Six snapshots in the garden to chart the changing seasons
Last weeks Six on Saturday went quite well so I’ve decided to give it another go this week. I’m away from the house so it’s another cheat week from me. The weather has turned chilly and we’re staying at the in-laws’ house in Surrey. The frost in the garden here was too much of a novelty for me so I thought I’d share.
The Six on Saturday meme was started by The Propagator so go and take a look at his weekly post. Also look through the comments to find more blogs joining in.
This Winter Jasmine putting in a good show this time of year but I doubt I’ll ever covet it for my own garden. I find the growth habit odd and for most of the year it’s just wiry stems.
Seed heads of Japanese Anemone. This is a lesson in not clearing away your perennials once they’ve gone to sleep for winter – look what you’ll miss out on!
The same goes for Hydrangeas. Leaving the spent flower heads is supposed to provide some cover against frost but more importantly it keeps interest into the depths of winter.
Frost covered acorns and their husks.
This Azalea is another plant that I probably won’t plant myself but the foliage at this time of year has great colour and the frosting looks great.
Well it is nearly Christmas! I’m getting more interested in conifers and the like. The pale blue needles on this Pine match the chilly morning air. After my morning promenade around the garden my coffee had gone cold and my fingers had chilled. Enjoy the frosty weekend.
I have a week of annual leave with which to make some progress in the garden. The seasonal tasks of cleaning the flagstones and packing away the garden furniture need to be done. It’s not all chores though, I’m also making preparation for next years display in my Garden Update 18th November 2017.
We’eve had some slightly colder weather here in Devon but it’s done nothing to stop the progress of the plot. Aside from the sweet potatoes, which have blackened and retreated, most of the plot is looking great.
My leeks are starting to get some momentum behind them. When they went in they were spindly grass-like plants. I was supposed to wait until they’re pencil-thickness but I’m impatient. They’re doing fine though.
My brassica bed is starting to produce crops and there’s plenty to come over winter by the looks of it. The leaves of the Romanesco and Purple Sprouting Broccoli are looking extremely healthy. I’m sure they benefited from being netted when young.
We’ve been harvesting the Cavelo Nero for weeks and a full handful will do one or two meals (as a side) for the two of us. The plants don’t even look like they’ve been touched after taking just the lower leaves. In the end, I’m expecting to have bare stems as the plant continues to grow up.
The colourful chards are growing well at the front of the allotment and the Pak Choi are looking healthy in the bed that had the legumes this summer.
The greenhouse is taking to its new role as a store for plants over winter. At the beginning of the year, it’s full to capacity with seeds and seedlings. Later on, it becomes home to yet more seeds, seedlings and cuttings. At this time of year, it has tender garden refugees huddling and sheltering together. The chilli plants are getting the benefit of the doubt and coming inside to see if they’ll perform better next year.
I’ve taken Buddleja globosa cuttings which I rooted in water. These are to be given to my cousin who’s creating a new border in their garden.
I’ve taken delivery of some plug plants from J Parkers. Some Verbascum I ordered myself and some bare root Astrantia plants which were a gift.
The Verbascum are a set of three types of Verbascum phoenicum. I have Rosetta, Violetta and Flush of White. Even though I love Verbascum I have a rubbish track record. However, I’ve decided to give them another go.
My lovely gardening aunt bought us some Astrantia major ‘Florence’ to celebrate the birth of our daughter this year. These will eventually go into some pots that are pride of place in the garden and also contain some honeysuckle plants (also gifts).
The action in the garden has been a little dull this week. I’ve pressure-washed all the flagstones to remove 2 years of accumulated algae. They’re now safe to walk on when it’s wet which is a relief. The garden furniture and barbeque have been stored away for winter.
It’s not all chores though. I’ve planted Tulip Dolls Minuet in the front garden troughs and there’s more to go in this week.
I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog and social media for most of October due to competing demands on my time. We’ve have some visitors, a mini-break, and all the usual work and childcare necessities. That’s not to say things have been quiet on the garden and allotment front.
It’s a time of renewal on my allotment. There’s always talk this time of year about putting the garden or allotment to bed for winter. What nonsense. It’s a time for clearing last seasons spent crops and getting the next load in. I may even have all my plot planted for the first time since we broke ground in April. I’ve also nominated myself to the my allotment committee.
The autumn and winter greens are the main crops nearing harvest. I’ve been starting to harvest my Cavelo de Nero leaf by leaf and these are great. The herb bed is still productive and I’ve taken bunches of Rosemary and Bay to dry for use over winter. The New Zealand Spinach has taken over the understory of my herb bed so I’ve made batches of wilted leaves and have them in the freezer for when they’re needed.
The Chard plugs that I planted outside in September have really started shooting up and the stems look amazing when we get some sunlight. The Pink Passion is more of a blood-red but I don’t mind that at all. The Golden Chard is currently 10cm tall so plenty of growth still to come.
I had my order of garlic from Marshalls Seeds arrive this week. Unfortunately 2 out of 12 Elephant Garlic bulbs were starting to rot off. I’ve put them in anyway and we’ll see how they do. The Carcassonne Wight and Provence garlic bulbs were in good condition. Out of 2 bulbs each I got 20 cloves from the Provence and 29 from the Carcassonne Wight.
On a practical front, I’ve been meaning to get some tarpaulin to cover over the turf stacks left over from clearing the site right at the beginning. We had some logs delivered for the house so I bought some cheap ones to get ready for their delivery. Now they’re all stacked in the dry store I can use these at the allotment. This should keep the weeds down and I’m hoping come spring I’ll have some nice topsoil for the beds.
The courgettes were looking miserable, as were the squash plants, after a few wet / cold spells of weather. The climbing beans have done really well but they’ve been left for seed and now cleared away. My early sweetcorn didn’t produce and the later sweetcorn was also badly pollinated. The beds have been cleared, weeded and prepared for the next crop. In place of the courgettes are the Elephant Garlic, and in place of the 3 sisters I have Broad Beans and Peas.
The warm and wet weather in Devon this week has been great for the weeds. I’ve done two tidy-ups at the allotment and managed to fill my large bendy bucket three times. It’s also the end of my tomato adventure for the year.
We were giving some new chairs from a family member and they’re perfect for the allotment. The weather wasn’t that great so we haven’t christened them yet.
The squashes are really enjoying the damp and warm conditions and had spread over the paths. I wasn’t too bothered initially but they’ve got the point that it was hard to reach into the beds for harvesting. They also were concealing a lot of weed growth on the paths.
The module Pak Choi seedlings are doing much better than the directly-sown batch which has been munched to stumps. I think I’ll do more of this transplanting even thought it’s more work overall.
I’ve also installed the Chard seedlings in one of the new beds around the perimeter of the allotment. I’m hoping they’ll give me some fresh greens to each over autumn and into winter.
The Stachys byzantina seeds that I collected have germinated extremely well and very quickly from sowing. They’ve been pricked out and set into their own little module home.
Another sowing that I made from home-collected seed was the Geranium phaem alba. I am the proud owner of one seedling!
The tomato story this year hasn’t been very successful. Blight has struck and the fruits that were threatening to ripen were being munched by slugs before they were harvestable. I’ve taken off all the tomatoes that were salvagable and cleared away the affected plants. The foliage is now in the council green waste bin. I think I’ll use the fresh border for either bringing on perennials over winter or some winter salads.
There’s nothing like an Instagram filter to make even a poor harvest look great.
It’s been a while since I’ve shown what’s happening in the Far Garden. You can see the new boundary shed has a great grey colour that matches the furniture. The chillies are slow in the rectangular planters but I might get a harvest. My new Musa and Echinacea plants are looking awesome.
Yesterday was the first day that I had time to get to the allotment for anything other than harvesting for some time. We had people visiting for the bank holiday weekend so nothing much was achieved in the garden.
Yesterday I spent over an hour at the plot and managed to fill two large bendy buckets with weed growth that’s now been put on the unofficial compost pile. We’re mainly plagued by dandelions and docks persisting as deep tap roots. They’re capable of regrowing after hoeing and have enjoyed the extra rain recently.
I don’t like to leave huge gaps in the beds for two reasons. Firstly, there isn’t much growing area as it is and dedicating space for hoeing seems silly when, secondly, weeds will colonise bare ground as well as between plants which you have to hand weed anyway. I use the hoe on any unused ground that’s waiting for the next crop or where there is space between plants in order to give them room to grow.
The Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato winter squashes have been very prolific in number but I’m struggling to find a good kitchen use for them. Growing something to then have to hide it in food just to use it up seems silly. Roasted pumpkins should be used for roasts, soups and risottos but the bland flavour and silky texture of these leave me a bit disappointed. If I can’t find a use for them that I will look forward to next year then I’m afraid they’re off the plot.
I’m glad to be getting a better carrot and beetroot crop at the allotment. This batch suffered in the early dry spell we had so germination and subsequent growth was slow and poor. I was then too eager to try them so picked some small offerings last month. This lot are more substantial but there’s better to be had. The carrots went into a beef curry and I am plotting what to do with the beetroot. We’re having a picnic tomorrow if the weather holds and I’ve been hoping to make a roasted beetroot, walnut, goats cheese and rocket salad since sowing the seeds earlier this year
We had a bumper picking from the three crops from the allotment I’m monitoring this year on Friday;
Yellow Courgette – 370g
Climbing Bean ‘Cosse Violette’ – 700g
Climbing Bean ‘Trail of Tears’ – 770g
I’ve cleared out most of the pea bed as they’re coming to the end of their productivity and the powdering mildew is making them unsightly. The Peas, mange-tout and broad beans are out. In their place, I’ve planted the Pak Choi seedlings which I started in modules last month. The other side of the bed will have winter lettuce.
The tomatoes continue to be a complete let-down this year. I think I have blight. Initially, I thought it was some cold scorching on the leaves that poke out of the windowless opening in the greenhouse but it’s since spread. I’ve taken some evasive measures to cut away the affected fruits and leaves but it’s fingers crossed for the remainders.
The seedlings of the Chard and winter lettuce are growing well and are soon to be transplanted to the allotment.
For the ornamental side, the Stipa and Stachys seedlings are coming along well. I’m hopeful that my Penstemon cuttings have taken.
The new grey backdrop to the Right Border of the Far Garden is settling in well. I’ve bought some Echinacea Magnus Superb and Musa from Hill House Nursery down the road. I was inspired by my recent visit to Wisley where I had a good look around their Echinacea trials.
This part of the garden has always meant to be an exciting, bright, exotic garden but we’ve never achieved that. The Echiums did well but completely dominated the space so I’m hoping to introduce more exciting plants over winter that will mix well.
I have been triumphantly carrying back the harvest from the allotment this week. I’ve had two good picking sessions. We’ve been munching through two types of climbing beans, two types of mange tout, peas, broad beans, asparagus pea and courgettes.
The amount of veg harvested from the allotment is really exciting. I’m keeping a tally of what I harvest on some of the crops. I haven’t grown the Climbing green bean ‘Trail of Tears’ before so I’m comparing it to ‘Cosse Violette’ which I have grown in the past.
Not only is Trail of Tears a very tasty variety but the amount of harvest is even beating Cosse Violette. I like this variety and think I’ll save some seeds to keep growing it. I’ll still keep Cosse Violette going as it’s such a beautiful plant and still tasty. I’m really impressed with the yellow courgette. I think I’ll not bother growing a green one next year as they tend to be more watery and not as useful in the kitchen. I’m going to try a patty pan type one instead.
It’s not all about the veg. The cut flower patch is getting colourful with some Dahlia, Anemone, Ranunculus and Gladioli.
I’ve given the greenhouse a little spruce to tidy up the various tools and instruments. Instead of taking up valuable work surface space, they are now hanging handsomely on the wall.
The battle to ripen these tomatoes continues but the modules of winter leaves are coming along well.
The neighbours have finished the shed at the back of the garden so we have a secure boundary again. Now comes the challenge of incorporating the change into the look of the garden. I still haven’t decided on whether I am installing a new boundary wall / screen etc.
The Buddleja, Phlox, Japanese Anemone and Nasturtiums are flowering their socks off. The right side of the picture shows the impact shade can have on flowering plants. The overhanging hedge is casting a lot of shade.
It would be nice to be able to say something other than how wet things have been. We’ve had another damp week in Devon (well the green rolling hills don’t get that way without some of the wet stuff).
We’ve been helping to clear out an elderly relative’s home this week so I’ve had a few new additions to the house and garden. It’s nice to re-home plants and items that have been well used and give them some new life. There’s nothing worse than landfill!
The house is now home to more African Violet Plants that need some TLC. A new Moth Orchid, a Maidenhair fern and a Fig plant. We have new (old) terracotta pots and a new (old) trowel and hand fork. I’ve rescued a white Pelargonium and taken some cuttings from it. I hope they all thrive in their new home.
Not much to report from the allotment this week. I haven’t had a great deal of time to get up there as we’ve had family visiting.
Even though light levels haven’t been great and temperatures have cooled, we still have some progress in the greenhouse. The seeds of Geranium phaem ‘alba’ have germinated and I now have one little seedling. The plant was a bit tight with viable seed so it’s going to be a slow job to bulk up the numbers.
My plug trays of winter greens have germinated well and been thinned to one plant per module. These are on a high shelf in the greenhouse for maximum light so they don’t get too leggy but it does mean it’s harder to keep track of the watering. I took these photos on tiptoes. These were well watered soon after taking.
I’m pleased with how well the Teucrium cuttings have taken. I’m hoping for some mass planting of these in the Far Garden.
Also destined for the Far Garden are some Stipa tenuissima seedlings. They’re hard to photograph due to being quite spindly when they first come up.
Having tried, and then tried again, to get the garden furniture we brought back from Australia to fit in, I think I’ve got a layout I’m happy with. I think you should be able to access all seats without feeling that you’re squeezing past. The set might be a little too big for the space and may not have been purchased over here for that reason. Now it’s in place I like it. I just need to ignore the state of the borders.
I’m getting little surprises coming up around the garden. I now have 4 small clumps of Japanese Anemones springing up to provide colour and interest later into the season. This garden has always seemed to hit its stride in May and June with nothing coming through for later on.
Also extending the season of interest are the Hydrangeas. I have three types in the garden; one came from a cutting from my in-law’s garden and the other two were bought to surround us where we got married. The garden where we got married had to remove all the Clary Sage that was planted around the ceremony site leaving bare earth. We bought Hazel trees and Hydrangeas for a simple backdrop and they looked amazing. Our family members all have a tree and some Hydrangea bushes in their gardens too!.
These Holly bushes have always struggled to thrive in their last pot. They put up spindly growth and fruited fine but the plants themselves were always looking dry and unhappy. When repotting them this year I discovered that they still had the plastic pots from the nursery attached! How embarrassing. Needless to say, now they can get their roots out they’re doing much better with healthy new growth. I think they’ll be much denser plants from now on but we’ll see if they still fruit as well.
Another wet week here in Devon and more working days has meant I haven’t done as much as I would like in the garden and allotment. The end of the week was great as I was able to show my lovely gardening aunt my allotment for the first time. She was very excited and I think, if it was up to her, she’d have me presenting Gardeners World immediately. We’ve done the customary plant swap; I have a new Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and she went away with Nepeta, Peppermint and Astrantia.
I’ve treated myself to a new hoe – the last one disintegrating before my eyes into a bendy metal mess – and I’ve used it to take the tops off the dandelions growing through the de-turfed but uncultivated parts of the allotment. It’s money well spent.
My no-dig experiment continues. You can see the two squashes doing pretty well and of course, there’s no weeding to be done where the landscape fabric is in place. I have had to go around the bed with my new hoe as the dandelions are getting carried away.
I’m pleased with the fruit set on the smaller pumpkin. It’s growing into a compact plant (similar to a courgette) and I think it’s the Baby Blue Hubbard.
I’m trying really hard to get the tomatoes in my greenhouse to ripen. They’ve been hampered by a dip in light levels as it’s been a wet week here in Devon. I put in a banana skin last week but I don’t think it’s achieved much other than attracting some flies.
As well as the direct sowing of chard, lettuce and pak choi at the allotment, I’ve also done some in modules in the greenhouse. This is partly to guard against the inevitable mollusc attacks but also to provide some kind of succession.
In addition to the Penstemon I took last week I now have Phygelius and Lavender cuttings. I’ve also tried my hand at my first root cutting of Eryngium.
I’m really pleased to see the containers at the front of the cottage filling out and doing exactly what I wanted them to do. I’ve taken seeds from the Stipa tenuissima as I want to introduce it to other parts of the garden and I have a few family members also needing some.
The Libertia grandiflora seeds are finally ready so they’ve been sown in a half seed tray. I’m going to collect some Stachys byzantina seeds today to try. The other job for the weekend is to clear the bindweed from the far garden’s left border.
I’ve reached a milestone with the allotment this week as the final delivery on bark has been applied. As you might remember, I didn’t order enough the first time round so only the peripheries were covered.
The idea that the landscape fabric may have been able to stay in the main, central areas was false. It was too thin and too easily broken down by the elements to last any longer so had to be covered.
The plot is looking much tidier now and I can really focus on the planting borders. I’m hoping that is the end of the hard landscaping for a while.
I’m getting the sense of a building momentum in the harvesting from the allotment. It’s not been a hugely productive space so far. A dry summer and a late start has hampered things this year. Things are improving though; this week I have had another cucumber, a large box of mangetout and yellow courgettes.
An easy bonus crop is this Anemone de Cain. I am hoping to have more cut flowers to add to the edible harvest. These bulbs came from an impulse purchase from a well-known DIY store when buying paint for the house. They were cheap, having been reduced, and very cheerful.
Most of the work in the greenhouse this week has been taking and managing cuttings. The newest addition has been a tray of Penstemon ‘Blackbird’ cuttings. I have had this variety for more than 6 years but it seems to have disappeared from this garden. I have taken cuttings from a plant that I gave to my aunt. I’m looking forward to reintroducing it soon.
My Teucrium cuttings seem to have taken which is very exciting. The basil, nepeta, peppermint, and oregano cuttings all look to be doing well in their own pots.
I have some large tomatoes developing but they’re not showing any sign of colour. I’ve thrown a ripe banana in with them to get them to ripen.
Not much has changed in the garden. After my tidy-up last week I’ve put some squash plants to cover the bare earth for the time being.
I need to make a decision about what to do with the overgrown Lleylandii hedge at the far end of the garden. My options are a light prune to square it off (not ideal as that will leave a huge area of encroachment in a small space) or get tough with it and cut it back to the boundary (leaving an unsightly mess).
I’ve had the idea of installing a pleached Beech hedge to hide the bare stems of the conifer. It should like the drier conditions of that far border.
I’m thinking of something like this found on Pinterest;
The rain at the end of this week is very welcomed at the allotment. I’m hoping the second batch of carrots and beetroot that I sowed this week will get a better start than the last lot. The garden had a leaf-cutter bee visit which was very exciting.
I’m pleased to have some harvests coming from the allotment, as modest as they are to date, and I’m hoping for more over the next few weeks. The black landscape fabric has started to disintegrate so I’ve bitten the bullet and ordered some more bark to finish the job.
I’ve been strolling up to the plot with my daughter and dog in the evening. The small bags of mange tout and courgettes add a little to our evening meals.
This part of the year there’s room on the potting bench for some more sowing. The early part of the year a rush for the first batches of edibles but I find I hit a lull from now onwards. Traditionally I use the time and space to get some perennials started, be it by seed or cuttings, as well as some successional sowings of salad.
This week I’ve tried to start off some more Stipa tenuissima, a double poppy found on a wall, and some Nicotiana elata. I’ve taken cuttings of the Hydrangia paniculata and a pink rose at my mums. There’s also a half-seed-tray of mixed lettuce.
The worst thing about leaving the garden in the hands of someone else for 2 years is the accumulation of new perennial weeds. The main issue to come back after the last clear out has been the bind weed.
This border has been left due to the construction of a new shed along the boundary. This has been a good thing as I hadn’t fully appreciated the extent of the problem. I’m still planning the rejuvenation of this border but there’s no point putting anything in if there are weed roots lurking under the soil. I’ve dug up the plants in the worst of the bindweed area, rinsed their roots, and repotted in isolation to make sure they’re clean. All the bindweed roots have been dug up and I think I’ll put some squash and cucumber plants in so if there’s bindweed left behind at least it’s only an annual planting and can be dug up over winter.
There’s been a lot of insect activity in the warm weather. I captured this leaf-cutter bee taking bites out of my Gertrude Jekyll rose.