Tag Archives: garden

Growing a special bean in time for Christmas

harlow-carr-christmas-greenhouseA greenhouse at RHS Harlow Carr last December

After keeping this on the down low for months I’m very excited to reveal that Adam and I have our very own little bean growing, due in December!

It’s one of the reasons I’ve been blogging less over the last few months, I was literally too tired to read blogs and even muster up a blog post to begin with. Then, like the garden, I started ‘blooming’ but now I’m just exhausted all over again!

I’ve encountered another slight problem too – gardening when pregnant…

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Before I knew I was pregnant I was in amongst the weeds, digging and planting and not thinking anything of it. When I found out, someone told me about Toxoplasmosis and suggested that my gardening days were over until next year. No chance!!

We do see a lot of cats at the allotment so I’ve been very careful. I make sure I always wear gloves and wash my hands thoroughly afterwards. I’ve also avoided picking and eating fruit whilst pottering. Now I take it home for a wash first.

I’ve been spending time in the greenhouse on seed sowing and potting on duties, container gardening, some light weeding and cutting flowers. This is a big change for us as I normally do my fair share of that plus the digging and veg planting while Adam builds things. This year he’s had to do pretty much everything apart from pick flowers and light weeding! No wonder he’s still not finished the shed!

gardening pregnantHere I am late spring/early summer, trying to look energetic. My bump has grown considerably since then!

Gardening is something I couldn’t give up easily and has really kept me going through the nausea and tiredness. The garden has been a wonderful place to relax and switch off but it’s also allowed me to stretch my legs and get some all important fresh air.

I’m having to be far more organised this year because of the little bean. There can be no last minute bulb planting or late night gardening in November! I’ve chosen my winter garden plants already and I do hope that we have some nice Autumn weather so I can still spend time out there pottering – keeping active is very good for pregnancy.

harlow-carr-christmas-1Natural Christmas decoration ideas from Harlow Carr last year

Since our baby is due in December, hopefully in time for Christmas (if he or she is late the birth could be on Christmas Day), I’ve entered this blog post into a competition on Dotcomgiftshop to help everyone get into the Christmas mood. I have to admit that I don’t usually think about Christmas this early but this year I really have to. It just won’t be possible for me to do my usual last minute stint round the shops on Christmas Eve!

I’ve been eyeing up a few presents for people on the internet and I’ve also gone ‘nesting’ crazy and can’t wait to decorate my house to make it all homely and cosy while I’m waiting for the bean to arrive. I also fancy decorating my garden too, just like they do at Harlow Carr! Cute twinkling lights and lanterns have never been more appealing. These are some of my favourite Christmas ideas for gifts and decorations on the Dotcomgiftshop website.

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1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The competition prize is an iPad Mini and I do hope I get everyone in the mood for Christmas because I’d simply LOVE one of those! I have a laptop and iPad from work that I use now but in a few weeks time when I start maternity leave I have to hand it all back – how will I cope! So an iPad Mini is No 1 on my Christmas list because it will be the perfect size and so handy for me to keep in touch with my favourite blogs, order my baby supplies and google like crazy when I have no idea what I’m meant to be doing with the new bean! I suspect I’ll also be reading a lot more blogs about gardening with kids too.

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I can’t wait to have a little one to share the garden with :)

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Have you organised your winter planting schemes already? Do you prepare early or are you a last minute gardener and shopper?! Are you in the mood for Christmas?

 

Welcome to the jungle – the garden has taken off!

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Since my last post from the garden in late June/early July things have developed drastically! While I’ve been away on holiday the plants have grown, or should I say over-grown in the remarkable British weather!

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Adam was a little worried that the sprinkler system he set up would not work…but it did.

We returned to an abundance of foliage, crops and what I can only describe as a jungle in the pumpkin patch!

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We have lots of crops to harvest and a great big yellow courgette! The first of many.

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The higgledy-piggledy wildlife border is a bit of a mess now the foxgloves have died off. Looking forward to the teasel and echinops coming out though and the persicaria is still looking good.

I’ve got some late summer planting ideas for this border and can’t wait to get started.

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pink-dahlia

Unfortunately we didn’t have a sprinkler system for the front garden but we took all the containers, including window boxes up the road to the allotment so they would be watered. My pots of dahlias have come out while we were away and look great.

Out front the clematis has suffered, so has the rose and the rosemary plant actually died. Wow it must have been hot!

The day lilies are amazing though and have really spread since last year so they’re providing some lovely colour.

Day-lilies

I’m full of inspiration from our holiday in Provence and decided to take the opportunity to have a bit of an overhaul at the front anyway for my late summer display, by moving some containers around and buying some new plants – there’s nothing like a bit of retail therapy!

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How are your gardens doing? Do you have a good harvest this year? Do you have any tips for keeping your gardens in shape while you’re away on holiday?

 

Spring is nearly here – what’s growing on?

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I’m so happy that spring is round the corner but in terms of it ‘feeling like spring’ I’m as confused as the weather! It’s snowing one minute and mild and sunny the next. Very random! On the milder days it’s been great getting outside into the garden. Adam’s been tidying the greenhouse and I’ve been doing the weeding and having a general potter around. The weeds have really started growing now and I enjoy trying to get rid of them as soon as possible.

weeds-3What is this plant? Is it a weed?

My soil is lovely and I wonder if the minimal digging we did in the autumn combined with a bit of mulching has helped it achieve a soft and crumbly texture. I really can’t remember what it was like this time last year – warmer and drier I think so I’m not going to be able to pin point exactly why my soil texture feels great but it’s very easy to spruce up and keep neat, which is good in my books!

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A few weeks back I planted out my broad beans. I started them off indoors and then popped them into the greenhouse in big tubs until I felt the weather was a bit more stable. I’ve covered them with a net-box and sprinkled coffee grounds around them. One of my favourite local Cafes – The Cheerful Chili gives them away and they claim it works! So far, so good.

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Inside the greenhouse I have pots and pots of tulips. When they come into flower I’ll take them outside and most of them will go by my front door. I also have my ornamental kale which has bolted a bit. I’ve never grown this plant before so I’ve got no idea what I’m doing with it to be honest!

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Inside the house things are also growing and I’m starting to sow all my seeds for March.

My lettuces are still tiny but looking really healthy and I expect to be potting it on very soon and starting my next batch.

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A couple of weeks ago I sowed my chilies in expandable coir pellets. I bought a kit with the propagator included for around £4.95, which is quite expensive compared to a big bag of seed sowing compost. I’ve never used these pellets before but they seem to be really popular. My chilies are still germinating (they take ages) so I have no real view yet on how good these modules are. They are extremely quick, easy and clean to use though, which is a bonus. I just hope the seeds grow well, I’m hoping they’ll pop through any day now.

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My mammoth leeks are potted on and still look like little stalks. I’ve never grown this large variety before so I’m just keeping them in the light, well watered and I’m hoping for the best!

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My irises have been lovely this year but some are already on their way out, which is quite sad. I have another variety to come up next and I can’t wait for my daffodils and tulips to flower. The lavender is looking very healthy and once spring is established I’ll be looking forward to that taking hold.

I spent the day at Harlow Carr on a photography course today. I discovered that I’ve pretty much been doing everything wrong! I’m looking forward to downloading the photos I took and I’ll post any good ones. I’m really looking forward to getting out in the garden tomorrow.

Have you started sowing anything yet? What have you been doing in your gardens and allotments?

Month by month – gardening in February

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I always remember back to a job I had years ago when I used to drive up the motorway home every night. I benchmarked February 10th as being light when I hit the slip road. It doesn’t always happen on that date though but in February I basically live in hope of the light! At the end of this month I’ve usually managed to get up to my allotment after work and I start airing and cleaning the BBQ ready for March, when cooking and eating my evening meal up there becomes normal. This month could bring more snow and bad weather though, so we’re not out of the woods yet…

  1. Buy your seed potatoes and start ‘chitting‘ them by standing them up in trays (egg boxes are perfect) on your windowsill or anywhere light so they start sprouting.
  2. Start warming up the ground where you’ll be planting this year. Cover in polythene, mini poly tunnels or net boxes.
  3. Keep protecting pots of bulbs that haven’t come up yet from squirrels and water-logging. Keep them in your greenhouse, cold frame or a sheltered spot.
  4. Divide up any big clumps of bulbs after they have passed their best – snowdrops are the ideal candidates followed by clumps of grape hyacinths and daffodils next month.
  5. Start sowing chilies, peppers and early tomato varieties indoors or in a greenhouse that you can heat if temperatures plummet.
  6. Once they’ve finished flowering, prune winter flowering shrubs.
  7. Carefully prune fruit trees and certain types of clematis – don’t hard prune anything that flowers in spring.
  8. If your ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged you can plant garlic.
  9. As above, sow broad beans and/or plant out any well-established young broad bean plants that you’ve previously sown under cover.
  10. Go shopping for onion and shallot sets ready for next month, if your ground looks good though you could plant shallots in February. I tend to wait. You can also start sowing onion seeds now, although I prefer planting sets.

If it snows, clear it off tree branches and shrubs (Adam finds this hilarious but just shake the shrubs and use a brush if need be to clear it from tree branches) and if all else fails stay inside and do some sowing! My seed sowing list this month is:

  • Chilies – Anaheim, Jalapeno, Cayenne and ‘Hot Thai Culinary’ from World Kitchen
  • Peppers – Californian Wonder and Ingrid sweet pepper varieties
  • Lobelia – String of Pearls
  • Tomato – Black Russian from Seed Parade
  • Cucumber – Beth Alpha
  • Broad beans – I’ll be sowing straight into the ground outside and planting out the ones I started off in December

The important thing to remember about planting out is that the ground must not be frozen or waterlogged. Don’t do any pruning or planting out just before a period of very cold weather – check the weather forecast for the week ahead first.

The most comprehensive guide I’ve seen this month is on Woolly Green. There’s a video on pruning wisteria if you’ve not done that already and some advice about lawns. I know that some bloggers pruned their wisteria before Christmas. Not Just Green Fingers also has a great guide for the kitchen gardener.

Talking of bloggers, Sue from Green Lane Allotments has listed what she’s sown so far and also done a great post about her new seed delivery. Jo from the Good Life has sown her pepper seeds and onion seeds. My complete seed list for the year is here

Please feel free to add your own February tips and advice. What will you be doing this month?

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?

Back from the snow and into the snow…

Well it snow surprise that we suddenly get a massive dump of the fluffy white stuff just when everyone was starting to enjoy the unusually mild winter! I’ve had a wonderful holiday in Andorra, hitting the ski slopes, where there was a slight lack of snow (but enough to ski and snowboard) and I must say that coming back was a REAL downer. Wow! If January blues aren’t hard enough add a dose of post holiday blues on top and that was me all last week. I’m finally coming out of it though and just as I thought I had nothing to write my fingers have started tapping. I thought I was going to have to change my blog to ‘dig the inside’ since all I found myself doing was vegetating in front of the TV – a very unusual activity for me.  andorra
The good news is that my seedlings have survived without me. The sweet peas are looking a little leggy though and this is when I wish I had a conservatory to put them in to give them as much light as possible. The ones I sowed in the greenhouse in November are only just coming through and are still tiny.

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The garden is looking delightful and I’m really glad I left my pots of bulbs in the greenhouse and in the cold frame. The ones planted outside are doing very well and the snow seems to enliven them unlike the violas which look a little droopy. I have no doubt that they will spring back though and I’m carefully deadheading them to give them as much growing energy as possible.

bulbs_in_snow

This is a short but double whammy post because along with my updates I’ve also published the first of my ‘month by month‘ series. I’m absolutely no expert but people keep asking me what they should/could be doing in their gardens. I direct them to plenty of websites, but still they ask. So to accompany what I’m doing I’ll also post a monthly list. Please feel free to help me with this and add links to your posts.

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As well as getting back into writing I’m looking forward to catching up on reading all my favourite blogs too. I plan to make some changes to my website this month, including a list of the blogs I read and I also plan to do lots of sketching with my new kit that I won from casual casual easy thing!

I hope you’re all doing well this January and you haven’t succumbed to the blues. What plans do you have for the rest of the month?

Reasons to love Yorkshire – RHS Harlow Carr

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It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit RHS Harlow Carr – it’s always inspiring.

We took Adam’s parents for a stroll around on Saturday, it was their first visit and despite it being December 1st the gardens still looked amazing.

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It’s hard to choose a favourite part of Harlow Carr but the areas that inspire me the most are the ultra neat and well thought out vegetable plots, with their recycled plastic raised beds, willow edging and perfectly planted rows. How do they do that?

HarlowCarr_IMG_8174HarlowCarr_IMG_8172HarlowCarr_IMG_8161HarlowCarr_IMG_8158HarlowCarr_IMG_8156HarlowCarr_IMG_8165Adam’s Mum – Tina

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The alpine greenhouse is fascinating with an array of delicate plants in sunken pots inside and interesting troughs dotted around the outside. I always spend hours in the alpine zone and it sparked an idea to do an alpine advent on Instagram where I’ll be posting a different alpine each day.

A nice surprise was finding a new greenhouse. Check out the cool chilli and tiny apple decorations inside! The ideas coming out of this place are just endless.

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I highly recommend a visit to Harlow Carr. I just think these guys really know what they’re doing and I come away with new ideas and good intentions of planting my vegetables in perfect rows each time…but for some reason I just can’t quite get the look?!

Have you been to Harlow Carr or any of the other RHS gardens?

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Talk about matching greenhouse, cold frame, container and water butt envy!

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.

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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? ;)

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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