Six on Saturday-Agatha Christie

I have just finished reading Agatha Christie’s murder at the vicarage. Within Christie’s work gardens and gardening come up again and again. Miss Marple is an avid gardener enjoying the opportunities it gives her to observe the comings and goings in her village. Garden parties are a regular setting. Christie herself even had a rather lovely rose named after her. In Miss Marple’s final case we know she is getting on as she is advised not to exert herself gardening. So I thought this week I would look at six Agatha Christie gardening links.

1. Deadheading the roses

I understand, Miss Marple that Mrs. Protheroe passed this way yesterday evening?

Yes, she did. I called out to her, and she admired my roses.

Miss Marple spends much time tending her roses. This gives her ample time to be a busy body observing her neighbourhood. My roses are doing very well but I am now having to start on my deadheading. Lots more blooms coming through. I have a mix of repeat flowering roses and old roses.

2. Secateurs

Miss Marple favoured bypass secateurs for her pruning as do I. I’m sure she’d appreciate the gold leaf gloves as well.

3. Poison plants

Agatha Christie worked for a period as a dispenser and had a knowledge of poisonous plants. Torre Abbey even has a garden dedicated to the poisonous plants of Christie’s novels. In Postern of fate, foxgloves were planted in amongst sage the murderer knew would be collected for the evening’s meal. My foxgloves are going over but they have held up well through rain and wind.

4. Ferns

I am developing several areas with ferns. The corner near the shed has the most established. One of the supposed highlights of Christie’s garden, though I’ve never visited, is the fernery. I have found myself giving more space over to ferns and the front garden is going to be largely ferns and hostas.

5. Rocks

“Yes.” she said, it must have come as a very nasty shock for him to come across you just then. But her turned it off very well-pretending he was bringing it to me for me for my rock gardens. Only-Miss Marple became suddenly very emphatic. “It was the wrong sort of stone for my rock gardens! And that put me on the right track!”

Even the wrong sort of rock can set Miss Marple on your case. I’ve dug in a few rocks we had spare to go in the front garden. I’d like to look at cultivating the moss for a more natural look. Natural yoghurt mixed with compost is supposed to work.

6. Mystery plant

Christie wrote great mysteries so here is one for all of you. My mum gave me two of these seedlings but didn’t know what they were. Gardens hour suggested morning glory but now we have flowers I can see that was wrong. Anyone solve the case?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this literary-themed six. Any other good gardens out there in literature? Now I finished one Christie I face the problem of what to read next as everything seems inferior after.

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30 Days Wild: day 11-Save water

Today I’m looking at saving water in the garden. We have recently added two water butts One 300-litre beast in the back garden and one smaller 100-litre butt in the front garden. For the last week, I’ve been watering purely using the butts. Granted it has rained lots but as I’ve got quite a few newly planted trees and shrubs I want to make sure they are staying damp. At the bottom end, you can pay £30 for a cheap butt to make a big difference.

Installing a butt has many advantages both for the environment and practical:

    • If you’re on a water metre it saves money. In the future more of us may be put on metres if droughts continue. Get prepared!
    • Less water is taken out of rivers for drinking water. Up to 70% of the water from our taps is used for gardens at peak times. This means water companies have to drain streams and groundwater reducing valuable habitats for many species.
    • Most plants prefer rainwater to tap water, particularly if you live in an area of hard water like me.
    • It can save time and effort walking to the tap. This has helped me in the front garden where I have to walk a long way around.
    • It’s estimated if everyone in the UK used a butt we could save a reservoir worth of water.
    • It saves energy. Water treatment plants use up lots of energy so butts help save energy.
    • It potentially reduces flood risk. As you are reducing the water going down the drain it helps stop the drains get full.

Hope this inspires you to add one if you don’t already have a butt. We’ve already had one person in the neighbourhood say they’ve ordered one having seen ours at the front which is great news.

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30 Days of Wild: Idea 10-Write a wild poem

Writing a wild poem doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer there are simple enough forms for everyone.

Acrostic poems are a simple choice. You choose a word and write one word or sentence beginning with each letter in the word. For example wild:

Wonderful

Interesting

Lively

Day

The lost words by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane has great examples.  The John Muir trust put together a great guide on using this book in the classroom.

Haiku are another easy option. I’ve recently had one featured in the Wildlife Trusts 365 days wild book.

Haikus follow a set format. Three lines. The first line has five syllables, the second seven, then the third five syllables. Traditional zen thought is that the poem should form naturally. They shouldn’t be forced just what comes to mind. They shouldn’t have lots of time put it into them. They are capturing a quick moment and then moving on.

Gracefully flying

Flitting flower to flower

Never staying still

Please share if you give a poem a try. I’d love to read.

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Six on Saturday: 8.6.19-Cottage garden favourites

This week I seem to have ended up with a selection of Cottage Garden favourites. The building work is almost done now and the borders are full of activity with lots still to come up. I’ve spiked the lawn as it was badly damaged by building work and spread new seed. It will recover quickly enough but looks bad currently. We’ve had good bursts of sun and rain which should help. The front garden has had a few plants put in and I’m hoping to get a bit further this weekend.

1. Foxgloves

They are one of my favourites. The tall spires are always great to see and beloved by bees. I’ve got a mixture growing this year. Some I grew from seed, some that self-seeded and a few cheap ones purchased. Many of the varieties this year seem short so I’m going to start growing some taller types to make sure they are standing proud in the border next year.

2. Lupins

Last year I planted several patches of lupins. They were all devastated by slugs and snails with the exception of this on that is growing strong. It has been surrounded by sheep wool pellets to act as protection. It’s done the job well.

3. Honeysuckle Belgica

This early Dutch honeysuckle was planted last year. I planted this one on the edge of the patio with the intention that it will grow up to give the scent on the patio. I have some native honeysuckle in the corner of the border but no one ever gets close enough to enjoy it. This is growing up well gradually claiming a good section of fence. I’m gradually getting different climbers established along the fence to build up the greenery.

4. Marigolds

My mum planted a handful two years ago. I allow a few to self-seed and come back each year.

5. Azalea japonica-Agadir

I bought this little azalea last year. It’s not really my taste but I know Amy likes the one at her dads. It’s put on a good amount of growth since buying and has more flowers than I expected for its first year. It’s bold and brash so I’ve currently got it down by the bench at the end of the garden as it stands out from a distance.

6. Rose Scarlett Paul

Another addition from last year. I planted two of these bare root climbers last year. They have put on loads of growth and I’ve been working on training horizontal branches to encourage flowers. It’s covered in buds that are starting to open. It’s about a third of the way up the fence. In another year or so this should cover all of this fence section. Again, like the azalea, the flowers are bold and showy. This one doesn’t have any scent to speak of but there are two old roses still to flower with great scent.

Tomorrow is open gardens in my area so I’m hoping to get out and have a good look through lots of other peoples gardens. It didn’t run last year but the previous visit was great. There are some spectacular gardens around me and it gave me some great inspiration for what would probably do well in my garden when I first started out. If I get out you can expect mass numbers of photos

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30 Days Of Wild: Idea 1 painting stones

A simple idea to kick off my ideas for 30 days wild that only requires a little bit of preparation of finding a stone beforehand. Now taking stones from the beach is illegal and the craze for painting rocks last year drove my wife crazy as we were seeing people taking bucket loads of stones from the beach. So there have been campaigns to decorate and then return the rock to the beach. The kindness rocks project shows lots of nice ideas of people writing messages onto their rocks. The artist Jackie Morris is in the habit of decorating and returning rocks with her lovely spiral Celtic Maze designs in gold. If you plan to do this as a teacher with your class please source the stones responsibly.

For some reason, Alice doesn’t like to keep her rock painted. We’ve painted the same rock multiple times over the last month and she’s then wiped it. But never mind she’s enjoyed it.

I’ve done a simple design to sit on top of the bug hotel in the garden after a varnish. I may do an equally simple bee design next to go alongside this.

Hope you’re all getting involved with 30 days wild and have enjoyed your first day.

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Front garden update

The building work is almost at an end. The front of the house is rendered and the brick has been repainted grey. I’ve been hard at work prepping the ground ready for planting.

The ground was covered in pebbles and under this weed matting. Unfortunately, the pebbles have been covered and don’t really do a proper job of suppressing weeds. So I’ve worked taking this all up to get back to the soil under the matting to start afresh making most of this area into a planting area. The ground under is pretty solid clay so I’m working on breaking it up with the mattock. I’m improving the soil structure mixing in some Dalefoot compost in my bid to go peat free and some calcified seaweed. In theory, this should improve the plants chance of taking and growing in the clay soil as well as adding some nutrients.

The removed pebbles have been put down the passage behind the garden to create a more stable path through winter. This becomes a quagmire in wet weather so hopefully, this will improve access year round.

I’ve hammered out the stones that lined the border with the removed hebes. These have quite a bit of concrete still around them. I’m reckon I can still use them though scattered round the border. I’m planning to plant Ilex crenata along this edge creating dark evergreen domes. I’ve got the plants ready to go in. I’m just waiting on the builders to finish their last few jobs so planting can commence.

The path is getting redone with tiles. This should smarten it up from a cracked concrete path. I’ve got to weed it prior to the tiler coming.

While the builders are doing the pipes we’re having a water butt added. This might save me the odd trip round to the tap at the back.

Then the side border of the paths is going to become a bin hideaway and possibly a log store. Neither particularly interesting gardening features but necessary. We may not get a chance to do this until the Summer holiday though.

I’ve made a hanging basket ready. I’d looked into alternatives to the traditional basket of bedding plants and come up with this. The birdcage came from Amazon. It’s been lined with some spare capillary matting. I cut a circle out of a bin bag to put on top to help keep water in. The soil mix has some vermiculite in to help water retention. The plants are coleus, ophiopogon planiscapus and nepeta. The nepeta trails over the edge of the cage. The coleus and opiopogon I thought would contrast nicely in colour and leaf shape. Time will tell how it holds up through Summer but overall I’m happy with the look of it.

I’ve been building plants up for a while buying things up on the cheap. The main focus of the planting is going to be hydrangea limelight in the middle. This will have plenty of space to grow out. The long season of interest should make this a good focal point. Then I have a mixture of ferns, hostas and heucheras to fill around it. Currently it’s all sitting on the back patio.

Along the house wall, I’m planning to pave the edge so we still have access to the windows. Then I have two window boxes made up ready.

I’m itching to get going on the planting up now, but need to wait on the last few builders jobs. But hopefully won’t be too much longer. It’s going to be a slow process for the plants establishing but I’m optimistic that it will work out well.

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The Big Dahlia Experiment

This year is my first year growing dahlias. Through looking at lots of stunning #dahlialove through six on Saturday blogs I decided this year I’d dip my toe in and try and grow some. I’ve got a few tubers hidden away for when the risk of frost has gone and I’m also trying the seed option as well. Dahlias are very tender to frosts so I’ve been trying to time this so they would be viable plants but not put out too early that they would shrivel in the cold.

Now there aren’t many dahlia options that come up reliably looking anything like what they claim to be but Sarah Raven’s Bishops children claim to be a good reliable option. They have dark foliage and then plum, orange or red flowers. While being quite ornamental and good for cut flowers they still have the RHS perfect for pollinators award satisfying my desire to provide for wildlife.

Dahlia seeds and Alice’s choice of passion flowers

I’m lacking space to grow seeds this year with building work going on so I’m restricted to a few propagators in the spare room. These were sown in a medium sized propagator a few cm apart. At a week in the seeds were going strong with almost 100% germination success. I didn’t expect them to germinate or grow so fast.

One week of growth

We are now a couple of weeks into growing and they’ve been ready to prick out into individual pots. They’ve gone into 10cm pots I found in the shed. While I am cutting the single plastic use down no sense in not using these when they are already there. As already said I am lacking space in the house and as almost every seed germinated I have a lot of dahlia seedlings now. So I am going to trail different options for the seedlings.

I have put a handful back in the propagator they came out of and they have gone back in the spare room with a few grow lights for company. These are not on all the time just a few hours in the evening when I am around to supplement the light. The lid is coming on and off to give them the chance to have air circulation. There is cappilary matting at the bottom to give them a water source.

Then another handful are also sharing the spare room in a really useful box. It was suggested on Twitter that these could be used for propagators and as cold frames. This box is a bit small but it will do to get them established in the 10cm pots.

Then I have a much larger really useful box that is going in and out on the warmer days. As it gets warmer and the risk of frosts at night lowers I may risk leaving them out and start to harden them off to cold.

Then as there were still a couple I had left they have gone in a spare plastic box upside down. As this is an effort to move these are staying outside on top of Alice’s mud kitchen which is currently in the middle of the lawn while building work goes on. I imagine they have lower chances of survival but currently, the weather forecast is good for the next week so we’ll have to see.

So, watch this space to see how the really useful box cold frame works out. If even a handful of these make it to full size I’m going to have a good display of dahlias so fingers crossed. Any advice is greatly received. I’m going back to read Naomi Slade’s wonderful book for what to do next.

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