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.



1 November 2015

Dorset Garden Diary - Guess the Season!

Greetings from a warm, balmy (and often barmy) autumnal Dorset. It's been a mixed week of weather - sun, heavy rain and gales. But warm, t-shirt warm

Monday - I started the week by checking everything after being away. The amaryllis has produced a side shoot,

the flowers on the pineapple sage are not now hanging down but are horizontal, and in the background in the chrysanthemum that I rescued which is repaying me by flowering well.

The sweet peas have grown well and I have re-potted them into tall, biodegradable pots and put them in the greenhouse (7 out of 9 have sprouted).

I watched the previous Friday's Gardeners' World (last one, unfortunately). Carol Klein had a good tip for releasing stubborn pollen from flowers to help pollenate other flowers...use an electric toothbrush! Apparently, when held against the flower the vibration dislodges the pollen. I will give this a try next year with the cucumber and gherkin flowers because, as you know, there were plenty of flowers but not much vegetable growth. Monty said it's a good time to feed rhubarb and mulch them, but don't put it over the crowns. I'm not sure what's happened to my rhubarb. I planted three crowns last autumn and, apart from a couple of leaves on one of them earlier in the year, nothing. To be honest, I'm not even sure exactly where they are apart from being on the left hand side of the back bed. He also said that his squash didn't do well which is good news for me because neither did mine; at least I know it wasn't something I was or wasn't doing. Also, I was pleased to see that he has left his dahlias to carry on flowering (like me) and not dug them up yet.

Jobs for the winter were:- to either collect fallen leaves, put them in a bag with holes and leave over the winter to rot down as leaf mould is brilliant for the garden, or they can be put straight onto the soil which is what I'll do; go through all the seeds collected during the summer, check their condition, sieve out all the dead leaves and stalks and store in paper bags, envelopes or glass jars until time to sow; and clean and oil all gardening tools...who you gonna call? Yep, that's right - him indoors!

Tuesday - today was a washout.

Heavy rain and high winds all day, we even had local flood warnings. So, it was indoor activities today. I checked the stored carrots and parsnips and they were starting to go soft so I made batch of vegetable soup in the slo-cooker then froze it for cold winter days. The way the weather is at the moment it will still be there next Spring.

Wednesday -gorgeous sunny day. Went out early to feed the fish and it felt like summer. When I put the fish food back in the pottering shed I noticed (well, I have noticed before but chose not to) the state of the inside. You know I tidied it up? Well...

So that will be a job in the winter. Visited a friend at lunchtime armed with both my laptops (he's good at technical) and some garden produce:- leeks, fennel, chillies, jam and chutney. And cake (not from the garden). Two hours later the laptops were sorted, we'd had a stroll round, or rather a hike up his garden (it's on a steep hill) and I came away with some fragrant sage cuttings and a bag of cooking apples. A fair exchange.

Thursday - heavy rain and high winds again all morning. I picked all the chillies and made chilli jam. All I will say is phew...fiery, but very, very tasty. Managed to get out in the garden in the afternoon,  the heavy rain had broken some of the flower stems which is a shame. I went round the garden repairing and deadheading. A couple of weeks ago when I cleaned the inside of the greenhouse I taped some polythene over a gap in the glass (just in case it gets frosty - hah!), it has been so windy this week the plastic has blown off.

Sunday - today started misty, cloudy and damp. I fed the fish (the pond is looking exceptionally good, the water crystal clear)

and then had a stroll round the estate. The garden smells of wet soil and leaves...lovely. And there's no wind, nothing is moving. The green manure is doing well,

the rose has another bud on it, the dahlia from last year has, at last, produced it's one and only flower so far this year,

and look at the sweet peas - I'm sure they're not supposed to be this big this time of year, they don't get planted out until the Spring.

The raspberries canes are fruiting again and so is the clematis,

and a buddleia cutting I'd planted

One of the lionheart lilies in the cottage garden has come into bloom, isn't it lovely, although the lilies
in the pots are still just in bud.
Look how tall the amaryllis has grown, it's now 14 inches and going strong, with sideshoot.
I will be watching Countryfile this evening to see what the weather will be next week - perfect for gardening, I hope.  I was just thinking, I should have mentioned Halloween but nothing spooky has happened...then my computer suddenly shut itself down! Please remember to check your bonfires for sheltering hedgehogs and other creatures before you light them on Thursday. Have a good week and catch up next weekend.