A Day for Dianthus

Saturday 7 July.  Scorching.  Over 30 degrees in London.  High 20s in the shade.   Whewf! There’s a few puffy white clouds in the sky, story-book styled, but for the most it’s relentless, pounding, pure shining sun.  So up to the allotment plot to provide some water for flagging plants and check on our set of little pepper plants.   Go peppers go!

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Needless to say, these are far from ideal conditions for planting by any means, but we had the little dianthus pots to get in, as well as the small pot of purple basil to plant.

Yesterday I’d lined the wooden frame of the tomato/pepper bed with brick edging – so’s to maybe delay the inevitable rot of the raised wood frames.  So into that front flower bed the dianthus were planted.  I forked-up the hard clay soil (after a month of high 20s temperatures and no rain, the soil is like brittle concrete), picked-out the big stones (conveniently added to the side walkway which is quickly becoming a pebble path), dusted the soil with a healthy dose of bone meal, added new soft compost, forked over again after watering, then popped them in and watered again thoroughly to settle the plants in.

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Front perennial flower bed, with virginicum & dianthus.  Lobelia adds a splash of annual colour.

Three pink Dianthus ‘Kahori’ now line that front flower bed that leads into the allotment space from under the rose arbour.  Lovely!

With luck the dianthus will settle happily and flower again next year – like the virginicum, dianthus are perennial, so that’s the little flower bed for the butterflies and bees all sorted for years to come (fingers & toes crossed).

The little purple basil was planted into the ‘herb bed’ to keep company with edible calendula, marjoram, flat leafed parsley and a small clump of thyme.

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Sure thing, it was a beautiful summer’s day.   It was nice to see a bee enjoying the new addition of Super G’s beloved sea holly.  (Maybe in time, once the wood posts are installed and the boundary and back area where we dream of a ‘terrace’ and small shed in the shade of the lime tree have been commenced and in progress… we’ll plant some artichoke along the edge there, by the sea holly, which are in the thistle family too and would keep them good company.) 

But despite the stunning beauty and peace of the place, and the list of little tasks that can always be done — snipping, trimming, tidying, picking stones and pebbles from the growing beds, pruning the holly hedge, etc etc — it was just too damned hot to stay.

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The Damask Rose – quite simply intoxicating!

And there was the pressing matter of watching the first day of the Tour de France on TV.  Geesh. Sports fans are spoilt for choice today — England play Sweden in the World Cup, there’s Wimbledon going on across town and also the Tour.  

Hard to know what to watch, and it’s a bit surreal to be out of sync with most everyone else in town who’s cheering and shouts of joy can be heard echoing through open windows and right across town, but if you know the Mr you’d know we’re watching the cycles….

 

 

 

 

Dianthus Kahori

  • Hardy evergreen perennial with an upright habit.  This variety from Japan forms a clump of grey-green foliage with long summer displays of fragrant deep pink blooms.
  • Considered ‘Border Pinks’ dianthus are a favourite for planting in rock gardens or border edging.  Dianthus combines beautifully with other low alpine plants.
  • Prefers full sun.  Grows 10 cm high.  Plant can spread 8-12 inches (20-30 cm).
  • Plants require good drainage and are an excellent choice for hot dry sites or gravelly soils.  
  • Water well and use soil improver and bone meal when planting.
  • Flowers May, June, July
  • Shear plants back lightly after blooming to maintain a tight, compact habit.
  • Attractive to butterflies.  
  • Kaori” means fragrance in Japanese.
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Oh my! The catch-up….

Wow.  It’s 25 June.  Can it really be that the last time I updated the allotment diary was 6 June?  Goodness time does fly.

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So, tons have changed.  Given that time-lag recall is not my forte, let’s just recap what’s what as of ce soir.

Where to start?  There’s been so much.  So I’ll just recall as I go.  The big (huge) clump of semi-wild yellow flowering iris have been moved out of the long front raspberry bed to the south-west corner. Seems to have survived the transplant.  The other half of that massive clump of iris are now taking up real-estate in the back patch, on the principle that plants planted keep the weeds down better than anything else – even heavy duty mulch.  Roots muscle out place in the earth.

There are now two vegetable plots.  The farthest to the south-west has two pepper and two tomato plants.  These were the first veg crops we planted at the allotment and they’re doing well.  So planted in early June.

The second bed to its side contains half a bed of runner beans, and half a bed of yellow zucchini.  Planted just last Saturday – 23 June.  We planted the started seedlings (bought from the garden centre) in high summer heat, with a kiss of water and lots of hope.  We went back tonight to check on things.  The poor beans were flat out wilting on the ground but more water perked them up.  (We still have to set up a bean support of poles for the beans.)

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The Pepper Patch

The eastern side of the plot (under the fig and holly tree) now has a small flower bed dug in – with a pink and a white flowering cosmos and lobelia.  Annuals to help fill the gaps and provide a splash of colour.  I used to grow cosmos on Crow’s Corner, Cumberland Ontario, and I really like the way they flower all blooming summer long – so long as you’ve got them in a spot they’re happy in.

We’ve also brought up a lily of the valley in a terracotta pot – still meditating on where best to plant it.  Likes full sun in gentle, balmy spring, and cooler, shadier conditions in the high heat of summer.  Maybe up in the top terrace (yet to be levelled or developed) – along the side by the damask rose and the new sea holly?  It’s a bit cooler up there, shaded, but would be pretty full-on sun in the spring, before the deciduous leaf cover comes into play.   In any case, there’s no rush and that little lily of the valley is happy in the pot for the time being.

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Cosmos & Lobelia Bed – just planted

In the bed that comes into the allotment from the red rose on the arbor, we dug over the ground there and planted in a small flower bed, with some plugs of lobelia and a perennial flower picked by Mr G at the garden centre.  (He’s the flower guy!)  A veronicastrum virginicum roseum – ‘pink glow.’

Quite the mouthful but the picture on the plant tag has long spires of pinkish purple flowers.  (A bit like a butterfly bush).   And in my view you just can’t go wrong with perennials in a garden. They’re like investment banking – they just get better and better as time goes by.  (Or at least usually).  And besides, if it’s not a good fit at the allotment it can be moved back to the back patch.  (I’m loving how the two spaces are working in harmony – the only conflict being that of the time to spend on each plot of ground.)

Oh yes.  There’s now a sea holly.  From the thistle family.  Spikey.  Looks a plant from outer space.  A strange white luminous purple – like something viewed under black light disco.  Mr G loves it.

I know I’ve missed out on lots.  Like the morning we went there just to water the tomato and pepper plants, then ended up doing 3 hours, and Mr G moved the plastic composting tub (a big square one that’s about 3 feet by 3 feet square), levelled ground to place it in an absolutely perfect spot (no easy feat as the ground is tough as concrete and peppered with rocks, masonry and bricks) and then in the end had bricks to edge it in nice and snug and firmly.  The top opens easy and the bottom hatch that opens to get the rotted compost out slides up and opens smooth as can be – just like new.  He’s a master.

And I’ve not touched on the exciting new real-estate revealed by another clear out of overgrown brambles and bind weed at the back, once the big compost tub was moved down to the ground level entry area.  We’re starting to see where the love shack might go. The Mr found some scaffolding poles at work that people wanted to chuck out – we’ve got to figure out how to get them back home so’s to use as a frame.  Might be the next arbor/pergola entrance to the next plot besides ours.  We could grow something up the pergola – a grape maybe?  Or simply use as a firm support for edible crops – cordon tomatoes maybe?

Or mentioned that slowly the paths are becoming weed-free.  And that maybe – just maybe – we’ll install a removable swing seat onto the scaffolded arbor.  I’ve always wanted a swing….

Yeah – we’re getting there.

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Rose Arbor and Prepared Flower Bed — taken before planting the Virginicum ‘Pink Glow’ and Lobelia.

 

PLANTING RECORDS

Sweet Pepper – ‘Snack Orange’ 

  • big crops of smaller sweet orange fruits (5-8 cm long).
  • crops through late summer and autumn
  • fruit starts green and turns orange
  • plants reach 60cm high
  • likes full sun – protect from frost
  • prefers well-prepared soil with plenty of compost / rotted manure
  • plant at same depth as pot
  • water regularly
  • apply a high potash liquid feed twice a week after first fruits form
  • regular picking encourages more fruit development

 

Sweet Pepper – ‘Golda F1′ (Franchi) 

  • large, thick-fleshed early to mid-season variety
  • fruit ripens to yellow
  • resistant to disease.
  • choose a warm, sunny spot
  • plant in good, well-drained soil
  • water regularly
  • for bigger crops, liquid feed with tomato fertiliser weekly once fruits have formed
  • regular picking encourages the yield
  • see http://www.seedsofitaly.com

 

Tomato – ‘Alicante’

  • popular variety bearing good crops of fruit through late summer and autumn
  • non-bush cordon variety
  • likes sunny, sheltered spot in fertile, well-prepared soil (minimum 10 degrees C)
  • once fruits have formed fertilise with liquid tomato fertiliser twice a week until late August

 

Veronicastrum virgicum roseum – ‘pink glow’

  • erect deciduous perennial with spikes of pink flowers mid-summer to early-autumn.
  • grows in any moist soil in full sun or partial shade
  • grows 120 cm high by 45 cm
  • a plant rated as ‘perfect for pollinators’ (eg bees, hoverflies, hummingbirds etc)

 

 

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Hummingbird H.Q.

It was chilly this morning, but by late afternoon we were back in high summer.  London early June.  Hot with blazing sun.  Sunburn weather, really.  The big guy got back from work and we agreed to take a walk to the allotment.  I wanted to call and provide an opportunity to switch the keys – and also request a spare key for Mr G.   Despite dripping and soaked through after his four mile sprint home, he was amenable to the notion. ‘But only if we go down and water the grass seed first.

That would be the grass seed spread on the front woods lawn to the back and side of the ‘Michael Palin’ oak and new flower bed on Sunday last.  So we did.  He watered in repeated trips with a watering can, and I weeded and did some spot watering on the half circle bed in the woods, as well as somehow finding time to trim the tops of the side elevation bed’s currant bushes, thoroughly watering the raised bed with edible cherry, black currant and strawberries.  (Amazing how currant trimmings actually smell like black currants!  Try it!  You’ll be amazed.)  The espalier cherry are setting fruit, as are the currants and also the strawberries.  There, hidden, nestled at ground level you could just about see the pale white unripe strawberries – still forming but most hopefully making their presence known.  Yum!

And on we went until the mister thought he’d done enough watering and we were good to go.  At which point I retrieved a portion of ‘found’ wooden lattice trellis to use as framing for our new plot – to divide the edge from the one in front of us, which presents a 3 foot drop from our level, and some of it into a sunken cast iron bathtub full of green slippery slimy growth and toads’ tadpoles.  Gadzooks it’s dangerous.  A restraining edge, trellis border, is most definitely required.  And off we set.

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British Flowers Week: 18-24 June

British Flower Week runs this year 18-24 June.  Who knew it ran at all?  We are officially knackered.  Gardened-out after a 9+ hour cumulative weekend, not to mention that I’m mentally running to the end of the year at work.  And the fact the flat is a tip: have to organise, clear-out, get ready to paint the living room, and all that.  Oh my!  We’re busy!

So there’s almost no chance that we’ll visit any of the Flower Week festivities.  But I’ll make a note for next year: we live in hope.

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Clearing Day

Five hours later, and we exposed the edges and could survey the full scope of the plot.  It’s bigger than we thought.  Room at the back for a pallet patio, or even a shed.  I got so hot cutting out the bramble, piling the cuttings and general clearing that I started to fantasise about a summer cold water shower!

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We cleared and cleared and cleared…

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Blousy blooms

Iris are pretty spectacular.  We have a nice clump in the corner of the back patch.  Psychedelic blues and purples.

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They are in flower now, and have been for at least week, which is the last week of May and heading into early June.

Iris are perennial, relatively hardy and easy to grow if they are in the right location.  They do well in well-drained to dry soil in full sun.

Iris grow by rhizomatic spread.  According to the Royal Horticultural Society plant iris rhizomes from July to October, spacing plants 1 foot apart (30cm).

Ensure root sections are partially exposed to the sun.

Adding sand and grit to ground for iris is recommended.

Divide clumps every 3 or 4 years.  Plants can be divided after flowering from early- to late-summer.  The RHS recommends dividing in August.

 

 

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Lemon Verbena – Tweaked

CIMG1766So there we were, walking back from an evening meal out at a local cafe.  Ambling along hand in hand, and then got to dawdling along the railway path – the last stretch back to the flat – and stopped to wonder at all the plants.  The rose on the wooden pergola is going absolutely bonkers and is at this moment dripping in flower buds.  When it all opens up – and the roses will very soon come into blossom – it will be glorious.

I was busy grubbing out some of the low growing weeds – pernicious buggers and it takes vast amounts of persistence to rid the ground of them.  The big guy was re-weaving rose stalks to get them from being too tangled in the metal fence rails (already looking forward to painting the fence later this summer).  And then we both stopped and together paused to marvel at the lemon verbena.

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Every allotment should have…

It was a very rainy day today, with booming thunder and crackling snapping lightning.  So I stayed inside on a day I had hoped to start to turn over the new plots, and dreamed of what to do in the allotment.

After slicing my finger quite badly on a blackberry thorn on day one I prepared a small waterproof tub of ‘first aid’ materials – bandaids, surgical tape, after-bite and an Avon skin spray that is supposed to work as a bug repellent.  So, other than a first-aid kit, what does every allotment need, according to today’s dreams and plans and scheming?

One necessity is an area for weeding, trimmings, compost.  Compost heaps can be areas that in turn become cultivated, after being left fallow and richly fed with compost for a few years.  This is what I like to call ‘lazy gardening’ – creating new beds by heavy mulching and softening up the soil naturally before getting in to turn over the ground with a fork.

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Out of the blue, a dream come true

Last week I had a call out of the blue.  Are you so-and-so?  Do you still live in on Sesame Street?  It was the coordinator from the allotment cooperative I’d signed up to join over 10 years ago.  We chatted briefly and arranged to be in touch in coming days.  It was an illuminating conversation: yes, my address is the same, yes my work email is the same, yes my mobile number is the same.  Has nothing changed?, I wondered to myself.  And yet in those ten years much also has changed.  In fact, it feels like everything’s changed – all the most important things in any case – but evidently not.

She warned me: it is very overgrown.  It will be a lot of work.  That’s the way with allotments that come available.  They do so because people have let them go.  And she knew it was late in the year, really, for a vegetable plot.  Part of me felt it mad to undertake.  The woods and back patch here closer to home are more than enough gardening for anyone, really.  But I was intrigued even if somewhat wary of taking on even more.  I have enough to get on with, without adding more to the task list.  So many projects left dangling, undone.  (The sewing, the glasswork, the general tidying).

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Even so, when she rang on the bank holiday Monday morning, I couldn’t help but agree to meet her on site later that afternoon.  I couldn’t come sooner as I’d committed to go to D’s birthday party mid-day.  When I set off I was steadying my nerves and preparing to say that I would love to have a plot, but would prefer one that was clearer, or smaller, or bigger, or something of the like.  But when I got there and looked around, it seemed small enough to manage, and really quite sweetly situated.

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