Showing posts from June, 2017

Bonsai: care tips from the experts

I have a confession. I usually leave the bonsai exhibits at flower shows alone. They're quite difficult to photograph and until recently this is a branch of gardening which was a mystery to me ('scuse pun).

However, I was given a bonsai tree in March and it's clear I need some help to look after it properly. I'd read they should be kept outdoors, which was fine until April's hard frosts. My poor tree ended up with lots of leaves sporting an unhealthy bleached look.

So this year for once I made a beeline for the Federation of British Bonsai Societies' exhibit at Chelsea Flower Show, where a friendly expert was more than happy to give me a few tips.

As you can see, my tree is quite small, even by bonsai standards and my first piece of advice was to bring it in for the winter for quite some time to come. Here you can see it in the final spot I've chosen for it for the summer, on the table on our patio.

This is because I need to see it from our kitchen so I…

Blightwatch revisited

Once upon a time I wrote about potatoes and the excellent service called Blightwatch which warns when weather conditions become ripe for an outbreak of potato blight.

Back then the service looked out for a Smith Period i.e. a time during the potato/tomato crop season when the weather served up 90% humidity over an 11 hour period in temperatures above 10°C for 24 hours, and for both conditions to exist over a period of two days. If this occurred for my postcode area, then I'd get an email warning me that a Smith Period had happened, or one saying there was a near miss if the conditions only occurred for a day.

These emails usually started around July/August time and I always received them with a sense of impending doom.

Now since May this year I've had several emails called a Hutton Alert from the same service instead. This is much earlier to receive a blight warning and slightly worrying. Is my practise of growing early spuds to avoid late blight in danger now?

It seems the S…

Colour from the garden

Sometimes even the most familiar things in life can offer a surprise which sets you off in a completely different direction. This is exactly what happened to me at Lacock Abbey recently - the garden I visit the most - in the form of Nettie Edwards, pictured above.

She was based in the botanic garden showing her work with anthotypes, a technique which uses plants as the light sensitive material to produce a photographic print. The technique itself is well over a century old, and until Nettie's demonstration I hadn't realised it's easy to do at home.

All that's needed is some suitable plant material, a means to extract its juices, a paper and frame for printing, a positive image for reproduction, a source of light, and plenty of time. The combination of two of my favourite things - photography and gardens - got me fired up and itching to get started. Nettie's enthusiasm for her work also helped :)

I was taken with Nettie's notebook, where she documents the colou…

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: In the white garden

I usually think of my garden in terms of cool blues and mauves at this time of the year because of the many alliums, clematis and other flowers in full flow.

Whilst they're there as expected, their presence is dwarfed by the outburst of white that's happened over the past week or so, mainly in the trees which surround the garden. Here you can see my 'Rambling Rector' rose which has leapt over the fence onto the public land next door. The clematis you can see are draped over six foot high obelisks which gives you some idea of how high the roses have jumped.

It's also peak elderflower time, and the creamy flower heads keep the white theme going at the bottom of the garden (click to enlarge the picture if needed).

If you looked at my submission for #mygardenrightnow the first weekend of June, you'll know that bright ox-eye daisies have taken over the lawn. White clover is also making its presence felt (along with some red), and I was surprised to find some sweet …

Things in Unusual Places #20: Ladybirds

Last week saw an unexpected and special group of visitors in our house. As you can see, I found a ladybird larva crawling across my laptop whilst I was in my study.

There were four in total, including one NAH found on my hair, plus a couple more I found on the Flowers for Mum bouquet I shared with you last week. I suspect that was the source of all of these most welcome visitors.

I was concerned when I spotted the first one, because it was quite small and there didn't seem to be any food available. However, the next day it had happily doubled in size and I saw there were a few aphids clambering around the lemon balm and ox-eye daisies.

A day later all the aphids had gone and I discovered my first ladybird had a companion. Both were transferred outside to my 'Kew Gardens' rose to continue with their good work, as were the others I found later that day.

First I found an earthworm, then the snail, then last year a cricket graced unexpected places in my house. What's the …

Flowers for Mum: the wild and woolly edition

Since I outlined my Flowers for Mumproject, it's fair to say things have not gone to plan. I've been preoccupied instead with obtaining some specialist equipment and care for her, and despite Georgie's reassurance that growing cut flowers can be broken down into manageable chunks of time, I failed to sow any flowers this spring.

Thank goodness for Franks Plants - still going strong - who've supplied me with many of the plants on my original list (plus a couple of extras based on your comments on my previous post) at a reasonable cost. These are now safely planted out on the allotment as planned ~ more on these anon.

Thank goodness too for my Wild and Woolly Lawn, whose self-sown flowers and leaves have yielded my first home-grown bunches of flowers, not only for mum but with a bonus bunch or three for me. I'd anticipated using the ox-eye daisies, but never the lemon balm nor the lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) which grace this week's offering.

I picked the…

Thank you for #mygardenrightnow

What an amazing response to #mygardenrightnow over the weekend! We nearly doubled the participants from March, and more than doubled the number of entries across social media. Twitter and Instagram in particular exploded into life and as a result it's taken me a while to catch up with you all.

Roses are most definitely the bloom of the moment with geraniums and lavender running a close second. It's harder to pinpoint a produce favourite, lettuce or beans possibly. We also had some early harvest action - strawberries plus various salad leaves and herbs.

A mainly sunny weekend saw you out enjoying your gardens in many ways, with washing lines being a new notable feature alongside various garden toys. It's great to see real gardens being used by all family members and for all kinds of purposes. Sadly there was no anticipated barbecue activity, but a rather nice bonfire finished off Sunday's efforts.

Here in the UK we awoke to horrific news yesterday morning, which requir…

#mygardenrightnow: heading into summer with the Chelsea Fringe

Ahhhhhh, that's better! I love walking through dewy grass in bare feet, not that there's much in the way of grass on my back lawn this weekend. My wild and woolly lawn has morphed into meadow of sorts this month, which even NAH admits looks attractive*.

It's also proved a great source for my Flowers for mum project so far, yielding self-sown perennial cornflowers, lamb's ears, and lemon balm in addition to the blooms you can see. These originated from elsewhere in the garden, the ox-eye daisies must have blown in from the A350 nearby.

* = he got very stroppy about the weeds aka self-sown foxgloves in the lawn one year, so he's come along a bit since then.

Skimble's demanding to say hello to you too. He does enjoy the patio when it warms up.

If the embedded video doesn't work try this link instead.

The Nectaroscordum are a revelation. I planted the bulbs around 2 years ago, but it's only this year they've bloomed properly. The bees gather around the…

#mygardenrightnow for Chelsea Fringe

Back by popular demand, the second #mygardenrightnow weekend is upon us! This time we're doing it as a Chelsea Fringe event because it's a cool project, worthy of inclusion in their wonderful activities. It's so cool we've even made The Guardian!

The principle is the same as before. All you need to do is take a photo of yourself in your garden sometime this weekend, then blog about it or post on your favourite social media (choose from Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram) on Saturday or Sunday and let me know when you've posted your effort.

Last time we had plenty of mud, puddles, leeks and crocuses. Who knows what we'll see this time? I hope there'll be lots of evidence of you enjoying your garden as this project is all about celebrating real gardens as used and loved by real gardeners.

I'll post my effort tomorrow, along with a Mr Linky to add your blog posts. I'll also patrol the #mygardenrightnow hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promo…