Friday, 30 January 2015

Winter wonderland.

I know everyone has their fair share of snow, but as I do spend a great deal of time whinging about my shady conditions and being surrounded by trees I thought that I better at least show them with their winter coats on. These pictures were taken yesterday (Thursday) and it was still snowing when I took the first batch from my back doorstep so they are a bit dark.

The last three are from different parts of the garden and were taken later so are brighter.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The usual suspects.

We have had a few smatterings of snow in the last few days, so I took my camera round the garden this morning to see what I could find.

Hamamelis mollis, has flowered late this year and I am pondering if it needs some cold weather to set it off or maybe it's just my imagination. Mine is planted amongst other shrubs but they make much better stand-alone specimens planted in grass but you need a large garden to pull this off.


The top picture of Mahonia japonica was taken in mid-October and it still has one or two bits of colour left although it is systematically stripped of its flowers every year by blue-tits. The lower picture is Mahonia japonica 'Hivernant' which came into flower a couple of weeks ago and remains untouched.
Can't beat Viburnum bodnantse for scent.

Helleborus corsicus, sorry I know it should be Helleborus argutifolius, just coming into flower. I think these reliable plants are indispensable for this time of the year.

 This is a variety of H.corsicus the name of which I have forgotten but it has now been flowering for about a month so is markedly earlier than the type. 

This Hellebore I think is one of the Ballard Strain but I am not 100% sure, a nice plant nevertheless. There has been a frilled Hellebore flowering all winter but its flowers are now very tatty so it didn't make a good subject.

Cyclamen coum complete with bitter cress!

Cyclamen hederifolium still looking good.

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin' just poking through.

Ubiquitous primrose

Squirrel Wars

I was driven to this on Christmas Day after watching two squirrels disappear with tulip bulbs firmly held in their mouths after raiding several other containers and I make no excuses for it. There seems to be little logic to their behaviour as in previous years I have been lucky and in fact the containers in the front garden have been ignored even now.

After careful observation (fluke) I have found what appears to be a solution to my problem. I generally top off my containers when growing plants on with coarse grit. Last season I ran out and didn't bother for a while, the containers without grit (3" pots upward) were attacked but those with the covering were left alone as they always had been although I hadn't realised the significance. After further tests this year I have confirmed this to be the case, not only with containers but also in the open ground, which leads me to think that they don't like the sharp grit on their pads. Next year the tulip containers are going to get the same treatment so watch this space.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Indoor stuff.

The last of the tulip bulbs went in just before Christmas only to have many dug up and carried away by the squirrels, I will have to wait now to see just how badly the containers have been affected, you can loose a few in the open garden but with containers it ruins the show. I myself have pretty much always planted late, pure laziness, but it would appear to be the perceived wisdom today giving stronger stems and lessening the likelihood of disease.

Following on from the final bulb planting the first cold sowings have been done on the first of  January in the mini-tunnel. Mainly Meconopsis and Primulas from the Meconopsis Group's list have been sown as I believe in getting the seed in the ground on receipt which also means that they are subject to as much frost as possible. I normally sow on a moisture retentive compost, yes there is an element of peat here, and cover with a fine layer of grit. Many pundits and seed suppliers advise that fine seed, particularly of hardy primulas, should not be covered, but I have generally had fairly good germination except with the very difficult ones such as Meconopsis punicea which was probably due to the seed not being fresh enough. This year I am trying a compromise as an experiment and instead of sowing under the grit I have sown on top and then washed the seed in with a very fine spray as you would expect to happen naturally so I will be looking forward to seeing the results. Not necessarily this year of course!

The main job at the moment seems to be going out to secure my mini-tunnel which has attempted to take off a couple of times in the last few days, I have bought a new one but decided it would be daft to put it up before the Winter as the old one will struggle through and take all the battering. There are one or two things happening in the garden but I am saving a photographic walk round until we get some calmer days with a bit of sun so I thought I would show you a few indoor plants which to be frank I am not really too interested in and have collected them through "lucky-dip" society offers or as presents but there seems to have been quite a bit of chat about orchids recently so I thought I might add my five-penny worth.


Dendrobium Spring Dream 'Apollon'

   All the orchids, which are in flower now, are in an East facing half-bay window either on the sill itself or in the case of the Cymbidium on a table in the bay. They are sheltered from the early morning sun and there is a central heating radiator running below the sill. The ones shown have flowered at least once previously and I have had something in flower for the four years since I started accumulating them except for a period of about four months last year when nothing seemed to want to flower. The Cymbidium has only one spike at the moment which is a bit disappointing, but I tend not to worry too much and if anything these plants are rather neglected. They are watered once a week, when I remember, and fed sporadically, when I had just two or three they were soaked in the sink religiously but this is not really practical now. They should be misted, particularly being adjacent to a radiator, but this doesn't happen which probably accounts, along with neglect, for some premature leaf loss but this does not deter them from making a reasonable show. I have re-potted several, particularly when they start to get a bit ugly, but although I am quite ruthless I have a 100% success rate in re-establishing them. There is no doubt in my mind that these plants are very tough and survive well even in our poor indoor environment.

After the beauty of the orchids comes the disaster:

Veltheimia bracteata flower emerging.

Veltheimia bracteata almost there.

Veltheimia bracteata finished. (Today)
Grown from a packet of "lucky-dip" seeds these two plants are winter flowering bulbs which are flowering in their third year from sowing. I had never come across Veltheimia before although it is quite widespread through the Southern Hemisphere and the Mediterranean and is apparently used as part of bedding schemes in more climatically suitable regions. The leaves are quite beautiful but the bottle-brush flowers leave something to be desired, the main problem being that the best strain is a deep red and as you can tell mine are very wishy-washy and nondescript. They look untidy after the first few weeks of flowering as the dead flowers detract from the new ones yet it doesn't seem right to remove them, I suppose one thing in its favour is that the flowering process takes four or five months from the emergence of the stem. I do apologise for missing out a picture in the sequence but I am sure you get the idea and I was so under-inspired I forgot to take a picture of them in their "prime".

I am already getting impatient for the better weather and it's only January!