Tuesday 14 July 2020

Wildlife mystery

Ordinary English honeysuckle - aka Dutch or Belgian
First-time visitors to the garden, collecting their plants, are sometimes surprised. They see the patio, the flower border, the pond, and bog garden. Where does Codger do his work? Where are the plants nursed? (I deliberately use an old word – see explanation below.) We then take an unexpected turn and find ourselves in, what you might call, the nursery. Potting shed, greenhouse, compost heap and raised beds

This working area is screened from the house by a trellis – not that you can see the structure – covered in climbing plants of one sort or another. The main screening job is done by two large grape vines – both a gift from our Dutch friends when we moved in 30 years ago. Mixed in are ivy, roses, clematis and – my favourite – honeysuckle. This year their fragrance has been better than ever. Were I to be blindfolded, I could navigate by them. I have not read about this anywhere, but I suspect that both clematis and honeysuckle grow better when mixed in with other plants in this way. After all, that is the way they grow naturally in a hedgerow, for example

Hedge in the background - the squash scramble over it
A mystery
At the back of the working area is a hawthorn hedge well penetrated by ivy that gives full cover the year round. The ivy is mine, the hawthorn follows the edge of the school field which is at the back of our property. Sadly, the hawthorn does not flower – something I would love to put right – and in amongst the hedge is a chain-link fence – not visible because of the dense growth

Stacked against this barrier is the clay I have removed from other parts of the garden when undertaking various work like digging the foundations to the greenhouse. From time to time, I mine this supply. For example, I have just re-potted Mr Fairchild and decided that potting compost was insufficient for the task and needed fortifying with real soil

A tunnel! Dug by what creature?
It was when I was extracting this weathered clay that I discovered the mystery - a tunnel! I have not fully excavated it yet but it is at least a yard long and between two and three inches in diameter – a little more in places. It comes in from the school side – and, probably returns there, too. Any wildlife experts out there with suggestions? What creature would dig a tunnel like this?

More wildlife
Just a quickie but this may interest some. Our big fish (the nuclear sub) is usually accompanied by a veritable flotilla of small black fish. As predicted, some of these (but not all) are starting to change colour. Just like they have been polished up with Brasso, so they now display a nice bronze shade. We have lots - so anyone wishing to adopt, please get in touch (photographing fish is a tricky art - still trying to get a good shot)

The Ingenious Mr Fairchild
Mr Fairchild again
You will remember that intriguing name for a rose: The Ingenious Mr Fairchild. Sadly, he had suffered undeserved neglect and I had to decide whether to be undertaker or doctor. Compassion won but he has proven to be an ungrateful patient. The thorns are small but exceedingly sharp and backward facing like shark’s teeth. Not an ideal patient, by any means. However, he is sufficiently recovered to be re-planted in a more commodious pot

Somewhat reduced
He was so badly out of shape I decided to prune him right back. A brave move but one, I suspect, that the real Mr Fairchild would himself have taken

I am greatly enjoying the book about him by Michael Leapman – it is one of those books packed with interesting information. As the Empire expanded, exotic plants were acquired by the aristocracy far far-flung places. How did these plants survive the British winter? They were sent to the nursery to be cared for – hence the name. That sort of thing interests Codger. Perhaps we will have some more snippets another time - Mr Fairchild is not only ingenious but quotable

Seed tray with deep cells
Looking after leeks
Having decided to use more of my nursery growing area for flowers rather than vegetables I find myself a bit torn over what to keep and what to lose. Having reared a crop of leeks from seed, I have just transplanted them. As usual, I grew the seedlings in a tray that has unusually deep cells – perfect for the job. The plants will now grow on and feed us in the winter months. Mrs Codger will use them in our weekly risotto

Leeks. Plant deep and water well
Other veg
What to grow and what not to grow? I think I shall continue with a row of carrots. Nice thing is that you can eat the thinnings. Same applies to lettuce – and we eat a lot of salad. Tomatoes – a forgone conclusion. The photo below shows Money Maker growing outside. Yes, to French beans – the climbing variety. I tend to go for Cobra. No to potatoes – they take up too much room and are so cheap in the shops. Still debating what else

A tip with tomatoes
If, like me, you fall behind with pinching out you might try this ruse. Tomatoes are split into two types: determinate (bush form) and indeterminate - the sort you grow on a single stem, like Money Maker and Gardeners' Delight

Money Maker growing outdoors
However, there is no law against having a double stem. So, rather than hack the thing right back, losing lots of growth, instead select the two best stems - preferably branching near the base - and shape the plant around these. It is not too obvious from the photo but that is what I have done here (see right)

The plant is growing outside and doing fairly well but would prefer more of the sun we had at the weekend

In case you are wondering how things are in the greenhouse, I think the best answer is: green! See photo below

The tomato bed inside the greenhouse
Plant availability
The primulas went like hot cakes, as the saying goes. As did the irises. However, I can easy produce more of the lovely blue bearded iris - there are two more clumps to work on. Let me know if you are interested. That way, they can go direct from my garden to yours

I have now worked through the dahlias and a good few are nicely potted up and ready to go. In most cases I can tell you the colour, but not always the variety. Dahlias can flower quite late on so, hopefully, you will be able to see if I got the labelling right!

I was glad to have a little help with the gooseberry harvest yesterday - see below. The next edition is due out on Friday and includes an interview with someone doing a great job in support of BCM. I think you'll find it something of an eye-opener

... best wishes from the Garden Codger

Head Gardener at Codger's Nursery

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