Monday, 29 June 2009

A new discovery!


There has been a new development in the case of the mystery plant.  Whilst out in the garden I realised that there is no mystery plant.  'What do you mean?'  I hear you ask.




There are two!




In my previous blog post:  (http://ryans-garden.blogspot.com/2009/06/plant-id-needed.htmll) I was asking for your superior intellect to help identify a plant that had appeared in my garden.  There was some confusion as to what that plant was.  Well it now appears that this confusion may be down to the fact that there are two mystery plants growing side by side.  Not only that but they are very similar.





My assumption is that there must have been some cross sowings of seed at the nursery, where I bought my Stachys, out of which these plants are growing.  Both appear Campanula/Symphandra-like and both are white. They are welcome additions to the garden but I still don't know what they are.  Maybe this recent discovery will help to positively I.D. the plants?

Answers on a postcard please!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Plant I.D. needed.

In general I'm pretty good when it comes to plant names.  That said, when things self seed from other peoples gardens or just "arrive" it is sometimes possible to find me staring, wondering 'What the hell is that leafy thing?  It doesn't look like a weed.  I'm sure I didn't plant that there, etc'.  

That applies to this plant.





My garden is relatively new.  As I've discussed in previous blog articles it was completely graveled over when I bought the house two years ago.  Since claiming back the garden from the sea of gravel I've had a few nice surprises.  Some gorgeous Verbascum has appeared, Valerian, Hedera, and now this.

In it's early development I just thought it was the flower spike of Stachys grandiflora 'Rosea', however it is actually growing through the crown of this plant.

It's strange.  Usually when something "appears" I hate it and want it gone straight away but I actually really like this plant.  I wanted more white in the garden and this has landed in the perfect spot.  Call it fate, or whatever you like, but maybe I've developed a telepathic link with the garden?  Maybe I could ask it for a multi stemmed tree?!

So what do you think it is?  Initially I was thinking along the lines of Campanula.  After a bit of research I'm thinking Symphandra? Possibly pendula?

With the wealth of knowledge out there I'm sure one of you fabulous people will be able to accurately I.D. it and give me some cultural information. 

But who will be first?

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Service will be resumed shortly!

Just a quick note to say that I haven't gone completely off the boil and that I am still alive!

Contrary to rumours of my death and to those who have been distraught with my recent absence from the blogosphere (just go with me on that one) I apologise.  I've had RHS exams this week and as a result I have been locked away in a darkened room revising.  Well,  more accurately I've been cleaning to avoid revising but in the end I soaked up some information from somewhere.  

Anyway, thanks for all your posts as I think this has helped a lot with my revision over the past few weeks.  I will resume blogging shortly and can't wait to get back into the swing of things!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Shield bugs and Border Terriers


My garden is abundant with one particular bumbling, ungraceful and generally irritating insect: the common green shield bug (Palomena prasina).  It is easily identified as it is usually found flying at your head, swimming in your drink  or in this case sunning itself on your gardening gloves. 

 In all seriousness shield bugs are often seen as garden pests but the truth of the matter is that they very rarely cause any damage in the garden.  They are more of an irritant to the gardener than to the plants.  Yes, they suck sap but never to the extent where plants suffer too much.  It's cousin the Southern green shield bug is a different matter.  Although similar looking it's larger and lacks the brown patch on the back.  It's also quite damaging to plants.


They are however great dog entertainment.  My Border Terrier Maggie is fascinated with them.  Apparently when startled shield bugs give of a scent similar to Almonds.  I'm yet to experience this, admittedly I don't go around sniffing shieldbugs, but maybe Maggie is a closet bug sniffer?  Lets face it it's likely to be more appealing than sniffing other things.






Sunday, 14 June 2009

BBC Gardener's World Live 2009


2009 has brought us some fabulous horticultural delights and Gardener's World Live was one of them.


Described as "the peoples show" Gardner's World Live had something for everyone and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  

It also made an impressive dent in my bank account.  I bought several varieties of hardy orchid, a gorgeous Verbascum and a rather fantastic fish tank.




I particularly enjoyed the RHS floral marquee, with it's abundance of nurseries and fabulous plants, I could have spent an absolute fortune but luckily I was focused on finding certain plants from my "wanted" list.  The general quality of what was on offer was fantastic and there were some real bargains to be had.

Left is a side on picture of my favourite garden 'An Urban Retreat' by Paul Titcombe, side on due to the suffocating and engulfing crowds present.  Although it was by no means ground breaking it definitely did the trick.  Great plant combinations, excellent use of hard landscaping and a great use of space.  I can imagine how it would fit in to any urban garden, including my own.  Well deserving of a Gold medal.


All of the shows presenter's were there, Toby, Carol, Alys and Joe.   I didn't dare chat to any of them in case they asked me for my opinion's, in which case my inherent honesty would likely cause unintentional insult.  I'm still giving the TV show time to settle in and allowing myself to acclimatise to the new format.  I think I'm slowly getting in to it, although change is by far a quick process.

On reflection I'm really happy I attended the show.  I was hoping to say hello to fellow blogger and all round good bloke James 'The Hat' Alexander-Sinclair, who convinced me to attend but unfortunately he was rushed off his feet.  Maybe next year!

Friday, 12 June 2009

They asked me to plant the office!

They asked my advice and I gave it.  They then gave me the credit card!

I was asked to give a ball park estimate as to how much it would cost to provide plants for our office. Instantly I was suspicious.  What's going on?  Who's taken our managers and replaced them with Gardener's World presenters in disguise?  So I made a guesstimate and to my surprise it was accepted! I was then given the credit card and asked to get on with it.  

Although I'm not exactly passionate about houseplants I was rather excited about the prospect of bringing plant-life into our new sterile office.  It needed some life and apart from a few of my plants the office looked like a sea of magnolia paint splattered with magenta upholstery and reconstituted wood.  As soon as they were in the space suddenly felt better and looked a lot more welcoming.

In total I bought 12 plants:

1 x Spathyphillum
1 x Dracaena massangeana
1 x Yucca elephantipes
1 x Chrysalidocarpus lutescens
1 x Dracaena marginata
1 x Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii'
4 x Crassula ovata
2 x small Dracaena marginata


I chose the plants as they are all pretty tolerant of our office conditions.  Relatively warm with hostile inhabitants, I'm sure they're reading this!, and I thought it would be good to have some drought tolerance as we all know office plants are fairly neglected.

The first comment I had, however, was in reference to the above meeting room: "I'm unsure about the hedge on the table"!  Well, I guess you can't win all the time?!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The first of the Strawberries

This is what greeted me when I got home from work today.  A completely unblemished, plump, and possibly perfect Strawberry.  The first of many I hope.




It also came with a smaller but equally perfect little friend.


I have absolutely no idea what variety or cultivar this is.  All I know is that it grows well, has no diseases and tastes absolutely fabulous!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Primula vialii - The weird family member


For a Primula this has got to be the weird family member.  It's the non-conformist, the attention seeker, and it is definitely unlike the typical garden types.


This plant bears little resemblance to its relatives, such as P. denticulata, P. bulleyana, or P. vulgaris, and on first inspection it looks more like the smaller cousin of a Knifofia as opposed to a Primula.  The foliage, on the other hand, is definitely characteristic of it's relatives.

In recent years Primula vialii has become ever more popular with gardeners and quite readily available in most garden centres throughout the UK.  


I've recently used this plant in several places in my garden and it is especially effective when planted in small clumps.  An acidic soil is preferable and it is the perfect plant for a shady area with moist soil.  Shaded areas are often quite difficult to introduce colour into so you can imagine just how valuable this plant can be in such settings.

Also, as for encouraging wildlife, just like other Primula's, it excels.  All manner of flying insects flock to it's flower spikes, which are not only gorgeous but long lasting too.

So if you're looking for an unusual and striking plant for the front of a border, or a shadier area consider this plant the next time you're at the garden centre.

I'm planning on propagating this plant in the near future and I'm hoping to try to sow its seeds "green".  If anyone has used this method of propagation with this plant then I would be interested to hear from you.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Astrantia bavarica - Another fantastic find!




I have been looking for an Astrantia for a while now.  I'm not the type of gardener who is after the latest cultivar or the Chelsea favourite.  I prefer species types or plants that are not widely available.

I found my Astrantia at a favourite haunt of mine, although slightly unconventional in gardening terms.  An art gallery in Carmarthen.  The two ladies who run the art and craft supplies floor of the gallery propagate their own plants and they always have a different selection available.
I had never heard of Astrantia bavarica before and although superficially it is the same as Astrantia major I have been informed that it is in fact a seperate species and as the name suggests originating from Bavaria.

The small plant cost me 75p which, when talking Astantia's, is a steal to say the least.  I think every Astrantia I've seen recently is around the £5 mark and as I'm a complete cheapskate I couldn't possibly justify that!  I snapped it up rather quickly and I'm rather chuffed to have it in my collection.

I've placed the Astrantia next to my half barrel pond (http://ryans-garden.blogspot.com/2009/05/half-barrel-ponds-are-great-for-small.html) where it has room to grow and plenty of wildlife to enjoy it.

Astrantia's enjoy full to part sun with moist rich soil.  They are great in woodland or riverbank settings and are pretty tolerant of all conditions when established.  As the half barrel garden has a wildlife area feel to it I thought that this Astrantia would benefit from the dappled light that the Viburnum casts and the cool, moist soil.

The plant is a gem to photograph and I will be hanging some of my images in my house very soon.


Thursday, 4 June 2009

Crabby and his catch

Crabby and his catch!


My local crab spider, whom I've blogged about before (http://ryans-garden.blogspot.com/2009/05/snow-white-beauty.html) has now moved, as the bluebells have come to the end of their flowering period, and is now living within the Strawberries.  I have seen another on my Viburnum, and that one has green legs, but don't tell Crabby.

Anyway, I spotted Crabby feasting on a hover-fly which looked far too large for him to eat and I haven't seen him since.  I guess  he's resting after such a goliath meal!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

As red as the Devil!


Hiding underneath the flower bud of an Asiatic Lily is a creature blood red in colour, as destructive as any pest I know and something I've been dreading.  Well, at least it wasn't in my garden!




Last year I suffered at the hands of these little beetles, which are quite unimaginatively known as 'Lily beetles' or more accurately Liliocercis lilii.  They arrive without warning and start munching away on the leaves of bulbous plants, in particular Lilies and Fritillaries.

The beetles then breed and lay eggs on the plant.  The larvae hatch out and they too eat plant leaves just like their parents.  I didn't notice the larvae at first as they normally cover themselves with their own excrement (Nice!) and as a result they look pretty much like birds droppings.



The beetle is native in many parts of Europe and Asia but not here in the U.K.  Well, that was until the 1940's, when it became established in the South.  I found this beetle in Lancashire, North England.  This pretty much backs the theory that as temperatures rise these beetles are moving further North.

My advice is to dispose of the insect as soon as you find it.  Luckily for me they haven't been seen in my garden yet, but I'm sure they will appear!

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