Monthly Archives: November 2014

End of month view – November 2014


Unsurprisingly the garden is looking rather sad in places.  The drive bed, above, is looking better than most, with an ongoing second flush from Rosa Snow Goose, as well as some new planting below.  The strap like leaves are from Sisyrinchium striatum, which I’ve moved from the swing beds where they were taking over.  It was an early ‘In a vase on Monday‘ post which alerted me to how well the rose and Sisyrinchiums go together and so now they’ve been moved to live together, rather than just appearing fleetingly in a vase.

The downside of digging all the Sisyrinchiums out of the swing beds, is that they are now looking very bare.  And that’s not the only reason; I also dug up the large Euphorbia wulfenii Characias from each bed, as neither was looking well, and I pulled out the ‘only-two-apples’ apple tree which was starting to shade the right hand bed and looked rather incongruous amongst the perennials.  On a positive note, all the space has allowed me better access to plant my bulbs, so hopefully things will start bouncing back soon (quickly crosses fingers…)



The grass bed hasn’t yet had any autumnal clearing, and whilst the Stipa teniussima at the back are looking rather tired, the Nasturtiums at the front are in very rude health. Consequently I’ve left them alone for the time being, but sadly, the last few flowers on the nasturtiums are rather buried by the generous foliage.

Some of you may remember that I want to clear some, if not all, of the fox and cubs from this bed as they don’t really flower for long enough to justify their position, but that work is also yet to be done – and I think I need to get rid of all that nasturtium foliage so that I can even see the fox and cubs.IMG_5488

I’ve also done some clearing in the small veg patch, which is now back to just the raspberries, the diving lady (who has new bulbs planted in her pool) and Nimbus.


I’ve also cleared the exhausted Cosmos Purity from the troughs, but have left the stocks at the back.  They are getting rather leggy now but I just love their scent and forgot to plant any new ones this summer, so I’ll have to hope they survive the winter and reflower.

As well as clearing, I’ve planted some more Alliums (Purple Sensation) in this bed as their numbers seemed to have dwindled this year, so I gave them a top up.  They should follow on from the two Narcissii, Minnow and Segovia.IMG_5474

The raised beds I used for cutting for the first time this year still need clearing, but there are a few Antirrhinums clinging on, as well as one sentinel Zinnia.

I think I judge these beds a success.  Of course I would have had bigger plants and consequently more blooms if I’d planted in the ground, but I just didn’t have the space, and this is a relatively out of the way position so it didn’t matter that the whole effect wasn’t very cohesive.  I’ll definitely use the space again, but will need to replace the compost for next year.IMG_5491

Meanwhile the shady bed continues to look good in its monochrome way.  IMG_5492

Aside from the beds, I’ve also been planting up lots of pots with bulbs.  The one below is one of a pair which sit outside the greenhouse.  I’ve lain strips of rose prunings across the top to discourage marauders, and they seem to have worked so far.


In the greenhouse I have Iris reticulata ‘Gordon’ bulbs just starting to show their green shootsIMG_5495

and the cuttings taken last month are also putting on some new growth.  Certainly not 100% success, but definitely lots of new babies to tend. IMG_5496

And lastly, a couple of sights more applicable to much earlier in the year – still a few blooms on my Plumbagos, IMG_5498

and yes! more Tomatoes Sungold ripening.  The question is, where am I going to put all my tender plants if the greenhouse still has tomatoes in it?IMG_5497

With many thanks to Helen at The Patient Gardener for hosting the end of month meme. Please visit her website to see how other bloggers’ gardens look at this time of year.


Wildflower Wednesday – late November 2014


Although there’s been very little in the way of frost here, the Duver is now looking distinctly wintery.

Whilst there are odd flowers – like the cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestrisIMG_5419

wild garlic, Allium ursinumIMG_5421

and bedraggled chamomile,IMG_5440

these are the exception.

The majority of plantlife is either brown and decaying – my beautiful Sea Thrift, all over for the year – IMG_5441

and likewise the wild carrot, Daucus carota,IMG_5433

or are resolutely fruiting in a last chance reproductive saloon – rose hips,IMG_5431

seed head of Iris unguicularisIMG_5425

and Black Bryony, (Dioscorea [or Tamus] communis)IMG_5462

However, one thing clearly thriving in the relatively mild damp, is the funghi.

Sorry no names, but aren’t they extraordinary?  And no, I haven’t eaten any of them!

With many thanks, as ever, to Gail at Clay and Limestone for hosting Wildflower Wednesday.

Annual round up

IMG_3379 (3)

After a weekend of leaf collecting, veg patch dismantling and (tardy) bulb planting, I thought I’d hark back to sunnier, summery times and give a review of some of the annuals I’ve grown from seed this year.

All the seeds mentioned here were from Sarah Raven, except The Aster chinensis Hulk, which I think was Thompson and Morgan.

Above and below is the gorgeous marigold, Calendula offiinalis ‘Sunset Buff’.  IMG_3378

As well as the ‘Sunset Buff’, I grew Calendula ‘Neon.’  I’ve never grown calendula before, but I have to say I love these two.

I’ve been lucky enough to grow them either in my raised cutting beds, or my borrowed neighbours’ garden, as I would struggle to fit these colours into my rather pink scheme.

With regard to their use for cutting (the main reason I was growing them), they have been good, but I’ve struggled to get very long stems and also struggled with mildew later in the season. They were only planted in March, so I’ve planted some seed this autumn, in the hope of having more established plants earlier on next year.

Another orange plant grown in my ‘borrowed’ garden has been provided by my Tithonia, Tithonia rotundiflora ‘Torch’.  This has been incredibly prolific this year with the blooms making such a cheerful, bold statement.  I do love this plant but wonder where I’ll be able to grow it next year as it does reach quite a height and spread and, as mentioned before, orange isn’t always the easiest colour to include in a planting scheme.  I do have plans for a new orangey/bronzey themed bed, but the Tithonia would be too tall.  

A genus I’ve grown lots of before is Cosmos, but this year as well as the lovely Comos ‘Purity’, so prolific and so, well ‘pure’ (clue’s in the name…)

I also grew Cosmos ‘Psyche White’. These are very similar to ‘Purity’, but have semi double flowers, which are like a fun mutation of ‘Purity’.

As well as the whites, I grew three pinks, Cosmos ‘Dazzler’, which is quite well known but was new to me and was good, but to my mind not as good asIMG_3776 - Copy - Copy

Cosmos ‘Click Cranberries’.  These very double flower heads were fabulous, and in such a stunning pink (it look wonderful contrasted with the Tithonia).  However, one problem was that sometimes the flower heads were so heavy they didn’t stand up in the vase as well as the singles.

The last Cosmos was C. Rubenza.  I do like the rather unusual colour which fades as the plant ages to a very dusky pink, but this one is shorter than the rest and therefore impossible to get really long flowers for cutting, if that’s what you’re after.

IMG_3338 - Copy

I grew a couple of sunflowers – Helianthus ‘Valentine’ which was an attractive soft yellow and had realtively small blooms making them good for cutting.  Sadly, all my seedlings got eaten by slugs except one, so there weren’t many blooms to cut.  (I heard Sarah Raven suggest that it was as prolific as Cosmos but can’t say I found that with mine).

The second was Helianthus Claret.  I found these rather variable – you can see that the first picture shows the deep ‘wine-red’ colour I was expecting, whereas the next two don’t.  Although they were quite fun, and pretty prolific for cutting, I found it hard to put them with other blooms and didn’t particularly like just a vase of sunflowers.  I don’t think I’d grow them again.

Another plant I don’t think I’d grow again are Cleomes.  I rather like their spidery heads but I found them quite hard to arrange as cut flowers and certainly didn’t appreciate (or expect) their vicious thorns.  Ouch!

Something I would definitely grow more of are Zinnias.  They had a wonderfully productive year this year as it was warm and sunny, just how they like it, and they grow with long straight stems and last well in the vase.  I grew Zinnia ‘Genoa Mix’IMG_5362


and Zinnia ‘Envy’.

Another favourite is Salvia Viridis Blue.  Although not that tall, I love the form with the wonderfully coloured flower bracts.  This is still going strong in the garden in November, as are

the Nasturtium Black Velvet.  These had a bad patch in high summer, but are flowering wonderfully now.  The stems are very short for cutting, but make lovely posies and are, of course, good picked and sprinkled on salads as they are edible.

This Malope, Malope trifida Vulcan, I hadn’t grown for years, but it did really well for me this year.  The petals have a beautiful silk like texture, which is gorgeous, but they can get easily bruised when cutting and arranging, so you do need to take extra care.

This Rudbeckia, Rudbekia ‘Cherry Brandy’ has also been great and was used in my ‘In a vase on Monday’ post on November 10th, as it was still going strong.

A couple more flowers I haven’t grown from seed since I had my allotment in London – Antirrhinum ‘White Giant

and A. ‘Liberty Crimson’

I loved arranging with both of these as they provided fabulous vertical accents.

To finish, my ‘greens’.  The first one, an annual aster, was supposed to be Aster chinensis ‘Hulk’, but goodness knows what it is instead.  I do rather like it though!

Secondly, Ammi visnaga white.  I grew this instead of the more common Ammi majus, but I think it was a mistake.   I found the flower heads were very dense and not so easy to mix with other plants.  It did look lovely in simple arrangements, for example with the white Cosmos, however.

My Amaranthus caudatus ‘Viridis’, was an absolute revelation.  Lots and lots of fresh green cutting material, with funky long (sometimes very long!) green tassels.IMG_3775

And to finish, one of my favourite blooms of any colour – Molucella laevis, or Bells of Ireland.  I just love the form of this flower and for the first time ever got good germination rates and managed to grow some pretty tall blooms.  OK, not the two foot ones you get in the florists, but then I probably wasn’t as assiduous with my staking as I should have been, and they were never going to grow that tall along the ground!

Of course the other things I grew plenty of from seed this year were sweet peas, but I think I’ve gone on long enough.  You can read about my sweet peas here.

I would love to hear about your favourite annuals.  Do you like mine?  Know better?  Tell me!

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – November 2014


So it’s November, and whilst the garden isn’t exactly overwhelmed with blooms, there are still many flowers – and some quite exotic.  Firstly this orange abutilon, Abutilon ‘Orange Marion’. This is still sitting on my barrow and has been flowering non stop since June.  It’s in a large pot so will be brought into the greenhouse once frost is threatened, but in the meantime it’s enjoying the sunshine.

There are still roses flowering – Snow Goose,IMG_5385

and two inherited, nameless varieties:IMG_5352


Another good genus still going strong is Salvia, Salvia microphylla ‘Cerro Potosí’IMG_5376

unknown and IMG_5372

Salvia ‘viridis blue’, flowering in front of the Stipa tenuissima in the grass bed.IMG_5381

Climbers include Honeysuckle and IMG_5387

Clematis ‘Freckles’.IMG_5380

In the ‘med’ beds, this Potentilla nepalensis ‘Shogran’ is still flowering well.  I just love this particular shade of pink.IMG_5392

On the more exotic side, flowers which you think should perhaps know better than to be flowering in November, there is a Grevillea (is it just me or do the buds remind you of a rather pretty  fist?)IMG_5370

Marguerites, still looking cheerful despite the chill, IMG_5369

Nerine bowdenii,


Zinnia ‘Giant Dahlia Mixed’, in the cutting troughsIMG_5362

and the lovely diascia I was given by Nick Peirce from White Cottage Daylilies, which I wrote about here.  I really must ask Nick what it’s called.IMG_5378

And still the Verbena bonariensis come!IMG_5388

With thanks as ever to Carol at May Dream Gardens for hosting GBBD.

In a vase on Monday – Autumnal orange


Today’s vase (which is actually very similar in colouring to the last iaVoM I posted) was prompted by an overdue visit to my lovely neighbours’, who allow me a little patch in their walled garden to grow flowers for cutting.

I have to confess I haven’t been for weeks due to a combination of weather, being off the island, and a chest infection, so I wasn’t entirely surprised to see that nearly all the annuals I’d planted out in May had given up.  However one, Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’, was looking better than ever, so that’s where I started.IMG_5311

On their driveway they also has fabulous orange rose hipsIMG_5310

as well as Clematis tangutica seedheads, so I added a few of each.IMG_5309

To all of these I added some of my trusty Tithonias.  Sadly, this could be my last cutting of Tithonia, not because they’ve finished flowering, but because they’re grown in the garden behind us, and the empty house the garden belongs to, has now been let.  I don’t suppose they will flower for much longer, but I will miss them.IMG_5308

To finish an ‘aerial’ shot, which entailed a certain amount of climbing, showing

  1. my favourite vase from above
  2. one lone Calendula, which didn’t appear in any of the close ups and
  3. I should spend less time fiddling about in the garden and more time polishing my granite work surfaces!


With many thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting this lovely meme,


My over-the-road-oak – November 2014


A short post this month as we have family hordes descending for the mother-in-law’s 85th birthday this weekend, so I think I should probably have other priorities!

My over the road oak is definitely browning and the overriding colour is sadly no longer green.IMG_5305

Whilst there are still plenty of leaves on the tree, there are also plenty in the gardenIMG_5297

as well as by the steps.IMG_5301

Well I know one job I’ll be trying to fit in tomorrow!

With thanks as ever to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for hosting this ‘Follow a tree’ meme.  Go to her website to see what other bloggers’ followed trees are up to.



James Wong – growing for flavour and talking for Britain!


Wednesday saw me back at Ventnor Botanic Garden for a talk by James Wong,

The talk was entitled ‘Growing for flavour’ and, bearing in mind the two things I’ve grown following recommendations from him (Electric Daises and Cucamelons from his ‘Homegrown Revolution’ book) I’ve been less than Impressed with, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Well, suffice to say he is my new gardening crush.  Not only was his speech incredibly interesting and informative, but it was well delivered and laugh out loud funny too.

He has recently been writing a book in conjunction with the RHS about growing for flavour, and this talk was based on the research behind his writing.  As he made clear, he is not a hortculturalist, he is a botanist and his whole approach is science and evidence based.

To start with, he debunked the idea that taste is subjective – studies have shown for example that the range of sweetness or saltiness humans like is really very narrow (sugar percentage in the range 8-10%, with the salt percentage even narrower).  We may think we have a ‘sweet tooth’ but the variation really is quite limited.  He also mentioned that brain scans of people eating foods with the ‘holy grail’ 50/50 sugar/fat ratio show pleasure receptors lighting up in a similar fashion to heroin users.  Surely Krispy Kremes have to be safer than that?

Furthermore, something as fundamental as your liking for coriander turns out to be genetic, not ‘taste’.   People with a certain gene (up to 20% of the population depending on ethnicity) taste a mixture of soap and bleach when they eat coriander.  And there was me thinking my nephew was making a fuss!

So, to the growing.  I couldn’t possibly capture everything said, but here are a few points I noted

  • Choose the right varieties.  Genetics is key – however well grown, you cannot make a poor variety taste good, so choose carefully.
  • Leaving foods such as butternut squash, pumpkins, tomatoes and strawberries for a few days before eating (NOT in the fridge), substantially increases sweetness – for strawberries, for example, up to 700% in 4 days.
  • Using dissolved aspirin on plants to makes them think they’re under attack.  The plants produce tastier fruits in the hope they will be able to reproduce.  An example was watering tomatoes with 1/4 to 1/2 an aspirin tablet dissolved in a litre of water, three times during the growing season.  Other studies have suggested for different plants you just need to soak the seeds in the aspirin solution prior to planting, to enjoy the same beneficial effect.
  • Using Methyl jasminate (Jasmine water) to spray on buds has a similar effect
  • Mulching tomatoes and strawberries with red plastic, not black.  The science behind this is all to do with the colour of the reflected light.  Apparently the light reflected off red is actually green, which replicates the light reflected off competing (green) weeds.  Again, this tricks the plants to think they’re under attack when they are not.
  • Growing tomatoes as a single truss.  Apparently this was a method discovered in the UK, exported to Japan and then largely forgotten back in the UK.  Plants are ‘stopped’ after one truss has set fruit by removing all side shoots, as well as the growing tip.  Consequently the plant puts all its energy into ripening the one truss.  There are a number of advantages – you can cram in many more plants in the same area and therefore the yield is similar, but the plants need less attention as there is no staking/tying in/ side shoot pinching to worry about and instead, with all energy focussed on one truss, the flavour of that truss is significantly enhanced.
  • Watering with mollasses.  This has been found to dramatically increase beneficial soil bacteria.  The logic is that plants make their own sugar during photosynthesis, so if you water with a sugar solution early in a plant’s life, it will accelerate their establishment.  James suggested if you’re planting bare root trees, for example, you should dig a square hole, firm the plant in and water with a molasses solution – no stake, no mycorrhizal fungi, no fuss!

Modest chap that he is, James never mentioned the name of the book, nor its publication date, but I, for one, will be at the front of the queue.

And to finish, a few lovely blooms from a sunny, post talk stroll at VBG.