Garden Review 2017 – the Flowers

As February rolls on, and flashes of greenery and flowers begin to appear, let’s take a look back to the summer of 2017 with my top 5 flowers in my garden.

Following on from my recent review of the top 5 vegetables in my garden in 2017, it’s time to share the most successful flowers that grew in my garden last season.

I can’t wait for Spring to really kick off, and for the flowers and lush foliage to return. For now though, here’s a quick fix:

Rose ‘Ernest H. Morse’

Rose 'Ernest H Morse' on flower
The Rose ‘Ernest H. Morse’ is very fragrant, and flowers heavily.

I’m a sucker for Roses, and this Hybrid Tea bush Rose ‘Ernest H Morse’ was one that I picked up from a market stall in Ely, where they were doing a 3 for £15 deal.

Ernest H Morse rose on flower
The Ernest H Morse rose flowers heavily.

This heavily fragrant rose has grown about 3 feet since I planted it into the soil concrete-like clay when I broke my lawn in April 2017. In fact, the day I picked up my keys to my new house, this rose was in my car and amongst the first things I dropped off.

Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’

purple Sweet Sultan 'Mixed' flower
Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ flowers came in a range of colours.

A family friend gave me a load of seeds that she’d saved from the front of her gardening magazines, and amongst these packets were Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’. I’d never heard of them before, so thought I’d give them a try.

A white Sweet Sultan 'Mixed' flower.
A white Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ flower.

I’ll definitely be growing these again in 2018, as they work well with the Cosmos.

Gladioli

A lone Gladiolus stem
Up goes the Gladiolus stem…

I found just one Gladiolus bulb whilst picking the plants to move from my old house to my new one, and in its new home in the fresh border, it performed the best it ever has done.

Pink and white Gladiolus flower
The Gladiolus flower was well worth the wait.

However, this Gladiolus was clearly not the same one that flowered in the old garden in 2013-2016. I hope that that one brought a dash of surprise deep pink colour back there to the new resident.

I have purchased some more Gladioli bulbs, and will be adding more to the border for this year.

Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’

Cosmos flowers in garden
Some of the Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ reached about 4 feet tall.

I’d never grown Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ before, nor any Cosmos from seed, but I had previously purchased a couple of these plants from a garden centre and enjoyed their cheery daisy-like flowers.

This time, I grew them, although I admittedly sowed them so early that I worried that they would be too straggly to come to anything much. They spent too long in their secondary seed modules before planting out.

Pink Cosmos 'Seashells Mixed' flower in sunshine
Cosmos came in many colours.

However, after a few weeks, they had recovered and within a few months had become huge plants that filled my garden with cheery pinks, purples, and white flowers, set upon sturdy green stems and delicate leaves.

Cosmos flower with bee
White Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ with a happy bee

I’ll definitely be growing these again in 2018.

Tulip ‘Mixed Garden’

tulips on flower
My Tulips in pots at my old house in April 2017, just days before I moved.

I bought a pack of Tulip ‘Mixed Garden’ back in 2016, and planted them into a few wooden troughs that I rescued from my late-uncle’s garden when we were clearing his house.

At that point, I was living at my previous house, so I made sure that I didn’t plant them in anything I couldn’t pick up and move with – and I remember driving to my new house with a car boot full of beautiful tulips gently swaying in the rear-view mirror.

They put on a beautiful show in my old shady garden, and they continued that in my new sunny one.

They’re emerging again right now – with their waxy green leaves curling out of the compost. I’m hoping for a similarly beautiful display in the next couple of months.

That’s it!

So, if this hasn’t cheered your February winter blues up, then I don’t know what will.

With bulbs poking through the soil, green buds appearing on shrubs, and even the first blue tit inspecting my as-yet un-used birdbox, it feels like winter’s grip is loosening a little.

There’s seeds sown in my propagator, the shed is tidied, and I’m getting ready for what 2018 can bring.

Will you be growing any new flowers this year? What worked well for you last year? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thank you for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew

Sowing flat-leaf Parsley ‘Laura’

It’s time to sow some flat-leaf Parsley ‘Laura’ – it’s more than just a garnish.

I’ve added a third pot to my propagator… and yet another seed sowing that wasn’t on my 2018 plan (I wonder how many times I’m going to do that?).

Ever since 2012, when I was given a packet of Parsley seed within a leaving present I’ve grown it, but it has been with mixed results. I don’t think the seed keeps particularly well, but when it does grow, it is a handy nutritious addition to salads and as a garnish.

I don’t really like the look or taste of the curled leaf parsley, with this flat-leaf variety taking on a more discrete salad leaf taste.

 

Parsley 'Laura' in pot
My 2014 Parsley ‘Laura’ sowing – it grew for months.

I really enjoying tearing some up to have on scrambled egg, sneaking it into a sandwich, or using it as a garnish for a soup.

My 2014 pot lasted on my windowsill for about 6 months – happily growing and renewing me with fresh green leaves. I managed to do a second sowing that year once it had tired out.

I don’t grow this outside, as it saves it from garden pests and makes it reassuringly cleaner for me to quickly wash and use in the kitchen.

There’s plenty of health benefits for Parsley, with claims that it can aid digestion and reduce gas, contribute to kidney health, provide Vitamin K and C, and acts as an antibacterial, amongst many others.

A Parsley 'Laura' seedling in a pot
The first of the Parsley ‘Laura’ seedlings, from that first sowing in 2012.

So, with this in mind, I’ve sown a pot with some Parsley ‘Laura’ seeds, and added it to my propagator. Hopefully in a few days it will begin to push out above the compost and start to throw those green little leaves skywards.

As I type this, the blacbirds are singing, and I can hear loads of other birds twittering around. I think Spring is definitely on its way, even though the sky today is grey and a bit drizzly.

Thanks for reading, and as ever, happy gardening!

Andrew

The Shed Is Dead, Long Live The Shed

The older shed is now dead, leaving me with plenty of space to add raised beds and grow more veg.

I’ve done shed loads today. I spent the best part of 4 hours shedding myself of a shed, and fitting out my other shed.

When I looked around what was to become my new house in August/September last year, I made a mental note, that should I be successful in buying the house, then the little, rotting, rickety, second shed would need to come down.

The lounge window gave you prime viewing of the ugly deterioration of the shed. It had nothing more than a few inches scrap of torn roof felt on the roof – which seemed to be nothing more than a remnant of what once was, and no doubt a contributor to its demise.

The roof would be prime territory for fighting cats, and the shed was the perfect shield stopping me from removing those Blackberry brambles between myself and my neighbours.

In all the gales and storms we’ve had in late 2017 and 2018 – where I’ve laid in bed worried that my house roof would be ripped off – this damn shed wouldn’t budge. You could walk up to it and prod it with one finger and the whole thing would shake, but I think that it was mostly held together by the ivy and brambles.

So, this morning as I ate my breakfast and watched the sun begin to shine, I decided today was the day it went.

Here goes:

Shed
The shed was full of rot, woodworm and ivy. The larger, newer, more stable shed is on the right.

Going…

Going…

Going…Gone!

I now have a heap of planks, although many were rotten. I shall go through these in the next couple of weekends and see if there are any that are still firm. Those will be pieced together to form sides of raised beds in this area.

I cleared up the smaller bits of wood and put them in a box for a future trip to the dump, and smashed up and binned that brightly coloured plastic drawer frame that the previous owners abandoned (I kept the coloured drawers though).

The soil beneath the shed was bone dry, weedless, and easy to dig. However, no sooner had i removed the bramble stems and the ivy, than down came some hail storms.

I took this opportunity to make a cuppa, and headed into the remaining shed to do some tidying up, and to turn the old shed’s door into two sturdy shelves.

So, now with a tidy usable shed with storage space, and a demolished old shed, I’m ready to choose what will screen my garden from the neighbours adjoining me at the bottom of my garden (it’s currently an old wire fence), and then plan my raised beds.

I’m putting my feet up now, so thank you for reading, and as ever, happy gardening!

Andrew

Garden Review of 2017 – my Top 5 Vegetables

Looking back to the 2017 season in my garden, and highlighting my vegetable growing successes.

The spring and summer of 2017 have long since ridden off into the sunset, and the memories of my first spade into the tired old lawn of my new garden are beginning to fade.

So, what better way to beat the February chills or driving myself crazy with wanting to sow every seed, than to look back at my five favourite vegetable successes that grew in my new garden.

Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’

Three Squash Spaghetti Stripetti
Three left!

Having never grown a squash before, and rarely tasted them in anything other than soups, I decided to grow 2 Squash Spaghetti Stripetti seeds.

I greatly underestimated what these plants could do, although the wind sorted one of them out in just a few hours of planting it out into my new raised bed. I sowed a replacement, but really didn’t need to.

Within only 6-8 weeks of sowing the first one, I was already expectantly watching the first of the squashes form under a mass of leaves and tangled stems.

Small Squash Spaghetti Stripetti forming
The first Squash forming after about 6-8 weeks of sowing.

I ended up with the original plant meandering and clinging to all other plants (including the lawn), with a radius of about 20 feet.

By the time that the plant had peaked, it had given me about 15 edible big plump squashes. I swiftly learnt how to roast them up and have enjoyed eating their soft, spaghetti-ish, kind-of sweet yellow flesh. I still have three of these in my kitchen – they store really well.

Courgette ‘Black Beauty’

Courgette plant on flower
One of the Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants on flower. They went er.. bananas.

The Courgette ‘Black Beauty’, just like the namesake horse, galloped along and took over my diet for about 3 months, allowing me to legitimately infiltrate the courgetti fad crowd with my tricky-to-clean spiralizer gadget.

I’d tried growing these over the years with intermittent success. In this new garden though, for some reason I thought 6 plants would be ok. This gave me heaps of courgettes resulting in a great soup recipe, and new-found friends at work (gardening really is sociable!).

Courgette, Potato, and Cheddar Soup
Courgette, Potato, and Cheddar Soup – one of the tastiest ways to reduce my courgette glut.

Considering that the seed ‘should have’ been discarded about 8 years previously, they did very well. After drowning in courgettes, and the plants experiencing mildew that eventually suffocated the courgettes and the marauding squash plant, I pulled up both after a long and happy harvest.

I kept a tally, but gave up at the end of Week 7’s harvest. At that point, i counted a total of 45 courgettes, weighing a cumulative 15.5 kilos (that’s 15,500 grams – the equivalent of just less than 1 London Bus).

French Climbing Bean ‘Blue Lake’

French Bean 'Blue Lake' beans
Just a few of the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ beans that cropped well in the new garden.

This was probably my best harvest yet, and these French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ beans soon took to the wigwam and cropped. They were the second plants to be planted out into my new garden, as the seedlings had spent most of April crawling around my old house’s windowsills desperate to be planted out whilst solicitors did their job.

French Bean Blue Lake seedlings with wigman
My French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ seedlings had been desperate to be planted out in 2017, so they were 2nd out, in week 1!

Heavy assaults from snails were seen off with some magic sweets, enabling me to have many harvests right up to the frost. I’ll definitely continue growing these, as the beans are so tasty, and I love to pop a few in a stir fry.

Mixed Salad Leaves

handful of mixed salad leaves
The mixed Salad Leaves have been lush and delicious, and I’ve enjoyed picking them in the morning sunshine before work.

These did really well, considering that they were supposed to have been sowed ‘before 2012’. They were desperate to be planted out when they were filling up the windowsill of my old house, so they were the first plants in – just a few days after getting my new house keys.

A red leaf lettuce planted out.
The slugs don’t seem to like these red-leafed lettuces. I’ll grow some more.

I grew a mixed range, and I soon realised that one of the red leaf varieties did not appeal to slugs and snails. I think I’ve identified the variety as Lettuce ‘Red Salad Bowl’ (ingenious name, right?), and will be growing it again in 2018.

Pea ‘Alderman’

Last year, I returned to growing one of my first garden successes from when I was a child – Peas. Armed with a packet of Pea ‘Alderman’ seeds, and a newly erected fence, I sowed my line.

Handful of Peas 'Alderman'
My one and only handful of Peas ‘Alderman’ from my 2017 garden. Delicious.

They germinated fast, but the woodpigeons and slugs were fast too. I managed to pop some wire over them but they’d already taken heavy slug damage. I managed a harvest though – a handful of pods – and well, a mouthful of fresh peas. They were delicious, but brief.

Small harvest of Pea Alderman
My 2017 Pea harvest. That’s it. Baby steps, Andrew. Baby steps.

I hope to improve this in 2018, and be two steps ahead of my pea-nibbling foes.

So, those are my vegetable highlights of 2017 – all of these grew from seed, and were planted out in my new garden.

What did you grow in 2017?

Did you have any vegetable growing successes in 2017? What are you planning to grow in 2018? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, happy gardening (or simultaneous seed catalogue browsing and dreaming). I’ll post the garden review of my favourite flowers in a few days, but for now – thanks for reading.

Andrew

Sowing Sweet Peas, Salvia and Broad Beans in February

The propagator is fired up, and the sow-athon begins with Broad Beans, Sweet Peas, and Salvia.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been chomping at the bit to get gardening again. February can be one of the most bitterly cold months in the UK, and so when you get a little bit of sunshine, or a day without rain, snow, wind, or freezing conditions, it is so tempting to get out there and make a start.

In my last post I shared my seed planner, and I’ve found that really helpful in reminding me what I’m going to grow and how I can pace myself a bit. I’ve already added more seeds to the schedule!

So, with four days of February under our belts, I’ve decided to start sowing some seeds, and set up my little propagator again on a windowsill.

pots of cineraria and salvia seeds in a propagator
Cineraria ‘Maritima Siverdust’ and Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ are the first in the propagator this year.

First in today were my Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ seeds – only 6 seeds so far, but I can go back and add more seed in a few weeks if they don’t germinate well, or add more a few weeks later just to stagger my crop.

As a child, broad beans were like nasty little warts and they tasted disgusting, yet, as an adult I simply cannot get enough of them. I’m frustrated by the lack of them in my local supermarket – and can’t even get them frozen, so I thought that I would sow some myself. I’m worried about the blackfly though, as they took great delight in attacking my tomatoes last year, but I’ve been watching several videos on how to deal with these on Broad Beans. I’m also looking forward to the benefits that they will give my garden by pumping nitrogen back into the soil. The courgettes and squash will love that!

packets of sweet pea, salvia, and broad bean seeds
The first seeds to sow in February – Sweet Peas, Salvia, and Broad Beans.

In addition to these, I also sowed a dozen each of Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ and Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’. I grew both varieties last year, and whilst they flowered well over a long season, they didn’t climb. I think this was due to the garden twine ‘web’ that I put up for them, so I will swap that to wire before I plant these out. Past experience shows that these will germinate quickly, but last year the Royal Mixed variety were up first.

Finally, I’ve sown some more of my Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ seeds. I sowed some of these (same packet) last year, but only one germinated – although it did become a large striking plant in my new garden.

Salvia 'Farinacea Victoria' with deep blue flowers
The sole surviving Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ plant was covered in deep blue flowers.

Hopefully, they will be more successful this year, and help fill my new border with its beautiful deep blue spires that looked great, and were popular with the bees. This early sowing does at least allow me time to perhaps get some new seed if the germination is poor.

These Salvia seeds actually join my Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ that I sowed last week. Those will add an intricate snowy-leafed set of foliage to my garden.

Cineraria 'Martima Siverdust'
Cineraria ‘Martima Siverdust’

They worked really well in my previous garden where it was sheltered and shady, and they lived on for about 4 years! They contrast well with most other plants.

As I finish typing this post, the sun is blazing, the birds are feasting on my feeders, and I can hear a blackbird singing. It feels like Spring is here, but I’m not fooled by February – which won’t flinch about bringing deadly snow and ice.

Have you started your 2018 sowing season yet? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thank you for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew

Planning the 2018 garden

I’m planning my 2018 garden. Always have a plan!

This April, it will be 1 year since I bought and moved in to this house.

During that time, I have broken a garden laid entirely to a tired lawn, moved fences, planted a hedge, and enjoyed a lot of homegrown vegetables and flowers.

Now that I’ve begun to understand my garden a bit, I’m creating my plan for 2018, based on what I’ve observed so far.

Above is my 2018 Google planner for the seeds that I want to sow this year – helping me to keep on track.

 

1. There’s a shady bit

Close to the fence, patio and house, there’s a shaded area which is also pretty heavy clay. The water sits here sometimes for a while, trying to escape the patio. My potted Ferns like this area, and I successfully transferred a few self-sown Foxgloves that had tried to make home in my garden pots that I moved with me from my previous house.

This part of the garden will be getting some Aquilegia ‘McKana Giants’ in 2018, which apparently enjoy more shaded moist conditions.

2. There’s an old shed

The old decrepit shed needs to be demolished, as it’s empty, somehow has stood the countless gales we’ve had with little more than an occasional door swing, and it’s taking up precious growing space. What it is doing though, is helping to provide some privacy between the bottom of my garden and the houses who back up to my fence. I’m thinking about having a new fence installed, but first I just need to take it down. I hope it’s not concrete under that!

3. More raised beds

Having demolished the old shed, then I’ll have space and a pile of wood from which I aim to make some more raised beds. This part of the garden fared really well for my French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ and my ‘sow-by-2012’ salad crops. It also gave me the occasional courgette, although these were the only ones grown in the ground (rather than a raised bed) so they were a bit slower. The new raised beds will fit in the old shed space.

4. Blackcurrants

I’ve bought a couple of Blackcurrant ‘Ribes Nigrum’ bushes. They’re just budding at the moment, but I hope to eventually get a crop from them in the next couple of years. I think these are also going near the shed footprint.

5. Birds

This morning, I participated in The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch with my independent adjudicator, RubyCat. The garden is busy this weekend – now that the snow, wind, and rain, gave everyone a few hours break. I noticed that there’s a reasonable range of bird life coming in, and so I hope that my B&Q birdbox (which incidentally split) will get its first use, and I hope the birds are enjoying the 4 bird feeders and the sunflower heads I left on. I’ll be growing more sunflowers for them and the bees.

6. Up

Last year I learned that Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ loves to crawl, climb, grab, grasp, and strangle. That was my first ever year of growing squashes, and they gave me plenty out of just one plant. This year, I need to make that plant go upwards, instead of letting is maraud its way over, through and around a 20ft radius of garden. I shall be looking for either a trellis, or an arch that will suit my needs.

Elsewhere in the garden, I also want to solve the issue I had last year with the reluctant Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ and Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mix’. They were happy to flower and grow where i’d planted them, but they refused to climb. I put it down to the climbing ‘frame’ being made of string rather than wire, and so I will swap my intricate string grid with wire, and see if I can finally persuade them and my new Honeysuckle ‘Lonicera’ to reach upwards and give me scent and blooms this summer.

Flower and vegetable seed packets
My seed packets are raring to be opened!

Right! My seed packets are all alphabetically filed in a new storage box, and ready to go… c’mon budge over Winter, let’s have some Spring!

What are you planning for your garden this year? Are you trying anything ‘new’ in 2018? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thanks for reading, and happy gardening,

Andrew

 

Putting up a little Bee ‘n’ B

The bees might be hibernating at the moment, but it won’t be long until they’ll be looking for food and places to stay. It’s time to get the garden bee-friendly.

Once again, family friend Anne gave me a fantastic gardening Christmas present last month.

A bee hotel

It’s about the size and shape of a standard bird box, but instead of being sealed with one hole at the front, it is open with dozens of holes at the front – as it’s filled with bamboo. The RSPB have a nice guide on making one.

A bee hotel attached to my shed
My new bee hotel is up and ready for guests. Breakfasts are not included, but can be found nearby.

The idea is that bees (like solitary bees) will come along and seek shelter, and they’ll be able to check-in at my bee hotel whilst they wait for safety, and can then resume their visit to my garden.

I’ve never had one of these before, but I’ve often seen them around in garden centres, so I will be interested to see how this fares in my garden. It was a bit tough to get it onto my shed – not through any fault in the bee hotel’s design, more of a lack of opportunity on my shed’s part, so for now it’s on an end. Hopefully it won’t blow off in the inevitable March/April gales.

Last year she gave me a pair of shears and loads of packets of seeds, the latter of which made my garden pretty with some new sowings – particularly the Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ and Monarda ‘Austromontana Bee’s Favourite’ flowers.

Sweet Sultan Mixed purple flower
Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ were wonderful – and a new plant for me in 2017.

The shears will certainly come in handy when my persuasion hedge wakes up and has grown a bit more, but I guess I can practice on the inevitable Blackberry growth at the bottom of my garden.

Early food for emerging bees

For now though, it’s far too cold for the bees, but in a few weeks they may begin to emerge. In the last couple of years I’ve always tried to meet them with Crocuses, so that they get that essential early food, and I’m pleased to say that my first planting of crocuses in my new garden are up… I just hope the rest are on their way too. I managed to lift some of the Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs from my old house before I left, and I hope to see them again real soon.

Crocus 'Giant Ruby' on flower.
Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ on flower.

I also intentionally and coincidentally brought some of the Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrid Mixed’ X-generation plants with me too, and I’ve planted these into suitable areas. Hopefully their colourful spires will soon begin to shoot up too.

I’m now in the depths of garden planning, and raring to go, whilst bingeing on allotment videos. My Friday night was spent mostly watching a chain of YouTubers explaining how they sow and harvest turnips!

Anyway, wrap up warm, and get those seed catalogues out – I’ve already heavily thumbed the Suttons Seeds Catalogue. It won’t be long until we need to start sowing again.

Thanks for reading, and happy gardening

Andrew

The first new seedlings of 2018

I must obey my cat overlord…. I must obey my cat overlord… I must obey my cat overlord…

In that limbo between Christmas and New Year, I planted some seeds into an old terracotta pot and plonked them onto my kitchen windowsill. They’ve germinated!

Cat Grass seedlings
The Cat Grass has germinated after only a few days.

These sturdy green-ish shoots belong to Cat Grass, one of the packets of seeds that landed onto my doormat straight after Christmas from Suttons.

I’ve never grown it before, but it took about 48 hours to break the surface of the compost with only a cool windowsill. The grass seeds were pretty big and tough too (up to 1cm long).

These will hopefully grow into tall grass, that my cat overlord Ruby will be able to chew. This apparently helps cats with digestion, gives them nutrients (my cat is pretty much vegetarian anyway!), helps the passing of hairballs, and can calm their stomach. Sadly it’s also culprit #1 when it comes to cat sick on your carpets!

Ruby Cat in garden
Ruby is a 7yr old rescue cat, that I adopted in September 2017… she’s ruled ever since.

Still, we must do as our overlords instruct, so instead of watching my cat sit in the half-dead, cold (and sometimes snowy) wet garden trying to find something remotely green and grass like, i’ll be able to offer her some lush green fresh grass grown entirely for her convenience.

How obedient of me.

Ruby Cat informing me of my to-do list
DO AS YOUR CAT OVERLORD INSTRUCTS!

I already have Catnip ‘Nepeta Cataria’ and Catnip ‘Nepeta Mussinii’  growing in my garden, but this is a double-edged sword:

  1. Ruby Cat loves it, and likes to bury her head in it for about 10mins every time she goes out in the garden. I know where she’ll be – high as a kite.
  2. The neighbourhood cats like to bury their heads in it too at night time, resulting in Ruby almost kicking my kitchen door out to get at them (she hates other cats). I don’t let her out there at them.

Both of these plants are really quite pretty, and I have them growing close to my herb garden area. At the moment, both are somewhat dormant, and somewhat flattened by the cats. I find that bees quite like their flowers in spring.

Catnip 'Nepeta Cataria'
Catnip ‘Nepeta Cataria’, somewhat flattened by overlords.

So, whilst I’m busting to start sowing seeds again, I’m holding back, and planning the garden for 2018.

For now, happy garden planning, happy new year, and thanks for reading.

Andrew

Goodbye Aubergine

Always acknowledge when it is time to give up. And give up.

I’ve always wanted to grow Aubergines (US readers: that’s an ‘egg plant’), but I just can’t get them to a harvestable level.

I’ve been trying to grow Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ since 2011, pretty much every year but only got close that year, and again in 2017 (when I switched to Aubergine ‘Early Long Purple 2), but they just don’t give me any fruit bigger than a radish on a cold day.

Aubergine and Nasturtium plants in a wicker basket.
Aubergines in a wicker basket did well in 2011.

The plants are always healthy and their silvery green leaves are quite elegant, but years into trying, I’m going to stop.

Even 2017’s raised bed saw them grow well, but in the end they seemed to run out of steam. It’s not that I’m not sowing them early enough – I’m following the packet. I just don’t have a greenhouse, and have no plans to.

It’s important to know when to stop and move on.

What about the Tomatoes?

In 2017, after gales, baking sunshine, and waves of blackfly, I did get a bumper crop of Tomato ‘Minibel’ but I threw most of them away as they were turning faster than I could eat them.

The potted-on Tomato 'Minibel' seedlings.
Too many Tomatoes.

I only eat them in salads, and whilst their small red plump fruits were delicious and fresh, I just wasn’t able to keep up (not least because of the Courgette glutz).

I’ve decided that I probably won’t bother growing them in 2018, or if I do, it’ll just be a couple of plants.

Instead, I’ll try out some new produce instead – Turnips and Broad Bean are top of my ‘must grow, must eat’ list for the new year.

The final bulb goes out in 2017

It’s a pre-Christmas rush to get the last of my rescued Tulip, Daffodil, Snowdrop, Hyacinth, and Crocus bulbs into the ground in 2017.

As the final days of 2017 head towards that blurred and dazed week of Christmas to New Year, I’ve finally gotten the last of my bulk-rescued bulbs into the ground.

In the last few weeks I picked up a load of discounted bulbs from my local Wyevale, and also rescued some that were just a few pence in a branch of Poundstretcher.

Tulip bulbs in a bag
Tulip bulbs in a bag, waiting to be planted out.

I know it’s late to be putting these in, but I did the same at my last house, and miraculously the flowers were out at the usual time in Feb/March… plus, if I don’t save them, who will?

The snow delayed me in planting these straight out, so today – a somewhat mild Christmas Eve – I was out in the morning with trowel and spade, and setting lots of Tulips, Daffodils, Crocuses, Snowdrops and Hyacinths. Fingers crossed.

bulbs planted in ground
Some of the bulbs I planted a few weeks ago.

I did manage to get a few in a few weeks back, and I inadventantly checked on them today as I dug up what seemed like a good spot, only to discover I’d previously claimed it.

If you can remember from last year, I have a load of tulips and daffodils in pots – I planted them there because I knew I was going to move house. They put on a fantastic show.

tulips on flower
My Tulips in pots at my old house in April 2017, just days before I moved.

Elsewhere, the daffodils that I planted in the pots are up by several inches, in what will be their second season with me.

In all the digging that I’ve done in my new house’s garden, I’ve not spotted a single bulb – it was all tired lawn and no borders.. so this introduction of bulbs will be interesting. The soil here is more clay than my previous house, which itself had a shady garden, so it will be interesting to see how they fare.

I’ve planted:

  • 32x Snowdrops ‘Galanthus’
  • 6x Tulip ‘Red Impression’
  • 6x Tulip ‘Gorilla’
  • 12x Crocus ‘Flower Record’
  • 12x Crocus ‘King Of The Striped’
  • 16x Daffodil ‘Quirinus’
  • 6x Tulip ‘Grand Perfection’
  • 3x Hyacinth ‘Mixed’

If only half of them come to anything, then it will still have been a bargain. I hope the rest of the ones in the shop found a home rather than a bin.

I’m really looking forward to the cheery flowers in the spring. The flowers from snowdrops and crocuses are really important for bees as they emerge from their hibernation.

tulip gorilla and red impression packs
Tulip ‘Gorilla’ and ‘Red Impression’ should offer some colour to my garden from Spring 2018.

I’m particularly looking forward to checking out the new Tulip ‘Gorilla’, with it’s deep frilly burgundy petals, and the bright red of Tulip ‘Red Impression’.

Now, with my feet up, cat on my lap, the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the corner, and a nice hot cup of tea, it’s time to sign-off for Christmas.

Have a wonderful end of year break, and I’ll be back in 2018 with more adventures in gardening Cambridgeshire.

Happy Gardening!

Andrew