The Magical Powers of April Showers

After some heavy April showers, the garden has leapt forwards with lush growth and flowers, but there’s still plenty more seeds to sow… including some for next year’s garden!

There’s a drought on at the moment but whilst I do live in the dry of East Anglia, my water provider (Cambridge Water Company) has not imposed a hosepipe ban. This has been a hot topic of conversation here on local radio and television but it wouldn’t really affect my garden as it is small enough to cope with lots of watering cans and buckets when it comes to it.

Wallflower 'Ruby Gem' about to bloom.
The Wallflower ‘Ruby Gem’ were planted out last year and are now starting to flower.

Fortunately though we did see a few days of refreshing rain (albeit typically and neatly fitted into a bank holiday/Easter weekend!) and then a few days of sunshine. This has resulted in a surge of lush green growth from things like the Wallflower ‘Ruby Gem’ plants that I planted out last year which are just starting to flower, the hardy Welsh Onion ‘Allium Fistulosum’ and Caraway ‘Carum Carvi’ herbs are also lush green,  and those pretty Daylily ‘Hemerocallis Bonanza’ have thrown-up lots of leaves.

The Broom ‘Cytisus Scoparius’ is on flower, and with it a delicate scent wafts closely to it’s branches. I’ve just captured a few photos of a large bee collecting pollen from the bright yellow flowers.

Bee and the Broom
A bee on a mission as it collects pollen from this flowering Broom ‘Cytisus Scoparius’.

With this warmer and rainy weather around, I’ve started putting the Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ outside so that they can begin adjusting to the different environment. I’m bringing them inside at night as we’re still seeing low temperatures. Leaving them out all night might be too much of a shock for them. They were lucky to receive rain on their first day outside too!

The Chives and Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ that I sowed a month ago are now at the pricking-out stage. I also planted some Coriander on 1st April, to make up the third pot of the BBC Gardeners’ World herb kit. Some of these have germinated too but will need a couple more weeks before they will be potted on.

Two Pepper (Sweet) 'Friggitello' plants grown from seed.
The Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’ plants are growing well.

Those two Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’ plants that I grew from seeds given to me by team CBM, are now several inches high, one of them requires a support cane. I’m sure it won’t be many weeks until they’ll need potting on again before finally going outside to hopefully produce their fruit in July-October time.

Yet to sow in april…

  • Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ – my third sowing of this variety. They were plentiful in year 1, but poor in year 2 – having suffered from mildew.
  • Night Scented Stock ‘Matthiola Bicornis’ – This will be my first sowing of these, and they are sown directly outside.
  • Dill – I’ve missed not having Dill around for cooking – the leaves and seeds can be used for flavouring dishes, and in pickling, and can be used to aid digestion.
  • Delphinium ‘Pacific Giants Mixed’ – I’ve always liked the towering spires of Delphiniums (like the Foxgloves), so as with the Foxgloves,  I shall sow some of these now for flowering in next year’s garden.

The seedlings, the survivors, and the casualties

Seedlings are thriving at the moment, and there are some surprise winter survivors in the garden, but also some unexpected casualties.

It won’t be soon until I can stop buying those expensive bags of Rocket leaves, which supermarkets seem to pollute with Watercress. I don’t particularly dislike Watercress, but it seems that any bagged salad that contains Watercress is like buying a tasty crop of green leaves, with a special handful of slimy, rotting waste thrown in. It almost feels like your bag of salad has become Baby Bio by the time you get it home.

The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seeds that I sowed in the Unwins salad kit, germinated within 4 days of sowing, and the seedlings are now more than an inch high.

Rocket 'Skyrocket' seedlings
The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seedlings are growing fast.

Meanwhile, the seeds for the Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ and Chives (from the other Christmas gift) are happily growing on the next windowsill along. These will need pricking out soon. I’ll have more than enough of these plants.

Parsley (left) and Chives (right) have germinated
Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ (left) and Chives (right) have germinated in their BBC Gardeners’ World growing kit.

Last year’s Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ has continued to thrive in its pot, so this afternoon i took some of the top soil out and replaced it with some fresh compost. I’m really pleased that this survived the harsh winter, as it was last seen completely covered in snow alongside some bright blue/indigo Polyanthuses that sadly didn’t survive. When the Salvia flowers, I hope that it will once again attract the bees into the garden.

The Salvia survived
The Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ survived the harsh winter and is lush with growth for 2012.

My second wave of 2012 Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ seed sowings seems to be more successful. I’d previously managed to prick out the paltry four seedlings from my January sowing into some 3″ pots to grow on, and now my sowing from a couple of weeks ago is beginning to see the lush green leaves poking through the compost.

Garden discoveries

I managed to spend some time in the garden lightly digging and removing some of the weeds that had managed to take hold. These weeds will easily take hold at this time of year, so it’s important to remove them now.

I discovered that a Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ has self-sown and a small but healthy plant is merrily growing halfway along a border. The Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ has self-sown – again, another flowering plant popular with bees.

Sadly, my Rosemary Upright Rosemary Officinalis (which I often use in cooking as it grows fast and is very aromatic) was unable to survive the hard winter in its pot, so I’ll aim to replace this soon.

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.