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March 2010

Daffodils, - it's a worry

today is the 30th March.

Spring has officially been here a week, and yet after a hard winter, things have not really started sprouting in my garden.

During my walk at Wisley this weekend, I spotted lots of daffodils

These are Narcissus cyclaminius, - they seed easily in the wild, but won't grow in a pot, making them almost impossible to get in your garden

Unknown cream and yellow variety, and a sea of tete a tete.

an orange trumpet variety, - no labels to be found.

Ok, so these are all looking great, so what is my worry, - well tomorrow evening the 31st of March is the West Horsley Horticultural Society Spring show.

Last year, I did rather well at my first try at showing daffodils in the local show, and although this year's HP sauce bottle is plastic, I had spent money on buying some lovely show vases.

I planted hundreds of bulbs last autumn, BUT, hardly any of them are flowering yet, only one of my Hellebores is in flower, (meaning I can't do a mixed floating bowl), and my Kerria which last year was almost over, isn't showing a single flower yet.

I need the sun to shine big time tomorrow. - Any other tips for how to bring out my blooms in only a day?

I'll update you about how I do tomorrow evening, and whether the rest of the hort soc members have had trouble finding booms as well.

Stachyurus Chinensis and other unusual spring shrubs

We went for a family walk at Wisley yesterday.

As well as lots of wonderful daffodils and plenty of buds for bulbs to come, we saw some pretty impressive spring shrubs, and there was loads of scent in the air.

This was the most impressive shrub, in full flow this weekend

Stachyurus Chinensis - This can get to be a large shrub, and it blends into the background in the summer, but now in early spring, it has got the wow factor.

The camellias were looking great, and the buds & flowers were at their perfect,- havn't gone brown and looked ugly yet stage. My son was sure that these smelt nice, but I couldn't detect any scent.

However. the next 2 were fantastic and created clouds of perfume

Daphne Bholua, which was showing signs of being beaten up by the winter weather, but still had the most fantastic waft of scent. and Edgeworthia Chrysantha, - not available very often, but if I ever have a woodland garden, this will be at the top of my list for being used.

The last one, which I forgot to write down the variety (not one that I recognised) also smelt, - some like the scent others don't, - but when you have flowers like these.....

Ribes, the flowering currant, - and please let me know if you recognise which one.

Malvern Show 2010, the start of my show season


I've always loved going to Garden shows. - BW (before William) it was part of our summer season. - Chelsea Flower show, Wimbledon Tennis, Boat Race, Hampton Court, Cricket at the Oval..... (not in heels and hats you understand, but anyone can get into those events if they Q in the right places!)

When I was an RHS employee, I got complimentary tickets, and I've been know to go to Chelsea twice in a week and Hampton Court 4 times (2ce when I was working on a stand, once when I went on my own and once with family) in a week. So the London area shows were familiar to me as a Surrey girl, and a trek to the NEC was also added occasionally, but it was only a couple of years ago that we discovered the Malvern Show.

As the show ground is only 40 mins drive from the in-laws, it's a perfect place for us to spend a day out without a little one in tow, and it's a lot more relaxed day out than the more formal Chelsea week which follows on a couple of weeks later.

Hubby and I go to Flower shows for completely different reasons. He wants to see the latest gadgets, tools, water features, chicken houses and food and wine stalls. I'm there for the plants, - in the gardens, in the floral marquees and on the nursery stands.

Between us it means that we do tend to do the whole length of the showground (with the exception of the jumpers and the old ladies coats stands!) At Malvern that is quite a distance to cover, as it's on the 3 counties show ground, and it is set over a vast area, but for a show so early in the season, I was amazed to see so much in full flower. Plenty of Iris, Aqueligia, Dicentra and Epimedium taking centre stage in the show gardens and plant tents.


I'm sure we did lots of shopping, as I didn't take many pictures!

Since our first visit in 2008 we've been twice more (to the Autumn shows where there are mountains of bulbs for sale) but this year for the first time i'm going on my own without my husband, - the reason.....

Well for the last 2 years i've been writing about what I do on this blog, and passing on some hints and tips about things i've seen in mine and other gardens I work in. I've also been reading a whole load of information from other gardeners of all types all over the UK and the world, and communicating with a lot of them via twitter,  and that means i'm part of a group known as Garden bloggers. This year at the RHS Malvern Flower show, there are going to be a whole load of bloggers meeting for the first time, and this is because of the fine work of Helen and Michelle AKA Vegplotting and the Patient gardener. who have encouraged us all to Meet at Malvern.

It's really exciting, and a little bit like meeting a pen pal, - these are people who i've read their blogs, i've shared what they are doing in their tweets, I've seen pictures of their gardens, and I know their love for all things gardening AND, we get to meet at a flower show as well. - I've got Friday 7th May highlighted in my diary, and a bed booked at the in-laws the night before so that I can get an early start. I promise i'll take more pictures this year, and share them with you, plus i'm hoping for loads of bargains so i'll come home with a full car.

Controlling insect pests naturally - Greenfly control

When I was at Hadlow college, many moons ago, - one of the trips that we did was to a commercial tomato growing greenhouse. The size and scale of the operation was amazing, but the thing I remember with a smile on my face even now is one of my fellow students, (a young man of rather large build), who was wearing a yellow T-shirt. This was an unfortunate colour to wear as every greenfly, whitefly, thrip and hoverfly in the place took an interest in him, and he spent the entire visit in a moving cloud.

this can however be used as a bonus to control a range of pests, and Yellow sticky strips are used to attract and then trap the adult flies so that they can't breed and create more of a problem.

When I spotted greenfly on the Sage plants I was potting up yesterday (grown from seed, so i'm feeling slightly smug, and don't want the greenfly spoiling my feeling of smugness!) I cracked open a new pack of sticky strips.

I've found them very useful in my greenhouse, and use them either hanging from the roof struts, or, with a wire holder, sticking into the plant pots.- I find it best not to hang them in the centre of the greenhouse, simply because they are very painful if you walk into them!

Within a week, they'll be covered in dead flies, and hopefully my plants will be a lot less bothered by aphids and other flying pests.

Patio Gardening, cleaning to make it as good as new

It's Mid March, - the time of year in the Gardeners calendar when there aren't enough hours in a day, let alone enough work free, child free, nice weather to get out in the garden type hours.

I have this huge list of jobs that I want to get done, but realistically unless there's some time warp, Star trek stylie happen over the next couple of week, the things that aren't important & urgent, will not get done. Which is why although i've been looking at how disgusting my patio has become over the last few months, it was never going to get cleaned by me. With Chickens, Path making, Vegetable bed soil being added and general winter snow and rain adding to the normal wear and tear, my lovely sandstone patio, was looking grubby and, worse than that, becoming dangerously slippery.


As well as being the sunniest place in the garden, my patio is the place for eating out in the summer, for growing a lot of my fruit and herbs, and (being next to the greenhouse) is the overspill for my plants and seedlings

When I also had a client ask me how to clean a patio, I decided it was time for action, and in came Alastair Niddrie of Silex Uk, ready to help. Being a stone expert, Alastair had helped us to choose new tiles for our hall and cloakroom, and when I asked about patio cleaning, I got a huge amount of information that I didn't know.

Did you know that Power washing can de- laminate riven (when it's not flat) surfaces? Apparently all natural stone is cut on a fault line, and if you take off the surface, it may go back to the next fault line

Did you know that you can either use Chlorine and a deck brush (or in a professionals case a big powered brush) to clean, or use a steam cleaner (like a giant vacuum).

Did you know that if you don't put down an algae suppressant, then the green stuff can start growing back again straight away?

Well I didn't, - but I do now, and thanks to some nifty brush work (my morals wanted to go for the steam cleaner, but my budget wouldn't let me) and a covering of Algex, my patio is as good as new, and the colours in the stone can be seen again. I can now put back all my pots of fruit (apples, blueberries, peach, fig, and Strawberries) and herbs, plus my grow houses, and the wormeries.


Like carpet cleaning helping to increase the lifespan of your indoor floor coverings, patio cleaning can mean your seating areas outside last and look better, so get out your deck brush this weekend and prepare for a summer of outdoor living.

Now i've just got to find someone to paint the fences and clean the greenhouse......

Flowering in March, - Garden Bloggers Bloom day

It's the middle of March, - but here in Surrey although the sun has finally come out, there are very few plants that think it's spring. Looking through the list of Garden Bloggers on the May Dream Gardens website, my flowers in bloom are more like Zone 5 or 6 rather than the zone 9 which we would normally be equivalent too. Lets hope for more sun this week.

Last month, the only thing flowering in the whole garden was the Sarcococca and the Snowdrops


The Sarcococca is still giving whiffs of fragrance, but now there are a few tiny colourful flowers joining them.

There are crocus on the verge out side the gates, - Not as many as I think i've planted, - so will need to add to those in Autumn.

Continue reading "Flowering in March, - Garden Bloggers Bloom day" »

Free plant food, waste food eaten, - why not try a wormery?

I've been a worm fan for 12 years now.  That's how long ago I got my first junior wormery. 

The first one, wasn't a great success. I drowned my first set of worms after only 3 months. They were producing me plenty of Leachate (worm wee!) and I wasn't draining it off to feed my plants on a regular basis.

CanOWorms A year later, I tried again with a Can-O-Worms. This was a layered wormery, with stacking trays that your kitchen waste, plus cardboard can be fed in to at a regular intervals.

I had a lot more sucess with this one, and have been composting with worms ever since.

Worms are hungry creatures and can eat up to half their body weight in food each day.

They love vegetable peelings, uneaten fruit, saladings and tea bags. They are great at eating cardboard loo roll middles, egg boxes and other un plasticized cardboard. They are not great fans of too much onion skin or citrus, and avacado skins and egg shells go mostly untouched, so they go in my compost bin.

I also use my shredded security paper (envelopes with addresses on, old bill etc) as a layer to keep the bin oxygenated and stop it going soggy - they won't eat the plastic windows from envelopes, so they have to be removed, but I feel very safe knowing that my confidential papers are being eaten and used to provide great garden food.


Continue reading "Free plant food, waste food eaten, - why not try a wormery?" »

Mothers Day is next week, - ideas for the garden loving mum.

With only a week to go until Mothers Day, I thought i'd show you some of the presents that i've found that could be great for spoiling your mum.

While we were at Wakehurst place a few weeks ago, my Mum was very drawn to the International Garden Photographer of the year exhibit, and if you want some excellent garden photography to put on your walls, check out the igpoty website 
(no this photo isn't one from the website, it's one of mine, - maybe in the future i'll enter!)

ChilliWilliamhookerprintIf you'd prefer garden art rather than photography, i've been sent this link by the RHS to their new rather wonderful range of their botanical art, including this rather lovely collection of chilli peppers. Prices start from just £15 for prints.

How about taking your Mum to a Garden on March 14th? The following gardens have free entry for Mums on Mothers Day - Painshill Park & Savill Garden
Or if you were to treat your mum to RHS membership, she'd have free entrance to Wisley, Hyde Hall, Rosemoor and Harlow Carr gardens for a whole year 
If you like the idea of spending lunch or teatime with Mum there is an excellent cafe at Polesden Lacey or try the Conservatory Restuarant at RHS Wisley These are likely to be busy, so get there early & leave time to have a long brisk walk, then you'll deserve lunch.

If you want to spend a day with your Mum later in the year, why not book a day at a flower show.  Last year we took M.i.l (and F.i.l) to the NEC at Birmingham and took Mum & Dad to Hampton Court Flower show, and had 2 fabulous days out at very different shows. Tickets are already available online for all the shows, - if your budget won't stretch to a full day, there are afternoon tickets available for most of the shows from 3.00pm

My personal favourite would be a plant for the garden or a bunch of English grown flowers like these

Or you could buy your Mum Plantpassion email advice. so that she can ask questions of an expert all year round.

Any other suggestions for a garden loving mum?

Blueberries - try some new fruit in your garden this year.

I've been growing Blueberries for 4 years now.  2010 will be my 5th year of harvesting fresh juicy berries in summer, a handful at a time to add to my breakfast cereal or my fruit salad. They taste completely different and have tons more flavour than those dark round berries available in the supermarket, so why not give one of the many varieties that are now available a try this year. - Here's how to grow Blueberries.


Blueberries are acid loving plants, like Rhododendrons and Azaleas, - but as my soil is very chalky, i've grown mine in pots, and found that they love John Innes Ericaceous compost, with a leaf mould top dress each year.

Continue reading "Blueberries - try some new fruit in your garden this year." »

What more seeds? My favourite post from the RHS.

It hasn't been said yet, - but I know that when my husband gets to see the package on my desk that arrived today from the RHS - "What more seeds? - will be uttered", - probably with an I'm disgusted that there are even more packets to clutter up the house type voice.


Ok, he might have a point... - I do have several boxes of seeds lying round the house at the moment, - i've been sorting them into piles of which months to plant them. - I've already sown quite a few of the greenhouse crops. There are seedlings of Tomatoes & chilli peppers on my office and spare bedroom window sills and there are 4 types of salad leaves growing in the greenhouse, plus broadbeans, carrots and radishes.

But this packet is special because it heralds the start of the flower growing season.

The RHS seed list which has loads of plants listed from its gardens, isn't like your normal browsing seed catalogues, - for a start it doesn't have vegetables listed, and there are few pictures (although I'm very impressed that there were some this year, - anyone from the RHS want to tell me if they've shifted more of the ones with piccies?)

It does have a range of seeds for plants you just don't get in other places, or that you don't get all together in one catalogue.

This year i've gone for a complete mixture.

Some new to me annuals  - Zinnia peruviana, this always looks great on French allotments and Veg patches in the summer, Buplerum rotundifolium - lovely yellow green foliage, Eschscholzia lobbii - can it really have orange flowers to go with Calendula officinalis? i'm planning to put them with the Salvia Patens. Orlaya grandiflora, for summer froth and Lunaria annua because I love the seedheads.

Some hard to grow (from seed) shrubs- Euonymus planipes, which I had as a specimen at my last house and had to leave behind & Cotinus Coggygria. 

Some Gunnera manicata, - my Mum wants some of these and they are expensive, so I might as well try...

Plus a range of others that i've grown at various times in the past, but fancy the challenge of getting them to germinate from seed, - Baptisia australis, Veronicastrum sibiricum, Euphorbia myrsinites, 2 types of Thalictrum and Myrrhis odorata.

i've also allowed myself to order Verbena rigida again, - last year I sowed my pack of seeds only to find that furry silver leaved seedlings appeared, - not what I had planned but I planted them out. - It was a fantastic mistake, - look what I got.

So i'll be busy this weekend, -washing out my pots, mixing my special blend of sowing compost  and trying to get as many seeds as possible on my staging, and plant racking. - Have I got enough room in the garden for all of these? - No. But that's the wonder of gardening i'll have to give some away, - or swap them for something else.