The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Japanese Anemone – Honorine Jobert

I have quite a large established group of white Japanese Anemone which have developed from a couple of cuttings given to me by my Sister Cath about ten years ago. They are a bit crowded in now with a hibiscus tree and a climbing rose so I will try to propagate a few more in pots so that I can tidy up the group. The one I have is a single pure white flower with golden stamens and dark foliage. It looks like the variety called Honorine Jobert.  According to Carole Klein the variety has been around for about 150 years. It was a sport, spontaneous offspring, from the more widespread pale pink Anemone x hybrida, which was raised at the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Chiswick in 1848. The white-flowered sport occurred 10 years later in France on a plant that had been imported from England. Soon afterwards, Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ made the trip back across the Channel.

I planned to collect seed heads but even though these plants have been in my garden for so long I had never registered the seeds so I googled to find that the lovely green seed heads evident now will turn to fluffy seed which disperse themselves around the garden. I asked myself why then isn’t my garden covered in these beauties. So, I am now on seed alert as I have read that the transformation happens quickly.

Propagation by division should be done as they start into new growth in the spring. Most nurseries raise more plants by taking roots cutting. Lift the plant in late Autumn and remove some of the thin brown roots. These are cut into sections and laid onto compost before being lightly covered. These can take months to begin to grow. These thread-like roots not only allow the plant to spread, they make it hard to eradicate a plant once it’s established. So make sure you plant your Japanese anemones where you want them as, like oriental poppies, they are difficult to eradicate. Japanese anemones can also be divided as they start into new growth in the Spring. As well as rounded white flowers it also sets seed readily. Each seed head is a little sphere held at the end of a stem. As the heads ripen they expand and their outer surface becomes soft. Eventually they erupt and each seed is carried in its own woolly overcoat to pastures new.

Kaffir Lily – Schizostylis – Mrs Hegarty

My Kaffir Lilies came from Sean and Deb. A couple of pots of green that I had no idea about. This Autumn have they have thrown up the most amazing pink flowers and on asking Deb found that they are called Kaffir Lilies. I am very keen to divide these and also to try growing more from saved seed. What an unexpected treasure. Schizostylis is Latin for Divided Style.

A bit of research on line and I find:- The flowers are generally a delicate pink or orange red. The flowering clusters look very delicate.  It is a member of the Iris family Iridaceae. The variety that I have is Mrs Hegarty. Schizostylis can be planted anywhere in moist well drained soil and are particularly suited to the front of perennial borders. They prefer full sun but will also tolerate a degree of shade especially below deciduous trees or shrubs. Schizostylis are striking in any garden owing to their delicate flowers at a sometimes colourless time of year. Peeping up through early leaf litter, the flowers stand out well against other more conventional autumn and winter shades. The Kaffir Lily which originates from South Africa is evergreen but with slender leaves that will not be too invasive. They will form clumps over the course of a year or so and are splendid in large drifts. Schizostylis also make admirable container plants and if moved to a cold greenhouse during early winter will provide a succession of flowers for several months. The flowers are well suited to cutting. As Schizostylis are evergreen rhizomatous perennials they are normally bought as pot grown plants.  When planting add plenty of compost to the planting hole and mulch after planting. Schizostylis can be grown from seed. Be aware that the seedlings may be of different colour to the parent. Save the seed until spring and sow in gentle heat. Schizostylis can be propagated by dividing the rhizomes during early spring.

Schizostylis  plants such as Kaffir lilies can be grown from tubers or seeds. Tubers should be buried at about 5cm deep in the spring. Seed should be sown before the last frost of spring lightly covered with topsoil. They can grow in either sunny or partially shaded conditions and requires an area of the garden that has good drainage. Ideally the soil that the lily grows in will be rich, moist and have a PH that is neutral to slightly acidic. If you plan to start off indoors then start about two or three months in advance  as they need to be transplanted just after the last frost of spring. It should take from one to three months for seeds to germinate at a temperature of 12-15 degrees centigrade. Once ready transplant outdoors at about 25cm apart.

 

Agapanthus Africanus – Love Flower

I have never grown Agapanthus before. The first time I became aware of them was when my son Sean and his partner Deb came to Adam’s house to create an instantly beautiful garden when Adam received his new wheelchair and wanted to spend time outside. The Agapanthus arrived big and beautiful and smothered in vibrant blue flowers and were put in at eye level for Adam to enjoy along with many other hardy perennials. As Adam became more and more poorly and Winter arrived we spent most of the time indoors. When Adam passed away in February 2016 I came home and eighteen months have passed. On 20th August I went to the house for the twins fifth birthday and went out into the garden to see it very neglected but there were the Agapanthus with a few seed heads still containing very ripe seed. I brought a few seed heads home and was very pleased to find 80 seeds just waiting for me to sow. As I had no growing experience of these plants I had a bit of research to do. The name is derived from the Greek for Love Flower. I have 80 seeds and today, 26th August, I have sown 20 seeds in a module tray of sandy compost with a covering of horticultural grit. Germination should be around 30 days. I have just read another article which advises sowing in March so if the first 20 don’t survive I can try again in Spring.

Apparently there are seven Agapanthus species possibly because they freely hybridise. They are magnificent bulbous plants which produce an unrivalled show of blue when grown well. Their large umbels of blue trumpets are quite unlike anything else. Easily grown in well drained sunny positions. It is essential that the roots do not become waterlogged in Winter. Remember that plants grown in pots are at a risk of freezing whereas the ground usually stays above freezing point especially if the crowns are well protected with a deep mulch. Agapanthus will tolerate being overcrowded which suits them to growing in pots. If they need dividing do this in Spring and do not bury  the plants too deeply. Feed tub specimens liberally from Spring until flower bud are seen. All require full sun so the heads will naturally lean towards the sun. . In New Zealand Agapanthus grow particularly well, so well in fact that they are classified as a pernicious weed whose sale is prohibited.

Over Wintering Spring Cabbage

It’s time to sow seeds of overwintering cabbages. They are my favourite cabbages and should be ready from early Spring onwards. Sow: mid-July to August ¼” deep in a seed bed or in trays of seed compost. Keep moist. Transplant to their final positions when plants can be easily handled in about 5-6 weeks. Allow 18” between plants. Plant firmly and water well until established. Harvest: April-May for good firm hearts. The four varieties that I am sowing today, 22nd July,  are, Spring Hero, Durham Early, Offenham 2 Flower of Spring and Cabbage First Early Market. The  last one is new to me this year but the others are tried and tested favourites. Today, 29th July, all the seedlings are through except for the Durham Early, which haven’t shown at all. Seven days is quite good though so I will give the no showers another week.

Japanese Wisteria Sinensis Alba

I went to buy a birthday present for Janice and couldn’t resist buying one for home too. I bought a Japanese Wisteria from Webbs in Wollaston. They were £9.99 each and look really healthy. Now, one month on, it’s still in its original pot and I am nervous about potting it on. I don’t want to lose it. Wisteria is a vigorous climber with long, fragrant, pendulous pea shaped flowers and lime green foliage. This white variety of Japanese Wisteria can grow to 12 metres high and up to 8 metres wide and needs a wall or an arch or pergola. This climber can also be trained to grow up into a mature tree. I have read that the stems get large and gnarled and woody as the wisteria matures.  The fragrant flowers appear in spring and early summer and will occasionally give a second flush in late summer.

I don’t really have a perfect spot for this plant so I think I may put it into a large 50 litre pot with a strong support for a couple of years.

Scaevola Topaz Pink – Aemula


Laura went out yesterday and came back with a pot of Scaevola Topaz Pink, I had never come across this flower before and on reading a bit about it thought it would be a good candidate for the pond. This unusual and beautiful plant is  perfect for baskets and containers. The flowers are fascinating with all the petals clustered on the lower half of the flower in a fan-shape. Its common name is Fairy Fan Flower. It has a naturally trailing habit and prolific flowering and gives a continuous show of colour throughout summer. This variety, Topaz Pink, has pastel pink flowers. I cant see any sign of seed heads so I assume that this plant should be propagated from cuttings. I intend to try this in September. Scaevola is a sun-loving annual that grows 8 to 12 inches tall and produces a non stop show of pink flowers. Because scaevola is an Australian native the plants are heat tolerant and have almost no insect or disease problems. Scaevola is also self cleaning so you don’t have to remove the dead flowers to keep the plant in production. The plants attract butterflies and are generally safe from slugs and aphids. In very warm parts of the country it can be treated as a tender perennial.

Corydalis

This little beauty has popped up here and there all around the garden and I had no idea where it had come from. Its a very pretty ferny foliage and is now showing some lovely yellow flowers. I have googled it and find that it is called Corydalis and is a genus of about 470 species of annual and perennial herbaceous plants in the Papaveraceae family, native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere and the high mountains of tropical eastern Africa. They are most diverse in China and the Himalayas, with at least 357 species in China. Wherever it has come from I like it.

Aubrieta Royal Blue and Red

Earlier in the year I bought some seeds of Aubrieta from Seekay and the instructions say to sow from June to July. They are very tiny and I don’t want to lose them to insects but I am planning to sow a few directly into the side garden in the hope that they will grow into some strong plants to use around the pond.

Aubrieta is a genus of about 12 species of flowering plants in the cabbage family Brassicaceae. There are six European species and take their name from Claude Aubriet (1688-1743), a French botanical artist. All are found on limestone but some appear on open scree, others in crevices while some crop up in coniferous woodland.  The genus originates from southern Europe east to central Asia but is now  common throughout Europe. It is a low spreading plant, hardy, evergreen and perennial, with small violet, pink or white flowers that grow well amongst rocks and banks. It prefers light, well-drained soil, is tolerant of a wide pH range, and can grow in partial shade or full sun. The technique to keep Aubrieta going year after year is to shear them hard as they finish their display so that they develop a new cushion of tight foliage. Cuttings can be taken, and ideally these need to have three inches of brown stem below the rosette of foliage. The technique is to tug them away with a heel rather than cut them. This can be done in September and October when the cushion of foliage is dense, or in late summer. A cold frame is ideal as it keeps the root cool. Sow seeds in spring.

Arabis Spring Charm – Rock Cress

Arabis is an attractive evergreen perennial which forms a low-growing mat of jagged, hairy grey-green leaves. It produces masses of stunning, sweetly-scented, pure white flowers in March and May. Ideal for using as an edging plant or growing around the base of shrubs, it requires good drainage and will thrive in sun or shade. It can be used to clothe a bank and looks excellent when set off against a backdrop of large rocks making it a great choice for the rock garden. Best cut back after flowering. I scattered a few seeds in the side garden in May and they have already formed nice little plants so I have sown a few more today.

Tomatoes – A Gift From Frank

Following the disaster of germination then loss to the frost and the starting again but with limited success we have been given eight tomato plants by our allotment neighbour Frank. Today I have the job of potting them on into their final pots. Some are familiar and some new varieties to me.

One of the new  varieties is Solanum lycopersicum Harzfeuer and is an open pollinated cultivar. A German variety this beefsteak fruit is acidic and juicy. Harzfeuer grows to a height of 5′. Tomato Idyll is a cocktail tomato variety which produces long clusters of red fruit. The slight red fruit are highly valued for their delicious taste. Gardeners Delight, Sweet Millions, Marmanade and Lemon Pear, Hildares plus one unlabelled are the others.