Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I dream of summer

Well, Edinburgh is looking a smidge on the grey side these days, and my 'garden' is looking pretty un-sensational. I guess it's a waiting game and at the moment I still have a long wait ahead until things start happening in my pots again.

In the meantime I thought i'd post a couple of ink paintings done by Luke Maitland of the Seigneurie gardens on the Isle of Sark. They capture those lazy late summer days and their beautiful herbaceous borders and kitchen garden wonderfully - and make me long for the seasons to turn and for me to find myself with earth and borders to tend of my own. I will have to go plant some early flowering bulbs to bring the growing season sooner to me, but in the meantime (and I appreciate that I may be a tad biased as the artist is my brother!) aren't these uplifting?! 

If you want to see more art in this style look here: Luke Maitland

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

'Autumn' Crocus?!

I can't believe how long it has been since I last posted... so much for my good intentions! One day has passed to the next, one week late has turned to a fortnight, and now it's over a month since I last wrote. This feels like the pattern of almost every diary I've ever written - sigh!

Anyways, onwards and upwards. Or as the plants in my pots would say: downwards. It's that time of year, sadly, when the plants are all looking incredibly scruffy. The magnolias are losing their leaves (one got blown down the steps during a particularly windy spell and spent a week waiting to be re-potted causing it to go 'naked' a while back - glad you can't get reported for plant abuse), the geranium is looking lanky and needs cutting back, and the colchicums have long since flowered and died down again. I know that the plants need their rest, but it makes me sad that I have to now wait such a while until they start growing away again. It's as winter sets in that I start thinking longingly of tropical climates where plants grow all year around in glorious colour - I wonder, if in a future home, if I had a sunroom/conservatory whether it'd be possible to grow a frangipani tree and some bougainvillea?

In the world of now, I've been so lax in taking photos that I currently have only one to share - of my 'Autumn' crocus back in August! They obviously don't care when they're supposed to appear. Is it common do you think for them to appear in August? I'm thinking that their name suggests otherwise...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I just love my new local wildlife

Apologies for the extreme slowness in posting...

Anyway, whilst not reporting here, I have been paying close attention to my 'garden' all summer. In particular I've really enjoyed the wildlife that it has attracted - mainly in the form of 100s of hoverflies and later on bumblebees. It has been great to think that my relatively small number of containers has still been found by them and that these insects have enjoyed and benefited from my flowers. In particular they seemed to enjoy the alliums, my shockingly pink/purple geranium and my nepeta/catmint.

Better late than never... here's a couple of the bees enjoying a feast back in July :o) Any ideas what type of bees they are? They're such a fab golden colour.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Meet my new Heuchera - Can Can

Well, as I've recently had my first month's pay packet I figured - what better way to celebrate than to pick out a couple of plants?!

So, I have a gorgeous smelling thyme - which i've yet to pot up - and a new Heuchera to replace the one that's just carped it. I'm hoping that this one fairs better. It was surprisingly hard deciding which Heuchera to choose - eventually I narrowed it down to either Silver Scrolls, or Can Can. In the end I went with Heuchera Can Can as I liked the more purpley tinge to the leaves - although the Silver Scrolls plants were more mature and had flowers which looked absolutely fabulous. I might end up adding a Heuchera Silver Scrolls to my collection yet!

I've just popped the new plant into the pot which the previous Heuchera had lived in... although looking at it I can't quite decide if its colouring clashes or not with the pot colour. I might have to switch it around, but I'll see how it goes... I've also relocated the pot so that it's nearer the door in the hope that the shadier spot will improve its chances of survival - not that the previous location (or indeed really any of my doorstep garden) is really that heavily bathed in sunlight!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A perk of the job: A chance to adopt! :o)

I'm starting to think that my new job at the nursery might have its advantages... a part from the ability to be able to buy plants on a tab, I can also adopt the odd self seeded specimen and take it home with me. We're currently preparing for our annual stocktake and so we're having to check and organise all the pots - which is how I found these primula seedlings in one, self-sown from plants around them - though which variety they are I'm not sure, it'll be interesting to find out.

I've now planted them out into various corners and nooks of my other pots. Aren't they sweet though?

Thursday, 2 July 2009

I take it all back - Sir David Austin was right!

Patience has never been a particularly strong suit of mine - especially when waiting for a plant to finally bud and flower, or for seedlings to germinate. I check on seedlings, especially, so frequently that if anything they die of overwatering and too much 'love' and attention.

In this case definitely a few more days has made all the difference. Here are the photos of how my rose is looking now, and I think it's fair to say that the flowers have 'mellowed' and are now much more like those in the catalogue, so I can relax and be happy :o)

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Rosa Harlow Carr: According to David Austin

Having seen and smelt the flowers on my rose bush now I thought i'd compare how they look to the pictures in the David Austin rose on-line rose catalogue... I don't know about you, but there does seem to be a slight difference. Although, perhaps as the flowers age they will look more like the Austin picture perhaps?? Admittedly my rose's flowers aren't totally open yet, unlike the picture on the Austin site. I do hope that the flowers look a bit more rustic/dishevelled as they open up further as at the moment they're a bit too alarmingly 'pretty pretty' and perfect - I was hoping for a slightly more cottage garden type look, nothing too perfect/formal.

Here's the picture on the David Austin website:

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Rose Watch '09: The first flowers!

Well, the waiting is over and after watching the buds carefully for the last week I stepped outside this morning into the grey, drab, rainy day to discover that the buds had suddenly decided to open! Not very nice weather to welcome them, but the droplets of water do look really pretty on the petals. Believe it or not I have actually thinned the flowers by cutting out a good few buds to try and let the remaining ones grow bigger - although looking at these pictures there still seem to be lots of buds clustered together, so maybe I'll have to be a bit harsher...

Oh, and most importantly, I can also happily report that the scent is very pleasant indeed! :o)

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Greenfly: It's time for an intervention - I'm bringing in the ladybird larvae!

Well, I'm getting kind of tired of squishing a seemingly neverending supply of greenfly everytime I go past my rose bush. They're really starting to annoy me, especially as the rose is now close to flowering and so they're interfering with my appreciation of the soon to be flowers, as each time I look at the pink colour of the bud I can't help but notice some green bug walking over it. Argh!

So, i've decided that it's time for an intervention and have ordered some ladybird larvae through a company on the internet. I decided on the larvae as a) You get more larvae for less money than you do adult ladybirds, b) I figured that they'd be less able/likely to go and eat other people's greenfly as they're not so mobile, being as they lack wings!

Today, they I found an envelope with this little box in awaiting me on my return from work:

I've followed the instructions and sprinkled them, in the evening, around various of my plants. Now i'm awaiting what I hope will be a greenfly massacre... although the larvae did seem very small so i'm worried that the greenfly might fight back. I'll just have to wait and see... here are two larvae on my rose bush off hunting aphids! (but you can see from the photos just how small they are...)

Friday, 19 June 2009

Rose Watch '09: Pink!

Well, since the 5th of May when the rose only had a few leaves on its rather short stumpy stems, there has been a serious amount of growth. Most importantly now we're getting to the exciting part when it's looking like it's going to flower... look, see, the colour is starting to show:

A happily established pot

I love it when you see a pot working out - unlike my Heuchera which I bought at the start of May (and has now passed onto the happy plant place in the sky: aka the bin), thankfully the other plants that I bought at the same time are now looking well established and amazingly happy (thus far!). The clematis is starting to thread its way both up and along through the railings to the left. I thought you might like to see the before & after photos - not bad eh?! ;o)

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

New Job = New Plants = Happy Days/Hours Pottering!

Well, I'm starting to realise that my new job might see my hard earnt cash leaving my bank account as soon as it lands there - not helped by the fact that staff are allowed to run up a tab. Now, a tab in a bar would not interest me at all - but a tab at a nursery selling lots of interesting (and some pretty unusual) plants and I'm in trouble!

I spend all day picking out plants for customer orders so it's hard not to start putting the odd one or two by for myself. Anyway, today I had a really tiring/lousy day and decided to indulge in some retail therapy... and brought these sweeties home with me :o) (I'm hoping that bad days aren't too frequent or this plant buying could get out of control!).

So, I tidied my rather neglected looking pots, turfed out and binned the knackered/unhappy looking french lavender amongst other things, and finally have given up on the Heuchera which sadly has carped it (how on earth did I manage to kill a Heuchera??! - I'm going to blame its demise on the viscious greenfly attack last month). Now there's free pot space and the 'need' for plants to re-occupy them.

Here are the new (hopefully) happy residents of one pot:

The cutest Aquilegia (Aquilegia discolor) ever, with
Astrantia 'Roma' (love the delicate pink papery flowers) and Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' (catmint):

I've also include one Scabiosa caucasica for it's soft blue/purple flowers and hey presto! This is the final overal effect:

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Rose Watch '09: It's budding! :o)

Well, i'm happy to report that the rose is budding nicely! They're quite small at the moment so i'm hoping that the greenfly situation doesn't stop them developing properly... I'm really pleased with how many there are though :o) (that is rose buds and NOT greenfly!)

Ooh, you shouldn't have!

Thanks to Jacqui's Secret Garden for giving me my first award :o)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Mystery Green Bug - what is it?!!

I finally got around to emptying out my old pots of dead and dying tulips, which were totally infested with aphids and looking generally pretty nasty. I'm hoping this will have dramatically reduced the resident greenfly population in one blow...

However, when I turned one of the containers over to empty its contents out I noticed three of these green bugs on the bottom. They look a bit like flattened caterpillars and don't seem to move much/at all - even when poked with a bit of twig (a very scientific method of investigation!). Does anyone have any ideas what they are? I've never come across anything like them before. Are they friend or foe?

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Argh! You snooze, you lose... but at least the rose is looking happy (for the moment)

Well, I've been a bit lax with updating my blog over the last 3 weeks. I'm just finishing a year long course in Horticulture and what with finishing up my coursework, studying for the end of year exam, and applying for a job in a near by (plant) nursery, things have been a tad busy! argh! (Oh, I was successful getting the job so i'm well chuffed!)

Luckily, my plants seem to have faired pretty well considering they've been quite neglected. The rose has put on huge amounts of healthy looking growth (I hadn't realised quite how much until I looked back at the earlier photos I'd posted).

However, unfortunately, the green fly that I noticed on the lavender plants a couple of weeks ago, seem to be continuing their bid for world domination... and have spread to the my rose - argh!!! It's early days yet, I've only spotted a very few, but it just goes to show that you can't afford to be complacent in this game and that whilst there are hardly any aphids left on the lavenders anymore... I fear that the problem has simply moved home to a newer, tastier venue. So, I really must do something - i'm thinking of discarding the infested pot of tulips this afternoon, and then ordering some ladybirds and/or larvae this evening. My new rose bush, as the little green critters must learn to understand, is not on their menu! 

If you look carefully, you can see a couple of aphids on the new leaves.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Return of the aphids

Well, amazingly, a month on the magnolia is STILL flowering! What a plant!

Unfortunately, not everything in my 'garden' is looking so happy... over the last few weeks this seasons aphids have arrived and are going strong. It seems that they attacked the lavender's first, which I guess may not have been too happy after the winter since Scotland isn't exactly the mediterranean type climate that they prefer. Bizarrely, one lavender has faired much better than the other, despite both being heavily infested. I'm not quite sure why this might be, but unless the really sick looking one puts out some new growth and improves soon I'm thinking I might send it to the great compost bin in the sky! The lavenders were both plants I bought last year, a variety of Lavandula stoechas (French lavender) called 'Jamboree' and I suspect that they simply were not really hardy enough to live happily here (although one pot is ok - so maybe one side of my door way is more sheltered?). I'm thinking that I might replace the really unhappy looking plant with a more resilient and tougher Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender). Oh, I should mention that the 'happy' lavender is actually growing in a much smaller pot than the 'unhappy' lavender - so it isn't as huge as it looks in the photos!

In the meantime however, the aphids have spread to the pot of tulip leaves next to them (the flowers are mostly over), and onto my heuchera which is looking decidedly unhappy - although thankfully it is showing signs of survival as it's starting to put out new leaves. I'm thinking i'm going to bin the tulips rather than wait for the last few bulbs to flower... it's not looking good in that pot!

I need to find a solution and am considering ordering some ladybirds through the post. Either that, or making up some sort of organic spray to wash over the leaves as I'm not keen on using an insecticide. The only problem is that as the plants are in containers, I'm concerned that the spray will then become really concentrated in the compost that they're in - whereas if used on plants growing directly in the ground the spray would be more able to dissipate through the soil. I think the ladybirds would be fun to try though so I'm favouring them at the moment - unless any of you have any ideas?! Or I might try growing a pot or two of something oniony, like chives, and see if that deters them. Pesky critters... mutter mutter...

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Rose Watch 2009

This is it! The start of Rose Watch 2009 - just how successfully will an old english rose grow in a container?

After spending what must have been half of the winter months pouring over a David Austin rose catalogue I finally ordered a rose variety called 'Harlow Carr'. I planted it up carefully in what I hope will be a large enough pot - that was on the 27th March. It was a bareroot bush so didn't look like much at all at first. However, just over a month on, there are leaves! Which is all very exciting :o) Only time will tell though as to whether it'll flower - and how well. I chose this variety as it is meant to be a strong pink colour, vigorous (so should grow happily in Scotland), can put up with some shade, and will hopefully have a strong scent. Fingers Xed this turns out to be true! I have dreams of walking up the steps breathing in sweet wafts of rose perfume... hopefully they'll become reality.

Here's what the rose looked like not long after it was first planted in March, and then now looking much better with some leaves:

Friday, 1 May 2009

Happy days - not only is it Friday, but I have new POTS! :o)

I finally succumbed and spent the last of my garden vouchers (not bad since they were from Christmas) on a few more pots. How could I resist? I went to Homebase to buy some Leucojums which a friend (who works there) said they had in, only to discover that they had a 3 for 2 sale on their containers/pots. Ooh! Jackpot! So, a couple of hours deliberation later (it takes a while to choose pots AND then decide what plants to put in them!), I returned home with these (the photo shows 2 clematis, but I took 1 back as I realised i'd not enough space):

That was on Monday... and last night I actually got around to potting them up. So my doorstep is now looking far more luscious and green. I've even managed to spread the pots so that they now extend down onto the first step - that's progress for you :o)

So, my new pots contain, (left hand pot) a Heuchera 'Melting Fire' - which I couldn't resist for its gorgeous coloured leaves.
And (right hand pot) a Festuca glauca 'Festina' (the grass), Leucojum aestivum (summer snowflake, which unfortunately have gone a bit floppy), and at the back a Clematis macropetala 'Markham's Pink' (which had a slight accident when I was planting it so that the main stem with lots of growth kind of broke off - i'm hoping that'll help the plant establish itself by forcing it to put its energy more into roots rather than shoots and it'll turn out to be a happy mistake...). I also moved a few Primula in there too, which i've temporarily forgotten the names of, though I can tell you that they're very bright pink when in flower.

I put a bit of grit at the bottom of the pot first. Then for compost used a mixture of John Innes No 3, Westland Multi-Purpose Compost with added John Innes, and a few handfuls of horticultural sand to further increase the drainage (as clematis like well drained soil). I'm hoping that these conditions should keep the new plants happy - they all are meant to like well drained soil, so hopefully they should live well together.
The steps are starting to look so much more garden (and less step) like that i'm wondering if I might put a chair in the hallway/entrance and enjoy the evening sunlight there.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Colchicums are thugs

Back in July last year, when I was offered some colchicum bulbs, I had thought they would be great to have in my pots. A few autumn crocuses seemed like a pleasant idea - and the flowers in September/October were lovely, adding some colour when not much else was happening. However, I'm now wondering whether that autumn colour was worth it as their leaves have completely swamped the pots they're in! I'm just hoping that they'll die back soon (colchicums grow from bulbs and only have leaves from spring to early summer, during which time they store energy, before the leaves die back and they then flower in the autumn). Thankfully the tulip bulbs in the pot next door (a variety called Valentine) have been more successful!

The colchicums are responsible for the huge mass (or should that be 'mess') of leaves in the large blue pot, not quite the effect I'd hoped for:

Aren't magnolias simply the best?!

I will stop obsessing about this magnolia and its flowers soon, honest! But first, I had to post just one more picture... after another day or two of sunshine the flower is now at its peak:

Friday, 24 April 2009

What a difference a month makes!

I don't know about you, but i've certainly become quite attached to some of my plants. They don't have names, but they have histories and i'd be quite sad if they died. This, in particular, applies to the magnolia in my first pot. Pot 1. I don't know what type it is as i rescued it from Morrisons supermarket about 5 years ago now and it has lived in this pot ever since.

All I do know is that it is a survivor. It has lived through extensive periods of neglect. Being transported up and down the country when I've moved house, being kept in storage (through which it lost its leaves) and almost no regular watering, let alone feed. About the only thing that I did right from the start is to plant it up in ericaceous compost as magnolias like acidic soil conditions. Last year, I took it out of the pot and carefully removed all the old compost and replanted it (in the same container). Then later discovered that magnolias supposedly hate having their roots messed with - I must have a tough, yet forgiving plant, as it is still with me, and has even rewarded my efforts with some truly gorgeous coloured flowers. I just love this plant.

Look see! The first picture was taken 20 March, the second 24 April:

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Setting the scene - welcome to my 'garden'

Hello, and welcome to my blog. 
Original I know, but I had to simply start typing or I would never had begun this at all. I'm hoping this page will give me an outlet for my horticultural thoughts, whitterings and questions... and that I might hopefully along the way also discover others who also know what it's like to obsessively pour over a plant catalogue as if the future survival of the planet depended on which variety of rose/cabbage/lavender you choose! (My husband can testify as to the amount of hours, if not days, that I can spend doing this). To be fair though - I like to think that as I have only a very limited amount of 'gardening' space that this is why I must decide carefully as to which plants I grow. So before we go any further I would like to introduce you to my gardening domain - meet my pots! 

This is how my 'garden' looked on the 20th March '09 this year:

I started my pot garden (in the non drug related sense!) in June '08... and must admit that already in the time since this photo was taken, that there have been the odd one or two developments (read: additions). My main limitations are, as you can see, space, and that the doorway leads to not only my flat, but another also - so it must remain accessible. I'm lucky though as the area does get the afternoon sun. I'm hoping, as time goes on, to develop the garden and increase it so that it cascades down the steps... just watch this space, it's only a matter of time (oh, and budget).