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”

May…

You know those hazy, lazy days of Summer? We’re experiencing them now… except long days at work make the lazy part laughable! Luckily, there is enough daylight left in the evening to spend time outside, sip a cold drink and poke about in the garden. This aside, I managed to have a great weekend and tried to make the most of the warm weather.

Everything seems to be growing beautifully and I planted up extra tubs and baskets this weekend. The wicker basket (below) has been planted with Salvias, Snapdragons, Verbenas and a pretty pink mini Dahlia. It looks a little sparse at present but it will soon fill out. I still have lots to plant out but I’m running out of space in the beds… I really must start to plant more produce against the walls.

New for May

The tomato plants “Gardener’s Delight”  have also been planted out into compost bags – it’s the first time I’ve grown Toms from seed so I’m really pleased. The bags were plastic and really ugly so I’ve just wrapped them in hessian to disguise the ugliness!

Gorgeous Dahlias

Have I told you how much I love Dahlias? I don’t usually like garden show offs, preferring muted shades and dainty flowers. Dahlias are like a blast of extra happiness when it’s least expected… the word wow is never far from my lips!

Garlic & Shallots

It all looks lovely and I can hardly wait for the first garlic of the year! Before you think that life is completely rosey here in the Pyjama Garden I must confess that I’ve had a few fatalities… and a few more are on the critical list… but I’m hopeful that when I share this particular depressing post in the future you might be able to offer some comfort (and a smidge of Horticultural First Aid)!

Espalier Apple Tree

My first espalier 

The term espalier refers to the way fruit trees are trained to grow against a wall. It looks stunning and makes the tree easier to prune and the fruit easier to pick. I love this decorative method and it’s often seen in traditional walled kitchen gardens – luckily it’s also perfectly suited to smaller gardens too. This fellow looks quite wimpy at the moment but in a few years he’ll look fabulous hopefully!

Espalier "Laxton's Superb"

I’m thankful that I was able to buy a ready-trained tree – getting the shape right initially is the hardest thing apparently and I’m not sure whether I’m brave enough to start one from scratch yet. The espalier tree has two tiers of branches trained horizontally on either side of the stem. My husband fixed two horizontal wires into the wall and secured them tightly. We ensured that the tree was planted at the same height as the soil mark on the stem, it was firmly heeled in and then watered well. The branches were then secured to the wire with soft ties.

Apple BlossomThe blossom is really beautiful and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. This dessert variety is from the late Victorian period and it apparently tastes very “appley” which is somewhat reassuring!!

Garden Plans ……..

I’ve come across the original copy of my Kitchen Garden plans and they’ve made me smile….. because they’re embarrassingly basic!! In my imagination the Kitchen Garden is always full of healthy herbs, climbing plants, seasonal produce and plenty of flowers for the bees and butterflies. Mmm, I should have paid full attention in Art class at school as my sketch is rather primitive! My lovely husband used CAD to make it a workable diagram for the builder….. everything else is in my head (no hope for anyone but me then)! 

Kitchen Garden Plans

Fortunately, the work in progress looks more like my vision than the sketch does!! The raised beds are now complete, the new hedges have been laid and all we’ve now got to complete the French drains, put some stone down and wait for Spring! There are new changes every week and I want to capture what happens and, hopefully, look back with happiness. All I see at the moment, however, is a huge amount of bare brickwork that is crying out to be covered with plants!

The garden has 7 raised beds in total and a central island that can be used for a fountain/birdbath. The Nectar Bar will be planted to attract bees and butterflies and there is a secluded area behind this bar where we’ll be able to relax (or hide!).

The perennial vegetable bed contains asparagus and rhubarb and I keep excitedly rushing home from work to looking for signs of life before it gets dark!

Perennial Bed

I’m pleased to say that I’ve found the cutest baby asparagus spear! It’s smaller than a matchstick but looks perfectly formed already… As I’ve already mentioned, I’m usually too impatient to get dressed before dashing outside so it will be torture for me to wait a couple more years before harvesting.

Tiny Asparagus shoot

I’ve always felt drawn to Victorian walled gardens and love visiting stately homes to see them. I’m off to Chatsworth House next week and will hopefully come back with even more inspiration… only on a much smaller scale!