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.

A week of firsts

The garden has really progressed this week with a few ‘firsts’ too – the Courgettes are forming, the Aubergines are budding up, and next year’s Foxgloves have germinated.

This week has been one of ‘firsts’ for my garden and this growing season.

Despite the weather being roasting hot, resulting in a very limp garden and some emergency watering, and some pretty violent thunderstorms and torrential rain, the garden has been busy.

Courgette Flowers

The Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ have been growing rapidly over the weeks but this week they’ve really taken a big step forward. The two plants have thrown out some big new leaves and have the characteristic golden yellow flowers too.

I was talking to my colleague Laura at lunch and she told me that she’s growing courgettes too but that she’s only growing them for the flowers. I found this curious as I’m definitely growing them for the courgettes! Apparently the flowers are really sweet and even better when deep fried. I’m guessing that deep fried courgette flowers won’t count towards your 5-a-day routine.

Needless to say, Laura won’t be getting anywhere near my plants, as I want the courgettes themselves.

Yesterday I brushed aside the leaves of one of the plants to find that a small courgette is now forming (on top of a dandelion!). This is great news as I’ve been making sure that the two plants are well watered and I’ve been feeding them with some ‘Doff Portland Tomato Feed’ which comes with seaweed and magnesium.

The first courgette

I’ve also been feeding my four Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ plants with the same feed and they are now budding up – so the pressure is on to resolve how i’m going to plant them out as they can’t stay on my windowsill forever. Will it be a wicker basket with liner, or pots?

The Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’, which I had planted on 19th June are now germinating in a propagator on my windowsill. These plants will be grown on and potted up so that they will be planted out for next year’s season. I’m really wishing that I had bought some more Foxgloves, rather than just the one. Still, there’s quite a few bees in my garden in these sunny evenings – buzzing round the plants (they love the Lavender). I’ve been trying very hard to catch a photo of the bees on the Lavender but I just can’t get anything other than a bee-less photo or a blurred mess.

Thank you!

Thank you for all the comments that I’ve had on here and also verbally from friends who have got into reading this blog so far. Some are surprised that I’m green fingered in this way, and others have become fascinated in the evolution of the garden.

You can join in on Twitter @TheGardenGang or continue posting your feedback here!

A Foxglove Fanfare

The Digitalis ‘Primrose Carousel’ or Foxglove as it’s better known, has now begun flowering… and Andrew wonders what to do with four Aubergine plants.

It’s been raining heavily but on and off for about 4 days now. In this time, the garden has been getting a really good soaking. The plants that I put out at the weekend are perhaps now beginning to get used to their new homes.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the Digitalis ‘Primrose Carousel’, better known as the Foxglove, as it has been steadily reaching upwards with it’s lush green spire, covered in cream/white buds. In those 4 days, I reckon that it has grown at least a foot (3ocm).

Today the first of the flowers opened – bringing a blast of colour to an otherwise shady part of the garden.

foxglove-fanfare-of-flowers
The first Foxglove flowers in the garden.

 

I bought the plant on impulse one day for £3 from Tesco in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire. I hadn’t gone there for plant shopping, but knowing how much bees seem to like Foxgloves, and how they grow well in shady spots, I thought it would be a good gamble. I wish i’d actually bought a few.

This time next year I should have loads, having sown some Thompson & Morgan Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids’ (Mixed) seeds. Hopefully I can nurture them to grow like this one has.

Jobs to do…

  1. I need to decide where my four Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ plants are going to be planted. I’ve been casually looking at those vegetable bag/wicker boxes. Any one have any experience of using these? Do they retain moisture? Do they rot/fall to bits in one season?

April Showers (June Edition)

Rain arrives! So, it’s off to the garden centre where I pick up some strawberries and yet more herbs.

At last – the rain arrives. And it does it properly. Everywhere has been completely soaked by almost a day’s worth of rain.

Admitting defeat, I ventured off to my usual gym session but got stuck in my car for 10 minutes whilst thunder, lightning, hail and torrential rain turned the carpark into a reservoir.

About 90 minutes later it had stopped and the sun was out, so I took the chance to go Homebase, and Garden and Leisure in nearby Huntingdon to see if i could find some nice plants and some pots.

Having found the pots i needed to do some overdue houseplant re-potting, I found myself looking round the garden plants and noticed that the bees were all over the bright blue flowers of the Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’, so in the basket it went.

Salvia
Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’.

Over at Garden and Leisure I remembered that I had a ‘get a Strawberry plant for free’ voucher, so decided to pick up two Strawberry ‘Fragaria x ananassa Elsanta’ plants (very green and lush). Last year’s Strawberry ‘Judibell’ are all but dead – apart from a few runners where they shouldn’t be, and a couple of tiny signs of life. I picked up some more organic compost and then ended up with yet more herbs Parsley Japanese ‘Cryptotaenia japonica’ and Tarragon French ‘Artemisia dracunculus’ (the latter is good with chicken apparently).

Monty Don said a couple of weeks ago on BBC Gardeners’ World, that if you’ve had a Tarragon plant growing in your garden for more than a year, then it is undoubtedly the Russian Tarragon as it is hardier and is characterised by a bitter taste. However, whilst Russian Tarragon was in stock, the French Tarragon also says that it is frost hardy, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one does when I plant it out.