The Chysanthemums and Sweet Peas brighten the garden

Further flowers are beginning to open in the garden – this time in the shade, as well on one of the reluctant climbers.

The Chrysanthemum and the Sweet Peas have now joined in the colourful fanfare, adding crimson, purple and white to the palette. 

White Chrysanthemum flower
The mystery Chrysanthemum is happily flowering in the shade.

With this continuing heat and sunshine here in Cambridgeshire, England, the garden is seeing more and more flowers opening. Over the last few days I have watched the Chrysanthemum with its dark glossy leaves, send up its straight stems that have now burst into its annual show of white daisy-like flowers. This plant was another one that was already in the garden – it’s variety remains a mystery for now (any ideas – leave a comment below!). It seems to thrive in the shady part of the garden (it’s just a few feet away from the Fern). It’s white flowers, which seem to attract hoverflies, delivers a welcome contrast to the greenery that dominates the corner.

Elsewhere in the garden, the Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ flowers have begun to open with their pungent crimson and purple flowers.

Sweet Pea 'Cupani'
The Sweet Peas are blooming, they just forgot to climb.

Fortunately the Sweet Peas have eluded the aphids this year (which were probably blown and washed away a couple of weeks ago), leaving them with strong stems and early flowers. However, they haven’t exactly utilised the wigwams yet, despite some gentle woollen encouragement.

They have been joined by the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ which similarly have started flowering and again haven’t climbed very high.

The snails and aphids celebrate in the summer rain

The summer showers welcome some hungry pests into the garden, just as the Rose and the French Beans are about to put on a show.

There’s just been a short rain shower – enough to stop me being outside in it – but as soon as it stopped I was out there to meet the unwelcome visitors that are enjoying my green finger skills.

The French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ that I planted out only a few days ago, have seen two of the plants stripped completely of buds, shoots and leaves. These snails move fast. But today I moved quicker, and with the rain on a momentary pause, I went out and immediately pulled 8 small snails off of the beans. It seems that they’re using other plants to get them up and onto the bean leaves… and then they work their way up or down, decimating the plant until it’s a just lanky stem resembling a continuous chain of arms and elbows. I don’t know if they’ll re-grow, but i’ve got seed.

The Rose
This Rose was already in the garden when I moved here.

Not far away, is the Rose (of an unknown variety). It was already in the garden and clearly hadn’t been in place for many years. Still, it has flowered without fail – sometimes reaching two seasons of flowers in a year. This year though, after pruning it hard, it is full of lush growth and green leaves, and lots of buds.

Today, it is also full of lush green aphids.

Aphids on a rose bush
The Aphids have moved in. I just hope they don’t spot the Sweet Peas nearby.

Having witnessed them obliterate last year’s sweet peas, I was gutted. There’s not enough Ladybirds around yet to feast that lot, and the Hoverflies aren’t about due to the rubbish weather… so it’s down to some manual techniques to usher them away – a piece of tissue and some careful squeezing (not to damage the rose buds), or maybe some diluted washing-up liquid. Aphids breathe through their skin – so if you clog that with an oily washing-up liquid mix, they suffocate and die. Gruesome but fortunately true.

Again, not far away are this year’s Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ – they’re looking stunted at the moment, and not much different from when I planted them out weeks ago. I know that the aphids will show them no mercy, so I will need to deal with these aphids sooner rather than later.

For now though, it’s the snails that are top of my hit list.

The Sweet Peas feel a pinch of success

The Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ seedlings are growing so well that it’s time to pinch out the buds to help the seedlings become strong and more resistant to pests.

If your sweet peas are anything like mine, they are growing very happily on the windowsill at the moment. In fact, a bit too well. It’s time to be brutal with them.

I sowed my Unwins Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ seeds in my propagator back in January, and by now they would be climbing several feet up anything they could find if given the chance. But I’ve been doing them a favour – i’ve been nipping the buds out.

This might seem a bit destructive but by doing so, you’re not only going to avoid having sweet peas up your curtains, but you’re also going to encourage the remaining plant to bulk up – grow sturdy and strong – which is what your plants will need if they face the real risk of a flock of marauding aphids like mine did last year.

To do this, wait for about 4 tiers of leaves, and then pinch out the stem growth after the second set of lower leaves. This will mean that growth will be encouraged from low down on the plant – helping it to grow stronger – stem-wise and root wise. A stronger stem means it’s a stronger plant, and better roots means that the plant will be able to better at finding nutrients in the soil.

A Sweet Pea 'Cupani' flower
Last year’s Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ produced few flowers after battling with aphids.

It’s almost time for sweet peas to go start going outside – but as we’ve had some pretty hard frosts here in the last few days – i’ve held them back. It’s best to do a gradual acclimatisation, so i’ll be putting them out during the day, and bringing them back in at night for the next week or so just so that the shock doesn’t kill them before planting them out.

Fortunately, I have already seen some Ladybirds (Ladybugs) in the garden, and hopefully the Nasturtiums that I planted last week will bring the Hoverflies back – both of which will enjoy munching on aphids.

For more about Sweet Pea varieties and how to grow them, check out the National Sweet Pea Society.

Moving up a gear

The garden has really grown on in the last couple of weeks – Antirrhinums are flowering, the Sweet Peas are recovering, and some mystery seedlings have turned up….

The garden has really progressed in the last couple of weeks since I last blogged.

antirrhinum-chuckles-on-flower
The Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’ plants are beginning to bloom.

The Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’ (above) are now sturdy plants with the beginnings of a colourful range of flowers – their leaves a lush green.

All of the plants have really grown on, I’m now two courgettes in, with two more that will probably be ready for harvesting this weekend. It hasn’t rained for a few days, so i’ve resumed giving both plants more of the Doff Liquid Tomato Feed, as well as giving some to the Hydrangea to help boost it a little in this drier (although not warm) weather.

The Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ plants are beginning to recover from the army of aphids, with new green growth without a sign of those pesky bugs. I even spotted a ladybird clambering about.

A Sweet Pea 'Cupani' flower
Last year’s Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ produced few flowers after battling with aphids.

The Nasturtium ‘Peach Melba’ plants have settled into the basket and the garden and this has helped to attract the hoverflies. These hoverflies in turn like to feast on aphids – so this may partly account for the sweet pea’s recovery.

Some mystery seedlings appeared in the garden a few weeks back in a small space beneath the Forsythia. I had a good idea as to what they were and how they got there and now that they have grown to almost 1ft tall, I’m sure.

Sunflower seedlings
The Sunflower seedlings

During the winter and spring I hung some bird feed fat balls from the Forsythia branches – a favourite with the Blue Tits. The balls contained lots of seeds. These plants are clearly Sunflowers and given where they’ve grown – they have clearly fallen from the ball and germinated. There’s also some grass too. It’s unlikely that they’ll come to much height or flower-wise, but they are welcome to stay in the border – adding some greenery and height amongst the plants.

Planting out the Aubergines

The Aubergines finally find their home and are joined by the rescued Nasturtiums.

I planted out my four Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ plants into a wicker basket at the weekend.

The basket, bought from the excellent Twenty Pence Garden Centre, is a few feet high and contains a durable liner bag into which I have put a mixture of composts and some soil, with a few drainage rocks in the bottom. I’m not sure how well this is going go, or how long the wicker basket, or more to the point, the liner bag, will last. However, I’m willing to give it a go and see how it gets on.

Aubergine and Nasturtium plants in a wicker basket.
The Aubergine and Nasturtium plants in the wicker basket.

The Aubergines were very keen to move on to their next pot, so this is ideal for them. I’ve been feeding them regularly, and so they’re flowering and in need of being planted out. Hopefully they’ll forget their windowsill days quickly and become established in their new home.

Amongst them, I’ve planted some Nasturtium ‘Peach Melba’ in a bid to add some colour, and have something spill out over the sides of the pot. These Nasturtiums were ones that i bought as a ‘rescue’ purchase. They’re a bit leggy, but I read that they can attract hoverflies. Hoverflies in turn feast on those pesky aphids which pretty much obliterated my Sweet Peas in an afternoon. There’s also my neighbour’s old dilapidated trellis that divides our gardens, and which is next to the basket, so the Nasturtiums might want to climb this too. I may even try some of the leaves in salads.

This part of the garden gets sunshine from the East, and it stays in the garden for quite a while. Plants such as my Fern and the Digitalis ‘Primrose Carousel’ do well nearby, and I allow the yellow Corydalis ‘Pseudofumaria Lutea’ to grow up through the join between the paving here in a bid to add some colour for a few weeks in July.

However, the glorious sunshine has turned to chillier days with grey skies and rain showers. Hopefully the sunshine will return to help ripen those veg.

The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ that I planted on 6th July had begun germinating by the evening of the following day and they are now standing about 3cm tall. Hopefully these will crop for longer than the previous lot.