Showing posts from September, 2013

Salad Days: Salad Rescue In Progress

Sometimes I'm a totally rubbish gardener ;)

I sorted out the holiday watering for all of my plants except the seeds I'd sown in modules for winter salads. All that warm weather whilst we were away sent them to their doom.

I turned to my Cheat's Salad Guide, where Anna had recommended Delfland nurseries, a company which she'd found to be very good for vegetable plant supplies. Unlike most plant suppliers you can mix and match varieties to suit your needs as well as opting for their designated selection.

Looking at their website last Friday, I couldn't find which salad leaves were on offer for September, and so left a customer enquiry. They cleverly looked a bit further into my email address, spotted Veg Plotting and kindly offered some samples for me to try.*

A lovely well-packed box of 60 healthy organic plants arrived on Wednesday - 10 plants each of lamb's lettuce, land cress, 2 x lettuces (Winter Density and Arctic King), rocket and winter purslane. They…

Unusual Front Gardens #14: The Lawn

This sign at Paddington  - at the entrance to the cafe and and shopping area at the front of the station - always makes me smile as it's nothing like a lawn! A couple of trips to London this week served to remind me to find out more. Is there an historical reason for its name, or did someone who worked in the railway industry have a wry sense of humour when naming it? Let's see...

As you know, a lawn is still seen as a must-have for many of our our front gardens, though hardscaping is a common replacement nowadays due to our ever shrinking plots. I think something similar may have happened in the case of the station, though for cafes and shops rather than parking. Perhaps a previous use of the land before the station was built in the mid 19th century might have inspired the naming of The Lawn?

Step One: The Evidence

Paddington station has Grade I listed status and from its listing information I found the area known as the The Lawn dates back to the 1930s, when it was construct…

First Fresh Fig

My fig tree ('Brown turkey') has exploded into life this year and I hear it's happened to other blogging pals too. I don't quite know why that is, but for mine it's because I'd earmarked it for the compost heap ;) It had around 8 years of being a few sad twigs hidden amongst my sunflower 'Lemon Queen', and until now it really wasn't pulling its weight.

As you can see it's now pushed the sunflowers aside to show off its foliage. And this is from a fig tree which is planted in a pot just 16 inches across. Figs like their roots to be confined but the soil by next door's garage was just a little bit too shallow for it, hence the pot. What a difference a year makes - it's quite a fine specimen now isn't it?

My fig also had another surprise up its sleeve: its first proper fruits. Until now it's just borne tiny ones, but as you can see, this year I have figs of edible quality (and a bit of a rude looking photograph!). I thought long an…

Against the Odds: Discovering Granby Park

Unlike many capital cities, it's very easy to step off the tourist trail and find the real heart of Dublin. Granby Park is just two blocks away from O'Connell Street - one of the most famous and busiest thoroughfares in the city - and was a welcome surprise discovery during our holiday in Ireland.

In 2003, I spent 10 days in Dublin as a volunteer for the Special Olympics. At the time the Celtic Tiger was in full roar and I worked and lived amongst Irish people during one of their proudest moments. Those of you who experienced 2012's Olympics and Paralympics will know what the palpable excitement of an entire nation is like.

10 years later, the Celtic Tiger is sleeping and many sites earmarked for development are derelict, just like the one currently hosting Granby Park. The word 'derelict' is my deliberate choice, because in some quarters its use in respect to these sites is contentious.

But for one site and for one month only there's an exciting transformatio…

Postcard From Ireland

For once we managed to get abroad for our main holiday this year, by taking a cottage for 2 weeks in Ireland - in County Wicklow (just 30 miles or so south of Dublin) to be precise. It's always interesting to visit a country with a shared heritage to your own, to gain a different perspective on common history and to experience subtle differences in a familiar way of life.

Our last minute destination was akin to choosing somewhere with a hatpin - what was available in early September which looked interesting. I did no research whatsoever (unusual!) and I had no idea until we arrived that Wicklow calls itself the 'Garden of Ireland'. We could have visited a different garden every day and still have enough left over to fill 2 weeks more - and then some. I had to ration myself to just a few as it was NAH's holiday too.

We were lucky with the weather, which is just as well as County Wicklow is very much an outdoors kind of place. We were just a couple of miles away from th…

GBBD: Instant Sunshine

We've got back from 2 weeks in sunny Ireland just in time for me to take this picture of Rudbeckia 'Little Goldstar' before the first storm of autumn hits us this morning. It illustrates perfectly how the use of yellow in the garden really helps to lift the gloom - it was so dark when I took this photo our little outdoor light came on when I went past. That was at 9am!

This Rudbeckia is smaller than most of its clan - reaching just over a foot tall and with a similar spread - so it's perfect for the front of the border. Bees love it and it flowers from July until October, so I love it too. The label says plant in full sun or partial shade, but I saw some interesting uses of R. 'Goldsturm' in deeper shade whilst I was on holiday. More on that to come...

I hope you enjoy this little bit of 'instant sunshine' in what promises to be some challenging weather for gardening today. It looks like I have the perfect excuse to look through my holiday photos inste…

Unusual Front Gardens #13: Green Roof

I suppose this is more of a 'wrap around' garden than a front garden per se, though the lower green roof over the front porch does help it to count as such in my opinion ;)

I was delighted to spot this on holiday in Wales back in July. It's on the narrow road going down to the Gwili Railway just after you turn off the main road. It's the first time I've seen a green roof used on a private property; my previous sightings have been on public property like the cafe at Westonbirt (which is still going strong when we checked it out at last month's Treefest).

I love how this roof echoes the planting in front of it. I wonder which came first and whether there's a natural re-seeding cycle in operation between the two?

You can view my previousUnusual Front Gardens by clicking on the link and looking through my blog's special Label :)

Alliums and Biochar: The Results Are Finally In

At last the crops are dried and everything's been weighed to find out whether growing alliums with biochar added to the soil makes a difference.

The Experiment

I created 2 identical raised beds, each filled with home-made compost from the same bin. One raised bed had a large bag of multi-purpose compost + biochar instead of some of the home-made compost. This was well mixed throughout the soil.

Each bed was planted out with the following:
10 garlic cloves 'Solent Wight'15 shallot sets 'Jermoor'24 onions sets - 8 each of brown, red and white (from a mixed onion bag) The alliums selected were matched as closely as possible in size and weight for each bed. They were then left to their own devices and were weeded as and when needed. The same amount of water was poured evenly onto each raised bed when watering duties beckoned.
The Results
In a nutshell, I'm declaring it a draw. The shallots were better grown in home-made only, the garlic was better grown with biochar …

In the Footsteps of Plant Hunters: Fuchsias

Today I'm thinking about a different kind of plant hunter. Not those Victorian gentlemen we've familiar with like Wilson or Farrar, who explored the remotest of places to collect new plants, but the people of today who seek to collect and research a particular set of cultivars. Many of these register their collection(s) with Plant Heritage and this post is my contribution to their 35th birthday celebrations this year.

I was particularly interested in an earlier press release of theirs as it involves Wiltshire and a plant I enjoy in my own garden, fuchsias. Since then I've been waiting for a decent picture to place at the head of this post. The rest of the images are courtesy of the Collection holder, Kristopher Harper and Plant Heritage.

Background to the Collection

Kristopher started his Collection in 2009, which comprises 28 cultivars. It's a new collection to Plant Heritage and is held in Norfolk. It comprises cultivars introduced by the Victorian plantsman, James L…

Book Review: The Flower of Empire

The Flower of Empire is a rip-roaring tale of a discovery of a giant water lily which fired the imagination of Victorian society in Britain. It includes a number of familiar key figures and institutions of the time, such as Paxton, Lindley, Kew, the Horticultural Society (yet to obtain its 'Royal' prefix) and the Royal Geographical Society.

Little did a German-born explorer working in the toughest conditions in South America know his discovery would create the sensation it did. What follows is political 'spin' at its very best as the task of naming the new plant in honour of the new Queen Victoria without giving offence proves difficult. Having got agreement to the name (Victoria regia) and therefore effectively securing royal patronage, the political waters are muddied still further when claims from abroad that the discovery isn't new are made.

Then follows the race to bring home viable specimens and to get the lily to flower with much horticultural pride a…

Hmm Hakonechloa... Part Two

Previously on Veg Plotting I've pondered growing Hakonechloa in my garden as a lawn substitute. This was following my trip to the Seattle Fling two years ago where I saw grasses - particularly Hakonechloa - used to good effect in many gardens, and finding inspiration via Neil Lucas's fab book Designing With Grasses.

However, finding out how much it'd cost to replace my tiny front lawn (around £300 minimum) made me think again, especially as this is a deciduous grass. We and our neighbours would view dull bare earth for a few months, so I'd also need to buy e.g. spring bulbs to create some early season interest and help fill the gap.

I didn't give up on my idea though, and decided to try a Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' in a large pot on the front lawn before making a final decision. I'm very glad I did! Skimble and Jess decided it was their favourite grassy nibble last year, thus cutting it back to within an inch (literally) of its life. I feared it would…

I Love September For...

This time of the year I always get that sinking feeling. It's a back to schoolish kinda thing; the nights are drawing in and it's the first month of autumn. Blink an eye and winter is here with all that's cold and dark :(

So this year I've decided to do things a little differently and tune into my naturally optimistic side. Years ago when things got really tough at home, I could always conjure up and focus on at least one time where that particular date had been full of joy. Let's try a little of that philosophy again...

... so please welcome a new monthly series: I Love xxx For... and being entirely predictable and unoriginal, I'm starting with September ;)

I Love September For...
Lots of family birthdays... and attendant celebrationsMalvern Autumn Show at the end of the month. Or before that there's Harrogate Autumn Show for those of you a little further northInternational Talk Like a Pirate Day on the 19th - arrrr!A chance to indulge myself with CyclamensH…

GBMD: Places To...

I found this on one of the planters used for Octavia's Orchard at Southbank recently (see my Roll Out the Barrows post for more). It struck me it's not only a fine philosophy for the National Trust, it's pretty good for my garden too :)

Can you sum up your garden in a similar way?