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

Saturday 28 June 2014

Community Gardening Update - kitchen garden

A box hedge has also been planted to add some structure.
We've been very busy at Antrim Castle Gardens with Spring projects. In April-May we designed a new area based on a traditional kitchen garden (pictured left) where we  aim to grow culinary and medicinal herbs along with a range of veg such as beetroot, chard, salads etc. We've been able to source some plants none of the group have grown before so it will be a learning curve. We've borage, chervil, dill, sage, chives and lots more. There is even comfrey planted in the beds. Some of these plants of course can be invasive!
Basil purple and green - so easy to grow (for some). I've had limited success growing Basil so I took a photo of the  plants in our group's greenhouse - something I can aspire to.
The veg area is another learning curve for our group. Last Autumn the pigeons and birds devoured many of our plants. This year some of the men have built netting structures and a scarecrow (that looks like one of our members) and we're hoping for better success!
Various varieties of potatoes are being grown this year including: Mayan Gold, Lady Balfour, British Queen and others. 
The greenhouse has proved very popular with tomatoes (above), an heirloom variety called Purple Cherry, and below cucumber are almost at the eating stage.

When working in the gardens one Saturday, we noticed some members of the public carrying plants away with them, taken from our greenhouse (and they never asked if they could have the plants!). So now we put a box asking for donations and set it beside spare plants that visitors can take home with them. Not sure why anyone would just walk off with plants without asking?!?
Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Win Some, Lose Some

Lupins are beautiful flowering early-summer plants that can be grown from seed or bought. This one (pictured left) I grew from seed quite a number of years ago and it comes up every year and has very striking flowers.

With most plants, there are good years and bad years in terms of growing conditions, climate and pests. Last year I had lots of caterpillars. This year (and every year) I have lots of slugs and snails that nibble and eat young growth. I am constantly pest hunting but sometimes they do win a battle or two!

Below - a lost battle -  this is one of my lupin plants that has been devoured as a four course meal by multiple slugs and snails over a number of days. 

Oh well, we win some and lose some!

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Thursday 19 June 2014

Lots of sunshine, bees and flowers

Its been extremely warm this past week in Northern Ireland  - reaching almost 70F / 20C but feeling much warmer. We aren't used to the heat and anything near 70F is super warm for us. The plants have enjoyed the warm weather and the bees have been busy buzzing from one plant to another - great to see!

I enjoy watching the bees buzz here and there. They really enjoy the lavender and chives (both purple, one of the  most attractive colours for bees). 

Unfortunately I can't seem to remember much from my four-hour bumblebee identification course last summer - must review those notes to tell the difference between the bees!

Left: Geranium with lots of bee action.
Chives are very popular with bees.
Above: Gaillardia Arizona Sun.
Above: Bee is hard to spot amongst the flowers (can't find my tag with plant name).
More chives - worth having just for the bees!

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Friday 13 June 2014

June is the month for roses

From now until December I'll have roses blooming in the garden. Of course the main flowering season is from June until September but they are great plants that will continue to flower endlessly. I don't know much about growing roses - I generally trim them in December or January, sprinkle bonemeal in the Spring and mulch around the base. Then leave them to it. I try to take off leaves affected with blackspot but sometimes this is difficult to stay on top of.  

Left: Red rose variety unknown.
Above & Below: Rose 'Arthur Bell' has a RHS Award of Garden Merit based on its reliability and being a good performing plant. I like how the buds have a hint of peachy-orange on them but when they open up fully they look pure yellow (below).

Above and Below: Last year I bought 2 new roses, both being yellow flowering (Arthur Bell and Birthday Celebrations), from B&Q, however, the resulting rose is not yellow. It's a beautiful peachy-pink colour that I reallylike but not sure what it's called.

Lots of buds and flowers to come!

Of course there is some blackspot on all the rose plants and this seems almost impossible to prevent (suppose that's the downside to roses) but the flowers are worth it! 

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Plants that Take Over

There are many plants in the garden that creep over the years, some slowly, some more rapidly - suppose the speed is often linked to whether the conditions are right for the plant. Some plants even become a bit of a thug as they move through the borders and reduce the chance of other plants.

One of these spreading plants is poached egg plant, Limnanthes douglasii. I introduced it several years ago from a seed pack and it self seeds every year making a great early Summer display. Once it is finished flowering and is looking bad, I pull out the plants; it's not long until they begin to grow again and flower for a 2nd time towards the end of Summer. 

Pretty good value for money from a 50 pence seed pack. However I don't think I'll ever be able to get rid of it as it just won't go away.
Above: Poached egg plant, Limnanthes douglasii attracts bees, hoverflies and insects - spot the pollen stored on the bees back legs!
Here it is with the purple flower bugle which also creeps and spreads throughout the garden. The poached egg plant has self seeded here somehow - a good 20 feet from where the other poached egg plants are thriving.
Above & Below: Another creeping plant, a bit slower moving, is Saxifraga Urbium. It looks good this time of year with all the dainty flowers making a mass display. It is easier to remove from the garden but I have been letting it creep along - although it is blocking access to a bench in the garden.

Suppose with a cottage style garden, I can let plants creep and seed and the garden 'evolve' a bit over time and not worry too much!

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Cow Parsley - Fan or Foe

This time of year the weeds are like invaders that seem to strategically begin to take over the garden. My garden weapons in hand, spade & hoe, I fight them endlessly, winning in some cases and losing in others.

I've every weed you can imagine in the garden (I might even hold the national collection), from dandelion, nettle, buttercup, chickweed, willowherb,  and even the dreaded horsetail (so far contained to a certain area). As I've a large garden I've let some areas stay as wildlife areas and I let nettles and cow parsley do their thing. However, every Spring armies of weeds seem to be coming at me from all directions, kind of like the board game 'Risk' I used to play as a child. The object of 'Risk' (developed by a Frenchman) is to use your armies to take over and control territories, the winner taking over the most areas. Similarly the weeds are definitely coming at me from all sides, creeping in from all directions, taking over my garden territories. My battle continues, but every year I give in a little, resulting in more wildlife areas within the garden, which I tell myself is a good thing.

Pictured: cow parsley - isn't it gorgeous! Boy, does it multiply and grow quickly. Easy enough to pull or dig out, but hundreds of these plants aren't much fun to control organically.

There are domesticated versions of cow parsley for the garden such as Anthriscus sylvestris Ravenswing and I assume it behaves a little better than the hedgerow type of cow parsley. Many of the garden designs at the Chelsea Flower Show featured cow parsley (or domesticated versions). Dare I add it to the flower borders? With these thoughts, I'm off to the garden to do some weeding...

What's your most invasive weed?

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Chelsea Flower Show - What I Liked Best

Looking back at the photos I took at Chelsea Flower Show there are big expensive posh-looking gardens, exotic plants, detailed displays and many a perfect plant. But what appeals to me most are the veg displays (few there were), wildflowers and natural, cottage-style planting. Maybe I'm a little bit country at heart but the hard landscaped gardens with marble structures and fancy features weren't my favourite things - maybe because I consider them a bit too formal. Whatever the reason, here are some of my favourite photos taken at the show...

Above: Love the cottage style planting and the greenhouse in the background. I like the way the purples and pinks are to the left and the yellows and greens to the right. 

I love the idea of growing veg that looks so regimented and perfect, however, not quite a reality in my garden!
And of course not a blemish on the flowers or veg at Chelsea. I grow organically and of course my plants are prone to green fly, caterpillars, snail holes and slug slime.
It was great to see some veg and herbs at the show and the promotion of growing your own. 
Above: I loved the idea of using a wood pallet to make a plant shelf or wall hanging in the garden. This is something I aim to do this year. Generally these pallets are free and easily obtainable.
Above: I am drawn to these plants, the big giant heads of pink look very dramatic, and I will see about incorporating something similar into my garden (depending on the cost).
Above: One of my favourite Artisan Garden designs at Chelsea called Potter's Garden based an abandoned potter's garden from 1914. The simplicity of the brick building and the cottage style planting both appeal to me. I could basically live here!
And of course, this display at Chelsea with wildflowers and what I assume is willow structures was fun and interesting. Reminds me of being a child and doing cartwheels in the grass whilst looking for bugs and creepy crawlies! 

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Sunday 1 June 2014

Flowers are Blooming Beautifully

It's the first of June and all go in the garden, with lots of growth, lots in flower and lots of weeds! 

Here's a little summary of what was flowering in May, and plants that are coming into flower in June.

From Top Left: bud and flowers going strongly (think a camellia? / or rhododendrum); Aubretia hardy perennial grown from seed flowers in Spring; Lavender topiary housed in the herb box.
From Top Left: Bergenia flowers attract bees; Arizona Sun Gaillardia looks a bit like a sunflower; tulips are now finished; poppies and calendula grown from seed/self seeding are flowering.
From Top Left: (the first plant I can never remember its name); two of the aquilegias long spurred hybrids grown from seed; purple Centaurea montana.
From Top Left: Ornamental tree cherry blossoms; leaves of Forest Flame / Pieris shrub; rhododendron I think; roses beginning to come into flower.
From Top Left: Nasturtium grown from seed;  shrub with white flowers is Iberis; shrub with pink flowers that smell like bubble gum; lupins (grown from seed) are starting to flower.
From Top Left: Hosta leaves, Solomon's Seal, Honesty seed heads (Honesty self seeds nicely around the garden), orange-yellow coloured flowering prickly shrub -Golden Barberry /Berberis Stenophylla.
From Top Left: Azalea/Rhododendrum; Lithodora diffusa Grace Ward that provides an evergreen carpet of little blue flowers, Blue and hot pink Geraniums that are just coming into flower.
Does anyone else find it difficult to remember plant names? 
I just felt I gave myself a horticultural quiz there trying to remember the names of plants. And, of course, there are some I just can't ever seem to remember.

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.