End of month view – April 2017

Butternut-Squash

These are butternut squash seedlings on my window ledge. It’s raining outside, which is a very good thing; steady, hour after hour. What happened to April showers?

April has seen masses of stuff coming into leaf and flowering like mad. It has also seen weeks of dry weather and the threat of frost on half a dozen or more nights. Much time has been expended on watering and moving tender plants in and out of greenhouses. I have runner beans germinating on the spare bedroom floor. Cucumber ‘Carmen’ are on the window ledge too, not far short of flowering.

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I suppose I should have seen the forecast and taken pictures yesterday, but I like the way that rain seems to intensify the colours, not that Camellia ‘Bob Hope’ needs it. The Hakonechloas are growing away well and the Acer has so far escaped the damage from cold wind it often suffers.

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Camellia ‘Bob Hope’ and Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’

 

The other Camellia that is always very late is ‘Nightrider’. It’s just beginning its flowering and will soon produce new growth of a similar colour to the blooms. It’s about six feet tall now and will need curtailing before much longer.

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Camellia ‘Nightrider’

Years ago I raised a couple of seedlings of what I believe was Rhododendron atlanticum, a deciduous azalea with superb scent. Neither seedling bears much resemblance to their parent but one is pretty good and has at least as strong a perfume. It’s a shame deciduous azaleas are so tricky to propagate, it’d be a nice thing to give away.

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Rhododendron (Azalea) seedling

Holboellia brachyandra doesn’t have quite as strong a perfume but it does carry a little further in my experience. There are times when its vigour gives me concerns, but there’s a fence to cover and trees to climb. It’s a Crûg Farm plant, which will surprise no-one familiar with their catalogue.

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Holboellia brachyandra

Maianthemum racemosum and its variety ‘Emily Moody’ are flowering now. Not a big difference between them, ‘Emily Moody’ came up a couple of weeks later but has now caught up; they’re both starting to flower. ‘Emily Moody’ has in previous years won hands down on scent, I haven’t checked this season yet.

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Maianthemum racemosum

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Maianthemum racemosum ‘Emily Moody’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bells; blue, pink, white and yellow, abound. I suspect that all our bluebells are hybrids between English and Spanish, some close to one species, some to the other. Yellow comes from Uvularia perfoliata. Disporum, Polygonatum and Convallaria will provide me with green and white bells shortly.

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Out from the shady areas Libertia x butleri is putting on the glitz this year. It was poor last year, great the year before that. This is a newly named hybrid between L. chilensis and L. ixioides which sowed itself. I grow both parent species and this spontaneous cross is apparently not uncommon.

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Libertia x butleri

A couple of other things warrant a mention. I grow a few Muscari but I think ‘Blue Spike’ might be the showiest and longest lasting. Camellia ‘Minato-no-akebono’ has finished flowering but is keeping things going with lovely new leaves.

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Muscari ‘Blue Spike’ and Camellia ‘Minato-no-akebono’

 

I have a few fruit trees in the garden, mostly apples. One tree of ‘Elstar’ produced small scabby fruit in its first couple of years and I am gradually turning it into a family tree by grafting other varieties onto it. This winter saw the addition of ‘Plympton Pippin’ and ‘Tregonna King’ two old west-country varieties, and ‘Meridian’, which is a modern one. They join ‘Holstein’ and ‘Red Windsor’ that were done a couple of years ago and are fruiting already. I also grafted ‘Holstein’ more conventionally onto MM106 to make a normal single variety tree.
Apropos nothing, my grandfather was a nurseryman in Plympton many years ago. There’s a housing estate there now; that’s progress.

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Apple ‘Holstein’ and new family members Plympton Pippin (flowering) and ‘Tregonna King’

And so to garden views. We have scaffolding up and it’s raining. The scaffolding rather spoils one of my usual views but on the other hand it provides a new viewpoint.

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The sooner this goes the better.

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View from the scaffold, seagull on the chimney perspective.

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Even higher, monopod held aloft, cable release. Drone view, without a drone.

Now it’s off to The Patient Gardener, host of the EOMV meme, to see her post and the links to everyone elses.

Allotment update 14/4/2017

I’ve put in several hours on my plot yesterday and today, strimming, weeding, sowing and planting. It still feels early in the season but I’m well on the way to a full house.

I’ve said before that I have trouble getting seedlings going on my plot and start most things off in pots or cells. Today I planted out some carrots done in deep pots – I think they had seedling trees in them in an earlier life – and sowed another batch as soon as I got home. I sowed parsnips next to the carrots and covered the lot with fine mesh to keep out carrot fly. I hope that works, they did a lot of damage to last years crops.

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Carrot Early Nantes

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Carrot fly protection for carrots and parsnips.

I grew Flower Sprouts for the first time last year. They did very well so I have them again. I am trying two different cabbages this year, Huzarro and Delight Ball. The Flower Sprouts replaced overwintered and fairly useless Chard. I’ll give the spinach alongside a few more weeks. All thes brassicas had been sown in seed compost and pricked off into Sylvagrow peat free. They’ve done well but the cabbages are a bit soft.

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Brassicas in 5cm cells.

My first sowing of perpetual spinach was in cells in Jack’s Magic compost, a peat based product that I have now used up and won’t be using again. That’s less because it’s peat than because it hasn’t given me good results. The spinach was sown under cover on 1st March and is looking hungry. It has been planted where the leeks were and since I am

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Hungry spinach, planted out with last years leeks.

still digging and eating them, I haven’t mulched the ground. The no-dig model of mulching bare ground in autumn works well but it’s not so easy to fit in an annual mulch when there is an overwinter crop being followed by direct sown seeds or small transplants. Perhaps I shall top dress with compost when the plants get bigger.

Today I sowed in pots beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, courgettes, butternut squash, purple sprouting broccoli, purple curly kale, sweetcorn, parsley, peas, spinach, sorrel and giant goosefoot. I have no idea how I am going to fit it all in.

Allotment update – 3/4/2017

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My purple curly kale has had it. Time to go. I chopped round the stems with the spade, leaving most of the roots in the ground and took them away to be shredded and added to the compost heap.
I’d wanted to plant spuds in the space nearly a month ago but thought there were still a few more pickings, so those potatoes went into 1L pots in the tunnel. Today they got planted out and unsurprisingly are well ahead of the others. This is Kestrel, which I saved from last year. I planted a row on 5 March and some are up, others not. None of the Charlotte’s planted at the same time are up. Perhaps I should have started them in pots too.

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I had a bit of old carpet which I cut into strips and laid on some of my “paths” to save weeding. I fear they will provide slugs with hiding places, equally it may work to roll it back every few days and kill them.
The purple sprouting broccoli at the left was sown 25 May and planted out 12 August. Too late, it didn’t really make the growth before winter.

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The mesh I laid over early peas has worked and they’re now coming up. I took off the mesh before the peas became entangled in it. Broad beans which I planted 17 March are looking pretty good.

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Pea ‘Meteor’, sown 13 March.

 

I had struggled with onion sets until another plot holder suggested starting them in cells. Last year I had my best onions ever. I planted them in cells on 12 March and planted them out today. I gave them a couple of weeks longer in cells last year but the roots seemed quite well developed and the forecast isn’t bad, so I went ahead. I’ve kept one tray back for later, see what the difference is.

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Onion ‘Rumba’ sets in 20 cell half trays.

 

Elsewhere on the plot I still have lots of leaks and parsnips which are not going to get eaten. I shall put them through the shredder and compost them. I don’t see it as waste, more as production of raw material for compost, of which there can never be too much.

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And finally, in the fruit cage blueberries and gooseberries are flowering like mad. I have several different blueberries, the best of which is ‘Darrow’, with huge tasty fruits. I took a few cuttings of it last summer and it looks like some of them have rooted. Be a year or two before they start to crop though.

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Blueberry ‘Bluecrop’

 

The star turn fruit wise last year was the blackcurrants that I left steeping in vodka until after Christmas. Strained it off, added some sugar and I have something very drinkable indeed. More this year I think.