Gardening Hints And Tips

How to do stuff around the garden

Cranesbill Cantabrigiense St. Ola

This cranesbill is an improved form of  Geranium cantabrigiense Biokovo which holds the white flowers for longer before ageing to pink.  It is an Alan Bremner hybrid, bred and named in Orkney.  A cross between G. dalmaticum ‘Album’ and G. macrorrhizum Album with aromatic, evergreen, glossy green leaves. It grows well in most soils, is low growing and forms good ground cover. 

I bought this plant as a bare root from wilko.com and it seems to be growing as it should. Unlike the tulips that I bought from there as pale pink and white that turned out a beautiful cerise colour. It was a slow starter but is now looking very good with a good amount of healthy bronze leaves. I am looking forward to flowers this year as it is supposed to bloom from May till first frost. It is listed as deciduous but perennial so hopefully will reappear next spring. All I have to do now is decide whether to keep it in the pot or put it into the border.

The Cranesbill group of plants are very easy to manage.  Remove old overwintered leaves in spring, tidying up any damaged by winter weather.  Propagate by division in spring.  Pest and disease resistant. This will be the last addition to my cranesbill collection for a while. I have Beth Chato already in flower at present and many more to look forward to.

Swiss Chard White Silver

Swiss Chard White Silver

I have sown seeds of white swiss chard today, May 1st, as I came across them whilst looking for herbs. Swiss Chard is a favourite of mine that we grew every year at the allotment. It is a very giving plant and needs very little maintenance once established. It is a member of the beet family. When we visited the allotment after being away for a whole year the chard was still there looking as healthy and inviting as ever. Day 7 and a few green shoots have appeared in the Chard pot. Potted on today 24th of May.

The variety of chard that I had seeds of is White Silver which has wide white stems. The early leaves can be used in salads. Later, use the tops as you would use spinach. Treated as a separate vegetable the stems can be sliced and cooked in boiling water and eaten with butter, salt and pepper – simple, tender and tasty.

I prefer to chop the whole stem and leaf and toss it in the pan with a little oil and lemon juice. Put the sliced stem in first and cook a little before adding the leaf as it takes a little longer to soften whereas the leaf wilts very quickly. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar. Perfect beside fish or steak.

Swiss Chard White Silver

White Silver is a classic Swiss Chard with thick white stems and glossy, rich green leaves. With an RHS Award of Garden Merit, this robust leaf beet is a versatile addition to the vegetable plot or even the flower border. Baby leaves can be used in salads while the juicy, mature stems can be chopped and steamed, or used to add a sweet crunch to stir-fries. Mature leaves can be used as a delicious spinach substitute. Sow Swiss Chard ‘White Silver’ up until August for cropping into the New Year. Thompson&Morgan.

Swiss Chard

Finally, Swiss Chard is very good for you being naturally low in calories and carbohydrates but very high in Vitamins K, A and C. A diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits has been shown to lower heart disease risk factors, Swiss chard is an excellent source of potassium, calcium and magnesium, minerals that help maintain healthy blood pressure. There is also current research that indicates that these leafy greens can actually lower LDL cholesterol.

Herbs – Parsley, Sage and Thyme

Inspired by Gardeners World I have sown a pot of mixed herbs. Just one large pot. The lady on TV had plenty of ready grown herbs and was potting them up into a large container. Expensive, instant herb garden. I only had a ten-inch pot and a few old seed packets plus a new bag of multi-purpose compost. I have searched through my seedbox and I don’t have any Rosemary seeds to make up the foursome.

The seeds are sown and now on the window ledge. I have watered them and enclosed the pot in a polythene bag to preserve the moisture. I estimate that germination should take place between two and four weeks.

Sage Broad Leaved

The perennial broad leaved variety of Sage that I have sown takes a little longer to germinate. I have grown this variety before at the allotment and as I remember it formed a beautiful shrubby bush with downy grey-green leaves and purple flowers. The taste is strong and distinctive and the aroma is wonderful. I will be happy if I manage to get one bush for the garden as the seeds are quite old.

The leaves of this herb are usually mixed with onion and breadcrumbs to make a delicious stuffing for pork or chicken. However, its unique taste and aroma enhance the flavour of many dishes.

Sage

Only seven days have passed and already many green shoots have appeared.

Parsley Italian Giant

Parsley comes in two main types, flat leaved and curly leaved. The seeds I had are of a flat-leaved variety and are the ones I prefer to use in cooking. The variety that I have sown is Italian Giant. This parsley has a distinctive flavour and is good with fish, salads and soups. It is easy to grow indoors or outdoors, as it is very hardy with good frost resistance.

Flat Parsley

Thyme English Winter

The variety of Thyme I have sown is English Winter. Thymus Vulgaris is a hardy evergreen perennial with dark green leaves that are followed by clusters of small pink flowers. This herb hails from the Mediterranean and can be picked all year round. The active ingredient in the leaves is Thymol which lends the herb its strong flavour and antiseptic properties. Thyme is used in cooking to flavour meat and stews. It is the classic herb used in bouquet garni and enhances the taste of most meats.

Thyme

In addition to livening up the flavour of food, the thyme plant is also the source of thyme essential oil. Thyme oil has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. It is commonly used as a preservative in foods, cosmetics, and toiletries.

Zinnia Elegans – Sowing Seeds

Zinnia is a genus of plants of the sunflower tribe within the daisy family. They are native to scrub and dry grassland in an area stretching from the Southwestern United States to South America, with a centre of diversity in Mexico. Wikipedia

For early flowers Zinnia seeds can be sown under glass in early spring. Fill a seed tray or pot with compost and cover with a sprinkling of vermiculite or compost. Water moderately and when the seedlings are large enough to handle pot on and harden off before planting outside.

Alternatively, sow seeds thinly a quarter of an inch deep in a sunny bed in the garden. Wait until after all risk of frost has passed. Germination should take place in 7-14 days.

Zinnia are perfect for cut flowers. They should flower from early June until the first frost. I am going to try to sow them directly into the border this year. They like a sunny but sheltered position and once germinated don’t like to be moved. I have seeds of both Green Envy and Polar Bear.

Green Envy – The colour of this summer blooming annual Zinnia is a bright chartreuse green and acts as a wonderful foil to richer shades.

Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’

Polar Bear – A bright white double flower that shines out in the border.

Zinnia Polar Bear

Save seeds at the end of the season and in a couple of generations of seeds you will have developed your own strain of zinnia naturally selected to perform well in your conditions. Simply clip off a dried flower head from each flower type that you want to save. Pull the flower apart and remove the seeds inside or simply put the whole blossom full of seeds into an envelope. Seal and identify the flower colour. Keep the seeds in a cool, dry place until it is time to plant next year.

Easter Bank Holiday Monday – Sowing Seeds of Courgette and Squash

COVID-19 News Update

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Our Prime Minister has been thanking the NHS for saving lives for weeks. Today he has thanked them for saving his life as he has left the hospital following his own personal fight against COVID-19

Courgette Zephyr F1 Hybrid

As promised yesterday I have made a start on sowing the squash this morning .I have sown the last three seeds of the Courgette Zephyr, an F1 Hybrid variety purchased from thompson-morgan.com. I have grown these successfully before. I have placed three seeds in a 7″ pot of moist general purpose compost. These seeds are best sown vertically I have found. I have enclosed the pot in a polythene bag and put it on the window sill. They should germinate in about 7 days and hopefully be flowering in June for an Autumn harvest.

This distinctive variety produces attractive, creamy-yellow cylindrical fruits with an unusual pale green tip. The strong, bushy plants of Courgette Zephyr produce fruits with a firm texture and a delicious nutty flavour if harvested regularly when no more than 6″ long.

Butternut Squash Hunter F1

Next seeds to be sown are six Butternut Squash Hunter, an F1 hybrid bought from Premier Seeds Direct. These fruits are a family favourite and I have treated them the same way as the courgette seeds.

Bred specifically for the UK and Northern European climate this variety delivers outstanding crops over a variety of UK summer conditions. Ready for harvesting up to four weeks earlier than other hybrids with fruits averaging 1kg with very high yields per plant.

Saturday 16th May 2020 – Update on the Courgettes and Squash – Laura bravely went and begged an old tyre from next doors skip and we have made a little garden for the squash and courgettes. There is a group of seven plants and I have high hopes for them. The seeds grew into very healthy plants and they lived on the window ledge until today.

Fingers crossed that we have seen the last of the frost but I have built up a protective surround of plastic covered netting with polythene bubble wrap. My only worry is overcrowding. I am hoping that the plants head for the skies and cling onto the netting.

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

Spring 2020 – New plants

Cranesbill Pratense Mixed Seeds

Its 11th February 2020 and we have been potting up new bulbs, roots and corms. Lauras enthusiasm far exceeds mine and she has been obsessed with seeds and plants since January, just as I used to be before Adam was Poorly and eventually passed away on 20th February 2016.

I have to admit that I can get lost in messing about in the garden and find some sort of peace out there. At present the garden is far from beautiful. I still keep a few chickens and they have eaten quite a few plants over the Winter. This, added to my neglect, has meant there is a lot to do to bring it back to life.

An online foray onto Wilkos website saw me buying a few bare roots and corms plus some topsoil and compost. I bought Spectabilis, Dahlia, Gypsophila, Calla Lily and mixed Cranesbill seeds. Laura added roots of Agapanthus and Sea Holly.

Dicentra Spectabilis Alba – This white perennial dies back to below ground level each year in autumn and fresh new growth appears again in spring. If you can get a plant established it will bloom during April and May and can become fully hardy. Arching sprays of dainty, pure white, heart-shaped flowers appear in late spring above fresh green leaves. Easy to grow, this elegant plant is ideal as part of a cottage garden scheme. As long as the ground is kept moist it will thrive in full sun or partial shade.

Dicentras are northern hemisphere plants, growing from Asia to North America. In their natural habitat they are found in moist soils in the cool margins of woodlands. This dicentra was first introduced in 1816, then disappeared from cultivation but was reintroduced by plant collector Robert Fortune in 1846. It soon became one of the most popular garden plants. It is one of the earliest perennials to flower but the foliage does start to die back after flowering.

Calla Lily – Zantedeschia White – Caring for white calla lilies is different to caring for the colourful hybrid calla lilies. White callas are semi-aquatic and their rhizomes thirst for watering holes but their colorful cousins hail from higher ground and their tubers demand drainage.

Calla lilies prefer to grow in a sunny spot with rich, well drained soil. These tropical beauties also prefer slightly moist soil that’s rich in organic matter. If you are growing calla lily in containers use a commercial potting soil. Move the plants indoors before frost strikes in Autumn. I have planted a few of these before but think I have lost them. Time will tell.

Dahlias – I bought four Dahlia corms. The varieties are Perfect Match, Crazy Love, Avignon and Cantarino. Dahlia is a genus of bushy, tuberous, herbaceous perennial plants native to Mexico and Central America. A member of the Asteraceae family of dicotyledonous plants, its garden relatives include the sunflower, daisy, chrysanthemum, and zinnia.Wiki

Dahlia Cantarino
Dahlia Crazy Love
Dahlia Perfect Match

Gypsophila Paniculata – Babys Breath

Gypsophila paniculata is a species of flowering plant in the family Caryophyllaceae, native to central and eastern Europe. It is an herbaceous perennial growing tall and wide, with mounds of branching stems covered in clouds of tiny white flowers in summer.

Copyrighted Aad van Haaster

I have some seeds to start too but thought I would hedge my bets with a bare root. There were three good roots in the pack labelled one. I have a soft spot for this plant as it conjours up old memories of my mothers garden around the prefab where I grew up. She had a large old root that carried on giving for years and frothy sprays of which she used to add to bunches of pinks or carnations grown in the coal sleck beds which were our front garden. In season she sold these bunches to neighbours for a shilling. Always useful to slot into the electricity meter. I have tried and tried to create a similar strong root in my own garden over the years but so far to no avail. Maybe this will be the year.

Favourite Flower 2019 Gaura the Bride

Although this plant was started from seed last year, 2018, it didn’t come into its own until this Summer. This years favourite flower then is Gaura Lindheimeri, commonly known as Whirling Butterflies. The variety I have is white and called, The Bride.

It is such a lovely plant that, although I intend to propagate the plant I have, I intend to start more of the other varieties and colours. There is a dark pink variety, Belleza, that is smaller than mine and I am on the hunt for some seeds.

To propagate in July dip each gaura stem in powdered, gel or liquid rooting hormone, then plant the stems in the holes, just deep enough to stand upright. Pat the soil lightly around the stems. Be sure the leaves are not touching the soil.

Red Ginger Lily Torch

We decided to have yet another go at growing Ginger. After trying to start shop bought rhizomes with no success Laura decided to buy some seeds from Chiltern Seeds. The variety is Phaeomeria magnifica Pink. Laura gave me three seeds and she sowed seven. I duly sowed them in a largish pot in new multi purpose compost. I laid the three seeds on top of moist compost and covered with a plastic bag.

You know what they say about not buying at auction without first visiting the property, well I think a similar caution should be taken when sowing gifted seeds. Doing my research after the event I found that this particular plant can grow to 13ft. Now, I know that Ginger is, in general, a substantial plant but I am a bit concerned about the future of this one.

One of the world’s magnificent plants, a gigantic herb from Indonesia with long, arching canes, produced annually, bearing pointed leaves like those of the Banana. The fantastic and striking, torch-like flowers, formed of countless waxy bracts, are borne on separate, leafless stems and are a brilliant red edged with a white margin.  13ft!!! chiltern seeds.co.uk

Hardy Geraniums – Cranesbill

This year I have bought in some Hardy Geraniums or Cranesbill. I bought them from Cranesbill Nursery in Walsall. I have never grown them in the garden before but after doing a bit of research online and finding this specialist nursery I decided that I had to have them in the garden.

Out of a very tempting variety, and with cost very much in mind, I had to choose just four plants to start my collection. My first list of must haves would have cost over a hundred pound so a bit of pruning had to be done and my list of four was ordered.

Geranium Maculatum Beth Chato

The journey to the nursery was horrendous. It was very hot, traffic was end to end and the scenery between home and the nursery was awful. However, Gary, the plantsman, was lovely. I bought four very established plants and was very happy. I think if I do order any more I shall order bare root and have them delivered.

Geranium Pratense Delft Blue Butterfly

My first choices were, Geranium Pratense Delft Blue Butterfly; Geranium Pratense Laura; Geranium Beth Chato and Geranium Versicolour.

Geranium Pratense Laura

I have a lot to learn about this rewarding genus and am looking forward to having a lot more of every variety in my garden.