Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Guest Blog: Encounters With Remarkable Biscuits

Although not strictly related to gardening this post discusses the dangers of the Custard Cream.  Perfect with a cup of tea in the garden I think?  Click on the screenshot above for the full piece.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

A new find and possibly a new species!

Last night I watched an episode of 'Lost Land of the Volcano', a BBC series in which a team of scientists, cavers and wildlife filmakers venture deep in to the heart of the remote tropical island of New Guinea to explore a giant extinct volcano - Mount Bosavi. 

"What has this got to do with a picture of an ugly yellow flowering plant?" I hear you ask.  

Well, in the programme mentioned above the scientists are constantly discovering new species of animals including frogs, insects, giant rats, etc.  Earlier today the memory of these epic finds sent my imagination in to overdrive when stumbling upon a plant that I didn't buy, sow or plant myself.  So, although it is extremely unlikely to be anything new to science, it's new to me.  

Does anyone know what this is?  Is it even garden worthy?

It has popped up under one of my tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica) and it is rather unlikely to stay there.  I apologise for the poor photography but hope it's enough to gather some identification.

Also, please remember entries for my competition to win a pair of professional Felco sceateurs need to be in by 1st October 2009.  You can enter by leaving a comment here.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The cautious Canna

The cautious Canna 'Tropicana' has finally bloomed and with perfect timing it appears!

The Canna had thrown up a flower spike and I was hoping it would have bloomed sooner than it did.

I had originally planned to add the Canna bloom to my last post 'Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2009', however, it's poor timing led it to open yesterday making it a late and cautious entry on to the blog.

Aside from its blooms the leaves of C. 'Tropicana' are truly wonderful.  The photo to your left does not do this plant justice.  The leaves are extremely vibrant and are made up of colours including pink, yellow, orange, red and green.

I have positioned the Canna next to Sedum spectablile 'Autumn Joy' and I find that they compliment eachother quite well.

The pink of the Sedum and the vibrant orange of the Canna add a great deal of colour to the Autumn garden and as we all know a garden with all year round colour is a valuable thing.

Although this display would have been been heightened if my Canna iridiflora had bloomed too.  Sadly I think that the wet, cool Summer had a somewhat negative effect on it's development.  

This border is set to be divided and re-designed shortly and in the move the Canna's will be positioned better to allow it maximum sun in the hope that they will flower more reliably.

As we all know Canna's, being sub-tropical plants, love the sun, a nice warm soil to grow in and a good dose of fertiliser.  I use blood, fish and bone and a liquid foliar seaweed feed.  My plants also benefit from a homemade mulch which helps to reduce frost damage to the Canna rhizomes which remain in the ground all year round.

How have your Canna's faired this year?  Do you have any tips for growing them?

Also, please remember entries for my competition to win a pair of professional Felco sceateurs need to be in by 1st October 2009.  You can enter by leaving a comment here.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2009

September is a month of change. Summer is ending and Autumn (Fall) is most definitely on the way. 

The pictures in todays Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day illustrate the good, the bad, and the ugly (not necessarily in that order) that September brings.

Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy' is romping away. As the name suggests this is an Autumn flowering variety which produces a much needed nectar source for all sorts of insects, including moths, butterflies, bees, hoverflies, etc.

I wrote recently about Red Admiral Butterflies.  And I have to say that since that post this plant has seen no end of activity from Vanessa atlanta.  I think maybe they were late to arrive this year?

Also, I must add that this has to be one of the easiest plants to propagate.  When moving plants I often find that branches snap off quite readily.  As a result I have successfully propagated the plant in several positions simply by; and I apologise for the lack of finesse in advance, sticking the broken stems in the ground.

The once beautiful Scabiosa columbaria subsp. ochroleuca is now showing signs of decline.  Again this is a fantastic plant for nectar loving insects.  The plant has flowered all Summer long and is trying it's hardest to cling on for dear life.

This plant has trebled in size since last year and I cannot wait to divide it up and dot it around the garden.  A brilliant filler with masses of beautiful off-white/light lemon flowers.

It is fantastically photographic.

Linaria purpurea, often classed as a weed, is in fact a garden worthy plant in my opinion.  Another plant that is clinging on for dear life, but needs to accept it's demise, throws up flower spikes of deep purple that add a vertical element in design.  

Equally at home in the wildlife garden, informal cottage garden, or as a formal garden interloper, I love this little plant and I think every garden should have one.

It will self seed readily.  But what gardener doesn't secretly like weeding anyway?

Lonicera periclymenum 'Serotina', technically not a plant of mine but  lives in my neighbours garden, however, I am stealing it for this post.

A late flowering variety, it should continue up until the first frosts of Winter, however, flowers are already becoming less numerous.  This was one of the last flowers on the plant.

A scented  and beautiful climber, every garden should have at least one 'Honeyscukle'.

Passiflora caerulea, or common Passion flower, is hardy here in my garden.  In fact it is rampant and requires severe pruning each year.

Flowers are produced consistently through Summer and it shows no sign of stopping just yet.  This plant also produces edible fruit which ripen given a good year.

It makes an interesting focal point in the garden and adds a touch of the exotic.

Anemone x hybrida 'Whirlwind' is an Autumn loving plant.  It has only come in to flower within the last month or so and is much welcomed in the garden as most plants are now in decline.

A spreading woodland plant, it is late to rise in the Spring, but in Autumn it produces beautiful upright, slightly arching stems tipped with these gorgeous semi-double flowers.

I recently used the flowers of this plant in an indoor display and although not long lasting they looked great teamed with store bought blooms and other garden flowers.

Campanula portenschlagiana is pretty much a free spirit in my garden.  It self seeds regularly in cracks in my wall and compliments the Asplenium trichomanes L. perfectly.

Although it is a weed, it is a welcome addition.  It is a plant that will provide colour pretty much all year round here.  It also acts as perfect Tortoise food for Trevor.

There are many varieties of Campanula and one suited to most situations, so if you like what you see give it a try.

Finally, Achillea millefolium has just started to flower.  

If you don't have this plant, or one of it's relatives in the garden I would strongly recommend you introduce it.  

Commonly known as 'Yarrow' this plant attracts many beneficial insects in to the garden, in particular the Hoverfly.  The reason I suggest you grow this plant is because the Hoverflies lay their eggs onto these plants and the voracious larva eat hoards of aphids!  

A great attractant for the aphid clean up squad.

I hope you have enjoyed the few plants that are left flowering in my garden this September.  

I would love to hear your comments and cannot wait to trawl through all the bloggers participating in this event!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Pause for a Meme

We interrupt usual service to discuss the most important component of this blog.  

Yes, that's right, ignore the vegetation for a while, and let's talk about Me!

Lynn from Indigo Gardens has tagged me in one of the nicest Meme's yet.  I'm extremely flattered by Lynn's kind words and nomination as her favourite 'Creative' blogger. You can read the full article here.  Lynn is an extremely talented designer, writer and editor, not  to mention award winning photographer!, and I would urge you to check out her fantastic website.

As Meme's go I am now summoned to tell you seven things about me, that are hopefully interesting; although if I can think of seven it will be a miracle.  I have chosen to add the seven deadly sins to this, all in a slightly 'tongue in cheek' style of course.  Following this I  have to nominate seven fellow bloggers for whom the Meme gauntlet is laid down.  Here goes.

1.  Superbia (Pride): I have only recently come to study Horticulture.  Although horticulture has always been a massive part of my life all my formal academic training has been in Psychology and Counselling.  I graduated with a BSc (Hons.) in Psychology and later studied for a Post. Grad. in Person Centred Counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  

2. Luxuria (Extravagance): I used to work for the Queen.  Yes, indeed I was on Her Majesty's payroll.  I worked in one of her finer establishments which provided extremely safe accommodation for many men. I was actually employed as a Forensic Psychological Assistant and if you haven't already worked it out I worked in a prison.

3. Invidia (Envy): I once stopped filming on a 'Dr. Who' set.  One Summer night I accidentally slipped into a time warp, intoxicated of course, where the streets were covered in snow and people travelled by horse and cart.  This was confusing for a while (I was drunk) until I noticed Billie Piper and Christopher Eccleston trying to act, and an angry crew member told me and my friends to "Keep it down!"

4. Avaritia (Greed): I am clinically dependent on Tea.  Although this is likely to be over exaggerated slightly I do actually drink on average upwards of 10 cups a day.  For this I would like to thank my Nan (Grandmother and fellow Tea addict) who passed this affliction on to me and diagnosed my headaches as Tea withdrawal.

5. Gula (Gluttony): I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  When in High School every Friday my friend Ellen and I would go to Woolworths (now no more following the recession) before going to Orchestra to get our 'buy one, get one free' Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  They would be wolfed down on the way to practice and every week I would concentrate primarily on not vomiting into my clarinet.  

6. Ira (Wrath): I am an 80's child.  Frankie Goes To Hollywood - 'Two Tribes' was number one when I was born.  On entry in to the world  I nearly died and I also took my mother with me.  Typical Leo!

7. Acedia (Acedia/Discouragement): I find writing/talking about myself very difficult.  Believe it or not I'm actually quite a shy person and I have also run out of things to add!  I did say it would be hard to find seven things!  Oh, I know, I detest Geraniums (or is that Pelargonium's?).

Well, I hope you found that enjoyable!  And moving swiftly on, I would like to pass this Meme on to the following fantastic bunch of people (who I constantly pester):

1. James Alexander Sinclair.  Because he doesn't get enough Meme requests!  'The Hat' is regularly kind enough to humour my constant pestering.  He is also a very nice man and incredibly talented.   This is merely a thank you for the last Meme.

2. Emma Cooper.  Emma is an incredibly knowledgeable kitchen gardener, author, blogger and podcaster.  If you grow your own or want to know more Emma is the oracle!  You should also buy her book!

3. Susan Cohan.  The constantly Meme'd (and for good reason) Susan is a garden designer of the highest quality with an equally fantastic blog.  A twitter friend and constant inspiration.

4. Martyn Cox.  Martyn continually tests my plant I.D. knowledge, although I'm usually beaten to answering, and writes one of my favourite blogs.  Someone who keeps my interest in plants alive and inspires me to learn more.

5.  EmmaT.  Emma, if she hasn't already received this Meme, is guaranteed to take it on and write everything humorous that I wanted to include.  A fantastic writer who can influence every emotion through her words alone.

6. Amanda Thompsen. She doesn't like bombay mix (oops!) but she does like twitter.  KissMyAster, the blog name I wish I had created, is one of the first blogs I ever read and I adore Amanda and her bowling balls.

7. Arabella Sock.  She know's what to buy the man who has everything and a lot more about horticulture.  Constantly entertaining as well as informative with a top notch blog!

Also, please remember entries for my competition to win a pair of professional Felco sceateurs need to be in by 1st October 2009.  You can enter by leaving a comment here.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Fantastic fresh flowers that won't affect your finances.

Everyone want's flowers in the home but why should this be a luxury?

I will show you that on a tiny budget and with some garden know-how you too can create a beautiful bouquet to rival any other.

In a time of financial worries why not treat yourself to a beautiful bouquet of flowers, part bought, part home produced.  This will save you money, allow a little luxury and bring your favourite plant's indoors for all to see.
I buy flowers for the home on a weekly basis, usually Lilies which cost up to £6.00 (nearly $10.00).  Today, when looking to buy flowers, I had a small revelation.  Why should I spend so much on flowers when I grow fantastic flowers at home? (That thought was a long time coming I know!).  Yes, you have to account for seasonality when growing your own but there are flowers and foliage available to use at most times of the year.
For this bouquet I bought Gypsophila paniculata and Chrysanthemum 'Anastasia', fairly cheap flowers totaling less than £3.00 (under $5.00).  Add to this some Verbena bonariensis, Micanthus sinensis 'Yakushima Dwarf', and Anemone x hybrida 'Whirlwind' and you have a full looking, beautiful bouquet.

This bouquet, if positioned correctly; out of full sun and away from heat sources, should last up to two weeks.  When you take this in to account what was once a luxury item costing £6.00 ($10.00) now barely makes a dent in our finances at around £1.50 ($2.45) per week.  An acceptable expenditure in my eyes.

The next time you are looking to buy a new bouquet check your garden first to see what you have available to you.  If you have enough to create a full bouquet use it, or if you want to add a special or exotic plant to the mix maybe buy that alone and add your own produce.  This way we can all enjoy the beauty of fresh flowers while watching our finances.

Do you regularly bring your cut flowers indoors?  Do you grow flowers for cutting that you would strongly recommend? Or have you never considered this idea but may give it a try?  I would love to hear your stories.

Also, please remember entries for my competition to win a pair of professional Felco sceateurs need to be in by 1st October 2009.  You can enter by leaving a comment here.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

My first (potentially last) Red Admiral of 2009.

The Red Admiral butterfly used to be an incredibly common sight for me as a child (not that long ago).

This was my first and possibly my last of this year.  What has changed?

According to the U.K. Butterfly monitoring scheme it is the weather that is largely to blame. Wet summers play havoc with the life cycle of butterflies and limits their ability to feed due to their inability to fly.  

However, I was heartened to discover that populations of the Red Admiral are on the rise despite these difficult conditions.  My personal inability to see these gorgeous creatures at all this year could result from a number of things but wet summers do seem to be a likely  culprit.  Red Admiral's are migratory butterflies and variable weather conditions again can affect their flight paths.

One thing I did not know about the Red Admiral was its latin name, and to be honest it did tickle me somewhat.  Vanessa atlanta!  How fantastic is that?  So, the next time you see this beautiful lady say 'Hi' to Vanessa and think about the struggle it may have had with the weather and it's migration.  A beautiful but tough little creature indeed!

How has your experience of butterflies been in comparison to mine this year?  I would love to hear your stories.

Also, please remember entries for my competition to win a pair of professional Felco sceateurs need to be in by 1st October 2009.  You can enter by leaving a comment here.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Let the Blotanical Battle commence!

Voting has now opened for the annual Blotanical awards!

As the fantastic EmmaT has already pointed out (damn her for beating me!) you can now go and cast your vote for your favourite blogs in a mass of weird and wonderful categories.  Please vote here.

"This year's awards are set to be even greater than last year's inaugural presentations. With more than 1500 blogs now listed on Blotanical - 97.3% more than last year - it's becoming harder to award the best blogs".
As a result the voting process has become rather complicated. This next phase includes three weeks of nominations after-which a shortlist will be created for each category.  Then voting begins again!

All this malarky is still very new to me (as the new kid on the block) and I find it all a little too exciting.  So like some crazed teenager eager to participate in any new activity I'm off to vote!

Good luck everyone!  I don't do competition well Emma, so please be gentle! 

* I feel EmmaT is infatuated or using some sort of intelligent tactic?!

Also, please remember entries for my competition to win a pair of professional Felco sceateurs need to be in by 1st October 2009.  You can enter by leaving a comment here.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Giveaway: Felco secateurs from Dobbies!

No self respecting gardener could be without a pair of professional secateurs and they don't come much better than this!

In association with the fantastic Dobbies I am giving one lucky person the opportunity to win a pair of Felco classic No.8 secateurs worth £45.99.  

Felco secateurs are the implement of choice for amateur and professional gardener's alike.  In my opinion they are the best secateurs on the market.  I would not be without my pair which are a crucial item in my gardening arsenal.  

To enter the competition and register for the chance to win this fantastic product all you have to do is leave a comment below.   It's as easy as that.  The winner will be chosen at random and announced after the competition closing date (1st October 2009).  

So what are you waiting for?

Dobbies - Inspiring Gardeners since 1865
For over 140 years, the Dobbies name has stood for quality horticulture.  During this time we've been proud to provide the very best products and expert advice to gardeners throughout the UK.  Today Dobbies is one of the the UK's largest Garden Centre Retailers - we have 25 Stores across Scotland and England. 
Terms and conditions: 
Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter.  The winner will be chosen at random and you agree that by entering your name may be published.  Prizes will be delivered by courier within 28 days.  The competition is not open to employees or affiliates of Dobbies Garden Centres plc or Ryans Garden.
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