Six on Saturday: 2.1.21-Vine weevil

Happy New Year! I should really start a new year of six on Saturday posts with something inspirational and uplifting but I’ve been meaning to write about this subject for a while, so this is what you are getting. But gardening isn’t all positive and we roll with punches. We have ups and downs and by sharing the negatives I may help someone else in future.

1. RHS pests and diseases

I have started the process of revising for my next RHS exams. In the next round of exams, I am taking two exams. The first on soil and composting, the second on plant health, pests and diseases. I purchased the RHS pests and diseases in preparation for my revision and I have found myself browsing it in odd moments for the many ways our plants can be attacked. The book is a good guide to promoting plant health and while it does list chemical solutions it largely pushes more nature-friendly methods of promoting plant health. My current garden concern is vine weevil which I will spend the rest of my six looking at in more detail.

2. Vine weevil

Vine weevil are a fairly common pest. They are more of an issue for plants in pots which I think is where my problem started. I had two pots of heuchera that I discovered a few months back were infested. I disposed of these pots but there have been signs that they are in the ground too. So far the problem seems to be just in the front garden and the back seems to be unaffected. I could dig up the plants affected but this may mean removing almost everything and even then any new additions could still be attacked again. So I am trying several approaches to tackling them.

Vine weevil are a beetle Otiorhynchus sulcatus. The larvae are plump, white, legless grubs with brown heads that can be found around the roots of plants. While I have an interest in most aspects of nature you will find few positive odes to the vine weevil grub. Most people would describe them as repulsive. Knowing what they are they are not a welcome sight. They live in the soil where they nibble through the roots of your plants. In some cases, this will just stunt growth. In more extreme infestations they will cause the death of the plant.

I knew I had vine weevil when moving a pot I moved the plant and it came away in my hand. The larvae had eaten the whole of the stem and roots detaching the crown. It is possible to clean these off and re-pot but I didn’t want to take the risk so I disposed of the plants in pots. If you would like to read how to clean off infested plants read Plantsagogo advice. They attack a wide range of plants but heuchera are a particular favourite with hostas, hydrangea and cyclamen being on the list of vine weevil diet. Pretty much the list of what I grow in the front garden.

The larvae mainly cause damage through autumn and spring. The adults emerge late spring and summer. They are about 9mm long with dull black bodies and antennae that form a right angle. They are slow-moving and eat notches out of the leaves. They are flightless so you can set up barriers around your pots. If you grow plants in pots you can keep them in a saucer of water as the vine weevil don’t swim. The adults will lay many hundreds of eggs over a couple of months.

3.Non-chemical control-nematodes and predators

There are a handful of chemical controls for vine weevil but many of these pesticides are unsuitable to infestations in the ground. The pesticides can be applied as a compost drench but all the products I have looked at involve neonicotinoids which will kill more than just the vine weevils. Instead, I have used nematodes. These are natural predators that will attack the vine weevil larvae. They are delivered as a powder that you mix into a solution that you add to a watering can to water over the area. I gave the front garden a treatment in autumn and then again late on.

I have also encouraged natural predators of vine weevil to try and control the numbers further. The front garden does get frogs visiting despite no pond. There are a number of dark damp spots such as under the water butt where they can hide. I have been intending to look at making a mini-pond for the front garden to encourage them further but this is probably a job for spring now. I have also put a fat ball feeder in the front garden to encourage a few more birds in. I feed the birds with many different feeders in the back garden but I don’t really bother in the front as there isn’t much cover around for them. Once we get to late spring I will start to check the plants in the evening to see if I can remove any of the adults myself.

4. Encouraging healthy plants

The nematodes may not prove effective enough though as they don’t work as well as the temperature gets colder. They stop working at temperatures below 5 degrees. I applied the last dose about 2 weeks before the temperature dropped to this point. So I have taken a dual approach of looking at biological controls but also looking at promoting the health of the plant. Back in autumn, I gave the front garden plants a scattering of bone meal. Bone meal is a good autumn feed as it encourages plants to toughen up for winter and root well. As vine weevil mainly cause issues with roots I want the plants to be in as good health as possible. The bone meal is sprinkled on the surface and lightly forked in.

5. Mycorrhizal fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial fungal that form associations between roots and plants to give the plants better access to nutrients. The RHS profile page partly dismisses them as the use of lots of fungicide and other fertilisers can disrupt the process. However, as we learn more about the effect these fungi the more gardeners are seeing the benefit of using this funghi. We still know relatively little about how these relationships work but they are truly astounding. I am reading Merlin Sheldrake’s entangled life and it is fascinating reading all the things fungi are capable of doing. Empathy sells many different mycorrhizal products for the gardener aimed at many different functions. They have products aimed at acid lovers, roses, evergreens but I went with the general rootgrow product. This is ideally spread on the roots when planted but as I have already got the front garden planted up the plants received a sprinkling around and it was forked in around some. So this will, hopefully, allow the plants attacked by vine weevil manage to grow back strong enough to survive any future attacks.

6. Mulching

Mulching may not seem to have much to do with vine weevil but let me explain how this may potentially help. The front garden is heavy clay. So heavy you can sculpt with it. Bricks were made locally from it. I have discussed my efforts to improve the soil previously here. Nematodes do not work as effectively on heavy soil in part because the temperature drops colder. So in order to make sure I get the most from the nematodes I need to improve the soil. I am using a no-dig approach of applying top dressings. The soil organisms will gradually take it into the soil improving the structure of the soil. I have used Dalefoot clay buster which I can get delivered free locally. This is a lovely product for enriching the soil. Not cheap, but it feels and looks beautiful. Most gardeners will appreciate this while any of the non-gardeners reading this will think I’m crazy. As well as improving the conditions for nematodes, the mulch can also help improve the drainage while also helping water retention which may seem contradictory. It also provides the plants with some additional nutrition. Clay soil is rich in nutrients but it is not always accessible to plants. All of this should improve the health of the plants to make them more resilient to vine weevil and other problems.

I hope you have found some of this of interest. We’ll see next month if vine weevil come up on my exam. If they do I feel pretty prepared for answering a question on them. The one time I’ll actually be wanting vine weevil to appear.

Find me on Twitter.

 

12 Days Wild: Day 8-Happy New Year

Well, we have made it through 2020 and into a new year. I know for many this has been a difficult year but I have ended the year in a better state. My work-life balance is better. I work locally so get to walk and spend more time in nature rather than wasting much of my day on commute. So I’m happy to be moving onwards.

Just because it’s New Year’s Day doesn’t mean we get any extra sleep. Alice was up for her usual 6:30. I was generous and let Amy carry on sleeping. The birds have been very active in both the front and back garden enjoying the lack of humans while they nurse hangovers.

When Amy did emerge, I got out for a run. It was pretty horrible weather but it woke me up a bit getting out. I ran a little stretch of the old railway line through the wooded section. I’m using the couch to 5k app and it currently very gentle 90 seconds of walking followed by 60 seconds of running. But I want to ease back into it after a strain.

Then a short stretch of the seafront. It was busy today, even with the rain, with people coming out for the traditional New Year’s Day fish and chips.

Then headed out to run along the edge of the fields. I do like running along the bridle path but it will be off-limits for winter as most of the time it is underwater. But in spring and summer, it’s nice running along here startling the odd rabbit. But we are fortunate to have several natural environments we can run through. It’s very easy to get away from housing and into either more rural areas or along the coastal path. I ran while we lived in Hull but it wasn’t as enjoyable running through urban sprawl.

On the walk back home I kept an eye out for which wildflowers were in bloom ready for when we go to do our official count.

 

The rest of the day has been spent putting Christmas away. While the tree is pretty decorated the house feels bigger again for having it away and most of Alice’s new toys assigned to a place. The wetter weather has left the garden very squishy but I do have a few bulbs still to plant and I couldn’t do that while the ground was frozen.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 26.12.20 Staying positive

I hope you have all had a good Christmas even with tier restrictions. We had a super day, even without visitors. We very slowly opened presents. Alice had a lovely day with many fabulous presents from friends and family. I got a few gifts for my outside lifestyle but nothing so much on the gardening front. But I hadn’t asked for anything so didn’t expect to. Alice received a few gardening gifts. Mainly craft activities: paint your own birdhouses and fairy gardens. So, I’m sure they will feature over the next few weeks.

It seems like the last few weeks there have been many of the six on Saturday posts mentioning how they are struggling for motivation to garden. Then with the news on changes to tiers in the UK, I know many people’s mental health has spiralled further down. This combined with many people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is leaving many people across social media stating that they are struggling. So, for this weeks six I am looking at six things which have helped me recently.

1. Get outside

Getting outside has been shown to improve mental wellbeing again and again. Ideally during daylight hours but even getting outside at night in a semi-natural setting has been shown in some studies to help. If you don’t have access to an outside space a windowbox or houseplants have been shown to have some mood-lifting capability but I don’t really think it’s a substitute for getting out properly. It can be an effort to drag yourself out currently but having the right clothing helps keep you out once you get out. I keep a set of cheap waterproof trousers by the back door which are more than adequate for most gardening jobs. The Gold Leaf dry touch gloves are my go-to in winter as my clay soil can become pretty horrible this time of year. Buffs for neck warmth and a hat are more convenient for warmth than a big scarf. But once you get doing most jobs outside you warm up quickly enough.

2. Aim low

It helps to aim for just getting small manageable jobs done on each trip out in the garden. If you’re trying to get out and do everything your mood will end up lower. But if you go out with just the aim of planting say 10 bulbs, pruning one plant, you have more chance of succeeding and coming away feeling satisfied. I aimed to get my Iris reticulata planted a few weeks back. It took about ten minutes. They were all bunged in pots but I came away feeling better for having gone outside with a small definite aim in mind that was achieved.

3. Don’t be hard on yourself

If you don’t get jobs done it doesn’t really matter. Worst-case scenarios for most gardening jobs is a slightly less impressive display of something the year after. So long as the job being left isn’t endangering anyone there is no need to place pressure on yourself. It is unlikely our gardens are going to be enjoyed by anyone much beyond our own households anytime soon. So, there is no need to beat yourself up if jobs don’t get done. I have alliums that have been sat in a cupboard for a good while. They have been left while other jobs have been completed. I will get them in the ground probably in the next week. It may be too late it may not be. Doesn’t matter. These irises were meant to be going around the hostas in pots but I haven’t got around to it so they just went in small pots. I haven’t even bothered to tip them out of their plastic pot. They’ll still give some flowers.

4. Celebrate what is there

I have tried to plan the garden to ensure there is something in flower throughout the year. Currently, the stars are the cyclamen. The hellebores should be stunning but they’ve been nibbled quite a bit. There are a few Irises that will be flowering over the next month. But if you look there will be something worth celebrating even if it is just frost on leaves or the stark beauty of bare branches against a winter sky. Celebrate what is going on.

5. Grow evergreen

To avoid the garden looking too stark over winter I have quite a lot of pockets of evergreen planting hidden around the garden. For much of the year, it isn’t visible but as the herbaceous perennials die back the ferns and heuchera are revealed. The hollies come into their own. The evergreen shrubs provide structure over the winter. It just keeps the garden looking that bit lusher over the darker months so you don’t find yourself looking at a full garden in decay. This shaded corner is filled with evergreen ferns and heuchera. They have browned off a bit but they still provide a solid block of green to lift the spirit.

On a side note, as this is the time of year people go for nostalgic posts, the 3 large ferns at the back were amongst the first plants I planted when we moved in. They were tiny little things, maybe 20-30cm big. Now well over a metre.

6. Enjoy the wildlife

With many of the trees bare the birds become much more visible in winter. This combined with food sources gradually dwindling bird feeders become more important. If you do provide feeders keep them clean as a disease can be spread easily in winter and make sure you keep them stocked. If they are empty birds waste energy visiting. Watching the birds in winter provides endless joy. I usually increase my feeders at this time of year in preparation for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. By providing a variety of food and water sources I get to enjoy many different birds coming into the garden.

If you fancy reading more on gardening for improving mental health check out these two books:

The well gardened mind.

RHS: your wellbeing garden

If you fancy some gentle viewing watch the National Gardening scheme lecture with Tom & Sue Stuart-Smith. It supports a wonderful charity that then gives onto many worthy causes.

NGS lecture.

It is also day 2 of the Wildlife Trust initiative ‘12 days wild‘. This aims to get people to appreciate nature in these dark months to improve mood. Well worth signing up and looking through their ideas. Check out yesterday’s blog.

We have another day of rest ahead for boxing day. We’ll be taking it slow. I hope you all enjoy your weekend whatever you are doing.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 5.12.20

So this week I got my results from my first RHS level 2 exam. I passed with flying colours receiving a commendation. It will be hard to carry that through on all the exams as I had plenty of time to revise for this first one with the first lockdown but I am quite determined to try.

This week has been a pretty miserable week weather-wise with lots of rain. I don’t really want to step on the lawn currently if I can avoid it. Yorkshire Water has been down the street pumping out drains so hopefully, we won’t get any flooding as a few areas nearby were starting to pool. We are on higher ground so things usually drain away from us but still not much fun walking to work through rivers so hopefully, they’ll keep on top of clearing the drains. It does mean many of this week’s photos are very overcast.

1. Sophie Conran topiary shears

Following on from the success of my first RHS exam I felt I deserved to treat myself. I’ve had my eye on these Burgon & Ball shears for a while. I don’t have masses of topiary to prune but I do have plenty of shrubs where they will prove useful. They feel beautiful, with a nice smooth cutting motion. The fact that they can be used one-handed will be useful on a number of shrubs I own where I want to be precise.

2. Bargain heuchera

Tesco was clearing out many perennials and small shrubs. I was tempted with a few but I don’t think I could fit that many. I imagine they are making room for poinsettias that will be killed off on the journeys home as soon as they encounter cold. I did buy a few heucheras. A couple of dark red and a veined green. I lost a few potted ones to vine weevil. I’m not sure whether these will go in pots or the ground but at just over a pound for them it seemed rude not to rescue them.

3. Dahlia lifting

The dahlias have largely been frosted. I finished lifting the dahlias in pots. These will go up in the loft for storage and then come back down after Easter when I put the Easter decorations back up. There are a few in the ground I want to dig up as they are too close together but it has been too wet the last few days.

4. Log delivery

Last weekend we had a delivery of wood for the log burner. The 2 patio log stores are now full for winter. The wheelbarrow was put to good use carting it around.

5. Helleborus niger

The Christmas rose hellebores are starting to flower. I find the first ones are usually damaged. I think it is slug damage but then the usually improve. The damage doesn’t really show from the house. You can see little patches of white flowers in the shaded corner under the black cherry.

6. Helleborous orientalis

This hasn’t suffered from slugs but suffers from the usual problem with hellebores. They have stunning flowers but they facedown so you don’t see the beautiful speckling.

This weekend, I have the plant profiles to complete for my next RHS assignment. Then I need to begin the process of revision for the next two exams. I have to cover a variety of plants over the course. So many trees, so many shrubs, so many perennials and so on. I haven’t covered many trees yet as I don’t really have that many within my small garden so I am trying to readdress the balance and write more profiles of trees with this assignment. The most recent assignment covered pests and diseases. This has been quite interesting and made me look at how I can ensure the best health of my plants. Hope you all have good weekends and are keeping well.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 28.11.20

Alice has still been off school part of this week so the garden has largely been neglected but the small time we’ve had on garden jobs has been enjoyable.

1. Breakfast birdwatch

On Wednesday we had Alice’s last day of home-schooling before her year group reopened. It has been closed after another child tested positive. But they’ve had their isolation period and she can return. I posted last week that we have been doing breakfast birdwatches but I wanted to post about it again as she drew such lovely pictures.

We have found a lot of feathers through the week on the lawn. I need to set up the trail camera to see what is responsible. It may just be birds scrapping or it could be the neighbour’s cat or the sparrowhawk.

And a mouse fallen victim. As we have remains left I suspect the cat as the sparrowhawk would have taken it.

2. Sparrowhawk

I did spy the sparrowhawk catch a sparrow last week. It zoomed in and snatched one and was out. I just managed a picture through the window before it was off. But I’m not sure it’s responsible for all the damage.

3. Sprouts

The sprouts were devastated by caterpillars earlier in the year but wasps then devoured them all and they have recovered. I’m not sure if we’ll have a crop for Christmas but it would be nice.

4. Front garden lights

Friday would have been the Christmas light turn on in my town. But they haven’t had the chance to raise the money this year so they are lower key. So, there has been a community push to place lights outside peoples own homes. In the front garden, I have used some solar-powered wire LEDs. They have a backup battery for dull days. I have stuck to the white lights in the front garden.

5. Back garden lights

In the back garden, we have lots of battery-operated coloured lights. I’m using rechargeable batteries as they do need recharging a few times over the month they are up.

6. Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

This is an Algerian Iris that normally flowers January to February time. I’d bought two varieties earlier in the year as I’d been taken by other peoples. It’s nice to have a flower in that winter window where little else is flowering. But this seems to have got started early.  These are flowering at the base of the stems so I don’t know if I’ll get some larger ones in future years.

We will be going out of lockdown next week and into Tier 3 lockdown so there won’t be any changes for us. But seeing as we are both still working, Alice is at school and the garden centre is still open it doesn’t really affect my life much. I hope you are all keeping well.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 24.10.20

We’ve made it to half-term. A week ahead with the family. We’ve got a few days out planned. Possibly a garden visit or two. I should get a chance to get back up to date on garden jobs and put the patio back in order after the building work.

1. Autumn wreath

Amy attended an autumn wreath workshop last weekend. The end result is now hung on the door. I think she did a pretty good job. It’s a nice sight to be welcomed home to.

2. Rose scarlet Paul

This climbing rose isn’t generally a repeat flowerer but it has managed to produce a couple of new buds. A pleasant surprise hidden at the back of the border.

3. The lawn

After a grumble about the lawn last week I got on and gave it a cut and edge. It has been left to grow for the last month or two while the building work was going on. It was quite overgrown and is still looking tufty but better than it was. I will look at giving it a good scarify and seeding again with an autumn grass mix.

4. Late dahlias-orange

Another of my seed grown dahlias has kicked into gear and flowered. I think this might be its first burst of the year. Better late than never. I think this was one of the cactus mix dahlias.

5. Bishop’s children dahlia

Another seed grown dahlia that has been slow to flower but it is another beauty. I may leave it in the ground to see if the tuber can have a chance to bulk out.

6. Potentilla ‘William Rollison’

I bought a few plants on an offer at the garden centre. As there was a discount on buying several perennials I let Alice choose one. She went with this Potentilla. Not really something I’ve ever considered before. Part of the rose family it’ll make change from my daisy family rich borders. The flowers are similar to strawberry flowers but semi-double and bright orange. They are apparently liked by bees.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks six. I’m looking forward to getting the time to do a few garden jobs this week. Enjoy your weekends.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday-8.8.20

We made it out to visit a garden this week. I did consider featuring our trip to Wassand Hall for this weeks six but there was far more than six so this has featured as a post on its own. The garden is going through the transition to late summer. The poppies have come out and a few annuals so that I can put a few more dahlias in the ground. The verbena and gladioli is almost ready to flower. The air has been filled with insects with the heat of the week. The house martins are still shrieking overhead. So much to enjoy in the garden and too hot to do much more than some light deadheading until the evenings.

1. Hebe

I culled all the hebes in the front garden last year as they had all become too leggy and they weren’t flowering much anymore. This smaller one survived in the back garden. It is not quite hardy enough though. The leaves get damaged each year so it gets a cut back in spring and spends much of the year recovering. It does, however, have pretty very vibrant pink flowers that the bees and butterflies seem to like.

The passionflower is trying to grow through it so I keep needing to unwrap tendrils and put it back on the fence.

2. New Butterflies

I’ve been grumbling the last few weeks about the lack of butterflies. I’ve not had a lot of my regular visitors but I read an interesting article saying that several species are possibly hibernating earlier. Having grumbled I have then had two species which I haven’t sighted in the garden before.

First a gatekeeper. These are fairly common locally but I haven’t seen in the garden. The caterpillars feed on grasses so an area of long grass is useful for attracting them in. After lockdown easing the locals and town council have gone a bit mad on the grass mowing cutting back areas that are often left longer. I’m wondering if this has displaced some of these butterflies.

The second newcomer was a brown argus I think. When the wings are closed they are very similar to common blue butterflies but I’m pretty certain this was brown when it opened its wings. Both of the newcomers settled on the marigolds so they are earning their keep. I still think numbers are down in the garden despite the newcomers. numbers of whites are up with the caterpillars eating my sprouts and nasturtiums but other species numbers are down.

3. Dragonflies

I featured these last week but I wanted to feature them again as I’ve managed some more detailed photos.

I have seen bigger numbers this week. There have sometimes been as many as 4 in at once. They seem to like settling on the honeysuckle. They eat small flying insects. I think this spot offers them a vantage point where they can rest and observe the garden for hunting.

4. Passionflower

The passionflower is now dominating one fence. I featured the flowers earlier in the season. Each day a couple of new flowers open keeping the bees happy.

The early flowers mean it has managed to form fruit for the first time. They might even have time to ripen this year.

5. Achillea millefolium-Yarrow

In my efforts to help the butterflies I am looking at adding a few more nectar sources for them. Yarrow is recommended as a good option. Tesco had a number at the point of death for a £1. I think this one can be salvaged. If nothing else I can collect seeds.

The second is a healthy one. This is Achillea millefolium ‘Pink Grapefruit’. It is filling out the pot nicely and the pink stands out nicely. This is part of the tutti-fruiti series that have been bred to be compact. So they seem like a good option for a pot to attract some butterflies on the patio. They need good drainage. My garden is clay. I have improved it over the last few years but I think these will still do better in a pot than in my ground. They are drought tolerant which is becoming more of a consideration each year.

6. Dahlia-Black Jack

I had originally wanted this dahlia last year and I ordered ir from Sarah Raven as part of a trio of short dahlias. However, she had supply issues and I was refunded. I ordered this year from Farmer Gracy and it was delivered this year with no issues. It’s a smallish dahlia with lovely dark maroon ruffles. I think it was worth the extra years wait.

If you’ve enjoyed my post and fancy taking part or reading more check out the participant guide. I’ve got a bit of potting on to do today and may start off a few more seeds now the mini-greenhouse is emptying out. I’m gradually clearing the patio and garden ready for the return of the builders. I hope you all enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

Six on Saturday: 1.8.20

This week I have largely left the garden to its own devices. Just keeping up with cutting the sweet peas has been enough work. The weather has been back and forth between torrential rain and the hottest day of the year. I have been working on building a new shed between days of rain. It would have been finished yesterday but Alice hurt her foot. We had a trip to minor injuries and it looks like she has just strained it. She’s got a few days rest ahead. The last few weeks I’ve done slightly different six on Saturday posts with one on photography and one on my RHS course. This week I am returning to the more usual format with some stunning flowers. If you fancy taking part in six on Saturday check out the guide.

1. Lily

My lilies were obliterated last year by lily beetles. I remembered someone, possibly Bob Flowerdew, talking about how they got attacked less in the shade. So I moved the bulbs from the pots into the shade. They have all made it to flowering this year.

2. Tomatoes

We have our first tomatoes of the year, possibly moneymaker. Grown outside but started back in February and grown inside on a windowsill initially. Alice was very excited about cutting them, but not bothered about eating them. She did enjoy our lettuce and broad beans that went alongside.

3. Yellow Bishop’s Child

Another Bishop’s Children dahlia has come into flower. This one is a stunning yellow with a nice burnt colour centre. The beeshave been loving this one.

4. Butterflies

We have had tons of white butterflies which I think is probably down to the veg patch. I did have it netted for the birds but the butterflies could still fit through. My sprouts have become a breeding ground for them. I’d stop them but I quite like having the mass of butterflies so it looks like I’m now cultivating butterflies rather than sprouts.

We’ve also started seeing a few other varieties in the garden with red admirals, commas, holly blue and this peacock butterfly coming in.

5. Dragonflies

Along with the butterflies, I ‘ve also seen a few more dragonflies coming in the garden hovering around the patio. I managed the one photo, though not a very exciting one, while it rested momentarily on the fence.

6. Dahlia-Table Dancer

This was purchased last year at the Floral Hall plant sale. There won’t be any plant sale this year, but the church has got its horticulture show competition. I think if I was to enter one vase of dahlias it will probably be this one. I’ve never entered a church horticulture show before but I quite like the quaint aspect of it. If I can keep my sweet peas going I may try a vase of them as well.

I think my garden comes to fruition in late summer. The passionflowers are flourishing, the dahlias are all getting going, the lilies and gladioli are coming out. They’ll be lots to enjoy over the next month. Hope you all have super weekends.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

Propagating heuchera

I had posted on Twitter to say my heuchera cuttings were coming along well and  I was asked how I had grown them. I started these a few months back and they are starting to root. Heuchera are super foliage plants and make up a good part of the permanent foliage tapestry in my front garden. The leaves are usually evergreen and normally manage to stay looking good through winter. They work well in pots on their own or as part of pot displays. However, after a few years, they can get a bit woody and leggy so it is useful to keep a supply on the way as it can be costly to replace some varieties. Heuchera are also vulnerable to vine weevil. So if your plants are attacked it can be a way to provide insurance for their survival.

1. Propagate by division

The easiest way has to be by division. If you have a nice big clump that has been growing a few years you can dig around it and lever it out. Then slice the root ball into several parts. I favour doing this in spring so the divided plants have time to put down roots before the next winter. Once you’ve dug out a section you can either dig the divided parts back in around the border or grow them on in pots. Either way, I aim to keep the root ball slightly above the soil surface to avoid rotting. I generally divide leaving a big section in the space it came out of and then pot up the smaller sections in pots. This way I can make sure they remain moist while they put on roots. I like to water in trays so the soil gets to soak up the water but without getting waterlogged. This is probably one of the easiest and most reliable methods for dividing but you will only get a few extra plants a year. So it is quite slow. For most people, this won’t be an issue as you probably only want a small number of extra or ones to replace leggy ones.

I divided this heuchera marmalade in early spring. It had claimed a good section of the border and I wanted to clear the space for another plant. Rather than waste it, I divided it leaving a section of the heuchera in the border.

Then the divided section has been grown in a pot where I can keep an eye on it to ensure it isn’t drying out while it forms roots.

2. Propagate by seed

If you are looking for a mass of heuchera you can grow from seed. You can get hold of seed either by collecting seed from your plants or you can buy seed. If you collect seed they generally won’t come true from seed, so the offspring may not look like the parent. Palace purple is one of the exceptions that I have found self-seeds from time to time. If you want to buy seeds Chiltern Seeds offer a few varieties in several colours and I’ve generally found reliable. To grow the seed they need a free-draining seed mix. The seeds themselves just need to go on the surface, a light watering and then a tray lid on. They normally take around 10 days to germinate. If they don’t you can place them into a colder space for 4-6 weeks before returning to warmth. While it may take a year or so to get plants up to size this gives you the option to grow a large number of plants. However, there isn’t the selection of buying from a nursery.

3. Propagate by cuttings

I have been growing my heuchera cuttings in a really useful box. I mixed a compost using a peat-free multipurpose, a little bit of grit, and some perlite to help water retention. The compost mix goes in the bottom of the tub and the lid seals in the moisture. I watered before taking cuttings so the cuttings were going into moist but not waterlogged compost. I took cuttings in spring. Some sources recommend autumn after flowering. However, I prefer spring as the cuttings then have the warmer period of the year to put on roots. I only take cuttings from plants that have plenty of growth on that can spare a few stems. I take cuttings from the younger growth choosing smaller leaves. These won’t lose as much water and the juvenile growth seems to root better. I make holes in the compost mix with a small skewer. The cuttings are dipped into rooting powder and then placed into the holes. I try to position them almost on the soil. Leaving just a small gap so they aren’t resting on the compost to avoid rotting. The box lid can go on and then the box needs to go somewhere shaded. This went under my plant display table and has been left there for a few months. Every so often I’ve lifted the lid just to check they are ok and removed the ones which have shrivelled. The majority of the cuttings seem to have taken and I can see roots three months on. These will be grown on until I can either see they have a decent root structure or that they are putting on new growth.

I hope that’s helpful to those of you who asked. Heuchera are great foliage plants. As I said already, they are great for pots and for winter interest. They work well in shade and are great for wildlife. There is lots to like about them and they come in a whole kaleidoscope of colours. If you are looking to buy some I would wholeheartedly recommend Plantsagogo. Vicky and Richard offer an amazing range and they hold the National Collections for heuchera, heucheralla and tiarellas. An impressive feat for a very wide-ranging species. And they are always very helpful in offering advice. They are very useful plants and I wouldn’t want to be without them.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

Six on Saturday: 27.6.20-Joys of Summer

A week of rain followed by a week of the sun has led to lots of plants opening their first blooms of the year.  So much so that it was hard to choose just six, but six is the rules. So let’s get on with these absolute delights.

1. Dutch iris

The first of the Dutch irises are out. So far they’ve come out blue and white. I loved my Reticulata is spring so I’ve been looking to expand my irises. These were a cheap Tesco purchase and they seem happy in the border growing out of ferns and hardy geraniums.

2. Early potatoes

We had our first harvest of early potatoes. These were Duke of York. They’ve grown to a reasonable size. We used the small ones to go with a chicken pie and got some larger ones left for another meal. There are two more bags still growing so we’ll have some more in a few weeks. They were quite a tasty variety. I’d grow them again. This pot I earthed up as we went. One of the others I filled completely at the start to see if it makes a difference.

3. Container pond

I bought a little container pond set from Thompson & Morgan when they were on offer. The kit came with a plastic bowl, planting basket, aquatic compost, and gravel to go on the top. It has come with 3 bare root pond plants. Acorus calamus ‘Argenteostriatus’, Iris pseudacorus, and Pontederia cordata. The bulbs are starting to poke through. I’m not sure how healthy the bulbs were so I’m not sure they will all come up. The hope is to get some dragonflies in. The water is getting a bit of algal growth so I’m having to scoop it off while it sorts its equilibrium.

I’ve used driftwood around the outside to cover part of the plastic and form a slope up to it.

4. Cornflowers ‘black ball’

At the start of lockdown, I gave Alice lots of the seed packets that had come free with magazines that could be sown direct. She scattered them all over leading to a mass of marigolds this year. These were a cornflower that I think wablack ball. The flowers are quite pretty little black fluffy things.

The stems are pretty ugly with a wispy white look that looks pretty diseased. Alice must have emptied these into quite a small space as they are all coming up together, so I’ve rigged up a support of driftwood, again, along the edge of the border with string to tidy it up a bit.

Despite the ruffles the bees still seem interested.

5. Passionflowers

The passionflowers have all clumped together on one bit of fence. I’ve spread the growth out a bit so it can gradually turn the whole section green. We have the first flowers which are a lot earlier than last year.

6. Hosta Bressingham Blue

This is one of my largest hostas grown in a very large pot. It has large blue leaves making it slightly less appealing to slugs. It is coming into flower with its large white blooms.

Some people cut the flower stalks off as they want the plant purely for foliage, but I think they are rather nice.

The garden is looking lovely right now but we’ve had the news that we are going to have to have more building work as the render was applied wrong. This means I’m going to have to clear the patio again at some point in the future. With this in mind, I’m going to be looking at whether any of the patio plants can be potted into the border. A lot of the current pots are temporary like the veg pots and the dahlias but have to see if I can find spots for some of the hostas and heucheras as I don’t fancy them all sat on the lawn again. I’m also adding a second shed so I’ve got the dumping area to clear ready.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.