Archive for the ‘‘How to’’ Category

Peach Hollyhock, BlakeneyI can feel it coming on. This slight obsession with Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea).

Deep pink Hollyhocks Ambler Road

Not only are they wonderful for greening-up our streets, but now they’re creeping into my front and back gardens (and a few clients’ gardens too). I want a field of them. I want to plant every seed that I’ve lovingly collected to see how they develop after cross-pollination, but alas, I’m short of an acre or two.

Cream Hollyhock with deep peach centre and blushings BlakeneyOn a recent trip to Blakekney on the north Norfolk coast, these joyful blousey creatures were everywhere. In little alleys, surrounded by flinty gorgeousness, in front of cottages on the street,

Cream Hollyhock with gentle peach blushings Blakeney

and even on their last knockings, I found them irresistible (and collected a few seed heads from each).

Hollyhock seedlingsI’ve only ever sown Hollyhock seeds in spring, from seeds gathered from neighbours’ front gardens, but I’ve collected seeds from surrounding streets and friends’ houses and started off a selection of these in the beginning of September. I’m not sure if, given a head start, these biennials/short-lived perennials will flower next summer, but I thought it was worth a try and will overwinter these in my greenhouse.

October Hollyhock seedlingsI’ve even started off a few last week to see how these do too.

And there’s plenty more to sow in spring for further experimentation. The delicious ‘Halo’ series (bold blooms with contrasting colours at their centre), are said to flower in their first year, so definitely worth a try,

Creme de Cassis Hollyhockand I spotted this rich ‘Crème de Cassis’ variety a few years ago at the Hampton Court Flower Show which I’m now itching to get growing.

We’re hoping to go large with our tree pit planting for our community project next year, so many of these little seedlings are destined to brighten up our streets (and a few front gardens if people want them). Just can’t wait to see how they all flower in the years to come.

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Indigo Rose tomatoesI’ve been watching this tomato for a while now (Indigo Rose seeds available from Plant World Seeds), and many neighbours and passersby have been commenting on these alluring fruits too. They seemed resolutely black and rock ‘ard up until a day or two ago, but now things are changing. Michelle at Veg Plotting luckily wrote about how to tell when this black tomato is ripe, so I’ve been patiently waiting for any sign of red.

Indigo Rose tomatoes closeAnd here it is. The green underside has slowly but surely started to redden up. What a gorgeous thing!

On eating, this, sadly, isn’t the most tasty tomato I’ve ever tried. Rather bland and with a mushy, watery texture. My favourite tomato ever is Ananas Noir (freshly plucked last summer when holidaying in the Loire) and it’s a hard act to follow, but I may well grow this variety again, just for its amazing good looks alone.

yellow tomatotesMeanwhile, I’ve been tucking into these delicious ‘Golden Crown’ cherry tomatoes, supplied by Sea Spring Seeds for lunches and dinners and these fruits have been remarkably sweet and full of flavour. A definite for next year.

Black cherry‘Black Cherry’ (more of a muddy red), also from Sea Spring Seeds has also been a little disappointing in taste, so the search continues for a truly delicious ‘black’ variety that will sweeten-up well when grown outdoors in our northern clime.

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Narcissi Rijnvelds Early SensationI thought my bulb planting was over for the year, but in a meeting just before Christmas, a new client expressed an interest in daffodils for spring. I’ve never planted daffodils this late before, so I gave bulb supplier Peter Nyssen a call early in January to see: One, if it was still ok to plant and two, if they had any bulbs left. Regarding the former, they said there’s just about time if you do it STRAIGHT AWAY (but the bulbs would flower later than usual) and yes, they had some bulbs left.

Jonqil Baby Moon

So I’ve planted some Jonquils, carefully, so as not to knock any sprouting shoots off and some Narcissi ‘Actaea’ and ‘Rijnvelds Early Sensation’ (thankfully not so sprouting). As I wondered how behind they might be, I had a very timely conversation with flower farmer friend Lizzie about Vernalisation (yes indeed). She’d been speaking to a daffodil grower who noticed that due to the lack of cold weather, his bulbs were a few weeks behind in flowering. Strange that, but many plants need a cold period to kick-start or accelerate flower production. Having said that, I’ve also noticed that some daffodils in neighbours’ gardens have popped up already, complete with flower heads, which annoyingly doesn’t quite fit in with the Vernalisation theory during this very mild (so far) winter. The more I know, the less I know!

Meanwhile, another friend confided in me that she’s often planted daffodil bulbs in February and they’ve always come up a couple of months later. Very reassuring, and I’m looking forward to finding out when these joyous bulbs will eventually bloom.

p.s. I’ll also be planting Allium bulbs tomorrow.

Daffs from MarchSuccess! These Rijnvelds Early Sensation daffs came up wonderfully in March. Normally flowering in February, they’re definitely on my list for an early splash of colour for next spring.

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