Friday, 30 July 2010

This Week's Plant From The Garden - Oenothera Biennis

Or to divs like us, Evening Primrose - also known as Common Evening Primrose (how rude!!) and German Rampion. Evening Primrose is one of those flowers where I knew the name but had no idea what it looked like. We have two of these in the garden at the moment and I'm hoping that they'll seed this year. They're biennials so it will take a couple of years to get them looking as lovely as this again, but I really like them and think they're worth the wait. Ours have grown to about 1.5m and were purchased from an RSPB shop/nature reserve in Norfolk to attract insects and wildlife.
Family: Onagraceae
Position: Sun or light shade in any soil. Ours are in a sunny, dry spot under a tree so they don't get much moisture, but seem to thrive.
Flowers: June through July - really pretty flowers as you can see which are the colour of sunshine.
Dimensions: 90-120cm high and approximately 12cm wide - tall and skinny!
Habit: Biennial wild flower that looks great in amongst the smaller shrubs in the border.
Care: Leave it to do it's thing as it will self seed quite happily. Deadheading recommended - the old flowers are droopy and scruffy looking.
Pruning: not required - just reposition if they spring up where they're not wanted.
Propagation: By seed in spring.
Distribution: Eastern North America and naturalised in Europe. Wild flower so hedgerows, cracks in the pavement, the driveway down the road etc.

Bold/italics = official data
Everything else = my observations

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Veggie Heaven

As you may know B started the veg patch earlier this year and things are really starting to happen. The tomatoes are ready to ripen and it looks as though we'll have a bumper crop. According to the neighbours the plants they took are also doing really well too - yay!After a shaky start the courgette plants are in flower and I can't wait to see the first fruit and the sweetcorn Ange & Sue gave us is doing fine in its cardboard box. Never grown sweetcorn before and have heard people say it's quite tricky, but ours looks good so far, if a little on the short side (sorry for being heightist).
The french beens I sowed outside last month are now twining themselves around the rather elaborate and very tall poles I erected weeks ago (sorry, that's another height thing - not sure what's got into me today) so they won't look too daft once their covered in greenery. Honestly I got very excited at being allowed access to the veg patch that I erected all manner or tee-pees and other bamboo and string constructions which stood empty and accusing for what seemed like an age.
Anyway must go, got a kiche (is that how you spell it?) to make and all that!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

There's Nothing Like A Nice Tank Top

This is my latest piece of land girl kit - hand knitted by the talented and lovely Aunty Jackie. I can't wait to go pick it up from Norfolk next month and try it on with my breeches and wellies. I'll look like a proper farmer like. Yay!

Friday, 23 July 2010

This Week's Plant From The Garden - Sidalcea

This is Sidalcea Elsie Heugh - a rather grand name for a miniature hollyhock don't you think? It's also known as Prairie or Checker Mallow in the US.
Family: Malvaceae.
Position: Full sun or partial shade in any soil (including clay).
Flowers: July - August. Deadheading will encourage further flowering. Good for cut flowers.
Dimensions: 35cm high & plant 20cm apart.
Habit: Perennial. Dies back to nothing each winter.
Care: Leave to it's own devices. It's a well behaved little plant that will come up year after year.
Pruning: Cut back after flowering unless you are collecting seed. Otherwise nothing needs to be done - in fact I just ignore mine and it seems to like it just fine!
Propagation: By division or seed in spring. Or let it self seed and deal with it if it sprouts somewhere you'd rather it hadn't.
Distribution: Western & North America.

Bold/italics = expert opinion
Everything else = my experience of the plant

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Ooh, Pick Me, Pick Me!

As the 1940's are my spiritual home and as I have a bit of time on my hands at the moment I decided to sign up as a volunteer for the Imperial War Museum and this morning I donned my best headscarf and pearls and trotted along to the museum for my induction and interview. The day was run by a lovely chap called Jim Henderson, who is head of volunteering and stationed on the HMS Belfast. The morning was spent going through the rationale behind the volunteering scheme, which departments took volunteers and how many vacancies there were (which were very few due to budgeting restrictions). Part of the induction included a tour around some of the departments such as film and photography, which was fascinating.
The one-to-one interviews were held after lunch and mine was at 14:00. It was a short affair, but I did my best to impress. Jim is very keen to ensure that volunteers are placed in positions that both suit their talents and the requirements of the department they are assigned to and we discussed the possibility of me helping out on the education side and working directly with the public in some capacity such as tour guide, which would be perfect for me. Unfortunately these places are popular and with funding issues and re-organisation going on behind the scenes, there aren't currently any vacancies so I'm on the waiting list. Alas, always the bridesmaid never the bride. Is it wrong to wish someone a broken leg so that I can have a volunteer slot? I know, I know. That's not the attitude that won the war - stiff upper lip old girl!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Woe Is Me!

This week is a sad occasion for me as I visit Mr 122's lawns carrying a bottle of Verdone Extra Liquid Lawn Weed Killer with my head lowered in shame. Yes, I've finally given in and resorted to chemical means to keep the weeds out of Mr 122's grass. I decided to take this route for two reasons, firstly it's horribly hard and soul destroying work digging out weeds only to find them back again the next time you visit, albeit in a slightly weakened condition, but they're still there! Secondly, and most importantly, I can't in all good conscience spend four hours per visit digging out weeds, when mowing, weeding and a quick sweep round should only take a couple of hours at most - I know that's probably not good business sense if he's prepared to pay for my time, but I just can't justify it in my own head when there are alternative methods that'll save him money (even if it's at the cost of my conscience). Also, lawn sand just won't hack it with dandelions and the infestation's too severe for vinegar and water, which I'll use as a follow-up method once the worst of it's been eradicated.
I don't think I'll ever get rich, but I'd rather do the right thing by Mr 122. My parents raised me proper, but I do feel like a hypocritical, two-faced baggage about using chemicals all the same. . .

Friday, 16 July 2010

This Weeks Plant From The Garden - Geum

Geum 'Mrs J Bradshaw' was one of the trickiest plants to get settled. It was constantly wilting due to lack of water no matter how much we supplied. A real 'quaffer' this one! Eventually we bought some great drip feeders from Nigel's Eco Store, which utilise old water bottles. Popped one of those on so that it got water all through the day and there was no stopping it. That was last year and as you can see this year it's produced some pretty red flowers, which are only now just starting to flag.
Family: Rosaceae.
Position: Well drained, fertile soil in full sun or partial shade. Ours is in a flower bed that gets sun for most of the day - mid morning 'til early evening and it seems to be fine.
Flowers: Late spring - late summer.
Dimensions: 60cm high x 45cm spread.
Habit: Perrennial herb. The stems are very thin with small flower heads and are prone to leaning over and disappearing into neighbouring plants. Some experts say that the flowers are too small compared to the amount of foliage and I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed with it on the whole.
Care: Water well and leave it alone. I dead head all the spent flowers.
Pruning: Not required. Although I tend to remove any dry and dead foliage.
Propagation: Division in spring or seeds in autumn.
Distribution: Europe, Asia, New Zealand, North/South America and Africa.

Bold/italics = experts
Everything else = my bit

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Everyone's A Winner!

Well 3 of us at least. Yes, folks I actually got a placing in the local front garden contest - 3rd to be precise, which considering the state of our drive and path is a bloody marvel! Here's a pic of me with my prize (a water butt not a kegger) and looking slightly too pleased with myself, or slightly insane depending on how you look at it. Hmmm. . . This is only the second year for the garden contest and there were 15 entrants, so I'm really chuffed. Actually I should take the opportunity to thank B as we planted the garden together and I think it was her veg plot and tomato plants that stole it for us. It was a scorcher today and Ange, B and I had a great time looking at all the stalls at the Forest Gate Festival while we waited for the prize giving - I even had a go a hula hooping whilst eating Mauritian fried veg with chilli sauce - veg not a compulsory part of the hooping process and not to be recommended while pummeling your stomach with a plastic hoop! Did a very British thing in the heat though - had a nice cup of tea. Lovely.

Friday, 9 July 2010

This Week's Plant From The Garden - Euphorbia(?)

This busy little plant (better known as Spurge) was given to me as a cutting by an ex-work colleague who had no idea what it was, and to be honest I'm still unsure myself. I think it's some kind of Euphorbia only because of the way that the bracts and flowers form, although I could be very wrong! If you know what it is for sure, please let me know.
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Position: Any - it's quite versatile.
Flowers: Spring/summer - small bright green bracts surrounding small yellow flowers.
Dimensions: 20cm high and free spreading.
Habit: Evergreen with fluffy semi-succulent, dark green, soft spiky leaves on red stems. Spreads freely via adventigous roots. Will dig out easily if it encroaches anywhere it's not wanted. It's a bit sneaky so you have to keep a look out for it.
Care: I just leave it be as apart from wandering off it's really low maintenance.
Pruning: None - just remove it from where it's not supposed to be.
Propagation: Division in early spring, cuttings in summer or autumn & seeds in autumn or spring. So, anything that takes your fancy really - it's nothing but versatile.
Distribution: Europe & Southern Europe, Asia and Mexico, dependent on variety. All over the shop - quite literally!
WARNING: Again this plant produces sap when broken or cut, so please wear gloves when handling, just in case.
As I'm not totally sure what this little bugger really is, the above only a guide to what I've been doing (or not doing in this instance) with it.

Bold/italics = what the books say
Everything else = my take on things

Monday, 5 July 2010

Lilies On The Land - You Had To Be There To Know

Oooh, forgot to tell you. Last week I went to see Lilies On The Land at the Arts Theatre just off Leicester Square. B and Pips kept me company (or in B's case, organised the whole kit & caboodle!). The play's based on one hundred and fifty letters and interviews with land girls up and down the country during the second world war and revolves around four characters, Poppy, Vera, Peggy and Margie. The play starts with a radio announcement of the death of Winston Churchill in 1965 sparking the memories of the former land girls - "The forgotten army."
The cast and acting were excellent, my particular favourites being Peggy, the chirpy cockney and Vera, the educated upper-middle class feminist who couldn't wait to wear breeches. Although the women were recounting their individual experiences they interacted in each others' stories too, taking on the voices and roles of peripheral characters with a great awareness of each other. I bought the script and Pips tried to persuade me to get it autographed, but I had an incredibly rare moment of shyness and couldn't bring myself to do it! On the upside it was good to see that said breeches were as unflattering and baggy in the bum on the cast as mine are on me!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Amazing Expanding Allotment

Another day at the allotment hacking and slashing and waging war on all things weedy & brambly. Kerena had charge of the 'loppers' and went at it gung-ho, to the extent that she can't use her arms any more poor love. As a result our allotment's like a Tardis in the fact that it's getting bigger on the inside - same original space, but it's now a much larger surface area as we've finally found the original perimeter, which is great. And blow me if there wasn't a bath in there after all - B unearthed it but to our disappointment it's a shabby old plastic one full of brambles, however in the spirit of 'make do and mend' we'll keep it and see if we can't plant something decorative in it! I've been drawing up my ideal allotment and the plan is to work back from there to see what is:
a) actually possible, and
b) what we can actually afford.
I've tried to be practical (well for me anyway) and really need to go down and take some final measurements so that I can translate my cock-eyed orange sketches into scale drawings - not sure when that's going to happen as I've got an essay to write this week too.

Friday, 2 July 2010

This Week's Plant From The Garden - Arenaria

Arenaria Montana to be precise - commonly known as Sandwort, Mountain Sandwort or Mountain Daisy depending on which source material you're using. B chose this one on a trip to Notcutts with my folks, who are regular visitors now that they have their first garden. My father's rebuilt his shed from top to bottom and is very proud of his plot while mum is an ace at snail disposal (that one deserves an entry all its own).
We bought several little border plants for ground cover of which this is the most prolific, producing lots of lovely white flowers and has got the RHS Award of Garden Merit for its efforts.
Family: Caryophyllaceae (Kario-fie-la-kye ???)
Position: Sun or partial shade.
Flowers: Spring - Summer.
Dimensions: 5cm high by 12cm wide
Habit: Hardy evergreen perennial herb. Cushion of leaves and masses of lovely white flowers.
Care: Moist sandy soils. But does really well in our border, which isn't sandy but is quite fine in places, although apt to turn quite hard on the surface if not regularly hoed.
Pruning: Not required.
Propagation: Division or soft wood cuttings in early summer of seed in autumn or spring. I leave mine to self-seed.
Ditribution: South West Europe.

Bold/italics = expert advice
Everything else = me

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Regularly Is Best

Back to Mr 122 and Maxwells House this week for a round of weeding and mowing.
Maxwell House's roses are looking a bit tired and hungry and I suggested he think about giving them a good old choppin' and feed some time soon. As usual he smiled and nodded and said he'd "take it under advisement", which I think is code for 'uh-huh, and. . . ?' His lawn grown asparagus was three feet high when I got there and it's spreading into the flower beds now too (eek!). I lobbed off a couple of flowers that were in my face as I was hoeing (ooh, I love my hoe) and popped them in a plastic cup of water on his doorstep for when he got home. I really like Maxwell House although he's a bit of a stickler for time. I was ten minutes late collecting my money (Sainsbury delivery five mins before deadline, hall full of carrier bags - nightmare) when he called. Hello says I, all bright and breezy. "Problem?" asks he all business. Nice as pie when I got there though - go figure!