Sunday, September 30

Living indoors

I wrote recently about our cyclamen hederifolia and how they are aiming for garden domination. I also mentioned that I had grown a couple of cyclamen varieties from seed and mentioned an outdoor one cyclamen coum.

I also grew an indoor variety of cyclamen - Lazer which proved to be really successful. The plants sat on a windowsill all autumn/winter and flowered their socks off. 
I had expected that the plants would die down through spring and summer and that the tubers would go dormant but this didn't happen and the plants continued to produce a few flowers all year.

In June they looked like this. The smaller plants are the outdoor cyclamen coum.
I wonder whether the really cool summer has caused the plants to think that it was still winter or early spring. I just hope they don't wear themselves out.

Recently the plant leaves were looking a little worse for wear having been nibbled by what I assumed were slugs and snails. This was proved a correct assumption when I found a couple of snails sleeping on the sides of the pots. I also found some tiny baby snails on some of the leaves. Before bringing the plants inside the house I obviously needed to eliminate as many freeloaders as I could and clean up the plants and pots. I removed each plant from the pot and whilst scraping off old compost found several baby slugs and snails as well as their eggs in the compost. There were also some tiny woodlice. All unwelcome guests were removed and each plant was repotted using some fresh compost but keeping to the same size pots. I maybe should have potted them into a larger pot but then I wouldn't have had room for them all in the house!
During my potting activities I caught a faint perfume coming from one of the flowers - strange I haven't noticed this before. Some of the flowers have produced seed capsules so I have decided to leave one capsule on each plant and allow it to swell. I'm hoping that this way the plant won't suffer too much and if the seeds mature I can try germinating them to see what happens. One seed capsule is already well on the way to maturity. Notice that unlike cyclamen hederifolia the stems supporting the seed capsules don't coil into a spring they just lazily hang down in an untidy fashion.
The tidy plants are now back inside on a windowsill. I'd really like some small pottery trough-shaped containers to pop them in but until I find some they will have to snuggle together in the plant trays they lived in last year.

Friday, September 28

Say hello to Stella

You may remember that a few weeks ago now I posted that we had ordered a cherry tree from Orange Pippin Fruit Trees. You may also remember that this tree wasn't destined for life on the plot but was going to take up residence in a container in our garden where we could keep a closer eye on it and hopefully end up with more cherries than we have so far managed from the tree planted on the plot. After advice from the staff at Orange Pippin we settled for the variety Stella and ordered a 2 year old pot grown bush-tree on Gisela 5 rootstock.

We were promised delivery in the week beginning 24 September and true to their word on 24 September we received an email saying that our tree had been desptached and would be arriving within the next couple of days. The next morning the tree arrived.

Attached to the tree was a very detailed label giving lots of information about the tree, its rootstock and how and where it had been grown. It also had detailed information about planting and aftercare.
As the tree was still in the pot that it had been grown in all we had to do was unpack it and set it aside until it stopped raining long enough for us to repot it into a larger container.
In preparation we had bought a pack or air-pots. These come as a flat pack from which you make cylindrical containers. The science behind how these pots work is quite complicated (well I find it complicated) so if you want to know more about them go and read what they say on their website here. In short the tree roots are air pruned which encourages the production of a more healthy root system in plants growing in containers.
It may look a bit bizarre but hopefully what was already a good root system should flourish and the tree should provide us with lots of delicious cherries.
We haven't decided on where in the garden Stella's permanent home will be but for now she is settling into her new surroundings alongside the greenhouse. Here she should be given some shelter if winter is cruel.
We have definitely been happy with the service we have received from Orange Pippin and are pleased with the quality of the tree - now it's down to the tree and to our care of it! Fingers crossed that I can report a good cherry harvest if not next July then the one after!

Remember if you ever buy a fruit tree from Orange Pippin don't forget they are offering a 5% discount on any order made by visitors to my website using my links if the voucher code GLALLOT is quoted when ordering. The company ship to various parts of Europe and also have a sister site that is US based. The 5% discount on the US site is exclusive of delivery charge. Just in case you are wondering I'm not on commission although I did get a discount on my tree for adding a link to them from my sites.

Wednesday, September 26

War on weeds

The weed control fabric seems to be doing the job as can be seen from the photo of the lettuces below.
You can clearly see that the lettuces are weed free whereas the edges of the bed are developing an unwelcome covering. We are able to harvest clean lettuce too as the fabric stops soil splashes. If the soil was drier it would have been a simple task to keep hoeing the fresh weed seedlings - as it is once the seedlings have grown a bit bigger it shouldn't take too long to clear them as I'll not need to worry about uprooting the lettuces too.

We have removed the fabric from the carrot bed where it has also proved effective having kept down the weeds. This has meant less disturbance for the carrots and has allowed the plants to grow without being smothered by weeds as happened last year. This year so far the carrots look to be going to give us a good harvest. I hope I haven't spoken too soon.
For the first time some of the carrots have produced flower stalks. I think these are just one variety - St Valery - that is a new variety to us this year and is the one shown above.

Carrot fly shouldn't be a problem now so we have removed the enviromesh covering and to make harvesting easier we have also removed the weed control. This wasn't exactly a gentle process and the fabric has stayed intact so we are hopeful that all the fabric used so far will be fit for reusing.

PS: Victoriana Nursery Gardens have launched a new website and are offering the 1st, 10th, & 50th and 100th orders free. A sort of lottery - I guess the 1st and 10th orders will have definitely gone but who knows you may be lucky to winn the 50th or 100th order prize. 

Monday, September 24

It all began with two

Many years ago we bought a couple of cyclamen hederifolium - one white and one pink.
The flowers appear at this time of year to be followed by the leaves later. The leaves are similar to ivy (hedera) which is where its name comes from.
Over the years these plants have spread all around the garden coming up in the most unlikely of places and have resulted in flowers in white and various shades of pink.
Some have even started to colonised the allotment plot no doubt transported by accident. The ones below growing in the grass are under our plum trees.
Some were purposely relocated on the plot and have built up into impressive clumps. Not only do the plants mass produce but the corms gradually grow to the size of dinner plates.
Now these plants have a lot going for them - lovely flowers and beautiful leaves - but you can have too much of a good thing. You may remember that earlier I started a pebble garden. Before the pebble garden took up residence this area was carpeted by self sown cyclamen as was the ledge just below. The third photo above is of the same area before it was cleared.
All the plants were dug up. I planted up as many cyclamen as I could in tubs - the idea being that maybe - just maybe - this way I could keep them under more control.
There were literally hundreds of plants so fortunately we also had friends who were only too happy to adopt some of the 'spare' plants.

From only two plants, how did we end up with so many? Well to start with I collected some seed and grew extra plants but really I needn't have gone to that trouble as the plants are only too ready to self propagate.

When the flower head dies the flower stem coils up like a spring and a seed capsule forms.
I can guess what you are thinking. You can be forgiven for assuming that the spring suddenly unfurls to catapult the seeds far and wide. The seeds are too big and heavy for that to work and so the plant relies on the help of ants to transport the ripe seeds. (Apparently this is called myrmecochory - glad I'm writing this and not saying it!). The seed capsule contains food for the ant  larvae so is carried away and later the seeds are discarded. If no obliging ant passes by the seeds germinate close to the plant which is what tends to happen in our garden so we end up with thickets.
I must be more diligent at weeding seedlings out in future!

You may remember that I grew some different types of cyclamen from seed last year One variety was another outdoor variety -cyclamen coum. As the plants raised are still very small they have been kept in the garden greenhouse but I noticed that one has produced its first flower. It's a different shape to hederifolium.
The leaves are different too less ivy shaped and more heart shaped.
I wonder whether these will be as prolific when they grow up?

As for the indoor cyclamen - well that's another post!

Saturday, September 22

Patience is paying off

Guess what? ... ... ... At long long last the tomatoes in our garden greenhouse are turning red. It's all now happening suddenly.
Tomato soup anyone?

Monday, September 17

Homecoming Harvest

Our first visit to the plot after our week's neglect showed that for the most part the plot did OK without us. The wind had battered some plants. Probably the worst affect was one of our cardoons - although the other was still standing proud.
Each year these plants are flattened - amazingly they die down completely over winter and then grow enormous again. It's amazing to think that we grew them from small seeds. Apparently you can eat the stems but we grow them as the bees love them. The sweetcorn also took a buffeting and many plants had developed a lean - soon we'll have to test the cobs.
The bees and butterflies are still enjoying the dahlias maybe because there is still not sign of a pompom  they can access the pollen easily. As I was dead heading there was buzzing and fluttering all around me.
There was plenty of fruit to pick including some lovely strawberries. Quite a few were spoiled by slugs. The new beds without the weed control fabric seemed to have suffered most. As I was picking fruit a frog hopped out from under the plants in the larger bed so maybe it had been doing a good job for us whilst fattening up for it's winter sleep.
A highlight was the picking and more importantly eating of the first of this year's peaches. Quite a few rotted on the tree but we still have a few more to look forward to. Martyn posted photos on his blog here.
There was also quite a lot of choice of vegetables ready and waiting to be gathered in.
Taking this photo reminded me off setting out the harvest festival displays when I was teaching although these celebrations always seemed to come too long after the real harvest.
The plot greenhouse is now producing lots of tomatoes but the garden greenhouse tomatoes are resolutely staying green.
We were amazed by the size of one of our cucumbers.
One plant that is definitely showing signs that the seasons are moving on is the blueberry which is now displaying full autumn colour.
As well as there being lots to harvest now there are also lots of things progressing well that should give us harvests later in the year. The album below gives almost a full plot roundup - although for some reason I forgot to take a photo of the carrots!

I don't usually take part in this sort of thing (are they memes?). I just find it difficult to establish the sort of disciplined routine that other bloggers manage but this week it seemed appropriate to add this post to the Harvest Monday theme on Daphne's Dandelions

Saturday, September 15

Back to manual controls

If you hadn't guessed my blog was operating on automatic last week as we spent a lovely week in Suffolk. Any rain fell at the end of the day or overnight and we didn't even need coats when out and about. What's more we also ate outdoors a few times! I don't know how we have managed it this year but each time we have ventured away we have had good weather.  I wonder if this will last when we make our planned visit to North Yorkshire next month? Somehow I doubt it.
During the week I took just over 600 photos which I'm going to share here! Only kidding I have restrained myself and chosen just one photo from each place we visited.
Firstly Ickworth where the main feature that impressed me was the collection of fantastic trees. Having a dog with us we didn't go into the house - we're really happier outdoors anyway. When walking along one of the trails we came across a picturesque round house - a bit of a fairytale image.
We visited Flatford which makes the most of it's John Constable connection. It is another very picturesque setting. You can easily appreciate why Constable was inspired to paint here. In hindsight we would avoid a weekend for any future visit to Flatford as the canoes cluttering up the river spoiled the effect. To take a photo I had to quickly snap in between canoes floating past. Martyn has another photo of Flatford on his blog here.
On the same day we visited Kersey
We went to Sutton Hoo which is the site of a medieval burial ground.
I know the photo isn't very inspiring but it is difficult to make a lump of earth look interesting!
For something completely different we visited the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary. It's name is deceptive as it has many birds of prey other than owls. I took about 200 photos here which I've whittled down to 134 that I'm fairly satisfied with. For some reason they also had a family of meerkats. With all the screeching birds of prey close by, it was no wonder the meerkats  were permanently on red alert!
Even though the Owl Sanctuary had more birds the flying display wasn't as good as the one we recently watched in Settle. Although here there was the added bonus of us both taking a turn at flying a barn owl.

Finally if you are ever in the area you just must visit Gooderstone Water Gardens. We picked up a leaflet for this attraction at the Owl Santuary and were glad we did - it was beautiful. I took loads more photos here.
Our dog was also welcome. The statement "Dogs on leads with well-behaved owners welcome" made me smile. We are restricted from visiting lots of gardens with a dog. I can't understand why a beautiful garden such as this welcomes dogs whereas second rate gardens often don't!
There's also a nature trail and bird hide attached to the water garden - the nature trail was a bit too muddy to explore but we sat in the hide for a while and were rewarded by snatched glimpses of a kingfisher. Unfortunately there was no chance of a photo nor to catch the flash of turquoise and orange on video. Maybe another time!

Friday, September 14

Crying over onions!

This year whilst we were waiting for our usual heat treated onion sets to arrive, we visited a local garden centre and Martyn decided to buy some 'ordinary' sets too. At the time I remember thinking - in fact saying - "Won't we end up with too many onions?" 
How wrong could I be? The onions haven't liked the conditions this year at all and have been very slow to grow. Any growing has now been completed and so the bulbs have been loosened and left on the soil to hopefully dry off.
On 21 March we planted two varieties of ordinary sets - a white onion called Snowball and a yellow one called Setton. Both started off well and the yellow has produced a reasonable crop although the onions are generally much smaller than usual.
Generally white and red varieties are a bit more temperamental and more easily run to seed. Snowball did send up lots of flower stalks but I kept snipping off the buds. Most of the white bulbs produced are small and don't look particularly inspiring. I'm expecting that many will have soggy bottoms.
The heat treated sets were planted on 5 April as the heat treatment delays delivery. Usually this isn't a problem but this year it meant that the sets were planted when the conditions weren't exactly conducive to good growing.
We had three varieties - two yellow Fen Early and Hytech and one red Hyred. The reds have been a total disaster. This is all they have produced. Most have disappeared but you may just be able to spot a couple of tiny bulbs which are not much bigger than the original sets.
The yellows have done a little better - both Fen Early ...
... and Hytech have produced some bulbs but again these are smaller than usual and again I have a feeling that some will have been spoiled by the wet weather and are unlikely to be of good storage quality.
We still have a few of last year's autumn planted onions to use up but I really can't see this summer's crop seeing us through to next spring as is usually the case.
So we're now waiting for our autumn sets to arrive for planting and will have to hope that these get off to a better start!

Wednesday, September 12

What happened to the pompoms?

Last year we bought some dahlia seeds called double pompone. The catalogue description read as follows - "Particularly attractive ball shaped flowers in double form. Bright solid colours in a wide band of shades".

The seeds all germinated and have now flowered so I took photos of all the different flowers that have been produced.
To be honest in many ways I am really disappointed as the flowers just don't live up to their description. Compare my flowers with those in the photo in the catalogue here. I was also promised a wide band of colours but my flowers are predominantly yellow.
The photo below shows the whole of my dahlia bed and I'm sure you will agree that the overall impression is yellow.
I emailed my photos to the seed supplier to find out what they have to say and the response was that I had been unlucky with the colour range. Must admit I thought that if a wide colour range was promised that the seeds would have been packaged with that in mind. As for the form of the flowers apparently pompom dahlias have a tendency to produce single and semi double flowers in the first flush so I have to wait and see. Strange as this has never happened when I have planted tubers - anyone experience of this? I'll let you know if any pompoms appear but time is ticking on and at this rate there will be a frost before the second flush appears
The saving grace is that the bees love the flowers and I am sure they much prefer the open centres to tight pompoms so some good has come of my disappointment. Maybe next year I'll choose to grow single varieties just for them.

Monday, September 10

What counts as a glut?

What do you class as a glut? Is it anything that produces in abundance - if so would you consider a bumper crop of strawberries to be a glut? I know I wouldn't. In fact I never consider huge harvests of fruit to be a glut. Even last year when we had masses of plums it wasn't a glut in my eyes. Any that we didn't want were welcome as gifts so not wasted.

At the moment we are harvesting large amounts of runner beans but I don't consider that to be a glut either. We can use whatever we pick either straight away or we can freeze some to use when the runner bean season is over. Again we don't seem to have problems giving some away. Once we have had our fill we can just let the plants fade.
The outdoor cucumbers are doing well this year but again I don't think of this as a glut - even though I went round my neighbours like a door to door salesman giving them away to neighbours. I guess the idea of being able to pick lots of cucumbers is satisfying in that there is always a chance that they will not produce so there is a sense of achievement when they do!
We never have a glut of carrots - you can never have too many carrots - we leave these in the ground over winter and dig them up whenever we need them.

Personally it seems the only time I refer to having a glut is in relation to courgettes - so why is this? For us a glut is when something produces so much that we can't use, store or give away the crop fast enough and end up with produce being added to the compost heap. There isn't the option to leave fruits on courgette plants as they grow so quickly and spoil. On top of this the plant will cease production altogether if fruit aren't taken off considering that the job of producing seed is done. Picking courgettes is akin to dead heading flowers.

Each year we promise to grow less plants but each year something prevents us from keeping our promise - usually a freebie packet of seeds comes along that just must be tried. This year we also grew extra  plants as it seemed unlikely that many would survive but they did. So far we have managed to give away any courgettes that were surplus to our requirements - so if I am to stick to my definition of a glut then the courgettes are at that stage just yet but I don't suppose this can go on for much longer. IN the meantime if you live near us and you see me heading your way with a box - watch out!