Tuesday 28 January 2014

A slow start

snails and ladybird apr 2006

This picture from 2006 when we first started living at the farm revealed an unnoticed detail today when I was flicking through looking for snaps to illustrate the post; a tiny yellow 22 spotted ladybird hitching a ride up the wall on the side of a snail.

The year is nearly a twelfth of the way through and it still feels like we're in limbo waiting for the start. I was trying to avoid spending a lot on seeds this year so I've not been studying catalogues or making many plans, typical activities for January gardeners and the wet and windy weather has meant more days huddled inside than bright brisk days noticing the natural advance of spring.

I have swapped some ulluco with other enthusiasts and taken in return salmon flowered peas, rocambole and some different varieties of ulluco so some new projects are under way. I've also requested seeds from HSL but unusually they are very late in returning my order, I'm hoping it hasn't been lost in the post. I'd been anticipating getting some Shark's fin melon and Dudi from their SNS section.

It's time to make a seed potato order. I'm wondering if it would be sensible this year to reduce the number of varieties right back to three or four of our absolute favourites. We love our spuds but I'm thinking I'll have more time for other crops if I simplify the planting of these core essentials by sticking to varieties that I know grow without trouble and have some blight resistance.

Maybe I should start those plans now - is everyone else organised yet?

Wednesday 15 January 2014

New Year Orchids

moth orchid

During the winter I have more time for ornamental plants. The trouble is that during the summer these little treasures have to survive on a bare minimum of care so my days of fostering rare and exotic specimens are now far behind me. Still, I keep a few pots of the more robust orchids on my bathroom windowsill and even if they are so ubiquitous that for most people they have the same value as cut flowers I can get a thrill from extending their lives and encouraging them to flower for us time and again.

The moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) came from B&Q or some such fine establishment but is in its third year carrying a fine spray of flowers and with another new flower shoot forming. Its companions are currently between blooms but both are growing fine new shoots that will flower in a few weeks time.

Their care regime is an absolute minimum, they sit on a south easterly facing windowsill that takes direct sunlight for a few hours each day, they are watered with tap water at room temperature (because it's recycled from bedside drinking glasses)  every few days and are fed almost never. This lack of attention allows their aerial roots to shoot out untidily and the plants themselves to almost climb out of their clear plastic pots so that they are more sitting on than sitting in the very free draining compost of bark and moss.

jewel orchid flowers

The flowers on the jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor) are miniature by comparison, but just as complex and worth examining in detail to reveal their velvety texture. This plant also came from a chain garden centre, a French one this time, but they are easily available in the UK. As with most of my commercially obtained plants this one was past its sell by date and looking a bit battered when I bought it at a bargain price. Jewel orchids aren't often grown for their flowers as it is the beautifully coloured and textured leaves that catch the eye year around.

It lives on a similar window sill to the moth orchids, shaded by a variegated rubber plant that is fast outgrowing its position. A terrestrial orchid, it needs a little more attention to watering than the Phalaenopsis but is otherwise quite well tempered. It's also easier to propagate as it produces new shoots from its root which can be detached and potted on.

jewel orchid leaves