Friday 27 November 2020

The season turns

 We woke to a frost on Wednesday morning - as you see from the lettuce (Lollo Rosso) here. Yesterday was a glorious day - mild and sunny. We were told to expect fog this morning - no fog materialised! A gentle morning with even a little sunshine

So, when does autumn end and winter begin? There are two answers to this question. The meteorological answer is that the winter season begins on Tuesday - that being the first day of December. Meteorologists go by the calendar month so winter comprises December, January and February

Chrysanthemums frosted on Wednesday
If you take you cue from the sun and the movement of the earth around it - and also the tilt of the planet - then you get a different answer: winter does not start until 22nd December. This is the winter solstice when the daylength is at its shortest. Codger keeps track of this by observing the sunrise - study window faces directly south-east. At this time of year, that is where the sun rises. Each morning it processes a little to the right (westwards) until just before Christmas and then moves back again. By the time we reach the longest day (21st June) the rising sun appears way, way to the east - almost out of my angle of view from the window

The same flowers yesterday
Keeping track of the seasons is a reassuring thing and I suspect that, during lockdown, others have become more consciousness of our dependence on the natural world - God's Creation, as I see it. The old words come to mind:

‘As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.’

Sunrise over Tipton as seen from our back garden on Monday (24th November)

Winter care

In a Tipton front garden this week - 12" across!
If you have still dahlias in flower you may have found that the foliage got knocked back by the frost. Probably the remaining blooms going over, too. A necessary reminder that action is needed as the season turns

If your dahlia is in a pot, it might be sufficient to simply put the pot in a frost-free place such as a garage or shed. Wise, though, to slip it out of the pot first just to check that all is well - removing the foliage, first. Then, next season, pot on with fresh compost - or plant out. In any doubt, proceed as next ...

Overwintering tubers 

With milder winters, it is increasingly common to leave dahlias undisturbed. My soil is clay, so tubers tend to rot during the cold months. So I dig them up and store them away from the frost. If you have sandy soil, you can risk it but here's how if you plan to lift them ...

Use a fork to loosen the soil around the plant and lift the clump - soil and all. Choose a dry day and shake as much soil from the roots as possible. I then put the clump in a tub and blast with a hose to remove the rest of the soil. I recommend labelling at this early stage as, when doing several, it is easy to get mixed up

You may spot some damage
Cut away the foliage to about an inch and leave them to dry, upside down, for a couple of day. When you are handling them you will soon spot tubers that need to be removed. When big advantage of doing things this way is disease prevention. Older tubers tend to rot off and should be cut away

Once dry, the labelled tubers can be stored. I deploy used potting compost that I have kept back for this precise purpose. A cardboard box makes an adequate container - ideal, in fact, it that it will 'breathe'. Put a layer of compost material down and lay out the tubers, covering with more compost as you go

Some gardeners use sand - but sand weighs heavy! I keep my boxes of tubers at the back of the garage marked DAHLIAS! - yes, old Codger is becoming forgetful

Enjoy doing the job knowing that you are preparing for a great display next year! Codger is planning to give dahlias a push in the Spring so look out then. In the meantime there is another job to do now that will give you the benefit next year ...

There's an 'ole in my bucket

I must resist the temptation to become political at this point. As I was listening to the Chancellor's Autumn Statement, I could not help thinking of last week's Reader's Letter and a slight revision to the song. "There's hole is my budget, dear Rishi, dear Rishi ..." and the reply "Well, mend it, dear Boris, dear Boris ..." Or, perhaps, the names should be reversed

Be that as it may (and I do not envy politicians just at the moment), the hole in our reader's bucket can be turned to advantage. Here is Codger's bucket - as shown here, truly worthy of Salvage Hunters, The Repair Shop and Flog It! rolled into one

I'll set out the instructions step by step ...

Step One.
Cut out the bottom of an old plastic pot and place in the bucket to cover the hole. This will allow the bucket to be used as a planter. The soil will be retained whilst the drainage will be good

Step Two

Knock up a good compost mix for bulbs. Codger's recipe can be found in the post dated 16th October. 

The main point is that potting compost straight out of the bag is not 'open' enough for bulbs which do not like to be wet

If at all possible add some grit and some vermiculite

Step Three

Put a bottom layer into the bucket (or other container)

Place a ring of tulip bulbs as in the photograph. Close planting is in order - don't worry about the spacing info on the packet

The finished result - all that is now needed is patience!

Step Four

Add more compost and repeat. This time you could try some other type of bulb such as a hyacinth or crocus. With a container the size of the bucket you would easily get three or four layers

Rather than ask you to read a thousand words, simply take a look at this video - one of very many covering the same topic on YouTube. This one is beautifully clear and - a rather interesting point- the appellation names our Dutch friends as the originators of the 'bulb lasagna' (rather than the Italians!)

[Brief reminder: sometimes a video might have a commercial interest; for example it may be produced for a nursery and garden supplier. Please note that where that occurs it is entirely coincidental. Codger has no commercial links whatsoever. He does not receive expenses. And all donations go in their entirety to BCM. See here for donations]

Bulb lasagna for you! 

Just as I was typing the above paragraphs the doorbell rang - a delivery, PTL! 

You may remember that I was completely out of suitable containers and was having difficulty at sourcing what was needed. Problem solved, so if you would like your own bulb lasagna that it now possible

The new delivery (ten pots) shown here looks great. The pots are 10" diameter plastic and have an attractive copper-effect finish

We also have a few, slighter bigger, of a different design. Please see the photo below

You can still help BCM Toylink!

At the beginning of Lockdown 2.0 we announced that all donations made during the restrictions would be devoted devoted to the excellent BCM Toylink initiative. Your generosity is appreciated but time is short as BCM staff have to purchase, box up and deliver before Christmas

rather bigger - a few 12" pots also available

As an extra encouragement we are offer to our readers all the bulb lasagnas I can plant up this week. Please contact me immediately if you would like one. Please note that we do not sell - that would take us outside the Gift Aid scheme - we simply ask that you consider making a donation to BCM via the link above. We can handle cash, if you wish, but online is preferable

So, there's work to do! Must get on ... ...

... from your old friend the Garden Codger

and a couple of bonus shots

Tula chrysanthemum - with frost ...

... and without!


Friday 20 November 2020

Advent Star

What a great name for a hellebore: Advent Star! Often called the Christmas Rose this particular variety of hellebore flowers a little earlier that others. In the run-up to Christmas - the season of Advent, in fact. I am hoping it will prompt me to focus on the reason for the season

Advent Star is a fairly new variety - new to me, at least. It has a profusion of white flowers and a neat, compact form. It is also distinguished by an upright habit so the blooms can be seen to the best effect - a star, indeed

Provided it can be given a cool place, it will be fine indoors for the next month or so. Hellebores love a bit of shade so choose such a spot when planting out when it goes outside. Being a perennial it will come again year by year giving you flowers when there are not many about. A great addition to any garden

Oh! I'm speaking as if you might want one. Well, I have planted a few up. rather nice round pots with a rather subtle gold effect. These replace the Venetian containers (see next) that we featured a couple of weeks ago. We have a number available on a first come, first served basis. As we previously announced, all donations will go into the BCM Toylink fund. That will remain the case until the end of the current lockdown

More planters

Those rather nice Venetian planters are no longer obtainable from the suppliers - time of year, I suspect. We have two or three left ready planted up with Spring bulbs - look back to the last couple of blog posts for details. Having scoured the market, we have been able to source some really attractive round planters as alternatives. These are planted up with tulips, Spring bulbs, or a mixture of both. We also have a couple with pink, while and red cyclamen

If you would like any of these, please contact me soon as we are likely to run out soon. As they say in the adverts; "When they've gone, they've gone!" I hope to update the Plants for You page over the weekend (but I am rather battling the clock at the moment) - this will mean you can see what is still available - with photos

Just thought: I have not said which tulips are available in the planters. There are two varieties: van Eijk (a short red, shading to pink) and Tropical Sunset - shown here on the right. Lovely shades, don't you think?

We use good quality bulbs and plant them in a special mix of our own, so you will get really good results. The bulbs are top quality Dutch which has set me thinking about Holland again - I feel another story coming on. But first, a little garden tour ...

Around the garden

Three stem cordon - an experiment
It is changeover time in the greenhouse. Although some of the tomato plants were still fruiting, I had to harden my heart and dismantle the last few. Allowing a the remaining green fruits turning red, I reckon we shan't need to buy any tomatoes until December

I tried a little experiment. Rather than grow the traditional single vine, with one plant I allowed it to develop three - as you can see in the photo. I wish now that I had weighed the fruit (too busy for that) - all three stems produced masses. The variety was Sungold. With the growing bed clear I have had space to do the planters as mentioned above. Next? Drop in next week and I'll tell you

At the front of the house we have a Mountain Ash which, this autumn, carried a huge crop of berries. Now, however, it has been stripped bare - blackbirds, of course. Meanwhile in the back garden, fewer birds have been coming to the feeders. I have a theory about this. The birds, especially tits and sparrows, dart between the cherry tree and the feeders - the trees and shrubs providing cover. Come the autumn, the leaves fall and it takes the birds a while to get accustomed to the lack of cover. Has anyone else noticed this, I wonder?

To my surprise, we are still getting a few raspberries - probably Autumn bliss - the labels disappeared long ago, I'm afraid

And just to prove that I kid you not, here (below) are the tomatoes we are eating at the moment. A mixture of varieties. You may remember that the big challenge under Lockdown 1.0 was obtaining seed

Friends and neighbours (literally) rallied round to keep me going with seed. The greenhouse was full to overflowing with seedling - some of which may have ended up in your garden

The old favourite, Moneymaker, did well. Also the standard cheap Lidl variety named Harzfeurer - I can recommend these as a standard. Overall, the best bite-size cerry type was Sungold - certianly on the list for next season

Speaking of labels

Earlier this year I said a bit about reducing the use of plastics in the garden. I think I said that I would report back on my trial using labels made of wood. Well, the picture tells the story - they rot. You can tell just by looking which end has been in the soil. Back to plastic, I'm afraid!

A mild autumn

Despite the warning of a cold day yesterday, I found it a lovely day. Ideal for getting the planters done. The photo here shows the broad beans coming through and doing well. I sowed these exactly a month ago in October. It was just at that time I carried out operations on the front. The grass seed has germinated fine. But so have the weeds - I dare not show you a photo - too disheartening (dratted lawns!)

Dutch bulb fields

Mention of the tulips reminds me of my first visit to Holland. That was not the cycling tour in 1960 but a few years before when I was in third year secondary (now Y9). Our form master was a Mr Lindup - an unusual and easy to name remember. For the first time ever at our school a foreign holiday was on offer. With permission from my father to go (softened up by my mum), I set about raising the money. I already had a paper round and put in for another. This second round was near school so it worked in fairly well. All by bike, of course - I used to hide the newspaper delivery bag in a hedge nd collect it on the way home

However, another income stream was needed so I took on a milk round. I am not sure that the milkman really needed my help - perhaps he took pity on me. I have two main memories: getting really cold hands when handling the bottles and observing the ways of the milkman - a foreigner!

His name was Ernie Wolff - a sort of leftover German POW from the war. He was, in most ways, completely unlike the war film stereotype of a Nazi soldier. He was short and tubby - and rather proud of his Express Dairy uniform

You can read about
this happy aspect of
social history (Amazon)
I think the diary ran an incentive scheme so they could extend the product range beyond milk. One Saturday he greeted me with words along these lines: "Ah, Michael! I am zo proud for zis day I have been made Mister Yoghurt for zis month." I had never tasted yoghurt and was not greatly experienced in the business side of dairying  but the vision of Ernie strutting proudly ahead of his hand milk cart endures to this day 

Reminiscing again! You must have better things to do ...

... best wishes from the Garden Codger

PS: a reader's letter, just received

Dear Codger

May I please share a concern with you and ask for your help? My friend, Henry, has a hole in his bucket. I've told him to mend it but he seems to be having difficulty doing this. I'm getting quite desperate. Please help


Well, Eliza, please don't get too worried. As it so happens, I have exactly the same problem as you can see here in this photograph. However, I know exactly what to do. Please drop in next week and I'll show how Henry can turn this situation to his advantage. In the meantime here is a photo to enjoy

As we mentioned, the hellebore is sometimes called the Christmas Rose. But don't confuse this with the Christmas Cactus which is a Brazilian succulent as shown here

Friday 13 November 2020

Flowering still

This photograph was taken this morning at 11:00 - such lovely sunshine. And how remarkable it seems that so much flower is still in the garden to delight this late in the season

We face directly south-east and my upstairs study overlooks the garden - as does the kitchen. This means, at this time of year, we get the full benefit of the rising sun. It was beautifully bright this morning so I thought I would share with you a few photographs of the flowers that we are still able to enjoy


I have mentioned before that I am only a beginner with these plants which, I'm told, are making something of a garden comeback. We have three sorts. First, a tall type that produce sprays that are great for cut flowers - they last for weeks in a vase. The arrangement shown here was done in mid-October and they have only recently been despatched - recycled via the compost heap, of course

We still have plenty more in the garden. A lovely white version recently came into flower - caught in this photograph in the evening sun

I have a lot to learn about their cultivation. I am hoping that I can produce more from cutting so that others can benefit, as well

Pot chrysants 

We also have, what I call, pot chrysants. These started life as house plants - often presents. Old Codger likes to experiment, so I tried them outdoors, often splitting a pot to produce more. These do well in pots on the patio - as you can see here. Incidentally, I find that one can never have enough pots. If I see a pot going cheap, I buy it believing it will come in some time. Have you noticed that TV gardeners seem to have an inexhaustible supply of large pots? Must cost a mint! So, look out for bargains

A new variety

Earlier in the year, Mrs Codger spotted a magazine advert for a variety called Tula. I think I mentioned these the other week. The Dutch call them spider chrysanthemums - I think you can see why

They came as what the trade call 'slips' - I imagine that is another word for a cutting. The result has been good. I gave them some protection at first - then, out in the garden - and away

Again, I hope to propagate so these can be shared next season. have I whetted your appetite?

A nice surprise

One plant has surprised - and pleasantly so: Rudbeckia. Early in the first lockdown we got through a pile of Rudbeckia - the variety was Little Goldstar. They started out as a plant rescue from B&Q and featured in our Harvest Thanksgiving display in 2019. 

They took on a new lease of life this Spring - if you have a box of plants from me you may well have been enjoying Little Goldstar in your own garden! We then tried another variety: Prairie Sun. I overstocked somewhat, so our own garden has been the beneficiary. Many are still powering away. I certainly recommend this variety


Roses never seem to want to give up. The rose shown here is one of our David Austin Old English roses: Jubilee Celebration. Is is deliberately planted near to the conservatory where it can be readily appreciated. Magnificent, isn't it?

Please don't forget

Well, old Codger could go on and on but we must take advantage of today's sunshine to get out into the garden so we catch up with the jobs - many now well overdue

Before we sign off we would like to mention our BCM Toylink push again. Just to remind you: any donations received here during Lockdown 2.0 will go to the BCM Toylink initiative

See last week for details on this - especially the excellent and informative video which you can see here. However, I need to mention one point. The very nice Venetian planters I mentioned - see photo - are now out of stock. Although I have tried hard, I have not been able to track down a direct replacement so have had to substitute a different design. Hopefully, the delivery will be here soon so I can show you a photograph next week. For now ...

... best wishes from the old garden Codger

Saturday 7 November 2020

Toylink Extra

The greenhouse is stocked up as we get moving with our Lockdown 2.0 BCM Toylink push. So, following up on what we were saying yesterday, here are the planters on offer

Codger is a bit slow but he did a bit of thinking overnight and has come up with five options. Each consists of a good quality 40cm Venetian planter with a variety of plants as you see below

Before describing the alternatives we would encourage readers to view the BCM Toylink video if you have not already done so. Please see yesterday's post. To order one of the planters, simply contact Garden Codger. To make your donation to BCM, click here

First off the blocks we have Cyclamen Persicum. These are in flower now so you have an immediate display. They like cool/cold conditions but are best protected from frost. They do would well in a porch or similar

Second, is our Tulip planter. Looks a bit plain above but wait until those tulips are in flower! The variety is Van Eijk. The great thing about this variety is that you can keep them from year to year. A short growing type, they are a soft pink shading to red

Third, we have some really excellent Hellebores - White Advent. They are just coming into flower. You can keep them in the container for following years or plant them out in the Spring. A great addition to the garden and will do OK in shade

At number 4, we have our Spring Bulb collection. These will give a great display in early Spring. Until then you can enjoy the flowering violas during the winter months

Last, another Cyclamen. This time Cyclamen Hederifolium. These probably will not flower until next year but you will have the advantage of their foliage. Often called the ivy leaved cyclamen

We can supply any of the above in round pots - or as individual plants - if that is what you prefer