees are nesting somewhere!
The professionally made one is untouched at the moment but perhaps in a better position, not so exposed. I once had a bee trying to make a nest in a hole in my front door as I was trying to paint it!
The hardwood cuttings of rose ‘The Generous Gardener’ I took 18 months ago have rooted well in pots and the remaining 8 plants have been planted out around bent wire supports . The idea is to train the young stems up and over to form a bell shape, hopefully covered in soft pink flowers. I will let you know if it works in June!
Best year yet for my wife’s little Magnolia stellata. Last year it only had 5 flowers! Feeding and mulching has obviously worked this year.
Surely it’s too early for Tulips?! These obviously don’t think so. I have still got narcissi to open and some snowdrops in flower but tulips already. Bonkers!
The carpet of Anemone blanda is getting a lot of comments from passers-by at the moment. The flowers open and close with the sunshine and work well with the lemon yellow daffodils, primroses and pink Chionodoxa.
That’s all for now. Sadly, I have tested positive for Covid so will have to spend all weekend in the garden. Oh well, ho hum!
Euphorbia characias, nowhere near as tall as last year but with plenty of flowers to enjoy. Considering it is native to the hot and dry Mediterranean, it is a plant which has become well adapted to our wet winters. It it is happy enough to self seed everywhere too!
My congested bed of Hesperantha coccinea did not produce many flowers last year which was probably due to a lack of timely watering and exhausted soil. The RHS recommended lifting, dividing and replanting into soil with added compost so up they came! A bag of rich mushroom compost with added manure and a few fistfuls of Growmore should help them perform better.
Something I haven’t witnessed before is stripy Carex ‘flowering’ in my winter hanging basket. I just hope I don’t end up with seedlings popping up everywhere!
This week, I launched my new website to support my National Collection of Tradescantias. I have called it Spiderwort because that is the common name for the hardy species in North America. I would love you to have a look and let me know what you think of it so far!
It is early days and I have a lot more information to upload, but any early thoughts would be welcome. The plan is to post updates at least weekly throughout the main growing season, April to August, and to record plant performance, pests and diseases, flower power and individual traits which die-hard enthusiasts should find interesting. However, I fully acknowledge that die-hard enthusiasts for this species are few and far between and I won’t be offended if you decide not to follow my Tradescantia journey of discovery!
Erysimum ‘Parrish’s’ continues to flower as it has done all winter long. I marvel at their stamina and flower power. She currently has darker flower colours than they will be in summer when the brick red and light purple will be added to the mauve. Unlike most Erysimums, this one enjoys being cut back hard in April to encourage new shoots.
I love the fresh new shoots of Roses. I also breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t kill them with my drastic pruning. Fingers crossed for no more hard frosts! I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to pruning roses; as well as taking out any diseased, dead, spindly and crossing stems, I like to have an open centre, varying heights and pruned to an outward facing bud. Many theories abound including the use of hedge trimmers and just a quick haircut, but I find pleasure and satisfaction in giving this job a bit more thought and care.
Finally, half a clump of Sanguisorba ‘Pink Tanna’ on it’s way to a friend’s garden in exchange for Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ already received and planted. Gardeners are such a generous bunch!
The garden plants escaped any major storm damage. No fences down, greenhouse intact, trees all still the right way up. However, my very heavy and expensive glass topped patio table was upended and flew against the wall causing a million tiny bits of safety glass to spread themselves far and wide. I will be picking it up forever! Fortunately, Bramblecrest still provide replacements but at £180 + delivery, it was an expensive storm!
Finally, some decent weather has arrived after the storms and I can get out there and start some actual gardening. The 1000 litres of soil improver is still sitting on the drive where it has lain for two weeks untouched! The Anemone blanda is loving the sunshine between the showers and is stretching her little faces upwards to catch the early morning rays.
Th Cyclamen coum are hardier than their delicate appearance would suggest. They can take everything the weather throws at them. The snowdrops are gradually fading after giving a great show, even holding their flowers aloft in 70mph winds last week. Next, it’s the turn of the daffs and hyacinths.
This multi-headed little beauty always cheers me up when she appears. The label disappeared eons ago so I can’t help with a name.
I don’t have many Hellebores, I found that they all gradually turn out to be a sort of muddy purple colour but these are a couple of beauties.
Finally, a Wallflower, Erysimum cheiri, which was sown four years ago , has flowered every year since and looks better than ever. The books say it is a biennial but this one appears to be perennial. The solitary bumble bees were all over it today.
Just a pretty Poly to welcome you all on this dreary, windy and wet Saturday morning. Thankfully, my finger and toe crossing worked and we came off relatively unscathed after Eunice came in like a wrecking ball yesterday. Just one piece of broken glass, two lost floor mats and an upturned wheelie bin. All roof tiles intact, all fence panels still in place and, best of all, no lasting damage to my garden plants or greenhouse.
I am sure we are all familiar with emerging Delphiniums, the gourmet food of slugs at this time of year. I don’t have many for that very reason. I just can’t bear the sight of munched plants and try to avoid hostas and other such slug and snail delicacies rather than use chemical solutions. However, discussing this with a friend recently, I was presented with this:
Delphinium requienii, a hardy biennial form from the South of France with thicker shiny leaves which slugs avoid! It grows on my friends allotment and is a prolific self-seeder there. It might as well be perennial, she says, because its offspring come true every year from seed. Different flowers from both perennial Delphinium and a different genus from annual Larkspur, this should become a permanent resident of my sunny herbaceous border.
The tall, late flowering, dark blue Agapanthus, which was becoming swamped beside a burgeoning Pittosporum tenuifolium, has been lifted and divided into 4 quarters this week, each one now in its own large pot. It didn’t seem to notice being hoicked out of the ground, sliced up with a spade and moved to a new home. It has continued to put on new shoots and is apparently perfectly happy.
On Monday, my Valentine’s Day present to my darling wife arrived on a lorry. 1000 litres of beautiful, dark, crumbly recycled green waste soil improver. She was not impressed. I tried to explain that this was the ultimate eco friendly, recycled, low carbon footprint alternative to red roses flown in from Kenya but she was having none of it. Looks like I will have it all to myself!
It was time to pot-on the sweet peas this week to give them 6 weeks to establish a good root system before planting out at the end of March. Some people are surprised by me doing this. Most people grow them in a pot and then just plant that out, even though the roots have probably been going round the pot for many weeks trying to find water and nourishment. I think this additional stage is worthwhile to get stronger stocky plants which are well fed and better prepared for life outside when they are hardened off in mid-March. It only took a few days after pinching the tops out for them to start producing side shoots which will result in nice bushy plants with more flowering stems and therefore more flowers.
I sow two seeds into each cell of root trainers and, most of the time, both seeds grow. I don’t soak them or chit them as some recommend, I have never found this necessary if you plant fresh seed in October/November. As soon as they have grown two pairs of leaves I pinch out the top and let them start to produce side shoots. I start pinching out in mid January and by now they have all been pinched out and ready for potting-on.
The root trainers produce really good root systems and I think it is essential to give them plenty of room at this stage. I have tried cardboard toilet roll tubes but they just turn to mush and can only accommodate one seed. You also can’t pot them on unless you put the whole thing into a pot which seems to defeat the object of sowing them in the toilet roll tube in the first place! Root trainers are definitely the best.
The two little plants separate easily without any damage to the roots and are potted up individually in 9cm pots or, my preference which is Sweet Pea bags. Hard to come by these days, I think I bought mine from Roger Parsons many years ago. Like pots, they last for ever. However, I have given so many away over the years to intrigued friends that I now only have 30 left, so I use 9cm pots as well.
They both fit nicely in a mushroom tray for moving them about and watering and provide the same amount of compost and growing room. I don’t add any feed in the compost at this stage, other than what is already provided by the supplier in the bag. I don’t want to encourage too much soft growth before they are ready to go outside.
So there we are, Six on Saturday all about Sweet Peas! Sorry, but there’s not much else going on this week. Lots more next week though, February is weed, feed and mulch time and I have 1000 litres of blended soil conditioner arriving in a dumpy bag on Monday! Valentines Day present for the wife. So romantic!
Rain at last! After several unexpected dry weeks since mid December, we finally got some much needed rain yesterday. Neighbours had been cutting their grass, I had been watering my pots and birds were relying on my bird bath for water. Strange times! Mind you, Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ loved it and has put on a great display which will be brief but much admired.
The Snowdrops I split and replanted last year under the Himalayan Birches have finally appeared, but look a bit lost at the moment. It will be a few years before they colonise the whole area, but one thing us gardeners have in spades is patience!
Cyclamen coum fighting it’s way up through 6″ of bark mulch! The Anemone blanda will be next followed by the narcissus. A gardening ‘guru’ friend told me last week that if I dig around in the bark mulch I will find threads of mycorrhizal fungi which everything else relies on. Not sure if I want to disturb things at the moment but it would be interesting to see. Maybe just a sneaky peek!
My winter pots are finally beginning to show some colour instead of a palette of green. The bulbs are coming up through the pansies and polyanthus so it should be a good show in a few weeks time.
Snowdrops are tough customers. This is my neighbour’s drive which was resurfaced last year. A bit of tarmac won’t stop them!
Sweet Peas pinched out and waiting for warmer weather and longer days. Not all for me though! I now find myself growing them for friends and family. “Well, you’ve got a greenhouse” they say!
I have spent a happy 20 minutes watching Robins and Blue Tits gathering nesting material and going back and forth to my boxes. Far to early for my liking! Seems like everything is a month early this year.