It seems to have been a long month, we’ve had lots of rain, snow, fog and more recently, Storm Christoph. I have had a few more days off since the last blog post, due to the weather rather than the pandemic. Today was a beautiful sunny day but I was at home because Friday’s garden is still flooded.
Since the last post I have been rose pruning and general tidying of the borders, trying to make the best of the emerging spring flowers.
I have also started spreading a nice thick layer of muck on my vegetable beds at the pub.
In the polytunnel, I have transplanted my salad leaves, sown in the autumn. Winter lettuce, corn salad, rocket and beetroot, for the red leaves. Not ideal when it is going to be frosty but they were getting too big and starting to rot off.
At home today so no excuse for not getting on with my own garden. Always first is to clean out the animals. I can’t let the chickens out of their run at the moment so they like to get in on the action.
Beautiful blues skies and I found ladybirds on the yucca as I was cutting off the dead flowers.
I have made a start on my, rather neglected, front garden.
My first week back at work after the Christmas break and it’s been hard.
There have been a few highlights, finding the aconites and first snowdrops and hellebores.
But it has been relentlessly cold, I know it is January, and sometimes wet.
I had 1 day off because the ground was too sodden and a brief glimmer of sun on Thursday afternoon
I’ve had quite a few chats with resident robins and discovered, through an online thread, that it is common practice for us horticulturists to chat with birds, snails, plants in fact, most living things and sometimes stones too. Very relieved that it isn’t just me!
So to Friday, minus 2°C as I drove to work and only reaching 0° all day, and foggy too. This garden was more flooded than I had expected and I knew that it would be quite damp.
I managed to find enough to do out of the water but it was really, really cold and I hope it goes down soon. The weather forecast isn’t great for next week!
This year, I finally grew myself a cut flower patch, something I have wanted to have a go at for a while. It’s in one of the beds at my allotment garden.
It actually started in September 2019 with an offer of a hardy annual collection of seeds, suitable for autumn sowing, from Ben at Higgledy Garden .
I managed to direct sow all the seeds while the soil was still warm and they germinated quickly, some better than others.
So the seedlings overwintered, with a bit of weed hoeing in between, but not changing much until the weather got warmer. I laid the canes on the ground so that I would know where to expect the lines of seedlings to come up, and so I could tell if they didn’t!
At this point, I should have thinned out the rather crowded seedlings but it’s also the time of year when the rest of the veg patch and all my other gardens are springing into life. I was probably busy trying to prepare beds, sow seeds and control weeds, anyway, I didn’t get round to it before they were too big to transplant.
Fast forward to early June and we have flowers ready for picking! Lots of Nigella, Californian poppies and the wonderful smelling Phacelia. Also cornflowers and a few Calendula, pot marigolds.
By August the flowers are fading a bit but I am still picking cornflowers, marigolds and Nigella seedheads. The yellow are Anthemis, a perennial I added, and the greenery from around the plot. The pink is Godetia which turned out to be big sturdy plants. I also had lots of self seeded Verbena bonariensis which was useful.
October, and the dahlias are still going along with self sown marigolds and poppies which I cut back and have given a second flush. There has been lots of self seeding all over the bed, the neighbouring bed and the surrounding gravel.
Since then I have cut back and mulched the dahlias, hoping they survive the winter in the ground. I have transplanted as many seedlings as I can to various locations but also removed a lot where I don’t want them. I have also ordered another collection of hardy annual seeds!
On reflection, I have really enjoyed having flowers which I can pick without having to worry about leaving gaps in the border.
I have also liked having the space to grow annuals, it reminds me of the packets of mixed annuals that I used to grow as a child. It is quite magical the impact that a few tiny seeds can have in just one season of growth and I am planning to use more in my customer’s gardens, well I do have quite a few seeds now.
To have a longer flowering season in 2021, I have sown a few in my polytunnel to overwinter, mostly because I didn’t have enough space in the bed and I left it a bit late. I then intend to sow more successionally in the spring, and more thinly!
This is what I call my allotment, I have previously referred to it as the pub veg plot if you want to look back on previous year’s progress. I am still growing stuff for the pub although only for the pop-up shop and takeaway ready meals at the moment. I am also spending a bit of my own time there to grow things for me. My new, and favourite, project this year has been a cutting garden, which you can see here.
On the left hand side, I have six beds. Two are permanently planted with rhubarb and fruit trees (underplanted with wild garlic) and the others currently have squashes, potatoes, sweetcorn and brassicas, and my cut flowers. And lots of weeds!
Not sure how to caption now WordPress has changed but this is courgette and a giant pumpkin with lots of space to grow.
This is just another view, including the flowers. The nigella have finished but I am using the seedheads and the godetia is just coming out. The cornflowers have just gone on and on.
End of June bucket of flowers.
On the right hand side, another six beds, this time three with permanent planting. One with herbs, one with newly planted asparagus, established globe artichokes and gooseberry and blueberry bushes and one with strawberries. Considering how I neglected the strawberry bed, it is producing well, plants in their second year now.
In the other beds, I have given up on the broad beans, harvested a few and pulled up plants. The red flowered, spring sown ones never really thrived and covered in rust and black fly, it’s time to go. I have let last years leeks flower, just because I like them, and planted s new crop, sown earlier in the year.
Also on this side, some later sown salad leaves and spring onions. The peas have been picked and eaten, by us and the pigeons.
Autumn planted onion sets are almost ready to harvest, not very big because of the dry spring, after the wet beginning of the year, and a bit of a lack of time on my part, hence my ongoing weed battle. I have more courgettes and squashes dotted about, first courgette harvested this week.
July tasks will include weeding and getting to grips with the blog. I also have dahlias to add to the cutting patch. I have learnt a lot about growing flowers so I will try to put it all together in another post. I also have some more beans to squeeze in somewhere.
I can’t believe that it is the end of May already. I don’t know how other people fit in blogging with everything else going on in the garden, there’s still lots of sowing and pricking out to do but here is a quick look at, what has been a very dry May.
The lockdown has gradually been lifted and this weekend has seen lots of people making day trips. You can now visit RHS and National Trust gardens, if you book first. Meanwhile at work and home, the borders are filling up. The tulips have come and gone and the may blossom, hawthorn, has been spectacular.
It has been the month that the roses start performing, filling the gardens with their beautiful scents and lots of other flowers too, and it’s still exciting waiting to see what is coming out next, year after year.
Really enjoyed sniffing this lilac!
Mine is always the first peony, left, I am afraid that I don’t know the variety as it came with the garden. There are so many different peonies, from dark red to pure white and from simple flowers to really frothy blooms.
These white ones are just coming out at the end of May.
Now a bit of real gardening where things go wrong. When I worked at a garden centre, I used to warn people not to plant out bedding too early because there is always a chance of frost until the end of May. This year I didn’t listen to my own advice and we had several frosty nights during one week in mid May. The dahlias suffered and it also caught my beans and squashes in the poly tunnel. Mostly they have recovered but it has been a bit of a setback.
Apart from looking after the seeds and lots of watering, I seemed to have pulled forget-me-nots up in all of my gardens throughout the month. Here is a quick before and after. They come up easily so it’s quite a quick fix job.
Towards the end of the month, there are bean pods forming on the overwintered broad beans and the climbing French beans are beginning to climb. I have now planted out all the squashes and courgettes.
The lack of rain has meant flower petals, like this poppy, have lasted well and having the family at home during lockdown, and in the garden more seems to have improved the chances of the alliums which usually get eaten by rabbits. Here’s hoping the dahlias benefit too.
Just finishing off with this field of daisies in my village.
Here we are in week 5 of the lockdown and life is not the same as usual. Following the government guidelines, I clearly can’t do my job from home and as I work on my own in my customers’ gardens I have mostly carried on. I know some people in the garden industry have been forced to give up because they need access through the house and others have received abuse for working when they are not key workers.
I am feeling so lucky to be living in a friendly village in a rural environment. Sometimes it feels different with no children to get to school and driving along empty roads to work, quite nice actually, and sometimes it’s just the same as I sow seeds, and pull out weeds with just the birds for company.
At home, with my family it feels normal, then I realise that I can’t go anywhere. I would like to be able to visit open gardens, bluebell woods and the sea. I don’t know if it is a coincidence, but since the lockdown began we have nearly endless blue skies and sunshine. This has no doubt helped the fantastic show of blossom this year, hence all the pictures! Apple, cherry and pear so far.
Lots more cherry blossom pictures to come.
With the endless rain earlier in the year and now the endless sunshine, the weeds are really growing fast now. It is difficult to balance the time spent sowing seeds, planting out (I’ve risked some beans this week) watering and keeping on top of the weeding.
Beetroot, lettuce, chard and broad, runner and French beans are in the ground, with a few in reserve just in case. I’ve got courgettes, squashes, cosmos and ammi in the polytunnel and dahlia seedlings inside on the windowsill. No show yet for the tomatoes, chillies and giant pumpkins. Maybe I should stop poking them!
I’m very excited because I have a delivery of compost coming this weekend, so I really must get on with potting up the new dahlias that I ordered this year.
Enough cherry blossom! This week I have been harvesting herbs and rocket from the garden and purple sprouting broccoli from the allotment.
It still feels like a strange juxtaposition that that normal life has ground to a halt for us but the plants are still growing, the potatoes are showing today, and the birds are busy feeding the next generation.
Mr blackbird has been very busy.
We have no idea of and end in sight at the moment so we just have to keep going and keep growing!
It is mid April and everything is bursting into life, as it should be, but the reality for us is anything but normal. Across the whole world, countries, including the UK, are in lockdown because of the Covid19 pandemic. With a large percentage of the population confined to home, and a settled spell of fine weather those who are lucky enough to have one have been out in the garden. And I am no exception.
Looking back, the last blog was March 3rd so I’ll try and catch up a bit. This is Berberis Darwinii looking good in early March.
I have been managing to carry on gardening for most of my customers as I tend to be on my own and away from the houses anyway. Here are the daffodils at one of my larger gardens and a new garden structure which I am rather fond of.
The daffodils were followed by a fantastic show of other bulbs in the grass. Muscari, Anemone blanda, Scilla and Chionodoxa. They always are but that doesn’t stop me being excited and taking photos every year!
New Acer leaves.
It stayed cold for so long that I managed to hold off sowing seeds until the very end of March and beginning of April. But the weeds started growing so I weeded, gave the lawn edges their first trim of the year and divided and moved a few perennials.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and it feels like it has been hot and sunny forever. The tulips are out at the pub which has temporarily morphed into a local shop. I have been sowing seeds in the greenhouse (not mine) to hopefully produce some crops that can be sold to the shop’s customers.
So far the cumin is doing well!
At home, we have moved the polytunnel back a bit, here it is before and during the move, and put a replacement cover on because the old one was full of holes. This has created a bigger vegetable patch and honestly I have been sorting through my pots and it looks a lot better than this now.
Inside the polytunnel, I have sown most of my seeds now including the more tender vegetables like tomatoes and squashes and the half hardy annuals such as cosmos and zinnia. Dahlia seeds are inside on the window sill. The sunflowers, sown a week ago, have come up already. As you can see it is also used for storing guinea pig supplies which is not ideal.
Just the rest of the garden to do now before everything needs pricking out!
This cuckoo flower has sprung up in the lawn, quite a large patch, as if to emphasise how damp it has been, right near to the house.
Tonight it rained, which has filled up the water butt and hopefully gone down into the soil as far as the potatoes. I am so grateful to have my garden and live in such a nice place so staying hasn’t been such a chore and there is still lots more to do to keep me busy.
Well we made it to March. There has been more wind and rain but the sun has a little warmth in it when it does come out.
With the weeds putting on growth, I’ve suddenly got a slight panic that I won’t be ready in time. I have started to give the veg beds at the pub a good thick layer of muck but it’s slow progress and I have a way to go.
There is quite a lot of muck still to be moved but I’m weeding as I go so it takes time.
This is the other side, there are three beds with perennial crops, herbs, artichokes and soft fruit, and strawberries so less soil.
These are my rows of cut flowers, sown in the autumn and all but 2 varieties doing well.
The wild garlic is coming up!
I love the zingy colours of rhubarb. We had the first crumble of the year tonight.
In the greenhouse, the peas that I sowed a couple of weeks ago have started to come up and I have sown a few more seeds. It is much too wet to sow anything outside at the moment.
In other news, I found my Okatsune secateurs 2 weeks after losing them and my Felcos have returned beautifully refurbished, although I am disappointed my name is no lo get stamped on the metal.
Here we are in mid February, after more stormy and wet weather. This week, I couldn’t wait any longer and started sowing seeds for the new season.
In the trays I have sown peas, for pea shoots and broad beans. There are some autumn sown broad beans which have overwintered outside for an early crop, and these will be the next lot ready to pick.
In the pots are sweet peas and a selection of herbs. I will sow more later. I am using my customer’s big greenhouse, where already the overwintered salads are doing well.
I have also been carrying on with the rose pruning.
Half way through the one in the centre. I have been hampered by only having my 3rd pair of secateurs. I have lost my favourite, Okatsune, and send my seconds, Felco, off for repair. The ground is also very soggy.
Earlier in the month we did have a warm spell when the bees and hoverflies came out to enjoy the early nectar in the petasites flowers.
I am getting the allotment under control although there is a lot more work to do. The rhubarb is beginning to grow and the leeks are hanging on in there.
The autumn planted onion sets are doing well and I have planted some fruit bushes, 2 redcurrant and 3 blueberry.
The snowdrops have been fantastic, see previous post, but are fading now. Lots of prunus blossom beginning to come out and daffodils on their way. Could do with a bit more sunshine though.
Chippenham Park Gardens is in Cambridgeshire, not far from Newmarket, and shouldn’t be confused with the other Chippenham in Wiltshire! I found it in the RHS The Garden magazine and was delighted to find it was open on my birthday and less than an hour from home. It’s not open all the time so check the website before visiting Here
It started with a walled kitchen garden, a bit bare in February, but we were able to peek at the pelagoniums overwintering in the greenhouse and admire the brassicas, then out into trees and grass and the snowdrops begin. You can make your own way round the garden, so we started with the fountain garden at the front.
We meandered past the tennis court to the lake and then over the Japanese bridge into the trees. Here there were lots of snowdrops and they got denser the further we went.
This area is ‘The Wilderness’ and ‘Snowdrops walks’
We took lots of photos!
Walking back to the tearooms we spotted bees in the crocus.
After warming up with lunch we walked along the long border and went through the wall to the Hare Hall gardens.
The leylandii arches from the mound and we enjoyed spinning the seat round to get a panoramic view.
We walked back along ‘Adrians Walk’ which goes round both sides of the top of the lake. It is packed with hellebores and dwarf irises and more bees enjoying the afternoon sun and sweet scents of the Daphne and Sarcococca.
I will definitely be back, maybe to see the roses in the summer or the Acer walk in the autumn.