Tuesday 19 October 2021

Spring bulbs anyone?

Tulip Sunset Shades
This edition has sat in the departure lounge rather too long. I'll explain the reasons for that later but, right now, I want to give the idea of Spring bulbs a bit of a push

Old Codger is planning to plant up soon and will have a range of pots, troughs and other planters on offer. We did this last year as a somewhat last-minute idea but demand was good, probably because we connected it with the BCM Toylink appeal - something we intend to repeat. It was gratifying to receive some lovely feedback from readers in the Spring - many sending in photos of their blooming containers

So you know what is in store, here is advance information of a winning combination: the daffodil Belle Vista (right) and the tulip Sunset Shades (above)

These will be planted lasagne-fashion in two layers. This means you get the daffs first followed by the tulips - both bringing cheer to what is often a dull part of the year. Advance orders are welcome. Usual terms: collect and then make a donation to BCM. I don't mind if you delay the donation to the Spring - you might be so pleased that you give a bit extra!

As I say, we will be connecting this with BCM's excellent Toylink initiative. More news due due course

Mencap Marvels
Continuing on the charity side of things, I would thank  those readers who responded to the Mencap Channel Swimmers performance

The success of the relay swim resulted in a deluge of donations. There were two teams swimming last month. Before the event money was trickling in but then, as their success was recognised, a flood of interest took their sponsorship over their £25,000 target

More may have come in since, you can get the latest figure here

Plenty of stock
Just a reminder that we are pretty well stocked with perennials at the moment - the photo (right) shows a tiny amount of a much larger range

Although temperatures are starting to cool a little now, there's still time to plant a few if you are intent on improving your border whist the soil is still reasonably warm

Codger will be working on his own border arrangements during the next few weeks. This is a good time to split clumps that have outgrown their position

Feel free to get in touch if you are gap filling - I reckon we will have more than enough to go round
I've just been out to see how the stock plants are doing. We still have a surprising amount of colour. As you can see the garnet penstemon is still looking good and, as is normal, the rudbeckia is still in flower

Ivy makes a good screen
I don't think I've mentioned ivy much in this blog. Ivy is one of our true natives - this means that it will usually do well. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a parasite. So, for example, it does not take goodness from a tree - rather, it merely uses the tree as a support

When we moved into our property thirty years ago, we had a see-through hedge belonging to the school at the bottom of the garden - a hawthorn hedge. Today, it is no longer semi-transparent due to the vigorous growth of the ivy that I planted into the 10 metre wide hedge. Two or three ivy plants very quickly established and gave us the privacy we sought - and also provided a sanctuary for birds. Robins seem to love it. Ivy is evergreen, of course
The back hedge - ivy growing through hawthorn

The ivy is prolific in flowers this year
I think this relates to its stage of growth -
I've heard reference made to arboreal ivy
Incidentally, I have discovered that English Ivy, as they call it, it prevalent throughout the United States - yet was not introduced there until the late 18th century. Its vigour in our garden needs control, otherwise the soft fruit area gets too heavily shaded. However, I have noticed that the top growth is bearing lots of flowers this year. Great news for the wildlife so I'm leaving plenty of it so that the insects have some autumn and winter feed

The hawthorn, through which the ivy climbs, also needs control. Although it is not my hedge I do exercise a bit of autonomy and cut back the growth that is above six feet in height

I believe that the law requires me to give this surplus growth back to the school. However, the needle-sharp thorns would be a hazard to the children so my judgement is that the trimmings are best consigned to the council green bin

Hawthorn top growth removed
and destined for the green council bin
In past years a contractor has trundled along the full length of the hedge with a tractor fitted with a hedge cutter. This is badly needed to keep the thing within bounds - although, as stated in an earlier blog, I would prefer the hedge to be properly laid. Looking at Google maps, I reckon that the hedge is 200m in length so, I reckon, an expensive job

I keep my side in check because of the loss of light. I grow raspberries alongside the hedge. I am pleased to say that they will take some shade - but not too much - hence my prickly exertions

Planting raspberries (part 2)
I feel another series coming on here. Having sown the green manure I decided that I had been too mean with the soil level in the raised bed. I have now added another three inches. This means that the green manure was incorporated sooner than planned - but no harm done

To be honest, Codger's plans often change and develop along the way. I've also decided to reduce the planting density - one of my weaknesses is a tendency to crowd too much in. The books recommend rows to be north/south. The closest I can get to that is a diagonal across the rectangular bed, as shown in the photo here

In the next edition I'll tell you about the raspberry varieties I'll be planting. Also how they are spaced and supported - I've learned a bit from previous mistakes. Look out for Part 3 in the series

Composting connoisseur
Perhaps I should mention that beneath the trench you can see marked out by the pair of strings is a hefty helping of garden compost (see the recent series on hot composting). Here's what my compost looks like - the sample shown is about six months old. Looks good, smells good and feels good. I imagine that it tastes good too - but Codger has not applied that particular test!

Extended season
Although we had a mixed September, until now, October temperatures have been above average. Looking around the garden I see that chrysanthemums have done well

I'm especially pleased with the dahlias - take a look at this one (photo left)

Despite the predations of blight, our tomatoes have done pretty well. The measures I took to protect the greenhouse plants slowed down the advance. I ended up removing individual plants successively. As you probably know, resistance against the disease varies from variety to variety

This one-by-one reduction leaves just four plants in the main greenhouse. Two of these are San Marzano - a variety I've not grown before. I imagine that they are the last to fruit as they need plenty of sun. Mine have done well but it took a long time to get there

Thinking I ought to check my facts, I have just Googled the variety and discovered that San Marzano - "growing in sun-drenched Camania in the sun-drenched volcanic fertile soil around Vesuvius" - is regarded as "Re Pomodoro - the King of Tomatoes"! The gourmet supplier I checked will let you have 12 cans for £27.50!

Before we finish this episode, here are three items that may interest regular readers ...

What bird is that?
Are you able to identify birds by their song? Well, I'm not too good - once we get past a crow or a blackbird, but help is available form the lady shown here, Lucy Hodson

She has some interesting pages on the BBC Radio site where she not only explains the different songs but is rhapsodic about them - rather appropriate, really. You can tune in here

A tuneful competition
Also on a musical note, fame awaits the composers who get shortlisted in this year's Christmas Carol Competition. The BBC has a panel of judges looking - or, rather, listening - for the best tune to Christina Rossetti's poem Love Came Down at Christmas. Just sing into your phone and you're away. You can find out more and listen to the words here

The BBC say: We’re looking for a cracking tune that’s memorable and can be easily learned by singers of all abilities. It can be any style you want: gospel, folk, contemporary or traditional hymn. It should be something that sounds great sung by a big choir or by your local carollers.

Wildlife friendly
I have just stumbled on a useful site that will interest those readers who wish to improve their gardens in a wildlife-friendly direction. The RSPB is running a project called Nature on your Doorstep. Their website has lots of information and suggestions - both written and in video form

Checking out their forums, I found an answer to question in my own mind. Is the fluctuating number of birds in my garden likely to attributable to the visits a sparrow hawk. Hardly surprising - but the answer is Yes. Anyway, the RSPB site is well worth a visit. You can start here

... and finally ...
... please let me know if you are interested in having Spring bulbs. Remember there will be a choice of pots or troughs in a range of sizes

You may have noticed the blog publication has been a bit erratic recently - down to a chest infection, I'm afraid. Butt we're bouncing back and flu jab tomorrow - and, hopefully, Covid booster soon after

With best wishes from the old Garden Codger

Friday 8 October 2021

Autumn photo edition

Codger's publishing plans often get disrupted. I think we have quoted Harold Macmillan before. When asked what was the greatest challenge for a politician, he answered, "Events, dear boy, events!"

Rather apt, at the moment, what with Covid, fuel for vehicles, HGV drivers and the emerging energy crisis

The event in Codger's case is the unwelcome embrace of some miscellaneous virus that got to him before the flu jab needle. In fact that injection was scheduled for this week - we played safe and delayed it whilst we cough and splutter

The upshot of all this that our planned edition of the blog is held over until the head clears a bit and we can write something approximating to sense

However, a brainwave - why not do a quick photo-tour of the garden? As you would expect, the colours are lovely in the autumn

The leaves, above, are those of the Witch Hazel - always good value at this time of year. They will be followed by those unusual spaghetti-like flowers - perhaps tagliatelle-like would be a better description

Here on the right you can see a chrysanthemum coming into its own. I'm told that they are coming back into fashion 

One of the attractions of roses is their ability to surprise. You think the show is over that then you suddenly spot another bloom shining out on a dull day

Working from memory this one (left) is Celebration - another David Austin rose. 

Perhaps we should venture forth and pay a last visit to the David Austin nursery - a convenient drive for us but sadly, because of lockdown, off our radar this year

Speaking of nurseries I bought this clematis from the clearance section recently. Getting it home, I found that the labels had got jumbled

I think it is Clematis Pilei - if that is the correct spelling. The label says Comtesse de Bouchaud but I'm not sure about that

It is said that autumn is a good time to plant clematis so, as soon as the chest clears and the sun shines, that's what we'll be doing

Do you recognise this one on the left?

Yes, it's a sunflower. I wrote in a recent blog how I never sow them as a deliberate act

They must self-seed as every year they reappear and grow tall - something like ten feet

I tend to leave the seed heads as winter feed for the birds. Plenty for them to go at here! 

On the subject of wildlife I conducted a little experiment this year ... 

One of the principles of organic gardening is that with patient management a wildlife balance can be achieved in the garden that avoids the use of harmful chemicals

The theory sounds great. But the practice can be trying when contending with an aphid attack. My French beans suffered such an assault - I think the inevitable black fly on the broad beans transferred their attention to their Gallic cousins

I decided to leave Nature to sort itself out - and I was fascinated to see what happened. The blackfly seems happy on just one or two plants so I left them to munch away. The rest of the crop produced prolifically - so I picked the unaffected pods, witness the sample you see above. And just today, whilst taking these photos, I saw that ladybirds were enjoying the blackfly

The purple-podded beans have been great - loads of beans and loads of flavour! (In case you missed an earlier blog, don't be put off by the colour - purple beans turn green as you cook them.)

Despite some losses due to blight, we have done well with tomatoes, too - as you can see on the left

It was worth growing the yellow variety just to create the display in the fruit bowl. The variety is Golden Sunrise - it did well against an outside wall

A bit of a plug next. Codger's Nursery is building up a good stock of perennials, many of which look really colourful in the autumn. A good example is this display of asters. We have both blues and purples. Let me know if you are  interested - it's good to see them whilst they are in flower

Another plant that comes into its own this time of year is the dahlia. I'm no expert but know they come in many different forms

Here below is a pom-pom variety - nice shade of apricot
Well, folks, that's our quick autumn photo tour - warming ourselves by the computer in the hope that we can soon be back out in the garden getting the many jobs done that require attention before the first frosts arrive

We hope to publish our next edition within a week - ten days at the most. I'm keen to tell you our plans for Spring bulb planters. We did this last year and raised a good sum for BCM Toylink - and are hoping to do so again ...

... so it's best wishes from that old Garden Codger!