Friday, 31 July 2020

First cucumber for 1st of August?

Should I celebrate the First August by picking my first cucumber?

In the early weeks of the lock down, during our weekly chats, I was very much impressed by the cucumber plants my grand-daughter was growing.  It may have been when she showed me her first cucumber that I remembered I had an old unopened packet of cucumber seeds in my seed box.  They were well past their best before date, but the seeds were still viable.  I gave a couple of plants to a neighbour, so I wonder how they are doing.

The next question was how to grow them, and what in.  Empty deep rose pots from when I had bought my David Austin roses, were filled with potting compost.  With such little soil, I have had to keep my eye on the watering, and also feed regularly with liquid seaweed feed.  These ones need to be pollinated, so you have to leave the male flowers on.  From inside the conservatory I can keep an eye on them, and since the bumblebees have been doing their job, my little sable pollinating brush isn't needed.  The Bamboo canes came from Pippa's clump of bamboo that she got rid of last year!

Looking forward to the first bite.....

How to enjoy a handful of garden fruit for Friday Bun Day

Friday Bun Day at Maison Stasher, need not necessarily mean a bun:  sometimes it can mean Cake.

Once more I seem to use Dan Lepard's Rye Apple Cake as a source of inspiration.  The Book Short and Sweet gives just muscovado sugar, and I used the Billington's Light Musccovado.  On Line the recipe is for Dark Muscovado, however I wanted the flavour of the fruit to shine through.  With only 75 g butter for 8 portions, of yummy moist cake, this is a preferred basic recipe.  The techniques is also very easy and quick. I used half a teaspoon ground mace as a substitute for the recipe's ground cinnamon in the cake mixture, and spread the raw blackcurrants on the top, followed by the almonds, and a light sprinkling of demerara sugar,   This was baked in a 20cm springform cake tin.

With a small bowl full of blackcurrants from my couple of bushes grown here in the garden from cuttings, I decided to have a 'gratitude' cake celebrating the first harvest.  The cake was cut into four, and three sections frozen, ready to use for further Bun Fridays.  Looking forward to today's Bun Friday at teatime later.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Pelargonium Coriandrifolium?

I have neither the experience, knowledge or background to examine a Pelargonium and accurately identify this Pelargonium.  I have written several times about a lovely plant which I bought from Stourhead nearly three years ago.  Earlier this year, I joined the IGC and the Geraniaceaa Facebook Page.  There Elena Loganson cast doubts on the original identification saying that the plant "Looks like P longicaule var longicaule, and not P myrrhifoloim v. coriandrifolium, because of the long hypanthium and leaves, which have a width of segments greater than 1-2mm."

Of course identification can be tricky, and really the actual specimen would be required. In my search, regarding one of my summer dormant geraniums,  I discovered the Honorary President of The Hardy Geranium Group of HPS, may be able to help me understand the differences in this Pelargonium.  

David has gently introduced me to some of the anatomy of the Pelargonium, and that explained that there are subtle differences between different plants:

"Unlike most genera, the nectary tube on Pelargoniums are external to the flower stalk, as is the nectary itself.  The latter is normally quite clearly seen as a small lump on the flower stem and, if you look carefully, you will also see the tube leading to it from the centre of the flower.  In Pelargonium this is a key characteristic e.g. there are some sub-species which are separated from one another by the differing lengths of the hypanthium.  The important measurement is that from the back of the flower to the centre of the nectary.  In many species, there will be a bend in the flower stem at the nectary.

I should add that the term "hypanthium" is technically not quite correct.  However, it is the term that is almost exclusively used."

David Victor's interest and knowledge in the Geraniaceae is well known. He is involved with a number of societies and groups, and was Chair of the International Geraniaceae Group, the British Clematis Society, the Hardy Geranium Group and the Peony Group of the HPS and deputy chair of the South African Bulb Group and International Cultivar Registrar for Geraniums. He still keeps his National Collection of Pelargonium.

I have now propagated another generation from cuttings, and hopefully next year, with his expertise, we may be much closer to confirming its identity.  

Last year's cutting in flower in June.  The flowers have been removed, and the plant continues to grow well.  

Monday, 27 July 2020

In a Vase - Thrown together

The flowers were cut yesterday, and stood overnight in a bucket ready to be arranged this morning.  There was I, about 6:45 am quietly trying to put this together, when several almighty bolts of lighting and claps of thunder resounded overhead.  A sure sign Mr S would not sleep through till the alarm.

I quickly threw these together, took pictures, and got ready for breakfast.  The light was dismal so had to use artificial lighting.  I tried the flash on my little camera, but it just bleached everything.  

Fuchsia Hawkshead with its graceful white blooms, decorative marjoram a pass along from Alison, and white  Centaurea Montana Alba, alone would have been sufficient.  

 is the only astrantia which I seem to be having any success with this year, and Verbena rigida, with heads of tiny purple flowers is continuing to flower nicely, therefore they are making a little appearance.   The White Verbascum is into its second flowering, and I only spied this when I went to cut some Salvia Amistad which is now galloping away in the border.  There are a couple of the seed spikes of Salvia nemorosa Caradonna.  

Just above and filling the room with a deep rich scent is Origanum laevigatum Herrenhausen.  It has good strong woody upright stems with a deep colour which contrast well with lovely green frothy Alchemilla mollis is perfect for filling out a summer arrangement.    I bought the pale monardo  from the Herb Lady at Wells Market, last year.  I thought it was going to be red, but it is a pale lilac.  Some stems from Thalictrum delavayi which were a lovely dark purple are in there just because they are purple! 

I had been toying on making an altogether different type of arrangement, but felt quite discombobulated following the lightning strikes, and all morning poor dismal light and rain. I want sunshine and no winds, it is supposed to be summer now. 

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Six on Saturday - 25 July 2020

(1) Crepis incana is looking good.  This Greek perennial plant has pink flowers borne on branched stems which rise up from soft grey green lobed leaves.  

Crepis are Hawksbeards.  This plant is often described as being a pink dandelion, but Dandelions belong to the genus Taraxam.  I  moved it last year, and it has grown well, though it is now becoming overshadowed by adjacent perennials.  Being a real treasure, and hard to get, it is worth taking care of it.  The root cuttings taken last year were unsuccessful.  This plant must count of one of my top summer flowering plants in the garden. 

With flowers held at around 20cm high, it is a small plant. The flowers are superb in a clear pink around 3cm across. The seeds produced in the UK are not fertile, I have tried and they failed.  I would like to understand why this is so.  Maybe they are not self fertile. As last year, I shall be sure to dead head, and allow plenty of time for the plant to build up before the Autumn.  I think it does need its own clear space, and I am planning to move it to the gravel garden.

(2) In the gravel offering up a dramatic evening performance and maybe secretly humming "By the Light of the Silvery Moon", I love to go and see how Eryngium Giganteum Silver Ghost, is developing. Fresh seed given to me by John Massey was sown in situ  February last year.


(3) Again in the gravel area Origanum 'Emma Stanley' is making a colourful statement.  The bracts continue to grow longer.  I was introduced to this plant early this year during a lecture given to our gardening club by Paul Cumbleton, on crevice gardening.  It was ordered and planted within a couple of weeks! It has about four stems such as this one, and a good number of young shoots coming up from the centre. This is a decorative origanum.

(4)   Origanum vulgare compactum: In the gravel garden, where there is no danger of soil splashes, this compact origanum, is in danger of being snipped back too many times.  It is in a  hidden position, as seen from the house.  

It forms a lovely dark green dome, and is just coming into flower.  

At the rate I am using it, I had better set about dividing this one.  The flavour is complex and added to sauces or scattered on top of dishes, a few minutes before finishing the dish, help to keep the fresh flavour to the fore. It works equally well uncooked as an extra note of interest in salads.

My parsley has become submerged by ant hills which is making me very fustrated.  The garden is overrun with colonies.  

(5)  Over on the other side of the garden there is a little shade.  Here Astilbe glaberrima var. saxatilis is having its moment.  It looks quite lovely in a delicate and small way in the low morning light. I think it is worth growing for its foliage alone.  It comes from the sub-tropical island of Yakushima to the south of Japan.

(6) They say good plants can be grown from fresh seed.  Persicaria runcinata 'Needhams Form' is another small alpine plant, that is growing just along this Astilbe.  Jim first posted about this plant last year. This was seed collected in his garden, sown as soon as it arrived, and germinated nicely early in the new year.  I'm hoping it will flower this year.  In the meantime, I just love the small leaf shapes, and the red stems.  I'm happy to note that it is not on the slugs' and snails' menu so far.

Hope you find time to spend in your garden this coming week, whether it is working, or lazing by day or maybe enjoying some cool air under a silvery moon!

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Return ramble around Draycott Sleights

Another short walk to catch the summer flowers before they pass, together with a packed lunch, made for a delightful hour or two change.  This time we parked on the side of the New Road, which leads up from Draycott, and past the airfield.

It was a glorious and sunny day, maybe a little too hot.  The walk was probably less than two miles, and we stopped often to look at the view, the flora , insects, and the herd of cows and their small calves wander along the paths.

The short turf and the anthills were covered in a wide variety of flowers.  The thyme was in full flower with many visiting bees.  Isolated plants  of Common Centaury peered above the closely cropped grass,  Horse-shoe vetch and many other flowers, such as hairbells and the small scabious with blues to equal the skies, were plentiful.

The kidney vetch was very much apparent on the Eastern side of the reserve's grass land.  The woolly effect at the centre where the small flowers emerge from the hairy calyx really drew me in.

We were intrigued by the dark opening in a limestone bluff.  Draycott Cave and is about 24m long.  The limestone above the opening is just like an intensively planted rockery.

Ferns were clinging to the rocks on the outside of the cave

When sharing this post with new friends also not long moved this is beautiful corner of England, one of who happens to be a Botanist, I had the following helpful identifications which I am including, as well as the link to help identify British Ferns.

"Your first one is Wall Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria), commonly found on stone walls, even in city back alleys, but it is a real little jewel when you look at it closely."

"The second one is the Rusty-back fern (Asplenium ceterach) which is distinguished by overlapping scales on its underside giving it a rather hairy appearance. I’m rather fond of this species since it was the first fern I drew when studying Botany at University. I guess you already know this but there is a lovely website (British Pteridological Society) for quickly identifying UK ferns at It has some of the best fern photos I’ve seen." Dr T Hooker

The mossy Stonecrop were holding up...

The views were fine looking Eastwards

Westwards across Cheddar Lake towards Step Holm and Flat Holm Island in the Severn Estuary, with Wales on the other side, could just be made out.

We disturbed a kestrel and saw it fly off, as well as many butterflies including the iconic Chalk-hill blue butterfly. 

Monday, 20 July 2020

In a Vase on Monday - Sent to my neighbour

We are all lucky in this little cul-de-sac...we are good neighbours and get on nicely.  There is also lots of talent, and always someone to help with advice, help and bring on a smile.  I've even managed to enrol an expert photographer on the close to judge our Horticultural Club's a photographic section.  I thought we would be just running the photographic section, but it turns out the committe thought my idea such a fun one for the members, we are now going to expand the competition and have photographs for all the sections.  I think I shall suggest that we get horticultural input for those!

From time to time I like to make an arrangement and pass it to a neighbour.  The lovely white agapanthus came from one, so it is only fitting that a special arrangement be made for Val.

Hope I manage to list all the other items: poppy seed heads, Fuchsia Riccartonii, 

Fucshia Delta's Sara, 

long purple heads of  Salvia nemerosa 'Caradonna', ligh mauve soft downy flowers of Salvia yangii aka Russian Sage, and Sedum Hylotelephium  erythrostictum 'Frosty Morn', aka 'Alison's sedum'.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Perennial Runner Beans

I hadn't known that in some areas, runner beans can be grown as perennials.  Last year I had sown for the first time the white flowered runner bean 'Moonlight'.   They looked like this last year at exactly this time.

Runner Beans 2019

This is what they look like today.

Runner Beans 19/7/2020

I moved four 'tubers' to grow in a straight row against the fence, as I found growing them in the wigwam, the plants on the shady side we much weaker.  I hadn't realised until it started to shoot that I had left another one just where it had been last year.  Instead of just one shoot, each tuber has sent up between two and four strong shoots.  The leaves are larger, and flowers are forming from the very bottom.  Flowers are setting more liberally than last year, and I have noticed that the smaller bees are up to their old tricks and taking nectar without entering the flowers at the front.  The larger bumblebees' weight are able to open the flower at the front.

We had our first runner beans with dinner tonight:

The French Beans are not yet ready.  For the first time I am growing climbing French Bean Cosse Violet.  They have quite a different form to Climbing French Bean Fasold, which I had bought from Van Meuwen, which had lived up to their description as 'Very early to harvest'.   It started to set flowers before the vine reach the top of the canes.   The Cosse Violet grew to the top of the canes, and I was wondering whether they would even throw out flowering stems.  They have at last produced a few flowers, but will probably be a couple of weeks before tender green pods can be picked.  I'll have to wait to see what the harvest is like.  I wonder if French Beans can be grown as perennials?

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Six on Saturday - 18 July 2020

Fern Polystichum setiferum Bevis needed to be moved, so that I could plant Pittospurum garnettii in its place. From time to time several plants have to be moved simply because one plant needs to get out of a pot.  Nearly always the pot ends up getting filled with something else.  This amuses Mr S, since I am constantly promising that I am going to reduce the number of pots.

(1)  First to be dug up was Cephalaria gigantea.  It was quite the wrong scale for this small garden.  Yes it had its season this year, flowered beautifully, and was the favourite night resting place for bumblebees.  It was living up to its name, but sadly with insufficient room, it was crowding out some rather handsome plants.  I had already found it a good home and it is off to grace one of the beds at Mendip Hospital Cemetery.  I am a 'gourmande' when it comes to plants.  However I have decided that it is OK if a plant is unsuitable, or dies, or had to be moved out of the garden.  Life is too short, and the garden too small, if I want to garden and grow new plants, saying goodbye to plants is fine.

(2) The Bevis Fern, which I first bought in 2014, has hopefully found its forever place in Acer Corner.  It had a good soaking, and is in good leafmould rich soil.  I removed the greater quantity of its foliage so that it did not suffer too much from the move.  Yes, it will look a little odd this year, but hopefully in the spring, it will send up its new fronds and regain its former beauty. 

(3) It was finally time to get the Pittospurum garnettii out of its pot.  That was a hard job.  A little cutting of the tight roots was necessary, both to get it out of its pot, and also off the bottom to encourage rooting out into the surrounding soil.  Pruning of the lower branches to lift it a little ought also to help it settle in its new spot.  Again it got a really good soaking of the root ball and the soil.  It looks far more comfortable in the ground.  I did this with a Pittosporum in my last garden, and it soon romped away there.  

(4) Dahlia 'Gallery Art Fair' was in the wrong place on two counts: it couldn't be seen easily, and it was in the middle of the slug or snail motorway.  It overwintered in the ground gallantly, put on good growth, but suffered various unsightly nibbles. It was almost painful to go and see whether the blooms were also being attacked by earwigs.   I think it stands a better chance to be admired and evade the slimy attackers, now that it is in The Pittosporum Pot, placed on the gravel.

(5) Insects:  Last Sunday at about one o'clock we had the phenomenon of flying ants. There was a cloud rising from the Bay tree Pot, and from several places on the ground.  Later as they landed small birds and black birds had a feast.  I failed to capture that but this week, found this cute little green Speckled Bush Cricket.

The name comes from the small speckles on its body.

(6) Clematis Vienetta is trying to keep cool, whilst Pelargonium Pink Capricorn shades the pot with its exuberant growth.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Making and wearing a face mask: the Verdict

Yesterday evening, I dusted off the sewing machine, found some fabric, instructions on line.  I even found this elastic in my sewing box.  What amazed me that it was from Woolworth, and made in England.

I wore the mask today out to Tesco's and the verdict:  I can understand why they want people to wear masks, and I shall of course.  I can't understand why people are waiting for the allocated start date. Today people were reckless with little regard to social distancing, whether they were wearing or not wearing a mask.  I even had to ask two Police Officers to move, as I would not have had the recommended distance between them and I,  as I entered the store. People were also wearing them but not covering their noses. How come shop workers are not keeping social distances in the shop between themselves?

The face mask was warm, uncomfortable, steamy and with my glasses quite uncomfortable.  I have small soft ears and therefore the elastic can't go behind the ears, and it is sewn with the elastic to a narrow band to go behind my head. 

Final verdict:  I shall be going even less to shops, or any indoor venues.....

Monday, 13 July 2020

In a Vase on Monday - Agapanthus and Ants

At the end of last week, Mr S and I worked on trimming the Oak which overhangs into our garden.  Propping a ladder against the wall, and catching trimmings as they fell to protect plants, I saw that the white agapanthus was coming into bloom.  Its stems are long and curving reaching for the light.  Seeing these inspired this week's vase.

A few other stems placed here and there make up an airy arrangement.

Pinky mauve Thalictrum delavayi, Alchemilla mollis,  the white climbing Solanum laxum 'Album', and the beautiful smelling Chamaemelum nobile 'Flore Pleno', make up the balance.  I rather liked the yellowing leaf of the Thalictrum so left that in. I'm not sure whether the yellowing lower leaves are a cultivation problem or just its natural way.

The ants swarmed en mass just before lunch yesterday, and it has been entertaining watching birds pick them off the ground.  We also have quite a few swifts, and martins flying over to catch insects.  It seemed to be happening elsewhere too, according to posts on Facebook.  After I arranged the flowers, I spent a few minutes chasing and dispatching ants in the house.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Six on Saturday 11 July 2020

This week our leader has topics of cuttings and divisions, not surprising his choice of The Propagator as a title.  No showers in buckets for him either.  I wonder how many people will have a little giggle at this.  We do however run off the 'first' water not yet hot when washing up, and pour it straight into the watering can by the back door.

Some links to techniques are embeded behind the blue shaded text below.  Sometimes the links are to previous relevant posts.  This is mainly for myself as I use this blog as a reminder and ideas catcher. Feel free to dip into these too.

(1) Nasturtiums:

I love salads, and they are a standard part of our lunch.  Mr S always asks for less lettuce, but bless him, he does eat whatever I put before him.  At the moment I am picking from two types of lettuce from the bottom, and have not had to buy any green stuff for several weeks.

They add that peppery note similar to radish, and mustard and cress, I love to add a few leaves and flowers from the self-seeded nasturtiums. These are third generation plants and just appear around the garden, in their own time.  They are very easily grubbed up, as soon as they get too big or where they may crowd out more delicate plants. In my garden nasturtiums are great little summer plants, good as cut flowers, and also in a salad.  My next lot of pesto will be made with nasturtium leaves.  I think a solid green variety would go better, so I shall look out for seed from friends later in the year.  Maybe a swap for this one.

Last week Karen explained about keeping favourite nasturtiums  going by taking cuttings. Something I had never considered.  However since I don't have a glass house, garden sown seed and self made crosses are fine, though I remember once coveting a double nasturtium. 

(2) Time to divide and replant auriculasI used to have a thing about auriculas.  In this garden there is very little shade and the alley with a wall with shade is too narrow for any sort of auricula house.  I did find one amongst the plants I brought with me, planted it in the garden, and rescued it back into a plant pot last year.  I managed to get a few good shoots and have planted them up.  I chose to do this now rather than earlier, as it was too hot after they flowered, and quite perversely it is cooler with cool nights in July!  Next time I show these again will be next year when they are in flower.  Nessun Dorma is happy on the small shady wall for now. 

(3) Eryngium Planum Tetre Petra is growing rather wide, the bees are quite happy with this.

(4) Geranium Rozanne is adding a similar blue across the other side of the sitting circle.  I recently read that she came about in the garden of Donald and Rozanne Waterer in Somerset.  No wonder she is at home.  Divisions of the tubers taken in April this year are all doing nicely just a couple of metres away.  They are doing a good job of covering the ground where earlier daffodil foliage has now died down.

(5) The cooler weather and moisture has prompted this:  

The ripening and bursting out of cyclamen seed. Just look at that!  

That is how I started with my very first cyclamen, by sowing seed collected from a seed capsule.  I just left them in the gravel in my last garden and a fancy silver leaved form that I had never seen before grew.  These formed the foundation for my silver leaved C. hederifolium collection..  Since then I have acquired a few more, mainly from my visit to John MasseyThe seed can be prepared and sown straight away, with washing etc as explained by the embedded You tube video from Stinky Ditch nursery.  It was they would sent me a Geranium rubustum Silver Cloak.  It was only the surprise at the first blooms coming up along the shady alley, that alerted me to this. 

Further forays around the borders show new cyclamen blooms coming up around the garden.  Hurrah!

(6) Insect Watch: 

Over the past week the tall flowering stems of the Thalictrum delavayi, a little more blue, than in this picture, have been acting a sun filter early in the morning.  From the conservatory the blooms are just about at my eye level.  They are really pretty, and what a treat to get close up and peer at the blooms.  I started to notice a bloom with a brighter white turned out to be a spider waiting in ambush patiently for its prey to come to it. Over the week when I have been watching her, she appears to have increased in size.

The white crab spider seemed to sense I was around, and moved down onto the stem. The males are even smaller but not able to change their colour, and have brown legs and markings on the abdomen.

This is the week that saw us tackle some of the overhanging Oak branches when Mr S was a great help on account of his height, strength, and ability with tools.  Extendable loppers and saw kindly loaned by a neighbour.