This is the journal of my endeavours to grow a range of fruit, veg and flowers from seed, grow organically, and my attempts to create a personal paradise with 1/2 acre of maintained gardens and 1/2 acre wild meadows. Northern Ireland's average daily high temperatures are 18 °C (64 °F) in July and 6 °C (43 °F) in January. Soil type: Clay

Thursday 31 March 2011

Digging Dilemna

I had a bit of an accident with my digging fork. Unfortunately in a moment of desperation I put my body weight on it and it snapped. I know better but it just happened. So my fork of about 10 years has been retired (until the day I find someone who fixes them).

Pictured with Mondo Black Grass.

So off I went to buy a replacement. Decided to give the business to a garden center and surprisingly they only had two forks to choose from. So I went for one that described itself as "high quality carbon steel" with a "ten year guarantee" and comfort grip. Happy with my purchase I went straight home to use it. Here's the result I got the first day using it...
It's maybe hard to see in this photo, but can you see the second prong has bent. The 'high quality carbon steel' bent from a rock it hit. I was quite surprised it bent so easily. So I'm wondering, is this just my hard luck or should it have bent so easily? The packaging doesn't say exactly what the 10 year guarantee is in relation to.
You can see in the photo above my ten year (broke) fork has straight prongs after 10 years' use. It's kind of embarrassing to think about returning a digging fork to the garden centre. Should I write it off as bad luck and use it anyway? Buy a new one? Ask for my money back?

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Perennial Peek-a-Boo

The perennials are out of hiding and peeking up nicely. Not many slugs munching yet but I'll keep a watchful eye. (The Irish slugs are hungry little guys).

Here's what's popping up around the garden...
Above/Below: Aquilegia McKana Giants Mixed, Mr Fothergill's Seeds. Sowed April 2010, flower their 2nd year. They should reach 3 ft.
The colouring in the two Aquilegia photos above look quite different. Suppose they'll be different colours. Will they really reach 3 feet by May? My money's on a June show.
Sedum Autumn Joy is a reliable plant. It'll have pink, turning red, turning burgundy flowers from late summer.
Variety: Lupin Russell Mix. A striking cottage-style perennial coming up nicely. These were grown from seed several years ago and come up every year. The flowers add striking colour in June/July.
Above: The primrose come up every year. They're in a shady, dry area of the garden and seem to like it. I divided some babies over the weekend. Spot the weeds!
I'm not a big fan of Astilbe but it doesn't mind a wet area of the garden. I recently broke my digging fork dividing this plant which was 4 times this size!
My favourite early flowering perennial - Phlox. This is a tall variety with cheerful pink flowers. I divided it a few weeks ago so hopefully I'll have two beautiful plants this year.  Variety unknown.
Delphinium - my all time favourite cottage perennial plant. Above plant sown from seed several years ago. Does anyone know if delphinium can / should be divided? I've heard they only last 3 or 4 years and then should be replaced. Any thoughts on this?
In flower (2010): Phlox, Lupin, Sedum Autumn Joy.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Name that Veg (time will tell)

Back in October I sowed some seeds outside in an old wheelbarrow I use as a raised bed (its been good for growing potatoes in the past).

Behind my little plastic plant protectors (recycled water bottles), are either Kale Nero di Toscana or Radish Scarlet Globe....
Here is the unveiling of my little plants, however, what are they?
I've never grown kale or radish before... I'm assuming these are radish plants as kale has dark crinkled leaves. I was actually surprised these plants survived the worse Dec winter on record in Northern Ireland.
One of my weaknesses is plant identification as my regular visitors will know. So am I right about the radish? I know time will tell.
As usual my site manger was there supervising my work. In the background are pink geraniums coming up.

I put more Kale seed and Spinach Beet (perpetual spinach) into my wheelbarrow bed. I really would love to have more raised beds!

Thursday 24 March 2011

Spring is in the Air

I wanted to share with you some of the beautiful colour on display at Belfast Botanic Gardens...

Left: Isn't it amazing the long daffodils can be grown in small 14cm (6") pots. I think these are the longest daffodils I've ever seen.

(click on the photos to enlarge)
By chance I went into the giant glass house and to my amazement there was this superb flower display. It was like a decadent dessert!
Goes to show what can be done with pots, a green house and TLC.
All the plants look so healthy... and I thought, 'why can't I do this'.
Outside beautiful trees are starting to blossom.
This magnolia tree is beautiful. (Disclaimer: I'm not known for my plant identification skills)
I'm starting to spot more bees out and about.
The gardeners at Botanic Gardens spend quite a bit of time on the rose beds. The above bed has recently gone from above.... to the look below...
They seem to be mulching quite high and right over the base of the roses, a learning point for me.
And from above to...
...well mulched.
This has reminded me, I need to mulch.

Sunday 20 March 2011

1st Day of Spring

Hooray, its the first day of Spring!

Our clocks will 'spring' forward in the UK next Sunday and will give us more daylight hours for gardening.

I was at Rowallane Garden, a National Trust property, over the weekend and took some photos that look as if Spring is truly on its way...
Above: I loved playing with frog spawn when I was little. At Rowallane, the pond was full of it and I thought the wire ladder someone had made was a job well done;  it'll allow the frogs to get out of the water.
I admired their rhubarb, must be quite a mature plant. (Correction: this isn't rhubarb!)
Some lovely views.
Most of the spring colour hasn't arrived yet at Rowallane; I'll have to go back to see the numerous rhododendrons and azaleas in flower.

My jobs at the weekend - removing bramble, cutting back hawthorn, tidying beds, weeding and sowing seed. Happy Spring!

Thursday 17 March 2011

Happy St Patrick's day

Happy St Patrick's Day! It's a beautiful day today in N. Ireland.

To celebrate St Paddy's I'm showcasing some Irish cottages and gardens... (click on photos to enlarge)
Above: Irish bog pony photo taken in County Kerry.
Cottage photos taken in County Kerry.
Herbaceous flower border photos taken in County Antrim.

Lastly, what would St Paddy's be without some traditional Irish bread so I made traditional wheaten bread this morning ...
The flour mix contains white flour and a course wheaten flour (picutred).
 Later today the Irish stew will be cooking.
Have a great day!

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I came across a blog about a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day taking place today 15th March and decided to join in. I believe Bloom Day was started by an Indiana blogger. Here's what's blooming in my garden...
Above: Some crocus are still making a show (others are dying down).
Primrose are blooming happily.
Muscari coming up in a tiny one-inch crack between the back wall of the house and the paving that goes around the house. Not sure how the bulbs got there.
Lesser Celandine is starting to bloom. It's a bit invasive so many think of it as a weed but I prefer to think of it as a lovely wildflower that needs controlled. (Thanks to fellow bloggers for helping identify this plant.)
The azalea is blooming again (well a few blooms). This plant suffered some neglect over the December holidays. I've repotted it and recently gave it a tonic so fingers crossed it will be a top bloomer again this year.
The 'mini tulps' are still going strong; they perked up again after the Saturday snow.