Saturday, 18 February 2017

West End Gallery Dundee exhibition

 Original Scottish paintings on exhibition

New Scottish paintings now on exhibition at West End Gallery on the Perth Road in Dundee include two snow scene winter landscapes in oil painting, one acrylic pink orchid on a stretched box canvas, a summer landscape watercolour painting of Rait Village in Perthshire, then over to Islay for a view of the Paps of Jura and one dramatic figure painting of Warm Glow.
Summer Sunshine in Rait Village
Warm Glow
Sunset at Tullibaccart Oil painting
Winter Has Arrived oil painting

Deep Pink Phalaenopsis orchid
Paps of Jura

SOME WINTER JOBS



SOME WINTER JOBS

As winter progresses there has been quite a few decent days to crack on with a few gardening tasks so many of us are up to date with seasonal activities, and the spring rush is still a few weeks away.
The strawberries are still dormant, so now is a good time to replace any fruiting rows that have cropped for two or three years. It was the practise to allow three fruit crops before replacing strawberries, but now there are so many
Young strawberry runner ready for planting
new varieties to try that we tend to just go for two crops then see if we can get an improvement with something new. Another problem seems to be that many new varieties stop producing runners after a couple of years, so there are no replacement fresh runners if you delay it too long. If you are using your own plants make sure you use one year old strong runners. Plant these about 10 to 12 inches apart in rows three feet apart on well prepared fertile soil that is weed free. If you are buying in new strawberry plants they will most likely be cold stored runners delivered in March which is perfect to get them off to a flying start.
Continue with planting bare root plants
If you have ordered any bare root trees, shrubs, roses or fruit bushes or have any of your own grown from cuttings now is the time to plant them while the dormant season continues. As most of these will be permanent for quite a few years make sure the ground is well prepared, composted and weed free before planting. Although it may be very hard work, I always double dig soil, going two feet deep and adding plenty of compost to planting positions for permanent planting of roses, raspberries and other fruit bushes and all trees.
Harvesting
Lifting some spring onions from greenhouse border to use
Harvest cabbage, leeks, kale, Swedes, parsnips, rocket and sprouts as required for roots and fresh green produce in winter. There will still be some carrots and beetroot in store if you had a good crop last autumn. Keep a check on other stored fruit and vegetables and remove any going off.
Taking tops out of geraniums to make them bush
Apples can get some brown rot which will spread if left, and pumpkins need to be checked in case they begin to go soft in the middle. Potatoes can get soft if the eyes begin to sprout so remove any shoots as they appear. Some varieties are more prone than others so these should be used first.
Indoor tasks
Harvest spring onions, rocket and lettuce from greenhouse borders grown under grape vines or where tomatoes have been removed. Growbags that had a tomato crop are still useful for another short term salad crop sown in autumn and which will mature late winter and be used and cleared before the soil is needed for the next crop of grapes and tomatoes. Mind you greenhouse space in early spring is at a premium with young plants and seedling, so salads need to be used by March.
Bramley apples in store in February
As soon as you get your seed potatoes you can start to chit them in trays in a cool but light place so they can sprout short sturdy shoots. This should give them a good start after planting out in March and early April. Place them rose end up as that is where most of the shoot initials are.
Mulching the saskatoons
Take tops off geranium shoots that are now beginning to grow from cuttings taken last autumn. This will help them to remain sturdy and encourage branching. The tops can be used as cuttings to increase stock and provide smaller plants in spring just perfect for hanging baskets and tubs.

Wee jobs to do this week

Give roses, fruit trees and bushes some fertiliser towards the end of February to give them a spring boost of growth. Growmore is a good general fertiliser to promote healthy strong growth, but to enhance fruiting use a rose fertiliser which is higher in potassium. Similarly if you have access to ashes from bonfires, this is an excellent source of potash, but is very soluble so collect it before any rain washes its nutrients away. Use sulphate of ammonia, sulphate of potassium and a wee sprinkling of sulphate of iron on blueberries as these all help to keep the soil acidic.
Then give all the trees and bushes a good mulch of compost to retain moisture and add feeding.

END

Sunday, 12 February 2017

START SEED SOWING



START SEED SOWING

Sowing tomato seed
The month of February has always been my starting point to begin some seed sowing. I grow vegetables for the kitchen and flowers to enjoy, but never got into exhibiting, otherwise my seed sowing schedule would have started in autumn. I begin in mid February with sweet peas and onions both of which like a long growing season, then at the end of the month the broad beans and tomatoes get sown. At this time of year they all need some warmth to germinate, so either use a heated greenhouse, or at least heat up a section to use and line the greenhouse with bubble polythene to
Pricking out tomato seedlings
retain heat. A small electric propagator is
a great help to get seed started and then once seedlings appear they can be transferred to a light warm windowsill or other area with heat and plenty of good light. Seedlings need to grow sturdy, and short jointed, so only give enough heat to keep them happy, but do not force growth as it is still early and if grown on a windowsill they can soon demand more space.
Sweet peas are usually soaked overnight and sown in cellular trays at two or three seeds per cell, or if the cells are small sow at one seed per cell. They are usually pretty fool proof so germination should be nearly 100% as there are very few pests or diseases around indoors at this time of year. Watch out for slugs and snails in the greenhouse as they have
Tomato Alicante
survived well in the mild winter.
Once the plants have a couple of leaves try and get them hardened off to go in a cold greenhouse or frame, then pinch out the growing point to encourage branching.
Onions can be sown thinly in a shallow seed tray then pricked out after germination or in a cellular tray of about 80 to 100 cells for one packet of seed. Seed quantity per packet depends on variety as
Onion Hytech ripening up
well as supplier. Treat onions the same as sweet peas for warmth and light. Once they have settled down and become established in cells keep them fairly cool, but frost free. They can be hardened off and ready to plant out in April. Onions can also be grown as sets without all this work, and now there are some really good varieties available as heat treated sets for planting on well prepared fertile soil on a good day in March. Hytech, Globo and Sturon are all good varieties.
Broad beans have large seeds so they are easily sown individually in cellular trays where they can
Broad Beans ready to plant
remain for a few weeks after germination. Frequently there are more seeds per packet than what you really need, so either make the packet last two years (a good Scottish trick) or keep a batch for a later sowing. These plants can go on land cleared from some overwintered Swedes, spring cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard or kale. A good variety of broad bean is Giant Exhibition Long Pod.
Tomato seeds germinate in warm conditions then need continual warmth and good light to grow on into strong sturdy plants. They are not difficult to grow so sow thinly in shallow trays then prick out into individual small pots to grow on. They are perfect on a sunny windowsill for a short spell, but soon outgrow the space so need transferring into the greenhouse. They will be fine in an unheated greenhouse lined with bubble polythene, but if cold weather threatens then bring in a heater to keep them warm over night. This year I will be growing Alicante as my main crop plus my two very sweet cherries, the yellow Sungold and the red Sweet Million.

Festive Poinsettias and orchids keep flowering
Wee jobs to do this week

Plants brought in to the house to brighten up the festive season often have a long flowering period so do not be too quick to discard them once all the decorations are packed away. Indoor azaleas can be kept to flower next year, but need cooler temperatures in an unheated greenhouse, but keep them moist. Poinsettias retain their red bracts for a good couple of months so keep them moist but not wet and warm and away from draughts. Phalaenopsis orchids are very popular and come in all sizes and colours. These will last for several months, but do not overwater them. They hate standing in water, and in Scotland are fine in a sunny windowsill. I water mine about once a week and feed once a month, then after flowering they get transferred to a bright shower room.

END

Sunday, 5 February 2017

A FEW WINTER JOBS



A FEW WINTER JOBS


Even in the midst of winter there is always a wee job to do in the garden or involved in forward plans. So far the winter has been almost non existent and with temperatures frequently in double figures, and dry weather becoming the norm, there is no excuse for not tackling those outstanding gardening chores. Digging, shifting compost, pruning and repairs to paths, sheds and fences have given us the excuse to get out into the warm winter sunshine.
Give the glasshouse a thorough cleaning
Winter cleanup for the greenhouse
A warm dry sunny day is just perfect to give the greenhouse glass its winter clean up, removing dirt, algae, moss and bird droppings. Inside it helps to clear out all those spiders and any overwintering pests eggs. Check and fix door and window openings as sometimes dirt can build up causing difficulty. Clear out gutters as usually there is a fair build up of old fallen leaves and growth of moss.
Rhubarb crowns are now quite prominent so where they have been growing in the same spot for over three years, now is a good time to lift up the roots and replant the strongest of the crowns.
Lift Timperley Early Rhubarb
Rhubarb is a heavy feeder that also likes plenty of moisture so dig over the area deeply and add in as much compost or manure as you can as this will feed them for the next three years. Space the new crowns about three feet apart as they need room to grow, and do not take any stems from them in the first year to let them build up strength. Where you have spare crowns left over these can be forced to give an early crop. If you have a greenhouse with a bench in it, the space underneath the staging is a perfect place to plant the crowns. Space them close together then cover the sides with black polythene to exclude all light. The rhubarb will soon grow with the greenhouse added protection and natural warmth. They will be even better if the glass has been lined with bubble polythene of you have started the gardening seed sowing year early and put in a greenhouse heater.
Spread lime
Add lime to areas intended for planting the cabbages, turnips, Swedes, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts. In the planned four year rotation this area is usually the one that had a potato crop on it last
Spreading garden lime
year. Lime raises the alkalinity making the soil less acid which suits the brassicas and discourages the clubroot disease. However as a further precaution some of us that have soil badly infected with clubroot have to resort to using only clubroot resistant bred varieties. So I will be growing cabbage Kilaton or Kilazol, cauliflower Clapton, Brussels Sprout Crispus and swede Invitation, Gowrie or Lomond.
Choose a windless day for lime spreading if possible as it is very light and can blow everwhere.
Chit potatoes
Chitting potatoes
We have had plenty of time to analyse last year’s crops, and check with other gardening friends to sort out the best spuds for 2017. Seed potatoes are now available in the garden centres, so as soon as you buy in your chosen varieties it is a good idea to start the process of chitting. Place the tubers in a shallow container such as an egg box with the rose end upmost and keep them in a light frost free room or shed. They do not need heat as we want to see short jointed wee shoots that are green and ready to grow after a couple of months.
Pruning climbing roses

Wee jobs to do this week

Finish off any pruning of fruit trees and bushes, roses and other shrubs, while they are still dormant.  Climbing roses often start to grow early February if they are on a sheltered wall, so they are always a priority. All plants differ on type of wood to flower and fruit so check out each ones needs before getting out the secateurs and loppers.

END

Sunday, 29 January 2017

SPRING BULBS AWAKEN A NEW SEASON



SPRING BULBS AWAKEN A NEW SEASON

Aconites
The winter in recent times never seems so long as it was in childhood days when the first snows came in November and skating on Dundee’s ponds started in December. The roads were busy with kids on sledges all January and February as there were not many cars on the road. These were the winters we thought were normal. Now come forward sixty or so years we did get a few snow flurries in January this year, but with temperatures in double figures over many days, our dormant bulbs think spring has arrived and they just won’t stop growing.
The race is on to see who can push up into the daylight first. Even tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and lilies are all visible, and the smaller bulbs such as chionodoxa, scilla, anemone blanda and grape bluebells are all in leaf. The grape hyacinths however usually start in late autumn to come into leaf and no amount of snow or frost seems to bother them.
Primroses bloom early
I have a drift of snowdrops growing in the shelter of a south facing wall which were in flower in December and continue throughout January and hopefully into February.
Aconites are not far behind, as the first flowers opened up in late January. I thought they would be later this year as my large drift got a fright when I decided to replant twenty cyclamen hederifolium amongst them as they both grow and flower at different times so should be happy with each others company. The cyclamen are still in leaf, but these should die down soon to leave the aconites free to flower and grow. Aconites have a short season and begin to die down by mid summer. This leaves the space free for the cyclamen to flower in early autumn before the leaves emerge and then they can grow in autumn and winter. Time will tell if they are happy companions.
Crocus in February
Crocus hybrids may be the bigger and more dramatic types but the crocus species flower about two to three weeks earlier. Although the individual flowers may be smaller than the hybrids, when growing in massed drifts the overall effect is quite stunning. There are many different types of crocus species but I always go for my favourites, Blue Pearl, Cream Beauty and Snow Bunting.
Crocus are perfect planted amongst deciduous trees and shrubs provided they get plenty of sunlight to open up the flowers fully. All my drifts of snowdrops and crocus increase every year as it is hard to resist buying a few more bulbs in autumn. Once drifts or clumps have been established for several years they can be lifted and split up immediately after flowering, to replant them in other spots where they will soon grow and multiply. Retain and scatter any seed that forms as these will all germinate and grow. The aconites are germinating now, taking advantage of this mild winter, so do not confuse them with weeds, (Sticky Willie and Ivy leaved speedwell are germinating now) and remove them.
Snowdrops in January
However be careful with grape hyacinths and bluebells as they are so efficient at growing from seed that if left alone they can be very invasive and will try to take over the whole garden.
Polyanthus and primroses in borders, tubs and pots are also confused by the mild winter so they are giving us an early bonus as they have come into flower in the mild winter. They are quite tough so provided a severe winter remains on the back burner they will hopefully continue to flower for a few more months.

Anna picking Kale
Wee jobs to do this week

Kale leaves can be picked throughout winter as they continue to grow. Take a few leaves from the tops of several plants so the plant is not weakened. After washing and a rough chop they only need steamed in a pot for a few minutes adding in some seasoning, garlic and ginger, then just before serving drizzle some olive oil over the top. It makes a delicious green vegetable that even kids love it. Surplus kale can be frozen for future use. Kale is high in fibre, packed with antioxidants, contains vitamins A, K and C and the minerals iron, calcium and magnesium and is now considered one of the top fresh health foods.

END

Sunday, 22 January 2017

GROW SOMETHING BIG



GROW SOMETHING BIG

Gardeners have always loved to rise to the challenge of getting the biggest plant possible. Once you have mastered the techniques of getting good crops many like to take it a wee bit further and then size does matter. Once it gets under your skin and results come in, the dedicated gardeners like to take their produce to the shows in open competition. However for most of us we are happy to grow a huge pumpkin or a very tall sunflower.
Pumpkin Hundredweight
These are the simple pleasures we use to get our young kids involved in a bit of gardening. With most plants it is simply a matter of dedication and attention to detail so each type can grow in a lavish world where everything it wants is laid on.
Dahlia Karma Gold
Start with well prepared soil, with good drainage and plenty well rotted compost added, adding extra fertiliser depending on plant then give irrigation as necessary and weekly feeding for the roots. Pests and diseases and weeds are not allowed so keep an eye on them and take action immediately.
Pumpkins and courgettes respond to maximum feeding, watering and pruning of excessive young shoots. You also need to start with a variety that likes to grow huge like Hundredweight or Atlantic Giant Pumpkin. Start them early in a greenhouse to give them a long growing season then allow plenty of space to grow but do not take too many fruits from each plant.
Onions are another favourite that need rich soil, feeding plenty of room and a long growing season, starting off with a good variety like Kelsae. Most gardeners would be very happy with outdoor grown large onions, but if you compete at shows then most likely the onions will be grown in pots or special beds in a greenhouse or tunnel. Avoid over watering as onions are very prone to white rot.
Onion Globo
To grow giant leeks is not easy as the techniques are kept closely guarded secrets, especially feeding and strains of exhibition varieties are often handed down from father to son. Germination is usually from an autumn sowing and plants potted up gradually in ever richer soil. They can grow outdoors but many prefer glasshouse or tunnel protection for better results.
Cabbage, cauliflower, Swedes and other vegetables all follow similar growing styles.
Potatoes are another favourite when going for size and the variety Amour will get you off to a good start. It has huge tubers for the show bench as well as a cracking baked potato.
Flowers are a different story when seeking a large head as some respond to rich soil with feeding such as sunflowers and dahlias, but others such as carnations, iris and lilies do not need rich soil, but good soil structure and free drainage is essential.
Lily Chelsea
Chrysanthemums and dahlias for exhibition or just for large heads require selecting the best varieties, growing them strongly and only growing one or two heads per plant so all the plants energy is concentrated in growing a large flower.
Sweet Peas grown for size are usually grown as single stem cordons. Ground preparation is essential, so select a site with very fertile soil and enhance this by taking out a trench in autumn and forking in compost or well rotted manure into the bottom. Leave this over winter but back fill with good soil ahead of planting in early spring. Seeds are sown in the greenhouse in autumn and grown on. Young plants are tipped after a few leaves then the strongest shoot is retained. Use six foot tall canes to support the cordons removing all side shoots and tendrils. Liquid feed weekly.
Spur pruning grape vine

Wee jobs to do this week

Grape vines grown both indoors and outdoors are best pruned between December and the end of January otherwise they are liable to bleed as the sap rises quite early in the season. Under glass they are grown as upright rods spaced about 18 inches apart and 6 feet tall. All sideshoots are cut back to one or two buds. This system is also fine outdoors, or grown with a fan shaped permanent framework as long branches are given ample space. Again all shoots are cut back to a couple of buds. Commercially vines are grown on the Guyot system of pruning where fruiting laterals are only kept for one year then replaced. There are some excellent You Tube videos on this technique.

END

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

GROW FRUIT TO IMPRESS



GROW FRUIT TO IMPRESS

The world we live in seems to change at an ever increasing speed and the older generation struggles to keep up with technological improvements. We spend hours trying to understand how to work the tablet, mobile phone, new printers and smart gadgets. The instructions on disc are in English, but not in a language easy to understand unless you have a grasp of symbols. Our kids get round this through education from primary schools onwards, then spending hours in the bedroom free to roam around cyberspace. I visited a friend’s new house and remarked how impressed I was at the ample open space for the kids to play on.
Cherry Cherokee
They all laughed as they told me kids don’t do that any more. Afraid that was my generation. Anyway, back in the world of gardening things are advancing but not at quite the same pace. The need to produce food to save money has gone for most folk, so now our allotments are a social meeting point of like minded souls and a place to chill out with some fresh air and relaxation after a wee bit of strenuous exercise. We grow for healthy food to eat and produce crops to impress our friends. We now grow rocket, mizuna, sweet corn, Swiss chard and now kale and rhubarb are back in fashion as must have healthy foods to eat.
Fig Brown Turkey
Fruit crops are going through the same changes, so now we have raspberries and strawberries fruiting from early summer till autumn, apples suited to the very small gardens and now everyone is having a go at the unusual and exotic crops. Nurseries, plant breeders and scientists are all out to improve plant performance and extend the range of plants available. Our gardens and allotments can be a great source of pleasure as we amaze our fellow gardeners with new, unusual and sometimes exotic fruit plants.
Fig Brown Turkey is quite successful in Scotland outdoors if given the shelter and warmth of a south facing wall and grown in a pit to restrict root growth and encourage fruiting.
Peaches are also successful up north outdoors with the same south facing fence or wall, but because of the peach leaf curl disease use the variety Avalon Pride which gets some disease but not enough to curtail growth and fruiting.
Grape Brant growing outdoors
Cherries are also possible outdoors with varieties like Cherokee especially if grown on the dwarfing rootstock Gisella 5. This keeps the height down to about six feet so nets can be used to keep birds off the fruits.
Saskatoons are easy to grow and are quite similar to blueberries but fruit a few weeks earlier. They produce a far heavier crop than blueberries and also need protection from birds.
Grapes grown outdoors in Scotland are a new venture. At present there are many hardy varieties to choose from. I am having success with Brant, Phoenix and Rondo with Solaris showing promise and Seigerrebe which crops early could be another to watch. It is a very heavy cropper, but grapes are small, though very sweet so can be a problem with wasps.
Strawberries can now fruit for 6 months from mid May by selecting a range of varieties and giving a row of earlies some polythene tunnel protection.
Raspberries can fruit from summer to autumn with a few varieties including Polka and Autumn Treasure for the late crops. Glen Fyne is brilliant in summer with the newer Glen Dee just planted.
Scottish Heritage apple Pearl
Apple and pear trees now come in many different forms to suit both large and very small gardens. Fans, cordons and espaliers were normal for walls but now we have narrow columnar shapes and low stepover plants. Where space is restricted you can buy a family tree with several varieties grown on one tree, or you can graft new varieties, (try Pearl a heritage type) onto your own tree as it is not too difficult. I will show this technique in a March feature for grafting in early spring.

Wee jobs to do this week
Sharpen up the garden shears

If frost or snow prevent outdoor activities take the chance of going through the gardening tools to make sure you are ready for the year ahead. Repair or replace broken or worn out spades, rakes, hoes, shears, garden lines, brushes or hoses that leak. Take a file and sharpen shears and hoes.
As I will be doing some grafting in March my knife will get sharpened with a carborundum stone.
END

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

A WINTER’S DAY IN THE GARDEN



A WINTER’S DAY IN THE GARDEN

The festive season is now well over, the Christmas tree and lights, is packed away for another year, and the bottles of amber nectar have been emptied, but plans for the garden and allotment are well advanced, so once my head clears a wee trip round the garden is on the cards, weather permitting.
Frost and snow and a few gales are most likely at this time of year, but there are always a few bright, but cold days when life in the garden struggles on. The winter of 2010 was our last serious cold snap when I couldn’t even reach the greenhouse as the snow was so deep, but the grape vines and overwintering lettuce still survived.
Snowed up
However outdoors it was a different story as many plants of a more tender nature got wiped out. Agapanthus, Leptospermum and my well established date palm paid the price. Eucalyptus lost a few leaves, but survived and Fuchsia Mrs Popple and my tall palm trees, Cordyline australis got cut down to ground level, but both came back again eventually. We keep a close watch on the weather forecasters, but promises of heatwaves and threats of impending gloom as low pressure systems screaming across the Atlantic head in our direction, but often just miss Tayside. It is this unpredictability that makes success in gardening quite an adventure.
Cornus Westonbirt
However the sun is shining so I have a flower border in need of composting and digging before the snow arrives. While outside adjacent to this border, is my grape vine border sheltered with south facing walls planted up with snowdrops quite happy to be in full flower from December through to February. Even a covering of snow does them no harm as they will just wait till it melts then open up as normal. Looking further afield you will see many other daffodils, crocus, tulips and aconites and other bulbs pushing up into daylight at every opportunity.
 The yellow flowered climbing shrub Jasminum nudiflorum is another plant quite happy in a colder climate but ready to open up its flowers on a sunny day. Viburnum bodnantense Dawn with scented pink flowers is another charmer to brighten up the winter months, and Mahonia Charity can be quite striking as an architectural specimen in a heather garden with its long racemes of yellow flowers.
Snowdrops in December
When you enjoy being in the garden twelve months of the year, not just from spring to autumn, you learn to grow those plants that are at their best in winter. The coloured stemmed Cornus, willow, Salix britzensis, green stemmed Kerrias, grey stemmed Rubus and coral red Maples are brilliant if mass planted in drifts. If you have room add a white stemmed birch, Betula jacquemontii for size and drama, and at ground level plant more drifts of heathers at their best in winter. Erica carnea comes in white, pink and red flowers and Calluna Goldsworth Crimson and Beoley Gold have striking golden and bronze foliage enhanced after a few frosty days.
Up at the allotment we can still harvest fresh kale, a winter cabbage and cauliflower Aalsmeer as well as a few parsnips, leeks,
Winter cauliflower Aalsmeer
Swedes and rocket. However no sprouts for me as I dug them all out after they failed to button up, though I am told blown sprouts are delicious in a stir fry. Too late!!!
Another dry sunny day and I can add some well rotted compost as a mulch around my fruit bushes, especially useful around gooseberries as it seems to stop attacks from sawfly maggot.
Leaves in the garden are now all raked up and added to my new compost heap mixed in with other garden debris from the autumn tidy up, so after a couple of months this will get turned and I hope to have good compost ready for spring planting of potatoes and early summer planting of courgettes and pumpkins that really benefit from plenty of organic matter to grow into and retain moisture.
Water festive pot plants carefully
As cold weather comes and goes keep checking the bird table for food and top up the water dish. If the water is frozen, knock it out and replace with warmer water that will last a few hours before freezing up again. Any apples going off in store are fine for the blackbirds once all the brown bits are cut off and it is sliced in half.

Wee jobs to do this week

Indoors, water and feed orchids, azaleas, amaryllis and poinsettias carefully, but don’t flood them. Give them light and some warmth, but keep well away from radiators and draughts.

END

Sunday, 1 January 2017

GARDEN PLANS FOR 2017



GARDEN PLANS FOR 2017

Festive holidays may be a time to relax, but getting involved in next year’s garden plans can also be very relaxing. Armed with a few new plant and seed catalogues we can sit back in comfort as we decide what new ventures lie ahead for 2017.  Decision making is always assisted with the help of some festive liquid refreshment, most of which was home grown such as the gooseberry wine, coming out as top favourite but closely followed by the Saskatoon and apple. The currants, black, white and red all make distinctly different wines, and the Chokeberry (Aronia) is in another world altogether. Anyway I usually start plans for each year based on the previous year’s results.
If some crops were outstanding in 2016 I
will repeat them again this year.
Ronda grape on trial
Thus tomato Sweet Million, a very productive and sweet cherry type and Sungold, another cherry in yellow, but just as sweet, will both be in the schedule. Potato Amour produced a huge crop of immense sized spuds with a great flavour and Casa Blanca is perfect as a salad potato full of flavour. Charlotte, another salad type was also a winner and Sarpo Mira gave a great crop so will come back for 2017. I was not impressed with Genson, so it will not get a second chance.

Staying with root crops, I was very impressed with my gardening magazine freebie Beetroot Cylindrica, so will get more for 2017. Parsnip Gladiator was very tasty but the long roots were not as thick as other types. Brassicas had a poor year mainly on account of severe clubroot infections. If the variety of cabbage, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts are not resistant to clubroot they will fail on my soil, so I will only use clubroot resistant types, and experiment with different sowing dates.
New raspberry Glen Dee
Brussels sprouts Bedford Fillbasket never filled any basket as every sprout blew wide open, so Sprouts for the festive lunch came from our local supermarket. I will need to go back to that old variety, but very reliable, Wellington.
Another gardening magazine freebie was a packet of mixed salad leaves. Within this mixture of the good the bad and the ugly appeared a fantastic red frilled lettuce, Lollo Rosso, which will definitely be on the list for 2017. It is very attractive and is crisp and full of flavour.
Anna samples strawberry Albion
In the fruit garden, the autumn raspberries Polka and Autumn Treasure were both very impressive with the latter cropping from late august till the frosts. Summer fruiting Glen Fyne gave a huge crop and the newer variety Glen Dee shows a lot of promise for 2017.
Bramble Reuben has had a couple of seasons to sort itself out but failed miserably. Described as a primocane, with huge fruits borne on shoots grown the same year. As mine never flowered till November both last year and this year I have had no crop at all. However I am leaving the canes for another year to see how they perform as a normal floricane. I did that in 2016 but with weak shoots only growing five feet tall the fruits produced were miserable, with an average size of 1.5 cms, hardly the size of a small plum as in the catalogue description.
Euonymous ground cover
New strawberry Albion fruits from mid summer till late autumn, but is a wee bit hard, so will get another year. Strawberry Colossus did not fruit last year so I am hoping to report back with good news of huge berries this coming summer.
My pear tree cropped so poorly that it is scheduled for grafting some Concorde shoots onto the tree to see if this will help with pollination in the future.
Garden flowers improvements to show in 2017 will be more mass planting of tulips, oriental lilies and dwarf azaleas to assist ground cover. Euonymus ground cover is already proving very attractive giving a bright splash of colour all winter.
Completing Lady in Red painting at end of 2016

Wee jobs to do this week

Favourable autumn and winter weather has allowed the garden to get tidied up, and the allotment digging to be completed, and now back indoors in the studio I am finishing off my last painting for 2016 as my “Lady in Red” does some shopping in Dundee High Street, so as I relax into the festive spirit the only wee job left for this week is to wish all my readers a happy New Year.

END

Sunday, 25 December 2016

LOOKING BACK OVER 2016



LOOKING BACK OVER 2016

The Festive season is a time to relax and enjoy the benefits of our labour over the past year. We have filled the freezer with fruit and vegetables, there is ample fruit and vegetables in storage, and plenty leeks, swedes, cabbages, winter cauliflower, kale, winter lettuce, rocket, Swiss chard and parsnips still quietly growing through the winter months. It is a time to look back and review the year, looking at the successes, failures, varieties we grow, sowing dates and how much we have worked with the climate that can never be relied on as no one knows what is normal any more.
John and Anna wish everybody a very Merry Christmas
However it is the climate more than anything else that determines how plants will grow. The UK climate varies dramatically from north to south and east to west, but looking back my Dundee area hasnae done too bad. Early on we came through a reasonably mild winter which had snowdrops beginning to flower the previous December, just a bit like this winter as mine are all showing white tips as I write. The year will go on record as a mild dry year, with always just enough rain to keep plants growing in between warm dry weather. The south of UK got plenty heatwaves, which we were promised would travel north, but the heat seemed to wither away round about the borders.
Fuchsia Mrs Popple
Spring arrived early and never got too warm so displays of daffodils, crocus and tulips were brilliant and lasted a very long time. Fruit trees flowered abundantly, and there always seemed to be plenty bees around to pollinate them. The apples gave the heaviest crop ever and had to get some serious thinning. Fiesta was my biggest winner as fruit was huge, very flavoursome and is still very fresh in storage. Discovery and Red Devil both cropped heavily. Pears looked great in full blossom, but only produced three fruits, so either a late frost stopped fertilisation or my four varieties on one tree are not compatible. I thought Conference, Comice, The Christie and Beurre hardy would help to pollinate each other, so next March I will graft some Concorde onto the tree to see if that helps.
Figs also had a great year, as did all my currants, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, saskatoons and brambles. New autumn raspberry Polka was excellent with large fruits and spine free stems. Autumn Treasure was also good, but fruited a fortnight later. My new primocane bramble
Red tuberous begonias
Reuben was a disaster as the new canes never flowered till November, then withered away. I will leave the canes in place and see how it fares as a floricane type.
New perpetual strawberry Albion was cropping right into November, but the flesh is very firm and not as soft as we expect from a summer strawberry. I will retain it another year and review progress.
The dry mild summer brought out the best in flowering plants with geraniums, begonias, fuchsias  and roses all at their best, but petunias were miserable as they really like it to be a wee bit warmer.
Vegetables had a mixed year, as disease was hard to control, so the onions suffered some white rot, brassicas got clubroot and potatoes got blackleg and late blight, though I still got a great crop with Amour producing huge spuds. Broad and French beans, peas, courgettes
Tulip Monte orange
and pumpkins all had a great year, but root crops have not been as big as in previous years.
Indoor and outdoor grapes had a very good year, but the lack of a warm sunny autumn did not help to ripen up the fruits and increase the sugar content, other than with Muscat flavoured Seigerrebe which ripens in August and was this year’s star attraction. Just a pity the fruit is so small.
The dry autumn allowed me to complete all my composting and digging ahead of winter and now raking up leaves will soon be completed so next year’s compost heap will have a good start.
Now I am well ahead of gardening tasks, I can sit back, enjoy the festive season, and with a glass of three year old Saskatoon wine in hand let’s look to 2017 and make new plans. Cheers!!!
Check over fruit and veg in store

Wee jobs to do this week

Rake Check over stored apples onions potatoes beetroot carrots as well as dahlias, begonias and gladioli and remove any with signs of decay in case it spreads to healthy plants.
Check chrysanthemums stools growing in the cold greenhouse for overwintering greenfly on young foliage. Try to keep them frost free and growing away slowly.

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