Friday, 31 July 2009

Wet July Weather

I've not ventured out into the garden much over the past couple of days hence no recent garden images. The weather is very wet and dull, more like April than July - let's hope that with the dawning of August tomorrow things improve.

Anyway this led me to think about what the garden was like this time last year and I've found a couple of photos from last July when the garden was just one year old.

I'm a big fan of hostas and this one was a real beauty last year and even bigger and better this year after transplanting into a larger pot this Spring. As everyone agrees the worst thing about hostas are the slug and snail pests. I admit that I resort to slug pellets, but my first and most effective form of attack is a midnight slug and snail hunt. Armed with a torch, gardening gloves and a bucket of water myself and the Handyman set off on our search. The drowned slugs are laid out on the grass as an early morning feast for the local bird population. So happy hostas and happy birds - happy me!

The Kitchen Garden last July was beginning to be productive, though the raspberries were very small having just been planted. The early stages of the fruit cage can be seen, though we still haven't gotten around to putting the netting on yet - so much to do, so little time!

The sweetpeas were a joy this time last year. The scent of sweetpeas filled the house and their pretty colours and tissue paper petals are a joy for the eye.

The lack of sunshine this July hasn't yet produced such good results, still perhaps in August...

RHS Membership

A belated birthday present arrived in the post this morning - 12 months membership of the Royal Horticultural Society.

I'm already planning some more RHS show visits and I'll be looking into the seed list when it is published in October.

It would be interesting to try some more unusual varieties of vegetables and I'm sure they'll have a good range of cottage garden plants.

A very thoughtful, useful and appropriate present for any gardener - thank you both, G&K!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

New Boots

I treated myself to some new gardening shoes whilst I was at Tatton RHS Flower Show last weekend. After reviewing my Well Worn Boots post I thought it might be about time to refresh my footware.

I love these RHS waterproof cloggies from Hunter, they're great for slipping on and off at the back door and are very practical in the garden - as well as pretty. They're going to cheer me up as I potter round the garden in this monsoon weather!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

More Tatton Moments (VFTA No 1)

I promised more on Tatton so here we go...I think I'll start with the RHS/Ball Colegrave National Flower Bed Competition - the favourite entry for J and me was the Dumfries and Galloway entry of Peter Pan, Captain Hook and the Crocodile - fantastic! Not the show winner but, hey, what do RHS judges know!
Our two visits to the Floral Marquee were made during lulls in the sunshine - we were loathe to miss any sun this summer! The chrysanthemums and orchids seem to have been J's preferred options, judging by the number of photos taken. They were strangely attractive, though at odds with the prevailing cottage garden look of most of the exhibits.
But the highlight of the marquee for me was the Bowden Hostas stand - a Gold Medal winner with the judges and me. I managed to restrict myself to just one hosta but as mail order is their speciality I don't think that it will stop there!

In the National Plant and Societies Marquee we loved the display by the National Vegetable Society - how do they get the vegetables to look so perfect! And the Tomato Growers' Association st
and tasted delicious - hmm, time for lunch...
After a bite of lunch we moved on to the show gardens - all in all a bit disappointing this year and the same could be said for most of the Back to Backs.

So onward to the Plant Plaza where the urge
to purchase became much to see, touch, smell, buy! Some of the displays outside of the little stalls rivaled the back to backs in content and structure.

A lovely day out with good company, fine weather and the joy of gardening...can't wait until next year!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Tatton Trip

Just returned from a lovely weekend with my sister, J and her family. J took me to Tatton RHS Flower Show as a birthday treat and we had the best weather of recent weeks and a fantastic day out together. I'll be posting more of Tatton over the next couple of days but here's a taster and a big thank you to J for a lovely birthday treat!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Veg Box

Off to visit J tomorrow with a basket of Holly Grove goodies. One of the real joys of gardening is sharing the results of all the care and attention. The redcurrants, cabbage, courgette, beetroot, carrots and potatoes were freshly picked today.

The herbs include sage, parsley, rosemary and three types of mint - apple, chocolate and ginger.

I'll pick a bunch of sweet peas in the morning before I set off so they'll fill the car with fragrance on the journey and arrive in good condition.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Sunshine and Showers

Spent a rainy morning yesterday in my shed selecting seeds for the kitchen garden to provide vegetables and salad through the rest of the summer and into the autumn. I then spent a busy afternoon in the kitchen garden resowing the bare beds after Tuesday's weeding and cleanup session.

So we now have lettuce, radish, rocket, spinach, pak choi and chard sown in the long narrow bed next to the fruit cage. The last of the first batch of broad beans was harvested and the plants removed to the compost heap. In their place spring cabbage and swede have been sown. The cabbage will benefit from the nitrogen released from the roots of the broad beans and some pelleted chicken manure added before sowing.

Sugar snap peas, and more carrots - I so enjoyed the success of the first batch, fingers crossed - have been squeezed into the spaces in the larger beds made by picking more carrots for dinner and consigning the over blown and now woody radish to the compost heap.

This afternoon I weeded the soft fruit cage and added some pelleted chicken manure around the roots of the plants - feels like they've earned a bit of TLC as they produce luscious fruit for our puddings.

Next job will be to weed thoroughly around the rhubarb, french and runner beans...but that will have to wait until tomorrow as I think it's time to cook a vegetarian curry making use of the kitchen garden produce. And whilst that simmers away in the oven, time for a bath and a glass of chilled white wine - aah, bliss!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Borders Full of Annuals

Whilst we are waiting for shrubs and perennials to fill out the newly formed borders I make use of a few annuals.

I haven't planted Godetia for years, though they were a favourite of my sons when they were small - I think it was the name they liked as much as the flowers - godetia! atishoo! Sewn directly into the border they have blossomed beautifully, though I probably should have thinned them out I couldn't bear to remove any of them - so a profusion of tissue paper flowers.

The sunflowers are planted at the back of a sunny border and provide a cheery face on the dullest of days. As usual I've lost a few as I forget to stake them on this windy site. In the border in front of these 6' giants are Californian poppies and nasturtiums winding their way amongst the hostas and rudbeckia. So a border of yellow, red and orange - hot stuff!

Next on the list of favoured annuals would have to be Cosmos. Lovely feathery foliage and icecream colours. Initially started in seed trays in April and then pricked out into 3" pots by my friend and fellow gardener, E. Then when the roots start to appear at the bottom of the pot and the last frost has passed, out they go into the border growing to about 3'6" in height and flowering from July to October.

Kitchen Garden Produce

Yesterday I discovered these delicious jewel-like redcurrants almost ready for harvesting. There are blackcurrants and whitecurrants too, so it looks as though a summer pudding may be on the menu soon - if I can get there before the birds spot them.

The beetroot are about ready to pull so I'll be on the lookout for beetroot recipes, and I'll make a few jars of pickled beetroot to share with family and friends.

Broad beans - The Sutton - and carrots continue to crop well and the first few french beans - Blue Lake - have appeared, so we'll be sampling a few for dinner tonight.

It won't be long before we have the first of the runner beans to eat. I'm trying two varieties this year; one from last year that was very tasty, a good cropper and almost stringless (and whose name escapes me for the moment) and a new one for me - White Lady, that has, not surprisingly white flowers, and looks very lush. Hopefully the bees will have visited the flowers of both and we'll get a good crop.

Runner beans freeze very well and retain their flavour but the best taste of all is of the first young beans steamed within minutes of picking then served with melted butter and chopped parsley from the pot outside the back door - yummmm!

Barrow of Weeds

I got down to some serious weeding yesterday afternoon. In the breaks between showers I managed to weed most of the kitchen garden and also cleared some space in the beds. The last of the peas were harvested and the red onions lifted and laid out in the greenhouse to dry.

The peas have been delicious over the past 4/5 weeks, though I'm disappointed in the red onions, they seem to have developed some kind of white mold - need to look it up in my gardening books.

I thought, as I was wheeling the barrow to the recycle bin, that you might want to see how many weeds a kitchen garden can generate and I've still about a quarter of it left to do!

Now what shall I do with all that free space...

Monday, 20 July 2009

Pink Perfection

Just a quick post before I head out to the kitchen garden to start some much needed weeding and tidying up.

I love hardy geraniums, such good value, easy to care for and very floriferous.

This geranium sanguineum striatum is one of my favourites; only growing to about 6" tall it spreads about 24" and flowers from end of May until the first frosts. I do remove the seed heads with a pair of scissors - yes, I know, but it's a labour of love - and this keeps the plant tidy and free-flowering. Well worth the effort for such a beauty!

Oak Seedlings

I discovered some self-seeded oak seedlings whilst weeding the woodland border - bit of a grand term, but we're creating a couple of borders in the shade of the 2 mature apple trees and 5 other fruit trees planted in December 2007 - anyway...

The 2 miniature oaks are now potted up and in my plant nursery. We plan to put them into our hedgerows when they are big enough. Oaks in the hedgerows are very traditional in this part of the UK. I read somewhere that oak trees host more wildlife that any other tree native to the UK - what a lovely thought.

In a previous property we had a verymature oak tree in the garden, circa 250 years old, which had once been part of a hedgerow before the houses were built.

We'll not be around to see these little seedlings grow into such mighty oaks but hopefully they will bring pleasure, shade and sustenance to future generations of Holly Grove dwellers.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Well Worn Boots

So after a busy hour grass cutting how nice to sit on a blanket on the grass and contemplate the clover.

Green and lush but a bit of a nuisance as it travels into the borders and takes over the lawns.

Okay for the large top lawn where it provides lush, hard wearing greenery but a bit overwhelming for the fine grass in the circle lawns...still the bees love the flowers and we love the bees.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Kitchen Garden Arbor

By the gateway to the kitchen garden is an arbor covered in Rosa Arthur Bell and its beautiful yellow blooms. There are also various clematis in shades of blue including the shrubby clematis integrefolia hendersonii (see photo) and a sweetly scented honeysuckle. A lovely place to sit with a cup of tea whilst contemplating the vegetable planting plan or just recovering from a weeding session.

First Carrots

The kitchen garden is my greatest challenge. The planning and rotation of crops takes much thought and effort. The best part is, of course, harvesting and eating the crops. I planted carrots for the first time this Spring and they are so tasty, especially when eaten with fresh garden peas straight from the pod.

The soil at Holly Grove is ideal for root crops; deep, light and free draining - sometimes a bit too free draining! Well, there's no pleasing a gardener...too light, too heavy, too wet, too dry...

Last Bells of the Foxglove

I chose to grow a pure white form from seed last year in the Spring and planted them out late Summer 2008 to bloom in late Spring/early Summer 2009. I have not been disappointed, the pure white sent out a glow from the shade of the apple trees. The bees and I loved them!

Summer's Evening

Even in this wet summer weather there are many things to be enjoyed, not least of which is a cloudy summer sunset viewed from the comfort of the Holly Grove swing seat...