Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Collection

New Herb Collection – Tregothnan Botanical Gardens, Truro Cornwall

I have received a package of herbs from Smartplantapp.com that was sourced from www.tregothnan.co.uk who apparently are the only tea growers in Cornwall. They have been established since 1999 and boast Europe’s Largest Tea Garden.

My package was a selection of herbs that Tregothnan grow both for sale in their gardens and for use in their tea infusions which they sold at the best hotels and stores before the Pandemic arrived.

Tregothnan Botanical Gardens

Tregothnan means The house at the head of the valley and from the look of this photo they aren’t exaggerating. It looks beautiful.

Tregothnan

Everything we do here at Tregothnan brings us back to the magnificent botanical garden. It provides us with produce and inspiration; our range of English estate teas and herbal infusions are grown here, our Manuka and wildflower honeys are produced here, our seasonal British flowers and foliages are sourced here. The gardens, both in Cornwall and in Kent, are the beating heart of the estate and we are constantly inspired by their fecundity and resilience.

Manuka Flowers

Tregothnan is the only place outside of New Zealand to grow the Manuka plant (Leptospermum scoparium), which have been recorded on the Estate since the 1880s. Tregothnan’s tea bushes (Camellia sinensis) are surrounded by Manuka plantations, in part to protect the tea from the prevailing winds due to Manuka’s thick, coarse characteristics. The Manuka bushes provide essential shelter for tea but also a delicious treat for the bees whose hives are nestled in amongst the kitchen garden.

Tregothnan also keep their own honey bees and produce and sell their own honey. Its a little expensive for me but I’m sure its delicious.

My tiny package of herbs arrived and included six young plug plants of Marjoram, Thyme x 2, Sage x 2 and Hyssop. Plus a complimentary tea bag.

I have planted them up straight away into a large blue ceramic planter that I have had by my kitchen door for many years. It was bought for me by the children one Mother’s Day and has been in the same place since then. Since Adam died it had contained Spring bulbs and Viola Sororia Freckles which have both multiplied again and again and this year the plants needed splitting and the soil refreshing . I have left a few of the viola in there and arranged the herbs around the pot. There is plenty of space for them to spread as it is a very big container.

Hyssopus officinalis Blue

Hysssop

I have never grown or cooked with this herb so a little research was needed. Apparently Hysoppus officinalis is a versatile herb. It can be planted in the border or used in the kitchen. Bees and butterflies are attracted by Hyssop’s electric blue flowers. The flowers are aromatic and long lasting and the foliage is evergreen so it could be a real bonus in the blue pot outside the kitchen door.

Although not well known Hyssop is a useful culinary herb used sparingly.  Chop and scatter young leaves onto salads, meat or oily fish dishes or use to flavour soups, stews and fruit dishes. Hyssop is said to aid the digestion of fatty or rich foods.

Hyssop also has medicinal properties. A tea made from the dried flowers infused with honey is soothing for coughs.

Origanum Vulgare Aureum

Golden Marjoram

The label says that Golden Marjoram has brilliant golden foliage and is of a low growing habit. It produces pink flowers in late summer, dies back over winter and reappears in spring. It advises cutting back old dead flowers in early spring. This woody perennial can be propagated by cuttings of non flowering shoots in mid-summer or by division in the autumn or spring.

Fresh or dried marjoram leaves are used to season soups, sauces, salads, fish, legumes and meat dishes. It is also great in marinades and may fragrance vinegars, oils and liquers. An essential oil, used by the pharmaceutical industry, is made from the foliage. Some medicines utilise marjoram in healing for respiratory and digestive system diseases. Its greens contain taurine, vitamin C and carotenes.

Salvia Oficinalis

Salvia officinalis is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae and native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalised in many places throughout the world.

The Latin name salvia officinalis is derived either from the Latin salvus, which means healthy, or salvare, meaning to heal. The name officinalis is derived from officina, which stands for the traditional storeroom in an apothecary where the herb was kept. It also refers to the fact that the herb is officially used as a medicinal plant.

During a major outbreak of plague in 1630, faith in the healing effects of sage was so strong that thieves in Toulouse rubbed a sage/herb/vinegar mix into their skin to protect themselves against infection before going out into the night to rob cadavers. When caught, they were told that their lives would be spared if they revealed the secret of how they inoculated themselves. Ricola.

My two Sages are a little different to the common sage. Sage Tangerine is described as a semi-hardy sage with bright green foliage and a strong citrus aroma. Sage Icterina Gold is described as a perennial with gold and green variegated leaves on a rough but keenly scented upright foliage.

Sage Tangerine

Salvia elegans, commonly called pineapple sage or tangerine sage, is a perennial shrub native to Mexico and Guatemala. It inhabits Madrean and Mesoamerican pine-oak forests. The foliage of this decorative culinary sage has a tangerine-like scent, while the summer flowers add a vibrant shot of colour to borders or pots. Both the foliage, particularly the younger leaves, and the flowers can be used to dress salads, while the leaves can be brewed for tea.

Sage has been used for centuries as a culinary herb, Tangerine Sage is grown as a tender perennial herb plant primarily for its flowers, which are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. However, the leaves and flowers can be used to flavour food and drinks. The leaves can be snipped into salads and the flowers make an attractive addition to a salad too. In addition the leaves add a herby tangerine taste to fruit drinks and cocktails or on their own make a refreshing tea.

Golden Sage

Golden Sage is a very popular herb. This variety has a milder taste in comparison with common sage . It is also a great companion with rich foods as it can aid digestion.

Golden sage can be propagated from cuttings. Many growers say Icterina does not bloom and is strictly an ornamental but the plant produces purple flowers in late spring. Seeds can be unreliable so growing golden sage through spring cuttings is a quick and easy way to make more of these lovely little shrubs. Root cuttings in sterile potting soil and keep evenly moist. To enhance rooting, provide heat and humidity by placing a bag or clear cover over the plant. Remove the cover once per day to release excess moisture and prevent root rot.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Golden Sage Care: How To Grow A Golden Sage Plant https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/sage/grow-golden-sage-plant.htm

Thymus Vulgaris

Thymus vulgaris is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe from the western Mediterranean to southern Italy. Wikipedia

Thyme is thought to have the powerful ability to kill off bacteria and viruses and should be taken at first signs of a cold or illness. Thyme does contains antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, carminative, diaphoretic and expectorant properties which supports healing throughout the entire body. A very useful herb to have in the garden.

The two tiny starter plants of Thyme in my package are Thymus Vulgaris, common thyme, and Thyme Coccineus.

Thyme Coccineus, the second variety is a creeping woody based perennial.

Thymus praecox Coccineus or Creeping Thyme with a degree of spicy fragrance. This flat-growing Thyme features fragrant dark green leaves, smothered by bright magenta-red flowers in early summer. A strong grower, ideal as a drought-tolerant lawn substitute or for planting between slabs. Creeping Thyme is easily divided in spring or early autumn and even small pieces will take root and grow. It is evergreen and attractive to butterflies.
Thyne Coccineus

Aquilegia vulgaris Collection Columbine

Over the years I have gathered quite a few varieties of Aquilegia Vulgaris from the very first seeds given to me many many years ago by my Sister-in-law Janice who had gathered them from her Mothers garden one Autumn. Her mother has long gone but I think of her often when these flowers start to bloom.

Just like Joyce these flowers are hardy and no nonsense. They look after themselves and pop up year after year to bring colour to the garden. There are so many varieties and hybrids so my wish list is very long.

You can start Columbine flowers from seeds or buy young plants. Seeds should be sown throughout spring. The seeds need light to germinate so simply press them on the soil surface and lightly cover with soil. Germination is about 30 days and because Aquilegia is a perennial it will take two years from planting the seeds for them to bloom.

Most varieties of Columbine plants will bloom for at least four weeks. They look delicate but are tougher than they appear. They tend to be short-lived perennials but self seed and spread bringing pleasure and colour to your garden for years.

Varieties of Columbine include dwarf varieties that are just 6 inches tall as well as large varieties that are more than 3 feet tall with large flowers. Keep in mind that Aquilegia varieties readily cross-pollinate. If you plant more than one variety be prepared to see new colors and combinations.

Aquilegia is a genus of about 60–70 species of perennial plants that are found in meadows, woodlands, and at higher altitudes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, known for the spurred petals of their flowers. The genus name Aquilegia is derived from the Latin word for eagle (aquila), because of the shape of the flower petals, which are said to resemble an eagle’s claw. The common name “columbine” comes from the Latin for “dove”, due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together.

Aquilegia Vulgaris William Guiness

Also, known as Magpie, this variety has purple-black flowers with contrasting white centres in late spring and early summer above fern-like, mid-green leaves. The unusual flowers of this old fashioned columbine creates an eye-catching display. The plant self seeds freely.

Aquilegia William Guiness

Aquilegia Vulgaris Pink Flamingo

This is a large flowering pink variety. Appearing in late Spring it is a new columbine variety. Coming quite true from seed it should be planted away from other Aquilegia with which it could hybridise.

Aquilegia Pink Flamingo

Aquilegia Vulgaris Crystal Star

Aquilegia Crystal Star is a long spurred aquilegia with pure white flowers. A cottage garden favourite and an excellent and unusual cut flower possessing a clean crisp bright whiteness. “This has to be one of the easiest and most rewarding Perennials available producing masses pure brilliant white flowers with stunning spurs”. so says the company that I bought the seeds from so I hope so as this is the first year that I have sown them and I am hoping for them to become a permanent presence in the garden.

Aquilegia Vulgaris Blue Bird

From the Songbird series this blue Aquilegia is one of my favourite flowers in the garden. Such a perfect blue.

The songbird series is a range with compact habit and very large flowers with bright clean flower colours. A clump-forming perennial which forms a basal rosette of foliage and from May to July huge flowers with long spurs produced on strong upright stems. Varieties still to add to my collection from the Songbird Series are Goldfinch, Nightingale, Cardinal, Bunting, Early Bird and Chaffinch.

The Songbird hybrid series has a long history that started back in the 1980’s, and it’s story involves at least two breeding programs. The breeders used many species and selections in creating this mix. McKanna Giants formed the foundation of this complex cross. Breeders also reportedly used A. skinneri, A. californica, A. chrysantha, A. canadensis and a number of other strains. It’s a real mix, but is still sold under the botanic name of Aquilegia caerulea, as this remains the primary species used in the strain.

Aquilegia Bluebird

Aquilegia Wild Variety

A perennial often found at woodland edges and roadsides, long stalked with long-spurred blue-violet flowers. This variety grows to a height of 60cm and prefers damp woodland. It flowers during June and July. The foliage is very pretty.

Wild Columbine

Aquilegia Crimson Star

Crimson Star hybrida has striking red and white flowers. Columbines are attractive foliage plants that grow well in fertile soil in the sun or partial to full shade.

Aq Crimson Star

Evergreen Climbing Plants

In botany, an evergreen is a plant that has leaves throughout the year that are always green. This is true even if the plant retains its foliage only in warm climates, as opposed to deciduous plants that completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.

Clematis & Jasmine

I already have a few clematis in the garden that I have accumulated over the years but none of my current collection is evergreen. I also have a very old Jasmine which has served me well for many years but seems to have gone very woody at its base but I am hopeful of flowers this year nevertheless.

I recently bought a trio of evergreen climbers from smartplantapp.com and they were sourced from http://www.guernsey-clematis.com/. Smart plant has been set up by an enterprising chap who could see a problem and came up with an answer to it.

Guernsey Clematis is a wholesale nursery that is struggling during the pandemic lockdown as most of the garden centres that they supply are closed. Take a look at the website. I am truly impressed by how efficiently it is being run. Very futuristic things are happening there and it gives me hope for the future of growing in this country. I decided to help in my way by making a small purchase. There are two clematis and one jasmine in the bundle that I chose.

The genus Clematis can be a deciduous or an evergreen shrub/climber or an herbaceous perennial. They mostly climb by twining and clinging to trellis or trees and come in many varieties. The choice is endless with some beautiful colours and types of flower. Most also have attractive fluffy seedheads in the autumn.

Jasmine is a genus of shrubs and vines in the olive family. It contains around 200 species native to tropical and warm temperate regions of Eurasia and Oceania. Jasmines are widely cultivated for the characteristic fragrance of their flowers.

Star Jasmine

Star Jasmine

Star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides is a woody, evergreen climber with rich, dark green leaves that turn bronze in winter. From mid to late summer, pure white, fragrant flowers are produced. It can be grown against a wall in milder climates or in a greenhouse or conservatory in areas prone to severe frosts.

Clematis cirrhosa Wisley Cream

Clematis Wisley Cream

The Cirrhosa Group of clematis are evergreen woody climbers with bell shaped single flowers, produced from late autumn to early spring on the previous year’s growth. The variety Wisley Cream is a large evergreen climber with divided, toothed glossy dark green leaves which are bronze in winter. It has pale cream flowers that can bloom from autumn to early spring followed by silky seedheads.

The variety was introduced to the UK in the 1970’s after being raised by the late Ken Aslet at the RHS garden in Wisley from seed collected in Southern Europe. Although it is Cirrhosa, Wisley Cream can go dormant during the Summer but it will produce glossy foliage over the Winter months and flower during mid to late Winter.

Clematis Kimiko

Clematis Kimiko

I am assured that this special evergreen clematis is one of the easiest of all to grow. Apparently, apart from the removal of the odd broken branch in spring, Kimiko needs no pruning at all. It is vigorous, hardy and healthy. It should produce fragrant flowers from early spring to summer over the entire height of the plant. Perfect for growing on an obelisk in a large pot in a tree or on a fence. Whilst best in a sunny location it prefers its roots in the shade. I have the perfect pot and obelisk for this tiny new plant and can’t wait for it to be 4ft tall and covered in flowers.

A new introduction from the Evison/Poulsen breeding program this compact evergreen climber produces abundant spring flowers year after year. info from Guernsey Clematis.

I really hope that this company will continue to serve the public after things get back to normal, Whatever that may turn out to be.

Can’t wait

Saturday 28th March 2020 Three Months AC

My plan today was not to mention the terrible situation that is life on Earth today but to add a few plants that I have got ready to plant out in the garden when the weather warms up a little more.

This morning I read an article that says it all. I am leaving the link here. https://www.bbc.co.uk/stories-52

Potentilla Atrosanguinea – I bought this healthy little plant online from https://www.secretgardeningclub.co.uk along with a few others. It’s a shrubby plant that bears red flowers during June and July. I look forward to seeing it thrive in my garden. I received the plant a couple of weeks ago and potted it on to grow a little before it goes outside. The foliage is very attractive and the plant looks sturdy and well worth the couple of pounds I paid for it.

Potentilla is a genus containing over 300 species of annual, biennial and perennial herbaceous flowering plants in the rose family, Rosaceae. They are usually called cinquefoils in English. Potentilla are generally only found throughout the northern continents of the world, though some may even be found in montane biomes of the New Guinea Highlands. wiki

Erysimum Red Jep and Yellow Bird – Today I have planted the two hardy perennial Wallflowers from secret. I already have a Bowles Mauve and an un-named yellow variety, both from cuttings gifted to me by my sister. I love them both and so when I saw these available for £1.99 each I jumped at the chance to add them to my collection. I already have a few roots of Wallflowers grown either from seed or bare roots and I am very fond of the genus.

Wallflower Persian Carpet
Wallflowers

My Viola Collection 2018

On 7th June 2007 I went to Sugarloaf Lane Nursery and bought a few plants. One of these was an Alpine Viola called Papilio. I love Violas and this was to be the first of many. They are such a versatile plant and look good in individual pots or mixed containers as well as in rockeries, gravel gardens and borders. I have listed below the varieties that I have in my garden at present. The genus Viola is a very interesting group of plants. I am not so keen on the larger pansy type of flower but prefer those bred from the Lutea and Cornuta. I have ordered my 2018 treasures from The Wildegoose Nursery.

The Bouts viola collection was established in 1978 by Mark and Stephanie Roberts of Bouts Cottage Nursery. In 2011 they retired and Jack and Laura Willgoss took over creating Wildegoose Nursery. I cant wait to visit and collect my plants. They are situated close to Ludlow, one of our favourite places to visit.

Viola hybrids, as the name suggests, have parentage that is somewhat diverse and they can be striped and splashed, bicoloured or the image of simplicity itself in pure hues of white, yellow, pink, mauve, purple and black. Many are scented too

Tips from the Wildegoose Website:- For your Violas to flourish, they need a good depth of soil for their roots to spread into. So if planting in a pot go for something at least 12” (30cm) deep and use a proprietary brand of potting compost. If planting in the open ground, make sure the soil is well cultivated, weed free and ensure you incorporate plenty of organic matter. Violas need regular deadheading to maintain their long season of flowering and they benefit from a light trim and tidy in July if appearing leggy. Cut back to within 2 inches from the base in early autumn to encourage fresh new basal growth and to deter pests from overwintering in their crowns. www.wildegoosenursery.co.uk

Viola is the name of a genus containing about 500 different species. Most of the violas cultivated in gardens are grown as annuals or short lived perennials, however, many will self-seed and give you years of delight. Violas are as at home in woodland settings as they are filling crevices in rock walls. 

 

Viola cornuta is a species that originates in the meadows of the Pyranees and has long stems to hold their purple, honey scented flowers high enough above the surrounding grasses, to attract the attention of passing insects. The flowers of Viola cornuta have characteristically narrow elongated petals that are so delicate, yet these are remarkably hardy robust little plants. They are often recommended for ground cover, as they happily spread to make large flowering clumps under shrubs. Viola lutea, also known as the mountain pansy, is a species of violet that grows in Europe, from the British Isles to the Balkans. I prefer hybrids of these two as they are so delicate

If growing in pots use a good quality general purpose compost and incorporate grit or perlite to aide drainage through the winter. You can also add slow release fertiliser to the compost or give them a liquid feed every two to three weeks to give them a boost. Feed first with a balanced feed for healthy plant growth and once well established switch to a tomato feed to encourage more flowers.

Violas are cool weather plants. Although they thrive in full sun it’s light and not heat that they require. Cooler autumn and spring temperatures are ideal. Higher temperatures can be off-set with mulch and diligent watering. Enrich the soil with leaf mould or well-rotted organic matter such as manure added to the flower bed in the spring.

Most of today’s violas are derived from Viola odorata, the Sweet Violet. Sweet violets are true perennials. If you’re lucky you’ll find them in fields and lawns and you can recognise them by their sweet scent and deep violet color. Most of us has found Viola tricolor commonly called Johnny Jump Up, a self-seeding perennial with tiny flowers of purple, yellow and white.

During the summer cleistogamous flowers without petals produce seeds, which are flung outward by mechanical ejection from the three-parted seed capsules. Cleistogamy is a type of automatic self-pollination of certain plants that can propagate by using non-opening, self-pollinating flowers. Especially well known in peanuts, peas, and beans, this behaviour is most widespread in the grass family. However, the largest genus of cleistogamous plants is actually the Viola. Although Violas self seed freely they are also easy to start from seed at home. Violas need darkness to germinate so cover the seeds completely. Direct sowing is another method when the weather is a bit warmer.

Alternatively they can be propagated with cuttings. You can take a cutting in August, snipping off a shoot around 5 cm long cut off at leaf node. Nip off flowers and buds on the shoot and all but three leaves. Dip into a rooting hormone and plant into a pot of compost. Water in, place outside, and roots will start to grow within 18 days and you’ll have a whole new viola plant.

Viola Papilio – A lovely vigorous perennial alpine plant producing marbled textured flowers with purple blending with white and a yellow eye above clumps of dark green, heart shaped foliage. This fragrant plant flowered from mid spring to autumn giving me lots of pleasure. It has come back year after year and seeded itself here and there. They do get leggy in Summer so cut them back and they will regrow from the base. They self seed profusely around the mother plant.

 

Viola Sororia Freckles – Quite unlike any other variety, Viola Sororia Freckles bears violet, speckled flowers from spring to summer. The unusual blooms are carried above neat clumps of heart shaped foliage. This memorable Violet will self-seed freely, dotting its offspring around the garden to provide welcome surprises the following spring. Perfect for growing in containers, rockeries or planted into crevices between paving. My garden now has lots of this very giving hardy perennial plant.

Viola Sororia Albiflora – The white wood violet. A new one to me last year. Purchased as a young plant from Websters of Wollaston. The flowers of this form are white except for delicate violet lines radiating from the throat of the flower. There is no noticeable scent. They flower for about six weeks from mid to late spring according to the weather. The root system consists of thick, horizontally branched rhizomes with a tendency to form vegetative colonies. As they are woodland plants they prefer dappled shade. Update 26th April 2018 – This plant is once again preparing to throw up a wonderful display of white Violas. I was worried about its survival as we have had a very hard, long winter and I have in fact lost a few of my favourite violas. However, today I found the original plant covered in new buds. I am hopeful of late seedlings appearing too.
Following our visit to Wildegoose Nursery I now have six new Violas in my collection. Viola Lindsay, Viola Raven, Viola Josie, Viola Aspasia, Viola Aletha and Viola Olive Edwards. Pictured below are Raven And Aspasia.

Wallflower Ivory White – Erysimum cheiri English Wallflower

Although I have very many Wallflowers in my garden I couldn’t resist buying seeds of this one from Seekay. There are supposed to be 1000 seeds in the packet and I never pay more than a pound for anything from them so they were a good buy. It is a beautiful creamy white wallflower that will grow to about 18″ high and flower from April to June. Wallflowers are biennial and so grow in the first year and flower in the next year so I will have to be patient.

What spring garden would be complete without a bed of delightful, sweet-scented Wallflowers, harbingers of warmer weather to come. Very easy to grow and very rewarding; indeed they respond beautifully to the sow and forget technique. Bare patches sown with the absolute minimum of fuss in mid-August started flowering the following April and continued to supply the household with an abundance of cut flowers for many weeks thereafter. Although technically a short-lived perennial, these perform much better as a hardy biennial. So say the people from Chiltern Seeds and who am I to argue.

Sow the seeds thinly from April into open ground that has been well dug. Once large enough to handle thin out. The thinnings can be replanted or potted up for later use.  Keep the soil moist prior to germination. I have just sprinkled a few seeds into the white border. Can’t wait.

Columbine – Aquilegia Vulgaris

Columbine

This morning I have sown a tray of Aquilegia seeds in damp compost and covered in Vermiculie, sealed in polythene and placed in the window ledge. I am not sure of variety as they were given to me by my Sister-in-law Janice and were given to her by her Mother Joyce who had collected them from her garden. Apparently they take 25-35 days to germinate and we wont see any flowers from them until next Spring. It will be worth the wait though as they are perennials and once established should give us pleasure for many years. I intend to scatter a few seeds directly along the back border at home and see what I can get there. I have always admired these beautiful flowers but have never tried to grow them from seed before.

809554-medium.jpgAquilegia common names Granny’s Bonnet or Columbine is a genus of about 60-70 species of perennial plants that are found in meadows, woodlands, and at higher altitudes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, known for the spurred petals of their flowers.