The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

The Pond! At Last

We finally managed to get the old plastic pre formed  pond liner out and replace it with a heavy duty flexible liner and an under liner to protect it from any sharp stones. Rob did a good job of first lining the shape with sand too. It looks much better now and I have planted it up with the Lobelia Cardinalis Queen Victoria for now. I have also dotted a few creeping phlox and other low plants around plus planting a few Iris Riculata bulbs which I hope will survive the squirrels and the chickens and give us a bit of colour come next spring.

Laura gathered a few seeds of Golden Eye Grass when we were in Devon at the end of September. This plant is said to be happy in a rockery and around a pond so I have just sown the seeds into the garden in the hope of raising a few plants.  Golden Eye Grass – Sisyrinchium californicum is a rhizomatous perennial herb producing a pale green stem which grows up to about 60 cm. The flat, narrow leaves are grass like. The flower has six tepals. They are bright yellow with brown veining. 

By next Spring we should have a few more plants that can be placed around the pond. On the whole Im am very happy with it and my hope is that it will attract wild life, like frogs and newts, into the garden.

Roses – Black Spot

I was very disappointed with the Roses this year as all but two were blighted with Black Spot. I was aware of this fungal disease and have removed infected leaves as I saw them but I didn’t use any spray at all. Some of my bare root roses didn’t flourish at all and I put this down to the very cold wet winter. I also decided that I had made a mistake by mixing spring bulbs in the pots with the roses. Death by Tulip. I intend to try and tackle the problem early next year.

Rose Blackspot is best prevented with an anti fungal spray early in the season before the foliage starts to show through. To be extra cautious spray the ground around the bush too. Most garden roses are prone to this disease and much depends on cleanliness for successful control. With roses that are susceptible to blackspot spraying every two weeks may be necessary. Hard pruning in the spring and burning all pruning material is best with any rose plant that regularly get blackspot. A feed with a high potash content will also help to allay the disease. This should be carried out early in spring in order that the rose plant may take the potash in as a preventative.

Make your own anti fungal spray with baking powder and washing up liquid mixed  with water and put into a spray bottle. Spray both sides of leaves. Add one box of baking powder to water and add baby shampoo. Mix well before spraying. Spray every two weeks. This mixture changes the ph to kill and prevent fungal growth. Shampoo acts as a coating agent to maintain alkaline ph.  Respray after rain.

Autumn – Seed Collecting and Bulb Planting

I have quite a lot of bulbs already in the garden both in the ground and in pots. However I couldn’t resist a few more and have bought some single snowdrops, Russian Snowdrops and Iris bulbs. Now I have to decide where to plant them. My other hesitant purchase was English Bluebells. I already have some very old Bluebells in the garden so I must be sure not to plant them too near to each other I think. My garden is quite small but my appetite for flowers is enormous. Laura has also caught the bug and has bought Glory of the snow and Honeybells, a new one to me. Update – Most of the bulbs are now either in the garden or in pots.

Our other passion has been seed collecting. As well as collecting as many as we can from flowers in the garden, which is very rewarding, we have been known to steal the odd seed head from friends. Whilst watching Gardeners World last week I saw something that made me smile and think, why didn’t I think of that. There was a couple who had dedicated their garden to perennials and wildlife. The lady shocked me when she said when my flowers have gone to seed I simply cut off a stem that has seed heads forming and push it into the ground where I want the flower to grow next season and let nature take it’s course and the seeds gently fall exactly where I want them to grow. Well, it’s so simple I just had to try it out. I tried it with Japanese Anemone, Black Eyed Susan and Verbena Lollipop. I will update this post next year with results.

The Science – A mature seed typically consists of a mature plant ovum containing a minute, partially developed young plant, the embryo, surrounded by an abundant supply of food and enclosed by a protective coat. Plants that seed are divided into two main groups: the gymnosperms, primarily cone bearing plants such as pine, spruce, and fir trees, and the angiosperms, the flowering plants. The gymnosperms have naked ovules which, at the time of pollination, are exposed directly to the pollen grains. Their food supply in the seed is composed of a female gametophyte, rather than the endosperm found in angiosperms.

In angiosperms, seeds develop from ovules that are enclosed in a protective ovary. The ovary is the basal portion of the carpel, typically vase shaped and located at the center of the flower. The top of the carpel, the stigma, is sticky, and when a pollen grain lands upon it, the grain is firmly held. The germinating pollen grain produces a pollen tube that grows down through the stigma and style into the ovary and pierces the ovule.

Two male sperm nuclei are released from the pollen grain and travel down the pollen tube into the ovule. One of the sperm nuclei fuses with an egg cell inside the ovule. This fertilized egg divides many times and develops into the embryo. The second male nucleus unites with other parts of the ovule and develops into the endosperm, a starchy or fatty tissue that is used by the embryo as a source of food during germination. Angiosperm seeds remain protected at maturity. While the seed develops, the enclosing ovary also develops into a hard shell, called the seed coat or testa. 

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 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.

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. Update – The Wisteria is now in a large planter with an obelisk for support. Fingers crossed.

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.