Monday, 17 February 2020

FIRST FLOWERS APPEAR

                                                 FIRST FLOWERS APPEAR


In past times it was a great occasion when the first flowers appeared in winter, usually towards the end as it heralded the coming of spring.
Early spring polyanthus
Climate change appears to have moved us on to a new
Hammamelis mollis
scenario. The mild winter is no longer newsworthy as it seems to happen every winter, well at least since 2010 when the severe weather let us know what winter was supposed to look like. The garden flowers are not complaining. In fact they have never had it better. My snowdrops regularly start to flower at the end of December and Aconites are a mass of colour now at the beginning of February. Both of these early bulbous plants are spreading at a great pace and allow me to pass on spare plants and seeds to those admire them. New aconite seedlings germinated at the end of January, but wont flower till 2023. Gardeners learn to be patient. We started with a tray of six aconites many years ago, but can now count them as several thousand, and I still find space to sow a few more.
Snowdrops in January
The crocus species usually flower ahead of the larger hybrids, but both are now coming into flower in early February. Just hope they can keep their heads down as gales and a deep depression is
forecast for middle of February. However the polyanthus in tubs seem to be unaware of this
impending storm as they are all flowering happily, and this year I only see one that appears to be getting attacked by a few vine weevils that seem to love eating their roots.
Pansies in pots outdoors are a bit further behind, but the two hanging baskets full of pansies moved into the cold greenhouse to
Crocus Yellow Mammoth
give them some winter protection just love it and are happy to start the flowering season. Just a bit unfortunate that the warmer atmosphere under glass also favours the greenfly and pansy leaf spot, so some careful spraying on a dull day is necessary. At the moment there is plenty space under glass as my young lettuce crop is still small but growing and as yet my seed sowing will start in the warmth of the house for a few weeks before going into the greenhouse.
March is usually the month when greenhouse space is at a premium and anything slightly hardy goes outdoors, which is normally sweet peas, broad beans, some onions and geraniums. My wee trial of testing the hardiness of geraniums to be left outdoors in a mild winter is going fairly well as they are all still just fine, but looking a wee bit sorry for themselves. If they can hang on till after the storm passes good times are just a few days away.
Mahonia Charity
Garden shrubs are enjoying this winter. Viburnum Dawn is in full flower as well as Hamamelis mollis, Mahonia Charity (been in flower from December), the yellow Jasminum nudiflorum and down at ground level the pink Erica carnea. Rhododendron praecox is always very early and in previous years got caught out with late frosts. The buds are all showing colour but are not as yet open, so fingers crossed hoping the mild winter continues.
Christmas cactus
Several garden pinks are in flower from last year’s buds which never died down in winter. There is almost enough for a bunch for the house where we can enjoy the colour as well as the scent.
Looking around the garden, everything is taking advantage of the mild weather. Rose buds are all growing, even on those shoots I took as hardwood cuttings, and tulips are already six to ten inches tall and some narcissus showing buds. My companion planting experiment of Tulip Scarlet Baby and yellow saxifrage both frequently flower together in early March, but this year the tulip is still quite small but the saxifrage is now showing colour. Time will tell. Back indoors my Christmas
Amaryllis growing strongly
cactus was very late. It missed Christmas, but flowered in January and rooted geranium cutting on windowsills need tips and flower buds removed to make sturdy bushy plants.

Wee jobs to do this week

Amaryllis that flowered just before Christmas is now wanting to grow, so keep it watered and give it a feed every two to three weeks, but do not pot it up. This will help the bulb to grow strongly through spring and into summer, but at the end of summer start to dry it off. This will give it some dormancy so it can put its energy into flower bud production ready for next Christmas.

END

Monday, 10 February 2020

INTERNET GARDENING

                                                INTERNET GARDENING

There was a time way back in the dim and distant past when we gained our gardening knowledge from gardening magazines, and those more wealthy individuals who had a television were able to see the professional gardeners like Percy Thrower and Geoff Hamilton from the box in their living room. Growing up in Dundee we also had Crolls nursery in the Ferry and Lauries Nursery in Ninewells where we could wander around and see garden plants all named up.
John tackling the Windows 10 computer
I was lucky to get a five year gardening apprenticeship, with trained gardeners at Duntrune Terrace for practical help and the Kingsway Tech for our written lessons. Those were great days, but now relegated to pleasant distant memories as we head at great speed into the new world of technology.
Tomatoes from Dobbies Seeds
This may be fantastic for the young kids introduced to this world from primary school where even those kids from poor backgrounds all have the essential mobile phone. Alas we silver haired surfers are left to struggle trying to understand this massive knowledge now available with information technology. We no longer need to ask some expert for gardening advise, just ask Mr Google. He has all the answers, or knows someone with answers to every question. I had thought that I had a fair grasp of computers, even building my own website,
www.johnstoa.com but the world moves on quicker than I can run, so now Google frowns at my website as it is not mobile friendly.
Rhododendron Sneezy from Glendoick
Microsoft has now brought out a new Windows 10 to replace my old Windows 7. The last few weeks have been a nightmare. Emails disappear, photos disappear, jpegs that I normally resize to just over one megabite are now well over ten. New folders appear that I haven’t asked for and I struggle to use my new posh keyboard as it is black and needs a light so I can see which keys I am using.
However once you calm down and embrace this new world there is no limit to finding answers to all your gardening queries. We hear about problems on the high streets with so many shops closing down as folk today do so much shopping on the internet.
Pumpkin Mammoth from Simply Seeds
The gardening world is going through the same problems. I am now more likely to buy online rather than go to my local garden centres, which I notice are filling up with household goods at the expense of garden plants. In the autumn my tulips, daffodils and crocus were ordered online from,
www.peternyssen.com oriental lilies from www.hartsnursery.co.uk and Angels Trumpets from www.vanmeuwen.com My garden seeds ordered in January from www.simplyseed.co.uk and www.dobies.co.uk . A great source for fruit bushes is www.pomonafruits.co.uk and www.kenmuir.co.uk and the best chrysanthemums come from www.walkersplantcentre.co.uk If you are looking for tuberous begonias, delphiniums or polyanthus try www.blackmore-langdon.com. A great nursery from Bath.
Previous Courier articles are archived in my weekly blog scottishartistandhisgarden.blogspot.co.uk which goes back to 2008. Today every nursery and garden center has a website, and there is also one for our
Tulip Scarlet Baby from Peter Nyssen
local Botanic Gardens
www.dundee.ac.uk/botanic and for horticultural research see our local www.hutton.ac.uk However there is still garden centers to walk around at www.glendoick.com who specialize in rhododendrons and www.dobbies.com They are only a short drive away and both have excellent restaurants. If you are looking for quality rose bushes try Cockers Roses in Aberdeen, www.roses.uk.com and www.davidaustinroses.com
Allotments are also fairly well covered with websites with www.allotment.org.uk which has links to everything you are likely to grow, then check out both the National Society at www.nsalg.org.uk and the Scottish Society at www.sags.org.uk. Then off course the City Road allotments have a
website at www.cityroadallotments.com, though there is a tendency to go modern and use social media with Facebook and Instagram. Now I wonder if Google can help me with the digging !!!

Wee jobs to do this week

Winter border
The winter border is at its best just now with the bright coloured dogwoods and willow but keep the ground free of leaves and weeds as the crocus and snowdrop bulbs are now all through the ground and keen to open up their flowers as we all enjoy the mild winter. Even the tulips are emerging up into the sunlight so spring may come early this year.
END


Monday, 3 February 2020

A FEW WINTER JOBS

                                                    A FEW WINTER JOBS


The gardeners weather has been very kind over winter. Seems like we must be getting
another mild winter, as we are now at the end of January and I have yet to see a snow flake. In fact it has been dry and warm with
Checking tree stakes and ties
just a few morning frosts and ground preparations up on the allotment are well ahead. Digging has been completed apart from where winter
Fig cuttings
vegetables are growing, but it is always very easy to find other jobs needing attention.
Fruit trees and bushes and roses, (bush, shrub and climbers) have all been pruned. Most grape vines inside the greenhouse as well as outdoor varieties have all been pruned though I left a few shoots on so I could get a batch of cuttings. Grape vines like an early start and with the mild winter they are quick to spring into growth, so to prevent sap bleeding from pruned shoots the pruning is best completed by the end of January for those under glass and a couple of weeks later for those grown outdoors. Where ever they are grown adopt a
Grape vine cuttings
system that allows good air circulation around developing bunches and continual summer pruning to prevent the vines
Top of pruned vine rod

from growing excessively at the expense of grapes. Establish a permanent framework of rods and laterals with spurs every six inches or so. Vines are very adaptable and are happy to be restricted to any space available, and perfect on a warm south facing wall. During December to early February cut all shoots back to one bud on the rods or laterals. Once growth starts in spring wait till you see the young grape bunches appear then start the summer pruning. Cut the shoot tips after two leaves have formed beyond the fruit bunches then subsequently cut all shoots after one leaf. When the vine is prevented from growing excessively it puts all its energy into developing the bunches of grapes.
Vine rods pruned in winter
Grapes are very easy to propagate. Retain some of the strongest shoots and cut to lengths of two to three buds and putting them into small pots, three to a pot. Grow them indoors in a cold greenhouse or on a windowsill. Once rooting takes place and growth commences
remove them from the pot and place them in individual pots. They grow very quickly.
Rhubarb crowns ready to divide
Figs growing outdoors can also be propagated by hardwood cuttings taken about four to six inches long and treated the same as vines.
Another task on a dry day is to check over tree stakes and ties and replace where necessary.
Picking a few sprouts
This is also a good time to dig up and divide rhubarb clumps that may have been growing for several years. Dig up the clump and divide them into strong roots with at least two or three good buds. Replant these on fresh ground that has been dug over and compost worked into the soil. Add a dusting of fertiliser to help them get established in spring.
Harvesting continues with swedes, cabbage, sprouts, kale, parsnips and leeks. The mild winter has allowed excellent growth of overwintered vegetables.
Indoors it is time to start the first seed sowing. Peppers need a long growing season so they are first to get sown. Varieties worth trying include Tabasco, Basket of Fire, Krakatoa, Demon Red and Padron. Peppers will be followed by onions, broad beans and sweet peas and if the mild winter continues my tuberous begonias will be coming out of storage to get boxed up in good
compost and placed in a warm room.
Leaf spot and greenfly on pansy

Wee jobs to do this week

Check over young spring flowering pansies for greenfly (aphids) and leaf spot disease and spray all affected plants with a rose combined pest and disease insecticide. Plants in sheltered spots are liable to infection in our mild winters as both greenfly and leaf spot disease keep growing.

END