Blackbirds

Sticky

Morning has broken, blackbird has spoken…..

Oh how I love their singing. One was just singing his socks off out in the garden, which has inspired todays blog.

Penstemon Blackbird

I have only recently discovered the large family of Penstemons. How did I missed them? Why are they so good?

  1. They seem to be resistent to slug and snail attack.
  2. They are perennial plants, which means they come up every year. Although the narrower the leaf the more hardy they are. However they do become tired after a few years, but see point 5 and it’s not an issue.
  3. They don’t need staking, just put up spires of flowers, which if you pick encourage the plant to create even more.
  4. Flower from June until the first frosts.
  5. Really easy to grow from cuttings – see the picture on the right – In the spring when I cut the plant back to encourage it to grow new stems, I simply took some of the compost destined waste, cut the leaves down by a half, slid them down the edge of the square pots. Six weeks later I have 16 new plants to put into the garden. I’ll let you know if they flower!
  6. Finally, with varieties called, blackbird, raven, white swan, which already adorn my bird themed garden I am now on the search for firebird, osprey, whitethroat, flamingo and woodpecker to add even more species of these easy going generous plants.

With the weather set to be glorious, and Chelsea on TV this is the season to enjoy your garden. Go and Hygge your garden.

 

 

 

 

Mumsie Sweet Peas

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Remember you Mum with these delightful sweet peas.

Back in March I showed you the  Mother’s Day card I had made using a Mumsie sweet pea seed packet from Pennard Plants in Somerset. Close up the seed packet designs are exquisite. Now I can think of her every time I pick a bunch of Mumsie Sweet Peas.

Well the seeds were sown and in less than 3 months are now in full bloom.

Sweet peas need to be picked EVERY day, the more you pick, the more you get. As soon as they have set seed they stop producing flowers. However unless you REALLY water them the stems also get shorter as the plants age.

I am a little worried about Mumsie as the stems were quite short to start with, but they are such a glorious deep dark pink colour.  A complete contrast to the delicate pink and blue and white from Anniversary, Bristol, Honeymoon and Pip’s Cornish Cream. These have had strong long stems and bloomed together now for over a month, the fragrance is fantastic, and only now are the stems getting shorter. ‘Water more’ is the mantra I keep telling myself.

However if you do miss a flower and it does set seed, pick it off when you can see the small pea shaped seeds and leave it to ripen on the windowsill. Then pop the seeds into an envelope and keep them dry and safe, and in the autumn / spring you can plant them ready for next summer. Only then will you know if the variety is really true, or whether the bees have cross pollinated it and you have a new variety. One for you to name – as long as it continues to stay true.

Thanks Mum for all your gardening wisdom you shared with me.

 

 

Summer Carousel

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Sometimes clever things just happen. Well they do to me and I can never remember how I achieved them. Oh for that gardeners log book that is on my Christmas list!

I am loving my  hanging basket that’s brightening up the former brick store! Yes, a huge neatly stacked pile of spare bricks, that I was losing interest in trying to make pretty. So, finally they have been moved to the side of the house where as far as I am concerned they’ve gone. Earlier this year, the blue tits inspected the bird box, and duly moved in and successfully reared four chicks. So with the bricks and the birds it was difficult to tend to the hanging basket. I had planted Bidens Golden Eye (a duck for the bird theme), and some Calibrachoa which perform so well in hanging baskets, a couple of hair cuts and they spring back into bloom within a week! I also popped in some of Mr Fothergill’s Nasturtium Summer Carousel seeds (my daughters middle name is Summer so they fit my Hygge theme of plants with names of birds or people who mean something to me.) I had a few too many seeds in my hand once I had sown all the little pots. Well the nasturtiums have loved the basket and smothered all the other plants. Now they are intermingled with the name unknown purple clematis (I suspect a Jackmani). By pure chance they have all decided to flower within days of each other!  Pure luck.

Finally after a quick visit to Ikea, we have installed an Applaro table set that hangs from the wall. This is the only place we found that sells practical small garden furniture at a reasonable price.

Now we have our own perfect nook for those morning coffees, teas, and cheeky ciders in the evening. Pelargonium Bird Dancer (a tiny but strong plant bought from Special Plants last year,) even matches the cushion covers.

One happy Hygge gardener.

 

 

Minted – Tickling potatoes

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The swift potatoes are now looking tatty. Tatty potatoes are a sign that they are ready, but instead of going gung-ho and dig up the entire plant, I am going to tickle them.

 

First I am gently pulling the leaves to one side. Next I have a little feel around with my hands to see if I can feel little hard potato. Lift and you maybe lucky, it will either be a stone, or a beautiful fresh new potato to pop into your collecting bowl. By doing this I should be able to let the potatoes that are growing lower down to continue. However if you only love those tiny little new potatoes just dig the whole plant up.

To make the most of your delicious crop do make sure that you have a mint plant nearby. You can easily get a piece of mint to grow roots by leaving it in a pot of water until little roots appear, or, plant up a live plant from the shops into a bigger pot. However, word of warning, KEEP IT IN A POT, for if like me who didn’t heed this advice you will find it sprouting up in your lawn, as the roots tend to run underground and spread far and wide!hydroponics-mint.jpg

 

Mint is a largish family and you can get many different varieties including, spearmint, lemon mint, even chocolate mint, but good old garden mint is all you need to really bring out the flavour of new potatoes, peas, beans and young carrots. Plus a Pimm’s definitely needs it.

I will leave you with that thought as I sit down to Hygge in the sunshine.

 

 

The sweet smell of success!

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The sweet peas have suddenly romped up the obelisks and started to flower.

It always surprises me that sweet peas germinate quite quickly, pop up and grow leaves in days. They then spend ages hardly growing, you plant them out and they struggle to climb the first foot (30cm) Then they’re off and within a week, managed to climb the next rung, before teasing me with a glimpse of buds, then within days I opened the back door and discovered that my genius idea had worked, planting some by the door meant that the  sweet smell of sweet peas hit me!

Surprise number 2, all four varieties (Bristol, Honeymoon, Anniversary and Pip’s Cornish Cream)  have all flowered on the same day!

Next year I am going to ask Santa for a gardening log book, so that I KNOW how many days from planting to flowering. (I do know that it’s 100 days for gladioli.) By checking back through the blog posts it has taken about 14 weeks – aka 98 days – 100 days!   What a coincidence!

In the meantime I will sit back and remember Bristol (the beautiful pale purple sweet pea) which is where I have worked for over 25 years, so as you can imagine the memories are immense. Pip’s Cornish Cream reminds me of ice cream so am getting ready to treat my darling grand daughter Pippa. I will also snigger at memories involving a red bus and yellow bus during our honeymoon, and remember and be thankful for our anniversaries – as one friend once said, birthdays are inevitable, but anniversaries need hard work! So true.

Enjoy hyggering in your garden this week. What memories will you recall?

 

Ladybird, ladybird fly away home.

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Poppy (Papaver) Ladybird, what a treat. I’m pretty pleased with this photo as well.

This poppy surprisingly popped up at the back of the border – all the labels completely hidden by the ever increasing greenery. I bought this plant at a sale, so I didn’t grow it from seed.

I had sort of promised myself that I would only buy bird named plants, or plants with names of my family. This one is on the cusp, as everyone knows that a ladybird isn’t a bird! However it was the nickname I had from my Nana when I was growing up, and therefore it reminds me of this wonderful strong tall mother of six, five boys and just the one girl. Although I don’t remember living in her house until I was three, I know she would have played an active part in looking after me, teaching me about plants, birds,  most things in nature, and human compassion.

So this tall plant that has risen above all the smothering greenery, showing her determination to flower and set seed really does remind me of her and brings back many memories.

Over the weeks I have promised to let you know how other plants are doing but pride comes before a fall, so sadly I have to report that my Swift potatoes are beginning to look a bit tatty, but haven’t flowered yet so I will leave them for the time being. Unfortunately they were caught with the frost which spoilt their leaves. My wonderful crop of Brown Turkey figs also dropped off, even though I did get the small tree in a black sack. Not sure if it was the frost or lack of water. Similarly my plan of  an abundant crop of Linnet peas has also been disappointing, so I have planted some more – at least with so many in a packet I have plenty to make a second sowing.

On the positive side we are now enjoying broad beans – no bird names here, just the ever reliable Aquadulce, and Victoria rhubarb – great with a teaspoon of chopped stem ginger stirred in.

Finally this Thursday I am hosting on a garden at the Bath and West Show in Shepton Mallet, so if any of you are visiting, please pop by and say hello.

Swans

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Three beautiful different swans – The largest is the Whooper with a yellow beak and straight neck, the common Mute swan with an elegance and ornage beak, and finally the small straighter necked individually patterned yellow billed Bewick swan.

Swans mate for life and I think this is part of our love affair with these birds, known as a cob and pen, it is easy to tell the sexes apart for the cob has the larger black knob just above the orange beak. Cob and knob helpfully rhyme.

Three different memories –

  1. The sighting of a group of Whooper swans on isolated remote  Loch Katrine this spring. Beautiful large birds who migrate here from Iceland.
  2. Our common swan that is annually counted in the event known as swan upping in July on the river Thames.
  3. Finally the smaller Bewick who also migrates here for the winter and is the annual sign that once they arrive, so has the cold weather. I also adore the artwork created by Sir Peter Scott’s daughter Dafila. She has drawn the bill patterns that are a little like our fingerprints, so you can easily identify each swan by carefully looking at their bill pattern. These drawings have now been made into a graphic design that appears on mugs, dinner mats and even tea towels. If you love yellow and black – take a look at this, RS30531_WWT_110613_0002-scr

So, in my garden I am planning to have three swan plants, Euphorbia white swan, Swan river daisy and Echinacea white swan  All are struggling, but, I am hoping, have my fingers crossed and will let you know how successful I am.

Euphorbia White swan is an extremely useful evergreen and was taken as a cutting last year. It has survived the winter and I think it will make it. A little like me on a diet, I am sure it is getting bigger.

I have sown the Swan river daisies, they have germinated and are really tiny and in theory they will flower later this year. The miracle of seeds, germination and flowering still amazes me.

Meanwhile this is the second year I have tried to grow Echinacea and yet again it is struggling, the slugs are so very fond of it! However I now have 2 leaves on both plants but if it rains I remain concerned about how many leaves will vanish overnight. I will proudly show a photo of the flower in autumn if we get that far.

Finally for those of you who read the blog about Pippa potatoes, I saw the very first sign of a shoot yesterday, so hopefully will be able to take photos of earthing them up soon.

Happy hyggering -enjoy your garden.

Carol