The Garden Springs Forward

We’ve just had a mild week here in the East of England, and so the garden has woken up to throw lush green leaves skywards. It’s been the perfect time to get out there.

The sunshine arrived this week, and it’s been gently warming the soil and luring some of the spring plants out of winter hibernation, and for some, this has been the signal to open their flowers.

I even cut the back lawn for the first time since about September.

Now that my shed is pretty much in order, I can begin using it as a space to sow and harden off (that means, getting them used to cooler temperatures) plants. My Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ plants have already been through this process and are doing well in their new raised bed outside.

Having saved the cardboard toilet roll middles over the last few months, I have collected these up, filled them with a multipurpose compost and sown a French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ seed into each one.

Sowing french beans in toilet rolls
Above: Tea, Shed, Toilet Rolls, Beans and Compost – a winning combination.

French Beans (like Peas and Sweet Peas) like to send their roots down deep, and therefore these cardboard tubes are perfect for them to grow in over the next few weeks. They won’t go out until late May, but this should give them a perfect start, and the cardboard tube will rot down when it gets planted out with them.

Meanwhile, the Crocuses and Tulips are out, helping to provide the early-emerging bees with food. I’ve seen a few bees around so far, so hopefully the bulb flowers are going to help sustain them long enough for more flowers to open.

The first tulip opens its flower.
The first tulip opens its flower.

This tulip is one of a trough of Tulip ‘Mixed Garden’ bulbs that I planted up last year. It’s the first in the trough to open, but the others (which are bigger) should be along soon.

I also found a (what i think is the last of the) Erin seed kits that I was given back in about 2011. This time, the kit is for Rocket, so I have once again opened the kit up and sown the seeds that should be sown ‘by 2012’. Let’s see how this goes!

Erin Wild Rocket seed kit
An old Erin Wild Rocket seed kit – should have been sown ‘by 2012’.

Last time I sowed an old Erin seed kit, a forest grew, that gave me lettuces throughout the summer, despite being 5 years beyond their ‘sow by’ date. Sometimes nature deserves a chance, as it has other plans!

I think some wetter weather is now on its way, but I hope that you’ve been able to do something in your garden. I know that I shall be busy pricking out seedlings over the next few days.

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

Andrew

The Crocuses and Daffodils awake

The snow reminds the Spring flowering bulbs that Winter hasn’t quite finished with us yet.

Over the last couple of days there’s been a lot of snow in the UK, and whilst my garden is somewhere under this icy white blanket, I feel like I’ve gotten off lightly with just a few inches compared to other places in the UK or Europe.

Bursting out of the snow are little dashes of colour in the garden this week, as yellow Crocuses begin to flower. I managed to catch the crocuses before the snow fell. I planted these Crocus ‘Golden Bunch’ bulbs back in about October/November.

Yellow Crocuses on flower before the snow.
Yellow Crocuses on flower before the snow.

They’re being closely followed by the Daffodils, which I was hoping would be on flower in time for St. David’s Day, but whilst they have a tinge of yellow, they are still tightly in bud.

Daffodil buds
The Daffodils are beginning to turn yellow.

But for now, they are all but buried under the soft, cold, white carpet. A few more days, and we’ll be back on track for Spring (hopefully).

Going….

Yellow crocuses in snow
Yellow crocuses begin to get surrounded by snow.

Going….

Crocus in snow
The yellow flowers of Crocus lay buried in the snow.

I don’t think my part of England is due any or much more snow, so it looks like those bright yellow flowers will escape being completely buried.

I have planted loads of other Crocus varieties in the garden, and transported some in pots from my previous house, but these yellow ones are the first out, and it’s a welcome sight.

Looking back to 2017 and 2012, I can see that the crocuses are fairly close to previous flowering times, albeit without the snow. However, this same variety flowered in mid-February in 2013, even after the -11C temperatures.

Feed the birds

I’ve also been making sure that my garden birds have fresh water and filled feeders during this snowy weather. They’re pretty desperate right now, and I’ve seen a load of species in the garden tucking into the peanuts, sunflower seeds, niger seed, banana, wild bird seed, and the fat balls. I’m trying to put out as many types as possible, so that there’s something for all kinds of bird.

If you’ve got any fruit that’s beginning to turn in the house, pop it out for the birds – you’ll please the blackbirds at least, but probably a few other species too.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, keep safe and warm, and happy dreaming about all that warmer Spring weather!

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

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

Tiptoe through the Tulips

The tulips give a dash of colour to a shady and grey corner of the garden.

The mixed Tulip bulbs that I bought from my local Wyevale back in October, and planted in November, have really turned out nice.

Red and lilac tulips on flower.
The mixed Tulips give a nice bright dash of red, white and lilac in an otherwise part-shaded concrete side of my house.

They’re all in the pots that I rescued from my uncle’s house, and despite their relatively recent planting, they’ve beaten the Tulip ‘Negrita’ bulbs that have successfully grown and bloomed in my garden since I planted them back in 2012.

I’ll be excavating the Negrita bulbs from my garden when I move in a few weeks, along with a couple of other plants, but all will find themselves in a new garden soon. They’re so richly, deep and luxurious looking, that I really want to take them with me. Maybe the move will do them good – perhaps Tulips appreciate a bit of fresh soil?

Tulip 'Negrita' in bloom.
A previous bloom from Tulip ‘Negrita’.

For now though, this mixed display of tulips brings a dash of bright colour in a semi-shady concreted area near my side door – I see them as I leave and return to my house, and they remind me that Spring is well in business, and Summer is heading straight for us.

Happy gardening,

Andrew

The garden Springs to life

The garden springs to life indoors and out.

I came home today to be met by a very cheery Spring time ‘hello’ from some of the bulk purchase bulbs that I’d planted up in pots on 30th November. I think there’s little more cheery than the bright yellow of Daffodils when it’s so cold and not quite warm enough to put the scarf and gloves away for another year.

These were joined by the first of the Tulips that I’d planted the same day. These are mixed, but look to be predominantly red. I expect the, to open in a few more days. All these rain showers and the interspersed boughts of mild weather are ideal for them.

Red Tulips on bud
Red Tulips preparing to bloom in my wooden troughs.

Not to be out-done, the Courgette Black Beauty seeds have germinated, amongst many others, with one racing up a few inches ahead of the rest. It was old seed, but there’s signs of at least one more pushing composted up.

Courgette seedling in pot
Courgette Crisis averted – the first seedling races ahead.

I’ve taken it out of the propogator in a bid to slow it down a bit. Courgette plants get quite large, and seeing as I’m moving house soon, I want this to be easy to move with minimum damage.

Lots more seedlings growing, but I’ll come back to those real soon.

As ever, happy gardening,

Andrew

A Crocus fanfare for 2017

A fanfare of Crocuses usher in Spring.

Spring has arrived.

The sun has put in a few appearances, and the birds are singing. The bulbs are up, and the depressing morning scrape of the early morning car windscreen seems like a distant memory already.

Of course, it could easily revert back to give us the coldest winter since records began. In late March 2013 for example, my garden was covered in snow, and my Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ flowers were peeking out from under it.

Thankfully, they’re not hidden so far this year, and their cheery purple flowers are an uplifting dash of colour every day, as well as acting like massive advertising billboards for any sleepy and hungry bee that’s emerging from its nest.

Crocus 'Giant Ruby' flowers
My Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs have brought colour and bee food to the garden every year without fail.

In October, my uncle died. His garden was packed with pots – all blank, alluding to mysteries beneath the compost. In a bid to move these pots, my mother and I emptied the whole lot – discovering tulips, daffodils, Crown Imperials, and even a few potatoes. Whilst most of these bulbs have now gone off to my mother’s garden, I shared some of the pots, and these are now home to the bulbs that I’d recently bought.

Whilst clearing out one of his sheds, I found a plastic bucket with some random bulbs in – I couldn’t identify them – some were small and round, others were long straggly and thin. It felt right to let life carry on, and to enjoy whatever these were on his behalf. So, I’ve planted them in a pot labelled ‘mystery bulbs’ and I guess we’ll find out in a few months.

Are bulbs on flower in your garden yet? Any new ‘first-time’ blooms?

Happy gardening.

Andrew

Buying up bulbs in bulk for a colourful new garden

A trip to the garden centre sees me return home with rather a lot of bulbs…

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post here. Basically, I’ve been busy doing other things – writing in other places about other things – but after a week where I had an offer accepted on a new house (although I’m now waiting on a chain…), I thought that I would take the opportunity with a ton of optimism to go and buy a load of bulbs.

Fingers crossed that the house becomes my new home at some point in the next couple of months, and that the chain completes swiftly, and that my surveyor doesn’t discover that it’s built on a sink hole, between a nuclear reactor and a volcano.

Theres a lot of hoops there, but I thought that I would plan ahead a little. The new house’s garden is blank. There’s no planting areas front or back – it’s all entirely sad lawn, scattered with child play apparatus (slide, swings, see-saw) and well trodden paths that have worn the grass through. There’s also a curiously fenced in patio – which made me wonder if that was for people who wanted to sit outside without feeling like they’re outside, or for people who like to stare over their neighbour’s fence?

I have plans. That fence is coming out for starters.. but with a house completion that will hopefully make that my home by Christmas, it means that buying bulbs now, and storing them in a cool dry place, is probably worthwhile.

Packs of crocus, tulip, and allium bulbs
Today’s purchase of bulbs

Today I picked up a big pot of Daffodil bulbs (one of those fill-a-pot jobs, where they then donate a % to Marie Curie), a bag of 10 mixed Tulip bulbs, a pack of 12 Crocus Vanguard bulbs and a pack of 12 Allium Caeruleum bulbs.

Jumping the gun perhaps, but if everything falls through, or it gets well into December and the chain still hasn’t moved, then I’ll just pot them up and allow them to grow into nice cheerful pots of colour until the chain completes.

The tulips begin to bloom and the propagator is full of new life

Last year’s Tulip bulbs are now coming into flower, and the seedlings are thriving in the propagator.

I came home in the sunshine earlier this week to a crimson welcome, and the green shoots of new life in the propagator.

The Tulip ‘Negrita’ bulbs that I planted last year have overwintered and spent the last few weeks throwing lush, waxy-looking, green leaves and stems skywards. Now I have been rewarded with their beautiful blooms.

Tulip 'Negrita'
Tulip ‘Negrita’ on flower.

There were about 10 bulbs and they seem to all be present and happy..

Tulip 'Negrita'
Tip-toe through the tulips (nepeta and a nettle) with me.

However, I also stumbled across a terrible thing, and it comes as somewhat of an absent-mindedness confession, of which I’m not really happy with myself about – it looks like i might have forgotten to plant ANY of the beautiful cream and green lacy Tulip ‘Madonna’ bulbs. I found bag of them on my bench. There was a bit of a hole in the bag – so i *might* have planted a few, but there’s no sign of them yet.

As for the bulbs in the bag – they looked quite dried up, but i’ve planted them out anyway and now they have two chances. They’ll be massively behind for this year though – which makes me annoyed with myself.

Ending on a happier note…

The seeds that I sowed at the beginning of the month are doing pretty well. Both Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ seeds are now sturdy seedlings, there are 5 Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings, and 1.1 of the Sweet Pea ‘Candy Cane’ seeds have germinated.

IMAG1142
The Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings are doing well in the propagator.

Add to this, the Parsley ‘Laura’ (a delicious flat-leaf variety that’s great with mushrooms,  scrambled egg, or as a salad leaf) is thriving.

With the sunshine out, it finally feels like summer is lurking just off the horizon somewhere.

Crocuses and Tulips usher in the warmer weather

Making the most of a sunny February day, I have ventured into the garden to check on the new bulbs and see which plants survived the -11C weather.

The Crocus and Tulip bulbs that I planted in Autumn 2012 are making great progress in the garden.

Today has seemed like the first time in a long long time that it hasn’t been so bitterly cold, snowy, icy, or rainy, that everyone has been forced to stay indoors and peer longingly outside at their garden.

In this last week, I have been able to have a quick look at its progress, but today has been sunny and dry enough to actually go and explore properly.

The yellow Crocus ‘Golden Bunch are ahead of the purple Crocus ‘Giant Ruby that I planted back in Autumn 2011, and are poised to open up and provide that essential early food source for bees.

Crocus 'Golden Bunch' on flower.
My Crocus ‘Golden Bunch’ flowers emerge.

Joining them are two types of Tulips (also planted last Autumn) – Tulip ‘Negrita (a deep crimson red), and Tulip ‘Madonna (a later flower white flower with green edges).

Tulip 'Negrita' and Tulip 'Madonna'
Tulip ‘Negrita’ and Tulip ‘Madonna’
Bulbs for 2013
The bulbs were planted in Autumn 2012.

Also, I have amazed myself at having actually seen that for the first time in this garden – the Strawberry plants have survived a winter. Despite the -11C temperatures and being buried under snow, they’ve held on, including the new plants that I raised from the runners. Fingers crossed they can hold on for a bit longer and eventually provide the tasty fruits that they managed last year.

Is your garden now waking up too? Did you lose much in the cold weather? How well are your bulbs doing?

Caterpillars attack and the 2013 garden begins

Caterpillars begin their assault on the Nasturtiums, whilst I look towards bulbs for colour in Spring 2013.

I’ve just spotted a load of caterpillars clinging to my Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mixed’ plants. These plants have grown very vigorously this year, and although they haven’t (yet) had a vast number of flowers, the lush green leaves has obviously attracted the attention of butterflies – the Cabbage White by the looks of it. There’s nothing for it but to pick them off.

Cabbage White caterpillar on a Nasturtium leaf
Just one of many Cabbage White caterpillars on the Nasturtiums.

Looking forward to Spring 2013

The garden centres are now filling up with bulbs with many colourful blooms for your spring garden – so I’ve picked three new types for my garden – joining the Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ that triumphantly flowered for the first time this spring.

Crocus 'Giant Ruby' in bloom, Spring 2012
The Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs in Spring 2012.

First up are more crocuses. This time, rather than purple, I’ve gone for a striking yellow with Crocus ‘Golden Bunch’, which will reach up to 8cm with their yellow blooms in about February or March. These will be valuable to the bees, some of which will be emerging and desperate for food at that time of year.

Next up were tulips. There are no tulips in the garden, so it will be interesting to see how they fare – but these crimson coloured Tulip ‘Negrita’ should provide a blast of colour in April/May.

Joining them will be another variety of tulip – Tulip ‘Madonna’ – which flowers in May with white petals and a slight tinge of green.

Three packets of bulbs
These Crocuses and Tulips will brighten the garden in the spring.

All three will add much needed colour to the garden at that time of year. I’ll be planting them out in the next few days.