21 December 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Well, the season to be jolly is nearly here. From a weather point of view it's definitely not a bleak mid-winter, snow is not falling all around us and, as you can see from the following pics, it's not just the holly and the ivy that are flourishing at the moment:

Pussy Willow

Rhododendron Buds


Cherry Blossom

Think it's a hebe (?)

For Your Eyes Only rose

The temperature here in Dorset averaged 12 degrees last week. Today it has gone down to 10 but will be back up to 14 tomorrow apparently - no wonder the gardens and countryside are confused. Also, the grass needs cutting as soon as the ground dries out which could be a while as, just for a change, more rain and high winds are forecast for this week...so no white Christmas here then.

It's been a productive year and we are still enjoying the vegetables grown, plus we have homemade jams, chutneys and pickles to enjoy this Christmas...yum yum!
So, all that's left for me to say is have a fantastic Christmas and New Year and I look forward to catching up with you in 2016.



14 December 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - A Technical Hitch

Evening Everyone,

Sorry I'm a day late. Unfortunately I was working all weekend and, although it's hard to believe in these days of instant technology, it must be the only place on the planet that doesn't have access to Wi-Fi. Very frustrating and prehistoric. Anyway, on with the blog.

I had all good intentions of knuckling down and giving the garden a good tidy up but it just didn't happen thanks to the weather. I tried sweeping up the fallen leaves but it's been very windy again this week and as fast as I swept they blew away again. I did, however, get round to pruning the summer and autumn raspberries for the second time this autumn/winter. I also pruned the large hydrangea by the greenhouse down to the ground as buds were beginning to form again; I cut back the dying flowers on the hellebores, but left the leaves as shelter for hibernating creatures. And talking of hellebores, I think the plant with the green flowers growing in the shade garden (pic in last week's blog) is also a hellebore.

Earlier in the week the fish were not eating so I decided not to feed them for a couple of days. On Friday morning I fed them and they immediately appeared and ate it all with voracious relish!  They are getting bigger, not so much longer, but plumper. I have also been putting the pond pump on for a couple of hours a day when I'm here.

Wednesday was lovely and sunny (a much needed change) but I was unable to get in the garden because of work commitments. I did water the plants and cuttings in the greenhouse though.

For this time of year the garden is looking very healthy. Apart from the leafless fruit trees you wouldn't think this was a winter garden:

Today (Monday) started warm and humid. By mid morning it had turned chilly and windy and by mid afternoon it was pouring with rain again. The first thing I did when I arrived home from work this morning was feed the fish (hungry) and check the garden. Since last Friday the aubretia has started to flower, not easy to see in this pic unfortunately,

a couple of the daffodils have bloomed

 a yellow poppy,

and more feathery tops to one of the grasses - very delicate.

In the greenhouse the lemon is still growing

and the hot lips salvia and azalea cuttings are thriving.

The carrots and borage are well established now and there are new buds on the blackcurrant bush.

There is still no sign of a stalk on the amaryllis, but the leaves are now between two and three feet long and growing! The underside of the leaves are speckley red and look like sticks of rhubarb!
That's about it for this week. The forecast for us here in Dorset this week is rainy and mild with possible record temperatures being reached...watch this space. Have a good week juggling garden commitments and festive social activities!

6 December 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - Windy!!

Evening everyone,

It's been very mild again this week, a bit grey and murky...and windy. I didn't manage much time out in the garden at the beginning of the week but had a good day on Thursday. I dug in the remaining green manure that's shot up over the past week, planted the rest of the lily of the valley in the shade garden and, whilst I was planting them, I noticed this (no idea what it is) has come into flower:

The sweat peas have gone crazy and were spreading over the other pots so I pinched out the tops and put in some stick supports:

I then cut back the large dahlia in the cottage garden as buds were forming but rotting before they could bloom. I've left it in the ground and mulched to protect the tuber. I trimmed back the begonias, mulched them and put the pots in the greenhouse. And, finally, I've moved most of the ground cover plugs from their packaging in to pots and troughs for the winter; I will plant them in position in the Spring. I have labelled the ten varieties plus written the names and positions on a diagram in case the weather fades the labels...good thinking eh! I still have the giant alliums to plant somewhere...I need a bigger garden! The mixed alliums in the cottage garden have started to grow, some of them are about 6-8 inches high now.

As the weather has not been that great this week I decided to lavish tlc on some of the indoor plants. The winter jasmine was trimmed right back as, although it has new growth, most of the existing growth was brown and died away. I also trimmed the chrysanthemum and put in a support. A couple of stems broke off so I've potted them up and hopefully they will give me some new  plants. The old leaves on the kalanchoe had white dusty patches on the them so I've cut them all off and trimmed back the new growth. Both orchid plants are thriving although not in flower.

Sunday - today started with a spectacular sunrise, an abundance of pink everywhere; it made the garden look surreal. It has been incredibly windy this weekend although it started to calm down a little by this afternoon...Storm Desmond, apparently. Him indoors took the timer off the pond pump - we'll just turn it on and off manually throughout the winter. He also raised the pump slightly so it's not pumping out the warmer water at the bottom of the pond. I finally finished potting up the rest of the ground cover plugs for over wintering. I checked the others I had planted on Thursday and either a bird or a squirrel had uprooted a couple so I've re-planted them and moved the troughs nearer the greenhouse where hopefully they will be safe. And, at last, I put the giant allium bulbs in a trough so all done now. I dug up the remaining leeks, laid them on the veg bed and covered them with soil. Apparently, this is done because it's difficult to dig them up when the frosts come. Frost? What's that? It's been 12 degrees today! But it was a job for December, so I did it. I also dug up the rest of the fennel which is now stored in the fridge, and dead-headed the violas. Him indoors took all the composting material out to the big bin at the back of the garden and put some compost-maker pellets in to help it on it's way. He also put a bird bath in the cottage garden (family heirloom) which looks great:

I made my weekly inspection of the garden, anyone would think it was Spring!. The aquilegia has started to sprout,

the delphinium black knight is in bud,
there are flowers on the rosemary,
next door's rambling rose has rambled over into our garden and is in flower,
and so has their passion flower, bearing fruit:
Towards the middle of the afternoon a fine mist appeared and by the end of the afternoon it was raining...again. And it doesn't look like there's much improvement next week for Dorset - mild, windy and rain although Wednesday and Friday look like they could be dry and, dare I say it, sunny!
Whatever the weather where you are, have a good week and catch up next Sunday.

29 November 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - And Still the Garden Flourishes

Hi everyone,

Can't believe another week has gone by, where does the time go? It's been a mixed one regarding the weather. Monday started frosty and stayed cold all day. Tuesday started 12 degrees warmer than Monday and rainy - just for a change! By the afternoon the temperature had dropped by four degrees and the wind had picked up. Wednesday morning became dull, dull, dull and finished with clear blue skies. Thursday - rain. Friday - rain. Saturday - gale force winds and rain in the afternoon. Today - even stronger winds but thankfully no rain.

Monday and Tuesday - didn't have much time for gardening but I did turn the pond pump back on at 17.15 so hopefully it will continue coming on at its usual time again.

Wednesday - and the pump came on just before 10.00am this morning so that's good. Fed the fish as they were on the surface waiting, or waiting for something anyway. Before the day turned dull and muggy, the sky was clear in places just after sunrise and Venus appeared extra bright; there was also a full moon this evening.  I dug in the green manure for over wintering, cleared the pond of leaves and twigs, dug up some of the fennel that had gone to seed and saved some of the flowers to dry out and sow next year. The afternoon turned out sunny and warm. The garlic bulbs I planted have started to break through already.

The composting is coming along nicely in all the bins. I have put quite of bit of material in them recently (thank you one and all for your donations!). I have acquired some sweet mini pepper seeds to dry out which hopefully will grow next year, as this year has been a washout re the peppers. Maybe I should grow them outside and not in the greenhouse.

Thursday - no gardening today but I was up early and the back garden was bathed in a silvery morning moonlight from the full moon. It probably would have helped if I'd had my glasses on but it still looked spectacular even in myopic soft focus. And then an hour later the sun was shining on my neighbour's tree, setting it on fire (figuratively not literally, thankfully!).

Saturday - wild out there today! I turned the pond pump off because the pump needs to be higher in the water this time of year so that it doesn't pump away the warm water at the bottom of the pond where the fish winter. Plus, if it freezes when I'm not around it can not only damage the pump but any water left in the hose can freeze. So, if the water is pumped out of the pond and the hose is frozen the water will be leaving the pond but not going back into it...worse case scenario is we could end up losing the fish.

Quite a busy morning in the garden. I de-headed the lilies and there is another flower waiting to bloom

Also, tiny red buds have formed at the base of the upper leaves (above). One raspberry has grown - very tasty, thank you, a clematis is in flower for the third time this year

and the hellebores are still going strong.

This is some of the delphinium black knight that appear settled in their new position

and this is a pic of the inside of the red flower in the cottage garden that I still can't remember the name of!

I finally emptied the chilli and pepper pots in the greenhouse, cut back the dahlia I'd grown in a pot that had taken all summer to flower and mulched it for over-wintering. Last year I dug up the tubers and stored them but it wasn't successful. The freesias are doing well,

there's another bud on the rose (plus a bonus view up the garden)

and, I don't know if you remember, but I sowed some apple seeds a few weeks ago as an experiment. Well, look at this!

Finally, I got round to planting most of the plant delivery I received week before last. I planted one borage tuber in a pot for the potted herb garden and the other two at the top of the garden amongst the fruit bushes and lemon balm. I have the echinacea and lily of the valley in pots for the winter as I'm not sure where I want to put them yet. I gave half of the giant alliums and some of the lily of the valley to a friend in exchange for jam jars for my chutneys and jams. All I have left to do now is put the giant alliums in the garden and the 36 ground cover plugs. Phew...I think I'll do that next week!

And finally, the amaryllis...I've created a monster!
Watched Countryfile this evening and although more rain is forecast for next week, it looks like we could escape most of it here...so no excuse for not getting the ground cover plants planted! Have a good week, catch up next Sunday.

22 November 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - Where Did I Put My Wellies?

Well, it's been a bit of a washout this week in the garden. We had storm Abigail at the tail end of last week and then storm Barney this week. Thankfully the garden survived Abigail but the high winds of storm Barney tore off some of the cd's I'd rigged up as a heron deterrent around the pond. The storm was due to hit Tuesday afternoon so I was up early before work to check that there wasn't anything that could be blown away or cause damage as winds up to 70mph were forecast. Thankfully, there was no damage from either storm and, amazingly, not only were the lilies still standing, but still have most of their petals.

The fish appear to be enjoying a full pond of water to swim around in. The water, at the moment, is at the highest level I've seen it since last winter. Lovely and clear though.

In a way it's not been too much of a disappointment that the weather has stopped play this week as I've been busy with other things and wouldn't have been able to get out there much anyway. And, isn't it always the way when you're busy? Late on Monday my delivery of plants arrived...at the beginning of a week when there was no time to plant them out! I unpacked them all, misted them with water and left them in the shed for the time being; I'll have to plant them out it next week.

The delivery included one Viburnum Kilimanjaro which is going in the front garden where the large hydrangea used to be, three Anchusa Loddon Royal (borage - and good for bees), two of these will be planted with the lemon balm at the top of the garden near the fruit bushes and the other will be planted in a pot near the house, 20 giant allium bulbs, as if I didn't have enough already, but they were free. I did say I didn't want them when I placed the order but apparently I didn't have a choice in the matter. As soon as the order is placed, computer says you're having them! 30 ground cover which will be planted in both the front and back gardens - three each of Dianthus Deltoides, Sedum Kamshaticum, Helianthemum, Campanula Carpatica, Sedum Spureum, Thymus, Gypsophilla Pink, dwarf Asters, Campanula Carpatica Alba and Cerasticum. I also have a an unnamed bag of something which could either be Echinacea or Lily of the Valley...no doubt I'll find out in due course.

All the food in the robin feeder had disappeared by Tuesday morning and as I haven't actually seen any robins I suspect the squirrels have been having a good feed. Probably payback for me taking one of their walnuts! I need to go to the garden centre and get a squirrel-proof feeder. And I still haven't cleared the pepper and chilli plants from the greenhouse - there's just not enough hours in the day. I did move the ginger plant outside though, as it looks likes it's dying off, or maybe it's supposed to in the winter.

Thursday - and it's been hammering it down for most of the day. It stopped around mid-afternoon so I went out in the garden to feed the fish and to have a check on everything. The blackcurrant bush has buds on it:

this allium has grown since Tuesday:

I've been waiting for this to flower all summer in the cottage garden:

and these daffodils were not here last weekend!

Friday - and the balance of my plant delivery arrived - Lily of the Valley bulbs - so the unknown pack of bulbs I received on Monday is now confirmed as Echinacea. It's turned very cold today so I didn't feed the fish as their digestion slows down in cold weather plus they were hiding in the warmer water at the bottom of the pond. I turned off the pond pump just in case the weather turned cold enough overnight to freeze.  I have made a note of the time I switched it off (17.15) and I will have to switch it back on at the same time when the weather warms as it is on a timer and I want to keep the same timings. I also put a plastic disc on the water, this is because if it gets cold enough to freeze, the water underneath the disc won't and it will help to keep the pond oxygenated.

Sunday - the pot of lilies had blown over so I righted that and had a look around the garden and noticed that the majority of the flowers in bloom are all yellow! Due to the high winds small twigs and leaves have fallen through the netting into the pond. I didn't have time to clear it today so I'll have to do it as soon as I can next week. Pulled up some leeks for lunch which were very tasty in a home made cheese sauce!

Very disappointed with the amaryllis...it's all leaves and no stalk!

Well, that's it for this week. Have plans for next week: weather permitting, looks like it's going to warm up enough to plant out the new arrivals. Have a good week and catch up next weekend.



15 November 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - Flowers Play a Big Part in our Lives

It's been a thought-provoking weekend after the horrific events in Paris on Friday evening. How, frighteningly, life can change in an instant. Loved ones needlessly taken away in cowardly acts. As I walked round the garden on Saturday morning, and watched the news reports over the weekend, it struck me just how big a part flowers play in our lives. I tried to download a picture of a field of blue, white and red poppies but, I'm sorry to say, my technical abilities failed me.

Anyway, previous to Friday I hope you all had a good week. Busy one for me but unfortunately not all of it garden-related. The weather has been mild again, although it did turn chilly towards the end of the week for a while. But mainly it's been more of rain and high winds. 

It's been a bit limited on the jobs done front this week but I have, finally, tidied the shed again (yes, this is tidy!).

I sorted through all the seeds I've collected throughout the year to make sure they haven't rotted. I then cleaned the dead leaves and twigs off the seeds that I've been drying, put them in envelopes and labelled them. The stored beetroot was starting to go a bit soft so I have cooked and pickled it. The carrots and parsnips were also starting to get a bit soft and they were turned into delicious vegetable soup. The new potatoes are still ok, albeit they are sprouting but definitely still firm and edible. Apart from one cooking apple which has rotted, the others are storing well. So all in all I'm happy.

I raked the fallen leaves off the lawn. Probably not the best of timings as the next day we had 50 mile an hour winds and I had to do it all again! I collected them up and piled them in a sheltered corner of the garden for creatures to over-winter in. Him indoors cleaned out the blue tit box and I put the old nesting material in the leaves to make it more comfortable to hibernate in. The bird box is now cleaned inside and out and hanging up again minus the indignant spider who was squatting in it. The other two bird boxes were checked but hadn't been nested in. Hopefully they will next year.

Him indoors fixed a couple of loose panes in the greenhouse then reset the pond pump timer as it hasn't been changed since the clocks went back so it was coming on an hour earlier. He reduced the time it's on as the pond is looking healthy and he also cleared some of the aerating plant weed. We have a surplus of it this year. Last year I kept over-zealously buying it to help with the oxygen levels in the pond but it didn't appear to grow and I thought the fish were eating it. Well, this year it has all grown! I popped in to the local pond shop to buy some wheatgerm-based fish food for the winter and also to see if we need to keep the pump on during the winter or not. It's not really clear cut. The pump can be left on or it can be switched off. That's helpful (sarcasm). If it's switched off it needs to be lifted out of the pond and if it stays switched on then it needs to be switched off if frost is imminent. Anyway, the fishlings like their new food and are growing up quickly. They are now 4-5 inches long...I'm not surprised with the amount they eat!

There are more blossomings and new growth this week. This viburnum came into flower on Monday
and this bulb broke through on Tuesday:

Typically, I can't remember what it is though I'm sure I'll find out soon. Do you remember a couple of months ago I rescued a some trays of neglected carrot seedlings from a well known DIY and garden centre? Well look at them now, picking themselves up and looking healthy

and the blackcurrant sage has come into flower again, and this is the primula that was in bud last week:

And I'm pleased, and amazed, that the lilies have survived the high winds.

I went to a different garden centre today and kept the promise I made myself not to buy any more plants. And I did keep that promise. Instead of plants I bought a robin feeder and robin food. I hadn't realised that robins feed off the ground. The feeder is made of fine mesh and stands on a small frame. The food sits about an inch or so off the ground so it doesn't get soggy. I hope the squirrels don't find it.

Thursday night into Friday morning was wild with heavy rain and strong, gusting winds. Just after sunrise we had a squall that sounded like small pebbles being thrown against the back windows whilst out the front...the sun was shining!  At least the rain has washed the seagull deposits off the car!

Well, that's all for this week except today I made the most of some of the garden produce - duck (not garden produce!) with a blackberry jus (or sauce to most of us) followed by blackberry and apple crumble (with cinnamon and mixed spice) with custard and..yep, naughty...double cream. Fasting day tomorrow!



8 November 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - A Bit of a Soggy Week

Hi everyone,

I hope you had a safe November 5th and it wasn't a total washout.

Monday - thick fog this morning as with most of the country. It finally cleared mid afternoon after a dull day. I weeded the cottage garden as it's not only the perennials and shrubs that are having a new lease of life...the weeds are joining in as well. I then planted the sage I was given last week, I've put it next to the lemon balm in the top bed.  Next on the list was to make a couple of mini hibernaculums. And what are they, I hear you ask. Frog pots, I reply. Basically, they are small flower pots packed with fallen leaves then half buried in the garden in a north facing position, providing a safe haven for frogs, and I presume toads, during the winter.

I decided to use the fallen leaves on the lawn (surprising how many leaves it takes to fill a small-ish flower pot). Anyway, as I was collecting them all up I came across something hard. When I looked it was a walnut shell. Strange. We don't have a walnut tree in the garden and neither do our neighbours. All I can think of is perhaps a squirrel dropped it whilst passing through. If he'd like to bring a few more, it will save me buying some for Christmas!

Watered the plants in the greenhouse today. In hindsight (yet again) I would have left them in the garden for a few more weeks if I'd known it was going to stay so mild.

Once again the weather has not been good for gardening - raining and windy. But despite this, on Wednesday morning I was greeted with this lovely sight:

Unfortunately, after a couple of days of very windy weather it was looking a bit worse for wear, a case of nature giveth then taketh away. But this weekend nature giveth again as the lily in the cottage garden is still going strong:

Saturday was a washout for most of the day. I think him indoors either needs to build an ark or put the house on stilts!

Sunday - and the first day this week that's started dry, albeit damp and with low, grey cloud. But very warm. Gardening in just a t-shirt (well, not just a t-shirt) for part of the day in November!! After crumpets and honey for breakfast, him indoors went upstairs to finish painting the spare room and I had a stroll round the estate. The pond water is high, almost to the top of the pump and the aerating weed needs to be thinned out.

A few of the greenhouse plants are doing rather too well, like the sweet (triffid) peas:

The azalea and pineapple salvia cuttings are coming on nicely:

Now to the olive tree. In the last few days the tiny green pods that have been on the tree for a few weeks are now starting to turn purple - exciting as this is the first year this has happened:

The hot lips salvia and lantana huff appear happy and productive:

But the gingko definitely is not. I can't remember if it shed it's leaves last year or whether it's just not happy in its current position.

Outside, and to the freesia bulbs. I planted these in the spring, tended them all summer and nothing, not a sign of growth. So for the past few weeks I've ignored them, thinking that hopefully they will start to grow next spring. Well, guess what? Now they are starting to grow:

Also, coming into flower for the first time this year is the pot buddleia:

And, just flowering in the last couple days, this clematis:
And a primula bud waiting to burst open:

I planted the first batch of garlic bulbs in a large trough. Last year's crop was a disappointment as I lost it to garlic rust and had to pull them all up in case it spread to the onions and leeks. Incidentally, the latter are doing great although the fennel is starting to run to seed. I need to eat more of it.

I'm hoping that my order for shade-loving plants and the shrub to replace the hydrangea we dug up from the front garden will be arriving soon. More plants? I hear you cry. They are for one of my new projects, to be revealed at a later date.

I took a box of grass cuttings, leaves and garden waste out to the large composter. Him indoors has put in a solid walkway to it now, so I don't have to hack my way through the undergrowth Bear Grylls style. It appears to be composting down well, as do the other compost bins. I'll leave it all over winter and empty them out in the spring.

The amaryllis appears to be all leaves and no stalk which is disappointing:

And I'll leave you with this unplanned picture of my left boot!

According to the weather forecast we are in for some gale force winds over the next couple of days (there's a surprise!) so I've checked the garden and secured and fastened down where necessary.

I hope you have a good week and manage to find some quality gardening time.