Sunday, 29 March 2009

Drumsticks and Welsh cakes!

Two highlights of this extremely productive spring day have been the clean, elegant beauty of this Primula denticulata 'Lilac' and the first use of the family bakestone.

The Primula was bought from a local supermarket last year.  This is strange for me as I'm not really a fan of supermarket buys or Primula's per se but I'm quite happy that I did make this buy.  Firstly, this plant cost peanuts.  Probably only around £1.50.  I have since propagated this plant several times in just one year. Secondly, from the original plant I have probably made five or six.  Some have been given to friends but I have managed to hang on to two.  As the picture demonstrates this plant is gorgeous and makes such a contrast to the recent abundance of yellow in the garden.  It appears that the blues and purples are starting to appear.  My Corydalis flexuosa 'Pere David', Myosotis sylvatica and Pulmonaria officinalis are all helping to transform my garden into a purple wonder.  Im just waiting for the oranges, whites and pinks to appear!



My other highlight was making Welsh cakes with the bakestone that my Nan (grandmother) gave me.   This bakestone was custom made for my Nan by a family friend.  As she now suffers with arthritis the seriously heavy cast iron stone has been handed down to me.  I absolutely love this bakestone to bits!  I have been hoping to get one for a while as they make amazing Welsh cakes and when my Nan offered me hers I snapped up the opportunity.





So, the first batch has been made and many more will follow.  For those of you who have never tried Welsh cakes, and I'm sure there are loads of you out there thinking "What are Welsh cakes?", you really should try making them.  One day I hope to hand the bakestone to the next generation and maybe start a new family tradition.

Lets hope someone comes along who will cherish it as much as I do!


Friday, 27 March 2009

Please lend your support!!


Please visit the website for more information.

Blotanical

On a wet and windy day here in Wales I felt that for a change I would not venture outdoors to photograph what is going on in my garden but concentrate on a warmer and drier indoor activity!

For those of you that aren't aware of what Blotanical is I shall explain!  Blotanical is a marvelous website which promotes and groups together Blogs  that focus on all things botanical (hence the name).

I joined this site around a week ago on the advice of Amanda Thomsen (Kissmyaster: http://www.hortmag.com//kissmyaster) and it is great!  It is especially handy on a day like today as I can read what others are doing in their gardens, gaining inspiration, tips and knowledge, and to think, all of this in one place!

To join blotanical just visit: www.blotanical.com and find and fave me!


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The ultimate recycling project



Using recycled materials to create a compost heap seems only natural as what I intend to do in essence is recycle garden waste in order to create fantastic compost, which in turn will be given back to my plants!



Of course none of this would be possible without the help of a friend, and a big muscly one at that (only joking!)!  Introducing the muscle!

This is my friend and recycling guru, Pan.  This wonderful lady supplied the pallets, the string (collected from a nearby beach), the tools and most importantly the well rotted chicken manure and bedding.  The rocket fuel for the project!  I call her the muscle as she pretty much did the hard work as I still recover, not bad eh?!

As I only have a small garden we chose to create two small bins, sufficient for the task at hand.  I'm quite lucky to have space behind the garden in which to do this and this will keep the bins nicely protected and out of sight.




The construction was fairly simple.  We used chicken wire (reclaimed from a previous use) between the gaps in the pallets and then joined each pallet with the polypropylene string collected from the beach.  I wanted the bins to be fairly mobile and by using this construction they can be dismantled and moved without any hassle at all.

Within the space of a couple of hours and a couple of cups of tea, the bins were complete and we were looking pretty proud of ourselves.






All that was left to do was start the process.  Here I am with Pan's well rotted bag of chicken manure ready to kick start my long awaited compost bins.

The compost will be covered over with carpet off cuts and I look forward to see what results I will get!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Triumphant trumpets!



As I look out to the garden on an overcast day there is nothing better to see than one of my spring triumphs, introducing the Yellow Common Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus).

As is typical of horticulatural terms there is not much common about this beauty.  This species daffodil is generally considered to be the parent of the modern trumpet daffodil, with the ever popular 'King Alfred' cultivar being one of its hybrids.

I chose to grow this daffodil as it is a native species and it also has particular ties to Wales.  I also find a lot of the newer cultivars to be bred within an inch of their lives.  These over engineered monsters tend to be too loud, too tall and most of the time too heavy to even support  themselves.


This daffodil fits in much better with my garden than any cultivar ever could.  Alongside the Viola Odorata and Hellebores it has found its place and also the drift through the bed helps to tie the picture together quite nicely.

I sometimes wonder why our native beauties are passed over for engineered varieties when they are themselves absolutely stunning and fully hardy let alone beneficial to all our native insects.

The display of understated blooms on such a morning makes me so glad that I chose this plant and in future I will look to the native species for inspiration as I feel these really do the garden justice and are in no ways a compromise as the garden only gains further.

There is nothing to be lost from planting native species, I could not recommend it more!




Monday, 23 March 2009

They have arrived!

At long last they have arrived!  And earlier than anticipated too!

If you haven't already heard of the RHS seed distribution scheme read on.  

Every year the RHS offers its members the opportunity to order seeds harvested from its gardens, Wisley in Surrey, Hyde Hall in Essex, Harlow Carr in Yorkshire and Rosemoor in Devon.

As a new member I thought that this was a great way of using the benefits of membership.  It only costs £10 and for that you get around twenty packets of seed, and there is so much choice!  Things that you would never get anywhere else for the price.

Below is a list of what I have ordered:

1. Dierama pulcherrimum
2. Daphne oleoides
3. Daphne mezereum f. alba
4. Geum rivale
5. Salvia microphylla
6. Anomatheca laxa
7. Trillium grandiflorum
8. Eryngium giganteum
9. Thalictrum rochebruneanum
10. Acis autumnalis
11. Clematis recta
12. Orlaya grandiflora
13. Ilex aquifolium
14. Rosa canina
15. Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii
16. Berkheya purperea
17. Agastache nepetoides
18. Meconopsis cambrica
19. Eryngium eburneum

I cant wait to start sowing these beauties!!

For more information go to: http://rhs.org.ukseedlist/

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Introducing Trevor the garden helper!


Introducing Trevor - one of my faithful garden helpers.  Well thats the idea anyway!

Trevor is a baby Horsfields tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii) and these beautiful and entertaining little animals love garden weeds!  This, in my eyes, makes him the perfect garden companion.  Like I said he is still a baby, around about 9 months old maybe, but despite his small size he is most definitely large enough to consume all the garden nasties that I can provide.  As you can see in the picture he is devouring a wonderful mix of dandelion, buddleia, blackberry, sticky bud and dead nettle.

At the moment he is living indoors as its still a little chilly and he is due to live outdoors for the summer once the chances of bad weather have passed.  

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Garden Treasure!



Today has been fantastic!  I am actually ecstatic and so excited!



A good friend of mine came to visit me while im still recovering from the delights of whiplash.  She brought me wonderful goodies: oak and hawthorn dibbers (home grown and hand carved), eggs (home grown and amazing), pallets for a future project and a lovely pot of tulips.  Will be interesting to see what colours the blooms are!  Thank you!



My other piece of exciting news is that I believe I may have actually succeeded at growing one species of hardy orchids.  I am currently trying a few species and waiting for them to pop their heads above ground as this will be the second year and I should hopefully see the fruits of my labour.


These plants are an absolute love of mine.  I bought them from a wonderful lady called Hayley Stevens of Hayley's Orchids and she can be contacted through her website: http://www.hayleysorchids.com.
The plants are of fantastic quality and the service is second to none.

Anyway, before I go off on a complete tangent, back to my find.  When pottering about in the garden I noticed a small inconspicuous looking set of leaves that were not there when I checked yesterday.  The purple spots on the leaves were a giveaway, it was my Dactylorhiza fuschii hybrid.

Now, this was enough excitement for me for one day, however, when I looked closer I noticed that there were actually two offsets.  The tubers do develop in a finger like manner but I was not expecting this after just one year in my garden.  Well, I must be doing something right with these plants.



I cannot wait for these plants to bloom as they are absolutely stunning.  And just to think that I may have two blooms from this one plant.  The inflorescence (posh term for flower) is exquisite.  A tall spire of beautifully deep purple and teamed with its foliage makes a gem for any garden.  Although a little pricey it most definitely makes up for it!  I recommend this plant fully . . . and just to think, its a native!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Caterpillar conundrums

Does anyone know what type of caterpillar this is?  I found it under a Verbascum.  Im guessing it's a moth of some sort?

Man Vs. Slug






















Well, I guess this is another battle well documented in history.  Over the years I have tried many different approaches to this problem.  From eggshells to the notorious slug pellet, I have tried most methods with varying levels of success of course.


But today I am trying an approach that's new to me, porridge oats!  Now, this approach appeals to me for many reasons:


1. It doesn't kill the slug (Yes, I can hear you all groaning but I for one don't like to kill things if it can be avoided)
2. It is cheap as chips; and
3. It's not harmful to the environment, children, pets and other wildlife.


So, on paper it's an all round winner.  The theory behind it is that slugs adore porridge oats, and by providing them with this food source it will ultimately fill their little stomachs thus reducing the amount of damage caused to our beloved plants?!





The two pronged at
tack.  I have added another dimension to this all out war on slug kind.  As I am a cynic and often don't believe things that are suggested to me I have added a back up plan.  So this is Plan B!  Along with the porridge feast I am also including slug hotels.  We all know that slugs love hidin
g during the daytime and with the vast amount of porridge they will have consumed they will nee
d a good rest!  I am covering patches of porridge with half flowerpots.  Then as the slugs are snoozing in their boutique style arrangements I am to collect them and re-home them somewhere nearby (no, not next door!).  This should optimize my efforts and result in healthy, green, intact foliage.


This coupled with my slug resistant planting schemes should prove effective.  I will keep you updated.


P.S. I am aware of the blue pellets also, these are Growing Success Organic slug pellets . . . so I guess for the time being anyway this could be called a three prong attack!



Sunday, 15 March 2009

Mother's day project! A guide.

Mother's day is looming!  And with the ever present "credit crunch" why not create your own gift which will provide magnificent impact for half the price, without loosing any of the sentiment?!

The photo demonstrates something that can be created immediately, and yes, this is one I made myself.  The photo shows a beautiful spring display which is perfect as an indoor display which can be moved outdoors at a later date when the blooms fade.

I chose this display carefully with three things in mind:
1) The price;
2)Scent; and
3)The recipient.

I know my mother loves Daffodils so that was an easy starting point.  Along the way I found this beautiful double daffodil called Narcissus 'Bridal Crown'.  The added bonus with this Daffodil is its scent. A magnificent mix of jasmine and intoxicating sweetness.  To accompany this I settled on the ever popular Hyacinth as this too will provide a later flush of colour and scent, and a good all rounder, the Polyanthus.

All of these plants were bought in bud but with a little forward planning you could always grow your own, saving even more money, if indeed this is your aim.

A simple container was chosen with the recipients taste in mind and the display was topped off with a covering of sphagnum moss.  This display would cost upwards of £25 in store or online but can me created at a substantially reduced price.  The display should also continue for many years to come.

Tips for creating this display on a budget:

1) Always check the bargain bucket!  At this time of year containers are usually on sale following the winter.
2) Go for an all year round display.  Choose an evergreen shrub.  This display will then pay for itself all year round.
3) Use unused compost from last season to fill your pots.
4) For drainage use broken crockery or polystyrene that is often used to house bedding plants.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

An unconventional start!

I start my new blog from my bed!  Strange I know, but something that could become a habit.

I am slowly recovering from a car crash, and what could be  better therapy than starting and writing a new blog?!  I'm not seriously injured and no other drivers were hurt in the crash but I have concussion and a rather painful case of whiplash, neither of which are conducive to a good days gardening.  So today my garden musings will come from my bed.

Today is absolutely glorious!  I live in a coastal location in West Wales and spring comes early here.  My garden is buzzing with energy and bursting with new shoots; along with new creatures, many of which are rather undesirable, but I'm learning to cope with these a little better.  However, as I am rather nauseous still I can merely reflect on the last year and look towards this season.

For the purpose of this blog I will start at the very beginning!

I started my garden June 2008 when I moved into my new home.  When I say started I actually mean that exactly.  The owner before me evidently had no horticultural leaning and had turned the whole of the garden over to gravel.  The garden was covered in weed suppressing membrane and followed by a very thick layer of gravel, there were some hangers on however.  The ever resourceful and determined Nasturtium was surviving in a small corner next to a small tool shed.  It appeared very happy there bathed in sun with its roots in the shade.  The Nasturtium continues to pop up to this day without any help from me.  I quite welcome it really, its a fantastic gap filler in a new garden and a welcome addition to an established one.  A passion vine and ornamental quince which grow in next-door's garden poke their heads over the wall and I have borrowed this as a feature on the left of the garden and next to this a long low hedge of Cotoneaster salicifolius.

Since then the garden has developed quite a bit.  This is by no means a substantial piece of land, more of a city courtyard garden I guess, but its mine!  And on a day like today, and in the state that I'm in it gives me something to focus on and makes me want to get back outdoors!
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