Sunday, January 31

Change of plan

I usually cut the old leaves off the hellebores before the flowers start to emerge but this year the weather meant that I didn't want to trample on the sodden border.

The result was that the flower buds rose above the old foliage and I decided that they could manage very well without my intervention. However, last week I had a sudden thought. There are snowdrops planted amongst the hellebores and they would struggle to show their heads above the foliage. On one of the few reasonable days last week, I decided to tip-toe through the hellebores and remove last year's leaves. You can tell from the photo below that it was a dull day.
The leaves that fall from the magnolia tree onto this bed are left in place and the plants just push up through them.

Not only were the clumps of snowdrops revealed but also sprouting amongst the dead leaves were lots of hellebore seedlings.
As seedlings are just left in place to take their chances, I think some of the plants now flowering were probably self sown a few years back.

A couple of years ago I added two new varieties - one was a primrose colour and the other almost black - the trouble is that I can't find the variety names anywhere in our records.
They were small plug plants and so far I have seen no signs of the primrose ones but the dark ones have flowers. The colour is much 'blacker' in real life than the camera shows.

Garden centres know how to tempt an impulse buy don't they? We went for a coffee and a browse round one of our favourite garden centres the other day and what should be crying out to be popped into our basket but another hellebore. This one is called Spring Promise and has duly been recorded.
Now we just need a fine day so that I can find a place for it amongst it's cousins.

When I picked the plant up and Martyn commented on how he liked it and so I let him buy it. Then seeing as it was now his plant, I chose a couple of saxifragas for one of the pebble beds. The plant in the bottom photo has flowers that are a pale greenish yellow rather than the white that they look in the photo.
We did need more plants for the pebble beds and so my plants ,unlike Martyn's hellebore, were not impulse buys.

The saxifragas are also waiting to be planted along with some bulbs that we needed that were bought when we went for some bird food to another garden centre.
Unfortunately JS Dijt has turned out to be blue instead of the deep purple shown on the label (a case of mislabelling?) so it looks like I will need to hunt out another purple variety.

Now all I need is a dry day so I can get planting!

Friday, January 29

An apology

A couple of weeks or more now I noticed that the number of followers to my blog was decreasing - not just by one or two as often happens but the numbers were going down in large chunks. The first batch to go missing coincided with me publishing non-gardening related topics and so I assumed that this had upset some followers and that they had decided to register their disapproval by unfollowing. (Is that a word now like unfriending?)

Then a coupld of readers commented that this was happening on other blogs and was in fact due to Blogger removing non-Google account holding visitors from the followers lists. Over 20 followers have already been removed from my lists and it is likely that more will follow.
To follow using the Google Friends Connect option you now must have a Google account which they say will, "improve the experience for both you and your readers."
I am not sure how they have reached this conclusion but many angry bloggers have set the blogger forum alight. It seems more to do with pushing people into creating Google accounts rather than for any benefit to users. I know Blogger is free so we can't really complain too much but it does annoy and frustrate me when they keep sneaking in changes. To be honest I would maybe change my blog to one that I have more control over but this would complicate matters for readers.

On the side bar of my blog I have set up alternative ways of following.
These have mainly been added on request as people often have a preferred way of following blogs. Bloglovin seems very popular.

I follow some of my favourite blogs by adding an RSS feed on my blog sidebar which may work with other blogging applications if you have your own blog.

I would like to apologise on behalf of Blogger if you are someone who has been unceremoniously removed from my readers list and wanted to assure you that it isn't my doing. I hope that you will find an alternative method of following that suits you and will continue to visit.

If anyone has a favourite way of following maybe you can describe it in the comments and let me now if I need to add something to my blog to allow you to do this.

I have just added a simple Facebook follower icon which doesn't use Networked Blogs. It's on the sidebar and looks like this.

Wednesday, January 27

A day out in the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria

Monday, January 25

Soggy harvest

Amidst snowfalls, visits to the optician, visits to the vet, shopping, lunches out, tracking down the Flying Scotsman ... we managed to fit in a harvesting trip to the plot last week.

It is too soggy to do much but, whilst Martyn was digging root vegetables out of the mud, I managed to carry out the much overdue task of cutting all the old canes from the thornless blackberry. The tayberry needs the same treatment but it is much more heavily armed and so I need to try and match its armour before tackling it.

The harvest was as you would expect for this time of year.
The root vegetables and leeks were given a wash before posing for their group photo. In their fresh from the ground state, shrouded in mud it would be difficult to tell them apart.

Although quite a few carrots had split or been eaten we managed a decent harvest with more to come.
We don't thin out the seedlings - it's a case of every carrot for itself and so some become rather friendly.
The parsnips although of the small size were in much better condition. The beasties don't seem as partial to them and they haven't split as many carrots have. There's not much evidence above ground but there are still plenty more parsnips to harvest.
Like the parsnips the leeks are somewhat undersized; many would say the same of me so who am I to complain. Good things come in small packages after all. 
I didn't totally avoid getting my hands dirty as I dug the beetroots which is why I forgot to take a photo. I am currently on the look put for a beetroot dip recipe as we bought one from the supermarket that we really liked. I'm going to have to spy out the ingredients on our next shopping trip.

The cleanest harvest was the Brussels sprouts. We last picked some before Christmas and since then the sprouts have definitely grown.
The net is essential protection or the wood pigeons would have a party.

Other items of essential protection for me are my welly shoes. I don't feel comfortable walking around in welly boots so only wear them when really necessary. My welly shoes are ideal for plodding around a soggy plot whilst keeping feet dry.
My jeans aren't too short for me, I just oiked them up a bit so that you could better see that these were shoes and not boots.

Martyn's essential protection kit includes his rubber gloves, it's no fun sticking hands in freezing cold water to wash the root vegetables.
On our visit last week, Martyn took some video of our plot and harvesting which I thought that I'd also share with you here. It will give you some idea of just how soggy things are.

The video is best viewed in HD but for some reason if you are viewing the blog on an iPad it doesn't seem to give this option so you can view directly in YouTube by clicking here.

This week's harvesting post is linking to Harvest Monday on Michelle's blog From Seed to Table

PS. I hope all my readers who are affected by the snow are keeping safe and warm.

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

Friday, January 22

Flower Power

Decisions have been made and most of our seeds have now been ordered. Soon exciting packages will be arriving and sowing schedules will kick in.

As most regular visitors will be aware we like to grow flowers on our plot and for the last two years we have had a couple of annual flowers beds each year. We have an early display which is technically filled with biennials and a summer flowering display.

The early bed is made up of sweet rocket, wallflowers and sweet Williams.
 The biennials for this year are already planted and growing well.
Not enough sweet Williams germinated and so I have left last year's plants in place as in the past we have managed to flower them for more then one year.

Seeds for next year's plants have been ordered. I was disappointed with the wallflower colours last year but it was too late to change the varieties that I planted so for next spring I have ordered a variety called Fair Lady. I've also added some Bellis to my biennial list (although these often turn out to be perennial). Excuse the photos as they were taken off the computer screen.
Above also shown are some thunbergia that will probably be planted in tubs in the greenhouse and summerhouse.

I always like to tweak the annual bed - discarding some poorer performers. Last year these were some of the plants grown.
The godetia, cosmos and cornflowers lasted particularly well as cut flowers but I was disappointed with the ammi and gypsophila. The ammi dropped quickly when in a vase making quite a mess and the gypsohila hardly grew.

This year I will be growing the following - again photos are taken from the screen.
Some are new to me this year e.g. tithonia, asters, annual lupin, antirrhinum. lavatera and a creamy yellow cosmos.

I also like to try out different varieties of sweet peas. They are chosen firstly for good cut flowers, then good perfume and the good colour although some of the darker flowers creep in in spite of not having a really good perfume. It seems difficult to find dark colours with good perfume and the colours are really beautiful. This year's varieties are.

I will also be growing dwarf sunflowers Music Box again.

I've also become a fan of violas and have ordered a variety called Chicky Chicks - I'm not keen on the name. These will be planted in tubs.
I also fancied growing some coleus as I haven't for some time. I know not flowers but they certainly won't be eaten and so amongst the flowers is the best place for them.

I have a few seeds left over from last year too that may still be viable - I'll sow them as there's nothing to lose.

If you are interested in the full list of flower seeds that we have ordered for 2016 it is here.

Wednesday, January 20

Foraging - blackbird style

Monday, January 18

Wouldn't you just know it?

Snow was forecast for the North West so when my sister rang on Saturday to tell us that where she lived - a fifteen minute drive away - it was snowing, and that we had better call off our intended visit, we were surprised. We are on the eastern side of the country with the Pennines separating us  from the predicted snow.

When we peeped through the curtains we saw that we too had gently falling snow that was gradually carpeting the ground.

Just before bedtime I nipped out with my camera and took a few photos.
 Wouldn't you just know it - the front garden bed that I had cut back the same afternoon was covered.
Sunday morning, the snow was still hanging on so I was back out with my camera.
Extra helpings needed on the bird tables - I wonder whether the birds that have deserted us during the mild spell will be tempted back. By Sunday evening the snow had all gone. We haven't seen our regular goldfinches for ages in spite of their favourite food being on offer.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is due to take place on the weekend of the 30 and 31 January; at this rate our count is going to be very low.

PS: If you are feeling the cold spare a thought for a little dog that had her bottom shaved for a recent operation and who has to go outside to the toilet!

Sunday, January 17

I felt that I had little choice

I did something that could turn out to be against my better judgement at the weekend. I've been procrastinating for a while since I spotted the first bulbs, in the front garden bed, not only pushing through but, in the case of at least a couple of iris reticulata, actually flowering. (See Martyn's blog here)

The bulbs in this area are mostly short growing and later in the season the patches of ground that they occupy is covered over by heuchera and geraniums. These are cut back early in spring to allow the bulbs to flower in peace.

I knew that the bulbs were now demanding headroom but it seemed too early to be cutting back especially when we may well still be hit by a cold snap. What to do? Either way the flowers from the bulbs could be spoiled but leaving them to push through the other plants would mean that they we not only spoiled but would be unseen. So the bullet was bitten and two bags of debris later it looked like this.
Not all the perennials have been cut back but at least the bulbs can see daylight. 

Can you spot the small plant growing at the edge of the paving? It's not a weed but a self sown verbena bonariensis.
Not the best choice of hole but I can move it later and at least it makes more sense than this.
It can't be familiar with the parable of the sower. I think it is beyond rescuing.

We have various miniature daffodils in the front bed.
Dutch irises and miniature irises.
I think that I also planted some scilla. Either they have more sense and are still under cover or I haven't recognised their shoots.

There are some ragged mini tulip leaves that I forgot to photograph.
The snowdrops as in the back garden are just carrying on as normal. They seem to not understand what all the rush is about.
The aconites too that I have always thought of as one of the earliest flowering bulbs are just pushing their noses through the soil.

I did take a photo but it is just a green blob on a patch of earth.

Now what shall I do about the back garden?