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Recent Entries to this Blog Green Credentials
Posted: 25 Mar 2012
Posted: 11 Feb 2012
Frost and Chitting
Posted: 03 Feb 2012
Asparagus Peas
Posted: 11 Sep 2011
Golden Berries
Posted: 20 Aug 2011

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OrangeKing's Blog

Green Credentials

Category: Garden Highlights | Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:39 am

My first Primula auricula is in flower! This is both the first of the season (I have about a dozen more, mostly with buds) and the first I have tried to grow. I bought four last year in the reduced section after they had finished flowering, split them up into single crowns, and overwintered them.

First auricula ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

I can understand why some people become completely obsessed with this flower; the photograph doesn't do it justice. If you can find an Auricula Theatre near you, I recommend you pay it a visit.
Other items of interest in the greenhouse this spring:
The scarlet-flowered broad beans will soon need to go out into the garden. I start them in the greenhouse to avoid mice, squirrels, cats, etc disturbing them before they get established. And yes, those are toilet roll centres I've used as pots. I plant the entire thing, and the roots simply grow through the damp cardboard. Some are through already! French and runner beans will get the same treatment later.

Broad beans ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

The peas, a heritage variety called Champion of England, are also up.

C of E Peas ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

They are growing in folded pieces of old compost plastic sacks, arranged as mini-troughs in a normal sized seed tray. Four of these troughs - that is, the contents of one seed tray - will make a row across my narrow vegetable bed, and again I avoid pests by starting them in the greenhouse. Some people use lengths of plastic guttering for the same thing, but I find a four foot piece of guttering in a six by eight foot greenhouse is a bit unwieldy. The pea plants will slide happily out into a shallow trench in the garden with little or no root disturbance.
Tomatoes (Gardener's Delight and Purple Ukraine) and chillies (Bulgarian Carrot and Rocoto) are all at the seed-leaf stage, and the petunias I bought as plug-plants are growing nicely. They are destined for the hanging baskets soon.

Petunias ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

These are growing in small pots made out of folded newpaper. We get several free local papers through the letterbox every week, and this is one way of recycling them.

Not all has been great. I lost my first sowing of chillies and celery to tiny slugs, and my physalis has not germinated at all. Overall, though, it's been a good spring so far.

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Category: Garden Highlights | Posted: Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:41 pm

The hints of spring I mentioned in my previous post may have been a bit premature...

We've had a couple of inches of snow, and the temperature last night was reported to be -10, the coldest so far this year. Holbeach, which is not that far away, reported -15!

The bay tree seems to be fine, though.

Bay tree in snow ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

But the winter pansies look a bit forlorn, at least the parts that I can see!

Winter Pansies ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

On the other hand, the dead stalks of the fennel have acquired little snowy hats, and look quite attractive!

Fennel in Snow ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

The good new is that the weather forecast is for warmer weather, up to 8 degrees. Personally, I'll be happier when we get into double figures!

This blog entry has been viewed 617 times

Frost and Chitting

Category: Garden Highlights | Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 9:44 am

February already! And a belated Happy New Year to all at GardenStew!

It's frosty outside this morning. The temperature was (according to the BBC news) down to about -5 last night, which is pretty cold for Cambridgeshire, England, but there are hints that Spring is on the way. I have snowdrops flowering in several places, and the bush honeysuckle [Lonicera fragrantissima] is in full flower - I can smell it from ten yards away.

The bay tree I chopped dramatically last June is doing well. I'd had a small, nagging doubt whether it would survive the winter at all, but it seems to be fine. It looked like this when I had finished pruning it:

Pruned bay tree ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

but now looks like this:

Bay 2012 02 ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

So with Spring on the way I have a few potatoes and some oca chitting on the windowsill.

Chitting oca and potatoes ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

This is the first time I've grown oca - actually, the first time I've seen any! I plan to pot them up when they have decent shoots, grow them on in the greenhouse, and plant them out under my tomatoes.

The potatoes are a variety called Forty-Fold, which do, as the name suggests, give a good crop; I've grown them before. I do, however, have seed for a number of other plants that are new to me (thanks to the Real Seeds site) including a purple tomato, a Rocoto chilli pepper, a climber called Acocha that produces small green fruit that taste like green peppers (allegedly!), and a yellow-podded mange-tout pea. So I'm really looking forward to this growing season!

But then, who isn't?

This blog entry has been viewed 766 times

Asparagus Peas

Category: Garden Highlights | Posted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:05 pm

These are Asparagus Peas, or Winged Peas, which have the wonderful Latin name of Lotus tetragonolobus.

Asparagus Peas ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

I've grown them once before, but not as successfully. This row is along the edge of the terrace. When the plants were smaller, they folded up their leaves neatly at night, but they seem not to do that any more. They have sprawled over about eighteen inches or so of terrace now, and are flowering very prolifically. The flowers are typical pea-flowers, but of an attractive two-toned dark red.

Asparagus Pea Flowers ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

There are only ten plants, and they get picked every week. This week they have supplied enough for four servings. The pods have wings on four edges; those shown here have been picked over to remove old flower petals, calyces, etc and then rinsed.

Asparagus Pea Pods ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

Steamed and tossed in a little butter they are very nice, and make a change from the usual vegetables.

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Golden Berries

Category: Garden Highlights | Posted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:27 pm

I've tried growing physalis before, with little success. It is a plant called Physalis edulis, Ground Cherry or Cape Gooseberry, that produces delicious berries about half-an-inch across in neat paper lanterns.

Previusly, I ended up with a greenhouse border full of tall, sprawling plants that gave disappointingly few fruit.

However, I'm always a sucker for something new or unusual, so when I spotted that Thompson and Morgan were selling a variety called Golden Berry 'Pineapple', that they described as 'A dwarf Golden Berry with branching stems and a bushy habit' and claimed it would give me 'Huge crop of fruits throughout late summer/autumn' I could not resist!

And their description is accurate, except for the flavour. They are supposed to taste of pineapple, but noone in my family thinks they do. But they are delicious, even the not-quite-ripe ones.

I grew five plants outside, and five in the greenhouse: this is a plant growing outside:

Physalis plant ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

The ones in the greenhouse are much taller, up to three feet, and do sprawl a bit, but they have a much larger crop. Even so, the outdoor ones are well worth growing.
In fact I had so many, I made jam...

Physalis berries ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

Physalis jam ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

T&M don't tell you, but the way to harvest them is to collect them off the ground when they have fallen. This is not easy with sprawly plants, so next year I plan to grow them in the greenhouse, and tie them ruthlessly to a framework of netting so that they are in a single plane, parallel to the glass. That way, they should take up much less room, and harvesting should also be much easier.

Oh, and I didn't kill the bay tree (see previous blog) as I had half feared. It's producing lots of new shoots. I just hope they toughen up enough before winter!

Pruned bay tree showing regrowth ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

This blog entry has been viewed 535 times

A Light Prune

Category: Garden Highlights | Posted: Thu Jun 30, 2011 3:18 pm

Early summer: time to prune the bay tree.

My bay tree has, for the last dozen years, supplied us with wonderfully flavoured leaves for cooking, all year round. It was quite big when we moved into the house, but now it is far too big...

I've reduced the height at least twice in previous years, but looking at it yesterday, I could see that it was yet again about twenty feet, with ambitions of being much higher, and eight foot across at ground level. I had the choice of either reducing it to a reachable height yet again, or buying a longer ladder.

Instead, I consulted the Internet, and found that some people had successfully pruned bay trees off at ground level, and they still grew back! I didn't go quite that far, but I did cut it back to a skeleton. (I also put a handful of carefully chosen leaves in a polythene bag in the freezer).

Pruned bay tree ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

The main trunks are still about chest high, but when (if?) it grows again the intention is to keep it no more than head height, and no more than four foot across. I'll post news on it as it develops.

Meanwhile, I have a large pile of brushwood and a shredder to deal with. Smells great, though!

This blog entry has been viewed 265 times

Roses and Beans, etc

Category: Garden Highlights | Posted: Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:44 am

At the back of my house on the east-facing side I have four vegetable plots, each about five foot by nine and edged with old bricks. Beyond that is a small greenhouse, six foot by eight. This is enough to allow me to grow interesting vegetables (and some flowers) that can't be bought at the supermarket.

For example, this year I have four varieties of climbing bean, asparagus peas, five varieties of tomatoes, land cress, Sunburst squash, Jerusalem artichokes, physalis 'Golden Berry', and Royal Sovereign strawberries. A calendula or tagetes at each corner and one midway down the long side of each bed makes them look a bit more like a potager.

Between the house and the vegetable plots I've just put a small terrace after clearing a mound that obviously used to be a midden, dating to the 1930's judging by the old jars and stuff I found in it. The terrace is intended for breakfast during the summer, and we decided a rose growing up the wall behind it would be nice. We eventually settled on 'Teasing Georgia'.

I put a trellis on the wall, about six foot high and eight foot wide, which is the size Georgia is alleged to reach in a few years. As you can see, she has quite a way to go!

Teasing Georgia ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

Her first bud opened yesterday, and looked like this:

Teasing Georgia in bud ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

This morning it had opened fully, and looked really beautiful:

Teasing Georgia bloom ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

I have a grape in the greenhouse, together with some chillies (Bulgarian Carrot and Tabasco), more physalis, and lettuce.

I discovered this lettuce last year (sold by Oxfam!) and could not resist the name.

Lettuce 'Drunken Woman' ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

It is called 'Drunken Woman'! Apparently it is an Italian heirloom variety. The colours are really only pale green edged with red; the lighter patches in the photo are sunlight filtered through plants outside the greenhouse.

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Shades of red

Category: Garden Highlights | Posted: Sat Jun 04, 2011 8:09 pm

1. Strawberry red.
I picked the first strawberry yesterday, carefully cut it in half, and shared it with my wife. It was delicious! And there will be many more to follow over the next few weeks!

2. Cherry red.
It's also time to pick the cherries. The tree is far too big to cover all of it, but I put some fleece over some of the lower branches, held in place with clothes pegs.

Fleeced cherries ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

It looks ugly, but it's only for a few weeks, and without the fleece the birds take ALL of the cherries, while with only those few branches covered in fleece I picked about ten pounds of cherries last year. Dark red, juicy and delicious!

3. Seeing red.
It's the end of spring, and time to sow biennials again. This year I'm sowing Hesperis matronalis, or Sweet Rocket, which has lavender and white flowers, and Wallflower 'Ivory White'. The wallflowers are intended for the front border which has only white and blue flowers.

I did exactly the same last year, but was unpleasantly surprised when the seeds sold to me as 'Ivory White' turned out to be dark red!

Ivory red ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

The picture shows the seed packet propped up amongst the flowers it produced; notice that they have also managed to misspell the Latin name: it should be 'cheiri' not 'cheri'!

I pulled them out of my blue and white border, and complained to the seed company (I won't name them here to avoid any legal complications) who were apologetic, but were unable to offer any explanation of how they had managed to get seed for red plants into a packet clearly marked as white.

Needless to say, this year's seed came from a different company, and I won't be going back to the incompetent ones in a hurry!

This has never happened to me before. I've been growing annuals and biennials for decades, and never had the wrong plant or colour appearing. Has anyone else out there had this sort of problem?

This blog entry has been viewed 947 times

Garden wildlife

Category: Garden Highlights | Posted: Thu May 12, 2011 11:46 am

Gardens are, of course, more than just plants; I share mine with loads of other creatures.
One of my favourites is the song thrush that sings from just before dawn (about 04:00) until late at night, and still finds time to help keep down the slugs and snails. I don't see him very often, but I do find evidence that he's been there, like this:

Song Thrush Anvil ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

There are several anvils like that around the garden.
Another visitor that helps keep the snails population down also leaves little 'calling cards'...

Hedgehog calling card ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

He's usually around only at dawn and dusk, but yesterday I found him waddling across the lawn. He curled up in a ball as soon as I got near, and although I waited for ages, he refused to uncurl. And those spikes are amazingly sharp! Although he only weighs two or three pounds, it's not possible to pick him up with bare hands.

Hedgehog ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

And of course there is the cheeky little bird found in most English gardens.

Robin ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

If I start to do anything that involves disturbing the soil, such as hoeing, weeding, digging, etc, then he will appear and come very close, within a couple of feet, snatching up tiny insects and worms - unless I have a camera, in which case he refuses to come near enough for a decent picture, hence the bad one above!
Apart from these, I also get frogs, toads, many other birds including wrens, blackbirds, sparrows, wood pigeons, great tits, collared doves and starlings. Very occasionally I see a fox; I suspect he is actually a frequent visitor, but only when there are no humans around.
And although I tend to think of it as MY garden, I suppose many of these animals have just as much right to the place as I have!

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Actinidia and Strawberries

Category: Garden Highlights | Posted: Tue May 03, 2011 5:29 pm

There are two highlights in my garden at the moment.
Firstly, the Actinidia kolomikta growing against the north side of the garage is at its best. Some of the leaves are tipped with white, and some with white and pink. It doesn't tell you in the books, but the coloured leaves start with all white patches, and the pink slowly creeps in from the tip of the leaf, so the shrub is at its brightest now, and will become progressively duller as spring turns into summer.

Actinidia kolomikta ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

It also has flowers; only half-an-inch across and hidden under the leaves, but quite pretty!

Actinidia flowers ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

The second highlight is a promise of things to come... The strawberries have lots of blossom! We've had only 10% of normal rain fall in April, so I've been watering them every evening. Hopefully it will pay off in June. And the variety is 'Royal Sovereign', the best flavoured strawberry of all.

Strawberry flowers ( photo / image / picture from OrangeKing's Garden )

Last edited: Tue May 03, 2011 9:22 pm

This blog entry has been viewed 1246 times

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