The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Tag Archive: Tips

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.

 

Lavandula Stoechas Anouk – Lavender

I bought a couple of pots of this Lavender from Lidl. I think they were £2.79 each. One is here in the garden and one has gone to live with Sean and Deb. I have repotted it for now as it seemed a bit pot bound but it will go into the garden later in the year.

Lavandula stoechas is a species of flowering plant in the family Lamiaceae, occurring naturally in Mediterranean countries. An evergreen shrub, also called French or Butterfly Lavender. Anouk is a compact variety and does well in mixed containers as well as a hot, sunny border. Hardier than other forms but also easily wintered indoors. Drought tolerant once established. Flowers are attractive to butterflies. It  was developed in the Netherlands.

Prune the lavender plant in spring or early summer just after new growth begins. Pruning in autumn can cause the plant to waste energy on new growth leaving it vulnerable to frost. Do not prune lavender plants in the first year when they are establishing roots. Lavender plants, unlike many perennials, do not handle division well so cuttings is the way to go. Softwood cuttings – use only soft, new-growth material from this year that has not yet become brown and woody. These cuttings will grow fastest but are only usable if the soft material is at least 5″ long and includes at least two leafy nodes. Prepare a seed starting tray or small flowerpots to place the cuttings in for the first few weeks after cutting. Because plants without roots are sensitive to both drought and excessive moisture use a good draining compost. Use terra cotta pots due to their breathability and soak overnight before continuing to the next step. Using a clean sharp knife and  slice off the selected branch just below a leafy node, removing a cutting at least 5″ long, including at least two leafy nodes. The longer the cutting is, and the more nodes it has, the more likely it is to be successful. Leave the top cluster of leaves on as they will provide energy for the new plant. Cut all the other leaves off the cutting so that it directs its energy to root development. Plant the cuttings in the containers you prepared earlier just deep enough to keep them steady. Give them a generous quantity of water immediately after planting.  After three to six weeks strong roots will have developed in the small pot. 

 

Lupin Russell Noble Maiden White

I bought seeds of Lupin Noble Maiden White from Seekay and after an overnight soak they were sown into module trays of damp compost and covered in a polythene bag, I sowed two lots about a week apart and germination has been very good, as with most of the seed from this supplier. It looks like I may not see any flowers this year which is sad. These seedlings have been potted on twice now 25th May, and are producing some good roots.

This is said to be a robust Lupin that produces densely packed spikes of creamy white flowers in mid summer and often again in early autumn. Lupins are stalwarts of the cottage garden and are perfect for the border. Easy to grow and undemanding they put on quite a show with the minimum of fuss as long as they have enough moisture when actively growing.

A Hardy perennial , Noble Maiden bears pinnacles of White flowers. Sow the seeds from April – July after having soaked them over night. Sow in damp compost and cover in a polythene bag. Germination can take up to 21 days. When large enough to handle pot on into 3″ pots prior to planting out after all risk of frost has passed. According to the National Gardening Institute, all parts of a Russell Lupin plant are toxic. Overwintered plants will flower in the summer but those sown in March may not flower until the next year.  Young plants need to be potted on frequently whenever their large roots stick out of the pot. Wait until they are at least 12″ tall  before putting them out you get a good strong plant. Originally Lupins, Lupinus polyphyllus, were introduced into Britain from North America in 1826. This cottage garden perennial had the plain blue flowered spikes with occasional whiter flowers. In 1937 the RHS awarded its highest honour to a  jobbing gardener George Russell for developing a strain of Lupins that caused a sensation.  George Russell developed his Lupins by selection of seedlings achieving a central spike covered with flowers. Bred for a long flowering period with unbeatable garden performance. He produced one of the most popular plants in history, the ever popular Russell Hybrids.

The Russell Hybrids, Band of Nobles series, have exceptionally bright and strong colours.  Noble Maiden, occasionally called Fraülein, feature soft ivory white buds that open to pure clean white. Stunning in the border or in a vase. Growing to around 3-4ft the plant forms a well established leafy foundation with several flowering stems rising out of a single base. Tall spires of tightly packed flowers rise above beautiful green clumps of palmate foliage. The flowers open from the bottom up making for a longer blooming period.  Lupins are very hardy plants, surviving extreme temperatures withstanding frost and are extremely attractive to bees and other pollinating insects.   Lupinus x Russellii Noble Maiden has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Pak Choi 2017

I have a few seeds of Pak Choi left. They are quite a few years old now so I am just sowing them all into a flat tray of moist compost. If they germinate successfully I shall pot them on into an oblong planter. Sow seed in moist compost in small pots or cells. They can be sown direct but young seedlings are susceptible to slug attack. Thin out young seedlings and keep them well watered. Pak Choi should be ready to harvest in 30 days from sowing as baby leaf or between 45-75 days as semi-mature to full-size heads. When seedlings are 5cm tall plant them outside firming in well. Keep them well watered to prevent bolting. Cover the crop with horticultural fleece to provide a barrier to airborne pests, such as flea beetles. No sign of these seedlings at all so the seed must have been too old. I shall try again next year though with fresh seeds. These leafy green vegetables are similar to Spring Greens. The paddle shaped dark green crispy leaves have a thick creamy stalk and a mild flavour. The leaves and the stalks can be eaten as an accompaniment to meat or fish or used in stir fry. It is best steamed or stir fried with fresh ginger and a little soy sauce. Keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Iberis umbellata Dwarf Fairy mix – Candytuft

Iberis Dwarf Fairy Mix is an easy to grow variety that grows to a height of about 10″ and has large fragrant flower heads suitable for cut flowers. Flowers appear from March to September. Sow seeds indoors from mid March. Cover the seeds lightly. Germination will take between 14 – 30 days. Plant young seedlings out when the weather warms up a bit. Candytuft will not require very much care. I have had these pretty flowers before but have always bought them as young plants. This is the first attempt at growing from seed.

Today 26th August I am collecting seeds from these rewarding flowers. They have been a joy to watch and have surprised me with their show of lovely pink, violet and white blooms. I tried sowing as directed in pots and had no success so I sowed directly into the borders and like magic, in about three weeks, they popped up everywhere. I know that lots of seeds have already fallen into the soil and may survive the winter but I am covering my back and collecting some to sprinkle around next spring. Altogether a positive experience. I bought the original seeds from Seekay at 99p for 750, but don’t think I will ever need to buy more. A very rewarding plant.

The candytuft plant, Iberis sempervirens, hails from Europe. This stunning performer is a flowering evergreen perennial with a few rules for appropriate care and performance. Plant in well draining alkaline soil in a sunny location. Growing candytuft is worth the effort as the delicate flowers appear in early Spring through Summer and often again in Autumn. Once blooms are spent cut the entire plant back to ground level. This should be done at least every other year to prevent this beauty from becoming tall and spindly.

Arenaria Montana – Mountain Sandwort

Arenaria Montana is a classic little alpine or rock garden plant. The plant has narrow, glossy green leaves that form prostrate mats of foliage that are evergreen. In mid-spring, Mountain Sandwort is blanketed by relatively large, white flowers.  Whilst it does best in full sun to partial shade, it is considered to be drought-tolerant. It is not fussy as to soil type or pH and is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. Plants will grow to be only 2″ tall at maturity. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense to the ground and is slow growing. Their ground-hugging habit means that this useful plant can be used at the front of the border or, it can be used as a lawn substitute for low foot traffic areas. They are at their loveliest spilling over edges of walls and will quickly fill in spaces between stepping stones or trail down the sides of walls. RHS award 1993.

Sow in spring or in autumn. Prepare pots or trays with good free draining seed compost; moisten by standing in water, then drain. Surface sow two seeds per pot or cell and press them gently down to firm them in. Cover the seed with a fine layer of vermiculite if you have it.  Seal pots in a polythene bag or cover trays with clear plastic lids until after germination. It is important to keep soil slightly moist but not wet. Remove the covering once the first seedlings appear. Germination can take up to 30 days. If seeds do not germinate by 4 weeks remove pots/tray to a cool shaded area. Seedlings are usually large enough to handle after 4 weeks. Transplant the seedlings into 3½” pots. Two seedlings can be planted to one pot. Place the pots in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse to grow on.  Before transplanting outdoors, harden off gradually. They do best in moist but well draining soils.

Arenaria Montana has a shallow root system and can dry out very quickly. Cover substrate with vermiculite or mulch to retain water and keep your eye on small plants until they establish themselves. A relatively low maintenance perennial, simply remove damaged foliage in spring and fertilise with a complete balanced fertiliser, don’t fertilise after mid September. It should only be pruned after flowering to avoid removing any of the current season’s flowers.

Arenaria Montana is native to mountainous regions of south-western Europe from the Pyrenees of France to Portugal.

The genus name Arenaria is taken from the Latin arena meaning sand referring to the sandy habitats of many species. The species name Montana means simply ‘of the mountains’. Arenaria Montana is a member of the Caryophyllaceous family, a cousin of the popular Dianthus genus.

Today, 6th February, I sowed all twenty seeds received from Seekay at a cost of £1.22, I put them two to a module. Now I must wait for thirty days for germination. From past experience I know that Alpines aren’t easy to grow. We are planning on rebuilding the area around our old pond this year and these were  something I thought would be good there. Update 16th Feb – three green shoots showing after ten days.

White Cucumber – Cucumis Sativus

This year I am going to try and chit Cucumber seeds. I have put four each of White Wonder from Seekay and Long White from T&M in some damp kitchen towel and into a plastic food box. It is sitting on the computer box for a little warmth. They don’t usually take long to germinate any way, about 7-10 days. I have grown the Long White before and have yet to see a white Cucumber. Last year produced the best plants but they were destroyed following the torrential rain that we had here. I have prepared a 7″ pot of moist compost ready for the germinated seeds. The White Wonder are new seeds. Well, no luck with chitting so I have put them directly into pots. I’m worried now that I may have spoiled the seeds. Hope not as they are quite expensive as seeds go. The T&M Long White were £1.99 for 15 seeds. Seekay White Wonder were 20 for 65p. 10th February – all of the White Wonder are about two inches high but only one of the Long White through yet. (7 days) Having got to the end of April and only two seedlings left I have sown another pot of the long white today. The best plant, the Long White, got killed off by a frost when I put it out too soon and the other two, White Wonder, which are still inside, look very feeble even though one of them is already in flower.

 This Half-hardy Annual, Greenhouse type Cucumber Long White is not just a novelty. The firm flesh is sweet and juicy with a pleasant tang that will add flavour to your salads. The tender, white skins are so thin that they won’t need peeling. This attractive variety is a good cropper when trained against supports in the greenhouse. Height 9′
The White Wonder are described as an excellent variety that produces creamy white fruits that reach approx. 20cm.
http://www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-grow-cucumbers

Eryngium Planum Blue Hobbit – Sea Holly

Eryngium Blue Hobbit  is a dwarf Eryngium, which can be grown in a patio pot. The 12″ plants become top-heavy in midsummer, with sprays of nearly 100 inky-blue flowers. Blue Hobbit is a herbaceous perennial with spiny edged leaves and spiky, cone-like, bright blue flowers on strong stems throughout summer and autumn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four of the six seedlings survived and are now potted on into five inch modules. I hope that they make it through to May for planting out in the garden.

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.

 

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.