3 Feb 2014

One month down, eleven to go

 ~Spring, at last? ~
January has provided the perfect weather … for choosing seeds and planning the garden from the comfort of a cosy sofa.  An occasional glimpse of sunshine has kept the spirits bolstered but mostly the month will be remembered for an excess of rain with one or two storms thrown in for good measure.

The first weekend of February has been wonderful though - clear blue skies for two consecutive mornings so I've been able to not only get some much needed work done in the garden but also to take a look at the current state of play. All photos were taken on Saturday morning during the inspection.

I wasn't expecting much - this is the UK in January! - but the garden is now in its fifth year as 'the veg patch' and slowly we've built it up year on year.  The herb beds have always done well but the mild winter has allowed the parsley, marjoram and thyme to keep going, although the Sweet Cicely died right back. Tiny shoots are appearing on the tarragon and mint plants and the blackcurrant sage has been flowering like this (below) since autumn.  It's so pretty that I'm going to try and take a few cuttings to propagate it.  Fennel regrowth is vigorous and rosemary maintains the evergreen backbone of the herb bed.  One of the jobs on my list for February is to move the lovage I planted last year;  it's in the wrong place as I haven't allowed it enough room to spread which may be a good thing as it's a big plant!



On the veg front, I have onions and kale (Cavalo Nero); the kale is still small having been planted out quite late in the autumn but will quickly catch up now and the onions are the tiddlers from last year that I left in the ground.  I assume they're edible, if not they'll flower and make a very nice lunch for visiting bees!  The globe artichoke (Violette de Provence) is looking good - when that fruits this year, it will be the first time I've tasted artichoke but, for looks, it's one of my favourite plants in the garden. The physalis and marshmallow plants from last year are also showing strong signs of regrowth (as is my 'Glaskins Perpetual' rhubarb) and will need to be planted or potted on.


And then there's the flowers. At this time of year it's all in the detail.  Last year I was desperate to establish a clump of proper violets - edible flowers, y'know - so ordered plug plants of Viola odorata from Victoriana Nurseries. I let them grow on in a large planter as I didn't want to lose them to a passing animal; now they're strong enough to survive on their own so I'll plant them out under the fruit trees where it will be nice and shady in the summer months. The flowers shouldn't appear until late February but I've got one or two nodding violets already. It's that mild winter again.



Elsewhere, one large self-seeded Cerinthe has been flowering for weeks (I pulled several others out today as they'd flopped across paths), geraniums planted at the beginning of last summer are reflowering, strange twisted borages display wind-battered blue blooms and a bed of polyanthus sing out with their bright pink petals.  I planted those for a bit of spring colour as I didn't think there'd be anything else and tucked a row of saffron crocus down the middle of the bed. I won't see any crocus flowers (or saffron stamens) until the autumn when they'll be flowering next to the (edible) dianthus flowers - the two spiky clumps in the pic below.



Oh yes, and there's my old faithful, the cowslip (Primula veris) as shown in the top picture.  That photo  seems to sum up a spring day for me; inexplicably, I've had the tune 'Dawn' from Pride and Prejudice running around my head all day since I took that shot, probably because it made a beautiful soundtrack to my walk around the garden in winter sunshine. It's a rather nice piece played on the piano (one there for Pianolearner!), have a listen:


So what else?  The weekend saw the raspberry canes chopped back, with the old canes bundled up to be used as pea sticks in a couple of weeks. Mint and comfrey have been repotted into larger pots, strawberry plants have been pulled out - I have way too many of them and the fruit wasn't that great. I'm left with the Rambling Cascade strawberries that I had two years ago from Victoriana and some Mara des Bois woodland strawberries. (Tiny but with an intense flavour.)  Traditional spring bulbs are beginning to show - one or two narcissi are about to flower, bluebell leaves are pushing through as are the tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte daffs planted last spring so I'm hoping for a show of those in a few weeks. And I'm thrilled that a small team of us managed to get over a hundred tulip bulbs planted in December - that really is something to look forward to!  I also cleared and netted one bed, only another four to go!

~ Nothing is wasted: raspberry canes ready to be used as pea supports. ~
One last thing.  In recent years, we've had very chill weather in early Feb. I'm now hoping that this isn't on the cards for this year as my plum tree has got lots of fat buds on newly grown spurs - could this be the year the tree finally fruits? I'm actually quite excited at the prospect of what's in store this year.



I'm joining in with the Garden Share Collective for this end of month post. There are bloggers from Australia, New Zealand and UK taking part; it will be interesting to see what's happening elsewhere in the world!

23 comments:

  1. I have never known if Dianthus flower is edible. I love your veg path.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed they are, Endah - I have several books on edible flowers and the plant features in all of them. The petals are very pretty in a salad and have a slightly peppery but sweet taste. Apart from that, once the plant is established and starts to spread out, it makes a very attractive evergreen plant in the garden.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for making me aware of the Garden Share Collective. I have applied to join too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah that's great, Mark - the UK bloggers are a bit on the light side so it will be fantastic to have you on board, especially as your blog features growing, recipes and travel! Perfect!

      Delete
  3. That cowslip photo is wonderful Caro. Aren't they early in flower! I spent the whole day yesterday in the garden - tidying, sowing seeds, moving pots around the patio. Sheer bliss. Is Cerinthe easy to grow from seed? I've got some seeds and would like to grow some to be in flower in mid-June - feasible if we have a decent spring?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jules! how lovely to hear from you! I see from your blog that you've just added a few more hens to your flock - hopefully this means you've thwarted the fox in your neighbourhood. Cerinthe is actually rather too easy to grow from seed - a prolific self-seeder, its progeny will be found throughout the garden for ever more unless you're vigilant! I watch out for when the seeds are ready and then collect them for re-use. Start your seeds off now in pots and put into a greenhouse or cold frame when they germinate. With a warm spring, you might just have flowers in June, although July would be more usual. Try sowing seeds in the autumn and putting the plants in a coldframe over winter, planting out in spring for June gap flowers next year. In a harsh winter, the plants go over and become mushy so need winter protection.

      Delete
  4. Hopefully the weather will continue to be forgiving in February, okay perhaps less gloom and rain but mildness is certainly appreciated. Let that continue to March and April too until spring proper arrives where weather will be more reliable as I also remember that last winter did linger and spring arrived rather late. With the continued good weather we can all be on tp with our list of gardening jobs to do :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a lovely thought, guys! I remember one February years ago when I went to collect my son from primary school feeling too hot in a t-shirt and cardigan! I also recall camping in a deluge of rain that same summer. British weather must be SO tricky for you two, trying to fathom what's best for your garden - but maybe you're used to it by now! My wish would be for crisp, bright weather - and rain only at night! Hahaha - dream on!

      Delete
  5. Isn't that sage supposed to be a tender plant. Amazing what has survived this winter. I've looked all over for sweet cicely - where did you get yours from. Is it a good sugar substitute?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sue - Yes, I was expecting this sage to die off over winter - instead it's provided a steady flow of colour! My other sage (the more 'normal' one) has also kept going. I will be cutting both back soon though as I believe all herbs benefit from a good prune. The sweet cicely came from a cutting I picked up at my local City Farm. I've only ever used the leaves when stewing rhubarb and it does seem to take the tart edge off. Bizarrely, the aniseed flavour doesn't come through when used in this way. I also love the munchy green seeds as I love the aniseed taste! Seeds are best started in the autumn as the plant is a fast grower in the spring and flowers early(ish) but a quick internet search shows seeds available from Sarah Raven or More Veg (http://bit.ly/MpW6O7) and you can stick them in the fridge; you'll be adding sweet cicely to stews by autumn! More Veg link has info about uses of this plant. Let me know how you get on!

      Delete
    2. I'm wondering now as I don't like aniseed! Seems a shame to send off for just one packet of seed - I think I've seen Sarah Raven seeds in nurseries so I;ll keep a look out for it if I decide to risk the aniseedy taste.

      Delete
  6. Your urban climate puts you ahead of me again Caro. I must go and check for Tete a Tete shoots, perhaps the mice got them. I wish I could get out and do some work too, despite the sunshine it's still far too swamp like as yet. I hear February promises more of the same, oh dear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My tete-a-tete leaves are at about 3 inches now, Jessica. I planted them 'in the green' late last spring, having picked up a bunch of flowering bulbs that had been lifted from the Garden Museum gardens that morning. They've had a year to establish and, in any case, are in a walled border, albeit facing north-east! I have topsoil over clay here so although it doesn't look too bad, I'm not stepping on it yet - and that's my excuse for not climbing into the walled borders for weeding! It's good to remember that it's still very early in the year and anything could happen, weather-wise. I think of the rain as being good for giving my fruit tree roots a nice deep drink!

      Delete
  7. I'm hoping to have a nice selection of bulbs & wild flower plants for the front of my new hedge this year. I shall take a look at the Violets I want mine for edible flowers too. I'm off to take a nose at the Garden share collective.

    ReplyDelete
  8. We grow violets as they are the larval food of the Silver Washed Fritillary butterfly. You certainly seem to be ahead of us in the countryside, they say that towns and cities are warmer places to be.Plants are stirring and soon there will be real signs of spring everywhere.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have geraniums flowering too, a hardy one which has continued to flower throughout winter, and some pelargoniums I grew in containers last summer which I never got round to tipping out. The marigolds which Flighty sent seeds of are still flowering too. I can't get over how mild this winter has been compared with the last few years, I just hope that the inevitable cold snap isn't too much of a shock to the system when it does eventually arrive.

    ReplyDelete
  10. A most enjoyable post and good photos. Like you I made the most of the good weather yesterday to do some plotting, even though the plot is well soggy. Flighty xx

    ReplyDelete
  11. So many lovely signs of Spring, though I share your wish for an absence of that sudden chill we often get in February. That would seem too cruel after all the wet in January, although to be fair a few days would do wonders for slug culling, something that we will be wishing for in a couple of months at this rate! Amazing what a difference a sunny day or two makes, in my case it makes me greedy for more. Wonderful to see your veg patch really maturing, a real testament to the work you and all your helpers have done over the past years. I will cross my fingers for your plum tree!

    ReplyDelete
  12. How interesting hearing about your plans and lovely to see where everything is up to. I still have lots of fresh herbs too and my chives are about to flower....WHAT is going on??? Artichoke? wow! I love to eat it but for some reason have never grown it, I have to be careful with the veg as my veggie patch is quite small. Maybe I should extend it.... I love the violets, they remind me of my youth running around mountains. A lovely post.xxx

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm envying you your herbs, especially the tarragon. I've got some artichokes that I'm looking forward to trying this year as well. So lovely to have a wander round your garden and see what's about. I need to sort out my strawberries as well. I want to take some small plants to the allotment to make a new bed, but I really need some dry weather - don't we all!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think that London definitely has its own climate Caro hence your salvia, borage and cerinthe still flowering. Here all disappeared here at the back end of autumn. Love your idea of recycling the raspberry cane prunings and must try to remember that when I prune mine. Nothing to do with this post but was it you who grew 'Cherie' potatoes last year and if so what did you think of them?

    ReplyDelete
  15. The bundle of raspberry canes looks very stylish - much nicer than my rather mouldy twig collection! And a lovely reminder to reuse what we can in the garden...

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hello, I was interested in your blog. Great idea for a garden in the town. You have already spring, envy. You still cold. Monika

    ReplyDelete

Comments on my posts are much appreciated and help to build an online community of blog friends. Everyone is welcome! I love to discover new blogs so please leave a comment to introduce yourself.
Caro x

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...