We’ve had a royal visit this week. The Queen came to stay! Not the real one of course, but a gnome I bought to celebrate the Jubilee. My daughter loves her and has paraded the smiling monarch all over the garden.
She has surveyed her Kingdom with a regal air and has decided upon the vegetable plot as her palace. She took a dip in a bucket which was filled with water from the recent rains and even had a shower using the watering can. No expense spared for our guests!
My little gnome friend was suitably impressed by the bunting of the Union flag which hung majestically from the pergola on our patio. I have to say though, she keeps a slightly unnerving eye on me. She appears where I least expect her. I had quite a shock whilst I was peacefully potting up some geraniums in my haven (the greenhouse). I moved a piece of green netting to discover her Royal Highness smiling up at me. Later, I was informed that Queen Elizabeth needed some rest and liked the look and warmth of my glass retreat.
Just before the heavens opened and our Jubilee weekend became a very British affair (rain, strawberries and a stiff upper lip in the face of cold winds), I managed to plant my cherry tomatoes. Their new home was hanging baskets and also, a wrought iron manger I had been given. The latter is now impressively adorning the wall of our once bare garage, like something you’d find in a medieval castle. I did wonder whether it would overpower the patio.
I used marigolds to give the displays a burst of colour. Those little yellow and orange flowers were like knights of the realm protecting the tomatoes from white fly. Surprisingly, the planter didn’t look too bad and has softened the expanse of white that was there before.
I still have a quest to fulfil though, which is to plant the Alicante tomatoes into grow bags. Not an easy task. I have about 25 plants and a toddler who has taken to pulling my delicate little seedlings out by their stems in an effort to help Mummy. I think a couple or so will have to be sacrificed for the greater good.
I can’t wait to see his little face when in the height of summer he toddles into the greenhouse, pushes the lush green foliage aside and discovers the little red gems waiting to be eaten. Having said that, he will probably stumble in, trip over the door frame or the Queen and, in an effort to steady himself; grab the plant pulling the whole lot out in the process! Fingers crossed that the tomato plants and our little gnome make it through the summer unharmed!
I love the arrival of daffodils in my garden. They signify the start of spring and their blanket of yellow is like a wash of sunshine after a dreary winter.
It saddens me when they begin to fade and I look forward to their return the following year. This season I vowed to pay special attention to my daffs, in the hope they would repay me with an even more impressive display next year. I diligently deadheaded them by pinching off the withered flowers and seed pods, which redirects energy back into the bulb rather than into seed production.
Then I left the leaves in place allowing photosynthesis to continue; charging the bulb with even more energy. However over the past few weeks, whilst wandering around my neighbourhood, I noticed many of the unruly leaves had been ‘tidied up’ into neat knots. Eventually only mine remained in a tangled mess and I begin to feel that I was letting down the area.
In a vain attempt at ‘keeping up with Joneses’ I promptly set about neatening my borders. I carefully separated the matted leaves; twisting and folding them into neat bunches. Then using some loose ends I secured the knots; rather like styling a pony tail. My clusters may not have been as well-ordered as the neighbours’ but still I was rather pleased with the result.
Feeling rather smug I went indoors to peruse the RHS website… only to discover they do not recommend this knotting of daffodils! Apparently it hinders their ability to function and as a result can cause ‘Daffodil Blindness’ – a condition where the foliage grows but the flowers fail to form. Instead it is advised that the leaves are left loose for around 6 weeks until they turn yellow; at which point they may be removed. My vanity had got the better of me and I have probably done more harm than good. However a lesson has been learned, and in future I will do my research first before ‘blindly’ copying others.
Our next guest blogger is Charlotte, telling us about her struggle with everyone’s favourite little yellow nuisance…
I’m ashamed to reveal that my lawn contains a higher proportion of moss and daisies than grass. However, I can live with this; in fact I find the happy faces of the little daisies smiling at me rather pleasing as I wander down the garden path.
It’s their dandelion companions that bother me. Despite my best efforts to eradicate the yellow menaces, every day when I open the curtains more have appeared overnight. Unable to tackle the problem alone I’ve enlisted the support of my sons with the invention of a new game – Operation Dandelion. With buckets in hand we each, on the count of 3, race around the garden, battling to pick the most yellow heads until the lawn is rid of them. We then count them out to determine the winner. Rather disconcertingly in the last game we each filled our buckets with over 100 flowers! And in spite of our determination the next day more had raised their heads as if to taunt us.
The key to obliterating this weed seems to lie in removal of the entire plant. It has a long deep tap root which can be difficult to extract in its entirety and often snaps unless it is first loosened. It’s crucial that the whole root is removed otherwise the plant may regenerate.
Dandelions are one of our most common and recognisable weeds, largely due to their incredible method of seed dispersal. What child can resist blowing the beautiful seed head or ‘dandelion clock’ and watching as the seeds float away in the breeze? Even I cannot fail to smile at my toddler’s joy upon finding a stray flower which has survived ‘operation dandelion’ long enough to go to seed. I join in his pleasure as he gently holds the stem and blows, dispersing the tiny seeds across the lawn. All the while I try not to imagine them settling between the blades of grass ready to produce next year’s carpet of yellow.
However irritating, I can nonetheless appreciate that to many, the dandelion is considered a delicious and versatile plant. My guinea pigs certainly seem to enjoy munching them and I myself am partial to a cup of dandelion tea to cleanse the system. In fact I think that rather than fretting about their spread I should instead relax with a cuppa and enjoy the many apparent health benefits dandelions can offer.
Here’s a guest post by Lou C, on her adventures wrangling her Montana Clematis plants earlier this month.
May bank holiday — A time when gardeners traditionally overexert themselves in the garden and bedding plants come out to play. Suddenly everyone is a gardener and the neighbourhood battles of the baskets commence. Unfortunately, this May everyone is a little behind with things and for one reason alone– Rain has stopped the play. I can now imagine how Noah must have felt.
The forecast for the bank holiday weekend is for showers rather than torrential rain. Promising. Since the start of April we have lived with a half painted fence that is begging to be finished. Initially we planned to allow our two (yes, two) Montana clematis that are clothing said fence to finish flowering but the rain seems to have put them all behind as well.
We have a montaña to climb and we’re going to need the best in the business. Undaunted, I contact the Impossible Missions Force, also known as my mother. The challenge, should she choose to accept it, is to help us remove the clematis from the fence so we can paint it and put the clematis back a) before it rains and b) by sacrificing as little of it as possible.
We plump for Sunday – predicted as the better day. The Force arrives, all 73 years and 5 ft 2 of her. She’s bought a packed lunch so she really means business. Before I can ask if she wants a cuppa, the first Montana hits the floor and my mother is nimbly scampering up my rockery incline to the second with no thought to the possible hip replacement that might be necessitated by a nasty fall. The second Montana proves slightly trickier as it has also wound its way through a trellis planter and we have some serious untangling (not to mention a little sacrificing) to do. But not to be beaten, less than half an hour later the first part of the mission is accomplished. Sadly it takes a lot longer than this to finish the fence. In the meantime, the Force makes herself at home with a bag of potting compost and a queue of plants.
A lot later and we set about resurrecting both Montanas. The fence is dry, we have only had to dodge one shower and most of my planting has been completed, just not by me! As they are trained onto new wires I stand back to admire their new svelte physique. Yes, there is less of them, and yes, I could have waited until flowering was over, but flowers they still have and they will grow back very quickly if the number of new stems is anything to go by. They stand out beautifully against my new “seagrass” fence and I cross fingers and hope that I will not be greeted by a mass of wilted stems in days to come.
Mission accomplished and no one disavowed. The Force will be suitably rewarded with a trip to her favourite garden centre. May the force be with you, too.