Five Figure Studies
These five studies were started many years ago to enhance my creativity to produce several different paintings from one image source.
|Lady in Blue|
|The Black Dress|
|The Red Stole|
Scottish artist John Stoa compiles diary notes and pictures of his painting projects and seasonal gardening activities in the flower, fruit and vegetable garden and greenhouse.
A few days before Halloween is a perfect time to harvest this year's crop of pumpkins. I got 6 fruit from 4 plants and two of them are enormous. That will stretch Anna's kitchen skills to provide roasted pumpkin, soup and sauce for pasta, stir fries, etc.
|Pumpkins now in store|
|Light on the Loch acrylic painting|
PLANTS FOR SPRING
As the summer flowers begin to fade we look ahead to next year for the spring flower displays. This is the time to organise the planting of wallflower, pansies, polyanthus, myosotis and bulbs of numerous kinds including daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocus, snowdrops and aconites. Hanging baskets are perfect for pansies and polyanthus.
|Tulip Red Emperor|
The Jonquills and Cheerfulness are well scented as are large trumpet white flowered Mount Hood. These bulbs can all be retained next year after flowering as it is easy to find a spot for them in flower borders and amongst deciduous shrubs and trees. However it is the snowdrops that start the show in early February, but in these recent times of mild winters they are often in flower in December in sheltered spots. Plant these in decent sized drifts spacing the bulbs about four inches apart. In time they soon reseed themselves and the drifts intensify and get bigger. Snowdrops are followed by the yellow aconites, Eranthus hyemalis, which are quick to spread and develop large intense drifts as they produce ample seeds which germinate readily.
Wee jobs to do this week
There has been a very remarkable change in the gardeners weather pattern. Climate change has not only given us mild wetter winters and more summer rainfall, but there has also been a lot more gales to live with. This year raspberry canes got flattened, roses got the flowers blown off and pears and blueberry leaves and young fruit got shrivelled up in the spring and summer gales. Where ever possible garden design can help to mitigate these problems by planting up the perimeters with tall trees and shrubs to give the garden some shelter, especially on the south west side where most prevailing winds come from. During the long periods in lockdown we had more time, to relax in the sun on the patio. However some planting may be required to give us a bit of privacy.
|Picking apples and pears|
There are any amount of plants that can be used for shelter and privacy, but garden size may well determine what we can use. Trees and shrubs should also have merit of flowers, autumn colour, coloured bark or even edible fruit, and where trespassers may be a problem, go for plants with thorns such as pyracantha, the Firethorn. For the very large gardens mature trees of beech, oak, maple and hornbeam may be fine and if evergreens are preferred use, pine, spruce or cedars.
|Japanese maple Acer Sango Kaku|
However many tall
shrubs will both give shelter as well as fantastic flower displays
such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias, Escallonia, Philadelphus
and Fuchsia Mrs Popple.
The Japanese maple Acer Sango-kaku has
brilliant autumn colours as well as bright red stems and the hardy
palm Cordyline australis is always a touch of the exotic.
Lonicera Baggesons Gold is an attractive evergreen golden shrub about six feet tall, and is so dense it is a favourite for nesting birds. Three small trees excellent for perimeter planting is the white flowered Eucryphia Rostrevor, the upright columnar pink cherry, Prunus Amanogawa, and the golden leaved Robinia frisia.
Most gardens now come with walls and fences around the perimeter and these can support a range of flowering climbers and edible plants. I have been experimenting with hardy grape vines to see what will ripen in Scotland. The variety Brant is tops and although the bunches are not big, they are black, sweet and juicy and the pips are so small they are easy to swallow. Regent and Rondo are fine but need a good autumn to ripen up the grapes. Another very successful exotic is the fig Brown Turkey giving about a hundred fruits each year from a ten year old bush. Other edible fruits can include apples, pears, plums to grow a few metres high, and some come on dwarfing rootstocks to keep size down and some apples come as narrow columnar trees.
|Grape vine Brant on wall|
saskatoons, brambles or even a row of raspberries very much at home in Scotland. Our local James Hutton Institute has breeders working on raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and honey berries. Although plants are bred for commercial markets there is always a spin off for gardeners. Breeder Nikki Jennings latest raspberry to be released is Glen Mor with large sweet berries in early summer, then Lewis and Skye for an autumn crop. Nikki has bred a very promising blackberry with large sweet fruit and is a heavy cropper. It is still being assessed so is not yet named, but make a note of selection number 11. Could make a perfect edible boundary hedge.
Wee jobs to do this week
|Apple Starline Firedance|
This year apple, plum and pear crops are ripening up a fortnight earlier than last year so keep checking them and harvest any that have ripened up. Cut an apple open and if the seeds are dark brown the fruit will be fine. Apple Oslin ripens at end of August followed by Discovery in mid September. Pears are usually best left about a week in store after picking to let them ripen up.
LATE SUMMER HARVEST
summer draws to a close, fruit and vegetables all start to ripen up
and harvesting gets into full swing. These are very busy times as it
is not just the picking, but also the sorting, cleaning, grading,
boxing, bagging, blanching as food is prepared for storing and
Anna picks a few beetroot
corn Incredible had put on good growth and was a few days away from
harvest, when the gales arrived at the end of August and flattened
the crop, so the cobs got picked and bagged up. The old plants were
then pulled out, soil shook off then carried up to the compost heap
for chopping up with a shade to help them rot down. Back home the
cobs had to be stripped of leaves then graded for immediate use for
fridge storage and the rest blanched and bagged for the free
Dwarf French beans had also been blown over so Anna picked a good crop, but then once home they had to be topped, tailed, sorted and washed, then bagged up for fridge and freezer.
Kilaton, Cauliflower Clapton and kale have all excelled this year so
a lot of crop had to be given away as Anna may have found plenty
excellent recipes, but two wee Scots folk can only eat so much.
Pumpkins are having their best year ever. I have four absolutely
massive pumpkins still growing, but as harvesting is still
traditionally a week before Halloween they could be a lot bigger.
Some pruning was carried out with
one side shoot fifteen feet long heading towards the gate trying to escape. It got chopped as did the shoots clambering through my gladioli and chrysanthemums, beans and strawberries. Courgettes continue to offer plenty fruit, but as Anna has perfected a great soup recipe and also a brilliant courgette cake, we now only need to give away the occasional fruit.
This growth year has been fantastic for salads. Lettuce, radish, spring onions, beetroot and rocket have all grown very fast. I am now on my fourth row of lettuce, sown on land recently cleared of broad beans, and land getting cleared of potatoes will either get sown with winter hardy lettuce and spring onions, or a green manure crop. Beetroot have all grown a good size this year and the thinnings taken earlier as baby beet were very welcome.
Under glass the tomatoes have
all cropped heavily, but large bowls of fresh cherry tomatoes in the
house are very easy to consume at every opportunity, and surplus
large Alicante tomatoes make a delicious soup.
Muscat and Aronia wine brewing
Most fruit crops have also joined in the growth bonanza, with loads of strawberries, raspberries and brambles and now the autumn fruiting raspberry, Polka, although flattened earlier by the gales has now recovered and cropping well with exceptionally large and sweet berries. Then the fig bush, now a small tree, joined in the party and it is quite easy to pick a dozen ripe figs twice a week. All of this excess keeps us in good form as we snack a few fresh fruits in between meals. No need to reach for the biscuit tin, although Anna’s courgette cake is hard to resist.
Earlier red currants, blackcurrants, gooseberries and Aronias, the chokeberry were all picked, sorted, cleaned up and either went into the freezer or cooked in batches of jam as long as I got my ten pounds of each for wine brewing to give me three demijohns of each to put down for a few years. Greenhouse grapes and the Aronias are all quietly bleeping along in demijohns in the background as the yeast convert the sugars into a wee bit of tasty alcohol.
Apple Discovery is now ripe and ready for picking, but this year my pear crop has failed as earlier gales tore off all the young fruits. Reckon we could get about three pears each in autumn.
Wee jobs to do this week
Tomatoes in the greenhouse will now be in full cropping with the occasional glut following any period
|Removing old leaves|
As we reluctantly head towards the end of summer the harvesting season for fruit and vegetables picks up and it is difficult to keep on top of the garden. Peas, broad beans, onions and early potatoes have all been lifted, but then they have to be prepared for storing, freezing and giving any surplus to friends or up at City Road Allotments we have our surplus basket of produce attached to the entrance gate for passers by.
The spring highlights were both the tulips, rhododendrons and azaleas with displays lasting a long time assisted by many weeks of dry sunny days. This ended abruptly when the thunderstorms arrived. Roses did their best to put on a good show, but then the gales arrived and all hell broke out. Rose flowers all got broken off, pear trees shed all their fruits, Autumn raspberries got blown over and my blueberries got shredded. A few weeks of calmer weather allowed some recovery. Geraniums, begonias, bedding plants, oriental poppies and lilies, and annuals such as poppies made up for lost time and went into a supersonic flowering phase Hybrid tea roses Arthur bell and Congratulations both thought they were climbers as they reached six to eight feet up into the sky.
For the biggest impact this year it must be my Delosperma cooperi, the Ice Plant and Hydrangea Charme with pink flowers, then gladioli mixed amongst Oriental lilies. Its been a great year for rhubarb as growth has been luxuriant with plenty for stews, pies, crumble, giving some to friends with plenty left over for the freezer. Cabbage, cauliflowers and kale are all just loving this growth year, but just a pity my whole row of cauliflowers were ready at the same time. However my biggest surprise was my Amaryllis which I had planned to flower next Christmas. After its spring growth period and long summer dormancy kept dry it decided to flower in mid summer, so no choice but to water and feed while it put on two great stems of flowers. We got an early Christmas.
Wee jobs to do this week
Annual poppy Ladybird and Californian poppy have both naturalized on
my allotment and given a great
display in the flower border all summer. They will self seed and appear next year without any help from me, but if you wish to save the seed to sow next year on other areas or give some to a friend now is the time to collect the seed pods before they open up and disperse the seeds. Keep them dry over winter in a shed ready for sowing next spring.
BACK TO THE GREENHOUSE
under glass have been protected from thunderstorms and gales, but
those that started off with protection, then spent summer outdoors
have had a more turbulent time.
Cape gooseberries growing fast under glass got a bit big in their large pots so they went outdoors against a south facing wall. This was great on sunny days, but then came the thunderstorms.
John picks Solaris grapes
They survived and are now over four feet tall and still growing and producing a good crop, but it will be a few more weeks before the first ones ripen. Pepper Early Jalapeno were plentiful from seed sown early February, so some were planted in south facing sheltered spots outdoors, some in pots on windowsills and a few in a border in the greenhouse. It is the ones on the windowsill that are growing
Pepper Early Jalapeno
and cropping the best, though it is still early to judge. Basil grown from a spring sowing indoors grew strongly at first under glass but suffered when we got a run of cold gray weather in mid August.
Some in the greenhouse started to rot
off, but those again on my windowsills at home were quite happy. Had
to keep pinching out flower heads to produce more growth. Another
plant getting sown this month in the greenhouse is the onion Senshu
Yellow. Seeds were sown in cellular trays in mid August as weather
had turned cooler and gray skies with mist over the Tay predominate
for several days. I hope to plant the young seedlings in autumn for
over wintering then grow strongly to give an early crop next year.
The first tomatoes were ripe for picking in mid July, then in August both red cherry, Super Sweet 100 and yellow cherry, Sungold and maincrop Alicante were ripening up fast. Anna soon found a tomato soup recipe as we had plenty surplus fruits. Onions, basil, parsley, garlic and oregano and rosemary herbs were added. As we had family visiting from Glasgow it was a large pot of soup, and though it went down very well there
Sunny warm days this year have brought on the greenhouse grapes a lot earlier than last year, so Seigerrebe grapes were quite sweet by mid August. To grow healthy vines under glass good ventilation is very important so all roof vents have been fully open as well as the door. However our local blackbird popped in to have a look around and took a liking to the grapes. He got through several bunches of Seigerrebe before I spotted him. Next year the door and vents will get net protection, but this year I decided to harvest both Seigerrebe and the sweet white muscat flavoured Solaris. As these grapes have pips they are perfect for wine but not for eating unless you are happy to swallow pips. After harvesting work starts immediately, so grapes were separated from the bunch, then crushed in a fermentation bucket with a couple of campden tablets to sterilise any wild yeasts. The following day I add AW4 wine yeast, pectolase, acid, tannin and nutrient. The mixture stays in the bucket for four days then is strained off the must and the wine transferred to demijohns after adding some grape concentrate for further fermentation. If Blackie had stayed away, grapes would have been left on the vine for another week to increase sugar content, but they only had enough for 9% alcohol, so needed some grape concentrate to raise alcohol levels up to 12%
|Field beans green manure crop|
Wee jobs to do this week
some mid season potatoes have been lifted the land is now clear for a
green manure crop. Other
early harvested crops of onions, broad beans and peas left land free for autumn salads, so now as there is still time for plants to grow, it will be tares, ryegrass, clover or field beans for my green manure crop. These usually germinate quickly, grow fast as they all have a strong root ststem. They can get trampled down in winter then dug in. If field beans grow too tall, they can get pulled out and chopped up for the compost heap. This still leaves most of the nodules with nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil. When these rot down they will release nitrogen for the spring crops.
BACK TO THE ALLOTMENT
Although gardening is very much in focus just now as lockdown and lack of holidays abroad has meant many folk have been busy at home in their gardens. My daily exercise is most often in our garden around the house or up at City Road on the allotment plot. You then become very aware of how plants are growing and if success is down to your skills or just great weather.
The heavy rains that ended the long dry sunny spell did no favours for my onions as white rot affected a lot of them, so they all got lifted and dried off for storing.
All the brassicas have loved the growing weather, but a crop of large cauliflower Klapton were all ready at the same time. Anna however found a great recipe for roasted cauliflower soup both for immediate consumption as well as some for the freezer.
Salads are normally grown as successional crops, but all had massive growth so each row of lettuce, rocket, radish and spring onion was more than we could use. I had one Lollo Rosa lettuce got a wee bit over excited and reached four feet tall, without going to seed, before I got round to cutting it.
|Four feet tall Lettuce |
First crop of peas suffered some pigeon damage, but second crop of pea Onward is making up for it.
Fruit crop harvesting continues with bramble Helen ready from early August, autumn raspberry Polka, autumn strawberry Flamenco and now I am picking my first figs. However the fig bush has put on a massive amount of growth so it will get pruned once cropping has finished. Large pots of
Cape gooseberries placed against a warm south facing wall, enjoying Scotland’s brief heatwave, are all producing a good crop of fruit, but none ready just yet. Apple Discovery is swelling up and turning bright red, so should be ready to pick by end of August.
Flowers in tubs, baskets and borders have put on a great show but are now needing a wee rest,
before they grow again and go into late summer with their second flush. Geraniums have stopped growing but hope they will recover with a late summer flush and back to strong growth for autumn cuttings. Oriental lilies and gladioli are now at peak flowering as they revel in the summer weather.
Wee jobs to do this week
|Collect pansy seed|
Seed pods saved from the best pansies has dried off, cleaned up and seeds extracted ready for sowing in mid summer. Once a good crop of strong young seedlings emerge they will be pricked off into cellular trays to grow on to produce sturdy plants for autumn planting in tubs, pots, baskets and borders looking ahead to a display next spring and summer.
Lockdown has given many people more time to get into their garden as well as being more adventurist in the kitchen. Growing herbs is now back in favour. Looking back over many years in gardening, growing herbs was seldom mentioned.
Herbs are favourite along path edges for frequent and easy fresh picking for the kitchen, and Lavender and Rosemary best in a sunny dry spot. Rosemary has numerous uses in the kitchen especially for adding flavour to roast lamb, pork, chicken and pasta dishes. Both have a great perfume and bees are very attracted to them when in flower. Rosemary may be prone to die off if winters are severe, but these are becoming a rarity. Bay may also be prone to die off in a bad winter, but it is often grown in a large pot that can be moved into the greenhouse if bad weather threatens.
Another plant for a dry sunny spot is Coriander, a hot spicy herb added to curries and Mexican and Indian dishes. Oregano, a Greek aromatic herb has been grown for thousands of years, establishes easily from seed and both the seed and leaves are dried off for storing for future use sprinkled over pizza, in soups, marinades and savoury dishes. It is rich in
|Sage and Rosemary|
antioxidants and is proving to have numerous health benefits. Lemon balm herb is another plant needing a warm dry sunny spot, makes a lovely and healthy tea and often added when stuffing poultry.
Mint has always been popular in gardens, and now we can have black mint and applemint as well as spearmint and peppermint. Mint sauce is brilliant with lamb and freshly harvested peas. All mints are very easy to grow and control as they always try to grow beyond their allocated patch, so growing them in pots may be preferable. Both sage and chives, related to garlic are grown as attractive garden plants as well as ingredients for the kitchen.
Wee jobs to do this week
|Late summer salads|
gardeners have always welcomed admiration for their horticultural
success and only too happy to let someone have a cutting, spare plant
or a bit of a plant that has layered itself. In my earlier
apprenticeship days propagation in all its forms was a major part of
our training and we gathered a lot of plants for our garden as our
wee cuttings grew into bigger plants. Our older experienced
journeymen would always bring us some cuttings to test our skills.
Today it is now us older gardeners that help others with cuttings,
spare plants and wee bits with a few roots showing.
Garden plants have had a great boost to growth this year with very favourable weather, at least so far. Although propagation goes on all year round there are many plants we can grow from summer cuttings as growth matures but is still active.
White Nancy is a silver coloured attractive ground hugging plant with
shoots that root easily as they hug the soil. Take some of these
shoots with a few roots and pot up as they quickly establish as young
plants. Houttuynia is also propagated by lifting young shoots with
roots on. Border phlox is also propagated from ground hugging
branches that root into the soil as they spread.
Lamium White Nancy
Bearded iris have now finished flowering and any clumps three years old will benefit from digging up, splitting the crowns and replanting into fresh soil. The border pinks may still be flowering, but come easily from cuttings of non flowering shoots about three to four inches long and potted up with potting compost with added grit for extra drainage,
dwarf evergreen azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias can be
propagated both by layering as well as cuttings, but for success you
will need to use ericaceous compost with added grit, sand, or
perlite. Take cuttings from shoots that still look like they have not
finished growing. Size again about three to four inches long. Remove
most of the leaves except a couple near the top and if these are
large cut half of the leaf off. Water in well and keep in a sheltered
light place away from direct sunlight. Most of these cuttings will
root better with the help of some hormone rooting powder.
Hydrangea Charme cuttings
The dwarf japanese azaleas can also be layered. Take a low shoot near the ground and scrape a wee bit of bark off then lower it into the soil while still attached to the parent plant. You will need a peg to keep it in the ground and cover it with soil. It may be at least six months before it is rooted sufficiently to be cut off and either potted up or transplanted to another spot to grow on.
will come from cuttings two to three inches long placed in ericaceous
compost with added grit, but keep them away from direct sunlight.
Remove growth from the bottom one or two inches and take the tip out
to encourage it to branch once it roots.
Pink cuttings now rooted
Other plants that root well from mid to late summer as semi ripe cuttings include, Lavender, Cistus, Rosemary, Fuchsia, Senecio, Hydrangea, Euonymus, Lonicera Baggesons Gold and many others.
My two favourite very colourful succulents, the ice plant, Delosperma cooperi and D. nubigenum are easily propagated from short shoots a couple of inches long put direct into the soil. They always root and grow very quickly, but like very well drained soil in a sunny position. Perfect at the top of a south facing wall where they can hang down happily and soon burst into flower.
|Strawberry runners just planted|
Wee jobs to do this week
Summer strawberries have now finished cropping. Only the perpetual and autumn varieties such as Flamenco continue to fruit. Take this chance to cut off all the old leaves, remove weeds and straw which can all go on the compost heap. The crowns will soon grow fresh young leaves to take the plants through the winter. Once they have made two or three years cropping they should be removed and a new patch planted up from runners. Some varieties produce very few runners after three cropping seasons so take runners from them after two years or buy in fresh plants for autumn planting. Runners are normally spaced a foot apart, but if there is plenty available then plant at six inches apart to give a bigger crop in the first summer.