The vaguely green-fingered thoughts of a rambling rose.

Never mind the Spring, here comes Summer!

One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides. ~W.E. Johns

Last week there was snow in some parts of our country. This week, we have leap-frogged and landed slap bang into the middle of Summer. We've had temperatures of 26C this afternoon, a whopping 20 degrees higher than when I last blogged!

Having so many plants hardened off and ready, I've actually found the last couple of days too hot to plant them out, so picture the scene: It's 9pm and the light is fading fast as The Man that Can and I are making the most of the cooler temperatures to help the newly planted veg and shrubs settle without the added stress of the heat. By the time we got around to the watering, it was dark. Another reason perhaps to convince our neighbours that we are indeed mad!
There is something of a method in that madness however.  When temperatures are so warm, watering is often more effective done as the sun goes down because there's less evaporation. It also helps prevent scorching flowers and leaves. If you water in the mornings, the sun is often already high enough to do some damage should water sit on the plant, it acts like a magnifying glass. There are times though when you can't avoid having to water in the mornings, especially hanging baskets and containers as they can dry out very quickly. I find either a small watering can with a long spout or a jug to get the water right down to the soil rather than wet the foliage or flowers. Another good tip is to use a small squash bottle with the bottom cut off. 'plant' it into the middle of the basket when making up your containers/baskets. The plants will hide it, and when it comes to watering, it's just a case of filling up the little bottle. This method also works extremely well for your growbag crops too. I put one beside each of my tomato plants, and it makes watering so much easier.

Enough waffle, lets have some colour shall we?
Obviously these were taken well before the sun went down. I have a pot of these in a stone-effect container on the patio. Bright and in your face, pink phlox I believe. Over the cooler months, the chickens made this plant one of their favourite places to dine, and I feared they'd caused it's demise. A little trim and a feed, and they've perked up somewhat.

A much needed job finally done. I'm really hoping that nature has finished with all the cold weather now that the bubble-wrap has been taken down in the greenhouse. Of course at the moment, it's very warm. The automatic window opening doo-hicky is at full pelt, and the door is often left ajar. I've been raising the humidity inside by 'damping down' the floor of the greenhouse as mentioned previously. Hopefully now the bubble-wrap has gone, my tomatoes will finally put on enough growth for me to plant them up in their hanging baskets. If this weather continues, some shading may need to be added.

We began harvesting the lettuce today. If we don't eat it, it'll bolt in this weather, and then it'll be a little less tasty. It's a good job we like salads. This was taken after the harvest. I tend to take a few leaves from each plant, that way they'll throw up new ones to replace them. This is called cut-and-come-again. A very useful and economical way of cropping your leaves.

A bit more of a nosey around the plants still in the greenhouse, these are the dahlias. They'll be hardened off too this week, as will the pelargoniums (bedding geranium). I'm going to plant these en masse to create a bold impact.

Minibell tomaotes are exactly that. mini. The peppers have performed poorly so far too. Lets hope they improve with the higher light levels

These are courgettes...

The potatoes growing in sacks have now been moved outside the greenhouse. I think they've gone a little mad in there.

Lets pause a moment on our journey around the garden to savour the only saving grace of  the pine tree. The acid-green new growth.

In the lawn bed, this vibrant azalea began life as a gift. One of those potted house-plant affairs. I hadn't expected her to survive her first year outside, but here we are three years on, and one very harsh winter later, and she's flowering her socks off. Not yet in bloom, but I have a white one too behind it.

This solomon's seal was taken from a neighbours patch. I popped it into the tiny border beside the patio just for safe-keeping really, and everytime I look at it, I tell myself I'm going to move it to the front garden where it is shadier. I seems to be doing ok here for now though. Maybe I'll move it after it's finished flowering.

Having hardened off nicely, I've allowed my hanging baskets to begin flowering. Once they're in full bloom, I shall move them to their rightful place either side of the front door.

And finally, one of my many hardy geraniums (cranesbill) has begun flowering. Within the week, I would imagine this one at least to be covered in these lovely blue flowers, which the bees flock to.

Where did Spring go?

Ok, so the flowers say it's Spring. The 'May Blossom' says it's May, even the dandelions have exploded into action, but oooh it's been so cold! There have even been reports of snow over the higher ground! Actually, it's not all that uncommon to have snow this late. I can even recall snow in June!

I would imagine the power suppliers are rubbing their hands in glee as people up and down the country reach for the thermostat. What better time to get out into the garden to keep warm. There's still digging to be done, raking, mowing, hoeing. Phew!

I say mowing, but this week we haven't been able to mow our lawn. In the mornings we've had frosts, followed by some pretty sharp showers. The best place to be is in the greenhouse. Nice and dry, nice and warm. When the sun breaks through the clouds, it's warm enough for the automatic window opening gadget to do it's thing.

I've been nipping the plants in the hanging baskets as they want to flower. Of course this encourages them to become bushier plants, so that when they actually do make it out to their summer spots, they will be smothered in blooms.

Everything wants to be outside, but of course you should never ever trust the British weather. She always has one last trick up her sleeve. Something that the garden centres, DIY stores and supermarkets hope for. Traditionally, these places start to proffer their bedding plants from the Easter Bank Holiday. These lush gems with the promise of summer-long colour for your garden draw us in, seduce us, and before you realise it you leave with a boot full of goodies. Of course there's nothing at all wrong with that, if you have a sheltered spot, cold frame, greenhouse or conservatory to cosset them in.

In my youth, it probably took me a couple of years, and some hard-earned cash wasted before I realised that the stores were in it for the money. You see you buy these lovely promises, plant them out one sunny weekend in March or April, and wait for summer. Along comes a chilly night, and bang! All your beautiful plants pop off, and you have to return to buy some more! Kerching!

These days I'm far more fastidious. I do still buy bedding plants if something catches my eye like these coleus below, but they go into my greenhouse for a wee while for a bit of protection. I may well pot them on if they need it, or even make up containers if it's required, that way on milder days they can come out of the greenhouse, and go back for the night. This is known as 'hardening off', and once all danger of frosts has passed you should harden off all of your plants whether ornamental or edible, or they'll snuff it from shock.

I always begin by checking them over thoroughly for any signs of pests that may have avoided my scrutiny in the shop - I don't want an infestation of aphids in the greenhouse. Next I will nip out all the shoots. This not only makes for a bushier plant, and thus more flowers, but I use the tips of the shoots for cuttings to make more plants for free. Lastly a really good watering. How often do some of these stores end up slinging plants away for the want of a good watering? It's so wasteful.

A quick nosey around the garden between showers reveals flowers forming on my summer-fruiting raspberries, blackcurrants, and strawberries, these ones below are growing in a hanging basket, away from any slugs.

This little gem is a lilac 'borrowed' from the garden below ours. It drapes gracefully over our fence like a boozy bar singer over a piano, and just as perfumed!

The bulb-filled containers have a little respite. The tulips and fritillaries have now been cut back, leaving their leaves to absorb what nutrients they can to feed the bulbs for next years' display. Although at present no floral display, there is still interest in these containers from the various shades of green and differing shapes and forms of the foliage from the passing bulbs and the bulbs of yet to come, notably one of my favourite Summer blooms, the lillies. I can't wait!

Elsewhere in the garden, the ferns are unfolding their fronds. It might not look much right now, but in another couple of months, this little patch will turn into something out of Jurassic Park!

And finally back into the greenhouse. The removal of our neighbours holly 'tree' has afforded many more hours of sunlight...ok daylight...reaching our little growing space. This has really improved the plants within. I did briefly contemplate removing the upper sections of the bubble-wrap. Given the night-time sub-zero temperatures we've had this week, I'm so glad I didn't!

Of course with the warmer temperatures within the greenhouse, you're bound to come across the odd pest. I've hung up sticky yellow traps for any aphids. Damping down the floor is important as the temperature rises too. This helps to keep the humidity up, a condition that red-spider mites dislike. And finally, a good rootle around your plants as you water (from below if possible to help prevent scorched leaves) will show up any bugs that may have found their way into this protective home.

Now before you begin screaming at me about the sticky traps being non-selective, I have an insect screen that fits over my window, and once I begin opening the door for extra ventilation in the event of summer happening this year, I have a screen for there too. This prevents beneficial insects such as ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings access to these alluring death-traps.

Sad Day

We're taking a moment to remember Gladys & Aretha.

Our best layers, Gladys (top) was taken suddenly at the weekend, and Aretha on Wednesday morning, to the great hen house in the sky.
RIP little ladies.

The Botanical Gardens

With around 200 parks, woodlands and gardens, our city holds the accolade of the greenest city in England. From the award winning Peace Gardens, with it's water features and fabulous fountains, and a backdrop of the Victorian Town Hall, to the Winter Gardens, which is the largest temperate glasshouse in any European city.
My favourite by far is the Botanical Gardens. If you like facts and figures, it was first opened in 1836, designed by Robert Marnock, and it covers an area of some 19 acres. They hold the national collection of Weigela, Diervilla and Sarcococca.
In recent years, there has been much restoration to the whole site to return it to it's 19th century condition, while bringing it up to safety and access standards of today.
The glass pavillions, housing temperate plants from all over the world, were re-opened in 2003 by HRH Prince of Wales.

The restoration work was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with 25% of the monies matched by the FOBS by means of various fundraising events...which brings me to the reason I've entered this into my blog. The FOBS Plant Sales!

Several times each year, the FOBS hold plant sales to help boost the coffers of the Botanical Gardens, this helps keep gardens like these free to the public. The Hardy Plant Society also hold plant sales at the site. The bonus of having sales like these not only helps you find the perfect plant for the tricky spot you're trying to fill and all the advice you could possible wish for, but they are so much cheaper than buying from a garden centre.

We arrived early at the gardens to take advantage of the beautiful displays. This time of year, the gardens are usually in full bloom with their collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, but the Spring coming late has put most of them back a couple of weeks, a perfect opportunity to visit between plant sales.

I came home happy and tired with a bag of promises. Pulmonaria sissinghurst white. Its white spotted leaves and white spring flowers should lift a shady spot in my cottagey front garden. Astriantia ruby wedding will be perfect for the heavy soil in the front garden. Sedum telephium will be at home in my new border behind the garage, in the light soil and full sun (should we get some) and Potentilla Gibson's Scarlett will be happy here too.

I made one final purchase of what I initially thought was a form of hibiscus, but on closer inspection learned it was form of Pelargonium named 'Jungle Night'. I very rarely buy a plant on impulse, preferring to ensure I spend my pennies wisely on plants I know I have the correct conditions for, or can provide. This little beauty though, drew me in, held me tight and refused to allow me to move on without it tucked into my little basket. I have yet to find information about it, so for now it sits in my kitchen window. Waiting.


Bumblebee fancied having a chicken he can call his own. He decided that she would be white, and he'd call her Grace. I'm not sure where the name came from, but it fits in very well with our other ladies, Gladys, Lola and Aretha. It took him around five mintues to decide that his 'Grace' was to be a little White Rock, after a brief inspection of a White Star which he decided would be too big to play with our other girls.
Incidentally, our other girls are two buff Plymouth Rocks and a buff Wyandotte (Aretha):

We're very lucky to live within a pleasant drive's distance from an excellent poultry farm. The fellows who run it are very friendly, patient, and extremely helpful, especially when trying to match suitability of breed, which is great as Bumblebee does like to be very hands-on. Their farm shop is well stocked with all things avian and poultry, at a fraction of the cost of pet shops around the city. The only drawback is the long rough track to reach it from the road. Our poor car (aka Molly) gets quite a workout!

So let me introduce you to Grace

She's extremely shy and quiet, but that's to be expected. The other ladies aren't too keen on this interloper, so for the time being Grace is being kept in the run away from them. A little house has been made for her within the run with lovely warm cut straw for bedding. Unfortunately, she has taken to roosting on the top of it instead if inside it! It's cold tonight, so The Man That Can has just brought her into the porch in a large box. We'll try again tomorrow.