• Wednesday, August 12th, 2009
This week the tallest of my sunflowers has finally opened all its petals to reveal a perfect pollination center which is currently crowded with bees of all kinds. The variety which I sowed back in April is called Giant Russian and I believe that it produces some of the biggest and tallest garden sunflowers.
My tallest sunflower is approx. 2.7 metres high – about 9ft and grows next to a wall which means that it is sheltered from the wind. I have seen bigger ones on some allotments and also bigger flower heads at a local country show. If I had had the time to feed my sunflowers more regularly then they certainly would have grown bigger. But with all the flower beds
, fruits and greenhouse to look after, it’s not easy to keep an eye on everything.
I have also grown a lovely multi-headed variety with red/brown flower heads. In fact in my potato plot I have found that some of these red coloured sunflowers from last year had self seeded itself all over the area. So I have had to dig carefully around the sunflowers in order to harvest my potatoes.
Since some of my sunflowers are dotted along the garden path, I have been able to enjoy watching the insects that gorge themselves on the nectar as I go past. If like me you feel that flowers are a very important part of the ecosystem you can participate in a survey related bees and get involved in the great sunflower project.
A wide range of wild garden birds eat ripe sunflower seeds such as Gold finches and I am looking forward to watching them in the months to come.
• Sunday, August 09th, 2009
Following my article about how to grow dahlias I am delighted to have received some precious advice from a member of the West Cornwall Dahlia Club.
Paul is a keen dahlia grower who has spent years perfecting the art of growing dahlias for competition purposes and I have taken the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
Trelyn Kiwi dahlia
So what is your favourite dahlia?
“Of the 102 dahlias that I grow my main dahlia has to be Trelyn Kiwi, which is a small cactus which you can see in the picture below. This dahlia is a multi winner up and down the country, even to the other ends of the world such as New Zealand.
Its form is immaculate if not the easiest to grow. I usually grow 24 plants but this year I am growing 32 plants of it!
Do you have some advice on how to achieve the best results with your dahlias?
I follow these steps in order to be ready for the annual dahlia show which takes place in Truro next weekend on 16th August: more…
• Sunday, July 26th, 2009
Following my previous post on planning a flower border which I wrote back in May the border has been looking good and it is also constantly evolving.
Clarkia in flower border
The effect can be seen in the following pictures taken in June and also on this lovely July morning. In my original post I was planning to have a few annuals amongst some of the perennials that were already there. I was also aiming to have a continuous display of flowers which is always the challenging part of any border design in my opinion.
Gallardia and Rudbekia
Some of my ideas have worked out, so for example as you can see the Clarkias provided some interesting lush colour in the flower border.
But unfortunately some of the seeds did not germinate so I did not manage to get the homogenous effect which I was looking for. The Clarkias were interspersed with some Sisyrinchiums (Stiatum) which are perennial plants that produce elegant spikes of creamy yellow flowers. Since these flowers tend to self seed freely I ended up with too many of them in the border but it was nonetheless looking good in June.
Then later in the month there were a few unexpected blue cornflowers in the wrong places but they filled in some gaps nicely. I am also rather disappointed with the lawn Chamomile and the Erigerons which do not seem to have grown well as you can hardly see them in the border.
Mixed flower border
On the other hand this month the Gallardias are in full bloom and the double pompom-type blooms look nice as do the Rudbekias. The Dahlias in the background are just starting to bloom and hopefully the pink crinums will soon do too.
So my flower border is not really what I was expecting in terms of general effect but it does look good and colorful, and that’s what matters after all.
• Saturday, July 11th, 2009
Having recently been asked for advice on how I care for my dahlia plants at this time of year I have the following growing tips for beginners.
In my experience it is important to feed dahlias regularly in order to get a nice succession of blooms. Experts sometimes differ on what type of fertilizers they use to grow their prize-winning blooms (prize winning tips often remain secret!). I find that you can either use a general complete flower fertilizer that you can find in any garden center or better still, I like to use sulphate of potash which is basically the liquid that I use to feed my tomato plants.
I prefer to use liquid fertilizers since they are easier to dilute according to the manufacturers instructions. I also like to make sure that during periods of draught my dahlias are watered regularly and I obviously feed the base of the plant in the ground.
• Sunday, June 14th, 2009
There are a number of flowers which I grow in my garden and which I particularly like for their fragrance. A typical cottage garden is likely to include many of these plants and although it is difficult to express in writing the quality of their perfume, I have included below some pictures in order to illustrate the quality of the blossoms.
This year we had a new unexpected blossom from a Cordyline plant which as you can see below attracts all the bees and looks like a spray of small flowers. Cordylines give an exotic look to the border since they look similar to palm trees with the advantage of being relatively hardy in the UK.
The fragrance of the Cordyline blossom reminds me of a really gooey sweet nectar similar to Honeysuckle in my opinion.
My white Lilac
is starting to fade but this is another shrub which I enjoy for its delicate early summer perfume. I also recommend the Mock orange
bush which is currently in full bloom. Not only does it produce a delicate scent through its small white flowers but it’s also very easy to grow.
I have also recently enjoyed the late blossom of sweet peas which did not do so well for me this year probably because May was a really dry month. I shall remember to take more care of my sweet peas next year.
Blair No 2 Rose
are currently in full bloom and release a peculiar scent which is not as strong as the Carnation’s fragrance but they make a nice addition to a summer bouquet.
Finally, if you are looking for a fragrant climbing rose I recommend the following: climbing rose Blair no. 2, as seen on this picture taken this morning , with its delightful dual shade of pink blossoms and exceptionally strong English rose fragrance.
On this sunny day and with so many fragrances drifting in the garden all I want to do is go back for a little wander which is what I will do now.
• 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.
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, April 28th, 2009
Many flowers and vegetables can be sown safely outdoors in May as the risk of frost is diminishing. Last month I made a lot of indoor sowings of plants which I currently have sheltered in my greenhouse and should be going out gradually by mid May. This includes tomatoes, chilies as well as a wide range of flowers such as cleomes and geraniums.
Below is a list of plants which are easy-to-grow and I shall start sowing most of them outdoors in May if the weather allows it.
- Outdoor sunflowers: bring a bit of sunshine in your garden with tall sunflowers. May is a better month to grow them outdoors. I did sow some sunflowers seeds in my greenhouse in April but they did not germinate and it looks like a slug ate the tender shoots.
- Love-in-a-mist: easy to grow annuals usually available in shades of blue and pink.
- Sweet peas can be planted outside and trained to climb on a bamboo wigwam for example. Mine are already out.
• Sunday, April 26th, 2009
The garden has evolved so quickly recently with the warm weather which we have enjoyed that it has proved difficult to keep track of all my gardening activities. However this is my update of what’s growing in the garden right now including the flower borders, vegetable and fruit areas.
My tulips are all out including the bulbs which I planted back in autumn in containers along with pansies grown from seeds. In turn, I have also spotted a few butterflies including the lovely red peacock butterfly.
The rose bushes are growing new leaves following the spring pruning which I carried out earlier in the year (I must remember to give them a good feed!).