Passion Flower – with no flowers

About four years ago my parents bought me a Passion Flower for a birthday present – which sets a certain level of pressure from the start!

The first two years it flowered and was gorgeous, last year it did very little generally and there were no flowers to speak of

Then we had a very hard winter and I was fairly convinced it had died – even cutting it back didn’t spur any growth

(Picture from RHS)

So I moved it to a new pot in a new more sheltered position – which still gets sun until about 2pm ish

It’s now shown signs of life and has grown about a metre, however there are absolutely no flowers!

Thankfully this might be normal according to the internet, possible helpful things to do are make sure it has sun, frequent water and feed it with bonemeal

The first two should be ok, so I will try adding bonemeal to see what happens!

Garden: Box plants and topiary

Aldi had some funky tall pots that looked a good height (and weight) for the front of the house

Initially I bought some lovely red grasses that promised to be low-maintenance and evergreen: they went rotten absolutely rotten and black spotted with ick

So I’ve abandoned that plan and given into my husband’ pestering to get some box plants. I’ve never really liked box, it reminds me of overly formal planting. However I’ve promised to be more open minded if the box can be a topiary experiment – preferably something mildly obscene in shape

(Photo from Wisbech standard who also handily mention the possible public order offence)

The internet tells me that it will take a while (years) to get enough bush to meaningfully shape and that for now I should give the plants lots of feed and consider making a template or frame to help prune it once it gets big enough to look phallic

If all goes well I could start to like box after all

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Hepaticas

Hepaticas are small pretty little alpine plants that flower around this time of year

My parents kindly, and randomly, bought me some of the nobilis variety last year and they flowered very well this year – so well in fact that my parents bought me a few more by mail order from a specialist nursery

This is how they arrived:

It certainly looks special but not in a good way… I planted them up immediately and am now hoping they survive, however they look very miserable and traumatised

The newspaper they are packed in is the Daily Mail, which seems an odd choice given the cost of the plants and who I would expect to be the general target audience of expensive alpine plants. Or maybe I’m distracting myself with trivial things to block out how flat out iffy Wednesday was

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Garden: Growing Sweetcorn from seed

Last year we did grow sweetcorn from seed; of the 30 seeds only 15 germinated, those 15 were moved to the allotment where the rats / mice left us with 8, however those 8 plants gave us some very nice corn.

So my aim for this year is to try again, however with more germination and less rats, so this means I needed to do some reading!

Apparently sweetcorn seeds should be sown indoors from mid-April to early May and want to be 18 – 21 degrees Celsius. They want to be sown 2.5 cm deep and really dislike root disturbance – I tried the little biodegradable pots last year and they were useless, so I might try the deeper root trainer pots this year

sweet corn plant

(Photo from Pinterest)

Resist planting sweetcorn out until after the risk of frost has passed and the seedlings are 15 cm tall – planting out for sweetcorn is a bit weird as they want to be put in blocks rather than rows, with about 45 cm gap between each plant

The logic for blocks is so the wind can pollinate the corn. However there is also a manual way to help maximise pollination, tap t he tops of the plants when the male flowers (tassels) open, last year I went a bit beyond tapping and starting covering my hands in pollen and rubbed it on the emerging silk  of corn on the other plants (NOT on the same plant though!)

When the tassels on cob turn brown it’s a sign that the corn might be ready – although this was a false positive, a more reliable way to check was to carefully peel back the sheaf and pierce a kernel with a finger nail and if the liquid is milky then the cob is ready.

Other useful stuff to know is:

  • Corn needs to be watered a lot when the weather is dry
  • Corn likes liquid feed when the cobs start to swell – they also benefit from you using fertiliser in the soil before planting them out
  • Corn is stupidly shallow rooted so be really careful when weeding and perhaps even mound extra soil up at the bottom of the base
  • Last year our corn didn’t need staking, however this can be a good idea

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Garden: Sweet peas from seed

I’ve had a packet of sweet pea seeds for two years and I keep meaning to plant them – in particular because everyone says how easy they are to grow and how pretty the flowers are. However the internet keeps telling me to soak them which is a bit off-putting

This year I am going to get informed and grow them!

The Royal Horticultural Society says that I should sow the seeds indoors between January and April – however they do not advise soaking the seeds; their suggestion is to place the seeds on top of moist kitchen towel in an airtight container in a warm room (15 degrees centigrade apparently)

(Picture from Gardener’s World)

Then when the seeds swell or sprout then you sow them – preferably covered with one centimetre of compost

The tricky issue of spacing is always something the internet has various opinions on, it seems 3 ish centimetres apart might be sufficient when planting the seeds, changing to 9 cm once the seedlings are 3.5 cm tall

AND then in April the January sown plants can be planted outside with a minimum spacing of 20 cm apart. I am starting to see why I put off growing these!

There is also them the matter of pinching out the tips when the plants reach 10 cm, apparently you want them to get bushy with side shoots – totally unlike tomatoes

Then as a final complication the plants want something to climb; a wigwam of canes or some netting structure which generally tie me in knots

I’m perilously close to informing myself out of trying these seeds – although maybe being so old they won’t germinate…

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Garden: Walnut Tree

We now have a second allotment, basically we were offered it and were going to decline – then Chris Grayling the Transport Secretary (?!) declared that a no-deal Brexit was all at going to be fine because the UK could simply grow more food

At which point having another allotment seemed a better idea than trusting the government to not send food prices skyrocketing

Anyway, the new allotment – affectionately nicknamed Site B, had a random tree on it, around six foot. The new neighbour – who was over the moon to have neighbours for the overgrown site,  advised that it was walnut tree and said it would be best removed

walnut tree

(Photo from Fast Growing Trees)

I took this with a pinch of salt until I decided to see how big walnut trees could grow… turns out 30 metres (100 feet) tall and 15 metres (50 feet) wide. This is rather too large for my tastes given the allotment is 125 square metres

it turns out you can’t even keep walnut trees in pots due to the ridiculously large and deep root structure that is required to support such a big  tree. So the walnut tree was cut down, which feels a little sad as it turns out that it was only six years old

Maybe I need to find a more manageable tree to grow in it’s place – assuming I can dig out the roots!

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Garden: Preparing for winter

The clocks have changed and it’s dark, and cold, and my motivation for most things is pretty lacking

However unless I fancy heating the greenhouse and moving things to be in it – which I don’t, then the garden needs some preparing for winter so things can stay in situ

This primarily means bubble wrapping the clematis and passion flower as well as adding an extra layer of woodchip to the pots they are in

Passion flowerjpg

(Photo from growfruitandveg )

The rhubarb and big rose get manure – unfortunately shop bought borderline-faux stuff for ease this year, then all the beds get a good layer of woodchip

oh yes, and clearing up the nasty leaves blown over from next-door’s nasty diseased tree. I wonder if next-door are as diseased as their poxy tree, if so perhaps they and the tree will die naturally next year; that would be very nice indeed

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Garden: Decoy / companion plants

I can’t comment on if the chemicals are winning against the aphids as I’m so unhappy using them that I’ve not being using it as much as the instructions tell me to.

Thankfully the internet found me something that I was happier with – decoy and companion plants.

The idea is that you plant flowers that attract or deter bugs / disease near the flowers you are uber concerned about.

marigold

(Photo from Wiki)

I’ve planted some marigolds to try to attract the aphids from the rose, they also look pretty which is nice!

The internet tells me that planting garlic near roses might also help, so now I really fancy trying growing garlic!

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Garden: Freaky giant grubs

Ever since I started digging in the garden I’ve been finding lots and lots of large icky looking white grubs / larvae varying from tiny to nearly 5 cm long.

They are fat and gross looking – which hasn’t really narrowed down my Google results which just showed me lots of random ick looking grubs. I was working on the assumption that because it was a grub it ate plant roots.

As such I may have been treating the grubs as free bird food.

cockchafter

(Photo from Wiki)

However this evening we saw a giant flying scarab style beetles that look very out of place in the UK, the bug was so distinctive that a quick Google search revealed it to be a cockchafer beetle.

Also known as a May Bug, the beetles themselves are harmless they chop on plants – but to a lesser degree than the grubs which are also known as rookworms.

It was a shock seeing so many big flying bugs in the garden today, but it is nice to know what the grubs are!

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Garden: Scarlet Lily Beetles ate my Snake’s Head

A couple of months ago I purchased a Snake’s Head lily, AKA Fritillaria meleagris or snake’s head fritillary.

I’ve generally seen them in damper environments than my garden so I was aware they might need extra watering. What I didn’t think about was how tasty they would be…

The Scarlet Lily Beetles were a  fixture of my parents garden when I was little, my sibling and I used to carefully catch the little bugs (about 8mm in length) to listen to them squeak – in the straightforward naming convention that children use we called them “red squeaking beetles” and had rather fond memories of them.

snake's head lily

(Photo from Ebay)

What I’d forgotten was how quickly the lily beetles chomped through lilies (they utterly strip the foliage) and kill off the plant – my snake’s head has now entirely died.

Having done some reading it sounds like some pesticides might work but they will also kill everything else which seems a bit overkill.

Which probably means I won’t get another lily for the garden, I will just have to search the internet for photos of other people snake’s heads that didn’t get eaten.

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