Monday, November 28

Skilled lace maker?

We came across a couple of spider webs on the plot the weekend before last. ( Just hadn't got round to posting the photos).
One was on the soil and the other was in the compost heap. 
The water droplets caught in the web twinkled in the sunlight
I'm not sure what type of spider is responsible for this lace-work but it's beautiful!

Saturday, November 26

Isn't it satisfying when things work out!

You may remember that I challenged myself to grow some cyclamen from seed this year.

I was prepared to have wasted my money on this seed but what is life without a challenge!

In October I posted that I had eight small cyclamen plants and one was even flowering.

Well the latest is that now all eight plants are flowering.
Despite only being eight seeds in the packet the potential colour range was for nine different colours. Obviously I knew that I wouldn't have all nine! I did wonder whether I would end up with all the plants the same colour but despite having some duplication I think I have ended up with a good mix of colours. Now it's a matter of keeping them as cool as possible - not easy with central heating - so I manage to get as long a flowering season as possible.

Thursday, November 24

Another fungi or is it something else?

Wandering round the plot at the weekend I noticed some strange white substance on some of the blades of grass under the plum trees.
I couldn’t really decide whether this was animal or vegetable so as I always do on such occasions, I took some photos.
You can always get a much better look at something when you zoom in to take a photo.
I’ve discounted my first thought which was that the white coating was some sort of woolly aphid and think that we have yet another type of fungus or lichen.
From searching the Internet I think it’s some sort of slime mould. Not a very appealing name and one that conjures all sorts of sinister science fiction type scenarios!

Anyone got any better ideas?

Tuesday, November 22

Don’t you just love a proper nursery.

I’ve been looking for plants to grow in one of our redesigned borders. As this is under a crab apple tree I decided to have a blue and white colour theme to try and lighten things up a little.

I must admit to straying from the colour constraints a little by planting an acer as it’s a plant we have both always fancied having in our garden and until now didn’t really have a good position for one.
I also wanted another shrub to balance the acer and add a bit of structure. Browsing the Internet I came across what I thought would be an ideal plant - hydrangea quercifolia. Like the acer it is supposed to have striking autumn colour and also white flowers in late summer. After hearing Janet at Plantilicious praising the one she has in her garden I made up my mind to have one.

There were some for sale on the Internet but when you just want one plant postage is quite expensive in relation to the cost of the plant. I decided that would be my fall back option if I couldn’t find a plant locally. Searching garden centres over summer I did come across a batch but they looked very drawn and straggly so they were left on the shelf!

As a last resort before I bought one online I asked at a local nursery whether they ever had any for sale. Now bear in mind this is a ‘proper’ nursery than just sells plants and gardening stuff not a garden centre that is more like a department store with plants! I call it a local nursery which isn’t very true but it is local to where I was brought up and we have been visiting for years. 

Anyway back to the hydrangea - the answer was that they didn’t usually get hydrangea quercifolia in, but they would ask their supplier if they could get one for me. They took my phone number and promised to be in touch if they managed to source one for me.
Time passed and I didn’t hear and wondered whether the note made on a little pad had been lost so when I visited the nursery I asked whether they had forgotten me. They hadn’t and my request was taped to the till with the message that a plant would be available in November. Then I had a call to say a plant was ready for me to collect. When we arrived we had a choice of four plants and I was even given a discount as they hadn’t had time to pot on the plants before I arrived.

The plant is now in its permanent planting position so I hope it realises the trouble we went to to find it and that it repays us by growing well.
As for Swillington Nurseries thank you for remaining a ‘proper’ nursery when most of the ones around you have been seduced by the desire to become all things to all people.

Monday, November 21

Overdue plot visit!

It’s almost a fortnight since we visited the plot. The gloomy weather hasn’t encouraged us, we’ve also had lots to do in the garden and seem to have busy doing other things too.

Encouraged by the appearance of the sun and the need to replenish our fresh vegetable stocks we decided to go allotmenting this weekend.

As always the first thing that has to be done when visiting the plot - that is after donning waterproof boots, a necessity at this time of year if we are to avoid soggy socks - is to wander around checking on what is growing or in need of most urgent attention.

The peas that we sowed in October have now germinated well - much better than they did earlier in the year. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see whether they make it through the winter. We’re not going to give them any special protection, just leaving them to fend for themselves  to find out just how hardy late sown peas are! 
The winter onions are growing well and some of the garlic is shooting. The varieties of garlic that are furthest on are Lautrec Wight, Edenrose, Germidour and Purple Wight. Albigensian Wight is just beginning to produce shoots but as yet there is no sign of the other varieties. I’ll update on how each variety is performing in the greenhouse in a later post. All was not completely well in the onion bed though as it wasn’t only the onions and garlic that were growing. Chickweed was beginning to stake a claim for soil domination. As onions don’t really enjoy competing with weeds I decided my priority task was to do a bit of weeding.
It hasn’t taken long for our soil to go from as dry as a desert to wet and sticky. We haven’t had a great amount of rain but enough to make weeding out chickweed a very yukky task as the state of my gardening gloves will prove. Anyway the job is done and the bed looks better for it.
While I was weeding Martyn was tidying up the plum tree that cracked under the weight of so many plums during summer. He's posted about it on his blog here.

There should no longer be any white butterflies about trying to find a suitable place to lay their eggs and the wood pigeons only tend to attack young plants so we also decided to take the insect netting off our brassicas. Last year we think that the damage to overwintering brassicas was down to the snow building up on the net which eventually collapsed onto the plants. If the snow had covered the plants naturally it would have built up gradually but we think the collapse of the netting meant the plants were in effect squashed by the sudden weight that dropped on top of them. Hopefully if it does snow heavily again this year the plants will have a better chance.
Our harvesting list is here but one rather amazing mini harvest was a handful of autumn raspberries. Very strange to pick fresh raspberries in the last half of November. 
If you want to know what we harvested - including our first parsnips and sprouts of the year the list is here

Saturday, November 19

It is likely to get worse before it gets better.

In January I took part in a blog carnival hosted by Fer at My little garden in Japan.

The subject of the carnival was to write about garden plans for 2011. Our plans were described in this post.

Surprisingly we have made quite a lot of progress with respect to our plans. I’ll write a complete update at the end of the year.

Our attention has now turned to the area alongside the pond. As is usual with us what is planned seems to escalate into something far more major than we had first intended. This is what the pond area that needed improvement used to look like.
And this is what it looks like now. 
Martyn has been let loose with a lump hammer, cold chisel and saw and has created a scene of absolute devastation.

What’s more it is likely to get worse before it gets better. As you can see it has turned into a major work.

Martyn (or as Jenni, The Rainy Day Gardener, calls him - Walter) has set up a web diary of what we are trying to achieve here so if I have tweaked your curiosity then take a look!

Thursday, November 17

Shaggy Umbrellas

Just thought I’d post a few more photos of our shaggy parasols. I think after the gloom and damp of the last week or so I’m going to rename them shaggy umbrellas!

I've popped my hand in this photos so you can get some idea of scale.

And now we have another one too.

Wednesday, November 16

Winter salad leaves and micro herbs

If you have been visiting my blog for a while you may remember that at the beginning of the year we bought an indoor light garden.

It was great for raising seedlings in and preventing them from becoming leggy and we also grew some early salad leaves under the light. Now it’s time to find out whether the grow light can earn its keep through winter.

I've decided to start off by sowing a couple of troughs with mixed lettuce leaves - four troughs came with the garden but we seem to have mislaid a couple. 

I've sown a couple of varieties one was a freebie from one of our garden magazines - it just says Mixed Lettuce Leaves on the packet from D T Brown. The other was Mixed Lettuce from Kings.
I didn't have much success over summer growing basil and coriander so I was interested when I heard that you could grow micro herbs. These are herbs used at a very immature stage. 

The herbs are picked when they have grown their first true leaves. You can pick at the seed leaf stage too which is when the very first two leaves are formed. It’s a bit like growing cress. The claim is that lots of flavour is concentrated into the tender leaves of the young seedlings. The micro herbs are supposed to be ready to harvest after 10 - 25 days. 

You can grow all sorts of herbs and vegetables in this way but to start with  I’ve decided to try coriander - Calypso and basil - Purple Ruffles. If I am successful I’ll try other things too maybe using up some of the seeds left over from this season.
I’m growing the herbs in trays that supermarkets use to sell apricots. The top of the tray acts as a sort of mini propagator. I’ve placed a sheet of kitchen paper in the bottom of the tray to cover the holes in the bottom and I've covered this with a thin layer of compost. As the herbs will be cut early they shouldn’t need much compost. The seeds were sown on the top of the compost and covered with vermiculite.

I’ll let you know if it all works out - is anyone else trying something similar?

Tuesday, November 15

Do it yourself mulching

The branches of our large magnolia tree spread across an area that we call our spring or woodland garden. At the moment, after being clothed in golden yellow leaves that looked lovely on the few occasions that we actually had some sunshine, the magnolia is almost bare - the leaves that have been shed are creating a blanket on what we could call the woodland floor. Well we could call it that if it was much, much bigger - as it stands we can’t even call it the copse floor! The term woodland garden more describes the idea of the planting rather than anything else. The idea being to grow plants that are happy in the summer shade and make the most of the early spring sunlight before the magnolia is fully in leaf!
The magnolia flowers before the leaves form but they don’t cast as much shade - the flower buds are already forming and are protected over winter by furry looking sepals.
In a ‘real’ woodland the leaves that fall from the trees provide a natural mulch that enriches the soil and so we leaves the magnolia leaves where they fall to achieve something like the same effect.
The leaves provide a great foraging ground for birds in winter and also provide shelter for any hedgehogs that have set up winter camp. Birds such as dunnocks, blackbirds and robins love sifting through the leaves for something tasty.

We do sometimes do a little bit of strategic tidying when the leaves are obviously interfering with plant growth or fall on top of small shrubs and also we sweep the leaves from the pathway alongside the house. All these leaves are put back under the shrubs where they can decompose over winter.
The 'woodland' area is planted up with lots of hellebores. These should flower in early spring around the time of Lent, which is why they are sometimes called Lenten roses, but at least one plant has other ideas and is flowering now!
I wonder if anyone can come up with a name for a teeny weeny woodland patch - maybe we should call it a woodette or a copsette?

Friday, November 11

Shaggy Parasols?

When I was mooching around the garden last weekend I came across a group of really large fungi lurking amongst the undergrowth.
I think they are Shaggy Parasol fungi which are classified as a mushrooms.
If my identification is correct then according to Wikipedia it is a choice edible fungi. I have to admit though I'd never be convinced enough that either my identification was correct, or that the Wikipedia information was accurate enough to try eating any.
Even though it is supposedly edible - according again to Wiki - it can cause tummy upsets if it is undercooked or eaten raw and some people are even allergic to cooked specimens.
Anyway Shaggy Parasol or not I will never find out whether I am one of those who it causes to suffer an allergic reaction. I'll let it stay in the garden but there's no way it is ending up on my plate!

Thursday, November 10

No garlic showing on the plot but ...

When we went to the plot at the weekend one thing I was curious to find out was - was there any sign of the garlic sprouting? Well as you will have guessed from the title of the post - there wasn't. It was planted a day after the cloves in the greenhouse but obviously hasn't had as comfortable a start in life.

A couple of things were sprouting though - the winter onions are doing really well. 
I tried to take the photo at slug eye level and it hasn't quite come off as the nearest shoot is really blurry - sorry about that! Also please shut your eyes to the weed seedlings I will pull them out promise.

Also at slug eye level the peas have germinated.

I just hope the slugs leave them alone and the wire mesh deters anything else that may fancy a juicy pea shoot. Now why didn't they come up like that in spring?

Tuesday, November 8


If you read Martyn's blog you will know that we had a bit of a mishap with our greenhouse. A pear fell from a branch overhanging our garden greenhouse and smashed one of the very large panes of glass.

Replacing glass with glass on the greenhouse roof is just about impossible - no let me rephrase that - IS impossible and so we - the Royal we that is - sent for a large sheet of acrylic sheeting. It was cut to size and wrapped in lots and lots of bubblewrap.

Now, I was worrying about how our peach tree - that started life as a nectarine - would fare over winter. It did make it through last winter but having sampled its fruits I would be really upset if it was damaged or even killed during the coming - it must come mustn't it? - bad weather.

I'd decided that I was going to wrap the pot in bubblewrap to give it some extra protection and so the packaging material from the acrylic sheet was just the job.

The peach pot has now been wrapped in about four layers and I had plenty left over to also wrap up the pot in which the mini kiwi is planted - although that has been popped in the greenhouse for winter.

After all that wrapping I still have some left which I will be able to throw over the perennial cuttings once the weather turns frosty!
The wrapping is folded over the top of the compost but can be opened up if we think the tree needs some water. The pot does have little feet that raise it off the ground but we have also popped it up on some bricks so that if we have lots of rain and it finds its way into the pot it will hopefully drain out easier.

So that's the best we can do for the plants - now we just need to sort out some lagged piping for our central heating boilers condensate pipe to avoid a repeat of it freezing up as happened last year only a week after being installed. Hopefully British Gas will sort that out for us this week!

Monday, November 7

Not to be outdone

We went to the plot for more harvesting and tidying but the first thing I did was pop around with my camera. Seeing as I posted a collage of the flowers still giving some colour on the plot it seemed only fair that I should do the same for the plot so here it is:
Lots of the annuals have taken quite a while to get going this year. The cosmos are very short but have decided that it's not too late to send out a few flowers.

The pink stocks and calendula were sent to me be from Australia by Diana - the Malay Kadazan Girl and the candytuft came from Bilbo Waggins. They sent me other seeds too but these are the ones still flowering. (I'm afraid the snake beans didn't like this summer's weather, Diana!)

Sunday, November 6

Does this one look sad to you?

As usual the tubs in our garden that have been cleared of summer plants have now been planted up with pansies. One of my favourite nurseries always has trays and trays of pansies at this time of year.

They are usually really good plants and are sold in trays that hold of 15 plants each in their own pot. The trays and pots are really useful too for growing on vegetable plants for the plot.

I bought a tray for us and one for my sister. Don't you think the colour range in each tray is brilliant. It should be as I spent ages moving plants from one tray to another until I got a tray where no two pansies were alike. There's always lots of yellow pansies so anyone late buying their plants probably end up with a tray full of yellow flowers.

The pansies are now planted up in their tubs.
But look at the one at the front of the tub on the top left - this one:
Don't you think that it looks sad? Maybe it is thinking of all that cold snow that could well cover it up just like it did its cousins last year. Let's hope it doesn't happen!

Saturday, November 5

November colour isn't just from fireworks!

We haven't really had any frost yet this year and so the flowers in the garden are hanging on. Much of the colour is in the bed at the front of our house where the choice of plants was based on the length of time they would keep flowering - it seems I made some fairly good choices.

Friday, November 4

And it's up!

I've just looked back to see when I planted the garlic in the tubs and pots in the greenhouse and it was 14 October. So why the sudden urge to check?

Well - I don't go into the greenhouse every day now so the last time that I checked on the garlic was 30 October and some cloves had just begun to sprout and were looking like this.
But today there are lots of shoots and some are quite tall.
I don't expect the garlic growing on the plot is so far advanced but I do hope this isn't sending up shoots too soon!

Wednesday, November 2

So what's been happening on the plot?

It's that time of year when the main purpose of visiting the plot - other than to harvest some fresh vegetables - is to clear, tidy and dig.

The approaching winter plot takes on a whole new look with many beds empty - they don't stay empty for long as now that we have had some rain the weed seeds that have been waiting for the chance to germinate are doing just that. This means we can't just sit back and relax once the beds are cleared, there is still weeding to be kept up with and grass to be kept tidy.
It's not all clearing though as we still have crops providing a harvest. It's now that the winter brassicas, leeks and parsnip move to centre stage. We've even been picking fresh strawberries and raspberries at the end of October!

Despite a disappointing year on the carrot front we have harvested some decent sized carrots but this year they'll be more of a treat than a staple food.

Our winter onions are beginning to shoot but soon all growth will be frozen - probably literally - until next spring.

In the garden greenhouse the garlic in pots and tubs is also beginning to shoot

This year - after a hopeless pea harvest - we decided to sow some pea seeds now. If this works, and the mice don't feast on the seeds, we may be able to achieve an early crop. We have covered the sowing area with chicken wire 'cloches' to try and stop any passing creature from digging them up but I don't suppose chicken wire is any protection against a determined rodent. If it doesn't work - well we have only wasted the cost of a packet of seeds!

If you are interested in a bit more detail then: