The very first garden we visited last year on the National Garden Scheme (NGS) was the Clapham based 51 The Chase by designer Charles Rutherfoord and Rupert Tyler. It was even better than I had remembered. Continue reading NGS 2015: 51 The Chase, Clapham by Charles Rutherfoord and Rupert Tyler
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’)
I’ve been really lucky in recent months to be allowed to use a small 2 x 2m raised bed in my local community garden in Clapham, called Eden. For years it’s been one of my favourite little hidden spots in London and hopefully these photos give you an idea as to why. Continue reading It’s all grow in the Eden community garden
The plants are still small (they’ve seriously been through the wars after arriving near death!), so the flowers are too, but the Brunnera macrophylla ‘Mr Morse’ is everything I hoped it would be. A much rarer, near identical plant to ‘Jack Frost’ but fit for a spring white garden. Now I’ve seen them in person, I maintain the white flowers are better than the blue 😉
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.
I had two gardening epiphanies on Friday at RHS Wisley (that place gets me with every visit!). First, just sitting in the sun with no one else around amongst a large row of Pinus sylvestris soaking in how peaceful it was and spotting an early ladybird. Then, it was getting giddy over full grown Magnolias… Continue reading RHS Wisley in spring
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’ 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.
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.
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.
Well, I have to hand it to the Garland Super7 Heated propagator. Everything I sow on there germinates within a few days (except Verbena bonariensis which I know can have a slow germination). Above you can see the Lupinus nanus ‘Snow Pixie’ exploding out of the compost after I only planted them on Sunday afternoon! 48 hours and they’re ten times the size of their seed. In addition, the Lagurus ovatus have germinated too. As have some of the Ricinus communis. All three are from Sarah Raven so credit there as well.
Spring definitely hit Clapham this week with days of sun and temperatures high enough to be outside without a coat. Plants are showing it too as buds are swelling up and some bursting into flower…
This week I’ve sown seeds for:
- Lupinus nanus ‘Snow Pixie’ to go in the front window boxes in summer
- Lagurus ovatus, the lovely ‘Bunny Tail’ grass, also for the front window boxes
- Briza media, a grass for the main herbaceous border out back
- Tropaeolum minus ‘Phoenix’ (I’m refusing to call them Nasturtium – I want to give them a fresh lease of life! 🙂 ) – I planted all 25 seeds and plan to only use those that flower red.
- Phaseolus vulgaris ‘Amethyst’ in my community garden veg plot – I also plan to grow some of these in the ornamental herbaceous border because they will look quite unusual
- Allium cepa ‘White Lisbon’, or spring onion, in the veg plot too
Don’t hate me for using Latin names, I’m not being pretentious, I just need to use them at every opportunity to memorise for my RHS course!
Otherwise, it’s all fairly positive news at the moment as the last sowing I made is all growing nicely in the front living room rather than the damping off inducing light box in the bathroom. I’m double sterilising the growing media which seems to have worked too – I bought a new pack as well, incase the other pack was the problem.
My plan is to grow the seedlings in the front room to a good size, then move them to the light box once big enough to have passed the damping off stage. In particular, the second batch of Solenostemon scuttelarioides, Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherry Brandy’ and Solanum lycopersicum ‘Vilma’ (or Tomatoes!) are all now showing their second true leaves.
Out in the garden it’s been fantastic weather and I was delighted to see bees and hover flies buzzing around the garden today. I also came across a few centipedes which I’m told are beneficial insects. Spring has definitely arrived.
Jobs wise, I’ve added some new willow canes for the Clematis viticella ‘Polish Spirit’. Planted a Parthenocissus henryana against the north shaded fence to grow up that. And I’ve moved a few of the perennials, including the Alchemilla mollis ‘Thriller’ which I divided into three. Although let me tell you, what a beast! I had to literally hack it apart with a saw in the end. It was one tough cookie.
Finally, I received my order of three Begonias from Dibley’s Nursery who exhibit at many of the RHS events. Their Begonias are just stunning and my three young plants already look as quirky as I’d hoped. Having never owned or grown a Begonia before, here’s hoping I keep the things alive!!
Driven by a renewed love of plants and a brain being filled with RHS knowledge, in 2014 I designed a mico-Victorian themed garden. Allowing me to stuff our plot to the rafters (branches?) with a living collection of varied and beautiful things. But we needed help, which is where Monty Don and Big Dreams, Small Spaces stepped in. Continue reading Big Dreams, Small Spaces: Victorian inspiration
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)
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.
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.
9th of February is a date I’ve had engrained in my mind for the last five months or so, as it was the date of my first four Level 2 RHS exams. I’d promised myself that the real gardening fun begins after these exams as my reward for sticking out the revision. Continue reading February: exams done, seed sowing starts!
Today I discovered we live only 3 minutes walk away from the last residence of one of the most celebrated Victorian botanists. Continue reading Urban Legends: Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, inventor of the Wardian Case
You know what, the Victorians got it right. Curiosity, discovery, understanding the unknown, adventure! Continue reading Gardens: a science experiment we can all try
I’m not sure how but it’s almost the end of January! The weather has been very mild this winter and a few plants in Littlebury Gardens are still growing, albeit at a creeping pace. The Buddleja davidii, Sambucus nigra and Brunnera macrophylla have lost most of their old leaves but the new ones seem to be growing just fine.
Under our plum tree some Galanthus (assume nivalis) I planted without thinking 15 months ago are showing their heads and are about to flower. Disappointingly without expanding the crop – this year I’ve added lots of fertiliser granules to see if I can get them to multiply.
The large Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ is budding up spectacularly, as is one of the three random Hellebores I bought at the local Clapham Fayre in the summer. Out front, the three vines we have in pots – Jasminum officinale, Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ and Clematis x cartmanii hort. ‘Avalanche’ are acting like winter has barely happened. The Clematis in particular is now budding up, despite a year of damaged foliage and I’ve started giving it a full strength diluted potassium fertiliser.
The fruits of my planning and plotting are arriving through the post including a rather outrageous amount of seeds (some in the pic above!) I’m itching to get planting but am holding back until mid-February as a reward for focussing on and completing my RHS Level 2 exams. And because that’s the best time to plant some of them (inside) of course!
I have snuck on a batch of Solenostemon though, 15 seeds. Couldn’t help myself. Planted this week in a heated propagator. I wasn’t a big fan of Solenostemon / Coleus until I saw a display at RHS Wisely in 2014. Some of them were quite remarkable. I bought a pack of, what I think, are the most interesting plants from Thompson & Morgan.
I also took receipt this week of an Aeonium arboreum ‘Schwartzkopf’ which is supposed to be a dark purple, almost black rosetted succulent. However, the one I received from eBay (never again!!) is merely a stick with speckles of possible regrowth. Fingers crossed.
Today, prompted by an offer on Thorncroft Clematis, I also finally ordered two late flowering purple Clematis. Clematis viticella ‘Polish Spirit’ which I’ve been looking at for months and a Clematis viticella Galore Evipo032. The Galore was an impromptu purchase of a £5 offer.
Yesterday I also took the plunge and bought three more Dahlias. *gulp* that takes the total to 20…) Three dwarf white ‘Gallery Art Fair’ for the front window boxes.
Otherwise, January has purely been about revising for my first batch of RHS Level 2 exams. The knowledge is sinking in now, but blimey, the sheer volume of information to memorise is mind blowing. Whoever says horticulture and botany is easy (*cough* David Cameron *cough*) I dare to take this course and pass. It’s hugely fun and rewarding however and I’ve learnt so much ready for my 2015 gardening year.
Oh, while I remember, two amazing things have happened: i) the Buxus cuttings I planted on a whim last summer have only bloomin rooted! Thick, strong roots. I was really excited about those. Perhaps my topiary from scratch dream will one day happen. ii) I finally discovered that the cutting I nicked and planted from down the road is Muehlenbeckia axillaris (right) – I’ve been trying to find that one out for about 7 months! Loads of places sell it, but nowhere labels the flpping thing. Now I know what it is, I can plant it safely. I think it’s fairly common (though I’ve rarely seen it) and considered something akin to Ivy as a bit of a thug, but having seen it used wisely I think it’s one of the most beautiful ground cover or climbers there is.
“It’s like being at Kew Gardens in the sky!” exclaimed one visitor – I’d liked to have responded with “not quite”. Continue reading Sky Garden at the Walkie Talkie, London
Not a lot going on in the garden right now. I’m planning, planning, planning while also revising for my RHS exams in early February 🙂 I do have some sweet pea on the go in a new mini cold frame my sister, brother and sister in law bought me for my birthday. Here are some bits n bobs… Continue reading [PHOTO GALLERY] 2015 so far
2014 was my experimental year in the garden. While everything certainly wasn’t very cohesive, there were a lot of flowers given our tiny plot! It all turned out much pinker than I expected…
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:
It’s the last day of 2014 and I’ve been really interested in plants this year (no sh*t Sherlock) and at the start of the year I really struggled to identify even one plant that I really liked. A year later, and I still don’t have a huge list of favourites yet. However! There are a handful that have planted themselves in my head as essential picks. Read on to find out what they are… Continue reading 10 favourite plants of 2014
At one point during my emo self-obsessing teenage years I was convinced I was stupid. Then one day I realised I wasn’t stupid, I was just plain ignorant! Ignorance was indeed bliss because you can change ignorance, you can’t change stupidity. So I changed my ignorance.
Fast forward a bit and below is a photo of my view right at this minute. Twelve years since I last had to study for an exam, recreating the exact same multi-coloured highlighter pen mess of papers on the living room floor…
This weekend I spent two fun and informative days at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with a bunch of fellow gardeners studying the RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture. I have so many thoughts buzzing around my head now that I’m going to chuck a few things down here in a bit of a garbled blog post to record it. Continue reading Tip toeing in the footsteps of Darwin at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
I’m super excited right now because I have been very lucky and been given access to dig around in a raised bed in our local community garden in Clapham. Mostly I’m excited to be able to contribute to one of my favourite spots in London in a small way and also because now I can grow vegetables! Continue reading Veggies in the local community garden
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.
Here are 25 things I spotted in September and October that I thought were beautiful for all manner of reasons and managed to quickly snap on my camera. Continue reading 25 Photos of interesting autumn sightings (and what I thought at the time)
Today I made the most of my new Royal Horticultural Society membership and visited the Chelsea Physic Garden next to the Thames. It’s a living, breathing museum and really does feel like that – it’s the most outdoors museum I’ve been to, complete with labels and educational messaging next to every ‘exhibit’. If you want to know where aspirin comes from, you can actually see and touch the plant right here. Continue reading Chelsea Physic Garden in Autumn
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.
For every positive in the garden this summer there has been a pest or a disease to eat it. It’s been depressing. Continue reading Pests and diseases (vine weevil, slugs, snails and rust)