Grow Dusky Crane's Bill / Geranium phaeum

Grow Dusky Crane's Bill / Geranium phaeum Now is a good time to start the Dusky Crane's Bill from seed.  Also known as the Black Widow, these plants grow wild in most parts of Central and Western Europe but less so here in the UK.  They are great ground cover, with lobed leaves, and dark purple flowers in early summer.  They are very hardy and cope well in just about all conditions, from sun to full shade and all soil types except heavy clay.

These plants have a reputation for being tricky to grow from seed, with some experts recommending a period of cold to get them going.  However, a recent test germination we have just done here in Cornwall in late September resulted in a strong flush of seedlings within a couple of weeks.  No special treatment - just sow the seeds in a tray of seed compost or multi-purpose compost in autumn and early winter, cover the seeds lightly with compost, keep outside somewhere, eg in a coldframe or on an outside table, and the seeds germinate within a few weeks.  If the weather turns cold they may wait and germinate in the spring!

You will see the first two leaves of the seedlings are very different to the next true leaves.  The first leaves are rounded, followed by the lobed true leaves seen in the top left of the middle photo below.  Transplant the seedlings into their own small pots once the true leaves have formed and the seedlings are growing well.  Grow on over winter, protecting the young plants from slugs and snails, and then plant out in spring. These plants are semi-evergreen, and may die down in cold winters or colder gardens.  Do not assume the young plants have died and wait for a new flush of leaves in spring.  Plants flower in early to mid summer.  Trim the plants back after flowering if they look untidy.

Once the plants are established in your garden, they will spread around naturally, and are not invasive.

             Seeds...................................Seedlings..............................Plants in flower

See here for more information on buying, sowing and growing Dusky Crane's Bill.

Created On  12 Oct 2018 10:00  -  Permalink

Is a garden made in the autumn?

A summer garden is often a reflection of how much gets done in autumn.  The days can be long and sunny.  There are plants to be divided, spring bulbs planted and lots of seeds to be sown for a promising start to the following year.

September to December is the time to plant spring flowering bulbs. They are so little effort for the effect you get in the spring.  I like to plant some bulbs into the flower beds and others into pots.  The pots can be moved around and placed on an outside table when in flower, to be enjoyed with the first outside coffee in spring.  Sometimes smaller delicate spring flowers need to be seen close up to appreciate their full beauty!
 Star of Bethlehem

Autumn is a great time to sow seeds.  Clear some cultivated space in your garden, and sow hardy annuals or biennials:

- Love-in-a-Mist - typically blue flowers, but there are pink mixes now available Nigella 'Mulberry Rose'

- Hollyhocks, try something different Hollyhock 'Single Black' 

- Annual poppies, my favourite this year was Poppy 'Mother of Pearl Mix'

- Ammi majus, lovely for naturalistic garden

- Cornflowers, try the original wildflower, or a cultivated variety such as Centaurea 'Black Ball'

- Toadflax, flowering all summer and right into late autumn, Linaria 'Fairy Bouquet' is a beauty

- Californian poppies, flowering much sooner with an autumn start, my favourite is Eschscholzia 'Ivory Castle'
 Californian Poppy 'Ivory Castle'

- English Marigolds, such as a nearly-pink variety Calendula 'Pink Surprise'.

Sweet Peas flower earlier in summer when started in autumn.  November is a good time to sow Sweet Peas.  Try sowing 3 seeds per 9cm pot, keeping them in a cold frame or protected place, and plant them together into the ground or into a larger container in the spring.

- Climbing Sweet Peas are always lovely, and great to cutting - try Sweet Pea 'Blue Ripple', 'Apricot Sprite' and 'Royal Wedding'
- A pot Sweet Pea trails beautifully in a hanging basket - Sweet Pea 'Sugar 'n Spice' is worth a try
Sweet Pea 'Sugar 'n Spice'

Slightly-more-tender annuals can be sown in a greenhouse in autumn.  Nemesias are good to sow in autumn as they take a while to get going and you get a head start.  Nemesia 'Blue Gem' looked lovely this year.  Clarkia was the big surprise of the year - Clarkia 'Pink Buttercups' is still flowering in October in a very attractive subtle pink.  Try Snapdragons early.  A dark leaved variety, Antirrhinum 'Bronze Dragon' adds contrasting colour to the garden.

Violas sown in autumn flower in early spring - try a green variety Viola 'Envy' for something different.

So, is a garden really made in the autumn?  Perhaps, but maybe that is when I like to put in most of my effort.  And besides, we are very busy in spring and I need to be here, indoors, tending our lovely customers in the spring!

Created On  3 Oct 2018 15:21  -  Permalink

September Flowers from the Garden

The garden still has lots of flowers in late September, delivering this informal arrangement for the house.

1  Lavender 'Hidcote'
Salvia 'Victoria'
Linaria 'Fairy Bouquet'
Nemesia 'Blue Gem'
Cosmos 'Dazzler'
Serbian Bellflower / Campanula
7  Convolvulus
Clarkia 'Pink Buttercups'
Cape Daisy / Osteospermum

Created On  29 Sep 2018 13:00  -  Permalink

Tree Echiums in Cornwall

Ever seen these amazing plants in Cornwall and wondered what they were?  They are Tree Echiums or Echium Blue Steeple and they grow flower spikes up to 4m tall!

Tree Echiums come from the Canary Islands and have made themselves at home in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.  They are quite tender, but will survive a mild frost and can be seen around the coastal areas of the Roseland Peninsula and Tresco Island in particular.  They are stunning to see in real life and are worth a visit in early summer (May/June) to see in flower.  However, the cold winter of 2017/18 has frosted off many of these beautiful plants so now is a good time to start more from seed to ensure we have these lovely flowers next year.

Each plant grows from seed in spring and early summer into a low growing rosette of hairy leaves.  The rosette overwinters and sends up a 4m tall flower spike the following summer.  Each spike is made up of masses of small blue flowers that attract lots of pollinators.  After flowering the plants die and scatter their seed, creating impressive clusters of plants in the years that follow.

It is best to grow these plants outside in warmer parts of the UK or in Mediterranean gardens.  However, I have seen these plants thriving along a sheltered wall of the Chelsea Physic Garden in London and masses outside the cafe at the Ventnor Botanic Gardens in the Isle of Wight.  As Tree Echiums grow into a manageable rosette of leaves in winter, if you have somewhere to shelter them in large pots over winter, such as a greenhouse or polytunnel, you can grow them in just about any sheltered garden.

              Seeds..................................Rosette...........................Masses of small blue flowers

More on buying and growing Tree Echiums.

Created On  14 Apr 2018 12:20  -  Permalink

Grow Dill - Another tasty super-herb

Grow Dill - Another tasty super-herb Here is another tasty super-herb to try!  Dill is a less widely grown herb but well worth the effort.  The leaves are sweet tasting and are great in salads, and in savoury dishes containing fish.  The seeds are a really good addition to pickles. 

These plants are easy to grow.  Sow the seeds directly into the soil (or a larger container) from late March, and germination takes 2-3 weeks.  Plants grow to a height of about 50cm and are ready to harvest 60-80 days from sowing.  This is one of the better herbs to grow yourself as the leaves are best harvested FRESH and used within 1-2 days of cutting.  Once trimmed, leaves grow back to provide more, and they can be used until the plant starts to produce flower stalks.

Leave the flower stalks to grow into flowers, which are beautiful, and then mature into seeds.  The seeds can be harvested and added to your home-made pickles in the autumn.  Dill is packed with anti-oxidants and nutrients and is claimed to have chemo-protective qualities.  It is a great herb to boost your healthy plant intake.

               Seeds...................................Seedlings..............................Flowers (for seeds)

See here for more information on buying, sowing and growing Dill 'Superdukat', a variety with a good compact shape and a lovely flavour.

Created On  20 Mar 2018 16:16  -  Permalink

Grow Greek Oregano - A nutrient-dense tasty herb

Grow Greek Oregano - A nutrient-dense tasty herb Enhance the flavour of your cooking with Greek Oregano.  A tasty and nutrient-dense Mediterranean herb that works particularly well with Greek and Italian food.  Greek Oregano is a super-food high in Vitamin K and fibre, with excellent anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

The best way to cook with this herb is FRESH!  Instead of buying from the supermarket every week - and not knowing what chemicals have been used on your food - why not grow your own?

Greek Oregano is a perennial herb and will grow well in a pot for years.  You can grow indoors or out and trim regularly for a mostly year-round supply of herbs.  The plants slow down in winter but the rest of the year provide a plentiful supply of leaves for cooking.  

Sow seeds anytime of year, with spring to autumn the easiest.  Sow in a tray or small pots of compost and transplant the seedlings into bigger pots when the first true leaves have grown.  When the plant reaches about 5cm, pinch out the growing tip to encourage a bushy habit.  Let plants grow to about 15cm in height before you start to harvest the leaves.  Then use as needed.  Trim the top half to two thirds of each stalk for cooking and more leaves will grow.  Only cut up to a third of the plant at any one time to allow it to recover!

If you keep this plant indoors make sure it has good light, such as a south or west facing windowsill.  Keep the soil lightly moist and fertilise regularly (eg once a month) with a nitrogen based product that promotes leaf growth.  The plants prefer to be outdoors in spring and summer, but it is not essential.

                 Seeds..................................Seedlings...........................Greek Oregano

More information here on buying, sowing and growing Greek Oregano from seed.

Created On  16 Mar 2018 18:18  -  Permalink