Gardening First Anniversary

Timehop informed me yesterday morning that it was a year ago to the day that my gardening adventure properly started. We moved into our house and had our very own garden for the first time ever in September 2014 so you might think that the adventure started then, but it didn’t, not really. We dabbled a bit. We kept the lawn mowed, we kept on top of the weeding (after a fashion) and we did acquire a couple of new plants but the garden had been so neglected by the previous owners and their tenants that it had become very overgrown. I used to go out there with the intention of tackling it, but once I was out there it was incredibly daunting and I just didn’t know where to start so I’d come back in deflated and defeated. We used to joke that there could be an Aboriginal family living down the end of the garden and we’d be none the wiser!

That all changed after we decided to bite the bullet and pay someone to come and undertake a bit of deforestation. I don’t generally advocate the cutting down of trees, but in this case it was very necessary, and didn’t actually involve the cutting down of many trees, merely hard pruning since, as it turned out, the trees were overgrown from our neighbour’s garden.

We went from this ….

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… to this …

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… all in the space of a day! The transformation inspired me. All of a sudden I could see how amazing our outside space could be. I started frequenting garden centres. A lot! I paid for a loyalty discount card for Notcutts and probably made my money back within a week! I discovered plant sale tables and I learnt what is and isn’t saveable. I set series record for Gardeners’ World and Love your Garden. I started a gardening folder to keep my plant labels safe and to jot down design ideas or plant care tips. I set reminders in my phone such as ‘cut fuschia back’ and ‘deadhead the roses’. The garden became my happy place.

I was thinking about this on and off all day yesterday and I decided to mark the day by deciding on my ten favourite plants and then this time next year, when I’ve had another year of discovering new plants and seeing what appears in the garden that I’ve forgotten I’ve planted, I can compare and see if today’s top ten are still my top ten. I’m not going to attempt to put them in order because I think I’d drive myself mad pondering their relative virtues, so I’ll just do it alphabetically!

Blue Festuca – I love the feel of this grass. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s a very touchy feely plant. It’s also very resilient.

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Cordyline –  I have two, a pink one which I’ve planted close to the house and a green one which is in my birthday planter. Did you ever put a thick piece of grass between your fingers when you were a kid and blow on it to make music? The Cordyline, with its lovely broad fronds, reminds me of doing that.

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Daffodil – needs no explanation really! Beautiful in all its forms and makes me so happy when I see them starting to pop up because it means I’ve made it through another Winter!

Diascia Cherry Blossom – a little bit of Spring in the Summer and even through to the early Autumn. It waves its clusters of blossomy flowers at you for weeks before it settles in for the Winter.

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Erysimum – this was another of my sale table finds and it had the odd flower all through Winter as it sat in its pot waiting for me to find it a home. Now it’s planted out it’s bursting with the most cheerful of blooms.

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Eupatorium – I’ve harped on about my Eupatorium many a time. It does have white flowers in the late Summer and into Autumn, but it’s the leaves that really do it for me. The variety I have has the most gorgeous purple tinge which perfectly sets of the dark green majority. It actually made me gasp with joy when I saw it pushing its tiny shoots through ready for another growing season.

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Fuschia – I’m pretty sure this will still be on my list in a year’s time because I’ve always loved them. They remind me of my Grandad who always had them in his garden. I like all varieties, and I had a purple one last year called Delta Sarah (which was supposed to be hardy but hasn’t come back this year) but my favourite is the stereotypical bright pink Fuschia.

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Geum – again a sale table find. It had a couple of flowers left when I rescued it, but I wasn’t prepared for how happy it was going to look this year. It has bright orange flowers on long stems which rise above the cluster of leaves and wouldn’t fail to brighten anyone’s day.

Hebe – I have lots! I have to blinker myself in garden centres now to stop myself buying more! I have several varieties, but Purple Pixie was the first I got. It’s not flowering yet, but it’s over-wintered ok so I’m hopeful that it will. I have some with pink leaves as well that will hopefully provide some colour in the (bleak mid) Winter.

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Stipa – my first two Stipa were probably the best bargains I’ve found. They were fifty pence each from B&Q and I’ve no idea why because there was (and still isn’t) literally nothing wrong with them. If I could’ve carried them I’d have bought more! These are those original two either side of the pink Cordyline. I’ve acquired more since, but not for fifty pence!

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This is what the garden looks like currently, and the improvement is due, in no small part, to all the beauties above, alongside a fair bit of hard graft!

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There’s still a way to go until we reach my vision of what it will look like, but it’s practically unrecognisable today from just over a year ago and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far.

Right, I’m off to put a reminder in my phone to do this exercise again on this date next year to see if my top have changed.

Eggsellent Easter

See what I did there? Ok, I know it’s far from original, appearing in any number of publications every Easter since forever, but I couldn’t resist! It’s also inaccurate as far as I’m concerned because I haven’t had an egg, chocolate or otherwise. I did pop to M&S today though because I had a craving for a hot cross bun. As well as the regular bun, I ventured into the exotic and got chocolate and salted caramel too. Until today I’ve eschewed these peculiar versions as some kind of Easterish crackpottery, but Oh. My. Goodness it was good!

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I think I’m a little bit giddy from how good this weekend has been. How different it would’ve been had the weather not bucked the normal bank holiday trend. It still would’ve been good, but in an inside kind of a way.

Today in my greenhouse, with the window open, it’s a balmy 27.9°.

Look at that max number though! That was yesterday when, for reasons relating to alcohol, I didn’t make it out into the garden until mid afternoon. Even my poor Sunflower seedlings were wilting in the tropics! I opened the window, left the door open and watered everything and everything seems none the worst for their blast into desert life. In fact, the Red Brussel Sprouts are most definitely sprouting. There’s also signs of life in the Yellow Courgette and Rainbow Swiss Chard pots.

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A couple of the Sunflowers are probably big enough to plant out, but I’m going to wait until we’re back from our holiday so I can keep an eye on them every day. I think by then the Sweet Peas and Cosmos will be ready to go out too, and there should be no danger of frost.

I’ve had a pretty productive weekend in the garden, but I have also made sure I’ve spent some time sitting on the bistro relaxing and appreciating the progress made.

Today I was intending to not do much outside, but I couldn’t resist! I swept up all the fallen leaves and next door’s conifer droppings from the patio areas and around the raised beds, and it looked so much tidier for a couple of hours until it got breezy and I found myself in a blossom storm. It’s next door’s tree and we seem to get the bulk of the fallen blossom, but, unlike the conifers, I don’t mind that because it does look pretty both on the tree and on the ground, and because it’s so delicate it disappears quickly once it’s fallen so requires little tidying.

There’s even blossom in the potato bags which I topped up with compostthis morning because they were all sprouting.

I found new homes for a couple of sale table plants. I picked up a Buddleja in Wyevale. We want to attract as much wildlife as we can so I’m hoping the butterflies will like the Buddleja. I found the perfect spot for it where it will get plenty of sun, at least for some of the day, but is against a fence so should be adequately sheltered.

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I got this Pippa’s Purple Hellebore from Notcutts back at the beginning of March and it’s been growing really well in its pot. I wanted to find a spot where we can see it from the house because it will provide some much yearned for colour in the Winter and early Spring. It even has pretty leaves.

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Something that won’t have pretty leaves for much longer if I’m not careful is one of my Lilies. It has Lily Beetles!

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They’re very pretty, but they’re eating my Lily! I’ve been picking them off whenever I walk past, but they come back. I don’t want to kill them and I don’t really want to use insecticide. Dilemma! So far they haven’t found the other Lily.

Everything’s growing so well, it’s just a joy to be outside at the moment. We have plenty of colour pops around. From where I’m sat now on the bistro, I can see pink Anemones, orange Geum, purple Grape Hyancinths, red Erysimum, white and purple Lunaria, blue Pratia and the flaming leaves of the Pieris. If I turn my head I can see the last of the Daffodils, the Bluebells just starting to flower around the edge of the bistro and, of course, the blossom.

There’s even a white Bluebell. Not sure if it is a Bluebell because the clue’s kind of in the name, but it certainly looks like one.

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The Strawberry plants are starting to get flowers as well.

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There’s enough sun on the solar power sensor to set the water feature going. It’s so nice sitting here in quiet companionship with the backdrop of birdsong and the trickle of the water. However, I can also smell someone’s barbecue and it’s making me hungry so I may have to go in and have the other half of the chocolate and salted caramel hot cross bun.

I hope everyone’s Easter has been just as eggsellent as mine and long may the good weather last.

 

 

Six on Saturday 20th April

I won’t be able to do a Six on Saturday definitely for the next two Saturdays so I thought I’d better knuckle down and do one today. Next Saturday we’ll be on a plane on our way to Orlando (whoop) and the Saturday after we’ll be on a plane back (not so whoop!)

There’s so much going on in the garden at the moment that it’s hard to narrow it down to just six things but I’ll do my best to stick to the rules (see the Propagator’s page for these).

I’ll start at the beginning – sowing! I’ve done quite a bit, there’s a real ‘Good Life’ feel going on. Some of you may remember that I was given a Funky Veg kit and a Chilli and Spice kit for Christmas. I decided the time was right to sow these seeds.

The Funky Veg came with little compost discs that I had to put in water to expand.

There was peat in the compost discs which I would normally avoid for environmental reasons. I ummed and ahed about it, but then figured it would be more of a crime to waste it now it’s been harvested than to use it. The Chilli and Spice kit came with a little bag of compost so I sent a happy hour or so in my greenhouse potting everything up.

Hopefully soon I’ll have little seedlings of Purple Carrots, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Stripy Tomatoes, Yellow Courgettes, Red Brussel Sprouts, Cumin and Coriander and I suspect somewhat later the Chillis – Habanero, Jalapeño and Cayenne. The Chillis and Spices are currently inside next to the radiator (in a propagator so feline teeth can’t get to them!) although I may move them to the greenhouse over this weekend because it was 29.9° in there yesterday according to the thermometer, which it certainly isn’t inside.

I also sowed my veg seeds directly into my new raised bed.

I made a plea on Facebook a while ago for people’s used lolly sticks so I don’t have to buy plastic labels and here they are put to good use. I’ve sowed Carrot Nantes 5, Onion Red Baron, Leek Musselburgh and Pea (Petit Pois) Calibra.

We have a lot of wildlife in our garden, which I love, but when the bed was empty either next door’s cats or the local foxes had used it as a giant litter tray, so I’ve netted it  to allow the seeds to (hopefully, fingers crossed) germinate undisturbed.

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You can see a slight glimpse of the potato bags on the end there too. All three are now sprouting and I need to go and put more compost on the top.

Next up are the seeds that I showed a few weeks ago in the greenhouse. With the exception of the Aquilegia which have done nothing (yet?) they’re all doing well.

Starting top left and working clockwise we have Sweet Peas, Sunflowers, Calendula and Cosmos. I’ve already pinched the middles out of the Sweet Peas to encourage them to grow side shoots for more flowers.

I’m not actually a hundred percent sure where I’m going to plant everything! I have over forty of both Sweet Peas and Cosmos and ten Sunflowers! I have plenty of space, but a lot of it isn’t ready yet! I’ll have to get planning, and quickly because I think they’re not far off ready to start hardening off to go out.

I guess next in the cycle are new shoots, so number four is my Giant Allium.

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I took this photo yesterday (Friday) and you can see the shoot on the left. I swear there wasn’t even a hint of growth on Thursday. I’ve been looking a lot wondering if I made a mistake putting Tulips, Snowdrops and Giant Alliums all in one container (with Cyclamen and Heather on top) because I only got one Snowdrop flower, the Tulips are being really slow and haven’t opened yet and, at previous time of looking, the Giant Alliums had thrown up A LOT of big leaves with no sign of a flower. I haven’t been out yet today, but when I do I’ll see if the other one’s grown a shoot overnight!

More new shoots, and very happy ones, on my Eupatorium. I reported a few weeks ago that the first shoots had just emerged which made me really happy because I was so worried that it hadn’t made it through the Winter, and it’s going from strength to strength.

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Look at that! Discernible leaves! And with their trade mark hint of purple. Nature’s fab!

On to my wheelbarrow. I’ve planted it up again, this year I’ve gone for Ranunculus and Primroses. The Primroses were seventy five percent off, just because one plant in each trio was past its best. I’ve tidied each one up and they look lovely now. Such a splash of colour.

I got my new leaf blower out too and did my Ghostbusters thing and cleared the bistro of leaves. Then I went round and pulled up the few weeds that had forced their way through the weed control. It’s all looking pretty good now and ready to enjoy the Summer.

Let’s talk Wild Flower for my final point. This has now been identified for me by Tony Tomeo as Lunaria, also known as Honesty. Given that it started last Summer as a couple of unidentified leaves, it’s done amazingly well.

As you can see on the right, I’ve iMeasured it and it’s just over a metre tall at its tallest part! Wow!

So, there you go. Six for today. I’m really excited about our holiday (I’m almost down to counting down in hours rather than weeks or days!) and I have a feeling the holiday blues on our return will be eased by the changes in the garden. I should be able to plant out my Sweet Peas and Cosmos, hopefully all my veg will be showing signs of life, the Eupatorium should be well on its way to lofty gloriousness and, if yesterday’s progress is anything to go by, the Giant Alliums should be approaching total world domination, you may even be able to see them from space!

 

 

 

 

J