Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

growing from young plants

Helianthemum Bunbury Alpine – Rock Rose

Helianthemum

This beautiful alpine was sent to me yesterday from Deb along with quite a few other surprise plants. . Strangely enough I had bought myself one earlier in the year and had lost it during the long hot spell we had recently. Its common name is Rock Rose and it is described as good ground cover and as a hardy plant once established.

This is an evergreen mat forming perennial producing masses of rose pink flowers over grey green foliage and is suitable for the rockery, as ground cover in the borders, or in gravel gardens. It is equally at home in a container.

The advice is when newly planted always keep watered until the roots have grown down and it is able to find its own moisture. Trim after flowering to maintain a good shape.

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

New Arrivals from Secret Gardening Club

Secret Garden Club sprang out of our popular promotion of overstocked plants. We noticed they sold fast to our growing market of seasoned gardeners! Knowing a number of high quality plant nurseries across the UK, we’ve started to sell off their stock too, to our Club members.

I ordered a few more perennials from secretgardeningclub.co.uk and after soaking them for a couple of days I planted them into the garden last night.

Jacobs Ladder – Polemonium Caeruleum

Jacob’s ladder is quite a rare plant in the wild these days. It can be found in three areas in England. It can be found primarily in the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland, where it inhabits the steep slopes of limestone or riverbanks, usually growing in partial shade around trees or shrubs. It prefers sites where the soil remains damp. However, it is a popular garden plant now. I have planted in at the foot of a tree at the edge of the pond so I hope it will be happy there.

Flower of Jacobs Ladder

Trollius Alabaster – Globeflower

Trollius x cultorum Alabaster is a moisture loving perennial from the Ranunculaceae family bearing pale yellow flowers in late spring and early summer. It grows best in damp soil such as around the pond edge or a bog garden. I have placed this plant at the front of the pond.

The elegant, creamy white shade of Alabaster was an important color break in Trollius. Blooms appear in late spring and a repeat show may happen in late summer. Alabaster is apparently slower growing than many other varieties. Trollius is a genus of the Buttercup family.

Caltha Palustris – Marsh Marigold

Commonly known as the marsh marigold or Kingcup this plant has golden yellow flowers appearing in profusion from Spring to Summer and are surrounded by large scalloped leaves that serve as great shelter for small wildlife that might appear around ponds and marshes. This hardy perennial is happiest in damp areas around ponds or in marshes. I have placed this plant at the back of the pond.

Knautia Macedonica – Macedonian Scabious

This relative of the Scabious has deep wine red flowers in clusters on wiry stems. It has a long flowering period and is very attractiveto bees. Knautia macedonica seems a perfect plant for a cottage garden. Another name for Knautia macedonica is Scabiosa rumelica. Both Knautia and Scabiosa species come from the eastern Mediterranean where they grow wild in grassland.

Knautia are clump forming perennials, are totally hardy and will grow in most well drained soils. Siting in full sun ensures maximum flowering from July to September. Remove dead flower heads will encourage more flowers.

Propagation is straightforward either from basal cuttings in the spring or clumps can be lifted and divided.

Knautia

I love Secret Gardening Club and would love to visit the gardens one day.

secret gardens

Copper Beech-Fagus Sylvatica

Copper Beech Fagus Sylvatica?

This young tree was presented to me by Sean and Deb, my son and his partner, following their move to a new house. I believe it was in the garden already in a pot so they brought it here. It is a beautiful thing with striking colouring and looks very healthy. It survived the winter and though I was concerned that it looked a bit dead early on in the Spring it is now a pleasure to behold. I had heard of a copper beech of course but had no idea of the size that it might grow to.

On researching this species I have found that as well as large trees this can be used as hedging. I am also confused as to whether I actually have a Copper Beech or a Purple Beech.

Fagus Atropunicea

Fagus Atropunicea – purple beech – creates a beautiful, dense hedge with attractive copper purple, oval wavy-edged foliage that changes throughout the season with small white flowers in spring. A very rewarding hedge they have been known to bring wildlife into the garden as well. The Purple Beech is a very popular choice as a standalone specimen and makes a great alternative to fences or walls when grown as hedges.  It has stunning dark purple-red foliage in the spring, turning into a dark green-bronze gradually over the year. They will grow perfectly well in either sun or partial shade and thrive on almost any well-drained soil. Monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers grow on the same tree. In April and May, the copper beech’s tassel-like male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup.

Fagus – Beech

Fagus – Beech is a traditional English Tree. They have lovely green or copper purple, oval foliage that changes to yellow and then a rich russet brown in Autumn. They do tend to keep hold of some of the leaves during the Winter months but they are mainly a deciduous plant. The leaves then start to bud up around February / March time and the leaves open from April onwards depending on the weather. Monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers grow on the same tree. In April and May, the copper beech’s tassel-like male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup.info from Grasslands Nursery.

Well for the moment I think my Copper Beech? or Purple Beech? Fagus Sylvatica? or Fagus Atropunicea? will be staying in its pot and looking beautiful.

On further research, I came across this information. Copper Beech, also known as Purple Beech, is a cultivated form of common beech. It grows to a height of more than 40m. The bark is smooth, thin and grey, often with slight horizontal etchings. Twigs are slender and grey but not straight, their shape resembles a zig-zag. Torpedo-shaped leaf buds are coppery and up to 2cm in length with a distinctive criss-cross pattern.

40 m. Oh dear. Well unless I win the lottery and move to a big house this tree will stay in its pot for a few years.

Beech

Sambucus Nigra – Black Lace

Elder

I have wanted one of these plants for a while and last year Laura turned up with a beautiful young plant that has come on really well this year. The new leaves have emerged green but are changing to deep burgundy and already has flowers. I have placed it into the sun.

Multiple stems are crowned with flattened heads of fragrant pink, lightly perfumed, flowers that complement the dark foliage. Later in the season, glossy black elderberries appear that are traditionally used in preserves and homemade drinks.

Sambucus nigra Black Lace has very finely cut, almost black foliage, which is the perfect foil to the pink blooms in late Spring and early Summer. In autumn its leaves turn a rich red. To produce the best coloured leaves prune plants back to ground level every year in early spring. Nigra works well when planted on its own or as part of a hedge.

For best results grow Sambucus nigra Black Lace in moist but well drained soil in full sun to partial shade. However, it will tolerate waterlogged or very chalky ground.

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

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.

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

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

Epimedium – Barrenwort

Last year I discovered a ground cover, spring flowering plant called Epimedium. I did a bit of research and eventually bought myself a good sized root of a white variety from Ashwood Nurseries. I potted it on and after flowering I divided it into three. I am hoping that it survived the chickens and the Winter. Today I plan to have a look at them and bring them indoors for a bit of tender loving care. It is listed as ground cover and is said to thrive in dappled shade. Visually the plant looks robust then surprisingly the flowers are very delicate. I really hope that I can get a good colony of these beauties into our garden.

Apparently this species is becoming more opopular because of the arrival of a new species from China and Japan. The Asiatic varieties require summer moisture whereas Europeans can be mainstays in dry shade. A Genus of more than 50 species of evergreen and deciduous rhizomatous perennials from the Mediterranean to temperate easten Asia. They are found in woodland, scrub and shady, rocky places which gives an idea of their preferences. Info from Burncoose Nurseries.

Some varieties have been in western cultivation for the last 150 years. There is now a wide array of new Chinese species being cultivated in the west, many of which have only recently been discovered, and some of which have yet to be named. There are also many older Japanese hybrids of the genus in cultivation. Few genera of plants have seen such a dramatic increase in newly discovered species, primarily thanks to the work of Mikinori Ogisu of Japan and Darrell Probst of Massachusetts. Most varieties are proving extraordinarily amenable to general garden and container cultivation. Wiki

This plant is getting more and more interesting . There are so many different types and colours that like the Cranesbill I am spoiled for choice and my wish list it growing daily.

There is an amazing article by Tony Avent on the RHS site that is a mine of information about this very interesting genus. Its called An Overview Of Epimedium and, written in 2010, is the best source of knowledge about Epimedium that I have come across.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/about-the-rhs/publications/the-plant-review/2010-issues/march/an-overview-of-epimedium.pdf