Friday 19 February 2021

Winter colour

Hellebores - great for winter colour
Yes, hellebores again! But for good reason. Despite the sub-zero temperatures last week, they have bounced back. This photo (left) was taken today but look how they were a week ago (below). It is quite remarkable how some plants can accommodate low temperatures. It is as though they go into hibernation. I did wonder if they would recover and deliberately photographed so a comparison was possible

Of course, a great advantage of these winter flowering plants is that they provide a source of nectar for the insects brave enough to hunt around in the winter

Hellebores hit by the sharp frost - but
they recovered completely - see top left!

More winter flowering plants

If you look back a few issues, you find some information about cyclamen. Not wishing to repeat everthing here, the big point to note is that there are several types and not all will cope with frost. In particular, the cyclamen ususally sold at Christmas (persicum) does not like frost. In contrast cyclamen hederafolium (ivy leaf) withstands frost well as I observed only last week - this type are autumn flowering

There are cyclamen and cyclamen - know the type!
For winter flowering you need cyclamen coum. I find these absolutely charming. The phograph below shows some in our porch - those outside are equally healthy - they seem to flower right through the winter very happily

Snowdrops represent another option. They take care of themselves and will gradually spread given half a chance. I think they like woodland conditions so mine are planted in a shady corner

Snowdrops are an easy win

Another easy option - also a bulb - is iris recticlata. Those shown here (below) are in one of my Spring bulb planters - they flowered happily away right through all the ice and snow last week. In fact, they are the first of the Spring bulbs to make a showing

Plenty of other bulbs are sprouting but these tiny bright blue babes have come out first. As you see the blooms are remarkably similar to the better known Siberian Iris but these stems are very much shorter 

Some nice surprises

A good number of readers have reported that their planters are doing well. As to be expected, those given the greatest protection are first to flower

A Codger planter sets sail

One has even set sail as as you can see here (right) - thanks to Sue CD. Incidentally, other regular readers may remember that I had great trouble sourcing suitable containers in November when I was busy planting up ready for the Spring

Well, although Spring has not yet sprung the planters have.  Whilst doing the weekly shop at Asda this morning I spied new stock. Good value, I thought - two Venetian planters for £3! The set of four pots also cost £3 - not bad - well done, Asda

In Asda now - other supermarkets available
Another nice surprise happened on Tuesday - this was at the at the dentist's (yes, at the dentist!). The receptionist reminded me of the tomato plant she had from me last summer. Apparently, it yielded a bumper crop, so I received my first order for the 2021 season! She was  insistent that she has the same variety again - Cerise, I seem to remember

Time to sow

Marmande - French beefsteak variety
I've only just started sowing seeds, being slightly behind with jobs - an emergency repair has kept me busy. Obviously, I need to sow some Cerise but there will be other tomato varieties on offer. Among them more sweet cherry varieties - I was very impressed with the Sungold I tried last year, although I have noticed that the seeds are on the pricey side

I've had a request for Marmande - a large beefsteak renowned for their flavour. (Thanks, Ray - good suggestion.) I look forward to trying these plus a number of other varieties. One great reason for grow-your-own is, of course, flavour

Almost ready for sowing in the greenhouse
The imperfect gardener

As I start sowing, I'll report in these pages so you know what is coming along - both fruit and flowers. Actually, Codger is slightly diverted as he had decided to reorganise his soft fruit area - that needs to be done before the Spring and the plants move into growth. For example, I only discovered by accident last summer that redcurrants and blackcurrants require different conditions. The latter need far more sun than the former. I did not know that

Correctly identified:
a hoverfly - look at the eyes
In fact, there is a very great deal that Codger does not know. I was reminded of this when I heard a passing comment on the radio the other day (strangely, on a Radio 3 music programme): 'the great thing about gardening in the winter is that nothing has yet gone wrong". Exactly so!

It is always good to hear from readers - please don't hesitate to correct me if I slip up. I'm indebted to Rachel White for pointing out an incorrect wildlife identification. The insect shown last week was not a bee but a hoverfly. Helpfully, she explains that you can tell from the eyes - if they look like those of a fly then that's what you have got - a fly, not a bee! Thanks, Rachel!

Speaking of imperfections, I have noticed a big drawback with growing lettuce in the greenhouse over the winter: greenfly. They have both shelter and food - not good! Would hoverflies be the answer, I wonder

Plastic re-use

Regular readers will know that I have tried to reduce my use of plastic in the garden. This is surprisingly problematic as, being largely weather-proof, plastic is ideal for many of the things that we do. To illustrate the point: last season I tried out plants labels made of wood - nearly all have rotted over the winter

I shall, again, be trying out paper pots (papier mache) when potting on but, overall, I think the answer lies more in the re-use of plastics. If you look at seed-sowing photo above you may recognise the seed trays: they are standard B&Q issue when you buy plug plants

Green seed tray to the right being re-used
Black cell tray to the left being re-used
Both stood in a standard seed try for comparison
The propagator they stand in is, in fact, the base of a rabbit hutch that would have otherwise been thrown away

So, we continue to do our best and remain on the lookout for good ideas

Incidentally, the green trays are smaller than a standard seed tray and therefore a nice size for windowsill propagation

Starting with these, I tend to pot on into the black cell trays shown here. Again, these are salvaged rather than thrown away. (You may have heard that, very often, black plastic does not get recycled, daft though that seems.)

BCM Sleepout

Well, there is plenty to do by way of propagation but I want to finish this week by telling you about another great BCM initiative. Better still, I'll let the guy in charge tell you about it. Please invest 80 seconds of your time listening to Wes Erpen:

[if the BCM video does not show please click here]

That's just a week away. If you would like to invest a few pounds as well as 80 seconds you might consider backing the father and son team
here - the dad is the one with the beard

I hope to be with you again in about ten days time - aiming to publish an update on the seed sowing on Tuesday the beginning of March ...

... best wishes for now from the Garden Codger 

Incidentally, I think our best bit of winter colour is from the Witch Hazel

And, although it is unheated, we have had some colour in the conservatory

Abutilon to the left

Pelargonium below 

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