Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New year, new garden!

How on earth did this year roll by so quickly? I'm sure many of you will be seeing 2014 in with your friends and family or even just sitting quietly by the TV until 12:01am and then slipping quietly off to bed. Well, I'll probably be in bed well before midnight - we've never been ones to celebrate the dawn of another year and tomorrow will just be another day to us.

I've never really been one to look back over the blogging year either. I don't know why really but I just rarely read old posts, however 2013 has been a strange gardening year for me which saw my inital excitement at the prospect of a new garden followed very closely by a reality check as it got too much, followed then by back problems and a mental fight to keep the gardening spirit alive so I've found myself reliving those moments.

2013 started with that fabulous holiday to Jamaica - it certainly doesn't feel like almost a year ago since we went and the photos still evoke the smell of the flowers.

MrTG and I also decided to renovate the entire garden after I asked him if he felt my garden was boring. Much hard worked ensued - tears & tantrums when pergola building - but the finished effect left me feeling rather pleased. Least that's one half done anyway!

That's what I started with.
By the middle of summer the borders were blooming!

New raised veg beds were put in at the polytunnel area

Then promptly flooded out

I had minimal success with fruit and veg growing which left me disheartened and that on top of not being able to cope with a growing jungle left me considering giving up totally at the end of the year.

Bad Tomato crops, although we got a handful of decent edible ones

A handful of massive cabbages

But a bounty of Sweetcorn made up for losses elsewhere

The cut flowers made the entire season for me though and I shall definitely be putting more energy into that in 2014

The garden is now in hibernation but despite my moaning throughout the year I am so looking forward to the start of a new fresh gardening year. 2013 has taught me that I grow the wrong vegetables and too much of them, I also need to accept that the garden is never going to look as perfect as those we see in magazines and that's ok. I've also learned that there's a whole blogging community out there who are happy to share experiences and expertise and listen to a moan while offering just the right amount of understanding needed to let me know that I'm not alone.


Sunday, 29 December 2013

Rats, rats, rats!

So that's Christmas over with for another year, I hope Santa was kind to you all and that you had a fabulous day doing whatever makes Christmas special for you.
We had family and friends here and I enjoyed having a house full but I did feel for those people in England that were flooded out over the Christmas holidays. What an awful thing to have happen at any time of the year but I imagine it ruined the festive period for many many families.

I've mentioned before that my daughter works in a certain DIY store and that she manages to save me plants from the skip before they're taken away and disposed of and on Christmas Eve she bought me back quite a little hoard. Some were missing pots so I had to take them straight to the polytunnel and get them potted up but most of them included a tag and I was particularly pleased to see that one of them was a 'Brazillian Jasmine'. I had seen this in the store a few months ago but wasn't sure it would survive here even under cover so I decided not to risk it, now I can find out and it hasn't cost me anything.
The stash included the jasmine, several different hardy Fuchsia, Cordylines, Ferns, Hydrangeas (including my favourite 'Zorro', Kaffir lily,  several Heucheras (none of which I already had) and something without a label that has a Citronella smell to it.

Needless to say I'm really happy with the stash.
I also received some Philadelphus in the post just before Christmas. I got them from one of the gardening mag offers and I was pleasantly surprised by the size of them. They were well packaged and much bigger than I thought they would be, the 3 cost me just the p&p cost - just over £5.
The variety is Philadelphus 'Virginalis'

I didn't know that this plant was also known as 'False Jasmine' or 'Whistle bush' due to the ease of making whistles from the pulp!
This particular variety is double flowered so I'm hoping for some strong scent as the single flowered ones I currently have only smell when you get right up there and stick your nose in.

Words and herbs blog
I'm not sure if I mentioned that I had rats appear in my greenhouse. I thought I'd managed to deter them by blocking up their holes and keeping the bird seed that they had been feeding on in a plastic bucket. Seems I haven't achieved that aim!
This is new dirt that's been tunneled out and underneath those boards is absolutely full of loose dirt! I did notice the split in the tub on the left though and I'm guessing that's what is still drawing them in so I've taken care of it. Funny thing is, if they dig just a few feet west of this point they'll come up right inside the Buzzards aviary and then they'll be toast.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

I'm kinda missing the summer routine of gardening - the very same routine that drives me mad all summer long! I look round the garden most days and find it quite sad that it's looking so dull and lifeless, I really haven't done a very good job of including winter interest in the garden, something I will have to rectify next year.
I have pots and pots of Alliums in the PT already starting to come through, the idea is to grow them in pots this year and plant them out in the spring. I was going to plant the bulbs a couple of months ago but there was still so much growth in the garden that I just couldn't picture where the best places were going to be for them - so spring it is!
I've been getting quite creative with the Willow making wreaths. This was my first attempt at making willow wreaths and once I had the form correct and sort of round I added some fabric flowers in White and Red that are so easy to make.

I also made this wood trough from some of the wood from the pallets I took apart, filled it with candles and then wedged in some branches from whatever Fir trees I could find on the land. I added some battery lights and voila!

As a point of interest I also made that fire surround from scrap wood too.

I must say that while Christmas is a lovely family time I'm bored now! I love working with wood and I'm looking forward to getting my new workshop built but I miss the gardening. I have so many plans for the second half of the garden renovation that I'm really eager to get going and I cannot say how much I am looking forward to next year and starting afresh with the veggies and seeing what plants have survived the winter.
Until then I will just have to make do with the fantastic sun rises that winter provides us with - mind you the sun is currently rising at the ridiculously late time of 9:15am here at the moment- a very sharp contrast from the summer when it doesn't get dark here until midnight and then light again by 3am.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like xmas - except for the summer flowers still blooming!

Is christmas really just around the corner! It seems like only a few weeks ago when I was blogging on here of all the garden landscaping we were doing, where on earth did the months go!
Well along with Christmas comes the excitement of planning for next year, got to be the best part of winter right? My planning hasn't really taken shape just yet because I've been busy building things now that the garden doesn't need daily pandering. I was going to head out and cut back all that dead or dying foliage but in the end I decided that the foliage would act as insulation during the winter and left it all intact. OK I admit, the task seemed tedious so I convinced myself it would be better to leave the foliage as is!
I did have to rescue an Aucuba though, one that was bought for me on mothers day and had seemed to be doing so well all year, then the other day I noticed it looked blown over by the winds so went out to reset it. Once I touched it though it felt really loose so I decided to dig it up and check out what was happening, I haven't ruled out damage by windrock completely but I'm more convinced that something has been nibbling at it because half of the stem and root system was completely missing from one side. I've repotted it now and hope that it will survive but I have serious doubts it will.
What gnaws on the stem and roots of Aucuba?

Roots to one side totally disappeared.
Is the damage too great.

I was totally amazed to find so many plants still in flower here, especially when we had that recent drop in temperatures and the snow.
This Kaffir Lily amazed me all Autumn because I thought it was way too tender to survive here but look at it still producing flowers with buds still aplenty.

And this Clematis - Mrs N Thompson - is also flowering and showing plenty more buds.

I made my very first willow wreath yesterday. Granted it's not perfect but once I had finished it off with red fabric flowers, white fabric flowers and some greenery and ribbon it looked pretty ..well.....pretty. I must get a photo of the finished item but this is the bare wreath, it was a bit fiddly to start with but once I got the hang of it it was quick to do.

One of the good things about a bit of spare time is having the opportunity to clean and oil garden tools. I love this job because I get a real sense of achievement when I've sharpened blunt blades and oiled the wooden handles and steel, plus I love the smell of Linseed oil too.

Dirty blunt tools quickly become sharp tools of the trade

Saturday, 30 November 2013

All quiet on the garden front.

Not only am I neglecting this blog but my garden is also getting the same lack of attention at the moment. It's that time of year when there is nothing worth blogging about going on out there I'm afraid, which seems silly seeing as I'm out there pottering away pretty much most days.
The garden is pretty much all wrapped up for the winter, pots are all in the tunnel and there's not really much else to do other than begin adding some manure to the borders and a bit of tidying up. On the upside all these quiet times in the garden means I'm getting to spend more time in my workshop (aka greenhouse) building more Adirondack chairs and producing multi coloured bird houses (seemed like a good idea at the time)

Think it will be staying in my shed as an ornament!

I've never really been one for checking out autumn colours on my plants and that's probably why my garden has very little winter interest. I have the odd Dogwood with its wonderful red stems that I admire but that's pretty much it, nothing else seems to catch the eye. So I found myself this week really noticing the autumn colour on two particular plants - one is this Geranium 'Johnsons Blue' - all my other Cranesbills seems to just wilt and do nothing remotely interesting but this one was just so pretty with all its colour

I've never really noticed the Wiegela getting all colourful as it dies off either. This one is in a pot as it's a cutting I took (really needs planting out mind) but while this one was looking all lovely its parent plant in the garden just looked blah

And my l'il friend is still following me around, he's so sweet

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Snowy days

So the new camera I bought from duty free in Jamaica (Nikon Coolpix) has decided to develop a fault with the lens protector and is now unusable - so not a happy bunny! Nikon are trying to welch on the guarantee as it was bought in Jamaica and so has a US warranty but I'm hoping they'll be kind enough to fix it anyway and have sent it off to them. But what to do about a camera? Well I have a Samsung point and shoot but it seems that that has developed a problem with the lens also and it won't pop out so won't stay turned on - great! I sold my DSLR months ago - a stupid mistake thinking I would never use it cos I couldn't get the hang of all the lenses. I so wish I had kept it now!
I have however dug out my old trusty Olympus C750UZ, it's about 10 years old and has never ever had a problem. It's so easy to use too and is so much more accurate with colours than the Coolpix and the Samsung - makes me wonder why I ever swapped it out to be honest.
Anyway, what does a girl do with a camera in her hands on a snowy day..............

OK so it's only a dusting of snow but everything looks so clean and pretty when it first hits doesn't it, plus it always seems to bring the sun out.

Here is the same view as above literally moments later - gotta love it!

The Verbena Bonariensis looked amazing all summer long and was actually still in flower when the snow hit, not sure if the snow has finally bought it to its knees as I've not looked but I wouldn't be surprised if it hasn't. If this plant can make it all through the winter in the ground here then it will have definitely earned its place in my garden and I'll plant more.

This Yucca? Cordyline? Some other palmy type plant? self seeded itself and I first noticed it about 3 years ago when it just seemed to appear one winter when the plants surrounding it had died down. I was going to move it but I figure I'll probably kill it if I do and it seems to be happily growing a foot a year in its current place.

This pier into the pond was erected yeeeeeears ago as an easy place to feed the Koi in the summer. It's seen better times though and while it looks lovely covered with snow I don't think I'd be brave enough to walk on it until it's been supported. Mind you the Koi got eaten by an Otter anyways so it's really not used much now.

I couldn't resist placing some food on the stone bench to see if it would attract any birds I could then take a photo of. I thought maybe the tits would be first down but they didn't even show their faces, this little guy was on it in seconds though - shame I was so far away that I had to super zoom in though as the quality isn't great!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Canine ballet & empty gardens

The garden is looking bare now! Mr TG helped me to move most of the pots into the polytunnel over the weekend, though I'm wondering now if I was a bit premature as some of the plants still had plenty of green growth on them and this Clematis is even still producing flowers

Never before have I seen the seed pods burst open on the Flag Iris so I was quite pleased to spy one. I have no idea how easily Iris are to grow from seed but I harvested the seeds anyway - just in case.

I lifted the last of the Lilys at the weekend too and made a start on the Gladioli. I'm a newbie to Glads as I gave up on them a few years back when 'Spic n Span' didn't survive the winter outside. I planted some corms in the polytunnel this year, I wasn't sure what they were either so I was quite chuffed to see Glads pop up that look suspiciously like 'Spic n Span'. I don't remember digging them up last year but I did plant them nest to Montbretia and may have thought that's what these bulbs were - I really should keep a better diary of my actions and stop relying on my ever fading memory.
Anyways i have some bulbs lifted and they're covered in little bulbils, what's the chances of these making decent plants in the future? How do I pull em off the parent bulb - do they need a root attached? and then what do I do - store em for winter or plant them into pots?

The entertainment outside over the last day or so has been quite amusing, we could choose between Huntly and his rope escape trick

or Huntly practicing his ballet and facial poses

Friday, 8 November 2013

Lily bulbs

It doesn't seem to matter how much I promise myself that I'm going to post here everyday something always happens to get in the way and so here I am a whole week after my last post!
The weather here in Caithness has been really cold this past week but the wind has been non existent and even the rain has held off - in fact we've had some very sunny days.

One job this week was one I've been putting off because I wasn't sure how my back would cope with the bending but those Lily bulbs needed uplifting for winter storage. I would have left them in the bed over winter because it's in the polytunnel but I need to sort that bed out this winter ready to include a Grape vine next year - so those bulbs had to come up.

I've done this many times before (before I realised that Lily bulbs will survive winter outside here) and though I'm not sure of the correct way to store them, here's what I do.
First I lift them, then I trim the roots, brush off the majority dirt on them and then leave them in a tray for a few days turned upside down so that any water can drain away from inside the stems.
After a few days I clean them even further with a toothbrush and leave them in the tray covered with newspaper - I used to store them in sawdust but I found newspaper works just as well.

Some of these bulbs really grew huge over this year, look at the size of this smacker

I can't believe that I actually used to dispose of the tiny bulbils that I'd find attached to the main bulbs. I used to figure they'd take too long to produce anything but I was pleasantly surprised with the results when I gave them a try so now I keep all the little uns and grow them on in separate pots for a wee while.

I've been wondering why every time I go to the polytunnel a couple of Blackbirds seem to come flying out and while I was lifting the Lily bulbs the birds returned and showed me what was luring them

I wondered where all the apples in the polytunnel had gone, there was no sign of any on the floor - mystery solved.

Talking about trees, I'm not really one for appreciating the wonders of tree bark - to me it's just tree bark but we have this tree right next to my greenhouse and today I was actually drawn to the bark. I haven't a clue what the tree is but the bark was a lovely red colour

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Summer Damson

A whole week since my last post - that's baaaaad! Problem is I feel that I have nothing of any use to say because the gardening is so slow right now and lets face it, who wants to hear me ramble on about stacking wood? Which seems to be what I've spent the last week doing - all my precious pallet wood.
It will soon be time to start taking the garden pots into the PT though and storing those bulbs, planting others and getting the garden ready to cope with winter so at least I'll have something interesting to say. Then there'll be all the building projects I have accumulated while I've been recovering from a slipped disc - including an extension to my greenhouse/workshop using pallets and windows we sourced for free, can't wait to get started on that one.
I've become quite addicted to Pinterest of late and spend a few minutes on it most days adding to my board. I found this sculpture which I would love for the garden (but could never afford). I'm not sure what it is about this particular sculpture but it seriously mesmerizes me, it reminds me of that film where a guy keeps going through time and can't control when it happens - it kind of looks like him when he's either just going or is just coming back.

I love this sculpture I found on Pinterest.  

I managed to get round to giving that Adirondack chair and leg rest a coat of paint - I chose Cuprinol Garden Shades colour 'Summer Damson'.
Loving how it turned out and it's sooooo comfortable.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

DIY seed packets

My back is finally 90% healed - yay! There's not really much to be doing around the garden right now so I spent the whole of yesterday de-nailing wood from pallets Mr TG had taken apart for me - it felt so good to be actually doing something useful.
The day kinda tired me out though so you can imagine how this following conversation went down with Mr TG at 2:30am this morning while I was trying to sleep despite his fidgeting

"So how does this sound. We get up, drink tea, you have breakfast and then we go outside and tidy the shed?" (Mr TG's "shed" is about 60ft by 40ft and filled with crap all his wordly goods.)
Unfortunately Mr TG wasn't sleep talking, he was seriously asking me that at 2:30am as he jumps out of bed, switches a lamp on and proceeds to bounce about on the bed while he gets dressed. I remember dragging myself out of bed and getting dressed then making it downstairs yawning, to which Mr TG stated
"You look shattered, you don't have to come out, go back to bed babe"
I simply stared glared at him, then stared glared at myself donned in super thick thermals and jumpers etc then stared glared back at him.
"Oh, soreeeeeeee" is all he could bring himself to say as I turned and went back to bed.
I didn't sleep well though and ended up going outside at 5:45 am to help Mr TG with the shed to which Mr TG stated
"The clocks went back this morning by the way"
" Damn it I forgot" says I as relisation suddenly dawns "So it's actually 4:45 now then?"
"yup" says a smiling Mr TG.
It's now 10:15am and guess who's wide awake while Mr TG sleeps in bed!!!!!

So anyway, I haven't done much in the way of gardening BUT I did make some seed packets. I was going to make some fancy schmancy ones that I could print out and would look really pretty but instead I stuck to my simple 5 minutes to make ones and although they're nothing special they really do what I need them to do and keep seeds fresh for ages.
I thought I'd share them here and do a tutorial in case anyone else wants to give them a go - all you need is paper (I use parcel paper because it keeps the seed fresher for some reason and doesn't get affected by damp air), parcel tape and a pair of scissors.

First simply cut a square of parcel paper. I don't use a specific size and never measure but it's roughly 21cm square.

Then take one corner and fold it up to the opposite corner. If the paper square isn't perfectly square you'll end up with some excess that needs cutting away - like this

Simply snip that excess away and then fold corner A approx 3/4 of the way across the bottom

Then fold corner B over the folded corner A

Next take the parcel tape and tape from the top right corner of the envelope diagonally down to the bottom left corner. Turn the packet over and trim the excess off - I used to just fold it over the front but it makes the front look real messy so I trim it now

There will be two layers where I have made a black dot in the above photo, take the first layer, fold it down and tape it across - again trim the excess

Next turn the packet over to the front, cut some parcel tape, place a small portion of it across the bottom of the packet (because the base is currently still open), fold the rest of the tape over the back and trim it off

You're now left with an open packet like this

Then finally you just fold down the pointed flap to make an envelope and use a paper clip to keep it closed.
Voila perfectly easy seed packets.

The good thing about trimming the tape rather than just folding it over the front is that the front of the seed packet is completely clear for writing on.