The Joy of Geraniums
Perennial geraniums are a fabulous plant. I mentioned ‘perennial’ because the misnomer that pelagoniums are geraniums continues, led by garden centres and nurseries around the country. In fact, both of these plants are perennial. Pelagoniums, though not frost hardy, will quite happily develop into a…
A 'Blooming' Good Reason for Growing Houseleeks
Succulents have, by and large, passed me by for most of my green-fingered life. It was only when I began planning my wedding and looking at more masculine table settings and bouquets, that I began to realise just how wonderful Sempervivum (houseleeks) are. Until then I knew them only for nostalgic r…
Making a Case for Violas
There’s no love lost between Pansies and I. I’m not really a big fan of gaudy flowers, and I’m afraid I normally put pansies in this category. Add the fact there’s a vast amount of deadheading to do throughout the season, not to mention these plants tend to be short-lived and get very straggly, and …
Plant Pick - Growing Hollyhocks
I’m the first to admit I’m not a fan of short-lived plants. I like to plop a plant in and leave it, allowing its perennial nature to keep it growing year after year. All this annual and biennial sowing nonsense; no, I can’t be doing with that. Aside from a few plants, however. And one of these is th…
Plant Pick - Growing Dahlias
‘Tis very much the season for dahlias. I’m a huge fan of these blooms, though I admit, I have a slight love/hate relationship. There are a vast array of varieties in the dahlia collection, from sinewy, single-petalled bloomers to small, clump forming plants with huge, gaudy flowers. It’s the latter …
Plant Pick - Growing Tulips
If you hadn’t heard, it’s September already. That means it’s time to plant bulbs for a spring show in 2015. And, if you’re stocking up, then it’s definitely time to be thinking about tulips.
I often think that tulips are one of the more overlooked bulbs. We all fill our gardens with daffs, crocus…
Plant Pick - Growing Osteospermum (Cape Daisy)
I always feel as if some plants are vastly overlooked for tropical looking species and varieties that are new on the scene. Osteospermum (African Daisy), for example, seems to have a new colour shade coming out every years. However, I still have an extremely strong affection for Osteospermum jucundu…
Plant Pick - Growing Sedum (Herbsfreude)
Okay, hear me out; Yes, Sedum Herbstfreude is an extremely common plant that may seem rather dull to you. BUT, I feel this plant is often overlooked. It has a huge number of positives; it’s wildlife friendly, it’s easy to grow, it has fantastic cover during late summer/early autumn AND it provides s…
Plant Pick - Growing Skimmia
Okay, I know it’s still summer, but winter will be here before you know it. I’m honestly hoping for a cold snap this year – the wet, grey winter of 2013 was horrendous; I don’t think we had even one frost in London. That’s BAD for plants – they need dormancy. And it’s BAD for gardeners – we need a r…
Plant Pick - Growing Thrift (Armeria)
I think I must’ve first come across Thrift (Armeria) when I was a lad holidaying in Scotland. Our family didn’t head abroad, but jumped in the car and journeyed to the stunning landscapes of the Lake District, Scotland and Northumberland. I distinctly remember great swathes of thrift clinging to the…
I don’t know why because, man, if there’s one season that’s busy it’s autumn, but the past week has been relatively calm. I suppose this time of year signals a change in growth patterns; in fact, most things are slowing or dying off. And so the garden takes on this gentile approach instead of the full-throttle approach of spring and summer.
There’s time to enjoy deadheading without the need to pull rampant weeds. There’s still growth, of course, but it’s a bit slower, and the dew clings to it in the morning, giving it an extra jewel-like quality. Dew – that is something we need because the lack of rain over the last few months has been dramatic. Just that small piece of morning freshness helps give life.
I am, of course, already thinking about change. The garden has undergone radical alteration over the past two years. First, it was away with the strip of lawn and thin flowerborder I inherited. Then it was out with the oval lawn and cutting garden to make way for raised beds. Now, I’m rethinking the three main flower borders because a) the grass became out of control in the Mediterranean bed and Bo wee’d on all the lavender and killed it, b) the soil is really poor, c) I need to do some MAJOR digging in the fern bed as huge ash tree is sucking all life out of the area and d) my planting plan hasn’t really come together how I’d like. I’ve got a load of chocolate cosmos and deep purple penstemmen cuttings so I’m going to pair them with white nicotiana next year, hopefully to good effect.
Finally, I’ve also started a new mini-series on my YouTube channel called Monday Magic. I love to walk around the garden and discover something new everyday; something that’s a little inspiring whether it’s a new flower, a plant or some little critter. So I thought I’d start sharing this with the world by video as a little pick-me-up for the week ahead and a way to connect with Mother Nature again. Get involved if you’d like!
Okay, it seems now that autumn really has arrived with glistening dew, crisp mornings and a weakening sunshine that’s still got just enough strength to allow me to wear shorts. Alas, having to shut the chicken coop up before 7pm is getting a little depressing though – I’ll be happy when the hour change arrives and the poultry get a little more outside action.
In the garden, there’s still a lot of life. In fact, just today I’ve been taking cuttings, potting on some pelargoniums and watching some new seeds appear. The soil is warm and the days are still long enough for growth but there’s a hint of yellow on the tree foliage, bright orange passionflower fruits litter the ground and the hens have stopped by broody. Hoorah! Though – they’ve also slowed their laying!
The Poultry Yard
Life’s hit a happy medium in the poultry yard. All the meat growers for this year are now in the freezer, so the flock is a happy 23 – 19 hens, 4 cockerels. Ivy Winters, however, is being a horrible, mean rooster and attacks me constantly. I’ve clipped the feathers around his eyes and he’s still doing so his days may well be numbered.
In the pure breed coop, Gertrude is finally freed from her broodiness; it’s nice to see her outside for once because she’s spent most of the year hidden in a nestbox. The two baby d’anvers are looking, alas, both like boys. It’s a sad nature of this process that most boys end up culled, but they’re good looking birds so I will try to rehome them. Meanwhile, today is LOCK DOWN day! You know what that means – more chicks THIS week. I have seven Ixworth and three Barbu d’Anvers so, fingers crossed, I’ll get a full hatch. I want 3/4 Ixworth pullets and a cockerel to give to a friend so I hope the ratios work out correctly.
The Vegetable Patch
This year has been a LEARNING experience for sure. Despite having an allotment, growing here with a different soil, aspect, weather conditions has been a rollercoaster. The whole plan of the market garden hasn’t worked very well – but I can build on this year to improve that in 2017. I’ve got winter lettuces in, as well as cabbages and chard. I must sow the Pak Choi soon but I’ve still got tomatoes in the greenhouse – though they’re all very green.
It hasn’t been a complete disaster; we’ve had loads of carrots, beans, onions and kale. But salads, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and aubergines have given me diddly squat. Next year – start even earlier so that if something goes wrong, I can have a second sowing!
I’ve finally discovered the wonderful world of Snapchat and I’m finding it to be a great mini-blogging tool. If you want to add me as a friend just look up ‘BrimwoodFarm’ or screenshot the Snapcode below and upload it to Snapchat.
If you do add me, send me a snap and say hi!
You’ll have heard me say this time and time again; I’m a plant hoarder. I just love pretty things. Fluffy flowers. Leaves that are a tapestry of veins. Tiny plants, squat plants, giant, towering, soaring plants. Buy them, plant them, squish them in wherever there’s a space. I’ve long given up trying to achieve that ‘designed’ look with a small palette of both colour and planting. I try to adhere to some form of idea, but then I go to a garden centre or plant stand and see something I just HAVE to have, even though, in no circumstances, does it fit with anything else in my garden.
At this time of year, there are a tonne of plant clearances on. Online shops are trying to get rid of old stock. Local nurseries don’t want the overheads of caring for too many plants over winter so there are bargains to be had. And home DIY stores *ahem – Homebase, B&Q etc* have never been great a plant stock so there’s always something sitting in the clearance aisle.
This week was all about decorating INSIDE for once, but we’d run out of masking tape for painting and so began my trip to B&Q. Before long I was lured into the garden section and was filling up with half dead plants and dried out flora. To be fair, they weren’t that dried out and they’re very much alive. Even so, they were massively knocked down in price.
So, I got two euphorbias, two verbena and three salvia for a grand total of…..£12. Ta daaaa. Normally it would have set me back £33, which isn’t a lot – I know – but when you’re doing it every other week, it soon adds up.
To see what I found, enjoy the video! And, listen to my advice – get out to the home DIY stores quick and snap up some cheap plants ahead of next year!
If you’re anything like me, especially if you’re only starting out, you’re a little cautious when it comes to pruning. I mean, you don’t want to chop too much off in case you kill your beloved plant. So, when it comes to lavender plants, it’s worthwhile following the guidelines. However, I quickly realised that my careful snipping meant plants were gradually getting larger, leggier and woodier in the core. And the problem with lavender is that it won’t grow from dead wood. It means that your once bushy plant soon becomes a trailing disaster with all the leaves on the ends of thick, gnarled wood.
So, if you’re looking at how to prune lavender, here’s what I do. I warn you; I’m pretty brutal. BUT I do find it comes back brilliantly. If you’re not this brave, cut back so there are three or four buds. That way at least you’ll keep some shape.
I know it’s only September, but I’m already thinking about winter. At this time of the year, the weather turns rather turbulent; it can be hot and humid one day and then – BAM – the next morning it’s grey drizzle as far as the horizon. It’s also a time when I find it hard to hold off the urge to cut back. There’s something rather satisfying about clearing out beds, pulling up old vegetables that have given their lot and doing a general prune of the garden. Of course, this isn’t always the best option; especially if you want to have a wildlife friendly garden. In fact, particularly for the latter, it is best to leave your garden looking unruly and then clean things up in the spring.
This year, however, things are slightly different in that I’m growing winter crops and trying to get year-round harvests. Other than that, planning for this winter is all about smothering the flower beds in manure and trying to enrich the extremely poor soil. I think I’d forgotten just how much I put into the soil of the old house – after all, I was there 10 years. This soil has been left un-gardened for decades and if I’m to see any kind of success next year, I need to get that soil rich with nutrients. So, lots of poop and *fingers crossed* some hard frosts to break that material down into the soil.
So, winter salads, some pak choi and some cabbage seedlings will be the main plan here. On Brimwood Farm I’ve got a few big projects to get done in the coming months; scything the wildflower meadow back and putting up the crowdfunded owl nesting boxes are just two. In addition, as you’ll see in this video, there’s some major bramble thickets to cut. It’s all manual labour here; no tractors or machinery to scoop all the crap out so it’s going to be quite an undertaking!
Finally, I’m still incubating chickens. After the disaster with myco I was rather defeated about breeding efforts. However, my d’Anver and silkie birds have not been contaminated. As a result, I’m hopeful that I can establish a new Ixworth flock in a separate coop and keep them clean. I’ve got 12 hatching eggs and am looking at keeping three or four hens and a rooster to start with. Due to hens maturing more slowly, I’ll keep pullets from this batch and then try to source an unrelated cockerel. Then, though I can’t have quite the flock I’d originally wanted, I’ll still have space to start a small pedigree flock.
So, as the year begins to wind itself towards the winter, what are you up to in your garden?
I’m a huge fan of propagation; there’s not many hobbies where you can cut up your collection and they’ll grow into brand new, shiny things. I mean, c’mon! Cool!
On the farm I have a plan of creating a buddleia (butterfly bush) grove. It means you’ll be able to walk through this little collection of shrubs covered in white flowers and butterflies, and then emerge into the wildflower field. In a couple of years it should be fabulous.
However, I’m not that flush with cash so can’t just go and buy 20 buddleia bushes. So – cuttings! You can take semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings now, and that’s exactly what I’ve done!