Wednesday, July 31

Family Resemblance?

Monday, July 29

The plot - a photo summary

A summary of in photos of how the plot looks at the moment.Click on the album to view larger size images. If Picasa is playing up and no images show - sorry try the link here

Sunday, July 28

Tracky Waggy

Some years ago we bought a Trachycarpus Wagnerianus or Miniature Chusan Palm. Quite a mouthful really so it goes by the nickname of Tracky Waggy.

I can't remember when we actually bought it. The first photo I can find was taken in 2004 but by then it had made considerable growth - it was only a tiny baby when we bought it - it lived in a small plant pot for a quite a while and for a few years spent winter in the greenhouse. The photo below was taken in 2005 and shows it in its summer position.
The shape and size of it meant that it became difficult to negotiate through the greenhouse doorway and also needed a larger pot so in 2008 it was planted in the wooden tub and left to take its chances outdoors. 

The photo below was taken in January 2009. Rather than a baptism of fire it had a baptism of frost!
Below the photo taken in May 2010 shows it flourished outdoors.
Over the years it has certainly had all manner of weather thrown at it.
It has proved itself to be a really tough cookie.

Each year the bottom leaves become tatty and brown and are cut off so that gradually the trunk grows. At nesting building  time the birds are often seen tugging at the hairy covering on the trunk.
This year though something very surprising happened. First we (well Martyn actually) noticed some large bumps appearing at the base of the leaves. They were flower buds - lots of them and gradually these developed into trailing flowers.
We didn't realise that this palm produced flowers - I guess we should have as most palms do. Anyway it was a surprise event.

Apparently there are male and female trees. I'm guessing ours is female as there doesn't appear to be any pollen although with such tiny flowers it's difficult to decide whether these below have stamen or stigma
A male and female is needed to pollinate the flowers so unless there is a nearby prospective partner and unless that one is male and ours is female I don't expect we'll see any fruits or seeds. The flowers are now over and we certainly haven't seen any fruits this year. It will have to join our plot kiwi and form a plant lonely hearts club!

Saturday, July 27

In a stew

Thursday we picked lots of fruit in the company of several tayberry loving birds and a jostaberry loving wood pigeon. 
As long as the birds leave plenty for us we haven't covered these fruits. The redcurrants and cherries are a different story as uncovered all the fruit would disappear very quickly. The predominant sound on our plot at the moment is the chortling of disgruntled blackbirds! I'm sure that I saw one blackbird trying to figure our how to get under the net covering the cherry tree - it seemed to be pecking at the string that is tying the net in place but surely not!

Soon we'll let the birds in to finish off the redcurrants so maybe then they will be happy.

We were confined to the house yesterday waiting for a delivery so I spent the time making compote .

All this is destined to join more already being stored in the freezer so we can enjoy the fruits of our labour over winter too.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Friday, July 26

Not so sweet

I don't know what has happened to our sweet peas this year. We have planted the same varieties as usual from the same supplier. We've sown and planted in the same way - except from that this year we have used weed control fabric either side of them and we have used hazel sticks as support rather than netting. I can't see either of these variables affecting them adversely as the eating peas are growing better than usual using the same method.

The plants are growing OK although they haven't grown as tall as they usually do - maybe they will eventually as they are only really just coming into flower. 
Usually the first flush of sweet peas have long stems and have several flower heads to one stem - as the season progresses the stems shorten and the number of flower heads decline.

This year we are starting off with short stems each having only one or two flowers. We have watered them but we have concentrated more on keeping the edibles going so maybe haven't watered them enough.

The plants have also been planted in the same place now for several year so maybe they are lacking in the required nutrients. Maybe a feeding regime is needed. But is it too late?
The colours and scent are the same as always and gathered together in a vase the failings of individual flowers are not as apparent but it does seem that this year is not the year of the sweet pea on our plot.

Wednesday, July 24

Pretty in pink

Tuesday, July 23

The parable of the sower - my version

Many of you will be familiar with the parable of the seed sower where only the seed cast onto fertile soil flourished. Well my version is somewhat different.

There was once a woman (me) who decided that she would like more verbena bonariensis growing in her front garden.
The plants already growing there were the results of self seeding by seed raised plants long gone. They were retrieved from her allotment where they had seeded in unexpected places and so it seemed that it would be easy to collect seed and sow it where the woman, (me remember), wanted them to grow. 

Come autumn seed was collected and sprinkled into suitable gaps in the bed and the woman waited.

Come spring there was no sign of any newly sprouting seedlings, but as the woman was weeding between the paving stones on her drive, she noticed several familiar looking seedlings growing in the cracks. Only sand filled these cracks and so it wasn't the best of positions for a young plant trying to survive and grow.
Carefully the woman pulled at the seedling which was easily released from it's sandy bed with root intact. Several more seedlings were rescued in the same way and potted up into compost to grow on.
Then at the allotment the woman found another seedling snuggled up to a young onion and this too was rescued.
Amother had already been retrieved in December when it was spotted growing in a pot at the allotment alongside what at the time was thought to be a dead fig. (This fig later went on to be known as Lazarus II).
So now these young plants are being cherished and when the time comes they will be planted in the intended bed.

What is more there are also some hardy geraniums that have self seeded in the same way.

The moral of my parable is - "Get to know your seedlings and recognise potential gems in the most unexpected of places - you never know what you may be throwing away!"

Sunday, July 21

Success in the home front

Just over two years ago I planted up the small flower bed at the front of our house choosing plants for their promised long flowering seasons.  The bed has lived up to expectations and as the plants have matured the display has just got better.

There have been casualties that have fallen by the wayside such as the salvia Amistad that didn't survive the first winter and some of the veronicas. Generally though the bed has just got better and better.

This year's triumph has the be the Campanula lactiflora 'Pritchard's Variety'.
Not only is it a fantastic colour which lights up the view from our front window but the plant has really bulked up and has been flowering now for over a month. The bees love it too! No doubt the heat of this summer will now cut short the flowering period.

The penstemons are now coming into their own. Last year these were still flowering in December and so proved their worth.
The photo below, (click on the image for a larger view), shows a self seeded poppy which fits in well and so was left in place. One or two snapdragons that self seeded from last year are also sneaking in and will be left to grow
There are still a couple of gaps to fill but nowhere is ever perfect is it?

If you want to view the history of this bed and how it looks at different times of the year click here

Thursday, July 18

Fruitful July

Martyn has fairly regularly posted photos of our harvests on his blog but I thought I'd just give you a flavour of our July pickings.

Although we are starting to come away from the plot with a few vegetables it has been the fruit that has dominated. Picking fruit although very worthwhile is a very time consuming job. In past years the preoccupation with harvesting would have meant that the weeds  took the opportunity to take over the plot but our weed control fabric experiment has kept things under control.

So to our harvests:
8 July 2013

11 July 2013
13 July 2013
15 July 2013
17 July 2013

The birds - especially the blackbirds - are not impressed at the amount of fruit that we are picking. Most harvesting sessions are accompanied by their indignant squawking.

Although we do eat lots of fresh fruit much of what is shown above has been made into compotes and placed in the freezer to give us a taste of summer throughout the rest of the year.

Wednesday, July 17


Tuesday, July 16

Not all wildlife is welcome.

I found this brightly coloured creature on the back of one of our lily leaves. It's a Red (or Scarlet) Lily Beetle.
It's not the best colour choice in the world if you want to go about your destructive business unnoticed. The little pest wreaks havoc on lilies and related plants such as fritillaries. Unfortunately there is a shortage of natural predators in our country and so, with few natural allies, we have to be vigilant and pick off the beetles ourselves.

When the beetle larvae hatch out they feed on the lily leaves, hiding themselves in their own frass (poo). 
Inside this unpleasant hiding place is an orange grub with a black head. The ones in the photo were given an unexpected shower to expose them.
We don't have many lilies in the garden but last year those we did have had leaves turned to a ragged mess. This one even had the nerve to try and sneak off having laid a batch of eggs. They are red - just like mum!
Be warned little lily lovers I am on red alert this year!

Monday, July 15

When the virtual world becomes a reality

I met the No Dig Gardener in the virtual world of blogging back in October 2012 when I first came across his blog.

Since then we have been regular visitors to one another's blogs. When Roger - his real life name - mentioned that he was opening his garden under the National Garden Scheme and seeing as we are nearly neighbours - well OK we live in the same county -  it seemed the ideal opportunity to see his garden and meet Roger in person.

I did consider wearing a badge with my blogging avatar on but Roger was convinced that he would recognise me and this from a blue faced Andy Warhol type representation of my face. In the event I managed to drift around the garden taking photos - lots of photos - very much incognito. I even managed a few surreptitious shots of Roger giving visitors and helpers the benefit of his wisdom.

A man very much in his element until I cornered him and asked if he recognised me. He made a less than convincing attempt to retrieve the situation but it was obvious that his previous confidence was unwarranted. Maybe I should be happy that I was unlike my blue image or maybe I just looked far older than he expected.

Anyway once I revealed my identity we had a laugh and a chat until we left him to his audience and went to enjoy a coffee and piece of chocolate cake in his conservatory.

Roger's garden is very much our taste in gardening. Meandering paths and expanses of lawn dotted - not randomly but obviously very much planned - with lots of ponds and perennial island beds. All in a lovely country setting too.

Just to give you a flavour of Roger's garden here are one or two photos that I took.

Sunday, July 14

So some survived

In April I posted about the amount of frog spawn in our pond and wondered whether any would survive becoming fish fodder. One of the reasons creatures such as frogs produce so many eggs or offspring is to take into account predation. The more enemies the creature has seems to correlate to how many potential young they produce - nature's survival mechanism!

We didn't see much in the way of tadpole activity so were not too hopeful but a few days ago when Martyn was mowing the lawn he noticed movement in the grass and there trying to avoid any encounter with a lawn mower was this little guy/gal.
If you look closely you can see that its toes are almost transparent! Just to give some idea of the size I put my finger into the shot. I do have fairly small hands too!
Before Martyn could finish mowing the lawn I moved our little friend into a border where it could forage in relative safety.
It wasn't very keen to be picked up but once sitting on my hand it wasn't in any hurry to leave and needed a gentle push to send it on its way.

And all the time we were being watched.