Category Archives: Garden

Don’t Panic

dahlias

This last couple of weeks I’ve been watching the weather as we all do at this time of year, and worrying myself silly. I need to grow fabulous dahlias for a friend’s garden. Her daughter is getting married in August and she wants a garden full of big showy colourful flowers. Dahlias are the answer but the tubers need to be started off anytime now. Of course in the cold greenhouse nothing will happen anytime soon so I’ve been getting a bit twitchy.

Anyhow I was looking back over the last couple of years and there was a post about the late spring. Just 2 years ago. Exactly the same thing, cold and wintry,but lo and behold it was the 9th of March and I was potting up my dahlia tubers indoors. So I guess I’m starting my own tradition. Tomorrow I’m off to pot up the dahlias and put them somewhere warm like the spare roo m till spring finally turns up.

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March 8, 2013 · 9:13 pm

Sabotaged photos

I thought I’d take a pic or two of the winter planters I’d done….but then Gloria thought she’d take a swipe at the berries on the gaultheria…..see swiftly moving hen aiming for red berries.

OK so I shooed her off and tried again.  No hens to be seen, great, point the camera at the planter and ……peck!   Straight at the phone..Gloria and her friend this time.   “Is it edible, no, well let’s have another peck anyhow”……..so I gave up till they were in bed…but of course then it was dark.  You can’t win sometimes.

Hopefully you can see what we have here though.   A full sized old fashioned zinc pail filled with a 2ft conifer, gaultheria which has lovely red berries flowing over the front, with trailing ivy and pansies or violas  All should do beautifully well on your doorstep all winter.

Put a string of battery operated lights round the little tree and you’ll have a lovely Christmassy welcome on your doorstep later in the winter as well.

And if you want to you can plant everything in the garden when it gets too big for the bucket.  Don’t panic though the thuja (confier) is slow growing so you’re not looking at a hugenormous monster like leylandii!

So here it is in the dark.  Difficult to see I know but I hope you get the idea!

The buckets cost £30 delivered to Leeds postcodes and the Pontefract/Castleford areas.  Please get in touch via the contact form on the site if you’d like one.

I deliver little planters as well but it’s way too dark to take any pictures now.  Will have a go tomorrow.

You’ve seen the autumn wreath before but I’ve had requests to deliver them as well.   Here it is again if you fancy one too:

The base is a wicker frame decorated with seed heads and berries from the garden and the hedgerow.  The frame itself will last for several years so you can decorate it again every season if you want to, and the berries and greenery will last outside for many weeks….the colder it gets the longer they’ll last!  There are some advantages to the cold weather.

Delivered to the same areas as the planter the wreath will cost £28.00.

I have no idea when I’ll be able to take orders on line (I’m sorry)…. technology and I fight daily.  So if you’d like either the planter or the wreath drop me a note – just click on contact in the menu bar and drop me a line.

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Filed under Chickens, Flowers, Garden, Leeds, planter, Uncategorized, wreath

Time to put the garden to bed

Odd expression that, but I think we get the idea.  Things are looking a bit ropey out there when I stand at the French windows, and they’re going to look much worse unless I sort things out.  It seems harder in the autumn though, it’s much less like fun dismantling the summer garden than getting it up to scratch in the spring, but in fact there’s so much to do and I know it’ll make a difference.

I always know it’s time when I have to clear the tomatoes out of the greenhouse.   There’s still one plant left which has some fruit which might just ripen but the rest are on the compost heap.

Once I’ve done that it’s the ideal opportunity to give the greenhouse a clean inside.  Brush down all the glass and then wash it with a mild disinfectant and clean the staging and shelving.   Try to choose a dry mild day so that any tender plants will be OK outside until everything’s dried out.

Then I can look at what I need to bring into the greenhouse to save for next year.   There are always loads of pelargoniums.   I love them and try to save as many as I can.  They’ll be happy in a dryish compost kept somewhere frost free.  I generally take off the flowers and prune them back to about 4” or so…I could have taken cuttings a little bit earlier but I didn’t…so I’ll try to hang onto the plants.  If it gets really cold in the greenhouse either it’ll need heating or they’ll have to come into the house.

There are plenty of other things I might like to keep.  This year I don’t have any very nice dahlias.  I lost some lovely ones by leaving them in the ground last year.   In a mild winter they’ll be fine outside but we’ve had some very cold ones so it’s safer to lift the tubers, dust off the soil and store them in dry compost till the spring when you can bring them back into growth again.

I will take cuttings of my salvia ‘hot lips’.  I love it and I have taken cuttings before to ensure I keep it year after year.   I’ve lost the parent plant more than once so I know I need to get some cuttings.  I’ll push them into a mixture of compost and sharp sand and cover them in a polythene bag and they’ll be in the greenhouse frost free till the spring.

As for the mixed  border, I tend to stand back and take a view.  There are things that need to be cut back and look a messy tangle of dead leaves, and they’d be better on the compost heap, but there are lots of other things looking great – the sedum and the grasses shine in the sun, lots of the cosmos  and the marigolds are still flowering like mad, as is the nasturtium that’s climbing over the fence.  So they can stay.  On the other hand the cerinthe is black, some of the early perennials like the campanula and yellow loostrife look sad and need cutting back.  But other perennials, which are over for the summer will stay to give some structure for the winter and for the bugs to feed from.  Things like the echinacea  and the eringyum.  So don’t be too ready to clear everything away too soon.

I almost always plant bulbs.  All kinds of bulbs…..it’s no too late for daffodils and you can plant tulips until December, and as well as them you can put in crocus, alliums, grape hyacinths…there really is such a choice, you only have to go into the garden centre or pick up a catalogue and the choice is vast.  They’re great though because you need to do so little, just dig a hole and drop them in and you’ll have a lovely display next spring.

Finally if I have home made compost that’s ready I like to mulch at this time of year.   Good well-rotted compost is the best and if you can put it down 3-4 inches deep so much the better.   That’s the bit that does feel as though I’m tucking up the flower beds for winter.   Let’s hope they sleep well and come back better than ever next year.

Next job – maybe in November – some autumn pruning!

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I think we’ve turned a corner…..

I’m sitting outside writing this….its been a long time coming but that’s what I had in mind when  I bought this little house with its derelict garden.   I can smell the roses from my garden bench and the air’s warm and the birds are singing.

Almost two years ago I sat out here just after I got the keys.   My plumber and I were eating sandwiches for lunch on the hard stony earth surrounded by the old bathroom fittings which were chucked out here and goodness only knows what else…carpet, radiators, bits of wood, you name it.  Not just that but the garden itself was indescribably awful.  Not a garden at all.  And he said to me what on earth made you move here (I had a perfectly nice garden at my house in Leeds) and I said just listen…. so we sat in silence.   There was practically no sound and sitting here now I can’t see another house.  I can see the tops of the chimneys at Ferrybridge Power Station over the greenery mind you but I can live with that!

When I look at the house pre French windows and pre decking I can’t believe it.  It looks so different.  And well done son….I knew it was a good idea for him to retrain as a joiner!

The view’s changed a bit as well, this is how it looks from the  bench now and last year I’d have been looking at this.

I think the biggest improvement though has to be the lawn.   I seeded it in April of this year and banned the hens from it.   They and the birds were having a fine time eating the seed.   And of course it was so dry.  So much for it being a perfect time to sow grass seed  the driest spring for how many years?   So goodness knows how much water went onto it.   Anyhow eventually it started to grow, and so we said goodbye to the grey earth and welcomed the green growth.  Such a difference.   Its not 100% weed free, but then considering what was here beforehand that’s OK.  Its less than 6 months old so a year of mowing and weeding and it’ll improve.

And the front of house is taking shape too.   I was desperate to get a front porch and some raised beds.   It looked so naked when I moved in.  Not a bit like the cottage that the locals called it.   When I told someone where I lived she said “Oh yes, the old potters cottages”  but this didn’t look a bit like a cottage and there was nowhere to plant a thing.   So I’d been looking here there and everywhere for something to change the look of the front door (which is actually the kitchen door….because the house is back to front, but let’s not go there!) when I came upon a reduced garden arch thingy.  Rang my son who said things like, “Is it tall enough?  Will it be wide enough?”and “OK get it”.

So I did.   Anyway without going into the huffing and puffing about it not being quite right after a good deal of adaptation it was eventually installed complete with raised beds on either side…..yet  to be filled I have to say, but it won’t be long.

There is still much to do.   My veg patch now extends way down behind the greenhouse, but it has further to go and it needs to have the little elder which overshadows it considerably reduced, if not removed.  Not made my mind up on that one yet.  Its producing a good yield as well this year for such a new project.   We’ve had onions, garlic, carrots, courgettes (well who hasn’t?), lettuce and other salad leaves, new potatoes and 2 types of beans and radishes.   Still to come are the maincrop potatoes, spring onions, chard, spinach, purple sprouting broccoli and pak choi.  And of course loads of tomatoes from the greenhouse as well as chillies and cucumbers.

I started on a fruit garden as well but that really hasn’t had the attention it deserves, but I have got some pears that look like they’ll be good to eat this season and I’ve had rhubarb and some strawberries.   The hens got to the last of them though and I think the gooseberries.  Well at least they disappeared.

Now that I’ve got this far I’m thinking about next year.   I’m sure gardeners are the most optimistic of creatures.   Always looking forward.

The focus has got to be on the fruit garden.   I might need a fruit cage to keep the birds off it, and not just the hens.   My garden birds are so well fed I seem to be constantly filling up the feeders but that doesn’t stop them for helping themselves to other things they fancy.

As well as that I’d like to clear a bit of land and turn it into a cutting garden.   English summer flowers are so lovely and although I suspect I shall always have to buy in flowers for my floristry work because I simply don’t have the space to grow commercially,  I’d love to be able to gather bunches from my own garden for the house.

Of course whilst I’ve been writing this I’ve had to move indoors.   Its been trying to rain and its got a bit chilly out there.  Oh English summers hey.  But with a bit of luck it might just brighten up into a lovely evening whilst I’m watering the hanging baskets.

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Compost – I love it!

There’s always been a compost heap in the garden – right from the time I was very small so I’m amazed when I hear people saying “Oh I wouldn’t want a compost heap – they’re mucky or they attract rats and they’re ugly” – I really get quite agitated and find myself preaching the benefits of composting with almost evangelical zeal.

What you get from good compost is a really valuable nutritionally rich material to add to your garden. It adds structure to your soil and improves the pH balance. It’s a great way to recycle kitchen and garden waste and reduces the amount we send to landfill.  And it’s free….which has to be good, and it’s a darned sight easier than carting big bags of mulch and expensive compost from the garden centre.

So having said that how do you go about it? Well you can start with a heap – literally. That’s what we had at home and it was just a big pile in the corner. As more was added to the top we dug out the rotted material from bottom to use. It does work but that can get a bit messy and it’s certainly the slowest method. There are lots of ways of keeping the compost more tidy, and different kinds composting systems to speed up the process. For me it’s a 2 bay compost heap made up of old wooden pallets. If you take 7 pallets and make two squares of the pallets, securing them in the corners you end up with two ideal spaces to make and store the compost. If you have less space there are compost bins readily available to buy which work just as well. Or if you want something more cutting edge there are compost tumblers which you rotate and wormeries supplied with worms ready to get going, both of which speed up the process.

My dad would have been amazed at how much there is said about how you should make a compost heap and what you should put in it. I seem to remember he just chucked all the vegetable matter from house and garden on it and that was that. But if you’ve never made one before there are some key do’s and don’ts.

Don’t add:

  • Meat or meat products
  • Fish
  • Milk, cheese or any dairy related products
  • Cooked food whatever it is including vegetables
  • Really woody or thick prunings which would be hard to break down (although you could shred them)
  • Citrus peel
  • Perennial weeds
  • Cat litter

Do add:

  • Vegetable peelings and fruit peelings (ex citrus) etc from the kitchen
  • Tea bags/leaves and coffee grounds
  • Grass cuttings
  • Annual weeds – although best not to use those with ripe seed heads
  • Waste paper (preferably shredded)
  • Old bedding plants and your cut down herbaceous plants
  • Dead cut flowers from the house
  • Any other exhausted plants from the greenhouse or your garden
  • Egg shells
  • Autumn leaves
  • Old compost from pots either from the house or garden
  • Thinner prunings although best shredded

Be careful about adding diseased plant material to the heap. Some blight and club root affected plants should not go into the heap, but tomato blight (which I seem to get at the end of most seasons) will be gone by the time the old tomato plants have broken down, but if in doubt leave it out!

There are methods of adding material to your compost heap which can make the process quicker. I try not to add thick layers of grass clippings, leaves or shredded paper which can turn into a solid block in the composter. I fill up the first bay of my 2-bay pallet contraption. Then once it’s full you could empty it out, mix the contents really well and then put it back into the bay adding water between layers as you go. The heap will warm up as it composts. A couple of weeks later you can repeat this mixing step, watering again if the heap has become dry. The mixing action will introduce air which helps the composting process and can mean that you could have a finished product in a little as 6-8 weeks.

Whilst all that is going on in one bay I still have another bay to start all over again.

I must say I tend to just leave mine to compost naturally which can take up to 12 months, but I will check to see whether it’s too dry and if it is add some water. Cover the tops of the bays with a square of old carpet to keep the material in and keep the worst of the weather off.

When you have a rich brown crumbly material you’ve made really good compost, and once it goes brown and everything is well rotted you can assume the compost is ready. I have had compost which still has bits in it, which have rotted, but just not broken down finely. You could use that as it is or you could sieve it so that it is fine, or just put the bigger bits back into the compost to rot down further.

There are commercial accelerators available which you mix into the heap and which are made to speed up the whole thing. I haven’t seen the need to use one but you could give it a go.

And what to do with it after all that? Depending on where you’re putting it either you can use it as a mulch on established beds, or dig it into empty beds. You can also top dress pots and mulch around fruit trees and bushes or if you want to get really clever you can start mixing in other ingredients and make your own potting compost.

So if you can don’t put it in the bin, put it on the compost heap.

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Soft colours for a new border

I planted up a nice little border this week in Leeds.   It needed a rework.   The established beds had been planted up some years ago and over time plants had disappeared and my least favourite thing – bindweed had been gradually creeping through what remained along with its best friend the couch grass.  I really loathe bindweed.   Its such a nightmare to kill off and it doesn’t matter how much you dig you are bound to leave a bit somewhere and so off it will go again.  However, I’ve written about bindweed before though so I shan’t rant again.

So a lot of digging!  And on the left of the border geranium Johnson’s Blue had got out of hand.   Its got a lovely blue flower early in the year but then it doesn’t do much at all and it keeps increasing in size year on year unless you keep it under control, only its pretty early flower has saved it here but very much reduced to a shadow of its former self.

The newly planted border looks a bit thin (I hope you can tell which is which!) but come back next year and I promise it’ll be full of flower and colour.   The client wanted soft colours, pinks, mauves, whites and blues and lots of flowers with a reasonably long season so in the border are a range of fairly easy plants, phlox, iris, campanulas and grasses….which aren’t doing a lot at the moment – as well as verbenas, ecinacea and sedums, which will be in full flight any minute and continue right into the autumn, and a nicely scented English rose which should flower all summer long with a lovely verbascum which is flowering right now.  There were already alliums in the bed which will now come through the new planting, and on the fence, though tiny at the moment, I’ve planted a white Japanese quince which should cover the panel with flowers in the early spring and then have fruits later on.

Because there are steps up through the border I’ve put in some Mexican Fleabane (erigeron karvinskianus) alongside and hoepfully it’ll self seed between the stones.   I think its probably my favourite plant this week…..ummm or maybe not, maybe it was the verbascum Pink Domino….

At home we’ve installed a scarecrow in the garden to fend off the fox.   The wretched thing took Elsie almost a fortnight ago and so having Googled all things anti fox we came up with either electric fencing (ouch what about the cats?), male urine (so poor son is banished from the bathroom) and a fairly quick fix, Sam the Scarecrow.  This is all well and good but he keeps making me jump!  Let’s hope that he makes the fox jump too.  I must get it into my head that Sam lives here too now.  Somehow I suspect that  this may not be the end of it and so my search for the perfect solution will continue.

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Wittering and Twittering

I think I am developing an unhealthy Twitter habit!  I’ve been taking part in Reach Further’s #12dot (12 Days of Twitter) and have learnt all sort of stuff, but now, whatever I do I need to tweet it…  Not sure I can write anything that’s any longer than 140 characters but let’s have a go.

Lovely wedding on Friday – very pretty bride, beaming groom and the flowers weren’t bad eitherWeather was brilliant too which is remarkable since it’s done nothing but rain since.    I know we all pray for good weather but it isn’t the best for the flowers, you get them from the market in tip top shape and then you try to keep them that way….

As usual the Mustard Pot made a lovely venue and the couple had filled the garden with fun things to do – hoopla, 10 pin bowls, and amongst other things limbo.  Didn’t hang around to see the bride do that in her frock!  And inside they’d collected dozens of pretty china cups and saucers for coffee after dinner which went perfectly with the simple jugs and jars of pretty country flowers

The theme was vintage/country, so lots of seasonal flowers, nothing too stuffy.   The pew ends were simple bunches tied with raffia which we lifted with the pedestal and moved down to the pub for the reception.   Makes sense to get double the use from your flowers where you can.

Of course there had to be roses, in the bouquet were Avalance and Akito roses with gyp, white lisianthus and freesia, and variegated pittisorpum and the bridesmaids’ posies were simple but with blues and violets to match their dresses.

And after all that loveliness I had to find a way to get 19 half barrels from Knottingley to Leeds.   Man with Van was great, but we still had to stuff 3 of them into my car, talk about the sublime to the ridiculous.  But they got there and they look good as well.  I took a photo when they arrived, oozing the smell of booze over the garden but I failed to take one when I’d done.  I suspect I’d seen too much of them by then.

Quite glad of the rain today really – at least I can’t dig anything or plant anything, hooray I get to stay inside.   A little light plant ordering is on the cards I think.  Oh careful the sun’s coming out….

and if you want to know where all the wittering and twittering is find me @MaggyAnne, see you there maybe?

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Filed under Flowers, Garden, Uncategorized, vintage, wedding