Friday, 31 July 2009

(a late) Thursdays favourite plant

Melianthus major (aka honey bush)

picture via gardeners world

Now I'm afraid to say I bought a small one of these last year in late summer but I failed to protect it early enough from the frost and snow, thus I was found guilty of accidental plant-slaughter. I almost bought one yesterday at Hill House Nursery on my way back from the Totnes show, but decided that as they were quite small they might not establish enough before it gets cold. Also and in a rare moment of restraint I thought that I have enough plants waiting for homes in the garden that a melianthus would just get caught up in the backlog (although it didn't stop me buying a Japanese anemone.)

These half hardy plants are mainly grown for their lush foliage which is a glaucus (bluey-grey) colour, with a sort of waxy texture that holds water droplets like sparkles. It also has a curious smell to it which reminds me of my grandads shed, It smells like fishermens friends (cough sweets) and pipe tobacco. They do also flower and produce huge amounts of nectar (hence honey bush). But for me I'm interested in the foliage that will look stunning with dark flowers and my new dark grass (that's siting waiting to be planted.) So I think I'll wait until next spring until I get one.
You can find more info about them here, here and here

Trying to be helpful.

I've added some bits and bobs to my sidebar over there ->

Jobs to do each month (mainly for my own use) and plants that are in there prime each month.

I'll be back later on with a late Thursday fave. I've got builders in my garden fixing the roof and I need to keep an eye on them in case the break any of the plants on the Courtyard.

Saturday, 25 July 2009


I'd really like some of these cute plant labels, to label my herbs with.

But I'm not sure I could trust the under-gardener not to pull them out and chew them.

There is a lovely little shop in totnes called inspired buys that sells them or they've got them here.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Thursdays favourite plant


What could be more beautiful than a lily?

I have no idea what the first two are called as I bought the bulbs last autumn and forgot to label them but the third one is an Asiatic lily called black pearl. I have a thing for dark plants (that I'll take about at a later date) and a thing for pirates so that one really appealed to me. Black pearl hasn't really got any fragrance worth talking about but the other two smell heavenly. I grow lilies in pots on my courtyard, my kitchen door opens out to them and the smell drifts into the house (I can smell them right now mmmmmm). I'm still waiting on a couple more plants to flower a huge white one and a delicate pink one.

Lilies are really easy to grow they just need good drainage and if you plant them in autumn some frost protection. They should come back year after year and you can propagate more by carefully digging up the bulbs and replanting all the little baby bulbs you'll find around the edge of the mother bulb. You might have to wait a few years for the babies to fatten up enough to flower but they will be worth the wait.
Also watch out for the evil lily beetle that will eat the leaves and prevent flowering.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Hello my name is Jess and I'm a plantaholic!

I love plant shopping in particular buying them from small family run nurseries, garden gates and village fetes. Last week I went to one of my favourite fetes where without a doubt is the best plant stall I've ever seen. About 5 tables laden with plants that have started life as cuttings and seedlings from peoples gardens. I think the lovely lady who runs the stall actually provides all the plants herself. It always has a real eclectic mix of things some of which you'd be hard pressed to find in some of the big garden centre chains.

Now sorry but I neglected to take a photo of the stall before the fete started(wished I had) because the act of buying is planned like a military operation.
So we get to the fete about 1/2 hour before it starts and eat our picnic on the village green while keeping an eye on whats being put on the table, then we (me mum and the kids) wonder over to the tables and cast a closer eye over the plants making a mental list of what we want. As soon as the fete is declared open I position my niece and nephew at strategic points and start putting the things I want by their feet, mum will keep shouting over to me saying "whats this", "how big will this get" or "can i plant this with such and such". When I'm happy I got what I want I add up my total and hand over my pennies (all proceeds go to the village hall and church).

Now the reason for the organised operation is the fact that it can turn into a bit of a scrum and fights have been known to break out (mainly between my mother and me) so planning (and small children) is key. Husband then takes my babies back to the car rolling his eyes and muttering. I do of course go back a few more times to check I haven't missed anything.

So this is my haul

So I think this is pretty modest for me. If you interested I bought:
Verbascum, persicara, sweet cicley, saxifraga, 3 different hardy geraniums, acanthus and a houseplant but I lost the label. All off that cost me under 8 pounds.
These little chaps will have to sit around till the autumn when I dig up my herbaceous border and give it a major overhaul. But I'll keep them well watered and fed and I'm pretty sure there will be more plants joining them waiting for planting soon.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Thursdays favourite plant


In the past I've never been to fussy about having dahlias but the last 2 years I've fallen head over heels for them. Now I must admit last years efforts were a bit rubbish. I didn't stake them, they got slug and earwig damage and the tubers/plants I picked weren't as good looking as the pictures on the packets. But that's one of the things I love most about gardening, there is always something to learn.
So this year I bought 1 tuber Black Narcissi (and a stack of lilies).

So I've learnt that if you plant them in march in a container of compost somewhere warm like a greenhouse or shed they will come up quicker and stronger, and you can take stem cutting to increase you stock (I didn't get round to that).
Plant them out when the frost are safely behind you, and don't forget to stake them with some twigs or canes. I managed to keep the slugs away but as you can see an earwig has had a little nibble. I remember my grandad (who used to grow them on the edge of his allotment) using a plant pot stuffed with straw stuck up on a cane to catch the earwigs. They'd hide in there during the day and could be easily dispatched with.

The next thing is what to do during the winter. You can either wait for the frosts to blacken off the stems. Then dig them up hang the rootstock upside down to let any moisture drain away, then store them somewhere frost free and warm (spare room, shed, kitchen cupboard!!!) in a pot of damp sand or old compost, till next spring. Or you can leave them in the ground but give them a really thick mulch to protect the from frost. If you live in the south I'd say leaving them in the ground would be fine but if you live further up north I'd dig them up.

Next year I'll grow a lot more for cut flowers and plant them around the edges of my veg patch (if I have room).

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

small but perfectly formed

I've been late (and small scale) with the veg this year due to giving up my allotment in favour of a slice of my mums huge garden. So I'm really pleased with my modest haul from the containers on my courtyard.

I tried growing spuds in an old compost bag, unfortunately it didn't quite go to plan. It fell over a few times and the rain broke all of the stems so 6 spuds is a bit rubbish, but they tasted delicious. They're Red duke of York and I thoroughly recommend them. I planted a huge sack at my veg plot (I used the 3 leftover in the compost bag) to help turn some of the ground over and they're doing really well, although red potatoes in red clay soil are a bit tricky to spot.

70s suntan lotion

Check out this funky looking thing. Its called Hymenocallis harrisiana (peruvian daffodil). I bought it in my bulb buying frenzy in February on a whim. I actually thought I killed it until I saw some green poking through the compost last month, then I forgot all about it and found it when tiding up he pots on the courtyard with a tiny flower bud on it. I was told it smells like 70s style suntan lotion (coco-nutty), and it seriously does.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Cottage gardens (part 1)

I've spent the last few hours browsing pictures of cottage gardens on the net trying to find one that appeals to me most, because I think everyone has an image in their mind of that quintessentially English rural cottage garden. Its been difficult to find one that ticks all my boxes, I can't even use a picture of my own (I'm having issues that I'll save for another day). Cottage gardens can be one of the most difficult gardens to get right. I think it stems from what we imagine them to look like, they have a real nostalgia, a romantic glimpse of an age that's disappeared and trying to recreate one that fits that image in our minds (and hearts) can be difficult to pull together (or maybe that's just me).
So I've decided to not show a picture of a cottage garden.

The original true cottage gardens were more about function than form. They were productive patches growing vegetables, herbs, fruit and livestock. Flowers weren't really high on the agenda. The local gentry had the flowery gardens, seed from these would creep in to the cottagers plots on the wind or by birds. Its the wealthy landowners gardens that our idea of the cottage garden comes from.
There was a brief trend in the 18th century for aristocrats to create cottage ornees (fake cottages) so they could sample the quaint country life of their hard up tenants.

Cottage gardens were revived in the late 19th century by the arts and crafts movement probably as a back lash to the formal styles of the Victorians with their love of huge displays of bright carpet bedding.
One of the most influential designers was the incredible Gertrude Jekyll who teamed up with the architect Edwin Lutyens to create some of the most beautiful planting schemes ever seen.

Other notable (really really good) examples of gardeners and gardens include Vita Sackville-west at Sissinghurst, Beth Chatto and the late great Christopher Lloyds Great Dixter

So, history lesson over.

Oh go on here's a picture

This is the Chelsea Pensioners Garden From RHS Chelsea 2005 (the year I was there)

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Thursdays favourite plants

This is Hemerocallis "summer wine"

Isn't is gorgeous. They're commonly called day lilies because each flower lasts for a single day, although don't let that put you off because they produce lots of beautiful flowers, so you get a new one each day in late June/July. These perennials can happily grow in borders or large containers and come back year after year and get bigger and bigger, so they can be divided in spring or autumn and give you more plants. You can also eat the flower buds I'm told, but I've never tried. I wouldn't want to miss out on the flowers.
They are best grown in a sunny spot but are quite happy in heavy clay soils or moist soil.

Allium sphaerocephalon (round headed leek or drumstick allium)

Now I know there are some spectacular alliums out there like christophii or the huge giganteum and in comparsion this one might seem a bit small and humble, but I would always pick it over its more showy brothers and sisters. Firstly its really inexpensive compared to most alliums and you get more bang for your buck, a pack of 20 costs less than a single giant variety. Secondly they look amazing planted on mass and because the flowers are more lightweight the don't need supporting. Thirdly bees and butterflies love them.
I love the way when the flower first forms its totally green and the purple colour starts at the top and kind of bleeds down and you get a two tone effect.
These are so easy to grow, plant them in the autumn about as deep as the bulb is big. once in the ground they will come back year after year. They look stunning planted with grasses or just drifting through herbaceous plants. If your a fan of Prairie style gardens this bulb is essential.

Lastly (and I should have posted this earlier because they've gone over now)

Digitalis (Foxgloves)

To me no cottage or wildlife garden is complete with a few foxgloves (or hedge, bank, roadside verge and woodland) They're wonderful they add height stature and a dash of the English countryside. They are a biennial plant so now is about the right time to sow seeds for next years flowers. You can either scatter a packet in a seed tray and prick out and pot on the seedlings when they are big enough to handle or just throw a handful of seeds in your flower bed.
there are so many different varieties and colours to choose from, I love white ones and the native purple one (Digitalis purperea). I've just sown Pams choice to have next year, but this year I had this creamy yellow one

I think it might be called primrose carousel but I can't remember.

Right I'm off out to the garden to will some lily buds to open and see how many potatoes have grown in my potato filled compost bag.

Enjoy the sunshine

jess x

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