Monday, 19 August 2019

EXPERIMENTS IN THE GARDEN


EXPERIMENTS IN THE GARDEN

Apple Pearl grafted onto a James Grieve tree
My interest in gardening started in childhood encouraged by keen gardeners in the family, so it was natural to choose it for a career as well as a hobby. For some folk it is climbing the long list of Scottish Munroe’s, or swimming across the River Tay to Fife, but my challenges were more down to earth as I experimented with plants in the garden.
Grafted pears now growing
The first challenge was to have some part of the garden looking its best with flowers and colour all year round. In spring its bulbs and spring bedding, then as they begin to fade the rhododendrons and azaleas flower, then onto a huge array of summer bedding plants, roses, and herbaceous plants. In autumn we have the harvest season with apples, pears and plums as well as harvesting my huge bright orange pumpkins. However all this time vegetables are being grown and harvested to keep the kitchen supplied all year round where possible. Interest in winter comes from the colour stemmed border of Cornus, Kerria and maple, then before spring arrives the snowdrops appear, quickly followed by the aconites then the whole circle begins again.
Avalon Pride the last peach
I wanted to grow many apples and pears but there was only space for three trees, so to grow all my favourite varieties I had to learn to graft. This gave me trees with at least six varieties on each tree. Grafting sounds difficult, but it is very easy and satisfying once you look up techniques and the success rates are near 100%.
I grew up with raspberries and strawberries as a young berry picker, but now the challenge is to have fruit over the whole summer by choosing early, mid season and late varieties with a row of early strawberries brought on a fortnight early with protection of low polythene tunnels.
Snowdrops in December
Breeders are always bringing out new varieties of every type of plant, so I always buy a few to try them out. Strawberry Colossus turned out to be a complete waste of space with just a few small berries. It got dug out after a couple of years. Blackberry Rhuben advertised as huge fruits produced on new canes in the same year. Mine didn’t flower till November so hardly any time to produce fruit, and the few that did fruit were less than half the size claimed in the catalogue. It got dug out.
With talk of global warming I thought I would try some exotics, so I purchased a peach tree, Peregrine, but it got massacred with disease, so it got replaced with disease resistant Avalon Pride. For the first three years I only got one peach year, then in 2019 there was none, so tree has now been removed to make way for my next experiments to find a grape to grow outdoors in Scotland.
Outdoor grape trial at City Road
I have tried quite a few and had some success but only with grapes for wine use. I have yet to find a seedless variety for dessert use, but I keep trying. Up at City Road Allotments we have planted several against our south facing shed. These will be grown as single stem cordons with summer and winter pruning so they do not take over the front of the shed.
Saskatoons in fruit
Trials were successful with my outdoor fig, Brown Turkey which is a real beauty that never lets me down producing well over a hundred figs every year. Growing Saskatoon fruit bushes is my other great success story. They are in great demand from other gardeners, but as yet no-one in UK is growing them for the fresh fruit market or as bushes to sell to the public.
This year I am trying a range of cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse. They are all very vigorous reaching the top of the greenhouse long before my large fruited Alicante. However most only got five trusses, though Sungold had seven trusses with excellent flavour and texture. Supersweet 100 was not an early cropper but trusses all had over 100 tomatoes on them. Rapunzel had large fruit but poor texture and flavour. Sugarglass was my heaviest cropper but lost points for flavour and texture. Cherry Baby had the smallest fruit but with the best flavour. Trusses had well over 100 fruits, but most of them fell off before the fruits grew.
Pumpkins growing strongly

Wee jobs to do this week

Cut back summer growth extensions on pumpkins once each plant has made two or three decent fruits. Pumpkins just love this hot wet summer and will try to take over the whole garden.

END

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

SUMMER HARVESTS


SUMMER HARVESTS

We will always remember the summer of 2018 with its long hot and dry spell, but 2019 seems to be even hotter, but with plenty thunder storms so there was never any shortage of water. Plant growth has responded to this great growing weather. My bush roses normally reach five feet tall, but this year I am seeing them at six to seven feet tall and a real
Sophie and Anna topping and tailing gooseberries
nuisance with strong winds so staking and tying has been necessary to stop them blowing over. Flowering has been a bit erratic as the warm dry spring allowed a severe dose of mildew and black
Beetroot Cylindra
spot to spread and greenfly infestations have been in plague proportions. There has been plenty of ladybirds, but not enough to halt their spread, so spraying had to be done to stop them for a few weeks. Sweet peas have been brilliant this year, but needed constant dead heading and picking bunches for the house.
Broad beans grew very rapidly and ripened earlier than normal, so it was an early start to the harvesting season. Family members over on holiday get roped into the harvesting and processing tasks all summer long. The broad beans get picked in one go preferably in the morning, then after lunch we all gather around the patio and shell the beans. By evening, they get blanched and then we begin the task of separating the beans
Rose Myriam
from their skins, before bagging up for the freezer.
Peas were ready to pick at the same time, so another family day was spent picking, shelling then bagging up for the freezer, other than those for immediate use. Then just before my visitors departed volunteers were sought for the Invicta gooseberry picking. The bushes have been so packed with gooseberries that all the shoots were trailing on the ground with weight of crop so straw was needed underneath them to prevent soil splashing during heavy rainfall. Family again got together around the table for a night of music, wine (adults only) and topping and tailing the gooseberries.
Hot muggy weather seems to have brought on more crops, so it was the turn of blackcurrant Big Ben to get picked followed a week later for picking Ben Conan.
Strawberry Florence
Freezer is now well stocked, but Saskatoon picking has not yet started as the crop is a fortnight behind normal picking from mid July onwards, but this year it will be from early August. The bushes are absolutely laden down with berries. In between major crop harvesting there was plenty raspberries, strawberries and Bramble Helen to pick every three days apart, and autumn fruiting raspberry Polka is making an early start.
Harvesting on the vegetable patch is well under way. Potato Casa Blanca lifting was started in early June, but before the whole row was lifted I had to harvest Mayan Gold which seemed to suffer an odd disease that caused the leaves to die back. This variety is also liable to boil away to soup in the pot so I will not be growing it again.
Beetroot and turnips have had a mixed year so far. Beetroot is always a great cropper and keeps well outdoors in our mild winters, but all my Golden ball turnips ran to seed. Think I will stick to Purple Top Milan in future which is always reliable, though our freaky weather may have some bearing on matters. It’s been a great year for
Good crop of blackcurrants
salads. Lettuce has never been better, but greenfly infestations are not very welcome and spraying a bad idea as picking has been constant. I tried a few rows in between a block of chrysanthemums. I got plenty of lettuce before the chrysanthemums needed the space.  Onions, like all the other vegetables have made strong growth and are swelling up just fine, though the wet hot atmosphere has caused a severe infection of white rot fungus.
In the greenhouse grape vines and tomatoes are fighting for space. Tomatoes have now all had the tops removed after five or six trusses as they have all reached the roof and grapes are all hanging in great profusion. I know it’s a bit late but the massive bunches will need some thinning of the fruits.

Wee jobs to do this week

As summer harvests continue and land gets cleared of crops such as peas, onions, broad beans and early potatoes, put this spare ground to good use. This is a good time to sow salads (lettuce, radish, spring onions and rocket) for late summer and autumn use. Some varieties of lettuce are winter hardy and can give useful fresh greens over the winter months and into spring.

END

Monday, 5 August 2019

ORCHIDS


ORCHIDS

Cattleya sincorana
Fifty years ago orchids were rarely seen outside stately homes with large gardens and greenhouses. I don’t recall seeing them during my five year gardening apprenticeship training, though we were given notes on their culture. Orchids were expensive to purchase so they remained fairly rare, but life moves on and growers and breeders saw a huge opportunity, so before long new varieties appeared on the market and using meristem culture they could be propagated in very large numbers quite cheaply. Today they now appear everywhere for sale from garden centres to supermarkets at very affordable prices. The Phalaenopsis seems to be the most popular, but then the flowers come in a range of colours, with stems full of blooms can last for months, and they are very easy to grow. However you must avoid keeping them in sunlight (they prefer dappled shade or full shade) and never leave them sitting in water. A sunny bathroom is perfect where the
Cattleya Saturn
aerial roots can get plenty of atmospheric moisture, though in our Scottish climate they will be happy on a sunny windowsill during the winter months. In their natural environment they grow by clinging to tree trunks in tropical forests where there is plenty of warmth and rainfall with perfect drainage, and nutrients washed down the trunk from bird droppings and rotting leaves absorbed by the aerial roots hang down the side of the plant.
The woodland canopy, mostly evergreen, affords dappled light and protection from strong sunlight. Orchids can be found all
White phalaenopsis acrylic painting
over the world growing wild in damp moist and peaty soils. I saw drifts of thousands growing in Glen Nevis and they even reached weed status growing in industrial developments in Livingston New Town.
Growing orchids in the home
Wild orchid
The Phalaenopsis type are usually quite reliable and very rewarding when it repeats the flowering every year, so makes the best one to start with. They will come in pots with ample holes for drainage and planted in special orchid compost. This is often a mixture of bark chips, coarse graded peat, charcoal to keep the mixture sweet, nutrients and trace elements. This should be sufficient to keep the plant happy for two to four years before repotting is necessary depending on type. It is best to repot in spring as growth commences. I purchased one in full flower last August at the City Road Allotments open day and it continued to flower well beyond Christmas. Once flowering is over allow the plant some dormancy by keeping it in a cooler spot, and water less often, but do not let it dry out and do not feed at this stage or repot. Orchids are not heavy feeders so just give them an orchid feed once every two to four weeks while they are growing.
Paphiopedilum orchid
Phalaenopsis can flower most of the year with six or up to twenty or more flowers on one spike. Keep the stem staked otherwise it hangs over and could pull over the whole plant.
Cymbidiums are very popular and another good one to start with as they are very adaptable. They flower in autumn to spring producing many spikes with up to twenty flowers each lasting up to ten weeks. The plants can grow quite large and are happy in a cool room. They require more frequent repotting because of their strong growth.
Paphiopedilum orchids are terrestrial, not epiphytic so there are no aerial roots or pseudobulbs. They grow from rhizomes just below ground level and produce medium sized flower stems with just one or a few flowers. They like to be kept lightly shaded. Propagate by division in spring and repot every second year in the smallest pot available.
Salads for autumn and winter
Cattleyas  are epiphytes that are very flamboyant with large colourful flowers which are often highly perfumed. Both Cattleyas and Phalaenopsis have been used extensively by artists as the subject for flower paintings with great impact.

Wee jobs to do this week
Take advantage of small areas of land becoming available as mid summer crops get harvested allowing sowings of lettuce, radish, spring onions and rocket and even some Chinese cabbage. These will give salads for late autumn use. Early potatoes, peas, broad beans, cabbage and cauliflower and soon onions will all get lifted to release some land though some onions are having a hard time with the warm but wet weather and white rot is gaining the upper hand.

END

Monday, 29 July 2019

SUMMER IN THE GARDEN


SUMMER IN THE GARDEN

Mid summer can be a great time to relax in the garden and just watch the fruit, vegetables and flowers grow. This year has seen all types of weather thrown at us. One minute we have the hose out watering dry soil, and then we have to run for shelter as the thunderstorms descend upon us. Strong winds keep blowing plants over unless they are
Young gardeners picking peas
well secured, then we get days with clear skies and temperatures so hot we have to sit in the shade. These can be great times and that old Scottish joke about missing the summer because we went in for a haircut no longer applies. Garden plants are at their best in mid summer but this is the time when the judges appear for those of us who have entered the Dundee City council Garden and allotment competition, so there is no time to relax on the sun lounger sipping a wee glass of Saskatoon wine. Weeds must be totally eradicated, pests and diseases eliminated, fences straitened up, and all plants standing to attention with flowers facing the front as the judges approach. Some plants such as the Cornus kousa Miss Satomi have been at their best for a whole month, roses and poppies have never been better, and all my new grafts with Concord and Beth on my family pear tree are now growing.
However there are still crops to pick such as peas, blackcurrants, salads, gooseberries, turnips, first
Two shaws of Casa Blanca
early potato Casa Blanca and the first of my cauliflowers is ready, so harvesting becomes a family outing and the kids get involved picking peas, strawberries and raspberries. High temperatures in July has brought forward the broad beans so they will soon be needing to get picked.
Up at City Road Allotments plot holders are all very busy as we have entered the best allotment site competition after our success last year. We got top prize and money received was spent on new plant containers to brighten up the front of our community sheds. We have also created a new flower border at the entrance and encouraged those plot holders adjacent to City Road to plant up a flower border so folk passing along City Road can see a very attractive allotment site. In years past too many
Dave's flower border along City Road
allotment sites were partly run down, full of weeds, with broken fences and many derelict sheds. Today this has all changed as folk coming in from all sections of the community are keen to grow fresh produce, and enjoy the exercise, plenty of sunshine and fresh air and a great community with plenty events to bring folk together. We have plot holders from all over the globe bringing in crops from far away. We open up our site every Saturday and Sunday just before lunch so the public can drop in and wander around to see how we grow crops. Good community spirit is aided with surplus produce put in a basket outside our gates so folk passing by can help themselves to free fresh fruit and vegetables. We also participate in the Dundee Open Doors event and our good gardening plot holders take parties around the site to show them the best we have to offer, but it is our annual Open Day event which draws in the greatest response as folk come in from all over Dundee, and this year it is on Sunday 28th July
Cornus kousa Miss Satomi
from 11am to 3pm. As well as growing more flowers to brighten up our site we have also planted up an outdoor grape vine experiment along our south facing sheds with a half dozen different varieties to see which grapes will be best for growing outdoors in Scotland. Visitors can also see some very successful fig trees, chokeberries and saskatoons, then drop into our café for home made produce, fresh fruit and vegetables, jams, and tablet to purchase and numerous garden plants for sale. We also have established a communal wild garden with a bug hotel which is great for kids interested in outdoor life.

Wee jobs to do this week

Summer hanging basket
Tubs and hanging baskets get changed twice a year to show spring flowers up till the end of May then replaced with summer flowers to continue the display till autumn. Geraniums, begonias, petunias, lobelia and French marigolds just love to grow and flower in the hot summer weather, but as soil is limited they need a good feed with liquid fertiliser every fortnight. Keep dead heading spent flowers and check for greenfly that seem to like the petunias and slugs that just love both French and African Marigolds.

END

Monday, 22 July 2019

START OF THE BERRY SEASON


START OF THE BERRY SEASON

I just love it when the first strawberries ripen and the berry picking season begins. Memories of berry picking are still very strong although I am going back sixty years or more, but they were great times, as we got a few shillings to spend and there was always a pound or so of berries followed us home so
Anna making pots of jam
mother could make us some jam. It was an early rise at 6am then a cycle from St. Marys to the berry fields at Longforgan with me mate, so we could pick each side of the raspberry dreel, though I
Black currant Big Ben
preferred picking strawberries as I always made more money. As kids we noticed that there was always more berries on the east side of the rows which nearly always ran north to south. Later on as the wee kid got wiser this was put down to the prevailing winds coming from the west encouraging the fruiting shoots to lean to the east.
Bramble Helen
Today, life on my allotment berry field has come down a bit on scale, but the picking season goes on a lot longer. It starts with my early strawberry Christine and sometimes Mae another good early, but brought on a fortnight earlier with extra warmth and protection under a low polythene tunnel. Then the mid season varieties Elsanta and Honeoye ripen followed by the late varieties Symphony and Florence and taking us into early autumn the perpetual Flamenco is outstanding. However to get the best out of the strawberries they need to be netted against birds, use slug pellets to control slugs and snails which seem to be around in packs this year, and to stop soil splashing onto the fruit the rows need straw laying up the rows.
Chokeberry Aronia Viking
Raspberry picking kicks of in early July if the weather is in your favour, but now we have good autumn fruiting varieties like Autumn Treasure and Polka, so we can enjoy fresh berries well into autumn. Anna has her work cut out finding ways to use our heavy crops with compotes, summer puddings, jams and eating fresh within a couple of days from picking. Raspberry maggots are still a real pain on both the raspberries as well as the blackberries, so an insecticide spray is needed at the sign of the first pink fruit then ten days later.
Gooseberry Invicta
Blackcurrant Big Ben has been the first to ripen in early July and both this variety and my Ben Conan are laden down with huge crops bending branches down to the ground so it has been necessary to lay straw down to stop soil splashing onto the fruit. Gooseberries are also showing very heavy crops so they also needed straw laid underneath the branches. Gooseberries are added to summer puddings, stewed for compote to add to breakfast cereals, great for mint and gooseberry jelly and brilliant in chutney, but my favourite use of the surplus is in my dessert wines. The redcurrant crop has a similar use in the kitchen but also for my home brew wines.
Redcurrant
I think it must be seeing the result of last years fantastic summer which ripened up all the wood and now everything is cropping like never before. Chokeberries (Aronia Viking), saskatoons and blueberries are all laden down with very heavy crops this year. These will all keep me supplied in fresh berries right through summer into autumn but surplus berries in the freezer keeps can be used 
Saskatoons
all year round. Chokeberries (Aronias) and saskatoons are both destined for fruit wine production as they both make fantastic wines, though I lay mine down for three years to mature to get the best flavour from them. Saskatoons mixed with rhubarb makes brilliant jam. This combination works as the saskatoons are quite sweet so the rhubarb balances it as it is more acidic.
Fig bushes are following the same pattern with huge crop potential as I left the small fruit buds on over winter as with our recent mild winters they seem to survive and give me an early crop.

Wee jobs to do this week

Sweet William
Many early flowering herbaceous border plants such as oriental poppies, peonies, lupins and bearded iris are now finished so they can be cut back to leave more room for later flowering plants such as day lilies, oriental lilies, Agapanthus and delphiniums, though the latter are now also beginning to go past their best. Any space left can be planted up with a few bedding plants such as African marigolds, geraniums and Sweet William to keep the border attractive through summer.
END


Tuesday, 16 July 2019

LET THE BATTLE COMMENCE


LET THE BATTLE COMMENCE

Fifty years ago there was an armada of chemicals to use for every gardening problem. We could grow any fruit, flower or vegetable to exhibition standards since we had a good chemical to sort out any pest or disease that dared to show its head on our patch. We had great training on insecticides, fungicides, weed killers and soil sterilants.
Nets on brassicas
There was Aldrin, Dieldrin, Parathion and DDT to sort out pests of cabbages, caulflowers and turnips and carrots then plenty systemic insecticides containing Dimethoate ot Demeton S methyl which was
Cuckoo spit on Lavander
systemic so quickly sorted out any greenfly problem. Weed control was also a breeze as we had the residuals of simazine and atrazine and for real problems Bromacil. That kept our raspberry plantations weed free from both annual and perennial weeds. In woodland areas and rough land we had 245T to control brushwood, but it got a bad press when we discovered it was used in the Vietnam War as Agent Orange and had a devastional
Carrot fly on parsnips
affect on the population as well as plants. There was also a huge demand for a contact herbicide for an instant kill, so paraquat and diquat, as Grammoxone, found a great market, but just a pity it was a poison with no known antidote. Today there are no residual herbicides but at the moment Glyphosate is still available. It is the last one and very effective. Research into the effects of pesticides on the environment was in its infancy fifty years ago. Then Rachel Carson brought out her book, “The Silent Spring” to be followed by John Coleman-cook’s “The Harvest That Kills” and suddenly we young horticultural students began to realise what was going on all around us. Wildlife
Rosy leaf curling plum aphid
and birds were all dying due to the exposure of all these toxic chemicals. Slowly one by one nearly all these chemicals were withdrawn so we saved the wildlife and the environment, but now scientists and plant breeders have the task of pest and disease control in a safe manner.
We still have a few chemicals left that are considered safe, but are constantly reviewed and in danger of being banned. Slugs and snails have always been a real nuisance in the garden, but in the past we had slug pellets with metaldehyde at 3% strength. This has now been reduced to 1% and slugs go sick for a few days then return as hungry as ever. Carrot fly has no chemical solution, so
First pink fruit is time to spray for maggot
fine mesh netting has to be used on carrot and parsnip rows.
Greenfly have now become a major pest on numerous crops made worse by mild winters so all the over wintering eggs survive. Some chemicals used for roses will give some control, but on a small scale you can revert to the messy business of squashing them with fingers. Fingers are also used for control of the frog hopper hiding in the cuckoo spit.
Rose mildew, rust and black spot can be sprayed with some chemicals, but rose breeders are now concentrating on breeding disease resistance into new varieties. Breeding resistance is also used with brassicas to eliminate clubroot fungus as well as peach leaf curl on outdoor peaches.
Netting has now become an essential task to protect plants from cabbage white butterfly, pigeons and other birds. Blackbirds just love strawberries, blueberries and saskatoons. New varieties of strawberries are now mostly resistant to botrytis fungus so no need for
Slug damage on hosta
spraying. However raspberries still need two sprays to control the fruit maggot which will infest the fruit.
Phytophthora fungus is the latest serious disease that has scientists and breeders working hard to bring out plants with resistance. Different strains of this disease affect raspberries, potatoes as well as many trees including larch plantations. Fifty years ago it was the elm trees that got just about wiped out with Dutch elm disease but now we have Ash die back and sudden oak death affecting our trees. The battle never ends.

Transplanting young leeks
Wee jobs to do this week
Leeks that were sown outdoors at the beginning of March have now made good growth and are ready to transplant into their final rows. This year I am sowing two old but reliable favourites, Lyon and Musselburgh. The young seedlings are now about ten inches tall. Lift carefully then sort out the biggest and discard the weakest. The chosen ones are topped and tailed then dibble deep holes into a three inch deep furrow and drop the plants into the holes. Run a watering can along the holes to bed in the transplants then after a few days straiten them up and wait for them to grow.
END


Monday, 8 July 2019

SUMMER GROWTH ON THE PLOT


SUMMER GROWTH ON THE PLOT

Summer was late to start, and the rain was never far away, but things turn round, the summer returns and the garden just bursts into growth with flowers everywhere. June may have finished with the sun shining, but it will go down as a very wet month. Although this resulted in a flush of growth on all crops, and also gave the weeds a huge boost, so it was out with the hoe to catch up before those weeds got too big. Then numerous rows of young seedlings needed thinning out. Swedes, Golden ball turnips, lettuce, spring onions, dwarf French beans,
John tying up the broad beans
beetroot and parsnips all got their final thinning.
Previous ideas for intercropping had mixed results. Chrysanthemums inter planted amongst young cabbages took off quickly, but my nets were not tall enough for both crops so the chrysanthemums got replanted elsewhere. They never looked back as the good growing weather was in their favour.
Good crop of figs soon
Another block of chrysanthemums had lettuce Lollo Rossa planted in between the plants and this has worked a treat, as the lettuce are low growing and do not affect the chrysanthemums. I have been cutting the lettuce before they get too big. However another batch of lettuce and spring onions were planted in between rows of broad beans when the bean plants were very small, but the beans took off at a great pace and now I cannot even see the salads. You win some, you lose some but you keep trying.
Onion Hybound grown from seed sown in mid February have put on superb growth with the warm weather and plenty rain, and no sign of white rot. Potatoes however are mixed. My late and maincrop varieties have all been flowering since mid June, but as yet there are no flowers on my earlies. I started lifting a few shaws of first early Casa Blanca. This is a salad variety so no huge spuds, but enough for two wee Scots folk who are no into huge platefuls. Potato Mayan Gold has developed some strange affliction. Plants are dying back like in drought but soil is moist and it does
Young parsnips
not look like blight or blackleg. Afraid this one beats me.
Peas and beans all needed supports and protection from pigeons and slugs. Slugs were also a problem with strawberries, and they just love marigolds, and I think they have been holding meetings under my rhubarb leaves.
Weather was good for planting sweet corn, pumpkins, courgettes, and a second crop of cabbages and cauliflowers.
Harvesting has started with strawberries, salads, potatoes and kale and Anna was determined to lift a few of my Golden Ball turnips, but I think they will benefit from another week’s growth. Strawberries brought on early with low polythene tunnels are now all finished so the old leaves will get cut down and removed together with the protective straw. All good stuff for the compost heap.
Gooseberries are absolutely laden with crop bending branches down onto the ground so they will need a layer of straw to prevent soil splashing onto the fruit. No sign this year of any sawfly damage. Blackcurrants, bramble Helen, Chokeberry, saskatoons and raspberries are all looking great and heavy with potential crops.
Peony Doreen
Last year’s hot summer appears to have ripened up the shoots on apples, and pears so this year they all had masses of flowers, but much more than the tree could cope with so the June drop (and it came in June this year) was heavy but enough fruitlets were left for a good crop, though Bramley and Falstaff are lighter than normal.
Roses are starting off the year in great form. Vigour is very strong and all bushes a good foot higher than last year with large flowers in abundance. Mildew has been a problem on climbers due to the dry weather early on in the year, and greenfly have been in plague proportions.
Plants potted up

Wee jobs to do this week

June has been a busy time with potting up of rooted figs, and grape vines from cuttings, saskatoons
from layers, geraniums from cuttings, strawberry Flamenco (an autumn fruiting variety) from runners and many other plants for the City Road Allotments Open Day on Sunday 28th July 2019.
 

Monday, 1 July 2019

HERBACEOUS HEAVEN


HERBACEOUS HEAVEN

Herbaceous plants are traditionally grown in a long
Peony Doreen
border with an evergreen hedge or shrubs behind them to create a dark background to set against the colourful flowers. However in the small garden landscape, we tend to find spaces to fit them in mixed with other plants. Different herbaceous plants prefer soil type and location to suit their own needs. My delphiniums are planted next to fences for easy support and peonies and oriental poppies are planted under my apple trees, which seems to suit them. Doronicums have ended up in borders against a wall on the patio as I have under planted them with red tulip Abba and purple tulip Negrita which in a normal year they will all flower together. The colour contrast of red and purple dwarf tulips against yellow  daisy flowers of the Doronicum makes a great show in spring. My Shasta daisies are planted on a difficult bank where they can help to keep down weeds. However I still keep a border dedicated to a selection of my favourites. Peony Doreen and Hemerocallis
Iris Dusky Challenger
Patricia are in the centre of this border adjacent to my Oriental poppies and a large drift of Flag Iris. At the back of this border I grow my hollyhocks, lupins and red hot pokers. In mid summer the Oriental lilies have huge bright heads of flowers with fantastic scent so these get a border all to themselves next to paths so they can be enjoyed at close hand. This area is not wasted while we wait on the lilies to grow in early summer, so it gets a mass planting of the tall Darwin Hybrid tulips, red Apeldoorn and the yellow Golden Apeldoorn, together with the white fosteriana tulip Purissima. This is claimed to be scented but I have not detected much scent on mine. Lilies like really good drainage and are not fussed about rich soil so areas for lilies get plenty of land preparation to help drainage before planting. Borders along the tops of walls are a favourite spot as these are usually well drained and another dwarf plant for the tops of walls is the garden pinks. I have many different varieties but for sheer intensity of colour the dazzling red Passion is hard to beat. These come in a wide range of colours and sizes and most have a terrific
Oriental poppies
scent. Tops of walls are also perfect for planting the succulent yellow flowered Delosperma nubigenum and its brother the purple Delosperma cooperii both of which just love to grow over the top and hang down the wall. Both of these can also grow well if bits of stem are pushed into the cracks in walls. They do not need much soil. However my Astilbe and Himalayan blue poppies prefer a semi shady area with a soil that retains moisture like a woodland fringe. They associate well with dwarf azaleas and the latter can be planted amongst them.
Cottage Pinks Passion
Herbaceous plants can give flowers over a long period. The earliest can be the blue Pulmonarias in April, then the yellow Doronicums, but my border is in flower from early February as I take advantage of those plants that go dormant in winter and do not need the space till later. So I plant up the empty space with snowdrops, aconites, narcissus and daffodils as well as tulips to take me up to the end of spring. I also experiment with planting early dwarf tulips amongst some of the low growing herbaceous perennials. I try to use colour contrasts, but getting the timing right always depends on the weather and with frequent mild winters plans often go astray. Another good combination, (when it works) is a drift of the blue Anemone blanda surrounding a clump of pale yellow Euphorbia polychroma. In summer the other Euphorbia griffithi Fireglow with orange red flowers is great in the middle of the border as it grows quite tall. The Euphorbias remind me of the yellow and red variegated Houttunias as they all have sap that can seriously cause a skin rash, so always wash your hands after working with them, and wear gloves when cutting them back.

Wee jobs to do this week

Lettuce and chard
Continue to sow a succession of summer salads as these are fast growing and very popular so crops soon get used up. Lettuce, spring onion, radish and rocket are perfect for sowing in between slower crops such as sweet corn. Salads can also be used where ever early crops have been harvested. The first early potatoes will soon get dug up, and early strawberries brought on under tunnels will soon be finished. If these have cropped for a couple of seasons they may well get dug in after taking runners off for a new row. Spaces left from these crops can be sown with fast growing salads.
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Monday, 24 June 2019

PLANTS FOR WALLS AND FENCES


PLANTS FOR WALLS AND FENCES

Clematis montana
At some point we all experience the trials and tribulations of moving house, usually in connection with going for a new job, or as we get older we no longer need a large home so we down size to a smaller house. Once settled in the keen gardener
Camellia Donation
can analyse the existing garden’s merits or if the move was to a new build home then the garden can be designed from scratch. The priorities are usually drives, paths, lawns, then borders, shelter, patio, and then vegetable and fruit garden. Size has a lot to influence how many of those must have plants we can fit in, so we need to utilise all available spaces. Walls and fences can all accommodate a few plants and this helps to blend the home into the landscape. Traditionally north facing walls were the most difficult to find a good plant that was happy with lack of sunshine, but then the south facing walls allowed us to experiment with the more exotic plants looking for a hot spot. When planting against a wall it is important to give the plants a good
Solanum crispum
start, so excavate the planting area a foot deep and fork up the subsoil before replacing the top soil, with some good compost added in. If you are planting the more exotic plants such as vines or figs add some stones or gravel in the bottom of the pit to improve drainage. After planting give the plants some fertiliser to boost growth to help them get established, and keep them watered in dry spells in the first and subsequent year.
North walls will be fine for most plants, but some are better than others. The firethorn, Pyracantha Orange Glow was always a favourite. It gets smothered with bright red berries in the autumn which will feed the blackbirds for weeks and the bees just love the flowers in spring for their nectar. It makes a dense climber, great for nesting birds but needs support and some winter pruning.
Delosperma cooperii
Hydrangea petiolaris will also be fine on the north wall but again it will need support. Most Camellias are fine on north and west walls but not east due to danger of sun scorch on frosted buds, and south walls may be liable to drying out. Virginian creeper can go on a north wall and has great autumn colour, but it can be very rampant once it gets established. Clematis can go on any wall, but again some varieties like Clematis montana love to ramble, and climb through anything in its path.
Another three rampant climbers for wall and fences are the yellow Jasminum nudiflorum, the scented honeysuckles and the Chilean Potato vine, Solanum crispum.
Some climbing and shrub roses can be trained up walls in any aspect, but they are so numerous that you need time to study rose growers catalogues as they bring out new varieties every year, and now they are concentrating on disease resistance as chemical control is falling out of favour.
As well as flowers and berries walls can also be used for fruit
Delosperma nubigenum
production. Perfect places for a Bramble such as Helen, or you can train apples, pears, peach Avalon Pride, (all grown as fan trained,) cherries and fig Brown Turkey to grow and crop on a fence or wall.
Grapes can also benefit from the warmth of a south facing wall and it is hard to beat Brant, though the bunches are not big, but the black grapes are sweet and juicy. Grapes can be very vigorous so need constant summer pruning to restrict growth and let the sun shine in to ripen up the grapes.
Tall stone built garden walls can be planted with the succulent Delosperma which is happy to grow from shoots pushed into cracks between stones where they will root. They are quite drought
Outdoor grape Brant
tolerant. Delosperma nubigenum hugs the wall and is smothered in yellow flowers in late spring, and the other variety Delosperma cooperii has purple flowers.
Anna trying out the first strawberries

Wee jobs to do this week

Protect strawberries from birds, slugs and soil splashes in wet weather. The strawberry season is now upon us. I have been picking my early variety Christine since late May but it had been growing under a low polythene tunnel for warmth and protection. Normal varieties will crop from now for early varieties (Honeoye) and continue as mid season (Elsanta) and late varieties (Florence and Symphony) come into season, then finally the perpetual autumn varieties such as Flamenco will crop till October. Protect the rows from birds with nets and lay straw along the rows to prevent soil splash damage and if slugs and snails are a problem sprinkle some pellets along the rows.
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