Horsetail

The horrors of Horsetail… (Equisetum arvense)

The garden is infested with Horsetail or Mare’s tail.

In the garden there were slabs set into mill-waste then concrete around the edges of the grass.  We took up this pink and buff coloured eyesore and replaced it with slate paddlestones to compliment the slate style patio next to the house.  The Mare’s tail was already there and had grown between the slabs and the concrete sub base.  The long black runners were visible in some places and in others were completely below ground.  Unfortunately it now has free reign and has spread further into the grass and even made its way up into the new raised beds through the weed membrane…

Mare's tail growing in the path by the steps

It is unstoppable!

I read about a gas weed burner.  Apparently this small device can be used on paving and paths and is good for perennial weeds.  Heating or lightly singeing the weeds will make them die back.   This needs to be done repeatedly but should be easier than hand weeding…  The burner I saw was small, had an ignition switch and took a gas bottle the size of an aerosol can…

My ‘other half’ went to the hire shop and was very enthusiastic about the burner he found there.  Here it is…

Gas burner

Initially I wondered why it was covered in tar,  this made sense when I read the leaflet and found it was used for working on flat roofs! At this point I felt rather nervous and went to fill up the watering cans!

burning weeds

When lit, which was rather difficult, it certainly was powerful.  From the safe distance of the house I could see clouds of burning weed and chunks of blacked Mare’s tail blowing into the evening sky.  It was rather noisy too…

Negotiating the plants, wooden raised beds, grass and pots was done without injury.  It was a very high powered device and was rather ‘over specified’ for this task.  The weeds weren’t just heated up they were incinerated.  We only used this in the path and had water ready to damp down all the areas that were affected.

The ‘Before’ picture is above, so here is the ‘After’ picture.

burnt Mare's tail in the path

I wonder how long it will take before it grows back?  I will enjoy the Mare’s tail free garden while I can!

So until next time…

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Sunshine and blue flowers!

Camassia quamash – well worth waiting for!

I added a new banner picture today because I was so thrilled with these flowers and, as you can see, the bees love them!

I ordered the bulbs from Sarah Raven last autumn.  I hoped that they would look stunning left to naturalise in the grass as I had already decided to let it become a ‘wild meadow’.  Carol Klein’s wonderful book, ‘Life in a Cottage Garden’ described them and the photos looked too good to resist.  What do you think?

Camassis in the grass

I realised a couple of years ago that the grass was never going to be a ‘lawn’.  The endless routine of scarifying, moss killing, weed-and-feed was not for me.  At our previous garden we had a ‘wildflower meadow’ at the far end under a mature tree.  In this small garden I realised that I missed the constant buzz of insects, the changes throughout the season and the sheer variety of plants, flowers and wildlife that it attracted.

So, I decided that I could try to adapt our small suburban patch of grass.  Here is a more detailed view of the Camassia.  They are such a rich blue, not purple like the flowers on the Chelsea Flower Show television programme this evening.

Camassis flower and bumble bee

A welcome surprise this evening after work… next I need to see whether any of the tomato seeds are worth keeping.

Lets hope the sunny weather is here to stay!

April showers and flowers…

Phew…! I suppose this is typical April weather but it doesn’t make it easy to get outside in the garden…

I have only had time to potter around this week after work but have been pleased to see the flowers are really starting to come up.

My ‘star flowers’ at the moment are the fritillary flowers.  I do love these so much and am thrilled that they have come up in the raised beds on the shady side of the garden.  In the Autumn I will plant some more into the grass…  I had a photo I particularly liked so I have added it as a banner in the site, it think it looks very dramatic.  As a contrast, here is my only white flower.  It looks so delicate!

Beautiful white fritillary flower

What else is there…?

The clematis montana is full of small flower buds and its new leaves have just appeared this week.  I think the flowers will be a pale pink fading to white but I can’t remember which variety I bought last year.  How exciting, it will be a surprise when it flowers!

clematis montana buds against the trellis

Also at the end of the garden my white bergenia has flowered and also there are mysterious new bulbs sprouting in the grass.  They don’t look very exciting yet but I am hoping they are my blue camassia bulbs.

white bergenia flowers  new bulbs in grass

I also bought two little plants to brighten up the garden (they won’t be planted together) because they would really COLOUR CLASH.

A two coloured grape hyacinth and a really dramatic celandine ‘Brazen Hussy’.  The colour contrast between the acid yellow flower petals and the deep purple, almost black leaves is fabulous!  The flower is so bright you almost need sunglasses on to look at it!

white and light blue grape hyacinths  celandine brazen hussy flower

close up of celandine flower

What will flower next?  My tree peony is still in bud, I don’t suppose there has been enough sun yet but it does seem rather early as the peony at the front garden has only just started growing.  I also noticed a very, very early california poppy bud.  I shall keep an eye on these.

tree peony bud  california poppy buds

My seeds aren’t doing much yet but the Rudbeckia is showing tiny, tiny shoots…

Let’s hope that sunshine is on its way.  (Although the rain is very welcome and a good chance to top up the water butt).

At last!

I haven’t had much time recently to get out into the garden – but – this weekend made a start again, weeding, checking for signs of new growth, cutting back and doing a bit of tidying…

Over the past few days I have been admiring the beautiful magnolia flowers in the area, both Magnolia stellata and Magnolia grandiflora are looking fabulous in spite of the recent overnight frosts.  So, I thought this morning as I was driving to work – has mine flowered yet???

Well it has,  AT LAST! (in its own small way, it was a new plant last year).  Ready?

Magnolia Stellata flower opening

Magnolia Stellata flower open

I just love these flowers!  They look amazing with the low sunshine glowing through the petals!  They are the ‘star’ plants in the garden at the moment!

So what else is there?

I had to ‘tame’ the lovely Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’.  It has spread along the raised bed at the side of the garden, it’s making headway in the space that the Phormium used to inhabit.  I had to cut some back as it was overshadowing the neighbouring plants but I wondered if I can get it to root.  I did take a cutting last autumn which is still growing but I don’t know if it is too late in the year to do this now… I will find out soon I guess.

Euphorbia Cuttings Euphorbia sprouting

Also on the shady side of the garden I noticed a really tiny cluster of spotty leaves… very exciting to see – this tiny plant is, deep breath, Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Spotted Orchid).  And yes, I typed that up from the plant label!

Spotted orchid leaves

I’ve just noticed that the leaves have been eaten at the edges!

Moving over to the sunny side of the garden spent some time weeding out foxglove and nigella self sown seedlings.  Then I noticed that the tree peony, also purchased last year is not just alive – I really thought it was going to die – but has FLOWER BUDS!  I counted 5!

Tree peony buds

On top of that the Sambucas Nigra is still alive – it is shooting up so my drastic pruning hasn’t killed it this year!

Happy days, enjoy your gardening!

Pruning…

I never look forward to this.  Each Spring I look at the Sambucus Nigra and I know I have to prune it (quite drastically) but each year I worry that I will kill it.

It has grown far, far, too tall so it must be done and TODAY is the day.

Sambucus Nigra before pruning

I think I was carried away this time, there doesn’t seem to be a lot left…

Sambucus Nigra prunings Sambucus Nigra pruned

Once again, I hope I haven’t killed it this year!

On a more positive note my Eucomis ‘sparkling burgundy’ bulbs are showing some green tips.  On Gardeners World the advice was to water bulbs and leave for (I think) a month.  So, I will visit these again in a few weeks…

Eucomis sparkling burgundy bulbs

Time to chop up the Sambucus and then have a cup of tea I think!

Starting up…

It’s been a lovely warm and sunny day!  Such a shame to be at work, sitting in an office working at a PC.

However – when I came home I had two packets full of growing potential lying on the doormat.  SEEDS!  Mine were mail order from Dobies of Devon and Sarah Raven’s Kitchen Garden.

Before I opened the envelopes I went outside to see what was ‘happening’ in the garden.  Very pleased to see that my crocus bulbs have flowered – dark purple, light purple, white, yellow and a lovely white and purple.  A really good start to the ‘wild’ part of the grass.

Crocus flowers in the grass white and purple crocus flowers

Also there were crocus flowers at the edge of the slate path right next to the raised beds.  Surprisingly these are on the north facing side of the garden.  They look bright and cheerful and really brighten things up.

crocus flowers growing at the edge of the path

Back indoors to look at the seeds!

Packets are rather large… how many have I ordered….?  Also how and where am I going to sow them!  At least some of them can be sown directly outside, probably in May.

I have:

  • Aquilegia Lime Sorbet
  • Agastache Liquorice Blue
  • Beetroot Boltardy
  • Beetroot Burpee’s Golden
  • Basil Gecofure
  • Coriander Calypso
  • Cosmos bipinnatus Purity
  • Cosmos dark mix
  • Delphinium best blues
  • Erigeron Profusion
  • Lettuce green oak leaf
  • Leaf beet Bright Lights
  • Lobelia Mrs Cilbran
  • Limnanthes Douglasii
  • Nicotiana sylvestris
  • Nicotiana Lime Green
  • Nigella papillosa African Bride
  • Night Phlox
  • Summer salad leaf mix
  • Salvia virdis Blue Clary
  • Tomato Maskotka
  • Tomato Lizzano F1
  • Verbena bonariensis

Spring – I’m ready whenever it arrives!

Enjoy your seed ordering / sowing / planting / planning!

Seeds shopping list

Just what I need to brighten myself up.

A shopping list of seeds and plants.  Deep breath, here goes:

Beetroot:

  • Boltardy – grew this last year and was pleased with the results, the beets weren’t too large and tasted great.
  • Burpee’s Golden – not sure about the name but it looks good.  Also am keen to try a yellow beetroot.  Does it taste the same as the red I wonder?

Salad leaves

  • Salad bowl – green mixed leaves
  • Delicato – red salad bowl

Tomatoes

  • Maskotka – grew this outside in large pots last year.  It was  an easy plant to grow and produced lots and lots of fruit.
  • Lizzano F1 – apparently blight resistant and suitable for growing in containers outside
Herbs
  • Basil – keeps very well on the kitchen windowsill too
  • Leaf Coriander – love the flavour, must grow again
Fruit
  • Gooseberries – seldom see these in the shops so am really, really tempted to try growing a gooseberry bush.  There are so many varieties to choose from too!  Haven’t made my mind up just yet…
  • Rhubarb – must try and grow this.  I wonder if it will grow in a deep tub or bin?

Flowers

  • Poached egg plant – love these flowers – they look so ‘sunny’!
  • Lobelia – love these tiny flowers that grow in clusters.  Very keen on the dark blue/purples
  • Nigella – love these!  Flowers in so many colours and the seed heads are beautiful too.  Choc Ice looks very stylish but I also love the mixed colours too.
  • Night Phlox – I thought I had bought this last year but I soon realised that I had mis-heard what my Dad said his plants were.  I went out and bought night-scented stock.  – What a mistake!
  • Nicotiana – grew the lime green last year and it was so dramatic (and large).  Need to decide which variety to choose this year.  Perhaps I could find space for two…
  • Erigeron – this looks lovely spilling out of paths, steps and edges.  I hope I can introduce it around the place to soften the edges.
  • Cosmos – never grown this but spotted it in a front garden in a village near by.  Thought it was stunning and so lovely to see clouds of flowers and leaves in August / September.  Not sure about the variety as I’m not keen on the ‘bubble gum pink’.  I would prefer either white or the dark pink… hmm

Now where am I going to sow/grow all of these?  I haven’t got a greenhouse, I use a small garage with a clear carport type roof then grow the veg in pots on the sunny patio.

I’m sure I will find the space!

Enjoy your seed shopping, let’s look ahead to Spring!

For inspiration (sigh!) have a look at:

Brrrrr!!

I had wondered where the winter weather was… but hadn’t quite expected this!

On Saturday morning took a photo of the snowdrops at the front.  They are flowering much later and the clump is much smaller than the snowdrops at the back.  Also I have no idea what variety these are as there is no label to be seen…

small snowdrops black ivy berries in the sunshine

Note to myself – must be more organised! (as always)

The ivy on the front fence, which belongs to our neighbours, looks great – leaves shiny and bright green plus it is full of black berries.  The birds are supposed to like to eat these but they rarely do.  I think it is because this is right next to the pavement and the birds don’t feel very secure.

I took a photo of the insect box when I had a look to see if there were any bees ‘at home’.  Sadly there weren’t but perhaps they will find it next year… It looks so untidy, very unlike the neat ones that you can buy in the shops.  (Don’t suppose that makes any difference to the bees though).

Also the pond has a layer of ice on the top.  No sign of the fish but I think that is a good thing at the moment.  The plant leaves look lovely frozen in place.  Another job for the spring tidy up.

leaves frozen in the pond insect house

Snow starts to fall… Perfect excuse to finalise my list of seeds to order!

Keep warm!

Tidy up!

Today was the day…

Well, the day that I started tidying up after winter…  I stopped when there was no more space in the green bin and I decided that a cup of tea and biscuit(s) in the warmth was what I needed!

magnolia bud

Not sure if my magnolia stellata will actually flower this spring… there are plenty of buds but they don’t look very ‘fat’.  Is there a flower inside here??

Because I was clearing away so much dead leaves/twigs/grasses etc I was on the look out for new ‘greenery’.  This garden seems to be so far behind others I have seen.  There aren’t many new shoots showing yet!  Perhaps I’m too impatient…

I do have some bulbs showing green leaves but not many flowers.  I thought that grape hyacinths were fairly indestructible – not for me though!

The holly bush still has berries and this looked very bright and cheerful so I thought I would add this photo – even though holly is usually thought of in connection with Christmas.

red holly berries variegated leaves

I was pleased to see some ladybirds ‘hibernating’ (do they do this?) in the garden… Last autumn I made a ‘insect house’ and stacked it with lengths of bamboo.  – This was difficult   to do as bamboo is hard to cut and none of the bits I cut were the same length when I had finished.  Today I saw that bits had fallen out so I filed in the gaps with euphorbia stems (hollow and easy to cut to size).  So this is now finished – but where were the ladybirds?

…These ladybirds preferred the trellis and a dead foxglove leaf!

ladybirds in dead foxglove leaf ladybirds on trellis

Showers and new shoots

winter sun shining through bambooIt isn’t easy to get out in the garden at the moment…

The showers are blowing along quickly and everywhere is so wet.  The low sunlight through the black bamboo does look lovely though.

Its not a good idea to walk on clay soil (which is heavy enough anyway) so to get to the ‘wild’ corner and the pond I walk across the grass and just stick to the stepping stone path.

clump of snowdrops

I’ve seen spring flowers in other people’s gardens but only have one small clump of snowdrops here.  Perhaps I need to split the clump up after they have flowered…?

Last year I had some double flowers in the front garden but there is no sign of them at all at the moment…

I have some green shoots that may be grape hyacinths but no sign of flowers to give me a clue.  I really should have put some plant labels in the ground rather than trying to remember where the bulbs are.

I have a small success through!  I planted bulbs in the ‘wild’ part of the grass and today noticed that the spring crocus is about to flower!  So far I have four flowers (not a great show, I know) and checking back in my scrapbook I see that I bought 35  ‘snow crocus’ bulbs which are a mixture of  purple, light purple, yellow and white.  So far, my 4 flowers are purple but I’m quite happy that they have grown!

purple crocus in grassThe picture isn’t the most exciting but I think it is a good start to the ‘wild’ patch in the garden.

I also have other bulbs shooting up, these are the alliums that I planted last autumn.  I’m rather confused by this, it is far too early in the year for these isn’t it?

Such strange weather!

Anyway, my next ‘task’ is to choose what veg seeds to buy.  Just the thing to do on a grey, wet, windy day…