This week in the garden Week 7

This week in the garden Week 7

This week in the garden week 7
After a w
eek away for some winter sport and I have come back to – not much change in the garden. Or that is perhaps how it looks at first. A deeper look reveals cyclamen flowering well, primula and polyanthus colour dotted all over the beds, crocus in various stages of life and colours and daffodils not flowering.

Yes, not flowering. At one stage I had suspected that they would all be done and over by the end of January but the irregular cold checks have worked perfectly to delay them. In fact I don’t recall some of the varieties I have being this late in the years in this house.

Good news.

But the early growth in perennials has been checked back again, this week quite severely. Notably Crocosmia and Nerines, but also Osteospermum. This time they may take a while to recover, but in turn means that the first rush of colour in the borders will be pushed back, perhaps smoothing over a gap period I have in mid May.

In the greenhouse everything is rosy. Or perhaps beany. Broad beans and peas are growing well in the vacant greenhouse borders and in pots. This year I have not applied any water to them, leaving them to fight for whatever they can scrounge from the sopping earth outside.

And I have sown some runner beans too using the same principle, setting pots on damp earth in one corner and leaving them to it.

Keep an eye on Dahlia tubers

I have been checking the Dahlia tubers that are stored in there too, opening the crates and leaving them on the bench as much as possible to ensure no dampness gets in. I lost over 50 per cent of my stock last year to damp.

This week in the garden
Dahlia tubers drying out in storage

In the other greenhouse seeds are sprouting everywhere. Many are perennials that I will use to fill borders while other plants bulk up to split in the spring. These were sown on January 1st and are being pricked out and potted on already. Some are tough annuals like Calendula and French Marigold; I want to use as companion planting in the vegetable beds.

Another highlight this week in the garden were the chillies. Some regular, some small and brightly coloured and some for flavour. The Rotocos hit 350,000 on the Scoville scale; you don’t want to be taking a bite out of them. These are now pricked out into their first pots. I will keep the heat on them for a while to get them ready to plant out in May, some in pots and some just outside the greenhouse.

Cuttings taken in early January are also fully rooted and now being potted on, providing more plants for the first Abbotsbrook plant swap late in April or early May.

Another couple of frosty nights are forecast, so I have covered up a few things and tucked others into a cold frame.

This week in the garden Week 5

This week in the garden Week 5

This week in the garden Week 5
A wet and blowy weekend let to a brighter week, but the frost of Wednesday night will undoubtedly have done some damage.

This week in the garden I have cut back the Miscanthus in the west facing front garden, mainly because the leaves were being blown everywhere and the seed heads had been stripped. New green shoots were showing on this, but not yet on the Calamagrostis.

As a matter of choice I prefer to cut back without removing the new shoots, but it should not matter. Some major grass displays are cut back unceremoniously with a hedge trimmer regardless of what stage growth is. It is grass after all, and it grows like.. well, grass.

This week in the garden
Miscanthus trimmed back ready for new growth

I have also moved some plants that are in a north aspect, removing about fifteen Phormium Tenax fans, leaving “just” the other fifteen in place. After trimming back the fans so they can be planted without fear of falling or being blown over, I have donated them to neighbours. These architectural plants make great anchors to plant around as the are hardy and evergreen.

This area gets little sun below the fence line outside of Late May to August, and the soil remains cold and damp most of the time. I have some Cornus varieties close by, their winter coloured stems hopefully lifting the gloom. Behind them and under the tree I have planted about fifteeen Vinca Major Variegata, the large and robust variegated Periwinkle. It grows in light deprived areas, and the largely off-white leaf lifts the background.

This week in the garden
Vinca lifts the low light areas

I used this plant in another north facing area last year, but this time under a Holly tree, again with the idea that it might lift light levels and encourage a second look at the other plants in that area.

The frost will set back those early starters again, but also temper the progress of the daffs that had threatened to be over by the end of February.

In the greenhouse broad beans are now showing well, and to my surprise so are the peas. Peas just would not grow for the last two years, and this really was last chance saloon for them.

Purely as a bye-the-way test I put some seeds in to the empty  greenhouse borders. These beds are quite dry – I have added no water at all after an initial dampening – and it has worked.

I now want to sow some sweet peas to get them moving and ready to plant out in May.

Happy days!


This week in the garden Week 4

This week in the garden Week 4

This week in the garden Week 4
In between showers and work I have taken care of a few chores. Cutting back some leggy herbs, Sage and Fennel in particular.

This mild period is ideal for taking the tired stems back. Without frosts to enhance the dead stems it quickly starts to look untidy. One or two of the stems are also broken, the result of the high winds we had.

I try not to cut them too far though, just in case of further frost that is more than the light dustings we have seen so far this winter.

Next week the beds will be mulched with compost that has been rotting down for a year or so. This covering will provide a little more protection for crowns and and newly emerging shoots lulled into a false sense of spring.

This week in the garden
Sage, Fennel and Mint in need of some TLC

Sage can become woody after a while, and winter is a good time to rejuvenate it. The standard pruning rules apply here: take back any damaged, crossing and unruly stems. But don’t take them back too far, as the pant may well sulk for months otherwise. I left a couple of stems to be tucked under a rock to grow on as layered cuttings. This should room over the spring and early summer and be ready to move by autumn.

This week in the garden
Sage and Fennel cleared, and Sage layers held down under a rock

Sage is plant that should be in sun and heat. I have taken cuttings – in midsummer -and planted some on the edge of gravel paths so that they get the sun, and the stored heat of the stone. They are also regularly brushed as I or the dog walk by, releasing the pungent aroma. He smells much nicer for it!

These sunny spots are premium real estate for gardeners, but Sage is probably a worthy resident.

I also trimmed the mints, and removed some of the prolific runners they send out. Some can be potted on to replace ageing plants or to give away.

Last to go was the Santolina, which I treat in the same way as Sage. Mine are just three years old, and this is the first major trim. This summer will be the time to take cuttings with a plan to try using some as foliar borders around the raised beds.

This week in the garden

This week in the garden I have also seen the first broad beans showing both in pots and in the greenhouse borders. This is a new area for me, never having grown anything but chillies, tomatoes and cucumbers under glass.  I had also sown some peas in the other border bed, where the soil is deeply cultivated by remains drier – only the moisture from the ground up getting through.

So fingers crossed there will be some early bean crops in the greenhouse and some ready to go out as the ground warms up outside.