Cases of manure contamination are still cropping up
see here so it's still important to take care when acquiring supplies. This is especially important in areas where Forefront weedkiller is used.

Harrod Horticultural have a sale - up to 50% off over 80 lines click here

Sarah Raven also has a sale click here

Wednesday, December 17

Basking in a Patch of Sunlight

Friday, December 12

Bowing out gracefully

Maybe I should have written boughing out as the title refers to our magnolia which has had a celebrity spot in the blog this year. This is likely to be it's last star billing as having held on to its leaves for as long as possible it has finally had to accept that it is time to embrace the big sleep that is winter.
The fairly still autumn has meant that the leaves have not suddenly been whipped from the branches. The leaves have gradually changed colour and fallen leaving only a handful of determined individuals clinging on.

In many ways it has been a tale of two halves as the side of the tree that faces into the direction of prevailing winds lost its leaves sooner than the sheltered side.

The leaves may have fallen but the branches are not completely bare as next year's flower buds have appeared and are patiently waiting their trigger to start into growth. They are likely to need those furry jackets over the next few months.
The fallen leaves carpet the area beneath the tree and will decompose to add nourishment to the soil and foraging for the birds. When birds visit the feeders they now have less cover so we can observe them better but then again so can any passing sparrowhawk. Fortunately nearby evergreen shrubs offer some cover from overhead predators and the worst of the weather.

Soon the new stars of this area will be the early spring flowers. The snowdrops are already pushing their noses up through the ground and I have cut back the old hellebore leaves so we can better appreciate the flowers when they show their faces. I planted some new hellebores at the beginning of the year to extend the colour palette. These had spent some time potted on in the cold frame before planting so I wonder whether they will flower this year?

The Magnolia Year
March 17

Wednesday, December 10

The Golden Hour

Monday, December 8

Owt for nowt - part two

In a post back in November I wrote my first "Owt for nowt" post which described how easy it was to grow lots of new lavender plants from cuttings. This post just shows that you can find cutting material from an unexpected source.

Although we do grow lots of flowers for cutting we can't produce a supply of cut flowers throughout the winter months and so I do at times have to resort to buying in. One type of flower that I often buy is dianthus and if I am lucky this also provides me with an unexpected bonus.

Sometimes there are offshoots, such as the ones shown below, lower down the stem.
If you are lucky you can gathering plenty of cutting material from one bunch of flowers. The side shoots can be pulled away from the main stem quite easily. The photo below shows the number of cuttings gathered from a recent bunch of flowers.
Each of the cutting material was trimmed to just below a leaf node and leaves were carefully (the stem will snap easily at a leaf node) pulled off  to leave a bare section of stem.

Each prepared cutting was inserted around the edge of a small plant pot containing a mix of compost and vermiculite.
Last year cuttings taken in this way produced small plants that I planted on the plot and hope will bulk up a little next year if they make it through winter.

Friday, December 5

In from the cold

We made the decision not to grow any dahlias this year and then we went to the garden centre and saw some lovely single varieties that we liked and changed our minds. For some reason we have both become drawn to single flowers. Maybe the bees have been indulging in a bit of telepathy as they seem to prefer them too.
We came away from the garden centre with a selection of tubers which we potted up to start then into growth. 

We had started a new flower border in the plot in the place previously occupied by dead raspberries. Earlier in the season campanulas and primrose provided some subtle colour.
The gaps in between the existing plants were filled with the dahlias which were anything but subtle.
Previously when we have grown dahlias we have left them in the ground over winter under a covering of straw and black polythene. Planted in a mixed bed this isn't an option and so once the tops had been killed off and the tubers would not put on any more growth, (just like their potato cousins), the plants were dug up.
 The blackened tops were cut back and the tubers labelled with a number in an attempt to identify them next spring.

I must say the plants had produced impressive tubers. According to James Wong, these are edible but I think I'll pass on that meal.

As much soil as possible was rubbed off the tubers which were them placed stems pointing down in a tray in the greenhouse to dry off.

Before we start to get really keen frost these will be given additional protection in a box lightly covered with compost and fleece or bubblewrap.

The fruit trees and shrubs planted in pots will have to tough it out outside but their roots have been given a bubblewrap overcoat as a bit if extra protection.
Let's hope winter isn't too unkind maybe just harsh enough to kill off some of our garden pests.

Wednesday, December 3

Clivia - Not just one flower stem