Cheering Up My Monday #2

This African daisy has been in bloom since May and brought great colour to the garden. Next year, I think I’ll grow the white one.
Even now, approaching mid-December, there are still a number of flower heads despite five or six nights of heavy frost over the last two weeks.
It has very definitely cheered up my Monday.

Pádraig, 12th December 2016.

Things Come In Threes

Winter may not be a time for active gardening, yet it’s a good time to observe. Rather than the full-on effect of summer abundance, it can be the best time to notice the little things.

Three Today

1. On a micro-level, while photographing one of the few remaining rose blooms, my eye was drawn to a small slug sheltering between the petals. I did consider removing it,  but on reflection, I left it there.
2. The leaves of the columnar beech have all fallen. At a certain time of the day, the low sun glints through the boughs. It’s time to appreciate the beauty even when the tree is bare.
3. The winter lettuce is thriving, despite some hard frost, and the first narcissus is in full bloom. That’s crazy for the 2nd of December!

Narcissus Ziva (click for details)
Secret hideaway

However, There’s A But

Interestingly, I find myself walking much more slowly. On the flip-side, this slow walking leads me to see small tasks that need attending to. Here’s today’s three:

  • thin the thriving winter lettuces
  • replace one cracked glasshouse pane
  • spray the window-box pansies for whitefly! I’d have thought that hard frost would have helped me out, but the buggers are still there
Task 1: Winter lettuce needs thinning
Task 2: replace the pane to stop draughts
Task 3: kill the critters the frost left behind!
I have resolved not to complete these tasks on the spot. Rather, they get added to my mental schedule for later in the day / week. Besides, my garden ramble is before breakfast, and the kettle usually is on the boil.
Happy gardening,
Pádraig, 2nd December 2016.

Christmas Rose

The Christmas Rose is blooming. It’s an exciting time of the year! Helleborus ‘Christmas Carol’ is a clump-forming, semi-evergreen perennial with leathery, deeply lobed, dark green leaves and, from winter to early spring, upright stems bearing outward-facing, sometimes green-flushed, white flowers with green eyes and prominent yellow stamens.
Helleborus Christmas Carol (click for details)
The other plant that is usually associated with Christmas in many households is the very tasty Brussels Sprout. Mine will be ready soon. As recommended, I removed the tops just last week in order to divert the little remaining energy of decreasing sunlight to the ripening harvest.
Brassica gemmifera Roodnerf
I grew 10 plants back in May and thinned them out to the strongest three. Later, during mid-summer, I noticed that they were being attacked at night by the critters. Rather than try to win a midnight war, I played smart, by giving one of the plants to them and protecting the other two. I’m happy to say that it worked. I’d call it a win-win situation.

Recently, I wrote about my replica online garden. Therefore, in keeping with my decision to make online notes rather than notes all over the shed, here’s the entry for Brassica gemmifera Roodnerf (aka Brussels Sprouts).
Chop off the heads for quicker ripening
Until next week, happy gardening!
Pádraig, 25th November 2016.

I Found What I Was Looking For

I still have a few notebooks hanging around. There’s one in the shed, one in the glasshouse and one beside the laptop. I also scribble on the back of seed packets, and even put a few post-it notes where I cannot fail to notice them.

When I was small, Shoot was a football magazine. Perhaps it still is, but I’m not!
Following a comment seen on a Garden Bloggers group, I investigated the online service SHOOT. Having registered for the free trial (a very tight 48-hour window) I discovered that it was something that would be very useful, and I paid the small subscription. Over the years, I’ve come across similar online sites, but none were what I wanted. I was very taken by this very professional service.

What is Shoot?

“Forget rummaging through different reference books and notepads, with a My Garden Notebook you can keep all your gardening information in a single place.”

Being an organised gardener (being an organised person) I created my garden, and over the course of a few weeks, I added most of my plants online. To say that it was time well spent is an understatement!
Why does it work for me?
  • It is my online garden journal
  • I can plan sections of the garden according to so many criteria
  • I have started my Plant Wish List, based on above
  • I keep track of everything (within reason)
  • I print off my plant list
  • I print off my monthly plant tasks that are automatically generated from my list
  • I get a Recommended Plant List based on my current list (great for companion planting)
  • I created an online autocad-like visual of my garden
Back garden

What will it not do?

Unfortunately, I still have to dig the vegetable patch in spring, together with all other tasks that involve actually going outside to the garden!

Of course, a service such as this will be a complete waste of (online) space if it does not serve a useful purpose, so do not be drawn in. It may not be for you. However, even if you do not subscribe to the garden journal service, the site is freely available as a search reference for over 22,000 plants. I think this section alone is on a par with the RHS website.
I still have a few notebooks hanging around. There’s one in the shed, one in the glasshouse and one beside the laptop. I also scribble on the back of seed packets, and even put a few post-it notes where I cannot fail to notice them. But, the long and short of it is that Shoot will increasingly become my online garden. As we say in Ireland, “Míle buíochas dhaoibh!” Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Helleborus niger “Christmas Rose”

My garden blog post would not be complete without a photo or two to reflect either what’s happening currently in the garden or even a throwback to the good summer. I have selected Helleborus niger “Christmas Carol”, as it is just now coming into bloom at a time when very little else is. I bought it only last month, and it’s a stunner! The entire helleborus family is known as “The Christmas Rose”.
Helleborus niger Christmas Carol
To finish, here is my task list for November, week 1:
Time for me to stop writing, and get busy!
Twitter and Instagram @growwriterepeat
Email: growwriterepeat (at) gmail dot com
Bike blog: Burkes Biking
Pádraig, 17th November 2016.

Hotel For Insects

Today, I completed a small construction project idea that I read about online. The idea was to make some cozy winter hibernation places in various corners for ground insects.

Having completed the rainwater butt last week, I used a leftover section of guttering downpipe and cut it into five sections, each approximately 30cm long.

Next, using saved prunings from the two fuchsia bushes, I stuffed each with small twigs. Finally, I placed each one in a sheltered corner and covered them with leaves and old pieces of timber. The timber will keep the leaves in place.

Fuchsia twigs (blurred for effect)

So, let the winter cold and frost arrive. I’m sure many of the beneficial ground insects will discover these hotels very quickly. These  are waterproof  and warm. Each one has a front and rear entrance, great for chasing games. What more could they want? I’ll be watching for comings and goings during the winter, and likely these garden creatures will be active much earlier next spring. There will also be lots of sex in these new modern accommodation blocks, and there will be a big increase in the population.

Garden sex-shop
Summary of what is needed:
  • Rainwater downpipe
  • Hacksaw
  • Twigs
  • Leaves
  • Old disused timbers
Time: approximately 15 minutes. The fuchsia cuttings had already been minced to size.
Well-hidden, yet both openings accessible
Some beneficial insects include (taken from Wikipedia):
  • Ground beetles
  • Lady beetles
  • Minute pirate bug
  • Earwig
  • Assassin bug
  • Damsel bug
  • Mealybug destroyer
  • Soldier beetle
  • Green lacewing
  • Syrphid fly
  • Tachinid fly
  • Ichneumon wasp
  • Trichogramma wasp
  • Spiders
Beneficial insects are so called because they usually eat the problematic ones. I do not know which of the above are in the garden, and which ones will take up lodging, but I’ll keep a close watch. I’m told that planting  angelica, marigolds, coreopsis, dill, fennel, and yarrow will attract more of them. That’s a follow-on project for next summer! The marigolds are there already.
Happy gardening,
Pádraig, 10th November, 2016.

Geranium: An Excellent Garden Plant

I have bought geraniums most years, for as long as I can remember because they are one of my favourite flowering plants. I tried growing them from seed a few years ago, but they worked out quite expensive as packets usually contain only a small number of seeds. Additionally, the seed is classed as not easy yo germinate.

This year I bought three potted Geraniums, and they have provided very good colour from early June until now. I have moved them from their new large stone pot into the glasshouse in order to prolong flowering, and to protect them from the cold winter. I will watch out for any lingering whitefly or mould, and quickly nip it in the bud.

They are easy to grow, and easy to care for. Additionally, they are easy to propagate from stem cuttings. I checked for plant information on the RHS website, which is my online reference of choice, and here’s what it has to say:

Family: GeraniaceaeGenus: Pelargonium can be perennials, sub-shrubs or shrubs, sometimes succulent and mostly evergreen, with palmately lobed or pinnately divided leaves and clusters of slightly irregular, 5-petalled flowers

How to grow:

Grow in fertile well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Remove spent flowers. To overwinter, grow small plants in late summer from cuttings or cut back old plants by one third and lift for storage in frost-free place to repot in spring when growth resumes

Propagation: Take softwood cuttings in summer and overwinter plants in frost free conditions or take softwoodcuttings in spring

How to care

Pruning: Deadhead regularly

Pests: Vine weevil, leafhoppers, caterpillars, thrips, fungus gnats and Aphids can be troublesome.Aphids are generally more problematic on over-wintered plants

Diseases: Foot and root rots can be a problem in wet soils. Grey moulds are often troublesome in wet conditions. A virus can often be a problem where cultivars are maintained by cuttings. Pelargonium rust can be damaging to zonal pelargoniums and associated hybrids.

Pádraig, 10th November, 2016.