Gardening books for Christmas gifts 2017

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Here are 5 gardening books on my Christmas List this year

I always put gardening books on my Christmas list. They’re the perfect gift for me, and for all gardeners. At this time of year, when the sun hasn’t come up when I go to work and has long since set before I leave for home, the opportunities for gardening become squeezed. With a book, you can visit other gardens, learn new techniques, and improve your own skills whilst the winter garden rests untended outside.

As the proud owner of a gardening bookshelf that dwarfs our local bookshop’s offerings, you’d think I wouldn’t have space for any more titles. You’d be wrong. We’re building a new bookcase next year and there are so many books I’ve come across this year that I’ve made a gardening books Christmas List.

Previous Christmas gardening books wishlists

Gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016

8 Books for my gardening bookshelf Christmas 2015

Epic Tomatoes

by Craig LeHoullier

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I’ve learnt about my namesake Craig LeHoullier from Jennifer Ebeling‘s (6ft mama) podcast – Still Growing. I’ve been listening and interacting with Jennifer for over a year now and I really like her interviews with interesting people. Craig has a wealth of experience growing tomatoes and is particularly involved in finding and breeding heirloom varieties that are in danger of being lost. Most importantly he’s clear on the merits of a tomato for different uses in the kitchen as well as ease of growing. I’m hoping to find a robust outdoor bush tomato to use the space on my allotment.

The Garden Photography Workshop

by Andrea Jones 
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I heard about this book listening to Andrea on Peter Donegan’s Sod Show Podcast this year. I really like photography and I occasionally take to my garden with SLR in hand. It would be great to improve my amateur skills.

The Thoughtful Gardener

by Jinny Blom

This book on garden design has had some strong reviews so I’m keen to see what it’s like. I’m a big fan of Jinny Blom’s planting and it would be good to see how she plans, and implements, her designs.

RHS Genealogy for Gardeners

by Simon Maughan and Ross Bayton

I have the two other books in this RHS series of plant geekery. Latin for Gardeners was released in 2012, with Botany for Gardeners following in 2013. These small, beautifully illustrated, handbooks are the perfect thing for plant nerds to get a better understanding of the science and history of gardening. I’m hoping that Genealogy for Gardeners will be just as good.

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Tender – Volumes I & II

by Nigel Slater

Now I know that, technically, this isn’t a gardening book. I’d say it’s gardening adjacent. I’ve had my allotment since April and I’m hoping for big things next year. The whole point of the allotment was to provide some fresh, seasonal food for us to cook and eat. I’ve mastered my sauteed Cavelo Nero with garlic and it’s become a staple in the weekly meal plan. I’d like to do more with what I grow and I’ve read some amazing reviews of these two books.
allotment, amazon, andrea jones, Book, books, books for gardeners, bookshelf, bookshop, Christmas, Christmas gifts, Christmas list, Christmas presents, Cooking, Craig leHoullier, Garden Design, garden photography, gardeners, gardening, gardening books, genealogy, gift ideas, gifts for gardeners, harvest, heirloom, heritage, Jinny Blom, Nigel Slater, Produce, reading, RHS, tomato, tomato growing, tomatoes, Waterstonesallotment, amazon, andrea jones, Book, books, books for gardeners, bookshelf, bookshop, Christmas, Christmas gifts, Christmas list, Christmas presents, Cooking, Craig leHoullier, Garden Design, garden photography, gardeners, gardening, gardening books, genealogy, gift ideas, gifts for gardeners, harvest, heirloom, heritage, Jinny Blom, Nigel Slater, Produce, reading, RHS, tomato, tomato growing, tomatoes, Waterstones

Garden Update 20th May 2017: Rain and Raised Beds

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 07

Rain and Raised Beds

Garden Update 06/05/2017

Garden Update 13th May

Allotment Update

It’s been a bit of a damp week here in Devon so progress has been slow on the allotment. I’m not shy of wet weather but with mum sticking to your boots and a house needing to be prepped prior to a shipping container arriving I had to take a sensible approach. Earlier on in the week, I did manage to get the wood prepared and start building some raised beds on site.

Garden Update 20th May 2017: Rain and Raised Beds
Blackcurrants, Loganberry and strawberries settling in

I have a Loganberry, three varieties of Blackcurrant (I love me some Ribena); Ben Nevis, Baldwin, and Ben Lomand. The Strawberries are Florence and Cambridge Favourite. I had my heart set on some Mara des Bois, after they were recommended by James Wong, but a large online supplier let me down with the order. These rushed plants were cheap from a local nursery so I hope they’re tasty.

Garden Update 20th May 2017: Rain and Raised Beds
Trying to take away to B&Q orange from the plot.

The uprights are supposed to serve as dog lead guards and prevent the plants being decapitated by an enthusiastic golden retriever. However, they’re a little spindlier than I had envisaged and the angles are slightly off giving it a Kerplunk effect.

Garden Update 20th May 2017: Rain and Raised Beds
Four donated strawberry plants

After all the rain I managed a couple of hours at the site and installed four more established strawberry plants of unknown variety. These were kindly donated by my mother.

Garden Update 20th May 2017: Rain and Raised Beds
The permanent plantings of the herb bed

The herb bed is now up and running. A central Bay tree will be closely clipped to stop it taking over. I have three types of mint (apple, garden and chocolate peppermint) in pots sunk into the ground. Hyssop, Rosemary, Thyme, Bronze fennel and Marjoram.

Greenhouse Update

Garden Update 20th May 2017: Rain and Raised Beds
Romanesco, Kale and PSB seedlings

I may get accused of being a control freak but with the regimented lines of these seedlings, it’s hard to refute. Pleasingly quick to germinate, these will go up the allotment when they’re big enough for cropping next spring.

Garden Update 20th May 2017: Rain and Raised Beds
Hesperis matronalis

I have finally dredged up enough modular seed trays to pot on my Sweet Rocket. There’s still another small pot pleading for release but they’ll have to wait.

 

Garden Update 13th May 2017: Allotment sowing, potting on and catching up with old friends

Garden Update 13th May 2017: Allotment sowing, potting on and catching up with old friends

Allotment sowing, potting on and catching up with old friends

Garden Update 22/04/2017

Garden Update 06/05/2017

Potting On

It’s about time I gave some seedlings some more space. The cucumbers (Tasty King and Tasty Green) have grown on really well and so I rewarded their enthusiasm with some more root room. There’s going to be far too many to fit into my greenhouse so I’ll take some to the allotment and squeeze them in with the sweetcorn. Otherwise, there may be a small stall in front of the cottage to help pay off my seed order debts.

Garden Update 13th May 2017: Allotment sowing, potting on and catching up with old friends
Cucumber seedlings

My tomato Marmande seedlings were similarly enthusiastic so their gold star reward was also a new home. They looked a little sulky after the move but after a warm drink and 24 hours they had perked up – just like me after a flight!

Garden Update 13th May 2017: Allotment sowing, potting on and catching up with old friends
Tomato Seedlings

Allotment Sowing

Even though it’s only the beginning of May, I still feel really behind with my allotment. Normally I would have rushed all this sowing and by now you’d find me rueing my impatience. Even though the beds aren’t built at the plot I’m getting a headstart.

In other news, I now have a shed on my allotment (pictures to follow) and I managed to get its waterproof hat on before the rain started.

Garden Update 13th May 2017: Allotment sowing, potting on and catching up with old friends
Romanesco, Leeks, PSB and Kale seeds were sown

I’ve sown two types of sweetcorn, two types of Squash, Kale, Romanesco, Leeks, and, Purple Sprouting Broccoli. You can keep up to date with how they’re doing by checking my Seed Sowing Spreadsheet.

Catching up with old friends

I’ve been trying to grab some time to explore what has become of my cottage garden in the two years we’ve been away. We’ve been lucky that our tenants haven’t trashed the place but they weren’t gardeners and a trained eye can see where things are starting to creak. I’ll do a post re-acquainting you with the areas of the garden and detail my efforts this year to bring it back to life.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this image of a Libertia grandiflora. It’s an unassuming plant but, for me, it’s exceptionally special as I sowed this from seed some years back. I can’t remember if I got the seed from the RHS Scheme or Plant World Seeds, I’ll have to review some previous posts to see if I mentioned them.  A couple of years ago I took out some native Iris foetidissima (the flowers look dingy to me and the leaves were coarse and rusted) and replaced them with this more graceful plant.

I feel like I’m coming back home and the garden has been waiting to put on a show to welcome me back. It’s a great feeling of connection to a space that’s been missing from life recently. I am home.

Garden Update 13th May 2017: Allotment sowing, potting on and catching up with old friends
Libertia grandifolia

Not a Greenhouse Construction update

Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride'

An update on the progress happening in the garden

I was hoping by the end of this weekend to have a triumphant update with images of a completed greenhouse (or at least a watertight/glazed greenhouse). However the constant rain has scuppered my plans and instead of sharing photos of the roof in pieces on the floor of our barn waiting to be put together I thought I’d show what’s happening in the cottage garden this spring. Looking back of the blog there hasn’t been much greenery for a while.

In the propagator barn

The tomato and pepper seedlings are just about ready to stretch their legs (and probably have been ready for a least a week or more if I’m honest) and the Gypsophila elegans seedlings were crying out for some room. So these, along with Digitalis ‘Primrose carousel’ and Dahlia coccinea, got upgraded. It does mean they’re now on the floor of the barn rather than the window seat but they’ll do for a bit.

Gypsophila elegans
Gypsophila elegans and Digitalis seedlings ready to move on
Seedlings in desperate need of a greenhouse
Seedlings in desperate need of a greenhouse
Digitalis 'Primrose carousel'
Digitalis ‘Primrose carousel’

The Top Garden

The Aquilegia in the garden are coming along well and there may even be the first flower out this week. Excitingly, the Aquilegia yabeana sown from Plant World Seeds are looking really strong and may produce their first flower ever this year. Podophyllum hexandrum ‘Spotty Dotty’ is a stunning plant with foliage that looks like a toad. It was brought for me by my aunt as an engagement present last year and, again, we’re hoping for it to bloom for the first time.

Overall there’s a real energy to the garden with growth pushing through everywhere you look. The transplanted astrantia and larkspur are coming on well as if they hadn’t noticed the change of scenery. I think I need to start putting up some plant supports to stop the flop later in the year.

Blue cat enjoying the view to the top garden
Blue cat enjoying the view to the top garden
Emerging shoots of Hellebore, Peony, Elephant garlic and Monkshood
Emerging shoots of Hellebore, Peony, Elephant garlic and Monkshood
Podophyllum hexandrum 'Potty Dotty'
Podophyllum hexandrum ‘Potty Dotty’
Aquilegia vulgaris
Aquilegia vulgaris
Aquilegia yabeana looking strong
Aquilegia yabeana looking strong

 

The near garden

Mixed border with a Fuschia in a pot
Mixed border with a Fuschia in a pot
Flowering Clematis
Flowering Clematis

 

Euphorbia
Euphorbia
Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride'
Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’

What’s coming next?

Moving on plants from the propagator meant I had some room to fill. I’ve started some Zinnia ‘Purple Prince’, more Basil ‘Sweet Genovese’, Foeniculum purpureum, Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Candy Stripe’, and Scabiousa caucasia ‘Perfecta Blue’. It’s the best time of year!

Greenhouse Construction 1

Greenhouse Construction

Work has finally started on my Greenhouse Construction Project

And we’re off! After a hiatus while spending time doing things like wedding planning, taking a huge exam and other such distractions, work has finally commenced on the greenhouse (huzzah!)

The site of the greenhouse, the old wood store partially removed.
The site of the greenhouse, the old wood store partially removed.

There used to be a wood store sited next to the shed but it was next to useless. Despite it’s sheltered position there was no way of keeping the wood dry so it had to go. What you can see here is the vague layout of the eventual footprint of the structure and a roofless woodstore. The back wall of the woodstore will be the wall of the greenhouse.

As a site for a greenhouse it’s not ideal. It’s not in full sun for a lot of the day but it’s the only place in the garden where it won’t be intrusive. The best place for a greenhouse would be in the top garden but would mean losing our largest, sunniest bed adjacent to the patio where we eat in summer. Not ideal and quickly vetoed by the other half. The chosen site is under-used space nearer the house and if I can make the finished product look attractive I think it will do.  The next head-scratcher is what to do with the washing line.

How come I’ve finally started?

Tomatoes just showing true leaves.
Tomatoes just showing true leaves.

These are the reasons for all the haste. My tomato seedlings are just about ready to be planted on and with that comes a demand for space that I can’t give em at the moment. The chillies are behind in the photo and behind in terms of development. Interestingly these tomatoes from Real Seeds  have a dark red/purple hue to the undersides of the seed leaves and stems which I haven’t seen before and can just been seen in the picture. It’s very ornamental and I hope stays a feature of the mature plants.

Closer view of the windows sourced from Gumtree
Closer view of the windows sourced from Gumtree

Having cleared the area and spent a good deal of time scribbling on a pad, measuring things and generally trying my best to look like a real man, I have a finished plan and I’ve ordered the required building materials. Watch this space…

The Full Story

Construction Greenhouse: Part 1

Construction Greenhouse: Part 2

Construction Greenhouse: Part 3

Construction Greenhouse: Part 4

Germination

Germinating Tomato Seeds

Tomato Seedlings showing already after only 7 days

After only 7 days my tomato seedlings are up and away. I really need to get on with building the greenhouse then.