Tag Archives: nature

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.

DSC06202

 

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?

DSC06201

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Help! We’re under attack!

Last year followers will recall around this time of year (perhaps slightly earlier) something ate our garden. The tulips were eaten or the bulbs pulled out and the raspberry canes were stripped from the ground up to about one metre.

This year, at the end of March, we noticed something was scratching away the grass leaving holes and unsightly bare patches. Then the tulips started to disappear again. However, Mr Mac had taken no chances with his raspberry canes and they were well protected with mesh. The last straw was when the brand new strawberries were eaten.

This is the grass in the back garden which has been scratched away leaving big holes.

This is the grass in the back garden which has been scratched away leaving big holes.

Tulip bulbs pulled out of the bed

Tulip bulbs pulled out of the bed

the primulas were pulled out of the pot but were not eaten.

The primulas were pulled out of the pot but were not eaten.

Two huge holes were dug among the lilies but again, these were not eaten.

Two huge holes were dug among the lilies but again, these were not eaten.

Frustrated, I consulted the font of all knowledge – Google – with a search of “what eats tulips?” The answer………….chipmunks! “How cute”, I thought, my sole experience of chipmunks being the animated kind that have wild, wacky adventures of the non-destructive kind. The only problem is we don’t have chipmunks in the UK!

However, neighbours had been suffering similar problems and after blaming the deer, squirrels, pheasants and pigeons, a badger was spotted leaving our drive early one morning. So Mr Mac promptly went to the agricultural supplies and bought a mile of mesh to attach to the stob and wire fence which surrounds our garden. Our garden is now badger proof – hopefully – we just need to remember to shut the gate at night! Apparently they can dig under fences and climb walls.

The attraction? According to the Badger Trust, “Badgers digging for insect larvae in lawns can cause significant damage. Some lawns are more likely to support a significant insect larvae burden than others, and this is often determined by the condition of the lawn. Lawns in good condition, particularly if they are well drained and free of moss, are less likely to suffer.”

The condition of our lawn has been causing us concern for some time and as it is currently 80% moss / 20% grass, it must be badger paradise!

We left a booby-trapped pot of old tulip bulbs from last year to see if they were still being eaten but it looks like we have solved the problem as there has been no further damage since the mesh was added to the boundary fence.

The booby-trap!

The booby-trap!

But then…….

I was positive the other evening when I shut the greenhouse for the night I had three sunflowers which had germinated but the next morning there were only two. Then when I opened up a couple of mornings later, all the zinnia seedlings had been eaten leaving only stalks. Now something is in the greenhouse eating the seedlings…….likely culprits are either mice or earwigs so I am keeping everything covered just to be sure.

What is left of the zinnia seedlings

What is left of the zinnia seedlings

To add insult to injury, yesterday when wondering around the garden I came across not just one but TWO slugs. They were promptly dispatched. These battles may have been won but I fear the war is going to be a long one!

Jobs for March

The more alert among you may have noticed that we are approximately two-thirds of the way through March. However, I have two excuses. The first is that the Central belt of Scotland is at least a fortnight behind the south of England when it comes to all matters of the garden variety and the second is…..IT IS STILL SNOWING!!!!!!

The snowdrops have now “dropped” and the daffodils, tulips, crocus and hellebores are thinking WTF? I did manage to tidy my brassicas and start planting some seeds  but other than wandering aimlessly around the garden, wrapped up like the Michelin man and leaning at a jaunty angle into the wind….not much has been happening.

So here is what should be happening this month…

  • Spread compost thinly over soil as a mulch to give it a kick start. We actually managed to do this, the reason being Mr Mac needed to turn the compost and we had to get rid of the stuff that was ready to use. Needless to say, Mr Mac still has not turned the rest!
  • Sow fast salad leaves. I have also managed to do this in a pot in the greenhouse, although the seeds took 10 days to germinate rather than the two or three days in the summer.
  • Deadhead pansies and primroses. I have a 100% failure rate on this. The pesky sheep that got into the garden ate all the pansies and the primroses I bought as plugs last summer have yet to flower!
  • Start to sow hardy annuals outdoors.…no chance.
  • Move summer flowering shrubs that are in the wrong place and lift and divide border perennials. We would but we can’t find them yet!
  • Start warming the soil for vegetables by covering with a cloche or polythene.
  • Start chitting seed potatoes. Almost. We have been to the garden centre and bought seed potatoes but they are still in the garage.
  • Rake up leaves, spike the lawn, clean troughs and containers, clean greenhouse glass to maximise sunlight, sharpen tools, stock up on compost and tidy, tidy, tidy and weed, weed, weed.
  • Plant onions, shallots, summer cauliflowers and jerusalem artichokes and sow parsnips.
  • Force rhubarb and prune gooseberries and blueberries.

Last year for the first time I planted purple sprouting brocolli and I believe it should be ready about now. However, while they have started to grow, they are still only about 15-20cm high. I am not sure what to expect so if anyone can enlighten me it would be greatly appreciated.

DSC05755

My leeks are doing well. They have taken a growth spurt in the last few weeks and should be on their way to the soup pot very soon!

030213 008

Today happens to be the Spring Equinox, the day when day and night are equal and from here on we will be bathed in sunlight. I can’t help but be an optimist and sense that all this late snow means we are in for a long, hot summer…..bring it on!

 

The highs, lows and lessons learned in 2012

Well what a year it has been. Officially the wettest ever in the UK! However, even though I am relatively new to this gardening lark I have a sneaky feeling that it would not matter what the year brought, gardeners are a fickle breed and there will always be something to complain about…..too dry, too wet, wrong kind of sunshine etc etc.

As regards my own experience, this is how I would sum it up…..

The low points

  • Most recent has to be Christmas dinner. Brussel sprout seeds were planted on 24 February and the plants produced barely enough for me, Mr Mac and little sis for our Christmas dinner. As for the parsnips, the seeds never even germinated due to the rain.
  • The crazy weather in the spring resulted in me losing all my tomato plants and set me back 7 weeks.
  • Okra was something new I decided to try this year, along with aubergines. It was too cold for the okra and although the aubergine plants did eventually produce two fruits, it was not until October and the cold killed them before they had the chance to mature.
  • Other than the Earlies grown in tubs in the greenhouse, the potatoes were a total disaster – if the slugs did not get them, the blight did!
  • The early frost got the blossom and so there were virtually no plums, pears or apples. Only one apple crumble has been made and NO cider at all!
  • Losing all the tulips in one night. This was particularly upsetting as we had planted up loads of pots and protected them all winter. Then one night, just as they were all about to flower, something came along and ate them. The jury is still out on whether it was the deer, pigeons, pheasants or squirrels.
  • Slugs – they just ate everything.
  • I am going to be predictable here….the weather! It was just pants.

The high points

  • Some of the flowers were exceptional this year, especially the acquilegia, echinacea, alliums, lillies and sunflowers.
  • Growing things in pots – early peas, carrots, butternut squash, spring onions and sunflowers.
  • The start of the hard landscaping at the bottom of the garden and the beautiful new paths Mr Mac started to build.
  • The greenhouse made from a conservatory rescued from a skip in Edinburgh.
  • Mr Mac’s portable fruit cage (although the netting needs some fine tuning!).
  • Having tried for 3 years, finally getting a bumper crop of chillies.
  • It was a brilliant year for soft fruits which obviously loved the rain.
  • Free seeds courtesy of Amateur Gardening magazine. I grew things I would not have thought of growing before…so thank you AG!
  • Starting my Blog….and thank you for reading and keeping me company!

Ten Lessons learned

  1. Label, label, label! Even though when you plant something in the ground it is obvious where it is (and what it is) YOU WON’T REMEMBER! Stick a label in the ground.
  2. Don’t be in a hurry to get all seeds sown as early as you can. Seeds sown later will catch up and there is less risk of losing them to frost.
  3. Keep a note of what is annual, perennial, bi-annual etc. To my cost I discovered I had pulled out a whole load of plants I thought were annuals when they finished flowering and it turns out they were perennials…oops!
  4. A lesson learned from 2011 was to put lots of drainage in the bottom of tomatoes. I filled my specially made troughs with lots of stones but now we can’t move the troughs to get rid of the spent soil as they are too heavy. All the soil will have to be scooped out by hand!
  5. Take out subscriptions to gardening magazines. Look out for deals like 5 issues for £5 (to see you over the summer) or my best find was half price Amateur Gardening magazine with free seeds every week from March to September.
  6. Bubble wrap is excellent to stop pots cracking from frost.
  7. Use Freecycle to get rid of plants or gardening items you no longer want or to acquire things you need.
  8. There is no point being a control freak and fighting mother nature…you will only lose!
  9. Don’t be lazy. If it is dry and you have weeds to hoe or plants to get in the ground DO IT NOW. You don’t know when you will get another chance.
  10. Plant little and often. I am constantly tormented by the thought that nothing will germinate and then it will be too late to start again. I end up with gluts of everything that have to be used within a short period of time. There are only so many vegetables you can force upon your neighbours!

For 2013 I am creating a sister blog….ayearinmygarden2013…where I plan to photograph the garden transforming over the year. I’ll still be here though and hope you will join me for another gardening year.

For now though I would like to wish you all a very happy, dry, sunny new year!

Camera to 0912 466

Jobs for May

Well, for the first day in May we have some hazy sunshine and it is not raining! It is still quite cold though.

May is the month to start sowing outside and hardening off seedlings to plant out when the soil becomes warm enough.

Is anyone else getting a sore neck from gazing at the sky, wondering when the sunshine will return?

I have a bit of a backlog in the greenhouse. Lots of plants successfully germinated in March are ready to go into cold frames (which have not been built yet!) but after what happened in April I fear for their future if I put them outside.

Brassicas outside but kept under a net just to be on the safe side!

I put the brassicas out during the day and put them back inside at night but not only is there still a risk of frost damage, the slugs have slithered out of hibernation (do slugs hibernate?) and are starting to nibble. It’s like living in a war zone!

 

 

Anyway, I have checked the books, encyclopedia, manuals, handbooks and magazines and here is a summary of what we should all be doing in the month of May.

Jobs to do:

  • Harden off frost tender plants
  • Once the last risk of frost has passed, plant crops outside
  • Start watering newly planted fruit and any grown in pots
  • Keep an eye on the pest situation – flea beetle, slugs, snails, pigeons, aphids and carrot flies…where does it end…
  • Keep growing small quantities of salad
  • Hoe and weed regularly
  • Keep haunching up potatoes – we have still to sow the maincrops which should really have been done last week but I’m sure one week won’t make a huge difference.
  • Put in supports for peas and beans. We use the prunings (or whips) from the apple trees – the ultimate in upcycling!
  • Net fruit trees and bushes and check for diseases and pests
  • Remove raspberry suckers and strawberry runners
  • Support tall plants as they grow
  • Finally, remember to sit down and enjoy your hard work!

I am going to grow tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergines and okra in the greenhouse.  I have brassicas, leeks, shallots and celeriac ready to plant out but will probably wait until the second half of the month. I have sown some peas outside as well as beetroot and parsnips but I also plan to sow beans, spinach, Florence fennel and swedes.

So it is shaping up to be a busy old month!

The greenhouse is full!

Best of friends – a quick guide to companion planting

My seedlings are all coming along nicely…they just need a bit more sunshine!

As well as my usual veg I have also planted loads of French marigold and sweet basil seeds to act as “companion plants”. I can’t remember where I first came across companion planting, but when I sat down to write this blog I checked my gardening books to see if I could pick up any interesting information or tips and was amazed at how little is actually written about this subject.

The internet is different, with everyone and their dog having an opinion about what is best. At the end of the day it all boils down to what you grow and where you live.

Companion planting is when you grow two or more types of plant closely together for mutual benefit.  There is a lot of talk about it being an organic method of pest control. I am not trying to be organic and would use chemicals as a last resort but as I am growing most of the “companions” anyway, why not just plant them where they will benefit another plant?

Most companion plants are strongly scented and confuse pests looking for their host plant. Others attract beneficial insects, such as ladybirds and lacewings, which prey on aphids. Some attract pollinators, like bees.

As I mentioned above, I grow marigolds and basil – these are my top 2 companion plants. I must admit I am not that keen on marigolds or their smell. I have flashbacks to the 1970s and tidy gardens edged with marigolds – the height of sophistication at the time! However, if you look at any list of suitable companions, marigolds appear the most.

Marigolds ready for action!

I keep loads in the greenhouse and also plant them among my veg. The smell repels many insects. They also attract aphid eating hoverflies and keep whitefly away from tomatoes.

As for the basil I plant this between all my tomato plants as it is supposed to keep whitefly away. It is also perfect for picking at the same time as tomatoes for that classic combination! I have also learned that the shade provided by the tomato plants helps to stop the basil going to seed.

Basil coming along nicely!

Other top companions to try:

  • Garlic chive – when planted alongside carrots, its strong scent confuses and deters the carrot root fly, which can normally smell carrots from up to a mile away.
  • Lavender – attracts a range of pollinators, including bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Its strong scent can also deter aphids. Plant with carrots and leeks to confuse pests.
  • Sage – is strongly scented and will confuse pests of brassicas if planted alongside them. Its blue flowers attract bees and hoverflies, which also pollinate crops.
  • Thyme – makes a good companion plant for roses, as its strong scent deters blackfly. A tea made from soaking thyme leaves and sprayed on cabbages can prevent whitefly.
  • Nasturtiums – when planted with French and runner beans, the nasturtium acts as a sacrificial crop, luring aphids away from the beans. Its attractive flowers help attract beneficial insects, which prey on aphids.
  • Fennel – if left to flower it produces attractive yellow blooms that attract hoverflies, which prey on aphids.
  • Mint – the strongly scented leaves of mint confuse pests of carrots, tomatoes, alliums and brassicas, and deter flea beetles.

The combinations are endless and it depends what you are growing and what works for you. Last year my friend simply planted garlic beside everything she grew. This year, as well as the marigolds and basil, I am going to plant lavender among my leeks and sage between my brassicas.  It may all be an old wives tale but what is the worst that can happen?

Chives and mint
Lavender

Fingers crossed for a pest-free season!

Recession friendly plant supports

In these times of austerity, it is alarming how much a quick trip to the garden centre can cost. All the bits, bobs and gadgets you think you need soon add up.

There are lots of ways to save money:

  • Our local garden centre has a 10% off day every Wednesday. You may only save a couple of pounds but over a whole summer of weekly trips this soon adds up to a substantial saving.
  • Larger chains also have some great deals and 10% off weekends. Keep a note of what you need and wait until you can get a discount.
  • Try growing your own flowers and veg from seed rather than buying plugs or garden ready plants. I calculated I saved over £180 by buying a packet of livingstone daisy seeds for £1.99.
  • Make your own compost.
  • Rather than buying cell trays for plants, save up yoghurt pot and tins, small and large and make some holes in the bottom.
  • Use the inside of a toilet roll for starting long rooted plants such as sweet peas or beans. The cardboard can be planted into the ground without disturbing the roots.
  • Subscribe to gardening magazines to save money on the cover price and benefit from the free packets of seeds they all seem to be giving away with each issue.
  • We have a local “freecycle” website where people advertise anything they want rid of. The purpose is to try to stop items being sent to landfill but quite often people will advertise excess plants or garden equipment they are giving away. It’s worth a look. I got rid of over 100 jerusalem artichoke tubers this way.
  • Look at what you have lying around that would do the same job. Instead of spending £6 on a dibber and dobber use a pencil and a fork!

Anyway, I digress.

This year we promised to make more of an effort to stake up all of our plants that need support. This means supporting plants as they are growing rather than sticking a bit of wire in the ground and wrapping some string around the plant when it is already lying at a jaunty 45 degree angle!

We have a clump of beautiful blue delphiniums and every year they just flower, then it rains and they fall over. They are about 12 inches tall at the moment, so bearing in mind our resolution to do the right thing by our tall plants I started to look at websites and magazines to see what kind of plant supports were available.

Let me tell you there is very little for under £10…and we need quite a few! Mr Mac promptly advised me there was no way he was spending £10 on some bent wire and disappeared off to his shed.

He came back with some lengths of wood (2×2 I am reliably informed), some fence paint, some fence wire, a pair of pliers and 2 screws.

This is how he did it

 

The wood was cut to the required length then painted with fence paint.

Dennis helped

A stake was hammered into the ground either side of the delphiniums. They grow against a wall so no support was needed at the back. The fence wire was bent and each end looped with the pliers to allow the screws to fix the wire to the stake.

The finished article. As the plants grow they will cover the stakes and more wire can be attached to support them when they grow taller.

The plants will grow around the stakes so you will never see them. I was also impressed that Mr Mac has pre-prepared 2 more lengths of wire to attach to the stakes as the plants get higher. This is so he has no excuse for not adding support as the plants grow, defeating the purpose of have a support in the first place.

I asked Mr Mac what he thought his plant support cost. He worked it out and it cost less than £1!

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.

Mr Mac is growing chips!

One of the first things we did in our garden when we moved here was plant loads and loads of potatoes because they are good for breaking up the soil.  Mr Mac had experience of growing potatoes but when he started talking about seed potatoes, chitting, first earlies, second earlies, maincrop and haunching I realised there was slightly more to growing potatoes than I thought.

It sounded complicated and for a while I buried my head in the sand and just let Mr Mac get on with it. However, this year I decided to “face the fear” and work out what it is all about. After all, everyone else seems to be doing it so it can’t be that hard!

So here is my quick guide to growing potatoes:

  • Seed potatoes are not seeds but commercially cultivated tubers which you buy in bags from garden centres.
  • Potatoes are classified according to the length of time they spend in the ground. “Earlies” are ready for lifting first, then “second earlies” and in late summer, early autumn, “maincrop” varieties.
  • Potatoes will be ready to harvest sooner if the seeds are encouraged to develop shoots or sprouts before they are planted. This is known as “chitting”.
  • As potatoes grow, draw up earth around the stem so only the tip is exposed. This is known as “earthing up” or “haunching”.
  • First and second earlies are ready for harvesting when the plant flowers and the foliage is still green.  For maincrops, once the plant has gone brown and died completely, cut it down to ground level but leave the potatoes in the ground for another week. This allows skins to harden for storage.
  • Maincrop potatoes should be lifted on a dry day and left on the surface for a couple of hours to dry. They should be stored in a cool dark place in a hessian sack which allows moisture to evaporate.
  • Crop rotation is important.  Never plant potatoes in the same place two years running.

What we do

That first year we had so many potatoes we could have put McCain’s out of business! The purpose of growing so many was to break up the soil, which it did, but it also meant we were overrun with potatoes. We have never managed to store them successfully and the other major problem we had was worms. Probably 75% had been eaten by worms. We know worms are good for the soil which is fine as long as that is where they stay!

We had the same issue in year 2, even though we grew them in another part of the garden so Mr Mac decided all potatoes must be grown in a worm free zone. The solution? Compost bags turned inside out, a half whisky barrel and some deep pots.

We roll the compost bags down, put compost and one or two seed potatoes in the bottom and cover them. When the plant starts to grow, cover the stem and as more depth is required, just unroll the bag.

With the barrel and pots, the same applies. Start shallow and allow enough depth to keep adding compost until the potatoes are ready to harvest.

You can harvest one bag at a time by simply turning it out and collecting potatoes. There is no risk of stabbing the potatoes with a fork and they can be left in a quiet corner of the garden or kept inside and moved out once the risk of frost has passed. Easy!

Our favourites

This year we have planted a first early variety called “Foremost”. It will be ideal for new potatoes and salads. The other two varieties we love are both maincrops. Maris Pipers are good all-rounders and perfect for chips.  Pink Fir Apples have a pink knobbly skin, a waxy texture and nutty flavour, perfect with just some salt and butter mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Foremost first earlies being grown in a deep pot

The Foremost are well on the way.

The Maris Pipers and Pink Fir Apples are happily chitting in the greenhouse.

Maincrops chitting away

And finally…….

Mr Mac has an acquaintance who told him about an ingenious method he had devised.  He did not have any growing space in his garden so he used old car tyres and just kept piling them up and filling them with compost as the plants got taller. Apparently his mother was moaning about the tyres making the garden look untidy and had told him they had to go. His reply was, “They can’t go. I’m growing my chips in them”!

A little bit about herbs

Herb trough looking sorry for itself

Last year Mr Mac made me a herb trough from some old scaffolding boards he acquired. I painted it with some fence paint and planted lemon and golden thyme, marjoram, rosemary, parsley and chives.

I have just cleaned out the old leaves and twigs and given all the plants a tidy. I seem to have lost the marjoram though – it’s gone. The rest look quite woody and straggly but there is definitely new growth so hopefully they will all come back.

Then I remembered it’s Dougal’s Discount Wednesday at my local garden centre so I popped down and bought these new herbs – curry plant, lemon balm, roman chamomile, mint pineapple, chocolate peppermint and marjoram to replace the one I lost. Six plants for £9 plus Dougal’s 10% discount – a bargain!

I also grow ordinary mint but keep this in its own pot as it is very invasive. I have planted sweet basil and lemon basil seeds which I use for both cooking and as companion plants for the tomatoes and I might try growing coriander from seed – I am still thinking about it.

A funny story about coriander

A friend of Mr Mac’s brought us some chilli plants and herbs last year, one of which was coriander. Neither Mr Mac or myself are big fans of coriander (due to an incident in Goa in 1994!) but it was a gift and it seemed to grow quite happily in the greenhouse. Eventually I felt compelled to do something with it and as I had loads of carrots ready I decided on the old standard, carrot and coriander soup.

The soup was made and I tasted it and tasted it but no hint of coriander. I kept chopping it up and throwing in more and more but still not a hint of coriander.

At the time we had a heating engineer working on the stove in the kitchen and he fancied himself as a bit of a chef.  I asked him what he thought and where I was going wrong. He had a taste of the coriander and promptly killed himself laughing.The reason I could not taste the coriander was because it was flat-leaf parsley! The soup was still lovely, although very well garnished.

Lavender

Last year I tried growing  lavender from seed. The lavender was successful and it even flowered at the end of the summer. I had plans for a lavender hedge beside the deck where we sit on sunny evenings but I was so precious about planting it out and losing it over the winter that I left it in the greenhouse. Mr Mac covered it all in straw to protect it and it seems to have survived.

Fortunately, this week’s issue of Amateur Gardening magazine has a section on pruning shrubs. Apparently the lavender should have been pruned after it flowered last summer. This allows time to develop new shoots which will carry buds for this year’s flowers.

It does say that any old, dead flowering stems should be cut out but not to cut into old wood. This is where I get confused and I do not know what that means. Some of my plants look as if they are dead. Others are partly dead but with lots of new leaves and a couple are full of new growth. I can’t work out what is “old wood” and “new wood” though.

So this is what I have done. I cut off all the old dead bits right down to the base. Where there was a dead stem but with new leaves at the end, I cut off about a third of the new growth. Where the whole stem was new growth, I cut off about a third. I hope I have not damaged or killed them. I will wait a few weeks and if they look alright I will plant them out. I have sown some more seeds this year, just in case.

Here is what they looked like before and after!

Before pruning

After pruning