Tag Archives: wallflowers

Clock-changing time again…

Chrysanths and dahlias autumn 2018

This is always a busy time in the garden, tidying away the faded (or not so faded in some cases!) summer flowers and planting out my containers for winter and spring colour. The begonias and New Guinea impatiens have done brilliantly this year and are still looking colourful, but with the weather having turned decidedly chiller and frost forecast any time, the moment has come to take the plunge. Into the compost they went, and in their place I planted spring bulbs, pansies and wallflowers grown from seed in nursery beds down at the allotment.

This year I bought my tulips on a 20% off day at our local garden centre in Mark Cross: they had an excellent selection and worked out considerably cheaper than the Sarah Raven tulips I usually buy. In the large half-barrels in the back garden, I went for Creme Flag and White Flag in one, and a red and white selection of Carnival de Rio and Escape in the other, both offset with Sunset Purple wallflowers and pansies in berry shades. These were Taylor’s bulbs, marketed as Sherbet Lemons, and Strawberries and Cream respectively: I particularly liked the fact that the packets gave detailed information for each variety and they were packed in separate bags inside the pack.

In the front barrels either side of my rose arch, I went for a purple theme with a tulip mix, again from Taylor’s, called Purple Rain Fusion on one side, and Dancing Dolls (the ever-reliable Doll’s Minuet and its purple namesake, Purple Doll) on the other side. These were planted with pansies in shades of blue and purple, and Giant Pink wallflowers. In the last barrel, near the front door, I planted a tulip mix called Fondant Fancy (Infiniti and Mistress – here’s hoping the individual varieties all flower at the same time, as they are supposed to… Crocuses and daffodils were recycled from last year’s pot, so a literal case of pot luck – I’m sure they’ll be fine!

Having weeded some of the allotment beds so that I could plant my broad bean seeds last weekend, and taken down the tatty sweet pea tripod and gone-to-seed spinach and chard stems, this weekend was the turn of the garden at home for a change. A long to-do list (headed by finishing the containers) included sowing sweet pea seeds – I’ve never tried sowing sweet peas in autumn before, but after miserable spring germination performance in recent years, I figured I had nothing to lose! I’m starting them off indoors on the heated conservatory floor, but once they’ve germinated, they should be able to go out into a cold frame. I also potted on the cuttings I took in late summer: penstemon, cistus, anthemis, salvia, osteospermum and hydrangea. Most (with the exception of the cistus) had good little root systems, so should make nice little plants by spring. I also experimented with taking cuttings from my huge Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill, after chatting to a local nursery owner last weekend, who had said she couldn’t find one anywhere. Mine grows like a triffid, needing pruning twice a year, so worth a shot. It may well be too late this year, but we shall see…

With the onset of frost around the corner after a bitterly cold and showery day on Sunday, I brought my tender geraniums and tibouchina into the conservatory and put other tender specimens in my grow frame. This in turn meant finally harvesting my chillis from the fading chilli plants in the conservatory to free up space. The chilli plants have been yellowing and dropping their leaves for a few weeks anyway, so now was the time.

Chillis

It may have been too wet and cold to do everything on my list, but a good weekend, all things considered. The clocks may have gone back and there’s an hour less light for gardening in the afternoons, but the hatches are battened: let the weather do its worst!

 

 

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Flowers in October

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It was time for the autumn tidy-up this weekend as I’ll be busy for the next few weekends. Despite mixed weather – sunshine and showers – I managed to tick practically everything off my to-do list and can turn my back on the allotment with a relatively clear conscience now!

Despite it being mid October, the dahlias and the sweet peas are still going strong, and will no doubt carry on until the first frosts. Admittedly, the sweet peas were extremely slow to get going this year, but I don’t think I’ve ever picked such healthy bouquets this late in the year! There’s no doubt that having a cutting garden at the allotment makes for one of the most cost-effective – and delightful – crops, from May right through ’til November. Bliss. I’d extended my flower production to two raised beds this year and it’s worked better than I could have hoped: more dahlias, armfuls of ammi majus and a surprising star in the form of Achillea Summer Berries, sown from seed earlier this year and excellent for picking in a range of soft pinks and creams. The plants I planted out in the garden at home were devoured by slugs the minute they went in, but the allotment ones escaped unscathed and I’m hoping for an even better display next year. The bupleurum and euphorbia were disappointing, but more than compensated by the self-sown dill flowers (and alchemilla mollis from home) which provide that yellow or green zing for arrangements. I currently have no less than 11 vases of blooms dotted around the house, some admittedly just single stem posies, but for mid-autumn that really isn’t bad going…

As well as harvesting yet more glorious flowers, courgettes (also still coming aplenty!), leeks and the last of the main stems of calabrese, I also picked all my apples on Sunday to pre-empt the frosts. I thought there wouldn’t be as many this year, but as I filled bag after bag, I see I was mistaken! All now safely hanging in the garage, but I suspect I’ll have to give some away – far too many for one. As it was, I left two bags of windfalls on the allotment sharing table and there are quite a number of prime specimens still on the trees, out of reach without a long ladder. I may leave those for the birds…. Oh, and this is where I’m glad I pay 40p for the privilege of having my fortnightly online shopping delivered in bags! I’m all for saving on plastic bag use (and re-use canvas bags/bags for life wherever I can), but short of investing in an old-fashioned apple store, I’m not sure how I’d store apples without my good, old, sturdy Waitrose bags.

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Other tasks crossed off my list included taking out the spent sweetcorn haulms and shrivelled squash plants for the compost. The squash have been a complete write-off this year, one of the few crops that haven’t done well. I can only assume it was the late, cold spring and not a long enough growing season. In their place I sowed next year’s broad bean seeds, Aquadulce as usual. Such a lovely thought that they will start growing now, while the soil is still warm, hibernate through the winter, and then produce their delicious bounty as one of the first crops of next spring/summer, with very little interference from me. I also planted some Oriental salad leaves under an Enviromesh tunnel, more as an experiment than anything else. I had intended to plant them at the end of September along with the rocket and hardy lettuce, but time ran away with me. We’ll see. When I’ve tried planting salad crops under fleece at this time of year before, I had a great crop of early salad leaves the following spring – definitely worth a go!

 

exotic-emperor-tulip

I’d ordered my new-season tulips from Sarah Raven (my annual treat!) a few weeks ago and most of the varieties bar one have arrived, so I finished planting up my spring barrels, taking out the old tuberous begonias (far too top-heavy this late in the year) and storing the dinner plate-sized tubers in brown paper bags in the shed for next year. I’ve tried to opt for earlier varieties in this year’s selection, so that I get more of a splash of colour at the same time: Vanilla Cream and soft pink Design Impression for my pair of tubs by the front arch, pale lemon lily-flowered Sapporo near the front door and Spring Green and Exotic Emperor, both white with green, in the back garden. I can hardly wait!

tulip-sapporo

I also lifted some of the wallflowers (peachy-pink Aurora) I’d sown from seed in May and planted some of the sturdy little plants in the barrels too – hoping for an impressive display next April/May. Blue pansies bought en masse (and on offer) from my local garden centre, Tête-à-Tête daffodils and Cream Beauty crocus complete the mix. Now to stop the dog digging up the pansies in search of the deliciously-scented (to him at any rate) chicken pellet fertiliser I’ve obviously used far too liberally!

leo-at-richmond

 

 

 

Early season progress – slow and steady…

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Managed another three hours up at the allotment this afternoon – thought I might not do when I saw the rain this morning, but it eased off, and was mostly dry. Thank goodness – still lots to do after missing a weekend last week, so good to tick off more start-of-season tasks.

I planted my onion sets – I don’t grow many as they’re cheap enough in the shops all year round and onions aren’t that different when they’re home-grown in terms of taste, but I do like to have some late summer just so I can claim to be completely self-sufficient for at least part of the year! I like the mixed bags of red, white and brown onion sets from Thompson & Morgan – they seem to do well in my raised beds. I plant them as an edging around my leeks so I can rotate them with other alliums and hopefully avoid onion rot.

My first potatoes went in too – I’m growing Maris Peer this year, again from Thompson & Morgan, supposedly for its delicious taste and waxy flesh. We shall see! I’ve been disappointed with the new potatoes in recent years: last year I grew Casablanca which was nothing special and the year before International Kidney, the so-called Jersey variety, but it didn’t live up to its reputation on my soil. The nicest I’ve grown in recent years was Ulster Sceptre, which I thought had been discontinued but have just checked only to see that it is still available as a special collection on the T&M site – rats! It certainly wasn’t listed in the catalogue – that will teach me not to double-check online!

Another job was to water in the nematodes I thought I’d try for slug control this year. I ordered a pack of the Nemaslug with my seed order from The Organic Gardening Catalogue (I think it brought my order in for the free postage if you spent a certain amount!), and it arrived a week or so ago. The soil has to be warm enough before you apply it as the nematodes are living organisms and will die if the soil is too cold. This morning’s rain was ideal to moisten the soil first and you just have to dissolve the pack contents, looking for all the world like sawdust, split into 4 equal amounts in four 2-gallon watering cans and water over those beds you want to protect. I chose my hostas at home – fed up with the lace curtain effect after the slugs have chomped their way through my beautiful plants on our heavy clay soil. Strangely enough, the hostas were never touched when we lived in Scotland – though they certainly had other targets up there! Up at the allotments, I watered it around my dahlia bed, the strawberries, the potatoes I’d just planted, and my asparagus bed, which also has dahlias at each corner. Watch this space – it will be interesting to see whether I notice a difference.

Other jobs included putting supports – posts and wires – in for the raspberries I moved two weeks ago, general weeding and spraying Roundup over the invading hordes of buttercups and couch grass on my bark paths between the raised beds. I do try to be organic, but I reckon it’s acceptable to be a little less green on the paths….

I had hoped to plant some salad seeds – ideal time for leafy crops with a waxing moon, if you believe in lunar planting! – but with the inevitable chit-chat with fellow plotholders, ran out of time – hopefully I’ll have time to do that as part of an evening dog walk during the week. I’d planted my tomato seeds – Sungold, Gardener’s Delight and Tigerella – in the propagator at home yesterday, along with some cucumber seeds, and some basil and more parsley. I daren’t do them any earlier as with no greenhouse, they can’t go outside too soon anyway.

A thoroughly enjoyable few hours’ work – and a satisfying basket of golden chard, spinach, rhubarb, purple-sprouting broccoli, leeks, swede and parsnips to bring home – who said anything about the hungry gap?! Oh and a lovely bunch of deep orange wallflowers too, which now look stunning in a turquoise glass vase on my kitchen windowsill.

This weekend’s recipe is for some cookies I conjured up this morning whilst waiting for the rain to stop. Delicious, if I say so myself!

Chocolate orange cookies

4oz butter

4oz self-raising flour

4oz light muscovado sugar

4oz porridge oats

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp golden syrup

Grated rind of two oranges

4oz plain chocolate

 

Mix the sifted flour, sugar, oats and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl.

Melt the butter and syrup in a pan, then stir into oat mix and add half the orange rind.

Divide into small truffle-sized balls (I got 19) and place well apart on two greased baking trays, flattening slightly with the heel of your hand.

Cook for 15 minutes at 160°C fan (Gas 4) until golden brown.

Cool slightly on the trays, then transfer onto cooling rack to cool completely.

When cool, melt the chocolate and the remaining orange rind in the microwave (short bursts and stirring help prevent burning). The orange rind leaves the chocolate slightly bitty in appearance, which doesn’t bother me, but if you’d rather have it smooth, you could try orange oil (extract) instead. Spread chocolate onto the bottom half of each biscuit with a small spatula and leave to set before serving.

Delicious with a cup of tea when you come in from your exertions in the garden…

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