Delayed Autumn Chores

It’s hard to believe that it’s the middle of October already! The Summer seemed to last for ages, probably due to the constant rain, and now we’re having some sunny days it’s difficult to find time to squash all the chores in. I’m resisting the urge to tidy the garden up too much as there are still quite a few butterflies and bees relying on the nectar. The bumble bees are looking a little tired now and it’s taking them longer to warm up – maybe I should suggest that they do some extra star jumps before starting work for the day?

Agastache

The Agastache is still performing really well and has even started to send up new shoots with the recent sunshine.

Even the Lavender is looking happier – it’s hated the wet soil beneath it’s feet this year…

Beds To Clear

… although, judging by how much the herbs have grown you wouldn’t know this. If you look at the photo above you will notice that I have cleared one bed already. This had the sad remains of the sweet peas and courgette plant. There are also some asparagus crowns that did spectacularly poorly so I’m hoping that next year they will show a little more appreciation in the spears department! I gave them a good stern talking to whilst tucking them up in a duvet of mulch. There’s a ground frost in the mornings now so it won’t be long before all these flowers are gone.

Still going strong

October Bouquets

Once the mists cleared the sun actually shined through and the flowers looked so bright. There are quite a few seed heads now, which have a beauty only suited to Autumn, and the bees are making the most of these rare sunny days.

When I first planted the kitchen Garden in Spring I never imagined that I would still be picking flowers in October… Dahlias, Scabious, Lavender, Cosmos, Rudbekia and Burpleum. I confess that I have probably had more enjoyment from the flowers than the vegetables so I’ll have to rethink the way I use the space next year.

Chocolate Cosmos

It was International Chocolate Day yesterday and thanks to Cathy from Words and Herbs it didn’t completely pass me by. Her post made me laugh… especially when I discovered that chocolates are afraid of heights (which mean that they’ll jump off the top of cupboards to save themselves!).

It should be no surprise that the Chocolate Cosmos (cosmos astrosanguineus – yes, I’m trying to include the Latin names!) is one of my favourite plants. It’s still in flower by the garage and the bees are loving it too. It has such a rich velvety colour and there is a faint smell of chocolate and vanilla so what’s not to love? It’s one of the most sniffed plants in my garden!

September Song

Red Admiral Butterfly

One of the best decisions I made with the garden was to plant a Nectar Bar to attract the pollinators and beneficial insects. It has surpassed my expectations and it’s an absolute must for my future planting schemes.
Today was a good day as I even managed to photograph one of the butterflies that have eluded me over the last few weeks. A longer lens on my camera and a tripod were key – but balancing on one leg whilst the tripod was in mid air probably wasn’t that helpful!

Bees on Agastache

There were a huge variety of bees out today and I noticed that each species seemed to have their favourite flowers. The Agastache, Scabious and Coreopsis were the favourites today and I noticed that whilst most bees were methodically working the blooms others zoomed around them as if the Bar was about to close!!

The Nectar Bar

The Bar is open as usual my little buzzy friends… and hopefully will be for a few weeks more! Come on in, have a good time and bring a friend too x

Garden Surprises

The decidedly damp weather here hasn’t stopped the flowers being spectacular and, whilst the giant sunflowers have not fared well, the lemon “Vanilla Ice” sunflowers from Sarah Raven have been delightful. They haven’t needed to be staked and the wildlife love them too. There are lots more butterflies around now and the bumble bees and honey bees are having a party in the nectar bar! I love to listen to them as I dead head the flowers.

Aren’t nice garden surprises great? It made me smile to see this little primrose flowering underneath the Coreopsis. Maybe it thinks this milder weather is the end of Winter!! It was quite a timely discovery as I’d not long visited wonderful blog of Gardening Nirvana where Alys has found a few surprises of her own. It seems many of us experience the unexpected flowers that have seemingly been planted by birds… or fairies!!

Autumn is coming…. and I’m so excited as this is my favourite time of the year. There’s something in the air now, the garden has a slightly different feel and when I came back from shopping yesterday I saw my first glimpse of blackberries!

All is calm

The garden feels calm and quiet at the moment… it’s as if the plants know they’re at their best, and rather than shouting about it, they’ve decided to take a bow. If this was the Gardening Olympics my plants wouldn’t have a chance at a medal… but I’m sure they’d have the best fun taking part and partying with the big guys!

The applause would be coming from the bees – deafening at times but certainly most encouraging. My biggest joy is seeing the huge variety, as well as large numbers, of bees and other wildlife in the garden.

In the quietness I think about how my home has continually had cut flowers since February when the Hellebores were abundant and how I’ve been eating, and enjoying, broad beans! My garden is my meditation and it’s whilst I’m in this chilled out mood that something hisses and spits at me – I nearly jump out of my skin….

It’s a Farm Kitten. He’s adorable, so fluffy with the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen but when you get too close he’s a little firework! This is a bit of a problem as he’s taken to hiding behind plant pots and under the hedges. He’s definitely feral and not to be trifled with… he’s also a ninja in training. His mum must have jumped over the fence with him and she keeps popping back to make sure he’s alright – we’re hoping that he’ll jump back out when he’s old enough!

I’ve named him Womble :-)

There are scarier things to worry about though – the thistles were left to flower as the birds (especially Goldfinches, Linnets, Bullfinches and Siskins) love them so much.

Look at all the thistle down! If Womble is as hard as he looks I’m sure that he will eat thistles for breakfast :-) Otherwise my weeding regime may have to triple next year.

Floral Dance

The flowers are certainly thriving now that the sunshine has arrived, in fact, we’ve been over run with poppies! I’ve cut the seed heads off the poppies before they can spread further. I do think they’re pretty but I want to limit where they’re growing at the moment so I cut their heads off (how cruel) before they can set seed. I’d like to dry them in the hope that the seeds can be scattered in the paddock… the problem is that seed heads are usually left on the plant to dry. Has anyone managed to dry them from the green?

Dead heading is great therapy and a good snipping session always makes me feel better – especially as I know the reward will be further flowers!

There are several stars in the floral department and most of them have come from Sarah Raven. I am a huge fan and I’ve been very impressed with her plant selections, reliable service and customer care. The small sunflower Vanilla Ice is such a pretty lemon colour and compliments many other plants. I still love the Cosmos and will definitely be growing more next year.

Helianthus “Vanilla Ice” and Cosmos “Antiquity”

In the herb bed the Curry Plant is a clear winner… I love the smell if this plant so much and, although it’s not the edible variety, the flowers are pretty enough to use in bouquets and aromatic enough for a pot pourri.

Curry Plant and Agastache

Three Agastache plants were carefully labelled as, until they flowered, I had the urge to weed them out thinking they were dead nettles! The insects certainly love them, especially the bees, so they have earned their place in the nectar bar.

Despite the floral dance that happens this time of year there has been a distinct lack of butterflies. I assume that this was due to our very soggy weather this year – any ideas? I’ve seen the odd Cabbage White trying to access the netted brassicas or the odd Fritillary or two. In your experience, apart from Buddleja, are there any other plants that butterflies go particularly mad for? I want the Flutter-By’s back x

It’s Here!

Finally, the sun has arrived and it hasn’t rained since Saturday! The butterflies have started to show themselves and I am convinced I can see the bees smiling as they hum their little songs.

Everything has grown so well – especially the Broad Beans! They had started to look a little tired (probably from trying to turn into monsters) so I decided to harvest them all together and chop the plants down. It wasn’t as cruel as it seems – I have some Dwarf French Beans (yellow podded and purple podded) that were sheltered beautifully by the Broad Beans. Now the weather has improved I want to give the little French ones all the benefit of the sunshine, fresh air and nutrients.

My lovely husband volunteered to remove the pods and shells… no mean feat but “tenacious” is his middle name and he did a great job! Once they were green and naked they were put into boiling water for 3 mins before being plunged into ice cold water. They were gently patted dry and put onto baking sheets to fast freeze. Now this has been done we will look forward to having Broad Beans as we wish.

The shallots were looking in need of harvesting so most of them were dug up and left in the sun to dry. There were a few flower heads starting to appear so it was time and I want them to dry naturally in the sunshine. The garlic is not quite ready yet but it smells delicious! I just need to carefully decide what other crops to plant in their place as otherwise it will be beetroot again :-)

Finally, the cosmos are doing really well. It’s a variety called “Antiquity” from Sarah Raven. The flowers open as a deep burgundy but gradually fades to a dusky pink. I was surprised to see a funny looking bloom this evening and thought I was seeing double at first!

Magic Beans

One of the best things about gardening are the lessons that Mother Nature teaches us each day. Broad Bean FlowerOne of my challenges in this new garden is to grow something I dislike each year in the hope that I will be inspired to eat it… and, who knows, even enjoy it! Broad Beans (fava beans) have always been my nemesis so these had to be my first choice to grow this year.
There are three wonderful things that I have discovered since growing these plants. Firstly, Broad Beans have the most beautiful, delicate perfume that fills the air with loveliness and when I first noticed this I was amazed! The smell came wafting over from the vegetable patch on a gentle breeze and it took me a long time to identify that it belonged to the bean plants. My brain would not, could not, believe what my nose was telling it. In fact, I initially started to sniff all the pretty flowers in adjacent beds as I really couldn’t quite believe that these sturdy looking plants could smell so good… and I don’t mean just plain good, I mean “put it in a bottle and wear it as a perfume” good! None of my garden books seem to mention how beautiful these flowers smell and, to be fair, I think that I would grow them for this fact alone! I must say that the garden books in question did worry me silly about swarms of blackfly and also stressed the important of proper support in windy weather.
The second wonderful thing  (probably related to the first) is that the bees absolutely love these flowers! The big, fat bumble bees seem to particularly enjoy them and they can’t seem to get enough! I’ve grown lots of plants to deliberately attract bees and butterflies to the Nectar Bar but the Broad Beans seem to be doing a better job and our buzzy friends just can’t stay away.

The final amazing lesson that I have learnt is that Broad Beans grow upwards! Not down towards the ground but actually up towards heaven!! I know you’ll probably be laughing at me for being so naive, but I’ve never grown these before and really thought that they would grow down! So, I have either a)  acquired magical, gravity-defying beans, b) I have been extremely ignorant and have managed to overlook this simple fact or c) I actually planted them upside down! Ha ha… Let me know which it is (and if they’re really magic… what shall I do with them?).  I’ve always had a sneaky belief that Broad Beans Are Evil so I’m only growing them as an experiment anyway! Wouldn’t it be funny if I went from a hater to a lover? It would be especially funny if I marketed a new fragrance based on Broad Bean flowers… called “Implausible – A Fragrance For Her”

Looking Forward to April Showers

What a busy month March has been – where has it gone?!? It has been unseasonably warm and the pyjamas were swapped for shorts last week. Unfortunately, the down side of this is that the reservoirs are low and there are many parts of the country that already have water restrictions and hose pipe bans! Thankfully we’re unaffected at the moment but it’s only a matter of time I suppose.

The seed trays and plants were making it difficult to get into the utility room so we bought a cheap plastic greenhouse which has been invaluable! It doesn’t look very pretty, and once we have saved some money, we’ll be getting a wooden framed greenhouse but unfortunately this isn’t near the top of our essential list yet!

The good news is that our rabbit friends have stopped getting into the kitchen garden… the “Keep Out” sign obviously worked wonders (…the perimeter fencing may have helped a little too!).

This month I’m looking forward to April showers, Easter and fetching some new chickens… I’m loving the new garden and catch myself smiling for no other reason apart from being outside with the plants and seeds :-)