Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Photos by Glenn and Laura

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

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.

Cherries – Growing and Cooking

I understand that cherries are a good source of vitamins and minerals including potassium, calcium, vitamin A and folic acid. They are also well known for their antioxidant properties. I think the birds who visit our garden are also aware of this as they seem to know the minute that the cherries are ready to harvest. I have two trees, a Stella and a Sweetheart, however they are both now too tall to net so we agree that I pick the lower fruit and then birds can have the higher up bounty.

Sweetheart is a popular, self-fertile sweet cherry and the large fruit have a good flavour. Beautiful white blossom in spring is followed by large, sweet dark red cherries (darker than Stella). This is a late-cropping variety, so useful for extending the season. The fruits ripen over a few weeks so you don’t get a glut all at once and you can be picking well into September.

Stella is a smaller tree and is also self fertile.  It is a heavy cropper having good resistance to late frosts. Stella will thrive in most locations and can be grown in a large container. The sweetly flavoured fruit will be ready to pick from mid July.  The lovely blossom which appears from early March will brighten your garden and herald the arrival of spring.

 

We all like to eat the fruit as it comes but another family favourite is Cherry Pie.

Recipe:-

  • A guestimate of cherries, washed and pitted
  • Lemon juice
  • 4oz sugar
  • Almond essence
  • 1 block of Sainsburys Shortcrust pastry

I normally cook the pitted cherries in a little lemon juice and sugar with a dash of almond essence. Set them on one side and line a pie plate with half of the pastry. Pour in the filling and put the pastry lid on. I brush with milk and sprinkle sugar on top then bake in the middle of the oven at 180 for 20 mins.

How to pit cherries. Place the cherry on top of the mouth of an empty bottle. With a chopstick, apply pressure and push the pit into the bottle. 

 

From beautiful blossoms to delicious pie

Alstroemeria Flaming Star

My current stock of Alstroemeria were inherited from the previous plot holder of our allotment. They were growing like weeds, prolifically, every year getting more and more, so much so that Rob began to pull them up and destroy them. I have saved a few rooted plants and lots of seeds. The flower is available in various colours. The variety I have is the bright orange Flaming Star pictured at the top of the post and I am determined to get hold of the white variety for the garden at home too. They are very sturdy plants and can be invasive so I shall grow them in large containers.

Tip – These flowers are best obtained by buying a well rooted plant as they are difficult to germinate from seeds. Plant Alstroemeria plants in a sheltered site, in part shade or full sun, any time between May and August in good soil. All Alstroemeria like good living, so give them plenty of organic matter in the planting hole. If you have a greenhouse plant some inside too. Pot them up into generous 5 litre pots and keep them frost free. Once they start to shoot in spring, feed and water well and they’ll give you an almost continual flower harvest. Pull from the root and they will continue to flower for months.

Alstroemeria, commonly called the Peruvian lily or lily of the Incas is a genus of flowering plants in the family Alstroemeriaceae. They are all native to South America although some have become naturalised in the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Madeira and the Canary Islands. Almost all of the species are restricted to one of two distinct centres of diversity, one in central Chile, the other in eastern Brazil. Species of Alstroemeria from Chile are winter-growing plants while those of Brazil are summer-growing. All are long-lived perennials except graminea, a diminutive annual from the Atacama Desert of Chile.

Alstroemeria are very versatile plants and will grow in different situations. All varieties will flower from May through to the first frosts of Autumn and will benefit from the use of a free draining soil. Shorter varieties such as Princess, Inticancha and Little Miss are ideal for the front of the border or for growing in containers. Tall Alstroemeria are good for the back of the border and will provide a continuous supply of cut flowers throughout the summer months. Inca are slightly shorter but will also give long enough stems for cut flowers are good for borders and will also thrive in large containers. Some companies sell loose Alstroemeria rhizomes which is another method of propagation..

May cause skin allergy or irritant – Having skin or eye contact with these plants could result in an allergic reaction, burning or rash.

Gaura lindheimeri – The Bride

I have finally bought some seeds of Gaura lindheimeri or Whirling Butterflies. I saw these in a garden on the estate last year and they were immediately on my wish list. The plants were a bit out of my price range so I started the hunt for some reasonably priced seeds. Today I have sown three seeds each in two ten inch pots and after a good watering Laura has put them into her greenhouse so fingers crossed. Germination could be anything from 14-28 days. I don’t expect to see any flowers this year but if I can get a couple of good plants for next year flowering I shall be happy. I bought 30 seeds from Johnsons for £2.40. Apparently Gaura is a late performer so it tends to be put into the ground too early and too small. The time to bring on your Gaura is in July as a well-grown pot plant. It is said to self seed freely and as it is also short lived I intend to let some seed fall and save some to sow myself.

Update on 12th August 2018 –  I have four healthy seedlings. All I have to do now is get them through the Winter.

Update 18th July 2019.  – Two plants have survived and are now in the garden. One in the ground and the other in a large planter. 

 

Propagate by seed in pots in a cold frame from spring to early summer or propagate by basal cuttings or softwood cuttings in spring or semi-hardwood cuttings in summer. Cut back in early Spring.

A fully hardy, graceful, hazy plant with airy spikes of white, star-shaped flowers with long anthers held on slender stems from May to September. This exceptionally long-flowering perennial looks equally at home in an informal cottage-style garden or among soft grasses in a new perennial border. It is exceptionally drought-tolerant and will soak up the sun. Give it space as its wispy stems will lean over plants and pathways. Resist the temptation to cut back after the plant has flowered as it takes on beautiful autumn tints, particularly in cold weather. Cut back and divide large colonies in spring. information from Crocus.com. Can’t wait.

 

At last. My own Gaura Whirling Butterflies