Thursday, 17 April 2014


sunny lane

It's hot today, really pleasantly hot and I've been bumbling around discovering things that have survived the winter like the remaining 12 lavender plantlets from a much neglected bargain batch I bought from Thompson and Morgan last year and trying to make them happier.  There is endless work to attend to and as usual it's going to be a race between my good intentions and my endemic lethargy as to how much is completed in a timely fashion.

Having looked through the quantities of seeds saved and the length of time some of them have been stored I've decided I have to grow out at least sample portions of everything, just to check on viability. This means I'll be growing (fingers crossed) something like 15 varieties of beans and peas this year. Quite where these will be placed is not something I can allow myself to worry about just now but I'm anticipating some creative planting when the time comes.

Irish Preans
Raisin Capucijiner (these are new this year from HSL)
Unidentified Pea - might be Beltony Blue but I'm not at all sure!
Purple podded

Dwarf beans:
Royal Red
Starley Road Red
Ice Crystal Wax
Orca (or Yin Yang)

Short climbing beans:
Striped Bunch half runner

Tall climbing beans:
Purple Giant
Carters Polish
Riana's bean from the south of France (still unidentified)
White Emergo (runner bean)

What I won't be growing is the Salmon flowered pea I got in a swap with with Robert Brenchley as these seem to have fallen in the same black hole as my bundle of seeds from Higgledy. This is quite a disappointment but I've looked everywhere now and can only imagine they've been thrown away by accident.

As well as the beans I've started various other seeds; Monarda didyma, sweet peas,  achocha, some Prescott Fond Blanc melon (a bit early but another viability check on saved stock) , some Cornue Andes tomatoes, Trifetti pepper and some more Alberto Locoto to replace the ones lost over winter.

Plenty more to come with squash, marigolds and cucumbers all waiting a moment to get started, but more on those later.

By the way, be sure to pop back on the 22nd when I'll be hosting Emma Cooper on her virtual book tour. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Just settling in

So here are some pictures.

cherry blossom
Cherry blossom, this ornamental variety sets no fruit, such a pity.

The Borage has been out for a few weeks now, very early.

I'm sure I should know the name of this pretty weed but it escapes me for the moment. Can anyone help?

These big blowsy daffs are not my favourites but came in a mixed bag. Saving up for some more elegant varieties.

Red clover, just getting started now. Reminds me to plant some of the crimson flowered for later in the year.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Once more into the breach...


It's been a somewhat abortive start this year. With any luck the gardening season will start properly this weekend when we finally have a chance to move the cats over for the summer and I take up full time residence for a few months again. It'll be a rush to get the potatoes in, no records will be broken for earlies this year, but with any luck nothing else will be too much impeded by the delay.

The enforced stopover in the UK did give me a chance to visit the Harris Garden at Reading University. This is a charming little space which forms part of the School of Biological Sciences and is open to the public all year round. The spring planting is lovely and there are peonies and some exotic plants to come later in the year as well as a sweet little rill with bog garden plants leading to a duck pond. Worth a visit if you're in the area.

One plant that caught my eye there was Nandina domestica. Known as Heavenly bamboo it is nothing of the sort as it is not a bamboo, is actually considered a noxious invasive pest in some parts of America and could be potentially fatally toxic if you were silly enough to eat too much of it. Somehow I'd never seen it before and was taken with the habit and bright berries of the species plants there. It's also considered deer proof, reason enough for me to plant it if ever I heard one so I've acquired some seeds and maybe it will be forming part of my putative ornamental shrub garden one day.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

All in my head

white rosemary

The year is powering on past and for reasons almost entirely beyond my control planting and gardening have been put on hold. It's a pity because this lovely mild spring weather is just perfect for getting the beds in order and main crops settled in. It seems now it will be the middle of April before any work can start in earnest which means I've next to nothing to blog about here.

Today I spent some time using Picasa to scroll through twelve years of digital photography looking for interesting pictures and reliving past hopes (mostly failed) and glories (not nearly enough).  It makes me wish again that I'd tried harder to document  all the years that went before - an unedited photo album may not be the most efficient form of record keeping but it does register something and seems far more reliable than my patchy memory.

Something I am pleased about is the tub of snake's head fritilliaries we planted up last week. After years of buying bulbs and promptly forgetting to plant them before they withered in their packets we found some ready potted on a market stall. I'm hoping that buying them in the green like this will mean the start of a proper meadow of them when the flowers are finished and I plant them out in the field.

snake's head fritilliary

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Past it Pumpkin

past it pumpkin

Finally managed to get a few seeds started in the propagator, mostly tomatoes and a couple of the Capsicum pubescens I received from Magic Garden seeds. This unnamed rocoto cultivar appears to be very different to the Alberto's Locoto (scroll down) sort I've been growing from Realseeds. Alberto's is relatively small and red fruited, the new sort is orange skinned and appears larger, closer in size to a sweet capsicum.

I managed to kill two of my Alberto's during the winter, just let them get a touch too cold but I still have one good plant and saved seeds to start some more this spring.

The tomatoes are a mixed bunch. Avoiding buying seeds this year has meant rummaging around looking for old packets and hoping that some of the oldest are still viable. For example I found a packet of Mme Jardel's Black which I have no recollection of receiving from HSL or any memory of the plants although the packet had been started. I choose not to interpret this as the start of mental decline but even so, it's a bit like trying them for the first time and I wish I'd had more discipline in documenting my various exploits in the garden over the years. And given that I've no idea how old the seeds are they might not come up at all of course.

I've also popped in a few seeds of Tigerella (which were new, gifted to me at xmas) and some of my all time favourite tomatoes Potiron Encarlote, a huge well flavoured fruit that needs greenhouse protection in Normandy. These seeds are also rather aged so I'm keeping my fingers crossed with them. Scotland Yellow completes this first round of tomato starts. These grew excellently in the open in the poor summer of 2007 so I may try some outside this year if a) any come up and b) there's a chance of a bit of sun and not too much blight.

The Whangaparoa Crown pumpkin is the last one from store. A pity to miss using it up while it was in better condition but allowing it to complete a full cycle should produce plenty of plump healthy seeds for this year. In my head I'm imagining a whole field of plants growing out to maximise the genetic inheritance for the coming years. Who knows, it may even happen.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Back to the future

Back to France tomorrow and the weather forecast is looking good. We're quite apprehensive since we've not been over since the gales and floods. No reports of damage have reached us but we're expecting phone lines to be broken at the least and probably a lot of fallen trees.

To reduce my travelling stress we'll be keeping packing to a minimum but I do have several trays of garlic and shallots to take with us and a whole box of little items we were gifted at xmas, of which I'm hoping the old fashioned oil lamp isn't going to be the most useful. We have another new off-grid toy to play with, my reward for taking part in a crowd sourced funding for Gravity Light who have created a lighting solution that will work anywhere on the planet. They've sent me an example of the product which will make a useful back-up light when the power goes down.

And when I get there I'm hoping to find my pack of Higgedly garden flower seeds because if they're not there I don't know where I've put them.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Goldfinch on teasel

Apparently I can't start a blog post without a picture to hang it from. Luckily a couple of days ago a small flock of goldfinches descended on the teasels. This picture was taken through the kitchen window as they cleaned the seedheads of all remaining accessible morsels.

It seems the old trouble, the one that stops me writing, has stopped me painting or doing anything much has spread and just at the moment I feel frozen and unable to get started on the seed planting which is normally such a boost to my mood each spring. I'm casting around in my head looking for a strategy or trick that will break through the jam and let something approaching normality emerge.

At least with the sun shining today brings a little more optimism in my day and I certainly have  lots of new seeds that have the potential to be inspiring if I can only get them into the soil. I found an unnamed variety of Rocoto for sale at Magic Garden seeds and some Conopodium majus (pignuts in the UK) which I'm sure I have already growing wild but have been so unable to accurately identify the plants that I thought starting some from named seed would be a good exercise before attempting to forage again. The seeds look similar to another related plant sometimes grown for its edible roots but checking on this useful botanical picture I think these are what I'm looking for. And I have some more ramson seeds which I hope will be more successful now that I understand they germinate best after stratifying - previous attempts have failed miserably.

A couple of the ulluco tubers sent to me by William Whitson at Cultivariable Seeds have been potted and sprouted already. I started them as an insurance but space indoors is extremely limited so the rest must wait until better weather allows them to be started in the cold greenhouse.

Best get planting then while the suns shines.