Archives for the month of: May, 2013

Just when I thought Spring might really be here… It’s gone and turned cold again. I don’t think I have ever been so confused about what to do with seeds, seedlings, young plants. This is normally something that comes quite naturally to me. I’m seriously thinking of just planting everything in the polytunnel this year and hoping I win the lottery so that I can purchase another tunnel. Honestly! It’s May 19th and I really want to put the heat on this morning. That is so very wrong. I hope this isn’t the way the weather is going to be from now on…

Dandy-lion

A la carte Dandelion

I was talking about dandelions last time and how they had all come out at once. I must follow up with this quick story. I was standing at my kitchen sink looking out the window at the misty rain coming down. The west-facing window looks out onto a neighbour’s very large field which has stone wall boundaries. I noticed movement in the not-so-tall grass (not so tall thanks to the crappy spring). It was a cock pheasant and a hen. He was following behind her at a good 10-foot distance while she slowly and methodically ate every dandelion seedhead that she could. It made a really nice picture with the mist and the not-so-tall grass, the thousands of dandelion seedheads, and the colourful cock pheasant. Where’s the photo, you ask. I was looking at it through binoculars and my camera is not that great, so apologies. But I hope I’ve been able to do the lovely image justice when translated into words.

Cock and no pheasant

The rooster and missus

Since I can’t show the pheasant and his missus I’ll just put up this photo of the Rooster and one of the hens.  I was trying to get a photo of him with his head stuck down between the coppiced ash tree and the stone wall.  But when he heard me coming he popped out again.  At first I thought he had found something to eat but then I realised he was actually hiding from the wind.  They really hate the wind and lord knows we have enough of it here.

Lamium

Lamium orvala, a type of false nettle

There are a few nice plants flowering at the moment.  As I was walking around the Little Garden taking a few photos I realised that I most likely have a compulsive disorder when it comes to buying plants.  It seems that most of the herbaceous perennials I have bought in the last five years have flowers in the dark red family.  I will prove this to you now.

Astrantia

Astrantia major, I forgot the variety but I got if from Camolin Potting Shed

Isn’t that Astrantia lovely?  That’s the colour I can’t resist.  Read on…

Rodgersia

Bud of Rodgersia pinnata ‘Chocolate Wings’

This is my favourite time for the Rodgersia.  I didn’t know the flower bud was like this when I bought the plant.  It  is a great architectural addition to a border and really breaks up a bed that is full of clumpy perennials, like this one…

Centaurea

Centaurea montana ‘Jordy’

This is a lovely plant and you can give it a chop after it flowers and it will clump up and flower again for you.  I can understand why one of its common names is mountain knapweed because it is an extremely strong grower and it bulks up quickly.  Having said that I don’t find it a thug because it is so easy to cut back.  Once you have it you will always be able to share it with your friends, it is so easy to propagate.  Just dig bits out of the side of it.  I love it.

And finally, our last plant for today from the Maroon Flower Compulsive Disorder Society is…

Niobe

Clematis ‘Niobe’, Jackmanii group — thank you Aldi

…this happy little Clematis I bought from Aldi last year.  I am no snob when it comes to acquiring plants and this Clematis was as healthy a plant as you would find in a much more expensive specialist nursery.  Granted, it is a very common type of Clematis, but that shouldn’t really matter if you like it.  And I do.  ‘Niobe’ will be trained up a trellis I just put up (I made it myself.  It’s not pretty but the plants don’t mind.) along with a pale peach coloured rose I also bought from Aldi.  Sounds like an ad for Aldi.  Don’t get me wrong, I have had many Aldi plant disasters (cherry trees come to mind and most perennials that come in a bag…), but sometimes you get lucky and the plant isn’t diseased and is actually what the label says it is.

I think that’s enough of my dirty little dark red flower secret.  Please don’t worry about me because I do also really like bright orange flowered plants as well (they go really well with the dark red ones!). 

Bit of a mish mash today — I blame it on the weather. Happy planting (with a jacket, hat and warm socks on)!

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At last it feels like spring – she is so late this year that the dandelions have all come up at once.  In a normal year (whatever that is) the flowering time of the dandelion seems to be a bit more spread out.  Not this year as you can see from the picture of one of the fields by the Little Garden.

Dandelion City

Thousands of dandelions in the next field over, waiting to blow into the Little Garden

I used to hate seeing dandelions going to seed, being the main (and only) weeder around the place, until I saw a goldfinch munching away at a seedhead.  Now I just sigh as I pass out the hundreds of fluffy heads knowing that I will be pulling the weeds up in a year’s time.  And so it goes.

Tulip 'Ballerina'

Tulip ‘Ballerina’ doing a raindance

It’s the freshness of the season that I enjoy most: raindrops sitting on leaves, buds bursting open, leaves unfurling (why do I hear Julie Andrews singing all of a sudden?).  It restores hope (if you happen to have lost it over the winter). One of my very favourite sights is a big fat Oriental poppy bud pulling up out of the centre of a plant.  The wind here usually tears up the delicate flower once it opens in all its tissue-paper glory, but I enjoy the rough, toughness of the bud stage and take as a bonus the flower itself if it manages to last even a few days.

Oriental poppy bud

Oriental poppy bud is rough & tough, unlike the flower to come

Spring flowers are probably my favourites.  Maybe it’s because everything is looking lush and healthy, nothing has really gone over yet except maybe the daffodils (whose ratty old foliage you can disguise by planting things like Aquilegia around them that are only bulking up and coming into flower when the daffs finish).  I like the old standards: Pulmonaria, Dicentra, Pulsatilla (you may have seen my fondness for ‘Papageno’ in a previous post), cowslips, Doronicum.  I find yellow a difficult colour to work with in the garden because it can be so wrong with other colours at times (I feel the same about pink) – but in springtime this doesn’t bother me a bit.  One of my borders is a sea of yellow at the moment because I have let cowslips seed prodigiously.  I love cowslips and can’t bear to pull them out, though I fear these are starting to choke each other a bit and so I will separate them after flowering and put the extras somewhere else.

Cowslips

A sea of self-seeded cowslips

The vegetable garden like everything else is a bit behind.  I have a good stock of tomato plants growing in the polytunnel along with some trays of lettuce seedlings.  Everything is so late this spring that I’m only just clearing the tunnel out now.  I had let rocket and mustard plants go to flower in hopes of bringing in hoverflies and bees – they need a bit of help this time of year when the weather is wet and flowering is behind schedule. It worked – they did show up. But now that plants are starting to flower outside I can clear out the rocket, etc., before it goes to seed.

Look at all the potential in this little fella, a climbing bean seedling

Look at all the potential in this little fella, a climbing bean seedling

Squashes, pumpkins and all sorts of beans have been sown.  I’m using up old seed this year so I have oversown just in case.  I’m going to throw out all the seed packets of the non-germinators (The Germinator — now that’s a good name for a film!) and start fresh next year.  I have to do this every three years or so, otherwise I just end up with far too many seed packets.  I always buy fresh parsnip seed every year and scallion seed which doesn’t seem to keep a very high germination rate for me after the first year.  And sweet peas as well.

Pulmonaria officianalis

Pulmonaria officianalis

What’s happening at the Big Garden, you ask?  I haven’t been in a few weeks due to bad weather and other commitments.  I had planned to go this morning to do a bit of weeding, but it is lashing rain.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to go later.  I will post an update when I do.  Until then, happy digging from the west of Ireland.  Yours truly, The Germinator