Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Gardening Hints And Tips

How to do stuff around the garden

Trying To Grow Agapanthus Africanus From Collected Seeds

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 apparently.

I have 80 seeds and today, 26th August 2017, I have sown 20 into 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. Thursday 15th March 2018 and still no signs of life from last years sowing. Today I have sown two more seeds into individual 3″ pots for another try. 8th April – no sign of life so going for the hat trick and sown another ten seeds in a 7″ pot of damp compost. If I can only get one good plant to maturity I shall have them in the garden forever as they self seed so well.

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 of 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.

New wisteria. Cut the vine back severely right after planting. Then, the next year, cut the main stem or stems back to 3 feet of the previous season’s growth. Once the framework is full size, shorten further extension growth in midsummer to where growth began for that season. 

Read that last tip today. 17th April 2018, one year on from planting. It looks a bit scary to cut back like that. The plant still looks ok. New buds showing so I will wait and see if we get any flowers this year.

 

Sowing Lupin Russell Noble Maiden White 2017

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.

Update 26th April 2018 – These seedlings are now all large leafy plants and I am looking forward to seeing beautiful white lupin flowers very soon. Today I have sown another eight seeds for flowers next year.

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 then you will  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.

Growing Wind Flowers – Anemone de Caen Corms – Coronaria 2017

Let the Anemone Mr Fokker be attendants to the Bride. Her simple pure-white beauty will shine even more when surrounded by their dramatic shades. Anemone Coronaria’s exquisite poppy-like flower emerges from a bridal wreath of golden stamens round a green centre. This alone sets her apart from her companions with their big black cup centres. All these showy varieties are among the extremely popular French cultivars that originated in the De Caen area of Normandy. Often called florists’ anemones, they make extremely good cut flowers, with Anemone Coronaria Bride, obviously, a wonderful choice for weddings in late spring or early summer.

So say the people at Farmer Gracy where I bought these knobbly corms. They look very strange now soaking overnight and waiting to be planted into a large patio pot. https://www.farmergracy.co.uk/products/anemone-mr-fokker-bulbs-uk

I already have a few Anemone Blanda planted here and there around the garden which have accumulated over the years but this time I intend to keep them a bit more protected. Previously they have just been popped in amongst other things but compared with the number planted they are very few and far between. I am hoping for a good show from these 40 corms. The new corms went into their pot this morning 15th March. The corms took about a month to show. This morning, 17th April, Is my Dad’s birthday so I will use that day as a marker in future to expect the Anemones to appear. Symbolically they are blue and white, the colours of, WBA, his favourite football team.

Update 16th April 2018 – Its nearly time for these Anemone to flower and I have bought a second variety of another lovely blue this year to put with them. They were from Wilko and only cost £2 for 25. They are soaking at the moment for planting tomorrow. They look really good corms for the price. The variety is Mr Ruffell Blue. They are almost the same as last years blue. A beautiful colour.

Cleome Spinosa – American Spider Flower 2017

Cleome Violet Queen will be the next seeds to go into some damp compost. These half hardy annuals were £1.99 for 200 from Higgledy who recommend sowing between January and March indoors. Best sown on the surface of moist compost and can take up to four weeks to germinate. I shall sow just twenty of them tomorrow 19th January. It seems that these plants can grow as high as six feet so I shall have to be careful where I put them. Eye catching and strongly scented, the deep violet flowers and palm like leaves of this beautiful plant will add a tropical look to the late summer garden. so say the people at Crocus.com. Twenty tiny seedling are now fighting for survival on the window ledge. Germination was great at 100% and took only ten days!. Let’s see if I can get them through to flowering.

Cleome spinosa Violet Queen is a sumptuous purple, which looks good with almost anything, particularly good with verbenas, dahlias and sunflowers. Cleomes are an elegant, very long lasting annual,  flowering longer than all the other half-hardies. Sow early. The only downside to Cleomes are their thorns. Information from the Sarah Raven site.

I have bought new seeds from Seekay of two other colours of this beautiful flower. On doing a bit of research I see that I can sow these directly in the ground now, May/June so I am looking forward to doing just that. The two new varieties are Helen Campbell, White and Rose Queen, a subtle pink.

Despite it’s recent revival in popularity Cleome hassleriana ‘Rose Queen’ is actually an heirloom flower having been grown in gardens since 1817. A beautiful variety with deep, rose-pink flowers that fade to light pink. The large, open, airy flowers have a strong scent and bloom throughout the summer until frosts.  Eye-catching spidery flowers and palm-like leaves add a tropical look to the late summer garden. Cleome are very easy to grow are generally free of pests and considered drought tolerant. Despite that fact they grow their best in moist but well drained soil and full sunlight. The spidery flowers make attractive cut flowers and the seed heads can be dried and added to bouquets.  Frost and cold winds are lethal to this elegant South American annual. If you wish to start them early in the year do so under glass and only plant out after the danger of frosts has passed. Sow indoors in April or outdoors May to June. Cleome like good light levels and germinate quickly if sown quite late. Start them in April or early May. If planted too early the seeds will not germinate and may rot. Sow indoors 4 to 6 weeks before last frost, or sow directly where they are to flower after all danger of frost has passed.

Cleome is a genus of annual flowering plants with 170 species. Cleomaceae are a small family of flowering plants in the order Brassicales comprising about 300 species in 10 genera. Cleome are native to southern South America. This heirloom flower has been grown in gardens since 1817. The genus name Cleome is derived from an ancient name of a mustard like plant, in reference to its seed pods. The species hassleriana is named after Emile Hassler 1864-1937 a Swiss botanist and plant collector. The synonym Spinacia is taken from the Latin spina, meaning a prickle or thorn. Because of their unique flower clusters, these blossoms got the nickname spider flower. Although most flowers have a multitude of meanings cleome one. An old-fashioned expression that asks the recipient to elope or run away with the giver.

The white Cleome Spinosa Helen Campbell looks good in large drifts on its own or intermingled with white cosmos Purity. It’s 16th May and a warm rainy day so I am about to go and sow seeds of both in the white border. The advice is to put seeds on the surface of the soil as they need light to germinate.

 

 

 

 

 

Leek – Musselburgh

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This morning I have sown the last of my leek seeds in a tall 7″ pot. They are Musselburgh bought from alanromans.com and can be relied upon for a top sweet flavour, Winter hardiness and all round performance. They should germinate in about 21 days and will be left in the pot until they are about 8″ high. We shall plant them out in late April or May leaving a gap of about 6″ between them and with rows about 1′ apart. We have grown this variety before and had varying results so fingers crossed for this year.

Tip – When planting Leeks, choose a well drained bed and apply a general fertiliser a week before. Water the bed the day before if the weather is dry. Make a 6″ hole with a dibber, drop in the leek plant whilst at the same time gently filling the hole with water to settle the roots. Do not backfill with soil at this point. Keep ground moist and earth up when the white base starts to show.