Lots to get on with in the garden today so not much horticultural chat and more time for gardening activities.
Lil and Karin continued the work on lowering the hawthorn hedge.
‘Pete the Pond’ arrived to work on clearing and sorting out the pond with the assistance of Ann, Julia and Pat.
The other big task of the day was to take down the old shed and to sort out all the contents. The demolition team particularly enjoyed the challenge and we now await arrival of the new replacement shed.
Other tasks included working in the greenhouse, pricking out and sowing seeds and dividing the oregano.
Reading week at the Garden House and an opportunity for the Friday group to catch up on any horticultural activities over half term, share book recommendations and listen to a couple of readings from favourite gardening books. Ann had enjoyed a visit to the RHS spring plant and potato fair in London (see photos).
Other recommendations included Piet Oudolf’s new garden in Bruton, Somerset, a bark trail at Wakehurst place, the gardens at Eltham Palace, Wilderness Woods in East Sussex and Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk.
Some group members chose to read gardening books-
Others continued with some gardening activities:
- sorting out the cold frames
- sowing seeds
- and Ruth, Hilary with some help from Susie continued to work on reducing the height of the hawthorn hedge
Happy Birthday Dinah!
Ann gave a talk to the group today about growing begonias. Ann has grown begonias very successfully in pots in her garden, they will grow well in shade and are not susceptible to damage from slugs and snails.
Begonias are a genus of about 900 species but Ann focused particularly on tuberous begonias including in particular pendula begonias which have a cascading habit and a long flowering season. They often have dark green pointed leaves and the flowers are in small clusters. The tubers are kept dormant over winter in frost free conditions in the same way as dahlias. In March/April they can be put into a shallow seed tray, hollow side up and covered with compost and kept moist.
They then need to be kept in warm enough conditions such as a greenhouse or conservatory. When the leaves start to show they can be potted on, they need to be hardened off and planted outside in mid May when there is no danger of frosts. They should be fed every week once they are in growth with a high potassium feed such as tomato food. They can be potted on and can grow quite large.
The tubers will need to be lifted before the first frosts. Tuberous begonias can be propagated by dividing once shoots have started to appear on the tuber, making sure when cutting the tuber that each piece has at least one bud and some root.
So lots of good advice on growing these plants and the pictures from Ann’s garden above show just how beautiful they can look in the right place.
Activities in the garden this week:
- Sorting out plants for the new shrubbery area and potting on as needed
- Sorting out plants in the greenhouse and potting on hebe cuttings
- Repairing the arches over the path
- Taking hardwood cuttings and also sorting out the sempervivums
- Planting out strawberry plants into old wheelbarrow, this was first filled with crocks and compost and then after planting topped off with straw.
- Starting work on lowering the hawthorn hedge – it needs to come down by about 1m so that plants in the borders either side have more light and moisture.
And finally the latest creative structure from Vicky and a birthday present for Bridge- a chair made out of wood from the pine tree that came down in the garden. The seat will be used for planting.
The Friday group decamped to RHS Wisley on a cold but beautiful, bright and clear day. The pictures tell the story.
We had some discussion on planting snowdrops as now is the time to plant snowdrops (Galanthus) ‘in the green’. They can be planted in partly shaded areas but do need good drainage so put some grit into the planting hole and ensure that they are kept watered through the summer months. Snowdrops should be planted in clumps and if planted now they should flower well next year. The Chelsea Physic Garden is famous for its snowdrop displays.
African violet cuttings can also be taken now – they are easy to do. Choose a healthy leaf with a leaf stalk (petiole) and insert it into gritty compost, put a plastic bag over the pot to help with germination and seedlings will develop at the base of the leaf which can then be transplanted.
We also looked at cyclamen coum plants that have been bought for the Garden House. They grow in shade, often under trees but do need moisture to help them get established. They can also be grown in pots if there is good drainage.
Things to do in the garden in February:
- Time to order dahlia tubers or other bulbs and tubers for summer e.g. begonias, gladioli. There is a plan for shades of orange dahlias in the Garden House next summer.
- Antirrhinums, Nicotiana and sweet peas can also be sown now
We majored on weeds this week – weed identification and weeding the beds in the garden. Weeds are obviously just plants in the wrong place and if left can take over and inhibit the growth of other plants. They can be removed by pulling up, hoeing or restricted by covering a bed (i.e. on the allotment over winter) or mulching heavily. It is good to be able to identify weeds from their leaves as they are emerging – they can look quite different as they grow taller. Many weeds can regenerate from just a tiny fragment left on the ground so when weeding do put weeds straight into the trugs for disposal and not into the compost.
Some of the weeds to look out for in the garden are:
- Hairy bittercress is very common and an annual. The leaves can be eaten in salad.
- Groundsel – a bushy weed that bears small yellow flowers- several generations can be produced in one growing season
- Alkanet – is part of the borage family and is like a hairy tall forget me not
- Creeping buttercup – thrives on wet soil and spreads very quickly and can form a dense network of shoots and runners. It is easy to confuse with geraniums as the leaves look similar.
- Wild geums – need to be distinguished from the cultivated varieties. The wild geums have much small flowers.
- Cleavers or otherwise known as goosegrass or sticky willy -has small hooked hairs which grow out of the stems and leaves
- Rose bay willow herb is a very attractive plant but can take over – it grows in clumps to a height of about 1.5m
- Ground elder is a very fast growing pervasive perennial that can crowd out other plants
Activities in the garden this week:
Weeding and also some seed sorting and making pots for seedlings
A very cold, frosty but bright day. Before venturing out into the garden we looked at a selection of winter twigs and discussed how to identify them.
Alder – the Alder is monoecious which means that it produces both male and female flowers on the same tree. The male flowers or catkins are a dark yellow brown colour, about 2 inches long when open. The female flowers are red and much smaller. When fertilised, these become green fruits, which gradually become woody and eventually release small, reddish brown seeds. The cones may remain on the twigs until spring so helping with identification in winter.
- Ash – the buds on an ash tree are black in colour and are often called witches’ fingers. Ash trees are generally dioecious i.e. there are separate male and female trees.
- Beech – beech stems have vary long pointed buds, set at an angle from the twig/stem. The leaves wither in the autumn but may remain on the tree throughout the winter – especially on hedging or younger trees.
- Oak – buds on winter twigs tend to be clustered near the end of the winter twig; they have rusty brown over-lapping scale leaves.
- Hazel – male and female flowers are found on the same tree with the yellow male catkins and tiny crimson tufty female flowers.
- Sycamore – the buds are arranged in opposite pairs along the twig
- Hornbeam – belongs to the birch, hazel and alder family
- Prunus (cherry) – can be identified by clusters of buds from which flowers will develop
A useful reference on twigs and buds from the woodlands trust can be found here.
Activities in the garden this week:
- Making bird feeders, the recipe can be found on RSPB website
- Cutting back the Phormium –it needs reducing by about one third
- Wisteria pruning and continuing pruning the rose at back of the garden
- Pruning Rosa glauca and making some hardwood cuttings
- Digging up strawberries under the raspberries
- Emptying cold frame and also potting on sweet peas
- Sorting out edging to paths
We then celebrated the achievements of Dr Nanette Hoogslag with delicious orange and almond cheesecake and maple and apple ginger cake plus hot fruit punch
A very cold and rainy morning but we did get outside to continue tidying the garden and planting.
A hybrid between H. argutifolius and H. lividus. Upright stems of attractive slightly mottled foliage grown throughout the year. Green flowers tinged with pink and purple. It enjoys a sunny spot in well-drained soil (acid/neutral/chalk) and may self-seed once established. Bred at Highdown Garden, Worthing, the chalk-pit garden developed by Sir Frederick and Lady Stern.
Activities this week included:
- Planting out wallflowers in rows
- Planting out broad beans
- Planting out garlic in modules
- Planting lilies in pots and short-stemmed tulip bulbs in alpine sinks
- Weeding and top dressing pot grown roses
- Checking and cleaning dahlia tubers in storage
lettuces are growing well – time to start making marmalade