About my garden

Sunday 27 July 2014

72 plug plants

Back in March Thompson and Morgan sent me an email offer to buy 72 plugs of perennial plants at a reduced price.
I'm not quite sure what made me think 72 plants was a good idea. 
Possibly it was March and the garden was low and empty. More likely it was because there were Echinacea included and I wanted some Echinacea plants. Probably I thought it was a good price as they can be quite pricey for just one plant.
There were 12 varieties:
Anyway I bought them and, some months later (April or May, I think), they arrived. They were smaller than I expected. I hadn't really looked up what sort of size they would be but I did expect to be able to see them with my naked eye.
They came in one packet about 25cm by 35cm and 2cm deep. The plants were in these tiny plastic holders:

I suppose postage costs  and ecological issues have to be taken in to consideration and so the packaging gets smaller. These little modules were in a plastic case and had a cardboard sleeve, so were protected. But I am amazed that anything can grow in these,they are not more that 1cm square.
Some of the little plants looked very healthy and some looked quite sickly. I don't think plants are supposed to travel in this way, that's why they have roots. I didn't complain to T&M at the time (about the health of them) so I shouldn't make too much of it here. 
Also the carnations were substituted by some extra Penstemons. Again, though I wasn't happy about that, I didn't contact T&M at the time. I would have been happier with six of something different.
So I pricked them all out into seed trays and one large module tray that I had empty.

I had more than 72 by the time I had planted them all. Tiny though they were, some of the modules had two or more seedling in them. I managed to separate some of them  but some were tightly bound up with each other. This was because I wanted the best for the plants you understand, not because I'm tight or anything!
I forgot to take photos of the tiny seedling in the modules but look at them last week:
There is one tray missing here. 
A few plants died. They didn't look great when they arrived. Interestingly the plants in the seed trays are bigger and healthier than the ones in the module tray, they have more root room. I have to confess that I didn't get them planted out soon enough. Holiday and life got in the way. 
So now when the garden is at it's fullest, I have had to try and find space for them all. A few are now in bigger pots, some went straight into the flower borders but most are squeezed into rows between other things. Now it's a case of remembering where they are and watering!
I have at least 70 little plants including 9 Echinacea. Which is interesting as there were only 6 modules of each. 
My verdict:
Plants are amazing and can recover from difficult conditions. 
Check what you are buying.
I now have 70 healthy plants with not much effort from me so -                                                                  yes - they were worth buying!

Sunday 20 July 2014

Best bee plants

I am happy to say that my garden is buzzing with bees and other insects. I have never made a conscious effort to plant things to attract bees but I don't use any chemicals, and never have done here, so that must help. I have lived here 18 years so I guess any residue from anything previous occupants used is long gone.
We are told that bees like open single, rather than double flowers, which have not been over bred. These are the current bee favourites here:
 Oregano vulgare (probably) also available in white:
 I always find it strange that they are attracted to prickly plants but they love these teasels. Dipsacus follonum

 And this echinops.

Buddleia is well know for attracting butterflies but bees also love it. I bought this years ago and subsequently learnt that butterflies prefer the more common paler, lilac coloured one. I think this is 'Black Knight'. Sadly I don't get many butterflies.

 Winter savoury. This is fully hardy here and makes a small unruly hedge.
I clip in autumn or after it has flowered but it is now all over the path again. It is not very tall, about 45cm at most. It's a good flavoured herb and is evergreen which is useful. I grew these plants from seed but it also takes well from cuttings.

 This is hyssop. Which is great for bees and such a lovely blue. 

 Comfrey is pretty and bees find it very attractive. 

Hebe. I'm not sure what this one is as I grew it from a cutting. It has pink and white flowers and as last winter was so mild, it flowered right through until spring. A great bonus. It is about 75cm - 1m tall.

Perovskia atriplicifolia or Russian sage. 
This has also turned into an unruly bush which needs to be tied or staked. We had heavy rain which has probably not helped. This shrub is aromatic and architectural. If you leave the plant through winter the stems turn white. 
I am glad to be doing my bit for the bees. It is very worrying to hear of their decline but everything we gardeners can do will help. They also need water so it is good to leave a saucer or bowl out in hot weather if you don't have a pond or water feature. I have seen bees on the surface of the pond on hot days. 
It is no hardship to have any of these plants in my garden as they are all lovely.

Monday 14 July 2014

Flies, ants and Zaluzianskya

The good news is the flies seem much reduced in my black bin. I put in a layer of paper and some grass clippings and then stopped adding loose kitchen waste. I wrapped it in paper first whenever I added it. This is supposed to prevent the flies from laying eggs in the fruit. 
This was a few weeks ago and it is much better. I have kept the lid on too. 
Yesterday I dug out a bucket of compost from the other black bin. It looks quite well rotted down and I was going to sieve some of it out. As usual lots of egg shells are left.
Exciting photo of the inside of a compost bin.

Then I discovered it was full of flying ants. I was reluctant to sieve as you can imagine. They are black not red ants but I don't want to risk being bitten. 

I don't think you can see the ants but I have disturbed them several times and I'm sure you know what they look like so I'm going to stop trying to take photos! Trust me they are in there.
I think the heap is quite dry. The weather has been hot and the lid was on so they are probably thriving in those conditions. 
I pondered various options. There are plenty of solutions on the internet for getting rid of ants including some rather strange ones. (Feeding them semolina which they give to the queen and she explodes!) I thought I might just spread the compost straight on a bed.
But in the spirit of Live and Let Live, I'm going to leave them alone. 
I don't have much bare soil for spreading compost at the moment though I do like to add a little when I take out one crop and plant another immediately. If I need some I'll dig it out and the ants will have to take their chances. Until then I'll just leave them and hope they move on somewhere else soon. Hopefully that hot day when they all fly off in imminent, unless they all flew into my bin!
The good news is that ants turn the compost into a lovely, loose crumbly mix basically doing all the hard work. 
I might consider keeping a bit wetter in future though.  
So while I was out trying to take pictures of ants I found these flowering:

Zaluzianskya capensis (yes I did look it up) or Night scented Phlox. They are the most beautiful little flowers. About the size of a penny. The undersides are a gorgeous reddish purple and the tops pure white. They curl up in the day to make tiny little purple balls. The petals curl in on themselves. I'll try and take a photo in the daytime.
The most amazing thing is the powerful scent which is just like Parma Violets. I have three stems here next to me on the table and they are filling the room with scent. I'm so glad I managed to grow them, I've tried before without much success. I don't think they are hard, I just neglected them. They are annuals so easy if you take a little care. 
PS Just lovely!

Sunday 13 July 2014

A tour of my garden in July.

I have noticed that whenever I take a photograph there seems to be some eye sore in the background. A broken greenhouse pane or a blue barrel( full of leaf mould) or general sticks and rubbish.
Our garden does have it's Heath Robinson areas but most of it is very beautiful. Especially just now in July.We've just had a tidy up to be open for our local Hidden Gardens day so I made the most of the opportunity to take photos. Some of them look a bit washed out so imagine vibrant colours...
Here is a tour:
Just outside our house. This is a shady patio with a few pots and a grapevine growing over a pergola, which I seem to have missed off the photo.

Looking up the garden from the patio.

 Look right and you see our pond, complete with water lily and our new fernery in the background. 

 Two angles of the same bed where you can see Cleome, Ammi, Scabious and Perovskia flowering among other things. This is really much more colourful but I can't get a good photo.
Looking back down the garden. My favourite view just now. Plants exploding out of the bed.

Our fire pit in the foreground.

Gateway to the vegetable garden - calling you in. 

Courgettes and tree onions in the front.

 Brassicas netted to stop the pigeons but it won't stop the butterflies so I'll need to add another layer.
 Side view of the same area. Everything growing like mad and just starting to crop. Lots of colour and things to eat!