Allotment half term report.


Midsummer seems like an appropriate time to take stock. Most things have done well; I think I have the soil management side of things where I want it. My failures and problems are not soil related: cabbage root fly, not enough water and as of today, mice going for my peas.

The one thing that I haven’t quite resolved with the no-dig regime relates to the areas where brassicas stand all winter. Bare ground I have mulched with compost in autumn, ground planted with leeks and parsnips in late winter. By spring when I want to start planting the ground is in good condition.

The brassicas stay until March or April and I’ve been following them almost immediately with potatoes. The soil seems to be more compacted after the brassica rotation than any other and there is no time for a mulch to get taken down into the soil before the spuds need to go in. I think I will loosen it with a fork next year, without turning it over, then work some compost into the top inch or two of soil. My Charlotte earlies have done well but the second early Kestrels are not looking brilliant.

Garlic has been terrible for the second year running. Higher fertility, more water and quite a lot of lime may provide the solution.


Pea ‘Twinkle’, about 40 cm tall.


I grew Meteor peas this year and have had a couple of pickings. The flavour has been compared unfavourably to Greenshaft, which I will go back to next year. Twinkle is a very short variety not requiring support. They’re very nearly ready, look to have a good crop and taste sweet eaten raw.

Enviromesh was a good purchase for protecting my carrots, which are carrot fly free for the first time. I think the mesh also traps heat and slows wind; the foliage is particularly lush under it. I’ve simply laid it over wire hoops and buried the edges. I will try some salad items like mizuna and radishes under it next year, hoping it will stop flea beetle.


Runner beans and broad beans.

The runner beans have started flowering, the inevitable glut is not far off. I will not worry so much about leaving beans unpicked this year, they were very usable as dried beans last year. Broad beans can and will be frozen, they are more appropriate to our winter menus than summer salads. Bamboo “rails” are providing support on my windy plot.


Six on Saturday – 24/6/2017

One. Euphorbia lathyrus. This is an annual that seems to pop up in our garden somewhere most years. It has numerous common names, caper spurge being one of the best known but it is also known as mole plant because it supposedly deters moles. Well, I am going to try and collect seed from this plant and grow some more to go on my allotment where I am much troubled by the little buggers.


Two. Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’. What a performer this has turned out to be. It had a rest over winter but this is it now, even after having several stems snapped off in wind a couple of weeks ago. I just cut off (NOT pull) the stems that have finished flowering and it puts up more.

Alstroemeria Indian Summer

Three. I do like a bit of in yer face colour, so it’s always good when the dahlias start to flower. The National Collection of Dahlias is down the other end of the county near Penzance and to go and stand in their field, surrounded by thousands of dahlias in almost every imaginable colour is a total joy. Everyone is happy, strangers talk to each other, people who should be snooty about such vulgarity are making lists. This one is ‘Tally Ho’, which for younger readers is a cry associated with the long forgotten practice of fox hunting and alludes to the rider’s red jackets. Quaint.

Tally Ho

Four. Another big red bloom; this is an Epiphyllum cactus. Desert cacti, or cactuses if you prefer, thrive on neglect. I know, I’ve neglected many. Epiphyllums are epiphytic forest cacti and they take a bit more looking after, which sadly this one has not had. As soon as its flowers are finished, which will be a fleeting couple of days, I will take cuttings and dump the parent plant. The flower is enormous, seven and a half inches across for leavers, 19cm dia. for remainers.


Five. A gardener friend gave us a plant of clematis recta, which self sows in their garden. I planted it, the slugs demolished it, the friend gave us another, I planted it in the same place, they both came up this spring. One is purple leaved, the other green, at least early in the season. I don’t know about recta, horizontalis would have been a more fitting specific epithet. Pretty though.Clematis-recta

Six. We once had a pond, at the edge of which grew this clump of Iris ensata. Then we filled the pond in and they’re at one end of our bog garden, behind the Aruncus. Like the Epiphyllum above, theirs is a fleeting magnificence. They always leave you wanting more. A complete contrast to the Alstroemeria, which runs the risk of you getting fed up with it, of outstaying its welcome. Plants are a bit like people.


It was too hot for Bobby earlier in the week. Now that it’s cooler she’s keen for you to pop over to ThePropagator to check out any other Saturday half dozens that might have surfaced this week.

Six on Saturday: 17/6/2017


One. We’re not very good at keeping these going after the first season, so this second year performance is a bonus. Hippeastrum, no idea on variety.

Dianthus deltoides

Two. Dianthus deltoides is something of a rediscovery for me, after about a 55 year gap. I remember growing it as a child and have come back to it as something to break up the edges of the practical not pretty paving slab path I laid a few years back. Just got seed of a white one with pink centres.

Geranium sylvaticum album

Three. When it comes to geraniums, I would tick the middle box on the absolutely hate/absolutely adore spectrum. This is Geranium sylvaticum album; the sylvaticum implying it is a woodlander; growing very happily in full sun.

Podophyllum Spotty Dotty

Four. Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ is also a woodlander, and I don’t think it would be as forgiving as the Geranium if not given its preferred environment. Other than that it seems to be a robust and reliable perennial, which in this garden usually means not overly attractive to slugs.

Eryngium giganteum

Five. Eryngium giganteum was a thing I planted several years ago, which comes back as self sowers in varying numbers each year. Only one this year so I’m cherishing rather more than I would if there were dozens.

Primula bulleyana

Six. Flowering as the last blooms fade on Primula japonica, Primula bulleyana is one of the first hot colour plants to do its thing. My Dahlias are under-performing this year, hopefully they will get there eventually. Alstroemeria, Helenium, Solidago, Roscoea, Hedychium and a few others will join the party in due course.

You have just reached the end of another six on Saturday, a meme started and hosted by The Propagator, whose own six and links to others are at

Not quite successional cropping

My first plantings of cabbages, brussels sprouts and flower sprouts were wiped out by cabbage root fly, in spite of being treated with nematodes. The other brassicas that were sown a little later I potted on from their modules into 9cm pots and grew them a bit bigger before planting them out today. This time I’ve used paper collars to try and protect them from the egg laying flies.


Potentially one downside of growing them on is that they are rather large and lush and the waiting hoards of slugs may make short work of them. I planted cabbages, cauliflowers and what I think is Purple Russian Kale, which unless I mixed the packets, should have been the purple curly kale Redbor. In truth, if the earlier stuff hadn’t died, I don’t know where this lot would have gone. It’s all gone back in to the same ground too, so I hope the rootfly grubs aren’t lying in wait.


I tell myself it can be a pretty random business, growing veg. Every year you’re going to get notable successes and failures. Get over it, move on.

Six on Saturday: 10-6-2017

One. A cone from my beautiful Pinus parviflora ‘San Bo’ that I cut down yesterday. A close up lens and photo stacking creates an opportunity to look closely at something I usually walk past with barely a glance.


Pinus parviflora ‘San Bo’


Two. You can pretty much work out from this picture that you are facing north. Prevailing wind from the west, to the left of shot, blowing Astelia chathamica, Leptospermum rupestre and foxglove into a windswept, bad hair day composition.


Leptospermum rupestre, Astelia chathamica, Digitalis purpurea.


Three. Just out of shot in the picture above is the plant below, which is Geranium ‘Nimbus’. There are so many blue to purple-blue geraniums, I like this because of its fine foliage as much as its flowers, which have never been prolific, if truth be told.


Geranium ‘Nimbus’


Four. Also in the blue part of the spectrum in this garden, are hydrangeas. This one is Hydrangea serrate ‘Cap Suzin’, which is usually a clear blue but this year more mauve. The serrate varieties are generally a bit smaller and less coarse than macrophyllas, which suits me.


Hydrangea serrata ‘Cap Suzin’


Five. Stipa gigantea is at its superb best when it’s catching late afternoon sun set against a dark, shady background. It’s morning and it’s raining and it still looks pretty good.


Stipa gigantea


Six and last. This little bush, it’s about 75cm tall, is Ozothamnus hookeri. At least I’m pretty certain it is, meaning that almost all of what is sold as Ozothamnus hookeri is something else, probably a hybrid. This is in full flower, strongly honey scented.


Ozothamnus hookeri


Check out other Saturday sixes from The Propagators blog.

Six on Saturday 3/6/2017

1. Conifers. I was going to run with six conifers, on the grounds that a quick tot-up in my head led me to think I had just six in the garden. When I uploade the picures to the computer I quickly saw two more in front of one of the ones I’d snapped, so I have eight, unless I’ve missed any more. It kind of tells you something about conifers in a garden, they merge into the background, never doing anything to draw attention to themselves, and as a result get overlooked.

That’s a pity, because they are structural, like hedges and trees. They provide a backdrop against which the more flamboyant members of the garden community can perform.


The one on the left is Pinus pumila ‘Saentis’; about 25 years old now and I have cleared its lower branches to make it tree like, reclaim growing space beneath it and get back the view of the garden from the greenhouse beside it.
The one on the right is Pinus parviflora ‘San Bo’, which is outside the front door. I hardly dare say this, but in a week it will be gone to make way for a porch. It would have had to have gone soonish anyway, it’s getting too big for where it is and they’re not easy things to restrict in size without destroying their character. I shall miss it though, it’s a thing of beauty.

2. Orchid. I can tell you this is a Dactylorhiza but not which species. It was legitimately raised in captivity so it may be hybrid. I have a book, I will try and work it out, later. It was a self sown seedling in a pot that was supposed to have a Dodecatheon in it, but which survived only one season planted in the garden. The orchid is in its third or forth and seems very happy. If it’s happy, I’m happy.


3. Diplarrena moraea. This is an easy to grow member of the iris family that you see surprisingly rarely. It puts up stiff stems from a clump of narrow leaves and opens out its pure white flowers to show off a centre of yellow with purple pencilling. I have two forms, this one is 30-40cm tall, the other at least twice that, but with smaller, less well marked flowers.


4. Chionochloa rubra. The New Zealand tussock sedge is a mighty fine grass, pretty much unrivalled as what in my younger days, in the context of bedding schemes, was called a “dot plant”. It is used to great effect as a punctuation mark in the semi-natural flower meadows at the Garden House for example.
I grew this from a few seeds that I purloined from a garden run by a well known horticultural organisation and it has proved a robust perennial plant, probably nearing twenty years old now.  The tallest leaves will be 2 metres.


5. Cactus. I have no idea what species or variety this is, it wouldn’t add anything to it to know. Cacti were just about the first thing I grew, a while ago now.


6. Cucumber. This looks set fair to be my first cucumber of the season. That isn’t half the triumph it might have been; this is the last survivor of the half dozen plants I started with, the rest having dropped by the wayside as a result of my poor husbandry. Mind, if last year was anything to go by, one cucumber plant will be enough to ensure we are sick of cucumbers by about August. It’s a Brexit cucumber too, no way that would pass the standard for approved cucumbers. Probably taste alright.

So that’s this Saturday’s six, for the Propagator’s Six on Saturday meme. I wonder who has chipped in this week.