End of month view May 2016

One of the fascinating things about the end of month meme is that it provides an opportunity to compare one month with another. Up until the end of April there seemed to be very little to comment on by way of change, with one month end being little different from the one before.

Not so this month. Not only are there very obvious changes, the pace of change is dramatically faster. My end of may shots have plants coming to the end of their flowering period that had barely started a month earlier. Magnolia ‘Ann’ and Maianthemum racemosum are good examples.

It’s also the month when you get to take stock of what has survived the winter and where the gaps are. Gaps need filling, so plant buying trips are easily justified. I visited a local nursery that I have not been to before, though I’ve seen them at shows, and dug fairly deep for mainly woodland plants. I’ve blogged about them already so will say no more.

It’s been a month of chaos and chaos resolved in that glasshouse space has been bulging with young plants, flowers and veg, which by months end have mostly been planted out. There have been many days where plants have been moved out by day and back in by night. I’m very pleased to have brought on young plants of nearly all of our 80 odd Fuchsias, many of which had grown old and woody. I’m less pleased that at least two of my newly purchased Dahlias look to have virus.

Right, some pictures. All were taken today or in the last few days.

May view-2

Schefflera taiwaniana bottom left, Maianthemum racemosum and Magnolia ‘Ann’ right.

Papaver bracteata

Papaver bracteata, 1.5m tall, flowers 20cm across.


Floweriest bit of cactus collection.


Athyrium otophorum ‘Okanum’ and Polystichum proliferum. I have lots of ferns and they all look good with their new growth at this time of year.



Maianthemum bifolium, Geranium palmatum, Geranium phaeum ‘Langthornes Blue’ and Diplarrena moraea.



Astelia chathamica, Papaver bracteata, Digitalis purpurea, Convallaria majalis ‘Vic Pawlowski’s Gold’, Ixia ‘Venus’ and Weigela ‘Kosteriana Variegata’


May view-3

80 degrees from top picture

This is my contribution to the End of Month View meme, hosted by The Patient Gardener. Please visit her to find links to lots of other EOM views, armchair garden visiting at its finest.



Trial by allotment

I went up to my plot yesterday morning, did a bit of weeding and thinned my autumn raspberries. On the way out of the fruit cage, heading home for lunch, I noticed a branch on one of my gooseberries was almost bare of leaves. It could only mean sawfly, so I set to squashing them. Half an hour I spent, carefully seeking them all out and dispatching them using the totally organic finger and thumb method.

After my lunch, I went back to plant a few salad bits and pieces. Thought I’d give the gooseberries a quick going over in case I’d missed any. We’re talking of about six quite young bushes here. I counted them this time, 95. Unbelievable.

Today I went again, main item on the agenda to plant out my sprouts. That accomplished I went back to the gooseberries and squashed another 211.


Gooseberry sawfly caterpillar.

The planting of my salad leaves yesterday hadn’t gone entirely to plan; I’d dug through into a mole tunnel halfway along the row. I get mole hills aplenty in the grass paths around the plot but never any within it. Obviously they are there though, munching their way through my worms. I set a trap. By today I hadn’t caught anything.


Spinach, Lettuce and mole trap.

A couple of days earlier I’d squashed a couple of flea beetles on my newly planted out mizuna. At least I didn’t find any more of them.


Flea beetle damage on mizuna

My blackcurrants produced a prodigious crop last year. When I pruned them the fruiting shoots had produced very little new growth and I removed almost all of them completely, some to a strong side shoot. This year I have far fewer trusses, with less berries on each. On the other hand, I’ve got a couple more bushes fruiting now, having shoved a few prunings in the ground when I first planted the older bushes.

There were a few shoot tips with curled up leaves which shouted out that there were aphids within. There were, there are no longer. I didn’t spray them either, in case you’re wondering. If I can keep the numbers low, they will get parasitized naturally and disappear.


Curled up leaves on blackcurrant means aphids. Squash them.



Aphids on blackcurrant means curled up leaves.


My other plot has young camellia bushes on it, a temporary arrangement that is gradually morphing into something more permanent. I put mypex down between the rows, which has provide a perfect habitat for voles who are showing their gratitude by gnawing through the bark of the camellias. I either remove the mypex and deal with the resultant vegetation, or deal with the voles.

It does seem an uphill struggle at times, this growing malarkey.

Shopping trip-2

A week ago, I went to Barracott Plants on a plant hunting expedition, coming home with enough goodies to write a blog about, which I duly did. Trouble was , a couple of things I’d been wanting I was unable to find and the nursery owner was away so I was advised to come back. No hardship, a week later I’m back there again.

Came away with another tasty mix of new plants, even including one of the things I’d had on my list the week before. That was Polygonatum hybridum ‘Betburg’, a soloman’s seal that starts off the season with lovely glacous grey-purple leaves. It later fades to green, and my plant is green, but hopefully it will survive the slug onslaught and do its thing next year. I’d seen it at Rosemoor a week earlier, which was what prompted the nursery visit.


Polygonatum hybridum ‘Betburg’ at RHS Rosemoor


Melittis melisophyllum, Bastard Balm, is a fairly uncommon native which grows in a hedgerow quite near here. I figured a variety of it should do as well, so bought a plant of the striking M.m. ‘Royal Velvet Distinction’.


Melittis melisophyllum ‘Royal Velvet Distinction’


We were taken down to the glasshouse where all the real goodies are kept, well away from the main nursery. Oh joy! Podophyllum ‘Kaleidoscope’ had to come home with me. Doodia media is a fern I’ve seen and nearly bought several times before; this time the astonishing colour of its new growth overwhelmed any reluctance.


Podophyllum ‘Kaleidoscope’


Doodia media

Back on the main nursery I spotted an interesting plant with what was clearly the wrong label in it. It came home with me anyway and I am satisfied that it is in fact Disporum viridescens.


Disporum viridescens

With Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ we completed our purchases, loaded the car and headed for the gate. Trolley by gate, with bargain basement offers, mostly tomatoes, on it. Ever a sucker for a bargain, what looked like a double flowered cowslip but had a broken label, came home with us to get some TLC. It transpires, via Google, that a double flowered cowslip is exactly what it is, called Primula veris ‘Katy McSparron’.

I have to admit that shopping is usually anthema to me, but put me down in a decent nursery with a few quid in my pocket and I’m happy as Larry.

Allotment update

No dig veg growing throws up the odd dilemma, like do I or do I not earth up my spuds. I chose to do so, but not to the extent that everyone else has done theirs. Having made and carried out the decision, it seems a bit late to turn to Charles Dowding’s book and find out what I should have done.

My second early Kestrels are growing away nicely now and those I have earthed up. The maincrop Sarpo Axona, to the right, are much slower and a few have not come up at all. I’ve been seeing lots of leatherjackets, a change from last years wireworms, and I hope they are not the culprits.


Potato Kestrel.


I’d cut down a large clump of dwarf bamboo and planned to use it as pea sticks. Too tedious, so I went and bought some net. The peas are doing pretty well.

Today I planted Firestorm runner beans, Borlotti beans and flower sprouts. Last years runners were ravaged by slugs; I am determined that this years won’t be. I’ve planted a few salad leaves, mizuna and mustard, pretty much expecting slugs to destroy them.


Beans with gaps through to my between beds paths.


In the fruit cage I have loganberry and tayberry doing pretty badly, much of last years new growth having died back in the winter. There will be very few fruiting laterals coming from them. If they don’t perform this year they are out.  My early raspberries have only partially leafed out, so the crop from them will be poorer too. The primocane variety, Polka, is growing almost too well. I made the mistake last year of leaving too many canes to come up to fruit. This year I will thin them more rigorously. I may try to devise a method of supporting them a bit; it’s a very exposed plot and a lot of fruit was damaged by rubbing against the leaves and stems of adjacent canes. It’s a great variety though, with massive, tasty fruits over two months or more. A few canes grew outside the fruit cage and were left unpruned. They are now almost in flower, so managed properly, I could probably have them in fruit for even longer.

I look set to get a good crop of redcurrants and of gooseberries. The blackcurrants seem to have less fruit trusses this year, which is probably good thing; last year’s crop was so heavy it seems to have taken a lot out of the bushes. I did prune them quite hard, so they are likely to be putting more of their energies into growth.

Onions are a crop I have trouble with. I bough a bag of “wonky” onions in the supermarket the other day; perfectly good and ridiculously cheap, I do wonder why I bother. It’s all very well thinking you’ll grow the things that are expensive in the shops and buy things like onions, carrots and spuds, but the expensive things tend to be the ones that are a bit trickier to grow and for which you need pretty good growing conditions. I’d like to think I’m improving my soil and I have put up windbreaks, but I don’t think my plot will ever be less than a challenge.

I planted garlic and overwintering onions in autumn, they’re struggling. I started onion sets and shallots off in cells and planted them out when they looked to be getting away well. They haven’t done as well as I’d hoped, though its early days. I just wish I knew where I was falling down, it’s frustrating.


Underwhelming shallots and onions. Rhubarb’s good though.

Shopping trip

You know how it goes; you go to a garden, Rosemoor in this instance and see a plant you simply must have, Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Betburg’ on this outing.

You get home and look at the RHS website to see who is listing it; excellent, a nursery quite close by, Barracott Plants, at Gunnislake. Thought they only retailed at shows, they’re open Thursdays and Fridays, must get along there.

Off I go this morning, having checked their website and drawn up a bit of a tentative checklist.

I doubt a week passes that I don’t wish I had a bigger garden. There are so many good plants out there and I have room for only a tiny fraction of them. I didn’t get much from my list but here is what I came away with. No Polygonatum ‘Betburg’, sadly.

Polygonatum humile
Polygonatum mengzense f. tonkinensis HWJ573
Polygonatum odoratum Purple Stem
Convallaria majalis Vic Pawlowski’s Gold
Convallaria majalis Hofheim
Maianthemum bifolium
Trollius Alabaster
Mukgenia Nova Flame
Primula pulverulenta (a pale seedling that caught my eye)



Convallaria majalis ‘Vic Pawlowski’s Gold’


Polygonatum mengzense f. tonkinensis HWJ573


Polygonatum odoratum Purple Stem


Mukgenia Nova Flame


I have more space for shade lovers than sun lovers, as you can see. Came home, had a bit of lunch then set about planting them. There were a few other waifs and strays that need to go out too, so to that list can be added

Clematis recta
Lathyrus grandiflorus
Athyrium Ocean’s Fury
Dryopteris cycadina

Not a bad days work and if the rain holds off I’ll go and pot on my Dahlias too.

And the up side of them not having everything I wanted is that I have a perfect excuse to go again.

A day in May

I see myself as the sort of gardener who is very interested in individual plants and rather less interested in the overall composition. That said, I am not indifferent to it and to group plants by their cultural requirements often leads to a visually harmonious effect. I don’t have a large garden and in order to fit in all the things I want to grow I don’t have a lawn or much by way of patios or garden structures other than to grow plants in or on. Today I went round with my camera and this is what I found in flower.

When I say that I have been round far larger gardens and found less to take pictures of, I am merely saying that my garden is providing me with what I want. I recognise that we are all different and for other people my little patch could be seen as an uncoordinated mish mash of plants thrown together with no regard for design or colour or a dozen other aesthetic criteria.

Am I bovvered? Nope. I still like to see what other people do in their gardens, online or in the flesh as it were. I am always open to ideas, even design ideas, but for me the plants will always come first.

There are people about who seem to look much harder for the things they can find fault with than for the things they like. Perhaps they are afraid to admit to liking something in case it attracts scorn from someone else. I don’t know, I don’t understand that sort of mentality.