Tag Archives: flowers

Forced Hyacinths – an accidental surprise

blanched_hyacinthsUntil today I had no idea that you could ‘force’ hyacinths. I know all about forcing rhubarb since I live in close proximity to the ‘Rhubarb Triangle‘ in Yorkshire, but hyacinths?

Yesterday Adam ventured into the cellar and returned with two pots of them, looking anemic and almost plastic like. What a spectacle! They were much paler yesterday than this photo above and looked totally bizarre and alien but a lack of time and battery power meant I couldn’t photograph them in all their weirdness. They’re looking a lot greener now and apparently in just a few days of being in a cool but light spot in the house they should start producing more flower buds.

It was only when I started to think about this oddity that I discovered that forcing hyacinths is actually a real practice. Keeping them in the dark to bring them on early is apparently wide known. Adam said he’d put them in the cellar for this very reason but forgot all about them and was meant to retrieve them when the tips started to show. It would seem that I’ve been in the dark about this as much as the bulbs have.

second_lot_of_vases_out_of_the_cellar_5-12-2011_thImage from http://www.hyacinthvases.org.uk/

I found a whole blog dedicated to this practice and looking at their amazing collection of antique vessels I can see why someone would want to create a display of these bulbs as soon as they could. I’ve also found tons of information online about forcing all sorts of bulbs. Here’s Monty with his little yellow trug – apparently the episode that inspired Adam to stash the bulbs in the first place. There’s even loads of people on Pinterest who are keen on collecting the lovely glass vases as well as growing the hyacinths. I’ve quickly become obsessed and even created my own board.

I love interesting plant containers and planted some bulbs in teapots a few months back. I really think these hyacinths look cool in the colourful vases. I’m inspired to create my own collection. My only problem is space! I sometimes feel like plants are taking over my life!

Have you started growing hyacinths in the dark before? Do you have any ideas about interesting ways to display bulbs?

December – a month of alpines

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For the run up to Christmas I created an alpine advent calendar on Instagram, featuring a different plant from the awesome alpine zone at RHS Harlow Carr each day. The big beastie above was the chosen one for Christmas Day because it resembled the shape of a Christmas pudding.

I’m really looking forward to the new growing season and I’ll be starting with leeks on January 1st ready for the giant leek competition. I have no idea how they’ll turn out. I’ve decided to be a bit more experimental next year with my sowing/planting out in general to see if sowing early really does make a difference.

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments over the few months that I’ve been blogging. I hope you had a great Christmas and I wish you all the best for 2013 :)

The garden diaries – an allotment retrospective

I’ve read a lot of awesome blogs this year and in fact it was reading such blogs that sparked the desire to write my own. I recently read three very cool review posts, one by Marks Veg Plot, a two-parter by out of my shed and the amazing award ceremonies by wellywoman. All are very uniquely written with a good dose of humor and I too would like to review my year in my own way.

Each week at work we have an ‘agile retrospective’ where we look back on the week and discuss the good, the bad and the things that we weren’t quite so sure about. So, I’ll do the same. I’m interested in looking back at this post next year and seeing what changes, improvements or planting disasters I may have had, after all keeping a record is what a blog was originally all about – a web log.

The good
pears
berries
Fruit – gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, redcurrant, apples and pears. All were exceptional. I think they liked the rain (unlike me who did not).

Flowers – all germinated well and flowered for a long time.

  • My Pelargoniums at home in a hanging basket are still going for it?! The others are covered in fleece and being stored in the greenhouse. Before I had my greenhouse I used to stash them under a hedge.
  • I grew tons of Marigolds, inspired by my wedding in India. They flowered prolifically.
  • Adam sowed Rudbeckia and it was exceptional, even the plants we salvaged later in the year continued to flourish until they were killed by frost.
  • Sedums were amazing, as was Eggplant (when is Eggplant never good?) Alpines, Lupins were incredible, my Jasmine is lovely right now, Clematis, Roses, Skimmia Japonica…you name it, the flowering plants and shrubs have been amazing.

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Peppers – the best being the big red ones that were given to me as seedlings from Michaela, who sows them early.

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Chilies – an abundance of chilies and some are still growing in my kitchen.

IMG_20121021_151728The final tomato harvest above – 9 weeks ago!

Tomatoes – tasted the best ever and I’ve been growing the same variety (passed on to me from my mother) for the last 10 years. I can only assume that I saved the very best seeds from last year, which incidentally lived on a piece of brown paper floating around my kitchen until spring and are really lucky to have survived. I still have tomatoes left from the final harvest which I took 9 weeks ago.

  • Broccoli – the best variety I’ve ever grown. I will be doubling up on the crop for next year. The plants were also easy to pull out unlike some broccoli varieties which grow, what I can only describe as, tree trunks.
  • Sprouts – withstood the onslaught from the cabbage whites and were grown in adequate numbers to be a tasty treat, rather than frozen wasted mush.
  • Carrots – grown in tubs, covered with fleece to stave off the dreaded carrot root fly. A small round variety. Very nice.
  • Onions – every year I buy onion sets from Wilkos and every year they perform. They last me until the following year’s crop is ready and I really enjoy plaiting them. Home grown onions are leagues ahead of the ones you normally buy in terms of flavor and juiciness.

beans
Beans – given to me by my friend Alice. Her parents (she calls them the bods) donated the seeds from their garden in Selby, Yorkshire. All my fellow allotmenteers had poor beans whereas the Selby beans triumphed and were a monumental spectacle in my front raised bed. Thanks ‘bods’.

The Bad
squash

  • Squash – I had 10 plants, only 2 grew and the specimens were poor.
  • Courgette – normally I have marrows galore because I can’t eat my bountiful crop fast enough, this year I had one lousy courgette? It was perfectly formed and tasted great but I really missed having more. Major disappointment.
  • Potatoes – my first and only poor crop in 9 years of growing them. A couple of spuds even had blight. Worried for next year.
  • Cauliflower – germinated fine, disappeared just fine. Don’t know what happened?
  • Peas – shriveled, withered and died. Another first in 9 years.
  • Sweat Peas – a poor show.
  • Cacti – none germinated.
  • Parsnips – did not germinate.

The ?
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  • Garlic – it grew but it was quite small. Tastes great and far better than anything I buy but I feel it could have been better. Not a total disappointment.
  • Pumpkin – one tiny one. Last year’s was a monster? Still cute though and good for a decoration.
  • Nasturtiums – I love them and they weren’t too great this year but they produced a lot of seeds, so hopefully next year will be better.
  • Cucumbers – I forgot to sow them?!
  • Avocado – I brought a stone/seed home from Cyprus and it’s growing. I fear it might be growing into a big tree though. No idea what to expect.

As an added bonus, the downright ugly

slug_monsterMonsterous Slugs, pictured here (sorry it’s blurry) stuck to a large piece of slate gravel. Even Adam wouldn’t completely touch the critter.

I really don’t want to see these beasts again next year!

I hope you had a good year in your gardens. If you have written a review blog post or enjoyed reading one elsewhere please feel free to add your link, or add a comment about your year :)

The Allotment in December – what’s happenin?

frozen_allotmentIt’s a bit grim up north

Last week we had freezing rain and a day that never seemed to get light, 9am seemed more like midnight, it was dreary. During this spell I visited the allotment before work to check that I’d properly fleeced everything in the greenhouse.

frozen_plot

It was foggy on the plot and as I looked around all I saw was mess and all the jobs that need doing. I also saw that the frost was killing off my flowers, which have been very confused until now. I love frosty mornings but I must admit that morning was quite grim!
allotment_december_thawedIt’s still a bit grim up north

Only a few days later and the big freeze has gone! Today was much milder and it seems strange to think that we’re only a week away from Christmas. I wanted to take these photos of the allotment so I can start recording it through the months ahead. So much of it is really untidy and I have a lot of general chores to do. To be perfectly honest, I could be growing more but I prefer to grow just enough and then clear out the veg beds over winter and concentrate on bulbs and planning for the following year. Today I noticed a lot of rotting vegetables in the other plots and I’m glad I’m not in that position. However, I really do wish that I’d grown kale and I wish I still had leeks and broccoli left but I’ve eaten it, leaving me with only three sprout plants, just enough for Christmas dinner!

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Rather embarrassingly untidy plot

my_sproutsThese are up next for the chop

I aim to start January with a bang and aside from sowing leeks for the giant leek competition I’ve got involved in, I will also start sowing peppers. The best peppers I had this year were ones that fellow allotmenteer Michaela gave me. I know she starts sowing them early at home and I think that’s why she is such a rock star at growing veg. She doesn’t wait until the spring, she gets a good head start. I’ll definitely have my leeks in a heated propagator to get them going for the competition. If you have any tips for growing ‘mammoths’ I would be most grateful. I usually grow them close together to keep them small so this is going to be a real challenge!

What do you do this time of year and what are your thoughts on starting off seeds at home before the spring?

Fancy a Pot of Spring Bulbs?

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I was over the moon when I started my new gardening blog because Spalding Plant & Bulb Co. accepted me into their bloggers club.

As a welcome gift Spalding sent me 100 spring bulbs. They recently arrived and strangely enough I’m feeling rather guilty at accepting them? It seems I much prefer to share the love and give things away in the hope that budding gardeners or keen readers will benefit, after all gardening is my passion and I just love it when others find enjoyment in it too. Anyway, it got me thinking about what to do. Should I just give these bulbs away? But I’m already giving away some seeds. Then a flash of inspiration from Pinterest and suddenly I’m thinking about teapots and Christmas presents! Yes, there’s the answer. A teapot or other unusual vessels and nice pots will be given to family and friends as Christmas presents pre-planted with Spalding spring bulbs! After a shopping therapy trip to Leeds I returned with a selection of interesting items including a classic Wedgwood milk jug. All guilty feelings have now gone.

pot4

Then a few days ago I received another email from Spalding asking me to take part in their challenge to pick 5 of their bulbs that I think would make a lovely Spring patio tub display. On further inspection of the fabulous bulbs they sent me, they seem like the perfect bulbs already.

My 100 bulbs consist of:
Mixed Iris, Mixed Darwin Hybrid Tulips, Grape Hyacinths – my absolute favourite bulbs of all time and one of the first I ever grew in my little garden 10 years ago, Tete-a-Tete Daffodils (which must have sold out on Spalding but they have a wide selection of very interesting Daffodil varieties left), Mixed Anemones and Mixed Alliums – again, these must have gone but check this out for an unusual Allium!

So this is how I’ve planted them up – the little Wedgwood jug and the Greek teapot simply contain the Anemones and the terracotta teapot is planted up with the Tete-a-Tete and the Mixed Iris.pot5

Thinking specifically about the patio tub, I have omitted the Anemone’s and used the remaining 5 varieties from my 100 spring bulbs pack. Now this is somewhat of a challenge because these bulbs won’t all come up and flower at the same time. Either a problem, or an opportunity. I see this as the latter, a way to keep a container of bulbs in bloom for longer. So I planted two large terracotta containers with Grape Hyacinth round the edges interspersed with Tete-a-Tete but with those flowing in towards the middle and the Iris, which will throw up greenery but flower later, then the Alliums and Tulips as the primadonna flowers in the middle. Now I predict that the Tete-a-Tete will come up first with a flash of greenery, if I look after them and keep them partly shaded then before they fade the Grape Hyacinth should follow suit along with the Tulips. If I’d planted the Grape Hyacinths earlier though these would be up now because they’re already confused and coming up in my garden. The Iris and Alliums will be the last to flower. I think the combination of colours will look great and I think my pots will last me right up until the end of July. What do you guys think?

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I really enjoy planting bulbs as you will know if you read my recent night planting post. So, thank you Spalding for the lovely gift. All the bulbs are absolute beauties and I can’t wait to see them flower. I just need some ribbons now and to choose who I will give them to….although now I’ve planted them I’ve got rather fond of the pots and think they would look great in my garden. Hmm? Can I keep them? ;)

Nightlife in the garden – a new definition


Like so many of my fellow garden enthusiasts with full time jobs I struggle to find time to do all my winter gardening with the dark nights and weekends often filled with chores, days out or hangovers.

Despite it being winter there’s still a lot of gardening to do, in fact there is always something to do in the garden at any time of the year.

A few weeks ago Adam wanted to plant up our window boxes and he did this around 6pm in the evening with a headtorch on. Inspired by his creativity and a burning desire to get more and more of my bulbs planted we planned a night out at the greenhouse!

Armed with a thermos flask full of hot chocolate & Baileys, thermals, candles, torches and our portable digital radio, we boogied on down with the bulbs.

The moon was near full and lit up the garden as much as our torches and we managed to get a lot done! We planted loads of bulb tubs and decided to store them in the greenhouse for a while because of the pesky resident squirrel who likes to chew on them.

I tend to plant bigger bulbs in layers in big tubs. Adam opts for the ‘cramming them all in together method’. I’m looking forward to seeing them come up.

I also planted a row of alliums in my front raised bed, spread out a load of new bark chippings which have been in a pile for a couple of weeks, picked the last of my broccoli, took my pelargoniums into the greenhouse and fleeced them up, had a general potter and more importantly a really good time! The weather was quite mild considering and the hot chocolate/Baileys combo definitely warmed us up.

Adam rocked out his new special compost mix – comprising 3 year old leaf mulch and soil that he scavenged from moles!


I have to say that I will definitely be doing this again, not just out of necessity but because I really enjoyed it! I’m thinking of new ideas for lighting because that was the only minor problem we encountered. Any suggestions are welcome!

Move over Thailand, the new Full Moon Party is happening in the garden!

(CLOSED) Giveaway – create your 2013 garden with Seedparade

I’m delighted to bring you a giveaway from the wonderful online seed retailer – Seedparade.

With this giveaway you get to choose £30 of seeds, which will easily create you an entire edible garden for next year or provide you with a mass of flowers for any type of garden.

I’ve been really happy with all the seeds I’ve purchased from Seedparade who choose the finest quality seeds from around the world. I love their organic selection and their wildflowers for various soil types, so I hope that the lucky winner will be pleased. They also have a blog with lots of good ideas.

How to enter
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning £30 of seeds of your choice, is to follow my blog.

  • If you are logged in to WordPress click the black ‘Follow by email’ button on the right hand side of this page (just above the Facebook like widget).
  • If you aren’t logged into WordPress simply enter your email address into the text box above the same black button then click ‘Follow by email’
  • If you already follow me and wish to enter, simply email me at digbean@yahoo.co.uk

T&C’s
Please note, Seedaprade regret that they can not ship outside of the EU, so I apologise to my global readers but this giveaway is just for UK and EU.

Choosing a winner
I’m a professional computer nerd so you can be assured that at the end of the competition I will be able select a winner at random. You are also able to unsubscribe from my emails at any time, but you must be subscribed on the closing date to be in with a chance.

The giveaway is NOW CLOSED. Thanks to everyone who entered. open until December 8th (11.59pm).

It’s Blooming Marvelous in Amsterdam

I’ve had a quiet week on the blog front because I’ve been enjoying a short break in Amsterdam with Adam and some friends. I must say, there’s a lot more to the city than just ‘lads on stag weekends’ and the red light district. There’s also plenty of greenery and some delightful parks and gardens too!

Initially we tried booking an apartment but when it was unavailable we jumped at the chance to rent a houseboat on one of Amsterdam’s many canals. Having our own little garden was a big draw for me and I was intrigued to see what would be in flower. Seeing ducks float past the kitchen window on my first morning was pure joy!

As well as eating pancakes we visited two markets in the lovely Jordaan area where there was an amazing abundance of Squash and Pumpkin. My homegrown attempts didn’t work out for me this year, yet it seems that everywhere I go I see the most incredible and weirdest varieties imaginable.

 

We also took a walk to the iconic Vondelpark where the colours of the trees were stunning.

Our trip wouldn’t have been complete without visiting the city’s botanical gardens. It’s not exactly the best time of year though so the outside area was a little disappointing but inside the greenhouses proved interesting. From the little butterfly house to the canopy walks through the big tropical house. We made packed lunches every day and enjoyed eating them on a bench inside.

I was really impressed with Amsterdam. I loved the fact that people were successfully growing plants in the smallest of places. It has given me some great ideas for my small garden at home and some ideas for vertical planting at my allotment.

Okay, so it’s not a real garden, but it is cool!

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

I’ve just seen a post by May Dreams Gardens and it filled me with joy because I can now check out people’s gardens today, online! I’ve taken a few photos myself just now. I’ve been really impressed with my flowers this year, they’re doing really well and I think most of the credit is actually due to Adam because he really helps boost my flower power by doing a lot of the planting and care. It’s either that or it’s just been a good year ;) I have a lot more in bloom but it’s dark outside so I’m struggling to get decent shots.


I have a few of these little roses in pots and they’re all doing well.


I’ll need to protect these soon but amazed with the Pelargonium this year.


Very happy these are still flowering, a little tatty but we saved these a few weeks ago and I just love Rudbeckia.

I also have Kafir Lily’s still in flower, plus primroses and violas but my photos just aren’t working out, they’re little blury blobs. Adam’s just planted up the window boxes (it was my job in the summer, his for winter) but none of those are flowering yet. All still to bloom!

If you want to know more about Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and have a nosey at some other gardens please visit May Dreams Gardens blog.

 

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