Friday, 13 April 2018

Go go gadget green fingers

a pile of Fothergill's seed packets, and a sausage roll on a retro plate
Planning my planting with a sausage roll...
When Mr Robot and I first got our house, we had all sorts of ideas about how we wanted it to look, and over the next 16 years or so… pretty much none of them came to anything! I even had a book where I planned out how I wanted the back garden to be planted, with lots of fiery colours accented with blue, because the garden’s south-facing and I wanted shades that would stand up to the mid-day summer sun.

The problem with the garden is, it’s a lot of work and we haven’t always put the time in, so now we do need a few big jobs doing professionally.* However, I’m still pretty pleased with my flower beds. Thanks to a few perennials, like two rose bushes and several types of day lily, the core of the planting is fine, and nowadays I mostly just need to stick in a few annuals to fill in the gaps. I don’t think my larkspurs will come back this year, but hopefully at least one of the hollyhocks will have survived. The snails have had the irises, which is annoying, as I’d hoped they’d settle in and spread.

Anyway, annuals. I’ve grown ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlias in the past, from tubers. They never seem to survive the winter, possibly because snails eat them (thinking about it, I suspect I should have ‘lifted’ them in late autumn and put the tubers in the shed). This year I’m going to have a go at growing ‘Bishop’s Children’ from seed (the packet at the centre of the photo), which have the same lovely dark foliage but blossoms that go beyond the original’s scarlet and cover all sorts of hot and warm shades.

Phlox ‘Tapestry’ (the packet under the sausage roll in the photo) is something I’ve wanted to grow for years and years. I’m sure they were listed in that original gardening notebook! The colours possibly aren’t quite hot enough to fit in with my planned colour scheme, but they look so pretty in the seed packet image I’ve always longed to grow them anyhow, plus I love things that smell nice. I tried to grow some years ago and failed, but I’m giving it another try this year. Apparently phlox, which are native to the USA, were loved by the Victorians and had another resurgence of popularity in the 1950s. I've seen them described as 'old fashioned' in Good Housekeeping from the 1930s. Whatever time period people associate with them, I'm sure to have the right vintage vase.

I’ve grown rudbeckia from seed in the past, and bought gaillardia plants before now too. Mr Robot likes rudbeckia, so I’m having another go at that for him, and I spotted gaillardia growing in India, in the gardens at Ellora Caves and around the Bibi ka Maqbara, so I decided to pop some of those and some marigolds, a very Indian flower indeed, in too. I’ve also ordered a few things I’ve never grown before but that I liked the colour of, a blazing blue salvia, and a linaria, or toadflax, in red and yellow. All those should stop the pastels of the phlox from dulling down my garden too much.

I've possibly left the planting a little late, but given the recent snow I think a lot of things would've been killed off if I'd planted them sooner. If you've got a garden, do you have any favourite flowers?


*The lawn needs returfing, and the small veg patch/shed end needs a full overhaul. We tried building a shed ourselves, but it’s not been the most successful one on the world, so probably best to get the next one put up by an expert. So the only edibles in my garden this year are tomatoes and herbs on the patio.

11 comments :

  1. Your past gardening ambitions sound very much like ours - when we moved in we had all these grand plans for containers, different areas and colour schemes but it's so big, wild and shady we've constantly been defeated.
    I love your idea of introducing Indian planting in the garden. Marigolds always make me happy even though the earwigs they attract don't. xxx

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    1. I don't think I've ever seen an earwig near our house. Maybe the slow-worms eat them... We don't seem to have many beetles at all.

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  2. Our flower gardening season has come to an end here in Nepal - in just a few months the hot & steamy Monsoon season will start!
    Indian gardens tend to veer warm in tone: marigolds, calendulas, zinnias, gaillardias, red hibiscus, cannas, coreopsis, rudbeckia, sunflowers, etc I find deep purple pansies, petunias, and verbena to be the perfect accent color.

    Just a warning- phlox are beautiful & lightly fragrant but are a bit temperamental to grow. They are easier to grow from a start or cutting than seed.

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    1. I've got all sorts of seeds, so if they don't work, I'll have other things I can pop in. I got some lemongrass to germinate, so I'm feeling positive.

      I hope theyll have sorted out the water flow on your new road before the monsoon comes.

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  3. Hi Mim, loving this post too. You have some fabulous choices and I really like the mix of colours. Phlox are just gorgeous. I love all the cottage garden types, especially lupins and aquilegias. If you have the "Calendula" type of Marigolds (Pot Marigolds) you can add them to salad. The slugs do love them though. Those dahlias are just lovely. If you are looking for something else that is edible and has darker foliage you could try Nasturtium "Empress of India", which has glorious red flowers and darker leaves. The leaves, flowers and seeds when they appear are all edible and have a lovely peppery taste. They are so easy to grow and will tolerate a lot of neglect. I found a packet of them that I bought last year but have not sown them yet. I have loads of seeds to get in and am planning on doing it this weekend. I think that the cold weather will really knock back everyone's planting schedules, especially combined with the grey days. If it is any consolation, my Mum always waits until May to plant anything outside but then she does live in the frozen North. Oh, last thing Wilco have some fabulous bare-rooted plants and they are really cheap. A packet of Echinacea just happened to fall into my basket when I was in the other day and they are all away like greyhounds after I potted them up. I would be happy to send you some seeds if you want as I have loads but they might be the "wrong" colours. Do you care? Happy planting! :) Xx

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    1. Augh, slugs are the bane of my life. I hate them.

      Some nasturtiums from last year have self-seeded, so I'll definitely have some of those. I will email you about seeds!

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  4. Sounds a bit like our gardening adventure when we first moved into Dove Cottage. I'd never had a garden of my own before, so after all the basic things were done at the house, we tackled the garden and we (or should I say I) went a bit mad. Then it all went down the drain courtesy of an unpleasant neighbour, and our little patch got badly neglected. We're slowly picking up the pieces but being strapped for time means it's very slow going. Jos has the time but he hasn't got green fingers at all ... Anyway, back to flowers. I adore flowers, some more than others, but there aren't many I don't like. Aquilegias are firm favourites, and I especially love the double Nora Barlow variety. They self seed like mad in our garden! xxx

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    1. Yes, we had loads of aquilegias at one point, though they're not self-seeding as much as they used to. Yellow poppies, too - I never know where those will spring up year on year.

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  5. Our garden is really neglected. We have had to prioritise other things in the last year. Unfortunately I don't think it's going to get much attention this year either!! On my list though is a magnolia tree, and to replace the old lavender bushes with new ones. Sounds like you have grand plans for yours! x

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    1. Yes, gardens are usually way down the priority list, they definitely are on mine.

      Magnolias can get BIG - we ended up having to take ours down. So stick it a good way from the house/any fences.

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  6. Haha I know I would be the opposite and neglect the house for the garden! You can't go wrong with annuals to fill the gaps. I always grow marigolds, the big old fashioned orange ones I love them. I've always found the plants catch up even if you are a month or two past the seed packets suggested planting timeline.

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