Daylilies and brazen snails

The Daylilies are blooming marvellous at the moment, but the snails continue their brazen crimewave.

The Daylily ‘Hemerocallis Bonanza’ have opened in sync with the arrival of blazing sunshine.

Daylily Hemerocallis Bonanza
The Dayliliy ‘Hemerocallis Bonanza’ are having their best year…

Creating a hedge-like row of gold and yellow flowers, the lilies, which open and close with the sunlight, and wither after 2 days, are currently brightening up the garden. This is the best year for these – only managing about 3 flowers last year, this year there must be 10 times that.
The ample heavy rain and then warm conditions, combined with my digging and composting around their roots, will no doubt have led to this massive increase in blooms.

Snails continue their assault

Meanwhile, the snails are completely brazen this year – with me often discovering them unashamedly clinging to the tops of the 6 foot tall bamboo wigwam canes and in plain sight!

French Bean 'Blue Lake', post-Snail assault
… but so are the snails, which have eaten the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ plants.

The snails have been their worst this year – they have almost killed off the Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants – eating them through the stems low-down, they’ve almost eaten all of the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ (by climbing the wigwams and using nearby plants to get above the snail pellets and then down on to the beans), and they’ve been tackling the Pepper ‘Sweet Frigitello’ too.

No amount of evening ‘meet and greet’ or pellets seems to be stopping their organised crimewave that’s killing all food producing plants in the garden.

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 Crocuses awake!

The Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs have grown and are about to flower, and some of the veg are already growing.

The Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs that I planted back in October, are now right on the cusp of opening after months of growing up through the soil – and for a few weeks, snow as well.

Crocus 'Giant Ruby' bulbs about to flower
Some of the Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs that have grown and are ready to flower.

I planted around 70 bulbs and it would appear that most are doing something. Many have the dash of purple as above, whilst the ones that I planted during November are somewhat behind (I planted them because the Antirrhinums just wouldn’t die!).

I’ve seen a few bees around (including a big fat bumble bee inside a Tube train on the District Line of London Underground the other day!), so hopefully those that have woken early will find these and feed on them – as it’s absolutely crucial for bees to get this early food in order to survive.

Getting a head-start with the vegetables

I sowed some seeds back in the middle of January, and these have been busily growing in my propagator. The Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ have grown very fast and I have been busy nipping out the tips of the plants so that they grow strong and sturdy (and don’t grow too much before i can plant them out). Hopefully these will be far enough ahead that they will survive if/when the aphids swarm again.

Pepper (Sweet) 'Friggitello' seedlings
Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’ seedlings

The Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’ seedlings have been steadily growing, alongside my second attempt at growing Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’. I have high hopes for these Peppers, and as I sit here typing, I’m reading the packet which describes them as ‘small, very sweet, conical fruits. Perfect for stir-fries’, I’m looking forward to them even more.  These should be ready to harvest between July and October (about the same time as the Aubergines) – so they’ve got a while yet.

I do believe spring is here!

jobs for the weekend

This weekend I aim to do the following:

  • Remove weeds and any dead foliage from the garden.
  • Sow Chives and Parsley indoors (remember that Gardeners’ World kit?)
  • Check up on the Strawberries – the cold weather once again gave them a hammering and I’m not sure how well they’re coping at the moment.

The first of the 2012 seeds are now sown

The first seeds have been sown in 2012 – a mixture of Aubergines, Peppers, Salvia and Sweet Peas.

I’ve just sown my first seeds of the year!

Six pots containing newly sown seeds.
The first seeds have been sown.

Yesterday I popped over to the wonderful Twenty Pence Garden Centre where I picked up a new propagator and a small bag of compost. I managed to somehow resist even touching seed packets – knowing that I’d already done my buying for 2012 and that there were also plenty of seeds in the secret santa gifts and my farewell present from CBM.

As last year’s Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ plants just didn’t seem to be far enough ahead, and following the suggestion from fellow blogger Barry at The Gourmand’s Progress, I decided that I would sow the seeds in January to give them a head start.

I took the opportunity to see what other plants in my seed collection were recommended to be planted in January and it turned out there were a few… so after some rummaging for pots, I ended up with a propagator full of sown seeds ready to start life.

The seed packets
The four types of seeds that have been sown.

Having seen the bees swarm around the one Salvia Nemerosa Ostfrieslan plant I picked up by chance last summer, I decided to hunt down this vivid blue flower for myself. So I’ve planted a small number of Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ in a bid to replicate this for myself.

Despite being decimated by greenfly last year, I’ve sown some more Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ in a bid to get them that bit ahead of marauding pests. These were determined to survive (and they did) but the pests damaged their young leaves and buds, stunting them in their bid to scale the canes.

I’ve also sown a couple of Pepper (Sweet) Frigitello – apparently they are ‘vigorous plants with small, sweet tasting, thin walled conical, green fruits which turn red’. These will be joining the Aubergines in the wicker basket.

So there we go, 2012 has properly begun, and the propagator is now sitting on a windowsill waiting for the signs of lush green growth to push through the compost.

Have you sown anything yet? What are you going to try growing this year? – as ever, let me know in the comments below!

A ‘Goodbye’ gift that grows

I’ve received a great ‘goodbye’ gardening gift from the team at CBM, the overseas disability charity.

I’ve received a wonderful ‘goodbye’ gift recently from the team at CBM, the overseas disability charity, with whom i’d worked with for some time.

They clubbed together to get me a tubtrug packed with things for my garden – gardening gloves, a string container (with string!), some terracotta plant markers for Chives and Parsley, and a load of National Garden Centre Vouchers (they’ll come in very handy!). There’s also a little statue of a frog beside a stone with the words ‘Welcome to my garden’ engraved on it – made me chuckle – so that will be going into the garden once it begins to wake up.

Gardening Kit
The tubtrug with some of the gifts from CBM. Sadly by this time, the shortbread had been lost in action.

There’s also some Johnsons seeds to keep me busy in the next few months (I better sow them as I know they’re reading this now!)

  • Aubergine ‘Early Long Purple 2’
  • Parsley ‘Laura’
  • Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’
  • Chives
  • Tomato ‘Minibel’

As one of the team pointed out, I’m not allowed to visit them unless I’m carrying a box of fresh vegetables. No pressure there then!

Check out CBM’s work – they do some amazing work in some of the poorest countries of the world.