The Sunflowers begin to open and nature pays a visit

Finally, summer has arrived with the opening of the cheery sunflowers, and nature decides to pay me a visit!

It’s been a long time coming, but some of the sunflowers have begun to open.

I sowed the first wave of Sunflower Helianthus Annus ‘Autumn Time‘ back in March, and these sunflowers went up a bit, then round, then down, then horizontal, and they looked rubbish, as if unable to tell where the sky was.

I then sowed a second batch of them at the end of May, and then a few weeks ago I planted them out into one of my newly created borders in my back garden. Some frantic slug ‘meet and greet’ sessions ensued but they’ve reached for the skies, throwing big lush green leaves out, and now the flowers are uncurling.

These sunflowers aren’t the variety that you’ll ever win a height competition with, they’re about 3 foot tall, and rather than the traditional large-headed yellow flower, they’re smaller and a bit more reddy-brown (hence the ‘Autumn Time’ name). Even so, I’m really pleased to see them, as are the bees.

a red Sunflower Helianthus Annus 'Autumn Time'
a red Sunflower Helianthus Annus ‘Autumn Time’
Sunflower Helianthus Annus 'Autumn Time' with a bee.
Sunflower Helianthus Annus ‘Autumn Time’ with a bee.

Over the last weeks, my garden has become home to what seems to be about 35 Sparrows. Blackbirds have fought over my garden, there’s usually a few Blue Tits on the peanut feeder. Nature sure is visiting this once blank plantless (aside from grass) garden, and late one night some neighbourhood cats were in my garden making weird sounds. They woke me, as it was hot and my windows were open, and when I looked out, I could see that the cats were clearly upset about something (not each other). I could hear movement near the shed, so I dressed and headed out with a torch, only to be met by a hedgehog. I don’t know what the time was, but I’m pretty sure I said ‘Oh…. Hello Mr Hodgepodge‘ out loud in the garden at about 2am. It snuffled and waddled off hedgehodging.. or whatever they do. I’m pleased to find it in my garden, as there’s still SO many slugs.

Amongst the many bird feeder battles between the fat little sparrows, the bird seed has inevitably been getting spilt across my garden. Sometimes there’s a few big black Crows that swoop across the garden, and make the birds scatter, and so this perhaps accounts for my discovery of finding two self-sown Sunflowers in the garden. By coincidence, they’re in the same bed as the others, but right at the front. I’m wondering what kind these will be, as both look like strong plants. It’ll be a while before the flowers arrive, but I’m just enjoying having them there.

Speaking of things I didn’t plant, the fence at the bottom of my garden is my responsibility. It’s a tall wire fence, and it adjoins the bottom of the garden of an empty property behind (where there’s a fantastic pear tree fyi). This fence not only has my sheds close against it, but it is also laden with brambles, and of course, I’ve been watching these lethal spires shoot up since moving in, and watching them flower, and now they are literally dripping with fruit.

I picked these blackberries from the bottom of my garden
I picked these blackberries from the bottom of my garden, ate them, didn’t enjoy them. Meh.

I don’t really like Blackberries, but i showed willing and picked a bowlful. Had them with porridge and kind of regretted it. Definitely need to turn them into a cake or crumble.

Anyway, that’s it for now, there’s loads more things going on in the garden – really keeping me busy, but I’ll share more real soon.

As ever, thanks for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew

 

I’m sow excited

Last night I had a seed sowing binge.

I’d hope that I’m amongst friends here and that some of you can relate to this:

I had a sowing binge.

It was only because I ran out of compost that I had to stop.

I even accidentally sowed some French Bean seeds a month early, and then extracted them from the dry compost (i’d counted them), dusted them down, and returned them to the packet. I’ll sow them for real in April otherwise they’ll get long and straggly on my windowsills.

Pots of newly sown seeds.
Just a few of the pots jammed in one of my propagators.

Last night I filled a second propagator with some of the new seeds that family friend Anne gave me at Christmas, and I also sowed a few more of my favourite flowers.

First up was a tray of my trusty Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’. I first sowed these back in 2011, and they’ve self sown ever since – into small cracks in paths, into garden pots, into the backs of borders. They are tremendous value for money, and my Suttons seed packet is pretty much all I ever needed. They just keep turning up and flowering everywhere, with lush dark green foliage and deep red, yellow, or white and pink delicately brushed flowers.

antirrhinum-chuckles-on-flower
The Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’ plants over-winter, and have self-sown for 6 years so far.

I’m hoping that this new batch will give my new incoming garden the same successful generations of flowers… although I’ve got plenty of the self-sown ones already resident in my garden pots that are all ready for the move.

Next was a few Sunflower ‘Helianthus Annus – Autumn Time’ from Thompson & Morgan. They’re a kind of burnt orange short sunflower, reaching about 3 feet tall. I’ll be sowing the taller ones later. Like the Antirrhinums, these will probably find themselves self-seeding into the next season, but only if the birds let them – the packet notes that they ‘make great food for birds’. I need to persuade my father to make me one of his bird boxes.

This was followed by another new choice for me – a small tray of Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ from Mr. Fothergill’s. These are pink and white pom-pom looking plants that reach about 2 foot tall. They look pretty flouncy, but apparently these release their scent particularly when touched – so I thought i’d give them a go and I’d aim to plant these near my new garden’s patio and the path.

Add to the windowsill a few pots of Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’ part of Mr Fothergill’s royal 90th birthday commemorations. I’ve really struggled with sweet peas in the last few years – it doesn’t seem to matter how many I grow, they’ll all die – either by being annihilated by snails and aphids, flattened by wind, or roasted by sunshine. My first year was great – Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ worked a treat, but they failed ever since. Fingers crossed with these.

Sweet Pea 'Cupani'
The successful Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ – hopefully ‘Royal Mixed’ will be a success this year.

Then, as I began to pack everything up, I found the old Secret Santa wooden Kitchen Garden mini ‘windowbox’ planter from 2011… so I threw some compost in, and sprinkled the last of the old Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seed into it. This might come to nothing as the seed is old, but I’m giving it the chance. I can easily re-sow over the top with some other salad seeds.

So that’s it, as I sowed these pots and trays, the urgent sound of ‘Tony Ices’ ice cream van blared past my house with it’s off-key shrill tune. My mind wandered to hot sunny evenings in the garden as the flowers gently sway in the breeze. Surely that’s a sign of what’s to come?

Happy gardening,

Andrew

 

A dash of late summer colour

The self-sown sunflowers have finally come into bloom, giving the garden a late summer dash of colour.

Many months ago, I noticed that some seedlings had appeared. I had a hunch as to what they would turn out to be. Here we are in the third week of September and the seedlings have grown (albeit only to about 2ft tall) and are now in flower.

fat-ball-sunflowers
The self-sown Sunflowers have come as a great surprise.

These Sunflowers grew when their seeds fell from a fat ball bird feeder that hung in the Forsythia bush which reaches upwards above them. I only once witnessed any birds feeding on the fat ball, but as our typical weather took its toll, the shards of them fell to the ground.

The ground in which they’ve grown is normally very dry and seemed quite poor, so i tipped some spare compost on it to help give it some extra nutrients. Within a week, the seedlings had sprung into life.

fat-ball-sunflower-seedlings
The self-sown fat ball sunflowers back in July.

Today, nearly all 6 of the plants are giving a dash of late summer colour in a garden that has almost fallen asleep.

Sometimes it’s the opportunistic self-sown stuff that really shines.

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.

The Garden in 2010

2010: A look back at Year One of my tiny new garden.

Having only moved into my house in October 2009, this made 2010 my first full season of having a garden.

Okay, so that garden was mainly concrete, with just a small 2.5ft wide border running along my neighbour’s house, predominantly in the shade, and a complete wind trap and open to a road, but this tiny patch of garden space was highly productive.

Here’s some of the successes from my first year.

Sunflowers
Sunflower in 2010