After a busy few weeks, I made it out into the garden. Only to mow the lawn but it’s a start to the autumn tidying.
We went out in the garden last night for Bonfires night. I bought a fire log as we had one last year and it did a good job of keeping us warm and cooking marshmallows. But this one was a bit poor. It never really got going.
We did enjoy some sparklers though.
And we enjoyed watching a few other peoples fireworks going off.
I had a quick trip to the smaller garden centre while Alice was in ballet and picked up a few discount plants. This hardy geranium is a reliable blue spreader. I will probably use it for work. I don’t have a particular purpose for it but it was cheap and will be useful somewhere.
Sea kale was a favourite of Derek Jarman. It’s drought-tolerant and can stand sea winds. I tried it from seed before and a few germinated but didn’t make it to adulthood. This one looks a bit sorry for itself but it was cheap enough I’m willing to chance it and bring it back to life.
Another cheap purchase. A little pot of string of beads houseplant. I’ve swapped it to a new pot as it’s a trailer. It needs something with a bit of weight so it doesn’t drop off. It’s a succulent that trails over the edge of the pot. It can be propagated easily either by rooting cuttings into soil or water.
I’m slightly more hopeful of starting the bulb planting this week but we’ll see. We have a wood delivery coming today for the log burner so going to have to have a tidy of the patio if nothing else. Hope you all enjoy your weekends.
We have had Alice stuck at home isolating with Covid. She hasn’t suffered too badly but we didn’t want her infecting anyone else. That combined with the weather has meant I haven’t really been out in the garden. So this week is going to be a quick look at a few houseplants. Alice is quite enjoying being at home. I’ve stayed off with her part the time and mum the other half. We’ve kept up home learning like we did during lockdown to keep routine and avoid boredom. She’s writing and reading a lot more from the focussed time so probably done her good being off with us.
Also known as the roadkill cactus from its flat shape. I bought this as my reward for the last RHS exam. It is replacing several small succulents on the kitchen windowsill. It has got to a bit cluttered so I decided I’d rather have fewer large plants. It’s got a good sunny windowsill where it can be left and only occasionally watered.
String of hearts is a trailing plant that I’ve propagated several times since I got it a few years ago It roots in water then I pot it on. It trails down from the corner shelf in the back room. Every so often it needs a hair cut as it reaches the ground. It needs watering about once a week in summer and less so in winter so it’s pretty minimal effort.
This was a 99p Morrisons purchase. I potted it on after purchasing and it has spread out well since then. I like the variegated leaves and the colours.
This is looking a bit sorry for itself. I think this was partly underwatering and partly too low light.
It’s been repositioned to try and put some life back into it.
The Chinese money plant is a popular one currently and produces lots of offsets for potting on to pass onto other people.
I have a few aspidistras in the house and in the garden. The garden one has been badly attacked by slugs and snails this year. I could do with taking a clump out and growing it on inside. Aspidistras are generally regarded as dull as they don’t really do anything but I quite like having a decent sized houseplant that doesn’t require much care. It handles low light, minimal water. It can handle neglect.
It’s half term now and between Ofsted inspections and balancing home learning with Alice I’m ready for a little time off. It’s been a good half term with my class but I’d like to catch up on some garden jobs now. Hope you all enjoy your weekends and don’t forget to check the founder of six on Saturday’s blog to see more blogs.
I have made it through my first week at work. It’s been lovely. I have the first of the RHS exams next week. I am feeling confident of passing but I’d like to get the commendation but we’ll see. WordPress has made the update to the new editor for writing my blogs. So far it is very clunky, sections I’ve written keep vanishing so I’m hoping I can change it back or it improves rapidly as this was a pain to write. I hope you all appreciate it.
The builders are returning to finish our rendering. This has been an ongoing problems since last year. The builders did the job poorly putting internal insulation on the outside of the house and then rendering over. This all has to come off and then another team of builders who seem to know what they are doing are fixing it. It means the garden is going to be a bit of a mess for a while as a lot had to come off the patio ready for the work.
2. Front planters
I have two planters either side of the front door. Into these I placed hydrangea runaway brides. One has thrived. The other has shrivelled. Not sure exactly why. They were both suffering slightly with chlorosis but they’ve both had the same feed. They both get watered at the same time and have similar conditions.
I have cut back the one that has shrivelled. It may return next year but I’m not holding out much hope soI have moved some cylamen in to fill the gap for now. The foliage of the cyclamen being one of my favourite autumn plants.
Only one is flowering currently but they look to be a red and a white one.
3. Pot Rose
Alice has been going past the florist each day on her way to school and has been asking if we can get one of these little pot roses. As we’d made it through a week of work and school I indulged her.
Not necessarily a colour I’d choose but it looks nice enough. We’ll keep it inside to flower and then try transferring it outside to see if it can come back again.
I went looking in the shed for a potlast Sunday and knocked this little mouse into the bird feed box. I kept it in a box so Alice could have a look and then released it back. They don’t do any harm in the shed. The bird food is all in metal tins and I’d rather they were out in the shed than coming in the house.
5. Bishop’s Children dahlia
This was another of the Bishop’s Children dahlia grown from seed this year. There has been a variety of colours from bright red, through pink and orange and yellow. This one seems to have developed as a partial double form.
The asters are coming into flower now. This is a tall variety that is wedged behind a hebe and sambucus.
And now they’re flowering the insects are happy.
Well, this was painful to write in the new editor. There is no spell checker and trying to read back through it leaps around so I expect complaints from my mother about mistake. I will be getting on with my last burst of exam revision this weekend so I may not get around to reading everyone else’s six blogs until after Monday. Enjoy your weekends.
I have noticed a spike in my stats for an old blog covering Geo-Fleur plant subscriptions. I guess while all the plant addicts are stuck on lockdown they are craving their hit of plants. So time for some plant pimping. Geo-fleur is no longer operating as Geo-fleur. One of the staff moved onto House of Kojo. This member of staff is no longer with House of Kojo and they have no association with Geo-Fleur anymore. They are still offering interesting plants though but no plant subscription service. Worth taking a gander. So I’m going to cover a few houseplant subscription offers as I felt I should update the previous blog. I haven’t used any of them but I have heard good things about the ones listed. If any want to send me a box to review I am perfectly open to plant bribery.
The idea of a plant subscription is a bit of strange one. You pay to get a mystery plant delivered to you at a set interval. Some do monthly, some every 3 months, etc. Many offer delightful pots to go with the plants. I had three months with geo-fleur and I received several plants I would never have bought myself. A rather nice succulent, a string of hearts and some nice airplants. All three are still thriving over a year later. It can be a bit of an expensive way to get hold of plants but can make for a nice gift for a special occasion.
Bloomboxis one of the more established subscription services. They offer a classic subscription, a larger plant subscription or something special for rarer plants.
Lazy Flora is nice in that they offer garden subscriptions, houseplant subscriptions or veg box subscriptions. With a lot of people struggling to get hold of GYO, I could see this one being useful. There is also the option for buying a combined indoor/outdoor pack.
For a while, I’ve been after making a kokedama. I’ve had all the materials for a while but not got round to doing it. With the holidays here and the winter job list going down I thought I’d give it a try. The idea of kokedama originates from Japan. Kokedama translates as moss ball, though sometimes known as poor man’s bonsai. They’ve become a bit of a craze in houseplant circles. Though I’m more interested in making one for outside. The basic idea is an ornamental plants roots wrapped in a ball of soil, then moss, tied up with string. They are often hung, so can be used as an alternative to hanging baskets. Ferns are popular choices for the plants as well as growing bonsai trees within. I recently saw one with ivy in, which I quite like the idea of as it would trail nicely. Gardeners World did a demonstration of making one last year, so they are becoming more common.
I’d bought a kokedama kit a while ago without thinking about the peat content. The kits normally contain bonsai compost and peat compost. You mix the two together and add water steadily. This year I have tried to buy purely peat-free compost, though many of the plants I’ve bought will have been grown in peat. I think I’ve done pretty well buying from seed, growing from cuttings and buying from peat-free sellers. If I make another kokedama I may try and make my own mix. You are aiming for a mix which will hold its shape when pushed together that still has some aeration. I might try making a mix with akadama, grit, leaf mould and my own compost and see how I get on, but that’s something to think about in the future. I mixed the two soils together and added water gradually. If it gets too wet it will be harder to dry it out than to make it wetter. As it is I think I went too wet. It needs to be able to be squeezed into a ball, you can squeeze some of the moisture out in this process.
I’ve gone with a Blechnum Spicant fern for the plant. I’ve put a few of these in the ground recently so will be nice to have some on the patio as well to mirror elements of the border. It’s a fairly tolerant evergreen fern that should stay looking nice for a while. I doubt that the kokedama can be kept indefinitely. After a while, the plant can be moved onto a pot or the ground. But it should make for a nice little temporary feature like most hanging baskets.
I took the fern out of the pot and shook soil off and washed more off carefully, trying not to damage roots.
Then, taking the soil mix I moulded two handfuls to make half the balls. These were then pressed around the roots. I think my mix was either too wet or else lacked enough clay content as it didn’t hold its shape that well. I then wrapped the root ball in a sheet of moss. Twine is then wrapped around starting from the top to hold it together and tied off.
My end result is a bit dumpy. It certainly doesn’t have the perfect Japanese arts of an ikebana arrangement but it encapsulates the concept of wabi-sabi perfectly. It certainly isn’t perfect, permanent and is full of imperfection but I accept this and really like it. Currently, I’m sitting it in a pot saucer so it can soak up water as a common issue is that they dry out. You can test if they need watering by holding them. If it feels light give it water. They are often hung as I already mentioned or can be elegantly displayed on a slate or bonsai pot. The moss should green up again for some moisture.
I have enough materials to try one more, so I will give it another go and see if I can get something more rounded. But overall I am happy with my little dumpy arrangement. I like moss and ferns, so it’s a good combination to me. Now to find a good spot to display it. Within recent changes, to the garden, I think I can find a nice spot for it. I’ll leave you with the random Kirsten Dunst cover of turning Japanese by the vapors created for a pop-art display at the Tate.
Having posted about Ophiopogon planiscapus last week I thought I’d continue looking at some of my plans to widen out my selection of exotic plants or at least exotic looking plants. While I’m holding off on most of my sowing a few of my choices for this year have such long germination periods I thought I’d get them started.
1. Musa lasiocarpa-dwarf banana
One of my Morgan & Thompson seed purchases this year was a pack of musa lasiocarpa. This dwarf banana is fairly hardy supposedly taking temperatures down to -10. I’m aiming to grow it for the patio but with up to six months to germinate, I thought I better get started. While they are available as small plants there is a satisfaction that comes with growing from seed. Though as these come with a warning that germination is “slow and erratic” I’m not getting my hopes of success up to much.
The second of this year’s Morgan and Thompson seed purchases. This was a mixed packet of agave seeds. While I am in the cold North being by the coast I think might give them reasonable survival chances if I can get them going. There are a few gardens in my area that bring agaves out for Summer so we’ll see how I get on. At less than 99p after deals were applied I’m willing to take a chance on them. After a week in the propagator I’ve already got some germinating, so we’ll see if I can keep them going to become fully fledged plants. I need to read up on the next stage. I’d only read up on germination as I thought it might fail at that stage.
3. Heated propagator
In order to increase my chances of germination success, I’ve bought a heated propagator. It featured last week with the black mondo seeds. It’s only a cheap variety that adds a few degrees heat but that could make all the difference. It doesn’t have a thermostat to control temperature but I didn’t want to break the bank on it. I do wish I’d gone for the premium though for a more solid lid.
4. Discount ferns
A few weeks back I picked up a few discount ferns. While they are a bit miserable at the moment I think they’ll pick back up with fresh fronds. The borders are filled mainly with cottage garden favourites so to tie the patio and lawn area together I’m looking to use ferns and hostas that will feature in both areas.
One corner of the border already contains a good number of ferns. I’m now looking to mirror this on the opposite border. These new ferns are destined for there. Dryopteris is a nice erect shuttlecock form growing to around a metre tall.
Cristata the king is a tall form that remains evergreen in warmer climates and deciduous as it moves to colder climates. It tolerates a lot of garden situations from shade to semi-shade and tolerant of a variety of soils. It tends to clump and can then be divided to spread it around.
Filix-Mas is deciduous giving me hope that it will come back fine. Once established it shouldn’t need much care. Most of the ferns are evergreen as I’d intended them as a constant green backdrop. This will add a bit of contrast within that mix.
5. Plant lovers guide to ferns
Ferns make for fascinating plants with their prehistoric nature. They provide excellent foliage. Many of my choices are evergreen providing the garden with a background of year-round interest. This book from Kew Gardens has a lot more detail than I expected. I thought it would have a few recommended varieties and a bit of planting detail. A coffee table book but it’s actually very informative. There are recommendations for different areas of the garden, some design ideas, a solid section detailing different ferns and propagation.
6. Propagating houseplants for outdoors
It isn’t an original idea Will Giles did it, Christopher Lloyd did it but this year I want to try some of the houseplants I keep inside outside. It was discussed in one of this weeks plant based podcasts. My prime candidates are plants that are easy to propagate so I can keep the backup inside and put the propagated plants outside without worrying if they die.
Candidate number one is my spider plant. If I let it my spider plant population grow they could easily take over the house. I normally cut the flowers before they become pups. I have saved a few though to go outside in the Summer. They have put on good root systems and are getting to reasonable heights.
The second plant I’m looking at is my string of hearts. These are supposedly easy to propagate. Cutting laid on soil should root. I imagine this could be used in mixes pots to trail the edge of pots. I’m not sure of its hardiness but a few cuttings of these will only cost a handful of soil. So if they die straight away I haven’t lost anything but a bit of time.
I’m aware these are not necessarily the most exciting photos to ever feature on my six but hopefully, they will be more exciting later in the year. The discount bedraggled ferns should recover to become glorious foliage. The seeds will flourish into beasts. The houseplants will bring new elements to the outside patio area. Exciting times ahead.
Today a new gardening podcast came on the air. I was excited for the release of this as the two presenters Michael “Mr Plantgeek” Perry and Ellen Mary have always come across as knowledgeable and likeable people through their various outputs. Both push the boundaries of gardening in exciting directions. I’m also confident between them they will have many interesting connections to get guests on the show. It sounds like they’ll be looking to try and cover different ground to existing media and I reckon they will have a few surprises in store.
My love of gardening podcasts has been discussed on the blog before. It’s a format which surprisingly works well for something people would associate as being very visual.
The first three podcasts have all been launched together. In the first podcast, the duo interviewed Beverley Glover of Cambridge Botanic Garden. There was a good discussion on how we can help bees. I was reminded of the need to stick to single forms of most flowers to help bees. I generally don’t select double forms and do try to choose pollinator friendly forms. It was this desire to help wildlife that led to me having mass ox-eye daisies in the garden this year. They ended up spilling all over the border but I was rewarded with many visitors.
The second podcast was with vegan bodybuilder Paul Kerton. While I’m not about to go vegan with my low blood pressure and dietary problems a lot of interesting points were made. Most of all the need for people to see other peoples points of view.
The third podcast with Liz Browne from Urban Jungle Nursery. This covered a lot of topics that have been done to death in the gardening media recently. The return of the houseplant is all over the place. But the three of them together made for good listening. There was a nice shout out for Will Giles known for his exotic garden and books on the subject.
They went on a tangent to discuss how much of the gardening media is out of touch with younger gardeners. While I enjoy watching much of the traditional gardening shows. We aren’t all Monty with space for multiple garden areas. In the words of the Smiths, “Because the music that they constantly play. It says nothing to me about my life“.
Then a little discussion about taking houseplants outside in Summer to use as an alternative to traditional bedding plants. This is just what I’ve been planning to do with several spider pups and string of hearts cuttings destined for outside. I want to try a few more adventurous options on the patio. The aspidistra can have its Summer vacation as well.
All in all a very good start for a new podcast. Three episodes with very interesting podcasts. They kept my attention while I listened back to back cooking dinner. Three different but engaging guests. My only criticism is the volume went up and down during interviews but this is a common podcast problem.
The podcast is available through iPlayer and podcast player. There were quite a few named plant-based podcast but a search for plant-based podcast and Perry brought it up. Though I’m sure it will go up the rankings fast with popularity. Well worth checking out and I’m looking forward to seeing who else they interview.
So garden bloggers we are out the other side of Christmas I’ve seen lots of the Tweeters and bloggers I follow were treated to many gardening gifts. Today I’m going to share some of my presents. I didn’t ask for very much this year. I just wanted a couple of top quality tools. My theory being that it is better to buy a few quality items that last rather than replacing every few years.
1. Niwaki okatsune secateurs
This was the main gift I’d asked for. I proffer to ask for something that will get used a lot rather than something I merely desire. While pricey by most standards they are tools that will last me for a long time. Japanese steel and a razor-sharp edge make these a pleasure to work with. I got in the garden yesterday to do some pruning and these made the jobs so much easier. Between my Gold Leaf gloves and these, I felt like a proper gardener. The roses were dealt with ease with no scratches to show for it.
2. Grass edging tools
My parents bought me edging tools clearly in the hope that I will do it neatly. One will cut vertically, the other horizontally making the job a bit easier.
3. Poppy seeds
My mum picked these up while on holiday. The colour looks nice if a bit more ruffled than I’d normally go for.
My mum asked for some cosmos for Christmas. I got her a variety of packs from Sarah Raven. I added a pack of a rich purple variety “double click cranberries” and “candy floss” a white variety with pink edges.
Combined with a pack I got free with a magazine and a pack from our wedding gifts I think I have more cosmos than I can really fit in the border, but never mind.
5. Air plants-Tillandsia
I got an air plant Christmas decoration from my mum. Most tillandsia are epiphytes meaning they grow on the surface of another plant. They get their nutrients from the air and water. Many orchids are epiphytes growing on the bark of trees. Many air plants grow on rocks, cliff faces, and trees rather than soil. In theory, they are easy to keep needing the odd spray of water and an occasional dunk. However, they don’t like hard water. Air plants take in water through specially adapted water absorbing cells called trichomes. Hard water contains minerals which can block these preventing moisture absorption. So I’m going to need to try and collect rainwater or at least filter the tap water.
I also have two I received from Geo-Fleur. Amy doesn’t like them much so that is largely going to dictate where they end up being placed in the house.
While not for the garden Amy knows I like my garden robins and got me two robin presents.
She got me a robin for the tree.
Then a carved robin. She said I don’t have to put it away after Christmas, but not sure if that means it will lose its specialness.
A lovely collection of thoughtful gifts. It was good to get in the garden yesterday and put some to use. I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas days and had time with people you love. With New Year coming up I’ll be looking to write my review of the year. It’s been a busy year with the wedding and the garden has come on a lot in this time as well. Enjoy your weekends.
Last week I listened back to episode 46 of on the ledge podcast episode 46 of on the ledge podcast with Wisley curator Mathew Pottage. I was hoping for a bit of inspiration on my plans for exotics on the patio. During the episode, they discussed the idea of why foliage houseplants are more popular than flowering houseplants.
I can think of quite a lot of reasons. Foliage has a longer period of interest than flowers. The Instagram houseplant trend tends to favour photos of leaves and variegation. Many flowering houseplants take a lot of care with long periods in between flowering. However, it did get me thinking. I pretty much only grow kalanchoe for flowers indoors. A number of the plants I grow do flower. A couple of my cacti have quite nice flowers actually, but I don’t grow them for the flowers. The kalanchoe I buy is the standard supermarket varieties. I don’t actually like them very much, but Amy does, so I buy one and they last on average about 4 months before I replace them. The spot Amy likes for them is a kitchen windowsill where they gradually become scruffy from leaf burn. Essentially we buy them as a longer lasting form of cut flowers. Before any one comments I am aware there are lovely forms of kalanchoe, but I’m not keen on the standard supermarket varieties. They look like plastic plants to me. I’ve never bothered with orchids or bromeliads or any of the other. I have done quite well with cut flowers from my garden this year. Ox-eye daisies, cosmos and sweet peas have filled many vases over the Summer.
So in an effort to branch out, I have bought one of the ever-present Christmas amaryllis kits from Aldi. For £2.50 I’m willing to take a chance. The box did say pot included. This was just the plastic drainage pot to pot the bulb up in. I had a bit of an issue finding a pot to fit over the sleeve as it was quite a short wide size. But I did locate a suitable size that isn’t too hideous.
The bulb sits on the pot with its neck out of the soil, then pushed firmly down to ensure contact with the soil. Until the stem starts to get going it doesn’t need much watering. It should take about seven to ten weeks to flower. So it may flower ready for Christmas.
So wish me luck as I venture into growing a houseplant with flowering in mind. Who knows? After this, I may even branch out to buy an orchid for the first time. What flowering houseplants do you all recommend?
So last weekend saw the final episode of Gardener’s World for this year. This left many twitterers asking what now? How do we get through the next part of the year with no Monty jobs for the weekend? The garden doesn’t go into shut down. So this week I’m suggesting six podcasts to fill the void left by Gardener’s World over the winter.
Then because I have no photos to go with podcasts, a photo of my mp3 player wouldn’t be that exciting, you are getting random photos of my little helper to go with each podcast. I dislike writing text heavy blogs.
The sodshow is presented by Peter Donegan. Peter is an award winning landscape designer and a member of the gardening media guild. The show has been running for almost 400 episodes and is pretty well polished by now. Potentialy one of the longest running weekly gardening podcasts. The show features many guests with top gardening names getting interviewed. Recently enjoyed the episode on an inside view of the Dutch bulb industries. As an amateur gardener it gives insights into aspects of the industry I don’t normally consider. Peter can ramble a bit and go off in random directions with conversations, but it makes for entertaining listening. Lots of music links are made with Beatles references, punk and post punk bands combined with a rock intro.
From a well established podcast to a newcomer. From Andrew O’Brian this podcast has only had two episodes so far, but two very enjoyable and informative episodes. Often it takes new podcasters a while to get going, sort out reasonable production and work out how they want the podcast to be. But this has the feeling of a podcast that has been going longer. The last episode had Celia Hart on discussing how she ended up as an illustrator for Gardens illustrated. I hope Andrew carries on putting them out.
This podcast is quite an upbeat one. It’s one for the drive into work, not before bed. Lee Connely adds lots of humour to his podcasts. There is an excellent list of top former guests. Recently enjoyed Jack Wallington, Toby Buckland and Adam Frost, but going back there is a long list of top garden names. Lee’s worked a lot on getting young people into gardening. Great passion and enthusiasm for his topics.
Technically not a podcast, but a radio show broadcasted in podcast form. This long running radio main stay didn’t used to make much sense to me. However, as my gardening knowledge expands I get more and more from listening. Basic concept of the show is that a panel of experts answer gardening questions. Most weeks I find there are a couple of seasonal questions relevant to my own garden. This is lovely easy listening and usually has good humour between panellists. For some this might be a bit of a stuffy old institution, but I rather like it as it’s nice hearing about other people’s fungus problems, pruning disasters, etc to know everyone has issues in their gardens. It’s the correspondant episode coming up where you can send in questions. Tempted to send some in for the minor thrill of getting it called out on air.
Another relatively new podcast. It’s just starting to find it’s feet. Hosted by Sarah Wilson, an horticulturist, it features a mix of episodes. Some are interviews, while others cover specific topics such as trees and houseplants. Sarah has called on a number of different guests from different parts of the industry. Much like the sodshow, I like that I get insights into aspects of professional gardening I don’t consider with my little garden.
This podcast, from Jane Perrone, focuses on houseplants. If you go through the archives you’ll find a great list of guests. Alongside the podcast is an active Facebook group. Then there is the #houseplanthour every two weeks on twitter. I’ve learnt so much from working my way through these podcasts. House plants to me have more of the feel of the Victorian plant collector than my more relaxed outdoor gardening. Most of my garden plants will tolerate neglect for periods. Whereas the houseplants are that bit more exotic and need more botanic knowledge for them to thrive. This show has improved my knowledge enormously. Although it does come with a wallet warning as it may lead to new purchases.
It has good fresh feel to it and being on houseplants takes into account that many people want to grow plants, but not many people can afford their own gardens, or they rent and move around. The definition of gardening is expanding.
Hope these help tide you over through the cold winter months. There are others I listen to, but for this post I will be good and stick to the six format. Are there any you’d recommend? Half term holiday for me now, so a chance to catch up on weeding. I promise next week will be out in the garden again.