Today’s harvest from the greenhouse

September 4, 2016

Far too many for one person – thank goodness Martin gets back tomorrow!

These are the varieties I’ve grown in the greenhouse this year:
• sweet aperitif
• sweet sensation
• golden sunrise
• moneymaker
• shirley
• roma
• gardeners delight
• alicante

Actually ‘gardeners delight’ turned out to be another yellow tomato, probably another Golden Sunrise. Anyway they both cropped reasonably well, and are delicious. Moneymaker is reliable and was earlier than, but similar to, Alicante. This may be because the latter started off a couple of weeks behind.

Sweet Aperitif is delightful – tasty, good ‘cherry tomato’ size, good cropper. Sweet Sensation has produced very small, disappointing fruits, with many of the flowers infertile.

Roma is my first experiment with a plum tomato, grown in bush form. Once I realised it is supposed to grow this way, and stopped cutting out the side shoots, it performed very well, and is still covered in healthy-looking, substantial fruits.

I’ll repeat this year’s experiment with buying in tomato plants and potting them up, rather than growing from seed. You get a better range of varieties and an extended fruiting season, rather than a heavy crop condensed into a couple of weeks.

Just starting to harvest the outdoor tomatoes, from five plants which I grew from random seedlings. No idea what variety they are – but most likely Ailsa Craig or Alicante, as these are the ones I’ve raised in the past two years.


Summer 2016

July 23, 2016

The garden is looking better than ever this July. Without further ado, here are some pictures.

Spring bulbs – look out in autumn

April 11, 2015

Some yellow daffodils would complete the arrangement very well. White ones dominate, and even then, they are sparsely scattered in the wall border.

Note for September/October: plant clumps of new yellow daffodil bulbs. Note for July: lift the white daffs from this part of the border, where possible.


Spring at last

May 14, 2013
Pulmonaria May 2013

Pulmonaria May 2013

This photo was taken by my son Joe, in our garden two weeks ago.   Isn’t it beautiful?

I sometimes feel that our garden is plagued by this almost-weed, but when it is in flower (and little else is), pulmonaria officinalis looks stunning, and is very attractive to the bees.  I dig up great clumps of it every year, as it spreads to parts of the garden where I would really prefer to have something of more lasting interest.

Discovering a specimen with a pure white flower, I carefully removed it to a prime position.  It is less vigorous than the blue-pink variety, but looks pretty good too, surrounded as it is just now by a cloud of tiny blue flowers of forget-me-not (myosotis) and brunnera macrophylla.

The spring has arrived, though the brief warm, dry spell has given way to wet and cold weather.  The result: hanging baskets (planted up by Joe last week) are waiting in the greenhouse; dahlias (potted up by me a week ago) are also still in the greenhouse and coming along nicely; some more container plants are waiting to be set into tubs.  So the greenhouse is positively bursting with plants.

I took advantage of the welcome rain to plant two rose bushes that have been languishing in pots since last autumn.  The challenge was finding the right position for them – both climbers – but I think I have found two good spots.  Pink climber Rosa ‘Compassion’ , a gift from my Bahá’í children’s class, is against the south-facing wall near to the back of the house; and the other (name unknown) red climbing rose is under the garage window.

An afternoon in the garden

April 22, 2013

Finally – time and weather to get me out into the garden!

I decided to tackle some pruning.  I pruned the Cornus Alba hard.  Last winter it provided a good display of red stems.  We only have the one plant, and it began life as a puny, spindly specimen that I picked up for next to nothing.  This last winter has been the first occasion on which it has really come into its own.  I hope I have not set it back by pruning so late.  It was just starting to come into leaf, and should really have been pruned in February or March.  But everything is about a month behind, it seems.

Next job: some more pruning on the white climbing rose.  This is such a vigorous plant, and I have not yet got the hang of pruning and training it so that it looks good when in flower, without getting so heavy that it comes away from the wall in stormy weather, or leggy so that it sends shoots swaying far above the wall.  Again, it is a bit late in the year to prune a rose.  But I was encouraged by observing the garden of an enthusiastic gardener friend over the weekend.  Her climbing roses are only just beginning to shoot, and look neat and tidy compared to ours!

Some tidying and digging of the north-western corner of the back garden followed.  I suspect I have given this part of the garden more attention than other areas in the past couple of years.  It was already quite tidy, with reasonably good soil.  I still intend to add some fertiliser and garden compost – then ‘job done’.  Sadly there is no sign yet of the delphiniums that usually appear in this corner.  I rather fear they have gone – and I wonder why.  Slugs are the most likely explanation.

Next job: hard pruning of the Viburnum Tinus in the front garden.  This shrub, planted at least 10 years ago, neglected while we were away in Switzerland, almost killed by the severe winters of 2009 and 2010, ravaged by some sort of caterpillar or grub in 2011 and pruned to about two-thirds of its towering height at that time, has now grown back into a large, top-heavy and mostly flowerless plant.  Well, it is certainly resilient.  So I took the saw to it and filled most of our garden waste wheelie bin with the product.  Sadly, I discovered a perfectly-formed nest in the clippings.  There were no eggs in it, but from its immaculate form I fear that it might have been newly built or occupied this year.

My last job was a bit of repotting in the greenhouse.  This is an easy task to do whilst pottering and watering.

Streptocarpus ‘Falling Stars’

April 22, 2013
Streptocarpus 'Falling Stars'

Streptocarpus ‘Falling Stars’

Isn’t this beautiful?  Of course, it isn’t in the garden – and so it strictly doesn’t belong in this blog.

Burford Garden Company has a magnificent range of stretocarpus just now.  I have a love/hate relationship with this species – they look spectacular when in flower, but then die back and I have never found them easy to restore to their former glory, next season.

My parents bought me one as a gift at last April’s RHS Cardiff Show, and I have managed to nurture it (and even split it) without killing the thing, though it has yet to show any sign of flowering this season.  Dibleys, the specialists for this plant, sell a feed in tablet form.  I decided it would be a wise investment, and bought a little carton along with my new plant yesterday.
Well – it looks lovely, has pride of place in our living room, and even if it doesn’t last beyond this season, it has cost no more than a nice bunch of flowers.  And it should last longer than that!

No gardening

March 31, 2013

Yes, it’s Easter Day and I have hardly started on the garden.

True, the north-facing border got a going-over about a month ago, and with Joe’s help I pruned back an untidy (and undesired) shrub in the corner, and took a branch or two off the crab apple tree. The roses have all got piles of ash at their feet, and even some soot from the chimney sweeping that we had done prior to the arrival of our new stove. I’ve pruned the buddleia and tidied up a few other shrubs.

Martin is out in the garden much more than me these days. He has been vigorously chopping firewood, and levelling out the pavoirs in our front drive. But I have stayed mostly indoors. Why? In a word: cold.

It hs been an exceptionally cold March – apparently the coldest since 1962 – and despite a relatively dry couple of weeks, and warming sunshine in the mornings, I have not been tempted to get on with the garden, as I usually do during March.

Even the greenhouse, though tidy, isn’t doing much. I sowed several trays of seeds about three weeks ago, but very few seedlings have come up. It is too cold in the greenhouse too – warmed by the sun during the day, but dropping to 3 or 4 degrees at night, even with the heater on.

The thing to do, I’m sure, is just to make a start. Then maybe the gardening ‘bug’ will get me.

More leeks

January 12, 2013

How spooky that my first post in 7 months should be on the day I have harvested leeks again! This year’s crop is at least ready in the winter, as it should be. But the plants are fairly spindly. I harvested just one (the only one big enough to deserve the name of leek) and put it in a risotto. As an accompaniment we had chard which, alongside parsley, is the only other crop in the veg garden just now.

I pottered in the greenhouse, which is keeping around 13 degrees. We’ve heated the greenhouse only two nights this winter, in early December. The damp of the past few months has led to a fair bit of fungus, especially on the geraniums. I pulled off the affected leaves, and hoped for the best.

Did some more tidying in the borders. A chilly day with a stiff breeze, the ground sticky and very clayey after weeks of rain. Not encouraging conditions for working in the garden, and it’s hard to imagine it looking even vaguely attractive by summer.

Yes, we have no tomatoes

June 10, 2012

Yesterday we harvested the first of last year’s leeks. Still a bit small, but good enough to throw into a risotto. So far this summer, the garden has provided a sufficient supply of lettuce.  There is more coming along behind the first crop (which Joe planted in early spring) so we should have salad all through the summer. There is also a row of rocket, now going to seed. Must sow some more.

The broad beans are flowering freely. The peas have yet to show any flowers. Potatoes await planting (rather late this year, I know) but several potato plants have appeared among other crops, and I am leaving them there.

This year’s tomato crop is non-existent, sadly. Indeed the greenhouse is virtually empty. I have bought a hanging basket with ‘Tumbler’ tomatoes, which fruit very well, but my own late sowings have yielded a handful of spindly little plants. Joe is trying to nurture them, but I am not hopeful. The pepper that I have grown with great success the last two years (sweet orange baby) is also missing this year.  I started some off, but the seed was evidently too old or the conditions not right for germination.  Then I hunted for the seed in shops and garden centres, to no avail.  Should have just ordered some online – which is what I will do next season.

So the greenhouse has one hanging basket tomato plant, and a grow bag with a small home-grown tomato and a cucumber given to me by my friend Parry. Ah well.

As for the flower garden, that is looking pretty good. More of that in another post.

Dull, uninspiring garden

March 15, 2012

Oh dear, the garden really does look its worst.  True, some daffodils are in flower already, with more to come.  In the front border is a beautiful hellebore.  The raised veg beds are ready and waiting, and still yielding the occasional harvest of spinach and parsley.  But elsewhere the garden is bleak and bare.

The borders in the front garden are empty or overgrown.  The back border along the wall is covered in forget-me-not and celandine – neither of these in flower as yet, just a carpet of boring green.  The few shrubs, as well as the roses, are pruned back and have yet to show any sign of new growth.

Only the south (i.e. north-facing) border looks respectable.  Why is this?  Well, I put some care into planning and planting it five years ago.  Since then I have moved things around a bit, and improved the soil regularly.  This season, it is the only bed to have been properly mulched / composted as yet.  And it is more or less weed-free.

But I think the real reason the north-facing border is doing better than the south-facing one is indeed position.  The S-facing border has never recovered from last spring’s drought, making it unworkable for most of the rest of the year.  It is also subject to cold northerly and north-westerly winds that howl past, channelled along the side of the house.  This year has also been exceptionally dry so far.  The plants are exhausted and it has not been possible to give this border the attention it needs and deserves.

So I have my work cut out!