Friday, 23 August 2013

David Austin Standard Roses

Years ago my grandmother had standard roses in the garden, Queen Elizabeth I think. But these roses withered and the only thing left were the wild runners that would shoot up from time to time. So this year we put in three new lovely standard roses. I chose soft colours with an emphasis on reblooming and exceptional fragrance. These are the roses I planted. All are from David Austin.

The Pilgrim:

A rather fetching filled flower with a pure yellow heart that gets paler towards the outside of the flower. It has a nice almost citrus toned fragrance. The flowers are medium sized but there are a lot of them.

Lady Emma Hamilton, is perhaps my favourite of the three. It has the strongest fragrance which is intensely rosy. But the colour is the most stunning thing. It is an fetching orangy apricot fading to a lighter pinkish hue that contrasts with the dark red buds and fresh foliage.

Finally the spectacularly blousey Abraham Darby. It just finished flowering so I will update this post once the new flush of buds has opened.

I think I might stick a couple more roses next to these once bare root season has started.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Meet My New Blog: Cooking With Gifs

I'm starting a new blog writing recipes and demonstrating them with homemade GIFs. You will  often find stuff harvested from the allotment there. I'm posting my first post here as well. This recipe features one of my many many yellow courgettes. The adress is .

Great for getting rid of a glut, Courgette Spice Cake makes for a moist almost fudgy cake fragrant with warm spice. You will need:

  • 250 grams of courgette

  • 2 eggs

  • 300 grams of sugar

  • 125 ml neutral oil

  • Half a tsp of salt

  • Half a tsp of Baking powder

  • extra pinch of Baking soda

  • 2 tsp Cinnamon

  • 1 pinch of nutmeg

  • 1 pinch of cardamon

  • Break eggs and mix

    Grate your courgette

    Add all your ingredients together

    Fold without over-mixing

    Add anything you might have forgotten ;)

    About an hour in oven at 175

    Ps, just a small disclaimer. This blog is going to be heavy in GIFs, big GIFs, long GIFs. Watching this with sluggish internet is just not going to be a pleasant experience. Bring on the hyperspeed!

    Saturday, 17 August 2013

    New Albizia Julibrissin

    Albizia Julibrissin, also known as a silk tree, or my favourite nick name; Powerpuff tree. It might be an invasive species in warmer climes but I find it a rather delightful exotic flowering tree with a nice parasol shape. A couple of years ago I grew one from seed and within a year I had a sizable little sappling. Unfortunately young Albizia are notoriously sensitive to cold and it did not survive the winter. Which is why I decided to plant a more mature specimen in the garden. I had two possible locations

    This was my initial choice. In between the red beeches, in a nice warm sunny spot. The problem with this location however is twofold. First it would be terribly difficult to dig the planting hole. The roots from the beeches have made it almost impossible to plant a simple rose let alone a small tree. Besides I don't really want to damage the beeches since they are such a feature in the garden. Secondly it is quite a small space. While the Albizia might be ok for a season or two, it would quickly outgrow this narrow spot. Which is why I went with an alternative location.

    This location is slightly less sunny but has a lot of .other advantages. First of all the tree has room to grow here and you can actually see it from the house. The dark taxus foliage provides a similar contrast as the beech in regards of the pink flowers. So it is decided, let's get on with the planting.

    I know that you are theoretically supposed to dig a hole twice as deep and twice as broad as the rootball but who has time or space for that? It is deep enough to put in an inch or so of good potting soil to give the tree a bit of a head start and plenty of room at the sides as well. So after firming it in and giving it a good drink the tree is looking good, even if it could stand to grow a bit and peek above the hedge completely. It should have enough time to get established before winter. I hope this is one of the more hardy varieties (Rosea?) even so I might just take a couple of precautions during the coldest nights (probably some fleece and a good thick leaf mulch to keep the roots cozy)

    Thursday, 15 August 2013

    Cloud Pruning Project: Season 3

    I´m not going to lie; I'm slightly dissappointed with my cloud pruned box. It is the third growing season since the initial snips and according to all guides it should now start to resemble a proper little lollipop tree. But there have been a couple of setbacks. Late last year and in the beginning of spring the leaves were turning yellow and brown. So I repotted it in spring and noticed that all the goodness was sucked out of the medium leaving dry horrible coir. So first thing I did was get good compost rich potting soil and moved the box (incidentally into a slightly smaller pot). This immediately revived the leaves which quickly turned green again.

    So when I pruned this spring I went in hard. I removed a lot of the tufts to create a much more open structure. I did not like the wiring from last year so this time I am simply weighing down some of the outer branches again to get a more open structure. Hopefully next year I can get some good shape into the 'clouds'.

    Wednesday, 14 August 2013

    Euphorbia Lactea 'Ghost'

    Finally got my hands on a very cool little Euphorbia Lactea 'Ghost'. There is something really appealing about this almost completely white plant. At the moment I am keeping it outside to get a little bit of warmth and sunshine, but when I have it inside it will definitely be placed somewhere with a dark background to make it really stand out.

    Out of all the plants for sale this  specimen had the least green. As you can see there is some mottling but depending how you position the plant this can be almost completely hidden. If inside it will be kept with the mottled side facing the window to make sure there can be a little bit of photosynthesis whilst the plant appears almost completely white when you face it.

    It is growing at the moment. The tiny leaves are temporary but I am rather fascinated by the bright pink that appears at the growing tips. I suspect this is temporary as well but for now it just ups the delicious weirdness.

    Sunday, 11 August 2013

    Aloe Updates

    So that sad looking Aloe Polyphylla I bought this spring has indeed survived and dare I say it thrived. The rather ominous spots of rot did not hurt the crown but simply left paper thin brown spots in the middle of some of the leaves. I even think I can see that it will spiral to the right. Only thing is that the slugs LOVE this plant. I keep on removing the bastards from in between the leaves (sometimes I need to use tweezers). Unfortunately this has left quite a big wound .

    This picture doesn't quite do it justice. Deep inside there is now a wet mushy brown spot. Since I took this picture I had to remove several leaves leafing a somewhat uneven looking plant. Again I hope the rot won't spread and I am keeping it a bit on the dry side to allow the Aloe to repair itself. It has taught me a lesson though, and that is that I should protect this plant from slugs.

    The Aloe Plicatilis is growing at a remarkable rate, especially the tissue culture one. Just compare it to this picture from a couple of months ago. The roots are coming out of the bottom of the pot. I want to encourage this fast growth and I'm guessing there are still enough growing months to give them a larger pot.

    They are a little bit loose in their new pots so I have to offer them some support. Unfortunately during re potting I damaged one of the leaves. I think these still have a lot of growing left in them.

    Thursday, 8 August 2013

    A Hegemony Of Hedgehogs

    We bought this trap camera at the Aldi of all places. I had expected to use it in my grandma's garden in the hope there might be a hedgehog crawling around at night. Alas, the first day (or actually night) the only thing captured was a lovely little song thrush

    Ok, so not that exciting but at least the apparatus is obviously functioning which was nice. So next day I set up the camera at the allotment. Surely some interesting wildlife would be on show here?

    So this location was not ideal. The camera got activated by moving branches and the only animal caught on tape was a crow.

    The a couple days later I heard that tell tale rustling in the garden at night. We set up the camera and some hedgehog food (never milk!) to try and lure the spiny creature. 

    First customer is our fierce feline Mike. Apparently hedgehog food is quite beloved by kitties as well. Which makes sense because you can feed hedgehogs with cat food. But next up....

    Ha ha! I knew it! One spiny customer enjoying a midnight snack. We suspect this might be one of the hedgehogs that was released in a garden across the street. 

    This one hedgehog was being surprisingly loud, hissing and purring. The next night the camera caught this.

    Not one but two little hedgehogs eating to their stomach's content. This can only mean one thing; love is in the air. With a little bit of luck this means that in a couple of weeks we will get the pitter patter of tiny feet in the garden. Hedgehogs solitary animals only meeting up in case of lurve. Which is why the next vid is rather surprising.

    OMG! There are three! This is quite strange. I doubt one of them is a babe, they are all three too large for that. From zero hedgehogs in the garden for about 10 years to a hegemony of hedgehogs, quite the result (now please eat all the slugs). I'm going to keep the camera running to see if there is more I can find out about the nocturnal habits of these spiky animals. 

    Tuesday, 23 July 2013

    The Miraculous Resurrection of Cyathea Australis

    This plant was as far as I can tell extremely dead (Monty Python Parrot style). I bought it in spring last year and it proved both beautiful and extremely fickle. The web tells me this is perhaps the hardiest of tree ferns but slightly chilly nights (no frosts mind) browned the fronds immediately. It continued growing quite happily that summer and come late autumn it began loosing its fronds. Apparently this is completely natural and even in its native habitat it is often deciduous. Being particularly fond of this specimen I didn't want to risk protecting it outside (good thing too, my Dicksonia failed to survive the harsh winter) so I moved it into my grandma's house. There it had a good light yet still cool position but I struggled keeping the compost moist all the same. Having lost its fronds it looked dead but I still had hope it would regrow in spring.

    But it didn't. Spring moved into early summer and I was quite sure it had perished, probably due to not receiving enough water. l plonked the pot outside and continued to forget about it for months. Last week I was already planning on using the big terracotta pot for something else and then I saw it. One tiny little frond unfurling from the seemingly lifeless stump. The compost and the stump itself were completely desert dry and I quickly flooded the pot a couple of times desperate to re-hydrate the compost. What triggered its resurrection? It might have been the heatwave like heat combined with the exceptionally scorching sun even if that is not exactly its natural habitat. The most important tip given on growing these is to never let it dry out. Yet this specimen was as dry as bone. I remain unsure about exactly what it is that this plant wants, I'll keep watering it this summer and hope there is still enough time for it to grow a couple of fronds before winter claims them. I'm not going to repot it right now because I don't want to stress the plant out any further. Maybe I can keep it green this summer if I move it inside at the right time providing a little bit more time for it to build up some reserves. Anyhow, I'm still flabbergasted it is alive at all.

    Tuesday, 18 June 2013

    It's Blue!

    After a couple of years of abject failure in the Meconopsis department I finally managed to get one to flower. And what a magnificent flower it is.

    I really thought this Meconopsis was an Alba variety yet thankfully it opened up in electric blue. It is in one of my shade containers and seems perfectly happy there. Now I will have oodles and oodles of fresh seed to experiment with. Buying seed has not been very productive, it was never fresh enough to germinate but that should not be the problem this time. I just can't stop looking at them.

    Friday, 7 June 2013

    Shadow Boxes

    My shady containers have really come into their own this year. Proving that you can brighten up those dark corners magnificently. This one features two Epimedium which just have the cutest flowers. Omphalodes cappadocica 'Starry Eyes' just keeps  on flowering and the maidenhair fern provides great foliar interest. Even the Armeria maritima is in bud at the moment. 

    Both the Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' and the Meconopsis are doing really really well. I added a red Lily of the valley for good measure. The Meconopsis is full in bud and I secretly hope it is the normal blue variety and not the white. 

    Phlox Saphire cushion is finally resembling a saphire cushion. I never thought it would flower this well considering how little sunlight it gets. The Corydalys craigton blue is coming along nicely and I added a little violet violet for good measure. 

    If you want to see how sad and empty these looked last year check out this link.

    Couldn't be happier with this lot.  

    Monday, 27 May 2013

    Cypripedium Kentucky Maxi

    The weather has been truly dreadful and that has kept my Cypripediums back quite a bit. Nevertheless the new Cypripedium Kentucky Maxi is now in flower. Disappointingly it only has two blooms where I expected more (it had 6 shoots). I still love these flowers yet I'm a bit perplexed as to how this is diffrent from my Cypripedium Kentucky. The flower is not bigger at all, if anything it might be a bit smaller. Compared to my Kentucky the pouch is maybe a little whiter but that theoretically should not be the case if I look at the pictures from The Cypripedium are not exactly thriving though. The formosana I bought had a bud which promptly dropped and Cypripedium pueblo is about to bloom but looks significantly scrawnier than last year.

    Tuesday, 14 May 2013

    Cardiocrinum Giganteum

    Cardiocrinum Giganteum, or ginormous mega lily is a plant I have had an eye on for a while. I even bought some seed a couple of years ago but that did not work out. So I was quite delighted to get my hands on this one. Cardiocrinum Giganteum is a monocarpic bulb and I don't expect it to bloom this year even though the bulb seems like a good size it is more probably that it will flower next year. I planted it in a fairly shady site with very nutrient rich soil and will keep it properly watered throughout the summer. These are actually pretty hardy but don't love inter wet. 

    With a bit of luck the flower spike can reach higher than a tall basketball player so it should be quite a sight. 

    Monday, 13 May 2013

    Flower Portrait: Tulip

    I went to a photo exebition by Eric Breed featuring lost tulips photographed against a black background. They were really gorgeous so I thought I would give it a shot myself.

    Monday, 6 May 2013

    Calceolaria Uniflora

    The Calceolaria Uniflora that I bought at the Alpine Society sale is now very much in flower. I really love these weird little things, they really do look like concerned aliens with their mouths wide open. I know the chances are that the plant will die after flowering (like last year) but it is still quite a good deal. It costs about the same as a bunch of tulips and it is infinitely more interesting.

    I'm just keeping it in its pot and if it survives the summer I'll do some more research on how to keep it alive. I also noticed just how different it is from the plant I had last year. That was Calceolaria Uniflora Darwinii, with a slightly bigger and wider flower kept much lower on the plant. Picture below.