Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Last Saturday I met up with fellow Blogger - Julia (from We're going to need a bigger pot) and we both went to a HTUK forum meet at a brilliant tropical plant nursery in Birmingham called Akamba- Julia had rashly offered me a lift up in her car- but luckily for her she didnt mind my frequent rambling and indeed I think we chattered non stop for about 5 hours there and back!

At Akamba I met up with a lot of friends from around the country who all have a shared interest in growing tropical plants in the UK from the HTUK forum. It was a beautiful day, and was lovely to catch up with many friends who I hadn’t seen for a year or 2! and met many new faces that perhaps I only knew as user name or avatar in cyberspace. I think in all we were at the nursery for 4 hours and I reckon we left early compared with most people!

Can you spot me?- probably not!- there were quite a few of us! We even were given name tags!

Frank and Me engrossed in plant talk

I resisted in buying any plants from Akamba (something not many people managed to do!). However after leaving there was a swap in the car park where people bring their spare plants to give away or swap to others. I was able to get 2 Tetrapanex 'Rex' pups (as mine hasnt pupped yet- one for the sunny side of the garden and one for P's mum), a purple Aeonium, and an Echeveria subrigida.

Frank and Julia

Myself, Julia and Frank decided to go 2 more nurseries on the way home the first was Fibrex- which is a nursery which specialises in Ferns and hold the national collection of Hedera, Pelagonium- and I bought a Cyathea cooperii and some smaller ferns (an Adiantum aleuticum 'imbricatum' and 3 smaller Asplenium scolopendrium muricatum, and once we had our fern fix we headed off to CGF- Cotswold Garden Flowers which has loads (and I mean LOADS!) of gems- i bought an Aloe, a Sanguisorba 'Tanna' for the grass garden, and 2 Asarum europaeum for the shady border.

I will add photos when I can of the visit! I fell in love with a metal crocodile- it was just the price tag that held me back! Thanks to Nick and Lucien for the photos above.

Allotment update!

I wanted to share with you the very first sneaky glimpse of our new Allotment plot!!

We have been given a definite date of when we can have our allotment- it is ours from the 16th May!
The plot is as you look at the photo- all from the left handside with all the blue forget me nots- down to the shed (yes thats ours too) then along to the right to the old apple tree, and then back up towards us. I think this is half a normal size plot- but should be more than big enough to start with! In fact its bigger than our garden at home!
Really looking forward to it- as our seedling veggies are getting a little large now in the mini greenhouse!
Me and P are both taking a week off work around this time to be able to start the digging!

Next door really kindly offered us his old decking from his garden- which means we don't have to buy the gravel boards we were going to use to create the raised beds- so the front of our house looks like a builders merchant at the moment!

The asparagus crowns we bought a couple of months ago are shooting and some are about 6” tall at the moment- I don't expect much growth from them this year as they are only newly planted- but its very promising!

An End of April Update

Hey guys,

Im sorry its been nearly 3 weeks since my last post- sorry about that!

Well whats been happening?

Hermione is still broody- I gave up dunking the chicken in the pond to cure her after about 3 days as it didn't seem to be working! And plus the neighbours were giving me funny looks. She gets turfed out of the nest box twice a day to feed and drink. And now just as Hermione might be coming out of it Flo has decided to get broody aswell! But they both like the same nest box so it's a bit of a squeeze in there for them! So that means no one is laying at the moment- we might have to start buying eggs again!

The under planting along the shady borders is almost finished with the addition of more ferns, Geranium phaeum, a saxifrage, Arisaemas, Rodgersias, Astillboides, Astilbe, Persicaria Red Dragon, Lamium, Sweet Woodruff and some Arisarum europaeum.

The tender plants have now been brought up out of the cellar and out from the kitchen and lounge where they spent the winter. Of the plants that spent the winter in the cellar in total darkness- the green Ensete ventricosum looks dead, and sadly my Passion Flower ‘Sunburst’ only bought last year at Hampton Court doesn't look like its made it. But on the plus side the Ensete Maurellii and Montbelliardii seem to be fine are pushing out new leaves already. Another Passion Flower and the variegated Brugmansia are also fine with this period of darkenss and no water!
Above are my new Agave parryii which i bought from a garden centre back in January which had the most extraordinary large collection of agaves and aloes. The larger Agave on the right is Agave macroacantha Blue - which i bought from a nursery in Germany many years ago.

The beds have been mulched with some well rotted manure which has made the garden look very smart and neat with all the fresh foliage coming through. My new Thyme's are now potted up in matching pots to give the bees some food when they all flower.

The Musa basjoo seem to have mostly come through the winter fine even those unprotected- however those left to fend for themselves ive found ive had to cut more off the top of the stems to find new growth- the Musa sikkimensis haven’t done quite so well. The pups are all dead (not surprising as I didn't protect them) and had to cut off 3ft from the main trunk which was protected with fleece.

The tadpoles have hatched and have become fat black wiggly commas in the wildlife pond.

Most of the large plants have begun to sprout including the Robinia, Fig, Albizias- but my Manihot has not sprouted yet- much to my dismay! Fingers crossed it is just late this year! And the Marsh Marigolds are flowering in the pond. Below is a photo of my Schleffera impressa cool hand like new shoots.

The early purple tulips looked fantastic on the front porch but sadly are over now- with some pale pink ones taking their place with some late Muscari. (see top photo)

The cats seem to be enjoying the sunshine anyhow!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

A Hedge in a Box!

So I was up at 6:45 this morning so walk round to my local Post Office depot to pick up my native hedge that I ordered online last week.

It actually arrived yesterday but the postman didn't knock, and when I left for work all I found was the red note on the doormat indicating he had been- how infuriating!! As my bare root trees would now have to sit in the depot for a whole day extra without water- just because the postman didn't knock on the door! I was in!

So I picked up the box about 7 this morning – it was pretty heavy (its times like this i wish i had a car) and took it home to pot up the plants before I headed off to work.

They were very well packaged and no major damage at all to the plants only 1 snapped side branch- even better i dont think i knocked off any buds when unpacking or potting up the plants- which I thought was amazing considering they were all tied together and i manage to knock off my Japanese Acers buds reckless abandon when walking past the pot as im so clumsy! (speaking of Japanese Acers- of my potted plants my autropurpureum on the side of the pond i discovered to my horror is covered in scale insect on its stems and trunk- i must do something baout it this weekend). This hedge is destined to be put up on the allotment- so they would have to be potted up for a few weeks before they can be planted up there. I only had half a bag of compost- so I ended up putting the 33 plants together in 6 pots.

I bought the plants from Danny from Botanica (, who are based in Suffolk. Was very impressed with the quality of the plants and the customer service received.

So onto the good stuff- what did I get?????

Note the 30 pots of Asparagus to be planted out on the allotment!

Well I figured rather than buy a Hawthorn or Blackthorn based hedge- go for a complete mix of species which should encourage a broader range of wildlife.

So I got:
Field Maple (Acer campestre)
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
Common Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)
Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)
Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus)
Wayfairing Tree (Viburnum lantana)
Dog Rose (Rosa canina)

Field Rose (Rosa arvensis)
Hazel (Corylus avallana)
Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
Wild Pear (Pyrus communis)
Wild service tree (Sorbus torminalis)
Scots Rose (Rosa spinosissima)
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Silver Birch Tree (Betula pendula)
Rowan (Sorbus acuparia)

That's 17 species in total and 2 of each species- I think I will let the birch grow into trees but the rest will be grown in the hedge.

Im trying to decide how high the hedge should be- I think I will let it grow to about 4 feet- this should provide some privacy from neighbouring plots but not too tall to block out the light.

Anyhow- am very pleased so far with the delivery and cant wait to get them planted out! Roll on the 4 day weekend!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Buying a Bumble bee colony

You may remember I had seen on Jimmys Farm a bee box ready supplied with bumble bees- i loved this idea and wanted to see if I could find a source of these boxes- i got a few responses from my emails.

I discovered however that the species of bee in the boxes you can buy are actually not native species and mainly sold to pollinate greenhouse crops- so should not be released into the wild. Tut tut Mr Doherty!

I got a great response from Dr. Ben Darvill the Bumblebee Conservation Trust Director from the University of Sterling who wrote:

"Sadly the boxes of live bees currently available in the UK for use in commercial greenhouses are a sub-species from abroad. It is a criminal offence to wilfully allow reproductives (new queens and males) to be released into the wild because of the threat they pose to our native bees. In time we may be lucky enough to have a UK supplier of bumblebee colonies, and these would be a valuable interpretive and educational tool. However, a degree of caution is needed, because placing one of these boxes in unsuitable habitat would lead rapidly to a starving bee colony! Step one is to ensure that gardens, parks and the wider countryside are as full as possible with bumblebee-friendly flowers, and advice on this is on our website. Suitable habitat will be naturally occupied by bees, so there really is no need to buy colonies, other than for interest and education."

I got another email from Graham Collins who gave me these links on how to make my own Bumble bee box.

"Bumblebee nest boxes seems to be almost as common as bird boxes. A quick 'Google' for "bumblebee nest box" reveals numerous sites where they are available. They can be quite expensive, and the following links explain more about the principals involved and how to make one yourself -

I don't think you should try to buy active nests (wrong time of year anyway) since as far as I know the only available ones contain foreign strains of bees which are not supposed to be released into the wild (I think they are meant for pollination of glasshouse crops). They are more likely to harm wild populations than help them, and should be banned.

You should find out more about them before getting nests, and I would recommend Field Guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland by Edwards and Jenner, available here:

This will explain the life history and how to attract them to your garden. Also that for all species it is only the queen that survives the winter and new colonies are founded each year. The earliest species are just beginning to emerge at the moment so you should have a month or two to get set up."

Im not quite sure i've got a spare £60 to spend on a book on bumble bees tho!

So i think the best idea to get Bumble bees in my garden would be to get my own bumble bee box and hopefully next year a wild a queen bumblebee will move in.

My dad on the other hand is halfway through his Honey Bee keeping course- he is due to be getting his own hive of Honey Bees in his garden about May time- quite exciting!

Its seed sowing time...

We were given a free plastic mini greenhouse last weekend (thanks Rachel!)- which meant we could start our new vegetables from seed and baby plants to be put on the allotment (when we eventually get it).

Gosh what didnt we sow seeds for? Leeks, Peas, Courgettes (Yellow and Green), Spring Onions, Cabbage, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Chillis, Onions, Shallots, Jerusalem Artichokes and 30 crowns of Asparagus (not in the photo)

We just need the go ahead on the allotment and we can start planting them out! (We are just waiting for the current plot holders to take all the plants they want from the site!) Now to find the cheapest source of gravel boards to create our raised beds.

RHS Greener Gardening Show - 31st March

Forgot to put up some photos of the Greener Gardening show here in London.

Its the last RHS show till the autumn now which seems bizarre as spring has hardly even started yet!

My camera was on some wierd mode so some of the photos have a blue tinge to it- but hope you dont mind!

There was supposed to be a green theme to the show, so along with the main display which was a show of how schools can create wildlife habitat in minimum of space by creating a vertical display, there was a bee keepers stand, a froglife stand and a hedgehog stand.

I couldnt believe myself- i didnt buy a single plant! Not one! I am not sure what was going on- I can normally persuade myself to part with cash so easily for plants! I think ive been thinking about my allotment alot recently so i reckon thats why i decided not to buy any normal garden plants. I was tempted by some Lamiums and a Lathyrus species from Hardy's plants but at £6 a pot i decided to give it a miss!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Feeling Broody?

What would you have seen if you were my neighbour looking out of their window this morning??

You would have seen me walk out into the garden to the hen house- pick out a chicken from the nest box and then dunk her in the pond then put her back in the house and go back inside.

Call the RSPCA!! He’s mad!!

Well the reason I have done this is because the chicken has gone and got itself broody!

Its Hermione the brown chicken- its very funny to see as she simply wont budge from the nest box and when you go near her she fluffs up and growls at you!

Broodiness is when the hen decides she doesn't want to lay and egg and just leave it for us to eat- but that she wants to incubate it and hatch out some chicks! It can last 3 weeks- it sounds cute but in that time you don't get any more eggs laid, and they are so strong willed about sitting on the eggs they don't leave the nest very often so don't eat or drink as much as they should which could mean their health deteriorates rapidly! Plus on top of that as I don't have a boy her eggs aren’t fertile so will never hatch no matter how long she sits on them!

So ive decided to try to stop her being broody. Some places recommend you put the hen in a small wire cage made of chicken wire event he floor where the hen cant settle as the chicken wire makes it uncomfortable. However this takes up to a week- and ive nowhere to put such a cage if I had one.

I had read on the Omlet forum -the best method is to dunk the chicken in a bucket of cold water a couple of times a day to cool her down as broodiness is accompanied with a rise in body temps. I didn't have a bucket of water to hand this morning so I picked her out of the nest box and dunked her rear end in the pond!!! I felt a bit mean but when I put her back in the house she went straight down to eat! I closed off the door to the house so they cant get back up – so I might find an egg in the run tonight.

Lets hope this works! Think of it a bit like a cold shower to snap her out of it!

Chickens ehh?! Who would have thought the things id have to do!

The only other option is to buy some fertile eggs and let her hatch them! Im not sure the neighbours (or my garden) are ready for more chickens!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Murder on Nelson Road!

Call the Miss Marple!- a murder has been committed with the purportrator left unknown!

Sorry if you were eating your tea when you read this but this is the second victim in 1 week! My poor goldfish are being picked off one by one! :(

The victim has its head and tail eaten with the body discarded on the gravel just next to the pond.

Any ideas on who decided to have sushi for lunch?

I have 2 cats but they have never shown any interest in the fish before- indeed ive never actually heard of cats catching a fish from a pond. We do have foxes and other cats that come into the garden- my money is on a male tabby cat who we often have to chase out of the garden as he menaces my cats- grrrr!
The murder scene.... (i put the ferns on the wood to the right since discovering the body to hopefully make it harder for anything to get at the fish.)