Category Archives: Pot’s Growing On? Container Gardening

We grow lots in pots and here are some things I’ve learnt.

Pot’s Growing On in May: getting ready for a show-stopping summer!

May? Mayhem more like. So much is going on this month I feel like Dorothy whizzing around in a plant filled whirlwind. Different gardens I designed in winter are coming to fruition now, Chelsea’s next week and our open day is somehow only 8 weeks away! Continue reading Pot’s Growing On in May: getting ready for a show-stopping summer!

Pot’s Growing On: April 2016

Someone pointed out I haven’t done an update about our own garden for a while, clearly I’ve been bleating on about my allotment and other people’s gardens too much. Well, in April there is quite a lot to report as the garden is in full spring now. Please do let me know in the comments if there is anything you would like me to write more or less about, would really appreciate any tips on making my blog more useful. Continue reading Pot’s Growing On: April 2016

Dividing a fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)

I want more ferns for our fern wall and some of our ferns are ripe for dividing. After breaking the bank with our flat renovations and garden last year, I’m keen to save money by propagating from the plants we have (it’s also much more interesting and, as you probably know, I’m a propagation geek…). Dividing ferns is pretty easy, and below is how I do it. Continue reading Dividing a fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)

Getting to grips with grasses

In 2016 I want to get to grips with ornamental grasses. In particular, using them in mixed plantings  to achieve that blended, wispy look I see the pros doing so well at Chelsea Flower Show. After reading Planting in a Post Wild World, I’m especially interested in finding small ground cover grasses (or Carex) to weave through borders harmlessly. Continue reading Getting to grips with grasses

Fernatic: 50 fern species, 1 living wall!

Why we created a diverse 50 species collection of ferns on one modern living wall and how we did it. I’ve always been drawn to ferns. If fairies and pixies exist, they will be found sitting on a mushroom under a fern in the woods. Ferns are otherworldly and ethereal. Transporting you to another time and place. Continue reading Fernatic: 50 fern species, 1 living wall!

Dahlia experiment: cultivars put to the test!

In late 2013 I discovered Dahlias. As unbelievable as that might sound to gardeners who have grown up with them for decades, somehow I’d missed them throughout my life. I don’t think I’d even simply ‘not recognised them’, I’m fairly sure I had avoided them almost completely – perhaps a sign of how out of fashion they had become? Continue reading Dahlia experiment: cultivars put to the test!

Whoops, bought two mini succulents

Uh oh, what’s going on here? Two little succulents seem to have popped into my bag while I was at the RHS Wisley Flower Show last week (don’t tell Chris). The one on the left is an Aloe variegata from Craig’s House Cacti and on the right is Lithops salicola from the Wisley shop. What can I say, I used to have these in my childhood cactus and succulent collection and loved them. I still love them. Old habits die hard.

Review: Garland Grow Light Garden

Being an impatient so and so occasionally, last winter I couldn’t wait to get sowing and growing.  After a failed attempt to grow plants from seeds the year before on our windowsill (due to lack of light), I investigated grow lights and stumbled upon the Garland Grow Light Garden (see images above and below). Continue reading Review: Garland Grow Light Garden

Designer Edibles 1: Peas (Pisum sativum ‘Meteor’)

I’m on a mission to grow as many different species and varieties of plants as possible to help with my RHS Level 2 studies. While I am drawn to plants that look good for a designer look, I also want to grow some vegetables, but to fit into our garden, that means they need to have style. So I’m going to start this ‘Designer edibles’ series to highlight veg I’ve grown that is also ornamental, fitting in with a beautiful design. Continue reading Designer Edibles 1: Peas (Pisum sativum ‘Meteor’)

Pot’s Growing On: 1st April and spring is well underway

Call me a total plant nerd, but Lupin leaves are pretty darn cool
Call me a total plant nerd, but Lupin leaves are pretty darn cool

After about a year of planning for our garden this year, we’re now able to get started on making it reality – I can’t think of many things better than seeing lots of it coming to life.

The last couple of weeks have seen everything in the garden spring into action. From the birds making nests to the plants shooting.

For future reference, on the 1st of April, this is what was growing:

  • Astilbe are shooting like gangbusters, going from little shoots to the first signs of spreading leaves in only a week.
  • Most of the perennials are now growing again, although only the first leaves are breaking
  • The plum tree is on the brink of flowering, one or two flowers are now open
  • The Acanthus spinosus is growing and the weird clumpy leaves that were sitting there all winter that I thought might be a disease are actually the start of the flower stalks – hooray!
  • All of the climbers and shrubs are now breaking their buds. The new Clematis viticella ‘Polish Spirit’ is growing seriously quickly now. And the Clematis ‘Avalanche’ out front is growing flower buds fast.
  • Inside, all of the seedlings seem to be doing well and are growing nicely. I’ll definitely wait until the 1st of March before sowing next year – just couldn’t help myself in Feb this year 😉 Interestingly, my little experiment of lightbox vs window has proven that a lightbox has grown seedlings almost double the size so far…
  • The five divisions I made of Heuchera ‘Licorice’ last autumn are now all growing well. Some have stronger roots than others but the leaf growth is very healthy. It’s a very beautiful plant on mass and I’m looking forward to its airy white flowers again.

So, here in Clapham at least, it seems March is the turning point, but by April 1st the race is on!

One last thing, I’m really interested in the storage organs of plants now I understand a bit about how plants work. Last year our Eryngium planum didn’t flower at all. Today I moved one, which you’re not supposed to do because the roots are fragile and deep and indeed I did snap some roots. But what I couldn’t believe was how big the main tap root had become – fat and enormous! No wonder it didn’t flower last year, it was growing that beast underground. I expect, even with the root snapping earlier, that this year it will almost certainly flower well.

Pot’s Growing on in March 2015? Keeping seedlings alive and watching the world come to life

With the spring equinox (and a non-existent cloud hidden solar eclipse) done and dusted, Clapham is noticeably exploding into growth right now. The little propagation station we have set up in the front, south west facing bay window is working wonders…

Ricinus communis 'Carmenchita' growing strong
Ricinus communis ‘Carmenchita’ growing strong

Ricinus communis ‘Carmenchita’ from Sarah Raven not only have beautiful big (but poisonous) seeds, their germination is a wonderful thing to behold. Slow and primeval, a red stalk slowly drags the large cotyledons out of the soil, like an umbilical cord / crane over the course of two weeks.

The Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherry Brandy’ seems to be doing well with most now growing their second or third true leaves. Both the grasses, Briza media and Lagurus ovatus are doing well. Unfortunately, the second batch of Solenostemon scuttelarioides after seemingly escaping damping off, after being pricked out, some have developed what looks like the start of the disease and growth slowed 🙁 I’m suspecting a dodgy batch of seeds as I sterilised the growing media to kingdom come! I’ll try again in the summer.

Vicia faba 'Aquadulce Claudia' flowers
Vicia faba ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ flowers

Down in my raised bed at the local community garden, even though my broad beans and peas were early cropping varieties, I was surprised to find them this week completely covered in flowers. I’ve been advised to pollinate them as there might not be enough bees around yet. Though I’m not sure how really… eek.

My raised bed has suddenly sprung into action in the growing warmth and light. It has been very dry recently here though.
My raised bed has suddenly sprung into action in the growing warmth and light. It has been very dry recently here though.

Around the area, signs of spring are everywhere, with local Magnolia buds bursting, daffodils here, there and everywhere, and the leaf buds on trees and shrubs all splitting with green shining through.

It all feels like a long time coming, but suddenly, all planned planting needs to happen right now! I’m so excited. Last year at this time I knew nothing. I had no ‘favourite’ plants. Now, in my second proper gardening year, I know quite a bit more yet there’s so much still to find out, learn and explore.

Dividing a Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant)

I’ve had a Zamioculcas zamiifolia for some years now. In the last year, I found the magic formula and – despite rumours it is a slow growing plant – it has been growing like a rocket. So much so, it had outgrown our small flat with a further ten large leaves starting to grow! I felt adventurous and decided to divide it, putting some of my new RHS Level 2 (unit 4 Plant Propagation thank you very much!) knowledge to the test. Continue reading Dividing a Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant)

Sowing seeds, planting clematis and pruning

Today Rumbles was doing cartwheels in the garden trying to catch a fly – the most activity he’s done in months. If that isn’t a sign that spring is on its way, then the plants all creaking into a slow growth is.

White Viola above the white Tulips are starting to flower - the Tulips are starting to sprout through too
White Viola above the white Tulips are starting to flower – the Tulips are starting to sprout through too
Helleborus x hybridus 'Ivory Prince' is finally opening its large flowers (not sure what the little black marks are...)
Helleborus x hybridus ‘Ivory Prince’ is finally opening its large flowers (not sure what the little black marks are…) – I love this plant
A few of the Galanthus survived the year and have flowered! I've put down copious amounts of fertiliser in a bid to grow their number of 2016. Does anyone know what type of Snowdrop this is?
A few of the Galanthus survived the year and have flowered! I’ve put down copious amounts of fertiliser in a bid to grow their number for 2016.
Does anyone know what type of Snowdrop this is?
Front window area still looking good. The Clematis has some serious numbers of buds emerging now. Hoorah!
Front window area still looking good. The Clematis has some serious numbers of buds emerging now. Hoorah!
And we're off! Verbena bonariensis, Rubeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy', Ricinus communis 'Carmenchita', Tomato Vilma and Basil 'Sweet Green', the Sweetpeas and Coleus - oh, and you can see the extra flower coming on the Hippeastrum
And we’re off! Verbena bonariensis, Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherry Brandy’, Ricinus communis ‘Carmenchita’, Tomato Vilma and Basil ‘Sweet Green’, the Sweetpeas and Coleus – oh, and you can see the extra flower coming on the Hippeastrum

This week I’ve also hard pruned the Buddleja davidii ‘Santana’ and given a very heavy prune to the Choisya – I felt bad doing the Choisya as we’ll miss the flowers and it’s a bit early to do it, but it had seriously outgrown its space.

Plus, moved an Astrantia, dug up some Astrantia seedlings by accident (doh!) and planted out both of the new Clematis. Gave the new Rose ‘Mme Legras de St. Germain’ a sprinkly of Blood, Fish and Bone as it is shooting away now.

Hyacinths

Up until this year Hyacinths were a massive no no for me. Too blousy and old fashioned. But looking for things to do in the winter I planted some and I’m going to change my tune. I think they are beautiful and their fragrance is lovely. If carefully planted they can look contemporary too. Here are my indoor Jan Bos plants:

Shovelling sh*t while the plants still go at it!

October is almost over, so here’s a diary of what’s been going on in Littlebury gardens to refer back to next year.

The month started fairly mild, but has been wet and the weather has now finally gone cold (reaching -8 degrees at night by the 21st). Which is fantastic news because the Vine Weevil menace should now withdraw until next year! The neighbours will think me less mad as I won’t be going out at night with a torch. For now.

Our friend Ian helped us shift a load of soil and rubble to the tip at the weekend, which meant we could bring in a load of muck to improve the soil and mulch around some plants. I’ve been weirdly excited about improving the soil. Job done.

Clapham Common - sunny but cold morning, leaves dropping off all trees now
Clapham Common – sunny but cold morning, leaves dropping off all trees now
Wandsworth Town community garden still looks amazing
Wandsworth Town community garden still looks amazing
Our Garden on the 22nd Oct
Our Garden on the 22nd Oct
A load of old shit, literally. Manure for a mulch!
A load of old shit, literally. Manure for a mulch!
Salvia 'Raspberry Royale'
Salvia ‘Raspberry Royale’
Salvia ‘Maraschino’ – these both look so neon, they’ll be perfect next year as they are clearly strong flowerers
One of the ferns looking good - this one appears to deter slugs
One of the ferns looking good – this one appears to deter slugs
Spring crocus' flowering already because the weather was so mild
Spring crocus’ flowering already because the weather was so mild
Berries on next door's trees
Berries on next door’s trees
Winter and spring pots at the ready
Winter and spring pots at the ready
The Lavender and Rosemary did better than I thought they would. The Cornus kousa var 'Chinensis' is starting to drop its leaves. Brunnera macrophylla 'Mr Morse' is doing better out of its pot.
The Lavender and Rosemary did better than I thought they would. The Cornus kousa var ‘Chinensis’ is starting to drop its leaves. Brunnera macrophylla ‘Mr Morse’ is doing better out of its pot.
Hart's tongue fern and the Dryopteris look OK - must catch the slugs before they do the damage next year
Hart’s tongue fern and the Dryopteris look OK – must catch the slugs before they do the damage next year
If the Salvias can do this from a cutting in just one month in autumn, in summer next year they will be incredible
If the Salvias can do this from a cutting in just one month in autumn, in summer next year they will be incredible
I didn't expect to grow anything down here! But it's done really well
I didn’t expect to grow anything down here! But it’s done really well
For some reason, everything does really well in this small shady bed. The fern is a bit cat trodden on and slug eaten, but otherwise, the Hellebore from a Clapham fete is doing really well, so is the other division of a Brunnera 'Mr Morse' - bring on the spring white / fresh garden!
For some reason, everything does really well in this small shady bed. The fern is a bit cat trodden on and slug eaten, but otherwise, the Hellebore from a Clapham fete is doing really well, so is the other division of a Brunnera ‘Mr Morse’ – bring on the spring white / fresh garden!
This shady pot area is doing alright. The Fuchsia 'Hawksheads' have come on well despite looking a bit dodgy mid summer, and the ferns are, unbelievably, doing really well in that scrap of soil. Some bright orange and red violas just for fun this year.
This shady pot area is doing alright. The Fuchsia ‘Hawksheads’ have come on well despite looking a bit dodgy mid summer, and the ferns are, unbelievably, doing really well in that scrap of soil. Some bright orange and red violas just for fun this year.
The Cordylines seem to be much happier now it's cooler and wetter. The Astilbes have looked a bit dodgy all summer - perhaps our garden is too dry. Otherwise, the Brunnera is doing well here too, as is the other Hellebore, fern. While the Echineceas are shutting down.
The Cordylines seem to be much happier now it’s cooler and wetter. The Astilbes have looked a bit dodgy all summer – perhaps our garden is too dry. Otherwise, the Brunnera is doing well here too, as is the other Hellebore, fern. While the Echineceas are shutting down.
Who knew that a mulch could make everything look so much tidier! That Hebe (while I love it) is going next year, its flowers are too pastel. If you want it, let me know, it is quite stunning.
Who knew that a mulch could make everything look so much tidier! That Hebe (while I love it) is going next year, its flowers are too pastel. If you want it, let me know, it is quite stunning.
The Monarda 'Cambridge scarlet' managed a couple of flowers this year but otherwise seemed to be doing badly. However, in the last two months it has sprouted loads of off shoots. I'll have to keep a check on its spread but hopefully this is a sign of a better display in 2015.
The Monarda ‘Cambridge scarlet’ managed a couple of flowers this year but otherwise seemed to be doing badly. However, in the last two months it has sprouted loads of off shoots. I’ll have to keep a check on its spread but hopefully this is a sign of a better display in 2015.
The Kniphofia, like the Monarda, managed one flower and did little else until now where it seems to be growing more strongly. Perhaps more water in summer.
The Kniphofia, like the Monarda, managed one flower and did little else until now where it seems to be growing more strongly. Perhaps more water in summer.
No flowers from the Acanthus spinosus this year but it's grown loads (I did plant it quite late in early summer). Expect a good display in 2015.
No flowers from the Acanthus spinosus this year but it’s grown loads (I did plant it quite late in early summer). Expect a good display in 2015.
Fatsia japonica is coming into flower now - it's quite overgrown and a sun hogger, so will probably cut right back to ground level next year to make more manageable (and protect more from snails!)
Fatsia japonica is coming into flower now – it’s quite overgrown and a sun hogger, so will probably cut right back to ground level next year to make more manageable (and protect more from snails!)
Sambucus niger has grown well this year. Will cut right back in spring to help it bush out more.
Sambucus niger has grown well this year. Will cut right back in spring to help it bush out more.
The cyclamen look great but I think have become too waterlogged as they appear to be dying back in bits. Either that, or the Vine Weevils laid their evil eggs and the larvae are munching the roots.
The cyclamen look great but I think have become too waterlogged as they appear to be dying back in bits. Either that, or the Vine Weevils laid their evil eggs and the larvae are munching the roots.
Inside, the Schlumberga is budding up after good growth in the summer. This'll be it's third flowery Christmas!
Inside, the Schlumberga is budding up after good growth in the summer. This’ll be it’s third flowery Christmas!

It’s October and it’s still warm! Bulb planting and drain pipe trellis time

What’s going on with the weather? Although it’s dark by about 6.30pm now, it’s still sunny and very hot in the day time. Not that I’m really complaining, but I wouldn’t mind a frost to start killing off the pests and diseases.

Echinacea purpurea 'Fatal attraction'
Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal attraction’

Continue reading It’s October and it’s still warm! Bulb planting and drain pipe trellis time

Parrot Flower Power – iPhone app and Bluetooth sensor gizmo

For Christmas, Chris bought me a Parrot Flower Power – what is it? It’s a battery powered sensor shaped like a plastic twig that you stick into the soil next to a plant and it will tell you the plant’s general health. Continue reading Parrot Flower Power – iPhone app and Bluetooth sensor gizmo

Brachyscome iberidifolia (blue) window box pruning

Brachyscombe iberidifoliaBack at the start of the year we spent ages trying to decide the type of window boxes to get for our bay window and what flowers to go in them. In the end, opting for slate blue/grey resin for a contemporary but weathered look, which is light to carry and frost resistant.

For flowers, this year I wanted something simple, to create a single line of colour with a single type of plant. It worked well for our previous neighbour and I’d seen how striking keeping it simple can be. I also wanted the flower to be blue and to last throughout the whole summer. I stumbled upon Brachyscombe Blue, an Australian daisy like plant. Perfect as daisies type flowers against green foliage looks quite modern.

The first day on 1st April looked like this…

Brachyscombe window box

I was immediately pleased with the look as it was quite sleek and modern. Brachyscombe is apparently not particularly hardy in the UK, so treated like an annual. We’ll see come winter.

Immediately after planting the flowers all vanished but after a month or so, they were back and it’s flowered constantly ever since.

Here are the window boxes after a month or so, which looked great from the street:

Brachyscome blue window boxes

Deadheading and cutting back

I’m not sure if Brachyscombe definitely need dead heading, it’s hard to find the advice online. However I did notice that if I didn’t deadhead, the number of flowers seemed to slow down. After a month or so of deadheading individual flowers, I soon found this to take far too long. Also, the clumps were becoming a little straggly, flopping over the side and pulling unsightly gaps into the plants. So I followed some advice from online, which recommended cutting annuals back hard.

Brachyscombe blue pruning and dead heading

Just a tad brutal…! I actually quite liked these little tufty grass-like mounds. Anyway, two weeks later they bounced back with more flowers than ever and currently look like this:

Brachyscome August cut back hard

As you can see, they came back better than ever!

All in all, I’d recommend Brachyscombe iberidifolia blue for containers and window boxes. Their flower power is strong and they keep on going all through summer with a little liquid feed each month, I guess until the first frosts.

There are some downside though which mean I’ll try something different next year: the type I have aren’t exactly the sky blue they were originally, more a light mauve (although bluer than the photos show); they close up in the evening, so you only see the full display in the day time at weekends really. That’s it.

Cacti mini garden

Three barrel cacti, including one from Chelsea Flower Show 2014. The flowering one is obviously the healthy new one from Chelsea 🙂 The other two, I’ve had for a couple of years and they’ve pretty much done nothing. I’m putting this down to using some fairly poor “cactus compost” in a packet, which I thing is probably too dry and sandy for the cacti with no nutrients. So, I potted all three into this one pot with a mix of the cacti compost but with about 50-60% normal potting compost with John Innes. Since doing so, at least the spikiest one has now started growing.

Cacti

Clapham Garden (Part 3): pots happening in May?

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Spring started early this year, with a warm March and April, during which I planted out most things in the garden. The garden still looks quite bare because most of the plants are tiny – I wanted to go in small and grow things rather than plant out fully grown stuff. Where’s the fun and challenge in that?  Continue reading Clapham Garden (Part 3): pots happening in May?