Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: January 2017

Phacelia Tanacetifolia – Fiddleneck

I’m having another look at the free seeds, Phacelia, sent to me by Higgledy. They sound very interesting. Today, 2nd February, 20 seeds sprinkled onto moist compost and covered lightly. They don’t need much heat so I shall pop the tray on to the window ledge and cross my fingers. These seeds are sold at £1.95 for 1000. 29th April – I have four of these seedlings looking good and today have sowed another batch.

Lavender-blue, bell-shaped flowers, which are laden with nectar, form in densely-packed clusters on sturdy stems and attract bees and other beneficial insects. The flowers will last well after being cut. The fast growing foliage will help suppress weeds and makes an attractive groundcover. Scorpion weed can also help to enrich the soil. They self-seed freely. From early spring, sow into small pots filled with good seed compost and initially protect with a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. Pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushier growth and harden off before planting out. Alternatively sow direct in autumn into a sunny, well-prepared seed bed. Easy to grow, if you do not want the plants to set seed, remove the spent flowers as they fade.

Phacelia is often called by its common name of Scorpion Flower due to its drooping ‘tail’, our cousins across the water refer to it as Fiddle Neck for the same reason. I rather like this name but sadly we have a weed of that name so in the interests of clarity I will avoid its use. It is an annual flower and an easy one to grow at that. The flower itself is a cracking lavender colour and also, unusually for an annual, has a sweet scent. Couple these wonderful qualities with the fact that it seems to flower all summer long…lasts ages in the vase and has good strong stems, then you can see why I think it makes a fabulous cut flower worthy of a coveted place in the Kingdom of Higgledy. Benjamin from Higgledy’s words and pictures. I’m sold.

 

Rudbeckia Orange Fudge – Brown Eyed Susan

Today, 30th January, I was presented with a packet of Rudbeckia Rustic Dwarf seeds with a last sowing date of this year. I have sprinkled the whole packet onto a tray of moist compost and put it into a polythene bag and look forward to seeing some seed leaves pushing through in a couple of weeks. This vibrant coloured flower is also called Cone Flower, and I had some of those in the perennial seedlings that I bought from T&M. Unfortunately they didn’t survive the Winter.

History : Rudbeckias are members of the daisy family and were named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus to honour two eighteenth century botany professors, Olof Rudbeck the Elder and Olof Rudbeck the Younger. Linnaeus is reported to have told his teacher , Rudbeck the Younger, “so long as the earth shall survive, and each spring shall see it covered with flowers, the rudbeckia will preserve your glorious name”.

Germination update – 5th February and lots of green seedlings pushing through after only one week. Very good for seeds dated 2005.

Sweet Williams Crown Single

I have a soft spot for these common garden flowers. Sweet Williams grew at the back of my Nan and Granddad’s little old house and as they got older my Mom would buy a bunch for them from the market. As these flowers are biannual it looks like it might be next year before any flowers appear but once I get a patch going there should be a continual show. I intend to sow a few seeds early. I have a small tray with 36 tiny modules and I will sow half and half Didiscus and Sweet Williams. Apparently Sweet Williams belongs to the Dianthus family, Dianthus Barbatus. The small picture shows the spiky foliage of this tough little plant.

A hardy biannual variety of Sweet William that produces a profusion of flowers with a wide range of colours. These make a lovely cut flower. Sow the seeds in spring on the surface of moist compost in April to May and cover lightly with vermiculite.  Seal inside a propagator and keep warm.  Germination should take up to three weeks.

Didiscus Lacy – Trachymene

I can’t wait to see these flowers in bloom this year. They are an annual plant that self seeds so hopefully will stay in the garden for years. I have sown twenty seeds in a seven inch pot of good compost, enclosed the pot in a polythene bag to retain moisture and I shall keep it in the warm until germination. This could be up to three weeks. Didiscus is a member of the parsley family and is related to Dill and Fennel. 29th April – I have lost these seedlings to frost so have sowed another pot today.

Sow Lace Flower seeds, Didiscus, indoors six weeks before last expected frost. Sow the seeds into moist compost and cover very lightly. Keep the compost moist until germination. When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant into pots and gradually acclimatize to outdoor conditions for two weeks. Plant outdoors after all risk of frost has passed. This annual variety of Didiscus will grow to a height of 90cm. The plants produce flower heads that range in colour from Rose White, Pink through to Lavender. This variety makes an ideal plant for cut flowers that appear in July / August. Another good buy from Seekay at 99p for 100 seeds.

Lobelia Cascade Mixed

This morning, 27th January,  I am sowing the Lobelia seeds bought from Seekay (99p). When I saw that there were 3000 seeds I was surprised but now I’ve seen them I understand. They are really tiny dust like seeds and impossible to separate. I have sprinkled some on top of a seed tray of compost in which I have buried the tiny modules that my perennials arrived in from T&M last year. I did buy a packet of Lobelia seeds years ago and sprinkled them directly onto the soil on the flower bed at the allotment but they never grew. I shall probably use these half hardy annuals in containers and around the pond when it is done. I do prefer single colours and didn’t realise that I had bought mixed. If I am successful with them this year I shall buy them annually as they are  a pretty space filler.

Sow indoors, January-April. A warm kitchen windowsill is all you need for starting these seeds. Sow thinly on the surface of a small tray of pre-watered compost. Place in a warm, light position. Keep the compost moist. The tray can be covered to preserve humidity, but remove when seedlings appear, usually in 14-21 days. Transplant them, in tiny clumps, 2″ apart, to other trays when large enough to handle. Grow on in cooler, but not cold conditions. Gradually accustom young plants to outside conditions , before planting out, May-June, 15cm (6″) apart, into well-drained soil, when frosts are over. Flowers: June-October . Information from Fothergill Seeds.

Antirrhinum Majus Maximum Mix – Snap Dragon

This morning I’m having a look at sowing some Snap Dragon seeds early. It’s still only late January so it may be too early. I bought the seeds from Seekay and paid 75p for 3500. I did a bit of research and learned that the seeds need to be put in to the fridge overnight before sowing, having done this I have prepared a seed tray with damp compost ready to sow tomorrow. It seems that this herbaceous perennial doesn’t need heat to germinate but does need light. Seeds are now sown in a tray of moist compost, enclosed in a plastic bag and set on the window ledge for decent light. 28th Jan. I will try to remember to sow some seeds directly into the garden in July.

Surface sow in March in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 10 – 21 days at 18°c. Cool nights assist germination. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in July/August and will produce larger and more floriferous plants the following summer.

 

Gypsophila Paniculata Covent Garden – Higgledy Seed

Sow Gypsophila seeds on the surface of the compost in spring. Make sure that the compost is moist but not wet and seal in a polythene bag until after germination which usually takes ten to twenty one days. Do not exclude light which is beneficial to germination. Transplant when large enough to handle and grow on in cooler conditions. Later plant out in a sheltered spot. Plant out at about a foot apart. They may need staking against the wind if in an exposed position.

I have tried to grow these beautiful, herbaceous perennials before without success. This will be my year with them. These seedlings grow a deep tap root so need starting in a deep pot. They prefer not to be disturbed though. In March I may sow some seeds directly into the white border.

26th January 2017 about thirty tiny seeds sprinkled onto moist compost in a pint pot and enclosed in a polythene bag. All my seed pots are in the computer room and I try to keep the light on during these short Winter days. It is -4 outside this morning. 30th January and it looks like 100% germination already after only 4 days. I have taken them out of the polythene bag and moved them to the window ledge for light,

Well done Higgledy, 1000 seeds for £1.95 and 100% germination. I can’t wait for them to mature. Twelve weeks from germination I believe.

Verbena Bonariensis Lollipop

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Like its parents, Verbena bonariensis Lollipop ,boasts the same tight clusters of floating purple flowers but has short, compact stems that reach only half the height. Well shaped, uniform plants with an open airy habit that attract butterflies to their glowing blooms from June to September. This hardy dwarf verbena is perfectly proportioned for patio pots and the front of borders where it creates a wonderful delicate airy effect. Seedlings and information from thompson-morgan.com.

Three of these seedlings have survived the winter but look quite straggly with only one strand each. I will research and see whether I should pinch out the growing tip or not. I have potted them on all together in a pint sized pot for now. Update October 2017 – These short compact flowers ended up at about eight feet tall. However, they are very beautiful and are still flowering now.

Gardening on a budget – Project Diaries

I have been following a nice chap, Lee, online who is very inspirational and creates video diaries of his experiments in the field of growing and propagating on a shoestring. I believe he is relatively new to gardening and started in order to help his ageing Grandad. His enthusiasm is infectious and he quickly gathered many followers. He loves finding ways to make do and mend and passes them on to the world through his YouTube videos.  He was responsible for my saving so many seeds and having a go at growing strawberries, lemon and orange tree plants from seeds collected from fruit bought from the supermarket. I think I recall him saying that he has an arrangement with his local supermarket to take stuff that is past its best then he uses the collected seeds to grow new plants.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/projectdiarieshq

 

Capsicum – Green Pepper

Image result for sowing green pepper seedsLast week I bought peppers to use for tea and kept the seeds. I left them to dry out and today have sprinkled about thirty onto moist compost and put them into a polythene bag.They should germinate in about ten days. I’m not sure that they will come true but it’s worth a try. I have grown peppers before and think that they need a long time to grow in our climate and that is why I am starting early. 25th January. Germination update – about twenty seedlings showing through today 5th Feb that’s 13 days. I shall leave them in the tray covered for a little longer. Update – 13th Feb, all thirty seeds germinated. I have potted on six into three inch pots.