Last week I visited a great bamboo garden in Southern France called the Bambouseraie. Just outside the pretty village of Anduze, this bamboo garden is located only 15 miles from Nimes in the French Languedoc Roussillon region and not too far from my French garden.
The bamboo garden was designed in 1856 by Eugène Mazel who was a keen French botanist. It is a picturesque and mature garden which includes a comprehensive collection of bamboos but also many other oriental plants and trees of interest.
I followed the guide who provided useful information about the plants and trees in the park, and I learnt some interesting horticultural facts about bamboos. I shall always remember that bamboos shoots grow like piles of plates stacked upwards and growing at a speed of up to 1 meter a day.
All in all it comforted me in the opinion that some species of bamboos can be difficult to contain since they have a tendency to spread quickly whilst other smaller varieties can be used as bushes in order to provide handy green borders. more…
• Thursday, May 28th, 2009
One of my favourite gardening months: June, and there’s still time for some more outdoor sowings. Most of my sowing activity took place last month but I intend to have a go at the following seeds:
Nasturtiums: are so easy to sow directly in the ground, and do best in poor soil.
The flowers and leaves are edible in salad but since they have quite a peppery taste I think it’s best to mix them with other types of lettuces if you want to jazz up your salad.
This week I also want to have a go at taking cuttings from the geraniums which I sowed earlier in the year. I’ve never done geranium cuttings before but it would be useful to make a few additional plants to use in my patio pots or flower border. I did however make some delphinium cuttings last month and they seem to have grown roots nicely.
Carrots (Amsterdam 2 Sweetheart variety): there is still time to sow some carrots. I prefer to grow them in my raised bed since it allows me to fill the bed with a lighter soil structure made of sand, compost and more refined soil.
Snap peas: home-grown peas are so delicious that I even eat them raw! (likewise this year I have tried eating garden-grown Fresh asparagus and it tasted great).
More basil: the slugs had the better of my last sowing of basil. Sowing basil now means that it should be still be ready in good time for my first crop of home-grown tomatoes which it accompanies nicely in salads.
Busy potting, planting and feeding plants, I shall make the most of the longest days of the year before we leap into summer.
If like me you enjoy growing lilies of all colours as well as fritillarias, then you may have noticed that the leaves often are eaten up by an orange insect.
The culprit in question is called the Lily Beetle. Only this morning I spotted a couple of lily beetles simply basking in the sun on the top leaves of my Stargazer pink lilies.
Don’t be seduced by its good looks: this is a real pest as it can devour everything on your beautiful lilies. I prefer to deal with them the organic way so I have only found two options so far.
The friendly way: I collect the beetles and release them in the green bin just before collection – good luck lily beetle!
The drastic way: I simply squash them between my fingers (tinged orange!) or on the garden path.
Beware of the lily beetle, this clever insect likes to hide away or drop on the floor and play dead as soon as it notices danger. You may also notice that they make a squeeky little noise when they feel danger.
You will also have to remove any slime covered brown little grubs which hang off the leaves as these are young lily beetles.
My flower borders have benefited from the the recent rain and sun which we have had and hopefully I should see my lilies in blossom soon.
I am really looking forward to the strawberry season which will start in June. The best part of growing your own strawberries is wandering in the garden and picking and eating the fruits on the spot. And they taste so much better than the fruits which you can buy from the supermarkets.
Strawberries in blossom
Strawberries are not that difficult to grow even for a gardening novice like me. I have a small patch where I cultivate the following varieties: Honeye and Cambridge Favourite, the latter one being my favourite variety indeed.
I have been a bit disappointed with the honeye variety which turned out to be not so sweet. One reason for this could be the origin of my plants which I bought from a local village fair as bare rooted home grown specimens.
I have also tried and enjoyed the following varieties: Royal sovereign strawberries (a popular well tried variety) and Gariguette (French variety).
My tips on how to grow strawberries
• Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
So far this year has been quite good for gardening. I have been harvesting regularly some of the lettuce which I sowed in my cold frame back in February. It has been growing really well (the wild rabbits haven’t spotted my crop yet) and I am starting to have a bit of a lettuce glut actually.
Home Grown Cabbage
Cabbage at last is a success and this is a first for me since previously my cabbages had been badly attacked by the white fly which lays its eggs on the leaves and then the caterpillars devastated all my vegetables.
The only thing is: I am not so keen on that type of winter cabbage (Durham Early). Funnily enough no other pest has had a go at them either! Although I noticed that this variety of cabbage is available from major supermarkets (at a cost of £0.85 each and the seed packet cost me £1.70 for hundreds of seeds).
• Saturday, May 16th, 2009
The days are now getting longer and warmer in May but I probably won’t be planting any tomato plant outdoors until later in the month. Last year I planted my tomatoes in the ground too early and they didn’t grow for a little while so I shall wait a bit longer this time.
Right now I have a few pots of various varieties of tomatoes sheltered in my greenhouse. I have started to plant some of them in my greenhouse as you can see in the picture and I will keep the rest for outdoor growing.
The advantage of growing tomatoes in a greenhouse is that they are protected from the bad weather and wind with the additional benefit that they ripen quicker since the heat stays in.
In total this year I sowed 5 different varieties of tomatoes: Gardeners’ delight, Alicante, Marmande (which I have never grown before), Roma plum tomatoes, and a black cherry tomato.
At the far end of the greenhouse I have dug up the soil and built in a special boxed container for growing my tomatoes. I replace the compost every year and at present I am using the organic peat-free compost from New Horizon.
• Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
Last week a few councils in the UK organized localized initiatives to encourage people to make their own compost. If you are concerned about protecting the environment then composting is one of the first steps towards recycling and making things better for the future at a local level.
Now I am not a specialist in making compost but my two compost bins are currently full to the brim with grass cuttings and the cardboard which I used to force my rhubarb, as well as the household vegetable waste which I collect every day. And I admit it: it feels good to be doing my bit at a personal level.
A friend of mine recently used a weed and feed product on her lawn and she was telling me that it had left some black burnt marks all over her lawn.
Lawn weed and feed products are often available as powder or pellets from many garden centers, DIY shops, and you can even find cheaper basic versions in the supermarkets.
If you don’t follow the instructions precisely you may end up like my friend with a lawn which not only did not benefit from the treatment but was in fact damaged by the powder. The key thing with this type of product is watering and this is why it is usually recommended to apply the weed and feed pellets just before rain is forecast.
What do you do if your lawn has been damaged by weed and feed?
Unfortunately the manufacturers often don’t include tips on the box on how to improve your lawn when things go wrong. And yet this happens to many of us – especially when the rain fails to show!
In my experience the best thing that you can do is to water your lawn generously. This will allow you to dilute the effect of the weed killer and fertilizer and help your lawn recover from the chemical stress. After a while your lawn will recover and grow back to its former glory.
I didn’t have any further tips to provide to my friend on this occasion but if you know how to make it better, please leave a comment!
If like me you have a flower border which is looking a bit bare at present then you may want to start planning your flower border. Planning or designing your flower borders should help you achieve a succession of flowers right into autumn.
My Flower Border
Obviously you don’t have to plan the border in exact details but you may find that it pays to do so in the long run and it’s also quite interesting and fun. You will find below my personal gardening tips on how to achieve this.
Right now my flower border is adorning a few tulips which will soon fade away (as you can see in the picture) so I need to fill the empty spaces with some more beautiful flowers and plants.
I first had a look at my border area earlier in the year and did a lot of sowings of flowers which are currently growing patiently in the greenhouse. And now I am just considering which plants will be grown in the border and as part of my simplified version of garden design.
• Tuesday, May 05th, 2009
As part of my interest in gardening I also enjoy visiting famous gardens. This weekend I sought to find some gardening inspiration in the grounds of Castle Howard which is located in North Yorkshire between York and Malton.
Castle Howard Fountain
Castle Howard is most famous for its walled garden including an ornamental vegetable garden, as well as for being the setting of the Brideshead revisited film.
To make the most of the walled garden I think that it is best to visit when the roses and delphiniums are in full bloom in July.
At this time of the year the visitor will appreciate the sense of grandeur expressed in the formal garden layout complete with its numerous temples, statues, lakes, fountain and wide expense of green woods.
I also recommend visiting the castle which despite a great fire in 1940 still has a lot to show about the lifestyle of the Howard family through the years. In particular I was impressed by the guides who were available in most rooms to provide interesting facts about the castle and gardens.
So if you are planning a trip up to North Yorkshire remember to take a little detour to the gardens of Castle Howard.