Archive for the ‘Flowers’ Category

My next door neighbour has the most amazing rose in her garden, and by some miracle of luck, it has grown over to our side.

I think it started last year when we noticed it had climbed up a tree on our side.  This year it kind of collapsed onto our side, and the spur grew so much that I swear we are getting more flowers than they are,  which seems a bit cheeky.

However, the happy coincidence of it growing into the lime green foliage of our tree gives us both a mutual benefit, greater than if either of us kept our plants on our own side of the fence….

What do I do?  It seems an absolute travesty to cut it off, but I have a sneaking guilty feeling that we should be encouraging it back?

There is a saying that you should offer back anything that you take off the plant, so I guess that means if we pick any flowers.

The whole thing makes me feel somewhat like a character out of the fairy tale Rapunzel.

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A quick post in admiration of Bluebells.

Apparently the British Isles have over 40% of the world’s bluebell population.

These ones were snapped at Kew Gardens  a few weeks ago.

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It has been so hot and so dry, I am starting to feel like we are in a record drought, at least locally.  Surely a hosepipe ban must be just round the corner?  Perhaps I have a short memory, but for all the grass to be brown, dry and dead by this point in July is unusual.  There’s been no decent rain for 6 weeks. Plants in the garden look very stressed, and are succumbing to weird, new insect attacks with strange symptoms.

Because we can’t get to the  allotment every day to water, our crops are pitifully small.  I have peas that have barely grown out of the ground before flowering, potatoes that look more like chilli peppers in terms of plant size (photos will follow).  I know from friends who are managing to water often, this could be a record summer for the diligent gardener.  Sadly for me the lazy gardener, this will not be the case.  Our soil is very dry at the best of times, but now it is like a desert.  I have learned to welcome the highs and the lows equally, knowing that without the failures, the successes aren’t as precious.  Gardening alone has taught me this valuable life lesson.

The lavender up at Mayfield is looking brilliant at the moment, and really is an inspiring sight.

The lavender festival at the Stanley Road Plots is a couple of weeks away:

Carshalton Lavender Weekend 24th – 25th July 2010

Fortunately lavender thrives in dry conditions!  When it comes to gardening, the expression that springs to mind is “every dog has its day”.

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The cutting garden

Well, this was going to be the year when I concentrated on flowers for cutting rather than vegetables.  On the whole, flowers have proved a lot easier to grow.  I wonder if this could be our soil, with about 3 inches of chalky topsoil before you hit the bedrock.  This means its very poor in nutrients and prone to frequent and long droughts, both of which flowers seem to handle better than veg.  I think to build up sufficient bulk in a vegetable crop you need to either water it constantly, or improve the soil every year for about 10 years??

Having said that, obviously where people are vigilant they have got fantastic crops.  You only have to see Ali’s blog (from the same allotment site!) to see the potential.

I think until I am able to commit more time in the summer evenings, I will have to resign myself to the lower maintenance crops like flowers and herbs.  We are planning to get a greenhouse in the garden later in the year, so this means we can do tomatoes and so on there.  Watch this space to see if we do grow anything interesting this year, or whether my moans, groans and excuses fill the WHOLE BLOG!  Ha ha.

So in the meantime here are some more of my finest cuttings from this week.  First up my Charles de Mills rose was magnificent.  This yielded me a whole bush of fragrant, dark mauve blooms.  The best ones were cut with a stalk attached and put into an arrangement with some cornflowers.

Ones that were too late to pick for cut flowers were picked just below the flower and placed in water to keep them fresh.

And because I couldn’t bear to waste them, I even picked the petals from the deadheads to be dried in saucers and saved.  The smell in the room was fantastic!

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Springtime flowers – Irises

I am so proud of these irises.  The plants were bought from the Hampton Court Flower Show in 2008.  It was the first time we had been to a big flower show like that and I was overwhelmed by the choice and variety of plants available.  As I wandered round the specialised nurseries I found it near impossible to choose which plants to buy.  Two irises caught my eye, this one, and one which looked like its opposite, with purple centres and white edges.

I took them home, I lovingly planted them, and then I watched and waited.  And waited, and waited.

Last year they looked half dead, and at times it seemed touch and go whether they would even survive.  We supposedly have near perfect soil type and conditions, with our chalky soil being reliably alkaline and well drained, with British rainfall to keep it watered.  As if to compound this, someone in a neighbouring allotment has a whole field of irises which do brilliantly well.

Just a month ago, this is what it looked like, with a load of manure on in the hope it might do better this year.  You can just about see its partner, buried under manure next to it.

Then a few weeks ago, this:

You can imagine my reaction when I saw that it had actually flowered. Despite a month with very little rainfall, they have flowered prolifically.  I’ve got three vases round the house already, pairing them off with some bamboo from our new garden.

Yet again, patience and a touch of neglect works wonders in the garden.

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The Met office has sheepishly apologised for predicting a ‘barbecue summer’ that has been resoundingly rained off.  I have to say I don’t understand why they feel personally responsible for the maverick weather we get in this country – but all the same it’s quite enjoyable watching them eat humble pie when they get it wrong.

I am not sure whether to moan about this summer’s weather or not.   It has been warm enough to ripen tomatoes, peppers and chilis outside in August, whereas I can remember previous years where even in Autumn I have been desperately holding out for some sun to ripen crops.  In addition, the watering duties have been negligible compared to the usual fretting every other day.  Crops have swelled beautifully, although weeds and lawns have needed more maintenance. The humidity has made blight more likely, which has been devastating for those affected.

But for me one of the mixed blessings of gardening is that each year brings its successes and failures.  One plant’s meat is another plant’s poison, and I quite like having gluts of different crops each year (and of course courgettes every year), and I accept the outright failures.

This week’s surprise bonus was the sunflowers, which have done really well.   They can be seen here towering over the roof of the wendy house.

allotment aug 13th 09 006

The beans and courgettes have gone over while we were away, but the outdoor tomatoes, chillis and peppers have been an unexpected bonus.  I can’t claim any credit for this, but hats off to Jamie for a fantastic year.

allotment aug 13th 09 001

Unfortunately haven’t been to the Warren yet since coming back from hols, because of a heavy cold.  It is bad enough to worry it might be Swine Flu, but not bad enough so that I feel like I am going to die, which as I remember is a giveaway sign of actual flu.  So another false alarm probably.

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Well, neglect has turned out to be my friend as well as my enemy.  I have been so busy at work that inevitably everything else has fallen down.  This includes the allotment.  However, this means I have a glut of flowers which made a lovely surprise when we eventually did get there.

As well as the Swan River Daisies that had sprung from nowhere, I found some ragwort that had sneakily flowered while I have been off weeding duty, so I decided they went quite well together.

The sweet peas made the house smell lovely, and somehow the whole thing just reminds me of midsummer – the best time of year for all kinds of reasons.

Allotment July 18th 003

Also, I took a photo of the plants I picked up at Hampton Court last week.

Allotment July 18th 005

The echinacea has been raided for the flower arrangements, but the hydrangea is just stunning.  The astilbe was inspired by the Enchanting Escape garden.

Off now to the allotment, where we are about to do a plot to plate challenge.  I reckon the potatoes will be in the pot within 15 mins of being dug up, along with some french beans.  I am salivating at the thought of it!

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