Tag Archives: Sweet peas

In a vase on Monday – more Birthday celebrations


Although my daughter’s not 18 until the end of July, she decided to have her party to coincide with the end of her A Levels, and so Friday saw me running around getting ready before her arrival back from her last exam after lunch.

She only had around 20 guests and wanted them all to sit down to eat so we borrowed next door’s garden table, and, lacking the pre-planning to have organised a table cloth,  I fiddled about with flowers.  I thought about some prettier vases but was concerned they might get damaged and so plumped for rustic tin cans.

The choice of flowers was very much governed by what was plentiful or shortly to go over.  As some of you will remember, I’m opening the garden next Sunday for the local hospice and so was reticent to pick any ‘important’ blooms like peonies, which will hopefully still be blooming in a week’s time (and would probably have tipped the cans over anyway!)

I didn’t take any proper photos as there was a marquee to erect and decorate, a cake to make and a lot of furniture to move, so these are just zoomed in from the original.


The bloom, included Sedum, Pinks, Alchemilla mollis, Ranunculus, Lychnis, Sweet Peas, Nepeta Six Hills Giant and the lovely blue spire at the top of the photo above.  I have two quite big clumps of this and love it in flower arranging as I like the way the flowers curve.  The question is, does anyone know what it is?  I think it could be a Veronica or a Veronicastrum but I can’t seem to find the lable and I’d love to know.IMG_7781b

I’m delighted to say the party went without a hitch, and even more delighted (and astonished) that a number of guests admired the garden – I don’t think gardens were on my radar at 18!

Why don’t you go over to Cathy’s at Rambling in the Garden and see what others have in their Monday vases.

In a vase on Monday – on a desk!


I don’t normally work on Mondays, but today was the exception and also the first time I’ve brought flowers to the office since I’ve been back at work.

The flowers travelled up with me from the island, (together with many Isle of Wight Festival leavers) wrapped in cling film (the flowers, not the Festival leavers). They always come out looking a little crushed but generally bounce back

At my old job I took flowers to work every week in the summer and always concentrated on sweet peas as I love the scent so much.  This week the arrangement is largely sweet peas, but they’ve been joined by a couple of newcomers.  Firstly, Dianthus Green Trick.  This was bought as plugs from Sarah Raven, but I’ve then propagated more by taking cuttings.  I really like the fresh green they provide.

In addition, and linking to my earlier GBBD post, are couple of sugar pink Ranunculus.  And no, these are even less Purple Heart than the cerise ones, but they look pretty here and will hopefully last well

Just a short post as I’m struggling to blog on my iPad, but it’s always fun to join in. Why don’t you go and have a look at what other bloggers have arranged in their Monday vases?

With thanks as ever to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting.

Sweet peas – is less really more?


One of the tasks we (it was a two ‘man’ job) completed this weekend, was the erection of the jute netting between the swing uprights.  This is the first time I’ve used jute netting (bought by the metre from Agriframes), rather than green plastic, having been introduced to it by Julie at Peonies and Posies.  It’s much easier to handle, will compost at the end of the season and is a much more natural colour.

Another area where I’ve taken advice from Julie (and indeed Georgie Newbery of Common Farm Flowers, of which more in a later post) is the spacing of my sweet peas.  Unlike 2013, when my sweet peas at the back of the swing beds were quite successful, last year they really weren’t.  They somehow never got going which I put down to a number of issues.  Firstly, I don’t think the ground was well enough prepared for what are hungry plants, secondly they suffered from lack of water and lastly, something which compounded the previous two problems, I think they were fundamentally overcrowded.

Last year below, in June, and you can barely see the sweet peas to the right of the rose.


So this year I have dug out a trench and filled it full of manure and new compost and reduced the number of plants considerably to just 1 every 8-9 inches.  It feels counter intuitive to plant less when I want more, but I’m sure the combined wisdom of the aforementioned sweet pea-aholics know best.

Meanwhile, my pots by the front door look even more sparse, with just eight plants each.


However, despite my current trepidation about whether I’ve done the right thing, there are a couple of definite positives.  Firstly, I’ve finally freed up some root trainers to plant more peas and beans, and secondly, there are more sweet plants to either give away (sister dear) or plant up in the veg bed or the cutting garden. I don’t think I’m growing any of these from last year, but I bet they’ll still be gorgeous.  Roll on the sweet peas!

Resolve and realise – February 2015



Whilst writing down my January plans definitely helped concentrate the mind, as with all plans, they don’t necessarily go exactly to, well, plan!

Let’s run through last month’s list and see where I got to:

  • spring clean greenhouse (yuk!)

Well I hope you’ll acknowledge that the greenhouse looks a lot more spick and span than last month.  I’ve cleaned all the inside panes of glass apart from the very top, but think I’m going to have to get a window cleaner to do the outside.  I’ve also had a good clear out and power washed the floor.  Tick.

  • prune wisteriaIMG_5933

Tick!  Although it could now do with a feed.

(The pink toned leaves you can see are from the Cobaea scandens which is growing through the Wisteria.  It’s rather tatty now so I’m planing to replace it with something else)

  • prune vineIMG_5928


The vine runs along the front of the decking, at the back of the two troughs and was planted by the OH (a vine has never featured anywhere near the top of my plants wishlist).  It was also trained along a wire which ran along the base of the decking and as a result got knotted up with all the planting in the troughs which was very annoying.  So, as well as pruning, I’m delighted that I’ve also persuaded the OH to move the wire up by a foot or so which should hopefully reduce this summer’s entanglements!

  • dig and prepare new ‘bronze bed’


Hmm.  No tick.  Whilst I’ve dug down a spade full and marked the new edge of the bed, this represented six or seven wheelbarrow loads of heavy, clay soil and I’ve got in rather a knot as to what I’m going to do with the spoil.  At the moment I’ve been putting it in empty compost bags (see big white bags below) but think we’re going to have to pay for someone to ‘grab’ them away.

As a consequence I think I need a proper plan as to what’s going to happen with all the soil I’m digging out, as the last thing I want to do is have to move it a second time.   This one definitely needs to be carried forward…

  • sow more sweet peas
  • sow more broad beansIMG_5948

Tick!  Tick! (And the Sweet Peas are in my smart new rootrainers)

  • plant out bought replacement crocuses in pots (after a mouse had all of my bulbs)


Well Tick and then darn it, unTick!  It really is very annoying to lose bulbs for the second time. And the weird thing is that last year I had a lovely show of crocuses with no extra protection.

As I said in the comments after I posted this picture on Wordless Wednesday, I thought by the time bulbs were flowering, most of the goodness had been used up and therefore they weren’t as attractive to predators.  Clearly I was wrong.

I’ll just have to wait for the later bulbs already planted in these pots in what Sarah Raven calls a ‘bulb lasagne’

  • force rhubarb

Tick!  Forgot to photo, but I should also feed.

  • mulch all beds


Definitely no tick.  All I’ve done is to order the compost and manure I use for mulching.  A pathetic effort.  Definitely to carry forward.

So, for next month (which is thankfully longer than the two weeks I gave myself last time) the list is as follows:

Carried forward

  • dig and prepare new ‘bronze bed’
  • mulch all beds

and new for February

  • Order seeds (yay!)
  • Prune and feed raspberries
  • Prune and feed remaining roses
  • Pot up dahlia tubers
  • Chit potatoes
  • Sow chillies
  • Sow tomatoes
  • Sow hardy annuals
  • Start sowing hardy annuals
  • Plant out broad beans

If anyone would like to join me, please do, you’d be more than welcome, just leave a link with your comment

Kissing’s in season when gorse is in bloom

2014 01 010

My granny (unlike my mother) wasn’t known for her horticultural expertise, but she did teach me the saying above.  As a consequence, I spend a lot of time checking the state of the Duver’s gorse to ensure kissing remains a la mode, and I’m cheered to report that you can all ‘buss on’ (although preferably not on the bus).

Following last week’s foray to the cosseted microclimate of Ventnor’s Undercliff, I thought I’d see what was flowering in the more ‘real’ world of St Helen’s Duver.*

And the answer is that the Duver’s flora is almost as cheering as Ventnor’s, albeit a little less obvious.  Firstly, from the R88 footpath down to the Duver, the banks are smothered with a fresh, zingy green (almost as cheering as the new growth of Alchemilla mollis, but less frilly), accompanied occasionally by a rather dull flower (no offence).

The plant is Petasites Fragens, (because this is about me getting an education too).  The common name of a related species, Petasites hydridus, is ‘Butterbur’ apparently due to the fact that the leaves used to wrap butter before the advent of fridges.  I don’t think I could really justify that name for these leaves, unless you’re talking the sort of butter pat you get with your scone.

Also near the top was a rather chewed violet as well as small, low growing pink flower that I’m struggling to identify.  Help please!

And to the right of the path you can see the first few heads of wild garlic or Ramsons (Allium ursinum).  Later in the spring the smell pervades the whole path with a Gallic perfume.

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And lastly, back to the gorse where we started.  There are many bushes on the Duver which happily withstand the windswept site.  Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a member of the Pea family (Fabaceae), which makes sense when you look at the flower shape.  The flowers are apparently edible, but can’t say I’ve tried.  I think I’d rather stick to the garlic, but then what about the kissing?


  • Let’s be honest, not much, but I did finish cleaning the greenhouse
  • And I found another packet of Sweet Peas – Matucana, so I’ve popped them in.

 * “Duver” (rhymes with cover, not hoover) is Isle of Wight dialect for an area of sand dunes.  St Helen’s Duver is the largest surviving duver on the island.

There was a (men only) nine hole golf course on this site from 1882 which became the ‘Royal’ Isle of Wight Golf Club in 1883 when Edward, Victoria’s eldest son, later Edward VII, became a member.  Later, in the 1930’s, David Niven was a member.

In 1961 the few remaining members decided to present the land to the National Trust, with the land to be kept as an open space for all time.

With thanks to the National Trust for this information.  See full article here.

Sweet pea perusal

So a sweet pea sort of a weekend.  Firstly, Louise, my friend from the beautiful garden at Kingston Rectory, brought me a Tangier Pea, Lathyrus tingitanus, (above)  grown from Sarah Raven seed.  It’s supposed to clamber like a clematis, so now all I have to do is decide where to put it – and wait for the temperature to warm up (it’s hardly Tangier centigrade here at the moment).

Secondly I finally planted my own sweet pea seeds.  I bought seed this year from English Sweet Peas for the first time.  I was tempted by some of their mixes, particularly the ‘Parfumiere Mix’ from the ‘Sweet peas for fragrance’ collection.  I also bought ‘Mrs Collier’, ‘Cupid Purple’, ‘Lianne Marie’ and ‘Breath of Fresh Air Mix’.

I plant my sweet peas in old washing liquid capsule boxes – it makes me feel green recycling the boxes, but sadly think I’m paying way over the odds for my washing liquid.  I planted the seeds in multipurpose compost, figuring they didn’t need cosseting in a seed mix, and didn’t chit or soak.  I’ll keep you posted on their germination.

Meanwhile I’ll share a picture of sweet peas on the pergola last year, as well as the serried rows of planted seeds from this afternoon.  Oh the potential – surely it’s what keeps us all going?


  • As well as the sweet pea seed planting described above, I also planted some poppies (Papaver orientale – ‘Patty’s Plum’ and ‘Manhattan’ above) bought as bare root plants from Hayloft Plants.  They’d arrived before Christmas but had been ignored until now, largely due to the Madeira sojourn.  I gave them a soak and planted them up.  Annoyingly I managed to mix up the two varieties in the process, but at least they’ve now got their feet in some soil…
  • And no, I still haven’t cleaned the rest of the greenhouse, which made taking the photo of the sweet pea seeds quite an art in avoiding the grotty bits.