Tulips in the wind

The Tulips are in bloom, the seeds are sown, and the snails are marauding.

I’ve been delayed this year as I’ve been busy doing a ton of other things instead, but I’ve set some seeds and they now start their merry crusade.

I’ve just set the seeds for a few of the plants I want to grow this year. There’s no ‘new faces’ this time.

Before I go into detail, I’ve had a quick look around my garden to see what’s going on this week. The Tulip ‘Negrita’ bulbs are all flowering, and the Broom ‘Cytisus Scoparius’ and Forsythia are all teetering on the edge of opening their yellow flowers.  This is a welcome blast of colour in the garden, where the only other colours are green, silver (the latter from the Cineraria that’s still going strong from 2 years ago!).

Tulip 'Negrita'
Tulip ‘Negrita’
Broom 'Cytisus Scoparius' is on the verge of blooming.
Broom ‘Cytisus Scoparius’ is on the verge of blooming.

I’ve sown some more French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ as they have never failed to provide me with a nice regular crop of green beans.

Joining them are Sweet Pea ‘Floral Tribute Mixed’. Sweet Peas have been struggling in my garden – partly at the wrath of slugs, snails, and aphids, but mainly at the wrath of wind and sun – those that survive being nibbled through, go on to be blown to bits or fried before they get very far up the canes to flower.

Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mix’ return – the hover fly’s (and sadly caterpillar’s) favourite. I lure the hoverflies in because they eat a vast amount of aphids that attack the roses and the sweet peas.

The final sowing today has been more of the wonderful flat-leaf Parsley ‘Laura’ – which aside from being very good for you, is also wonderful with scrambled egg (and i eat a lot of eggs).

Parsley 'Laura' - just 20 days old.
Parsley ‘Laura’ – it will be ready in about 20 days.

It took me just a few minutes to sow these into pots, plop them into the propagator on my spare room windowsill, and give them that all important first watering in.

The next bit, is up to fate.

Last year’s Aubrieta ‘Cheeky Mix’ are ready to be planted out, having survived wind, constant rain, and a marauding wheelie bin.

I’ve decided that the slug and snail ‘meet and greet’ sessions need to begin now, as the Hollyhock ‘Single Mixed’ that I bought the other week, has already sustained heavy damage, and I haven’t planted it out yet. I thought it’s hairy stems might exclude it from the slug and snails’ menu… but it seems they found a way to get to the leaves by scaling nearby pots. I’ve moved it away from them, as I don’t think they’d jump or parachute in.

Hollyhock Single Mixed - snail battered
Hollyhock ‘Single Mixed’ – snail attacked

In other news, my neighbour has cut back a big piece of a large tree in her garden, and this has really let a lot of light in. I wonder how this will affect the garden? More light, yes, but more wind too?

Tubers, Sowing, and Potting On

There might be lots of new lush green growth outside, but there’s still plenty of seeds and plants to sow and pot on indoors.

Whilst the sun has finally found its shine, the wind has found its gust, the garden has been growing green and lush, but there’s plenty more seeds to sow.

The annual winds are currently flattening the garden (bye bye Tulip ‘Negrita’ flowers!). Fortunately some rain has been falling too – mostly at night (thankfully), which is much needed by these tender  new plants as they reach skywards.

TUBERS

I’ve planted the three Begonia ‘Prima Donna Pink’ tubers that I bought a few days ago. These aren’t like bulbs – you don’t bury them and cover them over – as they’ll simply rot. Instead you kind of push them into the surface, so that they sit flush with the soil. This gives their buds maximum light, and overall a lower chance of rotting.

A Begonia 'Prima Donna Pink' tuber
A Begonia ‘Prima Donna Pink’ tuber

sowing

But I’ve realised that I’m a bit behind in sowing some seeds, so I’ve just had a big catch-up session with pots and a bag of multipurpose compost.

I’ve just sown:

  • French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ – this is at least the 3rd year i’ve planted these.
  • Sweet Pea ‘Floral Tribute Mixed’ – my first year with this variety.
  • Aubrieta ‘Cheeky Mix’ – these won’t be ready for flowering until 2014.
  • Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mix’ – my cheerful hoverfly magnet, and sadly the preferred snack of every Cabbage White caterpillar in the county.
Caterpillar strike
Last year’s cheery Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mix’ were completely stripped within about 36 hours.

Potting On…

I’ve also potted up some of the Tomato ‘Minibel’ plants, as they’re now getting big enough to handle. I love the smell that they give off when you’re handling the leaves.

Two Tomato 'Minibel' seedlings
Two Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings

These might get potted on again, into their final pots – or they might end up in a grow bag (or the wicker basket) – i’m not sure yet.

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.

Sunshine coaxes the Foxgloves and I am bee-seiged by ‘friends’

The garden has grown a lot thanks to rain and lots of sunshine – with Foxgloves and others coming into bloom… plus a surge of bees cause a problem!!

After weeks of dreary rain, and then days of hot sunshine, the garden has rapidly grown.

Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrids Mixed'
The first Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ flowers

Today has seen the first flowers emerging from the lush green growth that has flourished in the recent weather conditions. The Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ that I sowed last year and have spent months nurturing, have finally opened the first of its flowers, having spent the last couple of weeks reaching skywards with long prongs of tightly closed buds. The first of these opened today, but many others have their buds ready to uncurl in the next few days.  It’s very satisfying to see these finally come into flower.

Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant'
The Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ survived the winter.

These Foxgloves were joined by the return of the Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ with its gentle blue flowers that lure bees, and the bright white of the Caraway ‘Carum Carvi’ herb – another survivor of the winter, which probably disgusts mistaken passers-by who wonder why i’m growing ‘Cow Parsley’ (Anthriscus sylvestris).

Caraway 'Carum Carvi'
The Caraway ‘Carum Carvi’ on flower

Anyone following me on twitter will know that after all my efforts to encourage bees to the garden, I have somewhat overdone it…. by getting bees in my loft. Whilst they pose no immediate harm, a bee-keeper will soon be venturing through the loft hatch to coax them out before they do any damage.

In the meantime, their night-time buzzing and strange noises are fascinating, and there’s a distinct warm spot on my ceiling, caused by their nest, which gives an agitated buzzing reply if you gently tap it.

I’ve also planted out some of the Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’, the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ and the Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mixed’ – the latter two no doubt causing great joy amongst the snail herd.

Sowing herbs, salad crops and bedding plants

With spring upon us, I’ve set a load of herbs, salad crops and flowers for this summer’s garden.

With the birds busily singing and making nests and the semi-regular appearances of the sun, I’ve been able to enjoy being outside a bit more over these last few days. It’s given me the chance to clear away the final remnants of last summer’s season and prune a Buddleia and trim down the mystery rosebush to encourage the buds to grow into this year’s flowering branches. So, with spring well and truly here, I’ve decided to sow some more seeds for this year’s garden.

Gardening kits

If you remember back to December, I received two gardening kits for Christmas – one from Unwins (or should I say ‘Secret Santa’?) and one from the Gardeners’ World brand. I’ve unpacked these and set them going – with Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ and Chives set in the Gardeners’ World kit.

Three pots for herbs from a Gardeners' World branded kit
The Gardeners’ World branded herb kit.

The Unwins kit was a bit misleading – as it shows the great range of salad crops on the box, but when you open the box there’s just two packs of mixed seed. So, i’ve actually not sown them and have chosen to grow another crop of Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ in the kit instead. Maybe i’ll come back to the mixed seed – as I had been excited by trying the Pak Choi.

flowers you can eat

Last year I rescued a few withering Nasturtium ‘Peach Melba’ plants and they really did well and brought a lot of much-needed aphid-eating hoverflies into the garden. So, this year I’ve bought a pack of Suttons’ Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mix’ to replicate the effect.

Nasturtium 'Peach Melba'
One of last year’s Nasturtium ‘Peach Melba’ plants recovering in the garden.

I’m pretty sure that the packet for last year’s seed mentioned eating the leaves, yet these new seeds recommends eating the flowers as part of a salad. I’ve never tried it as it feels a bit destructive to me – much like eating the flowers of Courgettes – again, apparently a delicacy. Maybe I’ll try eating some this year though.

Don’t eat these though…

My first sowing of the Salvia ‘Farinacea – Victoria’ seems to have produced just 4 plants – a bit disappointing really. The packet does say germination takes between 7-21 days, so I’ll leave the pot alone for a while longer, but set a few more. The blue flowers really seemed to draw the bees in last year, so I want to be sure I get a repeat this year.

Thankfully, last year’s Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ has survived the winter and has begun growing again.

I’ve also picked up a packet of good old Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ – in a bid to add that delicate silver/grey foliage amongst the blue flowers of the Salvia.