Six on Saturday – 5/8/2017

Dahlias and Japanese anemones are definitely flowers of the second half of summer. I’m impatient for them to start flowering, then depressed when they do.

One.
Dahlia ‘Orange Cushion’. There is not the remotest possibility of this dahlia ever being mistaken for nearly red or nearly yellow. It’s a bang down the middle orange. I’ve had it for several years and leave it in the ground over winter. I sowed some of its seed last year, am keen to see what I get.
Dahlia-Orange-Cushion

Two.
Someone put a fern in last week. Another of those groups of plants that I love, that do well in my conditions and that I have to resist the temptation to buy every time I see one I haven’t got already. Paesia scaberula, Lace Fern, is a New Zealand fern that a few years ago would have been regarded as borderline hardy even here in Cornwall. I’ve had no such concerns for the last few years, it’s in danger of matching the description in my NZ ferns book of “forming dense masses to the exclusion of other vegetation”. It’s 15-18 inches tall with lacy fronds and thin wiry stems. It spreads on the surface by means of slender rhizomes.
Paesia-scaberula-2

Three.
Eucomis montana. Very handsome it may be, but it stinks. We moved it away from the front door lest visitors think it was us when we opened the door. We have several other Eucomis species and varieties, mostly in pots, and none of them smell of anything much. You can grow them from seed, then propagate good forms from leaf cuttings.
Eucomis-montana

Four.
Anemone x hybrid ‘Lorelei’, or ‘Loreley’ according to some. The last 48 hours of wind and rain have taken their toll on this bloom, but you get the idea. The best pictures I have of it are backlit shots of the back of the blooms. After 3 years it is still a tight clump but I expect it to start spreading at some point. There’s no happy medium with some plants, they sulk or they rampage.
Anemone-Loralei

Five.
Grafting. In this case, a couple of varieties of Camellia reticulata, ‘Songzilin’ and ‘Mouchang’. ‘Songzilin’, aka ‘Robert Fortune’, was probably introduced in 1824 and then again by Robert Fortune in 1844. ‘Mouchang’ is a more recent American raised hybrid. The pure bred reticulate varieties are very hard to root from cuttings so are usually grafted. Varieties of C. sasanqua are usually used but I had seedlings of C. reticulata and used a cleft graft. I did some last year and got about 50% take.
Camellia-graft
I’ll do a more detailed blog about them on my Camellia blog at some point. Here is a link to a picture of ‘Songzilin’.

Six.
Grafting. Yeah, I know I already did that one, but this is different. The first Six on Saturday I did was back on 6th May and one of the things I included was a graft of ‘Plympton Pippin’ onto my poor specimen of ‘Elstar’ apple. I’d grafted it (simple splice) in February and by May it was flowering. Well now it has a quite respectable sized apple on it. I know I should have removed it, but it doesn’t seem to have held it back at all, the extension growth from that scion is as good as any of the others done at the same time. Apple grafting is easy and it’s a great way of getting better pollination, growing more varieties in a small space and giving you something to blog about.
SOS32

So that’s another Saturday and another Six. I see ThePropagator, host of this meme, has posted his, no doubt others will follow.

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Allotment update – 3/4/2017

Allotment-12

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.

Allotment-13

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.

Allotment-14

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.

Allotment-15

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.

Allotment-16

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.

Allotment-17

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.

Allotment-18

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.

Pruning the apple tree

Well it’s done now, for better or worse. There’s no going back.

I have to admit to a degree of trepidation each year when the third week of August comes around and it is time to prune my Suntan apple. It has to be done; in a garden the size of mine there is no question of allowing it to grow unchecked. So I have a quick look at the RHS website to remind myself what I should be doing and then get stuck in.

Three leaves above the basal cluster for laterals, one leaf above the basal cluster for sub-laterals. Clear enough.

No it isn’t! There is no line marked on a shoot to say “the basal cluster ends here”. There is no clear difference between laterals and sub-laterals. In truth it doesn’t matter that much. I know that now because I have been through this for four years now and the tree flowers beautifully. I don’t get a lot of fruit, but that is not because of my pruning.

Suntan-1

Before.

 

The first pass is from the ground, cutting everything I can reach. It’s not a great deal, perhaps a third. Then out comes the stepladder, from which I can just about reach the rest. I end up with a fair sized pile of prunings on the floor.

Those prunings represent reduced leaf area, which translates to reduced vigour in the tree, favouring production of flowers rather than growth. I live in Cornwall and our climate certainly encourages lots of growth, so there is an element of compensating for that in what I do. The timing is important, doing it now should mean little or no new growth before the tree drops its leaves and goes dormant. Doing it later reduces the effectiveness of the treatment.

Suntan-2

Lower half completed.

Suntan-3

After.

The lack of fruit is down to poor pollination. Suntan is a late flowerer and Until last winter I had nothing flowering at the same time. I have now planted Newton Wonder and Lanes Prince Albert, which should in time rectify the situation, as well as providing me with cooking apples. Those I shall try and grow as spindle trees, curtailing vigour by tying down their laterals. I shall also graft a few bits onto my “family” tree, which is behind Suntan in the picture, and possibly onto Suntan itself. Then if they grow too big I can get rid of them.

Prunings

The prunings, which will be shredded and composted.