Category Archives: Flowers

Help! I seem to have a UFO!

Can anyone help me? I have discovered a UFO (Unidentified Flowering Object) in a pot outside my greenhouse.

Yesterday I decided to pay attention to my mantra “a tidy greenhouse is a happy greenhouse”, and set about pulling out weeds (including a pak choi plant!) which had started growing in between the slabs and having a general tidy. At the greenhouse door was a variety of pots into which cuttings and seeds had been thrown and left to do their thing.

However, having managed to identify what might actually be a plant and what was definitely a weed, I came across this little fellow.

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I quizzed Mr Mac about it but he drew a blank. We have no idea what it is or how it might have got into a pot outside the greenhouse.

It looks like grass but with a beautiful purple flower.

Apologies for the lack of focus. My camera was in a huff for some reason.

Apologies for the lack of focus. My camera was in a huff for some reason.

Mr Mac is convinced it is a rare wild orchid. Can anyone shed any light on what it might be?

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Garden Update – Flowers

Where we live in the central belt of Scotland is blessed with really late light nights in midsummer. This means we can spend hours in the garden every evening, especially this year when we have had the added bonus (until two days ago) of a heatwave which was preceded by a long dry spell. For a week or so we were able to work in the garden until 11pm.

The irony is that all the time spent outside gardening means I have been neglecting this blog (although those following my other blog www.ayearinmygarden2013.com will have been able to see weekly pictures of the garden).

Some sweet peas that did not get eaten.....yet!

Some sweet peas that did not get eaten…..yet!

So here is the first round up of what has been happening……

For the year up to the end of June I was working on a full time contract and so knew from early on that there was no way I would have the time to grow as many flowers from seed as I usually do. It has also become clear over the last few years that the solution to the empty spaces in our large borders is to fill them with perennial plants, cutting down on the need for annuals and bedding plants.

However, I still grew all my favourites from seed…cosmos, osteospermum, snap dragons, livingstone daisies, rudbeckia, gazania, zinnia, morning glory, sunflowers, sweet peas, marigolds and ladybird poppies. Also, new for this year (mainly due to the selection of free seeds with Amateur Gardening magazine) I tried hollyhock, nicotiana, laurentia, cleome, portulaca, aquilegia (lime sorbet), pansies, bellis, sweet william, foxgloves and swan river daisies (brachycome).

Sweet William - all from free seeds!

Sweet William – all from free seeds!

I planted loads of gladioli and allium bulbs in the garden and for the first time am trying out agapanthus, calla lillies and freesias in pots.

One of the alliums - not sure which variety

One of the alliums – not sure which variety

As for perennials, I kept a beady eye out for email and magazine offers and now have a collection of alstomeria, chrysanthemums, penstemons, heuchera and heucherella, coreopsis, monarda, dianthus, helenium, achillea and geums to name a few.

Monard, otherwise known as Bee Balm

Monard, otherwise known as Bee Balm

The good…….

The livingstone daisies, osteospermum and gazanias at the front door have created a stunning display, made even better by all the sunshine. Last year, it was so wet and cloudy all summer, that it was October before the gazanias even developed a flower bud and then the frost killed it before it even opened.

Part of the display at the front door

Part of the display at the front door

From a free “double” packet of bellis and sweet william seeds received last year, successful germination meant I had to give loads of plants away. Mr Mac chucked the rest in the garden at the end of the autumn and we had given them up for dead when all of a sudden they just took off, producing hundreds of flowers and filling some huge gaps in the side border. They are biennials and so hopefully there will be many more to come next year as they have been left to self-seed.

Bellis

Bellis

I was attracted to penstemons as they claimed to flower all summer long and slugs don’t like them….a huge issue for us last year. I went for a “blue” collection and an “ice cream” collection. They are certainly living up to their claim and I would definitely invest in some more.

Penstemon - either Blueberry Ice or Juice Grape

Penstemon – either Blueberry Ice or Juice Grape

For a while I had my eye on some heucheras as I love the variations in colour and ground cover they provide. I ordered a heuchera collection along with a heucherella collection including varieties such as solar eclipse, alabama sunrise and sweet tea. They are starting to settle in and fill in some of the gaps……and I just love them.

Some of the heucheras just ready to be planted out.

Some of the heucheras just ready to be planted out.

The bad………

This year for some reason, my Nana’s magnolia tree did not flower. This is its third year in the garden and we had flowers for the first two years. Maybe it was the very cold Spring? A mystery, especially as all other magnolias in this area seemed to flourish.

Two plants on my hit list for this year were meconopsis (Himalyan poppy) and Japanese anemone. I ordered one Anemone Serenade and two Meconopsis China Blue, all as established plants. I potted them on and then planted them out but with very limited success. The anemone just disappeared and the meconopsis took a long time to settle in and start growing but one of them has just turned to mush. I dug up the anemone roots and stuck them in a pot to see if it will grow back. I have supplemented the meconopsis with another two plants and hopefully next year will have some coveted blue flowers.

Geranium Alba - one of only three flowers so far

Geranium Alba – one of only three flowers so far

Yet again I have had no success growing Black Eyed Susan from seed so, after four years of trying, I am calling it a day.

The agapanthus bulbs were a slight afterthought and were planted right at the very end of the planting window. Three pots were planted up along with some freesia bulbs and only one pot has produced a shoot and even that has stopped growing at three inches!

My hanging baskets saw mixed success. I planted them with million bells and trailing lobelia. The yellow millions bells have been lost to white fly. The lobelia was failing to trail but thanks to torrential rain storms over the last couple of days it has now been flattened into submission.

Millions bells in the hanging baskets

Millions bells in the hanging baskets

……and the downright ugly

After having been under attack in the Spring from a combination of escapee sheep, a badger and potentially a pheasant we thought we were safe until one morning I discovered all my sweet peas, peas and pansies had been chewed down to the ground. This has since been followed by the geraniums, lupins, a whole hosta and my alstromeria. The prime suspect is one of the deer who I caught red handed earlier this week eating my parsnips. It is soul destroying but now, if it is not covered with netting, there is something whirly, dangly or sparkly nearby…..the garden is turning into an outside disco!

This was a hosta! It appears to be growing back though....no thanks to Bambi!

This was a hosta! It appears to be growing back though….no thanks to Bambi!

Violas - before Bambi

Violas – before Bambi

Violas - after Bambi

Violas – after Bambi

A further mystery was when everything in one corner of the trellis border starting going brown and dying. Anemone de Caen bulbs planted last year starting to emerge and then just went brown and disappeared. The same happened to a selection of geranium plants I ordered last year and had overwintered in the greenhouse before planting out. We could not work out what was going on but there was a gap that needed filled and we bought some bedding plants to stick in. While digging the soil a strong smell emerged. It was familiar but we could not quite put a finger on it…..then lightbulb……it was white spirit. It turns out when we were having some painting done, the decorator cleaned his brushes at the outside tap then emptied everything into the soil beside it. Archie – you owe me three geraniums and a packet of Anemone bulbs!

Helenium -  two plants bought from a specialist nursery at Gardening Scotland

Helenium – two plants bought from a specialist nursery at Gardening Scotland

This just makes me smile

This just makes me smile

Mr Mac hits the rocks!

Mr Mac has always been an admirer of alpines. He has mentioned once or twice how he would like to create a rockery somewhere in the garden but until now there was nowhere suitable.

Recently, Mr Mac and his friend attended an auction at a builders yard. The builder in question had gone bust and Mr Mac and his friend had gone with the intention of bidding on a JCB mini-digger. They were unsuccessful. Undeterred, Mr Mac was determined not to come home empty handed and managed to negotiate a deal on numerous lengths of wood and a selection of sinks.

There was so much wood, it merits its own blog. As for the sinks, there was one Belfast sink, three stone troughs and the remainder looked as if they came from the toilet scene in Trainspotting. (I am not actually convinced they are sinks…..if you follow!).

The wood is under the blue tarpaulin, the dubious "sinks" can be seen in the foreground.

The wood is under the blue tarpaulin, the dubious “sinks” can be seen in the foreground.

The four useable sinks were earmarked for alpines, as soon as drainage holes were put in. Fortunately, this coincided with an online offer of 12 ground cover perennials for £3.99….so we ordered two, only to realise when they arrived they were alpines! I also treated Mr Mac to a selection of alpines for his birthday along with a book (Alpines An Essential Guide by Michael Mitchell). So he was all set………….

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Many, many weeks later, while tidying up the driveway with a mini-digger (hired for the weekend…..oh, the irony!) the end of the side border, which was a jungle of eight years worth of weeds, shrubs and goodness knows what else, was dug out and scraped back to the soil. Mr Mac rotivated it and continued the wooden edging (guess where the wood came from?) along to the end. He increased the height at the very end so that he could create a rockery.

Before

Before

After

After

Yesterday he spent most of the day moving boulders, rocks and stones and creating mini-Alps. Then off to the garden centre for some grit. I think you’ll agree the end result is stunning.

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The plants used are Pratia, Erodium, Heleniathemum, Thymus Serpylium, Sedum Spureum, Campanula Carpatica, Dianthus Deltoide, Aster Alpinas, Papaver Pacino, Saxifrage (Silver Cushion), Silene, Oxalis, Saxifrage (Peter Pan), Acquilegia, Viola and Lewisia.

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But guess what? He used all the plants he had so now he will have to go and buy some more for the stone troughs! And he has the cheek to moan about how many handbags I have………….

Santa Claus is coming!

This week has had a slight Christmas feel to it and as Little Sis’ has been nagging me for another blog to read I thought I would write about her favourite thing – brussels sprouts for Christmas Dinner!

I had a slight panic that, due to the cold Spring, I was way behind with seed planting and had done nothing about brussels sprouts or parsnips for Christmas Dinner. I sowed a couple of rows of parsnips in one of my new raised beds and I am pleased to advise that, unlike last year, we appear to have successful germination. A staple of our winter diet is spicy parsnip soup, so this is a relief as last year we spent a fortune buying parsnips.

The makings of roast parsnips and spicy parsnip soup!

The makings of roast parsnips and spicy parsnip soup!

The variety is Tender and True (“Delicious for Roasting”) and from to sowing to cropping is 28-32 weeks – so we should just make it for Christmas dinner!

As I was over a month late with the sprouts I opted for a variety called Evesham Special (large, old-fashioned flavour sprouts) promising a heavy, early crop from medium sized plants, ideal for exposed sites. Sowings in February indicate cropping from September so fingers crossed we will have plenty for Christmas.

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On another Christmas theme, our lucky dip perennial box arrived this week. This was a special email offer from Suttons back in April – 4 x 18 different lucky dip perennials for £9.99. We had forgotten about it so it was a bit like Christmas opening the box to see what was inside. Our four lucky dips were:

Dianthus – I am not a big fan but Mr Mac is. We have two in the garden already which, despite my deliberate neglect, continue to thrive. They will now be joined by another 18!

Coreopsis – I was quite happy about this because I tried to grow these from seed last year and the slugs ate every single one. I was reluctant to try again but now I don’t have to.

Monarda – I had never heard of this but believe the common name is Beebalm.

Sedum – Mr Mac had been after some of this  so he was pleased. According to the catalogue it offers “drought-tolerant” late summer colour. Not something we usually have a problem with but it would be a nice problem to have for a change!

It was too hot in the greenhouse to pot them on so we sat outside in the sunshine!

It was too hot in the greenhouse to pot them on so we sat outside in the sunshine!

All potted on and ready to grow!

All potted on and ready to grow!

Normally what happens at Christmas is I receive my presents and then go out and buy what I really wanted! The same was true this week. We are fortunate that Scotland’s flagship gardening show – Gardening Scotland – takes place less than a 15 minute drive away. The show was last weekend and Mr Mac and I set off with good intentions “not to go draft”- but we were like kids in a sweet shop.

I bought some Helenium plants and another couple of Meconopsis to supplement the pathetic specimens I bought online. Mr Mac got some Lupins, Heuchera and some alpines. We also invested in another couple of Clemetis – a white and pink Montana for some spring colour.

Our purchases

Our purchases

Finally, on a present theme, I was bemoaning to Mr Mac how I am concerned that there has been no activity from the Calla Lillies I planted in a pot. All the other bulbs are starting to show but not the lillies.

When I came home from work the other evening, look what was sitting at the from door…….

Mr Mac bought me a couple of Calla Lillies and planted them in pots with some trailing lobelia.

Mr Mac bought me a couple of Calla Lillies and planted them in pots with some trailing lobelia.

 

 

And we’re off……

For some reason this year I have been putting off getting started with anything, mainly due to the weather but partly because I know once it starts it is going to be non-stop until next winter! However, I had a word with myself and took a big deep breath……

Last Sunday I planted some flower seeds and sat them on a tray in the dining room covered with a plastic cloche (for paw protection!). Within 2 days the Malva seeds have germinated, closely followed by the Cosmos Purity.

Cosmos Purity seeds

Out in the greenhouse, the lettuce leaf seeds I planted two weeks ago have now germinated but no sign of the peas yet. The garlic is now ready to be planted outside but it will probably be a few weeks before we will be able to do that as the ground is still covered in snow and will be too hard to plant.

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Today we finally planted the First Early potatoes. We bought them weeks ago and they have been lying in the garage in the dark, not on a sunny windowsill to chit! However, no harm done and plenty of growth on each seed potato.

We decided to go for the same variety as last year called “Foremost”. Last year we grew them in tubs inside the greenhouse and the yield was superb. They were perfect for salads and we were eating them between June and August. Due to the main crop potatoes suffering from blight last year, these were the only potatoes we had!

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We have planted some in tubs again but also put some in compost bags. Enough soil to bury the seed potatoes and then just wait for them start growing and keep covering them with soil.

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A few weeks ago our garden got trashed by sheep that escaped from the field next door. They took a fancy to my winter flowering pansies and ate the lot. I had grown them from seed since June 2012 so I was devastated. It also left me with lots of empty pots, too late to plant spring bulbs and too early for summer bedding.

However, a trip to the garden centre to see what I could replace them with led me to the bargain of the year so far. In a quiet little corner where the bargain bucket is we found trays of primulas reduced to 75p for six. So we bought all of them.

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Then we saw a pile of terracotta pots, originally £15 but reduced, then reduced again to only £2.99! So we bought nine of them!

So after a little bit of dead-heading we now have three little pots of sunshine on our doorstep. Bah humbug and mint sauce!

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Control-freak gardening

This year I discovered I am a control-freak gardener. I realised this towards the end of the summer (I use the term loosely!) when I noticed one of the areas usually swamped with vegetables was only a quarter full with a teepee of peas, one of beans and a couple of rows of beetroot and swede. To be fair, there should also have been parsnips and fennel but neither of them came to anything.

In my quest to stop worms eating potatoes, they were all in bags, my carrots and peas were in pots, melons and tomatoes in troughs and lettuces and courgettes in growbags. The control-freak in me was determined to contain everything under the misconception that I would be able to control it. Did it make any difference ……what do you think?

The potatoes got eaten by slugs anyway, the carrots rebelled through lack of water and overcrowding and the courgettes got water-logged and turned to mush.

However, two experiments in control-freak gardening this year were a great success. Having had limited success with sunflowers and butternut squash in previous years – the former snapping in half from wind damage just as they were about to flower, the latter requiring a whole greenhouse to themselves – I was intrigued by the cover of Suttons Spring catalogue showing the most beautiful sunflowers in a pot.

The variety were Waooh! and promised “a multi-headed sunflower, producing a profusion of golden flowers with large, dark, central discs. The bushy plants are ideal for border or patio container…”. They germinated really well and I think you will agree the results were stunning.

Sunflower 1

sunflower 2

The added benefit of them being in pots was that they were portable and could be moved to a sheltered spot or placed at the front door so we could look at them from inside on the rainy days (of which there were many!), reminding us of sunnier times.

While perusing Suttons catologue I came across a similar solution for the butternut squash greenhouse hijackers – Squash F1 Butterbush. I was promised “a compact-growing variety which makes it possible to grow tasty butternut squashed on your patio.” And I was not disappointed. I grew two pots and they did have a fair spread but I was rewarded with many full size fruits.

Butternut 1Butternut 2butternut 3butternut 4

Now while these containment experiments were successful, it has become patently obvious that I don’t have room to grow everything in pots and I have a large garden with a selection of veggie patches lying empty. Something has to change.

So for 2013 I have decided to try to embrace the fact that it is impossible to control nature and give myself over to the green side; worms will eat my potatoes, slugs will eat everything, caterpillars will eat my brussels and aphids, flies, beetles, bugs, mice, birds, moles and deer will all try their best to scupper my hard work. To fight nature is futile and will only end in tears.

So my new mantra (provided by Monty Don) will be, “If a weed is no more than a plant in the wrong place, then a pest is only an animal eating the wrong food!”

However, my inner control-freak might need a wee bit of counselling first!

angry

Patience is a virtue, especially for gardeners!

Last year, while perusing the walls of seed packets at the garden centre, one packet caught my eye.

Acquilegia Petticoat Pink. The packet stated “early colour perfect in cottage gardens”. I was taken by the picture of the flowers: delicate pink and white frilly bells.

Reading the front of the packet it said to sow February to June, flowers May to July. Perfect, I thought, for some early colour and pretty little flowers.

Only when I got home and went to sow the seeds did I realise that they are a hardy perennial which flowers the year after sowing!

For novices reading this, a perennial is a plant which continues to grow for at least 3 years. It took me a while to learn that.

So although I had bought seeds for a plant that would not flower for at least 15 months, I would at least get a few years of benefit.

I planted the seeds on 20 April 2011, potted them on in June, kept them in a cold frame over the summer and planted them in the ground in their flowering position in September.

Finally, after just over a year of waiting, the first flowers have come out.

They are absolutely stunning. Smaller than I thought they would be and, in the ground, they look a bit spindly until they fill out, but a welcome addition of colour around the base of the apple and pear tree where I planted them.

I am so pleased with them I have bought some more acquilegia seeds called lime sorbet and, provided they germinate and grow successfully, I will plant them in between the petticoat pinks.

Once they have died back I also plan to plant the remaining tulip bulbs (the ones that did not get eaten by the pheasant!) in among them.

 

Oops!…thank you Monty Don

Some of you might remember I posted a blog on 30 March 2012 – Unidentified Growing Objects!

Weird pineapple shaped plants were sprouting underneath the livingroom window and I assumed they must be dahlias as that is what I had grown there last year. I was not 100% convinced though because they were not in the same place and all the foliage was the same. I planted 4 different types of dahlia with dark green to lime green foliage and, in fact, waxed lyrical in my blog about the variety this provides even before the plants flower!

Anyway, last night we had our regular Friday night date with Monty Don on Gardeners’ World. Monty was seen bringing pots of pineapple shaped plants out of his shed, ready to plant them outside.

I said to Mr Mac, “Oh look, Monty has the same dahlias as me. Let’s see what he does with his.”

But Monty did not start talking about dahlias. Oh no. He started telling viewers all about his collection of………….lilies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My chin dropped into my glass of chenin blanc (don’t worry, I did not spill any).

Then it all started to come back to me. Last year we grew some asiatic lilies in pots on our deck. They were stunning when they flowered but the display was over too soon. We must have needed the pots for something else and so emptied out the lily bulbs and planted them in the ground. I can’t really remember!

Anyway, it has resulted in a happy accident. We will have some lovely lilies while we wait for the dahlias to grow. No sign of them yet though….

 

 

Lessons learned:

  1. Always write down what you plant, when you planted it and where. When I plant things, it always seems obvious at the time but 2 weeks later when you have planted 100 other things in the meantime, things get blurry! See my blog about my muscari for a prime example.
  2. Place a little marker in the ground so even when there is nothing there you will know there is something underneath the ground. This happened recently when Mr Mac dug up all my echinacea plants only to find the marker afterwards! That was how he realised it was echinacea and not weeds!

 

My favourite livingstone daisies

Our first few years at this house were spent renovating inside. The garden was neglected other than cutting the grass, some emergency tree surgery and seeing what plants we had inherited.

There was an overgrown bush in front of the kitchen window which blocked our view of the gate. It was also a jaggy bush and as Mr Mac has made it his mission to eliminate all things jaggy from the garden,  it was pulled out and burned.

This did leave us with a large area to fill and so off we went to the garden centre to buy a selection of bedding plants to give us some colour for the summer. After parting with £50 of his hard-earned cash Mr Mac announced that from then on I could grow my own flowers!

We bought a selection of livingstone daisies, calendula and zinnias and I fell in love with them all, especially the livingstone daisies. These are the flowers I chose for my blog banner at the top of the page.

Now some of you may have noticed that there has not been much actual gardening going on over the last week although I have (hopefully) been keeping you entertained with tales of broken pottery and growing chips. There is a reason for this. See below!

A victim of my own succcess! All of these little seedlings need a new home.

I planted a tray of livingstone daisy seeds and look at how they have germinated. I knew they were ready for potting on but I could not face it and kept putting it off. However, I had a word with myself yesterday, cleared a space in the greenhouse, put the radio on and got on with it.

There was a lot of wastage but in the end I stopped after 360!

360 livingstone daisies

I grow so many because we have several long borders and the daisies create a stunning display as well as provide good ground cover. I have also grown some to give to friends.

There were two things that kept me going. The first was knowing how fantastic they will look. When they open their wee smiley faces to the sun my heart just melts. The second was the fact that the garden centre sells 6 plants for £3. So I calculate that for a packet of seeds that cost £1.49 I have saved Mr Mac £180!

As a bonus this year I also got a free packet of livingstone daisy seeds with Amateur Gardening magazine (worth £1.99). They are a different variety but (thankfully!) have not germinated quite as successfully. They should be ready to pot on soon.

If you are tempted to grow some I promise you, you won’t regret it. They are perfect for the edge of borders and seem to be able to grow in any type of soil as long they are in a sunny spot.

Their “Sunday” name is Mesembryanthemum which means midday flowering. They are native to South Africa and are also known as fig marigolds or icicle plant.

This is what they looked like last year.

Unidentified Growing Objects!

Last year I planted some dahlia tubers in a flower bed under the livingroom window. Seven out of the eight that I planted grew, but they were a bit late flowering (my fault for planting them late!) and then got obliterated by the strong autumn winds.

Once the leaves had turned black, after the first frosts, I cut them down leaving just a tiny bit of the stem above the soil. They were then covered in a really deep layer of topsoil to protect them from frost.

They looked so lovely I decided to buy some more and create a flower border just full of dahlias. They are all semi-cactus variety and the flowers are huge. The foliage varies from a green-black to lime green so even before the flowers open there is some variety of colour.

Dahlias or pineapples?

It is recommended that dahlia tubers are planted in the ground about 6 weeks before the last frost is expected. This is round about now where I live. I was having a look at the border when I noticed a pineapple shape sticking up out of the ground. As the week has gone on more and more have started to appear. Now if I was a betting woman I would put money on them being dahlias. However, they are not anywhere near where they were last year.

According to Mr Mac the tubers spread and what has popped up are new tubers. This explains why they are in a different place. It is unlikely last year’s tubers will flower which means I will need to wait to see where they are all going to pop up before I can plant the new ones.

It also means that they will have to be protected from the risk of frost so I will be tuned to the weather forecast each night and if it looks like it may be frosty I have some protective fleece to throw over them. It would be a shame to lose them now after they have survived the winter.

Another odd thing that has happened this week is the Morning Glory seedlings I potted on last week look like they have started to burn round the edges! They were growing really well but now most of them look as if they are going to die. I wondered if it was just too hot for them in the greenhouse so I have been taking them outside each morning and putting them back in at night. I have planted some more seeds just in case. I will need them for my blue wall.

Finally, you may remember a few blogs back I had lost my Muscari. Well I found it! It was at the front door.