Garden design, Grass and lawncare, Plants, Uncategorized

Monkeying around…

I’m really quite pleased with this weekend’s main gardening project – moving my monkey puzzle tree.

Actually I’m really quite pleased to have been in the garden at all – it’s been ages.  Pre-Christmas, Christmas and post-Christmas did not leave much time to get outside and tackle winter gardening jobs, and when there was a bit of spare time the ground was so hard and frosted there wasn’t much point!

So now that we’re back to school/work and in the regular routine, I spent a few hours on my non-working days in the greenhouse and the front garden.  It was so good to get my hands dirty again.  As well as sowing a few seeds in the greenhouse and my new propagator – see below, isn’t she pretty…?

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This was an early birthday present to myself – a bargain in the Black Friday sales.  It’s currently warming up some astrantia and echinacea seeds – fingers crossed it will do the trick.

Anyway, back to the monkey puzzle.  Moving it is Step 1 of my grand plan for the front garden, which I am attempting to totally redesign.  Previously shrubby and a bit, well, boring, I have already begun removing the most dull/old/overgrown shrubs and last year managed to introduce a few perennials.  This year I will be moving a few plants around, and planting as many perennials as I can get my hands on.   More on the Grand Plan in a later post – back to Step 1.

I wanted to move the monkey puzzle as I had put it to the front corner of the garden after we moved in here.  We acquired it when my youngest daughter was just a few days old so it’s almost 8 now.  It’s done fine and is gradually getting bigger (they grow very slowly for the first 5-10 years) but the branches are growing towards one direction, a bit like arms which are stretching towards you for a hug…but this would be a very bad idea as it’s incredibly prickly.  I think this is because the trees behind are shading it and it’s been growing in the direction it gets most sunlight (west).  So I’m hoping that moving it into the middle will enable it to get a more even tan, so to speak, and might help it to rebalance its direction of growth.

I was a bit nervous about moving a tree which is about seven years old and had been in its current position for about three years, but when I came across Rachel the Gardeners post on this here I was reassured that, with a bit of care, it should survive the transplanting process.  So I dug carefully around it, lifted it with as many roots intact as possible and replaced it into the nice deep hole I dug in the centre* of the front garden.

*Please note my entirely UNscientific method of measuring the centre: pace lengthways across the garden and pace the breadth.  Then take half the number of paces each way and you’re in the middle.  Simples.  I don’t really do measuring.

Et voila – one replanted monkey puzzle tree.

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I really like it there – it seems to change the whole nature of the front garden.  I guess it’s the addition of a focal point.  So I’m hoping that I can nurture it into its new home and that it will continue to grow and thrive, and that in years to come I can give people directions to my home by telling them ‘we’re the first house as you enter the village – you can’t miss us as there’s a massive monkey puzzle tree slap bang in the middle of the front garden.’

Now for the botanical bit…

Monkey puzzle (Araucaria araucana) originates in Chile, South America and came to Britain in the 1800s.  Its common name derives from this time, when it was very rare to see one.  Apparently Sir William Molesworth, who owned a young specimen at Pencarrow garden in Cornwall was showing it to a friend who remarked “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that”.  The name has stuck – as has the novelty of seeing one in someone’s garden and my own children frequently enjoying shouting ‘MONKEY PUZZLE’ at the top of their voices when we pass one.

Trees can grow more than 12 metres tall, although it will take at least 20 years for it to reach its full height.  They usually bear either male or female cones, although it won’t produce seeds until it is at least 30-40 years old.  It’s thought they can live up to 1000 years.

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flowers, Plants, Pots and containers, Uncategorized

Bittersweet peas

I’m having a love/hate relationship with sweet peas.

Actually that’s not strictly true – I love them really, but I hate the way they make me sneeze.  I’m growing lots of different varieties this year and although it’s now September and Autumn is definitely peeking its head round the corner, they’re still going strong in my garden.  So I’m bringing in bunches of them every few days – but the pollen is definitely exacerbating my allergies and every morning when I wake up I explode a number of times and end up looking like I’ve been crying for a week.  But that scent though…

I nabbed some photos of the main offenders this morning to ‘review’ the varieties I’ve been growing this year.  Way back in March I treated myself to a window propagator from Marshalls like this one, which came with a selection of new varieties of sweet pea seeds.   I grew a few of each in two batches, one of which was quite late and I guess that’s why I’m still picking them mid-September.

The prize for the most prolific goes to…Little Red Riding Hood:

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This one has been covered in flowers for a number of weeks and is really bright and cheery.  There are so many that I’ve never yet managed to take off every flower with each picking – I’d run out of vases!  The stems are on the short side but if you don’t mind that, this flower just gives and gives the whole season.

The prize for the prettiest colour goes to…Erewhon:

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This flower is such a delicate blue-purple with just a hint of pink.  It’s really gorgeous and very subtle.  Can you spot the aphid in the photo above by the way??

Which brings me to – the prize for the most covered in aphids goes to…Cream Eggs:

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These are also a really pretty colour, with delicate purple veining inside and around the edges, and they smell beautiful.  However, I’ve been chasing aphids off the buds and flowers for several weeks – they hide inside the folds of the flower until you bring them inside and then invade your house too – grrr.

The prize for the most dramatic flower goes to…Berry Kiss: DSC_0618

This has produced lovely deep pink and purple flowers, although these tend to fade quicker and can look a bit tatty after rain.

And the prize for the purest, ruffliest sweet pea goes to…Misty Mountains:

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This mix also has dark and paler purple flowers in it, but I’ve been most struck by the white ones, which look like they’ve fallen straight off an Elizabethan gentleman’s shirt sleeves.  Lovely.

However my favourite sweet pea for this season is a bit of a wild card – it’s a dwarf variety which I planted into a blue pot and set by the front door.  Although it didn’t last as long as the rest, the colour was magical – it’s Northern Lights:

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What a beauty.  The plant has finished flowering but I’ve kept it aside in the hope of keeping some of the seed to sow more next year.

So there you have it, my sweet pea selection.  I’m off to take another antihistamine and enjoy more of one of my favourite flowers in the garden…

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flowers, Garden design, Plants, Uncategorized

An epiphany…

Looking around the mix of various shrubs, trees, annuals and perennials in the front garden I often become frustrated by its lack of consistency and theme.  Many of the mature plants were there when we moved in and I have enjoyed acquiring many more shrubs and perennials over the past couple of years and filling the gaps, but I’m not sure the gaps are being filled very effectively.

More planning is needed, and a better design.  This is still in the early stages, and I have ideas for widening the borders, removing some shrubs and transplanting others.  But I’ve also had an epiphany – as I view what’s already there in the borders I realise that cottage garden planting is dominant.  There are lots of roses already, along with established Philadelphus and I’ve added hollyhocks, geums, echinacea, lavender, alliums, dahlia and quite a number of other herbaceous perennials which could definitely or loosely be termed ‘cottage garden plants’.

So – I’m excited!  I have a theme.  I have a shortlist.  I have parameters for this area and this will help curb my enthusiasm for buying every plant I fall in love with (most of them) and allow me to be more selective, choosing varieties and colours which will fit in with the existing planting and blend into the blousy, loose and colourful mix that’s already there.  I will add some structure, and I’m not afraid to break the rules a bit, but I have a vision now for what the front garden could be, and I’m really looking forward to creating it.

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flowers, Garden design, Grow Your Own, Plants, Raised Beds, Secret Garden, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Planning…

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It’s time to get planning.  For the past few weeks and months, a lot of ideas, plans and wish lists have been floating about in my head or, when possible, noted on my phone (Notes, Reminders and Evernote are the gardener’s friends for recording these on-the-go).  I’ve also sorted through the seeds I have left from last year as well as ordering a few to sow this year.  Now the moment has come to commit these to paper and decide when to plant it all and where to put it all.

I’ve made use of this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch year planner and made myself a visual guide – each packet’s been placed on the month which is the earliest they can be planted. If I follow the plan exactly, the next couple of months are going to be busy!  However, I suspect the timings will be very much dependent on climate and opportunity.  I hope that I’ll get a few peas (sweet and savoury) off to a start in the greenhouse by the end of this month, however where we are (East Scotland) it may be worth waiting until a little later to sow many of these plants, so that by the time they are ready for planting out, the weather will also be ready to welcome them.

Until then, I’ll keep tweaking The Planting Plan and I have some work to do in the front garden – I’ve begun moving a few shrubs to clear various areas for new planting.  I’ve been reading quite a bit about garden design and collecting a few resources to help with this task (more on these in another post) and am looking forward to giving the front beds a serious overhaul.

We’re still in the middle of winter…but Spring is coming!

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flowers, Garden Birds, Garden design, Other Gardens, Plants, Pots and containers

Too busy gardening to blog about gardening!

Which is a good thing, really!  But I have missed writing these updates and sharing the photos and plants which I’ve accumulated in the past couple of weeks.

The weather has, unbelievably, been marvellous – sunny and warm and perfect for getting into the garden and planting out all the seedlings and young plants which have, until now, been crowding the utility/greenhouse, plastic growhouse and my ‘hardening off table’ outside the kitchen door.  Over the past fortnight I’ve planted out marigolds (mostly in the veg garden), cosmos (corner patio), zinnia (in the raised bed with other cut flowers) and filled an enormous hanging basket with lobelia.

The garden’s also filling up with some new additions, thanks to a local church plant sale which was quickly followed by the school summer fair – I managed to pick up about maybe 20 different cuttings and small plants for less than a tenner!  Annoyingly I forgot to photograph them, so I can’t display this triumphant haul, and I have now planted most of them!

They included some crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ which is now in the front borders in between the rhodedendrons to provide some late summer colour.  I’m looking forward to seeing those spring up.  I also picked up some gorgeous little forget-me-nots, which I’ve put into the side patio bed (the plan for this has changed somewhat – but that’s for another post!).    There was a cutting of rosemary, two cornflower plants, some more lobelia and a mystery plant which I’ve put in a pot to see how it will turn out!

I’ve also picked up some new plants at Gardening Scotland – an event in Edinburgh which featured show gardens, plants, floral displays, food and lots and lots of gardening-related equipment for sale.  My mum and I had a great day wandering around and enjoying the sights and scents.  There was a wide variety of plants for sale, most by independent Scottish nurseries, and I found some beautiful, delicate alpines (I love them so much I will also do a separate post on these) and two hydrangea.  I just couldn’t resist the hydrangea, as I have a weakness for these anyway, but also because these were unusual varieties and beautifully coloured.  One is called ‘Popcorn Blue’, basically because it’s blue and looks like popcorn!

So, along with these new additions to the gardening, and thanks to the abundant sunshine, everything is filling out nicely and the garden’s beginning to look properly lush. The nearby trees have obviously filled out and we’re now surrounded by greenery.  I’m spotting young birds visiting frequently and if you pause to listen you can often hear the squeaks and cheeps of a little feathered family nearby.  The starlings are still doing daily raids too – I wonder if they’ll stick around when they’re grown, as we don’t usually get starlings in our garden.

The fruit and veg in the secret garden’s also looking brilliant, but I think this post is long enough and they deserve their own entry!  So, it’s time to get back outside.  I’ll leave you with a few photos of the various plants which are new or are showing off in the garden just now…

 

 

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Chickens, Garden Birds, Garden design, Grow Your Own, Nature & Wildlife, Secret Garden, Vegetables

Catching up…

Well it seems it’s been a busy couple of weeks since I last wrote a post.  Thankfully, part of the reason for that has been some lovely weather – when the sun’s shining I’m not inclined to stay in the house and stare at a computer screen, I want to get outside and garden!

Some updates on what’s happening out there:

Sad news first – the blackbird nest which was in the ivy on the back wall has failed.  I went out one morning about a week ago to discover it was on the ground.  I don’t know what happened, perhaps it simply collapsed, or perhaps a fox or bigger bird came along and attacked.  I investigated briefly using a stick (it was hard to reach!) and couldn’t see any eggs but it was surprisingly solid to try to turn over.  Here’s a photo of Mrs Blackbird which I took literally the day before the nest came down…

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I felt quite sad for the pair – they spent so long building the nest and she’d been sitting in it for a few days before it failed.  However, it seems that this is common with blackbirds as their nests are so open and therefore vulnerable to predators and the elements.  The good news is that I think they are now building another nest inside a large conifer nearby.  Will it be third time lucky?  We’ll have to wait and see.

I have been watering like mad over the past few days.  The sunny and warm weather means the veg beds have been looking parched and the seedlings (cosmos, marigolds and zinnia) which are now outside in the growhouse need a drink almost twice a day!  They’re getting quite large now and I’m hoping to start planting them out in the next few days.

The raised beds are looking good – every one now has a little row or sprig of green appearing, with the peas/carrots/lettuce bed looking the most healthy of all.  I have high hopes for the peas, especially after they did so poorly last year.  The potatoes are now all sprouting, after my worry that they were nowhere to be seen, and even the little leeks are popping up…

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…I noticed these yesterday morning and could have sworn they were about a centimetre bigger by the evening after a day of sunshine and a liberal hosing!

I’m also making a fairly sizeable change in the front garden; I’ve removed a large ceonothus and another unidentified shrub which have been taking over a large section close to the driveway.  I plan to extend the rose bed and perhaps also use the space for bedding and dahlias.  It was a bit of a gamble as they took up quite a lot of room, but the space looks nice and clear now and is another corner to play with, so I’m happy.  Sorry no before/after photos because I forgot to take them!

Lastly, a chicken update: we are now getting three eggs a day, as Iona has joined her two friends and begun laying – hurrah!  She’s also developing her comb and her voice and likes a good cluck when you go into the run or if she thinks something’s amiss.  Perhaps the quietest hen will turn out to be the noisiest?!

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New layer Iona gets extra cuddles from Biggest Daughter 

 

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flowers, Grow Your Own, Plants, Pots and containers, Raised Beds, Vegetables

Sunshine and snow

It has been a week of VERY mixed weather, with the past couple of days seeing glorious sunshine…while little flakes of snow gently drift down from above.  Beautiful but c-c-c-cold.

So I’ve been wrapping up some of my tender plants or bringing in those in pots which I’ve been hardening off, like geraniums and fuschia.  The passiflora I planted up in a lovely blue pot just last week is currently ‘dressed’ in one of my husband’s old t-shirts pinned together with clothes pegs.  And my pea seedlings, which are showing signs of slight frost damage have most recently been protected by a free fleece cover which I got when I  recently bought a little growhouse.

I chose the wrong week to move my seedlings from the utility/greenhouse into their new growhouse (I got it partly for hardening them off and to make watering easier, and partly to get some space back in the utility room!) because I think they’ll be ok inside their little plastic cocoon but I’ve been worrying about them during the snowy days – maybe it’s just too cold for them to be outside??  I’d be frustrated to lose them after spending the last few weeks watching them grow.  But I suppose that’s the joy/despair of gardening! Fingers crossed they are protected enough and will survive this cold snap.

Checking the raised beds in the secret garden, I discovered signs of germination – hurrah!  The purple sprouting broccolli is emerging, along with a few pea shoots and some rocket and lettuce.  I am slightly worried about my potatoes – not a sign yet, although my dad, who planted his just the day before I did, has already got green tops showing.

Back in the main back garden, the blossom on the apple and plum trees is there, tightly wadded up, just waiting for the next warm and sunny day to burst out and really show off.  I love blossom.  One or two little flowers are already emerging – a hint of what’s to come…

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