Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Growing from seed

Growing Snakeshead Fritillaria From Seed

I have planted bulbs of Snakeshead before several times to no avail. Last year I bought another bag of bulbs from Wilko. Only one flower popped up last year. which was encouraging, so we left it in the same large pot and this year we were blessed with about five flowers which have now gone to seed and all but two had popped and cast their seeds to the wind. The remaining seed heads had many seeds inside so Laura has sown some in a tray and I have kept a few in order to research how to grow these beautiful and endangered wildflowers from seed.

We are hoping that this years plants, having already scattered their seed to the wind, will grow on for us next Spring so as with all gardening its a waiting game now. The undisturbed bulbs should multiply too so fingers crossed.

Fritillaria seed ripens in mid to late summer and is best sown as soon as ripe or soon after in autumn. While older seed may still be viable it develops germination inhibitors that can make late sowings germinate erratically. In the wild Fritillaria spreads its seed by wind dispersal and seeds germinates on the surface of the ground. When sowing at home it is best to sow the seed on the surface of gritty compost and not bury it.

Water the seeds and place in a cool, sheltered place out of doors such as in a cold frame. Fritillaria seed requires a period of cold to stratify before germination so the pots can be left outdoors through the winter until they germinate which is usually in the Spring. Check the seed regularly for any germination and remove immediately to a bright place.

Once germinated keep the pot in a sunny position and keep watered throughout the growing season until the seedlings start to die down for their summer dormancy. By the end of the first year the baby bulbs will be small and difficult to handle so it’s better not to pot them on until the end of their second year. A typical Fritillaria will probably take 5 to 6 years from sowing to flowering.

Snakeshead Fritillaria

https://www.citychickens.co.uk/?s=snake+in+the+grass&searchsubmithttps://www.citychickens.co.uk/?s=snake+in+the+grass&searchsubmit

The snake’s head fritillary is one of the most exquisite jewels in the treasure house of British wildflowers with a long list of common names which include Checkered Daffodil, Chess Flower, Frog-cup, Leper lily and Guinea-hen Flower. The bell-shaped flowers are unmistakable for their nodding heads, sometimes of pure white, or more frequently marked with a delicate chequerboard pattern in shades of purple. This rare British wildflower is now protected in its native meadows, but will always attract attention in a woodland garden, rockery, or naturalised in grass .

The white form of this rare British native is rarely found in the wild. It flowers from March to May growing to between 15 and 40 cm in height. In the wild it is commonly found growing in grasslands in damp soils and river meadows and can be found at altitudes up to 800 metres, although it takes readily to garden culture where it makes a superb border plant.

.https://www.plant-world-seeds.com/store/view_seed_item/2315

White Snakeshead
Seedheads

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

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.

Courgettes Peppers and Tomatoes – Summer Salad

This morning I am sowing seeds of a variety of courgettes, bell peppers and tomatoes. They are all late going in so I am being very optimistic when I dream of Summer Salad. The only things I am confident of are the Sungold Tomatoes.

Green, Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

I already had saved seeds of Bell Peppers. I have put a generous amount of seeds in a large pot to allow for some of them not to germinate as they are quite old. This large capsicum form is known as bell pepper. The only difference between bell peppers and capsicum is the presence of capsaicin which is a lipophilic chemical that produces a burning sensation in the mouth. Bell peppers do not contain this chemical.

My other tall black pot contains seeds of both Long Sweet Red Chilli Peppers and Yellow Sweets Banana Pepper. Banana pepper seeds need high soil temperatures to germinate. Start them indoors 40-60 days before transplanting time. You can grow banana peppers from seeds or buy young plants.

Tomato Sungold

There are three substantial plants of Tomato Sungold sitting on the window ledge. They were purchased last year from thompson-morgan.com and delivered a week ago as posti-plugs. They have come on well since I repotted them so I have high hopes of a good harvest from them. I have grown these tomatoes from seed before and was amazed at how tall the plants grew and how many fruits we had from them. The taste was perfect.

Tomato Sungold F1 is a cherry tomato firmly established as one of the sweetest and tastiest available. Produces an abundance of golden coloured fruit throughout the summer. A cordon tomato that is suitable for growing in the greenhouse, allotment or garden. Tomato Sungold will produce small orange, tasty tomatoes that are perfect for salads.

My Sungold from 2008

Easter Bank Holiday Monday – Sowing Seeds of Courgette and Squash

COVID-19 News Update

Deaths in UK hospitals rose to 11,329 – up by 717in 24 hours

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.

Easter Sunday 12th Apr 2020

The number of people who have died in hospital with COVID-19 in the UK passes 10,000, after a daily rise of 737. (10,612)

Its the time of the year to sow seeds of Courgette and Squash. I have quite a few seeds in the seedbox and this morning’s plan was to get them sown into 3″ pots of damp compost. I plan to sow some Hunter Butternut Squash, Courgettes Tromboncino, Black Beauty, Zephyr, Tuscany and All Green Bush. Its a little late in the year but I am also planning to sow Green Bell Peppers and Pepper Sweet Banana.

Queuing to lay their egg

The chickens in the garden are absolutely oblivious to the virus and are laying happily. All queueing up for the same nest box with no thought of social distancing.

The death toll, combined with a busy day trying to order an online food shop plus cooking an Easter Sunday Roast, has meant that I am sitting here at the computer, dinner has been cooked, eaten and washing up done, the shopping is ordered for Wednesday at 7 am, My Herculean task for the day. ‘Herculean task’ seems to be the latest, constantly repeated phrase on the news at the moment. The government’s description of their continuing struggle to find PPE for the front line workers in the NHS.

I am now sitting looking at the seed packets but no sowing has been done. I feel weary so the sowing will have to be postponed until tomorrow.

Sowing Seeds During a Pandemic – Madness!!!

980 new deaths from COVID-19 today in the UK

It’s Good Friday 2020. We should be buying hot cross buns and Easter eggs but instead, we are counting the dead. The whole world is in ‘Lockdown’. The new buzz word meaning that we have to stay in to keep ourselves safe from the virus. I fear that we are not being kept in to save our own lives but because there aren’t enough hospital beds or staff available to treat us should we all become ill at the same time.

The weather is wonderful but we are all confined to quarters so those of us who can, spend time in our own garden. On the plus side children and their parents are spending quality time together. The ‘key’ workers still have to venture out and do their bit for humanity.

I have sown quite a few seeds around the garden today, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best. I’ve also planted out a few young plants started from seed last year.

Icelandic Poppy
GoldenEye Grass

The pond is teeming with new life as the frogspawn is hatching hundreds of little tadpoles. The fruit trees are frothy with blossom again. It seems unbelievable that such a tragedy is unfolding across the globe.

Cherry Blossom
Common Garden Frog

Aquilegia Crystal Star

It’s a beautiful spring day today and although I still have a heavy heart, I have sown some seeds directly into the garden. I already have a few established roots of Columbine here and there but as they are such rewarding perennials I feel you can never have enough. The seeds I have scattered are of a startling crystal white variety.

Aquilegia Crystal Star. This 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. Columbines are one of those plants that have a very long history of cultivation. Aquilegia vulgaris is a Native of Europe and is the traditional Grannie’s Bonnets of the cottage garden. In the late 19th century a florist call Douglas began to cross this with Aquilegia caerulea, canadense and chrysantha to begin the long-spurred hybrids that we know today under the name Aquilegia x hybrid.

Aquilegia comes from the Latin Aquila meaning eagle, Columbine is also a reference to the flower shape. Columba is Latin for dove. info from Dorset Perrenials.

(938 UK deaths from COVID-19 today)