Wednesday, 24 March 2010

farming today

On Farming Today this morning (for those of you who aren't early wakers, it's on at 5.45 on R4 and has gems some days) there was an interview with a lettuce grower. He (well not just him on his own obviously) plants 600,000 lettuce seedlings a day on his Fenland fields. Each is spaced at the precise optimum position and for as far as you can see the rows are uniformly straight in every direction. The greenhouses are strategically placed north south for every seedling to get exactly the same amount of light to aim for exactly uniform lettuces.

I couldn't grasp the magnitude of the figure for how many lettuces he grows each year.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Solomon's seal

It wasn't fair of me to suggest that only things I don't want so much multiply like crazy. And nor is it fair to keep moaning about how late spring is as it does actually mean that there is the chance to get on to some jobs that usually get missed because everything is rushing forward so fast by now.

This morning I went to fetch the barrow from one area of the garden, and was intending to go and do a completely different task, but as I passed the bed where a small but congested patch of Solomon's seal appears happily each year I thought I'd just try and give it a quick weed. Then realised of course that it was so tangled in grass to be unweedable (which is why I leave it each year and forget about its needs as it seems too much of a job hen there is so much to do), then decided to give it a chance and clear it a bit. Poor plants, they had got so congested the shoots were stacking up several storeys deep. The patch is less than a metre square. It took me well over 2 hours just to lift and separate. And I must have replanted getting on for 100 little plants.

Just as well some things are happy. Mice (I assume) did for all my winter sweet peas, but in fact they probably wouldn't have been very advanced anyway given the slow start. And some of my early sown seeds have struggled while those sown two weeks later have been quite happy. I never learn, it really is better to wait, things do catch up.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Why do the least wanted multiply the most?

Three years ago I sowed some rudbeckia fulgida goldsturm among many others, something tough and bright when I was just beginning to establish perennials on the field... this year I had to lift and divide them. It took me much of the day yesterday just to lift and separate and rehome them, and the irony is that they're not even much good as cut flowers, but my logic in moving them is that they will happily fill an area of this year's new patch, they'll look good, some will be useful, and they'll keep other weeds out. Sedum are fulfilling rather the same role over there, and I was delighted to be able to divide the mixed pastels achillea to fill a strip at least 15 metres long, I hope some of them will be the lovely apricot and palest pink but each year the more dominant dark pink seem to multiply while the more delicate colours fade away. Meg and I have also hurled in a load of common yellow lysimachia punctata, not the most attractive thing on its own but a useful filler in some arrangements, and useful as groundcover while I wait for something more interesting to take its place. I've rejected some Miscanthus, I've forgotten its name but it never fulfilled its promise of pretty seedheads, it has multiplied radically but is less than ornamental for my purposes, though doubtless it would look striking somewhere else. A heap of very pretty Oriental poppies have joined the other transfers, they were once Chequers but have interbred to become something unnamed but rather pretty slightly frilly edged pink petals and a dark eye, the Chequers in a different place were still all true last year but it remains to be seen what their offspring will be like. Oriental poppies are no good for mail order flowers for so many reasons, but I can't resist including them in May and early June bouquets and arrangements where possible, they're so generously blowsily beautiful.

Another major reason for filling the new space is that I think it is going to be a dry year this year and I want to fill the furthest area with toughies that need no attention, they'll get no watering and they will have to compete with quite a few field weeds. Or more than quite a few.

The tunnel is filling with trays of seedlings and I know that all too soon they'll be clamouring to get out and I'll have nowhere warm enough to put them, so next week's work is going to include construction of a load of temporary tunnelettes, possibly less than utterly attractive but hopefully useful, I had all but forgotten about the wind until today when it started roaring again, so any temporary cover has to be extremely sturdy here.

I realise that there are rather a lot of plants here now, there are some areas of the garden I don't even visit for days because another area is demanding attention, and worryingly I am increasingly forgetting what on earth is planted where..... This morning I looked too briefly at an area of the bank I hadn't been to recently (and noticed that weeds are coming through so spring must be here!) and simply couldn't identify several plants. It's going to be an interesting year if new introductions are constantly going to be needed - it has always been a standing joke that Meg is fabulously forgetful about plant names but I used to be the one to fill in the gaps. No longer it appears!

There have been some fatalities this winter. I'm very fond of Teucrium fruticans, such a lovely silverwhite stem for large arrangements, and mine came from cuttings from some lovely specimens in my mother's garden. They've not come through, the gaura are all definitely deceased but that's no surprise, Baptisia was finally getting going but has now gone and libertia is looking decidedly unhappy and I'm a bit worried about veronicas and veronicastrums as there's no sign of resurgence around them, even when scurrying right round their stems. Verbenas will probably also have croaked but it's too early to tell. But fingers crossed much will have survived - apart from the blessed rudbeckia!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Mothering Sunday

Happy Mother's day this Sunday to all mums out there, and thanks to all daughters and sons who ordered flowers. I had fully intended to take some lovely pictures of your flowers as they went out but as usual I forgot that everything always takes exactly as long as I've got so there wasn't a moment to pick up the camera. 

The most embarrassing confession is that every single flower I could find has been sent out so I'm off to my mother's tomorrow and tonight I have to bake a Simnel cake as I really don't have a lovely bouquet of flowers to take her - her garden is totally beautiful and brilliant and much further south so further on so I think a bouquet of just different greeneries from me would be a bit of a cop-out.....  But at least it might be a surprise to get a cake as I guess she always expects flowers from me!

The one downside to having lovely flowers is that no-one ever thinks of giving me flowers any more!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

No more ammi

Thanks to everyone who expressed interest in the Ammi seeds, I hadn't expected so many keen people to get in touch. Everyone who has ordered will get them in the next few days but I have run out for the moment though there will be some later (and lots of other seeds too) when I have got to the next lot of dried seedheads. But I'm a bit rushed now getting ready for Mother's Day running around with fleece and hoops and hope apart from anything else and looking forward to two very long days getting orders out.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Seeds for sale - Ammi visnaga

As I sort seeds to sow and sell I realise that we have a very good quantity of Ammi visnaga (Green Mist) seed. For some reason it has been hard to get hold of in this country, but if anyone is interested in buying some please email me - £1.50 + first class stamp for a packet with several hundred seeds, I know it's a lot of seeds but they're very very tiny and I wouldn't know where to begin to find a way of counting and weighing them!

These Ammi stand a good 90cm tall, the picture above is a rather young flower but plants have a mixture of darker green and off white heads, their foliage is finer (a lovely waft of good dark green filigree fern like foliage all up the stems) but their stems and heads are chunkier than the white ammi and fantastic picked with many of the domed flower heads showing marked spiral forms. Lovely!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

website up, flower season beginning

You may need to refresh your browser but the website is up with new pix etc, although I'm sorry it's not quite done and there will still be a few changes.

I returned from 2 metres of snow in northern Sweden with my own browser well-refreshed and raring to go. We are about to start our flower season with Mother's Day, and properly at the end of the month.