Sunday 30 November 2014

End of month view: November 2014

November appeared a quieter time in the garden. Although the mild weather has meant that some things are still flowering that really shouldn't be (I'm looking at you nasturtiums), much of the garden has moved into shadow, and the main changes can be found in the kitchen garden.

Early in the month I took down the bean poles and prepared some parts of the veg beds for broad bean and garlic planting. I also threw on some phacelia tanacetifolia seeds to the area in the bottom left of the photo below. They have germinated and have survived two frosts but not sure if it will survive a really cold snap. But I had the seed spare and I figured why not sow and see what I reap

At the top left of the photo above you can see part of my new Brassica cage that Kevin build to spec to suit my long but only .75cms wide vegetable beds. The long sides, where the paths lay, lift up for easy access and the whole thing is light enough to me to lift off entirely if I need.

Throughout November I've been harvesting kale, fennel, chard and spinach, carrots and kohl rabi. And now that we have had some frosts, I'll be able to start cropping the parsnip in December.

I do have some winter potatoes under fleece (the pointy white thing in the top photo, to the right of the mini greenhouse) but I'm not sure they will get enough sun to do much. I have seen some foliage at the top of the pot, so you never know.

As I mentioned, much of the garden moved into shadow during November. By now the only borders that get direct sun are along the left side, the Strawberry and Herb borders, plus the vegetable borders alongside the garage. The top half of the pergola gets quite a bit of light, which might explain why the tall sunflowers continued to flower until the last couple of days.

I still have sweet peas flowering, though they finally seem to have slowed down in the last few days. Oddly, the plants looked like they were going to end in September, but had a sudden renewed desire to see the world and really took off in the mild October. Not that I'm complaining...

The Shady Border (part of it above) gets no direct sunlight at this time of year. It's not in dark shade, but it is shady, hence it's name. As it is getting stripped back to it's bare bones, I'm contemplating how I can improve on the structure and give it more all-year-round interest. In fact, this border is going to be my focus for next years EOMV, as I feel it needs work and the focus EMOV gives I hope, will help me develop this border.

There were a few plants of note in this and other parts of the garden though. A little dirt splashed, but Primula 'Guinevere' has re-flowered. This hasn't minded being in the boggy part of the border, so seems to be ok having it's feet wet.

You have to get up close, which is of course half the fun, to see the red berries on the Sarcococca confusa. And coming up at the same time are the flowers for this winter, which I think may open in December. I'm looking forward to that wonderful fragrance to lift my spirits on a grey short winters day.

And there are also the black berries of evergreen Lonicera similis var. delavayi basking in the sun on the pergola. I wonder if the birds will eat these?

I only planted the corms in October, but clearly this Cyclamen hederifolium was keen to get going.

I'm however, confused about the next plant that is about to re-flower, Rehmannia elata, Chinese foxglove. It's not meant to be hardy and it's getting very little direct sun, but it's clearly determined to have a second show. I suspect the predicted cold whether in the next week will do it in before it does flower again. Such a shame really.

And lastly, those nasturtiums. Those damn nasturtiums are still going strong. Despite 2 frosts now.

I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and pull them out if the frosts predicted this week don't do them in. I have some bulbs to put in their place, and as pretty as they are, I think it's time they gotta go.

I'm pleased to see that as the garden puts on it's first full winter coat (the first full year of the garden existing), it still has food to harvest and flowers, berries and foliage to enjoy.

Overview from the study

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End of month view is hosted by Helen Johnstone, aka @patientgardener. Visit Helen's blog for her November 2014 EOMV and links to other bloggers EOMV posts.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Heucheras, Heucherellas & Tiarellas: a few notes

Attending a Friends of the Botanical Gardens, Sheffield talk today, I picked up some useful tips on growing Heucheras, Heucherellas & Tiarellas from Vicky Fox of Plantagogo. I'm sharing my notes here because, a) it will help me remember, and b) in case they are of use to others.

How to tell the difference between these three hardy perennials
Heuchera: the leaves have veins and a wider range of colours; the flowers are bell-shaped

Tiarella: the leaves have 5 or 7 lobes and less variation of colour compared to Heucheras. The flowers are frothy-looking, individual flowers star-like.

Heucherella: yes, these are a cross between Heucheras and Tiarellas. The leaves have the shape and markings of a Tiarella and the colours of a Heuchera.

 Tiarella 'Morning Star' with 5/7 star lobed leaves

Growing and maintenance information
  • They are evergreen hardy perennials, grown more for their wonderful foliage than their flowers. Though the flowers are pretty too.
  • The darker/brighter the leaves of Heucheras etc are, the more likely they can take full sun. Conversely lighter/greener more shade. So...
    • Tiarellas do not like full sun
    • Heucherellas not so keen either
    • Golden/lime colour leaves great for full shade
  • The 'city series' (i.e. Paris, Milan) have a longer flowering period
  • They love growing in leafmold and bark - mimicking their natural habitat
  • They can take some dry weather, i.e. say a couple of weeks, but will need regular watering in hot summers (because we get those a lot...)
  • They don't like being waterlogged and will die quickly in these condition. So for heavy Sheffield clay soil you need add compost/drainage material. 
  • They aren't just for borders. They make great hanging basket plants, and there are some trailing varieties. And because they are evergreen and can take shade, you can have a all-year-round hanging basket.
  • They are great for containers (make sure they have good drainage), including shady mixed containers with say Heurcheras and Ferns.
  • They can be grown in pallets to make a vertical/living evergreen wall
  • They are fairly low maintenance. You just need to pick off any dead leaves, otherwise they can start to get woody/leggy. If they get woody/leggy, mound up some compost/leafmold around them in autumn and next spring you should get lots of new shoots.
  • Easy to propagate - snap off a section and pot up.
  • Don't bury the crown of the plant, as this can kill it off.
  • They can get 'Heuchera rust'. A sign is dimples on the leaves. If you turn the leaf over, you will see rust underneath. Remove any leaves and either burn them or put in general waste bins. Don't put them in home compost bins as it won't kill the rust off.
  • Even though the flowers are tiny, bees love these plants and will be all over them. So biodiversity - tick!

An enjoyable talk with lots of useful information - thanks Vicky.

Oh, and did I buy any plants? Silly question... I picked up Heuchera 'Paris' for a container I'm planting up, and Tiarella 'Morning Star' to go in the darker end of my Long Shady Border.

These are just my notes from the talk. You can pick up more growing information on the Plantagogo website, and you can follow them on Twitter @plantagogo and Facebook Plantagogo heucheras.

Heuchera 'Paris' with darker green veins on the leaves

Thursday 13 November 2014

Garden visit: autumn in the Alpine House at Cambridge Botanic Garden

Following on from my last post on some of the autumn colours at Cambridge Botanic Garden, are some alpines from the Alpine House. I think there is a tendency to think of alpines as more late Spring-early Summer flowering plants, but of course alpines can flower throughout the year. It was a treat to be able to view some of the later-flowering beauties.

Scilla kurdistanica: I love the leaves with the silver edge, how pretty they look with the afternoon sun catching them. The foliage makes it a worthy addition in it's own right.

Polyxena pauciflora: you have to go searching, but the diminutive flowers are there.

Freesia elimensis: there is so much I need to learn about alpines. This time I learnt there was an alpine Freesia.

Oxalis palmifrons: I did a double-take as at first I didn't believe it was an Oxalis as I'm so used to the more clover-like leaves. This is another plant who's foliage alone would make it worth having. It's 'furry' leaves reminded me of Pulsatilla.

Erodium frans delight: delicate flowers and pretty foliage, I really must obtain some Erodium's for my alpine wall.

Erodium x variabile album: quite different foliage from the above. The purple markings are delightful.

Cyclamen africanum: in all honesty, I couldn't see much difference between this and say Cyclamen hederifolium, but I loved the autumn light on the flowers and leaves...

...and then the detail of the markings

Scilla maderensis: this one was going for star baker flower. That's some scilla.

Oxalis versicolor: another oxalis who's leaves made me realise I had to rethink what I expected an oxalis to look like. The flowers look like lollipops.

Alpines may be small, but as this small selection shows, they punch above their weight in beauty. And the Alpine House at Cambridge Botanic Garden has some real treats; go and see for yourselves.

See also: Garden visit: autumn colours at Cambridge Botanic Garden

Monday 10 November 2014

Garden visit: autumn colours at Cambridge Botanic Garden

We made a return visit to Cambridge Botanic Garden on the weekend, this time to enjoy the Autumn colours. This is a garden that never fails to please, although for some reason I've only seen it is Winter and Spring in the past. The garden has many areas that you can visit; this post focuses primarily on the sections of the Autumn & Winter gardens.

Firstly though, we lunched at the cafe and enjoyed the light and colour of these wonderful grasses.

Notice also the beautifully espaliered tree growing up the wall of the offices.

And the detail of the Calamagrostis reaching up and the Stipa gracefully leaning over.

Autumn colours in the Autumn garden.

The sky blue of the Ceratostigma willmottianum, Chinese plumbago.

Leaf mid-change and serrated edges of Prunus 'Shirofugen'.

Grass and Echinacea seed heads.

Into the Winter garden, and my favourite Acer, and one of my most favourite trees, Acer griseum.

And I was rather taken with this, Liquidambar styraciflua 'Lane Roberts'.

Whose orangery-red leaves stood out from a distance.

Winter staples, but always welcomed. Cornus, with yellow jasmine in the background.

A stop for a rest, and to enjoy the sun and colours in the Dry Garden.

And how about another photo with the lovely Acer griseum, this time in context with a wider part of the Winter garden.

I have some photos from the Alpine house but I will cover these in another post. In the meantime, I think it's time I visited Cambridge Botanic Garden in summer, so I'm putting that into the diary.

See also: Garden visit: autumn in the Alpine House at Cambridge Botanic Garden