Sunday, November 30

Some things are rosy

In an earlier post I mentioned that I wanted some climbing roses and was trying to decide which varieties to choose.

As it is time to order bare rooted plants and I wanted to place an order before the varieties that I wanted were snapped up and became out if stock I decided to order just the three, one for the white and blue border and a couple for what I hope with become a bed of hot colours.

I took a bit of a risk. I'd browsed the Internet for ages and visited all the well known rose suppliers. After various mind changing, I decided which roses I wanted but was having a problem sourcing all three from the same supplier. Then a company called Eastcroft Roses came up. They had all three varieties at a reasonable price. So last Saturday I placed my order and on Wednesday my parcel arrived.
On opening the parcel I was relieved to find three strong looking specimens.
Also included in the package were a set of planting and growing instructions and a packet of that magical substance that many gardeners nowadays seem to swear by - mycorrhizal fungi.

Of course it would be too much to expect the weather to play along and provide some good planting conditions so the plants have been heeled in temporarily so they don't dry out until we can get onto the beds and plant them in their permanent homes.
So which varieties did I choose? In the end I decided against a cream rose for the white and blue border and went for a white one - White Star. I chose the yellow variety Chris and the red Etoile de Hollande.

Once we have erected a new bit of fencing in the cold frame courtyard area I'll choose a couple more. I want single flowered roses for this area and at the moment think Meg will be one but I haven't decided on the second one. The trouble is that by the time we are ready the bare rooted season will be over and buying container grown rises will no doubt be more expensive as will postage so I may have to see what local garden centres have on offer first.

Friday, November 28

Self sowing in a grand scale

Just in front of the seating area in our plot is a bed in which are planted three pear trees. As it is one of the beds we look at when we are having a well-earned coffee break I like to underplant the trees with flowers.

In spring when the pears are blossoming the trees are surrounded with tulips.
As the pear blossom fades and the tulip petals fall annual seeds provided by previous occupants start to pop up. If you look carefully in the photo below you may be able to pick out some emerging candytuft.
For some reason I have failed to find a photograph of the bed when the candytuft is in full flower but below is a close-up of a patch of flowers.
It's a flower of childhood being one of those plants that are easy enough for the smallest of gardeners to grow. For this reason it took a while for me to accept it into my grown-up gardener's world but gradually it has wormed it's way into my heart. This is just as well.

At the end of August I removed all the spent plants and tidied it up. It looked like this.
A few perennial poppies were left and all the dried up plants removed. Toward the end of October the bed looked like this.
To the untuned eye it may appear that I had let my guard slip and weeds are taking over but let's take a closer look.
Not weeds but self sown young plants. The soil under the pear trees was teeming with candytuft seeds just waiting to spring into growth. What's more in amongst the candytuft are young antirrhinums ...
... and eschscholtzia.
More childhood favourites. I've tried to encourage the self sowing by shaking out seeds from dead cornflowers but as yet there are no signs of them germinating.

These are all hardy annuals so should survive over winter but I'll have to wait and see whether they produce the lovely display that this carpet of infant plants hints at.

Wednesday, November 26

Visitors to RSPB Old Moor

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

Monday, November 24

Leeks under threat.

We actually managed a plot visit this week and came back with a vegetable harvest that certainly 'spoke of' winter.

New to our harvests were leeks and parsnips. We rarely grow pretty parsnips as out soil is not conducive to growing long smoothly tapered roots but as they still provided us with tasty vegetables we are happy.

Leeks are also a winter staple but a flying army of invaders threatens our future crops. Allium leaf miner was first spotted in the southern parts UK in 2002 and since then has been making its way northwards. One of my visitors Frugal in Derbyshire has reported that their leeks are now affected in - you've guessed it - Derbyshire. This means that the problem is moving ever nearer to us. I'd be interested to hear of anyone else being affected, This pest affects all members of the allium family - leeks, onions, garlic and chives.

As far as leeks are concerned all we can do to protect the plants is to cover them with fleece or enviromesh. We already have to net fruit and brassicas and grow carrots under mesh. We've taken peach, nectarine and apricot trees into the greenhouse to try and avoid peach leaf curl. We no longer grow tomatoes outside because of blight. Year by year more and more crops need to be grown under cover as more and more pests and diseases cause problems.

I wonder how long it will be before we need to cover everything? 

Friday, November 21

Plot update

This week we actually managed a visit to the plot. We took advantage from a break in the gloom to replenish our fresh vegetable stocks.
At first glance the plot gives the impression of having little to harvest. For those of you that think all our plot is neat and tidy, cast your eyes over the herb bed that has sneaked into the foreground. I just don't seem to be able to keep the weeds from insinuating themselves in amongst the roots of the hebrs so it's maybe a candidate for weed control fabric
The garlic - top left - and autumn onions - top right - are away to a good start. I just hope the onions do as well as they did last year.
Sprouts are ready to be picked and the red cabbages are hearting.  We did consider removing the insect netting thinking the plants were large enough to withstand pigeon attack, but learning from CJ's experiences over at Above the River which was also a timely reminder of past mistakes, the netting will remain firmly in place.
The parsnips and carrots are tucked up beneath their duvet of straw.
The wallflowers, sweet Williams and sweet rocket have made good plants which I hope will bring early colour to the plot next year and provide me with some cut flowers.

From the view below, it all looks bare. Some beds are dug over and covered ready for planting in spring and other have been roughly dug over and are waiting for the weather to go to work on breaking up the lumps of sticky earth.
In the background above to the left you can just make out the sad remains of what was the lovely colourful annual flower bed that I hope, with a bit of tweaking, to reproduce next year.

To the right of the annual bed hiding in straw is a row of beetroot.

To the right the autumn All Gold raspberry canes are preparing to shed their yellowing leaves.

In the far distance you can just make out the bed of leeks. Here they are.
Hopefully these will keep us supplied through winter and into early spring.
On the other side of the plot there is very little still to harvest - just some savoy cabbages in the centre background.
The fruit bushes and trees will soon be totally bare and no the pear bed does not need weeding. More about that in a later post.
The flower bed in the foreground is a different matter - it needs sorting big time.

Wednesday, November 19

A brief spell of sunshine brightens the gloom.

Monday, November 17

Thorny decisions

We have four climbing roses in the back garden. 

One is Golden Showers - a yellow rose.  This rose grows up the back of the summer house and has amazed us. It was cut down to the  ground and the summer house was just about built on top of it. Since that shock it has come back stronger and healthier than ever and has an incredibly long flowering period, sending up blooms until the weather finally becomes too much for it.
Then we have White Cloud which we bought this year to add to the blue and white border. This rose is still fairly small but is showing promise.

Then we have a rose that we have had so long that I can't remember its name - it could be Crimson Glory, (a name that seems to ring a bell somewhere in the deep recesses of my memory). It's very vigorous and thorny with no real perfume but a lovely flower. It's been given the freedom to roam and is in need of a bit of taming and training.
Finally we have Compassion which is trained up an obelisk. It maybe is a bit too vigorous for the height of the obelisk but I manage to keep it under control.

We want to add more climbing roses to our garden and I have been going round in circles pouring over varieties, I think that I have found one that I like and then find it is susceptible to disease, has no fragrance or only one flush of flowers. 

My problem is that I am in search of at least four or five perfect roses. As well as being disease resistant, they must have perfume and a long flowering period. On top of this I am looking for particular colours and we're not to keen on the really full cabbage type flowers. Oh, and I don't want them to be too vigorous!

I want a cream rose (not a pinkish cream) to go in the white and blue border. Many that have been recommended are lovely but too cabbagy and others when Googled hint that they may just be more yellow than cream. At the moment I am leaning towards Creme de la Creme or Big Ben (trouble with Big Ben is that it is exclusive to one company and I'd like to get all the roses from the same place).

Then I want to create a yellow and red bed so I am looking for a red rose and a yellow rose. At the moment my tiny short list includes, Etoile de Hollande and Chris.

The final one or two roses are intended for the cold frame courtyard and could be any colour really although I am leaning towards a sort of apricot. Maybe something like Lady Hillingdon. I quite liked the single Meg but read it can be susceptible to black spot!

Has anyone grown any of the ones on my mini short list and can give me some advice or do you have a favourite climbing rose that would meet my requirements.

Friday, November 14

Magnolia watch

It may not be obvious from the photo below but since my last magnolia post the magnolia tree has undergone surgery and the canopy has been reduced somewhat.
Branches were clawing at the bedroom window and the canopy was spreading wider than we wanted and in danger of extending the shade beyond those plants that could tolerate it. A second operation may be required next year but for now we felt that the tree had suffered enough.

As other trees in the garden had either completely shed their leaves or were displaying shades of red and yellow, the magnolia was resolutely remaining fully clothed and green.

Then suddenly it all changed.
Green turned to yellow and the leaves started to fall revealing patches of daylight through the once dense canopy.
The leaves quickly lose their temporary autumn colouring and become dry and brown. 
As the leaves turned paler they also seemed to become thinner. The tree also lost leaves quicker on the side that is battered by winds whistling between the houses.
Leaves that fall onto the garden beneath will be left to rot away naturally as nature intended. The plants there are happy growing amongst leaf litter and the birds and other wildlife enjoy foraging amongst the dry leaves and shelter over winter.

You can see from the photo below that there is still evidence of leaf fall from previous years.