Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Meconopsis Betonicifolia and Alba – Himalayan Blue & White Poppy 2018

I have today received fifty seeds of Meconopsis Betonicifolia from Premier seeds for another attempt to get a Himalayan blue poppy into my garden. I have bought seeds and young plants previously but have yet to see a blue poppy. This year I have bought seeds of the white variety, Alba, too. I have put the seeds in to the fridge for stratification and will leave them there for 14 days. Its 21st March today so I can sow them all on the 5th April.

A perennial poppy originating from the Himalayas, famous for its unique blue flowers. Requires a shaded cool position in moist soil in order to thrive. Can be tricky to successfully propagate and cultivate. Height: 2-3′. The seed must be stratified seed for 14-21 days in the fridge in order to break the seeds dormancy. Sow between Jan -Mar in good free draining seed compost with a high grit content covering the seed only with a finest sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Acclimatise to outdoor conditions in late spring and plant out when a good size in a shaded position with deep, moist soil 18-24in apart. Protect from slugs and snails when young.


Loved both for their flowers and their seeds Poppies come from a range of families. the best known of these, Meconopsis, includes the Himalayan Blue Poppy and Welsh Poppy, while the Papavear family includes the Iceland poppy and Oriental Poppy.

There are both annual and perennial types. The perennial poppies include the Himalayan blue poppy. Plants can be grown from seed and will flourish in pots or containers as well as naturalised into the garden.

Poppy seeds do not need to be deeply planted, most varieties need light to germinate so a lightly cover at best is all that is required. Sow poppy seeds during early autumn or early spring, when germination may take place in 14 to 30 days at 70F, however the seeds will germinate erratically and should be pricked out as they become large enough to handle, individually into 3 inch pots or as groups in 5 inch pots. Poppy plants do not transplant particularly well they are very sensitive to root disturbance so be very careful when potting on or use coir cells which can be planted into the final position without disturbing the roots. Grow on until the pots are full of roots and plant into the garden or patio after the last frost. Poppies need spacing at about 12-14 inches. Most poppies prefer sun but will tolerate semi shade. Take care when watering to avoid washing away seeds or any new shoots. Misting is best.

Broad Bean Grano Violetto

Broad bean Grano Violetto from Premier Seeds is an unusual winter hardy, early maturing Heritage variety with an excellent flavour. The freshly harvested beans are green drying to a deep violet colour. I am sowing one large pot full at home and the rest are going to the allotment. As its already March these seeds are late going in but I live in hope of a harvest of young beans at about the same time as the peas.

Broad beans probably originate from the area of the southeastern Mediterranean coast and started spreading over the entire Mediterranean area 5000 years ago. Earlier forms have relatively small seeds and are mainly found in Arabic cuisine.




Peas – 2018 – Canoe & Ambassador

These two varieties of pea are seeds left from last year and need using up this year. I shall sow the Canoe now and the Ambassador a little later in the year. I intend to grow some peas at home in containers this year as well as at the allotment as quite a few were lost last year when Rob couldn’t get down to harvest.

Pea Ambassador – Pea  Ambassador is a Maincrop variety of pea which is ideally suited for sowing later in the season.  It is a robust growing, short-vined pea with good resistance to downy mildew.  A high yielding variety producing masses of large, blunt-ended pods containing up to nine sweet and tender peas of great quality. Ambassador is one of the only Peas that can be sown in July for an October crop and is ideal for successional sowing.

Pea Canoe – A well named and highly productive variety producing long slightly curved pods with pointed tips that each contain up 12 peas. With such full pods, Pea Canoe is set to become an ideal variety for exhibition. The heavy crops are carried on semi leafless stems for easy picking and plants become virtually self supporting if grown in a block. Surplus crops of this wrinkle seeded pea freeze particularly well. Useful for Spring and Autumn sowing.

Peas are a cool season crop well suited to the UK climate. Peas can be direct sown outdoors from March to June once the soil has warmed up. Using cloches will help the earliest crops to germinate. In milder areas some hardy early maturing cultivars can be sown in late autumn for overwintering and producing particularly early crops. For a continuous crop it’s a good idea to sow a new batch of peas every 10-14 days. Alternatively, try growing different early and Maincrop varieties that will mature at different times throughout the growing season. Water regularly once pea plants start to flower to encourage good pod development. You can reduce water loss by applying a thick mulch of well rotted manure or compost to lock moisture into the soil. Don’t feed peas with nitrogen rich fertilisers as this can create leafy growth instead of producing pea pods. In most cases peas won’t require any extra feed.

Peas should be harvested regularly to encourage more pods to be produced. The pods at the bottom of each plant will mature first so begin harvesting from low down and work your way up as the pods mature. Peas can be frozen but they are sweetest and tastiest when eaten freshly picked from the garden. Early varieties can be harvested 11-12 weeks from sowing while Maincrop varieties need 13 -15 weeks to mature.

Peas are legumes which take in nitrogen from the air and store it in small nodules along their roots. When growing garden peas don’t be tempted to pull the plants up from the roots at the end of the season. The leaves and stems can be cut off at ground level and added to the compost heap before digging the roots into the ground. As the roots break down they release nitrogen into the soil. 

Californian Poppy – Escholtzia Californica 2018

I had no flowers from these seeds last year at all but I have persevered and scattered more seeds into the garden this year. I have sown both white and orange and am hoping for more success this time. 

Escholtzia californica was named after Dr Johann Friedrich Eschscholz, a Russian physician who was one of a party that discovered and described the plant in 1815 while exploring the Pacific coastline of what is now California. It would have been hard to miss, as great sheets of yellow and gold clothed the rocky hillsides. Technically a perennial but often grown as an annual, owing to its ability to go from seed to flower in a matter of weeks. A single plant can flower profusely over a long period before eventually setting seed and producing new flowering plants in the same season. These Poppies thrive in dry, gravely, well drained soil. Once established it will seed itself around. The most successful and cost effective way to grow the Californian poppy is by sowing directly into prepared gravelly ground during spring. Work your topsoil into a reasonably fine tilth before applying a 2″ thick layer of gritty sharp sand or pea gravel. The seed can be broadcast directly on to this free draining layer before being watered in. A succession of sowings from early April to May should result in a succession of plants over the Summer.


Vinca Mediterranean XP Mix – Madagascar Periwinkle

I ordered these seeds from Seekay not realising that there would only be ten in the packet. Not much room for grower error. This variety of Vinca is said to be ideal for container growing. The plants grow 10 – 15 cm in height with a spreading, trailing habit. Mediterranean mix has a good range of colours from red to pure white. The plants should flower from late spring to late summer. Having read the instruction I have decided to plant the seeds singly into 3″ pots rather than a tray so cutting out the need to move them. These ten seeds have gone in today, 9th March 2018. I have used 3″ pressed card pots so that I can put the whole thing directly into the garden soil when they are big enough.


  • Sow the seeds in March – April.
  • The seeds should be sown on the surface of a good quality moistened seed compost
  • Cover the seeds lightly with Vermiculite and maintain a temp of 24 – 27 deg C. (this is best done in a propagator as temps are very important)
  • Keep compost moist but not waterlogged.
  • Germination will occur in 1 – 2 weeks
  • Once large enough to handle pot on into 3″ pots prior to planting out in to their final position.



Scabious – Scabiosa Atropurpurea Beaujolais Bonnets T&M

Last year we went on a visit to Ashwood Nurseries and Laura couldn’t resist buying a packet of T&M Scabious seeds, Beaujolais Bonnets. We had discovered a blue version of this lovely herbaceous perennial amongst some wild flowers grown from a mixed packet she received free from RSPB. We repotted it into a large pot and it is showing signs of regrowth even now in the snow. Our plan is to top up the compost in last years pot and sow the new seeds in there.

Scabiosa Butterfly Blue is a Lovely, lavender blue, pincushion like flower blooming from July to September, held on delicate stems above clumps of lance shaped, grey green leaves this long flowering blue scabious is ideal for a sunny, well drained rock garden or container planting. As its name suggests, the charming pincushion like flowers are highly attractive to butterflies and they make very pretty additions to fresh and dried flower arrangements.



Found by chance in a Suffolk garden, this showy Scabious produces large, burgundy pincushion flowers surrounded by an outer collar of raspberry pink petals. Scabiosa Atropurpurea Beaujolais Bonnets is a variety with tall stems that stand above other perennials. The nectar rich blooms are loved by pollinating insects. A first class perennial for cottage garden borders that will also provide you with some fabulous cut flowers.



Scabiosa Caucasica was introduced into Britain in 1803 after seed collected from the Caucasus was sent to the Hackney nurseryman George Loddiges. In the wild it is found in cool meadows and in the garden this plant seems to peak once the heat of summer starts to wane. Clive Greaves is a selected seedling originally grown by market gardener James House, who ran a successful nursery near Bristol. The House family had previously named a white form Miss Willmott in honour of Ellen Willmott who gardened at Warley Place in Essex. They also developed their own seed strain, usually known as House’s hybrids, which are still available from Thompson & Morgan as young plants and seeds. The first scabious ever introduced was the small flowered Scabioisa Atropurpurea in 1591. This species comes from warmer areas of southern Europe. Often sultry and dark, it was given the common name Mournful Widow.

All scabious prefer well-drained soil and a sunny position. They dislike cold, wet winters. A top dressing of grit in October will aid surface drainage. However they also hate hot, humid weather and do best in temperate conditions. Dead head regularly to promote further flowering. Scabiosa are easy to care for and require little maintenance. Rainfall is normally all the water they need however they will require supplementary water during prolonged dry periods. They require no fertiliser as the addition of compost will suffice. It is recommended that you deadhead spent flowers to encourage further blooming whilst providing a vital tidy up. Divide and replant in fresh soil every 2-3 years to maintain vigour. Attractive to bees and butterflies. Hardy perennial.

Adam’s Birthday Today – Miss Him

“If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realising that you are the author and everyday you have the opportunity to write a new page” — Mark Houlahan

Today would have been Adam’s birthday. Had he lived he would have been 44 today. My heart is heavy and my mind still trying to make sense of what has happened. He has been gone from our lives for over two years. His life, though too short, was after all, a magnificent story. He has left us all with amazing memories for which I am grateful. He was a very positive person so I try always to think, what would Adam do, when I am faced with a decision to make. Love you forever my lovely boy.



Tomato Seeds – To grow or not to grow 2018

I have twelve different varieties in my tomato seed box. They are all old seeds. I have just read my post from last year and my message to myself was don’t grow any tomatoes next year. However, I have sown a selection of last years seeds to test germination. They are sitting on the computer box for a little bottom heat. The photographs are of previous success for inspiration. I have sown a few varieties including Gardeners Delight, Ildi, Black Opal, Black Cherry and Tigerella.


Tomato Gardeners Delight – Cordon/Indeterminate. The true tangy flavour of tomatoes. Bite sized fruit. A greenhouse or outdoor type. High in vitamins.

Tomato Ildi – Small, sweet, yellow, pear shaped cherry tomatoes with up to 80 fruits per truss. A cordon variety that naturally stops growing at 6′. 

Tomato Black Opal F1 Hybrid –  A very juicy cherry variety with deep purple black fruit. Sweet with a touch of acid. 

Tomato Black Cherry – An Heirloom cordon variety. still quite rare they are the only truly black cherry tomato.

Tomato Tigerella – A medium sized red fruit with green and yellow stripes.

  • For greenhouse culture sow seeds late winter to early spring 1.5mm (1/16in) deep. Germination usually takes 6-14 days at 24-27C (75-80F).
  • To grow outside, sow seeds in early spring and grow as above.
  • Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle and plant out into growbags or pots when large enough.
  • Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions before planting outside.
  • Provide support and tie in regularly. Remove side shoots as they appear and restrict the plant to one main stem.


How to sow seeds

  • Fill a 3″ pot with moist compost
  • Sow seeds thinly and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite
  • Enclose the pot in a polythene bag
  • Germination should be within two weeks and plant should be large enough to move into separate pots in about eight weeks

Potting On

  • When the roots start appearing through the drainage holes pot on into next size pot making sure to bury the stem as roots will grow out from the stem
  • Continue to pot on until in the final pot, growbag or directly in the ground

Growing tips

  • If  the aim is to create a single stemmed plant remove side shoots from between leaf joints.
  • When four sets of flowering trusses have formed pinch out the growing tip
  • Water plants daily and once flowers have started to appear feed with tomato fertiliser every week


Sweet Pea – Lathyrus – 2018

Last years Sweet Peas were very disappointing with very few flowers. I have put all the seeds left from last year, Mammoth Mix,  into a deep pot of moist compost and my plan is to buy some fresh seeds too for another go this Summer. The Fresh seed is on order and should arrive tomorrow, weather permitting.

The old seeds are showing signs of germination with five green shoots trying to emerge at 6 days. I found a few more Mammoth mixed today, Monday  5th March, and have put them into a deep pot. I want to start a really good amount this year using all my old seeds and some new. New seeds arrived this afternoon so I sowed about twenty of the Spencer Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill is a slightly scented Spencer type that has the most beautiful deep crimson. well ruffled petals. Update 17th March – Both the old and new seeds are up and the first pot have been pinched out above the second leaves. The Spencer variety germinated very quickly and I am already thinking that I may stick to these in future. 


Growing sweet peas is supposed to be easy. Sow into compost in autumn and overwinter or wait until spring and sow in pots or sow into the ground. Before I sow them I soak the seeds in tepid water to rehydrate them. It helps them get off to a quicker start but it isn’t essential as they will still germinate well in moist compost. I usually soak overnight, use a good quality compost and sow several seeds about half an inch deep to a pot. Place in a bright position. As the seedlings grow they tend to become tall and leggy. Encourage them to produce side shoots by pinching out the tips. Simply nip off the top of the stem just above a set of leaves. This will make each plant much bushier and more robust. And the more shoots there are the more flowers will be produced. Sweet peas climb by twining their tendrils around whatever they touch so help them to cling to the support you have  provided.

Throughout the season you will need to keep them well watered as dry soil will make them go to seed quicker, also deadhead regularly. Towards the end of the season leave the seed pods to mature for collection towards next years flowers.

The Sweet Pea is a flowering plant in the genus Lathyrus in the family Fabaceae and is native to Sicily, Cyprus, southern Italy and the Aegean Islands. It is an annual climbing plant growing to a height of 1–2 metres where suitable support is available.