Going nuts in May!



I thought that it would never come but now, mid May, it’s that time of year when there really aren’t enough hours in the day. The tulips are over, the alliums and irises are the big players in the garden and I can’t seem to get on top of all the jobs to do.

On top of the usual morning tasks,  lunches, breakfasts, school uniform and letting the chickens out, I now have additional chores. I open up the polytunnel, say good morning to Mr Frog and check the watering. Then to the cold frame and repeat the process, yes there is frog in there too! I also peer very closely at the dahlias for signs of life and despair slightly at the number of plants to be pricked out, potted on and still some seeds to sow. They’ll catch up right?

I planted a load of courgettes right on time but something ate the seeds and left the husks on top so the next lot are in a propagator with the lid on. Oh and something else ate the top off my one and only pumpkin, I may have to buy a plant.

I have had success with my lettuces and these are some of the seedlings waiting to be pricked out. It’s a bit of a faff, I know, but I have a little stall by the road to keep topped up and I have promised to produce something for an upcoming plant sale in the village. With Iceberg, salad bowl and rocket,  I have created a selection of salad leaves in a tray so let’s hope that they are popular. I’ve sold my first lot of runner beans so another lot needs to be done ready for the sale. I have also sold the first lot of cosmos so the next batch need to get a move on.  Always a good seller and helping to cover my seed and compost bill. With last year’s profit I bought a new sign board.

In the gardens, after rain at last, there is staking of delphiniums and floppy herbaceous and tying in aka a face full of wet rose. I’ve decided that it’s safe to plant out the greenhouse grown crops so in the ground now are beans, peas and one courgette.

The next job will be new planting to revitalise an old border. My choice of plants, although being given the brief – whatever you think will look nice is harder than it sounds.

So this weekend I just need to dig the veg garden, sow those last seeds, prick out dozens of seedlings, cut the grass, take part in a charity walk, do the washing etc At least the evenings are light now.


Spring Visit to Beth Chatto Gardens

DSCN0356.JPGI took the family to visit the Beth Chatto Gardens  a couple of weekends ago now. It was a free entry day so I got to take loads of photos and enthuse about the plants but didn’t feel obliged to spend hours there to get my money’s worth.

DSCN0355.JPGThe garden covers 7 acres comprising of lawns, beds and ponds in the bottom of the valley and woodland and dry areas further up the slopes. There are lots of different paths suitable for a bit of perambulating and exploring and the different age groups visiting were doing what suited them best. With bright spring foliage, the mature trees created a cohesive link throughout the garden.

The dry garden used to be a car park and gets no irrigation so is perfect inspiration in this parched spring. The erysmiums and euphorbias were looking great, spikey yuccas, grasses and alliums to come.

Sometimes seen as a problem area, the woodland is the place to see hundreds of uncurling ferns, comfrey and arums as well as a surprising pink Rubus spectabilis ‘Olympic Double’. Really cool and green with a little stream running through to the reservoir at the bottom.  The yellow flower I have yet to look up!


Impressive skunk cabbage at the back!

DSCN0333A series of ponds, linked by bridges and streams, are generously planted with damp loving  species. Ferns, irises, Persicaria and bergenia.  Lots of grasses and phormiums on the banks, all beautifully reflected in the water.



I loved the self seeded forget-me-nots and the odd weed in the beds. A whole new planting scheme was taking place in a large sunny area which will showcase even more plants to illustrate Beth Chatto’s mantra ‘right plant, right place’.

The attached nursery grows and sells a lot of the plants found in the gardens. They are helpfully arranged according to habitat, dry, damp, shady and scree making it easy select what you want. There was a good choice of, mostly herbaceous, varieties and I did buy a few. Given the extensive selection on offer my quote of the day had to be “I think I’ll go for pansies they flower ok”.

And my confession of the day? I didn’t try the cake, sorry but the number of people eating must mean it’s good!


Late spring frost.


We had a frost in early April, a couple of weeks ago and my newly emerging dahlias suffered as a result. They were in the polytunnel but it’s only a little one and obviously wasn’t enough protection. So when frost was forecast for this week I decided to take proper precautions. My first plan was to move some of the more tender seedlings, cosmos, tomato and dahlia from my obliging parents’ greenhouse to their conservatory, as well as the dahlia tuber which was affected before.


With my own plants taken care of, Monday morning saw me get into DSCN0386action at a customer’s garden. It was my own fault for planting the beans too early but I was quite pleased with my use of secondary double glazing panels to improvise a cloche. They survived Monday night but tonight is colder so we’ll see.


DSCN0387The potatoes were covered with black plastic which isn’t ideal but is better than nothing.




The dahlias and seedlings in the greenhouse survived perfectly due to it being quite large and the brick walls of the lean to acting like a giant storage heater.

One thing that I can’t do anything about is the apple blossom. In my very inexpert opinion, it looked all right this morning and there were lots of bees so hopefully there will still be a good crop in the autumn.


The only good thing, is that it might kill off a few aphids which have started appearing on the roses, here’s hoping!


April flowers!


Things are really speeding up now. Despite having no rain for weeks, the bare soil in the garden is disappearing as the herbaceous perennials fill out and the tulips are looking stunning scattered through the beds. So weeding and edging are the main jobs at the moment, there are plenty of annual weeds to pull out and the bindweed and ground elder are on their way.


In the vegetable garden the potatoes are ready for earthing up, that is bringing  the earth up to cover and protect the emerging shoots, and some of the early seed sowings have grown enough for planting out.  The strawberries are starting to flower and the first radishes are perfect for harvesting.


Strawberry flowers


Phase 1 ready to go out

Salads and mangetout are out and the more tender tomatoes, beans and squashes are sown. I’ve even managed a bit of successional sowing with the next lot of mangetout in pots. I just have no luck with direct sowing peas, I think mice must eat them. New this year for me will be bulb fennel and baby turnips.


A few beans to plant!

In my parents greenhouse, they are away and it seems a shame to have empty spaces on the bench, I have started my  blooms for bees dahlia seeds and cosmos Versailles and Purity.

As well as the tulips the garden is filling with colour from the blossom on the pear, above, and cherry trees to the blue of brunnera and forget-me-not in the border. All set of beautifully by the acid green of the newly leafed hedges.  Peonies next, I can’t wait!


Curly comfrey

Seeds and weeds

I started this a few days ago talking about the biting wind, well it hasn’t gone away and the wind chill factor has been very apparent. Bit of a shock after last week.  But gardens still grow and work must be done so a good place to be was in the greenhouse.


Potted a week ago.

Filled with enthusiasm after seeing how much the first potted up dahlia had grown in a week,  I planted up a load more and even divided some clumps for the first time ever.  I’m hoping for lots of dahlias in the borders and some for the edible planters too.

With things doing well, and the first rather early french bean, all that was required was a bit of watering and then outdoor jobs to be tackled.


The thistles are back!

With the damp soil and warm sun, everything is growing and that includes the weeds. Having let the rose beds get completely out of hand last year and the thistles seed, big mistake, I am determined not to do the same again. This is one week’s regrowth, a season of regular hoeing beckons.  I have also started the annual battle with ground elder this week and admired the tenacity of bindweed as it’s tendrils emerge from the ground.


Bindweed tendrils

In the pub vegetable garden, the purple sprouting broccoli is finally sprouting and I got to work sowing the seeds which I ran out of time for last week. In the leaf bed, spinach, rainbow beet (roots deemed not tasty enough) and rocket. In the roots bed, the cloche survived Warming up but the radishes were chomped by slugs. Nothing up yet but more radishes, baby leeks and spring onions sown. In the herb bed sweet fennel, flat leaved parsley and chervil.

In the foraging bed, the wild garlic is up for a small crop this first year.

The weather forecast for the weekend is good so I am hoping to get out in my own garden, more seed news to follow but meanwhile look at these peonies!


Warming up

IMG_20170309_220915It’s beginning to feel like spring this week although I am refusing to use the past tense of spring word this year, it’s too obvious! The blossom is out and the trees are positively humming as the bees make the most of the warm weather.

DSCN0352With my early sowings in the greenhouse doing well, radishes, brukale, cavalo, cornflowers, beetroot and pak choi all up, it is time to start thinking about the outside beds.  I am planning do more direct sowing this year to try and reduce the amount of crazy watering and loss of plants when they don’t get watered. On the other hand, I like starting things off under cover as protection from slugs/rabbits/pigeons/frost (but mostly slugs) so I can only wait and see how it goes.

I think that it was Alan Titchmarsh who said that the soil was ready for planting when it felt warm on your behind, well anyway, it felt warm to my bare hand and that will do for me. I have started cautiously with first early potatoes and onion sets, neither planned but when you are given something for free you plant them even if they are not on the list. I also did one row of seeds divided into thirds, radish, beetroot and perpetual spinach.

At the pub garden, I added some cornflower seedlings to the edible flower planters. I have some self sown and overwintered in another garden so I know that they are pretty tough. I have taken a bit of a risk and planted radish seedlings under a poundland cloche which I don’t have a lot of faith in but I have some spares so you never know.

DSCN0372I also managed a row of rainbow carrots and another of beetroot cylindrica before I ran out of time. The rest will have to wait until next week. If we had a little bit of rain to go with this warm weather it would be perfect!



Gardening Queen, what’s ready now?

It is early March and I am looking forward to a second year tending the gardens of The Queen at Brandeston in rural Suffolk. See the efforts of my first year in an earlier blog Gardening Queen! Lots of vegetable beds out the back, beautiful big planters at the front filled with edible flowers, a collection of mints and strawberries. Oh and a flower border and vines too!


Sorrel leaves ready for picking


In the garden now, things are beginning to move slowly. As you can see above, the sorrel has overwintered well. The rhubarb which has been covered with an upturned dustbin, clean of course, for a few weeks looks like this:



Which is great, could just do with a bit more!

The perennial edible Alliums are showing signs of life and the chives are romping away, definitely ready to be used.



The primroses are flowering in the edible flower planters, the rosemary  has had a severe prune to keep it in check and other things are coming up but not ready to harvest yet.


Keeping up with the plan so far, in the off site greenhouse I have already sown quite a lot of seeds and things are progressing. If everything grows there should be some surplus plants to sell too.


Beetroot seedling with the seed still attached

February round up.


It’s been a busy month starting with the first snowdrops finally appearing and ending with the first daffodil!

I have pruned – wisteria, apple trees, various shrubs and lots and lots of roses.


Standing about and thinking has occurred as I ponder what needs to be dug out and what could be moved. Work has also begun on actual digging and moving too!


There has still been a bit of cutting back to do of the last perennials and deciduous grasses ready for the new growth which is now happening.

The weather has been typically British, ranging from snow to warm enough to cut grass in a t-shirt but mostly grey and cold. Not forgetting storm Doris which caused a bit of disruption too!

Seeds have been sown, seedlings have grown and seed beds have been prepared ready for planting out next month, hopefully. And slugs have appeared right on cue to have an early salad  grr!


So far so good, the gardens are under control but with a long list of jobs for next month which is only tomorrow. Just as I get bored of snowdrops the next phase arrives, here come the daffodils and anemones!

Here we go again.


Two weeks on from my last post and things are definitely moving. Having eagerly awaited and documented, see instagram, the first snowdrops the masses are now flowering and at their most perfect right now. With some unseasonably warm weather at the beginning of the week and a storm forecast for the end I am not sure how long they will last but I am enjoying seeing them on roadside verges and gardens,  popping up all over the place.

The aconites are looking pretty good too!

In the flower borders I have been ruthlessly digging out plants, ok pink geraniums, which are taking over and moving other bits around to try and add a bit of variety. I do this every year but have so far still ended up with a sea of pink come June. Let’s hope that this year is more successful. In amongst the geraniums, I have been pleased to see lots of tulips emerging. They have been in a few years now so are doing well.


Tulips – yay!

Also very happy to see day lilies, irises, poppies and very, very happy to see crown imperials  (fritillaria).


Not so happy to see vine weevils in the geranium roots. I will have to take this into account when choosing new plants as they prefer some to others. I have dug out the sedum and potted up to put somewhere else as they are a particular favourite with their fleshy roots. So a morning of squashing grubs, they squirt quite far if you squeeze hard!!

Meanwhile in the veg plot better news, the vegetable beds have had plenty of muck added (thanks Trevor!) and the soil is warming up nicely. I have finally made a proper cage for the broccoli so all we need now are some purple sproutings,  and begun sowing seeds in the greenhouse and my own little  polytunnel.

I keep consulting my lists but there is only one more week of February left and I have the feeling that it may be harder to stick to the plan once everything is growing like crazy.

Quite a bit has been sown and Cavalo kale, komatsuna,  speedy salad leaves, radish and cornflowers are up as well as an unlabelled pot of seedings on my windowsill, plan what plan?  I am hoping that there will be something to pick in the pub garden in a few weeks, but you never know we could well go back to winter before it is really spring and I really shouldn’t get too carried away.


More snowdrops to finish, doubles this time, and I’m ready for the next show. I do love the seasons – bring on the daffodils!

Early February



What a relentlessly cold and grey week! I even postponed my birthday celebrations until it warms up a bit, so I haven’t been very enthusiastic about leaving the house in the morning but work goes on. I have continued with pruning climbing roses, tying them in and  saving a few stems from the deadly wire ties.


To cheer myself up a bit and get out of the rain, I sowed some seeds in the unheated greenhouse even though it is still too cold. Cornflowers for the edible flower beds and salad leaves, chicory and radish for the pub veg garden.

In another garden, the polytunnel is now ready to go and I found a hedgehog under a pile of leaves in a border.

I can’t resist an overgrown garden, especially one so close to home so here we go again with before and after photos. So far 2 1/2 hours and two wet knees has resulted the the kind of transformation I like but there is loads more to do and the box hedges need reducing by half in all directions at least.

It’s supposed to be getting warmer this week!