Snow, and an exciting development…


The viburnum branches are made to hold snow!

The viburnum branches are made to hold snow!

My garden, and allotment are both fast asleep under a blanket of snow and whilst the pavements are icy and walking to the station means risking life and limbs I am still finding the sight of it beautiful.  Best of all was yesterday when the sun came out as everything sparkled – sadly I was at work all day and so denied a chance to get out with my camera which is so frustrating, and leaves me hoping that the coming weekend might deliver the right conditions – but then another part of me wants it all gone!  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if the snow could vanish as quickly as it arrives?

Anyway a snow-bound garden and allotment means there is little to do outdoors for the moment (I dream of a greenhouse but no space in this garden) and so I am contenting myself with dreams for this summer’s display.  I’m really looking forward to growing a cutting flower garden on my allotment, and thanks to Sarah Raven’s team I now have another project lined up  – the exciting development!

A couple of weeks ago I saw a tweet from Sarah Raven (@srkitchengarden if you wanted to follow on Twitter) asking for gardeners who blogged to get in touch if they were interested in growing some seeds and blogging about the experience.  Naturally I jumped at the chance, sent off an email whilst crossing my fingers, and they have very kindly supplied me with a packet of their Venetian Cut Flower Meadow Mix.  It contains the following: Cornflower ‘Black Ball’, Cosmos ‘Rubenza”, Nicandra physalodes, Papaver somniferum ‘Cherry Glow’, Malope ‘Vulcan’ and Anethum graveolens (aka Dill).  The link below should show what I can expect to grow – lovely!

I now need to identify which site is to benefit from these riches – my garden, the allotment or the third plot that I’m now responsible for, which I don’t believe I’ve written about – yet.

Posted in Adventures in my allotment, Blogging for Sarah Raven, In my garden | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Perfume for a wintery day…

Snow on Viburnum

Snow on Viburnum

I woke up to a fall of snow this morning.  It was what I’d describe as the ‘right sort of snow’ in that it dusted the rooftops and gardens but had not been enough to settle on the roads and pavements.  It has subsequently turned wet and so the photo on this post is from last year – but the Viburnum is flowering this year too.  I love winter flowering plants and Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is a great example.  It has been flowering non-stop since about November, and will go on for some months yet.  Up close, the flowers can sometimes look a little tatty as the dying blooms stay on the stem alongside the freshly opened ones, but from a distance the plant is a mass of sugar pink on bare stems.  The perfume is quite sweet too, in common with other Viburnums such as V. bonariensis, a spring flowering favourite of mine.

Another winter flowering treasure in my garden is Chimonanthus praecox more commonly known as Wintersweet.  This is quite tender and in my part of the world (not far from RHS Wisley) it is best grown against a wall, as they do at Wisley.  Sadly I don’t have a walled garden and so my next best solution was to plant it against a fence in a protected spot outside my back door.  It is happy there and is a mass of shaggy lemon yellow flowers.  You have to work to get the best of the perfume from Chimonanthus – but it is worth it and I’ve discovered this tip works for any winter flowering plant.  Put your face up close to the flower and breathe out very gently.  Then breathe in and the warmth of your exhalation will release the perfume.  Chimonanthus has a slightly spicy perfume – at least to me it does.   After flowering it becomes a very unassuming specimen,   and there are times when I wish I’d planted something with a longer season of interest so close to the house – and then it starts to flower and I remember why I chose it.

Chimonanthus praecox

Chimonanthus praecox

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Back to the allotment

With the weather continuing so mild, and it managing to not really rain very much for the past few days I was desperate to get onto my allotment this weekend.  It is situated next to the footpath that I use twice a day to walk to and from the station and so I can’t help but notice it (although this time of the year it is still pretty dark when I pass which helps) and its untended state, since last autumn, has been bothering me.

So this morning, rather than set to work on my usual Saturday chores; the Waitrose run, cleaning the house etc. I put the allotment first.  I’d been given some old pallets last year by the allotment agent and wanted to add these to my existing compost heap – but to do this I had to move a compost dalek (you know the sort, the upside down dustbin type).  This was full of weeds and other stuff I’d cleared away last year, so I needed to empty it before I could think about moving it.  It was a grotty mucky job and I would have much preferred to be digging or weeding, but I did it, then hauled the pallets into place and suddenly things began to look tidier.  I still have to sort out the neighbouring heap but that’s for another day, and when I can persuade my gardening apprentice to help me!

Using the slots at the side of the pallets I fitted in canes and other sundry bits of wood to save them creating trip hazards on the ground, and finally moved the compost daleks alongside.  The last thing I did was to start to prepare the ground where I plan to grow my runner beans this year.  I’d covered it with a black membrane for the past few months which had managed to kill off the couch grass (the roots are another matter) but the wretched dandelions are as strong as ever and despite being pallid looking through lack of light their roots are holding tight to the claggy soil.  So I’ve contented myself with turning it all over and will return next week (weather permitting) to start the proper weeding.  As I left so the robins which had been monitoring my every move were flying in to feast on the bugs and beasties I’d unearthed.  All in all a good morning’s work!

Good to finally make a start on the allotment

Good to finally make a start on the allotment

Posted in Adventures in my allotment, Out of my garden | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

First post of the year!

And I’ll open with a photo:

Garden, January 1 2013

Garden, January 1 2013

This is the view from just outside my kitchen window, and my plan is to take a photo from the same spot at least once every week, for this year. I tried something similar last year but I overcomplicated it, so this year am keeping it more straightforward.

The weather today has been beautiful – dry, bright, sunny with blue skies, and mild too for the time of year. Spent the day with family as it is my Mum’s birthday, so no time for any gardening, but borrowing a New Year’s Day habit from Beth Chatto I did go out into the garden to note what was flowering. The Viburnum and Chimonanthus are both blooming well with the added bonus common to winter flowers of each having lovely perfume. Also here and there early primroses are in flower, and the cheeky buttercup that is poking through next door’s fence deserves a mention before I pull it out.

Driving home from my sister’s in the late afternoon it was lovely to be out in the remaining winter light and watch the sky deepen as the sun went down – still too early for my liking, but three minutes later than yesterday!

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At the end of the year…

I don’t get the whole New Year’s Eve party thing.  I never have done and can recall being at a party as a teenager and wondering why we wanted to make so much fuss about time passing, and with those years far behind me, feel that even more so now.  But that’s not to say I don’t welcome an opportunity for reflection, and the end of the year is an ideal time to do so.  As every UK-based gardener will know, this winter has been so very wet, and we’ve some months of it left yet, which has meant that winter gardening jobs have been delayed over and over, especially when working full time means that the only daylight available to get in the garden is at the weekends – so if they are a wash out that is more precious days lost.

When I booked time off between Christmas and New Year I had such plans for the garden not to mention my allotment – both would finally be ‘put to bed’ for the winter, one of my favourite tasks.  However the dry days I’d envisaged did not materialise and apart from a brief couple of hours in the garden yesterday, most of the things on my ‘to do’ list remain undone and garden and allotment continue to look rather ragged around the edges.  But it was a pleasure to be outside yesterday, and whilst far too wet to do any digging I was able to clear away leaves I’d missed earlier, and in so doing, reveal small signs of Spring – a welcome reminder that no matter what the weather throws at us, Nature will out.  Now that we’ve passed the Winter Solstice and gradually each day brings us a little more daylight, so our plants start into life again.

So for me the saving graces at the end of the year are the fat buds of the hellebores, the grey green spikes of the snowdrops just starting to show and the bold green and white leaves of the Arum italicum ‘Pictum’ – they confirm that this weather will pass and the ground will begin to dry – and we will cope with whatever 2013 brings us ‘garden wise’.

Happy New Year!

Arum italicum 'Pictum'

Arum italicum ‘Pictum’

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Where does the time go?

I knew I’d been very remiss with my blog lately, but until just now, when I re-read my last entry, from September, I’d not appreciated quite how remiss. So I must work to re-establish myself and write and read more over the coming months.

Like many UK based garden bloggers my thoughts are almost entirely linked to the weather, it has certainly had an enormous impact on my time in the garden over the past couple of months, and as for the allotment, well I’m just relieved this is the ‘down’ time as otherwise I do believe the powers that be would have been chasing me by now. That’s not to say I’ve not been gardening! I’ve added another plot to my ‘to do’ list, and more about that soon.

So, to catch up. I’ve nearly planted all my bulbs, a few tulips remaining and if the ground does not dry out soon, they’ll end up in pots. My autumn sown seeds have frankly been a real disappointment, those that did germinate have either been decimated by slugs, or have gone leggy and feeble looking from being placed in the shed – no slugs but not a great deal of light either. The sweet peas are looking grand, a good 6″ tall, but I’m worried they will not survive the winter months. I should be planting some more soon, perhaps between the batches I will get some viable plants for next year.

The garden itself is not looking too bad, I’ve made a point of collecting fallen leaves when I have been able to get outside, and I am looking forward to lots of lovely leaf mould in a year or so. Because I no longer have a lawn it all looks fairly tidy, but the paving is getting very slippery in places, so I can see some fun with a pressure washer next year.

Plant-wise, the most lovely looking thing right now is my Betula jacquemontii, this is the first year it has shed its bark and the clean white stems look fantastic. That and the grasses are the stars of the show.


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Allotment update – the fate of the September sown seeds

At the beginning of this month I wrote how I had started off some hardy annuals from the Higgledy Garden ‘Seeds to Sow in September’ range.  Not only was this because I wanted to get some of my cut flower seeds off to a good start next year, but also because I had finally managed to reclaim a large section of the allotment, and wanted to feel it was being productive.  Furthermore, being a bit of a romantic, I have this vision of what my allotment will look like next year ( I will seek out an appropriate image) and the sooner I can feel I’m well and truly on my way to this flowery utopia the happier I will be.

It was going well.  Everything germinated.  I’d sown Calendula, Larkspur, Cornflowers and Nigella, and marked up those from Sarah Raven and those from Higgledy Garden just to compare notes on performance – as you do.  As I walked to and from the station I was able to watch the progress of the seeds, and was quietly confident.  Just over a week ago I was stopping off every couple of evenings to water them.

But then we’ve had some rain.  And whilst this little corner of Surrey has had nothing like the deluge that other parts of the country have suffered, when I returned to the allotment today to work on easing out the weeds that had the cheek to try and re-establish themselves in my cut flower patch, it appears that it was enough for most of my seeds to retreat back beneath the surface again!  Either that, or something has been feasting on them.  It is very frustrating.  The same has happened in the garden.  I’d sown a seed tray full of Papaver rhoeas ‘Bridal Silk’ – they were safe inside a cold frame, and all but two have vanished.  I can only think that slugs or snails have had them.  So the second batch are in the shed.

However it is not all bleak.  I am very pleased to see that the seeds I sowed from the Lunaria annua ‘Variegata’ have germinated.  They are in one of my cold frames in the garden where I can keep a close eye on them.  I bought the plant from a RHS Westminster show in the Spring, it was expensive for an annual, and on the scrawny side only managing one flower stem.  However when it gave up the ghost I saved the stem, drying it off in the shed, and so far so good.  From my recollection the seeds do come true; I will update in due course.  And on the allotment I’m pleased to say that the Calendula have come on a treat, and the Higgledy Garden Nigella are doing well.

The image I’ve included here is from a postcard I bought from the Garden Museum in Lambeth.  I have a feeling this sentiment will be shared!

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