Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Mistaken Identity (also known as Not-Quite-Sure-What-The-Hell-I'm-Doing!)

Saxifraga Peniculata 'Rosea'! THAT'S the name of the pink flowering plant I posted a picture of in last week's blog.  Lord knows where I got the other one from...........Note to self:  check several websites and books when trying to ID a plant which has lost it's label; don't just go for the first one you see!  So with it finally named correctly it can carry on helping to keep the weeds at bay in my border and rockery by slowly spreading itself across the ground.  Useful little plant and extremely pretty - I think I'll look out for some more varieties to plant on the rockery.

Now correctly identified, the Saxifraga adds a spash of colour to
borders and banks in my garden

Thankfully I had a quick reply from my brother and his partner Dancin' Fool (who also has an arboricultural blog - The Green Man) last week about the damage to one of my apple trees; frost damage apparently.  Although not good news, I have to admit to being slightly relieved that it wasn't caused by any animal...I get all sorts in the garden; rabbits, badgers and foxes.  Anyway, here's his suggestions for looking after the tree.  I've copied this straight from his email:
a) wrap the damaged area in hessian and leave it on as long as necessary
b) 30g of 'Tate & Lyle' per 1 litre of water per 1 square metre - this will artificially provide the tree with sugars (that it would normally obtain from photosynthesis) and encourage fibrous root development. Do this once a month for the next 4-5 months and repeat again same time next year. You could also try it on your other newly planted trees (or anything else that's struggling and requires photosynthesis) The more fibrous roots that a young tree (plant) can develop, the healthier it will be and the more able it will be to fight off any secondary 'host specific' pests & diseases that may want to take advantage of the exposed wound. 
c) If the tree isn't staked, you should stake it (windward side) and place the ties around the wound area to relieve any structural stresses. 
d) Don't prune it (except to remove damaged, diseased twigs & leaves 
e) pray
c) is already taken care of; d) is fine because I haven't pruned it so that just leaves a) and b) to carry out and then rely heavily on a lot of e).

Saturday afternoon was spent at The Lost Gardens of Heligan with a group from the dementia project - Creative Spaces. Small groups of residents and staff from the care home spent a lovely couple of hours wandering around the Northern Gardens with young people and their parents from the community.  One lad was provided with a recording microphone by a local radio station so that he could record some of his conversations with one resident.  It's going to go out on the station's gardening programme shortly.  These two chaps have formed a bond over the past 18 months and it was a delight to come across them sitting on a bench on Flora's Green, just enjoying their surroundings; not chattering but sitting quietly, arms and hands linked.

Unfortunately, due to a bout of illness over Sunday I didn't get any work done in the garden at the weekend.  However, a short walk up to the top revealed that the brambles this year have been replaced with intermittent 'rugs' of Forget-Me-Nots, gatherings of Bluebells, Red Campion and Buttercups. I even discovered one tiny Wild Violet that was struggling towards the light through a clump of nettles.  Ah yes, the nettles return each year........little do they know that the strimmer is coming in for a clean up this weekend in preparation for much use!

Does anyone else have an invasion of Hairy Bittercress? I pull it out of the borders around the lawn every year and this year it's gone mad in the rest of the garden; particularly in the area beyond the vegetable garden.  Reading up on it, in Richard Mabey's 'Food For Free', I've discovered that you can actually eat the whole plant; I thought you could just eat the leaves.  According to the book it goes well with cream cheese (sorry Jane!).  It has beautiful, delicate flowers which can be appreciated either by getting on your hands and knees with a magnifying lens or, like me, using the super macro on your camera.  The seed pods protrude from within the flower and look as though the stem has pushed through and beyond the petals.  Even the slightest brush allows them to scatter their seeds on the helpful to us gardeners!

A small army of Hairy Bittercress; strim or salad?

Take a closer look; there's beauty in weeds

Have a wonderful Easter everyone and I hope you all have a great time outdoors (illnesses and weather permitting!).

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Friends + Fresh Air = Fun!

I had a really enjoyable Saturday morning up at the care home as part of the dementia project.  With the garden redevelopment well under way I thought we'd get the residents and young people growing plants to go in it once it's finished.  There was quite a group of us; staff, residents, young people from the local school and one of the relatives, whose a gardener, ran the session and had us sowing seeds, pricking out and potting on.  Obviously tea, juice and biscuits were involved, and with the sun shining and a slight breeze we spent a great few hours outside as a group of friends, laughing, chatting and helping each other. You can't help but come away from those moments feeling positive and proud.

I came home and got stuck into transplanting my own small plants, from seed trays to small pots and then moving them out into the mini greenhouse.  Was I inspired by the morning session? I guess so!  I spend a lot of time in my garden by myself.  Not that I mind, I find it's a place where I can think whilst I'm busy with my hands and gardening is very good for the soul of course. But I think the time that we spend with friends outside are some of the best times we have.  Whether it's in each others gardens or a day out together these times are often creative, inspirational and fun. I look forward to having many more of these days during this project.

So, how are my plants doing?  Well, the second lot of cauliflowers are looking better than the first; only 3 survived from the first batch. I'm not sure what killed off the first ones, so as a precaution against slugs and snails I've battened down the sides of the little greenhouse with planks of wood underneath which I've buried the 'skirt' of the greenhouse and then packed the wood in tight with soil and straw. If anything crawls over the wood it's only going to come across the plastic barrier. In addition to that, I've also sprinkled some anti-slug granules around the edge of the greenhouse - see if that works.  That's the theory at least!

An almost full 'greenhouse' housing sweetcorn, broccoli, leeks,
cauliflower,tomatoes, a couple of sad-looking brussel sprout plants
and a tray of, what I believe are Asters

I took a wander up beyond the vegetable area to look at the apple trees this weekend.  The two Sunsets are in full bloom and look amazing. At least double the flowers on them this year than last, despite the fact that I left half a dozen on last year just to taste my first home-grown apples! Not so the Plympton Pippins.  One has a few flowers on it and the other has nothing at all.  Oh dear! what's going on there?  To add to my disappointment I've found some bark damage on the one that has a few flowers on it. Not sure what that is but I've put in a plea to my friend Dancin' Fool who also runs a blog called The Green Man and her partner Mr. Dancin' (my brother!) to identify what the problem is and what may have caused it.

A Sunset apple tree in full bloom; planted last year
Not such good news for one of my Plympton Pippins
 - what's been having a go at this?

No more has been done to the fence around the raised beds.  Sadly that's going to have to wait until next pay day before I can get any more wire mesh.  Fingers crossed it won't be too long before it's finished and I can get some seeds sown into the ground, as well as getting my greenhouse plants actually into the ground. I don't want to miss the growing season another year.

I'm going to end this post with some lovely pics of flowering plants that are growing well in the garden at the moment.  Always end of a good note!

The first bluebells appear

Dainty Bleeding Hearts

Lost the label for this one but I think it's an Eridium
Forget-me-nots are in abundance this year due to full-on strimming
of The Field last year!