Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Breaking News!

There is a possibility we may be able to get an allotment this year! Am incredibly excited about this as we try each year to grow veggies in our garden- but I never let P plant them out in the garden as I don't want to give up the space. And they never seem to do very well. (apart form our tomatoes in the hanging basket last year- they were great!) So if we get an allotment we can grow exactly what we want- and pretty much as much as we like!

The only solution was to get an allotment!

Will let you know if we are successful- but allotments are like gold dust around here- but this has been in the pipeline for some years.

Hmm will we be self sufficient in veggies too by the end of the year??- first eggs now veggies and fruit!

Wheres the goat and the bees?!

This could be the start of something beautiful! (and back breaking!)

A weekend by the sea

Sorry I haven’t been able to add anything recently, ive been away at the weekend down to visit my parents for mothers day. They live down in Dorset in a cute little village by the sea. Its always nice to go and visit.

The weather was fantastic! Cant believe its only March! The sea was so clear!

My mum loved her Hellebore I gave her- hers havent settled in yet from the move from London and living in pots for a few years! I also help my mum create a new bed- we decided to plant some of the arid plants in an area of gravel round the front of the house. It was crying out really for some tall trees to help break up the wind that whips around the house but I will sneak them in later- this was getting my dad used to the idea of planting up the bed! He seems to want to leave it as gravel in case people want to park on it!

My mum inherited many of my surplus plants – and seems to have potted plants coming out of her ears so she was very glad to get some of them in the ground where they should all look after themselves as they are drought tolerant.

In the bed went Agave Americana, Aloe Striatula, Variegated Phormium cookianum, Trachycarpus takil, Brahea armata, Cordyline australis, a Variegated Yucca glauca, a Euphorbia mellifera and a sweep of Gladiolus byzanntius. The soil under the gravel was incredibly tough hardcore, followed by a 6” layer of clay followed by sandy soil. Not great for the cacti but I dug out the clay and replaced with potting compost and sandy sub soil.

It looks pretty good if I do say so myself! Looking forward to seeing if the Gladiolus survive as these are basically in 2” of soil and gravel! I will probably add some Echinopsis cacti from my garden when im next down, and any other succulents that may do well down there.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Columbia Road

I went to Columbia Road Flower Market this morning. My favourite spot in East London!

Its the first time ive been since last summer- and have been looking forward to it- however my bed seemed far to comfy at the hour i intended to wake up- so didnt arrive at the market till 9:30 which meant it was already really busy. But the sun was out and it was good to be out and about so i didnt mind.

You have 2 options really with Columbia road- get there really early (ie 7:30-8am) and get the best bargains and beat the crowds, or go late ie 2pm when the traders are closing up and see if there are any bargains that the stall holders dont want to take home with them. I always opt for the early bird session i cant resist the thought of perhaps missing something 'if only id gone earlier!'

I went looking for some more plants for the different borders and wasnt dissapointed with the choice. However its quite obvious the current trend for exotic plants is still big with palms, orange trees, strelitzia, and treeferns available on most stalls. Primulas and Pansies seemed to be the plants of the moment with most stall holder shouting out deals on these- "6 for a fiver!"

As i'd hoped there would be there were a couple of stalls selling freshly dug up perennials (5 for £5) and bought 3 Echinacea purpurea and 2 Rudbeckia 'Goldsterm'- although after the guy had put them all in a bag i changed one Rudbeckia for another as it only had 2 growth points ("There all the same mate" said the stall holder- err no the're not im not buying an apple here, they may only be £1 each but im not getting a rubbish one just cos you gave it to me!). I walked past the stall later and saw he had Echinacea 'Magnus' next to his E. purpurea and hoped id bought the normal species as 'Magnus' will probably be too tall for the border- never mind though.

I also bought a small Pteris cretica albolineata fern for £1, and then from the bulb stall, hooray i found a plant i thought it was too late in the year to buy as a bulb- Allium spaerocephalon bulbs - 20 for £2 these were just shooting, i know its a little late to be buying these but they were cheap and I hope will catch up soon! these will go in the grass garden.

Then a stall id passed on the way in but decided to come back to it, the guy had a lovely range of plants for sale- i perhaps could have bought more but decided not too today. I got 2 Digitalis ferruginea for the grass garden, Cephalaria gigantea for the butterfly border this is loved by bees, an Angelica with purple leaves (the guy wasnt sure of the species) for the butterfly border, and a large Pteris(?) fern which for the life of me I cant think of its latin or common name (its got a label on the pot but its not the correct name!)- will have to get a photo up to get an id. Its in the large pot on the back left of the group.
Update just got an id for my Fern it is Dryopteris sieboldii its an evergreen Japanese fern. Thanks Steve!

A new Echeveria!

On thursday I met up with Chris from the HTUK forum to swap some plants, Chris works in central London so was easy to meet up for a chat and a beer (well i had the beer- Chris had a coke as it was his lunch break).

Id been meaning to meet up with Chris for months as he had a plant for me that id asked about ages ago and never got round to meeting up to swap it.

Its Echeveria rosea a beautiful succulent plant that turns a fiery red colour in winter. And best of all its hardy :)

Mine is only a baby at the moment- but i can look forward! to it turning into this before too long!
Back in the garden noticed that there are some plants you have in the garden that you just dont appreciate how well they look after the winter we have just had- this little Puya i bought from an RHS London Show 2 years ago as a unknown species and has been left unprotected and has shrugged off the cold. Its lovely apple green colour with silvery undersides and reminds me very much of a pineapple top- which is not surprising seeing as Pineapples are Puyas. It is a prickly little plant though- watch out fingers when moving it around!
Lastly we set up an area at the back of the garden for the hens run. This was they can be outside of their pen and scracth around in the soil without eating all my good plants- which they have been attempting to do up till now! I know its looks a mess but i intend to make the pen more pretty and make the sides a bit better with corner supports but the roll of wire and 4 bamboo canes will do for the moment! Its a 3ft fence so I hope the hens wont even think about trying to clear it! The plant in front wrapped up like a mummy is my Musa sikkimensis Red Tiger which has been there 3 years and grown from a 6inch plant to a 15 foot monster! :) The area between the hens run and the front of the border is to be plante dup with all the new ferns that are lined up in the pots on the bed. Anything inside the run is chicken food but the bamboos and Arundo donax and Paulonwnia tree are quite tough so should be ok.

Mushroom Harvest!

For Christmas P got a Mushroom growing kit from my mum! (it was my idea really she asked what to get him and it was the first thing that popped into my head!)

I'd seen these for sale before in the garden centres but we have never tried growing them before. Its actually been very easy and its kinda cool too!
Well its taken about 5 weeks down in the cellar(2 weeks longer than it said on the box)- and we only got 5 mushrooms to show for it- but like everyting you grow yourself it always seems to taste so much better and im really pleased with them! 5 mushrooms! What to do with them? We decided to have them in a stir fry for tea. And there are some more growing so hopefully can have some more in a few weeks time.- apparently the mushroom compost can be reused 3 times with each time getting fewer and fewer mushrooms! I think i might stick to buying them if im doing a mushroom risotto it may take some time to get enough!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Sunny day so out in the garden!

Today spent the day in the garden, and really had a major tidy up- and i have to say the garden looks 100% better than it did before if i do say so myself! I planted a purple cordyline tat had been living in a pot for about a year, into the sunny bed to replace a Phyllostachys Shangahi 3 bamboo which did not seem to do very well there- probably lack of moisture (ie me watering!).

The photo above shows just part of the view that looks out over the new grass border and onto the butterfly border in front of the palms in the bed behind. The whole bed where the butterfly border will be was dug over and manure added, and 2 yuccas were taken out that didnt deserve their prime position! The Butia palm in the bed in the centre of the photo almost was dug up today as it has never settled in even in 3 years and its new leaves always came out browned- i assumed frost damage but it should easily have coped with the winters we have had. I have given it 1 more year to prove its place as this winter it has put up 2 new leaves but both seem damaged- there is just something that the plant doesnt like about its new home.

The Acacia is in full bloom and looks and smells beautiful! Will have to cut it back after flowering as it is a huge tree already about 20ft tall! And its only been in the ground 2 summers! I wonder if Acacias reshoot from bare branches after being cut back (pollarded) or does there have to be a bud/branch already there? Will have to do some research.

We are up to 4 lots of frogspawn in the wildlife pond! :) I wonder how many more we will get?- its only a small pond! I counted roughly 200 eggs in one lump of spawn. I managed to catch the white goldfish that is in the pond as he would definately look at the tadpoles as lunch! I left the Golden Minnow in the pond as I hope his mouth is fairly small! Although may take him out and put him back once the tadpoles are out of danger in a month or so.

This little plant above is an Orchid. Dendrobium kingianum. Now its only a small plant about 4" tall but has beautiful sprays of pink flowers in spring. This little plant has proved to be prefectly happy outside over winter on my window ledge. I was surprised how well it has coped. It prefers growing in shade and fingers crossed for some flowers soon!
Lastly a photo of Susie having a drink from the wildlife pond. Am getting increasingly twitchy about whether the chooks are going to have free range in the garden for much longer- i guess there is going to be a period in the spring when all the new shoots are emerging that will be particularly prone to chicken attack so will just have to keep a close eye on them when they are out.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Could spring be officially here?

For me there is no better sign of spring than the fact there is frogspawn in the ponds! :)

The Common frogs (Rana temporia) have been calling in the ponds outside for about a week now- but today was the first lot of frogspawn of the year. Its also the first lot of frogspawn ive had in the garden since moving in 3 years ago. Best of all it was laid in the wildlife pond i built for them last year! There are however 2 fish in the pond one Golden Minnow and one goldfish. If i want the spawn to survive i must remove the goldfish at least. Im not sure if the minnow could eat tadpoles it has a very small mouth so I hope not. The minnow was introduced to eat the mosquito larvae that are found there.

This is Blechnum tabulare its a beautiful evergreen fern - however the winter temps haven turned a few fronds brown but wont have caused any fatal damage. This will be probably planted in the shady border- its spent the winter so far on top of the wormery however since adding the most recent layer to the wormery its no longer stable enough for such a heavy pot.

Lastly some good news my Yucca rostrata which I had almost given up all hope for looks like it is finally showing signs of recovery. I bought it bare rooted 5 years ago from Germany however it never re-rooted properly and i moved it around a bit and in the process managed to break the roots that had started to grow. The central growing point browned off and died away and I thought uh-oh ive managed to kill it- sure enough it started loosing its crown and thought it really should be chucked as it looked awful!

However instead of chucking it I potted it up about a year ago into a pot and forgot about it- putting off the inevitable. And then about 2 weeks ago I decided to have a closer look at the plant.

There right in the centre a new crown had begun to grow- now it will take many years before it looks halfway decent again but im so chuffed its regrown that im looking forward to nursing it back to being respectable again. Im hoping this means its root system has been established now.

This morning the chooks got a porridge breakfast made with moist layers pellets, chopped tomatoes, grain and some Diatom powder. Yummy! Or at least they thought so! Flo went straight for the tomatoes, Cilla and Susie the grain and Hermione hovered around and waited for the others to finish. I think this is showing how Hermione is now lower down the pecking order than I originally thought- Cilla has certainly starting pushing her way up! Susie crouched for me when I put in the food- ive read that this is a sign the hen is amost ready to lay. Apparently about a week after they start crouching properly you can expect your first egg- lets see if thats true! Watch this space!

A trip to the Market

I took these photos when I went to Borough Market last autumn with my sisters. Borough Market is just on the south bank of the River Thames by London Bridge Station. Its open on fridays and saturdays and is a great place to pick up something for dinner!

Its also a great place to go round and try samples of the food on offer- if your hungry you can almost get a free lunch! :) We got some fantastic Apricot Balsamic vinegar there.

You can get all sorts of meat at the market- here is a sample you can see Kangaroo, Kudu, Springbok, Wildebeast, Bison and Zebra. They also sell Crocodile and we had Ostrich burgers for lunch (quite nice actually!)

Autumn mushrooms

London Eye!

On Tuesday eve we went on the London Eye!

I have actually been on it twice before but both times were years ago when it first opened and you forget how magical it is to view our city from above!

We went at about 7pm so it was quite dark at this time- perfect as the city scape is lit up from the lights of the buildings.

Please excuse the sharpenss of the photos my camera isnt great at taking long distance shots.

A free day in town

So you discover you have a day to yourself- Yippee! Now what to do?

Some people go shopping, others the cinema, a visit to London Zoo? (ooo tempting!) perhaps a walk along the Thames (a very good 2nd choice!)- if im down that way I like to drop into South Kensington and the Natural History Museum.

Now weekends are a crazy time to visit unless its very early in the morning as the families descend! An sometimes there are huge queues to get in. So I try to dip in and out making a visit only last 40mins or so that way you dont get tired, and annoyed at the families getting in the way! I try to go at least 3 times a year. And also in good weather the wildlife garden behind the museum is a beautifully calm place to visit.

I always find there are new things to see, but here are a few of my favourite things:

Fossilised Crinoids (thanks Julia!)- this is a huuuge slab of rock in the main hall with these beautiful flower-like fossilised creatures.


Giant Sloth (Megatherium)
Sabre Toothed Cat
Irish Elk
Madagascan Elephant Bird Egg

Wooly Mammouth Skull