Wednesday, 31 July 2013

End of Month - July 2013

I spent the morning in the greenhouse because it's chucking it down outside.  Delphinium and hollyhock seedlings are potted on and the rose and carnation cuttings are cosy in their plastic bags.

Yesterday I collected seeds from poppies, violas, lupins and white foxgloves.  The wallflower pods are almost ready but Garden News gave me a free packet of those seeds anyway.  I have recently subscribed to Garden News as they are offering 52 weekly magazines for £52 ... a real bargain as they give away a free packet of seeds worth more than £1 every week, it's full of interesting articles on everything from flowers to vegetables and they always have loads of offers.  I get BBC Gardeners' World Magazine too (another offer ... 5 magazines for £5) but it's Garden News I look forward to receiving.

I found a place for my fossil paving slab ... a plain concrete slab used to be there so this one looks much better.  I went back to the stone merchant and bought another two large ones to improve this whole area and got a deal on ten remaining small ones (£30 instead of over £60).  I haven't used them yet but they will feature in my plans for the front garden when I get round to it!

Golden Rod is attracting the bees but I need to carry out some crowd control if it spreads any more.
Here are some more blooms to lift my spirts on this wet morning:

This nasturtium very kindly self seeded and is now creeping along the bottom of a border adding lots of lovely drops of colour.

Thanks to The Patient Gardener for hosting the End of Month meme.

Friday, 26 July 2013

MASSIVE Ladybird

 Earlier this month I was in a friend's garden when we heard jet engines overhead and looked up to see the Red Arrows passing directly over the top of us on their way to the Test Match a couple of miles away.  Yesterday, in my garden, a strange noise turned out to be a low flying microlight buzzing around like a huge fly.  Then today we had this over us:

Have you read 'Enduring Love' by Ian McEwan?  He can be pretty dark at times and this one begins with a man falling from a rope on a hot-air balloon.  Well, this is the Ladybird balloon of Ladybird Books fame and it passes over us quite regularly on warm Summer evenings.  It has never caused us any problems, unlike some others in the past:

When we first moved here the kids were 7 and 5 years old.  One evening the eldest came rushing in shouting about a balloon which was about to hit the roof.  Sure enough, once outside, we could see the panic on the pilot's face as he frantically ignited the gas to gain height.  Luckily he made it.  The episode wasn't over though as it became obvious he was going to land in the newly ploughed field opposite our house.  Our sons were both in the field excitedly watching the action.  Suddenly the pilot threw a rope out and shouted, "Catch it." 

Our eldest ran after the rope while I was screaming, "NOOOO, don't touch it!"

Thankfully he didn't catch it and the balloon bounced over the furrows in the field spilling its passengers out into the mud.  Strangely, I have never hankered after a balloon ride since!

Visions of a small boy drifting off into the air still haunt me. Stupid really as he grew up and became a fighter pilot for the Royal Navy ...

I've been collecting seeds, sowing seeds, taking cuttings and dead heading this week. Pottering! Love it!

I also love this Lucifer Crocosmia.  It's much taller than the clumps I have dotted around the place and would be perfect as a cut flower ... hope it produces LOTS of seeds for me this year!

Here's a link to a nursery in Cornwall that specialises in Crocosmia. I hadn't realised there were quite so many different varieties of this plant.

Thursday, 25 July 2013


We didn't choose this Buddleja - it chose us.  We all know it as the Butterfly Bush but apparently it was called the Bombsite Bush during the war years as it has an invasive nature and it sprang up on any waste ground.  In fact it is banned in some USA states because it is classified as a noxious weed!

Well, five years ago part of the hawthorne hedge was removed from the field side of our lane and this Buddleja was definitely NOT there then ... but I'm very glad it is here now.  It's right outside our window and gives hours of entertainment this time of year. 

In the half hour I spent watching Peacock butterflies were chasing the Small Tortoiseshells; Small Whites were dancing round and unsettling Large Whites; a Red Admiral (or Admirable as they used to be called) paid a brief visit while a Comma posed for ages in the sunshine.

The flowers not covered in butterflies were covered in bees.

This particular shrub is a Buddleja davidii.  It was named after Father Armand David (1826 - 1900), a missionary Catholic priest, zoologist and botanist who worked in China.  It was Armand David who first discovered the Giant Panda together with 200 other wild animals and 807 birds many of which had never been described in scientific journals before. He discovered 52 new species of Rhododendrons and 40 new Primulae.

If I had chosen to grow a Buddleja I would have planted a darker purple, a red one or a white one.
This shrub has grown to 15 feet in just four years and it has spread to about the same width so I'm glad it is on the lane and not in the garden!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Carnations .... Propagation Time

Last year I sent for some free carnations from Thompson & Morgan.  I potted them up and gradually placed them in the borders.  I only put one in the front garden but I'm wishing I had found space for a couple more as this one has really thrived.  Carol Klein recommends us to 'treat them mean' and she appears to be right.  This one is in relatively poor soil and it's the furthest away from the hosepipe.   It has produced over forty tall red flowers and there are still masses of buds ready to open. Some people would have picked the blooms to enjoy them inside but I'm always reluctant to do that as it would 'spoil' the garden!  Next year I will have an allotment cutting garden (hopefully!) so it shouldn't be an issue.  In the meantime I buy cut flowers.  This week I decided on carnations: the florist was charging £4; the supermarket wanted £3.50 and the market trader was asking £2 so he got the sale.
It was a bunch of long stemmed, pure white carnations that needed to be cut to fit into the vase.  In the past the trimmings have always gone into the composter ... what a waste!  As a child my mother taught me to snip the bottom of each stem just below one of the stem nodes then cut off the bottom 4 inches aiming for just above another stem node if possible.  She would dip the bottom of the cutting in rooting powder and stick it in a pot of moist compost up to the bottom of the second node.  (She did this immediately so she was sure they weren't planted upside down!)   Some people recommend covering the pot in a plastic bag but Mum just left it on the kitchen windowsill which was light but out of the direct glare of the sun.  She kept the soil damp and the roots developed within a few weeks.  She never had to buy her bunches of carnations! 

Am I turning into my Mum???!!! 

'Jazz' Rose

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


You can stop worrying about the bees .... they're all at my house!!

A few weeks ago a family of tree bees (Bombus hypnorum) moved into a disused bird box right outside our front door.  I hadn't realised how rare they were until today!  Apparently they only appeared in Britain in 2001 and have been moving up the country ever since.  They are incredibly active: a group of males are constantly flying around outside the nest waiting for the queen to "come up and see them"! You can hear them buzzing late into the night. I've just spent a few minutes submitting a record to BWARS (Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society).

Then a couple of days ago I went into the spare bedroom and heard a strange chewing sound coming from the loft.  Through the window I spotted a couple of small bees going under the house guttering: further inspection revealed a hole between two bricks.  No idea what kind they are. Dread to think how many there are up there living rent free ... and what ARE they chewing?!

Today I spotted holes in the leaves of one of my new shrubs.  Leaf-cutter bees!  These are solitary bees.  They carry the bits of leaf away to line cells in which they lay eggs.  This one is my own fault as I placed one of those insect boxes near the pond and sure enough someone has moved in!  The books tell me not to panic as they don't do any harm ... the shrub wouldn't agree!  "Just look at my leaves!!"

Anyway, on the whole I am rather chuffed at all these pollinators.  I'm obviously doing something right!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

We're having a heat wave?

According to the Met Office we can prepare for a BBQ weekend! 

Firstly, we need a BBQ!  Our last one rusted away to nothing as we left it outside (must take better care of the new one!).  Now do we buy a cheap one, an expensive gas one or build one from old bricks?  Always fancied the old brick idea and there are Youtube videos giving instructions but would we use it enough?  Where would we build it so it wasn't in the way or set fire to the house? Can we build it by Saturday?!  Think I've talked myself out of that one then. 

So, cheap or gas??  Do you get the same smokey flavour with a gas BBQ?  Do I like the smokey flavour?! Is charcoal cheaper than gas? Would I remember to look after a gas one?


Aldi have a dual burner for sale at £50.

But I prefer this one on Amazon at £99.99 reduced from £227.50

On the other hand I can get a basic charcoal BBQ for as little as £7.50 then spend the rest on food!

Why spend anything at all?  As a brownie I remember cutting an H shape out in the grass, folding the turf back, building a fire and toasting a sausage on a stick.  Once we were fed and the fire extinquished we put the turf back and went home.  Do they still do that kind of thing in the brownies?  I shudder to think how raw that sausage was!

Okay, next we need food and drink. 

I found a great little BBQ recipe book in a charity shop last year.  Lots of burgers and kebabs but it also has vegetarian and sea food sections. 

Here's Honey and Lime Prawn Kebabs with Salsa:
  • Using a non-metalic dish whisk 3 tbsps honey, 1 chopped red chilli, 2 tbsp olive oil, juice and zest from 2 limes, 1 crushed garlic clove, a small piece of grated ginger and 1 tbsp chopped coriander together then add 32 peeled prawns.  Toss well, cover and leave in the fridge for 3 hours.
  • To make the salsa chop up 2 tomatoes, dice 1 mango and 1 small onion, chop 1 small red chilli and mix them all up with the zest and juice from 1 lime and 2 tbsp coriander leaves (chopped).
  • Thread the prawns on skewers and BBQ for about 4 minutes.  Serve with rice and the salsa.

Delicious with homemade Elderflower Wine!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


Saturday was a lovely day.  I spent a couple of hours alone on the allotment.  It was just before eleven o'clock when the Red Arrows flew over in formation!  They were circling round ready for their fly past over Nottingham for the Armed Forces Day Parade.  Nearby the gliding school was in full swing with planes taking off and landing from the Syerston airbase.  Later a Dakota came over as part of the East Bridgford Village fete.  It was just like being at Waddington Air Show!

Later we visited the village fete where I purchased this rather nice Astrantia Roma which complements this peony perfectly!

Sunday morning saw us out on the lane with the shovels and cement mending the pot holes. Last winter really took its toll on the unmade surface and we did a quick fix in Spring but we needed a good drying day to mend it properly.  Sunday fitted the bill.

Now when I say "we" I used the term quite loosely ... I made the tea and cut the hedge and swept up a bit ... there are advantages to being female.

There are thirteen houses on the lane: nine older properties then four new ones built behind our house.  The older residents don't tend to associate with the new ones! Things improved on Sunday.  Nothing like a joint venture to break the ice.  Because of the 'road works' people had to walk passed us and conversations began.  The cement has now dried and I hope there's firm foundations for more than just the lane.

Such a busy time of year!  I've filled two builder's rubble sacks with spent Forget-me-nots, weeds and garden waste since Sunday!  I've planted large pots of basil, coriander, thyme, mint, oregano, dill and chives near the kitchen door and tidied up the herb patch.  I finished the front pond make over and tidied up the front garden.  It needs lots of new climbers over the fences so I've taken cuttings from the honeysuckle and clematis. These are now sweating in plastic bags and hopefully putting down roots in the greenhouse.

Carol Klein has been collecting and sowing Polyanthus seeds so I followed her example ... then did the same with some bluebell seeds and some fritillaries.  It might work ... I have a pot of tiny Pineapple bulbs from last year's seeds so who knows!

Delphinium seedlings are growing nicely ready for the allotment.  I'll be collecting seeds from the ones flowering in the garden in a few weeks to plant in September.  The pale blue one is particularly attractive but I like the pink one too.  I might be very lucky and find the seed comes true!

The woodpigeons have been at it again and we have two noisy cooing creatures sitting on nests while at the front I was amazed to be shouted at by a tiny wren who was upset by my presence near the hedge!