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…
It’s time for a tour of my chickens!
There’s not a huge amount growing here at the moment. I have a few seeds on the go in the propagator in an attempt to get an early start. However, in the garden, the ground is hard, the bulbs have been frozen in time and there’s definitely not sign of spring. Thus, there isn’t a vast amount to do <- actually, I lie. I have LOADS of jobs I should be doing (cleaning, tidying, overhauling the greenhouse) but it’s too cold. Instead, I spent today inside the shed hanging out with the chickens and quails, mucking them out and feeding them bits of frosty kale in a bid to relieve some of their boredom.
With avian flu having arrived in the UK, chicken keepers across Britain are in lockdown in accordance with DEFRA’s guidance. Where possible, poultry must be housed and kept away from wild birds. When they can’t be shut in, runs should be covered and food/drink moved to a location where contamination from birds cannot occur. So, you can imagine, my shed is FULL of chickens right now!
For this week’s Brimwood Farm video I thought I’d give you a little tour of the menagerie!
I do love spring bulbs when used wisely. I’m going to put it out there; I’m not a fan of brightly coloured, gaudy, in your face flowers. It means that sun-coloured daffs and scarlet tulips really are not my thing. But it’s safe to say that because bulbs are some of the first things to appear in those dull, wet, cold months of the year they’re important – not only for colour but for a much needed emotional lift too. There’s something about seeing little shoots poking through the surface of the soil that says ‘Hey, I know – winter is crap. But spring is coming. Hold on.’
I have a real love/hate relationship with Winter. I adore snow. I love cuddling down on those cold evenings with the dogs, a fire, a seed catalogue and a hot brew. And whilst it’s cold and crisp and frozen, it’s glorious. Frost hangs throughout the day, plummeting temperatures break up the soil and kill off those pests. It’s great. BUT…then we have to go through the thaw. That is NOT fun. Squelchy, muddy, mess. I know it’s a means to an end; it’s leading us towards spring after all. But I don’t like it.
Luckily, as I go traipsing up and down the path feeding the hens, collecting eggs, picking up after the dogs and getting covered in mud, those small bright tips of spring bulbs are beginning to appear despite it only being January. Many will hold off flowering for several months, but just seeing fresh foliage is enough to give anyone a small lift. My pots of tulips have begun to show signs of life, the tips of the daffodils I planted last autumn are showing and, in the alpine troughs, the fat stalks of iris reticulata are making themselves known.
So, whilst it’s cold and grey and frozen, life is still finding a way. It’ll only take the smallest period of warm weather to get these bulbs going and then we’ll really know the gardening season has kicked off for 2017!
It’s that time of the week; yes – Monday. Being self-employed and able to potter around the garden, Monday doesn’t have the same horror it used to as when I was stuck at a desk, in an office, crunching numbers. But it’s always nice to banish those blues and kickstart the week with a little positivity – especially when Mother Nature provides it for free.
This week I’m looking at my poorly treated orchids which, despite not being fed, re-potted or watered properly, continue to thrive. The exquisite orchid is grown in such vast numbers these days it’s pretty cheap. But it means, like many things, that once the flowers have faded it’s cast out for something new. However, mine keep going…perhaps it’s because many of them are rescued and they’re just thankful for not being in a landfill site!
It’s great how the smallest thing can help lift your spirit, and discovering that two orchid flower stalks have begun to grow, and that a further orchid is covered in blooms, has definitely made me smile!
You know, I sometimes feel that all I do is talk about the weather, and not necessarily in a positive light. This weekend has been GRIM. Rain, grey winter has truly arrived on UK shores, and as the fog and dampness flows up The Thames, I’m getting hit with some unwelcome weather. Of course, it’s all rather good for the garden – the plants love all this extra moisture. But it is NOT good for the chickens who don’t want to be damp, and it is definitely not good for mud. Damn. There’s lots of that stuff, and where livestock’s concerned it’s normally mud mixed with poop which is even worse than plain old dirty mud.
Things have quietened down on the growing front. All the bulbs are in. All the tender veggies have finished. Even the dahlias, though not frosted off, have become to look sad and tired. The cornus – much to my delight – is dropping its leaves and revealing those bright red stems; in the spring I need to chop back to ground level again to get new growth and brighter colours next year.
I am, however, still growing – Pak Choi, Winter Density and Arctic lettuce are all germinating and there’s still enough light in the day to get them going. But mostly, I’m planning for next year; the chickens, the market garden, the vegetables, the borders. Planning, organising, listing, drawing, planning. My main focus at the moment is finding customers. I have some egg customers already who I hope to upsell vegetables too. And when I have the Ixworth flock established, I can sell hatching eggs online. However, for the main veggie enterprise, I need to find outlets. It won’t be a large enough enterprise to start a CSA (Customer Supported Agriculture) <- plus these aren’t very common in the UK. There also aren’t any immediate Farmers’ Markets here so I need to research the nearest verses the most profitable; i.e. has local shoppers willing to spend more than they would their local Aldi. But the silverlining here is that it’s winter, and winter is the best time to be sorting this all out!
Finally, here’s Monday Magic. Look how the chicks have grown!
At Brimwood Farm, I’ve been focused on increased biodiversity and creating a wider range of habitats as part of my conservation efforts. There’s very little I can do in the way of growing and farming because the land is over two hours away; so until I move closer, the smallholding has to wait. However, in the intermediary, you may have noticed I’ve been doing a lot of work – a Wildflower Meadow has been created, Owl Boxes have been put up and I’ve also begun planting a Bluebell Grove. English bluebells are just stunning plants that are under threat from hybridisation and the invasive Spanish bluebell. It’s important, therefore, to create and manage new groves of our native species.
After the failed efforts of last year, when the bulb company had sent me the wrong bluebells (they were a hybridised version and I was very upset), I’m starting over. So, a couple of weeks ago, Saad and I set about putting in 200 new bulbs for spring 2017!
I’m excited to see just how the wood progresses over the following years, and now I KNOW I have the right bulbs I can actually sit back and enjoy it’s beauty!