Archive for the ‘‘How to’’ Category

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.

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Sugarloaf chicories in front garden

I’ve failed again! I’m really starting to get to grips with successional sowing over summer and have enjoyed months and months of lettuces (and other herbs and leaves) picked from my front garden. But despite actually sowing (and even buying) some leaves for over-wintering I didn’t manage to get most of them into the ground. The shame of it all!

So here I have my one success story. These are Sugarloaf chicories and I grew them as they come highly recommended by Joy Larkcom. Need I say more! I’ve been mixing these with the end of my summer/autumn lettuces, Sorrel and Sweet Cicely and have been enjoying some rather tasty salads.

Metal Hoops from Plant BellesBut as the temperatures are soon forecast to dip again, I’ve decided it’s time to do some wrapping up. I bought these natty hoops from Plant Belles some while ago and they seem just the ticket.

Adding bamboo canes for mini clocheYou simply thread a few bamboo canes through the holes in the hoops,

Mini cloche covered in fleeceEt voila! Covered in fleece, I now have my own cloche/mini tunnel to keep my chicories covered up during the coldest and windiest of months. Hopefully the protection should elongate the harvesting season for the Sweet Cicely and Sorrel too.

And I’ve left a couple out in the cold as I’m  keen to see how well they survive with no extra help.

Nicole collecting seeds from street HollyhocksMeanwhile, neighbour Nicole is collecting seeds from her ‘Halo Apricot’ Hollyhock, remarkably still in bloom in her tree pit. It’s a gorgeous variety and it’ll be interesting to see if the seeds come true or if fraternising with other Hollyhocks in the street will supply some interesting variations.

Cavalo NeroAlongside my Chicory, Cavolo nero is supplying some delicious winter veg,

Daubenton's perennial Kaleand on the corner plot, a small cutting of Daubenton’s perennial Kale, acquired from Charles Dowding, has come on marvellously. Looking forward to taking my own cuttings come spring and popping this very useful veg in many a new spot (sticks are there to deter foxes digging the plant up when tiny).

Beans to collect for seedsI’ve been meaning to do a final clear up in the corner plot for ages now, but bulb planting has taken precedence. However, all bulbs have been planted for both clients and myself (hurrah!) and it felt great to have time to collect the last of the seeds and clear up the garden for winter. Just a bit more leaf raking (GRrr..), a bit of mulching perhaps and then there’ll be plenty of time to catch up on reading and researching what to grow next year.

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Japanese winberries in clustersWhat with the lower temperatures and rainy days, I definitely get the feeling that summer is well and truly over. And whilst I’m still happily picking my autumn raspberries and having the odd exciting find of a ‘Mara des bois’ strawberry, I feel a tad bereft that my Japanese wineberries are also finished for the year. Out of all the fruit that I’ve grown this summer, this tiny berry has been the most delicious of them all.

japanese Winberries and raspberries I have to admit that my berry growing repertoire isn’t that extensive (just strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and wild strawberries). I’ve never tasted (let alone grown) a tayberry or a goji berry, but each time I’ve nibbled a few of these intense sweetie-like berries, they’ve hit my taste buds like nothing else.

Compared to my strident  Polka raspberries, it takes a fair old while to fill a whole bowl, but to be honest, I prefer eating them straight from the cane, preferably after they’ve been warmed by the gentle rays of the sun for an hour or two. As they’re not great travellers ( their delicate petite form tends to crumble if you try to move them about once they’ve been picked), I can’t ever see these berries hitting the supermarkets, but that’s all the more reason in my book to have a go at growing your own.

Japanese wineberry at the allotmentEarlier this year, I tried a few different ways of training their pink stems, tying some along bamboo canes and twirling others around pieces of wire. All have produced copious amounts of berries, so I reckon that this fruit can be coaxed into a myriad of shapes and sizes and can be squeezed into the tightest of spaces if necessary.

If you fancy growing your own, now is the perfect time to order a bare-rooted plant for a November/ December delivery. Similarly to blackberries and summer raspberries, they fruit on canes produced the previous year, so it will be a couple of years before you get to taste these gems. However gardening is often about the long game, and in this case it certainly will be worth the wait.

P.S. I received an email asking about pruning Japanese wineberries. You can prune old canes  that your plant produced fruit on this year (about half of the canes) anytime from now until late winter. Here’s a post about pruning them. Be careful not to prune the new pink canes though, as these are the canes which will provide fruit for next year!

P.P.S Just spoken to a friend, Tanya, who’s a mighty fine cook and would love to have a go at growing some Japanese wineberries. I’ve since popped out into the garden and put the tip of one of the canes into a pot of soil and she will have a new plant of her own next spring/summer. It’s as easy as that. As soon as the cane touches the soil it will start making roots, a  bit like a giant strawberry runner. And the new plant should be fruiting in 2015!

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