Monthly Archives: March 2015

Massive Progress In The Garden About To Begin

Fuchsia, My father's and my favourite lower

Fuchsia, My father’s and my favourite flower

Tomorrow is a huge day in the life of my garden and myself. It’s been a journey of three years plus to get this far. I’ve struggled with health, bereavement, injury and lack of finances through the recession. But that now all changes. I am very happy to say that two men will be turning up at 9am to start digging out the path that will allow safe, level and easy access right down my garden. The shed we put in the wrong place will be moved and the metal one which got buried under last autumn’s leaves will be erected in the correct place. My pre-formed pond liner arrives on Friday and my newly acquired team will be installing that for me. THEN I can really get going. All the seedlings I’ve optimistically sown will actually make it onto the ground. I am over the moon. Once the shed has been moved  to the bottom of the garden under the trees I will be able to have raised beds I can access without straining myself or risking tripping up (my legs don’t always do as they’re told these days).

To add to my delight, my seeds, listed in my last post, have arrived. I can sow them while my team get to work on the heavy stuff. I can also continue to sort out my containers, rescuing fuchsias and bulbs that have survived the last eight months of neglect. And even further (yes, it’s good news week!) I saw new friend today at my craft club whose partner is into fuchsias in a big way. This means a lot. My father, who died last summer, was the same. He went to a fuchsia specialist to buy his plants, raised and cosseted them like babies. I inherited his love of them. Now my friend says I can meet her husband and he will no doubt let me have cuttings. I can’t wait!

So much to do at this time of year, and so wonderful that my whole attitude towards the garden has changed for the better. I spent last winter  feeling quite depressed after having to leave it alone all these months. I feared I wouldn’t be able to get on top of it and make it the stunning garden I know it could be. Now I’m so enthusiastic it’s the first thing I think about when I wake, eager to see the next seedling emerge or a plant sprout shoots outside. Gardening will never leave me. My connection to the life cycle is too strong for me to let go so to find a way to cope with my physical limitations is wonderful.

I’ve even found a way to have a unique table on the patio! We have an old metal cage which was a stage set (we ran events in the past) will become a base for the table top, which I found on Ebay. A hardwood top which, if I’d bought it with legs and paid the normal price would have been four times the price. It will look great when I’ve painted the base, and maybe the top, to go with the chairs I got last year.

Feeding The Bees From Spring Until Fall

Doronicum. Bee magnet from the start!

Doronicum. Bee magnet from the start!

Exciting new plants!

I’ve now got some help with my garden, and the greenhouse is filling up with seedlings. It’s been cleared of all debris, dead plants and empty pots, the benching moved around for my summer tomato growing and still has room for more trays. So, as my borders will be expanding with the extra help coming, I want to incorporate even more pollen rich, bee friendly plants that also please me. I’ve decided to indulge myself in perennials, but I’m not going to spend a fortune. I’ve ordered packets of seeds, so I will have to wait a while longer for flowers, but ultimately will have many more of them for the bees and moths and butterflies to feast on.

I already grow some of the best, such as Hebes that have practically flowered all winter and are still doing so. And I have bought some flowering plants as I’ve seen them. No sooner had I brought home a doronicum (see Photo)  than a bumble bee landed on it to feed. The same is true of the heather. We’re lucky enough to have slightly acid soil, so heathers love it. I plan for more!

Mecanopsis Horridla. Much more beautiful than it's name would suggest.

Mecanopsis Horridula. Much more beautiful than it’s name would suggest.

I placed my perennial seed order yesterday. Some are quite rare or scarce. I haven’t seen them in the garden centre. And I want something different, unusual, so chose ones unfamiliar to me, that sound exciting, but that are also good bee plants. Here’s my list. I can’t wait for them to arrive!

Liatris Aspera, a gorgeous pink open flower the bees will love. Thalictrum Aqueligifolium Album, white fluffy pollen laden heads, angelica gigas, which has red flower heads and stands 5 feet tall. It’s stunning, will feed the bees, then the birds if we don’t harvest the seeds for ourselves. Viola Odorata is rather more diminutive, has a gorgeous scent, sweet flowers for those bees and a lovely colour. Then there’s Meconopsis Horridula. I must admit, I’ve always wanted to grow the Himalayan poppies and never had the right soil. I do have that here, but the name of this one struck me as my partner writes horror fiction. And of course bees love poppies! This next one is a biennial, but of course once I have it I can allow it to seed or take seed to keep it going every year. I hadn’t heard of it before, but as an umbelifer will doubtless make a good bee plant. Seseli Gummiferum (common name Moon Carrot) is listed by the Gardeners World’s website as a superb garden plant that likes good drainage. Here is the advantage of latin names. I put Moon Carrot into Google. It told me that this was a rare British native growing only in a couple of places. But wait. That’s Sesesli Libanotis! It looks the same, but growing conditions would be very different, as Gummiferum is from Spain/Portugal and needs sun and great drainage. Always check the Latin names if you want to be accurate with growing conditions, height and spread of plants.

Verbasum Chaxii. Stunning!

Verbasum Chaxii. Stunning!

I’m sure most gardeners will have grown Centaurea, the blue cornflower. I’ve found the orentalis form, which is a stunning yellow, to add to my collection. Campanula Latifolia, standing about 4ft tall, white with lovely conical flowers should be a hit with the bees  and hoverflies as well as brightening a semi shaded border. Geranium Pastel clouds seeds sound really good. Apparently you can’t buy plants here in Britain, so the only way to grow these is from seed. I love geraniums, and I know the insects do, too. These geraniums should self sow and are very delicate and pretty, so I hope they do! I had to have another penstemon, too, after the one I have giving so much last year. It flowered its heart out, and was being constantly visited by bees. So I’ve ordered Penstemon Lyallii, a lovely pink form. I’ve saved the best until last. Verbasum Chaixii is absolutely stunning, has open flowers that will shine like beacons to any passing bee or human!

Once I add all these beautiful wonder of nature, my bee offerings will be much more substantial. Seed sowing will allow me more plants than I could afford to buy in one go and I’m adding to a collection aimed for wildlife as well as myself.

If you want to feed the bees and welcome wildlife, grow flowers that are open in the centre and have lots of nectar or or pollen. For example, if you grow dahlias, which you can from seed. Mine have just come through, choose something like Coltness hybrids, which give bees easy access to the pollen. Single rather that double or cactus type flower heads are best. Check seed sites and catalogues when ordering. Many now indicate which they recommend for bees or butterflies or both. And have as many different choices for them as possible. Scientists state that like us, bees need a varied diet so that they get a good balance of nutrients, and we all know what happens if we don’t balance our diets in a healthy way.

There’s an archived post listing early spring  flowers to feed the bees if you want more information.

Growing Magic

Khol Rabi

Kohl Rabi

As I left my desk yesterday, having published my blog, I went to check a seed tray for the fourth time that day. I knew germination wouldn’t take long IF the seed was viable. I’d left pots last autumn in the greenhouse that hadn’t been tidied up at all, as I couldn’t do it. There were seeds on the dahlia Coltness Hybrids dead stalks. Now I’ve no idea what I’ll get from them crossing naturally, but free dahlias? The bees love them and so do I. Anyway, as I was saying, I checked the seed rather obsessively again as I left my desk. The first loop of seed leaf stem had pushed through. So exciting! Well, I’m now on an adventure through the season with my seedlings. How tall will they grow? Will I get anything new? Different? I’m willing to see what nature has done.

Migraine has scuppered most progress today, but I have discovered that the mother dahlias from last year from which I harvested the seed have survived total neglect. I’ve taken off the dead tops, potted them up and watered, so they should start back into growth. It’s such a magical process. Roots forming on cuttings, plants laying dormant all winter, seed germinating. I’ve been gardening all my life and it’s still seems like magic to me. Nature battles hard to survive!

Some fuchsias are hanging in there too so they’ve been given the same treatment. Sat on the sofa, I’ve been through my entire burgeoning seed collection and sorted it out. With free seeds out of magazines, Christmas gifts of vegetable seeds and those I’ve bought I could, if I sowed them all, feed the whole of Coalville! So I’ve given some away to a friend with an allotment and at the end of this season will thin them out even more. I’m just not sure yet which will get used up and which will still be a massive surplus. But I’m in a position now to choose from several varieties of fresh greens, Chinese veg and many others. My friend has given me a couple of artichoke roots, so I’m going to try growing them for the first time. I’ve never eaten one, either, so this is entirely experimental. Nothing ventured!

The first kohl rabi seed have made their appearance this morning. Every day new life, more excitement for the growing season. If only my health would improve! I could do so much more.

My mum has requested plants for her garden as she’s banished some that were thugs. So, I guess I’ll be sowing more perennials so I can share out the results later this year. That for the most part is seed I’ll need to buy. Hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow and will be able to continue sowing and sorting out the greenhouse, which I’m going to reorganise. I want to make more space for tomatoes, ornamental gourds and of course that continuous supply of veg.

Returning To Ambitions

Primroese

Primroses

There’s a reason this blogs been inactive. I have. Broken ribs last August on top of lifes little curve balls that piled into a mountain last year took their toll. But spring of a brand new year is here, so I’ve come back to continue with my dreams and ambitions.

I’ve been off the garden for months until recently. As I’ve mentioned, August last year saw me unable to do anything due to broken ribs, and I lost heart over the winter. But something stirred in me a couple of weeks ago and I’m back on the case. It helps that I now have the money to pay for the big heavy jobs. I can concentrate on what I can do, and not feel snookered by the path building, shed erecting or new raised bed building. I can get on with growing stuff and sorting out borders (when I have a bit of strength and energy).

The greenhouse and conservatory are filling up as I sow more seeds and things need pricking out and take up more space. So far the broad beans have come through. That’s a blessing as the first batch were all pinched by mice. So I re-sowed in the greenhouse. Onion seeds have just started to germinate, and I’m trying them from seed for the first time this year. Khol rabi is in modules, and I’m hoping to keep a more continuous supply than I’ve previously managed. There are also leaf salad, blood red spring onions, leeks and greyhound cabbage yet to push through.

I’ve also sown two types of sunflower,  giant and red, 5ft tall ones. That’s just as well, when sunflower seed for the birds is working out at £1 per large feeder refill. And during the worst weather we were filling it, plus another feeder, once a day! I’m hoping the achillea, zinnia, dahlias, cosmos all do well, as I’m going to have a lot of space to fill this year and many of the seeds from these are good extra bird offerings. The garden has to work for the wildlife as well as me.

My ambition is to make my garden good enough to get into the yellow book in a couple of years time. That’s a massive amount of work, but I think worth it.

I am installing a pond as part of that plan. It was going to be large and butyl lined, but Daisy could easily damage the liner, so a prefabricated one will be better. I’m looking at one that holds 750l or 170 gallons and is about 6ft x 4ft for £163 delivered. I’ve found a dog paddling pool for £30 so if I get Daisy that and make the pond less attractive by not having the very shallow sloping sides of a butyl lined job she’ll prefer to jump in her own pool and leave mine alone! I can always protect mine with a wire grid, too, as long as the animals I want to reach it can.

I’m already watching the blue tits build a nest in the box screwed to the patio fence. I hope the other four boxes are occupied this season, too. Four of the five were last year. While eating lunch on the patio (it’s been a warm, sunny day) I saw a sparrow hawk flash through the garden. I love all the sightings I get just from being in my garden and keeping my failing eyes peeled. Yes, failing until I have cataracts removed. Hopefully that will be soon. We’ve had greater spotted woodpeckers in in the last couple of weeks, and all the usual suspects. Now I want to find a hedgehog, a grass snake and even slow worms, though if I ever will is a matter of wait and see.

I’ve bought plants as well as sown seed. The primroses in the photo adorn a cool windowsill in the house now, but once hardened off and split they’ll be great for the spring garden next year. I’ve planted a new clematis called Freckles today against the arch. There are heathers, more primroses and even some daffodils to get in the ground. Pots of meadowsweet, tradascantia and other perennials sit waiting patiently for their turn, but I can only do so much then have to rest, so still tons to do! I’ll try and keep you informed.