Sunday, 8 December 2013
Last week's garden club speaker bought a touch of winter warmth and magic with him as well as providing me with some unexpected but welcome propagation material. The subject was gardening for winter interest and our guest came complete not only with slides but with a wealth of neatly labelled plant material from his garden. If the talk had been in January or February there would have been a wider range for us to see close hand but the examples of trees, shrubs and perennials on display were still considerable.
At the end of the evening our speaker left all the plant material behind and we were invited to take anything we would like home. I left with three samples which I hope to propagate. At the top of this post is the a stem of the multi-coloured cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'. This throws out attractive stems of red, orange and yellow in the winter border. Now is the time to take hardwood cuttings of cornuses. I also have a red stemmed cornus (name long gone) which I intend to take cuttings off, which hopefully will make their way to the allotment, where we are planting up the area around the composting toilet building. Any surplus prunings will come in handy as plant supports on my own plot.
Also returning with me along with my seasonal mince pie were berries from sorbus 'Joseph Rock'. I've been reading a lot about sorbuses recently in blogland and am tempted to plant one. I've been slightly put off though by mention in one book that the flowers of sorbus trees often smell like rotting meat - uuuuugh! Further investigation is required and feedback from anybody who grows sorbus would be welcome. In the meantime I thought that I would just have some fun to see what might transpire from the seed.
Last but not least a solitary cutting from the attractive evergreen pittosporum tenuifolium 'Irene Paterson'. She is evergreen and forms a shimmering mound about three feet high. I see snowdrops and hellebores at her feet. I'm not really convinced that the snipping I have will root so have decided that I will be on the lookout for a ready made Irene in the near future.
Our speaker also came with a list of all the plants of winter interest in his garden plus his collection of books on the subject, which included some familiar friends from my bookshelf. I will share these books in a future post.
Saturday, 30 November 2013
November has ended here on a beautifully sunny albeit cold day. Darkness was already descending though when I came home from the allotment, where unfortunately we've had a meeting. On such a day I would have preferred to have been moving about and doing jobs on the plot but it was not to be. I've been trying to think how the month started weather wise but the brain refuses to co - operate.
In another corner of the garden a hellebore is budding up nicely which you can see in the above photo. Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' recently mentioned her 'Moonbeam' hellebore which prompted me to check on mine. On doing so I remember that I think that it might be 'Angel Glow' rather than 'Moonbeam', but whatever the identity it's great to see promise of soon to be opening flowers.
On the subject of bulbs I have amazed myself and have only a few remaining bulbs to find homes for. I've surprised myself as my bulb planting activities often extend into the new year when the risk of severe frostbite can lend an element of an extreme sport to the procedure. I've tended to stick with already tried and tested bulbs but I'm looking forward to the eventual flowering of two newcomers. These are allium 'Purple Rain' and narcissus 'Elka'. As well as being newcomers to me they are both recent bulb introductions, so it will be really exciting to see whether they live up to the catalogue hype surrounding them. I still have one or two more bits and bobs to sort out with which hopefully will be done by the end of the December.
I'm afraid that I've somewhat neglected the allotment and must get down to some work in the colder months. I have to confess to being somewhat of a fair weather gardener. I can do cold and dry but when the weather is wet I'm too much of a wimp to relish being out there.
New to me plants in November are a hardy geranium 'Blushing Turtle', which promises to be a prolific and long flowerer and a pink hesperantha kindly given to me by a friend who read this post.
Another marker pen has entered the grand experiment. This late contender is an 'Artline Garden Marker' as mentioned by Annette over at 'Annette's Garden'. It one cost me £2.50p including postage from an Ebay seller. It's much too early to report on the state of the labels yet and I will not do so in any detail for a few months.
Thanks as always to Helen over at 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' for enabling us to share our end of month views. Do pop over to visit her and the links to other gardeners who are recording their end of the month views.
P.S. I've been having problems on accessing and commenting on Wordpress blogs for a couple of days. I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday and believe that there are some issues. Some Wordpress bloggers are unable even to access their own blogs. I have had success though with changing my normal browser from Chrome to Safari. Just thought I would mention it in case anybody else is being thwarted in their blog visiting and commenting.
Sunday, 24 November 2013
Somewhere in cyberspace greentapestry celebrated its fifth birthday yesterday. I wonder if it floated past that famous Doctor and waved as both celebrated auspicious occasions on the same day. Actually the very first words on this blog were back in 2005, but it was only in 2008 when I was brave enough to enter the public domain. I can still remember the excitement of receiving my very first comment from the lovely Michelle over at Veg Plotting. Many thanks to everyone who has commented or contacted me by email over the last five years. I've learned so much from your comments and observations, laughed a good deal and have been the recipient of some lovely acts of kindness.
I've been mulling over the blog recently and feel that it's time for some out of season 'spring cleaning'. So I'm going to use the winter months to get on with this and hope to re-emerge with a new look. I'm even considering going over to the other side ie Wordpress so would be grateful for any comments or advice on doing that. I also want to get to grips with the pages element of the blog. These were constructed an oh so embarrassingly long time ago but I've never completed them.
So if I disappear off the radar for a while or if appearance of the blog looks a bit iffy you will know what's happening. I intend to be around for the memes that I participate in and I will of course still be visiting other blogs. Many thanks again and a humungous virtual bouquet of fabulous flowers to anybody who reads this post.
PS Many apologies to those of you who have problems commenting recently and thanks for your persistence. I've changed my comment settings to see if that makes any difference and am keeping fingers crossed.
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
Friday, 15 November 2013
Probably just like me, looking better in October than November, but still showing some colour on a November day is leycesteria formosa aka the Himalayan honeysuckle. It is a deciduous shrub, which has attractive stems and pendulous flowers with bracts, which eventually give way to deep purple berries. It is particularly recommended for partial shade or woodland gardens and seems to be one of those unsung easygoing shrubs that apart from pruning just gets on and does it own thing. My shrub is a good few years old and I can no longer remember how I came by it. It does have a tendency to self seed but it can be also propagated either by softwood cuttings. If you try sowing seed from your own shrub be prepared for really sticky fingers as you open up the ripened berries and try to extract the seed. It's great fun. Just to give more of a picture of leycesteria formosa here are a couple of photos I took last month ~
Meantime great excitement here as the first of my special snowdrops is showing white - not sure which one it is as the label has gone walkabout. Hopefully I will be able to share it come December.
Thanks as always to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for giving us the opportunity to share our November blooms.
Monday, 11 November 2013
An experiment was launched last week - I shall be reporting back at odd intervals. The results will not have a breathtaking impact on the shape of the world to come but you may still wish to read on. It has come about as I've been doing some tasks in readiness for colder weather. I've bought some dahlias in pots into the greenhouse for winter. I've also finished top dressing my special snowdrops in pots with fresh alpine horticultural grit. What have these tasks have in common you may well ask. The answer is labels and MARKER PENS. I have been checking the labels on each pot of snowdrops and also want to be able to easily identify the dahlias.
Now for more years than I care to remember I've used the same permanent marker pen ie a Pilot Super Colour Marker Extra Fine - permanent type. I first came across them at meetings of the Cheshire and Friends group of the Hardy Plant Society, where members sell their plants at meetings. One of the members sold alpines and also conveniently sold the pens that he used and recommended them. So I tried a pen and was most impressed - it certainly seemed to stand up to the vagaries of the elements, remaining legible for several years. In fact usually the labels snapped well before the ink faded. However the pens have not been as effective recently. Have there been any subtle changes to the formula of the ink? Must contact the manufacturer to ask. Is it because we have had such a copious amount of wet stuff falling from the sky in the last year? Has the local squirrel population developed an anti social habit of label licking? Could there be any other reasons? I must also ask my good friend D. who uses the same pens to see if she has any observations to make.
Matters came to a head when I was top dressing the snowdrops. I noticed that some cryptic notes on labels that I had made using the pen in late winter 2013 were already fading. Bad enough that they my notes were cryptic but cryptic and fading does not inspire much confidence. So the marker experiment was born. As you can see I'm testing out five different writing implements and will be comparing the writing on the labels at regular intervals to see which comes out best. Details are as follows :
- Sharpie fine point permanent marker - I must say that this pen has already failed the test as far as I'm concerned. It does not match up to my definition of a fine point. However it is going to stay in the experiment to test out its permanence factor. Sharpie pens are available quite readily from most stationers. I have just found out that there is an ultra fine point too which is maybe the one I should have gone for.
- Artline 444XF Paint Marker (0.8mm nib)- I'm uncertain how available these are on the high street having bought mine at the Malvern Show. I would like to use the white ink version (black ink is also available) on black labels in all my pots of special snowdrops. I want something that it is designed to last. I do have a Brother garden labeller which would do the trick but it takes more time to set up and print than writing by hand does. Another factor which puts me off going down this road for my snowdrop labels is that the tape used in the labeller is quite expensive especially if you make any mistakes.
- Pilot Super Colour Marker Ultra Fine - I have not managed to find these on the Pilot Pens website but will continue looking and will update the link if I have any joy. I used to be able to buy these pens from a local art shop but they stopped stocking them. My last couple of pens were ordered online from Cult Pens who delivered them most quickly.
- Chinagraph pencil - these have been around for a long time but I've not had any experience of using them. I have however bought plants with labels that have been completed using them and they seem to last well. They can be easily purchased from high street stationers.
- Edding 140 S ohp marker permanent - I first came across mention of this pen on Derry Watkins's Special Plants Nursery website. Derry writes that 'Which? Gardening' did a one year trial in which this came out as the best and most permanent labelling pen. I'm not sure how easy it is to find these pens on the high street. Funnily enough I bought mine from the art shop where I used to get the Pilot pens. They can be ordered online from Derry's website and from other online sources.
The plan to issue a bulletin on the state of each labels health after a suitable period of time. I shall insert them into the same pot as close to each other as possible. In the meantime I would love to hear how you make your mark and what experiences you have had. It might be possible to include some late entries at this stage.
PS The cheapest writing implement is the Chinagraph pencil whilst the pens all came in under £4 at the time of purchase.
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Sunday, 3 November 2013
Today I think
Only with scents, - scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot's seed,
And the square mustard field;
Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the roots of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;
The smoke's smell too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.
It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.
- 'Digging' by Edward Thomas (1878 -1917).
Illustration - Vincent Van Gogh (1853 -1890).
Thursday, 31 October 2013
Whilst September slithered out of reach I am struggling to find a word that sums up October. I think that 'sogged' would be it if there was such a word. October 2013 has felt exceptionally wet and mild. It be interesting to read the statistics when they are available. Although the nights have been noticeably colder of late our first frost is still on the cards.
My stars of the month flower wise have been a trio of hardy geraniums especially 'Dilys' (above photo) who deserves to be better known than she is. She is extremely long flowering and has enjoyed this year's weather. I think that she that she may have attracted more attention if she had been given another name. The other two geraniums that have shone through October are 'Bob's Blunder' and 'Salome', which both have most distinctive foliage too over a long season. 'Dilys' and 'Bob' are both still in flower on this last day of October but 'Salome' has given up the ghost.
I've made some inroads on bulb planting in the garden but at the same time have bought some more bulbs so funnily enough the to be planted pile remains more or less the same size. The special snowdrops have received an autumn clean as I've tried to check over each pot and remove any stray little seedlings that have germinated as well as scrape away liverwort. In some cases I've replenished the top dressing of alpine horticultural grit. I've not been able to resist the odd naughty rummage beneath the surface and have been so excited to discover little green snouts. Leaf sweeping has now started in earnest and will be the order of dry days to come for a while longer.
The main path to my allotment plot is a swamp once more so my trips are getting fewer and further between. The main edible attraction is the autumn flowering raspberries 'Polka'. The plants are having their most bountiful year ever. I have probably said before that not only are the fruits bigger than my summer fruiting raspberries but they are also superior taste wise. They certainly live up to any description of them that you might read in a catalogue or in a book.
Last weekend saw some garlic planting. I'm not quite sure what I've planted though. I was pleased to come across 'The Garlic Farm' at the Malvern Autumn Show and came home with four bulbs of garlic to plant. I sought advice as to what would be suitable for planting here in north west England. Unfortunately the otherwise helpful young man did not write the names down on the paper bag they went in to but it was equally my fault for not asking him to. I've been in that situation before so should have learned my lesson by now. I'm fairly sure though that one of them is 'Early Purple Wight' whilst whilst the other is destined to be anonymous. The two bulbs that will be planted later are definitely 'Solent Wight' which I've grown before. I'm still debating whether to plant the 'Jermor' shallots that I bought at the show or wait until spring. They are suitable for autumn planting but if we are in for a wet winter they may be better planted in the spring. Either way I will have to decide very soon.
The last of the climbing French beans have been eaten and the beanpole wigwams have now been dismantled. I've picked my one and only 'Black Futsu' winter squash and am patiently waiting for its skin to turn colour from dark green to a rich chestnut. I fear that this may never happen but will post more about it at some stage in the future as it's a born survivor. Still much tidying up to do before thoughts can turn to next year's crops.
In the greenhouse the sweet pea seeds have germinated and are making sturdy growth. Most of the penstemon cuttings I took have rooted so can just tick over during the next few months. I will pot them up individually in spring. I also have some seedlings of annuals to get through the winter. Some plants have now migrated inside the greenhouse for winter protection. They will be joined by the dahlias once their leaves or what remains of them receive their first frosting. The spider plant babies that came home with me from the Chester Cathedral open garden plant stall have now come inside the house. They all rooted and I hope to grow them in containers next year.
New plant additions have been minimal. I confessed to the hesperantha earlier this month here and have managed to commit the new name to memory. I bought a tray of smiling faced purple and white violas from our local market. Finally I've been given a well established melianthus major from one of my allotment friends. I've had this plant before but lost it so am delighted to have the chance to grow it again.
Thanks as always to Helen over at 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' for enabling us to share our end of month views.
PS Blogger seems to have a touch of the gremlins as my post published minus its top and tail ie post header and a link to Helen's website which I've now remedied - I think that the bits in between are still intact.