A blog all about my adventures in my new back garden and my fanatical love of all things floral....read it here and at....
November 16th 2017 #NovemberNourishment
November is the month when I feel I re-tune and re-focus on the garden as a whole. The majority of the vibrant, in your face, colours of spring and summer that I'm slightly addicted to have finished. However, quite quickly, the rich and nourishing tones of autumn have replaced them.
Planted in neighbouring patches there are a number of trees that I happily borrow as they really help to frame my back garden. My favourites are the silver birches that gently turn a buttery yellow and sprinkle my paths in gold.
I find I’m really drawn in by the foliage of quite everyday plants like strawberries. It’s now that they start to transform and turn into the most amazing fiery range of burning hues. This gets me hooked on plants like Heucheras and Heucherellas, and before I know it, I’m at a well-stocked garden centre or nursery being very tempted to aquire lots of new varieties.
This year, however, evergreens are really grabbing my attention. I have an old multi-stemmed Fatsia japonica in a huge pot, right by the back door and at this time, as well as its many leaves supplying lobed #glossygreeness, it’s serving up #fluffyfairyfatsiaflowers galore. On sunny days the pollinators go mad for it’s bobbly infloresences.
In truth I’m finding many of my evergreens rather moreish. My big golden bamboos, Phyllostachys aurea, that have sulked since March when I divided one huge plant into two, have now properly perked up. They’ve finally stopped shedding their paper brown leaves and sheaths all over the drive in disgust. In addition my small troop of fastigiate Irish Yews: one planted either side of the front door and then three beside the low front wall, are starting to look promising. I see them as emerald green sentinels at the entrance of the house.
Out at the front, my flock of Miscanthus grasses are blooming better than ever, and I’ve a small sea of upright swaying seed-heads to greet visitors at the gate.
So across the garden the #totalflowerfest may have drawn to a close for now, but a #textureandevergreenflurry is happening right before my eyes.
October 31st 2017 #OctoberObsessions
October’s when I start my autumn clear up with real gusto. First I empty my little greenhouse. This year it was brushed out, and any algae mould or moss removed from the wooden staging and brickwork. Then the floor was scrubbed with hot water with some Jeyes fluid in it. My very own ‘Mr Sheen’, partner Matt, cleaned all the glass inside and out. I even jetted out the guttering with fresh water, so now it’s back to super sparkling.
I like to kick things off by making this greenhouse a temporary storage space. It’s clean and dry so I can use it as a holding area for all sorts of garden implements and materials that have been washed down and are ready for using again or storing.
I’m incredibly lucky because I have two greenhouses. This smaller one will be my ‘cold and dry plant house’ over the winter. To keep things from getting too moist inside I like to use dampcatchers and a thick dessicating layer of cat litter all around the inside edge of the floor. It’s great as slugs and snails utterly hate it, and it generally keeps everything it touches dry.
If you want the root balls of some plants like Begonias, Cannas and Dahlias to gently dry throughout the winter so they withstand cold that bit better, then my top tip is to use cheap, basic, cat litter instead of grit or gravel in the bottom of plant trays. Add a few sheets of newspaper on top and your plants are good to go. The paper will keep the cat litter clean and any excess moisture will be slowly removed. It works for me a treat.
As I’ve been tidying up the back garden I’ve been cutting some of the final blooms of my #totalflowerfest and making mini arrangements for the kitchen table.
The dahlias, as ever, have been wonderful, but of all the plants I’ve grown really cheaply from seed this year, it’s the non-stop #MarvellousMarigolds that have been #GobsmackinglyGood.
Having said that the ultimate winner for #BloomingLikeThereIsNoTomorrow goes to my Cosmos ‘Dazzler’ plants. I gave up dead-heading them, but they just didn’t seem to notice or care. These girls are going to party on, right until a sharp frost hits home.
September 19th 2017 #SeptemberGardenGlory
In September I’m always tempted to start trimming back to get a proper head start on autumn, but my advice to myself is always #ResistTooMuchTidying.
I advise holding back and I would encourage anyone to do the same. Try to eek out and enjoy the colour and fading glory of the garden with its majestic seed-heads as much as you can. I’m leaving
the sunflowers for my mini flock of playful sparrows.
The #totalflowerfest has received some party gatecrashers in the form of luscious lime, marvellous magenta and decadently violet Gladioli. I’d completely forgotten I’d planted them in late May. Big pots of zingy perennial Helianthus ‘Miss Mellish’ are also late arrivers to the floral throng. So I’m happily heading into autumn with plenty of colour still bobbing around.
It’s been a bit of a mixed bag this year for my edibles. The heat in June meant lots of tasty leaves and herbs shot straight to seed, whilst some of the tomato plants in the greenhouse grew wild and wacky from fluctuating temperatures and heat stress.
Outside, however, my ‘Marketmore’ cucumbers have been a total triumph.
I’ve been busy researching what to do with my rather wonderful crop.
In honour of my late Nan Gladys, who would generally pickle pretty much anything, I have a big bowl full of stripy slices soaking in Sarsons vinegar at the bottom of the fridge.
But #JoyOfJoys, a new bottle of ‘Hendricks’, came with a mini cocktail book. I’m diligently working my way through it, making cucumber balls, spears, and thin, curly slices a go-go, not to mention experimenting with sugar syrup and cucumber purée. #deeelicious. It’s #G&Theaven. Karen Walker would be so proud. #SendForMoreGin #PlentyOfCucumbersLeftToCocktail.
The strawberries I’ve been trialing have supplied a reasonably steady crop all summer. Out of the varieties ‘Cherry Berry’, ‘Cambridge Favourite’, Mara Des Bois’, ‘Flamenco’ and pretty, pink flowered ‘Just Add Cream’ (new from Thompson & Morgan,) the latter is the most memorable. The fruits have an unusually floral fragrant taste, a bit like strawberry scented perfume that tantalises your taste buds as you tuck into each juicy berry. #JustAddACucumberG&TAndIt’sPerfection!
I’ve also got a #greenglut of tomatoes. I’m busy putting them in various bowls and then covering them with cling film to trap that all important ethylene gas that they give off as they ripen. This helps to quicken the ripening of the rest, and if you add a ripe banana too, that accelerates things even more.
‘Rosella’, a cute dark rosy-red and super-sweet cherry type, is my favourite this year.
The others I’ve grown are all colourful beefsteaks. For me they’re a bit disappointing in terms of the yield, although I’ll forgive ‘Brandy Wine’ and ‘Black Russian’ as the colour, juiciness and flavour of both are pretty orgasmic.
August 21st 2017 #AutumnalAugust
Like most gardeners at the mo, I’m just a little bit miffed with our weather. I was hoping it was going to behave itself for the remainder of the season. However August is in full flow and most days it feels like a damp and chilly autumn is almost here. #OurWeatherIsProperNutsThisYear.
I have decided it was time for a slight re-jig and I’ve been getting very jiggy-with-it, with lots of cutting back, re-positioning of pots, re-planting and, of course, LOTS of feeding and dead-heading, (although my Cosmos ‘Dazzler’ seem to keeping popping out blooms whether or not I get to them.)
Sadly the sweet peas have had to go. The mildew looked so bad that I have cut hard back and got rid. However they’ve been glorious for two full months and given me masses of cut blooms.
As I get older my attitude to any plant coming to an early demise is, “Finally a space to grow some other little gorgeous thing that’s been sitting and waiting in a pot for weeks” rather than, “Oh
dear, what happened here?” #Ain’tNobodyGotTimeFoDat.
So I’ve popped in a few free Thunbergia alata / ‘Black-Eyed Susan’s that my mate James gave me weeks ago. #Hurrah
I’m not going to let this grey moist murkiness dampen things down one jot. The water troughs are brimming, #Yay! So let’s keep-on keepin’ on.
I’ve put my pots of Cannas all down one side of the back garden. They look like they’re having their very own Mardi-Gras parade with raucous red Dahlia ‘American Beauty’, Zinnia ‘Purple Prince’, tall shaggy tangerine Tagetes ‘Kees Orange’ and ‘Starship Pink’ Lobelia all jostling for position too. All that’s pumping lots of colour (#ToASambaBeatInMyHead), and in the greenhouse the tommies are ripening nicely and, at the back, the long raised bed of dahlias is approaching floral supernova. #ItsJumpinUpInHere.
July 26th 2017 #JoysOfJuly
It’s not often I’m lost for words, but even I'm ever-so-slightly gobsmacked at just how utterly gorgeous my garden is now. I was hoping for this cacophony of colour by mid August, so to have it already is like some sort of magical and wonderful blessing.
It’s quickly transformed into the utterly joyous flower jungle of my dreams. There’s nothing quite like it as inspiration for an early morning alarm call. I’m up and out with the sparrows, dead-heading, dunking my two gallon can into full water troughs and sloshing around like a whirling dervish.
I admit I am talking to my gorgeous blooms too sometimes. I’m just so in love with them all. Forgive me for lots of extra pics of delicious blooms, but I’m past the point of being able to help myself.
All that's needed now is a bit of judicious tying in and trimming older foliage, mixed in with a regular, generous drink of some tomato-like liquid feed to keep plants pumping out blooms for the next few months.
After such a dry spring and then record breaking heat in June, it’s no surprise that some of the incredible edibles that I mixed into the planting, like Coriander, Fennel and Chard, have bolted and gone straight to seed.
Mildew has also started to ravage my ravishing red ‘Scarlet Tunic’ and hot pink ‘Robert Uvedale’ Sweet Peas. However, even this can’t remotely dampen my spirits or detract from the #totalflowerfiesta that is at full-tilt.
I just can’t get enough of this floral fun fair happening right outside my door.
June 27th 2017 #SuperSizzlingJune
Forget flaming June, this is super flipping sizzling Scorchio! I can’t remember a mid summer this hot since 1976. That year I got myself in rather hot water when I filled up my paddling pool and threw all my teddies and soft toys in it. I was only 5 years old, and convinced they all needed to cool down.
It’s been a challenge to keep plants cool this month too and I can’t deny, I seem to forever be trying to keep up with watering in the garden on late evenings. My various water troughs, installed to collect all the rain from my greenhouses, have stayed empty, so it’s been a case of hosepipe to the rescue.
However, this incredibly hot, high-summer weather has meant that my plants are probably a good month ahead of themselves; hot pink Sweet Peas ‘Robert Uvedale’ are already going completely nuts; Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ is well into it’s stride; my Martagon lilies (and a gorgeously sumptuous, brand new variety called ‘Corsage’) are bursting their buds; even the very first heads of my ‘Harlequin’ sun-flowers and Cosmos ‘Dazzler’ are popping all over the show. Normally this is unheard of in my garden until at least mid-July.
The dahlias and marigolds are revving up nicely too, so it’s full steam ahead - the #totalflowerfest has begun and I’m #lovingeverymoment.
May 29th 2017 #MuchAdoAboutMay
It’s been such an unusually mild, dry May this year in my, normally cool and wet, Cheshire garden. My plants have been happily galloping away. I’ve been planting-out like there’s no tomorrow, and I’m thinking, if this continues, I’ll be reaching full-on flowery Nirvana in no time at all.
Plants like my Cosmos ‘Dazzler’ are budding up nicely and all my various Marigolds, Zinnias, upright Lobelias and Dahlias are starting to look super stocky, like they are ready to rock some serious flower-power in a few weeks time.
With the RHS Chelsea Flower Show coverage all over the telly, the end of May always feels like someone has fired the starting gun, and there’s lots of fresh, new, lush green foliage from plants like Carex elata ‘Aurea’ (Bowles' golden sedge), dreamy Alchemilla mollis and towering whorls of deep green lily leaves too.
In my patch my rather fabulous pink and cherry-red Lupins ‘My Castle’ are floral rockets that, to me, are shouting ‘Wohoo! Let’s get this party started!” We’re off and it’s just going to get better and better!
April 29th 2017 #SeaOfGreen
Where does the time go? After a few rollercoaster weeks when temperatures dipped to almost freezing and then peaked in hot summer sunshine, they have finally levelled out and a breezy mid spring is in full flow.
I'm buzzing around my garden and greenhouses like a bumbling bee.
I’m trying to keep on top of pricking out and potting on a huge amount of plants. I think it's fair to say those gin and tonics may have meant I got rather carried away so I will possibly have enough plants on my hands to plant up a garden three times the size of my own.
At the moment my priority is to get my young plants out into the fresh air so the wind can work its magic. Something called 'thigmomorphogenesis' can be really important right now if you want stocky, healthy specimens and not tall, weak, lanky, lush growth.
'Thingy-mo' (as I call it) is the plant’s response to mechanical sensation, which alters their growth patterns. In my garden it's all about exposing my young plants to the subtle effects of wind, raindrops, and the occasional brush of a passing, sniffing Jack Russell, which causes them to wave about and grow strong and sturdy.
April and May is also 'pelleted chicken manure time'. I like to sprinkle just a few around plants right now as it's that time when they're hungry for extra nitrogen and there's nothing like these stinky pellets of goodness to give plants that extra punch.
I'm itching to plant out too, but first I want to 'place' rather than 'plant' in order to get my super, flower-powered display fully colour co-ordinated in my four favourite colours – rich red, tangerine orange, golden yellow and deepest pink. That’s when the fun really starts.
March 18th 2017 #TotalFlowerFest
In the words of Karen Walker, my favourite comedy character in the sitcom "Will and Grace" - “What’s this? What’s happening? What’s going on?”
Well I’m Andy, and I’m a self-confessed, card-carrying, guilty-as-charged flower-a-holic. I live in green and gorgeous Cheshire, and this year I have, not one but, two new, rather lovely Gabriel Ash greenhouses in which to play.
In my town garden in Crewe I’m planning a floral 'smorgas-gorge' this summer. I’m delving deep into the wonderful world of growing flowers, mostly from seed, cuttings and divisions, but also the occasional bit of layering and whatever other means of propagation necessary. This year I want to cultivate and revel in my favourite blooms like never before. I'm hoping my new back garden will become an energising, flower-powered space that’s super-charged with vibrant colour.
So over the coming months, I intend to open up my back garden and share, with you, my trials, tribulations and triumphs. It’s going to be a veritable flower fantasia.
I’ve been super busy already. I’ve potted up an obscene number of dahlia tubers, sown sunflowers, sweet peas and Cosmos, divided and potted up Alstromerias, Cannas and Starship Lobelias, planted bulbs of lilies alliums and Mexican Tiger Flowers, and as soon as it warms up that little bit more, towards the beginning of April, I’ll start sowing even more tender and half-hardy blooms. Somebody stop me!
So if you fancy some fun and a bit of colour, pour yourself a large G&T and join me on my quest for a #totalflowerfest in 2017. Cheers!